GRR

9 incredible Le Mans cars to see at the 2023 Festival of Speed

09th July 2023
Ethan Jupp

In 2023, the centenary year of the world’s greatest motor race, the Le Mans 24 Hours, you’d best bet we’re going to have a truly incredible line-up of endurance racers at the Goodwood Festival of Speed presented by Mastercard, from the race's past, present and future. Picking just a few for a list of highlights to look out for is difficult, and is simultaneously getting us massively excited for the event, which opens a week from today. Here are nine incredible Le Mans cars you won’t want to miss.

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1. Bentley 3 Litre

Bentley is a formative name in the story of Le Mans, like Ferrari to Formula 1. It was dominant for four years on the trot within the first ten years of the event, cementing its continued place as one of the most successful marques in the race’s history. As a Le Mans enthusiast, you won’t want to miss seeing one of the spectacular Bentley 3 Litre winners from the race’s early years.

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2. Ferrari 250 TR

Another of the most important brands in Le Mans history is indeed Ferrari, which enjoyed a period through the late 1950s and early 1960s of near outright dominance. The 250TR is arguably symbolic of Ferrari in its prime in endurance racing, so make sure you get a good look around one at the Festival of Speed.

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3. Ford GT40

Of course, you can’t mention Ferrari without also bringing up the Ford GT40. These are components to arguably the most evocative story to come out of the Le Mans 24 Hours in its hundred years, of Ford setting sights squarely on the Prancing Horse, with an aim of embarrassing the Italians in their own court. It took some doing, but Ford eventually cracked it and the rest is no less than motorsport history.

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4. Matra MS670

Ferrari had a rough go of it in the mid to late ‘60s and into the ‘70s. In fact, it took until this year to recover its honour at La Sarthe. The likes of Ford, Porsche and, eventually, the home-grown Matra, all kept Ferrari from returning to the top step. And what a car to do it, the 3.0-litre V12-engine Matra MS670, representing France at Le Mans once again. Widely regarded to have one of the greatest-sounding V12 engines ever made, this is one you’re not going to want (or be able) to miss when it gets sent up the Hill.

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5. Mazda 787B

Speaking of truly unforgettable sounds, we’ll refer you to the first Japanese car to win Le Mans, and indeed the only rotary-powered car to win Le Mans. It couldn’t be anything other than the Mazda 787B, in which Jonny Herbert crossed the line at Le Mans victorious in 1991. Part of the screaming swansong of the Group C era, it’s probably one of the most memorable Le Mans winners there is, if not for its distinctive green and red charge livery, then definitely its ear-splitting four-rotor. Seriously, you might want ear defenders for this one…

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6. McLaren F1 GTR

Perhaps what will be the last great overall winner derived from a road car, is the McLaren F1 GTR. You’ll see the long-tail variant McLaren developed to combat the 911 GT1 at the 2023 Festival of Speed, as well as an example of the short tail, with its howling BMW V12. So good was the F1 that its Le Mans win was sort of a symptom of its inherent excellence, being as it was, never initially designed for racing. It’s also worth seeing if only to boggle your mind, knowing that those cars are each worth over £20million these days.

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7. Audi R10 TDI

The LMP era was arguably defined by Audi, even though Bentley, Porsche, Toyota and Peugeot all chalked up wins in its 20-year run. The Audis evolved over the years, through open-topped petrols, to closed-top hybrids. But what we’re properly excited to see is a car that flew a rather unconventional flag: that of diesel. Yes, the Audi R10 TDI, which took three wins between 2006 and 2008, packed nothing less than a 5.5-litre twin-turbo V12 diesel. Seven years on, diesel would become a bit of a swear word in road cars.

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8. Porsche 911 RSR ‘Pink Pig’

One of the coolest liveries seen on a modern endurance racer borrows from the past. We of course talk about the Porsche 911 RSR ‘Pink Pig’ that won its class at Le Mans in 2018. It came along to Goodwood that year as a celebration and will be back this year in celebration of Porsche, the 911, and indeed the history of Le Mans. This is proper Porsche racing royalty, even not being an overall winner. Plus, of course, the RSR is one of the great-sounding modern sportscars. Don’t miss it.

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9. Porsche 963 Hertz Team Jota

From Le Mans' past, finally, to its present. This car led a number of laps at this year’s Le Mans 24 Hours, giving hope to all would-be privateers that the world’s greatest endurance race was there for the taking, even without the outright backing of a monster manufacturer. This is the Hertz Team Jota Porsche 963 in its stunning gold, red and black ‘Singer’ livery. Minus the prang they had, this was arguably one of the better-performing 963s at Le Mans, even next to the three factory cars. This, if nothing else, is a car and effort that shows just how bright the future of endurance racing and Le Mans truly is.

So there’s a nine-car crop of machines to be excited to see at FOS. As above, our Le Mans Centenary celebration is not one to be missed, with so many more cars besides the ones mentioned above from throughout its 100 years. We just can’t wait.

The 2023 Goodwood Festival of Speed takes place from 13th-16th July. Be sure to check back here at Goodwood Road & Racing to keep up to date with all of the latest news and announcements.

Ferrari, Matra, Mazda, Audi and 963 images courtesy of Motorsport Images

  • Le Mans

  • FOS 2023

  • Porsche

  • Ferrari

  • Matra

  • Mazda

  • Ford

  • Audi

  • Bentley

  • McLaren

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