1978 24 Hours of Le Mans

The 1978 24 Hours of Le Mans was the 46th Grand Prix of Endurance, and took place on 10 and 11 June 1978. In many ways it was a continuation of the race from the year before – the two main protagonists would be the very evenly-matched works teams of Alpine-Renault and Porsche, with four cars each.

1978 24 Hours of Le Mans
Previous: 1977 Next: 1979
Index: Races | Winners
Le Mans in 1978

This time it was the Porsche team that had reliability issues – on only the second lap of the race two of their cars were in the pits. Renault soon established a solid hold of the top three positions. Like the year before, after the Ickx /Pescarolo car had early problems, Ickx was transferred to the second Porsche of Barth/Wollek. Once again he set about driving back through the field during the night, getting up to second by midnight behind the Jabouille/Depailler car. But a loss of fifth gear cost them half an hour to repair it. When the lead Renault stopped on the circuit with a jammed gearbox, there was a sense of déjà vu for the French team. The sister car of Jean-Pierre Jaussaud and Didier Pironi inherited the lead, with a 7-lap margin over the Porsches. Although the second-placed Porsche pulled back two laps, this time Renault would not be denied, and Pironi took the flag for a popular local victory with a record race-distance.

Porsche were second and third, the remaining Renault fourth with the Porsche 935s of customer teams in the next four places. The race also saw several high-speed crashes on the Mulsanne straight, but fortunately only one driver was seriously injured.

RegulationsEdit

With the predictable demise of the FIA Championship for Group 6 (World Championship for Sports Cars), Le Mans was left as the only significant race that combined Group 6 and Group 5 racecars. No changes were made to the race regulations.

This year, the IMSA GT Championship added the Le Mans GTX class to the incumbent GTO and GTU classes.[1] This, in turn, meant the Automobile Club de l'Ouest (ACO) could merge the IMSA and GTX into a single class. The IMSA regulations allowed a lower minimum weight and wider rear wheels than Group 5. IMSA also inaugurated the World Challenge for Endurance Drivers. Not sanctioned by the FIA, it was a series that linked American races at Daytona, Sebring and Talladega with Le Mans and the Nürburgring. Finally, the Daytona-Le Mans Trophy was repeated.[2]

EntriesEdit

The ACO received only 70 applications, the smallest number in a decade with 60 chosen for qualification with a further 7 kept on reserve. Once again, the only manufacturer works teams were from Porsche and Renault, bolstered by entries from small-scale racing specialists Mirage, Osella and WM.

Class Large-engines
>2.0L classes
Medium-engines
< 2.0L classes
Turbo engines
Group 6 S
Sports
14 / 12 15 / 14 9 / 0
Group 5 SP
Special Production
9 / 8 - 8
Group 4 GTS
Special GT
10 / 7 - 6
GTP
Le Mans
GT Prototype
6 / 5 - 2
IMSA GTX
IMSA/Le Mans
GT Experimental
13 / 9 - 2
Total Entries 52 / 41 15 / 14 27
  • Note: The first number is the number of arrivals, the second the number who started.

Group 6 and GTPEdit

 
Porsche 936-77

Defending winners, the Martini-Porsche works team, brought back the 936 for its only race of the season. The 2140cc engine with twin KKK (Kühnle, Kopp & Kausch) turbos had been enhanced with quads-cams and at 1.4bar of turbo boost now put out 580 bhp. Wound up to 1.7bar, it was a bit slower at top speed 345 kp/h (215 mph) but overall, with new aerodynamics, much faster around a complete lap. The extra engine power meant higher running temperatures and for the first time, Porsche had water-cooling, combined with its regular air-cooling.[3][4][5][6] The cars were also fitted with the same gearboxes the Can-Am Porsche 917s had used to handle the great engine power.[7] Once again, the endurance experts Jacky Ickx and Henri Pescarolo were paired up, and given the new car. Jürgen Barth had a new co-driver in Bob Wollek, driving the car that failed to finish last year fitted with the new engine. For Wollek, it was his first drive with the works team, after fulfilling a prior commitment with Kremer the year before.[6] Americans Hurley Haywood and Peter Gregg were given the winning car from 1976 and '77, still fitted with the twin-cam, single-turbo engine. Jochen Mass and Reinhold Joest were designated as reserve drivers.[4][5]

 
Renault-Alpine A443

After a disastrous showing the previous year, Renault Alpine did extensive work on the 2.0-litre twin-turbo engines, making over thirty modifications. The chassis also got scrutiny, with side-skirts and a Perspex bubble-canopy trialled. They did unprecedented testing, covering over 10,000 miles (16,000 km) at Circuit Paul Ricard and Istres airfield. Two short-tail chassis from the last season were given the new engine (A442A), while another was given a longer chassis (A442B). Finally, a brand-new chassis (only unveiled a month before) was built (A443) that had a 15cm longer wheelbase and was broader to carry wider wheels.[5]The bigger 2138cc engine with a single turbo put out slightly more power (520 vs 500 bhp) but could reach 360 kp/h (225 mph) on the Hunaudières straight, fully 25 kp/h faster than the Porsche.[8][3][5][9] Once again, the cream of French Grand Prix talent was brought in: Jean-Pierre Jabouille/Patrick Depailler shared the new car, Jean-Pierre Jaussaud/Didier Pironi had the A442B. The older cars were driven by rally specialists Jean Ragnotti, Guy Fréquelin with José Dolhem and Jean-Pierre Jarier with Le Mans veteran Derek Bell.[8] Patrick Tambay had been slated to race with Jabouille, but his burned foot had not healed sufficiently.[10]

 
Renault-Alpine A442B, with canopy

Mirage engineer John Horsman further developed the M8 to the M9. Keeping the 490 bhp Renault turbo engine, the new chassis was lower and narrower, with a long tail.[11] The revised gearing was able to be tested on the new Interstate 10 section outside of Phoenix before it opened, where team driver Vern Schuppan was able get the car up to 335 kp/h. Two cars were entered: Schuppan had Formula 1 driver Jacques Laffite as co-driver, while Sam Posey and Michel Leclère once again shared the second car.[11][5]

