1969 24 Hours of Le Mans

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1969 24 Hours of Le Mans
Previous: 1968 Next: 1970
Index: Races | Winners

The 1969 24 Hours of Le Mans was the 37th Grand Prix of Endurance, and took place on 14 and 15 June 1969. It was the eighth round of the 1969 International Championship for Makes.

It was the last event with the traditional Le Mans-style start, in which the drivers run across the track to enter their cars, as safety belts were now in use, which usually are strapped tight by mechanics. The eventual winner, Jacky Ickx, had demonstrated against the start by walking slowly to his car, putting on his safety belts properly, and thus starting voluntarily at the back of the field. Later in the first lap, John Woolfe was killed, presumably due to not wearing belts properly. The traditional Le Mans-style start was discontinued after this accident, as drivers started in 1970 already strapped firmly into their seats. For this race, metal crash barriers had been installed around the circuit, especially at the Mulsanne Straight, where it was originally just an open road with no protection from the trees, houses and embankments.

Pre-race[edit]

During 1969, the minimal production figure to compete in the Sport category was reduced from 50 to 25. Starting in July 1968, Porsche made a surprising and very expensive effort to conceive, design and build a whole new car for the Sport category with one underlying goal: to win its first overall victory at Le Mans. In only ten months, the Porsche 917 was developed, which incorporated remarkable technology: Porsche's first 12-cylinder engine and many components from titanium, magnesium and exotic alloys. Porsche built 25 917s and according to many sources this drove Porsche AG close to bankruptcy. In need of cash, Porsche sold the 917s to anyone who wanted to pay for one.

Matra ordered the aerodynamic engineer Robert Choulet to conceive a low-drag Long Tail Coupe specially designed for the Le Mans, the Matra 640. On April 16, Matra brought the car to the Sarthe circuit. Henri Pescarolo took it to the track, at the first kilometres in the Hunaudières the car took off and was pulverised, Pescarolo was pulled out alive but severely burned. In parallel, Matra was experimenting with roadster bodywork. This led to a new car, the 650. Some 630 chassis were converted in roadster; they were christened 630/650.

Despite the fact that no solution was found to fix the instability of the car, three 917s entered Le Mans. Two were Porsche Works teams and the third was entered by the gentleman-driver John Woolfe.

Matra entered four cars: a new 650 roadster, a 630 coupe and two 630/650.

The Ferrari prototypes made a come-back with the 3.0 L 312P.

John Wyer's team was there but managed by David Yorke. Wyer himself wasn't in Le Mans as his wife was ill. The team entered two Ford GT40s. Jacky Ickx shared GT40 1075, the car that won the previous year, with Jackie Oliver.

Race[edit]

The Kurt Ahrens/Rolf Stommelen 917 qualified on pole.

Soon after the start the poor handling of the 917 and the inexperience of the driver resulted in a drama: the death of British driver John Woolfe on lap 1 when his private Porsche 917 crashed at Maison Blanche. Woolfe was killed, probably due the fact that he had not bothered to put on his safety belt. This was likely done because of the style of the traditional start used at Le Mans until that year, in which drivers were required to run across the track to their cars, climb in and get it started as quickly as possible to pull away from the grid. The 37-year old Woolfe likely sacrificed strapping his safety belts in order to gain a better start.

The nearly full fuel tank from Woolfe's car became dislodged and landed in front of the oncoming Ferrari 312P of Chris Amon. Amon ran over it, causing it to explode under his car, which led to his retirement. The race was stopped for 2 hours due to these two first lap incidents, but was eventually restarted.

The 2 official 917s were put out of the race by clutch bell housing problems, but the 908 of Hans Herrmann and Gérard Larrousse remained a serious candidate for the victory.

In a dramatic finish, Ickx and Herrmann repeatedly overtook each other as the Porsche 908 had brake problems. In the last lap, Ickx let Herrmann pass him early on the Mulsanne Straight, faking he had not enough fuel anymore. Ickx used the slipstream of Herrmann to pass him again just before the end of the 5km straight. Ickx managed to hold on and beat Herrmann by a few seconds, or about 120 meters (394 feet). Ickx and Oliver won with the GT40 chassis 1075, the same car that had won the previous year. This was second time the same car had won two years in a row; a Bentley Speed Six had done it in 1929 and 1930. Joest Racing would later repeat this feat twice.

Ironically, Jacky Ickx had a road accident near Chartres while driving to Paris on Monday morning. A car pulled in front of his Porsche 911. Ickx's car ended up crushed against a utility pole. Ickx unbuckled his seat belt and stepped unharmed from the wrecked Porsche.

