The race was absolutely fantastic and Malcolm and I wandered all over the circuit during the 24-hour race taking in different vantage points on the circuit at different times. We still had our paddock and pit passes, so we could go anywhere as we pleased.
I particularly remember the Chris Amon and Jean-Pierre Beltoise, in their Equipe Matra Simca MS660 hurtling down the Mulsanne straight (no chicane in those days) and you could hear their distinct engine note a mile away as it was clearly so different from any other race car noise.
There were a large number of retirements including; Jo Siffert and Derek Bell in the John Wyer Porsche 917 who had their crankcase split, Pedro Rodriguez and Jackie Oliver Porsche 917 broke an oil hose.
The overall winners were Martini International Racing Team, Porsche 917 K driven by my old acquaintance Dr. Helmut Marko and Gijs van Lennep, 2nd was the John Wyer Porsche 917 K driven by Richard Attwood, and Herbert Müller, with North American Racing Team, Ferrari 512 M driven by Sam Posey and Tony Adamowicz, of the USA and 4th was the David Piper Autorace, Ferrari 512 M driven by Chris Craft and David Weir, USA.
Class Winners: -
- Index of performance Dr. Helmut Marko and Gijs van Lennep in the Porsche 917K
- Index of Thermal Efficiency Bob Grossman / Luigi Chinetti Jr Ferrari 365 GTB/4
- Sports-prototypes, up to 2000cc Walter Brun / Peter Mattli Porsche 907
- GT up to 2500cc Raymond Touroul / Anselme Porsche 911 S
The absolute distance record and fastest average speed, which I believe still stands today, was set during this race in 1971 by Gijs Van Lennep and Dr. Helmut Marko in a Porsche 917, 535 km/h or 222.304 kph, 138.133 mph average speed.
It is really quite difficult for me to explain that weekend as it was filled with excitement and much emotion. The best thing I can say is to watch the video of the film “Le Mans starring Steve McQueen” which was filmed the year before, as that just about covers it in the most vivid detail. When I watch this movie it really brings memories straight back to me, the pit area, the dark alley behind the pits, the paddock, the cars, the Ferris wheel and fun fair, just everything!