Motor-racing - and after France's premier race, the Le Mans 24-hour, the national Renault team is counting the expensive cost of its challenge to the rival West German Porsches.
Motor-racing - and after France's premier race, the Le Mans 24-hour, the national Renault team is counting the expensive cost of its challenge to the rival West German Porsches. For, after one of its strongest-ever bids, it still lost to the dominant rear-engined Germans.
SYNOPSIS: Renault was backed by 350-thousand dollars, and had the advantage of the first two grid positions -- but that wasn't enough to overcome the Porsche challenge. Renault's hopes faded soon after dawn on Sunday (12 June) in a series of mechanical failures during the gruelling 24-hour marathon.
Jacky Ickx of Belgium put paid to Renault's aspirations with a brilliant overnight drive that swept his Porsche from 41st place up to first. Ickx has already won the event three times -- and so has the Porsche team -- but he still didn't have it all his own way, even after the leading Renault of France's Jean-Pierre Jabouille broke down.
The Belgian driver joined the team of Hurley Haywood of the United States, and West Germany's Jurgen Barth, when his own Porsche blew a piston shortly after the race started.
But in the final hour of the race, Ickx's second Porsche, with Barth at the wheel, looked like losing its 19-lap lead -- and with it all hope of victory -- because of a 30-minute pit stop. Barth drove in with smoke pouring from the engine. It was only firing on five cylinders. But tension eased in the Porsche camp when he drove out -- for under Le Mans rules, a car has to be actually running at the end.
Somehow, Barth pushed the car round the track twice, misfiring badly and at half speed, and finally took the flag ahead of a lone Renault Mirage.
Crowds of well-wishers joined the pit crew round the winning Porsche. Australian Vern Schuppan, co-driver of the second-placed Renault Mirage, said the car went 20 mph (about 32kph) slower than it should have done. Renault officials put on a brave face; said they'd learned a great deal; and promised they'd be back next year. Champagne corks popped after the race as the jubilant Ickx paid tribute to his colleagues.