On 15 June 1969, Jacky Ickx crossed the finish line in the 37th Le Mans 24 Hours a matter of 120 yards ahead of Hans Herrmann, to win the coveted trophy for the first time. He was driving a 5-litre V8 powered Ford GT40, a car first raced back in 1964, but significantly updated in the intervening years. Right on his tail came Hans Herrmann in the 3-litre Porsche 908 LH. This is the closest finish between adversaries in the history of this great race, although cars from the same manufacturer have frequently crossed the finish line together in a staged formation to maximise the PR or marketing value of photographs that circulate in the press afterwards.
What the results column does not tell you, though, is that Ickx and Herrmann swapped the lead several times each lap during the last hour, making this one of the most nail-biting finishes in the race’s history. The Porsche was powered by an engine a little more than half the size of the Ford’s and with much less grunt, but thanks to superior aerodynamics, the Porsche was more than a match for the Ford. In the final analysis, it was a contest between the 5-litre 460 bhp V8 Ford and the 3-litre 360 bhp flat-8 Porsche, and although the Ford was victorious, there was precious little in it, as the two cars were just seconds apart after 24 hours of hard racing!
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