1978 Rondeau M378 Le Mans GTP news, pictures, and information
Chassis Num: M378/001
|Sold for $463,019 (€358,400) at 2012 RM Auctions.|
Jean Rondeau and Gerard Welter began work (in Rondeau's backyard, no less) on two cars that would race around one of motorsports most legendary circuits, at one of the most grueling races on the calendar. Both individuals were not new to the sport, nor were they amateurs. Rondeau had raced at Le Mans in 1972, 1973, and 1975, and Welter worked at Peugeot as their designer. The plan was to use the Peugeot/Renault/Volvo 2.7 liter V6 engine, which would mean strong French support. But Rondeau felt the English Cosworth V-8 had more potential. A steel space frame with aluminum box sections around the engine was created and clothed with an aerodynamic GTP body. The overweight was just 1,795 pounds and the engine offered an impressive 415 horsepower at 9,000 RPM.
With the use of the English engine meant Rondeau eliminated the hope of getting any local sponsorship. Instead, Rondeau increased revenue by selling the name of the car to the major sponsor, coloured paper maker Inaltera. French TV stations would not mention the name.
At the 1976 LeMans race, the turbocharged Porsche 936 took the overall victory. Jean-Pierre Beltoise and Henri Pescarolo won the GTP class and finished 8th overall. Rondeau and Jean-Pierre Jaussaud finished 21st and 3rd in GTP. The following season, the Inalteras performed even better, with Rondeau and Jean Ragnotti finishing 1st in GTP and 4th overall. The other cars finished 11th and 13th overall.
For the 1978 season, Roneau found itself without Inaltera sponsorship. Rondeau, however, did return to the LeMans as a constructor with chassis number 001. Rondea won the GTP class for the third time and placed 9th overall with Bernard Darniche and jack Haran in M378/001. It would be the first of 10 appearances in 10 years at LeMans for this car.
Chassis number 001 was updated by Rondeau and Jacky Haran for the 1979 season to M379 specifications. It finished 3rd overall and 1st in the GTP category at LeMans that year. Rondeau finally won the Le Mans 24 Hours in 1980 (driving chassis 003, sister car to chassis 001) with Jean-Pierre Jaussaud, and the Energy Efficiency Prize and chassis no. 001 was right behind, crossing the line in 3rd, driven by Belgian brothers Philippe and Jean-Michel Martin and Gordon Spice, and winning the GTP class. This victory also meant that no other driver has won LeMans in a car of his own design and construction.
With the victory, sponsorship soon followed. Rondeau entered five cars in 1981's 24 Hours of LeMans. Chassis number 001, driven by Jacky Haran, Philippe Streiff and Jean-Louis Schlesser, the car finished an impressive 2nd overall and first in GTP, followed by Francois Migault and Gordon Spice in 3rd place overall.
Chassis number 001 returned to LeMans in 1982 where it finished 10th overall and a second car was 15th. 1982 would prove to be a tough year for the Rondeau team, who had won the World Sportscar Manufacturer's championship until the FIA allowed Porsche to claim credit for a privateer's victory. As a result, the title was stripped from Rondeau.
Vic Elford drove chassis number 001 in 1983 in his last race before retirement but suffered engine failure. Five other Rondeaus were entered in the race that year. The only Rondeau to be classified, finished 19th. After the disappointing finish, Rondeau was forced to close their shop. Sadly, he was killed in a tragic car accident in 1985.
Jean-Phillippe Grand purchased chassis number 001 in 1983 and entered it in 1984's LeMans. He finished 11th overall and 2nd in Group C2. The car was also entered at the Monza 1000 Kms in Italy, though retiring, and the Spa 1000 Kms in Belgium, where he was 10th and 2nd in Group C2.
Noel de Bello entered chassis number 001 at the 1985 LeMans, but mechanical problems ended his race in the 7th hour. Noel de Bello went on to race the car at Hockenheim, Brands Hatch and Spa that year, and returned to Le Mans in 1986, finishing 17th and 5th in C2.
Pierre-Alain Lombardi, who won a Swiss Championship race at Monza in 1987, was the last owner to have campaigned chassis number 001. The car was entered in the 1988 Le Mans 24 Hours where it finished but was not classified. After 1988, the car was sold to an American collector who ran the car at the 1998 Monterey Historics.
This car has been driven at LeMans more than any other cars in history. Powering the car is a Ford Cosworth DFV dual overhead cam V8 engine with electronic fuel injection system. The engine produces 415 horsepower and is mated to a Hewland five-speed manual gearbox. There are four-wheel disc brakes and a wheelbase that measures 97.6 inches.
In 2012, the car was offered for sale by RM Auctions at their Monaco sale. It had a pre-auction estimated sale price of €600.000-€750.000 and offered without reserve. As bidding came to a close, the car had been sold for the sum of €358.400 inclusive of buyer's premium.
By Daniel Vaughan | Jun 2012
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