Official results[edit]

Le Mans in 1969
Pos Class No Team Drivers Chassis Engine Laps
1 S
5.0
6 United Kingdom John Wyer Automotive Engineering Belgium Jacky Ickx
United Kingdom Jackie Oliver
Ford GT40 Mk.I Ford 4.9 L V8 372
2 P
3.0
64 Germany Porsche System Engineering Germany Hans Herrmann
France Gérard Larrousse
Porsche 908 Coupé Porsche 3.0 L Flat-8 372
3 S
5.0
7 United Kingdom John Wyer Automotive Engineering United Kingdom David Hobbs
United Kingdom Mike Hailwood
Ford GT40 Mk.I Ford 4.9 L V8 368
4 P
3.0
33 France Equipe Matra - Elf France Jean-Pierre Beltoise
United Kingdom Piers Courage
Matra-Simca MS650 Matra 3.0 L V12 368
5 P
3.0
32 France Equipe Matra - Elf France Jean Guichet
Italy Nino Vaccarella
Matra-Simca MS630 Matra 3.0 L V12 359
6 S
5.0
68 Germany Deutsche Auto Zeitung Germany Helmut Kelleners
Germany Reinhold Joest
Ford GT40 Mk.I Ford 4.7 L V8 341
7 P
3.0
35 France Equipe Matra - Elf Italy Nanni Galli
United Kingdom Robin Widdows
Matra-Simca MS630/650 Matra 3.0 L V12 330
8 S
5.0
17 United States North American Racing Team (NART) Italy Teodoro Zeccoli
United States Sam Posey
Ferrari 250LM Ferrari 3.3 L V12 329
9 S
2.0
39 France Christian Poirot France Christian Poirot
France Pierre Maublanc
Porsche 910 Porsche 2.0 L Flat-6 312
10 GT
2.0
41 Belgium Jean-Pierre Gaban Belgium Jean-Pierre Gaban
Belgium Yves Deprez
Porsche 911S Porsche 2.0 L Flat-6 306
11 GT
2.0
40 France Auguste Veuillet France Claude Ballot-Léna
France Guy Chasseuil
Porsche 911T Porsche 2.0 L Flat-6 301
12 P
1.15
50 France Société des Automobiles Alpine France Alain Serpaggi
France Christian Ethuin
Alpine A210 Renault-Gordini 1.0 L I4 292
13 GT
2.0
44 France Claude Laurent France Claude Laurent
France Jacques Marché
Porsche 911T Porsche 2.0 L Flat-6 287
14 GT
2.0
67 France Philippe Farjon France Philippe Farjon
France Jacques Dechaumel
Porsche 911S Porsche 2.0 L Flat-6 286

Did Not Finish[edit]

