The 24 Hours of Le Mans marathon is a great racing encyclopedia, whose pages are full of events: victories, tragedies, triumphs and … absurdity. And it was often absurd that the attempts of engineers and racing teams to become the fastest in this race seemed absurd. For 96 years of its history, the asphalt track has seen many wild and strange cars. Growing out of ambitious ideas and a desire to subjugate physics, they battled with potential and surprised with dynamics. But they looked like … However, judge for yourself.
The project, originally called (and sponsored) by Nissan, was born out of the engineering quirk of Ben Bowlby, the author of the IndyCar prototypes. The idea of an ultra-narrow, streamlined cigar for a track with a bunch of turns seemed to everyone else as absurd as possible: it's like trying to drive along a winding serpentine on the record-breaking apparatus for Bonneville salt lakes. Nevertheless, Bowlby relied on the ground effect and downforce of a triangular and "almost" three-wheeled vehicle (under the nose cone, in fact, there was a pair of narrow wheels pressed against each other).
As conceived, DeltaWing was supposed to feel excellent on the ring track: calculated aerodynamics without wings, but with a diffuser bottom, was complemented by a lightweight polypropylene composite frame and a compact 1.6-liter unit of 300 forces - the "FIA world engine" based on the Nissan block Juke.
DeltaWing's trials were deemed successful, and in 2012 the projectile entered the Le Mans start in the experimental prototype category. There, in June, the car had an accident. And then again - in the American Atlanta. In both cases, rivals noticed too low a body at the last moment. Later, the Bowlby team changed the design, chassis and structure of the car, adapting to new conditions, but in general, the eccentric wing did not become a historical event for Le Mans.
Unlike, say, this prototype with the name of the predatory American cuckoo. The 1967 Chaparral 2F made a lot of noise in the Old World: at Monza, at the Nurburgring and, of course, at Le Mans. Partly because of the defiant appearance, but in many ways also because he was one of the first to actively use aerodynamics and ground effect. Due to them, a light car "sticks" to the asphalt, getting the opportunity to quickly pass the turns.
The issue of pressing was solved radically: pay attention to the giant, even by today's tuning standards, rear wing: its edge was located 180 centimeters above the asphalt, and the pilot could change the angle of attack using the left pedal freed from direct purpose - the box here was semi-automatic. The effect was so impressive that the Chaparral 2F, equipped with an aluminum 7-liter "eight" from the NASCAR world, just flew around the track. And it flew: a year later, the huge engine of the car was recognized as "prohibited", since its volume was twice as large as the new rules.
Did this fact upset the bosses of the brand? Not! They switched to other championships and soon showed a real radical: the Chaparral 2J with a vacuum cleaner in the back. A pair of tank fans pulled air from under the bottom, which literally sucked the car to the track. It goes without saying that 2J soon became persona non grata as well.
Ferrari 250 GT SWB Breadvan
From absolute freaks to something more familiar. Although can you call the usual red "barn" based on the most beautiful of the Ferrari - 250 GT? This "something" Le Mans saw in 1962. The surprised audience almost immediately came up with the nickname LCamionnette, "van". And later - the "bread van".
The origin of the Kamma-tail build-up in the rear was due to a tricky engineering challenge: project author Giotto Bizzarini decided to improve the aerodynamics of the two-door coupe in order to compete on an equal footing with the newest 250 GTO. Yes, Ferrari vs. Ferrari! Privateers from the ScuderiSerenissimgraf Giovanni Volpi against the factory team of Commendator Enzo. And it was interesting.
The car, by the way, was not just finalized - it was rearranged, shifting the nodes and the center of mass. And behind the visual massiveness of the shooting break, there was a gain in mass: the “artisanal” Ferrari was 70 kilos lighter than the brand new monophonic (in terms of weight) 250 GTO. During the race, the "bread van" Volpi managed to bypass all the rival Ferraris, but, breaking the cardan, retired from the race.
The abbreviation BRM in this case stands for British Racing Motors. On the 1963 Le Mans two-door coupe, the British Rover worked in collaboration with the racing team that made Graham Hill famous. What was good about a sports car without its own name? He didn't have a classic ICE! Instead of a piston engine powered by gasoline, a gas turbine plant with military roots became the heart of the aluminum car. Rover already had experience with such engines and even tried to make gas-powered passenger cars like the JET1. So the creation of a "sports" engine was not a debut. What did the friendship with BRM bring to Rover? For example, a used chassis from a broken P57 sports car. And a racing experience.
The finished car turned out to be very fast, but not noisy as a car. Graham Hill, who tested the prototype, was decently scared: "You are sitting in this thing that you think is a machine, and the next minute a Boeing-707 engine wakes up from behind and wants to suck in and devour you like a monster."
