24 Hours of Le Mans – Jan Lammers: “My 1988 win will always stick in my mind”

24 Hours of Le Mans – Jan Lammers: “My 1988 win will always stick in my mind”

Jan Lammers won the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1988 in a legendary car – the Jaguar XJR-9 LM. The Dutch driver hopes to be back at Le Mans again this year in a Dallara P217 for Racing Team Nederland with Rubens Barrichello. He looks back over his 22 previous races at the Circuit de la Sarthe.

Jan Lammers’ love affair with the 24 Hours of Le Mans goes back a long way! Much further than his début appearance in 1983, in a Porsche 956 entered by Canon Richard Lloyd Racing with Jonathan Palmer et Richard Lloyd (P8). Right back to 1970, to be exact. “I saw the film Le Mans being made. I met Steve McQueen and got his autograph. It was a memorable occasion. I was just a young boy but I had the chance to sit in a Porsche 917 and drive along the Mulsanne Straight. I couldn’t even look out of the window as I was too small! Experiencing that when you are just 14, and then winning the 24 Hours of Le Mans many years later, is quite extraordinary.”

The Dutchman raced at Le Mans 22 times between 1983 and 2011. His best result is, of course, his 1988 win with Andy Wallace and Johnny Dumfries. “1988 will always stick in my mind. There were lots of British supporters there that year, particularly in the Pit Straight, waving Jaguar flags. We had a terrific battle with the factory Porsche 962 Cs. The German marque was on a fantastic run [seven consecutive wins from 1981 to 1987]. The fact that we managed to beat them was wonderful.”

The car in which Lammers and his co-drivers achieved their feat has become something of a legend: the #2 Jaguar XJR-9 LM. “It was a fantastic car. It had a powerful rear engine and even if it was a bit heavy, it was a delight to drive. I had talented co-drivers throughout my time at Jaguar, like Martin Brundle [1990 Le Mans winner in a Jaguar], Eddie Cheever, Raul Boesel, Derek Warwick [1992 Le Mans winner in a Peugeot 905], Andy Wallace, Johnny Dumfries, and so on. When you’re faster than guys like that, it really means something.”

Lammers spent four seasons with the Jaguar team, from 1987 to 1990. He returned to Le Mans in 1992 with another constructor, Toyota, and its famous TS010. “I had a fantastic time driving with Toyota too. I had just left Jaguar and we were just entering a period of superb cars [sportscars with a 3.5 litre V10 engine]. It was quite simply an excellent car, but perhaps not quite reliable enough. We had too many little mechanical hitches during our two appearances at Le Mans in 1992 and 1993 [finishing the race in eighth place on both occasions].”  

Lammers was naturally disappointed for Toyota last year when the #5 TS050 Hybrid (Sébastien Buemi, Anthony Davidson and Kazuki Nakajima) drew to a halt in the Pit Straight when leading the race with just one lap to go. “In 2016, Toyota lost Le Mans by almost nothing. It was such a shame for them! Even Porsche felt bad for them as Toyota had led for so long. Losing like that, on the last lap, is cruel, but that’s Le Mans. Porsche were always in touch and had no problems. When you build a car for the 24 Hours of Le Mans, you need to plan it to last 36 hours, not 24!”