10 outstanding F1 pilots to whom the legendary “24 Hours of Le Mans” obeyed
The 24 Hours of Le Mans is one of the most significant and iconic events in the world of motorsport. Many pilots dreamed of winning the 24-hour marathon, including those who forever inscribed their names in the history of Royal Races. On the eve of the battle on the Sarta circuit, we invite you to remember the outstanding Formula 1 pilots who won the legendary 24 Hours of Le Mans race.
- Mike Hawthorne – 1 win (1955)
- Lorenzo Bandini – 1 win (1963)
- Jochen Rindt – 1 win (1965)
- Bruce McLaren – 1 win (1966)
- Graham Hill – 1 win (1972)
- Didier Pironi – 1 win (1978)
- Michele Alboreto – 1 win (1997)
- Fernando Alonso – 2 wins (2018-2019)
- Phil Hill – 3 wins (1958, 1961-1962)
- Jacqui X – 6 wins (1969, 1975-1977, 1981-1982)
Mike Hawthorne – 1 win (1955)
We start with the most controversial representative of this collection. Hawthorne’s 1955 victory at the Sarthe is still one of the most controversial in Le Mans history. On the 35th lap of the race, with his sharp maneuver, Mike provoked a terrible accident, as a result of which 84 people died. Jaguar’s main competitors, the Mercedes team subsequently decided to withdraw from the race. The German team offered to do the same to their rivals from the “Jaguar”, but the British refused.
Left practically without competitors, Mike Hawthorne confidently finished the daily marathon in first place. However, the public was in no hurry to honor the winner of the race. Not only did the Briton continue the race after becoming the culprit in the fatal accident, but he also did not hesitate to celebrate his triumph after the finish. Subsequently, the French edition of L’Auto-Journal will publish a photo of Hawthorne drinking champagne, accompanied by the sarcastic caption “Your health, Mr. Hawthorne!” What can I say, the aftertaste of this victory was not the most pleasant.
Despite all the ambiguity of the British pilot’s triumph, the very fact of Mike’s victory in the 24 Hours of Le Mans is undeniable. Today Hawthorne is one of the five Formula 1 champions, to whom the legendary race on the Sarta circuit has also submitted.
Lorenzo Bandini – 1 win (1963)
Bandini is a prime example of a pilot whose greatness lies not in the won cups and medals. Despite the fact that during his formula career, Lorenzo managed to win only one victory, he can be safely called one of the main Italian pilots of the 1960s. Much of Bandini’s racing career has been in one way or another with Ferrari. The talented Italian defended the colors of the Scuderia not only in Formula 1, but also took part in endurance races. On American soil, Lorenzo competed in the “12 Hours of Sebring” and “24 Hours of Daytona” races (victory in 1967), and in Europe he went to the start of the daily marathon on the Sarta circuit.
For the first time in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, Bandini took part in 1962. Lorenzo’s debut turned out to be not the most successful: mechanical problems did not allow the Italian’s crew to reach the finish line. But the very next year, Bandini won the race on the second attempt.
In the 24-hour marathon of 1963, another Ferrari crew led by John Surtis and Willie Maress could well have won . However, leading the race, the British pilot stopped by for refueling, which ended in a car fire. After the leaders left, the crew of Bandini and Scarfiotti took the first position, which won.
In 1963, the Ferrari management planned to use Lorenzo exclusively in sports car races, so the Italian began the Formula 1 season with the modest Scuderia Centro team. However, shortly after Bandini’s brilliant victory at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, Ferrari bosses offered Lorenzo a spot on the team for the remainder of the F1 season. Bandini spent the rest of his career in the Scuderia camp, until his death in 1967.
Jochen Rindt – 1 win (1965)
The Austrian managed to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans race at the dawn of his formula path. Rindt’s triumph at the Sarta circuit was generally the first significant victory in his career. Although we must admit that no one believed in the final success of Jochen’s crew, not even the Austrian himself.
In the 1965 24 Hours of Le Mans, Rindt raced with the North American Racing Team, which was essentially the American division of Ferrari. Together with his partner Masten, Gregory Rindt received a Ferrari 250LM at his disposal, but the main favorite of the race was the Scuderia itself, which dominated the Sarta circuit during the first half of the 1960s.