Alain de Cadenet brought his next iteration based on the Lola T380, designed by Len Bailey (who had previously worked with John Wyer). The LM78 was longer, and faster: with the 460 bhp Cosworth DFV engine, De Cadenet's regular co-driver Chris Craft was able to make 345 kp/h (215 mph) on the back straight. A true privateer effort, as de Cadenet got virtually had no sponsorship.[12][5] He even sold most of his valuable stamp collection to raise money.[13] Last year's model had been sold to privateer Pete Lovett, while the earlier model returned with Simon Phillips.[12] A new entrant this year was the Ibec, for the Ian Bracey Engineering Company. The Ibec P6 was designed by Harvey Postlethwaite, currently involved with the Hesketh Formula 1 team and the chassis layout was based on the Hesketh 308. But the focus on that meant the Group 6 car fell behind schedule so Bracey took the car to the Lyncar plant to assemble. Drivers Ian Grob and Guy Edwards got their first drive of the car in testing less than a fortnight before the race.[14][5][9]

After the withdrawal of the sponsorship money of Inaltéra, Le Mans local Jean Rondeau, despite keeping the design plans, had been forced to sell his cars and start building his designs again. He toyed with a 6-wheeler idea inspired by the Tyrrell P34.[15] Assisted with funding from the city and local region his new car, the M378, was narrower, longer and lighter than the previous model. Testing on the Bugatti Circuit improved the aerodynamics.[16] His co-drivers were rally driver Bernard Darniche and Jacky Haran. One of the Inaltéra bought by the Swiss concern was entered in GTP by André Chevalley.[16]Welter Racing had a new design in the GTP class. The P78 had a longer, more aerodynamic shell. It kept the Peugeot 2.7-litre V6 engine with a KKK turbo and, after improvements, now put out 440 bhp. It would be driven by Debias/Sourd/Mathiot. The team also had last year's P77 model with its same turbo engine (Raulet/Mamers and the older P76. Driven by Bob Neyrat's squad of female racers Christine Dacremont/Marianne Hoepfner, it had a bigger 2.85-litre Peugeot non-turbo engine.[17] The other GTP entry was the return of Bernard Decure's modified Alpine A310.[18]

Group 6 (2-litre)Edit

 
Chevron B36 of the Société ROC team

This year, the biggest class was the 2-litre category with fifteen entries. The class showed a good variety of chassis combined by different engines. The French engine-builder team, Société ROC, had three of the B36 Chevrons. This was the last model of Chevron produced when company founder Derek Bennett was killed in a hang-gliding accident.[19] The Simca-ROC engine was also seen in two Lola. Two types of Cosworth engine powered the other five Lolas, as well as Charles Graemiger's Cheetah. With the demise of the World Group 6 Championship, the European Sportscar Championship was revived and Osella supplied a number of customer cars. Ted Toleman brought one of the Osella-BMWs to Le Mans, co-entered by BMW's British division, with a strong driver lineup of Tom Walkinshaw, Dieter Quester and his Formula 2 team driver Rad Dougall.[20] Once again the small Sauber team was back with the C5, powered by a BMW engine. This year Swiss Formula 2 driver Marc Surer joined the regular drivers Eugen Strähl and Harry Blumer.[21]

Group 5 and IMSA GTXEdit

With the Porsche works team not contesting the World Championship, it devolved to a duel between the two German customer teams of Georg Loos (buying the services of the underemployed works pit-crews)[2] and Kremer Racing with their 935s. BMW, with their new M1 model delayed, had to make do with the 2-litre 320i in the junior Division 1 class, that could not compete with the bigger cars.[2] Porsche produced fifteen 935 cars for their customer teams. The 1978 version had twin-turbos and a two-level rear wing to improve downforce.[22]

 
Works-team Porsche 935-78

Meanwhile, the Martini-Porsche works team had developed their Third Generation of the Porsche 935. Nicknamed "Moby Dick", the mighty 935-78 had the most powerful Porsche engine since the 917 Can-Am turbos of the early '70s. The 3.2-litre flat six twin-cam could put out a massive 750 bhp with its twin KKK turbos. Engineer Norbert Singer had ingeniously lowered the car, by lifting the chassis floor, fitting the gearbox and final-drive upside-down and putting the radiators in front of the massive 19" rear wheels. The engine-size bumped it up to the 5-litre class, it had to have a minimum weight of 1025kg (compared to ~800kg for Group 6) and the smaller 120-litre petrol tank for Group 5 cars would demand more fuel-stops in the race (45-minute stints vs 80-minutes for Group 6[6]). Ickx and Mass had won on its only race to date, at Silverstone the month before. As in previous Le Mans, the Group 5 car was handed to Rolf Stommelen and Manfred Schurti.[23]

There were seven other 935s entered by the customer teams. The Kremer brothers had three cars, despite losing their two main drivers (Wollek and Pescarolo) to the works team. Instead they had three relatively inexperienced sets: Gurdjian/Schornstein/Krages, Raymond/Franey/Wielemans and Americans Busby/Cord/Knoop. Georg Loos only entered one of his two cars, but it had his best driving team of John Fitzpatrick/Toine Hezemans. The other three teams were regular Championship contenders –the French ASA-Cachia team, Mecarillos Racing Team (Switzerland) and Konrad Racing (Germany). A prospective works entry from AMG-Mercedes did not eventuate.[5][24]

The broadening of the IMSA regulations had sent a further fleet of Porsche 935s across the Atlantic to dominate that series. The IMSA-GTX class was well supported with a number of those teams coming across for the first time: Dick Barbour's Hawaiian Tropic team had two cars – driven by Brian Redman/John Paul Snr and Barbour himself, with Bob Garretson/Steve Earle/Bob Akin in the second. The Whittington brothers, Bill and Don, hired Joest's car and got Championship driver Franz Konrad to partner them. There were also two teams running IMSA Porsche 911 Carreras.

