1968 24 Hours of Le Mans

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1968 24 Hours of Le Mans
Previous: 1967 Next: 1969
Index: Races | Winners

The 1968 24 Hours of Le Mans was the 36th Grand Prix of Endurance, and took place on 28 and 29 September 1968. It was the tenth and final round of the World Sportscar Championship.

The race was originally planned for June 15 and 16, but had to be delayed until September due to massive protests in France during May. The rescheduled race increased the chances of the Prototypes against the Sports, as the new Prototype cars had matured during the season.

Pre-race[edit]

Prior to the 1968 race, modifications were made in the run from Maison Blanche to the pit straight, involving the installation of the first Ford chicane to slow speeds along the open pit area. The changes added around 10 seconds to a lap.

In 1968, the rules of sports car racing were changed to reduce speed. Like in Formula One, 3.0 L engines were adopted in order to reduce costs by the use of similar engines for both kinds of racing. Thus, cars with engines larger than 5.0 L were banned from the World championship and from Le Mans, which was the end for the Big Block Ford (Mk II and Mk IV) and for the Chevrolet-powered Chaparral in Le Mans. Cars with up to 5.0 L engines were still allowed to compete in the Sport category if there were at least 50 cars built. This allowed old customer cars like the Ford GT40, the Lola T70 and the Ferrari 275LM to compete against factory prototypes powered by sophisticated 3.0 L engines.

Enzo Ferrari was disappointed to have to take his P4s to the museum, and refused to compete for 1968, despite having an F1 engine. John Wyer had to retire his GT40 derived 5.7 L Mirage M1 as well. Wyer chose to dismantle his M1s and to build new GT40s on the Mirage chassis which was close enough to the GT40 to comply with homologation. Gulf GT40s received some of the improvements of the Mirage, and a significant effort was made to reduce the weight of car using high-tech materials. A large part of the body was made of a very thin polyester sheet reinforced with carbon fibre. Wyer entered 3 GT40s but the team wasn't at its best. Its fastest driver, Jacky Ickx, had broken his leg practicing for the 1968 Canadian Grand Prix, and Brian Redman was still out after breaking his arm in a crash in the 1968 Belgian Grand Prix at Spa.

The competition was between Wyer's Ford GT40 and the new 3.0 L Matra 630, Alpine A220 and Porsche 908. The new 2.0 L Alfa Romeo 33/2 were outsiders.

The Renault-Gordini V8 engine that powered the Alpine A220s was disappointing, giving no more than 300 hp (220 kW). With 350 hp (260 kW), the new 3.0 L air-cooled flat-8 that powered the Porsche 908 was underpowered in comparison to the new Matra V12, but the car was light, had very low drag and the highest top speed. Porsche was much more experienced in Le Mans and had an advantage in numbers, thus Porsche was the favorite.

With Ferrari protesting, the marque was represented only by privateers. The best Ferrari was a green 275LM entered in the Sport category by David Piper. This car was obsolete despite being seriously updated; most of its body was made of polyester/fiberglass instead of aluminium.

Two turbine-powered Howmet TXs were also entered in the prototype class.

Race[edit]

The start was given at 15:00 by Fiat boss Gianni Agnelli.

The Porsches began in front. Jo Siffert took the lead on the fourth lap. Then, a litany of minor electric problems slowed the new Porsche 908s, and some were eventually disqualified as the new team management had not studied the rules about repairs properly. One of Wyer's cars had clutch failure at 17:00, the other had engine failure at 22:00. By midnight, Wyer had only one car still in race, but it was leading.

Henri Pescarolo had a stunning performance in the new Matra 630. The car started the race with mechanical problems, which sent it down to a 14th place. But Pescarolo drove the car to the second place under the rain, despite a windshield wiper failure and his teammate Johnny Servoz-Gavin refusing to drive the car in such conditions. However, during one of the last pitstops the car caught fire, and could not continue.

The victory went to the GT40 driven by Lucien Bianchi and Pedro Rodríguez. Porsche's best finisher was a private 2.2L Porsche 907 in second, followed by a works 908 in third, both just one lap behind the winning GT40. Alfa Romeo's performance was impressive with three cars finishing, the Nanni Galli/Ignazio Giunti T33 in fourth overall and winner of the 2.0L class. The two other followed as fifth and sixth.

Willy Mairesse suffered career-ending injuries in this race when his GT40 crashed on the first lap on the Mulsanne straight, and the accident eventually led to him committing suicide.

