The 30th anniversary of the 1988 24 Hours of Le Mans
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The 30th anniversary of the 1988 24 Hours of Le Mans

1988 was a banner year at Le Mans. The battle between Porsche and Jaguar kept everyone on the edge of their seats, especially tens of thousands of British spectators who will never forget that particular running of the 24 Hours.

Date: 11-12 June 1988

Number of competitors: 49

Number of retirements: 22

Spectators: 280,000

Start given by Kyohei Yokose, CEO of Sumitomo (Dunlop)

 

Key facts:

Anticipation for the clash of the titans between Porsche and Jaguar was at an all-time high. The German marque had won every edition since 1981, but Jaguar's shadow had begun to loom as early as 1986, so an epic showdown was all but inevitable at the 1988 edition. Five Jaguar XJR 9 LMs were entered, three from Europe and two from the U.S. The #1 was entrusted to Martin Brundle-John Nielsen, the #2 to Jan Lammers-Andy Wallace-Johnny Dumfries, the #3 to Henri Pescarolo-John Watson-Raul Boesel, the #21 to Danny Sulivan-Davy Jones-Price Cobb and the #22 to Derek Daly-Kevin Cogan-Larry Perkins. To take on the British battalion, Porsche fielded three 962Cs for Derek Bell- Hans-Joachim Stuck -Klaus Ludwig (#17), Bob Wollek-Sarel van der Merwe-Vern Schuppan (#18) and Mario Andretti-Michael Andretti-John Andretti (#19). Several "private" Porsches were also set to compete representing Joest Racing, Brun Motorsport, Kremer Racing and more. Toyota, with its 88Cs, Mazda and Nissan (R88C) were also fielded.

 

Brief overview of the race:

The Porsches clocked the three fastest times during qualifying thanks to their turbo boosts. At the start of the race, Jaguar proved quicker and overtook every Porsche in the second lap. The race was fiercely competitive and stunning to watch as the three factory Porsches took turns in the lead with just one Jaguar, the #2, from start to finish! Yet, the British team had to contend with clutch problems for Jan Lammers who drove in 4th gear to avoid damaging the gearbox. The #17 Porsche 962C of Bell-Stuck-Ludwig almost won, but Klaus Ludwig needed desperately to refuel and lost precious time slowly returning to pit lane. It ended up costing #17 a total of six minutes, finishing 120 seconds behind the winners. At the checkered flag, one Jaguar finished ahead of two Porsches, the #17 and the #19, and another Jaguar, the #22, followed by seven 962Cs!

 

Key figures and anecdotes: 

- Speed record in the Mulsanne Straight at 407 km/h (405 km/h held) by Roger Dorchy with a WM P88; in qualifying, the fastest speed was clocked by the #17 Porsche 962C (391 km/h)

- Elimination of preliminary sessions in May   

- Mario Andretti (1979 F1 world champion and Indianapolis 500 winner in 1969) finished sixth

- Dunlop celebrates 100 years

- Sauber-Mercedes withdrew during the sessions (unresolved tire blowouts)

- 31 years after Type D, Jaguar beat Porsche with only a 02:36:00 lead!

- British fans rejoice, all records are beaten

- The start was given at 3:00 p.m. due to elections

- Ian Norris was given the very first communications award as Jaguar's press attaché

- First race for a four-rotor engine (Mazda)

- Sixth win for Jaguar out of seven total, ending Porsche's seven-year reign at Le Mans

- Andy Wallace won as a rookie

- The Escra Award given to the #21 Jaguar XJR9LM

- All the three official Porsche held the lead at one time or another, but only one Jaguar, the #2

- The lead car covered 5,332.97 km, the longest distance in any running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, with the exception of the 1971 edition when the Porsche 917K of Martini Racing Team covered 5,335.313 km in 397 laps. The record would not be beaten until 2010 by the Audi R15+.

 

The winners:

Overall: #2 Jaguar XJR 9 LM driven by Jan Lammers, Andy Wallace and Johnny Dumfries 

Distance: 5,332.79 km (394 laps) at an average of 221.665 km/h

The second place finisher trailed by 2 minutes 36 seconds

Pole position: Hans-Joachim Stuck (#17 Porsche 962C) in 3:15:64 at an average of 250.184 km/h

Best in-race lap: Hans-Joachim Stuck (#17 Porsche 962C) in 3:22:50 at an average of 240.622 km/h

Win in C2: #111 Spice SE88C shared by Ray Bellm, Gordon Spice and Pierre de Thoisy.

Win GTP: #203 Mazda 757 shared by Yojiro Terada, Dave Kennedy and Pierre Dieudonné

 

Winner reaction:

Jan Lammers: "1988 was a wonderful year at the 24 Hours. There were a lot of British fans at that edition, especially in pit straight, waving Jaguar flags. We battled tooth and nail with the factory Porsche 962Cs. The German marque had a stunning record (seven consecutive wins from 1981 to 1987, Ed.). The fact we were able to beat them was an extraordinary moment."

 

Source: Infos-Course

 

PHOTO: LE MANS (SARTHE, FRANCE), CIRCUIT DES 24 HEURES, 24 HOURS OF LE MANS, SUNDAY 15 JUNE 1988, RACE. The #2 Jaguar XJR9 LM, here at the Ford Corner, on its way to victory.