Share, , Google Plus, Pinterest,

Print

Posted in:

Le Mans: Our Heroes, Part 2

This year's crop of top drivers pick the names of their peers and past who've inspired them

As a change from the predictable “What are your hopes for this year’s race” type of question, we tried a different tack this year, delving a little deeper into the psyche of those who may, themselves, one day be the heroes for the drivers of tomorrow, and found out who it was that inspired them to take the path to Le Mans …

gianmaria_bruni_dsc_01Gianmaria Bruni, nominated by …
Mok Weng Sun (Clearwater Racing Ferrari 458 Italia #61) – My Hero, my teacher, and I’m delighted to say, my friend. He’s one of the fastest GT drivers in the world and it is fantastic to know that I have raced with him in Asia in our car, and now get to share the track with him at Le Mans.

Tom Kristensen, nominated by …
Christina Nielsen (Formula Racing Ferrari 458 Italia #60) – He’s just the whole package, a great sportsman, athlete and ambassador, and he does all of it with a moral compass. He’s had fantastic success but it doesn’t go to his head. The moment when he dedicated what turned out to be his last win to Allan (Simonsen) rather than his dad who had died a few weeks earlier, that was a very special moment. Then there’s his contribution to the sport in Denmark. It’s been such an inspiration for so many young drivers and from such a small nation.

kristensen_regis_01Tom Kristensen, nominated by …
Dominik Kraihamer (Rebellion Racing R-One AER #13) – He is right up there with Schumacher and Loeb in the modern history of the sport. Nothing more needs to be said than that.

Pierre Levegh, nominated by …
Duncan Cameron (AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE #55) – He deserves to be remembered for what he almost achieved (leading the Le Mans 24 Hours in 1954 after driving solo for 23 hours, before a missed gear change ended the run) rather than what happened the following year. (In 1955 his car was launched into the crowd, killing the driver and 83 spectators).

Almo Copelli, nominated by …
Matt Griffin (AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE #55) – Because he’s crazy! He has five of the best Le Mans stories ever!! He’s a good driver but a wild man. His passion for the sport has probably been his downfall!

Michele Alboreto, nominated by …
Andrea Bertolini (AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE #71) – After such a long time in F1 he made a second career in endurance. He was a very special man, doing well in F1 when it was really tough, a real sportsman. To win Le Mans is something very special. It was so sad that he didn’t manage to stay around to have success with Audi who he had worked hard with to make so good.

brian_redman-le-mans-1980Brian Redman, nominated by …
Marc Miller (Proton Competition Porsche 911 RSR #89) – His stories are just great and he was racing here when it was a really, really risky race. We think we have it tough, but no, our cars a way better, and way safer, and the track is way better too.

Jacky Ickx, nominated by …
Wolfgang Ullrich (Head of Audi Motorsport) – He was Mr Le Mans before Tom (Kristensen) and deservedly so. To win how he did and when he did in so many different cars is a mark of how very good he was.

Allan McNish, nominated by …
Oliver Webb (ByKolles Racing Team CLM P1/01 AER #4) – I was in F3 and went to a talk at the BRDC with Allan and Tom Kristensen. I went to a fair number of those events but none of them really came close to what they both got across, their sheer enthusiasm for their part of the sport lit something. And after that Allan was generous with his time, gave me his phone number and was happy to chat, a real inspiration and ambassador for sportscar racing.

mcnish_2013_cmc_8261

Jo Siffert, nominated by …
Simon Trummer (ByKolles Racing Team CLM P1/01 AER #4) – He’s simply a Swiss national hero, F1, F2, and the Porsche 917 at Le Mans. I never met him but I have heard, and read, so many stories. An amazing man at an amazing time.

Allan McNish, nominated by …
Jonny Adam (Aston Martin Racing Vantage #97) – He’s a real Scottish racing hero, and a real role model for the current generation of drivers.

henri_pescarolo_cmc_2236

Henri Pescarolo, nominated by …
Benoît Tréluyer (Audi Sport Team Joest Audi R18 #7) – He taught me everything about this sport and this race. He gave me the best advice ever and I will forever be grateful to him for that.

Andy Wallace, nominated by …
Chris Hoy (Algarve Pro Ligier JS-P2 Nissan #25) – Andy was my driver coach when I first started looking at racing at Radical. We shared a car again doing the Mille Miglia with Jaguar. He is such an unassuming bloke, if you didn’t know his history you’d never guess. When he comes here he’s mobbed as a hero but he is such a normal guy. You have to coax the stories out of him but when you do….Wow!”

andy_wallace_cmc_1781

Dan Walmsley, nominated by …
Nick Leventis  (Strakka Racing Gibson 015S Nissan #42) – What can I say? He’s produced massive results for us, two huge wins.

Johnny Herbert, nominated by …
Danny Watts  (Strakka Racing Gibson 015S Nissan #42) – To win here in 1991 after the accident that smashed his feet (in 1988). This race is tough enough even with full physical fitness but carrying the results of such a major shunt and achieving it is something else.

Derek Bell, nominated by …
Jonny Kane (Strakka Racing Gibson 015S Nissan #42) – He was winning when I started to get interested, and since then you find that he is just a great bloke too. He’s such an inspiration.

kristensen_2000_jb_01

Tom Kristensen, nominated by …
Jan Magnussen (Corvette Racing Chevrolet Corvette C7.R #63) – He was the first F1 level guy to choose to be a Le Mans driver as a career. He showed the way to so many others and he showed that your choice could be F1 or….

bira_silverstone_1953_cmc01

Prince Bira, nominated by …
Tor Graves (Manor Oreca 05 Nissan #44) – My lifetime hero and the first Thai driver to race here – Who else!

