1969 24 Hours of Le Mans

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1969 24 Hours of Le Mans
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Index: Races | Winners
 
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1969 24 Hours of Le Mans
Previous: 1968Next: 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
PosClassNoTeamDriversChassisEngineLaps
1S
5.0
6United Kingdom John Wyer Automotive EngineeringBelgium Jacky Ickx
United Kingdom Jackie Oliver
Ford GT40 Mk.IFord 4.9 L V8372
2P
3.0
64Germany Porsche System EngineeringGermany Hans Herrmann
France Gérard Larrousse
Porsche 908 CoupéPorsche 3.0 L Flat-8372
3S
5.0
7United Kingdom John Wyer Automotive EngineeringUnited Kingdom David Hobbs
United Kingdom Mike Hailwood
Ford GT40 Mk.IFord 4.9 L V8368
4P
3.0
33France Equipe Matra - ElfFrance Jean-Pierre Beltoise
United Kingdom Piers Courage
Matra-Simca MS650Matra 3.0 L V12368
5P
3.0
32France Equipe Matra - ElfFrance Jean Guichet
Italy Nino Vaccarella
Matra-Simca MS630Matra 3.0 L V12359
6S
5.0
68Germany Deutsche Auto ZeitungGermany Helmut Kelleners
Germany Reinhold Joest
Ford GT40 Mk.IFord 4.7 L V8341
7P
3.0
35France Equipe Matra - ElfItaly Nanni Galli
United Kingdom Robin Widdows
Matra-Simca MS630/650Matra 3.0 L V12330
8S
5.0
17United States North American Racing Team (NART)Italy Teodoro Zeccoli
United States Sam Posey
Ferrari 250LMFerrari 3.3 L V12329
9S
2.0
39France Christian PoirotFrance Christian Poirot
France Pierre Maublanc
Porsche 910Porsche 2.0 L Flat-6312
10GT
2.0
41Belgium Jean-Pierre GabanBelgium Jean-Pierre Gaban
Belgium Yves Deprez
Porsche 911SPorsche 2.0 L Flat-6306
11GT
2.0
40France Auguste VeuilletFrance Claude Ballot-Léna
France Guy Chasseuil
Porsche 911TPorsche 2.0 L Flat-6301
12P
1.15
50France Société des Automobiles AlpineFrance Alain Serpaggi
France Christian Ethuin
Alpine A210Renault-Gordini 1.0 L I4292
13GT
2.0
44France Claude LaurentFrance Claude Laurent
France Jacques Marché
Porsche 911TPorsche 2.0 L Flat-6287
14GT
2.0
67France Philippe FarjonFrance Philippe Farjon
France Jacques Dechaumel
Porsche 911SPorsche 2.0 L Flat-6286

Did Not Finish[edit]