After a single Ferrari returned to Le Mans the previous year, there were five entered this year. The 512 BB had recently replaced the 365 GT/4, as the next in the mid-engined series. The 4.9-litre engine was bigger but slightly down on power. Revised rear suspension could accommodate wider tyres. Three cars were specially built by the Ferrari factory to IMSA specifications; two for Charles Pozzi's French team, and one for Luigi Chinetti from NART. A fourth was modified from a road-car by the Ecurie Francorchamps for the regular driver Jean Blaton, who raced under the pseudonym "Beurlys". The fifth car was the older NART 365/4 returning, and run again by the Frenchmen, Lucien Guitteny and François Migault.[25]

Beyond the Porsche vs Ferrari battle in this IMSA class, there was a solitary BMW driven by former European champion Pierre Dieudonné with Alain Cudini. American Brad Friselle, who raced with the Brumos Porsche team in the US, brought a Chevrolet Monza that he had purchased from Michael Keyser (who had raced a similar car in the 1976 race). Its 5.7-litre engine was the biggest one in the race.[20]

Group 4 GTEdit

The nine entries in the Group 4 class made this the sole preserve of Porsche, all run by small privateer teams. The five Porsche 934s, with the 3-litre turbo, had a distinct power advantage over the three normally-aspirated 3-litre Porsche 911 Carreras. Biggest car in the class was the new 3.3-litre turbo Porsche 930 of Joël Laplacette.[26]

Practice and QualifyingEdit

 
Porsche works team, led by the 935

Rolf Stommelen had never driven the Porsche 935-78 before, but in Wednesday practice he initially held the fastest time. The car was the second-fastest down the Hunaudières Straight, behind the Renaults, reaching 350 kp/h (220 mph).[27] But the next day, in a misguided publicity action, Porsche chose to drive their 935 to the circuit through the streets of Le Mans. Unfortunately the gridlock and slow pace overheated the engine and holed a piston, forcing an unanticipated engine change.[28][23][29] The cars of the works Porsche and Renault-Alpine teams filled the top eight places on the grid. Jacky Ickx set a sensational new lap record of 3:27.6, beating Arturo Merzario's mark by over a second to put the new Porsche on pole position.[30][10] Jabouille was almost a second back in the first of the Renaults. Rolf Stommelen got the 935 up to 3rd (3:30.9) well ahead of team-mate Wollek (3:35.2). Ninth was Schuppan's Mirage (3:45.8) ahead of Chris Craft in the De Cadenet. The Mirages had chronic handling issues, which burned up a lot of practice time to resolve.[27] The Gelo 935 was the second Group 5 Porsche, at 11th, over 15 seconds behind Stommelen. The Dick Barbour 935 was fastest of the IMSA class in 16th (3:52.6) just ahead of the Whittington Brothers' 935. It was readily apparent the Ferraris were outpaced, with the leading one, of Charles Ballot-Léna, down in 33rd (4:07.1). The new WM was quickest GTP (3:52.9, 18th), the Osella led the 2-litre Group 6 (3:56.2, 22nd) comfortably ahead of the Sauber. Hervé Poulain's turbo Porsche was the first Group 4 in 32nd (4:07.0).[31]

Twenty-four cars broke the 4-minute barrier this year, compared to only twelve in 1976. After qualifying Pironi and Jaussaud chose to keep the bubble canopy, which they estimated was worth an extra 15 kp/h (10 mph) on the back straight.[32] Both Depailler and Jabouille, driving the new A443, had found the bubble claustrophobic and causing bad reflections at night, so they asked for it to be removed from their car.[8][27] Pironi and Jaussaud, in the A442B, however, chose to keep theirs.[33][29] The non-qualifiers were selected from the slowest in several classes to keep a balanced quota. In Group 6, the ToJ was well off the pace, but DeCadenet's second car was unlucky to be bumped, having done the 19th fastest time.[31]

RaceEdit

StartEdit

On a sunny Saturday morning before the main event, there was a half-hour race for historic cars. In a slight anachronism, it was Stirling Moss, coming out of retirement, who won driving a Maserati 250F Grand-Prix car. Moss had previously had two second places at Le Mans in 11 attempts, in 1953 and 1956. Second and third were a pair of Jaguar D-Types.[32][34]

The honorary starter this year was legendary French cyclist Raymond Poulidor who had recently retired.[35] Things started going wrong for Porsche from the start when Jabouille roared past Ickx into the Dunlop curve. At the end of the first lap, it was Jabouille twelve seconds ahead of Ickx, Wollek, Schurti in the 935 and Pironi.[33][36] But at the end of the next lap, there was a sensation when both Ickx and Haywood had to pit their Porsches. The former had high fuel pressure, while the latter had loose turbo pipes and a jammed throttle. Both rejoined several laps later, but Renault had Jabouille, Pironi and Jarier now running 1-2-3 line ahead of Wollek which is how it stayed to the first pitstops. Ragnotti's Calberson-Ranault was fifth with the two Mirages were next, Leclère ahead of Laffite. Then came Schurti, the De Cadenet and Sourd, in the WM turbo, leading GTP and rounding out the top-10. But in those pitstops, the leaders were delayed by a bad tyre-change and Depailler came out in fifth.[37][36]

In the third hour, the Mirage of Michel Leclère stopped on the far side of the track with a complete electrical failure. Four laps later the sister-car was refuelling and could not restart. In replacing the dead battery, a pit-man left a live wire on the chassis and when the key was turned it fried the electrics. Repairing that cost almost thirty minutes, dropping them to 30th.[11][10] Early casualties in the Group 5 class were the highly favoured Loos Porsche and one of the Kremer Porsches, both put out with broken pistons.[36]

Meanwhile, Ickx was driving hard back through the field. By 8pm he had the Porsche back up to 6th. But, just on 9pm they lost fifth gear and all that work was undone as they lost 37 minutes while the gearbox was repaired, dropping them back to 19th. To that was added power loss and an ignition problem.[38][7] So, in a repeat of the decision in the previous year's race, Ickx was pulled from his ailing car to help the surviving Wollek/Barth car.[32][36] Jochen Mass, the reserve driver, was brought in to co-drive with Pescarolo.[38][39] So as night fell, the Porsche was fourth (93 laps) chasing the French cars a lap ahead. Stommelen, duelling with the Calberson-Renault (92) with Haywood (89) and Craft (88) next. Three laps further back (85) were the American 935s: Busby's Kremer, and Barbour, leading the IMSA class, in tenth.[39]

NightEdit

The De Cadenet had been stopped early – a wheel weight had come off and fired through the chassis; it was running eighth, then the clutch started failing in the evening that eventually caused a 100-minute stop at 2am to rebuild. It started a long drive back through the field.[12][39]

