1969 24 Hours of Le Mans

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1969 24 Hours of Le Mans
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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.

1969 was the last event with the traditional "Le Mans" style start, in which the drivers run across the track to enter their cars, start them, and race away. The previous year, Willy Mairesse crashed on the first lap while trying to properly close the door of his car at speed on the Mulsanne Straight; the crash would have been avoided entirely if not for the Le Mans style start, and it ended Mairesse's racing career. For 1969, new metal crash barriers were installed around the circuit, especially (again) at the Mulsanne Straight, where there was previously no protection from the trees, houses and embankments in the event of a car leaving the track.


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. The 917 included another feature which would prove to be controversial in the days leading up to the race: movable aerodynamic wings. 25 identical models were manufactured, and were intended to be sold mostly to private racing teams at $35,000 each. Only one, however, was purchased by a private interest by the time of the Le Mans race, that of Britian John Woolfe.[1] Despite the fact that no solution was found to fix instabilities of the car, three 917s were set to enter Le Mans. Two were Porsche Works teams and the third was entered by Woolfe.

On 30 March, Lucien Bianchi was killed during a second day of Le Mans practice sessions, while testing a 3-liter Alfa-Romeo. He lost control of the car on the Hunaudières straight at over 305 km/h (190 mph). The car crashed into a telephone pole and a transformer station, and exploded. Bianchi was killed instantly.[2]

French team 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 16 April, Matra brought the car to the Sarthe circuit. Henri Pescarolo took it to the track, and 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.

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

The Ferrari prototypes made a comeback with the 3.0 L 312P.

John Wyer's team entered two Ford GT40s, and would be managed by David Yorke. Jacky Ickx would share driving duties with Jackie Oliver of GT40 1075, which they had nicknamed "The Old Lady".[3] It was the car that won the previous year, then piloted by Pedro Rodríguez and the late Lucien Bianchi.

One of the features of the Porche 917, movable aerodynamic wings, had been previously barred by the Commission Sportive Internationale (FISA) from motorsport competition as "dangerous", and in particular had not been allowed in the 1969 Monaco Grand Prix a month earlier. A last-minute decision the day before Le Mans by the FISA allowed them for this race.[4] Team Matra was particularly upset by this decision, but in a statement said they did not intend to protest. It was widely believed that if the ban was again reinstated because of a protest by other teams, Porche would have pulled out of the 1969 race entirely.[5]

Even with Porche's participation, only 45 of a traditional 55 entries took the start of the 1969 24 Hours of Le Mans, which was the smallest field in the race's history to that date.[6] Alfa-Romeo and Abarth factory entries dropped out because of a customs strike, and Ferrari North America also scratched some entries.[7] Lola withdrew its entries after the death of Paul Hawkins.[8]


The Kurt Ahrens/Rolf Stommelen Porche 917 qualified on pole.

At the race start, Jacky Ickx, with former teammate Willy Mairesse's first lap 1968 Le Mans crash in mind, rebelled against the traditional starting procedure. In a Le Mans style start, drivers were required to run across the track to their cars, climb in, start the car, and move the car as quickly as possible to pull away from the grid. Ickx walked slowly to his car, properly put on his safety belts, and only then moved the car. Doing so effectively relegated Ickx to the back of the starting grid.[9]

On the very first lap, the poor handling of the Porsche 917 and the inexperience of one of its drivers resulted in a drama: the death of British driver John Woolfe. Woolfe's purchased his 917 for $40,000[10] only days earlier and was quoted by a colleague as having said its power "scared the pants off me".[11] Porche racing manager Rico Steinemann was quoted as having pled with Woolfe before the race to allow his teammate Herbert Linge to drive the first stint, but he demurred.[10] Woolfe crashed past Maison Blanche, near the entrance to the Ford chicane. Woolfe was thrown free of the car as it spun, rolled, hit an embankment, and exploded. Woolfe was taken by helicopter to a nearby hospital, but was dead on arrival.[11]

The nearly full fuel tank from Woolfe's car became dislodged and landed, burning, in front of the oncoming Ferrari 312P of Chris Amon. Amon ran over it, and Woolfe's fuel tank jammed underneath Amon's, causing Amon's to rupture and explode as well.[6] Amon was uninjured but forced to retire the car. The race was stopped for 2 hours due to these two first lap incidents, but was eventually restarted. 11 of the 45 cars in the field had been retired in the first four hours.[6]

