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  •   Fedorchenko reacted to this post about 8 months ago
    / #Leo-Kinnunen 1943-2017 Always genial Finnish driver who set the fastest-ever #Targa-Florio lap / #Porsche-917K / #Porsche / #Porsche-917

    When Leo Kinnunen lined up on the grid for the start of the #1974-Swedish-Grand-Prix , he created a bit of history on the quiet: this permasmiling trailblazer became the first Finnish driver ever to participate in a round of the Formula 1 World Championship.

    He retired from the race aboard his privateer Surtees TS16 and failed to make the cut in other points-paying rounds that season, but if his status as an F1 one-hit wonder in terms of starts gives the impression that Kinnunen was something of a tail-end Charlie, a gentleman driver who was in above his head, then nothing could be further from the truth. His sole GP outing was a mere downward blip in an otherwise glittering career.

    Kinnunen, who died on 26 July aged 73, enjoyed a highly successful career that spanned almost 20 years, campaigning all manner of machines on two wheels and four. Nevertheless, he is best remembered for taming the mighty Porsche 917. After a few years racing motorcycles in the early 1960s, he rose to prominence in rallying, autocross and ice racing before switching to single-seaters in 1967. Kinnunen raced an outdated Brabham to a single victory in the national Formula 3 series, beating Ronnie Peterson in the process, before making the switch to sports cars. In 1969, he won the hotly contested Nordic Cup, which led to the invitation to test for the works Porsche team.

    Kinnunen landed a full-time seat for 1970 and won first time out in the Daytona 24 Hours, sharing a Porsche-917K with Pedro Rodríguez. The Finnish-Mexican duo also claimed honours in subsequent International Championship of Makes rounds at Brands Hatch and Monza, and he shone in that year’s Targa Florio aboard the latest 908/03. Kinnunen drove much of the distance after Rodríguez was taken ill, finishing second behind the sister car of Brian Redman/Jo Siffert. Kinnunen somehow mustered a 33min 36sec lap of Circuito Piccolo delle Madonie on his final tour, and this blistering new record was never eclipsed. He finished third in the 1973 Targa, too, sharing a 911 RSR with Claude Haldi.

    Kinnunen also excelled in the Interserie championship, the European equivalent of Can-Am, steering variants of 917 to consecutive titles in 1971-73. He claimed 18 outright wins and 11 heat victories over three seasons, and was still a factor in the World Endurance Championship up to 1977, when he retired from circuit racing. Despite staying away from track action, Kinnunen continued to dabble in other disciplines. He had dovetailed race and rally programmes for much of the 1970s, his third place on the 1973 1000 Lakes Rally behind Timo Makinen and Marku Alén being a stand-out performance. He continued to compete off-piste to the end of the decade, claiming outright honours on the 1979 Arctic Rally among others. Kinnunen remained a strong supporter of motor sport after hanging up his helmet, becoming a close friend and supporter of Valtteri Bottas among other fellow countrymen who followed in his wheeltracks. Sadly, Kinnunen was wheelchair-bound for the last ten years of his life after suffering a massive stroke, but he never lost his sunny disposition.
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  •   Fedorchenko reacted to this post about 8 months ago
    / #Rolla-Vollstedt 1918-2017 / #Indy-500 / #1964 / #IndyCar

    An unconventional star of racing, says Richard Heseltine

    From street racing in the ’30s to upsetting the Indy establishment by installing a woman to drive his car at The Brickyard, Rolla Vollstedt did things his own way. He took on the US motor racing elite from his basement, gave a leg-up to a legion of future stars and even ran the sainted Jim Clark in his last-ever Champ Car outing.

    As he told Octane when interviewed for issue 55 in 2007, Vollstedt was a racer to the core. Of German descent, he arrived in Portland, Oregon, aged two. As a teenager he terrorised the neighbourhood in a ’37 Buick while working at Frank Costanzo’s speed shop. Called up for WW2 and having landed at Omaha Beach on D-Day, he was awarded a Purple Heart after stopping a bullet.

    In peacetime, he picked up from where he left off, racing a Lincoln-engined roadster on dirt ovals. Realising his talents lay elsewhere, he installed local man Len Sutton in his car in 1947 and the partnership led to countless honours on the Pacific Northwest before a first run in the Indy-500 in 1964 with a Vollstedt-made, mid-engined single-seater.

    Sutton qualified eighth and was running fourth at the halfway mark when the fuel pump broke. Vollstedt would never win in 21 attempts, but gave early rides to Mario Andretti, George Follmer and the pioneering Janet Guthrie (above, on left, with Vollstedt). After entering a car for Emerson Fittipaldi for the 1984 Indy 500, Vollstedt turned his hand to restoring vintage oval racers.
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  •   Andy Everett reacted to this post about 4 years ago
    Epic Restoration When the Hepworth brothers were invited to drive their late father’s Can-Am BRM-P167 at #Goodwood , they said yes. Just one thing, though – it needs restoring… #BRM-P167-01

    ‘We did six engine rebuilds in one weekend’

    Last raced by #David-Hepworth at Hockenheim in #1973 , this #BRM-P167 presented some stiff challenges when his sons finally set about restoring it. Words Russ Smith /// Photography Jonathan Jacob.


    Early this year Andrew and Stephen Hepworth decided to resurrect their late father’s Can-Am BRM, which he’d dismantled and put into storage 42 years ago. Less than five months later it was charging up the hill at the Goodwood Festival of Speed. ‘I was seven years old when it last ran,’ says Stephen, ‘and was there at Silverstone when it finished seventh.’ Stephen and Andrew grew up knowing the significance of what they had tucked away, and also knew it wasn’t going anywhere. Its importance as a piece of family history became more poignant when David passed away in 1992. ‘We’d both been racing in all sorts of cars since the early Eighties, but only started getting things going on the old Can-Am stuff in 2012,’ says Stephen. ‘Another #Can-Am BRM – the only one we don’t own, the ex-George Eaton P154 – was crashed. We still have all the plans and drawings, so were able to help out with the rebuilding of it.’

    This planted the seed of an idea to put their father’s P167 back together. They even started rounding up the parts and moulds, but nothing concrete happened until earlier this year. Stephen says, ‘That was when, having been tentatively sounded out about it, we got an invitation from Lord March to run the car at the Goodwood Festival of Speed. You don’t turn down chances like that, and we were up for the challenge.’ Having been mere kids the last time the car was in one piece was a small hurdle to overcome, but the pair weren’t put off by it and had a plan for some back-up. ‘We contacted John Brooke, the Canadian who worked as chief mechanic for our dad when he ran the car,’ explains Stephen. ‘He was more than happy to offer advice, flying over and staying for more than a month to help us finish it off and take the car to Goodwood. He was back in his old role again, which was a nice touch. He helped a lot with the technical stuff.’

    ‘We had about 80 per cent of the BRM components’

    ASSESSING AND STRIPPING

    ‘With so little time available the biggest challenge was co-ordinating it all,’ says Stephen (left). ‘So we got everything out to see what there was, what was still usable, and what we’d need to start chasing down. It was encouraging that we had about 80 per cent of the BRM components needed and they were re-usable.’ Andrew adds, ‘We also found we had the original drawings for pretty much everything except the mounting brackets for the nose of the bodyshell.’ The rear-view mirrors had also gone missing, and were important for the look of the car. Stephen said, ‘Eventually we managed get a pair from a kit-car supplier, but for what is just a bit of plastic and glass they cost what seems like a fortune – about £70 apiece.’

