Round 5: 24 Hours of Le Mans, Circuit de la Sarthe, Le Mans, France, June 11th-12th, 1988

We have reached the greatest endurance sports car race in the world, the 56th edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans in northwestern France.  But, there is one notable absence from the race this weekend.  Sauber Mercedes will not race at Le Mans in 1988.  German driver Klaus Niedzwiedz had been brought in, to replace Jean Louis Schlesser, who refuses to race at Le Mans on the grounds of safety.  Schlesser claims the race is far too dangerous.

Klaus Niedzwiedz lost a left rear tire, proving Schlesser’s claim about the danger of La Sarthe.  So, the factory entered Sauber Mercedes cars were all withdrawn.  That includes the #61 which was to be driven by Jochen Mass, Mauro Baldi, and James Weaver, and #62 for Niedzwiedz and Kenny Acheson, from Northern Ireland.  This round, it’s Jaguar vs. Porsche.  You will notice that the Andretti family has teamed up in one of the factory Porsche’s with Shell livery, as the #19 car is set to be driven by Mario Andretti, his son, Michael Andretti, and his nephew, John Andretti.

So, here are the top qualifiers as the Porsche factory returns just for Le Mans, and takes the top three places in qualifying.

  1. #17 Ludwig/Stuck/Bell Porsche 962C     Porsche AG
  2. #18 Wollek/Schuppan/van der Merwe Porsche 962C     Porsche AG
  3. #19 Andretti/Andretti/Andretti Porsche 962C     Porsche AG
  4. #1 Brundle/Nielsen Jaguar XJR9         Silk Cut Jaguar
  5. #8 Dickens/Winter/Jelinski Porsche  962C    Blaupunkt-Joest Racing
  6. #2 Lammers/Dumfries/Wallace Jaguar XJR9         Silk Cut Jaguar
  7. #11 Nissen/Fouche/Grohs Porsche 962C     Porsche Kremer Racing
  8. #36 Lees/Sekiya/Hoshino                 Toyota 88C          Toyota Team Tom’s
  9. #21 Sullivan/Jones/Cobb Jaguar XJR9         Silk Cut Jaguar
  10. #37 Barilla/Hagawa/Needell Toyota 88C          Toyota Team Tom’s
  11. #22 Daly/Perkins/Cogan Jaguar XJR9         Silk Cut Jaguar
  12. #3 Watson/Boesel/Pescarolo Jaguar XJR9         Silk Cut Jaguar
  13. #5 Pareja/Sigala/Schafer Porsche 962C     Repsol Brun Motorsport
  14. #33 Redman/Elgh/Jarier Porsche 962C     Takefuji Schuppan Racing Team
  15. #23 Hoshino/Wada/Suzuki Nissan R88C        Nissan Motorsports

There are your top 15 qualifiers in a field of 49 cars.  It’s a wise decision for Mercedes to have withdrawn from the 24 Hours as they need to investigate the trouble with their Michelin tires.  They’ll be back.

The Trois Couleurs flag waves, and the 56th 24 Hours of Le Mans is underway!  As you can tell from the grid, the factory Porsche team has returned, but just for this single race at the 24 Hours of Le Mans anhd they took pole, with all three of their cars leading as the race begins.  Again, this race is Jaguar vs. Porsche.  The #17 car in the hands of Klaus Ludwig, Derek Bell, and Hans Stuck absolutely obliterated the track record on their way to pole.  Again, the Andretti’s also are driving here at Le Mans in the #19 Porsche 962C.  All three cars are liveried by sponsors Dunlop tires and Shell Oil.

The #18 Porsche which we see has gone to the sharp end early, has Bob Wollek, Vern Schuppan, and Sarel van der Merwe on the driver’s strength.  So, the South African and the Frenchman are teaming up with the Australian, and the man who won the 24 Hours of Le Mans, five years ago, back in 1983 alongside Hurley Haywood and Al Holbert.  Hans Stuck has taken the lead, looking for his third Le Mans win.  Derek Bell is looking to tie his longtime team mate Jacky Ickx, with six victories at Le Mans.  Le Mans is back to its former glory.

