In 1987 and 1988 a little known French team called WM entered Le Mans with no intention of winning, their sole intention was to break the 400kph barrier on the Mulsanne straight.
The team was set up by two Peugeot engineers and although it was not a factory team they did enjoy a huge amount of help from Peugeot especially with engines and access to aerodynamics development.
In 1987 the car used a 2.8 V6 twin turbo with 850bhp, the cars performance in 1987 was below par due to poor fuel quality from the paddock pumps, many teams suffered serious engine issues at this Le Mans for this reason, even the factory Rothmans Porsches were crippled other than their winning car (classic Porsche). The car did manage 380kph but this was some way off the 415kph the car had managed in testing.
1988, the car was tweeked from the ’87 car, now 3.0 litres and 900bhp and other subtle aero enhancements. The car suffered early difficulties but after a very lengthy pitstop (3hrs!) the car returned to the track and did what it was built to do. After a number of laps the car managed 405kph (252mph) before it predictably retired with overheating issues. There were rumours that the lengthy pit stop consisted of a repair, blanking off cooling ducts and pushing the boost up to the limit hence the over heating, either way it achieved its goal.
The team did return in 1989 with a pair of cars but were hampered by technical problems, neither of the cars managed any kind of decent run. The winning Sauber Mercedes managed 401kph in qualifying, this showed that speeds on the Mulsanne were getting very high indeed and due to safety concerns the Mulsanne for 1990 was to have a pair of chicanes splitting it into three. This would cement the P88 into the record books.
This is a story I like because of its pure focus on achieving what the creators wanted. The rear covered wheels are a feature seen at Le Mans on a variety of cars, but to almost cover the fronts in a quest for speed even though it will compromise your cars chance of winning, it becomes clear that victory at Le Mans was last thing on WM’s mind. Hats off to them.