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HINDSIGHT – WM PROJECT 400


Built for speed A


In the days when privateers could still win at Le Mans, a dedicated group of engineers set a record that will never be broken


t the 1988 Le Mans 24 Hours, a French garage owner, driving a car built in a workshop at the


bottom of its creator’s garden and run by a team with no full time members, set a record that is likely to stand for all time. Shortly after 8.46pm on Saturday June 11, Roger Dorchy, driving a WM P88 chassis powered by a twin turbocharged Peugeot PRV V6 engine rocketed through the speed trap on the ligne droite des Hunaudières (the Mulsanne Straight to English speakers) at 407kph (253mph) – the first time (officially) that the 250mph barrier had been broken on that famous three-and-a-half-mile stretch of Route Nationale 138.


BY ALAN LIS Peugeot employees, Gerard


Welter and Michel Meunier, had formed WM in 1967 to pursue their motorsport ambitions, and their first efforts were concentrated on the race preparation of Peugeot 204 saloon cars. For 1969, they produced a 1.3-litre, front- engined sports coupé based on the running gear of the 204, which gave the team its first taste of international competition by taking part in the Paris 1000 kilometres at Montlhéry. The following year WM unveiled a 1.3-litre transverse mid-engined coupé that took part in the 1970 Tour de France Auto. In 1971, it was entered for a three-hour


36 www.racecar-engineering.com • July 2012


race at the 1971 Le Mans test weekend, but did not start due to a clutch failure. Five years later, a WM raced at Le Mans for the first time with a new chassis conforming to the ACO’s newly introduced GTP rules (the forerunner to the FIA’s Group C class) and powered by a race- prepared version of the 2.7-litre PRV V6 engine.


Chassis and engine


performance improved year on year so that by the early 1980s the narrow track, slippery-bodied WMs were regularly among the fastest Group C cars to run at Le Mans. In 1984, WM briefly grabbed the limelight when, live on French TV, Roger Dorchy took the lead of the race on the opening lap and held it until a


brake balance problem half spun him out at Mulsanne Corner. Despite recovering to re-take the lead, a recurrence of the brake problem pitched the WM into the barriers at the same corner two laps later.


By the mid-’80s, Group C


competition had intensified to the level where a team such as WM, staffed by crew members working in their spare time and holidays, were no longer able to challenge the high budget, manufacturer-backed teams for outright honours. Realising this, shortly after the 1986 Le Mans 24 Hours, the WM team embarked on Project 400, which aimed to capture the Mulsanne speed record. The car that would be used


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