1975 Gulf Mirage GR8 Pilots: D. Bell, J. Ickx Team: Gulf Research Racing Co. Race: 1st GC (S 3.0 class) at Le Mans in 1975 Spark - 43LM75 (resin)
Mirage GR8 #10 (05/01/18):
Ford’s withdrawal from international sports car racing in 1966 created a void in the FIA World Manufacturers’ Championship. With that in mind, John Weyer founded J.W. Automotive Engineering (JWA) in 1967 to produce and race prototypes in the 1967 championship. These cars were called Mirages, and from the beginning were sponsored by the Gulf Oil Corporation. The Mirage M1 was doing well, but in 1969 FIA changed the rules and it became obsolete. At the same time, JWA was contracted by Porsche to work on the 917 project, so a Mirage car only returned to the race tracks in 1972, as the M6 version.
The Mirage M6 used initially a Cosworth V8, but it wasn’t reliable. Wyer then tried a Westlake V12, but the new engine was not a great improvement either. With that, despite a win at Spa, the 1973 season was a disappointment for Mirage. The car continued to evolve and for 1974 four of the five M6 chassis were rebuilt as the new GR7. Using the Cosworth V8, the big improvement of the GR7 was the lower weight. Many parts throughout the car were now titanium instead of steel.
At the same time JWA became Gulf Research Racing, to honor the long-standing partnership with Gulf Oil. However, with no solid result at La Sarthe so far, in 1975 the winds changed at Gulf, and the sponsorship was in danger. John Wyer had a lot of work but managed to convince Gulf for one last try at Le Mans. Therefore, in early 1975 they started to work on a new car, the Gulf Mirage GR8.
The design of the GR8 followed their previous cars, but it had a longer wheelbase. To power the car, they went with the Cosworth V8, that by now was over the reliability issues. Sponsored by Ford and designed by Cosworth, the DFV was a 90º V8 with 2993 cm³. With 32 valves and DOHC, it produced 375 hp. Gulf Mirage had two cars at La Sarthe in 1975. The GR8 #11, piloted by Ickx and Bell, came in first place, while #10 (Jaussaud and Schuppan) came in third.
Despite the victory, Gulf pulled the plug and that was the last year of the Gulf Mirage team. This GR8 #11 is chassis #801, and in 1976 it went back to Le Mans and managed a fifth place. It would race at La Sarthe until 1979, after which it retired. Nowadays you can see it at the 24 Hours of Le Mans Museum.
Rondeau and Mirage are the only independent manufacturers whose cars won Le Mans after World War II. So for the Le Mans nut, the Mirage GR8 #11 is an important car. I already had one of the 1976 cars (chassis #802) from Ixo, but unfortunately that is a VERY poor model. So when I found this one from Spark I was ecstatic. As expected, it’s a beautiful model – accurate and finally detailed. Just look at the rear wing support struts. Thus, a far cry from my Ixo. So if you’re really into Le Mans, the winning Mirage is a must. But I strongly recommend going the Spark route.