    EXPERT TIP

    ‘It’s easy to get carried away when you are stripping things down, but we were keen for all the fuel and brake lines to run where the originals did, so took lots of photos before removing them.’

    BODY AND CHASSIS

    ‘The body moulds had been left in a field for 40 years’

    ‘The original body was too damaged to re-use. It had been patched up a few times when racing, and time hadn’t helped,’ says Stephen. ‘Luckily we had been able to track down the original body moulds.

    They had been left in a field for 40 years behind Specialised Mouldings in Huntingdon and seemed in pretty good shape. We worked with Martek Composites on those, just up the road in Huddersfield. After they were cleaned up we did a trial moulding of the body panels and they came out fine.

    ‘Then we complicated matters by deciding to save time and hassle by moulding the body in a coloured gelcoat so we wouldn’t have to paint it. The moulds weren’t designed for that but, with a bit of work, in the end the only issue were some raised blemishes around the air intakes in the nose. We will have to paint that bit at some point to hide the marks there.

    ‘The other problem was that we couldn’t get the gelcoat mixed in the correct colour in time. We obviously wanted it to be in the golden-yellow Hepworth team colour it was raced in back in the Seventies, but it simply couldn’t be done so we settled on this bright yellow. It does get the car noticed. Andrew (above) recalls, ‘Two small moulds weren’t found – one was for a rear side pod, but we had the drawings for that so making a new one was easy enough. We also didn’t have one for the windscreen [which is just a piece of black glassfibre].’ Stephen says, ‘I spent two days with strips of flexible plywood, a glue gun and filler getting a new mould exactly right for it.’ The chassis tub of these cars is a monocoque built in period aircraft style from sections of aluminium bonded and riveted together. There are steel reinforcement pieces around suspension pick-up points and other stressed areas but these were kept to a minimum for weight reasons. ‘We had to completely reskin this as the original bonding had deteriorated over time,’ says Stephen. Once again we were lucky to have all the original plans so new sections of aluminium were cut to size and drilled for the countless rivets, all the positions and number of those dictated by the plans. Everything was then stuck together with Araldite 420 and those rivets. To preserve them, the steel reinforcing sections were electro-nickel plated.

    ‘Then the hardest part of it was making up the missing front body mounts. We had to use our imagination and what we could see from period photos, but I think we’ve got close. It took three days, though, and we must have had that front end on and off about 40 times. The original roll-hoop was exactly that and would be quite lethal if the car did go over. So I redesigned that without changing the car, but with more bracing to make it safer. I think it still looks like a period part to the untrained eye.’

    EXPERT TIP

    ‘With a project like this you have to be prepared to spend a lot of time making everything fit. It can take days mocking things up and stripping them down again, but it’s worth it in the end.’

    Officially retired but still assisting, workshop helper Mick Leggett attaches the last of the interior panelwork.
    Not a lot to go on – the rear subframe and transaxle as dragged out of storage.

    While the engine is a Chevrolet V8, BRM tweaked it to its own design so much that little remains from Detroit.

    Body tub had to be completely repanelled because bonding had failed – not great when up against the clock.

    Rear bulkhead starts to take shape.

    Wheel studs proved to be too large Dummy front ends produced to test original mould.

    Fresh tubular supports were crafted for steering column and radiator.



    UNNING GEAR

    ‘We were told we’d have to wait 11 months for wheel bearings’

    The engine is an 8.0-litre all-alloy version of the Chevrolet ‘big-block’ V8, though only the basics of it would be recognised by GM. ‘This is the BRM version; they made a lot of their own changes,’ Stephen says. ‘It had sat in a case since #1971 – it was one of the spare units bought with all the BRM stock. All we replaced were the valve springs and gaskets – the rest is as it came from their engine shop in Bourne, Lincolnshire.’ Which all sounds wonderfully straightforward, and it was – until the brothers fired it up. ‘The block kept cracking and leaking water,’ says Stephen. ‘Then we’d have to tear it down, stitch up a repair and put it all back together again. We did six engine rebuilds in one weekend. The problem was the poor-quality original casting – it was porous and had ash in the metal.’

    Andrew adds, ‘It was a problem back then, but we were told about a trick used by the McLaren team, who used alloy Chevy engines that leaked like sieves too – torqueing the engine down when it’s hot. That goes against everything you are taught, but we did that and got an extra half-turn on everything and since then it has been okay, so I guess the proof is in the pudding. ‘At first we also had trouble getting the engine to start on the dyno, despite refurbished Lucas injectors and a new metering unit. I tried everything; in desperation, I rooted round the spares and found a rusty old metering unit that looked like it was off the back of a dinosaur. We fitted that and boom! – it fired up first go.
    ‘When we first ran it up on the dyno it made 580bhp, which wasn’t bad, but with a few tweaks we got that up to 691bhp @ 6000rpm. John Brooke suggested we go a little leaner on the mixture, and that gave us 701bhp. That’ll do for now,’ he grinned.

    Of all things, it was wheel bearings that looked like they might scupper the project. Andrew says, ‘They have very fine needle rollers and are an unusual size not used by anything else. We tried our usual supplier and were told we’d have to wait 11 months for new wheel bearings, so I dug around and found one in our parts supply, then spent a long time on the phone and eventually got the other three from various suppliers.’ There was a similar issue with the calipers. ‘We needed new pistons and Girling had thrown all its parts away – the rear ones are only shared with Lotus 72 fronts. We turned up our own on the lathe.’

    ‘We had a set of wheels crack-tested and refinished, then they wouldn’t fit over the studs, says Stephen. Larger-diameter ones must have been fitted in period. We had to machine out all the holes in the wheels.’

    Stephen Hepworth makes a few final adjustments to the engine – yielding an extra 121bhp after its first dyno run
    Lack of plans meant guesswork for front frame BRM logo prominent on original steering wheel
    Uncompromising cockpit will get some padding but there wasn’t time before Goodwood Festival of Speed.

    Hewland transaxle stripped and checked, but found to be okay

    BRM P167 - 01’S RACING PAST

    ‘He was beating the Porsche 917s until the tyres wore out’

    BRM’s first venture into Can- Am racing was with the P154 in 1970. But despite putting it on the podium at Riverside in California, driver Pedro Rodriguez described it as the worst car he had ever driven. So over the winter BRM lengthened the wheelbase by over four inches, played with the aerodynamics, and renamed it the P167.

    The results were good: in its first two races, in the Interserie championship – Europe’s version of Can-Am – at Imola and Hockenheim, Brian Redman took two wins in P167-01, the first by a whole lap. The car was then flown out to California for a couple of Can-Am rounds, Redman coming fourth at Laguna Seca then handing it over to Howden Ganley who got a third place at Riverside, saying the car was ‘absolutely magic, so easy to drive in the rain’.

    P167-01 stayed in Europe for the #1972 season, competing in eight Interserie rounds, all but one with Ganley at the wheel. He won the first race at the Nürburgring by more than two minutes, and did similar in a mid-season round at Zeltweg, but also recorded three #DNF s and was otherwise no higher than ninth. At the end of the season #BRM decided to focus its efforts on Formula One and sold the entire Can-Am project, parts and all, to British Hillclimb champion David Hepworth.

    Up against well-funded teams of Porsches and McLarens, Hepworth competed in four Interserie rounds, finishing 10th at Imola and seventh at Silverstone, but his season highlight came in June at the Norisring in Germany. Racing in the wet, he was beating the works Porsche 917s until two laps from the end when his Intermediate tyres started to wear out. By the time he got back to the paddock all four had gone flat. Stephen Hepworth says his father always regarded that drive as his fi nest hour. The pressures of family and several successful businesses then took over and Hepworth put everything into storage at his works in Brighouse, where it remained until recently.

