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Lot 222: 1974-75 Gulf Mirage-Cosworth GR8 Endurance Racing Sports-Prototype

Goodwood Revival, Bonhams (1 September 2006)

Occasionally we at Bonhams feel really privileged to be asked to offer for sale really important cars from motor racing history. This is one such, the Gulf research Racing-built Mirage-Cosworth GR8 which was driven by Vern Schuppan/Jean-Pierre Jaussaud into third place in the Le Mans 24-Hours classic of 1975, and then co-driven the following year at Le Mans by Jean-Louis Lafosse/Francois Migault to finish second in the world-famous Grand Prix d�Endurance.

Gulf Research Racing was the natural descendant of the legendary Gulf-JW Automotive racing team which had achieved such enormous World Championship-winning success from 1967-1974. During that period, with the management team of John Wyer, David Yorke and Arnold Stafford and the engineering direction of ex-Aston Martin works team member John Horsman, the Gulf-JW organisation had masterminded World title success with Ford GT40 and Porsche 917 and 908/3 cars. They had also campaigned the long series of Mirage endurance racing prototypes, beginning with the reduced frontal area Mirage M1 version of the GT40 as early as 1967. By 1972 after the withdrawal of the Porsche 917s, the Gulf Oil-sponsored JW team turned to racing 3-litre BRM and Cosworth-Ford engined Mirage cars designed for them by consultant Len Terry. The line of Gulf-Mirage sports-prototypes evolved through 1972-73 into the Gulf-Mirage M6 model, in two of which Derek Bell/Mike Hailwood/Howden Ganley and Vern Schuppan finished first and second in the 1973 Spa 1,000Kms classic, to achieve the first Mirage victory in a World Championship-qualifying endurance race since the Ford-based Mirage M1 had won at the same circuit in 1967.

For 1974 as Gulf Research racing, the Slough-based team fielded Mirage GR7 sports-prototypes, one of which finished fourth at Le Mans co-driven by Bell/Hailwood/Schuppan, before in 1975 this GR8 model was introduced into a motor racing world in deep recession.

The Gulf Research Racing operation had forsaken the entire World Championship series to concentrate instead upon the great individual prize of Le Mans. This was to be John Wyer�s swansong as team leader, although his long-time technical lieutenant John Horsman played a more hands-on role during the race. The GR8 as now offered here was absolutely tailor-designed to meet the contemporary regulations. Its high-tailed, low-drag body shape had been perfected through many hours of wind tunnel development, while the endurance-tuned version of the Formula 1 Cosworth-Ford DFV V8 engine which powered it was set to develop maximum performance at around 8,300rpm instead of the 10,400-plus commonly used in Grand Prix �sprint� racing. One Gulf GR8 was prepared for Jacky Ickx/Derek Bell to drive, the other � chassis �802� offered here � was entrusted to Vern Schuppan/Jean-Pierre Jaussaud.

From the start of the 24-Hours, Vern Schuppan and Derek Bell were able to draw away from Reinhold Jost�s Porsche to establish an early lead. After the first round of driver changes, with former Matra team driver Jaussaud at the wheel �802� here was forced into the pits from second place, losing 25 minutes while alternator and other electrical problems were corrected. The car resumed the race in fifth place.

Through the brief night, �802� soared back into contention, trading places with the Jost/Casoni/Barth Porsche 908/3 turbocharged car after it had struck a backmarker at Mulsanne Corner and itself lost a half-hour in the pits. By half-distance the Ickx/Bell GR8 � chassis �801� � was holding a commanding six-lap lead from team-mates Schuppan/Jaussaud in �802� holding second place. But on the Sunday morning Jaussaud began to experience severe vibration from the rear of this car, and lost time in repeated stops for attention. The car was restored to good health and �802� re-established itself in second position, only to experience further problems which permitted the Lafosse/Chasseuil/Beltoise Ligier JS2 to catch it. Their duel for second place became a tortoise and hare affair, with the Gulf-Mirage re-emerging from the pits to catch and repass the slower Ligier repeatedly.

