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Jacky Ickx

By the time of the 1969 Le Mans, Porsche had introduced and extensively tested its fuel-injected Type 908s, and they were expected to easily defeat the then-dated GT40s. Then, weeks before the race, Porsche unveiled a 12-cylinder version of the 908 known as the 917, and by all accounts the Gulf-Fords didn't have a chance.

At what would become the last traditional start of Le Mans, the drivers sprinted across the track to their cars, while Jacky Ickx casually walked to his GT40, strapped himself in, and pulled away in last place as the commotion departed. On the very first lap, a tragic crash took the life of John Woolfe and eliminated one of the Porsches. Through the next 21 hours, all but one Stuttgart machine failed. For the last three hours of the 1969 Le Mans, Ickx battled Hans Herrmann, wheel-to-wheel and nose-to-tail at times, logging lap times that exceeded his qualifying speed.

His two-second victory margin proved that a supremely reliable but relatively low-tech machine, well-prepared and in the most capable hands, could beat the newest and finest from Germany. In the words of team leader John Wyer, the 1969 Le Mans was "the swan song of the GT40 and perhaps its greatest performance."

 

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