This weekend sees the 77th running of the Le Mans 24 Hours. The great race has been won by 117 different drivers and over half of them – 62 – also competed in the Formula 1 world championship at some point in their career.
Many of them were race winners in F1, some were even champions – and a few made only brief appearances, usually for rather obscure teams.
Here is a complete list of the 62 F1 drivers who won the Le Mans 24 Hours.
Raymond Sommer – 1932, 1933
Philippe Etancelin – 1934
Eugene Chaboud – 1938
Our first three drivers all won the Le Mans 24 Hours in the inter-war years before the created of the world championship which today we call Formula 1. Sommer’s 1932 win saw him cover 218 laps at an average speed of 123kph (76.4mph). Last year’s winners did 381 laps (of a substantially similar circuit, albeit with two slow chicanes inserted) at an average speed of 216.3kph (134.4mph).
Louis Rosier – 1950
Peter Walker – 1951
Peter Whitehead – 1951
Hermann Lang – 1952
Tony Rolt – 1953
Duncan Hamilton – 1953
Jose Froilan Gonzalez – 1954
Maurice Trintignant – 1954
Mike Hawthorn – 1955
Ivor Bueb – 1955, 1957
Mike Hawthorn, F1 world champion in 1958, won the 1955 running of the race on a dark day for motorsport. Over 80 spectators were killed when Pierre Levegh’s Mercedes struck the car of Lance Macklin and was launched into the crowd.
Despite the horror, the race continued. Mercedes withdrew its cars, effectively handing victory to Hawthorn’s Jaguar team. In the aftermath the French, Spanish, German and Swiss Grands Prix were all cancelled. The ban on motor racing in Switzerland remains to this day.
Ron Flockhart – 1956, 1957
Olivier Gendebien – 1958, 1960, 1961, 1962
Phil Hill – 1958, 1961, 1962
American Phil Hill, who passed away last year, won the Le Mans 24 Hours on three occasions, including his F1 title-winning year of 1961. In all three of his victories he partnered Olivier Gendebien in a Ferrari – first a 250 TR58, then a 250 TR59/60, and finally a 250 TRI/61.
Gendebien only made 14 F1 starts and never won a race, though he did lead his home event at Spa-Francorchamps in 1961. But he was one of the most prolific Le Mans winners, with four victories to his name.
Carroll Shelby – 1959
Roy Salvadori – 1959
Ludovico Scarfiotti – 1963
Lorenzo Bandini – 1963
Nino Vaccarella – 1964
Jochen Rindt – 1965
Masten Gregory – 1965
Carroll Shelby and Roy Salvadori gave Aston Martin their only win in the race 50 years ago. The team is returning to the top class at Le Mans this year after much success in the lower categories.
From 1960 to 1965 Ferrari enjoyed uninterrupted success. But in 1966 it finally met its match in the form of Ford. The American company had been in negotiations with Enzo Ferrari to purchase its company, and after Ferrari nixed the deal, Henry Ford vowed revenge on the race track. The Ford GT40 duly won the next four runnings of the race.
Bruce McLaren – 1966
Chris Amon – 1966
Dan Gurney – 1967
A.J. Foyt – 1967
Pedro Rodriguez – 1968
Lucien Bianchi – 1968
Jacky Ickx – 1969, 1975, 1976, 1977, 1981, 1982
Jackie Oliver – 1969
On board for the last of the GT40’s four wins was Jacky Ickx. He went on to take six victories in the race, a record that stood until Tom Kristensen surpassed it in 2005.
Ickx won eight times in Formula 1, and was championship runner-up in 1969 and 1970. On the latter occasion he was beaten by another Le Mans winner, Jochen Rindt, though the Austrian had been tragically killed earlier that year at Monza.
Richard Attwood – 1970
Helmut Marko – 1971
Gijs van Lennep – 1971, 1976
Henri Pescarolo – 1972, 1973, 1974, 1984
Helmut Marko’s F1 career was cut short when he was partially blinded by a flying stone during the 1972 French Grand Prix He is now Red Bull’s motorsport consultant.
