The greatest longtails… in the world
Le Mans is almost upon us. Time to pay tribute to some of the maddest-looking racers to take on the 24 hours…
Posted: 14 Jun 2013
1978 Renault Alpine A442B
Depending on the colour of your passport, the best/worst thing about Le Mans is how hard the French find winning it. You have to go a long way down the list of winning marques until you come to Rondeau in 1980 or, in the modern era, Peugeot who really did find itself dans un flap terrible about doing so.
Before them were Renault who, at the time, were desperate to tick Le Mans off their bucket list before not doing ever doing so in F1, under factory colours at least. So great was the desire to win, it almost asphyxiated its drivers with a cockpit lid that delivered lots of air to the rear wing, but little to the drivers.
1978 was the last chance, Renault having twice been beaten by Porsche in 1976 and 1977. Both teams brought four works cars to Le Mans (Porsche’s included the Moby Dick 935) and the lined up in the first eight grid slots.
Renault’s fast car was the Alpine A443, but it broke around dawn. That left the previous year’s car, modified with a semi-open transparent cockpit lid to feed cleaner air to the long tail to take the honours if it could hold off Porsche. It had the drivers, especially in Didier Pironi who would go on to race and win for Ferrari in F1, but the cover and the heat made the cockpit an oven and almost wrecked Renault’s plans.