The story of a race


Stung by defeat, Ferrari produced more sophisticated cars with three valves/cylinder fuel-injected heads based on Forghieri's Grand Prix motors. But again Maranello was defeated by the sheer size of Detroit muscle.

This year both Ford and General Motors were playing the big capacity game and the alloy, four carburettor-fed 7.0 litre V8 wheeled out by Chevrolet was certainly a match for the familiar elephant engine it challenged.

Both push rod motors fell a long way short of the 125 b.h.p. per litre achieved by the 36-valve Ferrari V12 but, with the best part of a 100 b.h.p. advantage, that wasn't of great concern. Great dollops of torque were more significant. If Ferrari had pedigree and engine sophistication, Ford and Chaparral-Chevrolet had brute power and awesome speed. And when it came to chassis sophistication, the Chaparral topped the lot. The g.r.p. monocoque device featured a new body profile calculated to produce higher downforce without a significant drag penalty. That performance was aided by an adjustable high rear wing, mounted directly on the uprights. It was activated by foot pedal: flat for maximum speed on the straight, tilted forwards for maximum downforce (and a braking effect) under cornering.

Very effective Hall's 2F proved. With a 250kg weight advantage it was a match for Ford's latest offering, the advanced monocoque construction MkIV, but it had one flaw: its V8's torque was unkind to its clutch less transmission.

Like the Chaparral, the new Ford was designed and built in the USA. It was a development of Roy Lunn's so-called 'J-car', seen in practice at Le Mans in '66 and featured a glued aluminium honeycomb monocoque tub, plus a new, narrow cockpit body shape for better wind penetration. Lunn had pushed for a new, lighter, lower drag chassis to accept the 7.0 litre Ford V8 in the wake of the '65 disaster - the original GT40 chassis was perceived as too heavy, a problem affecting acceleration, braking, fuel economy and reliability. The J-car alternative had been approved in October '65 and the n~w honeycomb monocoque (saving around 50kgs) had. been promptly constructed by a company specializing in aircraft honeycomb structures. Although a runner by April '66, the car initially

proved slower than the MKII in a straight line. Development was not hurried. A Can Am version had been played with in late '66, only for Miles to lose his life testing it.

The J-car had been taken to Daytona early in '67, only for the MkII, again, to prove faster. However, all the MkIIs in this year's 24-hour Florida race broke. Again, excessive weight took the blame. Lunn was given a green light to develop the J-car for Le Mans.

Rebodied as the MkIV, the honeycomb Ford proved faster than the MkII in a straight line and won the Sebring 12 Hours. At Le Mans it was worth a 50kgs weight saving, according to the ACO scales, and an extra 7 m.p.h. of Mulsanne speed, reaching an all-time high of 213.1 m.p.h. The back-up MkIIs were in 'B' trim with similar heavier iron block engine rated at 500 b.h.p., a roll cage for extra driver protection, and various small modifications.

In spite of Ford's improvements, the company was hard pushed to knock the faster of Hall's two Chaparrals off pole. There were four MkIVs on hand, two each from Shelby and Holman Moody, but only the Shelby car of McLaren/Donohue went faster than the Hill/Spence Chaparral.

Come the race, the flightless American bird made a poor start. However, the MkIVs were also, surprisingly, beaten away by Shelby's back-up MkIIB, driven by Bucknum. The Bucknum/Hawkins MkII led for over an hour, then a water pipe split, leaving the MkIVs in the limelight. In front were the Gurney/Foyt Shelby MkIV, pressurized by the McLaren/Donohue sister car and the Holman Moody MkIV of Andretti/Bianchi. The Chaparral was right in there, too. Holman Moody's second MkIV had already been delayed by a sticking throttle and at around 10.00 p.m. the team suffered another setback when a gear linkage problem delayed Andretti/Bianchi. Shortly afterwards Ruby parked the sister car, in which Hulme had set fastest lap, in a sand bank.

