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The 1981 24 Hours of Le Mans was the 49th Grand Prix of Endurance, and took place on 13 and 14 June 1981. It was also the eighth round of the 1981 World Endurance Championship of Drivers and the fifth round of the 1981 World Endurance Championship of Makes.

1981 24 Hours of Le Mans
Previous: 1980 Next: 1982
Index: Races | Winners

Contents

Pre-raceEdit

The circuit had been widened at the approach to the Esses, adding grass runoff after the Dunlop Curve.

Porsche had a new program for the future Group C regulations in 1982, and had persuaded Jacky Ickx out of retirement. The main reason for entering Le Mans was to test a new engine for the upcoming new car. This 2.6L engine was derived from an Indianapolis 500 engine which never raced. The new engines were fitted in a pair of 936 chassis. Ickx shared one of the updated 936s with Derek Bell; Jochen Mass, Vern Schuppan and Hurley Haywood drove the other.

Shortly after going into semi-retirement, NASCAR legend Cale Yarborough made his only start. This made Yarborough one of the few drivers in history to participate in the Daytona 500, Indianapolis 500, and 24 Hours of Le Mans.

RaceEdit

The race was run in very hot weather, but the engine test was successful: after the first hour, Ickx and Bell had built a large advance and remained at lead for the rest of the race. They won by an even greater margin than in 1976- 14 laps. Ickx had won Le Mans for the 5th time- surpassing a record set by fellow Belgian Olivier Gendebien in 1962.

The race was marred by the deaths of a driver and a marshal during the race in separate incidents, and also several marshals were injured in these incidents. 40-year old Jean-Louis Lafosse violently crashed his Rondeau in the early stages on the Mulsanne Straight while following the Lola T600 of de Villota/Edwards/Fernández and was killed instantly. No cause has ever been determined although a piece of debris is seen flying away from the car just before the Rondeau suddenly steers to the right, along with pre-crash photographs showing evidence of damage from an off-track excursion, suggesting suspension failure as a possible cause. Two marshals were seriously injured in Lafosse's fatal accident. Thierry Boutsen, who would go on to drive and win in Formula One, had earlier escaped a large accident in the second hour, destroying his WM-Peugeot but without causing injury to himself; race marshal Thierry Mabillat was killed in the accident after he was struck by a piece of the broken guard rail; and 2 of his colleagues, Claude Hertault and Serge David, were seriously injured but survived; the latter lost an arm.

