Breakthrough

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Breakthrough: the slick tyre

2 months ago

Writer:

David Twohig | Engineer

Date:

15 August 2022

Late September, 1968, Le Mans city centre. It’s the traditional public pesage (literally ‘weighing in’, but better translated as scrutineering) that kicks off Le Mans week. In 1968, the 24-hour race was pushed back from its usual June slot, as France flirted with a second Revolution that summer, and riots and flames swept the capital as students and trade unionists kicked against the traces of tradition.

Traditions were also being challenged at Le Mans. The #30 Alpine A220, to be driven by Jean Vinatier and André de Cortanze, was pushed into the scrutineering bay to be weighed, measured, prodded and poked. Serious-looking technical commissaires of the Automobile Club de l’Ouest with tweed jackets and clipboards busied about, frowns on foreheads and unlit Gauloises dangling from lips to underline the importance of their job.

But what’s this? A stir of excitement. A gaggle of scrutineers crouch down at the delicate little Alpine’s front wings, clearly not happy. One of them calls the Alpine engineers over. What’s the meaning of this? This is in very poor taste – this car is sitting on bald tyres. Ce n’est pas sérieux, messieurs! – meaning: this is very serious indeed, gentlemen.

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