One of the most priceless cars at Rétromobile was this Porsche 936 that won the 1977 Le Mans 24 Hours in one of the greatest comeback performances in motorsport history. 1977 saw four factory Renaults versus two Porsches in the struggle for victory at Le Mans. Although the Renaults lost one car in the first lap, they still had both speed and numbers on their side. Soon it was Porsche's turn to experience adversity when the lead 936 retired with a broken conrod, while their second car had dropped to 42nd position at the end of the first hour after having to change a defective fuel injection pump. Jacky Ickx, already a three-time winner at La Sarthe, was drafted in to join Jürgen Barth and Hurley Haywood in an attempt to salvage some pride for Porsche. Something special was in the air, a performance that even nearly 40 years later is still spoken of in awe.
Norbert Singer, Porsche's designer guru who was responsible for 16 Le Mans winners had this to say after the race. "Ickx amazed us all. He was in the car for more than seven and half hours during the night, and he broke the lap record time after time in the dark. He spent a total of nearly 11 hours in the car, having taken it over four and half hours after the start. Later he told us that it was the hardest race of his life."
The pressure that the 936 kept up on the Renault trio began to pay dividends as one by one they retired with piston failure. The race had one last trick to play, with less than an hour to go, the Porsche suffered a similar fate but the team was able to shut off the damaged cylinder and allow Jürgen Barth to coax the car around for its final two laps to record an amazing win.
It's epic stories like this that make legends in the car world and Rétromobile is like a giant open book of stories. Check back in tomorrow to learn about the Mercedes Benz and the race that never was.