Retrospective>>group 5 Monsters At Le Mans

Although I've rapidly become a drifting mega-fan in the past few years, my early roots as an auto-obsessive started out with a fascination for the Le Mans 24H. As the build up to the big event will be kicking off in a few days, I thought I'd share with you a few shots from a private vintage photo archive Speedhunters has recently gotten access to..

This is the first time these photos have ever been published.

I'm a huge fan of these late 70s/early 80s GT cars. At the time, there were very few restrictions on the type of modifications allowed on Group 5/IMSA GTX type machines. This resulted in some of the wildest, most overpowered production based race cars to ever thunder around racing tracks world-wide.

The Porsche 935 is of course the most famous and successful Group 5/IMSA GTX car of them all. This particular example is the Joest 935-78/81 which raced at Le Mans in 1982. It’s a replica of the famous "MobyDick" Martini Porsche 935-78 that famously clocked an epic top speed of 227 mph on the Mulsanne straight in 1978.

If you squint you can see that one of the drivers was a certain David Hobbs, who now commentates on Speed Channel  F1 coverage in the USA. Back then only 2 drivers shared a car for a 24H race: real men!

If the name Joest sounds familar to you its because this is the same team who now run the Audi R10s at Le Mans.

A Ferrari 512BB LM rounds Arnage Corner, well into its second day of continuous racing at Le Mans 1981. I love how you can see right inside the rear of the car.

The 512BB LM was never a particularly successful racing car. It was too heavy and underpowered compared to the much faster Porsches and suffered from a high center of gravity.

None the less a beautiful and elegant machine don't you think?

For 1981 Martini moved their sponsorship program over to Lancia with their diminutive Beta Monte Carlo Turbo machines. This shot was taking early in the race on the run down to Tetre Rouge.

The Lancias were not particularly high power machines, but gained performance by running to a light weight spec.

Fantastic livery on this car. It's a 1981 Group 5 spec Sauber BMW M1. Sauber went on to have a successful run as the factory Mercedes Benz sports car team in the late 80s/early 90s before switching to F1.

Nice butt shot. This particular chassis won the Nurburgring 1000km in 1981at the hands of a certain Nelson Piquet err.. Sr…

The endurance prepared BMW M1s were N/A but there were other turbo sprint versions of the M1 running in the German DRM series. These cars were known to develop as much as 1000bhp. No joke.

The famous 1979 Le Mans winning Kremer K3 in the pits. This car was the last true mass production based GT car to ever win Le Mans. (note to Andy Blackmore: I said mass production….). It made a whopping 750bhp.

The Mazda 254 screams down the pit straight at Le Mans.

Most Group5 cars ran with 19 inch rear wheels in a bid to have as large a contact area as possible with the ground.

Ahh if I would only go back in time to be in this crowd! You can see that the GTs and the Prototypes are intermingled on the 1981 start grid. Back then the ACO didn't necessarily mandate which class was to be fastest as they do today.

So can anyone name the cars seen on the grid here? Are you truly hardcore with your racing history?

:Rod Chong

Group 5 Wikipedia page



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Didn't the 935's have an advantage due to some headlight and front bumper width restrictions that didn't apply to them? It exempted them and allowed them to run wider width tires or something like that? Awesome photos gracias Rod.


And is the red car 2nd on the left a Porsche 917 or am I really off base?


in front of the Coca Cola 935? That a Rondeau Ford.

Porsche was very good at stretching the rules over that of their competitors. So yes they did consider the headlight area of the 911 part of the "fender" (which was open for full modification) and hence flattened it out for better aero.


Any pics of the prototypes?...

I wish I could go back in time just to watch these things roar in the circuit.


great shots! I guess the models seen on the grid are the following: De Cadenet-Ford, Rondeau-Ford, Porsche 935 K3, another special 935 - the one behind the Coca-Cola car with the really flat nose, dunno which 935 it's based on, Lancia Beta Monte Carlo Turbo, Ferrari 512BB LM, BMW M1 Group 4 & Group 5, the Stratagraph Chevrolet Camaro (awesome!), Mazda RX-7 (that black/gold one in the back was prepared by JUN), Lola T298, Porsche 924 GTR.

