This page contains a Flash digital edition of a book.

The 1988 Le Mans race was memorable for the fierce battle between the works Jaguar and Porsche teams, but will also forever be recalled as the year the 400kmh / 250mph speed barrier was broken. In practice, both WMs suffered

turbocharger problems, but the team was convinced it had broken the 400kmh barrier with its new car. Again though, the ACO speed radar denied them. In the race itself, the P87 came to a premature halt with a transmission failure and was officially retired from the race with 13 laps completed. Dorchy’s P88 was also an early caller at the pits. Engine management and bodywork issues kept the car motionless for the best part of three and a half hours but, when the P88 eventually rejoined the race and showed itself to be running cleanly, Dorchy received a radio message from Soulignac asking him to increase turbo boost pressure. He was then unleashed on a series of laps aimed at officially breaking the 400kmh barrier on the Mulsanne straight. ‘During practice, according to the ACO radar, we never reached

a speed higher than 387kmh,’ recalls Soulignac. ‘The ACO radar system was from Metstar, a French company that supplied police radar systems. The model used in practice was the Metstar 206, which was sold as being able to measure speeds of up to 420kmh, but we found out that it was badly affected by the

passing the radar point at 397 or 398kmh (247-248mph). You only need 2-3kmh to obtain your record.” We knew the car was capable of setting the record, so I called Roger on the radio and told him to increase the turbo boost pressure by 100mbars. Then he did three or four laps in which he passed the radar point at

“407kmh was Roger’s best run”

vibrations caused by the high noise levels of racecars. During the two practice days we had discussions with Metstar about this and, as a result, they told us that for the race they would bring a new type of radar system – the Metstar 208 – which was a prototype that could measure even higher speeds and was less prone to the noise problem. ‘So the new system was in place when the race started, but of course we had our engine management problem early on. A little time after we finally got the car running, someone from Metstar came to see me in the pits and said, “We don’t understand. Your car keeps

400-407kmh. As 1988 was the year the Peugeot 405 Turbo was introduced, we decided to declare the top speed as 405kmh. In fact, 407kmh was Roger’s best run.’ Some reports of the 1988

Le Mans race claim the P88 was equipped with special narrow Michelin tyres, and that for its record laps, ducts in the bodywork were strategically taped over. However, according to Soulignac, the only difference in the configuration was the increase in turbocharger boost pressure, which pushed peak power to 910bhp. The exertions of setting the record cost the P88 dearly, as afterwards it spent a total of 3hr 20mins in

the pits as the team tried to rectify turbocharger, cooling and electrical issues before the car was retired shortly before 2am. Could the car have gone even

faster? Soulignac thinks so: ‘In practice for the 1988 race, we ran the car with longer gear ratios and I’m certain it did over 410kmh (254mph), but the radar system didn’t register it. We worked out our road speed from the engine speed and gear ratios and were sure we’d made it, but there was no one to verify it. ‘In 1987, with lower

downforce, the P87 reached close to 417kmh (259mph) on the motorway run. I’m certain the car ran over 400kmh in the ’87 race and I’m sure it wouldn’t have been a problem to have gone 420kmh (260mph) in the 1988 race…’ Dorchy’s achievement

withstood a challenge from the Sauber-Mercedes team in 1989, when one of the Silver Arrows passed through the speed trap at 400kph in practice, before the record was effectively ‘sealed in amber’ when two chicanes were added to the Mulsanne Straight ahead of the 1990 race, preventing such speeds from ever being reached again.

The 1988 Le Mans 24 Hours. While Porsche and Jaguar fought a tense battle for overall victory, WM set the all-time Mulsanne speed record 40 • July 2012

Page 1  |  Page 2  |  Page 3  |  Page 4  |  Page 5  |  Page 6  |  Page 7  |  Page 8  |  Page 9  |  Page 10  |  Page 11  |  Page 12  |  Page 13  |  Page 14  |  Page 15  |  Page 16  |  Page 17  |  Page 18  |  Page 19  |  Page 20  |  Page 21  |  Page 22  |  Page 23  |  Page 24  |  Page 25  |  Page 26  |  Page 27  |  Page 28  |  Page 29  |  Page 30  |  Page 31  |  Page 32  |  Page 33  |  Page 34  |  Page 35  |  Page 36  |  Page 37  |  Page 38  |  Page 39  |  Page 40  |  Page 41  |  Page 42  |  Page 43  |  Page 44  |  Page 45  |  Page 46  |  Page 47  |  Page 48  |  Page 49  |  Page 50  |  Page 51  |  Page 52  |  Page 53  |  Page 54  |  Page 55  |  Page 56  |  Page 57  |  Page 58  |  Page 59  |  Page 60  |  Page 61  |  Page 62  |  Page 63  |  Page 64  |  Page 65  |  Page 66  |  Page 67  |  Page 68  |  Page 69  |  Page 70  |  Page 71  |  Page 72  |  Page 73  |  Page 74  |  Page 75  |  Page 76  |  Page 77  |  Page 78  |  Page 79  |  Page 80  |  Page 81  |  Page 82  |  Page 83  |  Page 84  |  Page 85  |  Page 86  |  Page 87  |  Page 88  |  Page 89