Factories at Work: In The Ford Wind Tunnel

Ford J Car in the Wind Tunnel

You’d think that Ford would have rested a bit after achieving their drubbing of Ferrari and bringing LeMans victory home. But whether it was just momentum or to silence critics that suggested that the GT40 was more Lola than Ford, FoMoCo decided to bring the design of the next iteration of the GT car more in-house. Keeping the mighty 7 liter of the previous generation, they sculpted a new shape around it in partnership with Kar Kraft. Getting those strings placed right to measure the wind movement over the shape helped refine the aerodynamics of the project that would eventually become the GT40 Mk IV.

More at The Magnetic Brain. Thanks for sending this in, Skeeters.

LeMans (all of it) is on YouTube

ZANTAFIO56’s 1970 LeMans

Hans Herrmann and Richard Attwood's Winning Porsche 917

I don’t know that the 1970 running of the LeMans 24 Hours race is particularly pivotal for the public at large, but that particular running is just so cemented in my mind. I’m sure the documentation of it in the form of McQueen’s LeMans is the key reason. Also significant for Hans Herrmann and Richard Attwood’s victory that gave Porsche their first outright win at the race: A feat they’d repeat 15 more times and started Porsche down their road to winningest team in the event’s history.

These images from Flickr user ZANTAFIO56 only serve to further add to the importance and beauty of the race in my mind. He seems to have been all over the track, with some marvelous shots from several corners of La Sarthe and the pits as well. More of Zantafio56’s shots at his flickr set. Fantastic!

I just realized that this is my third 917-centric post in a week. I’ll take a break from her now. I promise.

The Solar Productions 908 with Jonathan Williams and Herbert Linge at the wheelsThe winning drivers' celebratory lapTurn 1

Notice the crashed LeMans cars behind the Chevron

2 N.A.R.T. FerrarisWicky Racing Team 911Martini 908

Richard Attwood and “An Old Friend”

JYHelbe’s 1967 LeMans

With the Ford/Ferrari wars in full swing, it was already bound to be a fantastic June day—and night. Add Jim Hall’s newfangled adjustable wing and air-damn equipped Chaparral 2F and a “throw ’em all in there” 906/907/910 field from Team Porsche and who knows what could happen?

JYHelbe was all over Le Sarthe, and found a handful of choice angles to capture the action. This is but a taste; check out the complete set for more.

Factories at Work: Triumph Preps the LeMans Spitfires

I have a Triumph GT6 sitting in my garage that I keep coming this close to selling, but when I see these technicians from the Triumph Experimental Division in their neckties and shopcoats lovingly laboring over these crisp white frames it makes me want to abandon my plans to sell and instead suit up and get her properly prepped.

Pit Maps of the Past – 1921 LeMans

We’ve long been fans of the hand-illustrated track maps of years gone by, and that of course extends to this Pit Map of the Tribunes from the 1921 24 Heurs du Mans. (Update: as a commenter pointed out below, there was no 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1921—nor would there be for another 2 years—this material is all from the ACF Grand Prix, which largely used the same facilities as the eventual 24 hour race – Thanks for the clarification, Dan)

It’s graphically beautiful. In a modern world of graphic design software and precision digital printing presses, I’m always impressed by the incredible graphic design expertise of those who did without them. this hand-set type is beautiful, and the lines precise enough to go up against anything the Creative Suite has to offer.

Found at The Nostalgia Forum, which also turned up these printed artifacts from the ’21 LeMans, a track map and program cover. Always great information over there.

LeMans Classic 2008 Video

Stirling Moss in Playboy

Don’t worry, the photos are safe. This was from the days of Playboy’s immensely high quality interviews and articles. Thanks to the Playboy Cover to Cover project, we can dive back into those days of excellent journalism… among other things.

The September 1962 issue is of particular interest, as it features a 19 page interview with Stirling Moss with the evocative title Stirling Moss: a Nodding Acquaintance with Death. When was the last time you read a 19 page article about anything in a magazine? Surely it must be a sign of the reduced prominence of magazine journalism.

The interview was conducted just after Stirling broke the Goodwood lap record and subsequently crashed the Lotus he was piloting at the time. He had to be cut from the chassis and spent the next two months in hospital. In 1962, it was probably the only place a journalist would have been able to keep him still long enough for an interview of any length. There’s a number of interesting pieces of information in the article, including Stirling’s thoughts on the sheer danger of Formula 1 in one of its most deadly eras:

…”Grand Prix driving, is the most dangerous sport in the world. In some recent years the mortality rate has been 25 percent per year: one of every four drivers starting the season could expect to be dead at the end of it.”

Amazing to think how much the sport has changed in the years since. Massa’s crash and recuperation had F1 fans on the edges of their seats in 2009, it’s hard to imagine a similar injury getting more than a paragraph in the race report 35 years earlier.

Of course the obvious question was: why play such a dangerous game?

“Because it’s also the most compelling, delightful, sensually rewarding game in the world. In a race-driver’s view, endeavors like tennis and golf and baseball are excersises, pastimes: demanding, yes, if you like, but still games that children can play.” … “Bullfighters, mountain climbers, skindivers know something of the racing-driver’s ecstasy, but only in part, because theirs are team sports. Toreros are never alone and mountaineers rarely; the skindiver not usually, and in any case his opponent, the sea, though implacable and deadly, still is passive. When a race-car is passive it is sitting in the garage, and its driver’s seat is as safe as a baby’s cradle”

I’m sure there would be some to disagree that bullfighting and mountaineering are team sports, but the romance of the danger of the era is certainly spelled out clearly enough by the comparison.

A fascinating bit from the author, Ken Purdy, just might be the origin of a long-revered mantra in racing circles. When describing the allure of danger, he recounts a story by famous highwire performer, Karl Wellenda; recounting a quote of his from when he struggled to overcome the tragedy of the Wellenda family’s famous accident in Detroit. “To be on the wire is life; the rest of waiting”.

Adapted years later in Le Mans, McQueen’s riff on this very line would become a catch phrase of amateur and professional racing drivers forever.

Head over to the archive for the complete article, well worth a read.

LeMans ’66 as Told by the Drivers

This clip of 1966 LeMans highlights, which looks to have been pulled from an episode of Legends of Motorsport (where’s a Legends of Motorsport DVD box set, Speed Channel?) has some very nice details, including voice over narration from Graham Hill, Bruce McLaren, John Surtees, and Carroll Shelby.

The absolute highlight, though, has to be the footage of the go-kart racing on the carnival midway starting about 3.5 minutes in. Excellent footage of some 9 or 10 year old boys sprinting and leaping into their sportscar bodied karts complete with bucket crash helmets and miniature Dunlop blues. The voice over by John Wyer, while they race is describing the race at LeMans, but meshes very well with the karting action. Great stuff.