Official resultsEdit

 
Le Mans in 1981
Pos Class No Team Drivers Chassis Tyres Laps
Engine
1 S
+2.0
11   Porsche System   Jacky Ickx
  Derek Bell
Porsche 936/81 D 354
Porsche Type-935 2.6 L Turbo Flat-6
2 GTP
3.0
8   Jean Rondeau   Jacky Haran
  Jean-Louis Schlesser
  Philippe Streiff
Rondeau M379 G 340
Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 L V8
3 GTP
3.0
7   Otis Jean Rondeau   Gordon Spice
  François Migault
Rondeau M379 G 335
Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 L V8
4 Gr.5 55   Claude Bourgoignie
  Charles Ivey Racing
  Claude Bourgoignie
  John Cooper
  Dudley Wood
Porsche 935 K3 D 330
Porsche Type-935 3.1 L Turbo Flat-6
5 IMSA
GTX
47   Charles Pozzi S.A.   Jean-Claude Andruet
  Claude Ballot-Léna
  Hervé Regout
Ferrari 512BB/LM M 328
Ferrari 4.9 L Flat-12
6 IMSA
GTX
42   Cooke-Woods Racing   Anne-Charlotte Verney
  Bob Garretson
  Ralph Kent-Cooke
Porsche 935 K3 G 327
Porsche Type-935 3.2 L Turbo Flat-6
7 GTP
+3.0
1   Porsche System   Jürgen Barth
  Walter Röhrl
Porsche 944 LM D 323
Porsche 2.5 L Turbo I4
8 Gr.5 65   Martini Racing   Michele Alboreto
  Eddie Cheever
  Carlo Facetti
Lancia Beta Monte Carlo P 322
Lancia 1.4 L Turbo I4
9 IMSA
GTX
46   Rennod Racing   Pierre Dieudonné
  Jean Xhenceval
  Jean-Paul Libert
Ferrari 512BB/LM G 320
Ferrari 4.9 L Flat-12
10 Gr.5 60   Vegla Racing Team   Dieter Schornstein
  Harald Grohs
  Götz von Tschirnhaus
Porsche 935J D 320
Porsche Type-935 3.0 L Turbo Flat-6
11 IMSA
GTO
36   Porsche System   Manfred Schurti
  Andy Rouse
Porsche 924 Carrera GTR D 315
Porsche 2.0 L Turbo I4
12 S
+2.0
12   Porsche System   Jochen Mass
  Vern Schuppan
  Hurley Haywood
Porsche 936/81 D 312
Porsche Type-935 2.6 L Turbo Flat-6
13 GTP
+3.0
4   WM A.E.R.E.M.   Denis Morin
  Charles Mendez
  Xavier Mathiot
WM P79/80 M 307
Peugeot PRV 2.7 L Turbo V6
14 Gr.5 68   Jolly Club   Martino Finotto
  Giorgio Pianta
  Giorgio Schön
Lancia Beta Monte Carlo P 292
Lancia 1.4 L Turbo I4
15 S
+2.0
18   Team Lola   Emilio de Villota
  Guy Edwards
  Juan Fernández
Lola T600 G 287
Ford Cosworth DFL 3.3 L V8
16 Gr.5 51   BMW Italie-France   Philippe Alliot
  Bernard Darniche
  Johnny Cecotto
BMW M1 Gr.5 D 277
BMW M88 3.5 L I6
17 GT 70   Thierry Perrier   Thierry Perrier
  Valentin Bertapelle
  Bernard Salam
Porsche 934 M 274
Porsche 2.9 L Turbo Flat-6
18 S
2.0
31   Jean-Philippe Grand   Jean-Philippe Grand
  Yves Courage
Lola T298 G 272
BMW 2.0 L I4
19
NC
S
2.0
33   Compagnie Primagaz   Pierre Yver
  Michel Dubois
  Jacques Heuclin
Lola T298 G 203
BMW 2.0 L I4
20
NC
S
2.0
32   Écurie Renard-Delmas   Louis Descartes
  Hervé Bayard
Renard-Delmas D1 G 187
ROC-Simca 2.0 L I4
21
DNF
IMSA
GTX
43   Bob Akin Motor Racing   Bob Akin
  Paul Miller
  Craig Siebert
Porsche 935 K3 G 320
Porsche Type-935 3.0 L Turbo Flat-6
22
DNF
Gr.5 57   Claude Haldi
  Charles Ivey Racing
  Claude Haldi
  Mark Thatcher
  Hervé Poulain
Porsche 935 D 260
Porsche Type-935 3.0 L Turbo Flat-6
23
DNF
IMSA
GTX
49   NART   Alain Cudini
  Philippe Gurdjian
  John Morton
Ferrari 512BB/LM M 247
Ferrari 4.9 L Flat-12
24
DNF
Gr.5 53   EMKA Productions Limited   David Hobbs
  Eddie Jordan
  Steve O'Rourke
BMW M1 Gr.5 D 236
BMW M88 3.5 L I6
25
DNF
GT 72   BMW Zol'Auto   Jean-François Rousselot
  François Sérvanin
  Laurent Ferrier
BMW M1 D 212
BMW M88 3.5 L I6
26
DNF
S
+2.0
20   Alain de Cadenet
  Belga
  Alain de Cadenet
  Jean-Michel Martin
  Philippe Martin
De Cadenet-Lola LM D 210
Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 L V8
27
DNF
Gr.5 52   Würth-Lubrifilm Team Sauber   Dieter Quester
  Marc Surer
  David Deacon
BMW M1 Gr.5 D 207
BMW M88 3.5 L I6
28
DNF
Gr.5 66   Martini Racing   Riccardo Patrese
  Hans Heyer
  Piercarlo Ghinzani
Lancia Beta Monte Carlo P 186
Lancia 1.4 L Turbo I4
29
DNF
S
+2.0
21   Alain de Cadenet
  Dorset Racing Associates
  Martin Birrane
