24h Le Mans
18/08/2018 - 09:01

The 24 Hours of Le Mans and the RAC Tourist Trophy, two of the world’s oldest motor races

This Sunday, the winners of the 6 Hours of Silverstone, the third round in the World Endurance Championship 2018–19 Super Season will be awarded one of the most famous and coveted trophies in British motorsports, the RAC Tourist Trophy.
The 24 Hours of Le Mans and the RAC Tourist Trophy, two of the world’s oldest motor races

First, let us dispel any confusion. The Royal Automobile Club International Tourist Trophy is the oldest trophy in motorsports and is not to be confused with the Isle of Man Tourist Trophy (TT), a motorcycle event – even though the first RAC Tourist Trophy was awarded on the Isle of Man in 1905!

On 14 September 1905, the island’s capital, Douglas, hosted the inaugural Tourist Trophy on a 83-kilometre long circuit. John Napier won the six-hour race at the wheel of an Arrol-Johnston, covering four laps at an average speed of 55 kph.

Having taken on many guises and paused for two World Wars, the RAC Tourist Trophy has been run on several different circuits, from the Isle of Man to the Northern Irish district of Ards, Donington Park, Dundrod (County Antrim), Goodwood, Oulton Park and Silverstone. Fittingly, the latter, the home of British motor racing, has hosted the most Tourist Trophies.

The first Frenchman to win the trophy, Jean Chassagne – also a Le Mans driver – claimed victory in 1922 on the Isle of Man. Runner-up at Le Mans in 1925 driving a Sunbeam, he subsequently became one of the Le Mans Bentley Boys and took fifth place in 1928 and fourth in 1929.

In 1933 Italian Tazio Nuvolari became the first driver ever to win the RAC Tourist Trophy and Le Mans 24 Hours in the same year. Only twelve others have drivers have lifted both trophies, although not necessarily in the same year: Carroll Shelby, Graham Hill, Jochen Mass, Derek Bell, Allan McNish, Tom Kristensen, Loïc Duval, Romain Dumas, Neel Jani, Marc Lieb, Sébastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima.

The RAC Tourist Trophy has been awarded to the winner of the 6 Hours of Silverstone since 2013. That year, winners Loïc Duval, Tom Kristensen and Allan McNish also claimed victory at the 24 Hours of Le Mans and were crowned World Endurance Champions. Romain Dumas, Neel Jani and Marc Lieb did the same in 2016.

Two Formula One world champions Graham Hill and Denny Hulme also won the prestigious prize and four other Formula One race winners have their name on the roll of honour: Stirling Moss, Tony Brooks, Innes Ireland et Jochen Mass.

A certain Fernando Alonso could add the RAC feather to his cap this weekend. Having won the 24 Hours of Le Mans this June, Alonso now needs to triumph in the Indianapolis 500 to lay claim to the famous Triple Crown of motorsport, the ultimate accolade bestowed upon a Formula One world champion and winner of the Indy 500 and Le Mans 24 Hours. To date, Graham Hill is the only driver to have achieved the feat.

Photo: Kazuki Nakajima (left) and Sébastien Buemi (right) won the RAC Tourist Trophy (during the 2017 World Endurance Championship) and this weekend it could be their teammate Fernando Alonso’s (centre) turn to lift the oldest trophy in motorsport (pictured below).