24h Le Mans
24 Hours of Le Mans - Two actors, two drivers, two documentaries
This year will see the release of two documentaries hailing two great Hollywood actors who each in their own way marked the history of the 24 Hours of Le Mans: Paul Newman and Steve McQueen.
“Winning - The Racing Life Of Paul Newman”, devoted to the actor’s racing career which begun when Newman (1925-2008) was already in his forties, is scheduled for US release on 22 May. The title of this documentary is a nod to “Winning”, a feature film shot during the 1968 edition of Indianopolis 500 which sparked Newman’s passion for motor racing. Eleven years later, on 9 June 1979, Newman competed in the 24 Hours of Le Mans at the wheel of a Porsche 935 shared with his fellow American Dick Barbour and the German Rolf Stommelen. At the end of a race marked by foul weather conditions, the trio clinched second place. Later, Newman was to be the key figure in the career of Le Mans-born driver Sébastien Bourdais. From 2004 to 2007, Bourdais won four Champ Car World Series titles for the Newman/Haas Racing team, jointly formed by the actor who, in May 2006, returned to Le Mans to attend his driver and friend’s wedding.
The other documentary released this year is devoted to Steve McQueen and the film “Le Mans”, that he came to shoot during the 1970 edition. He was actually due to take part in the race himself, at the wheel of a Porsche 917 shared with Jackie Stewart, until his insurers vetoed the plan. During the 2014 edition of the Le Mans Classic, McQueen’s son Chad came over to film recollections by drivers who had competed in the 1970 24-Hours and played a part in the movie. “The Man And Le Mans” is expected to be completed in time for the forthcoming Cannes Festival (13-24 May) and scheduled for release in the autumn to mark the 35th anniversary of the actor’s death. Steve McQueen died at the age of fifty on 7 November 1980.
Jean-Philippe Doret / ACO - English translation by David Goward
Photo (D.R. - ACO Archives): LE MANS (SARTHE, FRANCE), CIRCUIT DES 24 HEURES, 24 HOURS OF LE MANS, 9–10 JUNE 1979, RACE. The Porsche 935 driven by Paul Newman, Dick Barbour and Rolf Stommelen made the most of the wet weather conditions to upset the odds at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.