Is there any chance that you guys could invite some of the GrandJDM guys over, so they can do a coverage of the Japanese Silhouette cars?

Greets, Rufus


Awesome post Rod

GrandJDM have started their own project together with Japanese Nostalgic Car.


Haha, I think it'd be hard to name all the cars here, since that's just what Gr 5 is; full of silhouette cars that bear little resemblance to their road counterparts.


The 935 is one of the cars cars on my wish list.

Some awesome archive shots, thanks to the photographer for sharing.


I love that era so much... Especially the Beta Montecarlos.

Have you seen the Beta Montecarlo that Gilles Villeneuve, Walter Rohl and Christian Geistdorfer drove in the 1979 Giro d'Italia?

Beautiful pictures, thank you for sharing them.


Rod, are these available as prints anywhere? I love the second one looking down the pit straight!

Are there more shots where these came from?


hmmm nice. what is the mazda 254 based off of?


The Mazda 254 is based on the SA22 or FB RX-7.


Tx for the response guys!

I have several hundred of these photos and I'll release them in packs over the course of the year.

Rufus Goldstreiff let's be friends haha. Interesting to know that the black/gold RX7 (253 right?) was prepped by JUN. I have some pics of this car. Will need to find out more about it.

Cole Trickle I am familiar with the Giro d'italia version of the Beta MonteCarlo that Villenueve drove. It was a short trail car if I recall correctly. I'm a serious trainspotter for these types of cars!


Tom Wheeler they are not available as prints although perhaps we can release some as high res desktops in the future. I'll have to talk to the photographer about that though. We'd likely need to get them rescanned in order to release high rez versions.


You guys are killing it. Great post.


Amazing! I wish I was born a couple decades earlier. Love the M1-closest thing BMW have ever had to a supercar. Always loved the Lancias in Martini Livery, some of the best looking racecars in my opinion(apart from '50s and '60s gt cars).




I saw that pink and white KREMER Porsche at Laguna Seca last year!!! I went to the Monterey Pre-Historic races with my friend Ricky and his wife... we went down to Laguna real quick in the morning as guests of David Swig and his father Martin (from Motoring J Style and also California Mille fame), and I touched this Porsche! I even took some photos inside I think. As a result of going to Laguna Seca to check out the Pre-Historic Races, we were super late to Calvin Wan's pre-wedding party... sorry Calvin! But he and his wife were super cool about it, and were glad to see us anyway! haha Cool!!!


one thing that bothers me about all the 935s doing historic racing these days is that they don't run the 19" rear wheels which looks just plain wrong to me hahah.

Herm maybe we should go to Monterrey for the historics...


That BASF scheme is awesome, I love it. Check out the NIKE endorsement on the Mazda 254, that's crazy, when is the last time they've sponsored a car, besides that fish looking car in GT4. Also, anybody know how the word "livery" came about in terms of meaning color scheme, I'm ignorant to how this word was derived.


I love this site!


Awesome pictures Rod. The Group 5 cars and later the Group C's were absolute marvels, and a blast to watch. As much as I look forward to LeMans every year, it seems in recent history, it's become far more sanitized (with the exception being the diesel innovations),

The Lancia's were gorgeous IMHO - perfectly proportioned

Thanks for sharing this!



Amazing shots, its so freaking awesome to be able to see stuff like this. To me, this is the golden era of motorsport...time to start building my time machine.


Haaa ! you get me Rod ! Speedhunters is now high ranked in my bookmarks. Superb material you share here , and i'm very happy to see that i'm not hte only one totally nuts about these old monsters.

Just like Rufus said , it should be cool to have a look on the Japan Racing history too , particulary about Japanese version of the Gr5 , the JGTC ancestors.

Wide bodies , large Turbos , Tube framed chassis and Huuuuge tires : all i love !...( and seem that i'm not the only one :D )

About the high-res screen desktops.......Greeen greeen greeen !

@Pat Daly : The word "livery" is based on a latin word "liberare" (make free) and used in the french middle-age , " la livrée " which was a sort of coat used like a flag , to show others the rank and the origin of the man , genrally a noble personn. Ouch ,sorry for the french mess , very approximative translation , i hope you get the main idea.






Some of our long term readers will know that I'm a big fan of late '70s/early '80s Group


wat a machines, i like it