FIA WEC: 24 Great Cars that didn’t win at Le Mans – Part Two

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The TWR Silk Cut Jaguars and the Courage Competition Cougar C20 on the start grid for the 1987 24 Hours of Le Mans. Image sourced from Pinterest.

The 24 Hours of Le Mans is often described as the ultimate test of endurance between man and machine.

Over the years, the race has produced some memorable moments, with a mixture of  excitement and heartbreak.

Here, we look at six more great cars that were unable to claim an overall victory at Le Mans. If you haven’t already, you can read part one here.

Ferrari 330 P3: 1966 24 Hours of Le Mans

The Ferrari 330 P3 pictured during a historic racing event at Spa-Francorchamps. © Wouter Melissen

Having won the previous six races at Le Mans, Ferrari were feeling confident of adding to that tally.

For 1966, the Scuderia introduced a new prototype in the form of the 330 P3, and used a 420 bhp, 4-litre, V12 engine.

Subsequently, the 330 P3 could hit speeds of 193 mph (310.6 km/h) @ 8,200 rpm, with Ferrari opting to skip the official test held two months before the race.

Come race week, the fastest 330 P3 was 2.7 seconds slower than the 480 bhp Ford GT40 of Dan Gurney.

Three years earlier, Ford famously attempted to buy the Scuderia and the two negotiated for 22 days. However, Enzo Ferrari pulled out the deal at the last moment and caused anger amongst Ford.

Afterwards, Ford’s Production Manager Donald N. Frey gave Henry Ford II some words of encouragement: “Go to Le Mans, and beat his ass.”

Ferrari had created an enemy, and their monopoly at Le Mans monopoly was vulnerable.

On top of this, John Surtees walked out them after a disagreement developed over the team’s desired race strategy.

The race proved to be an absolute contrast for the two rivals.

While the Mk.II GT40’s claimed a famous 1-2-3 finish, not a single 330 P3 made the finish. Ferrari had been beaten, and what a convincing beating it was.

Ferrari 330 P4: 1967 24 Hours of Le Mans

The No.19 Ferrari 330 P4 of Günter Klass and Peter Sutcliffe during the 1967 24 Hours of Le Mans. Image sourced from motorbase.com

For 1967, Ferrari made some updates to their car and produced the 330 P4. The 4-litre V12 had been tuned to increase its power to 450 bhp @ 8,000 rpm.

As a result, the new car was capable of 210 mph and dominated the 1967 24 Hours of Daytona. There, Ferrari would organise a photo finish mimicking the one Ford produced at Le Mans the previous year.

However, Ford had made some improvements of their own and introduced the more powerful, Mk.IV GT40.

Now producing 530 bhp from its 7-litre V8 engine, the battle was poised to be even closer than before.

Ferrari managed to get two of their cars on the podium, but Ford were still able to keep them off the top spot.

Dan Gurney and A.J. Foyt were four laps clear at the finish and was the second of four successive wins at Le Mans for Ford.

On the other hand, Ferrari have yet to claim another overall win at Le Mans.

Alfa Romeo 33TT3: 1972-73 24 Hours of Le Mans

The Alfa Romeo 33TT3, as seen at Sebring in 1972. © Nigel Smuckatelli

Alfa Romeo developed a knack for sportscar racing in the 1970’s and won the 1975 World Championship for Makes with the Tipo 33.

Before that, one of it’s predecessors had a go at conquering Le Mans. The 33TT3 used a mid-engine V8 that produced 440 bhp @ 9,800 rpm.

With the Autodelta entry, Alfa were more than capable of challenging front-runners Matra in 1972. However, issues with reliability held them back.

Clutch failures during the night saw the Italian’s lose valuable time. Nino Vaccarella and Andrea de Adamich could only manage a distant fourth, while Matra claimed a comfortable 1-2 finish.

For 1973, Alfa experienced more problems before the race had begun.

After a series of social strikes in Italy, Autodelta felt that their new, 500 bhp 33TT12, wasn’t ready for Le Mans.

Because of this, Autodelta pulled out of the race and were replaced by Scuderia Brescia Corse, who used the 33TT3.

Unsurprisingly, the team failed to mount a serious challenge to the likes of Matra, Ferrari and Porsche, and ended up in a lowly 15th.

