24h Le Mans
Athletes from other sports who have made their mark at the 24 Hours of Le Mans
The 24 Hours of Le Mans has always drawn stars from other sporting disciplines. Here's a look at a few standouts.
Three-time alpine ski champion at the Olympics in Grenoble in 1968, Jean-Claude Killy threw himself into motorsport as soon as his skiing career ended. He participated in the 1969 24 Hours of Le Mans at the wheel of Société des Automobiles Alpine's Alpine A210 he shared with Bob Wollek (former member of the French ski team). Suspension problems forced the outfit to retire 20 hours into the race.
Former world moto champion in 350 cmᶟ (1975) and 750 cmᶟ (1978), Johnny Cecotto has taken the start in the 24 Hours of Le Mans three times. He made his first appearance in 1981 at the wheel of a BMW M1. With teammates Philippe Alliot and Bernard Darniche, he finished 16th overall. Cecotto returned in 1996 sharing a McLaren F1 GTR with Nelson Piquet (three-time F1 world champion in 1981, 1983 and 1987) and Danny Sullivan (Indianapolis 500 winner in 1985). That second participation ended with an eighth place overall finish, his best result ever given that in 1998 he was forced to retire after joining the official BMW team fielding two BMX V12 LMs.
Another moto star to enter the 24 Hours of Le Mans was Wayne Gardner, an Australian driver and world moto champion in 500 cmᶟ who switched to auto racing in 1993. He participated in the race in 1998 with former moto rival, Belgian racer Didier de Radiguès, and French driver Philippe Gache, sharing a Riley & Scott Mk III whose Ford engine could not go the distance. Gardner ended his endurance racing career there whereas de Radiguès went on to take the start in the 24 Hours four more times and win the title in the LMP675 class of the American Le Mans Series in 2001.
Luc Alphand became involved in the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2001 with his own team, Luc Alphand Aventures. Between 2001 and 2009, he fielded Porsche 911 GT3 RSs, Ferrari 550 GTS Maranellos, Chevrolet C5-Rs and Chevorlet C6.Rs. Alphand earned his best result in 2006: seventh overall and third in the LMGT1 class with Patrice Goueslard and Jérôme Policand.
Three-time Bol d’Or winner and two-time endurance moto world champion, Christian Lavieille made an impeccable transition into four wheel racing. Currently a major contender in rally-raid with three class wins at Dakar, he took the start in the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2004 at the wheel of a Porsche 911 GT3 RS fielded by Luc Alphand Aventures. The team finished 16th overall and fifth in the GT class.
Six-time Olympic track cycling champion, Chris Hoy set aside his bike for a Ligier JS P2 entered by Algarve Pro Racing in the 2016 running of Le Mans. With teammates Michael Munemann and Andrea Pizzitola, he finished 17th overall and 12th in the LMP2 class. To be permitted to particiate in the 24 Hours, Hoy first had to compete in the British GT Championship and in the European Le Mans Series in LMP3 where he won the Drivers title in 2015.
Check out this documentary about Chris Hoy's journey at the 24 Hours of Le Mans:
Former goalie for the French football team, 1998 world champion and 2000 European champion Fabien Barthez is a diehard motorsport fan who dreamed of taking the start in the 24 Hours. In 2012, he hit the track in Le Mans at the wheel of a Formula Le Mans during Test Day. Two years later, he participated in the race with a Ferrari 458 Italia GT2 fielded by Team Sofrev-ASP he shared with Anthony Pons and Soheil Ayari, finishing 29th overall. In 2016, he joined forces with former Formula 1 driver Olivier Panis to create the Panis-Barthez Competition team. The outfit entered a Ligier JS P217-Gibson in both the European Le Mans Series and 24 Hours of Le Mans for Barthez. Twelvth in 2016 and forced to retire in 2017, he left the team now known as Panis Racing.
PHOTO: Former footballer with the French national team, 1998 world champion and 2000 European champion, Fabien Barthez, waiting to take the wheel during the 2017 24 Hours of Le Mans.