For the first time since 1962, Morgan, the legendary British marque, returns to la Sarthe for the Le Mans 24-hour race - with a huge following of loyal fans from all over the world wishing it well and emotions running on high octane.
For Charles Morgan, current Managing Director and third generation of his family to run the Company, the sight of the Aero 8 GT(N) on the Le Mans starting grid will fully justify his personal crusade to bring a 21st Century Morgan into being.
"The Aero 8 was born on the race track, when we debuted our new aluminium chassis in the FIA GT Championship. It subsequently evolved into a world class production sports car, with unique performance and handling characteristics. We felt we just had to build a race version, and I was delighted when the DEWALT RSS Team became our first customer for the GT(N) Aero just a few days after we launched the car.
"Its appearance on the starting grid at Le Mans is a real tribute to Christopher Lawrence, the production team at the Malvern factory, the sponsors, DEWALT, who have really got behind the project, and to the whole RSS Team – I wish them the very best of luck."
If Charles Morgan feels like a proud parent as the race starts, one can only guess at the emotions of 67 year old Christopher Lawrence this weekend.
Leader of the team that won the two-litre class in the 1962 race driving TOK 258, a Morgan Plus 4, Christopher is now Chief Development Engineer at Morgan Motor Company, and Technical Consultant to the DEWALT/RSS team, working closely with RSS Team Technical Manager Dennis Leech, himself a long-serving veteran of the racetrack.
TOK 258 completed 270 laps in the 1962 race, recording a best lap time of 4 mins 12 secs and a top speed of 133 mph (211 Kph). The 2-litre car averaged 94 mph (150 Kph) over 2256 miles (3610 Km). The team made 6 pit stops, totalling 28 minutes, giving a real average speed on the track of over 100 mph (160 Kph). After completing the race, Christopher changed the tyres and drove the car back to England.
"The car performed so well that the race itself was quite uneventful," Christopher commented.
"Motor racing has certainly changed since then, but I still believe that la Sarthe is a place where David can - just possibly - give Goliath a run for his money. That’s the true spirit of Le Mans, and I’m delighted to say that it’s alive and well in the DEWALT/RSS camp."
TOK 258 will be at Le Mans again in 2002 – the car has recently been completely restored by Rick Bourne of Brands Hatch Morgans, one of the UK’s largest Morgan dealerships. Once again, the car will drive there and back – though this time it will not take its place on the starting grid for the race.
For the drivers, too, it’s a time of high emotional charge. Richard Stanton, team owner and lead driver, sums up his feelings and those of co-drivers Steve Hyde and Richard Hay:
"For all of us, this is a lifetime’s dream come true. We’re all new to the circuit, and to the car, which is still relatively untested. But we’re determined to give it our very best shot, and we have fantastic support from our technical team and from the fans. If willpower alone could power this car, it could fly around."Published 12 June 2002