It is time, for the most prestigious sports car race, anywhere, the 24 Hours of Le Mans, in Le Mans, France. This year, Jaguar makes their long awaited return to this great motor race. Two cars are entered by Group 44 Racing from the United States, who is very successful in the IMSA championship. One (#40), for Tony Adamowicz from the United States, Northern Ireland’s John Watson, and France’s Claude Ballot-Lena. The other, (#44), for team owner, American Bob Tulius, England’s Brian Redman, and Doc Bundy, from the United States.
The Group 44 Jaguar XJR-5’s race with 6.0 liter, 60 degree V12 engines. The Porsche effort, at Le Mans this year, sees no factory Rothmans cars. They withdrew because of the FIA’s fuel regulations changes, which they deemed to be unfair. Joest Racing and their trio of New Man sponsored Porsche’s become the favorites, and of these, the most likely to win could be the #7 car with Klaus Ludwig and Henri Pescarolo. Pescarolo is already a three-time winner of the 24 Hours of Le Mans? Can he make it four in 1984?
Two cars are being entered by the Canon Porsche team. Johnny Palmer, Jan Lammers, and Richard Lloyd will drive one, the usual #14 car, and then, there is car #16, to be driven by Lloyd, Pink Floyd drummer, Nick Mason, and Frenchman, Rene Metge. The weather at Le Mans is gorgeous, and ideal for racing. It is sunny, and in the mid-80’s. 53 cars will take the start, being led by the two factory Martini Lancia’s. #4 is on pole with Bob Wollek and Alessandro Nannini, choosing just a two-driver lineup, and #5, is second fastest, with three drivers, as Paolo Barilla and Mauro Baldi, are joined for Le Mans, by Hans Heyer of Germany. There is a third Lancia, car #6. It is in the yellow paintjob of BP Residences Malardeau, and to be shared by Frenchman Xavier Lapeyre, and Italian Lancia regulars Pierluigi Martini, and Beppe Gabbiani. The pole time for Wollek and Nannini was 3:17.11 at a top speed down the Mulsanne straight of 217 miles an hour! Now, that’s quick!
One more note on Lancia. For Le Mans, they are using a bored out version of the Ferrari 308C V8 with a turbo. The engine is bored out to 3 liters, rather than the usual 2.6 liter displacement. OK. The cars are on the front straight, the trois couleurs flag waves! The 52nd running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, is go! Lancia’s are 1-2 and lead the field. Stefan Johansson pulls ahead of Klaus Ludwig. It’s the battle of the New Man Joest Porsche’s. The Swede, Johansson, is sharing with Jean Louis Schlesser of France, and Colombian driver, Mauricio de Narvaez.
Surprise, surprise! Peugeot leads Le Mans ’84 on lap one, as Roger Dorchy muscles his way to the front! He is driving the #23 Secatava WM P83B Peugeot with it’s 2.8 liter turbo Peugeot PRV ZNS4 V6, alongside countrymen Alain Couderc, and Gerard Patte. Richard Lloyd takes the #16 Porsche 956 camera car, and makes a pass on the similar machine, #47, the Obermaier Porsche with Boss sponsorship, of Jurgen Lassig. The German shares the car with regular co-driver George Fouche of South Africa, and Canada’s John Graham. Bob Wollek overtakes Roger Dorchy for the race lead.
Wollek leads Roger Dorchy, Stefan Johansson, Alan Jones, and John Watson. Alan Jones, the 1980 Formula 1 World Champion, from Australia, is sharing the #11 Kremer Racing Porsche 956 with countryman Vern Schuppan (last year’s Le Mans winner for Rothmans Porsche), and Frenchman Jean Pierre Jarier, another former F1 driver turned sports car specialist. Richard Lloyd has a brief off course excursion in the camera car. Peugeot, Porsche, Porsche, Lancia, is the order. Roger Dorchy leads Vern Schuppan, Stefan Johansson, and Bob Wollek. But, the pressure of leading Le Mans is all too much for the young Frenchman!
