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Le Mans 1990 Winning Team - An Interesting Story Behind The Scene

16th - 17th June 1990

By Claus Kølbæk Møller

A funny story about John Nielsen's victory in 1990 with Price Cobb and Martin Brundle: They drove an American-owned Jaguar and although it was supposed to be identical to the UK factory cars, they weren't. Neither was the American car supposed to win over the 2 UK cars.

They tricked the UK teams, as they found out that with a bit of trickery they could almost match the pace of the UK teams. Even with a harder tire compound. The Jaguars were tough on the tires and needed to be changed at least every second pit stop. The American team had tested the harder compound in secrecy and actually hid the tyres in a tunnel under the track - so the UK teams would not find out. I do not think the factory teams found out until after the race why mysteriously the American car could drive another stint on every set of tire and saved lots of time in the pits.

Another problem for the team was the original 3rd driver Eliseo Salazar, who caused excessive wear on the dog-rings and was the cause of gearbox problems in training and qualifying.

John, as the captain, decided on the race strategy - and initially only John and Price Cobb drove the car for more than the first half of the race. When the UK factory car of Martin Brundle, Alain Ferté and David Leslie retired after 220 laps, Martin Brundle was transferred to John's car - and Eliseo never got behind the wheel and thus has not been credited for being in the winning car.

The final problem was that with Brundle having been driving in both cars and Johns excessive driving during the first half of the race to keep Eliseo out of the car, both would be very near the absolute limit of 14 hours driving allowed for each driver. And Price Cobb was exhausted due to dehydration, it was obvious that he could not perform. So in the middle of the night John Nielsen disguised himself using Price Cobbs helmet, and drove an extra two stints - so he would have 2 stints more to drive as they approached the finish. He actually ended up driving approximately 15 hours of the total 24 hours in the winning Jaguar....

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