Le Mans: The Official History 1990–99 – just published

With the help of almost 500 evocative photographs, this book tells the remarkable story of the sudden fall and steady rise of the annual Le Mans 24 Hours between 1990 and 1999.

This historic race had been stronger than ever in 1988–89. Only three years later, its promoters found themselves with the smallest field for 60 years, and having to devise innovative methods to achieve a lasting recovery. The cause of this débâcle was the unwelcome introduction of an entirely new category that was simply too expensive for the professional sportscar racing community. When it failed, Le Mans was left high and dry – but not for long.

The 24 Hours is an exceptional event, with a unique status. The decade brought as much Le Mans fascination as ever: the last victory by TWR Jaguar, one of the outstanding competitors of the thriving Group C ‘fuel formula’ that had been so irresponsibly replaced; the only win by a rotary-engined car, from Mazda, which was also the first Japanese manufacturer to win; popular home wins by Peugeot with one of the most effective racing cars ever made; Porsche’s win after exploiting a loophole in the rules to present a racing car as a GT car, and then working with TWR to win in successive years with the very same prototype, and finally winning again with another controversial GT; successful Le Mans forays by the McLaren and Williams Formula 1 teams, both with BMW; and the persistent misfortune that thwarted three potential victories by Toyota.

Even before 1999, the race had recovered fully, and seven major manufacturers were again engaged. How was it done? That is a constant theme in this book, serving as explanation of the many brilliant engineering developments that were achieved during this decade, and as background to the individual stories of all the teams that took part. These 10 races were contested by 43 different marques that accounted for 445 starts – and every one is covered within these pages. Complete data for each year includes technical regulations, entry list, circuit changes (with diagram), lap chart, full results and category awards.

For the people who attempt this daunting challenge, requiring racing cars to cover more miles over a single weekend than an entire Grand Prix season, delight must go hand in hand with dismay. The Le Mans 24 Hours may have had a dramatic reversal at the start of the 1990s, but it remained the greatest race in the world.

Officially licensed with the ACO, the organisers of the annual Le Mans 24 Hours race, this sumptuous book is the fifth title in a decade-by-decade series that is building up into a multi-volume set covering every race since 1923. Each year is exhaustively covered in vivid photographs, many of which have never been seen before, plus a detailed and insightful commentary, full results data and a glorious rendering of the official race poster. Compiled by an acknowledged authority of this legendary race, this series of books will be treasured by all enthusiasts of sports car racing.

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