  Nick Faure
  Vivian Candy
De Cadenet-Lola LM D 171
Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 L V8
30
DNF
S
+2.0
23   Dome Co. Ltd.   Chris Craft
  Bob Evans
Dome RL81 D 154
Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 L V8
31
DNF
IMSA
GTX
40   Joest Racing   Mauricio de Narváez
  Kenper Miller
  Günther Steckkönig
Porsche 935J D 152
Porsche Type-935 2.8 L Turbo Flat-6
32
DNF
IMSA
GTX
48   Simon Phillips   Simon Phillips
  Mike Salmon
  Steve Earle
Ferrari 512BB/LM M 140
Ferrari 4.9 L Flat-12
33
DNF
IMSA
GTX
45   Scuderia Supercar Bellancauto SRL   Fabrizio Violati
  Maurizio Flammini
  Duilio Truffo
Ferrari 512BB/LM M 118
Ferrari 4.9L Flat-12
34
DNF
S
+2.0
22   André Chevalley Racing   Patrick Gaillard
  André Chevalley
  Bruno Sotty
ACR 80B G 114
Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 L V8
35
DNF
IMSA
GTO
37   Mazdaspeed Co. Ltd.   Tetsu Ikuzawa
  Tom Walkinshaw
  Peter Lovett
Mazda RX-7 D 107
Mazda 13B 1.3 L 2-Rotor
36
DNF
S
2.0
30   Jean-Marie Lemerle   Jean-Marie Lemerle
  Max Cohen-Olivar
  Alain Levié
Lola T298 G 104
BMW 2.0 L I4
37
DNF
S
+2.0
27   Ian Bracey   Tiff Needell
  Tony Trimmer
Ibec-Hesketh 308LM D 95
Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 L V8
38
DNF
S
+2.0
10   Porsche Kremer Racing   Bob Wollek
  Xavier Lapeyre
  Guy Chasseuil
Porsche 917K/81 D 82
Porsche 4.9 L Flat-12
39
DNF
S
+2.0
14   Joest Racing   Reinhold Joest
  Dale Whittington
  Klaus Niedzwiedz
Porsche 908/80 D 80
Porsche 2.1 L Turbo Flat-6
40
DNF
S
+2.0
24   Otis Jean Rondeau   Jean Rondeau
  Jean-Pierre Jaussaud
Rondeau M379 G 58
Ford Cosworth DFL 3.3 L V8
41
DNF
Gr.5 59   Porsche Kremer Racing   Ted Field
  Bill Whittington
  Don Whittington
Porsche 935 K3 G 57
Porsche Type-935 3.2 L Turbo Flat-6
42
DNF
IMSA
GTX
50   BASF Cassetten Team GS Sport   Hans-Joachim Stuck
  Jean-Pierre Jarier
  Helmut Henzler
BMW M1 Gr.5 D 57
BMW M88 3.5 L I6
43
DNF
C 83   WM A.E.R.E.M.   Jean-Daniel Raulet
  Marcel Mamers
WM P81 M 50
Peugeot PRV 2.7 L Turbo V6
44
DNF
Gr.5 69   Tuff-Kote Dinol Racing   Jan Lundgårdh
  Axel Plankenhorn
  Mike Wilds
Porsche 935 L1 "Baby" D 49
Porsche 1.4 L Turbo Flat-6
45
DNF
GT 71   Helmut Marko RSM   Christian Danner
  Peter Oberndofer
  Prince Leopold von Bayern
BMW M1 D 49
BMW M88 3.5 L I6
46
DNF
Gr.5 61   Weralit Racing Team   Edgar Dören
  Jürgen Lässig
  Gerhard Holup
Porsche 935 K3 D 48
Porsche Type-935 3.0 L Turbo Flat-6
47
DNF
Gr.5 67   Martini Racing   Beppe Gabbiani
 Emanuele Pirro
Lancia Beta Monte Carlo P 47
Lancia 1.4 L Turbo I4
48
DNF
GTP
+3.0
5   WM A.E.R.E.M.   Guy Fréquelin
  Roger Dorchy
  Xavier Mathiot
WM P79/80 M 46
Peugeot PRV 2.7vL Turbo V6
49
DNF
IMSA
GTX
41   Preston Henn Racing   Preston Henn
  Mike Chandler
  Marcel Mignot
Porsche 935 K3 D 45
Porsche Type-935 3.0L Turbo Flat-6
50
DNF
S
+2.0
26   Oceanic Jean Rondeau   Henri Pescarolo
  Patrick Tambay
Rondeau M379 G 41
Ford Cosworth DFL 3.3 L V8
51
DNF
GT 73   Eminence Racing Team   Jean-Marie Alméras
  Jacques Alméras
Porsche 924 Carrera GTR M 30
Porsche 2.0 L Turbo I4
52
DNF
S
+2.0
25   Calberson Jean Rondeau   Jean Ragnotti
  Jean-Louis Lafosse
Rondeau M379 G 28
Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 L V8
53
DNF
IMSA
GTO
38   Mazdaspeed Co. Ltd.   Yojiro Terada
  Hiroshi Fushida
  Win Percy
Mazda RX-7 D 25
Mazda 13B 1.3 L 2-Rotor
54
DNF
C 82   WM A.E.R.E.M.   Thierry Boutsen
  Serge Saulnier
  Michel Pignard
WM P81 M 15
Peugeot PRV 2.7 L Turbo V6
55
DNF
IMSA
GTO
35   Stratagraph Inc.   Cale Yarborough
  Billy Hagan
  Bill Cooper
Chevrolet Camaro G 13
Chevrolet 6.4 L V8

StatisticsEdit

  • Pole Position - #11 Porsche System (Jacky Ickx) - 3:29.44
  • Fastest Lap - #12 Porsche System (Hurley Haywood) - 3:34.00
  • Distance - 4825.348 km
  • Average Speed - 201.056 km/h

Trophy WinnersEdit

  • Index of Thermal Efficiency - #31 Jean-Philippe Grand