MIRAGE’s story begins with FORD’s decision to stop producing the GT40 at the end of 1966, which was quickly overturned by JW Automotive (the partnership of John WYER and John WIILLMENT, an important FORD dealer in England) who had built some following the request of the parent company’s racing department.
In 1967 the MIRAGE M1 was born, with a 5 litre FORD engine – a more aerodynamic GT40 – modified by the engineer Len BAYLEY at the insistence of the boss John WYER, the ex-competition manager at ASTON-MARTIN/LAGONDA, after having been a pure technician since the 30s.
WYER’s reputation was such that he quickly got a comfortable budget from oil company GULF to run the MIRAGE M1 under GULF’s colours as title sponsor. The marine-blue became pale blue, the orange stayed the same, and so was born the livery that is almost as famous as FERRARI’s red.
The M1 competed in the 1967 season without any great results, blocked by the FORD MkII and MkIV with their 7-litre cylinder engine. In 1968, the FIA (Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile) opened their world championship to prototypes up until 3 litres and to sports cars up until 5 litres, but produced to minimum 50 units. The M1 was no longer eligible but returned to its GT40 configuration, it was eligible in the « sport » class. Enough GT40 cars had been built – more than 100!
In 1968, the GT40 GULF won the 24 Hours of le Mans. At this time, the future was for the 3-litre prototypes; this year was going to be a milestone. John WYER had begun a study of an M2 prototype by Len TERRY, with the hope that FORD would give him the Cosworth V8 which was taking off in Formula 1. But COSWORTH couldn’t please all the F1 teams, even by supplying Alan MANN, a direct rival of JWA! MIRAGE then chose the V12 BRM that was neither reliable nor powerful, and also had cooling issues.
1969 saw another victory in Le MANS for a GT40 GULF/JWA, that beat 908 and 917 PORSCHES (the M2 stayed in the garage, deemed too unreliable)! After this exploit, WYER accepted PORSCHE’s offer to run their 917. Halfway through the 1969 season, the M2 appeared with an evolution, finally with the COSWORTH V8 engine. It would later be called M3 in the spyder version with the coupe roof, once removed, allowing them to save 40 kilos.
The water radiators were still in front of the rear wheels, the oil radiator stayed at the front. At the end of the season, the M3 claimed its unique victory after a few changes to the suspension.
The examined car, M2/300/01, with the implementation of the water radiator at the front and a completely redesigned body, at the front as well as the rear, namely around the wings and the spoiler, seems to have taken part in two races in 1969 (the 6hrs of Brands Hatch and 1000 km of Monza) before being devoted exclusively to testing and development.
Nevertheless, these evolutions have been made with the greatest care and by true professionals, most certainly by the factory team at the end of 1969 and maybe during the following years as well.