Yes, we wish Mercedes were here, and that they hadn’t had their tire troubles, because then it would be a really good scrap.  But Porsche and Jaguar are giving us plenty to talk about.  216,000 fans are here to see the race.  More than 50,000 are British.  Now, this race has settled into a rhythm.  But, Martin Brundle spins the #1 Jaguar into the sand trap at Indianapolis.  What?  No bucket and spade?  He might wriggle his way out of that jam momentarily, as it is pit stop time for one of the sister Jaguar’s, the #2 Lammers/Dumfries/Wallace machine.  They are leading after the opening three hours of the motor race.

The #1 Brundle/Nielsen Jaguar is back in the race but has lost all kinds of time.  Speaking of losing something, one of the factory Porsche’s has lost drive!  Klaus Ludwig tried to eke out an extra lap and it didn’t work.  His fuel tank went dry, and so, he has to be pushed into the pit lane.  Needless to say, Hans Stuck and Derek Bell, they were furious about this!  Klaus, how can you let us down like this, sunshine!  Just wait though.  This trio’s drive through the field for the next 20 hours, is going to be the stuff of legend.

Bob Wollek takes the lead in the fourth hour of the race.  Meanwhile, Walter Lechner seems to be on a Saturday drive out in the country, when all of a sudden… he runs out of race track, realizing the Porsche 962 won’t make a good rallycross racer, and… wallop!  He slams the wall!  He has a very silent Porsche 962.  The engine stalled.  Its game over for the Austrian and his team mates, Franz Hunkeler from Switzerland, and Germany’s Manuel Reuter.  Darkness has now fallen at Le Mans.  Night is relatively short at Le Mans, but as we’ve seen before, it is a challenge.  The #18 Porsche factory car leads, the Wollek/van der Merwe/Schuppan entry.  They are just barely ahead of the highest placed Jaguar XJR9 in second of Jan Lammers, Johnny Dumfries, and Andy Wallace.

Factory Porsche #17 is also in strife in the lane, with mechanical woes.  But, Hans Stuck, Derek Bell, and Klaus Ludwig, will recover.  Actually, they needed to change the front nose section of the automobile.  There’s a pit lane fire as well!  We’ve seen this before, shades of the 1985 Hockenheim race.  The #13 is not lucky at Le Mans this year as the Cougar C20B Porsche has flamed out!  Pierre-Henri Raphanel and Michel Ferte, the two Frenchmen had handled this car for most of the race distance.  Yves Courage of France and Italy’s Roberto Ravaglia were also slated to drive.  But, neither will get a chance, because it’s game over and the car is burned to a crisp.

Thankfully, the marshals doused the flames.  Now, we fast forward a little ways in this long grind that is the 24 Hours of Le Mans, and head for the early A.M. hours just before sunup.  The three factory Porsche’s are still being given a run for their money by two of the remaining Silk Cut Jaguar’s.  These are cars #2 and #1.  #2 leads the motor race overall, but is being harried by Bob Wollek in the #18 Porsche, Wollek, a man who has tried to win his home race for many years, but has not achieved it.  1988 will not be Wollek’s year at La Sarthe.  Terminal engine trouble is diagnosed by the mechanics, and so, it is all over for Wollek and co-drivers Vern Schuppan and Sarel van der Merwe.

It was a great drive by Wollek in this year’s race, but it’s not to be.  Derek Bell, Hans Stuck, and Klaus Ludwig are still running, and so is the Andretti family Porsche, the third car on the team.  Early in the A.M., IndyCar driver and 1985 Indianapolis 500 winner, Danny Sullivan, in a spin and win in that race, he does a pirouette in the Ford chicane as the sun rises.  Sullivan, and co-drivers Davy Jones and Price Cobb are not running anywhere near the sharp end, but they will finish the 1988 Le Mans 24 Hour race.  Porsche #17 has clawed it’s way back to the lead by 6AM.  Jaguar #2, their closest competition had to come to pit lane for emergency service, to get the windscreen replaced.

