Imagine keeping your foot nailed to the floorboard for six kilometres; SIX whole kilometres. For most of us, it’s a dream that will remain unrealised but until 1989 it was a reality for each and every driver who took part in the famous 24 Hours of Le Mans. You see, the 1989 Le Mans was the very last time that the Circuit de la Sarthe featured a Mulsanne Straight with no chicanes.
Full throttle forever
Most fans know it as the Mulsanne but the Ligne Droite des Hunaudières, when not part of the track, is a six-kilometre long undulating straight that pierces the French countryside for the public to use as part of the RD338. On race weekends it forms the long back straight of the 13 kilometre-long circuit. From the moment drivers exited Tetre Rouge to the time they arrived at Mulsanne Corner, they would not lift off the loud pedal. That was almost half the lap taken at full throttle.
Catch highlights from the 2019 24 Hours of Le Mans at this link.
Sauber-Mercedes claimed victory at the 1989 Le Mans 24 Hours, it was Mercedes’ second win after its first Le Mans triumph in 1952. The winning car was driven by Manuel Reuter, Stanley Dickens and Jochen Mass. This trio beat all the odds and a 55-car field of sports prototypes that included Le Mans masters Porsche, defending champions Jaguar, Nissan, Mazda and many others; only 19 cars were classified as finishers.
Sauber’s contender for the race, dubbed the C9, was equipped with a new Mercedes 4,9-litre multi-valve twin-turbocharged V8 powerplant. Power was rated as up to 680 kW for a short time in qualifying and a more reliable 530 kW for the race. The Silver Arrows crossed the finishing line in 1st, 2nd and 5th places. The winning trio completed 389 laps at an average speed of 219,990 km/h covering a total of 5 265,115 km. Think about that for a second, a hair under 220 km/h for TWENTY FOUR hours.
You can watch highlights of the 1989 Le Mans in this great short film. Turn up your speakers as there are long periods to just enjoy the sounds of the racecars going flat out.