BRM approached Le Mans gradually: first the exposition, then the demonstration races, and by 1963 the roaring (listen to this!) Gas Rover BRM was marked in the starting table of the marathon. Let it be numbered zero, without class membership. The British missed the next season due to problems with the transportation of the car, and in 1965 the 150-horsepower Rover BRM returned to Le Mans, becoming the second in the far-fetched "two-liter" class. And this is taking into account the turbine badly damaged in the race.
Nardi-Danese 750 Bisiluro Damolnar
Not a racing car, but a final design mockup … But the streamlined Damolnar from a company famous for wooden racing wheels could drive. And how! The asymmetric catamaran body on the Fiat 500 chassis was designed by the trio of Mario Dalmonte, Carlo Mollino and Enrico Nardi (hence the weird Damolnar prefix to the name) and built by the CarrozzeriMotto workshop. And under the hood (access to the engine compartment was in the left gondola, opposite the pilot), a Moto Guzzi inline-four, forced to 63 forces, was installed.
The debut of Bisiluro (the name translated as "two torpedoes") at Le Mans fell on the tragic year of 1955, when 83 people died and another 120 were injured in a major disaster involving Pierre Levegh. But it was not this terrible event that prevented becoming the star of the Nardi marathon, but banal aerodynamics. According to the recollections of spectators and racers, the Jaguar D-Type flying along the track literally blew off a light 454-kilogram car with a Cinquecento cart from the asphalt. If the streamlined Bisiluro was ready for a head-on meeting with the air (the maximum was 221 km / h), then the "blow" from the side confused him.
Later, design connoisseurs paid tribute to Mollino's bold creation. Former BMW chief designer Chris Bangle said of the 750 Bisiluro: “The automotive world loves sexy innuendo and phallic symbols. This is a beautiful car, created by special people for an iconic race in the glorious era of design innocence. We are still looking for an opportunity to portray something similar."
"Monster" or, if slightly pun intended, "Le Manster" - this is how the French called this racing (attention!) American Cadillac Sixty-One. The aluminum monster with a roll bar, light streamlined body and a V8 engine was assembled in a hurry in 1950 and soon put on the start of the daily marathon. The project was run by sportsman, pilot and designer Briggs Cunningham, who decided to send two Caddies to the race. More precisely, two Fordillacs: a hybrid Cadillac engine and a 1949 Ford chassis. An extra car was needed in case something happened to the first one. After all, an important victory for Briggs was at stake: if at least one of his Caddies made it to the finish line, he would have two guaranteed spots in the upcoming 1951 season.
But the reassurance went sideways to the creator: having appreciated the generously modified motors in the American way, the organizers of the marathon refused the designer, citing the rules. I had to urgently change plans and concentrate on one shell, modifying the second one according to the residual principle.The "main" Cadillac received a 5.4-liter V8 with five carburetors and a hastily created open spider body, and the second, in addition to forcing and modifications to the chassis for rigidity … the car driver had to literally dive into the side window.
Both Cadillacs eventually made it to the finish line - tenth and eleventh in a row. And the last one - due to a pilot error - was precisely the streamlined Le Monstre.
The French company Ardex began in the 1930s with miniature pretty sidecars, but half a century later, a real monster flashed at Le Mans: a wedge-shaped S80 prototype with an engine from the BMW M1. And let it be said that the car bore a historical logo, in which there were no roots left (the engineer Max Sardou managed to redeem the trademark), the name is the name.
By the way, about the name: the eccentric Sard, known for his "aerodynamic" driving Citroen DS with the mirrors retracted, is credited with the invention of that very ground effect. Studying how the fuel mixture evaporates in the carburetor, he noticed a drop in pressure above the diffusers and developed a special bottom with vacuum zones. Formerly Colin Chapman and Lotus.
On the S80, this decision was taken to the point of shocking. It was decided to move the 3.5-liter M88 power unit from the BMW M1 sports car and the Hewland manual gearbox forward, at the same time taking a seat at the pilot's feet. And the entire vacated rear part should be turned into one large venturi flap, which will generate vacuum and press the car against the asphalt.
The 470-horsepower engine exhaled as if through a tube: for the sake of the “magical effect of the bottom”, the exhaust was removed from the “passenger” side, away from aerodynamic magic. At the same time, the pilot himself sat on the left, most of the turns being on the outside; taking into account the peculiarities of the track, on Le Mans cars this led to an obvious imbalance.
The fiberglass body of the S80 was made wedge-shaped and completely unfeeling, and the rear wheels were hidden behind flaps that helped keep the pressure low. Everything is for the cause, which really did not exist. If the corners still gave the tricky car an advantage, the famous Mulsand straight blew the S80's merits to smithereens: on the main section of the track, Sardou's creation was too slow.