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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I have been enjoying the 24 hours of Le Mans race for several years, and actually like road racing much more than, the NASCAR racing we have here in the states, but I have a confession to make
, I am really confused by the different classes they have, especially in the earlier years of the 50's, through the 80's. I have noticed that, say in 1965 there were 18 different classes and some of them only had one entry. Am I missing something here?

I am hoping someone can enlighten this yank.

Zippideedoda
 

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Gregory Petrolati
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QUOTE (Zippideedoda @ 7 Jan 2005, 16:54)Am I missing something here?

I am hoping someone can enlighten this yank.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Zippy, another Yank here...

Not to sound too obvious... LeMans is held in France. No offence to our French
bretheren... The race has it's own rules.

This may have related back to the very eariest days of Lemans when there
were all sorts of cars competing in the race. Everything from cycle cars (4
wheeled motorcycles) to 12 liter monsters. The difference in performance
between the fastest and the slowest cars wasn't as drastic as it became after
WWII. Most folks couldn't afford Bentleys Bugattis Alfa Romeos and Lagondas.
They could buy MGs, Morgans, Citroens, Renaults and a host of other small cars.

Small car manufacturers wouldn't wouldn't miss any opportunity like LeMans to
show their wares. There was (is?) something in LeMans called a "Index of
Performance" that grouped all the cars together in one class. The "I of P", a
complicated mathematical formula made it possible for a tiny car like a Deutch
Bonnet to win a class in the race... A very big deal if if your country made more
small slower cars than it did large faster cars... like France did after the war.

Greenman62
 

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Gary Skipp
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Quite right Greenman.

There was another index aswell, I think the 'index of thermal efficiency'. It came in later than the Index of Performance.

The IP was awarded only every three years, but the ITE was an anual award.

It may interest you know that only one car ran to LMP2 specifications last year, being the NASAMAX Judd.

We are going back to GT1 and GT2 this year replacing GTS and GT
 

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A great deal of it has got to do with the range of differing championships that Le Mans was open to once upon a time.

From the early days up until the 1950s the classes were defined by engine size; there were very few 'Le Mans Specials' and quite often it was the slow(er) but steady(er) reliable cars that won e.g. In 1952 the 3 litre Mercedes' of Lang, Riess, Helfrich and Niedermayr beat the 5 Litre Nash into 3rd and the 8 litre(!) Cunningham back into 4th. OK, so they were streamlined Mercedes but you have to admit that had the Germans decided to build an 8 litre it probably would have caned the opposition, instead they decided on a diferent way to win.

By the 60s there were more and more 'specials' so the ACO decided that they would split the categories into S (sport) and GT and they dispensed with the engine size categorisation. It existed this way for a few years until things started getting silly and the big litre engines got more reliable. S became S (closed coupe racing cars) and SP (sports prototype; limited number open top racing cars and not road legal GTs) and the larger contingent of GTs. It was probably about this time that the GT runners realised they were never going to win outright and needed to 'improve their standing' so, where once there had been a big winner and individual small class winners, there now became a greater emphasis on winning your class.

I admit the 70s and 80s are a bit confusing with Group 5, Group 6, Turbo classes, non-turbo classes and then IMSA, World Sportscars, Group C and national GT championship cars all running side by side but this was probably when Le Mans was at it's most diverse (partially set off by the OPEC crisis in the early 70s when the ACO opened the gates to anyone who wanted to enter out of fear of the event being scrapped).

These days we have LMP1 and LMP2 which are differentiated by engine size, air restrictor and tyre widths. Basically LMP1 is more HP but heavy and LMP2 is the opposite. Alongside that we have GTS (closed supercars which are almost sillouettes of their road equivalents) and GT (the 'real' road cars).

So there you have it. Hope that helps........

Pip
 

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I think classes were added according to what type of vehicle entered. When the turbines came along. Rover BRM 1963, 64 & 65 and the Howmet 1968 they had a class of their own. Usually it went in grouping of engine capacity and/or how many cars were built. Thats why in 1965 the 250 LM Ferraris were in the prototype class because not enough had been built to fulfil the requirement of group 4. The group they should have been in.