By 11pm, after 7 hours, Renault held their 1-2-3 sequence. Jabouille/Depailler were back in the lead at dusk after the Pironi/Jaussaud car spent 7 minutes changing brake pads.[3] Ickx was putting in an epic night-drive, ably assisted by Wollek and together they were consistently fast. To catch the French cars, Porsche pushed the turbo pressure of their leading car up from 1.4 to 1.5 bar. This extra speed gradually allowed them to reel in the cars ahead of them. But again, the progress was lost by several stops to correct dodgy wheel fittings.[7] However in the half-hour before midnight, they progressively passed two of the Renaults to move back up into second place. Then when the Jarier/Bell car, running third, stopped at the Tertre Rouge with a broken transmission at 2.30am, alarm bells started ringing for the French team.[37][32] Haywood's #7 Porsche was up to fifth, Stommelen/Schurti were sixth in the 935 and Pescarolo/Mass had got back up to seventh.[38] Earlier, just after midnight, the Toleman Osella had been leading the Group 6 2-litre class when it crashed at high speed following a puncture at the Mulsanne kink. Driver Dieter Quester got a nasty gash to his face but was otherwise all right.[36][10]

So at the halfway point, with Renault running 1-3-4 and Porsche ready to pounce in 2-5-6-7, the race was keenly balanced. The Mirage had driven back through the field up to tenth. This time the mechanical issues struck every works Porsche: At 4am, Pescarolo pitted with electrical issues losing six laps. Their best-placed car had two stops to fix bad handling, and then Haywood lost 4 laps as the mechanics fixed a power-loss. Finally, the 935 was delayed getting a new fuel-pump fitted.[37] The hard-working Mirage then had the throttle linkage break undoing their effort. The eighty minutes to repair dropped them back down to 17th.[11][39]

MorningEdit

In the cooler air, Jabouille put in the fastest lap of the race setting a new lap record of 3:34.2.[10] As the light got better, the second Dick Barbour IMSA 935 crashed spectacularly. Bob Garretson lost control at the Mulsanne kink and rolled over and over for more than half a kilometre.[36][40] Them at 7am, there was another big accident at almost the same location. Tony Charnell was leading the 2-litre class when his Mogil Motors Chevron lost a suspension link at over 260 kp/h (160 mph). Although the car flew into the trees and went to pieces, Charnell was uninjured.[19][36][34][40] Not long after, at 8am, the Ragnotti/Fréquelin/Dolhem #4 car lost 32 minutes repairing its gearbox.[22][33] Then at 8.30am was the third major accident in two hours, far more serious, when Christian Débias crashed the turbo WM P78 at top speed on the Hunaudières Straight. The force was such to break the car in three and pull the barrier out of the ground. Pulled out unconscious, despite a fractured skull and many broken ribs, Débias would make a full recovery.[17][36][40][41]

The Porsche challenge started fading when Wollek brought his car into the pits just before 9am with the same ailment that had struck their team-mate earlier: no fifth gear and another 37 minutes lost.[32] The Calberson-Renault also had trouble with its gearbox, losing third gear and taking 20 minutes to repair.[40] The Renault team wound back the turbo boost on their race-leader, but then half an hour later Depailler coasted to a halt at Mulsanne corner in a cloud of smoke with a jammed gearbox.[33][10] After leading for 11 hours, it was out with a holed piston, in an alarming echo of the previous year. [36] The Pironi/Jaussaud car, a lap behind, inherited the lead with a comfortable 7-lap lead over the Haywood/Gregg Porsche.[37][32] Jabouille was transferred to the Calberson Renault to help bring it home.[33]

Before noon the Barth/Wollek/Ickx overtook its stablemate to move into second place. In the 20th hour, Mass crashed in the Porsche Curves having just got up to sixth.[42][34] The works 935 had a very difficult race, with a myriad of problems: a stuck throttle, leaking radiator, loose windscreen, replacing the distributor and the fuel pump. Every 16 laps, the minimum allowed, it needed a complete oil refill. All up the car spent nearly 3 hours in the pits.[23][10]

Finish and post-raceEdit

But Renault would not be denied this year. With a 30-minute lead, the Pironi/Jaussaud car, despite a fading clutch, ran faultlessly for the rest of the race to take the victory, finishing five laps ahead of the two works Porsches. Fourth was the Calberson Renault, 11 laps behind their team-mates, despite a dodgy fourth gear.[36] Four Porsche 935s finished next, led home by the IMSA-class winning car of Dick Barbour Racing, beating the Group 5 winner from Kremer Racing by a lap. For experienced sports-car campaigner, Brian Redman, this was his first Le Mans finish. Jean Rondeau came through to win the GTP class for the third year in a row, having the small pleasure of beating his former car by 15 laps (200 km).[32] The Mirage drivers, Schuppan and Laffite, had been bedevilled by mechanical issues through the day, including three gearbox malfunctions and a broken turbo costing a total of four hours in the pits. But the drivers persisted and were rewarded with a tenth-place finish.[11]

From the biggest class-entry there was but a single classified finisher from the Group 6 2-litres: Michel Pignard getting back-to-back victories for himself and Société ROC.[19] The winner of the Group 4 GT class, in twelfth, was the Porsche 911 of Anny-Charlotte Verney. After an early gearbox issue, the car had run well, outlasting the more powerful 934 turbos. Their troubles meant they took the class-lead in the 8th hour and were never headed. The only other classified finisher in the class was the privateer entry of "Ségolen", also afflicted by gearbox problems and 20 laps behind.[26] In a race of attrition, where many cars had had mechanical issues and delays, there were eight cars that would not be classified as they had not completed the 70% threshold (259 laps). Marc Surer and his Sauber team missed out by just 2 laps. Having initially led the class, they had to undergo a full gearbox rebuild in the early evening, then were plagued by an overheating and misfiring engine. It had been in the pits for much of the afternoon until going out to take the flag.[36][21] After gearbox problems took out the Ferraris, the only one to finish was the Migault/Guitteny 365, which by coincidence, had also finished 16th the year before with the same drivers but had covered 6 further laps.[25]

Race-winner Didier Pironi had put in a double-shift at the end. Completely exhausted, he needed to be lifted out of the cockpit and given medical attention to get to the podium,[33][36] leaving an emotional Jaussaud to take the trophy.[34] He and Pironi had covered a record distance of 5044 km in the 24 hours. The race victory meant a lot to Renault, and France. As the team's Competition Director and former race-winner, Gérard Larrousse put it:[43]

" The sales battle in Europe has never been so tough. The commercial fall-out of a race like this is far more obvious than the technical spin-offs, for a victory at Le Mans is one that cannot he doubted”.

With the greater weighting on American races (that most European teams did not attend), the World Challenge for Endurance Drivers was won by John Paul Snr. By also taking a second at the 24 Hours of Daytona, Dick Barbour won the Daytona-Le Mans Trophy.

