1972 24 Hours of Le Mans

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1972 24 Hours of Le Mans
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Index: Races | Winners

The 1972 24 Hours of Le Mans was the 40th Grand Prix of Endurance, and took place on 10 and 11 June 1972. It was the ninth round of the 1972 World Championship for Makes.

Pre-race[edit]

The track layout was changed yet again, with a new section of turns being built between Arnage and the Ford chicane for the purposes of bypassing the dangerously fast Maison Blanche and the fast curves through the route up towards Maison Blanche and the pits. The five new turns installed would later become known as the Porsche curves, while at the same time a second chicane was added to the Ford chicane to help with the creation of a new pit lane entrance.

For 1972, 5.0 litre Group 5 cars were banned from the World Championship and thus from Le Mans. The Prototype (Group 6) category became the new Sport (Group 5) category with no minimal production required. This left the game open for the best 3.0L cars with F1-like engines.

In 1971, the best competitor in the 3.0L class was Alfa Romeo who managed to beat the Porsche 917 at three races. Alfa Romeo made the choice to build a new car for 1972. Unusually, the new 33 TT3 was built on a tubular chassis while the previous prototype was a monocoque. Making the new car competitive and competing in both the World championship and Le Mans proved to be too much for the team.

Ferrari and Matra took different approaches. Matra cut down its participation in endurance racing to focus on Le Mans, while Ferrari made the opposite choice preferring to compete for the World Championship and to bypass Le Mans, as the F1 inspired 312 PB was optimized for 1000 km races.

This made Matra the favorite for the 24 hours, with four cars entered – 3 brand new Matra 670, an evolution of the 660 specially constructed and designed to race in Le Mans, and an older but updated 660. They faced an opposition consisting mainly of three Alfa Romeo 33 TT3s, two semi-official Lola T280s entered by Jo Bonnier's team, and one private Porsche 908L enrolled by Reinhold Joest. This car was similar to the Porsche that finished second in 1969 and was considered seriously outdated and underpowered.

Race[edit]

The Matra of Jean-Pierre Beltoise and Chris Amon took the lead at start, but broke its V12 at the beginning the third lap. This caused enough consternation among the other Matra drivers to allow the Lolas of Bonnier and Hugues de Fierlant to take the lead. Bonnier was slowed down by a deflated tire and after the first pit stops the two remaining Matra 670s were leading the race again with François Cevert/Howden Ganley on front.

Even if the reliability of the Ford-Cosworth DFV that powered the Lolas was questionable on a 24-hour race, there was some hope for a general failure of the Matras, and Jo Bonnier decided to keep some pressure on. The Lolas were running fast, with Bonnier establishing a new lap record early in the evening. The other Lola broke its gearbox. The works Alfa Romeo team were also in contention; putting pressure on the Matras.

Graham Hill took the lead with his Matra around midnight.

At dawn the Matra 670 swapped their position again. Bonnier's Lola T280 was still there with a surprisingly healthy DFV V8. During the night some race incidents caused unexpected pit stops and the car was only eighth but the F1-inspired Lola was running really fast the early morning. Just before 8:30 a.m., Bonnier's Lola came upon the Ferrari GTB4 of Florian Vetsch before Indianapolis curve. The witnesses are not entirely sure what Bonnier hit first, the Ferrari or the barrier, but the Lola went over the barrier and into the trees killing Bonnier.

This tragedy left the Matras without any serious opposition; and soon after 2 of the 3 Alfas dropped out with gearbox problems. Despite an unscheduled pit stop, the car of Ganley and Cevert was still leading when Ganley got hit in the tail by a Chevrolet Corvette. This gave the lead to Henri Pescarolo and Graham Hill. The David Hobbs/Jean-Pierre Jabouille Matra 660 was stopped also with gearbox problems.

The Matra 670 "Short Tail" piloted by Pescarolo and Hill took first place, and the 670 "Long Tail" driven by Cevert and Ganley finished second. This was the first victory of a French car since the Talbot-Lago team's victory in 1950, and made Graham Hill the first, and so far only, driver to win the Triple Crown of the Indianapolis 500, the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the Formula One World Championship.

