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Le Mans 89 - which C9 broke the 400?


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#1 FTM

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Posted 11 April 2019 - 23:57

I'm trying to decipher the "mystery" of 400 km/h car in the qualys of Mans 89. Looking around the net there are many sources that claim different things, so my wish is to set the record straight :D

 

Source #1, Bonhams auction of the chassis 05 (back in 2008) says the following;

 

At Le Mans Jean-Louis Schlesser, heading up the all French driver lineup gained the pole with a special qualifying chassis and engine in C9-02 thanks to a loophole in the regulations. This special chassis had been officially entered in the race and was replaced after qualifying with a record 407km/h top speed by chassis C9-05, designated for this occasion as the T-car. The only race in which this chassis had white rear view mirrors rather than the usual yellow ones. 

 

This suggests;

Schlesser did the 407 km/h and gained pole with the "special chassis 02", used in qualys

T-car = chassis 05, used in race.

 

 

 

 

Source #2 - going to the major database at racingsportscar dot com, the top qualifying time is listed as follows;

62T - Sauber C9 chassis 02 (Schlesser, Jabouille, Cudini) - 3:15.040

 

And on results page for 1989 Mans qualys, 62T is listed as the fastest. But when you check the overview of Sauber C9 chassis at the Le Mans '89 it states the following:

62 = chassis 05, practiced only

62T = chassis 02, raced, finished 5th

 

62T raced and qualyd? Also, Bonhams auction says chassis 05 is the T-car, racingsportscar claims its the chassis 02. 

 

 

 

 

Source #3 - Motor Sport Magazine, edition from July 1989, article Coventry Anti Climax

Schlesser had established the fastest time at 3 min 15.04 sec (249.826 kph)...Schlesser's time was set with the race car, but in a special trim for qualifying. On Wednesday evening he'd been five seconds quicker than Kenny Acheson in a similar car but Acheson was 27 kph faster down the straight, according to the radar trap. It sounded unlikely but the Mercedes engineers believed it, pointing out that Acheson's low-downforce car was 400 rpm faster than Schlesser's, which was tuned more for handling.

 

Now, on some french forum I found a comment, roughly translated to;

The little story is known, it was the Sauber N ° 62 who held the pole (Schlesser) but for the race, it is the 62T that took the start!

 

 

 
 

Source #4 - didn't order Silver Arrows by Ian Bamsey book yet - but on eBay there's a seller that sells one and one of the pages on his preview, page 106 says;

This was at 8:20pm and a short time later Mauro's fears were to come true as Schlesser at the wheel of No 63 (??) beat the Italian's time by a mere 0.63 secs. There was some consolation for the Acheson, Baldi & Branchatelli trio...........and at 7:32pm Acheson was timed at 248 mph on the Le Mans tour main road, the other two Saubers were times at 234 and 231 respectively for No 63 and No 62.

 

So, from the book of Sauber's insider at those times, it says that Acheson hit 400 km/h and Sauber 62 was going 371. Motor Sport Magazine (source #3 here) claims Acheson (car 61) was 27 kph faster than Schlesser. Now, Schlesser was definitely in 62, and the speed difference between 61 and 62 according to the book is 29 kph, and that's pretty much the same difference Motor Sport Magazine claims.

 

 

 

 

Source #5 - a scan from Rombo magazine recapping Le Mans 1989, probably a July issue. 

TLSEGTy.png

 

As you can see here even if you don't understand Italian, the caption on the left mentions Baldi/Acheson #61 car (red mirrors) hitting 400, but then in the text you can see it mentioning Schlesser going 400 but on the "primo turno di prove" which would be the "first round of tests", not sure if it refers to qualys. 

 

 

 

...so...which one is it, Schlesser of  Acheson?  :D I tweeted this question at Acheson, hope he sees it and clears this up once and far all :D


Edited by FTM, 12 April 2019 - 00:03.


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#2 Automobiliart

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Posted 12 April 2019 - 01:57

Interestingly, there is a story in Automobilsport #19 Jan/Feb/Mar 2019 on the WM-Peugeot at Le Mans, with the P88/P400 claimed to have reached 407 km/h in 1988. Worth a look-see ...



#3 FTM

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Posted 12 April 2019 - 02:14

I thought when you're auctioning a million dollar vehicle, you double triple check the history :D The 407 number that Bonhams claimed on the auction is the P88 speed, I'm 99% they got it confused.

