WORDS: ELLIOTT HUGHES | PHOTOS: RM SOTHEBY’S
As the official auction partner to the Le Mans 24 Hours, RM Sotheby’s hosted a special “once-in-a-lifetime” 24-lot auction as part of the iconic race’s 100th anniversary celebrations on June 9, 2023.
A 15-minute bidding war for the flag ensued between a buyer present in the marquee and a telephone bidder, before the lot eventually sold for €396,000 (£339,284/$427,634) – more than double the pre-auction estimate.
The other piece of automobilia offered in the sale was a Rothmans Porsche race suit worn by six-time Le Mans winner Jacky Ickx during the 1985 season of the World SportsCar Championship. It sold for an impressive €31,200 (£26,731/$33,692).
Yet the focus of the sale was an eclectic selection of 22 historically significant race cars from the legendary marques that had previously campaigned at the prestigious event.
The lot securing the highest bid was the 1985 Porsche 962C bedecked in iconic Rothmans livery. This particular car, chassis 962-004, was driven in period by endurance racing royalty: Derek Bell, Al Holbert, Jacky Ickx, Klaus Ludwig, Jochen Mass, Vern Schuppan, Hans Stuck and John Winter.
One of only three Works examples, 962-004 ran at La Sarthe three times, securing pole in 1986 and finishing fifth overall in 1988. Although the car secured the highest bid in the auction, information about the price paid and the winning bidder remains undisclosed.
The 1955 Ferrari 121LM Spider by Scaglietti (chassis 0546LM) won the highest bid that has been publicly disclosed, crossing the block for €5.7m (£4.9m/$6.1m) as applause erupted within the marquee.
0546LM was a Works car that was campaigned at Le Mans and the Mille Miglia in 1955 by the likes of Maurice Trintignant, Harry Schell and Piero Taruffi. One of only four examples built, the car was offered fresh from a five-year nut-and-bolt restoration by Ferrari Classiche.
This landmark result was followed by that of another Ferrari: the 1969 365GTB/4 Daytona Competizione, which finished fifth overall at Le Mans in 1971. The car was originally converted to race specification by Ferrari for Luigi Chinetti’s legendary North American Racing Team outfit, and also raced at the Daytona 24 Hours and Sebring 12 Hours in 1972.
Fully restored and boasting full Ferrari Classiche certification, the 365GTB/4 sold for an impressive €5.2m (£4.4m/$5.6m).
Another manufacturer with a storied history at Le Mans is Jaguar, which boasts seven overall wins – enough for fourth in the all-time rankings.
Two Jaguars were offered in RM Sotheby’s auction: the Silk Cut-liveried Jaguar XJR-12LM that finished fourth overall at Le Mans in 1991 and sold for €2.7m (£2.3m/$2.9m), and the 1993 Jaguar XJ220 CLM that won its class before being disqualified on a technicality.
Another iconic ‘90s Le Mans car up for grabs was the 1990 Nissan R90CK, which set one of the most famous Le Mans qualifying laps of all time, eviscerating the competition by six seconds in 1990.
Unfortunately, the car retired with suspension failure just nine laps from the finish. Even so, its qualifying heroics in the hands of Mark Blundell ensured a strong sale price of €1m (£919,967/$1.1m).
Other highlights of the auction included a 1936 Delahaye 135S by Pourtot (€1.5m/£1.2m/$1.6m), a 1954 OSCA MT4 by Morelli (€1.2m/£1m/$1.3m) and a 1963 Ferrari 250GTE 2+2 safety car (€545,000/£466,945/$588,537).
To browse the other lots and view the full auction results, click here.