With such notable results at the top, the third position of the Porsche 908L driven by Reinhold Joest, Michel Weber and Mario Casoni that was mainly the result of careful preparation by Joest and his team was largely unnoticed, yet remarkable.

The Lola T290 entered by Kodak Pathé, France, driven by Barrie Smith and René Ligonnet won the 2 litre class and was the very 1st Lola car to ever finish the 24 hour endurance race at Le Mans.

Official results[edit]

Le Mans in 1972
Pos Class No Team Drivers Chassis Engine Laps
1 S
3.0
15 France Equipe Matra-Simca Shell France Henri Pescarolo
United Kingdom Graham Hill
Matra-Simca MS670 Matra 3.0L V12 344
2 S
3.0
14 France Equipe Matra-Simca Shell France François Cevert
New Zealand Howden Ganley
Matra-Simca MS670 Matra 3.0L V12 333
3 S
3.0
60 Germany Jo Siffert A.T.E. Racing Germany Reinhold Joest
Germany Michel Weber
Italy Mario Casoni
Porsche 908LH Porsche 3.0L Flat-8 325
4 S
3.0
18 Italy Autodelta SpA Italy Nino Vaccarella
Italy Andrea de Adamich
Alfa Romeo Tipo 33TT3 Alfa Romeo 3.0L V8 307
5 GT
5.0
39 France Charles Pozzi France Jean-Claude Andruet
France Claude Ballot-Léna
Ferrari 365 GTB/4 Ferrari 4.4L V12 306
6 GT
5.0
74 United States North American Racing Team (NART) United States Sam Posey
United States Tony Adamowicz
Ferrari 365 GTB/4 Ferrari 4.4L V12 304
7 GT
5.0
34 Switzerland Scuderia Filipinetti United Kingdom Mike Parkes
France Jean-Louis Lafosse
Switzerland Jean-Jacques Cochet
Ferrari 365 GTB/4 Ferrari 4.4L V12 302
8 GT
5.0
36 Belgium Ecurie Francorchamps United Kingdom Derek Bell
Belgium Teddy Pilette
United Kingdom Richard Bond
Ferrari 365 GTB/4 Ferrari 4.4L V12 301
9 GT
5.0
38 United States North American Racing Team (NART) France Jean-Pierre Jarier
France Claude Buchet
Ferrari 365 GTB/4 Ferrari 4.4L V12 297
10 T
3.0
54 Germany Ford Motor Company Deutschland United Kingdom Gerry Birrell
Belgium Claude Bourgoignie
Ford Capri 2600RS Ford 3.0L V6 292
11 T
3.0
52 Germany Ford Motor Company Deutschland Germany Dieter Glemser
Spain Alex Soler-Roig
Ford Capri 2600RS Ford 3.0L V6 289
12 S
3.0
68 United Kingdom Duckham's Oil Motor Racing United Kingdom Alain de Cadenet
United Kingdom Chris Craft
Duckhams LM
(Brabham)
Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0L V8 288
13 GT
3.0
41 France Louis Meznarie Switzerland Sylvain Garant
Germany Jürgen Barth
United States Michael Keyser
Porsche 911S Porsche 2.5L Flat-6 285
14 S
2.0
27 France René Ligonnet - Kodak France René Ligonnet
United Kingdom Barrie Smith
Lola T290 Ford Cosworth FVC 1.8L I4 284
15 GT
+5.0
4 United States North American Racing Team (NART) United States Dave Heinz
United States Robert B. Johnson
Chevrolet Corvette ZL1 Chevrolet 7.0L V8 284
16 GT
+5.0
32 Belgium Claude Dubois France Jean-Marie Jacquemin
Belgium Yves Deprez
De Tomaso Pantera Ford 5.8L V8 282
17 GT
3.0
46 United States North American Racing Team (NART) France Jean-Pierre Laffeach
France Gilles Doncieux
Ferrari Dino 246GT Ferrari Dino 2.4L V6 265
18 S
2.0
24 Switzerland Wicky Racing Team Switzerland Peter Mattli
Switzerland Hervé Bayard
Switzerland Walter Brun
Porsche 907 Porsche 2.0L Flat-6 252

