From about 215mph (345kph) at the start of this unforgettable decade, top speeds on the world-famous Mulsanne straight exceeded 250mph (400kph) for the first time in 1988. These were the fastest racing cars on the planet.
This decade’s radical new FIA Group C regulations challenged motorsport engineers to achieve race-winning engine performance while saving fuel. This was a formula that was ideal for Le Mans, embodying as it did the original rationale of this historic event as a proving ground for emerging automotive technologies. It accelerated the development of control electronics and aerodynamics, and soon the increasingly sophisticated racing coupés were setting new standards in on-track performance.
The 1980 event was uniquely won by Jean Rondeau, a Le Mans resident, with a car of his own manufacture. After seven impressive Porsche successes, Jaguar and Mercedes-Benz, both returning to motorsport after long absences, won in 1988 and 1989. By the end of the decade, Le Mans was contested by Aston Martin, Jaguar, Mazda, Mercedes-Benz, Nissan, Peugeot, Porsche and Toyota.