1979 Rondeau M379B Pilots: J-P. Jaussau, J. Rondeau Team: Jean Rondeau / ITT Le Point Race: 1st GC at Le Mans in 1980 Spark - 43LM80 (resin)
After a short career as a pilot in Formula Renault and even some sporadic appearances at Le Mans, in 1975 Jean Rondeau decided to make his own car. He struck a deal with French wallpaper company Inaltera and built a Le Mans car, literally in his own backyard. The involvement with Inaltera lasted until 1977, when the company walked away from racing. Even with short funding, Rondeau soldiered on, and in 1978 he debuted (and raced!) the first car with his name: the M378. He finished in 9th overall.
Always struggling with funding, for 1979 Rondeau further developed the M378 into the M379. Built to Group 6 specifications and though aiming at outright victory, the best result achieved was a 5th place. For the following year the car’s aerodynamics was improved. To increase downforce two small winglets were added to two vertical fins. This improved model was the M379B.
Like its predecessors, the chassis of the M379B was a steel tubular space frame. It counted on aluminum sheet reinforcement, and the engine was a stressed member of the setup. The engine was from Formula 1, the Ford-Cosworth DFV, a 90º V8 with 2998 cm³ of displacement, DOHC and 4 valves/cylinder. Despite all the financial and technical difficulties, and fierce opposition by Jacky Ickx and his Porsche 908, car #16 (chassis #M379-003) piloted by Jean-Pierre Jaussau and Jean Rondeau himself came in 1st place overall at La Sarthe in 1980.
Rondeau did what nobody had done before, and more than probably never will again. At just 34 he won Le Mans driving a car of his own construction . His story is one of stubbornness determination. A backyard constructor went up against quite a few of the industry’s giants and prevailed. Jean Rondeau (”l’enfant du Mans”) died at only 39, when a train hit his Porsche 944, just a mile away from his shop at Le Mans. However, his feat will always be remembered – the archetypical garagista, and unfortunately, probably the last.
With all that history, for a Le Mans nut this model is a MUST buy. Yes, ugly (almost Yucky-ugly, in fact), but a grail model. You can also have the same model from Quartzo or Ixo. But being such an important piece, I went for the more expensive Spark version. And they delivered: great detail level that represents very well the 1:1 in scale. And a bit more special because I bought this on November 5th and it arrived on March 2018 😯.
Just a little late, but awesome.