Most 24 Hour Le Mans Wins Before 2000

To celebrate the Le Mans Classic, we take a look back at the history of the 24 Hours of Le Mans endurance race and the constructors who have secured the most race victories.  And, as we are looking at 'classics', we are only reviewing the races held between the first in 1923 and prior to the year 2000.

5th with 4 Victories

The Alfa Romeo and Ford teams have both secured 4 victories at Le Mans.

Alfa Romeo won 4 consecutive titles between 1931 and 1934, all in an Alfa Romeo '8C 2300 tio Le Mans'.  The model was the sport version of the '8C 2300', from the 8C range of road, race and sports cars.  The 8C designates 8 cylinders, and originally a straight 8-cylinder engine with the 2300 reflecting the 2.3 L 2336cc engine.  The 1932 victory marked the first time that more than 200 laps were completed in the 24 hours (218 in total).

Ford's only victories also occurred consecutively between 1966 and 1969 in the classic GT40.  Ford had developed the GT40 with the sole aim of beating the dominant Ferrari and finally secured a win in 1966 with the Shelby-American Inc team.  A change in the rules meant that the last race for the GT40 was in 1969, with a win for the British racing team J. W. Automotive Engineering.

The story of the 1960s battle for Le Mans supremacy can be read in our blog 'Le Mans 24hr Winners 1960 to 1969'.

4th with 5 Victories

In the early years of the Le Mans 24 hour race, the British Bentley secured 5 wins including 4 consecutive success between 1927 and 1930.  A Bentley 3 L Super Sport, entered by the British team of Duff and Adlington, was the second winner of Le Mans in 1924.  3 years later, Bentley Motors Ltd won the first of the 4 consecutive titles in another 3 L Super Sport.  For the 1928 race, they changed to a larger 4.5 L engine which was significantly more powerful.  However, car manufacturers Bugatti and Lorraine-Dietrich were developing cars with the sole aim of winning Le Mans and so Bentley developed the Bentley Speed Six for the 1929 race and won.  The Bentley Speed Six had an engine size of 6.5L and would become the most successful racing Bentley.  They repeated their success in the 1930 race in the same car.

All the Bentley's featured SMITHS gauges, as did most British built cars at the time.

3rd with 7 Victories

A Jaguar car has won the 24 hour of Le Mans on 7 different occasions, including 3 consecutive victories between 1955 and 1957.  However, apart from 2 victories during their resurgence in the late 1980s (with wins in 1988 and 1990), the time of the Jaguar was in the 1950s.  Between 1950 and 1959, 24 hours of Le Mans was dominated by British built and designed Jaguar cars.  Five of the 10 races were won with drivers in Jaguar cars, including a hat-trick between 1955 and 1957 for the Jaguar D-Type.  As with the Bentley cars, all the Jaguar cars has SMITHS instruments in their dashboards.

Further information on this wonderful period for British motorsport can be found in our blog '1950s Jaguar Domination of 24 Hours of Le Mans'.

2nd with 9 Victories

Ferrari did not secure their first victory at Le Mans until 1949, but went on to be a major force up until 1965.  The 1949 race was the first after the Second World War and was won by the British team, Lord Selsdon, driving a Ferarri 166MM.  The Ferrari team's first success would not come until 1954 when the Ferrari 375 Plus interrupted the dominance of Jaguar.  The 375 Plus had a powerful V12 engine of nearly 5 L with wonderful sleek bodywork.

After 3 consecutive Jaguar victories, Ferrari once again secured victory in the 1958 race.  The Ferrari 250 'Testa Rossa' TR58 was developed to keep the ahead of the competition and only two were specifically made for the factory team, receiving constant upgrades throughout the season.

Two years later, in 1960, Ferrari would start to dominate.  Between 1960 and 1965, Ferrari won Le Mans 6 consecutive times.  Enzo Ferrari knew that it was vital for the cars to evolve to keep ahead of the competition and through the 60s they had different models winning each year:

1960 - Ferrari 250 TR59/60

1961 - Ferrari 250 TRI/61

1962 - Ferrari 330 TRI/LM Spyder

1963 - Ferrari 250P

1964 - Ferrari 275P

1965 - Ferrari 250LM

1st with 18 Victories

The most successful car to compete at the 24 Hours of Le Mans is Porsche.  Despite only securing their first victory in 1970, Porsche went on to win 18 times before 2000.  They dominated the race for nearly two decades, winning 12 of a possible 20 races.

The first victory, in 1970, came after a change in the rules meant that the Ford GT40 could no longer compete.  In 1970 and 71, a Porsche 917K was victorious, but it would be 5 years before they would again experience success.  The 1976 race was won by a Porsche 936, followed by a Porsche 936/77 in 1977.  The Porsche team retook the trophy in 1979 with a 935 K3, but is was not until 1981 that their true dominance began.

Between 1981 and 1987, Porsche secured a record 7 consecutive victories.  The 1981 race was won with a 936 and was followed with 4 consecutive wins for the 956.  In 1986, Porsche introduced the 962C and continued their winning run up until a British team driving a Jaguar XJR-9LM took their crown in 1988.

It would be 9 years before Porsche would once again dominate Le Mans.  In 1996, a TWR Porsche WSC-95 entered by the Joest Racing team would re-secure the tile, repeating the feat in 1997.  The Porsche team would enter a 911 GT1-98 and win in 1998, their last victory of the decade.

With our rich history, it is wonderful to think that many of those classic racing cars used SMITHS instruments to check their speed, revs, oil, etc.  Many of those instruments are available today, still manufactured using the original SMITHS drawings and tools.  More information can be found in the Motorsports section on our website.

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Tags: Alfa Romeo, Bentley, Ferrari, GT40, Jaguar, Le Mans, Le Mans 24, Le Mans 24 hr, Le Mans 24hr, Le Mans Classic, Porsche,

Categories: Case Histories

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