 

Also, I found some old Flickr photos from people who have some pretty niche albums, C class cars and such, and few of them posted 61 red rear view mirrors car with captions details the chassis history, and they point out the Acheson's top speed run on the Mulsanne...

 

Now about the italian magazine that mentioned Schlesser's 400 on some kind of "trial" (test?) - do any of you know if there were Le Mans tests in '89 before actual June qualys/race?

 

 

https://www.exoto.co...&ProductId=1418

 

Just found out these hi-def scale models. I presume they did some research judging by the prices of those models :D

 

Jean-Louis Schlesser, heading up the all-French driver lineup in car #62, put the Sauber-Mercedes C9 on pole with a blistering qualifying lap. The pole had actually been gained using a special qualifying chassis and engine. Thanks to a loophole in the regulations, this special chassis, wearing #62, had been officially entered in the race but was used only for qualifying, to be replaced by a race chassis and engine that had been designated as the 'T' car.
 
 
So it seems that the Motor Sport Magazine is right. 
 
62 qualy - black mirrors
62T - white mirrors with some dual weird orange lights on the driver side
 
Now, Bonhams did a serious auction so while they might've made a mistake on the top speed figure, I can't imagine they got the chassis wrong. And they claim T-car = chassis 05, used in race. 
 
 
Chassis
 
01 - ?
02 - no. 62, black mirrors - lap record
03 - no. 63, yellow mirrors - race winner
04 - 61 red?
05 - no. 62, white mirrors with some orange lights, T car - fifth place
06 - ?
 
So..one is missing...the red mirror aka 400 one, car #61. I see many websites claiming it's chassis 04. How can I confirm?
 
Also, if they entered the race with a T car, where are the T stickers during the race? I saw pics from parc ferme where it has the T sticker, but there's not on the car in the race.

Edited by FTM, 12 April 2019 - 02:41.


#4 sabrejet

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Posted 12 April 2019 - 04:27

T cars didn't race with the 'T' - only in qualifying. Most photos you see are from race day, hence you don't often see T-car photos. If the T car qualified as '62T' it would race as '62'. The 'T' was only there in case two cars with the same number were on track at the same time during practice/qualifying.

 

Most/all Group C teams in 1989 were kind enough to retain their car colours (esp Aston Martin, Jaguar and Sauber) and so irrespective of race number you can often tell a chassis number from race to race. Incidentally race reports are often wrong - Aston used an 18T at Brands '89 for instance but for a long time it was not mentioned on dedicated website/chassis number records.



#5 milestone 11

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Posted 12 April 2019 - 09:07

Acheson was the fastest at Les Hunaudieres with 400kph. The 407kph is the top speed of the WM-Peugeot P88/P400 the previous year.



#6 FTM

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Posted 12 April 2019 - 10:20

I have this pic of 62T car, it does correlate with my "research", white mirrors with those curious orange lights.

 

6KWlAna.jpg

 

But I'm looking at the video summary of the race, there's no 62T car on the grid. I don't get it. Can someone recognize the driver, helmet? The car looks like Le Mans variant, 4 headlights and all...

 

 

So I tried to compare 62 cars, white mirror black mirror, the notch behind the window on the black mirror 62, not present on the white mirror one, and stickers are slightly offset on the black mirror one. So is the lower 62 pic from qualys? It must be.

 

WBYyT4R.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

The 62 white rearview mirror, mid race.

 

HgtHNgr.jpg

 

 

The famous pic where they're all together...

 

FBrGfyv.jpg

 

I think this picture was taken before the race, one curious tidbit about the No.63 yellow light, it's on the car on the beginning (afternoon) of the race, but the next day, morning laps, all 4 lamps are clear.

 

NvE2MFH.jpg

 

 

 

And bonus :D some more autistic research - Car 62 (black mirrors) is the only one with Bilstein sticker aligned exactly with the "front" of the inlet, others have the sticker tilted closer to the front wheel.

 

y9j5Yef.jpg


Edited by FTM, 12 April 2019 - 10:51.


#7 Jager

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Posted 12 April 2019 - 11:27

It can be difficult to place most pictures, but this one is clearly 4pm on Saturday and you can see the white mirrors on #62.

 

1989_depart.jpg



#8 FTM

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Posted 12 April 2019 - 11:41

Yes the white mirror was the race car, but the T-car makes is to confusing.

 

I think...this might be correct?

