1979 Rondeau M379C-L #8 Pilots: J. Haran, J-L. Schlesser, P. Streiff Team: Jean Rondeau - L’Automobile Race: 2nd overall (1st in GTP 3.0) at Le Mans in 1981 Ixo - LMC 050 (diecast)
Jean Rondeau was an extraordinary racer, and forever will be in the history of Le Mans. He only won once, and was not the first Frenchman to win at La Sarthe. The car he drove to victory in 1980 was also not the first French car to win. Nonetheless, what Rondeau accomplished never happened before and never will happen again. He won the 24 Heures du Mans piloting a car that he designed and built himself! Furthermore, he was born and lived at La Sarthe, with his racing shop right next to the track. However, the road to that win was long and hard. His first Le Mans race was in 1972, though always in small teams and with puny results. By 1976, he had had enough, when he partnered with Inaltera and produced his first car (though called Inaltera LM).
In 1976 the Inaltera LM came in eighth place and first in the GTP class. With good funding Rondeau could carry on development and production. Unfortunately, in 1978 Inaltera pulled out of motorsports, and that almost was the end. Even so, Rondeau was able to secure funding and the project went ahead. Now, however, his cars earned his name, and the first was the Rondeau M378. In 1979 the M378 evolved into the M379, and he built two chassis. For 1980 he further developed the M379 into the M379B, with which he came in first place. Development continued, and in 1981 the new M379C arrived. Well, to be more precise, he modified his existing chassis into the new version. Though he always used Ford-Cosworth’s DFV 2998 cm³ V8 engine, changes to the chassis and body were minimal. Nonetheless, these improvements brought better handling, more reliability and higher top speed.
After the 1980 win, the French were in a state of bliss. That being so, Rondeau arrived for the 1981 race with five cars. Never Renault or Matra, huge car manufacturers, aligned so many cars on a grid. The “Big Boys Class” that year was Group 6. For the Group 6 class (or S+ 2.0 – “Sport more than 2 liters”), he had three cars – #24, #25 and #26. He also had two cars in the GTP 3.0 class, cars #7 and #8. Even though all cars were M379C, the GTP cars were a little different: M379C-L. The M379C-L differed by having a slightly longer tail and using the DFV 3.0 instead of the DFV 3.3 of the Group 6 cars. Eventually, the three M379C were not a challenge for Porsche’s 936/81. Conversely, M379C-L #8 came in second place overall and first in GTP.
One more oddball for my Rondeau fleet! I’m first to admit that Rondeau’s cars are, well, dog ugly. But come on, a guy who builds his own car and wins Le Mans? That’s the stuff of legends. For M379C-L #8 here I had only two options: Ixo or Altaya. From all the pics I found, I think they share the same mold. In terms of livery, they also look the same, and both have marked tires. Even so, I went for the pricier and harder-to-find Ixo. Why? Because of the windshield wipers – on the Altaya version they look much cruder. A small detail but it gives Ixo the edge. Well, in general the model is far from Spark-good, but pretty decent. So most definitively not for the casual collector, however great for the Le Mans nut.