    Norisring nose damage was taped up by journalist Ian Wagstaff, who was working as impromptu pit crew.
    On the grid at the Norisring, Germany, for David Hepworth’s finest hour against works Porsche 917s.
    With the race against time achieved, the only thing left to do was unleash all 701bhp up Goodwood’s hillclimb.

    CONCLUSION

    ‘Going fast between walls – that’s my idea of motor racing’

    ‘We made it to Goodwood, but only just. We were actually still finishing the car in the paddock there on the Thursday. In fact the first time the car ran under its own steam was to the startline at Goodwood on the Friday,’ says Stephen. ‘But it was trouble-free all weekend. We made six runs in total – all good.’ Asked about the experience of threading one of these notoriously wide and overpowered machines between the unforgiving stone walls of the Goodwood hillclimb course, Andrew just grins. ‘Yes, basically it’s just an 8.0-litre engine in a tea-tray, and it’s a genuine 200mph machine too. But going fast between walls – that’s my idea of motor racing.’

    Stephen adds, ‘My feelings about fixing up and driving the car my dad used to race? The one word that sums it up is “pride”. It’s been a fantastic thing to do and a great challenge.’


    The pair have since also run the P167 at CarFest North, and that’s pretty much the plan – to use it for demo runs rather than get involved in full-on historic competition. That sort of activity will be left for others, because Andrew and Stephen have more interesting plans to keep them busy. ‘We’ve already started on another Can-Am BRM and are going to build a total of three more of them now – we’ve got enough original BRM bits left over to do that.’


    So the thunderous Can-Am roar of Chevy-powered BRMs could soon be back on the world’s racetracks.

    Thanks to: Hepworth International, Yorkshire, hepworthinternational.com

    NEXT MONTH

    Recreating the glamour and grandeur of a Facel Vega HK500 is hard enough, but the scale of the task with this car tested the ingenuity of one of the world’s fi nest Facel restorers.

    Rear brakes a headache as no parts were available – there was simply no demand, according to #Girling .
    David Hepworth’s grandson Ryan now helps out on the car – ensuring the skills and knowledge are kept alive.
    Car still wears number 27 from fi nal season Tuning Lucas fuel injection produced a handy 701bhp.
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  •   Richard Meaden reacted to this post about 4 years ago
    The #Ligier-JS2 / #Ligier-Maserati-JS2 / #Ligier / #Ligier-Maserati . French supercar with Maserati power. French Curves The French supercar with Maserati Merak power designed by Pietro Frua. Story by Andrea Cittadini. Photography by Roberto Carrer.


    A Guy Ligier began his racing career riding a motorcycle and became the Champion of France in 1959 and 1960. In 1966, Ligier was the sole French driver in Formula 1 and competed against the best drivers of the era. Following the death of his lifelong friend Jo Schlesser, who was killed in the 1968 French Grand Prix, Ligier withdrew from motorsport and a sportscar project he was developing was put on hold. However, in 1969, Michel Tetu, an ex-Renault engineer joined the Ligier team and persuaded Ligier to revive the project. Guy Ligier named this new car JS1 – 'JS' stood for his friend Jo Schlesser. He displayed the JS1 at the 1969 Paris Motor Show. The body was of Italian design. The French chassis used a steel backbone and was suspended front and rear by double wishbones. It was powered by a mid-mounted Cosworth FVA #Formula-2 engine.

    The JS1 was designed by Michel Tetu who performed the initial aerodynamic tests in a wind tunnel. The car was constructed by Pietro Frua, who was chosen because he was considered to be the best man for the job, but despite his personal status he was willing to defer to Ligier's technical demands. Other designers would likely have been less flexible in following a carmaker's instructions. Frua in contrast, was perfectly happy to do so, and came up with a superb car that still looked absolutely modern.

    The first JS1 to roll off the line was a red car fitted with a Ford engine. Then came the race débuts with the first wins in 1970, several engine changes and an appearance at Le Mans. Ford decided to stop supplying engines and an agreement was set up with Citroën to obtain Maserati power units. Guy Ligier was already well acquainted with the Italian marque after using its V12 in his Cooper F1 in 1966.



    In the meantime Tetu designed the Sport JS3 which competed in 1971, until the arrival of the Maserati JS2, which was also complemented by a road version. Today Michel Tetu is the Chairman of Club Ligier JS2 (www.ligierjs2.fr) and it was thanks to him that we managed to visit the Abrest factory where all the JS2s were made. He observed his creation as though it was flesh and blood and revealed all the secrets of the car and its genesis. He even showed us the original plans and presented us with a copy.

    Tetu explained the concept of the futuristic aluminium and Klegecell (foam) chassis with sandwich and honeycomb construction techniques. He went on to describe the brakes and transmissions, the tests at Autodromo di Modena and the final configuration, which featured the Maserati 2.7 V6 engine followed by the 3.0-litre unit of the Merak and the #Citroen-SM. The SM's transmission was also employed. He also mentioned the three mysterious special electronic injection 24-valve engines that #Maserati made for #Ligier . They were never used because the company had been sold during that time. One of these units is on display in Bernard Guénant's Trident showroom.

    Bernard Guénant is a man from times past: a genuine and knowledgeable aficionado of beautiful motor cars. He's the proprietor of the Maserati Trident-Autosport dealership (www.trident-autosport.com) in La Rochesur- Yon, a smart and rationally laid out town built on the edict of Napoleon Bonaparte in the Vendée district near Nantes. His personal preference lies with Citroën and Maserati, marques that have crossed paths in the past and are acclaimed for the original technical solutions and refined styling of their models.

    Maserati was owned by Citroën from 1968 to 1975, and it was this period that awakened Bernard Guénant's interest in the Italian marque. This brings us up to 1984 when Bernard's garage was operating as a classic car restorer specialising in Maseratis and Ferraris and, from 2004, Ligier coupes with their V6 Maserati engine, an example of which Bernard bought for himself.

    Today the Carrossimo workshop (www.carrossimo.com) is an international reference point for fans of Italian and French sportscars and others, for example there's a 1966 McLaren M1B in the collection displayed at the Trident-Autosport Maserati showroom. Bernard Guénant owns several historically significant Citroëns and Maseratis, including a Quattroporte II, and racing cars including a Maserati Bora Group 4 and the Ligier Maserati JS2.

    The featured Ligier JS2, powered by Maserati's 3.0- litre V6 engine, was a road model registered on 17th October 1973 and subsequently race converted by its then owner Philippe Bordier for use in the 1976 edition of the prestigious French hillclimb championship and later two events in 1977 and 1978. This JS2 was to compete in Group 6 and it won nine class awards and top-ten placings in its group. The livery, initially the official 1975 GT white/blue, was changed for the last two appearances. Bernard Guénant returned the car to its official colours of 1974, the year of the 8th place at Le Mans with Lafitte-Serpaggi. The entrepreneur/driver is still racing the JS2 today at classic car meetings.