Graham Hill – 1972
Gerard Larrousse – 1973, 1974
Derek Bell – 1975, 1981, 1982, 1986, 1987
Graham Hill added his name to the roster of F1 champions to win at Le Mans, triumphing in 1972 alongside Henri Pescarolo in a Matra-Simca MS670. That was the first of four wins for Pescarolo, whose team competes in Le Lans today. He started 56 Grands Prix from 1968-1976, his best result a single podium finish.
Didier Pironi – 1978
Vern Schuppan – 1983
Paolo Barilla – 1985
Hans-Joachim Stuck – 1986, 1987
It was at the start of the 1980s that active F1 drivers started to become a rarer sight at Le Mans. Colin Chapman explained why to Nigel Mansell when the British driver asked to compete in the race:
When I asked Colin, he immediately refused permission. I said: “In the contract you can’t unreasonably withold permission” and he replied: “I haven’t just invested ?é?ú2.5 million in you this past year, just for you to get yourself wiped out at Le Mans.”
Whether it was sincere or not, the perception that Le Mans was more dangerous than F1 was not entirely accurate. At the time both disciplines occasionally witnessed terrible accidents that left drivers badly injured or worse. What is clear is that F1 teams were becoming more protective of their drivers, and today it is very rare for active Formula 1 drivers to compete in the Le Mans 24 Hours.
Jan Lammers – 1988
Johnny Dumfries – 1988
Jochen Mass – 1989
Martin Brundle – 1990
Often hailed as one of the best drivers never to win a Grand Prix, Martin Brundle often raced sports cars during his F1 career. He won the world championship for sports cars in 1988 for Jaguar, and two years later saw victory in the Le Mans 24 Hours. However, it came after he had been drafted into the leading car when his original car had developed a problem.
The all-F1-driver trio of Volker Weidler, Johnny Herbet and Bertrand Gachot won Le Mans in Mazda’s radical, rotary engine-powered 787B.
The following year another all-F1 driver trio won, this time for Peugeot in their 905. The team was run by Jean Todt, who was in the process of moving their motor sport focus from rallying to F1 by degrees. Ultimately, however, Peugeot failed to keep up with Todt’s ambition. He moved to Ferrari in 1993 and, well, you know the rest…
After an unsuccessful foray into F1 as an engine supplier from 1994-2000, Peugeot returned to Le Mans in 2007. It has several past F1 drivers on its roster this year (and one active Formula 1 driver – Sebastien Bourdais).
Michele Alboreto was one of the most experienced F1 drivers of all time, making 194 starts from 1981 to 1994, placing him 12th on the all-time list. He won five Grands Prix and was championship runner-up to Alain Prost in 1985.
He won the Le Mans 24 Hours for Joest Racing in 1997, then finished second and third on later appearances for Audi. Tragically, Alboreto was killed testing Audi’s Le Mans car at the Lausitzring in Germany in 2001.
Allan McNish – 1998, 2008
Pierluigi Martini – 1999
Joachim Winkelhock – 1999
Emanuele Pirro – 2000, 2001, 2002, 2006, 2007
The last time the Le Mans 24 Hours was won by a team of ex-F1 drivers was in 1999, when Pierluigi Martini, Yannick Dalmas and Joachim Winkelhock won in BMW’s V12 LMR. The car, a joint project with Williams, was a stepping stone into Formula 1 for the team. It was demonstrated by Robert Kubica at last year’s BMW World Final in Mexico.
This decade has seen fewer Le Mans winners with F1 credentials than any other – just three. Former Benetton driver Emanuele Pirro has benefitted from Audi’s steamrollering of the opposition to rack up five wins.
Last year’s race was won by Audi again, with Tom Kristensen increasing his record tally of victories to eight. He was partnered by Rinaldo Capello and former Toyota F1 driver Allan McNish.
McNish is one of several former F1 drivers in the field this year. We’ll take a look at the full line-up and their Formula 1 pedigree later this week.
More on the Le Mans 24 Hours