Gordon Spice, nominated by …
Aaron Scott (AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE #55) – He’s completely crazy, but utterly brilliant. I’ve driven some of the Spice Group C cars and they are very, very hard to drive fast. Anyone that managed to do that here deserves serious kudos!

gordon_spice_wiki86

Sean McInerney, nominated by …
Liam Griffin ( Aston Martin Racing Vantage #99) – We were at school together and he raced here first. That encouraged me to do the same.

Norbert Singer, nominated by …
Richard Lietz  (Dempsey Proton Racing Porsche 911 RSR #77) – I had the honour of working for Norbert from 2007 to 2010, and he’s a really good guy. The way he treated everyone set an example.”

brabham_Sebring_01David Brabham, nominated by …
Antontio Garcia (Corvette Racing Chevrolet Corvette C7.R #63) – It has to be David for me, because he was my mentor the first time I came here. He taught me everything I know about driving at Le Mans.

Tom Kristensen, nominated by …
Nic Jonnson (Krohn Racing Ligier JS P2 Nissan #40) – I used to race with Tom in F3, and he was always so competitive and successful. All the pieces fell together for him to become a legend, and he deserves it. So much respect for that man.

Yves Courage, nominated by …
Mac Goosens – He was a pretty successful driver, though I missed that period, but then in 1996, when we had this team Racing For Belgium with Eric Van de Poele and a Ferrari 333 SP, and after doing the race with them my first year, I never wanted to miss the race again. I was so lucky that Yves came up to me in the paddock that year and hired me for the next few years. My experience with him and his teams commanded respect, the whole town of Le Mans was behind him.

collard_2015_CMC_5794

Manu Collard, nominated by …
François Perrodo (AF Corse Ferrari 458 Italia #83) – The guy happens to be my mentor, my friend. He’s a true hero because he’s here now for his 22nd time in a row, and I honestly believe that he deserves to win this race. He’s an awesome driver and an awesome human being.

mcnish_kristen_podium_jb_01Tom Kristensen, nominated by …
Sam Bird
(AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE #71) – There’s probably no other sportsman at his level that you could pick up a phone to and that would give you 15-20 minutes of his time and freely offer his advice. Do this race just once and you realise immediately just how astonishing it is to have won it nine time overall.

Allan McNish, nominated by …
Pierre Kaffer (ByKolles Racing Team CLM P1/01 AER #4) – When I came here the first time I was driving with Allan and at the pre-test my time was a bit off. We compared corner speeds and then I understood why!

Vanessa Weikart, nominated by …
Bart Hayden (Team Principal, Rebellion Racing) – Vanessa (motorsport catering in the paddock) has bailed us out so many times. She’s literally saved our bacon!”

Masten Gregory, nominated by …
Johnny O’Connell – He ranks top for me of so many Americans who have competed in this race. He also raced here the most times, 16, and I’d love to overtake him. (Masten Gregory won Le Mans outright in 1965 (Ferrari 250LM) and recorded a class win in 1961 (Porsche 718). He died in 1985 at the early age of 53).

matt_griffin_CMC_8715

Matt Griffin, nominated by …
Rob Bell (Clearwater Racing Ferrari 458 Italia #61) – It goes without saying, obviously! But also Lawrence Tomlinson and Richard Dean. They gave me the first chance to drive in this race in the Panoz. All the other drivers who have won, they’re great, but actually, those guys gave me the shot.

Tom Kristensen, nominated by …
Patrick Long (Abu Dhabi-Proton Racing Porsche 911 RSR #88) – I’m sure it’s a common answer, but he’s a driver of my own generation who’s really inspired me. He’s a guy who has time and respect for everyone on the grid. Tom is more than just the ‘winningest’ driver.

kristensen_2008_cmc01_372

Jo Siffert, nominated by …
Marcel Fässler (Audi Sport Team Joest R18 #7) – Looking back, as a Swiss driver, Jo Siffert was all about Le Mans. He inspired me as a driver. It was all before my time but my father was a big fan of him, and he was a hero in Switzerland. He was one of the first successful Swiss drivers, and my father was always telling stories about him. He’s my hero.

jacky_ickx_jb_0048Jacky Ickx, nominated by …
André Lotterer (Audi Sport Team Joest R18 #7) – I appreciate everything he achieved, and it is such a privilege that I’ve had the chance to know him a bit better because he’s now part of the VW Group. I grew up in Belgium, and now we often go to dinner. His whole career has been incredible and the way he went through it is very inspiring. What he did at Le Mans is impressive too, not a bad record.

Derek Bell, nominated by …
Oliver Gavin (Corvette Racing GN Corvette C7.R #64) – Derek was the guy that was winning Le Mans as I was growing up. He was the go-to guy, and winning the race with just two drivers in the car was pretty spectacular too. When I was a kid I really looked up to him.”

The Fans! nominated by …
Jordan Taylor (Corvette Racing GN Corvette C7.R #64) – The first time I came here in 2012, people knew me. More people knew who I was at the Test Day that year than at any race in America. It was an incredible feeling. The fans at the race are so passionate and they make it what it is, they know their history. I respect that. (See our ‘feature’ image, showing the fans welcoming the Strakka’s HPD ARX-01C to scrutineering in 2010 – the year Dan Walmsley, Nick Leventis’s nominated ‘hero’, gave the team the class win here at Le Mans.)

With thanks again to John Brooks for most of the historic images … our nominated “photographic hero” for this feature.