Not Classified[edit]

Failed to cover 70% of winner's distance (240 laps)

Pos Class No Team Drivers Chassis Engine Laps
19 S
3.0
67 France Christian Poirot France Christian Poirot
France Philippe Farjon
Porsche 908/2 Porsche 3.0L Flat-8 206

Did Not Finish[edit]

Pos Class No Team Drivers Chassis Engine Laps
20 S
3.0
16 France Equipe Matra-Simca Shell France Jean-Pierre Jabouille
United Kingdom David Hobbs
Matra-Simca MS660C Matra 3.0L V12 278
21 S
3.0
5 Spain Escuderia Montjuich Spain Juan Fernandez
Spain Francesco Torredemer
Spain Eugenio Baturone
Porsche 908/3 Porsche 3.0L Flat-8  ?
22 S
3.0
19 Italy Autodelta SpA Germany Rolf Stommelen
Italy Nanni Galli
Alfa Romeo Tipo 33TT3 Alfa Romeo 3.0L V8 263
23 S
3.0
6 Germany Hans-Dieter Weigel Germany Hans-Dieter Weigel
Germany Helmuth Krause
Porsche 908/2 Porsche 3.0L Flat-8 244
24 GT
+5.0
29 France Greder Racing Team France Henri Greder
France Marie-Claude Charmasson
Chevrolet Corvette Chevrolet 7.0L V8 235
25 S
3.0
17 Italy Autodelta SpA United Kingdom Vic Elford
Austria Dr. Helmut Marko
Alfa Romeo Tipo 33TT3 Alfa Romeo 3.0L V8 232
26 GT
5.0
57 United States North American Racing Team (NART) United States Luigi Chinetti Jr.
United States Masten Gregory
Ferrari 365 GTB/4 Ferrari 4.4L V12 226
27 S
3.0
8 Switzerland Ecurie Bonnier Switzerland Sweden Joakim Bonnier
France Gérard Larrousse
Netherlands Gijs van Lennep
Lola T280 Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0L V8 213
28 GT
3.0
42 Switzerland Claude Haldi Switzerland Claude Haldi
Switzerland Paul Keller
France "Gédéhem"
Porsche 911S Porsche 2.5L Flat-6 208
29 GT
5.0
35 Switzerland Scuderia Filipinetti Switzerland Bernard Cheneviére
Switzerland Florian Vetsch
Switzerland Gérard Pillon
Ferrari 365 GTB/4 Ferrari 4.4L V12 204
30 S
3.0
22 France Automobiles Ligier France Pierre Maublanc
France Jacques Laffite
Ligier JS2 Maserati 3.0L V6 195
31 GT
+5.0
71 France Ecurie Léopard France Jean-Claude Aubriet
France "Depnic"
France "Sylvain"
Chevrolet Corvette Chevrolet 7.0L V8 188
32 S
3.0
65 France "Novestille" France Louis Cosson
France Jean-Louis Ravenel
Porsche 910 Porsche 2.4L Flat-6 188
33 S
3.0
56 France Claude Laurent France Claude Laurent
France Martial Delalande
France Jacques Marché
Ligier JS2 Maserati 3.0L V6 186
34 GT
3.0
45 France Raymond Touroul Greece "Lee Banner"
France Domonique Bardini
Porsche 911S Porsche 2.5L Flat-6 183
35 T
3.0
53 Germany Ford Motor Company Deutschland Germany Jochen Mass
Germany Hans Joachim Stuck
Ford Capri 2600RS Ford 3.0L V6  ?
36 S
3.0
76 France Jean Egreteaud France Jean-Claude Lagniez
France Raymond Touroul
Porsche 908/2 Porsche 3.0L Flat-8 83
37 GT
+5.0
72 United States John Greenwood Racing France Bernard Darniche
France Alain Cudini
United States John Greenwood
