24h Le Mans
24 Hours Stories: A Ferrari, a win…and a taxi for Jochen Rindt?
Throughout this month, we will bring you a very special Advent calendar dedicated to remarkable stories and anecdotes from the legendary 24 Hours of Le Mans. Today, here is a look back at Jochen Rindt's win in 1965…which he almost prevented!
In fact, Jochen Rindt nearly didn't take the start in the 33rd 24 Hours of Le Mans. It all began with a contractual and commercial dispute between the Austrian driver and the oil sponsor of North American Racing Team (NART) boss Luigi Chinetti. But a last-minute compromise led to an 11th hour confirmation of Rindt's participation just as he was preparing to visit his grandmother in Austria.
He arrived at the circuit in Le Mans on Thursday less than 48 hours before the start of the race. After qualifying in 11th position on the grid, the Ferrari 250 LM he shared with American driver Masten Gregory was considerably delayed early in the race with technical troubles.
When the car was ready to regain the track, Rindt had disappeared. Gregory found him about to climb into a taxi. Deeming it a lost cause, Rindt had changed clothes and was getting ready to leave the circuit!
A win at full speed
Gregory managed to convince his teammate to get back behind the wheel, but Rindt had one condition: to drive pedal to the metal without instructions or limits to make up for lost time. After restarting in 18th position, the #21 250 LM set off on a frenzied climb and reached the second spot shortly before mid-race, behind the other Ferrari driven by Pierre Dumay and Gustave Gosselin fielded by Ecurie Francorchamps (founded by Jacques Swaters, the marque's Belgian importer).
They were the only Ferrari contenders for victory after retirements for all of the official 330 P2s. The factory team's sporting director, Eugenio Dragoni, then proposed to Chinetti and Swaters to freeze the positions to ensure a one-two for the Italian marque. Swaters agreed but Chinetti refused, determined to try his chances at victory.
Rindt and Gregory continued to chase down the lead car, forced to maintain a heightened pace. The race took a turn on Sunday at 12:53 when Gosselin's right rear tire exploded. The #21 250 LM snatched the lead as the damaged #26 returned to its garage. At the time driven by Rindt, he handed the wheel to Gregory for the end of the race. The Austrian had pushed the car so hard throughout his mad chase that the differential of the 250 LM gave out just after the American crossed the finish line in victory!
Rindt helped score a stunning win from very far behind after a race he would have quit without the insistance of his teammate!
PHOTOS (Copyright - ACO ARCHIVES): LE MANS (SARTHE, FRANCE), CIRCUIT DES 24 HEURES, 24 HOURS OF LE MANS, 20 JUNE 1965. The podium at the 33rd 24 Hours of Le Mans, the scene of Ferrari's ninth triump, with above winners Masten Gregory (at left) and Jochen Rindt.