By midnight Shelby was feeling very comfortable, for the Chaparral's wing had stuck in the downforce position, knocking off 30 m.p.h. on the Mulsanne. The Gurney/Foyt car was now one lap ahead of the McLaren/Donohue machine, while Andretti/Bianchi were looking for a way back to third, past the highest-placed Ferrari P4. Alas, just before half distance Holman Moody lost all hope: Andretti crashed out with brakes locked.

When McLaren/Donohue suffered a clutch malady, and with the MkIIBs sidelined, the way was open for Ferrari's three surviving (offour) P4s to hold second, third and fourth positions, albeit half-a-dozen laps behind the troublefree MkIV. Shelby's hopes of recovering a one-two situation were dashed by lost bodywork for the clutch-delayed car, while Chaparral's hopes of a finish were dashed by transmission trouble (the slower car having succumbed early to electrical problems).

Although unable to keep pace with the fastest Detroit monsters, at the end of the day Ferrari was only beaten by one of the beasts. It was a great achievement for the Italian team to bring home two cars in good shape, given the fact that its cars had to be flogged, mercilessly to stay in contention. Both survivors broke the distance record, achieving over 5000kms, to leave the delayed McLaren/Donohue car in fourth place. The Ferrari failures were the P4 of Amon/Vaccarella (fire when fuel line was sheared by running on a flat) and Klass/Sutcliffe (sheared injection pump). The car which finished second was in the hands ofParkes/Scarfiotti and was driven extremely hard throughout, reducing the leaders' deficit on Sunday, if four laps adrift at the finish. It had lost with honour.

Behind the second-placed P4 was a loaned example in the colours of the ENB, driven by Mairesse/Beurlys, this the only P4 let out of captivity. Whereas the P4 had a revised fuel-injected engine, wider track and subtle chassis modifications, other customer teams had to be content with a so-called 'P3/ 4', a combination of P3 24-valve, carburettor engine and P4 shell. All three such entries retired due to engine failure, while the oldest of Ferrari's eight-strong prototype fleet, NART's P2, had been its first drop-out, stuck in a sand bank.

Ford's back-up prototypes had been no more fortunate - the Bucknum/Hawkins car had eventually retired with engine failure, while two other MkIIBs, both Holman Moody-prepared, had been eliminated in the wake of the Andretti accident.

Overshadowed by the American and Italian prototypes were four entries from the UK. The Slough-based FA V operation had been taken over by John Wyer and partner John Willment, who formed J. W. Automotive (JW A). With backing from Gulf, this new team entered two modified GT40s -lightened and re-profiled, they were known as Mirages. They were equipped with enlarged, 5.0 litre engines which gave trouble early in the race. The two other British-based machines were by that stage already in the pits suffering engine maladies. These were 5.0 litre Aston Martin V8-engined Lola T70s, cars run on behalf of Aston Martin and Broadley's Lola concern by John Surtees. Alas, while Broadley's latest monocoque chassis was workmanlike and well sorted, the new d.o.h.c., two-valve fuel-injected alloy engine was not yet race ready. Its embarrassingly early demise marked the end of an all-too-brief Aston Martin come-back.

With only four of the 21 big banger cars at the finish and all three GT40s which comprised the over 2.0 litre 'Sports Car' entry by the wayside, the way was left clear for Porsche's 2.0 litre runners to complete the top six once more. Shrugging off a threat from Matra (the French aerospace concern which was developing a State-supported Formula One engine behind the scenes) it brought four of six cars home, winning both 2.0 litre prototype and 'Sports Car' classes. Both Matra and Porsche had designs on new 3.0 litre engines and there were moves afoot which would put those engines in a very significant new context.

