True to the formbooks, the prototypes locked out the first two rows of the starting grid, with Welter Racing’s two svelte Peugeot-powered WR LM95S qualifying first and second, followed by Porsche-powered Courages and a Kremer K8. First of the GT1 cars were three Ferrari F40 LMS, with the no. 59 F1 GTR in ninth position, followed by six customer Mclarens. An engine change in the early hours of the morning on race day and gearbox concerns saw the Mclaren on the back foot but there were two significant factors which would count in its favour: the rain; and Finnish driver, JJ Lehto.
By the end of the first hour, the prototypes built up a half-lap lead on the field but, by 17h00, rain had arrived. It stayed throughout the night, making it one of the wettest Le Mans races in history. The conditions negated the prototypes’ power difference and many were hampered by reliability issues.
And then there was Lehto. His night-time stints have entered Le Mans lore. Exhibiting commitment and car control no one could match, the Finn was often 30 seconds a lap quicker than anyone else. By the chequered flag, no. 59 was three minutes ahead of Mario Andretti’s hard-charging Courage prototype. If ever there was an example of reliability rather than outright pace as the essential quality to winning the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the Mclaren F1 GTR’S victory in 1995 was it.