Pos Class No Team Drivers Chassis Engine Laps
15 S
5.0
12 Germany Porsche System Engineering United Kingdom Vic Elford
United Kingdom Richard Attwood
Porsche 917L Porsche 4.5 L Flat-12 327
16 P
3.0
22 Germany Porsche System Engineering Austria Rudi Lins
Germany Willi Kauhsen
Porsche 908L Porsche 3.0 L Flat-8 317
17 P
1.6
45 France Société des Automobiles Alpine France Jean-Claude Killy
France Bob Wollek
Alpine A210 Renault-Gordini 1.5 L I4 242
18 GT
2.0
66 France Jean Egreteaud France Jean Edreteaud
France Raymond Lopez
Porsche 911T Porsche 2.0 L Flat-6 241
19 P
3.0
18 Italy SpA Ferrari SEFAC Mexico Pedro Rodriguez
United Kingdom David Piper
Ferrari 312P Coupe Ferrari 3. 0L V12 223
20 P
3.0
29 France Société des Automobiles Alpine France Patrick Depailler
France Jean-Pierre Jabouille
Alpine A220/69 Renault-Gordini 3.0 L V8 209
21 P
3.0
23 Germany Porsche System Engineering Germany Udo Schütz
Germany Gerhard Mitter
Porsche 908L Porsche 3.0 L Flat-8 199
22 GT
+2.0
1 Switzerland Scuderia Filipinetti France Henri Greder
Sweden Reine Wisell
Chevrolet Corvette Chevrolet 7.0 L V8 196
23 GT
2.0
63 France Marcel Martin France René Mazzia
France Pierre Mauroy
Porsche 911T Porsche 2.0 L Flat-6 174
24 P
3.0
31 France Société des Automobiles Alpine France Jean-Pierre Nicolas
France Jean-Luc Thérier
Alpine A220/68 Renault-Gordini 3.0 L V8 160
25 P
3.0
34 France Ecurie Matra - Elf France Johnny Servoz-Gavin
Switzerland Herbert Müller
Matra-Simca MS630/650 Matra 3.0 L V12 158
26 S
5.0
14 Germany Porsche System Engineering Germany Rolf Stommelen
Germany Kurt Ahrens, Jr.
Porsche 917L Porsche 4.5 L Flat-12 148
27 S
5.0
2 Switzerland Scuderia Filipinetti Sweden Jo Bonnier
United States Masten Gregory
Lola T70 Mk.IIIB Chevrolet 5.0 L V8 134
28 P
3.0
28 France Société des Automobiles Alpine France Jean Vinatier
France André de Cortanze
Alpine A220/69 Renault-Gordini 3.0 L V8 133
29 S
5.0
8 United Kingdom Peter Sadler United Kingdom Peter Sadler
United Kingdom Paul Vestey
Ford GT40 Mk.I Ford 4.7 L V8 106
30 S
2.0
43 United Kingdom J.C.B. Excavators Ltd. United Kingdom Roger Enever
United Kingdom Peter Brown
Chevron B8 BMW 2.0 L I4 100
31 P
1.3
49 France Trophée Le Mans Alpine France Jacques Foucteau
France Patrice Compain
Alpine A210 Renault-Gordini 1.3 L I4 97
32 P
2.0
38 Belgium Racing Team VDS France Gustave Gosselin
Belgium Claude Bourgoignie
Alfa Romeo T33/2 Alfa Romeo 2.0 L V8 76
33 P
3.0
20 Switzerland Hart Ski Racing Switzerland Jo Siffert
United Kingdom Brian Redman
Porsche 908/2L Porsche 3.0 L Flat-8 60
34 P
3.0
30 France Société des Automobiles Alpine France Jean-Claude Andruet
France Henri Grandsire
Alpine A220/69 Renault-Gordini 3.0 L V8 48
35 S
5.0
9 United Kingdom Alan Mann Racing Ltd. Australia Frank Gardner
United Kingdom Malcolm Guthrie
Ford GT40 Mk.I Ford 4.9 L V8 42
36 GT
+2.0
59 Switzerland Scuderia Filipinetti Switzerland Claude Haldi
Switzerland Jacques Rey
Ferrari 275 GTB/C Ferrari 3.3 L V12 39
37 P
3.0
36 Belgium Racing Team VDS Belgium Teddy Pilette
Netherlands Rob Slotemaker
Alfa Romeo T33/2.5 Alfa Romeo 2.5 L V8 35
38 GT
2.0
42 Switzerland Wicky Racing Team Switzerland André Wicky
Switzerland Edgar Berney
Porsche 911T Porsche 2.0 L Flat-6 34
39 P
2.0
62 United Kingdom Mark Konig United Kingdom Mark Konig
United Kingdom Tony Lanfranchi
Nomad Mk.II BRM 2.0 L V8 28
40 P
2.0
37 United Kingdom Donald Healey Motor Company United Kingdom Clive Baker
United Kingdom Jeff Harris
Healey SR Coventry Climax 2.0 L V8 14
41 P
2.0
60 France Robert Buchet France Jean de Mortemart
France Jean Mésange
Porsche 910 Porsche 2.0 L Flat-6 10
42 P
1.15
51 France Ecurie Fiat-Abarth France Italy Maurizio Zanetti
Italy Ugo Locatelli
Fiat-Abarth 1000SP Fiat 1.0 L I4 9
43 P
1.6
46 France Ecurie Savin-Calberson France Alain LeGuellec
France Bernard Tramont
Alpine A210 Renault-Gordini 1.5 L I4 1
44 S
5.0
10 United Kingdom John Woolfe Racing United Kingdom John Woolfe
Germany Herbert Linge
Porsche 917 Porsche 4.5 L Flat-12 0
45 P
3.0
19 Italy SpA Ferrari SEFAC New Zealand Chris Amon
Switzerland Peter Schetty
Ferrari 312P Coupe Ferrari 3.0 L V12 0

Broadcasters[edit]

Keith Jackson called the race on Abc's Wide World Of Sports along with Phil Hill and pit reporter Chris Economaki

ABC
Booth Announcers Pit/garage reporters

Announcer: Keith Jackson
Color: Phil Hill

Chris Economaki

Statistics[edit]

  • Pole Position - #14 Porsche System Engineering - 3:22.90
  • Fastest Lap - #12 Porsche System Engineering - 3:27.20
  • Distance - 4997.88 km (3105.54 mi)
  • Average Speed - 208.545 km/h (129.58 mph)

Trophy Winners[edit]

  • Index of Performance - #50 Société des Automobiles Alpine
  • Index of Thermal Efficiency - #6 John Wyer Automotive Engineering