Milestones in Speed - Power

Don Sherman Matthew Phenix David Yochum
Ian Dawson Getty Images IMS Photo
David Johnson

Demonstrating that he was up to the task of replacing Ferdinand Porsche as Auto Union's development director at the end of the 1937 racing season, Professor Eberan von Eberhorst advanced the team's aerodynamics prowess. To boost Bernd Rosemeyer's streamliner beyond the 252 mph already achieved, von Eberhorst added front wheel fairings, wheel-arch connectors, side skirts, and odd-looking ductwork below the streamliner's tail. Rosemeyer clocked 276 mph while warming up, but a rogue gust of wind blew him off course during the record run, and he perished in the ensuing crash. The ground-effects technology von Eberhorst had invented was forgotten for three decades.

> Enzo Ferrari
Dark glasses, white hair, and a suit and tie - that was Il Commendatore in later years, a fixture at test sessions but never attending races. As a young man, Enzo Ferrari had been a racing driver himself. Later, he managed Alfa Romeo's race team, and in 1940, he built his first automobile - a race car, naturally. Eventually, he became the world's premier manufacturer of supercars. But Ferrari - a drama king worthy of a Verdi opera - never cared much about road cars or the beautiful people who bought them. For him, street machines existed merely to support his passion for racing.

There are plenty of 24-hour races, but there's only one Le Mans, a twice-around-the-clock carnival of speed that usually plays out like the world's fastest soap opera. Not only is the 24 Heures du Mans the granddaddy of all endurance races, it's also, to automakers, the most highly coveted prize in motorsports. The race has been contested on various iterations of the Circuit de la Sarthe - essentially public roads closed for the occasion - since 1923. Until two chicanes were added in 1990, the 3.5-mile-long, white-knuckle blast along the Mulsanne straight produced the highest speeds achieved on any closed course in the world.

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