Mirage (race car)
For the 1967 season, JWAE built and raced the M1, a Sports prototype based on the Ford GT40. The M1 used the standard Ford GT40 V8 engine in various capacities up to 5.7 litres. The highlight of the M1's short racing career was without doubt the victory by Jacky Ickx and Dick Thompson in chassis M.1003 in the 1967 Spa-Francorchamps 1000 km.
The M2 was built in 1968 for the new 3 Litre Group 6 Prototype class, but the BRM V12 powered cars were rarely raced and met with no success. The revised and roofless M3 of 1969 was powered by the Ford Cosworth DFV V8 but again this model saw little use, JWA having largely concentrated on racing Ford GT40s during these two years.
In 1969 M4, a Formula Ford single seater, was built, while M5 was a roadster conceived between the end of 1969 and the begenning of 1970 coupling M2/M3 chassis and 5 liter Ford GT40 engine: development was stopped once JWAE signed the agreement with Porsche to use their 917 for the 1970 season.
After competing with Porsche 917s during the 1970 & 1971 seasons, JWAE developed the new Ford Cosworth powered M6 model to race as a Group 5 Sports Car in the new World Championship for Makes from 1972.
At the end of 1971 season big "5 liter sportcars" like Porsche 917 and Ferrari 512 were banned, leaving the scene to nimbler "3 liter prototypes" and JWAE was ready with a new project from Len Bailey: it was the M6. It was a steel reinforced riveted aluminium chassis coupled with a detuned 3 liter Cosworth DFV Formula 1 engine used as a stresses member, covered by a fiberglass roadster body with a high rear wing: first chassis was completed in March 1972 and raced at 12 Hours of Sebring, second one was completed halfway that season and the third was used to test Weslake V12 engine, supposed to be smoother, more powerful but heavier than the Cosworth, whose strong vibrations caused many reliability issues. Again the only victory was at Spa, in the 1973 Spa-Francorchamps 1000 km. Apart from this victory, 1973 season was non so successful, with most of resources dedicated to Weslake V12 engine, which did not prove to be a step further than the Cosworth, leading to an end to the program, with four chassis out of five rebuilt as GR7.
M6 Coupé was the closed version with a low-drag bodywork and powered by the 2995 cc Ford-Weslake V12 engine planned to be used at 1973 24 Hours of Le Mans: poor performances (laptimes were 16 seconds slower than M6-Cosworth) ended the project.
In 1975 the team obtained its last victory in the 24 Hours of Le Mans with the GR8 driven by Jacky Ickx and Derek Bell. The other car finished third with Vern Schuppan and Jean-Pierre Jaussaud. The race was excluded from the World Championship for Makes by the CSI because of the rules introduced in that race regarding fuel consumption in the wake of the oil crisis.
Upon Gulf Oil’s sponsorship withdrawal from international sports car racing in late 1975, American entrepreneur and former racing driver Harley Cluxton III purchased the Mirage team and all associated manufacturing rights from John Wyer and the Gulf Research Racing Company. As a Group 6 Prototype entrant, and later a Group C Prototype entrant, Cluxton continued successfully contesting the Mirages at Le Mans as a two car team. With primary sponsorship from JCB Excavators, Elf Lubricants, and Renault Sport, and under the continued management of John Horsman and counsel of John Wyer, the Mirages finished second overall in both 1976 and 1977, behind Porsche’s factory Martini 936s. In all, from 1974 to 1978, the Mirages never finished outside of the top-ten positions at Le Mans, posting a first, two seconds, a third, a fourth, a fifth, and a tenth.
Mirage race cars were the first to wear the legendary powder blue and marigold livery of Gulf Oil, the first to post race wins for Gulf Oil, and the last to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans overall for Gulf Oil. As well Mirage is one of only two independently constructed racing car marques to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans overall since the post-World War II return of the Grand Prix d’Endurance in 1949.
- "MIRAGE CARS". www.gtc-mirage.com (official website). Retrieved March 3, 2012.
- Wouter Melissen (24 febbraio 2012). "Mirage M3 Cosworth". www.ultimatecarpage.com. Retrieved March 3, 2012.
- 1972 - 1973 Mirage M6 Cosworth - Images, Specifications and Information
- original M6 coupé image
- Restored M6 coupé
- (English) http://www.racingsportscars.com/chassis/archive/M6__603.html
- LE MANS 24 HOURS 1973 - LES 24 HEURES DU MANS DE 197
- 1973 ENDURANCE RACING: COMBAT BETWEEN FERRARI AND MATRA FOR THE WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP OF MAKES
- Automobile Year 1974/75, page 137
- Results of the 1974 FIA International Championships, 1975 FIA Yearbook, grey section, page 89
- Time and Two Seats (© 1999 by Motorsport Research Group)
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