Record Timing...

Jacky Ickx, Record Breaker

Memories courtesy of Chopard

Jacky Ickx was a superb Formula One driver, make no mistake; the daunting twists, slithers, climbs and dips of the Nurburgring held few fears. Or rather, he held those fears in check better than any of his rivals. Stewart, Amon, Fittipaldi none drove the ‘Ring like Ickx.

But it was in sportscars that Jacky truly made his mark, became a legend. The combination of driving with his brains as well as his right foot using his devastating pace only when necessary made him peerless in his prime, endurance racing’s equivalent of Niki Lauda.

But 20 years ago, as the Le Mans 24 Hours drew nearer, not everyone agreed Ickx was favourite to win. Yes, he and co-driver Derek Bell had conquered the year before in the Porsche 936, but that had been Jacky’s fifth win. Would his desire be what it was? And then there was the matter of the car. This would be Porsche’s first Le Mans using the 956, and at Silverstone a month earlier, the Lancia LC2 had beaten the Stuttgart marque in terms of pace and fuel consumption. And could a relatively new car such as the 956 last 24 hours at racing speed?

With hindsight, these questions seem more than a little foolish, for the works Porsche team and the drivers were alert and wise to potential problems. Driving relatively gently at a rigorously controlled pace and pitstop schedule, Ickx and his fellow Porsche pilots bided their time, while the Rondeau-Fords, and the Ford C100s succumbed to mechanical maladies. The Porsche 956s were not without their problems: Al Holbert had the door fly off the No4 car, which also later suffered a wheelbearing failure later, and the No3 car had fuel metering troubles. But nothing hindered the serene of the No2 car, driven by Ickx and Bell. By the early hours of the morning, not even the sister works Porsches had any answer to the Anglo-Belgian driving force.

Just six Group C cars finished the 1982 Le Mans 24 Hours, three of them were works Porsche 956s, and they finished first, second and third. A new era of sportscar racing and a new era of Porsche dominance at Le Mans had begun. And leading it was Jacky Ickx, whose sixth victory in the world’s greatest race remains a record to this day.