Grid 5 (1966-1971): the golden age

Grid 5 (1966-1971): the golden age


Photo : D.R - Archives ACO


The great duel between Europe and America marked the golden years of the Le Mans 24 Hours. Ford severely defeated Ferrari before retiring and being replaced by an even more legendary car: Porsche’s 917!

Ford scored four victories in a row with winning machines like the Mk II, Mk VI and GT40, which also revealed high-talented drivers like Jacky Ickx and Pedro Rodriguez. Despite the competitiveness of Ferrari’s P3, one of the most beautiful racing cars ever designed, Ford’s full podium announced the end of the Prancing Horse’s winning era. 1966 also marked the Le Mans debut of Matra and Chaparral, and also a brilliant race by Porsche, with four cars finishing behind the unbeatable Fords!

1967 was often nicknamed the race of the century, with 350,000 spectators and the continuing Ford-Ferrari duel. The latter came very close to the victory, but the former won again ahead of the Prancing Horse and Porsche. Alpine Renault succeeded CD and René Bonnet in the heart of the French aficionados, and exotic cars like the Chaparral with its big wing, Lotuses, Mirage, Marcos and the beautiful Lola Aston Martin also were part of this legendary race. Matra gained experience but lacked reliability, while the first Porsche 911s came to La Sarthe during that period.

The Ford factory team retired and the American make was successfully represented by John Wyer and his GT40s, the winning combination in 1968 and 1969. The Howmet turbocar was one of the attractions of the 24 Hours, but the Le Mans style start disappeared, while Steve McQueen showed his great interest for this event. 1969 also marked the first appearance of the Porsche 917, which rapidly broke all the records, so the FIA imposed a 3-litre maximum displacement for the prototypes.

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