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 and the Ford GT40 suffered from exhaust problems. In the last lap, Ickx let Herrmann pass him early on the Mulsanne Straight, faking a lack of power from fuel starvation. Ickx used the slipstream of Herrmann to pass him again just before the end of the 5 km straight. Ickx managed to hold on and beat Herrmann by a few seconds, and a distance of about 120 metres (390 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. Ickx dedicated the John Wyer Automotive Engineering team's victory to Lucien Bianchi. Bianchi had been killed in Le Mans testing earlier in the year, and had helped the Wyer team win the Le Mans the previous year.[3]


Jacky Ickx had a road accident near Chartres while driving to Paris on the Monday morning after the race. 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

Class winners are denoted with bold.

Pos Class No. Team Drivers Chassis Engine Tyre Laps Distance/Retired
1 S
6 United Kingdom John Wyer Automotive Engineering Belgium Jacky Ickx
United Kingdom Jackie Oliver
Ford GT40 Mk.I Ford 4.9 L V8 F 372 4,998.00 km (3,105.61 mi)
2 P
64 Germany Porsche System Engineering Germany Hans Herrmann
France Gérard Larrousse
Porsche 908 Coupé Porsche 3.0 L Flat-8 D 372 +120 m/1.5 sec[12]
3 S
7 United Kingdom John Wyer Automotive Engineering United Kingdom David Hobbs
United Kingdom Mike Hailwood
Ford GT40 Mk.I Ford 4.9 L V8 F 368 +4 laps
4 P
33 France Equipe Matra - Elf France Jean-Pierre Beltoise
United Kingdom Piers Courage
Matra-Simca MS650 Matra 3.0 L V12 D 368 +4 laps
5 P
32 France Equipe Matra - Elf France Jean Guichet
Italy Nino Vaccarella
Matra-Simca MS630 Matra 3.0 L V12 D 359 +13 laps
6 S
68 Germany Deutsche Auto Zeitung Germany Helmut Kelleners
Germany Reinhold Joest
Ford GT40 Mk.I Ford 4.7 L V8 D 341 +31 laps
7 P
35 France Equipe Matra - Elf Italy Nanni Galli
United Kingdom Robin Widdows
Matra-Simca MS630/650 Matra 3.0 L V12 D 330 +42 laps
8 S
17 United States North American Racing Team (NART) Italy Teodoro Zeccoli
United States Sam Posey
Ferrari 250LM Ferrari 3.3 L V12 G 329 +43 laps
9 S
39 France Christian Poirot France Christian Poirot
France Pierre Maublanc
Porsche 910 Porsche 2.0 L Flat-6 D 312 +60 laps
10 GT
41 Belgium Jean-Pierre Gaban Belgium Jean-Pierre Gaban
Belgium Yves Deprez
Porsche 911S Porsche 2.0 L Flat-6 D 306 +66 laps
11 GT


40 France Auguste Veuillet France Claude Ballot-Léna

France Guy Chasseuil

Porsche 911T Porsche 2.0 L Flat-6 D 301 +71 laps
12 P
50 France Société des Automobiles Alpine France Alain Serpaggi
France Christian Ethuin
Alpine A210 Renault-Gordini 1.0 L I4 D 292 +80 laps
13 GT
44 France Claude Laurent France Claude Laurent
France Jacques Marché
Porsche 911T Porsche 2.0 L Flat-6 287 +85 laps
14 GT
67 France Philippe Farjon France Philippe Farjon
France Jacques Dechaumel
Porsche 911S Porsche 2.0 L Flat-6 D 286 +86 laps
NC[N 1] S
12 Germany Porsche System Engineering United Kingdom Vic Elford
United Kingdom Richard Attwood
Porsche 917L Porsche 4.5 L Flat-12 D 327 Gearbox, clutch
NC[N 2] P
22 Germany Porsche System Engineering Austria Rudi Lins
Germany Willi Kauhsen
Porsche 908L Porsche 3.0 L Flat-8 317 Gearbox


