In 2017, Ferrari celebrated its 70th anniversary. The first chapters of its stunning history unfolded at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, with a first success in 1949. Every driver that has won at Le Mans at the wheel of a Ferrari made his mark on motorsport history of the 1960s and even 1970s in their own respective ways, and gave the Italian marque a win record at the 24 Hours that would remain unbeaten for 20 years.
Thirteen drivers have ushered Ferrari to victory at the 24 Hours of Le Mans: Luigi Chinetti, Lord Selsdon (read the two preceding installments in this series, links included below), Maurice Trintignant, Jose Froilan Gonzalez, Olivier Gendebien, Phil Hill, Paul Frère, Ludovico Scarfiotti, Lorenzo Bandini, Jean Guichet (see previous), Nino Vaccarella, Masten Gregory and Jochen Rindt.
- In 1949, Ferrari's first win at Le Mans (for its very first participation) was also the third personal victory for Luigi Chinetti, already a winner in 1932 and 1934 with Alfa Romeo, along with FrenchmenRaymond Sommer and Philippe Etancelin, respectively.
- Winners as a duo un 1958, 1961 and 1962, Belgian driver Olivier Gendebien and American driver Phil Hill are the only competitors to have won several victories at the wheel of a Ferrari. In 1962, Gendebien even became the first four-time winner in the history of the 24 Hours. This record stood until 1981, the year Jacky Ickx clinched his fifth triumph. The first American to win at Le Mans, Phil Hill is also the only driver in history to claim the top step on the podium at the 24 Hours and the Formula 1 world title in the same year.
- Winner in 1960 along with Olivier Gendebien, Belgian journalist-driver Paul Frère shared an interesting anecdote in his book "A Life Full of Cars." Unconvinced by the aerodynamic efficiency of their Ferrari TR 59/60 windshield, he expressed his concerns to Enzo Ferrari, who then in his inimitable style replied: "You know what, Frère, aerodynamics are for those who don't know how to build great engines!"
- Winner at Le Mans in 1954, José Froilan Gonzalez and Maurice Trintignant were also Formula 1 pioneers. On July 14, 1951 at the Silverstone circuit, Gonzalez won the first of Ferrari's 228 victories (record and series still ongoing) in Formula 1. At the 1955 Grand Prix of Monaco, Trintignant became the first French driver to win in the discipline, also with Ferrari. His nephew, actor Jean-Louis Trintignant, would also participate in the 24 Hours in 1980, at the wheel of a Porsche 935 (retirement).
- Winners in 1963, Ludovico Scarfiotti and Lorenzo Bandini formed the only 100% Italian duo to win at Le Mans at the wheel of a Ferrari. They have both also won a victory in Formula 1 with Ferrari, in Italy in 1966 and in Austria in 1964, respectively.
- In 1964 in the Ferrari camp, brilliant winning gentlemen-drivers Jean Guichet and Nino Vaccarella rubbed elbows with some of the best drivers of the era, such a John Surtees, Graham Hill, Jo Bonnier, Pedro Rodriguez, Jochen Rindt, Michael Parkes and Lorenzo Bandini. Guichet explains:"I have no recollection of a clear distinction between what are now called professional drivers and gentleman-drivers. We mainly paid attention to results. We all understood each other's potential, there was a real spirit of camaraderie and we tried our best to impress one another."
- Winner in 1965, Masten Gregory participated in the 24 Hours of Le Mans 16 times between 1955 and 1972, half at the wheel of a Ferrari. His teammate in 1965, Austrian driver Jochen Rindt became, as did Phil Hill, Formula 1 World Champion, in 1970. After passing away in an accident at the Italian Grand Prix that year, he was crowned posthumously.
Click before for previous installments in this series about Ferrari pioneers at the 24 Hours of Le Mans:
PHOTO (Copyright - Archives/ACO): A close-up of Belgian driver Olivier Gendebien in 1958 on his way to the first of four victories at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.