17 May 1999
1983 RONDEAU M382
Chassis no. 007
Blue with black fabric seat
Engine: V8, Chevrolet, 5000 cc; Gearbox: Hewland five-speed manual; Suspension: fully independent by triangulated wishbones and radius arms; Brakes: four-wheel servo assisted vented disc. Right hand drive.
When he won the Le Mans GP d'Endurance in 1980, Jean Rondeau became the first driver ever to win the event in a car of his own construction. In 1971 changes in FIA international regulations brought a fascinating era of enclosed mid-engined sports racing cars to a close.Their place was taken by Group Six racing spyders, but open sports-car racing faded in the mid-1970s. In response, the organisers of the Le Mans 24-hours race announced a challenging grand touring prototype class, which left choice of engine free but limited fuel consumption. Rondeau was one of two new French manufacturers who built coupes for the new regulations, which called for the same size wheels to be fitted all round, full windscreen, some luggage space and imposed a minimum weight. Initially meaning to use a Peugeot V6 engine, they found it easier to attract sponsorship if the Cosworth vee-eight DFV was used. In appearance the Rondeau was quite conventional, but the very experienced Robert Choulet was called in for exhaustive wind-tunnel studies and the coupe may be described as a final sophisticated application of down-force aerodynamics before ground effect technology took over.
Rondeau ran at Le Mans on 13 occasions between 1972 and 1982 with his own cars, both in the GTP class and in lightened Group Six form. Initially they were called Inaltera-Ford, then Rondeau-Fords. After the 1980 victory Rondeau was able to run five cars in 1981, coming second and third. There was a 10th place in 1982, and a 19th spot in 1983.
This Rondeau ran in the 1983 race as no.72 (Lapeyre, Snobeck, Cudini) but retired after four hours with engine problems. The vendor purchased it in Geneva in 1989. It is offered in good and largely original condition, but with what is believed to be a racing specification Chevrolet vee-eight replacing the original Cosworth. The fuel-injected engine is in working order and the chassis is described as excellent, although some attention to the windscreen may be necessary. The Rondeau is a worthy survivor of a victorious line of Le Mans racers and represents an important moment when the whole philosophy of endurance sports-racing and prototype design was poised to undergo fundamental change as far more sophisticated ground effect and suspension concepts were applied. The car has Swiss documents.
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