PosClassNoTeamDriversChassisEngineLaps
15S
5.0
12Germany Porsche System EngineeringUnited Kingdom Vic Elford
United Kingdom Richard Attwood
Porsche 917LPorsche 4.5 L Flat-12327
16P
3.0
22Germany Porsche System EngineeringAustria Rudi Lins
Germany Willi Kauhsen
Porsche 908LPorsche 3.0 L Flat-8317
17P
1.6
45France Société des Automobiles AlpineFrance Jean-Claude Killy
France Bob Wollek
Alpine A210Renault-Gordini 1.5 L I4242
18GT
2.0
66France Jean EgreteaudFrance Jean Edreteaud
France Raymond Lopez
Porsche 911TPorsche 2.0 L Flat-6241
19P
3.0
18Italy SpA Ferrari SEFACMexico Pedro Rodriguez
United Kingdom David Piper
Ferrari 312P CoupeFerrari 3. 0L V12223
20P
3.0
29France Société des Automobiles AlpineFrance Patrick Depailler
France Jean-Pierre Jabouille
Alpine A220/69Renault-Gordini 3.0 L V8209
21P
3.0
23Germany Porsche System EngineeringGermany Udo Schütz
Germany Gerhard Mitter
Porsche 908LPorsche 3.0 L Flat-8199
22GT
+2.0
1Switzerland Scuderia FilipinettiFrance Henri Greder
Sweden Reine Wisell
Chevrolet CorvetteChevrolet 7.0 L V8196
23GT
2.0
63France Marcel MartinFrance René Mazzia
France Pierre Mauroy
Porsche 911TPorsche 2.0 L Flat-6174
24P
3.0
31France Société des Automobiles AlpineFrance Jean-Pierre Nicolas
France Jean-Luc Thérier
Alpine A220/68Renault-Gordini 3.0 L V8160
25P
3.0
34France Ecurie Matra - ElfFrance Johnny Servoz-Gavin
Switzerland Herbert Müller
Matra-Simca MS630/650Matra 3.0 L V12158
26S
5.0
14Germany Porsche System EngineeringGermany Rolf Stommelen
Germany Kurt Ahrens, Jr.
Porsche 917LPorsche 4.5 L Flat-12148
27S
5.0
2Switzerland Scuderia FilipinettiSweden Jo Bonnier
United States Masten Gregory
Lola T70 Mk.IIIBChevrolet 5.0 L V8134
28P
3.0
28France Société des Automobiles AlpineFrance Jean Vinatier
France André de Cortanze
Alpine A220/69Renault-Gordini 3.0 L V8133
29S
5.0
8United Kingdom Peter SadlerUnited Kingdom Peter Sadler
United Kingdom Paul Vestey
Ford GT40 Mk.IFord 4.7 L V8106
30S
2.0
43United Kingdom J.C.B. Excavators Ltd.United Kingdom Roger Enever
United Kingdom Peter Brown
Chevron B8BMW 2.0 L I4100
31P
1.3
49France Trophée Le Mans AlpineFrance Jacques Foucteau
France Patrice Compain
Alpine A210Renault-Gordini 1.3 L I497
32P
2.0
38Belgium Racing Team VDSFrance Gustave Gosselin
Belgium Claude Bourgoignie
Alfa Romeo T33/2Alfa Romeo 2.0 L V876
33P
3.0
20Switzerland Hart Ski RacingSwitzerland Jo Siffert
United Kingdom Brian Redman
Porsche 908/2LPorsche 3.0 L Flat-860
34P
3.0
30France Société des Automobiles AlpineFrance Jean-Claude Andruet
France Henri Grandsire
Alpine A220/69Renault-Gordini 3.0 L V848
35S
5.0
9United Kingdom Alan Mann Racing Ltd.Australia Frank Gardner
United Kingdom Malcolm Guthrie
Ford GT40 Mk.IFord 4.9 L V842
36GT
+2.0
59Switzerland Scuderia FilipinettiSwitzerland Claude Haldi
Switzerland Jacques Rey
Ferrari 275 GTB/CFerrari 3.3 L V1239
37P
3.0
36Belgium Racing Team VDSBelgium Teddy Pilette
Netherlands Rob Slotemaker
Alfa Romeo T33/2.5Alfa Romeo 2.5 L V835
38GT
2.0
42Switzerland Wicky Racing TeamSwitzerland André Wicky
Switzerland Edgar Berney
Porsche 911TPorsche 2.0 L Flat-634
39P
2.0
62United Kingdom Mark KonigUnited Kingdom Mark Konig
United Kingdom Tony Lanfranchi
Nomad Mk.IIBRM 2.0 L V828
40P
2.0
37United Kingdom Donald Healey Motor CompanyUnited Kingdom Clive Baker
United Kingdom Jeff Harris
Healey SRCoventry Climax 2.0 L V814
41P
2.0
60France Robert BuchetFrance Jean de Mortemart
France Jean Mésange
Porsche 910Porsche 2.0 L Flat-610
42P
1.15
51France Ecurie Fiat-Abarth FranceItaly Maurizio Zanetti
Italy Ugo Locatelli
Fiat-Abarth 1000SPFiat 1.0 L I49
43P
1.6
46France Ecurie Savin-CalbersonFrance Alain LeGuellec
France Bernard Tramont
Alpine A210Renault-Gordini 1.5 L I41
44S
5.0
10United Kingdom John Woolfe RacingUnited Kingdom John Woolfe
Germany Herbert Linge
Porsche 917Porsche 4.5 L Flat-120
45P
3.0
19Italy SpA Ferrari SEFACNew Zealand Chris Amon
Switzerland Peter Schetty
Ferrari 312P CoupeFerrari 3.0 L V120

Statistics[edit]

Trophy Winners[edit]