October 15, 2020

The Porsche GTR at Le Mans

The Porsche GTR at Le Mans

The Porsche GTR at Le Mans

In June of 1982, the motoring world turned their focus to the French circuit in the Sarthe region. The annual spectacle that is the 24hrs of Le Mans had begun. Porsche System submitted three 956s, a third consecutive year without a factory supported 911. Three Porsches on the track were of a transaxle layout - all submitted by privateer teams.

Of particular interest were the BF Goodrich entered teams from the USA, backed by American drivers, running on street tires. There was a large GT class entry, and very few thought the street-tired 924 GTRs had much of chance long term. “I was worried about those tires. BF Goodrich had the main target … getting promotion going in the USA.”, Jim Busby, driver of GTR car 87 stated.

GTRs, by now their third year in motorsport, had been greatly improved, resulting from past races and experiences in Europe. Porsche’s race department, although backing 956s for overall wins, provided external support to the BF Goodrich teams as early as May that year, and had the pair flown to Weissach for updating. Lee White, crew chief of the Paul Miller Team, was tasked with observing and preparing both vehicles. The engine on the Brumos car, number 87, was blueprinted from factory components. The Herman Miller car on the other hand, number 86 or chassis BS720008, was another deal. On it, everything from the crank, rods, pistons, cam, ports, valve springs, head seals, cooling distribution, etcetera were specially built and assembled by White. “When the engines were performance checked on their dyno, the Herman Miller engine produced more power than the engineers and techs had ever seen from a 2-liter Audi turbo. I’ll never forget the questioned looks”; he goes to say. The special attention paid off. Manfred Schürti with chassis BS720008 qualified the fastest among the IMSA GTO class entries, and it’s said his lap time stood for years following as a class record.

Le Mans began.The Canon-sponsored GTR, number 84, having just finished Nürburgring an impressive 5th overall with a class win, was out after hour 5 with a failed gearbox. The BF Goodrich car 87, plagued by a leaky head gasket in the initial hours, cast tremendous uncertainty in its ability to finish.

Commanding a powerful lead was chassis BS720008. Into the night, the car pulled ahead with little drama. At 2am early Sunday morning, with Bedard at the wheel, chassis BS720008 entered the pits. The team refueled, changed the clutch, the brake pads and repaired the gearbox bridge. Schürti took the wheel and left the pits three hours later. Just six minutes passed and the best efforts by the number 86 team came to an end on the grass with a wheel off. The only solution when you have forgotten your jack, is needing outside assistance! Their race, after 12hrs, was over. The sibling car, number 87, continued. On Sunday morning, the tire engineer noting an abrasion to one sidewall, ordered for it exchanged. By 5pm respectively, the number 87 car, with Doc Bundy behind the wheel finished first in class.

The BF Goodrich entered GTRs marked the first two entrants to submit and run vehicles with road tires in an era of slicks. It is believed that to date, no team to submit to Le Mans has attempted to run in a road tire since. GTR number 87, having used just 5 total tires, claimed the first ever class victory on street tires in a slick tire era. Had it not been for the fault that developed after its pit service, chassis BS720008, considering its performance abilities and commanding lead, would have taken the class title.

After 32 years of private ownership, you can now own a piece of Le Mans history, as chassis BS720008 is being offered for sale by Stratas Auctions.

 

 

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