Les 24hrs du Mans, is a legendary killer competition, where men have raced under extreme circumstances since 1923. The track, known as Circuit de la Sarthe, runs on both public road and race circuit and is 13.65 kilometers long in its current state.
Le Mans was most famous for its 6 km (3.7 mi) long straight, called Ligne Droite des Hunaudières. Speeds on the straight peaked over 400 km/h (250 mph) but the combination of high speed and high downforce caused tyre and engine failures. Due to safety concerns, two roughly equally spaced chicanes were consequently added to the straight before the 1990 race to limit the achievable maximum speed.
Just before the ban, a small team, WM Secateva, with a tiny budget, knew they had no chance of winning but had a history of building very low-drag cars, which were often the quickest on the Mulsanne straight. So they decided to go for the publicity of being the first car to do 400kph in the race. Thus was born the “Project 400”.
In 1987 they managed it in pre-race testing on an airfield runway, but fell some way short at the track.
They built a new car for 1988, with even lower drag, and went for it about 3 hours into the race with cooling intakes taped over for further drag reduction and Roger Dorchy, achieved a speed of 407kph (251mph!). The engine blew up right afterword and the car was wheeled away at the end of the lap by a celebrating team.
I bet they got drunk that afternoon. Don’t you love it?