On the occasion of this new edition of this wonderful event that is Le Mans Classic, meeting with Patrick PETER, the brilliant creator of this monument of historic events, which has become essential!
Patrick PETER, ‘the conductor of the Historic Events (Le Mans Classic- Tour Auto)
So Patrick, how did your passion for cars come about? ?
Small when I was a child, I belong to this generation (he was born in 1953) where we looked at cars and where we collected miniatures. I have always appreciated mechanics, I also tinkered with my first Solex and Mopeds and broke a family 201 PEUGEOT. I started to follow with attention and passion, the first car competitions at the time of the MATRA successes at LE MANS in 1972. My first car was a BMW 2002 TI in 1975 because before that I was rather passionate about sailing in the early 70s, when I was chartering in the West Indies.
How did you come up with the idea of creating Le Mans Classic? ?
In 1983, ASAVE contacted me when I was managing the communication agency PETER DECHELETTE. Its managers wanted me to help them publicize their historical events, hence the creation of the Grand Prix de l’Age d’Or LANVIN in Montlhery between 1983 and 1993. Then I relaunched the Tour Auto in 1992, then created the BPR in 1994. RATEL le R, was driving a Daytona at the time and had launched the Challenge VENTURI. After the test of the two clock towers at Paul Ricard, on Sunday evening in November 1993, we had dinner in St Tropez with Stéphane RATEL and Jurgen BARTH, the B and it was during this dinner that we decided to create the BPR (Barth-Peter-Ratel). The first BPR race took place in February 1994 at Paul RICARD. The BPR lasted 3 years until the end of 96, then I took care of the FERRARI-MASERATI Challenge in history, from 1999 to 2001. In 2000, we had one of our events which served as support for the 24 Hours of Mans. There were 50 FERRARIs and MASERATIs and it was a great success. This success allowed me to sell the idea and create Le Mans Classic to the president of the ACO at the time. Mr. Michel COSSON. The first edition took place in July 2002. Then I launched the LMS series (Le Mans Series) from 2004 to 2011. I then sold my shares to the ACO which in 2012 created several endurance championships l European ELMS and World WEC.
What main obstacle did you encounter in the first year? ?
For the Tour Auto, it wasn’t too complicated, but it has become more and more so over the years because of the administrative files. From one binder at the beginning, we quickly went to three.
Did you imagine such a success with this current international influence ?
In September 2002 for the first organization of Le Mans Classic the biggest difficulty was to fall at the same time as the Le Mans fair. But also to convince traders who are in the Hunaudières. But today everything is going well and the whole region and Le Mans are waiting for Le Mans Classic because from 30,000 20 years ago we have gone to 235,000 spectators this year as well as from 2,000 clubs to 8,000. The first years we have nevertheless attracted competitors from the USA, Argentina and Hong Kong. It has now become a gigantic event and we have participants from all over the world.
Did you think you would interest major collectors and well-known pilots?
Yes, completely because I always thought that offering them to drive in the Hunaudières on the great Manceau circuit would attract them. No one believed in it even at the ACO, but offering the big circuit was really the strong point of the great success of Le Mans Classic. Which would never have been the case on the BUGATTI circuit!
You have allowed many owners of beautiful cars and gentlemen drivers to experience the impossible, the unthinkable: driving on the great Sarthe circuit.
Of course allowing them to put their cars back in racing conditions and drive in the Hunaudières at night, it was the absolute dream, we did it and we offered them this dream!
How much does a commitment cost?
For Le Mans Classic €6,500 and for the Tour Auto €10,000.
On what criteria is the selection made? ?
We have a list of eligible models from different eras and we must offer both diversity and the greatest number of nationalities.
ACO and ASO are now your partners, what future for Patrick PETER? Will you still be here in 2025 ?
Between them they are currently a minority, but given my age (70 years old) it is very likely that I will no longer be there in 2 years and that they will own all of PETER AUTO.
Precisely PETER AUTO, this represents what workforce ?
40 people at rue LAMARCK in PARIS permanently, 150 for the organization of Le Mans Classic every 2 years, but to which are added 1,200 marshals, 1,000 controllers, security managers, guards, hostesses and security agents.
And what does Patrick PETER at the wheel look like?
I did my last race in 1996 at SILVERSTONE, driving a LOTUS Elan. Indeed, you cannot organize events and drive at the same time. Now in the future, it is not forbidden to think that I will take the wheel again. I have a 1956 AC Bristol and a 1961 JAGAUR MK 2 Tour de France.
Do you have other cars collection ?
I’m not a collector, not a monomaniac, I love many brands, ALFA ROMEO, ASTON MARTIN, LOTUS, FERRARI but I don’t particularly like driving. We buy cars because we dreamed of them and also because they are wonderful, like my last acquisition, a metallic blue ALPINE A110! Moreover, there are sometimes cars that attract us and make us dream but that after a simple quarter of an hour of driving, do not correspond to us!
Photos: Thierry COULIBALY