    Bernard Guénant's JS2 is unique, an extremely valuable road model that was race converted immediately after purchase. The owner informed us that the JS is an extremely well designed car that offers a measure of neutrality in its handling and is perfectly at home on the road or on the track. There were a total of 83 Ligier coupes built, plus a handful of race-ready cars. Today there are only around 30 surviving cars with prices ranging from €1,000,000 quoted by Artcurial for the Cosworth engined JS2, which came second in the 1975 edition of the Le Mans 24 Hours, to €650,000 for the JS1-02 and €123,000 (150,000 CHF) for one of the latest series JS2 models from Pfenninger Autos AG in Switzerland. The average asking price for the ‘routière’ version is around €65,000.

    Thanks to its characteristics, the JS2 is destined to grow in recognition and is becoming much sought after.

    ABOVE: Prototype fuel injected 24-valve Merak development engine

    BELOW: This JS2 ran at #Le-Mans in 1975 with Cosworth DFV power.

    ABOVE: The featured JS2 was originally a #1973 road car. It was converted into a hillclimber and competed between #1976 - #1978 .

    LEFT: Originally fitted with a Ford V6, the JS2 became #Maserati-2.7-V6 powered and later Merak 3.0.
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  •   Dan Furr reacted to this post about 4 years ago
    PORSCHE MOMENTS by Colin Goodwin

    Colin Goodwin ponders the races he hit, those he missed, and wonders if contemporary motorsport might be more exciting than we realise…

    Another working day that should have been a productive one wrecked by too much YouTubery. The usual stuff: a bit of vintage #CanAm racing, some #F1 and to wrap up a five-minute snippet of a documentary on the #1970 #BOAC 1000km at Brands Hatch.

    Everyone knows that race, the epic drive by #Pedro-Rodriquez in a #Gulf-Porsche 917. I think the clip is from a documentary film made about the John Wyer-run and #Gulf -sponsored team and I have a feeling that I’ve seen the whole film, but that could be my ageing brain playing up. Sadly a brain that may be old, but not one installed in a body that was old enough in #1970 to take itself the 45 miles from my home in Woking to Brands Hatch to watch that epic race. My dad wasn’t interested in motor racing; he was into boxing, tennis, athletics and never drove a car in his life. He did take me to see the film Le Mans the next year, though, so he can be forgiven.

    What I can’t forgive myself for is not going to watch more sports car races in the 1980s. What on earth was I thinking? I’d like to put forward the argument that the 1980s through to the early ‘90s was the golden era of sports car racing. Yes, the #Porsche-917 and #Ferrari-512 battles were amazing with fantastic drivers on mighty circuits in cars that were hugely challenging to drive on the limit but look at the depth of the field and the variety in the Group C period: There was #Porsche , of course, with its #Porsche-956 and then #Porsche-962 , Jaguar, Mercedes, Lancia, Nissan, Dome, Mazda and more; the #Mulsanne straight without the chicanes; #Jacky-Ickx , Bell and #Pescarolo – all legends from the years that I missed when I was in short trousers; and Brundle, Wallace, Dumfries and other younger talents at the top of their game.

    I caught a few good races but I should have been to more of them. I guess you don’t realise that you’re going through a peachy period when you’re in it at the time. Well, I think we’re entering another one and this time I’m not going to make the same mistake. Reading Frankel’s report on Porsche’s magnificent performance at Le Mans in June has been a particularly strong wake up call that something wonderful is happening in sports car racing. Reading a nice long, well written and emotive feature backed up by excellent photographs is still an unbeatable medium. Many Tweets and blogs came my way after this year’s race but it was reading Andrew’s feature that brought the event to life. 140 characters in a Tweet can’t do that.

    And there’s another reason why I’m revved up about the current scene. I’m beginning to think that we’re getting a bit too wrapped up in the past. I have a subscription to Motor Sport magazine and love (and am quite knowledgeable about) the machinery and personalities from the ‘60s and ‘70s but I have a feeling that supporting and enthusing about contemporary motor racing, if it is good, is important.

    And another thing: I have had enough of the Gulf and #Steve-McQueen worship. If you own one of those fake Gulf racing jackets you’ll probably be spitting carpet tacks at this point but once I wore a No Fear t-shirt into the Autocar office and was quite rightly shot down by Steve Sutcliffe and Monkey Harris. I knew I had sinned and I repented before the onslaught from my peers.

    Right then, June 18-19 have been blanked off in the 2016 diary. See you there perhaps. “You don’t realise that you’re going through a peachy period when you’re in it at the time”
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  •   Dan Furr reacted to this post about 4 years ago
    McQueen and the making of #Le-Mans / New documentary features never-seen archive material and unheard interview tapes / All photography by Nigel Snowdon

    ‘Making movies is great fun. Being a movie star is a pain in the ass.’ It’s one of the most telling lines from new documentary film Steve McQueen: #The-Man-&-Le-Mans , which opens in the US on 13 November and in the UK on 20 November #2015 . The documentary uses archive footage and interviews with key people from the making of the #1970 movie Le Mans to tell the story of this troubled project, which began filming with no script and suffered a change of director after only six weeks, when John Sturges quit with the immortal words: ‘I’m too old and too rich to put up with this sheet.’ McQueen then fell out with executive producer and friend Bob-Relyea , saying: ‘You betrayed me, you stabbed me in the back. You and I will never speak again.’

    Add in the ongoing tension between McQueen and his wife Neile, who had an affair as a protest against her husband’s legendary infidelity, and you can see that the omens were not good. To their credit, the documentary makers have not whitewashed McQueen’s character flaws and they have unearthed some fascinating stories – for example, an interview with McQueen’s personal assistant, Mario Iscovich, in which he relates how he was obliged to cover-up a crash in a road car being driven by McQueen, who was trying to engineer an affair with leading lady Louise Edlind.


    Iscovich, who was a passenger in the car, suffered a broken arm but took the rap for McQueen, agreeing to state that he’d been driving instead – despite having tried to persuade the star to slow down.

    The film opens and closes with McQueen’s own voice, recorded by his doctor just six weeks before McQueen’s death from cancer at the age of 50, talking about his life and the pressures that might have contributed to his illness. It’s an intensely moving monologue, never heard before, and it’s beautifully matched to the photography – a combination of new footage and archive material. This material came from a variety of sources but the most striking discovery was several hundred boxes of rushes from the original movie, which had been believed lost. In addition, the producers found film from a 1970 Swiss ‘making of’ documentary as well as behind-the-scenes footage that had been shot by a crew member and one of the stunt drivers.

    They also scoured the world for old audio recordings of McQueen, some of which were found by following up leads from contemporary interviews in magazines – and, bizarrely, a recording McQueen made for Anglia TV in Norwich, UK, in #1962 .

    Intercut with the original footage are ‘talking head’ reminiscences by people who were on set in 1970: drivers such as #David-Piper and #Derek-Bell , McQueen’s would-be conquest #Louise-Edlind , his on-screen nemesis Siegfried Rauch, and many of the crew. They are riveting accounts, and the use of a portable studio adds to the feel that this project has been put together with real attention to detail. Such is the hype that has built up around the McQueen cult in recent years, we approached this documentary with a healthy cynicism – but were pleasantly surprised at just how good it is. Even if you’re not a #Steve-McQueen fan, go and see it: you will find it an absorbing and rewarding experience.

    Below and bottom #Steve-McQueen , actress #Elga-Andersen and director #Lee-Katzin during a script discussion; McQueen with production exec #Bob-Rosen – who is interviewed for the documentary.
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  •   Bob BMW reacted to this post about 4 years ago
    From precocious F2 upstart to seasoned works driver and #Le-Mans legend, #Jacky-Ickx enjoyed a long and varied career at the very top level of motor sport.