Chevrolet Corvette Chevrolet 7.0L V8 82
38 S
2.0
23 United Kingdom Brian Robinson United Kingdom Brian Robinson
France Jean Rondeau
Chevron B21 Ford Cosworth FVC 1.8L I4 76
39 T
3.0
49 Germany Team Schnitzer - Motul Germany Hans Heyer
Switzerland René Herzog
BMW 2800CS BMW 3.0L I6 70
40 GT
3.0
44 France Jean Sage France Jean Sage
Germany Georg Loos
Germany Franz Pesch
Porsche 911S Porsche 2.5L Flat-6 64
41 GT
5.0
37 United Kingdom Maranello Concessionaires United Kingdom Peter Westbury
United Kingdom John Hine
Ferrari 365 GTB/4 Ferrari 4.4L V12 72
42 GT
+5.0
28 United States John Greenwood Racing United States John Greenwood
United States Dick Smothers
Chevrolet Corvette Chevrolet 7.0L V8 53
43 GT
3.0
80 Germany Porsche Kremer Racing Team United Kingdom John Fitzpatrick
Germany Erwin Kremer
Mexico Juan Carlos Bolaños
Porsche 911S Porsche 2.5L Flat-6 39
44 GT
3.0
79 Belgium Jean-Pierre Gaban Belgium Hermes Delbar
Belgium Roger van der Schrick
Porsche 911S Porsche 2.4L Flat-6  ?
45 GT
+5.0
30 Spain Escuderia Montjuich Spain José Juncadella
Spain Fernando de Baviera
De Tomaso Pantera Ford 5.8L V8 36
46 GT
+5.0
31 Spain Escuderia Montjuich Switzerland Herbert Müller
Switzerland Cox Kocher
De Tomaso Pantera Ford 5.8L V8 36
47 S
2.0
69 Switzerland Michel Dupont Switzerland Michel Dupont
France Jean-Paul Bodin
Chevron B19/21 Ford Cosworth FVC 1.8L I4 29
48 T
3.0
84 France Shark Team France Jean-Claude Guérie
France Jean-Pierre Rouget
Ford Capri 2600RS Ford 3.0L V6 26
49 S
3.0
7 Switzerland Ecurie Bonnier Switzerland Belgium Hughes de Fierlandt
Spain Jorge de Bagration
Portugal Mário de Araújo Cabral
Lola T280 Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0L V8 26
50 GT
3.0
40 France René Mazzia France Pierre Mauroy
France Marcel Mignot
Porsche 911S Porsche 2.5L Flat-6 27
51 GT
5.0
75 France Charles Pozzi France François Migault
France Daniel Rouveyran
Ferrari 365 GTB/4 Ferrari 4.4L V12 22
52 S
3.0
58 Austria Bosch Racing Team Austria Walter Roser
Austria Otto Stuppacher
Porsche 908/2 Porsche 3.0L Flat-8 11
53 S
3.0
21 France Automobiles Ligier France Guy Ligier
France Jean-François Piot
Ligier JS2 Maserati 3.0L V6 7
54 S
+3.0
33 France Société Franco-Brittanic France Guy Chasseuil
France Jean Vinatier
De Tomaso Pantera Ford 5.8L V8 3
55 S
3.0
12 France Equipe Matra-Simca Shell France Jean-Pierre Beltoise
New Zealand Chris Amon
Matra-Simca MS670 Matra 3.0L V12 1

Statistics[edit]

  • Pole Position - #14 Equipe Matra-Simca Shell - 3:42.02 (137.441 mph/221.189 km/h)
  • Fastest Lap - #8 Ecurie Bonnier Switzerland (Gijs Van Lennep) - 3:46.90 (134.532 mph/216.508 km/h)
  • Distance - 4691.343 km
  • Average Speed - 195.472 km/h (121.461 mph)

Trophy Winners[edit]

  • Index of Thermal Efficiency - #39 Charles Pozzi