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 Post subject: Around LeMans in 3:14
PostPosted: Sat Jan 05, 2019 11:01 pm 
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Joined: Wed Apr 09, 2008 5:53 pm
Posts: 13074
Location: CT
OK, these videos have nothing to do with Z cars (In fact, they feature a Jaguar and a Toyota), but face it; while we're all locked inside the house in hip-deep snow [or should be], we need something to occupy our minds.

The old racing circuit at LeMans used to be about 8.5 miles long when I was a kid back in the Chrome Age. It's still very close to that today. The most-famous feature of the track was that it sported the very longest straightaway in road racing history, the famed 3.7-mile long 'Mulsanne Straight'. Don't try using that phrase to a real frenchman because he won't recognize what you're referring to; the tiny village of Mulsanne sat near the end of the 3.7 mile long straightaway, but the French called that part of the road something else. "Mulsanne Straight" is an English descriptor.

Anyway, that straightaway gave the really Big Dog racers the chance to stretch their legs and hit over 200mph in the 1960s and even faster in later decades. That let our monstrous 475bhp 427 Ford GT40 take the 5-year championship title away from Ferrari on 18-19 June, 1966; the Ford's big cubes could push much longer gears than Ferrari's smaller engines could, giving us a top speed advantage which the 3 and 4 liter Italians just couldn't overcome.

In 1990 the FIA rules changed racing forever by declaring that no straightaway on any circuit can be more than 1 mile long ( :? ) so a couple chicanes were built into the Mulsanne to make it slower and therefore 'safer'. [In fact, technology improved so rapidly that today's cars are circling LeMans - even with the chicanes - at speeds even faster than they were in the '60s, but that's just an aside].

Here are two videos of complete circuits of the LeMans course.

1. The first is taken on-board the 1956 D-Type Jaguar of World Champion race driver Mike Hawthorn (England), who won LeMans the previous year. Mike narrates the 4:58 minute trip during a practice session (using embarrassingly crude technology) and you can clearly appreciate the very long top-gear/overdrive Mulsanne Straight which allowed the bigger cars to touch 180mph. Mike drives a leisurely 82mph average around the course, spending a full 1:14 (only 85mph) on the straight. Note these are public roads still being used by citizens during practice days.

https://youtu.be/IpRFagIbcPE

2. The second is a record-breaking, breathtaking bash thru the new course, with the Mulsanne now divided by two very quick chicanes. The Japanese driver doesn't say a word to us as he sets the fastest-ever practice lap record for the LeMans circuit of 157mph average speed. He hits 230 mph twice before the hard-right 90* "Mulsanne Corner" at the end of the straight. I like to fantasiZe that's an old S30 Datsun he flashes past on the Mulsanne at 220 mph, but it isn't.

https://youtu.be/V82VU0sDrMY

and a narrated view of the same lap record from outside the car:

https://youtu.be/Sy91BcB8pRQ

Some trivia, before you ask: the highest speed ever reached on this straightaway during an actual race was radar-confirmed 252 mph, but it was staged. When the FIA announced they would add chicanes to the famous straight for the 1990 season, one race team prepared a 'throw-away' prototype Peugeot Turbo V6 to set the Mulsanne Straight speed record during 1988. They gave the car special low-drag tires, taped-off the intake ducts for less drag and essentially 'burned up the engine' by setting the new record [which will now last forever]. They retired the car from the race two laps after touching 252mph, declaring it the fastest car in any actual race in motor racing history. They bought history at the expense of their purpose-built sacrifice car.

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Last edited by Frank T on Sun Jan 06, 2019 1:44 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Sun Jan 06, 2019 12:03 pm 
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Joined: Fri Mar 06, 2009 10:22 am
Posts: 170
Location: Bethel, CT
It’s 60 years ago this month that F1 World Champion Mike Hawthorn died, at the age of 29.
He won his first single-seater race in 1952 and went on to drive for Ferrari, BRM and Vanwall, among others, usually sporting a flamboyant bow tie. In 1958 he became the first British driver to win the Formula 1 World Championship, beating Stirling Moss to the title by a single point. He then retired from the sport and died just three months later, on January 22, 1959, when the Jaguar 3.4 saloon he was driving left the road near Guildford in Surrey UK.
Hawthorn was my boy hood hero, his special crash helmet and the bowtie was the best.
Colin
the older one


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PostPosted: Sun Jan 06, 2019 1:31 pm 
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Joined: Wed Apr 09, 2008 5:53 pm
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Location: CT
Hawthorn won the '55 LeMans in a D-Jag. He was running 3rd behind the faster Mercedes team (Stirling Moss, Juan Manuel Fangio, Connecticut's John Fitch and Pierre Levech) for most of the race. When he tried to enter the pits he was cut-off by another driver who pulled past him on the right (verboten), causing him to brake violently and swerve to get into his assigned pit. Lance Macklin driving an Austin Healey 100-4 swerved to avoid Hawthorn, and pulled into the path of Pierre Levech's 130mph 300SLR. Levech rode up over the rounded rear fender of the slower AH and became airborne. His Mercedes struck a light pole 10ft above the ground, broke apart, burst into flames and sliced thru the main grandstand, killing nearly 100 people and wounding as many others.
This all happened in front of the pits, where all the team managers and waiting drivers witnessed the carnage. John Fitch suggested to the Mercedes manager that they withdraw from the race in respect for the dead and wounded (because their car had been involved). Mercedes agreed, and called Stirling Moss in off the track. Moss had been leading the field with a commanding 8-mile lead, was sure to win the race and the 1955 World Driving Championship. The team withdrew, Mike Hawthorn won in the fast D-Jaguar, and Moss (losing his best and only chance to win the championship) avoided Fitch for the rest of their lives. Sir Stirling became known as 'The greatest driver never to win the championship".

https://youtu.be/SyiJQ5_CbXM

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Last edited by Frank T on Sun Jan 06, 2019 4:05 pm, edited 3 times in total.

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PostPosted: Sun Jan 06, 2019 1:42 pm 
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Joined: Wed Apr 09, 2008 5:53 pm
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Location: CT
https://youtu.be/VHm17jWntFU

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PostPosted: Sun Jan 06, 2019 4:11 pm 
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Joined: Wed Apr 09, 2008 5:53 pm
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Location: CT
here's the greatest helmet in racing history 8) :

Jackie Stewart and Innes Ireland had good ones too.


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