The 1969 Le Mans 24HR race was the stuff of legends. Before the race even started, many had bagged Porsche to win outright victories with its impressive (yet controversial) fleet of 908 and 917 long-tails. Ford had already performed a hat-trick at Le Mans with their 3rd victory in-a-row from the previous year’s 1968 race, so Porsche (along with Matra and to some extent, Ferrari) were adament in knocking Ford off of the top-spot for outright victories in 1969.
Ferrari entered two 312P Berlinettas (essentially F1 cars dressed-up in different bodies) driven by Perdo Rodriguez/David Piper (#18) and Chris Amon/Peter Schetty (#19) but unfortunately both failed to finish the race – the Amon/Schetty car being forced to retire on the very first lap after John Woolfe crashed his Porsche 917 (sadly, killing him) which subsequently dislodged its fuel-tank, of which the Ferrari drove straight over top of and exploded in the process.
The race came down to the final laps with Jacky Ickx (in the same Le Mans-winning Ford GT40 from the year before) doing lap-after-lap battle with Hans Herrmann in his Porsche 908, both of them exchanging the lead position on each lap. At the final turn, Jacky was able to take advantage of the Porsche’s ailing brakes and out-breaked Hans in his 908, coming out ahead in the final turn and winning Le Mans 1969 by mere seconds.
I’ve always loved the fact that Jacky Ickx made a subtle statement against the traditional sprint-to-your-car-and-get-in-and-go start of the Le Mans by merely strolling over to the GT40 when the flag dropped. He then calmly got in, buckled himself up and casually drove off… and, of course, in last place.
*** There’s a great DVD out there from Duke called ‘Le Mans 1969 – La Ronde Infernale’ that I highly recommend for your motoring DVD library, by the way. In the meantime, here’s the uploaded YouTube version of it… Enjoy.