LE MANS 24 HOURS 1979

9th - 10th June

55 starters 22 classifíed fínishers

After Renault's withdrawal Porsche also suspended their works involvement. However, when faced with the semi - works entry by Ford of a brace of up - dated Mirages, the Stuttgart company entered 2 Essex sponsored 936s at tbe last moment. As the Group 6 cars were hit by a large number of mechanical problems (in addition to Ickx's disqualifícation for receiving external aid) the way was left open for a battle between tbe privately entered 935s, very much at ease in the heavy rain. After many lead changes, victory fell to the Kremer 935 driven by Don and Bill Whittington from the United States with considerable help from German, Klaus Ludwig. It was the fírst eyer win by a team including 2 brothers, the fírst by a closed car since 1971, by 'private team' since 1965 and the fírst (and last) by a Group 5 car. The start was given by Mr. Joseph Le Theule, minister of transport.

CIRCUIT :

13.626 kms The construction of the new by - pass around tbe south of Le Mans obliged the A. C O. to modify the Tertre Rouge corner: the former 90 degree bend was replaced by a tight curve with a 50 metre radius. This reduced tbe length of tbe circuit by 14 metres. These works necessitated the replacement of the public footbridge by an underground passageway at Tertre Rouge. In addition, Les Hunaudieres was completely resurfaced in the spring.

REGULATIONS :

As this was a lean period for endurance racing, the A. C O. opted for stability and did not modify their regs.

STARTERS :

55 cars 7 nations 14 makes

France : 3 Rondeaus, 3 WMs

Germany : 20 Porsches, 1 Ta], 1 BMW Great Britain : 9 Lolas, 5 Chevrons, 1 Aston Martin, 1 De Cadenet

ltaly : 4 Ferraris, 1 De Tomaso.

Japan: 2 Domes

Switzerland : 2 Cheetahs

United States of America : 2 Fords.

SUMMARY:

The most interesting of the newcorners was the Japanese - entered Dome, a group 6 car witb angular bodywork and a bubble over tbe cockpit inspired by that of the winning Renault in 1978. BMW made their official return witb the new mid - engined M1 coupe homologated in IMSA. Back too was the Aston Martin last seen in 1977 and now fitted witb a pair of turbos. The most famous debutant was obviously Paul Newman in Dick Barbour's 935 while a more discrete first appearance was that of Nick Mason, of Pink Floyd drummer fame. Rodrigo Teran was the first Panamanian to grace Le Mans with his presence. The Rousselot - Dubois - Menant Chevron B 36 was equipped with an on - board camera to show live pictures of the race. When the start was given at 14h00 (because of European Elections) Ickx's Porsche 936 jumped into the lead. Then it was Wollek's tum in the other 936 and he was followed in turn by Jassaud's Ford Mirage. The Group 6s quickly disappeared leaving Group 5 and IMSA Porsche 935s to fight for victory. Shortly after midnight the Kremer Porsche of the future winners went ahead. However, the attention of the public was riveted on the second - placed car of Barbour - Stommelem and Paul Newman in hot pursuit. Fate almost dealt a mortal blow to the leaders at lOh35 on Sunday morning when the 935 ground to a halt on Les Hunaudieres after 2 ruptures of the fuel injection pump belt. Repairs cost the leaders some 1h25 mns but the K3 managed to conserve its lead until the finish. The Barbour 935 managed to hold on to second place in spite of a defective cylinderhead gasket winning the IMSA classification for the second year running. One of the exloits of the race was the fourth place of the Swiss entered 934 GT of Muller - Pallavani - Vanoli which also won the Group 4 category. Jean Rondeau triumphed in Group 6 but lost his GTP crown to the WM - Peugeot.

RECORDS :

Fastest lap : Jacky Ickx (Porsche 936) in 3'36"01,227, 003 km/h, a record for the new circuit layout. The new distance and average speed records were established by the winning Porsche of the Whittington brothers and Ludwig with a distance of 4173, 930 kms at an average speed of 173, 913 km/h, the lowest figures since 1958 due to the very wet conditions. Fastest lap in practice fell to Bob Wollek (porsche 936) in 3'30"07, 233, 519 km/h.

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Author: ArchitectPage