Official results[edit]

Le Mans in 1968
Pos Class No Team Drivers Chassis Engine Laps
1 S
5.0
9 United Kingdom J.W. Automotive Engineering Ltd. Mexico Pedro Rodriguez
Belgium Lucien Bianchi
Ford GT40 Mk. I Ford 4.9 L V8 331
2 P
3.0
66 Switzerland Squadra Tartaruga Switzerland Rico Steinemann
Switzerland Dieter Spoerry
Porsche 907L Porsche 2.2 L Flat-8 326
3 P
3.0
33 West Germany Porsche System Engineering West Germany Jochen Neerpasch
West Germany Rolf Stommelen
Porsche 908 Porsche 3.0 L Flat-8 325
4 P
2.0
39 Italy Autodelta SpA Italy Ignazio Giunti
Italy Nanni Galli
Alfa Romeo T33/2 Alfa Romeo 2.0 L V8 322
5 P
2.0
38 Italy Autodelta SpA Italy Carlo Facetti
Italy Spartaco Dini
Alfa Romeo T33/2 Alfa Romeo 2.0 L V8 315
6 P
2.0
40 Italy Autodelta SpA Italy Mario Casoni
Italy Giampiero Biscaldi
Alfa Romeo T33/2 Alfa Romeo 2.0 L V8 305
7 S
5.0
21 United Kingdom David Piper Racing United Kingdom David Piper
United Kingdom Richard Attwood
Ferrari 250LM Ferrari 3.3 L V12 302
8 P
3.0
30 France Société des Automobiles Alpine France André de Cortanze
France Jean Vinatier
Alpine A220 Renault-Gordini 3.0 L V8 297
9 P
2.0
57 France Ecurie Savin-Calberson France Alain LeGuellec
France Alain Serpaggi
Alpine A210 Renault-Gordini 1.5 L I4 289
10 P
1.3
52 France Société des Automobiles Alpine France Jean-Luc Thérier
France Bernard Tramont
Alpine A210 Renault-Gordini 1.3 L I4 288
11 P
1.3
53 France Trophée Le Mans France Christian Ethuin
France Bob Wollek
Alpine A210 Renault-Gordini 1.3 L I4 282
12 GT
2.0
43 Belgium Jean-Pierre Gaban Belgium Jean-Pierre Gaban
Belgium Roger van der Schrick
Porsche 911T Porsche 2.0 L Flat-6 281
13 GT
2.0
64 France Claude Laurent France Claude Laurent
France Jean-Claude Ogier
Porsche 911T Porsche 2.0 L Flat-6 276
14 P
1.3
55 France Société des Automobiles Alpine France Jean-Pierre Nicolas
France Jean-Claude Andruet
Alpine A210 Renault-Gordini 1.0 L I4 272
15 P
1.3
50 United Kingdom Donald Healey Motor Company United Kingdom Roger Enever
Republic of Ireland Alec Poole
Austin-Healey Sprite Le Mans BMC 1.3 L I4 255
16 P
2.0
46 France Ecurie Fiat-Abarth France France Marcel Martin
France Jean Mésange
Fiat Dino Ferrari 2.0 L V6 253

Not Classified[edit]

Failed to cover 70% of the winner's distance (231 laps)

Pos Class No Team Drivers Chassis Engine Laps
17 GT
1.3
61 France Ecurie Léopard France Jacques Bourdon
France Maurice Nussbaumer
France Michel Pouteaux
Alpine A110 Renault-Gordini 1.3 L I4 215
18 GT
1.3
51 France Bernard Collomb France Bernard Collomb
France François Lacarreau
Alpine A110 Renault-Gordini 1.3 L I4 167

Did Not Finish[edit]