Regards Allan
 

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Gary Skipp
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Correct, It did used to go by engine capacity. But now it slightly different, as Rosepip points out.

If you want to get clued up on modern regs then the offical le Mans website has six PDF documents regarding this years rules and specs.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Thanks guys. It is much clearer now as to how and why the different classes, (if that is the right word), exsist.

It sure is nice to have a forum like this to get great information on. Thanks to all how "make it so".


Zippideedoda
 

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QUOTE OK, so they were streamlined Mercedes but you have to admit that had the Germans decided to build an 8 litre it probably would have caned the opposition, instead they decided on a diferent way to win.

Not to ruin your day but in 1952, a French geezer by the name of Pierre Levegh led the entire race until 23 minutes from the end in a pre-war Talbot T26GS fitted with a twin-seater body until, after he had driven by himself for that long and rather exhausted, he missed a shift, over-revved the 6-banger and dropped a valve. At that time he had the two Benzes soundly beaten.
Regards,

Dok Pea
 

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Gregory Petrolati
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QUOTE Not to ruin your day but in 1952, a French geezer by the name of Pierre Levegh led the entire race until 23 minutes from the end in a pre-war Talbot T26GS fitted with a twin-seater body until, after he had driven by himself for that long and rather exhausted, he missed a shift, over-revved the 6-banger and dropped a valve. At that time he had the two Benzes soundly beaten.
Regards,

In `55 he drove a Healey... If it wasn't for Mike Hawthorne braking hard after overshooting his pits, it might not have been the "geezer's last LeMans ride.... and Mercedes last LeMansfor about 30 some years

Greenman62
 

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QUOTE In `55 he drove a Healey... If it wasn't for Mike Hawthorne braking hard after overshooting his pits, it might not have been the "geezer's last LeMans ride.... and Mercedes last LeMansfor about 30 some years

Greenman62
<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Not too sure about the accuracy of that statement
. Levegh was driving a Mercedes which ultimatley ran into the back of a Healey driven by Lance Macklin which had turned into his path while Levegh was at full speed causing the tragedy.

I would say the Le mans circuit/race at that time was a ticking bomb with cars rapidly becoming far too fast for some parts of the circuit especially the pit area to remain relatively safe. There was no 'deceleration lane' at that time for the pits and although I agree Hawthorn was involved in the chain reaction of events that led to the tragedy don't think all the blame should lie with him.

That's my twopenny's worth
.
 

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Gregory Petrolati
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QUOTE Not too sure about the accuracy of that statement
. Levegh was driving a Mercedes which ultimatley ran into the back of a Healey driven by Lance Macklin which had turned into his path while Levegh was at full speed causing the tragedy.

You're right, of course...

Greenman62
 

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Alan Tadd
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Chaps...the Healey version of the story is slightly different and points the blame for the accident elsewhere :-

"As the race entered its third hour the cars were breaking records at every lap when Jaguar Driver Mike Hawthorn received a signal from his pit crew to stop for gas. As he braked, an Austin-Healey swerved to avoid him. A few lengths behind, Levegh raised his hand, signaling another Mercedes to slow up. At 150 mph he had no chance to do so himself.

Hitting the Healey, the Mercedes took off like a rocket, struck the embankment beside the track, hurtled end over end and then disintegrated over the crowd. Hawthorn, though unnerved, went on to win and set a new record. But few spectators had the enthusiasm to cheer."

Regards

Alan
 

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Without being morbid I think it was the Mercedes engine off levegh's going into the crowd that caused most of the 88 casualities. Also there was a rumor that Mercedes were using magnesium in their cars which caused the car to burn ferociously! As for Levegh raising his arm to warn Fangio of the impending danger; it was never proved. He could have put his hand up to protect himself knowing that he was going to crash.

Still it was a horrible event.

Regards Allan
 

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Alan Tadd
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Allan

You are right, I deliberatly edited some of the text in my post as it went into some detail regarding the deaths of spectators, and I didn't feel it was appropriate to reproduce that here.

Regards

Alan
 
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