There was a time when supercars raced at Le Mans, when the fastest road cars in the world competed at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Here's the story of how the Porsche 911 GT1 killed the series and homologation specials it spawned.
I'm talking about the BRP series, which I've written about before in the above link. The series' photographer John Brooks was one of my main sources for that article, and he's turned up one of his old pieces written on the subject. It was written while the GT1 era was at its arguable peak, when Ferraris and McLarens chased after victories with all kinds of other marques both privately- and factory-backed.
The article details that the Porsche 911 GT1 was built as a racecar first and a road car second, how it absolutely ruled as a homologation special, and how it could massively drive up the costs of competing in the series.
Here's a little excerpt of the article.
The main objections to the newcomer are not based wholly on the crushing superiority displayed by the 911 at Brands Hatch and Spa – though this must feature somewhere, no one would care if it were slower. The objections raised by the more articulate existing competitors are firstly the Porsche is outside the letter and spirit of the regulations as currently exist, whatever anyone cares to say about it. Secondly the appearance of this kind of prototype will drive away the gentlemen drivers on grounds of performance and cost. Cars that develop shedloads of downforce and have ABS on their carbon fibre brakes will be outside of the current driving abilities of the amateur drivers, until recently the raison d'être for the series and certainly forming the backbone of the entry. As to cost, it is said that the Porsche engines will only run for a maximum of 30 hours. That means a rebuild every two to four races against, for instance, the V12 BMWs which are unchanged throughout the whole season excepting a quick check prior to Le Mans. The team overheads would rocket with additional "spanners" required for the ABS system, the turbos, the engine itself and also for data logging; this could amount to 3 or 4 extra guys per car which would put maybe £600,000 plus on to the operating costs for a two car team. This is only the tip of the iceberg.
You should go over and read the article on Brooks' site DoubeDeClutch right here. Hell, check it out for the pictures alone, but also read through for a full context on how Porsche priced the series out of sustainability.
Today's top Le Mans cars are incredible prototype machines, bleeding edge creations that are not, can not, will not be sold to the public. The Porsche 911 GT1 may be why.
Top Photo Credit: Getty Images, Porsche 911 GT1 at the 1996 24 Hours of Le Mans pictured