Porsche Carrera 911 RSR Turbo 2.1: 1974 24 Hours of Le Mans

The 1974 Porsche Carrera 911 RSR Turbo in its famous Martini Racing livery. © Mathieu Heurtault/Gooding and Company

After Autodelta once again pulled out of Le Mans in 1974, Matra were strong favourites to record a third consecutive win.

Because of Alfa Romeo’s no-show, other contenders emerged such as the Martini Racing Porsche Team, who entered the new Porsche Carrera 911 RSR Turbo.

The car’s rear-engine, turbocharged flat-six, produced 500 bhp @ 7,600 rpm and could achieve 186 mph (300 km/h).

The No.22 car of Gijs van Lennep and Herbert Müller were second for the majority for the race. Then, in the stages of the race, the Porsche developed a steering problem and lost fourth and fifth gears.

This helped Henri Pescarolo’s Matra pull out an 11 lap lead, only for it to suffer a gearbox failure an hour later.

Despite being around 40 seconds slower per lap, the Carrera 911 RSR Turbo had cut down Matra’s advantage to just a single lap.

But when Gérard Larrousse took over, he re-established the gap and took the victory for the French manufacturer.

After the race, it was discovered that Matra had changed the Porsche-designed gearbox housing on its winning car.

However, as an official protest wasn’t submitted, the race officials decided not to disqualify the car.

Lancia LC2: 1983-85 24 Hours of Le Mans

The Lancia LC2 of Bob Wollek apporaches Terta Rouge during the 1984 24 Hours of Le Mans. © Rainer Schlegelmilch

The second car on this list in the famous Martini colours, the Lancia LC2 first took the track in 1983.

The LC2 borrowed a 2.6-litre, turbocharged V8 engine from Ferrari, as both companies were owned by Fiat at the time.

Producing an eye-watering 800 bhp @ 8,000 rpm and hitting 219 mph (352 km/h), Lancia were determined to give Porsche a fight.

When race day arrived, everything fell apart as the LC2 experienced several technical gremlins. Meanwhile, Porsche asserted their authority at Le Mans and claimed an unprecedented 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8 finish.

In the build-up to the 1984 event, the dominant Rothmans Porsche Team staged a boycott. This developed after a dispute broke out with the ACO over the fuel regulations

Elsewhere, Ferrari had modified their V8 engine to a 3-litre capacity, and increased the power to 850 bhp.

In qualifying, Bob Wollek claimed pole position time of 3:17.11 and average speed of 154.642 mph (248.873 km/h). For context, the fastest Porsche 956 of Klaus Ludwig was 11 seconds slower during the session.

During the race, Wollek’s team-mate Alessandro Nannini also set a new lap record in the LC2, with a 3:28.90. The pair led halfway through, when gearbox problems persisted with the car and dropped them down the order.

Porsche were too strong for Lancia once again and took ‘only’ the top seven places. Behind them, Wollek and Nannini could only manage eighth place.

Despite not taking pole in 1985, the LC2 managed to lead early on, only to lost it through reliability issues. The leading Lancia of Wollek, Nannini and Lucio Cesario finished significantly closer to Porsche in sixth place.

At the end of the season, Lancia ran made cutbacks to their sportscar program. Subsequently, they switched their focus towards Group B and the World Rally Championship.

Jaguar XJR-8LM – 1987 24 Hours of Le Mans

The No.5 Silk Cut Jaguar XJR-8LM retired from the 1987 24 Hours of Le Mans after a tyre failure. © Jerry Lewis-Evans

On the 30th anniversary of its fifth victory at Le Mans, Jaguar returned with Tom Walkinshaw Racing and the XJR-8LM.

Its mid-engined V12 pumped out 720 bhp @ 7,000 rpm. During the 1987 event, the Jaguar was to recorded going over 220 mph down the Mulsanne straight.

In addition, the team were strong favourite favourite after winning the first four rounds of the World Sportscar Championship.

However, during the race, Jaguar experienced several issues, such as a burst tyre and breakages on the engine and gearbox. Furthermore, their cars were as much as two seconds slower than the Porsches.

Unsurprisingly, the sole remaining XJR-8LM of Eddie Cheever, Raul Boesel and Jan Lammers finished 30 laps down in fifth place. Afterwards, Jaguar chairman Sir John Egan stated that “we’ll keep coming back until we win.”

The British team wouldn’t have to wait long for that victory. In 1988, the succeeding XJR-9LM won at Le Mans to end Porsche’s seven-year period of domination.

 

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