49 starters 28 classified finishers
The previous year Jaguar had shown that in tenns of sheer speed they had nothing to envy Mercedes who had decided to stay away from the 1990 race. This year the main opposition to the Coventry cars came from Nissan and the lone 962 C Porsche of Walter Brun - Oscar Larrauri - Jesus Pareja. An extremely exciting first 12 hours saw up to thirty lead changes in a battIe between these cars. While the winning Jaguar took over first place in the early hours of Sunday morning, the double was not achieved until only 15 minutes before the end when the Repsol sponsored 962 C with Pareja at the wheel ground to a halt at Mulsanne, a bitterly disappointing end to a fine race. Indeed, the Swiss entered Porsche had kept up the pressure on the leading XJR 12 virtually from the start of the race being never much more than a lap behind and having led on 7 occasions. Nissan managed to set fastest lap in practice, a Japanese first, in a specially prepared version reputedly putting out 1000 bhp fitted with special qualifying tyres etc. Both Jaguars crossed the finishing line looking as clean as a new pin (almost) as they had both received a wash and brush - up during their final pitstop! The start was given by Mr. Rayrnond Ravenel, the President of the Intemational Car Manufacturers Organisation, in the presence of Mr. Roger Bambuck, state secretary to the minister responsible for youth and sports.
13.600 kms. A part of the Le Mans legend had disappeared as Ihe famous straight, Les Hunaudieres, had been cut in two places by chicanes destined to increase safety by reducing maximum speeds. This modification which was the subject of much comment increased the length of the circuit by 65 metres.
There had been another FISN A C. O battIe during the winter. In November 1989, the goveming body had demanded the installation of 2 chicanes on Les Hunaudieres. Thus, there was no question of homologating the new layout before 1st January 1990, the logical consequence of which was the removal of the race from the world championship for the second year running. Mercedes - Benz, the 1989 winners of the race as well as the 1989 Drivers and Manufacturers Championship titles, used this as a pretext not to defend their crown. However, the C2 cars, banished from the world championship, were re - admitted to the Sarthe for a final mog.
49 cars 5 nations 11 manufacturers
France : 1 AID, 3 Cougars.
Gennany : 18 Porsches.
Great Britain : 1 ADA, 4 Jaguars, 7 Spices, 1 Tiga.
Italy : 1 Lancia.
Japan : 3 Mazdas, 7 Nissans, 3 Toyotas.
Prior to the race Nissan had announced their intention to become the first Japanese manufacturer to win at Le Mans and tumed up with no fewer than 7 entries, five of which were works cars representing the European, North American and Japanese subsidiaries. Ranged against them were Ihe 4 works Jaguars, 3 Toyotas and seventeen 962 C Porsches still very competitive in long - distance races though now out - classed in sprints. The same could be said for the Coventry cars but Daytona had seen them triumph (as in 1988) and Walkinshaw's men would again do the double. This year Ihe XJR 12 s were running on Goodyear tyres instead of Dunlops, a change which necessitated revised suspension. The main dilemma for the Porsche camp was whether to use long or short tails given the creation of the chicanes, the latter proving the best solution. At the start of the race it seemed that Nissan were going to fulfill their ambitions in spite of losing the Acheson - Donnelly - Grouillard car on the warm - up lap (seized gearbox) with Mark Blundell going into the lead. This early promise flattered only to deceive as the no. 24 Nissan collided wilh Auguri Suzuki's Toyota just before 20H30, dropping from third to sixth in Ihe process. It finally retired during the eleventh hour with a blown engine. The "American" - entered Nissan of Daly - Robinson - Geoff Brabham was also well in contention and actually pulled out a 1 lap lead just after midnight over the Nielsen - Cobb XJR 12. At 3H14 on Sunday moming John Nielsen took over the head of the field from Derek Daly, a lead the British car was never to lose. But as morning broke the Jaguar camp suffered their first loss when the Alain Ferte - Leslie car went out wilh a broken water pump after holding seventh place. In addition, during the fourteenth hour Konrad went off in the Nissan bend, the 3 laps necessary to repair damages dropping the no. 2 Jaguar down to seventh spot The body blow to Nissan's hopes came at 8H44 when Derek Daly came back into the pits complaining of a smell of petrol. A leaking fuel tank was the tenninal diagnosis. So now it was a straight shoot - out between the Larrauri - Pareja - Brun 962 C and the Nielsen - Cobb XJR 12, now joined by Martin Brundle from Jaguar no. 1. Walkinshaw's team lost another car when the Davy Jones - Michel Ferte - Eliseo Salazar cat (ironically enough, Salazar was supposed lo crew the winning car but was replaced by Brundle) retired with overheating in the twentieth hour. The only scare for the winners came around 11H30 when a lenghy stop to change brake - pads allowed the Porsche to make up a lap. The Lammers - Wallace - Konrad car had clawed its way back up to third and took full advantage of the second placed 962 C's misfortunes to give the Coventry team an unexpected double. Nissan's fifth place (the highest ever finish by a Japanese car and crew) and a new lap record was a meagre reward for such enormous investment. C2 honours went the Piper - JacobeIli - Youles Spice while Mazda again won the IMSA category. Twenty - eight finishers represented the highest number since 1975.
New layout, new records : Distance and average speed of the Nielsen - Cobb - Brundle XJR 12 Jaguar in 4882.400 kms at an average speed of 204.036 km/h. Fastest lap fell to Bob Earl's Nissan in 3'40"03, a speed of 222.515 km/h. In practice Mark Blundell wheeled the super boost Nissan R 90 CK round the circuit in 3'27"02, a speed of 236.499 km/h.
Sports Car Races