This enviable Le Mans record might suggest that Olivier Gendebien drove cars of a single manufacturer ... but it was at the wheel of a Porsche that the Belgian driver began his career in la Sarthe in 1955 . With the German driver Wolfgang Seidel, he finished fifth in an RS 550. Expert in the major road marathons of the fifties (Liège-Rome-Liège, Targa Florio, Mille Miglia), Olivier Gendebien was truly built for the 24 Hours of Le Mans and another major endurance race, the 12 Hours of Sebring which he won three consecutive years (1959-60-61).
With Maurice Trintignant in its first 24 hours as a Ferrari driver, Olivier Gendebien finished 24 hours in 1956 on the third step of the podium. The duo retired the following year. But from 1958, the Belgian welcomed a new partner: American Phil Hill. Together, they will become the first duo to win three times in La Sarthe in 1958, 61 and 62. In 1960 he won with Paul Frère, a prominent journalist, who retired from racing after that event. The duo of Gendebien and Hill then resumed with two more victories.
His record of four wins was matched by Jacky Ickx in 1977, who went on to beat it 1981 before taking it to six in 1982. Belgium had ruled the 24 Hours of Le Mans for forty-three years before Tom Kristensen took over as record holder from Jacky Ickx, who is still the last Belgian driver to win the 24 hours.
Jean-Philippe Doret / ACO
Photo: CIRCUIT OF 24 HOURS (Le Mans, Sarthe), 24 HOURS OF LE MANS, 25 & 26 June 1960. In 1960, a 100% belgian duo won the 24 Hours, with Paul Frère and Olivier Gendebien.