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Sports Car Races

Targa Florio 1963

Sebring 1966

Stardust GP 1968

Le Mans 1930

Le Mans 1949

Le Mans 1950

Le Mans 1951

Le Mans 1952

Le Mans 1953

Le Mans 1954

Le Mans 1955

Le Mans 1956

Le Mans 1957

Le Mans 1958

Le Mans 1959

Le Mans 1960

Le Mans 1961

Le Mans 1962

Le Mans 1963

Le Mans 1964

Author: ArchitectPage

10th - 11th June

54 starters 16 classified finishers

In what was billed as the "Race of the Century" 8 Ferraris came to the Sarthe to avenge the previous year's defeat while Ford was represented by 10 cars. Added to these were Chaparrals, Lola Aston Martins, Mirages, Porsches and Matras. Over 300. 000 spectators, the largest post - war crowd, flocked to the circuit to see Dan Gurney and "Ajay" Foyt break every record in the book to give the MK IV Ford an all American victory on its one and only appea­rance at Le Mans. Second and third was the best the 330 P4 Ferraris could do. Fifth place and Index of Performance for Porsche. Two Alpine Renaults in the first 10. The Matra B. R. M. s again failed to finish as did the Lola Astons. Third at half - distance the high - winged 2 F Chaparrals did not see the chequered flag, making Ford's victory all the sweeter in relation to its rival, General Motors. Finally, Foyt joined a very select group of drivers winning Le Mans on their only appearance, the other 2 being Nuvolari and Lang. The start was given by Mr. Francois Missoffe, minister of youth and sports.




Layout unchanged, still 13, 461 kms.




Fresh increase in the minimum speeds required in practice and in the race itself.




54 cars 5 nations 16 makes

France: 8 Alpines, 2 C. D. s, 2 Matras. Germany: 10 Porsches.

Great Britain: 1 Austin Healey, 1 Costin ­Nathan, 2 Lolas, 1 Lotus, 1 Marcos, 2 Mirages.

Italy: 1 Abarth, 9 Ferraris.

United States: 2 Chaparrals, 1 Chevrolet, 10 Fords, 1 Shelby.

Makes, first appearance:

Drivers, first appearance:




Practice resolved itself into a battle between Phil Hill in the Chaparral and the Fords, Mclaren's MK IV getting the better of the Chevrolet engined car by just 4/10" with a lap in 3'24"3. The fastest of the Ferraris was the Parkes - Scarfiotti P4 which got round in 3'28"9 making it seventh quickest overall. A safety measure introduced for this race was the use of coloured discs to identify the materials used: yellow for aluminium, red for fibreglass, blue for steel and green for magnesium. In addition, the Fords, Ferraris and Porsches were all using phosporous coa­ted number discs actuated by an electrical circuit from the alternator. When switched on the disc glowed green in the dark, the black number standing out but in daylight the disc reverted to its normal white.

In spite of Mclaren's fastest lap it was Ronnie Bucknum who hit the front in his MK II as the flag fell and he stayed there for the first hour. The Surtees - Hobbs Lola Aston Martin went out after only 3 laps soon to be followed by its sister car, lack of prepa­ration leading to blown engines. The 5 litre V8 Ford powered Mirages also quickly disappeared for the same reasons. The race developed into the expected Ford - Ferrari duel with an intruder in the exotic shape of the Hill - Spence Chaparral which went briefly to the front after the end of the first hour when the leading Fords came in to refuel. Never did a Ferrari lead as after the Hawkins - Bucknum car hit trouble with a split water joint, Gurney and Foyt were there to take over a first place they were never to lose. With one third of the race gone the Ferrari challenge faded as Guichet - Muller and then Amon - Vaccarella vanished followed by the Pedro Rodriguez - Baghetti P3/4. At mid­night the order was Ford, Ford, Ferrari, Ford with the Chaparral in fifth in spite of losing straight - line speed due to the rear ­mounted wing being stuck in the "slow" posi­tion. Just before 3HOO on Sunday morning Ford hopes were dealt a heavy blow when they lost 3 cars (Andretti - Bianchi, Gardner ­McCluskey and Ligier - Schlesser) in a multiple accident sparked off by Andretti locking up on new brake pads just before the Esses. This changed the whole face of the race as the MK IV now led from the Parkes Scarfiotti Ferrari and the Hill - Spence Chaparral with the other MK IV of Mclaren - Donohue in the pits with clutch problems. On Sunday morning, the Chaparral's transmission gave up the ghost leaving the Scarfiotti ~ Parkes and Mairesse - "Beurlys" Ferraris to chase the Ford to the chequered flag. The red car never missed a beat, its big V8 engine sounding as healthy at the end as at the beginning and it gave the U. S. A a 100% American victory (the first and last up to 1992). A fine performance from the streamlined Porsche of Siffert - Herrmann whose fifth place finish, just 1 lap behind the Mclaren - Donohue Ford, after being in eighteenth position after the first hour, was the best - ever performance of a 2 litre car. The sole British finisher was the Baker ­Hedges Austin Healey Sprite. .



