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5 Le Mans racecars that deserved a better chance

29w ago


How heartbreaking is it when you order something at a restaurant, thinking it'll be superb, but ends up being blander than Jacob Rees-Mogg's wardrobe?

How down do you feel when you buy a new set of shoes, thinking they'll soothe your feet, yet end up causing more blisters than all this Brexit business?

But more importantly: how awful is is when you put your heart and passion towards something, only for it to get torn apart afterwards? It's never nice.

I have a feeling that manufacturers and race engineers prepare for this sort of thing when cooking up some new kind of racing car for the gruelling Le Mans 24h ; some come back with great success, others meet defeat and get faded away into the pages of history.

Coming up now is some examples of five great racecars that really deserved better results than they did.

Chevrolet Corvette Grand Sport

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

The plan was simple: build 125 cars to keep the homologation executives happy, then beat the living daylights out of everything else in the GT class series'.

Unfortunately however, just 5 were completed before General Motors chose not to take part in factory racing programs anymore. And even worse; this decision was made just before the 1963 Sebring 12h and Le Mans 24h race... painful.

The cars were then passed on to private racers where it had the chance to shine its beastly light. It churned out 550bhp from its 377ci motor and was naturally quick enough to give Carroll Shelby many sleepless nights.

1964 & 65 Ford GT40

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

The success of the GT40 didn't obviously arrive until 1966 when the three lead cars gathered together for a truly historical moment. What a day it must've been for the American petrolhead!

But as you're also probably aware, the Detroit marque desperately tried already 2-years prior. The earlier cars were dreadfully unstable and even resulted in dangerous lift once the driver hit around 190mph.

Ferrari easily won Le Mans in 1964 and 65, but I almost feel like with a few more tweaks to the original design, Ford could've made their GT40 success story an even longer one. But I guess trail and error is part of the game, isn't it?

1938 Alfa Romeo 8C 2900B Coupe

Image credit: Wikipedia

Image credit: Wikipedia

This rather gorgeous thing should've been a romantic success story in my opinion. Alfa Romeo clearly went to extreme lengths to make sure Carrozzeria Touring styled the car like the fuselage of an aeroplane and worked wonders on the fabulous 2.9 litre supercharged straight 8.

This was a car that was ready. But lady luck wasn't.

It led the race before an engine valve dropped and the tyres became weak. It was reluctantly tucked away in the pits; and that's a shame because it had a lead of almost 100 miles between the next car. Delahaye ended up taking the champagne.

Jaguar XJ13

Image credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/exfordy/

Image credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/exfordy/

The oddity of Jaguar differs from the others on this list purely because it didn't lose to competitors, it didn't even get the chance to take part.

Jaguar cooked it up in 1966 and intended to enter it into Le Mans, but as homologation regulations changed and brands like Ferrari, Ford and Porsche cooked up much more contemporary competitors, the XJ13 was deemed a bit old-fashioned and left to one side.

The XJ was a far more important car that Jaguar focused on, and so the gorgeous XJ13 remained a prototype. Mind you, the lessons learnt from the 5.0 litre, 500bhp V12 were applied to a softened-down version of that engine.

That one was to be used for the next 25-years.

Bugatti EB110

Image credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/kartingnord/

Image credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/kartingnord/

Less than a decade earlier, Mercedes and Jaguar made a highly successful return to Le Mans and it only seemed fair that Bugatti would do the same in 1994, as they hadn't entered the race since 1939.

The EB110's introduction to the racetrack was a tricky one; it had to use the standard production gearbox instead of an experimented un-synchronised one. They could thank Dallara for that complication.

Sadly though, the car was involved in an accident half-an-hour before the end of the race and victory was respectfully handed over to Porsche with the Dauer 962.

Thanks for reading

Well, those are my five picks of Le Mans racers throughout history that I believe, deserved a better chance in the insanely difficult marathon.

If you want to throw in any more suggestions, please throw them into the comments below. But nevertheless, I hope you enjoyed reading the article.


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Comments (11)

  • The only reason the GT40 didn’t win those first two years was because Ford didn’t know how to get their act together.

      6 months ago
    • Very true indeed - I guess as the saying goes: practice makes perfect.

        6 months ago
    • I think going from zero experience and a clean piece of paper to Victory Circle in just a short couple of years is an extraordinary achievement regardless of who does it. As much as I like Ferrari I believe they behaved abominably and...

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        6 months ago
  • Ford really should have won in 1965, Ferrari failed equally that year. There luck was that they had a faux GT car that wasn't actually competitive as a prototype still running in privat hands. What was Dallaras buisness with the EB110 gearbox?

      6 months ago
    • To put it sweetly, it ended up driving like dog shite with the Dallara race box. So the drivers and engineers requested the street gearbox instead.

        6 months ago