    Thinking back to the way that racing used to be in the 1960s and most of the ’70s, it is only now that I can fully appreciate how lucky mere club drivers were to be able to compete in events at which many of the star drivers of the time were entered. Back then, racers did as much as they could fit in, with Grand Prix folk showing up in sports cars, #F2 , saloons and whatever else might be on offer.

    It was at the #1968 Nürburgring 1000kms that I first got to see and meet Jacky Ickx. He was driving a Gulf GT40 with Paul ‘Hawkeye’ Hawkins. Ickx had covered himself in glory at the German Grand Prix the previous year when he’d raced a Matra F2 car (with 1600cc Cosworth FVA engine) against the 3-litre F1 machinery. Despite setting the third-fastest time in practice –just behind Denny Hulme’s Brabham – Ickx had to start back in 18th spot with the other F2 runners, but got up to fifth before his suspension broke. That shows what a Ringmeister can do with his blood up.


    Ickx won his first GP in 1968, for Ferrari at the very wet French round at Rouen. I must have said it before, but drivers who shine in the rain are very special. There’s something in their wiring that enables them to handle atrocious conditions better than us mere mortals. His F1 career had its ups and downs –Ferrari to Brabham and back to Ferrari, then on to Lotus with crashes, fire, hospital and back into action. I think he, along with the whole of F1, was very upset by Jochen Rindt’s demise at Monza in 1970. It is a measure of the man that Ickx publicly stated that he was glad he didn’t win that year’s #F1 World Championship because Rindt wasn’t around to protect his points lead.

    His strolling across the track to slip into his GT40 and do up his belts at Le Mans in 1969 as a protest against the traditional ‘run and jump’ start caused a stir, but what a brave decision –and what an exceptional finish to the race, with him and Jackie Oliver winning by just 9 secs from Hans Herrmann and Gérard Larrousse.

    Both Derek Bell and Jochen Mass have told me that partnering Ickx was special. The most important aspect of any co-driver is that you get the car back in at least as good nick as it was when you handed it over. It also helps if they’ve kept the lead or carved back a place or two. Ickx did all of that and more –perhaps never more so than during his amazing contribution to the Porsche effort at Le Mans in 1977. After his own 936 failed, he took over the Hurley Haywood/Jürgen Barth sister car and produced one of those charges that you had to witness to believe.


    What a treat it was to be in that race, too, and see the man at work. Another time at Le Mans, it was pelting down and I was wondering what the hell I was doing trying to keep the De Cadenet on the road down the Mulsanne Straight. I was on full wets. Who comes up behind me and sails past? Ickx. I followed him into the pits –he’d come in for a set of wets. Correct me if I’m wrong, but you can’t control a sports car at well over 200mph in those conditions on slicks, can you?

    Jacky came over to have a closer look at the De Cadenet one year. In his magnificent accent, he said: “You know Alain, when I drive for Porsche everything is just as it should be, with a wonderful warm, comfortable seat and the steering wheel and instruments just where I want them. The gearlever is perfect and the mechanics are in wonderful uniforms –it is like going to the Ritz. But when I look at your car, with the glassfibre shards in the seat and old instruments, the team and I think it must be like going to prison.” Definite hero.

    Ickx holds off Herrmann in the closing stages of 1969 Le Mans. Inset: the young man as a Ferrari F1 driver.

    JACKY ICKX

    Born 1945 From Brussels, Belgium
    Career highlights Eight GP wins for Ferrari and Brabham; #1966 Spa 24 Hours winner; six victories at Le Mans and twice World Endurance Champion; 1979 Can-Am champion; 1983 Paris-Dakar Rally winner
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  •   Daniel 1982 reacted to this post about 4 years ago
    Renault - #Alpine A443 1978. Richard Meaden on track in a #Le-Mans icon. This French-crewed, French-built racing car led at La Sarthe in 1978 until a controversial fuelling issue handed victory to its team-mate. Richard Meaden tests it at Dijon-Prenois. Photography Gus Gregory.

    Given the passion and beauty that defines Alpine and Renault's collective efforts at building racing cars, it's appropriate that the work of this most Gallic of motor sport partnerships should be separated into periods, like those of an artistic movement. The boldest creation to emerge during the rather self-explanatory 'Yellow Period' is this, the spectacular 1978- #Renault-Alpine-A443 .

    The culmination of an obsessive quest for outright victory in the Le Mans 24 Hours, this remarkable-looking machine was created with the express intention of succeeding where the previous three efforts had ended in heartbreak and humiliation. Its visual intent speaks volumes, but fully to understand the extraordinary investment in effort and francs that Renault Sport piled into its 1978 assault on Le Mans, you need to appreciate what preceded it.

    Though the World Championship of Makes - forerunner to the current World Endurance Championship (WEC) - had long provided impetus for all the major manufacturers' season-long sports car racing campaigns, the lure of Le Mans ensured it remained the Big Prize, even though it was a standalone event. In #1976 #Renault was still dividing its attention between a full World Championship effort and winning Le Mans, but for #1977 the decision was taken to focus its endurance racing resources solely on the blue riband 24-hour race.

    Then, as now, whether you're a beancounter keen for global marketing capital or a racer hungry for immortality, the pull of Le Mans rivals that of gravity itself. Yet with its revolutionary #Formula-1 adventure already beginning to eat into Renault's resources, privately and publicly there was a very real sense that, win or lose, 1978 would mark the final chapter in #Renault-Alpine 's Le Mans odyssey.

    The A443 was everything the partnership knew about building racing cars, crystallised into one epic machine. Lest we forget, these were pioneering days for endurance racing. New Group 6 regulations introduced in the mid-70s had cemented the shift from the big-banger sports prototypes epitomised by the #Porsche-917 , #Ferrari-512 and #Lola-T70 to be-winged, slick-shod, open-cockpit projectiles powered by a new kind of downsized, turbocharged engine.

    Together with the new #Porsche-936 - which combined an evolution of the 917's tubular spaceframe with the forced-induction fiat-six from the 935 - the Renault-Alpines were the most impressive and outlandish- looking sports prototypes of this brave new era.

    None was more highly developed, or exuberantly elongated, than the one-off A443. Developed in secret with the hope of stealing a march on #Porsche , the A443 took the already pace-setting A442B to its ultimate conclusion. With a longer wheelbase for greater stability, an enlarged 2.2-litre turbocharged V6 for more power and torque, refined aerodynamics for reduced drag and increased downforce, plus countless detail refinements to improve reliability and fuel economy, the A443 existed on the cutting edge of sports-prototype design.

    In recent years Audi's WEC effort has come to define the methodical approach that secures longterm dominance, but Renault Sport's programme of repeated endurance tests was every bit as meticulous. During the development of the A442 and A442B, the Renault-Alpine squad conducted countless longdistance tests at Paul Ricard and even at industry test facilities in the USA. They also ran somewhat risky high-speed aerodynamic tests on closed sections of French autoroute, running at speeds in excess of 350km/h. Theirs was an effort akin to the Space Race in four wheels. It's a lesser-known chapter of his career - I have to confess I only learned of it while researching this feature - but among the stellar ranks of French drivers selected by #Renault-Alpine for its all-out effort was a lone Englishman: #Derek-Bell . This was before his celebrated run of success with Porsche during the 1980s Group C era, but after his spell driving the mighty 917 and an early foray in the 936. He knew what it felt like to be part of a big, successful team, yet Renault's approach to racing blew him away, as he described in Volume 2 of Roy Smith's definitive study Alpine & Renault: The Sports Prototypes.

