20 years Ago: 67th 24 Hours of Le Mans

Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons
20 years Ago: 67th 24 Hours of Le Mans
Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons

20 years! Two decades! That’s how long RacingJunk.com has been in business, and we are celebrating this milestone by looking back at some of the good, bad, ugly and just plain weird things that happened in the race and performance space 20 years ago! Every week, we’ll throw it back to the end of the millennium and check out what 1999 had to offer (aside, of course, from Prince!). Want to share? Tag us with #RJ20Years in your social posts!

On June 12-13 of 1999, the 67th 24 Hours of Le Mans rolled through pits and down the track, concluding with a victory by Team BMW. The drivers of the winning BMW V12 LMR were Germany’s Joachim Winkelhock, Italy’s Pierluigi Martini and Yannick Dalmas of France.

The race was remarkable for multiple strange incidents involving Mercedes-Benz CLRs, which due to a design flaw had a tendency to take flight on hilltops or when following closely behind other vehicles. The first instance of this unintended air travel took place during Thursday night’s qualifiers, and despite efforts to fix the aerodynamic issues which caused it, the same CLR (#4, driven by Mark Webber) took to the skies once again during a quick Saturday morning warm-up. During the actual race, Peter Dumbreck’s CLR #5 leapt into flight on lap 75 just before the Indianapolis corner, soaring off the track and tumbling through the air before coming to rest in the trees off to the side of the track.

Fortunately, both drivers escaped these frightening crashes without injury, but Mercedes-Benz withdrew from sportscar racing for the foreseeable future as a result of the accidents. This marked the second time the automotive manufacturer had made such a withdrawal, the first coming as a result of the most disastrous crash in all of motorsports history – the 1955 Le Mans disaster. The horrific results of that 1955 catastrophe (84 deaths and over a hundred additional spectators injured) led Mercedes-Benz to stay away from motor racing entirely until 1989, but since the 1999 event damaged only cars and trees, the company continued to participate in touring car racing the next year – though not to sportscar racing.

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