The start of the race for the crew of Rindt and Gregory did not bode well. Just four hours after the start, Gregory had to stop in the pits to replace the distributor. After standing in the garage for 30 minutes, the Ferrari 250LM returned to the track only at the eighteenth position. It would seem that this is the end of the struggle for high places, but Rindt had a different opinion on this matter. Demonstrating incredible aerobatics, the Austrian managed to win fifteen positions during the night and by dawn his crew was already in third place.
Well, after dawn “Ferrari” 250LM took the lead. Despite the transmission problems that arose closer to the finish line, Masten managed to finish the race in first place. A few decades later, the team’s reservist Ed Hugus admitted that he replaced Masten Gregory in that race on one of the marathon segments. Such a maneuver was prohibited by the rules and the crew, in theory, should have been disqualified. But that’s a completely different story.
Bruce McLaren – 1 win (1966)
Perhaps, of all the representatives of this collection, it was Bruce McLaren who left the deepest mark in the history of motorsport. It is quite logical that McLaren was remembered primarily as the founder of the legendary Formula 1 team. However, we must not forget that he was an incredibly talented driver as well. 1966 became one of the most important years in the life of the great New Zealander. Indeed, it was in this year that his brainchild, named “McLaren”, spent its first season in Formula 1. Plus, all in the same 1966 Bruce won his only victory in the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Thanks to the film “Ford v Ferrari” released in 2019, even people far from motorsport know about Bruce McLaren’s victory at the Sarta circuit. As it was shown in the film, after the departure of the main rivals in the person of “Ferrari”, the crews of “Ford” simply had no competitors. Ken Miles was the first to cross the finish line, but Bruce McLaren became the winner of the prestigious marathon, who finished behind him. Indeed, according to the then rules, the race was won by the pilot who covered the greatest distance in the allotted 24 hours. And since McLaren’s Ford stood further on the grid than Miles’s car, the New Zealander became the winner of the 24-hour marathon. A very strange rule thanks to which the legendary Bruce McLaren won Le Mans.
Graham Hill – 1 win (1972)
Graham Hill to this day remains the sole owner of the so-called triple gold crown. That is, in the entire long history of motorsport, no one, except the legendary Briton, was able to win the three most prestigious races in the world – the Monaco Formula 1 Grand Prix, Indy 500 and 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Triumph in the legendary race on the Sarta circuit was the last puzzle in the overall picture of Graham’s incredible victories. By 1972, the Briton had already become a two-time F1 champion and won the Indy 500 in 1966.
The 1972 24 Hours of Le Mans race was Hill’s tenth attempt to conquer the legendary marathon. Since 1958, Hill has raced continuously for nine years on the Sarta Circuit — unsuccessfully each time. And now, six years after the last start, Hill made a new attempt to make history.
The jubilee race on the Sarta circuit was lucky for Hill. As part of the French team “Matra”, the Briton finally managed to win the epoch-making endurance race. By the way, Hill’s partner in that marathon was the legendary Henri Pescarolo , a four-time race winner in the future.
Didier Pironi – 1 win (1978)
The home endurance victory is the most significant of Pironi’s short-lived racing career. In 1982, Didier could well become the F1 champion (five races before the end of the season he was in the lead in the individual standings). However, the accident at the Hockenheimring put an end to both Pironi’s chances for the title and his further motorsport career.
Four years before the ill-fated weekend in Germany, the Frenchman was just taking his first steps in Formula 1, playing for the Tyrrell team. In the same 1978, Pironi took part in his third race, the 24 Hours of Le Mans, as part of the Renault Sport team. Together with Jean-Pierre Josseau Didier, he was honored to operate a prototype that Renault developed in cooperation with Alpin.
In 1978, the entire 24 Hours of Le Mans race essentially boiled down to a rivalry between Renault and Porsche. The victory was ultimately won by the French, thus interrupting the two-year winning tread of the team from Stuttgart. Having won the race on the Sarta track, Renault set off to conquer F1 with peace of mind, and Didier Pironi will delight the French fans with his aerobatics for five more seasons.
