Some consolation came with the German ADAC Supercup crown, but better was to follow. Paired with the experienced Mass for much of 1989 in the now silver-liveried C9, the Frenchman flew to five wins and the championship as Sauber-Mercedes dominated.
It was much the same story in 1990 with the imposing C11. This time sharing with Baldi throughout the season, Schlesser took six wins and the duo took another title for Mercedes.
Of all the big Group C hitters, Schlesser is arguably the best who didn’t taste victory at Le Mans. He twice took pole, in 1989 (his 3m15.040s lap, averaging 155mph, remains one of the fastest ever laps at La Sarthe) and 1991, but second – scored in a Rondeau in 1981 – was his best result.
Schlesser’s biggest Le Mans heartbreak probably came in 1991. Even saddled with extra weight, the Mercedes C11 was comfortably the class of the field and Schlesser/Mass/Alain Ferté did much of the leading. A big advantage shortly before the 21-hour mark evaporated when a broken alternator bracket led to the five-litre turbocharged V8 overheating.
After his sportscar career ended, Schlesser turned his attentions to endurance rallying, building his own series of two-wheel-drive buggies. He proved incredibly successful, winning the famed Dakar Rally in 1999 and 2000 against factory opposition, as well as taking five consecutive FIA Cross Country World Rally Cups.
Had it not been for a poorly Nigel Mansell and the subsequent Monza debacle, Schlesser’s versatility would surely get the credit it deserves.