LE MANS 24 HOURS 1978

10th - 11th June

55 starters 17 classified finishers

As there was no world championship worthy of the name, the Renault - Porsche confrontation in the Le Mans 24 Hour race was one of the most eagerly awaited events of the year. In spite of losing the spearhead of their attack, the Jabouille - Depailler car, Renault fulfilled all the hopes placed in them in the best possible fashion by leading the race from start to finish. After their victory, Renault announced their withdrawal from sports car racing in order to concentrate on Formula 1. The start of the race was given by Raymond Poulidor (a French cyclist famous for being the eternal second in the Tour de France!

CIRCUIT :

13.640 kms. Layout unchanged but kerbing had been installed in all the corners around the circuit. The Thursday before the race saw the inauguration of the new Dunlop Bridge which increased the visibility in the curve of the same name. An additional measure to improve safety was the clearing of scrub from the interior of the curves before lndianapolis.

REGULATIONS:

No amendments to Ihose in force since 1976. The fact of accepting Groups 5 and 6, lMSA and GTP cars once again placed Ihe Le Mans 24 Hour race beyond Ihe Federal "Pale", and thus outside the world championship.

STARTERS :

55 cars 6 nations 15 makes

France : 4 Renault - Alpines, 3 W. M. s, 1 Rondeau, 1lnaltera.

Germany : 21 Porsches.

Great Brilain : 7 Lolas, 4 Chevrons, 2 De Cadenets, 2 Mirages, 1lbec.

ltaly : 5 Ferraris, 1 Osel!a.

Switzerland : 1 Cheetah, 1 Sauber.

U. S. A: 1 Chevrolet.

SUMMARY:

Among the debutants was an English car, the Ibec and a French one the Rondeau both Cosworth powered, the latter being heavily derived from the Inalteras seen in 1976 and 1977. Ferrari was represented by five BB 512s while in the Renault - Alpine camp there was a new A 442 B as well as a new A 443 (increased cubic capacity). In addition, the previous year's problem with the pistons had been solved thanks to testing on the TRC test track in Ohio, as well as the creation of a special test bed reproducing the thermal stresses of Les Hunaudieres. Tú increase maximum speed on the afore - mentioned straight a special bubble (a perspex cowl ) was developed but finally used only on the winning car The 936/78 Porsches were equipped with new water - cooled 6 cylinder engines but the gearbox proved to be their Achilles' Heel. lnitially, the eligibility of the works 935 (nicknamed "Moby Dick" because of its resemblance to Herman Melville's famous whale) was questioned but after production of letters from the CSI's technical sub - commission, it was accepted. The AMG prepared 450 SL Mercedes failed to qualify. Upset on the second lap as lckx hit problems in his 936 Porsche. Like the previous year, the Belgian ace was drafted on to the Barth - Wollek car but this time the 1977 miracle was not to repeat itself. The Renaults danced off into the distance with the Jabouille - Depailler car proving uncatchable until its engine blew just before 10H00 on Sunday morning. The Ragnotti - Frequelin - Dolhem A 442 was also the victim of gearbox trouble around the same time, but any hopes that the Porsche camp might then have entertained were quickly dashed as they lost Mass's 936 shortly afterwards in an accident, while the lckx - Barth - Wollek car had lost 45 minutes changing a cog in the gearbox earlier in Ihe morning. Pironi and Jassaud were Ihus able to lift off and in spite of clutch problems Ihe Renault Alpine carne home first breaking Ihe 5000 km barrier. The exhausted Pironi, who had done the last 2 stints, had to be lifted from the car and had to undergo emergency resuscitation. Consolation for Porsche were wins in Groups 4 and 5 as well as in the IMSA category. The Rondeau won the GTP category on its Le Mans debut. Overall, the winning car spent only 36 minutes in the pits. Out of the 25 finishers, 17 were classified.

 

RECORDS :

Fastest lap fell to J. P Jabouille in the Renault Alpine A 443 in 3'34"2, a speed of 229.244 km/h, a new record which has remained the outright lap record for circuit no. 6.13, 640 kms, as 1978 was the last time it was used. Pironi and Jassaud also set new outright distance and speed records with 5044.530 kms and 210.188 km/h respectively. Ickx was fastest in practice in 3'27"6, almost 10" quicker than his 1977 record.

Quickest on Les Hunaudieres was Jabouille at a speed of 362 km/h.

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Author: ArchitectPage