Rahul Sharma

1967 24 Hours of Le Mans

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1967 24 Hours of Le Mans

The 1967 24 Hours of Le Mans was the 35th Grand Prix of Endurance, and took place on 10 and 11 June 1967. It was also the seventh round of the World Sportscar Championship.

Contents

Event

The Ford GT40 Mark IV was an updated version of the Ford J-Car, which was shelved following the fatal accident of Ken Miles in August 1966. The Mark IV had an all new chassis designed and built in the United States, as opposed to the Mark Is and IIs which had chassis that were built in England. The big-block 427 cubic inch (7 liters) Ford Galaxie-derived engine from the Mk.II was used for the Mk.IV. Although it had the same engine they did, the Mark IV had a low-drag body which increased the top speed of the car to nearly 220 mph.

The 1967 World Sportscar Championship season started on a real low for Ford. Ferrari had dominated the first round, a 24-hour race at Daytona International Speedway in the United States by finishing 1-2-3 (all works cars) while all of the works GT40 Mk.IIB's (the Mk.IV was not ready yet, and the Mk.II's were upgraded to "B" spec) effectively retired with the same type of gearbox troubles. Thoroughly humiliated on home soil, Carroll Shelby, the Holman & Moody squad and Ford executives knew what had to be done. They ended up winning the next round 6 weeks later at the 12 Hours of Sebring, also in the United States with their new Mk.IV with American Mario Andretti and New Zealander Bruce McLaren driving, run by Holman & Moody. Ford only entered the 12 and 24 hour races that were part of the championship; the way Ford saw it, Daytona and Sebring were really test runs for the only race that really mattered: the world stage at Le Mans.

The surprise winners were Americans A. J. Foyt and Dan Gurney, who led all but the first 90 minutes of the race and defeated the factory Ferrari 330P4 of Italian Ludovico Scarfiotti and Briton Michael Parkes by nearly four laps. The team had to fabricate a roof "bubble" to accommodate the helmet of Dan Gurney, who stood more than 190 cm (6 feet, 3 inches) tall. In one famous incident which took place in the middle of the night, Gurney had been running quite easily to preserve his car, and Parkes came up behind in the second-place Ferrari (which was trailing by four laps, or 34 miles). For several miles Parkes hounded the Ford driver by flashing his passing lights in Gurney's mirrors until an exasperated Gurney simply pulled off the course at Arnage corner and stopped on a grassy verge. Parkes stopped behind him, and the two race-leading cars sat there in the dark, motionless, until Parkes finally realized this attempt at provocation was not going to work. After a few moments, he pulled around Gurney and resumed the race, with Gurney following shortly. With the cat-and-mouse game abandoned, each car then simply maintained their positions to the finish. The win remains, to this day, the sole all-American victory at Le Mans: an American-built car, prepared by an American team and driven by American drivers.

When the winners mounted the victory stand, Gurney was handed the traditional magnum of champagne. Looking down, he saw Ford CEO Henry Ford II, team owner Carroll Shelby, their wives, and several journalists who had predicted disaster for the high-profile duo of Gurney and Foyt. Many of the journalists had predicted the two drivers, who were heated competitors in the United States, would break their car in intramural rivalry. Instead, both drivers took special care to drive the car with discipline and won easily. On the victory stand, Gurney shook the bottle and sprayed everyone nearby, establishing a tradition reenacted in victory celebrations the world over ever since. Gurney, incidentally, autographed and gave the bottle of champagne to a Life Magazine photographer, Flip Schulke, who used it as a lamp for many years. Schulke recently returned the bottle to Gurney, who keeps it at his home in California.

Statistics

  • Pole Position - #2 Shelby-American Inc. - 3:24.4
  • Fastest Lap - #4 Holman & Moody / #3 Holman & Moody - 3:23.6 (tie)
  • Distance - 5232.9 km
  • Average Speed - 218.038 km/h
  • Trophy Winners

  • Index of Performance - #41 Porsche System Engineering
  • Index of Thermal Efficiency - #1 Shelby-American Inc.
  • References

    1967 24 Hours of Le Mans Wikipedia


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