Le Mans Outrage!
I have read MOTOR SPORT for the last twenty three years, but never before have I felt so incensed that I felt the need to write to you.
Today I was reading Cotton on . . . on the future (or lack of it) of Group C racing, which annoyed me intensely, but the final straw came when I read tonight on teletext that FISA intend to revoke the licence of the A.C. de L’Ouest to run a championship race at Le Mans because the Mulsanne straight is longer than 2 Kms.
It seems that whenever a successful formula is arrived at for sports car racing, the faceless ones step in and arbitrarily “move the goal posts”. In the late Sixties we had the classic races with such cars as the Mk 2 and Mk 4 Fords, Ferrari P4s, Chaparral-Chevrolets, Lola-Aston Martins, and what happened? The rules were changed. Then in the early 70s there were the marvellous Ferrari 512s and Porsche 917s, so the rules were changed again.
During the Eighties we have seen the gradual development of Group C racing from a fairly boring one-make competition into the most exciting and competitive formula for many years. Now that we have Jaguar, Daimler-Benz, Porsche, Nissan, Toyota, Aston Martin and Mazda all fielding works backed entries, FISA want to change the rules again.
Not content with destroying Group C, FISA it seems now want to destroy Le Mans as well. As stated in Cotton on . . “the event (Le Mans) is unique”. Where else can you stand in the middle of the night and watch racing cars go past at over 200 mph, and hear engines on full song for over a minute? The Mulsanne straight is an intrinsic part of Le Mans, without it the 24 Heures du Mans might as well be held on the Bugatti Circuit or at Dijon. Many of the drivers have said they have a bit of a rest on the Mulsanne straight.
Having been to the last seven Le Mans 24 Hours, I believe that the race can stand alone without the World Sports-Prototype Championship. As a non-championship race it may not attract the “megabucks”, but it would still be a greater event than the rest of the championship and all of the Grand Prix races put together. If FISA insist on running two World Championships, for single-seater and two seater Grand Prix cars, why can’t we have a European round of the IMSA championship, say a 24 hour race in north west France around the middle of June? JOHN HICKMAN Dudley, West Midlands Sir,
I write with rage and disgust at your article concerning the future of the Le Mans 24 Hours. Once again Balestre has proved his total domination of all forms of motor sport. How much longer does motor racing have to endure this pathetic, egotistical Frenchman, whose sole ambition is to dominate at all costs?
If the 24 Hours is lost to us because of stupid dangerous chicanes, especially on the Mulsanne straight, my respect and love for the sport will be greatly diminished. B PALMER Burton on Trent, Staffs Sir,
The demise of Le Mans is not to be permitted! I have a feeling that even if the ACO could have come up with two chicanes on the Mulsanne by the appropriate date, FISA would have created yet another insurmountable problem.
The Mulsanne was in existence before the innovation of the Le Mans 24 Hours race. The speeds achieved on the straight are certainly high, but the modern racing machine is so much better equipped than earlier racing cars, thanks to the progression of technology, that surely the risks on the straight have been reduced rather than increased. The greatest risk on the Mulsanne must be tyre failure, and this can happen on any straight with devastating results — two kilometres long or not.
Apart from the issue of the Mulsanne, Le Mans is the most prestigious date on the racing calendar and the practice sessions alone are as spectacular as the average race. The ambience generated throughout the week — at least at our end of the circuit —; is woven around a great sporting event, where true sportsmanship is of prime importance.
A 24 hours race at SpaFrancorchamps? We have been tempted to visit Spa in the past, but we could not see our way to attending — under duress — what can only be a substitute. As we have in the past, we will support Le Mans, l’Automobile Club de l’Ouest and the Department de la Sarthe now — and in the future. PETRONEL PAYNE Winchester, Hampshire Sir,
The Le Mans 24 Hours represents an annual family holiday. We adore the electric atmosphere of the whole place — restaurants, camp sites, fun fairs, sandwich bars and the Village. The Mulsanne has to be the most spectacular straight in the world — after all, Bentley have named a car after it. We understand that measures are being taken to improve the pit lane, but in the meantime I fail to comprehend why so many people are being allowed into the pits at any one time. The numbers could
be restricted. I agree that the public conveniences in the Village leave a great deal to be desired, although we have no complaints at all at our end of the circuit.
If there is anything that can be done to prevent the demise of this beautiful and unique French event, there are thousands out here who would be eternally grateful. R J P BURTON Chairman of E-Type Register Jaguar Drivers Club Eastleigh, Hampshire Sir,
In respect of the controversy over Le Mans, I would say that I am appalled at what is happening. The withdrawal of the race from the championship last year was no doubt intended by Mr Balestre to have some effect. Of course it did not as the Le Mans race is far more important than the World Sports-Prototpye Championship. People in Japan and Australia etc, have never heard of many of the circuits, but throughout the world Le Mans is known. Your own report clearly shows that Mr Balestre now believes that the most important thing in motor racing is himself, and he should be reminded that neither the television cameras, nor the sponsors will be there if people do not wish to watch the events.
The two hour “Endurance Races” which have been introduced in the past year are of no interest to true sports car enthusiasts. Mr Balestre may think they are the right length for televising but they are destroying the event. Short races are amply catered for in Formula One which is becoming less and less of interest by virtue of the McLaren domination. Mr Balestre should have it pointed out to him that motor racing existed long before he came along and, provided something is done about him, there is likely to be motor racing long after he has passed on. The ordinary members of the public want to see the Le Mans race. They want to see it with the Mulsanne straight which is an intricate part of the race and those who don’t wish to go there and race, including Mr Schlesser, do not have to do so. Le Mans will gather a bigger crowd than the rest of the championship put together and should continue as before. The authorities have clearly accepted the situation over the pits and are putting that to rights, but on behalf of twenty motor racing fans on Hayling Island, I can tell you we want the race itself left alone. P B GOOCH Hayling Island. Hampshire