1996 VENTURI 600 LM-S GT1
1993 – 1996 : from the 500 LM to the 600 LM-S
The 4th February 1993 saw the presentation of the Venturi 500 LM with its aim, the Le Mans 24 Hours
The new regulations allowing GT cars to take part in the Le Mans race opened up new prospects for the Venturi firm. The purchasers of the 500 LM were guaranteed to receive help and support from the firm, which had every intention of seizing this opportunity to further develop their renown.
In 1993, no fewer than seven Venturi 500 LMs were entered for the Le Mans 24 Hours. The chassis were therefore numbered CLM0001 to 7. During practice, only three cars were race-ready. It was thus with scant preparation that the cars lined up for the start of the race.
At the end of the 24 hours, five out of the seven cars managed to cross the finishing line, coming from 23rd to 92nd, which prompted JM Teissedre to write: “Congratulations to Venturi, who took a risk with more to lose than to gain”.
Venturi enters for a new endurance championship: the BPR
1994 saw the birth of the BRP championship, a series of endurance events specifically for GTs. The first race took place on the Paul Ricard circuit on 6th March 1994. Two Venturi 500 LMs lined up at the start, amidst a stream of Venturi 400 Trophy cars which completed the lineup.
Appearance of the 600 LM and a full strike for Venturi
It was during the second race of the Jarama 4 Hours that two 500 LMs, upgraded to 600 LMs, made their first appearance.
The improvements were aerodynamic, due in particular to the rear spoiler being lowered and a new design for the front fascia, based on the results of wind-tunnel tests. The gearbox was given reinforced pinions (Hewland DGN), the exchangers were modified and the engine was reworked from top to bottom by EIA to take full advantage of the new regulations (new inlet restrictions). Power was raised to 570 hp at 1.2 bars of turbo pressure.
During the Jamara practice sessions, the 600 LM of Ferté - Neugarten clocked up the second fastest time behind the Ferrari F40 of Olofsson - Della Noce. The other two 600 LMs qualified in 4th and 6th positions. The sole Venturi 500 LM entered for the race recorded the 12th fastest time. There was hence a large difference in performance between the 500 LMs and the 600 LMs, which confirmed the firm in their choices.
For the third race in Dijon, the pressure of the 600 LMs’ twin turbos was increased to 1.3 bars, for a delivered power of 600 hp. The 600 LMs, significantly more competitive, notched up their first international victories ahead of Ferrari and Porsche. In fact at Dijon, the 600 LMs took the first two places.
In 1994, a single 600 LM was produced, bearing chassis number CLM0008. The car was run by JCB Racing and claimed victory in the Paris 1000 km race on 29th May 1994, with no less than five 600 LMs in the first six places on the starting grid. In the end, two 600 LMs finished on the podium. If there had been a “Constructors” ranking during the 1994 BRP season, Venturi would have finished first.
The 1994 Le Mans 24 Hours
Despite Venturi’s good results of the year before, out of the eleven cars submitted for entry, only five were selected by the ACO, with three cars accepted as possible replacements.
After promising practice sessions in May, during which the Tropenat-Ferté 600 LM recorded the 6th fastest time, the race results were disappointing. Even worse, the mid-June practices were a real killer: to reduce fuel-consumption, EIA, which prepared the engines of all the teams, had modified their richness, with the result that the engines blew up one after the other. At that time, the Venturi firm was not involved, even if No° 39 was entered under the works name, with the car not managing to qualify.
In the end, six Venturis qualified, from the 15th to the 46th position. During the race, the engine failures continued and it was finally one of the two Venturi 400 GTRs which saved the day by finishing 17th.
Four victories in 1994
Venturi’s dented honour was repaired at the Spa 4 Hours Race, with a 600 LM winning the event. It was Venturi’s third victory, to Porsche’s two and Ferrari’s single win.
At Suzuka, the results of the Venturi cars were mixed. Following a minor collision, then a mechanical failure, the Grouillard-Bouchut 600 LM (CLM0003), starting from 5th position on the grid, was forced to retire. For his part, Ferté driving the Jacadi CLM0007 left the track and crashed. Only three Venturis finished the race, with the best-ranked finishing 6th.
On 2nd October 1994, the Jacadi team entered a 600 LM for the final of the British GT Championship, at Silverstone. The team car (chassis No° CLM0007) had been badly damaged in its crash at Suzuka and it was not ready to race. The Jacadi team therefore hired the Lécuyer 600 LM (chassis No° CLM0003), which was repainted in the Jacadi livery for the occasion. Their efforts were not in vain, since Michel Ferté won the race, his third victory of the season at the wheel of a 600 LM.
And finally, the last BPR race of the season took place at Zhuhai, in China. Despite the considerable distance involved, no less than eight Venturi cars were entered for the race, six 600 LMs and two 400 GTRs. Only three of them crossed the finishing line. The best-placed car, the CLM0005 driven by Graham-Birbeau, finished 6th.
