As some of you may have seen in his article just before this year’s 83rd 24 Hours of Le Mans for Dailysportscar, Nick Holland’s (@NH247) family have been treading the hallowed ground at La Sarthe for 50 years now and indeed, this year was his mum’s 50th anniversary of her first visit!
In this article, Nick re-opens his family scrapbook to Le Mans 14-15th June 1975 (or 40 years ago) and shares with us an outright win for a Gulf-liveried GR8, a 1st win for Britain’s Derek Bell and, as we understand it, the last car engineered by legend John Wyer.
Below is a brief view of the race and some notable facts gathered from the family archive. The race was run in the fuel starved mid-70s, as such many of the prototype cars ran restricted Cosworth 3L DFVs with around 400hp. As a consequence the curiosity of a pole time of 3:27 was set, but a fastest lap in race spec was 3:53 !
The view from the old pit balcony was very special as some of these shots hopefully show –
The ageing privately-entered Porsche 908/3 of Joest/Casoni/Barth is wheeled into position on the grid. Yes, the very same Reinhold Joest.
The pole-sitter (3:27.06) is rolled past the BMW 3.0 CSL Art Car and Ligier JS2 powered by its road-going Maserati 3.0L V6 and driven by Beltoise/Jarier.
The assembled masses look on at the leading four cars prior to the warm-up lap. Gulf-liveried cars dominate the front row, followed by the Porsche 908 and Cosworth-powered prototype Ligier JS2.
The third row is occupied by two favourites. The #26 Renault-Alpine A441 a sign of things to come from Regie. Interestingly this was driven by the pairing of Beaumont/Lombardi one of three all-female teams at the 1975 event Next to it the #4 Lola T380 DFV of De Cadenet/Craft a staple favourite amongst Brits at Le Mans in the period.
Without further ado let us step forwards into the race –
The eventual winner passes the Pits
The attentive crowd are massed for the start, here the JS2 & Lola steam pass the #91 BMW 2002ti
Let us follow the cars around a lap –
The #72 Datsun 240z (in corporate Red) piloted by Schuller/Haller/Maechler rounds the Dunlop Curve. Placed 26th it completed 253 laps, 11 more than managed by the best of this year’s Nissan GTR-Le Mans Nismo LMP1 cars piloted by Tincknell/Krumm/Buncombe.
From the outside of the Dunlop Curve, its less of a challenge now with Porsche Curves & the Ford Chicanes in place. The #35 special Moynet LM75 rounds the curve pursued by a Ligier. The #35 included on Michelle Mouton, the very same who went onto WRC success.
Round the curve and up, under the Dunlop Bridge, the BMW CSL hunts down a Porsche 911.
The down and through the Esses and the BMW is ahead of a Porsche and after another.
Having climbed out of the Esses, the Porsche 908 sets about a 911 both in hot pursuit of the venerable #49 Ford Capri RS (sadly not to finish).
The beautiful view of three cars (led by #48 Ferrari 365 GTB/4) on a flat and fast Hunaudaries.
Only to be equalled by the flat-out sweep through the Mulsanne Kink. These sights are lost in the modern era both in accessibility and actuality.
And so on to the Mulsanne Corner a sharp right hander with very little run-off in 1975.
The Porsche 908 went on to finish 4th completing 325laps. The #69 Porsche 911 made 6th & 311laps, losing out to the #58 Carrera RSR in the GT class which completed 315laps.
The DFV V8 geometry gave a number of runners exhaust problems, vibration causing breakages, and one such afflicted our eventual win the #11 Gulf GR8 of Bell and Ickx, the driving partnership of the era.
Derek Bell rounds Mulsanne Corner to take a final and memorable win for a John Wyer engineered car.
The little BMW 2002ti of the Heiddegger Team came home to win the Touring Class.
As ever the stars of the race are the cars that have endured the toughest of the Vingt-Quatre Heures