The 24 Hours of Le Mans has provided a rich tapestry of motorsport memories, starting with the first race held there in 1923. A combination of permanent track and public roads that are temporarily closed for the race and conducted nonstop for 24 hours, Le Mans is unique in all the world of motorsports. With the 88th running of the legendary event set for this Saturday, September 19, we thought we’d take a look back at some of its memorable moments.
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LeMans is indeed a spectacular event to attend. I was fortunate enough to attend on behalf of Audi in both 99 and again in 01. Had just sat down to dinner in the Audi tent along with Rod Bymaster who at the time was the head of Audi Sport NA., while watching on one of the 6 or 8 big screen tv's in the tent, the Mercedes of Peter Dubreck suddenly went airborne and flew off the course to the left and disappeared behind the tress lining the track. An eerie hush fell over the crowd in the tent. Until one of the TV helicopters flew over the crash and filmed Dumbreck climbing out of the Benz. Then cheers erupted through out the entire course. Mercedes immediately closed their garages and started loading their trucks as they were pulling out of the race. The tent that Audi had there was located on the pit side of the track, at the Porsche Curves leading to the Start/Finnish straight. Audi finished 3rd that year, only to come back and dominate the race several times thereafter. Thank you Audi, and Audi of America.
Correction: Ford MkIV's did not win in 1968 and 1969. It was a GT40 that was converted into a Mirage, then back to a GT40, serial number P/1075, and which won both years. Also the photo of the Mazda 787 should not be confused with a period photograph...it is a more recent photo of historic competition.
There in ‘91.
You could watch the cars go through Terte Rouge and enter the Mulsanne.
The noise of the Renown Mazda’s was incredible. Through ear plugs and ear defenders!!
At night the glow of the Mazda exhaust lit up the inside of the car the body work was so thin.
For me, Lemans had its greatest moment when Enzo tried to sway the Italian public to support him. The Italians were very upset at the number of deaths that were attributed to the “red cars”, so wily old Enzo spread a rumour, through back channels, that his car company, Ferrari, was up for sale to the Americans. Ford Motor Company !
This unleashed a backlash against the Americans, and Enzo had the Italian citizens behind him. So at the moment that Henry Ford 2nd was about to sign the sales agreement, which would give Ford the production car side of Ferrari, called Ford/Ferrari,
leaving the “old man” with the racing scuderia, Enzo had a huge change of heart.
NO SALE OF FERRARI !! This is what Enzo told Henry 2nd and his negotiating team.
So, of course, Henry Ford 2nd, was very upset ( I would be too ) and he then set out to win
LeMans in a Ford race car. This he did , after several years of blood, sweat, and tears.
The 427 ci Ford GT40 won LeMans three times. On the last attempt, his Fords came in
first, second, and third ! He even won a 1000.00$ bet against his new Italian wife ( Henry
Ford 2nd divorced his first wife ) who was betting that Ferrari would win !
Moral of the story, as far as I’m concerned: He who laughs last laughs best !!