That one time Škoda nearly won Le Mans
Don't laugh, they got closer than most ever do
After the end of WWII, car makers went a bit crazy and began introducing a plethora of new road and race cars. In the late 1940s, ŠKODA joined the party by launching the 1101/1102, also known as 'Tudor', powered by a 1,089 cc four-cylinder engine. They immediately began entering every race they could. In 1948, they won all four categories of the 2,649-kilometre Raid Polski. Then they won the South American Rally Montevideo in Uruguay and after successfully completing the 24-hour race at Spa-Francorchamps, winning the race with all three cars in their respective their cubic-capacity class, they decided to try Le Mans.
In 1949, ŠKODA Sport began working on a racing variant for the 1101. They came up with an open two-seater variant, with a shorter wheelbase and lightweight body made from aluminium. It only weighed 700 kg and thanks to a higher compression ratio and new carburettors, the 1101 Sport produced 50 hp, 18 more than the standard car. A few hours into the race, on 24 June 1950, Czechoslavakian drivers Jaroslav Netušil and Václav Bobek managed to move up to fifth place, out of 60 contenders in the 1,100cc class, but during the 115th lap luck run out and the car broke down.
This was a one-off for Škoda because they were never able to participate in the race again. The original Škoda Sport, part of a private collection and fully restored, was supposed to take part in this year's Le Mans Classic to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the race and the 125th anniversary of the brand but the event was postponed to 2021 because of Covid. So, er, see you at La Sarthe next year?