The 1994 season was thus a good one for Venturi, with three race wins, against four for Porsche and only one for Ferrari.
In 1995, the development of the 600 LM into the 600 SLM
The year 1995 marked the advent of a new era, with large budgets being dedicated to the constructors’ teams, to the detriment of the private teams, and the arrival of the McLaren F1 GTR prototypes.
The Venturis were struggling. Faced with the exponential inflation of the constructors’ racing budgets, the private teams had a job following them. For the record, the purchasing price for a McLaren was 6 million francs and just 1 million for a 600 LM. It was this takeover by the major operators and the huge increase in racing budgets which brought a premature end to the BRP championship.
During the 1995 season, the Venturis played a second role, while the McLarens stamped their supremacy, with no fewer than ten victories out of twelve.
For the 1995 Le Mans 24 Hours race, the Venturi firm developed a 600 SLM model (chassis CL0009). New feature included a 650 hp engine, improvements in aerodynamics, new suspensions and a weight of only 1,066 kg thanks to extensive use of carbon Kevlar (the statutory minimum weight being 1,050 kg).
Jean-Marc Gounon and Paul Belmondo succeded in qualifying the SLM 600 for the fifth line of the grid, whereas the other two 600 LMs qualified in 29th and 35th position. The 600 SLM thus started the race alongside the McLaren which finally won the race at the end of the 24 hours.
Shortly after the start, Gounon hoisted the 600 SLM up into fifth place but a clumsy gear-change (down into 2nd instead of 4th) caused over-revving, which ruined any chance the 600 SLM might have had of finishing in the top places.
The other two Venturis entered for the race were 600 LMs which both had the distinction of being Art Cars: the CLM0006 was painted by César and the CLM0005 was painted by the Italian artist Gianni Celano Gianicci.
During the rest of the 1995 season, the 600 SLM was entered for BRP races in China and in Japan, finishing 7th at Suzuka.
Before Venturi’s demise, the 600 LM CLM0003 became the 600 LM-S
On 21st February 1996, the Venturi firm was put into compulsory liquidation. The firm equipped the Lécuyer 600 LM (the CLM0003) with the final developments of the 1995 600 SLM car and it became the works car. It was renamed 600 LM-S for the occasion, in reference to the 600 SLM.
For the first BRP event, which took place at the Le Castelet circuit, the car managed to qualify in 8th position, in the face of some extremely sharp competition. As it was fighting for a place on the podium, the car was forced to retired after leaving the track. In 1996, Eric Graham’s Venturi (the CLM0005, also conserved by Ascott Collection) led a rear-guard action and managed to finish 17th at Jarama, as the Venturi firm went into ultimate decline.
The CLM0003’s racing history
April 1993 - Fay de Bretagne Circuit.
Despite being chassis N° 3, the car was apparently the first of the 500 LMs to be race-prepared by several great figures of motor sport: Jean-Philippe Vittecoq, Pierre Yver, Jacques Laffite and Mauro Bianchi.
16th May 1993: Pre-qualifying practice at the Le Mans 24 Hours
Qualification: 22nd; 600 LM n°56: Laffite / Verellen / Dechavanne / Ratel - 4’35’’490.
10th June 1993: Le Mans 24 Hours
Qualification: 500LM n°56: 4’34’’72 Los - Badrutt - Brana; 41st position overall and 17th in the GT category.
Race result: retired: 82 laps, 10th hour, left the track.
Team: Stéphane Ratel
Starting in 41st position, the 500 LM 56 did not have a particularly restful race. During the very first lap, a collision with a Porsche forced it into the pits to replace the front spoiler and the radiator.
After a 30 minute pit-stop, it had to stop again with steering problems, and the front bonnet was replaced.
After the first hour, the 56 was thus trailing in last position, with only five laps completed. At 8.30 pm, it spun off the track, suffering damage to the rear which required a three-quarters-of-an-hour pit-stop. The race finally came to an end for it during the night, at 1.03 am, when Claude Brana left the track and crashed.
After its crash at Le Mans, the car was rebuilt and the firm sold it to Laurent Lécuyer.
21st November 1993: Vallelunga 6 Hours
Qualifications: 13th position; n°63 : Lécuyer / Matti / Camandona - 1’38’’117Result: 20th : 177 laps, 51 laps behind the winner
6th March 1994 : Paul Ricard 4 Hours
Qualifications: 2nd n°56: Neugarten - Witmeur - 2’04’’86
Result: 6th: 109 laps, 5 laps behind the winner.
Team: Jacadi Racing
10th April 1994: Jarama 4 Hours
Qualifications: 4th n°56: Trollé - Witmeur - 1’38’’72Result: retired - collision - 31 laps.