    'When Gerard Larousse called to ask if I'd join the team at Le Mans for #1977 I couldn't believe they actually chose a Brit! I did feel a bit flattered, though by then I had already done seven #Le-Mans-24-Hours , winning it in 1975 with #Jacky-Ickx , so maybe they felt I had something to offer... Gerard said that before the race there would be a lot of testing to do. My God, what an understatement that was! The guys in the team were incredible; mentally driven like I had never seen before. Remember I had raced for Porsche; they had been there and done it all. At Porsche it was almost the same every year - you know, "OK, lads, it's Le Mans time again! Let's get sorted!" All the guys knew what to do, but they didn't go much for change.

    'Renault was an amazing outfit. Suddenly I became part of this team - all young and dynamic. The organisation was 21st Century; it was fantastic. No disrespect to the other teams I have been with, but I have to say Renault was probably the most outstandingly refreshing of all of them. A serious, going-places outfit. Every time they went testing it was a big deal. They sorted the car, the drivers - everything.'

    The test regime was intensified during the build-up to the 1978 Le Mans, not least because Renault's effort had ramped-up with the decision to build and develop the new A443 alongside its proven A442s. No fewer than five 24-hour endurance tests were conducted, covering tens of thousands of kilometres in an effort to expose any flaws in the car and root out any weaknesses in the team, its strategy or its driver line-up. The budget had also increased, from FF 7,714,000 in 1977 to FF 8,273,000 - just shy of £1 million, a massive amount of money for the time. The pressure was on like never before.

    Le Mans is always a war of attrition and neither the French nor the German squad was taking any chances, each entering no fewer than four factory cars. Qualifying honours went Porsche's way, thanks to a blistering record-breaking lap from Jacky Ickx securing pole position in the first qualifying session. The Renaults found more pace in the second qualifying session, the A443 eventually posting the second-fastest lap in the hands of Patrick Depailler to secure a front-row slot alongside Ickx's flying Porsche. With the next three rows of the grid filled with the remaining works Renaults and Porsches, the scene was set for an epic battle.

    One of the defining features of the A442 and 443 was the bizarre Perspex bubble canopy. With a letterbox-like slot in the front to help feed cool air and aid visibility, it boosted top speeds by some 5mph but it also made the cockpit unbearably hot. For the tall guys such as Jean- Pierre Jabouille it made life even harder, for he could barely fit in the car. He and Depailler tolerated the canopy for qualifying but ditched it for the race, while Jean-Pierre Jassaud over-ruled co-driver Didier Pironi and elected to stick with it on their A442B.

    The race began in perfect conditions and Jabouille wasted no time in asserting himself and the A443 over Ickx and the 936. By the end of the first lap he had an 11-second lead over the Porsche, with the pair of 442s in hot pursuit. Drama came quickly, with the 936s of Ickx and Hurley Haywood both pitting on lap two for heat- related fuelling issues. By the fourth lap the A443 led from the pair of A442s, much to the partisan crowd's audible delight.

    As darkness fell the Porsches continued to falter, while the Renaults ploughed on in dominant fashion, the lead swapping between them with the ebb and flow of pit stops. By midnight Jabouille and Depailler were back in the lead after stints that saw the pair lower the lap record half-a-dozen times.

    By morning the 936 of Ickx and Bob Wolleck had mounted a comeback and was now in second place, two laps behind the A443, which was suffering from wheel vibrations but otherwise going like a train. When the threatening Porsche encountered transmission issues just before 9am and took more than 40 minutes to re-join the race, victory looked to be within Renault's grasp. Keen not to take unnecessary risks, the team instructed Depailler to use a device that had been fitted to all four Renaults before the race, which would allow the boost pressure to be reduced to make life easier for the engine. It was the only component on the car that hadn't been subjected to the relentless testing regime...

    Despite misgivings from some quarters of the team, the decision was made to ease the stress on the engine. Twenty-one minutes later Depailler was stationary at the side of the track, surrounded by a cloud of smoke, the engine having suffered what was later diagnosed to be a piston failure caused by a fuelling issue directly related to lowering the boost. The 443's race was run.

    The rest, as they say, is history; the Pironi/Jassaud 442B inherited the lead, surviving a deteriorating clutch and Pironi himself almost succumbing to heat stroke as he cooked beneath the greenhouse-like bubble canopy during a gruelling double stint to the finish. Weighing 7kg less than he did at the start of the race, Pironi was virtually desiccated, but after being plied with water he was sufficiently revived to make the podium celebrations. Renault had won Le Mans!

    Something of that dramatic race remains present in the A443 to this day. Seeing it parked in the pitlane at the Dijon-Prenois circuit is a real pinch-yourself moment. This is one of the most dramatic and outlandish racing machines ever built, and its exaggerated form still possesses the power to stop you dead in your tracks nearly four decades after it first slackened jaws at Le Mans. Unlike today's LMP1 cars, which trade beauty for brutal functionality, the A443 is mesmerising, crazy and magnificent. Unmistakably the product of a company in its pomp, every part of the car exudes the confidence, purpose and pride of a car built to win, not merely to take part.

    Owned and prepared by Renault Classic, the A443 is no dusty museum piece. In fact it still enjoys an active life, taking part in numerous demonstration runs and wowing appreciative crowds at the biennial Le Mans Classic race weekend. Pristine in every respect, it's a priceless jewel in the crown of Renault's remarkable back-catalogue of heroic competition cars. I'd be more than happy simply to stand and stare, but the ever- generous Hugues Portron - manager of Renault Classic - has agreed to let me drive it for a precious handful of laps.

    I'm a little disappointed to see the A443 isn't sporting its famous Perspex bubble canopy, even though the sweltering beneath it and peering through the narrow, distortion-free slot would most likely be a horrid experience. Without it, climbing in is simply a case of swinging your left leg up and over the high side of the cockpit, plonking your foot down on the seat, then hopping slightly awkwardly as your right leg follows suit. Then comes the tricky job of supporting your weight on the two hefty tubes that dive down either side of the cockpit from the top of the rear bulkhead, before carefully threading your pins down into the footwell. Your ankles and shins clout a worrying array of hard metal objects on their diagonal route to the pedal box, which is offset so crazily to the right it feels like you're driving side-saddle. Best not to think about how far forward your feet sit in relation to the front wheels...

    Put those dark thoughts to one side and, once you're settled into the seat, the A443 is surprisingly comfortable. The open cockpit is wide and spacious, the view ahead dominated by the stepped dashboard, which runs the full width of the car and sports an array of simple analogue dials that indicate the car's vital signs. With the slave battery connected and a 'C'est bon!' from the Renault Classic guys, it's time to press the starter button and awaken the 2.1-litre turbocharged V6.

    After a few churns of the starter motor it fires into life, angry and urgent, each squeeze of the throttle eliciting an unmistakable blare from the exhaust and a lazy spool from the turbo. The clutch is heavy to depress; likewise the right-hand gearlever requires some muscle to pull across left and back to find the dogleg first gear. Despite a few nerves I manage to extricate myself from the pitlane without stalling, heading out onto the circuit for a few learning laps.

    Portron has recommended double-declutching on upshifts as well as down, for the 'box was built with durability rather than sweet, sharp shifts in mind. You can certainly sense more inertia in the rotating masses of the 'box, and bigger-than-average teeth attempting to mesh with one another. Still, so long as you're deliberate with your inputs and synchronise the pumping of your left leg with a firm, accurate push or pull of the gearlever, it swaps cogs smoothly and swiftly enough, with emollient heel/toe blips the final bit of finesse needed for perfect downchanges. Reassuringly, once you're up and moving, the dogleg gate is sweetly sprung and well- defined, its centre bias helping you navigate your way either side of the second/third plane without getting lost on the way to or from fourth and fifth.

