1976 LENHAM P71
Race history since 1971, including the 24 hours of Le Mans in 1976. Eligible CER, Le Mans Classic etc ...
Lenham : from polyester to motor racing
Lenham was a small English catering company which in the early 1960s specialized in polyester kits for " spridgets ". Out of passion and for publicity purposes, they will produce an example of a small GT coupe powered by the 4 cyl. 1600 Lotus TC. In 1969, Ray Calcutt entered the car, not without success, in various club races. Subsequently transformed into a tray, it will take the name of P69. At that time, Roger Hurst who got involved in this engagement in competition, decided to form an independent structure called the Lenham-Hurst Racing Organization, in order to develop and build racing cars under the Lenham name. The P69 will be rented to the French Francis Kruch who will enter it in various French events. In 1970, Roger Hurst will apply for an entry for the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The P70, a slightly modified P69 which takes the same engine is built for Ray Calcutt and Francois Libert. But the entry will be refused by the organizers.
Roger Hurst's ambition with the P71
At the end of 1970, Roger Hurst started work on the P71 with the ambition of participating in the World Championship for Brands events. He acquires a Repco 3-liter ex-F1 V8 engine. In addition, a Brabham of F3, the chassis BT28 / 6, will serve as a donor for various items. Engaged in the 1971 Brands Hatch 1000 km, they will not make the trip due to lack of preparation. She will also be absent from the 1000 km of the Nurburgring and the project is finally put to sleep. Collaborating with the Le Havre company Darnval, Roger Hurst will again submit an entry request to the ACO for the 24 Hours of Le Mans 1972. The P71 is renamed Darnval LM2, with the hope that the selection committee will give more credit to a French brand. Roger Hurst and Francois Migault, show up for the April testing and even take part in the 4 Hours of Le Mans test, which takes place on the sidelines of testing. Poorly performing tests, They will be in the race, victim of the failure of the clutch. The " Darnval / Lenham »Will not be present for the June event. Le Mans will remain a dream for Roger Hurst who will sell P71.
The Leboucher period
It is Roland Leboucher who will acquire P71 and participate with events in the French Circuit Championship during the 1973 season. The arch and the rear of the body will be modified to meet the regulations. Depending on the commitments and reports, Lenham sometimes takes the name of Darnval or RL. In 1974, he repeated in the same championship. Associated with Jacques Prévoteau, he will even be present at the 2-hour ACO race which takes place on the sidelines of the preliminary tests for the 1974 24 Hours of Le Mans. The pilots note that the front cover is dangerously load-bearing. Thus from 220 km / h in Les Hunaudières the front axle rises and in curves, the lightness of the front axle causes a violent understeer. For the rest of the season Roland Leboucher will modernize the P71, and thus solve these downforce problems, by grafting it with a modern bodywork inspired by the Porsche 917/10 Can Am. The Repco engine, out of breath, finally breaks of the season. Roland Leboucher is going to put the car up for sale by passing through small advertisements in the magazine Echappement throughout 1975. The starting price is 30 000 FF.
The 1976 24 Hours of Le Mans
It was finally early 1976 than José Thibault, will acquire the beauty: " I bought this car in Le Havre. It was equipped with the Repco V8 which was broken and which I sold. I absolutely wanted to do Le Mans because I was frustrated in 1975 not to have qualified because of the sluggish engine of Wicky's Pantera. I brought the Lenham back to my garage on rue des Etats-Unis in Chateauroux. And I worked to install a new engine there. I bought the Cosworth FVC 1840cc from Philippe Mettetal. It was the engine that had been planned for the Tecma of Le Mans in 1975 ; it had broken during the tests but since it had been revised. To comply with the new regulations, the car had to be modified. Indeed, it was equipped with side tanks and the regulations imposed a deformable structure. I had corked aluminum sheets made at a Heavy Duty sheet metal worker who was next to my garage. This protected the tanks as well. The front cover had to be modified to integrate the headlights. We were really a small team, with very few resources. We went to Magny-Cours on May 1, 1976 to test the car during the 2-liter championship round. But we only did a few laps in practice because of shock absorber problems, because the rear load with the Cosworth was not the same as with the Repco! Michel Lateste came to see me telling me that he did not have a steering wheel for Le Mans but that he had the support of Mr. Meuble. It complemented the tiny budget I got from the New Republic. It was the commitment to resourcefulness to which the young Alain Hubert joined, who drove single-seater and who had a small budget.
At Le Mans, during the tests I had a visit from customs, who told me that out of the three imported Lenhams, there was only one cleared ... luckily Leboucher had provided me with the papers, showing that this was the case. this was in order. It was Michel who took the start and who stopped at the pit after the launch lap in order to please… his sponsor. ”
Sporting the No.29, the Lenham was going to have trouble with the shifter loosening and vibrations in the nose gear. After 4 hours of racing, it will have covered only 8 laps and is in last position.
“I was hopeful to finish the race, that was my goal after having worked whole nights to prepare the car. But I must admit that I was really exhausted, moreover during my stint, it happened to me to close an eye in the Hunaudières. I believe that we were raised to 290 km / h in the Hunaudières. During one of his stints, Michel suffered a breakage of a cardan Flector and stopped on the edge of the track. With the tools that we had taped into the cockpit, he managed to lock the differential with an adjustable wrench and was able to reach the pit. But we had few spare parts. A friend took his car to go to Champagné to a mechanic to find one. These Flector were mounted on the Saviem SG2. After repairs, we were able to leave… ”
But the repair took time and the Lenham will be disqualified in the 14th hour for not having covered the 70% of the prescribed distance.
José Thibault will part with the car to devote himself to other projects. It is a gendarme who acquires it. He will occasionally run odds before selling it in the mid to early 1980s.
A collector will store it for twenty years until its current owner discovers it, restores it completely (invoices and an important file allow it to be documented) and entered it at Le Mans Classic in 2014.
The Lenham of the 24 hours of Le Mans 1976 is ready to run. It is eligible for Classic Endurance Racing and Le Mans Classic, where being a unique model it contributes to making this one of the most beautiful event in the world.
: P71 upgraded for the 1976 24 Hours of Le Mans
: Tubular steel
: Ford 1.8 l BDA
: 200 ch. @ 9,200 rpm
: Hewland FG 400
: 600 kg