Team: Stéphane Ratel
1st May 1994: Dijon 4 Hours
Qualifications: 4th n°56: Copelli - Olczyk - 1’24’’79
Result: 2nd: 161 laps.
Team: Stéphane Ratel
8th May 1994: Le Mans 24 Hours pr-qualifications
Prequalification: 13th: n°43: - 4’24’’380
Team: JCB Racing
29th May: Paris 1000 Km
Qualifications: 2nd : n°56 : Bouchut – Grouillard – 1’22’’310Result: retired: bevel gears.
Team: Agusta Racing Team
10th July 1994: Vallelunga 4 Hours
Qualifications: 4th : n°56: Bouchut – Grouillard - 1’17’’636Result: 5th: 172 laps, 6 laps behind the winnerTeam: Agusta Racing Team
2nd Octobre 1994 : Silverstone British GT
Qualifications: n°15: 2nd: FertéResult: 12st – 12 laps (fastest lap : 2’12’’590 - 137,2771 km/h)
Team : Pilot Jacadi Racing
Despite its blue livery and its sponsor, characteristic of the CLM 0007, it was in fact the CLM 0003, which assumed the Pilot Jacadi livery at the request of the sponsor. The reason was that the CLM 0007 had suffered such extensive damage at the Suzuka event that it was impossible to present it for the final of the British GT. Despite a failing turbo, Michel Ferté won the race.
13th November 1994: Zhuhai 3 Hours
Qualifications: 4th: n°56: Alliot - Olczyk - 1’49’’94Result: retired: 18 tours – injection
Team : Agusta Racing Team
26th February 1995: Jerez 4 Hours
Qualifications: 10th: n°56 : Maury Laribiére - Lécuyer - Fabre - 1’53’’15Result: 8th: 113 laps, 10 laps behind the winner.Team: BBA Competition
23rd April 1995: Nürburgring 4 Hours
Qualifications: 28th: n°5 : Maury Laribiére - Lécuyer - Hugenholtz - 1’49’’76Result: 13th: laps, 10 laps behind the winner.Team: BBA Competition
In 1996, the CLM 0003 became The Venturi works car. It was given the improvements made to the 600 SLM which raced in the 1995 Le Mans 24 Hours (chassis CLM 0009).
The changes were made both to the body and to the mechanical parts. Externally, it was fitted with the 600 SLM’s front bonnet with its more rounded lines. Air intakes were added to the roof and an air extractor was fitted underneath the engine. As regards the chassis, it was given a suspension designed specifically by White Power. The engine was modified substantially, with a Magnetti-Marelli injection system and Garett FI turbos with separate waste-gates. The turbo pressure was raised from 1.3 to 1.4 bars. The Hewland DGN gearbox was replaced by the Hewland DGC, also a five-speed gearbox.
As a final result, in its SLM configuration, the CLM 0003 had shed 25 kg, its body height was lower, it had improved aerodynamic downforce and its power was increased from 600 to 640 hp.
February 1996: first practices in its 600 SLM configuration at Lurcy-Lévis.
3rd March 1996: Paul Ricard 4 Hours
Qualifications: 8th: n°20: Bouchut - Lécuyer - Favre - 1’54’’271Result: retired: accident, 88 laps.
Team: Venturi Team Lécuyer
24th March 1996: Monza 4 Hours
Qualifications: 16 th : n°20 : Lécuyer - Favre - Clerico - 1’49’’513 (189.676 km/h)Result: retired: left the track, 45 laps .
Team: Venturi Team Lécuyer
1st April 1996
Venturi announced to Michelin that the CLM0003 had become the official works car.
14th April 1996: Jarama 4 Hours
Qualifications: 17th: n°20: Lécuyer-Favre-Chauvin - 1’33’’815 (137.738 km/h)Result: retired: turbo hose - 43 tours.
Ecurie: Venturi Team Lécuyer
28th April 1996: prequalification for the Le Mans 24 Hours
Qualifications: 43rd: 600 LM n°40: Lécuyer - Favre - Clérico – 4’05’’997 – did not qualify
Team: B.B.A. Concurrence
15th June 1996: Le Mans 24 Hours
As replacement: qualifications: 40th: 600 LM n°40: 4’09’’673 - Lécuyer - Favre - Clérico
Team : B.B.A. Concurrence
1998 season: Club Europa driven by Nicolaidis
The car was restored and a new engine was rebuilt by Peter Ferry SNC (Paris)
2000: Dijon, private practice
2004: Repainted grey
2010: Repainted blue
2015: Acquired by Ascott Collection, restoration work, with a return to the track at Lurcy-Lévis in June.
2016: Current owner
This rare Venturi 600 LM-S with its high racing performance will seduce its next owner by offering him the pleasure of owning a French car whose history is closely bound up with that of the Le Mans 24 Hours race. Compared to other GTs of the same period, it stands out by its much lower maintenance cost - a real advantage now that demonstration events are gradually turning into true historic races.