This time it had been Porsche that had the unreliability issues and Renault-Alpine finally achieved its aim of a Le Mans win. Straight after the race, the Renault Managing Director, Bernard Hanon, announced it was mission accomplished and that they would withdraw from sports-car racing to put their focus henceforth onto Formula 1.[3][32] For the event, the ACO had spent over 1 million francs (£125,000). With the withdrawal of the major local manufacturer, drawcard and sole competition, the organisation was very worried about the next year, and the financial losses if the crowds stayed away, disinterested.[34]

Official resultsEdit

FinishersEdit

Results taken from Quentin Spurring's book, officially licensed by the ACO[44][35][45][46]
Class Winners are in Bold text.

Pos Class No. Team Drivers Chassis Engine Tyre Laps
1 Gr.6
S 3.0
2   Renault Sport   Didier Pironi
  Jean-Pierre Jaussaud
Renault Alpine A442B Renault 2.0L V6 twin-turbo M 369
2 Gr.6
S 3.0
6   Martini Racing Porsche System   Jürgen Barth
  Bob Wollek
  Jacky Ickx
Porsche 936-78 Porsche 935/73 2.1L F6 twin-turbo D 364
3 Gr.6
S 3.0
7   Martini Racing Porsche System   Hurley Haywood
  Peter Gregg
  Reinhold Joest
Porsche 936-77 Porsche 911/78 2.1L F6 turbo D 362
4 Gr.6
S 3.0
4   Renault Sport /
  Écurie Calberson
  Guy Fréquelin
  Jean Ragnotti
  José Dolhem
  Jean-Pierre Jabouille
Renault-Alpine A442A Renault 2.0L V6 twin-turbo M 358
5' IMSA
GT
90   Dick Barbour Racing   Dick Barbour
  Brian Redman
  John Paul Sr.
Porsche 935-77 Porsche 930/78 3.0L F6 turbo G 337
6 Gr.5
SP
44   Porsche Kremer Racing   Jim Busby
  Chris Cord
  Rick Knoop
Porsche 935-77 Porsche 930/72 3.0L F6 turbo G 336
7 Gr.5
SP
41   ASA Cachia /
  Team Pace
  Alfredo Guaraná
  Paulo Gomes
  Mário Amaral
Porsche 935-77 Porsche 3.0L F6 turbo D 329
8 Gr.5
SP
43   Martini Racing Porsche System   Rolf Stommelen
  Manfred Schurti
Porsche 935-78 Porsche 935/79 3.2L F6 twin-turbo D 326
9 GTP 72   J. Rondeau
(private entrant)
  Jean Rondeau
  Bernard Darniche
  Jacky Haran
Rondeau M378 Cosworth DFV 3.0L V8 G 294
10 Gr.6
S 3.0
10   Grand Touring Cars Inc   Vern Schuppan
  Jacques Laffite
  Sam Posey
Mirage M9 Renault 2.0L V6 turbo G 293
11 Gr.6
S 2.0
31   Société Racing Organisation
Course La Pierre du Nord
  Michel Pignard
  Lucien Roussiaud
  Laurent Ferrier
Chevron B36 Simca-ROC 2.0L S4 G 284
12 Gr.4
GT
66   A.-C. Verney
(private entrant) /
BP Racing
  Anne-Charlotte Verney
  Xavier Lapeyre
  François Servanin
Porsche 911 Carrera RSR Porsche 3.0L F6 M 279
13 GTP 71   André Chevalley Racing
(private entrant)
  André Chevalley
  François Trisconi
Inaltéra LM77 Cosworth DFV 3.0L V8 G 279
14 IMSA
GTX
97   Charles Ivey Racing   Larry Perkins
  Gordon Spice
  John Rulon-Miller
Porsche 911 Carrera RS Porsche 3.0L F6 G 278
15 Gr.6
S 3.0
8   A. De Cadenet
(private entrant)
  Alain de Cadenet
  Chris Craft
De Cadenet LM78 Cosworth DFV 3.0L V8 G 273
16 IMSA
GTX
86   Écurie Grand Competition Cars
  North American Racing Team
  François Migault
  Lucien Guitteny
Ferrari 365 GT/4 BB Ferrari 4.9L F12 G 262
17 Gr.4
GT
62   "Ségolen"
(private entrant)
  "Ségolen" (André Gahinet)
  Christian Bussi
  Jean-Claude Briavoine
Porsche 934 Porsche 3.0L F6 turbo M 259
N/C* Gr.6
S 2.0
23   P. Sauber AG /
  Francy Racing
  Marc Surer
  Eugen Strähl
  Harry Blumer
Sauber C5 BMW-Mader 2.0L S4 P 257
N/C* Gr.6
S 2.0
20   Cheetah Racing Cars   Sandro Plastina
  Mario Luini
  Jean-Daniel Grandjean
Cheetah G-601 Cosworth BDG 2.0L S4 G 250
N/C* Gr.4
GT
64   G. Bourdillat
(private entrant)
  Georges Bourdillat
  Alain-Michel Bernhard
  Jean-Luc Favresse
Porsche 911 Carrera RSR Porsche 3.0L F6 M 241
N/C* Gr.6
S 2.0
25   Team Pronuptia   Bruno Sotty
  Gérard Cuynet
  Jean-Claude Dufrey
Lola T294/296 Cosworth FVC 1.9L S4 G 238
N/C* Gr.6
S 2.0
24   Team Pronuptia   Michel Elkoubi
  Pierre Yver
  Philippe Streiff
Lola T296 Cosworth FVC 1.9L S4 G 232
N/C* Gr.6
S 2.0
28   D. Lacaud
(private entrant)
  Dominique Lacaud
  Michel Lateste
  Jean-François Auboiron
Lola T297 BMW 2.0L S4 G 217
N/C* Gr.5
SP
45   Porsche Kremer Racing   “John Winter” (Louis Krages)
  Dieter Schornstein
  Philippe Gurdjian
Porsche 935-77 Porsche 3.0L F6 turbo G 182
  • Note *: Not Classified because did not cover sufficient distance (70% of their winner) at the 12, 18 or 24-hour intervals.[47]