 

No. 61 : chassis 04 - red mirror - Acheson low drag, 400 in qualyfing, second place in the race
No. 62 : chassis 05 - white mirror - fifth place
No. 62T: chassis 02 - black mirror - Schlesser qualifying #1 
No. 63 : chassis 03 - yellow mirror - race winner
 
But could someone shine a light on their T car tactics on that event? :D

 

0F14F9A.png


Edited by FTM, 12 April 2019 - 11:45.


#9 ensign14

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Posted 12 April 2019 - 12:48

How come the 1 was in Univers and the 2 in Grotesk?



#10 FTM

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Posted 12 April 2019 - 13:47

Well damn that's a nice catch :D the mystery never ends on these cars  :drunk:



#11 sabrejet

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Posted 12 April 2019 - 15:11

ISo I tried to compare 62 cars, white mirror black mirror, the notch behind the window on the black mirror 62, not present on the white mirror one, and stickers are slightly offset on the black mirror one. So is the lower 62 pic from qualys? It must be.

 

WBYyT4R.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

 

That 'notch' (it's a cockpit vent) is there on all C.9s. It's a light-induced illusion in the photo above which makes it look like there's no vent.



#12 FTM

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Posted 12 April 2019 - 15:13

Agree, that's probably photo/exposure issue, but the sticker alignment makes for a clear distinction.

 

Also, thanks to ensign14 noticing, I made this little tribute for going onwards and upwards in this "research"  :rotfl:

 

wm8AJE8.png


Edited by FTM, 12 April 2019 - 15:14.


#13 Tim Murray

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Posted 12 April 2019 - 15:30

According to the race report in Autosport magazine, the race rules at the time stated that cars running in practice with a T number could not set grid times, but could only be used to substitute for an identical car which had already qualified. This caused problems for Toyota, as Geoff Lees used Toyota 37T for their ‘pole attack’ and set a very quick time beaten only by Schlesser, only to have the time disallowed as the T-chassis had been used to set it.

Mercedes knew the rules, and therefore nominated chassis 05 as their official race chassis for the number 62, although they had no intention of using it in the actual race. This chassis had special ventilated discs and a ‘qualifying chip’ fitted, which none of the other team cars had, and was the chassis Schlesser used to set pole.

Chassis 02 had worn #62T during practice, but was always intended to be the chassis used in the race. So it was renumbered as #62, and was the chassis used by Schlesser, Jabouille and Cudini to finish fifth in the race.

#14 Henk Vasmel

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Posted 12 April 2019 - 19:17

4 more sources:

My own database shows chassis 05 for number 62 and then chassis 02 as practiced and raced. (Actually 88-C9-05 and 87-C9-02)

The Le Mans yearbook shows that 05 was number 62 and 02 was seen as 62T. Quite a lot of nice pictures too, but haven't yet found the time to study them

Sauber-Mercedes by John Starkey gives Chassis 02 as finishing 5th and Chassis 05 as Training car only.

Mercedes-Benz: Die Neue Silberpfeile, by Mike Riedner. is rather vague on chassis numbers and just mentions 05 for 62 in the appendix. It also points to the story that Toyota lost a best practice time for achieving it with the T-car. Apparently the rules were  rather strict that year. Maybe here we find the reason why 02 (secretly intended race car) was initially shown with 62T, so 05 could be used for setting best time (good for pole).

Le Mans yearbook gives 3:15:04 for 62 and 3:32:96 for non-starter 62T. (For Toyota it is 3:25:60 for 37 and 3:15:51 for non-starter 37T)

 

Combined with the information we already have, it seems clear to what car did what.

By the way, 05 had not been raced before, it's first race was at Jarama, two weeks later.



#15 FTM

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Posted 12 April 2019 - 19:53

I didn't know the "tricks" involved in LM were that intriguing, never saw information you guys posted online before, thank you so much.

 

On a small french forum I registered I got a info from a knowledgeable member that also speaks english. He claims that when the cars were scrutineered, chassis 05 was "booked" as the T car, but Sauber's actual T-car was chassis 02. 

 

White mirror - chassis 05 - was in the race. Doesn't that make chassis 02 the qualy car?

 

 

Chassis 02 had worn #62T during practice, but was always intended to be the chassis used in the race. So it was renumbered as #62, and was the chassis used by Schlesser, Jabouille and Cudini to finish fifth in the race.

 

What a tangle  :stoned:



#16 FTM

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Posted 12 April 2019 - 22:10

The plot - thickens? Browsing a bit some Merc magazines, here's a part from 2015 edition of MB

 

k0kIHgB.jpg

 

What the hell...



