Americans have long been fascinated with the 24 Hours of Le Mans and runners and riders from the continent have marked some of the finest hours of the race’s history. The US leg of the World Endurance Championship has been held at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, since 2013 and its list of winners has much in common with the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
—Since the first 6 Hours of the Circuit of the Americas, only three teams have managed to clinch overall victory at Le Mans and Austin in the same season: Loïc Duval-Tom Kristensen-Allan McNish (2013), Marcel Fässler-André Lotterer-Benoît Tréluyer (2014), in the Audi R18 E-tron quattro, and Earl Bamber-Timo Bernhard-Brendon Hartley (2017), in the Porsche 919 Hybrid.
—Timo Bernhard and Brendon Hartley also won the 2015 and 2016 6 Hours of the Circuit of the Americas races when they were teamed up with Australian Mark Webber.
—In 2014, KCMG, an outfit that began in the Asian Le Mans Series, scored its first WEC LMP2 win at the Circuit of the Americas. The Chinese national anthem rang out over the 24 Hours circuit for the first time the following year when the Hong Kong-based team took the class win at Le Mans.
—Again in 2015, SMP Racing became the first Russian team to win at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, with a Ferrari 458 Italia in the LMGTE Am class. This was the first of three consecutive victories (the last taken at the 6 Hours of the Circuit of the Americas), and the SMP Racing crew of Viktor Shaitar, Aleksey Basov and Andrea Bertolini went on to lift the FIA Endurance Trophy for LMGTE Am Drivers at the end of the season.
—Gustavo Menezes is the only American to take a home win (LMP2 class) at the Austin circuit, with two straight victories at the Circuit of the Americas in 2016 and 2017. Last year, he also triumphed at Le Mans in the Alpine A460 fielded by Signatech Alpine, alongside teammates Nicolas Lapierre and Stéphane Richelmi. At the end of the season, with four wins under their belt, the French outfit and its driver trio took the LMP2 championship title.
—In LMGTE, two Aston Martin drivers have taken wins at both the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the 6 Hours of the Circuit of the Americas. Nicki Thiim won the LMGTE Am class at Le Mans in 2014, then took victory in LMGTE Pro at Austin in 2016. 2017 LMGTE Pro winner Darren Turner also triumphed in the Pro class at the 6 Hours of the Circuit of the Americas in 2014.
A number of personalities from Texas have also left their mark on the history of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Find out more in the next episode of this series!
Photo: Winners of the last three 6 Hours of the Circuit of the Americas races, Brendon Hartley (left) and Timo Bernhard (centre) respectively took their first and second Le Mans wins in 2017. Two-time Le Mans winner (2015 and 2017) Earl Bamber (right) joined them for his first Circuit of Americas victory this year.