Did Not FinishEdit

Pos Class No Team Drivers Chassis Engine Tyre Laps Reason
DNF Gr.6
S 3.0
1   Renault Sport   Jean-Pierre Jabouille
  Patrick Depailler
Renault Alpine A443 Renault 2.1L V6 turbo M 279 Gearbox
(20hr)
DNF Gr.6
S 3.0
5   Martini Racing Porsche System   Jacky Ickx
  Henri Pescarolo
  Jochen Mass
Porsche 936-78 Porsche 935/73 2.1L
F6 twin-turbo
D 255 Gearbox
(20hr)
DNF IMSA
GTX
88   Pozzi Thompson JMS Racing   Jean-Claude Andruet
  Spartaco Dini
Ferrari 512 BB Ferrari 4.9L F12 M 251 Engine
(22hr)
DNF IMSA
GTX
87   Luigi Chinetti Sr.   Jacques Guérin
  Jean-Pierre Delaunay
  Gregg Young
Ferrari 512 BB Ferrari 4.9L F12 G 232 Engine
(19hr)
DNF IMSA
GTX
89   Pozzi Thompson JMS Racing   Claude Ballot-Léna
  Jean-Louis Lafosse
Ferrari 512 BB Ferrari 4.9L F12 M 218 Accident
(18hr)
DNF Gr.6
S 3.0
19   IBEC Racing Developments   Guy Edwards
  Ian Grob
  Ian Bracey
Ibec-Hesketh 308LM Cosworth DFV 3.0L V8 G 195 Engine
(20hr)
DNF Gr.6
S 2.0
30   Société Racing Organisation
Course / La Pierre du Nord
  Jacques Henry
  Albert Dufrène
  Max Cohen-Olivar
Chevron B36 Simca-ROC 2.0L S4 G 195 Gearbox
(19hr)
DNF GTP 78   WM AEREM
Team Esso Aseptogyl
  Xavier Mathiot
  Marc Sourd
flagicon|FRA}} Christian Debias
WM P78 Peugeot PRV 2.7L V6 turbo M 186 Accident
(18hr)
DNF Gr.6
S 2.0
27   Mogil Motors Ltd / Kores Racing   Tony Charnell
  Robin Smith
  Fréderic Alliot
  Richard Jones
Chevron B31 Cosworth BDG 2.0L S4 G 181 Accident
(16hr)
DNF GTP 76   WM AEREM
Team Esso Aseptogyl
  Christine Dacremont
  Marianne Hoepfner
WM P76 Peugeot PRV 2.9L V6 M 171 Accident
(19hr)
DNF Gr.4
GT
68   H. Poulain
(private entrant)
  Hervé Poulain
  Edgar Dören
  Gerhard Holup
  Roman Feitler
Porsche 934 Porsche 3.0L F6 turbo G 167 Gearbox
(17hr)
DNF Gr.6
S 3.0
3   Renault Sport   Derek Bell
  Jean-Pierre Jarier
Renault-Alpine A442A Renault 2.0L V6 twin-turbo M 162 Gearbox
(12hr)
DNF IMSA
GTX
91   Dick Barbour Racing   Bob Garretson
  Steve Earle
  Bob Akin
Porsche 935-77 Porsche 3.0L F6 turbo G 159 Accident
(15hr)
DNF Gr.6
S 2.0
29   Société Racing Organisation
Course / Modylook
  Michel Dubois
  Daniel Gache
  Julien Sanchez
Chevron B36 Simca-ROC 2.0L S4 G 142 Chassis
(15hr)
DNF Gr.5
SP
48   Mecarillos-Cégécol Racing Team   Herbert Müller
  Claude Haldi
  "Nico" (Nick McGranger)
Porsche 935 Porsche 3.0L F6 turbo G 140 Accident
(14hr)
DNF Gr.6
S 2.0
26   GVEA   Georges Morand
  Eric Vaugnat
  Christian Blanc
Lola T296 Cosworth BDG 2.0L S4 G 130 Accident
(13hr)
DNF Gr.6
S 2.0
21   J.-M. Lemerle
(private entrant)
  Jean-Marie Lemerle
  Alain Levié
  Pierre-François Rousselot
Lola T294 Simca-ROC 2.0L S4 G 126 Engine
(13hr)
DNF Gr.4
GT
65   J. Laplacette
(private entrant)
  Joël Laplacette
  Yves Courage
  Antoine Salamin
  Gérard Vial
Porsche 930 Porsche 3.3L F6 turbo M 116 Engine
(12hr)
DNF Gr.6
S 2.0
34   BMW (GB) Racing
  Toleman Delivery
  Dieter Quester
  Tom Walkinshaw
  Rad Dougall
Osella PA6 BMW M12 2.0L S4 P 113 Accident
(10hr)
DSQ Gr.6
S 3.0
12   Simon Phillips Racing
(private entrant)
  Simon Phillips
  Nick Faure
  John Beasley
  Martin Raymond
De Cadenet-Lola T380 Cosworth DFV 3.0L V8 G 99 Insufficient
distance
(13hr)
DNF Gr.6
S 2.0
32   Dorset Racing Associates   Ian Harrower
  Juliette Slaughter
  Brian Joscelyne
Lola T294 Cosworth FVC 2.0L S4 G 61 Accident
(13hr)
DNF Gr.4
GT
61   Auto Daniel Urcun
(private entrant)
  Guy Chasseuil
  Jean-Claude Lefévre
Porsche 934 Porsche 3.0L F6 turbo D 61 Gearbox
(7hr)
DNF GTP 77   WM AEREM
Team Esso Aseptogyl
  Jean-Daniel Raulet
  Max Mamers
WM P77 Peugeot PRV 2.7L V6 turbo M 44 Fuel pump
(7hr)
DNF Gr.5
SP 1
94   Whittington Bros. Racing   Don Whittington
  Bill Whittington
  Franz Konrad
Porsche 935-77 Porsche 3.0L F6 turbo G 41 Accident
(9hr)
DNF IMSA
GTX
85   "Beurlys"
(private entrant)
  "Beurlys" (Jean Blaton)
  Teddy Pilette
  Raymond Touroul
Ferrari 512 BB Ferrari 4.9L F12 M 39 Gearbox
(5hr)
DNF Gr.4
GT
69   Frères Ravenel VSD
(private entrant)
  Willy Braillard
  Jean-Louis Ravenel
  Jean "Jacky" Ravenel
Porsche 934 Porsche 3.0L F6 turbo D 35 Engine
(8hr)
DNF Gr.5
SP
46   Porsche Kremer Racing   Martin Raymond
  "Steve" (Jean-Pierre Wielemans)
  Mike Franey
Porsche 935-77 Porsche 3.0L F6 turbo G 34 Engine
(4hr)
DNF Gr.6
S 3.0
11   Grand Touring Cars   Sam Posey
  Michel Leclère
Mirage M9 Renault 2.0L V6 turbo G 33 Engine
(7hr)
DNF IMSA
GTX
84   Brad Frisselle Racing
  Wynn's Belgium
  Brad Frisselle
  Bob Kirby
  John Hotchkis
Chevrolet Monza Chevrolet 5.7L V8 G 30 Engine
(5hr)
DSQ Gr.6
S 2.0
33   Cloud Engineering
  Dorset Racing Associates
  Bob Evans
  Richard Down
Lola T294 Cosworth FVC 2.0L S4 G 23 Insufficient
distance
(4hr)
DNF Gr.5
SP
47   Weisberg Gelo Team   John Fitzpatrick
  Toine Hezemans
Porsche 935-77 Porsche 3.0L F6 turbo G 19 Engine
(4hr)

