Photo finish for the 1982 Le Mans 24 Hours

1982 24 Hours of Le Mans – Profile and Photo Gallery

Sports Car Digest has been running a series of photo retrospectives drawn from the film archive of Bob Harmeyer. The first installment looked at the 1977 Indianapolis 500, while the latest remembers the 1982 24 Hours of Le Mans.


1982 24 Hours of Le Mans

By Bob Harmeyer

Separated by three decades of time, a pair of German manufacturers swept the top finishing positions at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, competing under technical regulations focused on generationally-different approaches to combining high performance with improved fuel efficiency.

In 2012 the manufacturer was Audi, integrating their diesel expertise with hybrid technology developed by the Williams Formula 1 team. In 1982, it was Porsche, utilizing their first lightweight aluminum monocoque chassis, rear underbody tunnels, and superior aerodynamics.

The FIA World Sportscar Championship in 1982 featured new Group C regulations that were largely focused on fuel capacity and consumption, as well as an 800 kg weight limit combined with dimensional limitations to preclude special “long-tail” bodywork for Le Mans. Fuel tank capacity was restricted to 100 liters, with a limited amount of fuel available for each race on the schedule.

To meet the new regulations, designer Norbert Singer drew the legendary Porsche 956. Despite the new restrictions on fuel consumption, Jacky Ickx and Derek Bell won the 50th anniversary 24 Hours of Le Mans by breaking the distance record they had established the previous year. And, running in perfect formation, the other two Rothmans-sponsored team cars followed the winner across the finish line.

This first victory for the Porsche 956 was the beginning of one of the great eras in endurance sportscar racing. It also marked the end of another great era, being the sixth and final Le Mans victory for Belgian driver Jacky Ickx.

In addition to the headlines generated by Ickx and the Porsche 956, the 1982 event also included the usual variety of secondary stories.

In one of the more curious, Mario and Michael Andretti had qualified ninth in a Mirage M12 entered by Harley Cluxton but, while the car had passed pre-race inspection earlier in the week, it was pulled from the grid and disqualified on a technical infraction shortly before the start of the race.

Similarly frustrating, perhaps, was the experience shared by the driving trio of Bobby Rahal, Jim Trueman and Skeeter McKitterick. The three were co-driving a March 82G that arrived late for practice, was fitted with a down-on-power Chevy V8, and was slow on the straights…and the Le Mans circuit has miles of straights. Three hours into the race the fuel tank split, bringing a merciful end to an unpleasant affair.

Also occupying the V8 portion of the sound spectrum were two Chevrolet Camaros entered by NASCAR team owner Billy Hagan. This was an era when the Le Mans organizers were actively soliciting American entries from the IMSA series and, with their massive rear wings perched at roof level, exaggerated fender flairs and boisterous Chevy rumble, the incongruity of Hagan’s Camaros was striking even among the usual, eclectic Le Mans entry.

While a variety of Porsches won every Le Mans category in 1982, the IMSA GTO class was taken by a 924 that completed the race on street tires. BF Goodrich was heavily committed to racing on “street-legal” tires with partially-shaved tread depth and, for that year’s race, had entered a pair of Porsche 924 Carrera GTRs that had been tested and prepped by Jim Busby at Porsche’s test facility at Weissach, Germany. Remarkably, the car driven by Busby, Doc Bundy and Marcel Mignot ran the entire race and won the class using just five tires. One tire was changed early in the race simply to check the wear rate, and the car ran the rest of the way with no additional changes.

Regardless of the year, the 24 Hours of Le Mans is not just a race, it’s an event characterized by headlines at the front of the grid, but filled with story lines throughout the field.


To see more of Bob Harmeyer’s images, visit bobh.photoshelter.com.

1982 24 Hours of Le Mans – Photo Retrospective

Derek Bill at the wheel of the Porsche 956 002 he shared with co-driver Jacky Ickx to score the first Le Mans victory for Norbert Singer's legendary design.

Derek Bill at the wheel of the Porsche 956 002 he shared with co-driver Jacky Ickx to score the first Le Mans victory for Norbert Singer’s legendary design.

With the introduction of new technical regulations for the 1982 season, the Porsche CK5 01 driven by Danny Ongais, Ted Field and Bill Whittington was a one-off, stop-gap design raced by the Kremer brothers until the Porsche 956 was made available to privateer teams.

With the introduction of new technical regulations for the 1982 season, the Porsche CK5 01 driven by Danny Ongais, Ted Field and Bill Whittington was a one-off, stop-gap design raced by the Kremer brothers until the Porsche 956 was made available to privateer teams.

The Sauber SHS C6/Ford Cosworth of Hans Stuck, Jean-Louis Schlesser and Dieter Quester leads the team car driven by Walter Brun and Siegfried Miller Jr. through the Ford Chicane during practice.

The Sauber SHS C6/Ford Cosworth of Hans Stuck, Jean-Louis Schlesser and Dieter Quester leads the team car driven by Walter Brun and Siegfried Miler Jr. through the Ford Chicane during practice.

Bobby Rahal watches as co-driver Jim Trueman checks seat belt adjustments in the March 82G/Chevrolet.

Bobby Rahal watches as co-driver Jim Trueman checks seat belt adjustments in the March 82G/Chevrolet.

Bobby Rahal waits to drive the March 82G/Chevrolet during practice.

Bobby Rahal waits to drive the March 82G/Chevrolet during practice.

1982 24 Hours of Le Mans

A pair of Porsche 924 Carreras were entered by BF Goodrich and run on street-legal tires with shaved tread depth.

The crowded pit area of the BF Goodrich Porsche 924 team was not unusual in the narrow confines of the old pit lane at Le Mans.

The crowded pit area of the BF Goodrich Porsche 924 team was not unusual in the narrow confines of the old pit lane at Le Mans.

The rear bodywork is raised on a WM P82 Peugeot to allow access for a crew member, providing an excellent view of the tunnels that generated the massive downforce of the Group C cars.

The rear bodywork is raised on a WM P82 Peugeot to allow access for a crew member, providing an excellent view of the tunnels that generated the massive downforce of the Group C cars.

The WM P82 Peugeot of Alain Couderc, Guy Frequelin and Roger Dorchy is serviced in the pit lane before practice on Thursday evening.

The WM P82 Peugeot of Alain Couderc, Guy Frequelin and Roger Dorchy is serviced in the pit lane before practice on Thursday evening.

Tom Williams, Dick Brooks and Hershel McGriff drove one of the two Chevrolet Camaros entered by NASCAR team owner Billy Hagan.

Tom Williams, Dick Brooks and Hershel McGriff drove one of the two Chevrolet Camaros entered by NASCAR team owner Billy Hagan.

1982 24 Hours of Le Mans Profile and Photo Gallery Continued

Comments

  1. Barbara Desmond says

    This article is a racing fan’s treasure. The pictures are so sharp and make me feel like I was there. Today’s racing fans, especially us older ones, would love to see more articles and outstanding pictures by Bob Harmeyer.
    There’s a rich history to be shared and an excellent bird’s eye view of racing history.

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