Watch Hans Joachim Stuck drive the 1950 Le Mans Skoda Sport

Skoda Sport and Hans Joachim Stuck

The Skoda Sport fought its way to fifth-place outright at the 1950 Le Mans before a mechanical issue took it out of running on the 144th lap. Sigh.

Skoda only ever went to Le Mans once. And that was in 1950 with the Skoda Sport you see here. The Skoda Sport might look like an out and out racer, but underneath its aluminium panels it was little more than a 1946 Skoda 1101 Tudor.

Built in 1949, the Skoda Sport used a Tudor as its base with the chassis and axles unchanged from the road car, only the brakes and gearbox were tweaked to suit high-speed racing. With its aluminium body, the whole thing weighed just 590kg.

The engine was a tweaked version of the 1.1-litre four-cylinder which made 50hp compared to the Tudor’s 32hp, helping the Sport get to a top speed of 140km/h. Even better was the fuel efficiency of the Sport, which allowed it to run for four hours before refuelling, more than its competitors could manage.

During the race, the Skoda Sport was on fire, not literally, and was sitting in second place in its class and fifth outright. But then, as dawn broke a 20c part, a piston pin circlip broke and the engine seized. These days that wouldn’t have been a problem but back in 1950, you were only allowed to repair your car with the spares you carried in the car. And there ended Skoda’s tilt at Le Mans glory.

With the Cold War in full swing and Skoda firmly back behind the Iron Curtain it was the last time the Czech maker made it to Le Mans.

With Skoda turning 125 years old this year (2020) it decided to wheel out a restored Skoda Sport and get a Le Mans winner behind the wheel. Two-time Le Mans winner, Jans Joachim Stuck got behind the wheel of the Sport. “These cars are the heroes,” he said. “Driving this car is unbelievably fun, it really is fantastic”. But enough blather, watch the video.

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Isaac Bober has been writing about cars and 4x4s for more than 20 years, has worked on some of the country's biggest motoring magazines (remember what they were?), and launched Practical Motoring. Now he's back, back again... to share dad jokes and much more.