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  Rondeau M378 Cosworth
 

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Country of origin:France
Produced in:1978
Numbers built:1
Designed by:Jean Rondeau
Predecessor:Inaltera GTP Cosworth
Successor:Rondeau M379 Cosworth
Author:Wouter Melissen
Last updated:July 03, 2014
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Click here to download printer friendly versionIn its long history the 24 Hours of Le Mans has only once been won by a driver in a car of his own making. This unique feat was achieved by Le Mans resident Jean Rondeau in 1980. The foundations for his victory were laid in 1976 when Rondeau built his first racing car, literally in the backyard of his house. For the first years, the effort was backed by coloured paper producer Inaltera. After back-to-back 'GTP' class victories at Le Mans, the partnership ended and all the team's assets, including the Inaltera badged cars, were sold off. Jean Rondeau was fortunately left with his original drawings, enabling him to build a new car for the 1978 edition of the race on very short notice.

Like its predecessors, the new Rondeau M378 used a steel tubular spaceframe with aluminium sheet reinforcement as the chassis. Used as a stressed member was the Formula 1 sourced Cosworth DFV V8 engine, which in the back of the Inalteras had proven remarkably reliable. In endurance trim, it now produced in excess of 450 bhp. The suspension was also wholly conventional with double wishbones at the front and a rear end consisting of parallel links and twin trailing arms. A Hewland five-speed gearbox and Lockheed disc brakes completed the mechanical package. The car was clothed in a fibreglass body designed with help from French company 'Bureau de Design Ovale'. Created exclusively for Le Mans, it was very slippery and featured no rear wing, just two fins for high speed stability. Compared to the Inaltera, the biggest changes were a longer tail and partly covered rear wheels.

As with his earlier cars, Jean Rondeau entered the M378 in the GTP (Grand Touring Prototype) class as opposed to the Group 6 class for 3-litre prototypes for which the new car was also eligible. Group 6 was the playing field of the Porsche and Renault-Alpine factory teams, so there was little chance of success there for privateer efforts like Rondeau. To qualify for the GTP class, cars had to have a full size windshield and a considerably higher minimum weight, so Rondeau did compromise his odds for the already unlikely outright victory further. Jean Rondeau secured a sponsorship deal with bearing manufacturer SKF and was partnered behind the wheel by fellow Frenchmen Bernard Darniche and Jacky Haran. The car was completed just days before qualifying and set the 40th time. That was quickly forgotten as the Rondeau fought its way up to the leader-board to finish ninth overall and 1st in the GTP class. The second placed GTP was one of the earlier Inalteras.

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