#17 Ray Bell

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Posted 12 April 2019 - 22:31

Why is the WM speed regarded, more or less, as cheating when the Mercedes effort involved subterfuge anyway?

Schlesser says that the WM would not have done the race, but surely the reason the 'chipped' Sauber was considered at least doubtful too?

#18 FTM

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Posted 12 April 2019 - 23:09

Yeah, it might be interpreted as double standards...but I sort of agree with Schlesser on the statement, P88 was really made just for those few miles of sprint and blow up right after. The chipped qualifying C9 is against the rules, but perhaps aligns better with classic motorsport "we got away with it" lore. 

 

But what really baffles me here is Schlesser's statement of going 407. Taking into consideration the Motor Sport press and Sauber book, Acheson touched 400 km/h as well in the qualys. So, according to Schlesser's statement - they BOTH did 400 runs? 

 

So the italian news article from Rombo magazine I have on it...is correct?  :stoned:



#19 sabrejet

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Posted 13 April 2019 - 05:11

Kudos to Gérard Welter and WM: their efforts are often sneered at, but what they did (and for a tiny team too) has always impressed me. Those cars looked awesome too.

 

I think Tim tied up the loose ends nicely in post #13.

 

Incidentally I recall that the Jaguars were fastest in race trim for '89 so isn't that the bit that really counts if we are getting mired in the ethics (or not) of qualifying specials?



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#20 Ray Bell

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Posted 13 April 2019 - 11:44

Loved the whole thing of the WM efforts...

WMLEMANS.jpg

I did have a photo of a spare engine in the pits, it was based on the production Peugeot 604 block but had twin-cam heads and turbochargers. But that was a slide and someone threw them away on me.

#21 FTM

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Posted 13 April 2019 - 17:23

OK so this 400 thing is getting more convoluted by the minute :D here's the LATEST finding, I feel I'm digging too much into this. So - just went to my Motorsport TV page and checked the archives. Le Mans 1989 broadcast footage - 8 minutes in.

 

 

Down the Mulsanne straight in practice, there's been still a tremendous battle going for maximum speed. In the race last year, the WM Peugeot exceeded 400 km/h for the first time - exactly 404. In practice this year, Mercedes went one better, 408 km/h, and Schlesser reckoned that he could take 5 seconds off the time that he established in practice.

 

:stoned: 



#22 sabrejet

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Posted 13 April 2019 - 18:37

OK so this 400 thing is getting more convoluted by the minute :D here's the LATEST finding, I feel I'm digging too much into this. 

 

:stoned: 

 

uh-huh.



#23 Doug Nye

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Posted 13 April 2019 - 20:48

I cannot really remember but I probably wrote the Bonhams description, and it would have drawn upon information provided to us by Sauber.  I certainly recall visiting their works store near Erlen in Switzerland - but cannot at present, sadly, throw much light upon the answer to this conundrum.

 

DCN



#24 FTM

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Posted 13 April 2019 - 23:21

According to the race report in Autosport magazine, the race rules at the time stated that cars running in practice with a T number could not set grid times, but could only be used to substitute for an identical car which had already qualified. This caused problems for Toyota, as Geoff Lees used Toyota 37T for their ‘pole attack’ and set a very quick time beaten only by Schlesser, only to have the time disallowed as the T-chassis had been used to set it.

Mercedes knew the rules, and therefore nominated chassis 05 as their official race chassis for the number 62, although they had no intention of using it in the actual race. This chassis had special ventilated discs and a ‘qualifying chip’ fitted, which none of the other team cars had, and was the chassis Schlesser used to set pole.

Chassis 02 had worn #62T during practice, but was always intended to be the chassis used in the race. So it was renumbered as #62, and was the chassis used by Schlesser, Jabouille and Cudini to finish fifth in the race.

 

I think my confusion comes from not being familiar at all with these rules. And also, digging around for pics makes me more confused.

 

AtqSa6p.jpg

 

Qo8H6Sd.jpg

 

White mirrors chassis had  62T and 62 numbering that weekend...so what was the tactic for using the same car? Sorry for being ignorant, I'm just trying to get to the bottom of the Sauber conundrum. I guess it's because my default mindset is "T-car aka test car is for testing and to replace the crashed car"..but apparently things aren't that simple. 

 

Question remains, what was black mirror chassis used for. I think it kinda makes sense to presume the black mirror one was the "chipped" car, not feasible for 5000 km of racing. 