45 France Société des Automobiles Alpine France Jean-Claude Killy

France Bob Wollek

Alpine A210 Renault-Gordini 1.5 L I4 242 Shock absorber mounting


66 France Jean Egreteaud France Jean Edreteaud

France Raymond Lopez

Porsche 911T Porsche 2.0 L Flat-6 241 Contact
18 Italy SpA Ferrari SEFAC Mexico Pedro Rodriguez
United Kingdom David Piper
Ferrari 312P Coupe Ferrari 3. 0L V12 F 223 Gearbox
29 France Société des Automobiles Alpine France Patrick Depailler
France Jean-Pierre Jabouille
Alpine A220/69 Renault-Gordini 3.0 L V8 209 Connecting rod
23 Germany Porsche System Engineering Germany Udo Schütz
Germany Gerhard Mitter
Porsche 908L Porsche 3.0 L Flat-8 D 199 Contact
2 Switzerland Scuderia Filipinetti Sweden Jo Bonnier
United States Masten Gregory
Lola T70 Mk.IIIB Chevrolet 5.0 L V8 F 196 Engine
1 Switzerland Scuderia Filipinetti France Henri Greder
Sweden Reine Wisell
Chevrolet Corvette Chevrolet 7.0 L V8 G 196 Gear selection
63 France Marcel Martin France René Mazzia
France Pierre Mauroy
Porsche 911T Porsche 2.0 L Flat-6 174 Gearbox
31 France Société des Automobiles Alpine France Jean-Pierre Nicolas
France Jean-Luc Thérier
Alpine A220/68 Renault-Gordini 3.0 L V8 160 Head gasket
34 France Ecurie Matra - Elf France Johnny Servoz-Gavin

Switzerland Herbert Müller

Matra-Simca MS630/650 Matra 3.0 L V12 D 158 Electrical
14 Germany Porsche System Engineering Germany Rolf Stommelen
Germany Kurt Ahrens, Jr.
Porsche 917L Porsche 4.5 L Flat-12 D 148 Oil leak
28 France Société des Automobiles Alpine France Jean Vinatier
France André de Cortanze
Alpine A220/69 Renault-Gordini 3.0 L V8 133 Broken oil pipe
8 United Kingdom Peter Sadler United Kingdom Peter Sadler
United Kingdom Paul Vestey
Ford GT40 Mk.I Ford 4.7 L V8 F 106 Electrical
43 United Kingdom J.C.B. Excavators Ltd. United Kingdom Roger Enever
United Kingdom Peter Brown
Chevron B8 BMW 2.0 L I4 100 Piston
49 France Trophée Le Mans Alpine France Jacques Foucteau
France Patrice Compain
Alpine A210 Renault-Gordini 1.3 L I4 97 Wishbone suspension
38 Belgium Racing Team VDS France Gustave Gosselin
Belgium Claude Bourgoignie
Alfa Romeo T33/2 Alfa Romeo 2.0 L V8 76 Contact
20 Switzerland Hart Ski Racing Switzerland Jo Siffert
United Kingdom Brian Redman
Porsche 908/2L Porsche 3.0 L Flat-8 F 60 Gearbox
30 France Société des Automobiles Alpine France Jean-Claude Andruet
France Henri Grandsire
Alpine A220/69 Renault-Gordini 3.0 L V8 48 Head gasket/oil leak
9 United Kingdom Alan Mann Racing Ltd. Australia Frank Gardner
United Kingdom Malcolm Guthrie
Ford GT40 Mk.I Ford 4.9 L V8 G 42 Drive shaft, overheating
36 Belgium Racing Team VDS Belgium Teddy Pilette
Netherlands Rob Slotemaker
Alfa Romeo T33/2.5 Alfa Romeo 2.5 L V8 36 Oil pressure
42 Switzerland Wicky Racing Team Switzerland André Wicky
Switzerland Edgar Berney
Porsche 911T Porsche 2.0 L Flat-6 D 34 Rocker panel
62 United Kingdom Mark Konig United Kingdom Mark Konig
United Kingdom Tony Lanfranchi
Nomad Mk.II BRM 2.0 L V8 D 28 Gearbox leak, oil on clutch
37 United Kingdom Donald Healey Motor Company United Kingdom Clive Baker
United Kingdom Jeff Harris
Healey SR Coventry Climax 2.0 L V8 D 14 Radiator
51 France Ecurie Fiat-Abarth France Italy Maurizio Zanetti
Italy Ugo Locatelli
Fiat-Abarth 1000SP Fiat 1.0 L I4 9 Distributor
60 France Robert Buchet France Jean de Mortemart
France Jean Mésange
Porsche 910 Porsche 2.0 L Flat-6 D 4 Sump damage/bearings
46 France Ecurie Savin-Calberson France Alain LeGuellec
France Bernard Tramont
Alpine A210 Renault-Gordini 1.5 L I4 1 Head gasket
19 Italy SpA Ferrari SEFAC New Zealand Chris Amon
Switzerland Peter Schetty
Ferrari 312P Coupe Ferrari 3.0 L V12 F 0 Contact, gas tank explosion
10 United Kingdom John Woolfe Racing United Kingdom John Woolfe
Germany Herbert Linge
Porsche 917 Porsche 4.5 L Flat-12 0 Contact (fatal)
59 Switzerland Scuderia Filipinetti Switzerland Claude Haldi
Switzerland Jacques Rey
Ferrari 275 GTB/C Ferrari 3.3 L V12 G 39 Illegal oil replenishment