Pos Class No Team Drivers Chassis Engine Laps
19 P
3.0
24 France Equipe Matra Sports France Johnny Servoz-Gavin
France Henri Pescarolo
Matra MS630 Matra 3.0 L V12 283
20 P
3.0
27 France Ecurie Savin-Calberson Belgium Mauro Bianchi
France Patrick Depailler
Alpine A220 Renault-Gordini 3.0 L V8 257
21 P
2.0
45 France Jean-Pierre Hanrioud France Jean-Pierre Hanrioud
Switzerland André Wicky
Porsche 910 Porsche 2.0 L Flat-6 248
22 GT
2.0
44 France Auguste Veuillet France Guy Chasseuil
France Claude Ballot-Léna
Porsche 911T Porsche 2.0 L Flat-6 224
23 S
5.0
20 Switzerland Scuderia Filipinetti Switzerland Herbert Müller
United Kingdom Jonathan Williams
Ferrari 250LM Ferrari 3.3 L V12 212
24 S
5.0
14 United States North American Racing Team (NART) United States Masten Gregory
United States Charlie Kolb
Ferrari 250LM Ferrari 3.3 L V12 209
25 S
2.0
42 France Christian Poirot France Christian Poirot
France Pierre Maublanc
Porsche 906 Carrera 6 Porsche 2.0 L Flat-6 202
26 P
3.0
29 France Société des Automobiles Alpine France Jean Guichet
France Jean-Pierre Jabouille
Alpine A220 Renault-Gordini 3.0 L V8 185
27 GT
+2.0
4 Switzerland Scuderia Filipinetti Switzerland Jean-Michel Giorgi
France Sylvain Garant
Chevrolet Corvette Chevrolet 7.0 L V8 157
28 P
2.0
41 Italy Autodelta SpA Italy Nino Vaccarella
Italy Giancarlo Baghetti
Alfa Romeo T33/2 Alfa Romeo 2.0 L V8 150
29 P
3.0
35 Spain Alex Soler-Roig
Switzerland Squadra Tartaruga
Spain Alex Soler-Roig
Austria Rudi Lins
Porsche 907/8 Porsche 2.2 L Flat-8 145
30 S5.0 6 United Kingdom Jackie Epstein United Kingdom Jackie Epstein
United Kingdom Edward Nelson
Lola T70 Mk. III Chevrolet 5.0 L V8 143
31 S
5.0
12 United Kingdom Strathaven Limited United Kingdom Mike Salmon
United Kingdom Eric Liddell
Ford GT40 Mk. I Ford 4.7 L V8 131
32 P
3.0
34 West Germany Porsche System Engineering United States Joe Buzzetta
United States Scooter Patrick
Porsche 908 Porsche 3.0 L Flat-8 115
33 P
3.0
32 West Germany Porsche System Engineering West Germany Gerhard Mitter
United Kingdom Vic Elford
Porsche 908 Porsche 3.0 L Flat-8 111
34 S
5.0
10 United Kingdom J.W. Automotive Engineering Ltd. Australia Paul Hawkins
United Kingdom David Hobbs
Ford GT40 Mk. I Ford 4.9 L V8 107
35 P
2.0
37 Belgium Racing Team VDS Belgium Teddy Pilette
Netherlands Rob Slotemaker
Alfa Romeo T33/2 Alfa Romeo 2.0 L V8 104
36 P
3.0
67 France Philippe Farjon France Robert Buchet
West Germany Herbert Linge
Porsche 907/8 Porsche 2.2 L Flat-6 102
37 S
5.0
19 United Kingdom Paul Vestey United Kingdom Paul Vestey
United States Roy Pike
Ferrari 250LM Ferrari 3.3 L V12 99
38 P
3.0
22 United States Howmet Corporation United States Richard Thompson
United States Ray Heppenstal
Howmet TX Continental 3.0 L Turbine 84
39 GT
+2.0
17 Switzerland Scuderia Filipinetti Switzerland Jacques Rey
Switzerland Claude Haldi
Ferrari 275 GTB/C Ferrari 3.3 L V12 78
40 P
1.3
56 France Société des Automobiles Alpine France Jean-Louis Marnat
France Jean-François Gerbault
Alpine A210 Renault-Gordini 1.0 L I4 71
41 P
3.0
23 United States Howmet Corporation United States Bob Tullius
United Kingdom Hugh Dibley
Howmet TX Continental 3.0 L Turbine 60
42 P
3.0
28 France Société des Automobiles Alpine France Henri Grandsire
France Gérard Larrousse
Alpine A220 Renault-Gordini 3.0 L V8 59
43 P
3.0
31 West Germany Porsche System Engineering Switzerland Jo Siffert
West Germany Hans Herrmann
Porsche 908 Porsche 3.0 L Flat-8 59
44 P
2.0
36 United States North American Racing Team (NART) France François Chevalier
France Bernard Lagier de Giuseppe
Ferrari Dino 206S Ferrari 2.0 L V6 54
45 GT
+2.0
3 Switzerland Scuderia Filipinetti Italy Umberto Maglioli
France Henri Greder
Chevrolet Corvette Chevrolet 7.0 L V8 53
46 S
5.0
7 Switzerland Sportscars Unlimited Sweden Ulf Norinder
Sweden Sten Axelsson
Lola T70 Mk. III Chevrolet 5.0 L V8 47
47 P
2.0
49 United Kingdom Chris J. Lawrence United Kingdom Chris Lawrence
United Kingdom John Wingfield
Deep Sanderson 302 Ford 1.6 L I4 35
48 GT
2.0
60 Switzerland Wicky Racing Team West Germany Willy Meier
France Jean de Mortemart
Porsche 911T Porsche 2.0 L Flat-6 30
49 P
3.0
25 United Kingdom John Woolfe Racing United Kingdom John Woolfe
United Kingdom Digby Martland
Chevron B12 Repco 3.0 L V8 27
50 P
2.0
47 United Kingdom Donald Healey Motor Company United Kingdom Clive Baker
United Kingdom Andrew Hedges
Healey SR Coventry Climax 2.0 L V8 20
51 S
5.0
11 United Kingdom J.W. Automotive Engineering Ltd. Australia Brian Muir
United Kingdom Jackie Oliver
Ford GT40 Mk. I Ford 4.9 L V8 15
52 P
2.0
65 Belgium Racing Team VDS Belgium Serge Trosch
West Germany Karl von Wendt
Alfa Romeo T33/2 Alfa Romeo 2.0 L V8 7
53 P
1.3
54 France André Moynet France Max Jean
France René Ligonnet
Moynet XS Simca 1.2 L I4 6
54 S
5.0
8 Belgium Claude Dubois Belgium Willy Mairesse
Belgium Jean Blaton
Ford GT40 Mk. I Ford 4.7 L V8 0

Statistics[edit]

  • Pole Position - #31 Porsche System Engineering - 3:35.40
  • Fastest Lap - #33 Porsche System Engineering - 3:38.10
  • Distance - 4452.88 km
  • Average Speed - 185.536 km/h

Trophy Winners[edit]

  • Index of Performance - #55 Société des Automobiles Alpine
  • Index of Thermal Efficiency - #52 Société des Autombiles Alpine