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  Inaltera GTP Cosworth
 

  Article Image gallery (15) 003 Specifications  
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Country of origin:France
Produced from:1976 - 1977
Numbers built:3
Designed by:Bureau de Design Ovale
Successor:Rondeau M378 Cosworth
Author:Wouter Melissen
Last updated:July 21, 2009
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Click here to download printer friendly versionThe French racing enthusiasts were served quite a treat by Matra in the early 1970s. When they announced their withdrawal from motorsport at the end of 1974 and after winning three 'Le Mans' on the trot, there were not many local replacements to take up the gauntlet. The 1975 edition of the legendary endurance race was pretty much a British affair with the Cosworth powered Mirages and Lolas setting the pace. The only real opposition came from the Italian flat 12 engined Tipo 33. Although entirely different designs, the British and Italians had poor reliability in common, but one of the Gulf livered Mirages survived to take the win.

Literally around the corner plans were in the making to once again enter a French machine the following edition. There were in fact two incentives, one headed by former racer Jean Rondeau and the other by Peugeot designer Gerard Welter. Both projects were fairly similar in their desire to race a fixed-head Group 6 GTP car powered by the PRV (Peugeot, Renault and Volvo) V6 engine. This 2.7 litre street car engine was obviously not as powerful as the F1 derived Cosworth, but it was French and for a variety of obvious reasons that was very important. The success of the Mirage however convinced Rondeau that the powerful engine was reliable enough for endurance racing and aborted his PRV plans.

Rondeau's bold decision left him without the financial backing of the French companies Welter could count on, but he came up with an ingenious deal that would safeguard the future of the project. He signed a big sponsorship agreement with coloured paper producer Inaltera that included entering the cars branded as Inaltera. Rondeau's decision to switch to a British engine was already not very well received, but his sponsorship deal really got the French people talking. When the Inaltera team arrived at Le Mans in 1976, the major television station TF1 instructed their commentators to not mention the sponsor's and with it the car's name.

Around the Cosworth engine, Rondeau constructed a steel spaceframe chassis, strengthened at places by aluminium box sections. The suspension was very conventional by double wishbones on both ends. The Lockheed vented front discs were limited in size by the GTP regulations, which dictated a maximum wheel size of just 13". At the rear they were installed inboard to lower the unsprung weight. French design company 'Bureau de Design Ovale' penned a simple and very slippery coupe body with big NACA ducts on both sides as the most prominent features. High speed stability was ensured by two fins on each side of the wide tail.

Completed literally in Rondeau's backyard, two cars were ready for the 1976 Le Mans. The arrival of the Turbocharged Porsche 936, basically left all Naturally Aspirated entrants with little chance for the overall glory. Although 44 laps down on the winning Porsche, the Henri Pescarolo and Jean-Pierre Beltoise driven Inaltera finished first in the GTP class. This feat was repeated the next year with a fourth place overall for the fastest of the three behind turbocharged machines. Later that year the Inaltera wallpaper company was sold and the racing team disbanded.

The three cars and all spares were sold to Heini Mader. Rondeau retained the drawings, which allowed him to build a new car under his own name. In 1980 a 'Rondeau' would win Le Mans. Retaining the engines, Mader sold the cars to three Swiss privateers. It was only at this time that the cars received chassis numbers and to complicate things the last car completed was numbered 1. Only the second car completed, numbered chassis 3, was raced again at Le Mans; it finished 13th overall and 2nd in class in 1978.

All three cars remained in Switzerland for many years. The owner of 'chassis 1' originally intended to convert his car to a road car. He refitted a Cosworth engine and painted the car in BMW colors as he ran the local BMW dealership. Since then the car has been completely restored to its original condition and colors but remains with the same owner. The other two cars were eventually acquired by the same person who completely restored them. The one raced by Jean Rondeau has since been sold to the French department of La Sarthe which annually hosts the Le Mans race.

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  Article Image gallery (15) 003 Specifications