A dead - heat for the lap record between Denny Hulme and Mario Andretti, unique in the Le Mans annals. They both got round in 3'23"6, some 7 seconds quicker than the 1966 lap record, a speed of 238, 014 km/h. The 5000 km barrier was breached for the first time as the winners covered 5232, 900 kt-Qs at a record average speed of 218, 038 km/h . This put the fear of god into the CSI whose officials soon announced measures to curb such excesses in the future. These therefore are the outright records for circuit no.

With a 1-2-3 walk-over in the 1966 race, Fords were out to show the performance was no fluke, so they threw in everything for 1967. No fewer than four seven-litre Mk IVs of the type which had won at Sebring some weeks before were entered by the Ford Motor Company, two of them prepared by Holman and Moody, and two by Shelby-American. The Mk II models, redesignated 265, were powered by identical 530 bhp engines, and there were two of these racing for the factory. There was also a 28 entered by Ford France, as well as 4.7-litre GT40. All were running in the Sports Prototype category, but in addition there was the GT40 of Salmon and Redman in the GT class, as well as the 4.7-litre Scuderia Filipinetti car in the Sports class. Two S.7S-litre Mirage cars, near-relatives of the Fords, were also entered in the Sports Prototype category.

After their annihilation in the '66 event, Ferrari made a very serious effort and entered four four-litre cars, three of them the latest P4s, and one a P3/4 allocated to Equipe Nationale BeIge. These cars were all powered by the latest 450 bhp 36-valve V12s with fuel-injection, but in addition there were three independently-entered P3/4s with carburetter induction and 24-valve V12 engines. With 24 hours of very high-speed racing in front of them, Le Mans was expected to be a Ford-Ferrari duel, but nevertheless the two Chaparral 2Fs were at least bound to set a fierce pace for part of the race. In spite of seven litres of Chevrolet engine the glassfibre Texan cars were lighter than the Ferraris.

The Ferraris P4 weighed about 2,200 lb., the Chaparrals about 20 lb. less, and the Ford Mk IVs 2,200 lb. The Mk II's which didn't have the lightweight aluminium honeycomb" construction of the Mk IVs, weighed about 2,500 lb.

Very fast had been the new Lola Aston Martin at the April pre-race trials. The model had been refined and developed since then, and as the V8 engine had been equipped with Lucas fuel-injection, great things were expected. Two Lolas were entered, both with Aston Martin engines, and the cars turned the scaies at about 2,320 lb. During the weeks that led up to the great Sarthe battle, the entries suggested the most rigorously-fought two litre class yet. The prospect of a Porsche. Dino - Alfa - Matra scrap ensured a dramatic scene behind the heavy metal but first Alfa Romeo decided their promising Tipo 33 v8 engines needed more development and withdrew, then Ferrari pulled out all the Dinos. This lelt the Porsches against the two Matra-BRMs in the two-litre category-although the German cars were expected to play more than just a supporting role in the contest for maximum honours. The Stuttgart marque has deservedly won a great reputation for high-speed reliability, and in spite of the relatively small engines, it is seldom a long-distance classic is run without the air-cooled machines being very highly-placed.

Another regrettable withdrawal was the long-awaited three-litre Alpine with Renault-Gordini V8 engine. The new engine was not ready and the interesting French newcomer was out, as also was the 4.7-litre Ford V8-engined Matra.