Notes:

  • ^1 —The No. 94 Whittington Brothers Porsche was entered and numbered in the IMSA-class but sources then show its results being in the Group 5 class [35]

Did Not StartEdit

Pos Class No Team Drivers Chassis Engine Tyre Reason
DNQ Gr.6
S 3.0
9   A. de Cadenet
(private entrant)
  Bob Evans
  John Cooper
  Pete Lovett
De Cadenet-Lola LM77 Cosworth DFV 3.0L V8 G Did not qualify
DNQ Gr.6
S 3.0
14   BP Racing
(private entrant)
  Jörg Obermoser
  Guy Chasseuil
  Hubert Striebig
ToJ SC303 Cosworth DFV 3.0L V8 D Did not qualify
DNQ Gr.6
S 2.0
22   L'Agence Locomotiv
(private entrant)
  Anna Cambiaghi
  Jean-Claude Guérie
  Martine Rénier
Lola T296/297 Simca-ROC 2.0L S4 G Did not qualify
DNQ Gr.5
SP
40   AMG Motorenbau GmbH   Hans Heyer
  Clemens Schickentanz
Mercedes-Benz 450 SLC Mercedes-Benz 4.5L V8 G Did not qualify
DNQ Gr.4
GT
60   Mecarillos Racing Team   Gérard Bleynie
  Roland Ennequin
  Simon Delatour
Porsche 934 Porsche 3.0L F6 turbo M Did not qualify
DSQ Gr.4
GT
63   C. Gouttepifre
(private entrant)
  Christian Gouttepifre
  René Boubet
  Raymond Touroul
Porsche 911 Carrera RS Porsche 3.0L F6 M Illegal engine[48]
DNQ Gr.4
GT
73   B. Decure
(private entrant)
  Marcel Mignot
  Guy de Saintpierre
Alpine A310 Renault PRV 2.7L V6 M Did not qualify
DNQ IMSA
GT
96   Garage du Bac
(private entrant)
  Alain Cudini
  Pierre Dieudonné
  "Dépnic" (Jean-Claude Depince)
BMW 3.5 CSL BMW M30 3.5L S6 D Did not qualify
DNQ IMSA
GT
98   T. Perrier
(private entrant)
  Thierry Perrier
  Joël Mouetron
  Jean Belliard
Porsche 911 Carrera RS Porsche 3.0L F6 D Did not qualify
DNA Gr.5
SP
42   Konrad Racing   Franz Konrad
  Volkert Merl
Porsche 935-77 Porsche 3.0L F6 turbo Did not arrive
DNA Gr.5
SP
50[49]   Morfe Racing with Polaroof   Richard Jenvey
  John Morrison
Lotus Esprit S1 Lotus 907 2.0L S4 Did not arrive
DNA GTP 70   R. Hamilton
(private entrant)
  Robin Hamilton
  David Preece
Aston Martin DBS Aston Martin 5.3L V8 turbo Did not arrive
DNA IMSA
GT
92   Holly Cars LSA Porsche 934 Porsche 3.0L F6 turbo Did not arrive

Class WinnersEdit

Class Winning Car Winning Drivers
Group 6 S
Sports 3-litre
#2 Renault Alpine A442B Pironi / Jean-Pierre Jaussaud *
Group 6 S
Sports 2-litre
#31 Chevron B36 Pignard / Roussiaud / Ferrier
Group 5 SP
Special Production
#44 Porsche 935-77 Busby / Cord / Knoop *
Group 4 GTS
Special GT
#66 Porsche 911 Carrera RSR Verney / Lapeyre / Servanin
GTP
Le Mans GT Prototype
#72 Rondeau M378 Rondeau / Darniche / Haran
IMSA GTX
GT Experimental
#90 Porsche 935-77 Barbour / Redman / Paul Snr. *
  • Note: setting a new class distance record.

Index of Energy EfficiencyEdit

Pos Class No Team Drivers Chassis Score
1 Gr.6
S 3.0
6   Martini Racing Porsche System   Jürgen Barth
  Bob Wollek
  Jacky Ickx
Porsche 936-78 0.98
2 Gr.6
S 3.0
7   Martini Racing Porsche System   Hurley Haywood
  Peter Gregg
  Reinhold Joest
Porsche 936-77 0.96
3 Gr.6
S 3.0
8   A. De Cadenet
(private entrant)
  Alain de Cadenet
  Chris Craft
De Cadenet LM78 0.91
4 Gr.6
S 3.0
2   Renault Sport   Didier Pironi
  Jean-Pierre Jaussaud
Renault Alpine A442B 0.91
5 Gr.6
S 3.0
4   Renault Sport /
  Écurie Calberson
  Guy Fréquelin
  Jean Ragnotti
  José Dolhem
  Jean-Pierre Jabouille
Renault-Alpine A442A 0.85
6 Gr.6
S 2.0
31   Société Racing Organisation
Course La Pierre du Nord
  Michel Pignard
  Lucien Roussiaud
  Laurent Ferrier
Chevron B36 0.81
7 GTP 72   J. Rondeau
(private entrant)
  Jean Rondeau
  Bernard Darniche
  Jacky Haran
Rondeau M378 0.77
8 GTP 71   André Chevalley Racing
(private entrant)
  André Chevalley
  François Trisconi
Inaltéra LM77 0.65
9 Gr.4
GT
66   A.-C. Verney
(private entrant) /
BP Racing
  Anne-Charlotte Verney
  Xavier Lapeyre
  François Servanin
Porsche 911 Carrera RSR 0.65
10 IMSA
GTX
97   Charles Ivey Racing   Larry Perkins
  Gordon Spice
  John Rulon-Miller
Porsche 911 Carrera RS 0.61
  • Note: Only the top ten positions are included in this set of standings. [50]