With four hours to go rain began to fall, and this became so heavy it began to create further problems for the Gulf-Mirage�s electrical system. With one hour to run the long-time leading Ickx/Bell GR8 suffered a broken exhaust which required repair in the pits. Its once impregnable four-lap lead diminished to only two before the car rejoined the race, but Jacky Ickx was able to stave off the Ligier to achieve the second Le Mans victory for himself and for the Gulf team, and the first of many for Derek Bell. This car � �802� � survived to finish third, completing a memorable (and nail-biting) 1-3 success for the John Wyer Gulf team.

Contemporary team record sheets preserved in the documentation file accompanying this car record numerous technical details of its contemporary set-up for that classic race, the body configuration for example being described as �1975 body. Louvres on front wheel arches � Front blade extended 3-inches � NACA 4412 Aerofoil at 1.5� with flap at 18��. Even the anti-roll bar selection is recorded: �F. 7/8-inch x 12g � R. 7/8-inch x 8g�. The DFV engine�s fuel injection metering unit cam was ��set at .073-inch at 1FFL and .002-inch closed throttle (at FL)�. The car completed 330 laps, 4,504.881kms in the 24-Hours, an average speed of 187.703km/h.

For 1976 the Gulf Research Racing team�s hardware, and several key personnel, became part of a new operation taken over by Arizona-based businessman Harley Cluxton. Once more under the technical direction of John Horsman, the ex-Gulf Mirage GR8s were taken back to le Mans, the 1975 winning car being driven by Bell/Schuppan and this car � 802� � by the strong French pairing of Jean-Louis Lafosse/Francois Migault.

The experienced Mirage crews refused to be drawn into the opening-hours� �Grand prix� racing, and steadily moved up the leader board. By the middle of the night the Mirages emerged as the only serious surviving threat to the leading Porsches. At dawn this car driven by Lafosse/Migault was running in a solid third place, the other Cluxton Mirage having been delayed by an alternator replacement to lie fifth. Both Mirages later suffered fuel pump problems, but �802� was able to retake and retain second place behind the dominant works Porsche 936 sports-prototype of Jacky Ickx/Gijs van Lennep. With barely 15 minutes left to run, �802�s bodywork came adrift and panels blew off. A hasty pit-stop saw the missing panels replaced, but this tense and dramatic pit stop was then extended by the engine�s refusal to restart. To the relief of every team member, it finally spluttered, then barked back into deafening life, and so after its third place Le Mans finish the previous year, �802� was driven home into second place this time round. The documentation accompany this Lot records that during the race �802� had �Throttle return spring replaced � Lucas electric high pressure pump replaced � rear panel safety locking pin failed � wear in metering unit linkage � bell-housing R.H. top ear broken � 2 ZF casing long studs � exhaust nuts loose and missing � Champion G56R plugs seriously eroded � Metering unit plunger travel increased from .073-inches to .079-inches�. Le Mans was a hard race indeed�

Vern Schuppan later drove a GR8 to finish fifth in the Canadian 200-Miles at Mosport, but into 1976 World Championship sports car racing effectively died.

On November 27, 1987, this magnificent Gulf-Mirage GR8 � with Cosworth-Ford DFV V8 engine number �DFV 941� - was sold direct from Harley Cluxton�s Grand Touring Cars Inc. company of Scottsdale, Arizona, to Peter Kaus for the Rosso Bianco Collection, in whose care it has been carefully preserved � in highly original and unspoiled condition � ever since. This is a shining opportunity to buy into the charisma of the rarefied Gulf-Mirage marque, and to obtain an intensely practical, useable and potentially race-winning �modern era� Historic sports-prototype car of true quality.

Lot Details
Auction Goodwood Revival
Bonhams, Chichester, Sussex
Lot Number222
Outcome SOLD
Hammer Price£335000
Hammer Price (inc premium)£370000
Condition rating0
Registration number
Chassis number802
Engine number
Engine capacity (cc)
Engine - cylinders
Number of doors