On Monday 11 June late afternoon, the traditional handprint ceremony took place in downtown Le Mans with the previous year's winners of the 24 Hours. In addition to Brit Nick Tandy and New Zealander Earl Bamber (two of the three from the 2017 edition), Henri Pescarolo also left his mark on the occasion.
As Henri Pescarolo's last win at the 24 Hours of Le Mans dates back 34 years, this handprint pays tribute to the outstanding career of a motorsport legend.
If there is an anniversary for Henri Pescarolo to celebrate in 2018, it has to be for the exploit that made him a legend. As rain poured down on the 1968 running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the Matra he shared with teammate Johnny Servoz-Gavin was constantly plagued by malfunctioning windshield wipers: "I thought it would be ridiculous to retire with windshield wiper problems," admits Henri Pescarolo."When Jean-Luc Lagardère (the head of Matra, Ed.) asked me if I wanted to continue anyway, I didn't hesitate a second." Despite retiring near the end of the race, that insane night battling the rain without windshield wipers created a swell of popular enthusiasm in the moment, not only with spectators, but also radio commentators watching in disbelief. And so the Pescarolo legend was born.
Henri Pescarolo is also the first French driver to win three consecutive times at the 24 Hours (1972, 1973 and 1974 with Matra), then a fourth in 1984 (with Porsche). After establishing a participations record that will not soon be beaten (33), Henri Pescarolo became a team owner, welcoming many young French drivers who went on to become big names in endurance racing and at Le Mans: Romain Dumas (two wins), Benoît Tréluyer (three), Eric Helary (one) Sébastien Bourdais, Emmanuel Collard and Simon Pagenaud.
If one includes his participations as a team owner from 2000 to 2012, Henri Pescarolo was a major player at the 24 Hours of Le Mans for more than 40 years. Now his handprint will represent that legacy forever.
PHOTO (Copyright - Dominique Breugnot/ACO): LE MANS (SARTHE, FRANCE), DOWNTOWN, DRIVER HANDPRINT CEREMONY, MONDAY 11 JUNE 2018. Above and beyond his four wins, Henri Pescarolo's handprint celebrates an extraordinary career overall, greatly punctuated by the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The president of the Automobile Club de l'Ouest, Pierre Fillon (at right), was in attendance for this historic moment.