    After a quick courtesy call back to the pits to make sure all is well with the car (it is), I'm sent back out for a few laps to drive as fast as prudence and courage allow. What strikes you first is how tall the gearing is. As you can imagine, employing five ratios to span 230mph leaves a few gaps, but what strikes you next is how the turbocharged V6 gets on top of each gear as torque begins to build, then rips though the last few thousand revs as the boost really hits home.

    Second and third gears are the order of the day through the twists and turns of Dijon-Prenois, the big yellow car taking great bites out of the 2.4-mile lap with every lunge of boost. Apart from the endless downhill-uphill Courbes de Pouas and the long main straight it feeds you onto, Dijon is nothing like Le Mans, yet the A443 is great fun to try to get to grips with. It's keen to change direction, yet feels stable and faithful to your inputs. There's massive grip from the slick tyres and, as you gain confidence and carry more speed, you get the magical feeling of that mechanical grip being augmented by downforce.

    As you might expect there's considerable turbo lag, which is exacerbated somewhat by the tall gearing and the fact that much of Dijon's lap is comprised of comers, yet far from the car feeling ponderous, you sense that you're beginning to get a tune from the A443. The engine is a force of nature, gaining exponentially in ferocity and firepower as that massive turbo begins to spin; once you're plunging out onto the long and slightly cresting straight, it more than has the lungs to hit its stride in top gear before the braking area for the tricky Villeroy double-apex right-hander emerges from the mercurial puddle of heat shimmer.

    Your head bobbles about in the slipstream that passes over the open cockpit, but the view out is never less than breathtaking: the rising white louvred tops of the front wheelarches give you the perfect pointers as to where to place the car in the corner. Being sat so near to the front means you're always aware that there's an awful lot of car behind you (especially when you glance in the mirrors!), but it's never less than intuitive to thread between the kerbs. It's not especially physical, for thanks to the large-diameter steering wheel you only have to make modest steering inputs, with even the 180° Parabolique requiring no more than a quarter-turn of lock to negotiate. That said, I suspect a three-hour, flat- out double stint in the heat of the day might be taxing.

    As ever with this kind of track test, it's an enviable opportunity to experience a brief but vibrant taste of what it must have been like to race a fabulous machine, not some ill-advised stab at the definitive dynamic appraisal. Nevertheless, that calm steering must have made it a joy to guide through the superfast curves at Le Mans, while the boundless straightline speed would surely have been exhilarating, and perhaps a little daunting, when spearing down the chicane-free Hunaudieres straight in the dead of night. To be Depailler or Jabouille - two great French racers at the top of their game - leading the French race in the French racing car must have been magnificent. Then to be so cruelly denied what must have felt like their destiny could only have been devastating.

    Theirs was the pivotal act in an epic play; a tale of obsession that took Renault-Alpine to the brink of despair, but eventually filled an entire nation with pride. The #A443 might have failed to finish the only race it ever entered, but its role in the Regie's monumental effort to win the world's greatest endurance race should never be underestimated. Vive le Jaune!

    ‘THIS IS A VIBRANT TASTE OF WHAT IT MUST HAVE BEEN LIKE TO RACE A FABULOUS MACHINE’

    Right. The A443 dominated the 1978 Le Mans 24 Hours until a move intended to save the engine trashed it instead; Meaden sits where Depailler and Jabouille once ruled.

    ‘SQUEEZING THE THROTTLE ELICITS AN UNMISTAKABLE BLARE FROM THE EXHAUST’

    Car #1978 #Alpine-A443
    ENGINE 2138cc V6,
    DOHC per bank, 24-valve, Kugelfischer fuel injection, Garrett T05 turbocharger
    POWER 520bhp
    TRANSMISSION Hewland five-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
    STEERING Rack and pinion
    SUSPENSION Front and rear: four-link, coil springs, telescopic dampers
    BRAKES Vented, cross-drilled discs
    WEIGHT 750kg
    PERFORMANCE Top speed 224mph

    ‘THE A443 EXISTED ON THE CUTTING EDGE OF SPORTS PROTOTYPE DESIGN’

    Above and right Author Meaden squeezes into the cockpit ahead of his test at Dijon-Prenois; out on track he discovers ferocious power and docile steering.

    Left and right. The stepped dashboard layout means all necessary info is in sight; functional bodywork looks menacing at a standstill; 2.1-litre V6 suffers monumental turbo-lag but grants enormous pace once on-boost.
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  • The problem with attending most historic car events as an ancien pilote is that you are always on duty. By that, I mean sometimes it would be nice just to be able to stop and have a nose around; kick some tyres and actually chat to people for more than a picosecond before bidding them farewell. This was brought home to me in late September when I participated in the fifth Rennsport Reunion, at Laguna Seca. I have been to all five, the first staged at Lime Rock back in 2001, and this was the best yet. I loved the sense of informality and cannot wait for the next one.

    This Porsche-only event attracted close on 50,000 spectators over the three-day weekend, not to mention 1400 or so 911s, including the very latest model, which made its global debut before the marque faithful. Oh, and there were more than a few racing cars, too, ranging from smallcapacity air-cooled machines to Can-Am monsters.

    Porsche has such a rich competition history in North America, not least in IMSA GTP, but this year’s central theme was Le Mans. I was one of 11 drivers on hand who have won the 24 Hours aboard a Porsche. Our ages ranged from this year’s co-winner Earl Bamber at just 25 years old, to Hans Hermann, who claimed the first win for the marque back in #1970 . The 87-year-old German was joined by Richard Attwood, with whom he shared the winning 917 all those years ago. Then there was my dear friend Jacky Ickx, Gijs van Lennep, Hurley Haywood, Jürgen Barth, Hans-Joachim Stuck, Vern Schuppan and… Well, you get the idea.

    It wasn’t just drivers, either. It was a pleasure seeing #John-Horsman , who I knew from my JW / #Gulf days. John tends to get airbrushed out of the story behind the #Porsche-917 but, in many ways, he made the car work. John, and John alone, sorted the aerodynamic issues that blighted the 917 in the early days, and he did so without factory assistance. It was all down to brainpower and intuition.

    It was great catching up with old friends from either side of the pitwall, but what I enjoyed most was meeting the young guns, not least fellow Brit Nick Tandy who, along with Bamber and Nico Hülkenberg, claimed outright honours in June aboard the factory 919 Hybrid. I had an opportunity to meet Nick in the run-up to the 24 Hours but, the thing is, I know what it’s like to be distracted when you’re preparing for a major race, so I left him alone. At Laguna Seca, there were no such constraints and Nick turned out to be a super chap as well as a supremely gifted driver. We had a long chat, and I was surprised and humbled by how much he knew about my career. Nick reached the big time via an odd route, starting out racing on short ovals as a kid when his contemporaries were battling it out in karts, but he went on to enjoy success in single-seaters before making the switch to GTs and sports cars. He told me he wants to win Le Mans at least another five times to eclipse my record. I wouldn’t put it past him.