StatisticsEdit

Taken from Quentin Spurring's book, officially licensed by the ACO

  • Fastest Lap in practice –J. Ickx, #6 Porsche 936-78– 3:27.6secs; 236.53 km/h (146.97 mph)
  • Fastest Lap –J.-P. Jabouille, #1 Renault-Alpine A443 – 3:34.2secs; 229.24 km/h (142.44 mph)
  • Winning Distance – 5,044.53 km (3,134.53 mi)
  • Winner’s Average Speed – 210.21 km/h (130.62 mph)
  • Attendance – 150,000[51][52]
Citations
  1. ^ Wimpffen 2007, p.268
  2. ^ a b c Wimpffen 2007, p.264-5
  3. ^ a b c d Armstrong 1978, p.156
  4. ^ a b Spurring 2011, p.280-1
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h Clarke 1997, p.65-6 Autosport Jun8 1978
  6. ^ a b c Clarke 1997, p.67 Autocar Jun10 1978
  7. ^ a b c Armstrong 1978, p.161
  8. ^ a b c Spurring 2011, p.276
  9. ^ a b Clarke 1997, p.68 Autosport Jun8 1978
  10. ^ a b c d e f g Clarke 1997, p.72-3 Motor Jun17 1978
  11. ^ a b c d e Spurring 2011, p.287
  12. ^ a b c Spurring 2011, p.288
  13. ^ "Le Mans History". LeMans-History.com. Retrieved 2021-07-28.
  14. ^ Spurring 2011, p.289
  15. ^ "Le Mans History". LeMans-History.com. Retrieved 2021-07-28.
  16. ^ a b Spurring 2011, p.286
  17. ^ a b Spurring 2011, p.291
  18. ^ Spurring 2011, p.262
  19. ^ a b c Spurring 2011, p.292
  20. ^ a b Spurring 2011, p.296
  21. ^ a b Spurring 2011, p.293
  22. ^ a b Armstrong 1978, p.164
  23. ^ a b c Spurring 2011, p.282
  24. ^ Clarke 1997, p.79 Autosport Jun15 1978
  25. ^ a b Spurring 2011, p.295
  26. ^ a b Spurring 2011, p.290
  27. ^ a b c Clarke 1997, p.76-7: Road & Track Oct 1978
  28. ^ Wimpffen 2007, p.281
  29. ^ a b Clarke 1997, p.70: Motor Sport Jul 1978
  30. ^ Clarke 1997, p.80 Autosport Jun15 1978
  31. ^ a b Spurring 2011, p.299
  32. ^ a b c d e f g h Clausager 1982, p.181-2
  33. ^ a b c d e f Spurring 2011, p.279
  34. ^ a b c d e Clarke 1997, p.74-5 Motor Jun17 1978
  35. ^ a b c Spurring 2011, p.272
  36. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Clarke 1997, p.71: Motor Sport Jul 1978
  37. ^ a b c d Spurring 2011, p.274-5
  38. ^ a b c Spurring 2011, p.280
  39. ^ a b c d Clarke 1997, p.82 Autosport Jun15 1978
  40. ^ a b c d Clarke 1997, p.83 Autosport Jun15 1978
  41. ^ "Le Mans History". LeMans-History.com. Retrieved 2021-07-28.
  42. ^ Spurring 2011, p.281
  43. ^ Laban 2001, p.184
  44. ^ Spurring 2011, p.2
  45. ^ Spurring 2011, p.300
  46. ^ "Racing Sports Cars". RacingSportsCars.com. Retrieved 2021-07-28.
  47. ^ Spurring 2011, p.8
  48. ^ "World Sports Cars". World Sports Racing Prototypes.com. Retrieved 2021-07-28.
  49. ^ "World Sports Cars". World Sports Racing Prototypes.com. Retrieved 2021-07-28.
  50. ^ Spurring 2011, p.9
  51. ^ "World Sports Cars". World Sports Racing Prototypes.com. Retrieved 2021-07-28.
  52. ^ "Le Mans History". Le Mans History.com. Retrieved 2021-07-28.

ReferencesEdit

  • Clarke, R.M. - editor (1997) Le Mans 'The Porsche Years 1975-1982' Cobham, Surrey: Brooklands Books ISBN 1-85520-387-1
  • Clausager, Anders (1982) Le Mans London: Arthur Barker Ltd ISBN 0-213-16846-4
  • Armstrong, Doug – editor (1978) Automobile Year #26 1978/79 Edita SA ISBN 2-88001-067-5
  • Laban, Brian (2001) Le Mans 24 Hours London: Virgin Books ISBN 1-85227-971-0
  • Spurring, Quentin (2011) Le Mans 1970-79 Yeovil, Somerset: Haynes Publishing ISBN 978-1-84425-539-9
  • Wimpffen, János (2007) Spyders and Silhouettes Hong Kong: David Bull Publishing ISBN 1-893618-83-8

External linksEdit

  • Racing Sports Cars – Le Mans 24 Hours 1978 entries, results, technical detail. Retrieved 28 Jul 2021
  • Le Mans History – Le Mans History, hour-by-hour (incl. pictures, quotes, YouTube links). Retrieved 28 Jul 2021
  • World Sports Racing Prototypes – results, reserve entries & chassis numbers. Retrieved 28 Jul 2021
  • Team Dan – results & reserve entries, explaining driver listings. Retrieved 28 Jul 2021
  • Unique Cars & Parts – results & reserve entries. Retrieved 28 Jul 2021
  • Formula 2 – Le Mans results & reserve entries. Retrieved 28 Jul 2021
  • Motorsport Memorial – details of the year’s fatal accidents. Retrieved 28 Jul 2021
  • YouTube – Colour footage of the race and historic race, in French (20mins). Retrieved 18 Aug 2021
  • YouTube – Colour footage of the build-up and racing, in French (20mins). Retrieved 18 Aug 2021
  • YouTube – A lap of Montlhery in the Renault-Alpine A442B by Jean Ragnotti (2mins). Retrieved 18 Aug 2021