Nelson Piquet Sr., born on 17 August 1952, discovered the 24 Hours of Le Mans rather late in his racing life. After a long career in Formula One (204 Grand Prix contested between 1978 and 1991 with three World Championship titles, 23 race victories and 24 pole positions), he was seriously injured in practice for the 1992 Indianapolis 500. Four years later, Piquet Sr. made his Le Mans debut at the wheel of a McLaren F1 GTR. The car was entered by Bigazzi, representatives of BMW, whose V12 engine powered this first racing variant of a McLaren sports car. The trio formed by Piquet Sr., American Danny Sullivan and Venezuelan Johnny Cecotto succeeded in moving up the field from its fifteenth position on the starting grid to an eighth-place finish. The following year, Piquet Sr. was back as one of the the German constructor’s factory drivers (having won his second Formula One title with a BMW engine) but the car shared with JJ Lehto (winner at Le Mans in 1995 and 2005) and Steve Soper was forced out of the race following an accident. Piquet Sr. retired from motor racing shortly afterwards, mainly to support his son in his fledgling career.
Born on 25 July 1985, Nelson Piquet Jr. (formerly known as Nelson Angelo or Nelsinho) was twenty years of age when he made his one and only appearance at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. In 2006, he shared the wheel of an Aston Martin DBR9 with Australian David Brabham (who was to win the race three years later) and Spaniard Antonio Garcia. The trio took ninth place overall and was fourth of the five GTs that finished in the top 10. That same year, Piquet Jr. drove the DBR9 to victory in the Mil Milhas Brasileiras alongside his father, their compatriot Helio Castroneves (triple Indianapolis winner) and Frenchman Christophe Bouchut, winner of the Le Mans 24 Hours in 1993. This race, held at the Interlagos circuit, figured in the World Endurance Championship calendar in 2012, 2013 and 2014 under the name of the 6 Hours of São Paulo.
Jean-Philippe Doret / ACO – Translated from French by David Goward
Photo: LE MANS (SARTHE, FRANCE), CIRCUIT DES 24 HEURES, 24 HOURS OF LE MANS, 17–18 JUNE 2006, RACE. Exactly ten years after his father accomplished the same feat, Nelson Piquet Jr. crossed the finish line in his debut appearance at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The photo illustrates the Aston Martin DBR9 driven by Piquet Jr., Antonio Garcia and David Brabham.