Both of the Blaupunkt Joest Porsche’s are also running well and are inside the top six spots.  Both cars will finish, #7 shared by David Hobbs from England, Belgian Didier Theys, and Austrian Franz Konrad, and #8 by Sweden’s Stanley Dickens, and Germans John Winter and Frank Jelinski.  An hour later, at 7AM, Jaguar resumed in the lead with the Jan Lammers, Johnny Dumfries, Andy Wallace car, after one of the factory Porsche’s had to pit to replace a broken fuel pump.  The C2 division lead belongs to BP Spice Engineering and their familiar #111 Spice Cosworth, with Gordon Spice and Ray Bellm joined by Frenchman Pierre de Thoisy here at Le Mans.  Disaster befell Jaguar in the middle of the morning as the #1 car of Martin Brundle and John Nielsen was out with head gasket failure.  Jan Lammers, Johnny Dumfries, and Andy Wallace now lead Le Mans, but would the same fate befall that squad?  TWR boss Tom Walkinshaw has every right to be worried and pace nervously in the pit lane.

The team had started five of the swoopy looking Jaguar XJR9s and there were only three left in the motor race.  Every time the three remaining Jaguars appeared around Le Mans, the British fans went crazy!  The British fans, will get their wish!  At 3PM on Sunday, June 12th, 1988, Jaguar wins Le Mans for the first time in 31 years!  Jan Lammers, Johnny Dumfries, and Andy Wallace, win!  It was a close race towards the end though, as in second place, the #17 Porsche 962 of Hans Stuck, Klaus Ludwig, and Derek Bell, is on the very same lap!  How close do you like it?

Amazingly, before Le Mans, none of the winning drivers had finished a World Sports Car Championship race, in 1988.  But today belongs to Jaguar, and drivers Jan Lammers, Johnny Dumfries, and Andy Wallace!  Here are the top ten finishers from Le Mans, and a look at the points standings in the championship.

  1. #2 Lammers/Dumfries/Wallace Jaguar XJR9 LM                 Silk Cut Jaguar
  2. #17 Ludwig/Stuck/Bell Porsche 962C                     Porsche AG
  3. #8 Dickens/Winter/Jelinski Porsche 962C                     Joest-Blaupunkt Racing
  4. #22 Daly/Perkins/Cogan Jaguar XJR9 LM                 Silk Cut Jaguar
  5. #7 Hobbs/Theys/Konrad Porsche 962C                     Joest-Blaupunkt Racing
  6. #19 Andretti/Andretti/Andretti Porsche 962C                     Porsche AG
  7. #5 Pareja/Sigala/Schafer Porsche 962C                     Repsol Brun Motorsport
  8. #11 Nissen/Fouche/Grohs Porsche 962C                     Leyton House Kremer
  9. #10 Takahashi/Giacomelli/Okada Porsche 962C                     Kenwood Kremer
  10. #33 Redman/Elgh/Jarier Porsche 962C                     Takefuji Schuppan Racing Team

Jaguar wins, and many Porsche’s are in the top ten.  Again, the winners in C2:

#111 Bellm/Spice/de Thoisy                                        Spice SE88C Ford Cosworth         BP Spice Engineering

We have not looked at the driver’s points table all season so far.  Here’s how it appears after Le Mans.

C1 Drivers:

  1. Jean Louis Schlesser 115 points
  2. Mauro Baldi 109 points
  3. Eddie Cheever 100 points
  4. Martin Brundle 100 points
  5. John Winter 91 points
  6. Frank Jelinski 91 points
  7. Klaus Ludwig 85 points
  8. Derek Bell 65 points

C1 Teams

  1. Silk Cut Jaguar 190 points
  2. AEG Sauber 115 points
  3. Joest Racing 103 points
  4. Brun Motorsport 58 points
  5. Spice Engineering 30 points
  6. Kremer Porsche 29 points

C2 Drivers:

  1. Gordon Spice 190 points
  2. Ray Bellm 190 points
  3. Almo Coppelli 82 points
  4. Thorkild Thyrring 82 points
  5. Jean Louis Ricci 79 points
  6. Claude Ballot-Lena 79 points

C2 Teams:

  1. Spice Engineering 200 points
  2. Chamberlain Engineering 79 points
  3. Charles Ivy Racing 72 points
  4. Kelmar Racing 44 points
  5. Lucky Strike 35 points
  6. GP Motorsport 30 points

Jaguar’s Le Mans triumph is unforgettable for those who attended the race, still to this day.  Next up, for the first time ever, sports cars will race inside the Iron Curtain, in Czechoslovakia at the Brno Autodrom, coming up in a month’s time, and we will be truly back to a sprint race format.

Published by

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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