The Ford team experienced a great bout of windscreen trouble during practice but this was remedied by a new batch of correctly-tempered screens being flown in from America, and then, as though to indicate everything was in battle order, McLaren took one of the Mk IVs out in the dark and lapped it in an astonishing 3 m. 24.4 s.-an average of 147.316 mph, during which time the car was timed at 215 mph on Mulsanne Straight. This was faster even than Bandini's best April time of 3 m. 25.5 s. in the Ferrari P4. Ford's practice times gave them five out of the first six positions in the start line-up.

It was overcast but warm for the 4 p.m. start on 10 June, and a record crowd of about 300,000 were gathered around the a.14-mile circuit to seethe race, and to enjoy the unique carnival atmosphere of the place. Henry Ford 2, Mrs Henry Ford, and their entourage arrived by helicopter to see the 1967 team give battle.

The drivers lined up for the traditional run-and-enter start, the Tri. color was lowered and before long the roar of engines was heard. It was Rodriguez who actually led away with the blue and white NART Ferrari but before he had gone far Australian Hawkins had nosed the Ford Mk 2B into the lead, and he was still there after the first lap, ahead of Gardner's Ford, Rodriguez, Schlesser in the Ford France Mk 2B, and Gurney in the ultimate winning red Mk IV. Salmon swept into his pit for attention, as did the Matra-BRM of Jaussaud whose door was damaged and refused to close securely. Nathan also pulled in with the Imp-engined Nathan for attention to his clutch, and Baker stopped the Sprite prototype with a generator bulb not functioning.

It took only three laps to put paid to Surtees' new Lola-Aston Martin, for it visited its pit with a smoking engine, and was retired. The second Lola-Aston came into its pit five laps later with fuel pump troubie.

After an hour's racing the Hawkins Bucknum Ford still led, with the Gurney-Foyt car in second place, the McLaren-Donohue Mk IV third, and the Hill-Spence Chaparral had moved up to fourth. The Amon Vaccarella and Rodriguez-Baghetti Ferrari P4s were fifth and sixth. The Fords pit-stopped for fuel and the leading Chaparral was out in front. A quick check revealed the Fords had tankage for about an hour's running at race speeds, but the Chaparrals and Ferraris could last about 15 minutes longer. After the second refuelling session however the Gurney-Foyt Ford led from the Hill-Spence Chaparral, followed by the Andretti-Bianchi and the McLaren-Donohue Fords.

After four hours the Gurney-Foyt Ford still led and the Andretti Bianchi Mark IV had passed the Chaparral into second. The second Lola-Aston Martin had retired, as had both Mirages, the Jaussaud-Pexscarolo Matra-BRM, the Nathan, the Wagstaff-Preston lotus 47, and one of the French CDs. The three Fords and the Chaparral led the proceedings but the Ferraris.sat back and watched. With a quarter of the race gone 43 cars were left in out of 54 starters. There was no sign of rain, and it looked as though it could be a record le Mans-in every way. The Hill-Spence Chaparral was fourth, on the same lap as the two leading Ferraris, but the other Texan car was in at its pit, refusing to restart after a stop for fuel. Hill went in for fuel and a check on the transmission, a move which started speculation as to the health of the automatic gearbox. It was nine minutes before he went back into the race, during which time the 2F dropped to seventh place.

Rindt retired after over-revving the Porsche 907 during a very spirited drive. By around 11 p.m. the Parkes-Scafotti Ferrari went into the lead alter a refuelling bit, but by 1 a.m. three Ford Mk IVs were in the three premier positions, once again headed by the Gurney-Foyt car. The Chaparral was up to fifth after its lengthy stop. At 2 a.m. it was still 1-2-3 for Ford with lap times at around 3X minutes. The Chaparral was having trouble with its aerofoil and was fifth. Parkes was fourth with the P4.

