2. ALFA ROMEO 8C 2900B COUPE
BEST RESULT: R (1938) Few, if any, cars have ever dominated at Le Mans like this one-off Alfa coupe that looked like a post-war design dropped into the 1938 race.
Completed just before the event, the unusual-looking car made quite an impact when it arrived at La Sarthe. “It caused quite a stir amongst the sports car fraternity, since a closed car was almost unheard of in real sportscar racing,” said Alfa Romeo expert Simon Moore in his book The Immortal 2.9.
Ranged against an armada of French Talbots and Delahayes, Raymond Sommer and Clemente Biondetti battled for the lead early on before their three quickest rivals hit trouble. Fast French defeated, the Italian machine, which was clocked at 150mph on the Mulsanne, cruised serenely on.
Taking turns in the cramped cockpit, Sommer/biondetti built a 12-lap lead (around 100 miles) before the right-front tyre blew with less than four hours to go, causing damage as Sommer fought to control the car at 130-140mph.
Sommer got the Alfa back to the pits, but a broken valve – probably the result of the Frenchman’s efforts – stopped the big coupe at Arnage. Biondetti battled to push the Alfa back, but was eventually forced to give up.
“Thus ended what promised to be a new record for Le Mans,” reported Autocar. “Throughout, Sommer had held the attention of the crowds by the speed of his car and his own personality.”
Come the finish, the silent Alfa had still covered more laps than all but the top three.
Alfa built a lead of around 100 miles
New coupe stood out in 1938