1966 24 Hours of Le Mans - An American...and Belgian...legend
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1966 24 Hours of Le Mans - An American...and Belgian...legend

As tickets to the 84th edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans (June 18-19, 2016) were made available for purchase as of November 6th, a look back 50 years ago at the 1966 24 Hours, marked by Ford's triumph...and also by the debut at Le Mans of a young Belgian driver who would go on to become a win record-holder.

The American manufacturer brought to an end a series of six consecutive Ferrari wins to the huge delight of Henry Ford, who attended the triumph of his cars after having come from the U.S. specially to give the start of the race. No factory Ferrari prototype made it to the checkered flag and Ford finished in the top three spots: the winners Chris Amon-Bruce McLaren ahead of Ken Miles-Dennis Hulme and Ronnie Bucknum-Dick Hutcherson.

Against seven Ferrari P2s and P3s, Ford entered eight Mk IIs. Five Ford GT 40s were also at the start. At the wheel of the No. 60, a young 21-year-old driver was racing in his first 24 Hours of Le Mans. The son of an automotive journalist, his name was Jacky Ickx. Starting from 14th position on the starting grid and teammate of German driver-journalist Jochen Neerpasch, he was forced to retire due to an engine problem at the 11th hour. In 1969, still in a GT40, he scored his first win, that time along with British driver Jackie Oliver, only a few meters ahead of the Porsche 908 of Gérard Larrousse-Hans Herrmann, which he doubled in the last lap of the race. Five other victories would follow in 1975, '76, '77, '81 and '82, establishing a record that wouldn't be beaten until 2005 by Danish driver Tom Kristensen (nine wins).

Jean-Philippe Doret / ACO - Translation by Nikki Ehrhardt / ACO

Photo: LE MANS (SARTHE, FRANCE), CIRCUIT DES 24 HEURES, 24 HOURS OF LE MANS, SATURDAY & SUNDAY JUNE 18-19 1966. It was at the wheel of this Ford GT 40 that Jacky Ickx took for the first time, at 21 years old, the start at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.