 

- 62T white mirror car (endurance ready) does qualifying, sets whatever lap time

- 62 black mirror car (hotlap version) does qualifying, sets lap record gets the pole

- race begins, 62T white mirror car is on the pole position, without the T sticker of course

 

Or did I miss something? 

 



#25 Tim Murray

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Posted 13 April 2019 - 23:24

That’s certainly the way I see it.

#26 FTM

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Posted 14 April 2019 - 15:48

So in essence, Sauber was bending the rules a bit? Or perhaps they were fully knowledgeable of those rules way before the race and prepared accordingly with the tactics.

 

When did the qualifying take place, day before june 11th or earlier? And also, were there any "tests", sort of free practice type of event at Le Mans, before the actual official qualys/race?



#27 Tim Murray

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Posted 15 April 2019 - 05:00

I don’t believe Sauber-Mercedes bent the rules at all - they just took maximum advantage from them.

There was no earlier test day/weekend in the run-up to the event in 1989. Official practice took place on Wednesday 7th and Thursday 8th June. Two practice sessions were scheduled for each day: a daylight session between 18.30 and 20.30 and a night session between 21.30 and 23.30. However, on the Wednesday a heavy thunderstorm caused the first session to be halted prematurely, so the second session was started early to make up for the time lost. There was no practice on the Friday.

I’ve just had a look in the other UK weekly mag, Motoring News. Their report states that it was Acheson who achieved 408 km/h along the straight, with Schlesser being slower (no actual speed given for him).

#28 Charles E Taylor

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Posted 15 April 2019 - 12:39

I don’t believe Sauber-Mercedes bent the rules at all - they just took maximum advantage from them.

 

 

You might want to consider that possibly one team were rather more prepared to swap the timing transponders (and remove the “T’s”) between cars, than the other.

 

 

Have fun.

 

 

 

Charlie



#29 Tim Murray

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Posted 15 April 2019 - 13:04

As I see it, Sauber-Mercedes had no need for any such subterfuge, as they had worked out how to maximise their chances of achieving pole position without any number/transponder swap or other rule infringement. However, you obviously know more than I do ...  ;)

#30 FTM

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Posted 15 April 2019 - 15:36

My copy of Silver Arrows victory promo brochure arrives today so I'll check if there's any tidbits there.

 

But ho-lee did this plot thicken, when I started the thread I just wanted to categorize the chassis' correctly and find out the elusive 400 chassis. This is now way more interesting.

 

0F14F9A.png

 

 

swap the timing transponders (and remove the “T’s”) 

 

Say whaaaa, transponder swap??   :stoned:  Please elaborate, never heard about this.

 

As for 400 thing...

 

Bonhams auction - Schlesser did 407 in the black mirror (and maybe some black magic  :rotfl: ) car

Motor Sport Mag - Acheson had 400rpm faster low drag setup

Ian Bamsey book - at 7:32pm Acheson was timed at 248 mph on the Le Mans tour main road

Rombo Magazine - Mercedes di Baldi ed Acheson...400 all'orra alle Hunaudieres

Rombo Magazine - gia nel primo turno di prove, Schlesser si e rivelato il piu veloce, 400 kmh... (already in the first test session, Schlesser proved to be the fastest)

TV broadcast footage (from Motorsport TV) -  In practice this year, Mercedes went one better, 408 km/h, and Schlesser reckoned that he could take 5 seconds off the time that he established in practice.

 

And then there's the interview for Mercedes magazine, where Schlesser seems to be saying straight up "I went 407 kmh"...

 

Could be, could just be - Acheson hit straight 400 kmh with low drag setup during qualys, and Schlesser did 407 on some pre-qualifying test run. Acheson's car could've been done low drag...and Schlesser, well, swapping into the black mirror aka HOT VERSION, went over 400.

 

Perhaps?

 

 

 

 

I cannot really remember but I probably wrote the Bonhams description, and it would have drawn upon information provided to us by Sauber.  I certainly recall visiting their works store near Erlen in Switzerland - but cannot at present, sadly, throw much light upon the answer to this conundrum.

 
Oh man, what an opportunity. Do you still have access, perhaps by email?  :)

Edited by FTM, 15 April 2019 - 16:16.


#31 bigears

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Posted 16 April 2019 - 17:08

A very interesting discussion here. I will dig up my book about the Sauber Mercedes and see what it says about the speed attempt. Same for my copy of Brian Laban’s Le Mans book as well.