    A particular treat and a real eye-opener was being able to wander around the cars that were either on display or lined-up on the grid for the many – many – Porsche-only races. I have been to countless Porsche events, including those catering for the old stuff, but this was something else entirely. When you see every conceivable Porsche from late-1940s 356s – the jumping-off point, if you will – to the latest models via all manner of one-offs, small-series specials and heaven only knows what else besides, you really grasp just why Porsche matters. Even I was surprised by the diversity of the cars at the Rennsport Reunion.

    And in what passed for a moment of introspection (as much as I do introspection), it made me realise just how important #Porsche has been to my career. To be honest, getting the JW/Gulf drive back in 1971 was a huge boost at a time when my #F1 prospects were a little shaky, while my 1981 victory alongside that man Ickx paved the way for a works drive in the 956/962 and two world titles.

    I was lucky enough to drive the ’81 Jules-sponsored 936 over the weekend. That, and the DHL-livered RS Spyder that was the dominant player in LMP2 in 2008. There really was no point in trying to compare them, or today’s 919 Hybrid which I sat in and would one day love to test, but it made me further appreciate just how different sports car racing history would look had Porsche not made such a huge contribution, and in so many classes.

    ‘NICK TANDY TURNED OUT TO BE A SUPER CHAP. I WAS SURPRISED AND HUMBLED BY HOW MUCH HE KNEW ABOUT MY CAREER’
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  • Famous British firm puts motorsport return in its sights #2017 / #TVR / #TVR-2017 / #Le-Mans / #TVR-Le-Mans

    The new owners of iconic British sportscar firm TVR have pledged to take the name back to Le Mans. Businessmen Les Edgar and John Chasey are behind the company’s rebirth and have put motorsport, and specifically a bid for glory at Le Mans, at the heart of their philosophy. Gordon Murray Design is helping to build the chassis.

    Alongside the GT attack, Edgar says that a one-make series, along the lines of the TVR Tuscan Challenge which ran from 1989 until 2004, will be another core part of their motorsport campaign.

    “It will be mission critical for TVR to appear at Le Mans,” said Edgar. “A true sportscar company should be in motorsport of some sort. That is particularly true of TVR with the heritage it has with previous assaults on Le Mans and the Tuscan Challenge.

    “We started off on this journey knowing there was a slight credibility gap with TVR where they were perceived to be less reliable than other niche car manufacturers. The approach that we took was that this was the way to show that you have got a reliable car and Le Mans is the ultimate test.” TVR last raced at Le Mans as a factory team with the DeWaltbacked TVR T400R in 2003, but privateer examples entered the race until 2005. Its previous attempt on the French classic had been in the 1960s.

    New car coming

    Edgar and Chasey announced the rebirth of the company in 2013, and plans are already well underway for the first road car – which has yet to be given a name. The road car will be launched in the latter half of 2017 and the race car, which will be on show at Le Mans that season, could appear in rounds of the World Endurance Championship late in 2017 as part of the development programme for Le Mans in 2018.

    “Joining the World Endurance Championship in the latter half of the year would be the target – we would aim to join from the Nurburgring round in the autumn if we can,” said computer games mogul Edgar.

    “We have already been to meet with the [Le Mans organisers] Automobile Club de l’Ouest and we have seen the draft regulations. There is a very strong relationship between the ACO and Gordon Murray Design and that has helped us move things along. This programme will be at the forefront of what we want to achieve.” Edgar says he was in liaison with the ACO over rules changes for the GT classes at Le Mans, which is due to boost power of the GTE Pro section and introduce updated aerodynamics.

    After initial testing in 2017, there is a plan for TVR to tackle an expanded programme in the World Endurance Championship, which would pitch the firm up against the likes of Ferrari, Porsche and Aston Martin.

    “We will certainly be taking part in a significant number of the more challenging races. That is our target,” said Edgar. “We would like to be in a position where we have privateer entries, maybe in the amateur class as well, but we are planning a two-car works assault in 2018. If we are far enough along the road then we will be able to provide customer cars too.”

    Edgar said that the entire rebirth of the company has been built around the Le Mans programme, starting from the initial designs. “We have actually approached the design of this new car slightly differently to what others might do,” he said. “We have the ability to start with the Le Mans-spec race car and work backwards, which is what we have done. That benefits the entire programme, including the road car too.”

    The national scene

    TVR ran the hugely popular Tuscan Challenge when the firm was under the control of Peter Wheeler, and it reached its zenith in the 1990s with packed-out grids and events featuring a heat and a final to accommodate all the entries. It operated from 1989 until 2004 and featured the 4.5-litre, 450bhp V8-powered Tuscan model that weighed only 850kg.

    Edgar said that recreating that type of racing would be another ambition for the firm and, alongside a trackday version of the new car, there would be a racebred one to form the backbone of a one-make contest too.

    “That is a critical ambition too,” he explained. “It was so successful beforehand and I don’t see any reason why it wouldn’t be as successful this time around. Other manufacturers do championships and there is the chance to turn it in to something that will make some money and make a return for the company, which is always good. Everybody can have a lot of fun in the process and it will give the firm and the car a real identity to modern fans.”

    An artist’s impression of what the new racer could look like.
    TVR last raced at Le Mans in 2005.
    Tuscan Challenge was a big UK hit.
    Le Mans return was a special moment.

    Huge reaction

    Edgar says that the reaction to TVR’s rebirth has been impressive, and he thinks the groundswell of popularity will spread into the sporting sphere.

    “Having seen the support behind the relaunch of TVR, we have expanded the project more than we had originally planned,” he admitted. “We sold out of the first year’s production already-admittedly, that is only a part-year, but it is still several hundred cars. We are beyond 300 cars now, I think. TVR deserves to be there and we are very proud of the fact that we have been able to re ignite that passion that the fans feel. It was in the doldrums and, all of a sudden, people are fired up again. We want to fly the flag once more.'’

    The new car has yet to be given an official name, but Edgar says that issue should be resolved soon: “That is a surprise we are keeping at the moment We are still working on it internally and externally. We have sheets of A4 with lists of names, all kinds of various mythical beasts. But we also have a list of some very strong historical names for TVR so we are battling between what we do: do we go for a new name or an historical one?”

    Something for British fans to get behind

    I am proud to say I was there second time around. After a costly and ultimately disastrous attempt at Le Mans in 1962 with the Grantura, which lasted a grand total of three laps, the firm went back to La Sarthe in 2003 and I was there.

    It wasn’t a complete success but one of the T400R cars made it to the end of the race – although it wasn’t classified, that was a triumph in itself and TVR had proved its point. On the driving front, successful competitors who had come up through the ranks in the one-make #TVR-Tuscan-Challenge populated the cockpit. That made it even more special.

    The #TVR-Tuscan Challenge was, to my mind, the best championship I have covered. Big brutish difficult to- control cars, massive grids, gorgeous-sounding engines, a superb paddock atmosphere and a phalanx of talented drivers made it irresistible. And they knew how to party afterwards, too…

    So there was a huge sense of pride as the yellow-and-black cars rolled out on to the hallowed French Tarmac for the first time in June 12 years ago.

    The effort of everyone based in Blackpool and the vision of Peter Wheeler came to fruition that weekend. Seeing the ranks of Union flags waving constantly for 24 hours on the spectator banking opposite the garage showed those involved just how much it meant to the fans as well. The feel-good factor was huge, and there is already that groundswell of enthusiasm surrounding the reborn firm as well.

    Speaking to new owner Les Edgar, it is clear that he shares this passion too. He has been to Le Mans for the last 30 years in his role as a team member, a sponsor and a spectator. He has seen the race from all sides, and his passion for motorsport is evident when he speaks. This is something for British fans to truly get behind.
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