On January 1, 1967, John Wyer―master strategist and veteran of many of the world’s great racing battles―opened the doors of a new racing organization, J.W. Automotive Engineering (JWA). The purpose of the new firm was to fill a recent void in the FIA World Manufacturers’ Championship caused by Ford’s withdrawal from international sports car racing. With modest sponsorship funding from Grady Davis of Gulf Oil Corporation, Pittsburg, JWA built three Prototypes to contest the Championship.
Called M1s, the new Mirages retained much of the successful Ford GT40 concept but utilized a revised roof section featuring a narrower windscreen, with a lightweight, more aerodynamically efficient body. Just four months after the opening of J.W. Automotive the M1s made their debut at Monza in April 1967 with encouraging results. At the following race, the Spa 6 Hours, Jacky Ickx and Dr. Dick Thompson drove their Mirage to victory in the rain at an average speed of 120.5 mph beating the works Ferrari P4 by two laps.
While the M1 and subsequent M2 and M3 Mirages gained immediate international recognition, FIA rule changes unfavorable to the Mirages―along with an attractive offer from Porsche to develop and campaign its factory 917s―saw JWA temporarily withdraw from racing. Though two years later, after winning consecutive World Championships for Porsche with the 917, the team once again turned its attention to the Mirages, building the all new M6 for the 1972 and 1973 seasons. Powered by the venerable Ford Cosworth DFV, the M6s were relentless against strong factory entries from Ferrari and Matra in the Group 5 Prototype category.
With the semi-retirement of John Wyer in 1974, J.W. Automotive Engineering became Gulf Research Racing to reflect the name of the Mirages’ loyal sponsor. Under the continued direction of John Horsman, a former officer of Wyer’s at Ford Advanced Vehicles and Aston Martin, the M6s were upgraded and their designation changed to GR7. The Mirage GR7s had excellent placings throughout the season, finishing second to Matra in the 1974 World Championship for Makes.
For 1975 the decision was made for the Mirages to concentrate on the world’s most difficult and prestigious long-distance race, the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Amidst the oil crisis of the 1970s, new Mirages needed to be built to meet the more environmentally strict fuel consumption regulations set for the 1975 race. The Mirage GR8s were built on a longer wheelbase chassis and featured new bodywork yielding a drag coefficient of only 0.35. Not only did the Gulf-Mirage of Derek Bell and Jacky Ickx win the race overall, but the team was also awarded the prestigious Index of Thermal Efficiency trophy, given to the competitor whose car is deemed to have best preserved the environment over the course of the race.
Upon Gulf Oil’s sponsorship withdrawal from international sports car racing in late 1975, American entrepreneur and former racing driver Harley Cluxton III purchased the Mirage team and all associated manufactuing rights from John Wyer and the Gulf Research Racing Company. As a Group 6 Prototype entrant, and later a Group C Prototype entrant, Cluxton continued successfully contesting the Mirages at Le Mans as a two car team. With primary sponsorship from JCB Excavators, Elf Lubricants, and Renault Sport, and under the continued management of John Horsman and counsel of John Wyer, the Mirages finished second overall in both 1976 and 1977, behind Porsche’s factory Martini 936s. In all, from 1974 to 1978, the Mirages never finished outside of the top-ten positions at Le Mans, posting a first, two seconds, a third, a fourth, a fifth,
and a tenth.
For over forty years Mirage racing cars have remained a paradigm of success at the highest level of competition in long-distance international sports car racing. Since the creation of the exceptional Mirage lineage in 1967, our cars have been driven by many of the sport’s most successful drivers, at eighteen of the world’s most demanding international circuits, while garnering no less than thirty-four Championship finishes within the top-four positions. Mirages were the first to wear the legendary powder blue and marigold livery of Gulf Oil, the first to post race wins for Gulf Oil, and the last to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans overall for Gulf Oil. As well Mirage is one of only two independently constructed racing car marques to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans overall since the post-World War II return of the Grand Prix d’Endurance in 1949.
With a heritage deeply rooted at Circuit de la Sarthe, contesting the 24 hour race will always be a relevant challenge for Mirage racing cars. Victory at Le Mans, as at the Indianapolis 500, is a different type of achievement in racing; its winning alone can define success in motorsport. Our proven performance and tenacity against the all-out efforts of major automotive manufacturers has shown the world that Mirage racing cars will forever be in contention for overall victory should they roll onto the grid. As international sports car racing advances into the twenty-first century, we look forward to returning to Le Mans.
For 39 years Grand Touring Cars, Inc., has been the FIA Manufacturer of LeMans winning Mirage®
Racing Cars and the Registered owner of the trademark Mirage. All rights reserved 2015.