Dorchy makes a colossal mistake, and turns sharp left instead of sharp right! Crunch! Dorchy demolishes the front end of the WM Peugeot against the Armco! It’s disaster for the Peugeot boys. Dorchy if he gets that mangled car back to the lane will be chewed out mercilessly by the team manager. Alan Jones in the #11 Kremer Porsche 956, takes the lead of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The #7 New Man Porsche makes an early pit stop. Klaus Ludwig and Henri Pescarolo must be running a slightly different early race strategy. They will drop out of the top ten, but don’t worry. This is not the last we’ve heard from car #7. Vern Schuppan brings car #11 to pit lane, and also pitting, are Lancia. Alan Jones takes over the #11 Porsche, and this sends Lancia back to the lead.
The battle at the front of the Le Mans 24 Hours is heating up. Stefan Johansson has also been in the lead, briefly in these opening hours. Mauro Baldi and Paolo Barilla in the #5 Lancia led for a time. While Rthe British fans into a frenzy! Bob Tulius, Brian Redman, and Doc Bundy had led Le Mans, albeit briefly. The cars would hit trouble, later on. When Jaguar pitted, the battle resumed between the Wollek/Nannini Lancia, and the #47 Lassig/Fouche/Graham Porsche. Check that. It’s the #11 Porsche for Schuppan, Jones, and Jarier. Through Tertre Rouge, the #4 Lancia takes the lead back. The battle between the Lancia and the Porsche would endure for five hours. The cars fly down the Mulsanne straight. There are still no chicanes on the straight. It’s a flat out, four mile blast. The chicanes would come, well after we complete our series on Group C, the Thunder of the ‘80s. Meanwhile, the Aston Martin Nimrods crept their way into the top ten by dusk. #32 of Mike Salmon, Richard Attwood, and John Sheldon led the sister car, #31, of Ray Mallock and Drake Olson.
It’s game over already, for the second of the two Skoal Bandit Porsche’s as Rupert Keegan goes off the road, after spinning on oil lain down in Indianapolis corner. So, he and team mates, Guy Edwards, and Brazilian Roberto Moreno, see no further action in the ’84 Le Mans race. Checking in with C2, this class is already becoming survival of the fittest, as cars are dropping like flies. No Alba’s, no Ecurie Ecosse, and no Tiga. All of those teams have already retired from the race, leaving the two Lola Mazda’s for the BFGoodrich tire company, to pick up the pieces.
#67 is being shared by Jim Busby (the team owner), and Rick Knoop from the United States, and Boy Hayje from Holland. The sister car (#68), has Japan’s Yoshimi Katayama, being joined by American’s John Morton and John O’Steen. However, all was not well. At a quarter past 9PM, there was a massive crash on the Mulsanne straight. John Sheldon in the #32 Aston Martin Nimrod, had a massive shunt just after the kink on the Mulsanne. The car vaulted over the Armco, and in the process, the forest was set on fire, and a race marshal, was killed. The Aston Martin Nimrod was written off, destroyed entirely, and Sheldon sustained serious injuries.
The sister Aston Martin Nimrod, #32, with Drake Olson at the wheel of it, also crashed. So, he and co-driver Ray Mallock saw their race come to an end. The Viscount Downe Aston Martin team, was out, and living a nightmare at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. No rekindling past glories of the 1959 win for Aston Martin and David Brown Racing with Carroll Shelby and Roy Salvadori in the DBR1, 25 years later. For the next hour, the cars were held behind the safety car under a full course yellow. Vern Schuppan was also involved in a separate crash, when while driving the #11 Kremer Porsche, he clouted Roger Dorchy who had another shemozzle with the WM Peugeot, and both of those cars retired on the spot.
Night comes. No real drama, fun for the fans, too, at the carnival etc. to get away from the racing for a while. The Martini Lancia’s looked to be running away with this motor race, but everything had gone pear shaped for the LC2’s by 3AM. Hans Heyer brought #5 in, with four of the five gears workable in the transmission, as fifth gear was stripped completely. The problem was fixed, but Heyer, Barilla, and Baldi dropped to 14th place in the overall. At dawn, as the sun rose over La Sarthe, the sister #4 Wollek/Nannini Lancia continued to lead. #4 encountered suspension issues, handing the lead to the #33 Skoal Bandit Porsche 956 of David Hobbs, South Africa’s Sarel van der Merwe, and Frenchman Philippe Streiff.
