MCA Centenaire

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This is part two of the special Le Mans-themed Car of the Day posts, and I had a small dilemma. To talk about the car that competed in Le Mans meant mentioning its earlier version as the MCA Centenaire.

When I run down the specs on the car, it's hard to believe it eventually became a failure as a race car. Just the way the world works sometimes, right?

In the late 1980s, race driver Fulvio Ballabio was inspired by another Car of the Day, the Horacio Pagani-designed Lamborghini Countach Evoluzione. As you may recall from a few days ago, it was the first prototype road car chassis made entirely from carbon fibre.

Ballabio moved into the region of Monte Carlo called Fontvieille, one of the newest—and totally reclaimed from the sea—areas of the small principality. And, in another connection to a past Car of the Day, Venturi is currently based in Fontvielle.

MCA stands for Monte Carlo Automobile, and the Ballabio knew that to get support for his project among the country's elite, it needed to be cutting-edge. 

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Unveiled in 1990, the world's newest supercar had a lot of promise. All carbon fibre and powered by a Lamborghini V12 engine with 455 horsepower, which would push the car to a claimed top speed of 350 km/h (217 mph). Some sources say it featured a twin-turbocharged V12, but I haven't been able to locate any engine photos in order to verify. (Those same sources say that version packed 720 horsepower. Likely, a few different configurations were built to satisfy customers.)

Coys just sold one a few weeks ago for $211,000, which is a lot—but only five were made before production ended in 1992, so I suppose for some collectors it's a worthwhile purchase.

The MIG M100 as seen at the 1993 Le Mans

The MIG M100 as seen at the 1993 Le Mans

Now we get to the Le Mans connection. After orders dried up, Ballabio sold the rights for the design to a Georgian businessman who slightly modified the car and renamed it the MIG (Migrelia & Georgia) M100.

The car was entered into Le Mans competition in 1993 under the team name Georgia Automotive MIG. Competitors in its class included the Venturi LM 500, Porsche Carrera RSR, race-prepared Lotus Esprit Sports, and the eventual class winner—until it was disqualified a month after the race—the Jaguar XJ220C.

How slow was the MIG M100? In qualifying, the GT class was topped by a Hans-Joachim Stuck/Hurley Haywood/Walter Röhrl Porsche 911 Turbo S LM, with a time of 4:06.510. The MIG's best lap was 5:59.150…nearly two minutes slower than the class leader.

I wanted to see how that compared to previous races, so I went back and looked at the records: the MCA was fast enough to run with the leaders in the 1933 Le Mans. Yes. 1933. Clearly the car had issues.

Plans for the car would be sold—again—to a French manufacturer of restricted-speed vehicles and reworked into a different supercar.

But that's a story for another day.

Sources / Recommended reading