956/117: RAISING THE GAME
Joest Racing’s constant refinement of its customer Porsche 956s meant that 956/117
qualified more than eight seconds quicker in 1985 than it had managed in ’ 84.
No. 7 No. 7 CAR NUMBER
Paolo Barilla/Klaus Ludwig/
Klaus Ludwig/Henri Pescarolo DRIVERS
4th (3m20.03s) 4th (3m28.42s) QUALIFIED
373 laps (3158.239miles) 359 laps (3039.699miles) DISTANCE COVERED
131.593mph 126.654mph AVERAGE SPEED
3 laps 2 laps MARGIN OF VICTORY
“They were all small points,” says Joest
today, “but they came together to give us
a better car. We did a lot of development at
Paul Ricard and really worked on details.
That is always the secret at Le Mans.”
The attention to detail that’s made Joest
the most successful team in the history of
Le Mans with 15 wins – 16, really, given that
a Joest crew ran the triumphant Bentley
in 2003 – didn’t stop when the trucks
rolled out of its workshops in Germany. It
formed a game plan, and then stuck to it.
“We had a certain strategy for the
turbo boost and the revs that had been
worked out by the team in qualifying,”
recalls Piedade. “We knew exactly what
we were going to do in the race because
we had tested it all in qualifying.”
The winning 956 ran as little
downforce as possible and the tallest fifth
gear available to maximize speed down
the still chicane-free, 3.7-mile Mulsanne
Straight. What’s more, the drivers were
instructed to turn down the boost and
“We knew how much we
could gain by using less
revs, and how much
lean off the fuel mixture on this long
chute and to coast whenever they picked
up a decent slipstream. And then coast
again after the hump down to Mulsanne
Corner. All in the name of fuel saving.
“We knew how much we could gain by
using less revs, and how much by coasting,”
says Piedade. “If you coast for 1,000 or
1,200 meters a lap, for every 10 laps you’re
able to do one lap more than the rest.”
Joest also confirms the story that the
winning crew were instructed not to use
first gear. “This is perfectly true,” he says.
“This was also one of our secrets.”
It was Piedade’s job as team manager
to make sure that the Joest drivers stuck
(ABOVE) Joest’s No. 7 Porsche 956 tails a factory Martini
Lancia LC2 in the early stages of the 1984 24 Hours of
Le Mans. The Italian cars had dominated the opening hours of
the race, but when they ran into various mechanical dramas
after passing the halfway mark, the privateer Porsche pounced.
READY TO POUNCE...
His Formula 1 career
spanned nine years
(1968-’ 76), but
he’s better known
for his four Le Mans
three straight with
Matra (1972-’ 74).
Sports car specialist
Ludwig won Le Mans
in ’ 79 in a Porsche
935 K3. He joined
Joest in ’ 83, raced a
works Porsche in ’ 88,
then focused on the
DTM with Mercedes.