Michele Alboreto – 1 win (1997)
Alboreto is the last Italian to win for Ferrari and is simply one of the iconic drivers of the 1980s. Even at the beginning of his formula career, Michele took part in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, but did not gain much success. After 1983, the Italian took a break in relations with the Sarta circuit and returned to northern France only in 1996, two years after the last season in F1.
The first participation in an endurance race for Alboreto in many years turned out to be a failure: he could not even get to the finish line. But Michele did not despair and the next year, driving the same Porsche WSC-95, achieved his first Victoria. Interestingly, one of Alboreto’s teammates in that race was the legendary Tom Christensen , for whom this victory in the daily marathon was the first of nine.
Having celebrated his triumph in the north of France, Michele did not even think to stop. Each following year, he raced in the 24 Hours of Le Mans until he died in April 2001 while testing a prototype Audi R8. Michele passed away at the age of forty-four.
Fernando Alonso – 2 wins (2018-2019)
If in the near future someone becomes the owner of the triple gold crown, then this gentleman will certainly be Fernando Alonso. Even the Spaniard himself admits that his goal is to repeat the outstanding achievement of Graham Hill. In order to keep company with the great Briton, Fernando only lacks a victory at the “Old Brick”.
As for Le Mans, here Alonso has already fulfilled his norm. In general, it is worth admitting that Fernando has just crazy efficiency on the Sarta track: two races – two victories. Alonso took part for the first time in the legendary race in the north of France during his last season for McLaren in 2018.
In the debut race of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the Spaniard’s former F1 rivals Kazuki Nakajima and Sebastien Buemi became the Spaniard’s companions in the crew . In the absence of Porsche, the Japanese team had no rivals. The struggle for victory on the Sarta track unfolded between two Toyota cars. The victory was eventually won by the crew of Alonso, and the Japanese concern for the first time in history celebrated its triumph in the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Phil Hill – 3 wins (1958, 1961-1962)
Phil Hill has taken part in the 24 Hours of Le Mans fourteen times! The American was lucky enough to catch the “golden” era of “Ferrari” in races on the track “Sarta”. In the period from 1958 to 1962, Hill managed to celebrate the triumph following the results of the daily marathon three times. Remarkably, he shared each of his victories with the same partner – Olivier Jandebienne . In 1958, Phil first became the winner of the race, and he did it even before the formula debut. Hill will hold his first F1 race a couple of weeks after his triumph at the Sarthe track, also in France.
The next time the legendary marathon will conquer the American already in 1961. In the same year, he will take the F1 title and will forever lose his teammate and friend Wolfgang von Trips , who died in a terrible accident at Monza. In 1962, Ferrari in F1 was no longer as formidable as last season, and Hill was cut off from the struggle for high places. The American compensated for his failures in Formula 1 with a third victory in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. At the end of 1962, Hill left Ferrari and subsequently came to the Sarta track under the banner of other teams, and he did it every time unsuccessfully.
Jacqui X – 6 wins (1969, 1975-1977, 1981-1982)
So we got to the most successful F1 driver who took part in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. I think it is not worth describing in detail here the exploits of Jacqui Ickx on the Sarta circuit. The greatness of the Belgian is first of all evidenced by his six victories won in the legendary endurance marathon. More X victories in the 24 Hours of Le Mans were won by only one man – the absolute record holder Tom Christensen.
Jacqui Ickx won his first victory at the Sarta circuit on his third attempt in 1969. Then the Belgian, in a bitter struggle at the wheel of a Ford GT40, outstripped the Porsche crew, with whom, ironically, he will have a long and fruitful cooperation in the future.
From 1975 to 1977, Jacqui dominated the Sarthe track, not allowing anyone to reach the first step of the podium (except for his teammates, of course). 1976 saw the beginning of his most successful stage in his career – as a member of Porsche. With the team from Stuttgart, X will win four more victories in the north of France and finally close the page of history under the name of Le Mans in 1985. For such a legendary path in the most prestigious endurance race, Jacqui Ickx earned the nickname Monsieur Le Mans.