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70 years ago today: SKODA’s only start in the famous 24 Hours of Le Mans

At the 24-hour race in Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, the three four-seaters with closed bodywork used by ŠKODA each covered 1,972 kilometres and finished the long-distance challenge in the first three places in their cubic-capacity class.

For the 1949 season, the Czech car manufacturer developed a special racing variant based on the ‘Tudor’: the ŠKODA Sport. However, the brand had its sights set on another goal – Le Mans, the already world-famous 24-hour race in the French department of Sarthe. On 24 June 1950, a Saturday, the ŠKODA factory team finally made it: The enhanced version of the 1101 Sport was positioned diagonally in front of the pit wall of the 13.65km ‘Circuit des 24 Heures’, ready for the Le Mans start at 16.00 hrs, which was still common at that time – the drivers lined up on the opposite side of the track ready to sprint to their racing cars at the signal, jump in, start the engine and speed off.

Václav Bobek and Jaroslav Netušil were behind the wheel for ŠKODA. Their 600-kilogram light contest vehicle had a wheelbase that was extended to 2,150 millimetres specifically for Le Mans, which improved directional stability, and sickle-shaped air vents were installed next to the main headlights. With the usual racing fuel of the time – a mixture of petrol, ethanol and acetone – the ŠKODA Sport reached a top speed of 140 km/h with a consumption of only twelve litres per 100 kilometres.

Jaroslav Netušil and Václav Bobek, both Le Mans débutants, gave it their all. With an average speed of 126 km/h, they soon fought their way up to second place in the up to 1,100cc class in the field of 60 contenders in the eleven-car class. A technical defect knocked the ŠKODA Sport out of the race: The locking element of a crankpin had snapped, and it was not possible to repair it on site.

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Jun 27, 2020 at 23:55

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