Page 1 of 2 Next >> Soon after the Sprite was introduced, Austin Healey embarked on a competition program aimed specifically at the American market. The primary objective was to excel at Sebring where Austin Healey had recorded impressive results in the past. Accordingly, the competition cars are today commonly referred to as 'Sebring Sprites'. During the 1960s, the 24 Hours of Le Mans also became an objective and Austin Healey went to great lengths to create suitable racers based on the Sprite platform.
For 1965 an all-new aluminium body was introduced that was the result of extensive wind-tunnel testing. Sporting a sharp nose, slippery lines and a cut-off 'Kamm' tail, this was the shape found to be most suitable for the long straights at Le Mans. Four sizeable circular headlights were mounted under plexiglass covers fitted flush with the nose. Two large, adjustable flaps were fitted on the top and bottom of the nose to control the flow of fresh air to the radiator.
Underneath the slippery body, the latest Austin Healey racers did show more similarities with the Sprite road car. Suspension was by double wishbones at the front and a live rear axle. Equipped with a single Weber carburettor, the simple 1,293 cc BMC engine produced just over 100 bhp. This was fed through the rear wheels through an MG B gearbox, originally with four forward gears and later with five. The tiny car tipped the scales at just 610 kg.
Although designed with Le Mans in mind, the 'Le Mans Sprite' debuted at the 1965 season-opening Sebring 12 Hours. Piloted by Rauno Aaltonen and Clive Baker, it was finished in a striking orange livery, which ensured no one could overlook the diminutive machine. Starting a lowly 37th, the experience pairing finished 15th overall and 2nd in the 2-litre prototype class behind an eight-cylinder engined Porsche 904/8. Page 1 of 2 Next >>