He was clearly also exceptionally persuasive, for how else did a man with a race record of no great distinction at all persuade a wallpaper manufacturer to finance the construction of his own prototype racing car? In 1976 two so-called Inaltera race cars entered the race, both powered by Cosworth DFV motors, one of them boasting the superstar line up of F1 race winner Jean-Pierre Beltoise and already triple Le Mans-winner Henri Pescarolo. They came eighth, winning the GTP class, the car Rondeau was driving having a troubled run to 21st place. The following year it was Rondeau winning GTP, finishing in a stunning fourth overall.
But then Inaltera walked away and for many that would have been that. For Rondeau it appears to have been a minor inconvenience. Thanks to the fund-raising efforts of Marjorie Brosse, wife of the Mayor of Le Mans, Jean was back on the grid just in time for the 1978 race. And he won GTP once again.
With additional funds a new factory was found and two new cars built, providing a three-car entry for 1979, and while Rondeau himself retired the sister cars came fifth and tenth, the former the best finishing Group 6 prototype in the race.
By 1980 Rondeau was a recognised and respected member of the Le Mans racing community, both as an individual and a team. But the truth was that in all previous efforts to date over the last four years and despite building cars of dazzling reliability, none of his cars had even troubled the podium, let alone had a sniff at the top step. What chance was there this time around with last year’s cars running in ‘B’ specification, faced not only by no fewer than 15 Porsche 935s, like that which had won the year before, but Reinhold Joest’s ‘908/80’, to all intents and purposes a 936 prototype (whose real name the factory refused to let him use) which he was sharing with none other than Jacky Ickx?