It all seemed set to pattern, then Bianchi brought in Ferrari No.3 for fuel and to hand over to co-driver Andretti. New brake pads were fitted, and Andretti roared into the motor race. As he approached the Esses he braked, one disc grabbed and he hit first one bank, then another, and another, finishing in the middle of the road, with pieces of Ford all over the place. As he sat there, McCluskey in Ford No.5 arrived upon the scene, fast, braked, spun, and hit one of the banks, wrecking the car. As they sat there Schlesser entered the Esses with the Ford France car No.6, and had to spin to avoid the bent cars. At fhe end of it all there were three highly defunct Fords, but miraculously only Andretti was hurt, and then only slightly.

So, at half-distance there was a complete change of scene. Ford had a handsome lead, but three Ferraris and a Chaparral occupied the spaces in between the next Ford in sixth place. Such is Le Mans. The dawn came up blue and minus the traditional Le Mans mist, and there were but 24 cars running to greet the sun. Gurney and Foyt were still way out, but next up was the Parkes-Scamotti Ferrari, then the Hill-Spence Chaparra1. After the Chaparral it was Ferrari-Ford-Ferrari-and anyone's race.

At 5.30 a.m. the Chaparral called in at its pit for investigation of an oil leak, but it stayed three hours while the mechanics took off the gearbox and fitted a new sea1. It was the end of a thrilling challenge, for the car was no longer a force to be reckoned with and it finally retired after14 hours with an oil-less transmission. The other Chaparral had retired more than six hours before with a flat battery. Only 22 cars were left in the hunt-and there were ten hours to go.

Just after 6.30 a.m. Mairesse rushed into his pit with the third-place Ferrari, took on fuel, tyres, and brake pads, and handed over to compatriot Beurlys who pressed on as though he meant it. The Gurney-Foyt Mk IV still led the field, its average speed was more than 137 mph, and it was seven laps ahead of the second-place P4 of Parkes-Scarfiotti. Ferraris were second, third, and fourth however, and anything could still happen. By early Sunday morning Porsche led the Index of Performance, and the leading Ford somewhat surprisingly led the Index of Thermal Efficiency. With six hours to go the Gurney-Foyt Ford was down to five laps in front of the Parkes-Scarfiotti P4, and Ferraris were third and fourth. The leading Ford had covered 293 laps - 20 more than the 1966 leading car of the same make had done, but it was one Ford ahead of three Ferraris, and anything could happen. The sky even gave a hint of rain, but it stayed dry.

There were 16 cars left. Drama when the filth-place Ford of McLaren Donohue lost its rear panelling and had to stop to have it stuck in place with sticky tape. The Klaas-Sutcliffe Ferrari P4 however broke its gearbox and the McLaren car went up to fourth. It was Ford-Ferrari-Ferrari-Ford, and now the Porsches were coming into the overall picture with a fifth, sixth, seventh, and eighth place.

Gurney dived in for fuel, tyres and brake pads and handed over to Foyt who lapped at around 3 minutes. The second-place Ferrari was lapping ten seconds faster, catching the Ford, and not stopping so often for fuel. There was less than two hours to go.

With about 90 minutes lelt the ieading cars stopped for fuel for the last time. It was fuel only and both the Ford and Ferrari lapped steadily around 3 m. 40 s.-so Ferrari's only hope was Ford breakage. It wasn't to be, and the race ran through to a magnificent conclusion with Ford taking maximum honours with the first all-American win ever, both in general classification and in the Index of Thermal Efficiency. The marvellous drive by Gurney and Foyt had pulverised the race record by 10 mph, but Ferrari with engines of almost half the capacity had no reason to be ashamed of second and third places. Porsches too had put up a wonderful performance to finish filth, sixth, seventh, and eighth with two-litre engines, and to win the coveted Index of Performance. Henry Ford 2 had good reason to look pleased with his team, in spite of the bent cars being loaded into the lorries. Gurney concluded his day's performance by spraying everyone within ten yards of the rostrum with victory champagne.

He was permitted this boisterousness, for after all, he and Foyt had averaged more than 135 mph, and set a distance record of 3,250 miles.