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Le Mans fires up in London - Chelsea Auto Legends

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Robert Coucher returns from the first Chelsea Auto Legends enthusing about London's new star event.

The inaugural Chelsea Auto Legends, held at the Royal Hospital in London on Sunday 5th September, has been hailed as a great success. The new classic, racing and supercar festival featured one of the most comprehensive collections of road and track sports cars ever displayed and drew a sizeable crowd raising significant funds for the Chelsea Pensioners.

With a relaxed, fete-like atmosphere, the spectators mingled with motor racing legends and amongst the hundreds of exciting motor cars gather under the trees in the magnificent grounds of the Royal Hospital.
 
A highlight was the central grid featuring more than 50 iconic racing cars from the Le Mans 24 Hours. The comprehensive line-up spanned nearly 90 years of history and embraced many of the true greats including Aston Martins, Audis, Bentleys, Ferraris, Ford GTs, Jaguars, McLarens and Porsches.  

Adding to the special occasion a host of renowned Le Mans drivers were also in attendance  – many appearing on stage recounting their personal experiences of racing right through the night for 24 hours. Five-time Le Mans winner Derek Bell MBE, Sir Stirling Moss OBE, who officially opened the show, and Richard Attwood, the man who gave Porsche its first victory 40 years ago in 1970, were among those sharing their memories with show-goers. A number of car-loving musicians including Nick Mason of Pink Floyd, Mark Knopfler of Dire Straits and Jay Kay of Jamiroquai were spotted enjoying the proceedings.
 
While Le Mans cars were on pole position on the Royal Hospital’s spectacular South Grounds – home to the annual Chelsea Flower Show – they were surrounded by hundreds of classic and supercars, the majority driven to Chelsea AutoLegends by enthusiastic owners from London and much further afield.

Many leading classic motor dealers set up displays of superb cars for sale in the grounds and reported strong interest and numerous cars sold. The tented le Village area was very busy as was the EFG International VIP tent where the champagne flowed all day.

The Octane stand featured the ex-Le Mans Aston Martin DB9R generously loaded by Jonathan Turner of Yorkshire. Still covered in Le Mans race grime the Gulf Livered Aston attracted great attention from the enthusiastic crowd.

Says show founder Michael Scott, ‘As a lifetime Chelsea resident, I’ve always dreamed of bringing Le Mans cars to London but, from a standing start just a few months ago, what’s been achieved has exceeded even my wildest expectations.’

The new Chelsea AutoLegends proved to be a hit with more than 5000 visitors enjoying the spectacle and helping to raise much-needed funds for the refurbishment of the Chelsea Pensioners’ home. Two auctions overseen by Bonhams Auctioneers raised more than £11,000 in donations in addition to the strong ticket sales and generous sponsorship. The next Chelsea AutoLegends is planned for Sunday 4 September 2011.

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