The inside story of the greatest Le Mans finish ever

The 1969 Le Mans 24 Hours was so close that it is indelibly written in the history of this classic motor race. It was also probably the finest race Jacky Ickx has ever driven, although he himself would say that his performance in the night in 1977 was better.

I was managing the Gulf-sponsored John Wyer team, with its two five-litre Ford GT40s. One of them – that driven by Jacky and Jackie Oliver – was chassis 1075, the 1968 Le Mans winner for Pedro Rodriguez/Lucien Bianchi.

All the drivers make the traditional running start, except for Jacky Ickx who walks across the track in protest

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Jacky Ickx, Jackie Oliver, J. W. Automotive Engineering Ltd., Ford GT40, takes the chequered flag

Jacky Ickx, Jackie Oliver, J. W. Automotive Engineering Ltd., Ford GT40, takes the chequered flag

Photo by: Rainer W. Schlegelmilch

David Yorke

David Yorke

Photo by: Motorsport Images

Jacky Ickx, Jackie Oliver's and David Hobbs, Mike Hailwood's Ford GT40s are worked on in the garage

Jacky Ickx, Jackie Oliver’s and David Hobbs, Mike Hailwood’s Ford GT40s are worked on in the garage

Photo by: Motorsport Images

Hans Herrmann, Porsche 908 ahead of Jacky Ickx, John Wyer Automotive Ford GT40

Hans Herrmann, Porsche 908 ahead of Jacky Ickx, John Wyer Automotive Ford GT40

Photo by: Sutton Images

Ranged against us were Porsche, then coming into real prominence, with the first 917s and the three-litre long-tailed 908s. We were off the pace of the best Porsches, but Le Mans is about reliability and tactics as well as speed.

Immediately after that race, perhaps in the euphoria…

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