  1. ^ The No. 12 Porsche 917L was not running at the race finish, and was therefore not classified.
  2. ^ The No. 22 Porsche 908L was not running at the race finish, and was therefore not classified.


  • Pole Position: #14 Porsche System Engineering (Rolf Stommelen) – 3:22.90
  • Fastest Lap: #12 Porsche System Engineering (Vic Elford) – 3:27.20
  • Distance: 4,998.00 km (3,105.61 mi)
  • Winner's average speed: 208.250 km/h (129.401 mph)[15]

Trophy Winners[edit]

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

In media[edit]

La Ronde Infernale: Le Mans 1969 (commissioned by Castrol)


  1. ^ Britt, Bloys (1969-07-06). "Porche Enters Four Teams For Six-Hour Enduro at Watkins Glen". Colorado Springs Gazette-Telegraph. p. 4-E. Retrieved 2018-02-04 – via Newspapers.com. 
  2. ^ Reuters (1969-03-31). "Lucien Bianchi Killed Practicing at Le Mans". Chicago Tribune. p. 3-3. Retrieved 2018-02-03 – via Newspapers.com. 
  3. ^ a b AP. "Ford Wins at Le Mans". Washington C.H. Record-Herald. p. 13. Retrieved 2018-02-03 – via Newspapers.com. 
  4. ^ AP (1969-06-14). "Porches Okay For Le Mans". Florida Today. p. 3C. Retrieved 2018-02-04 – via Newspapers.com. 
  5. ^ AP (1969-06-14). "West German Porches Le Mans Picks Today". The Town Talk. p. A-10. Retrieved 2018-02-04 – via Newspapers.com. 
  6. ^ a b c UPI (1969-06-13). "Crash Kills Woolfe in Le Mans Race". The Tampa Tribune. p. 6-F. Retrieved 2018-02-04 – via Newspapers.com. 
  7. ^ UPI (1969-06-16). "Ickx-Oliver Team Scores Thrilling Win Over Germans In Le Mans Race". Daily Press. p. 12. Retrieved 2018-02-04 – via Newspapers.com. 
  8. ^ a b "Le Mans 24 Hours 1969 - Race Results - Racing Sports Cars". www.racingsportscars.com. Retrieved 2018-02-04. 
  9. ^ "Triumph vs Tragedy: The 5 greatest Le Mans victories". www.classicdriver.com. Retrieved 2018-02-03. 
  10. ^ a b "Close Le Mans Won by Ford". St. Louis Post-Dispatch. 1969-06-16. p. 5C. Retrieved 2018-02-04 – via Newspapers.com. 
  11. ^ a b AP (1969-06-15). "Crash Kills Driver at Le Mans Race". Palladium-Item. p. 22. Retrieved 2018-02-04 – via Newspapers.com. 
  12. ^ Dymock, Eric (1969-06-16). "Ford – by Seconds". The Guardian. p. 14. Retrieved 2018-02-04 – via Newspapers.com. 
  13. ^ "1969 Le Mans 24 Hrs". www.teamdan.com. Retrieved 2018-02-04. 
  14. ^ "Le Mans 24 Hours 1969 - Photo Gallery - Racing Sports Cars". www.racingsportscars.com. Retrieved 2018-02-09. 
  15. ^ "1969 Le Mans 24 Hrs". www.teamdan.com. Retrieved 2018-02-03.