Round 4: 24 Hours of Le Mans Circuit de la Sarthe, Le Mans, France, June 18-19, 1983

Now, we move to the greatest car race in the world, the 51st running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans.  This year’s Le Mans has to be one of the best, for over a decade.  51 cars in total, and a full 75% are Group C Prototypes.  Everyone wants to race at Le Mans.  Jacky Ickx is going for his seventh win, and Derek Bell, going for his fourth.  The weather is hot, but gorgeous.  So many nations take part in the Le Mans 24 Hours.  It is truly, a worldwide event.  Now, we look at the top qualifiers.  Winning the pole position battle, Jacky Ickx and Derek Bell in Rothman’s Porsche #1.

  1. #1 Ickx/Bell Porsche 956        Rothman’s Porsche
  2. #4 Alboreto/Fabi Lancia LC2       Lancia Martini
  3. #2 Mass/Bellof Porsche 956       Rothman’s Porsche
  4. #5 Ghinzani/Heyer/Fabi Lancia LC2  Lancia Martini
  5. #8 Ludwig/Wollek/Johansson Porsche 956  Joest Porsche
  6. #14 Lammers/Palmer/Lloyd Porsche 956  Canon Porsche
  7. #3 Holbert/Schuppan/Haywood Porsche 956  Rothman’s Porsche
  8. #21 Andretti/Andretti/Alliot Porsche 956  Kremer Porsche
  9. #12 Merl/Schickentanz/De Narvaez Porsche 956  New Man Porsche
  10. #16 Fitzpatrick/Keegan/Edwards Porsche 956  Skoal Bandit Porsche
  11. #18 Lassig/Wilson/Plankenhorn Porsche 956  Boss Porsche
  12. #6 Andruet/Barilla/Nannini Lancia LC2 Lancia Martini
  13. #22 Warwick/Jelinski/Gaillard Kremer Porsche CK5  Porsche Kremer Racing
  14. #39 Mallock/Salmon/Earle Aston Martin Nimrod  Viscount Downe – Pace Petroleum
  15. #24 Pescarolo/Ferte/Boutsen Rondeau M482 Ford Cosworth  Ford France

There’s your top 15 on the grid.

There is a tremendous atmosphere at Le Mans as the cars set off on the pace lap.  We are moments away from starting the 24 Hours of Le Mans for 1983.  The Trois Coloeurs, waves.  Go!  Jacky Ickx leads from Michele Alboreto headed up through Tertre Rouge and Jochen Mass passes for the lead through the esses and down the Mulsanne straight for the first time.  The Rothmans Porsche’s flew through the speed traps at 246 miles an hour!  Remember, this is long before the current chicanes were put in on the Mulsanne to slow it down.  So, these boys are up there, giving it full welly for four miles.

The third Rothmans Porsche 956, #3, is being piloted by Al Holbert, Hurley Haywood, and Vern Schuppan.  Jochen Mass leads with Jacky Ickx in second.  Up to third is the #14 car of Jan Lammers.  That’s the Canon Porsche 956 he shares with Johnny Palmer and Richard Lloyd, the car owner.  Bob Wollek is fourth in the #8 Joest Porsche, and fifth is the first of the Lancia’s, car #4 with Michele Alboreto at the wheel of it.  Schuppan in the #3 Rothmans Porsche is sixth overall.  Bob Wollek won’t hang around despite this being a 24 hour race, in the mid pack.  He moves up to third, close behind the leaders where all the action is, and Lammers is giving it everything in the Canon Porsche, #14.

Again, Wollek has Klaus Ludwig and Stefan Johansson as his co-drivers.  Jochen Mass is putting a tremendous amount of daylight between himself and the rest of the field, as he goes through Mulsanne corner.  Meanwhile, look out!  Boys, we have a crash, or a spin or something out there!  Jan Lammers and Jacky Ickx engage in a little argy bargy, and Lammers comes off worse, spinning down the escape road.  Lammers was going for it, trying to pass on the outside of Jacky Ickx, and he ended up spinning off the road early in this race.  Jochen Mass leads Le Mans, but Jacky Ickx has dropped like a stone down the order.

With the visit to the pit lane to make repairs, Ickx and co-driver Jochen Mass, have now sunk to ninth in the overall.  The sister Rothman’s Porsche’s pit for regular service, cars #2 and #3.  The Mass/Bellof driven car, and the Holbert/Haywood/Schuppan entry, are both in the lane.  Mass and Schuppan will continue on for another stint in each car.  No driver change.  Meanwhile, Derek Warwick is running well in the #22 Kremer Porsche CK5 with sponsorship from Grand Prix International.  However, Warwick, and team mates Frank Jelinski of Germany and Patrick Gaillard of France, would retire from Le Mans after five hours, with mechanical woes.

