Frenchman Jean Rondeau, who in 1980 became the first racing driver to
LE MANS, France (AP) _ Frenchman Jean Rondeau, who in 1980 became the first racing driver to win the Le Mans 24 Hour classic in a car of his own construction, was killed Friday in a railroad crossing accident, police said.
Rondeau died when a train hit his Porsche, which was trapped between crossing barriers at Champagne, about 6 miles from Le Mans, according to police.
They said that after one train went through, the barriers were lifted to allow a police vehicle to go to an accident, although other cars on the same side of the crossing did not move. Rondeau came across the crossing from the other direction and his car was blocked on the tracks when the barriers were lowered again because another train was due.
The accident occurred less than a mile from Rondeau’s factory, where he built Formula Ford racers.
Rondeau was 39. He started racing in 1968 and first entered his ″home″ race, the 24 Hours, in 1972.
He finished the tough race for the first time, 19th, in 1974. His own Rondeau racers appeared for the first time in 1976 and were consistant finishers, Rondeau himself taking fourth place in 1977.
The triumph came in 1980, when with Jean-Pierre Jaussaud, Rondeau won the race, and another of his cars was third.
Racing other endurance events, his cars were second in the world constructors’ championship in 1982. But lack of financing prevented him updating the cars after 1983 and he raced with other teams.
He was second at Le Mans in 1984 with Americans Preston Henn and John Paul jr. in a Porsche 956, and 17th this year in a French WM-Peugeot.