Le Mans born Jean Rondeau had four cracks at the Le Mans 24 hours with a Chevron, Porsche (twice) and a Mazda RX3 when he decided to build his own 3 litre / 183 cui Ford Cosworth powered cars for the GTP category of the race. In 1976 and 1977 these cars known as Inatera’s the name of his wall paper manufacturing sponsor won the GTP class at Le Mans on both occasions the ’77 class win also netting drivers Rondeau and Jean Ragnotti a 4th place overall finish.
For 1978 Jean returned to the Le Mans circuit with a car bearing his own name for the first time and sharing his M378 with Bernard Darniche and Jacky Haran scored a third consecutive GTP class win as a manufacturer and his second as a driver coming home 9th overall from 40th on the grid.
Jean appeared at the 1979 race with updated M379 cars while the GTP entry he shared with Jacky Haran retired at two thirds distance with accident damage. A second car entered in the over 2 litre / 122 chi sportscar class came fifth overall and first in class piloted by well known French Rally drivers Ragnotti and Darniche. Today’s featured chassis M379 #003 came home tenth with Henri Pescarolo and Jean-Pierre Beltoise at the wheel.
Starting from fifth on a very wet grid the Le Point newspaper sponsored Rondeau maintained a steady pace through out the race while the highly fancied privately entered Porsche 908/80 driven by Jacky Ickx and Reinhold Joest was delayed by an inability to see in the rain from the open cockpit car. When the rain eased the Porsche made up time and hit the front but was then delayed for quarter of an hour when Jacky had to replace the fuel injection pump belt out on the circuit. Jacky and Reinhold had regained the lead for a second time when 18 hours into the race the Porsche required a gearbox rebuild just as the winning Porsche 936 had required in 1977.
This time when the repairs were completed the Porsche had fallen too far behind the leading Rondeau and still had a two lap deficit when the clock turned 4 pm. On the last lap on a wet circuit Jaussaud had a spin while on slicks but managed to avoid hitting anything and crossed the line first in M379 #003 to make Jean Rondeau the only man to win the Le Mans 24 hours in a car he designed and bearing his own name.
M379 #003 was prepared to C spec, seen above for Francoise Migault and Gordon Spice to race at Le Mans in 1981 they finished 3rd behind the GTP class winning Rondeau M379C #002 driven by Jacky Haran and Philippe Streiff and Jean-Louis Schlesser. M379C #002 had been driven to 3rd overall and 1st in GTP the previous rear by Gordon Spice and the Belgian Martin brother Jean Michele and Philippe.
Todays featured car ran at Le Mans for a fourth and final time in 1982 as a private entry for Pierre Yver, Bruno Sotty and Lucien Guitteny who started 35th and finished 10th.
Thanks for joining me on this “Le Point” edition of “Gettin’ a li’l psycho on tyres” I hope you will join me again tomorrow. Don’t forget to come back now !