Four hours into the race, at 8PM, Porsche #2 of Stefan Bellof and Derek Bell continues to lead the motor race.  Their team car is closing in, and by the five hour mark, Holbert, Schuppan, and Haywood, would take the overall lead at Le Mans.  In the meantime, a battle is brewing between the #11 Porsche 956 for Fitzpatrick Racing, and one of the Lancia’s.  Dieter Quester from Austria has joined David Hobbs and John Fitzpatrick to race at Le Mans.  Fitzpatrick is at the controls presently.  The Rothman’s cars are running like trains as we approach twilight at Le Mans 1983.

Jacky Ickx and Derek Bell have moved up from ninth overall, as darkness falls at Le Mans.  Porsche #2 is experiencing some engine trouble.  Things have changed slightly at the front.  It’s still Rothman’s Porsche ahead, but it is #3 in the hands of Holbert, Haywood, and Schuppan, who now lead Le Mans.  The #14 Canon Porsche 956 runs in tenth overall and they’ve had a couple of issues during the night, but are still in the race.  The same cannot be said, for Lancia.  Night at Le Mans is cruel, and Lancia is finding this out.  It is game over for Lancia.  All three works LC2 prototypes are out.  The #4 Michele Alboreto, Teo Fabi, Alessandro Nannini entry, had it’s transmission fail.  Piercarlo Ghinzani and Hans Heyer, along with Teo Fabi in the #5 entry, lost fuel pressure.  To add to Lancia’s misery, the third entry, car #6 saw it’s 1983 Le Mans challenge end, when the turbo packed up and Jean Claude Andruet of France, along with Paolo Barilla of Italy, who had joined Alessandro Nannini, his countryman, in that car, were done.

Sixteen hours into the race, Jacky Ickx and Derek Bell clawed their way back into the overall lead past their team mates, at 8AM, just after the sun rose.  This lead was short lived.  Their fuel injection command box on the engine, broke, and had to be repaired, forcing Jacky Ickx and Derek Bell down to third overall, now running behind their sister car #3, and a surprising new second place runner, for the Andretti’s.  This is the #21 Kremer Racing Porsche 956.  Michael and Mario Andretti are sharing the car with France’s Philippe Alliot.  Poor old Joest Racing.  Stefan Johansson, Klaus Ludwig, and Bob Wollek had a litany of problems during the night, and then, Wollek went off the road.  They run sixth in the overall but out of contention for any kind of victory or podium honors.

By mid-morning, Jacky Ickx and Derek Bell had passed the Andretti’s and for the final hour of Le Mans ’83 there is a thrilling scrap between the #1 and #3 Rothman’s Porsche’s.  Coming to the finish line, car #3 is getting sick.  There’s smoke out of the left hand bank of cylinders on it’s turbocharged flat six Porsche engine.  With an hour and a half left, at high speed on the Mulsanne, this car had it’s door blown off, literally, and the pit crew had to repair it.  The car has a blocked radiator inlet, being chased by it’s team car… the Bell/Ickx machine.  Despite looking like a steam locomotive and perhaps possibly giving up the ghost, Le Mans 1983 belongs to the #3 Rothman’s Porsche!  Al Holbert, Vern Schuppan, and Hurley Haywood, are your winners!  Haywood’s first Le Mans victory as it is for Holbert and Schuppan.  Hurley Haywood would win this race again, over a decade later.

The car comes to a complete stop.  It has cried, “enough!”  After 24 hours of racing, #3 finishes a mere minute and four seconds ahead of Jacky Ickx and Derek Bell, the closest Le Mans finish, in a decade.  Three very happy drivers, achieve immortality, winning Le Mans.  Here are the final results, from Le Mans.  The winners complete 370 laps, 3,151 miles.  Here are the results.

  1. #3 Holbert/Schuppan/Haywood Porsche 956   Rothman’s Porsche
  2. #1 Ickx/Bell Porsche 956   Rothman’s Porsche
  3. #21 Andretti/Andretti/Alliot Porsche 956   Porsche Kremer Racing
  4. #12 Schickentanz/De Narvaez/Merl Porsche 956   New Man/Sorga S.A.
  5. #16 Fitzpatrick/Keegan/Edwards Porsche 956   Fitzpatrick Racing
  6. #8 Wollek/Johansson/Ludwig Porsche 956   Marlboro/Sorga S.A.
  7. #18 Lassig/Plankenhorn/Wilson Porsche 956   Boss/Obermaier Racing

Porsche is way ahead in the constructor’s championship after their Le Mans triumph and as you can see, Porsche’s in factory and privateer hands, took the top seven points paying spots at Le Mans.  Bob Wollek is ahead in the World Championship for drivers, six points clear of Jacky Ickx.  We return to the 1,000 Kilometer format of racing, in Belgium, in the Ardennes Forest, at Spa Francorchamps, in a couple of months, in early September.

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the braking zone

International racing fan for over 20 years. I follow Formula One, Indycars, sports cars, touring cars and other varied forms of racing within and outside the U.S. I am a recent college graduate and have been following the world of car racing since childhood.

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