Jaguar hung in there for as long as they could. But, reliving their glories was not to be. #44 of Tulius, Redman, and Bundy was out with a transmission failure, and Tony Adamowicz crashed the #40 sister car, so, he and co-driver’s John Watson and Claude Ballot-Lena, were also retirements. More suspension issues also cropped up for Lancia at dawn. Ditto, for the Skoal Bandit Porsche, #33. The car had dropped a cylinder and was only on five of six. So, retirement was also inevitable for the Hobbs/Streiff/van der Merwe driven car. Inheriting the lead in all these retirements was the tortoise, so to speak, the #7 New Man Joest Porsche for the two-driver squad of Henri Pescarolo and Klaus Ludwig. Consistency and luck may pay off for this duo. Henri Pescarolo already has three consecutive Le Mans wins, with Matra, to his credit in 1972, ’73, and ’74, with the screaming Matra Simca V12 spyders, that were such gorgeous automobiles. But, Pescarolo and Ludwig are facing a challenge.
It wasn’t their race to win just yet, as the #26 Preston Henn owned Henn’s T-Bird Swap Shop Porsche 956 was hot on their heels, with Henn of the U.S., co-driving with fellow American John Paul Jr. and Jean Rondeau of France, who had won this race before, in 1980, with his own car that he designed. Meanwhile, the Jaguar challenge came to a halt. The #40 XJR5 of Brian Redman, was out with transmission failure, along with team mates Bob Tulius and Doc Bundy. Jaguar would have to wait, to regain their past glory, at Le Mans.
Vern Schuppan, Alan Jones, and Jean Pierre Jarier have brought the #11 Kremer Porsche 956 up to third in the overall. David Hobbs continues to keep the #33 Skoal Bandit Porsche 956 in fourth, despite running on just five cylinders. Then there’s drama for the leading #7 New Man Porsche. Henri Pescarolo brings the car to pit lane, with busted front suspension! Reinhold Joest’s team springs into action to repair the damage, and the #26 Porsche for Rondeau and Paul Jr. moves to the lead. On the same lap, the New Man Porsche does complete its service and is back on track. Vern Schuppan and Alan Jones run third, and Jean Pierre Jarier has joined their team.
Phillipe Streiff is closing in fast as well in the #33 Skoal Bandit Porsche, still running on five cylinders. The #4 Lancia actually is running in sixth overall. It’s lasted quite a bit longer than people thought after it’s litany of issues. Late in the morning, Jean Rondeau is passed for the lead by car #7. Group C2 at Le Mans will be won by Mazda, as John Morton, John O’Steen, and Yoshimi Katayama, with the BFGoodrich car, have a big lead. Joest Racing wins Le Mans, with Porsche! Klaus Ludwig and Henri Pescarolo, are victorious, and Pescarolo earns his fourth Le Mans triumph!
Jones, Schuppan, and Jarier, contend with a blown motor, but still finish the race! Wow! The #7 Joest Racing New Man Porsche 956 of Klaus Ludwig and Henri Pescarolo are indeed, the winners of Le Mans, 1984! Lancia only salvages eighth spot with the #4 Bob Wollek, Alessandro Nannini LC2. Here are the results of the ’84 24 Hours of Le Mans.
- #7 Ludwig/Pescarolo New Man Joest Racing Porsche 956
- #26 Rondeau/Paul Jr./Henn Henn’s T-Bird Swap Shop Porsche 956
- #33 Hobbs/Streiff/van der Merwe Skoal Bandit Porsche 956
- #9 Brun/von Bayern/Akin Brun Motorsports GmbH Porsche 956
- #12 Merl/Schornstein/Winter New Man Schornstein Racing Team Porsche 956
- #11 Jones/Schuppan/Jarier Porsche Kremer Racing Porsche 956
With Le Mans in the rearview mirror, we move next, to the “new” Nurburgring circuit in the Eiffel Mountains of Germany.