The saga of Pedro (1940-1971) and Ricardo (1942-1962) Rodriguez is at once fantastic and tragic. Both died in races, but marked - together and separately - the history of the 24 Hours of Le Mans and endurance.
It was in 1961 that they first made their marks at Le Mans, during a very long back and forth chase in the lead of the race between their Ferrari TR61 and that of future winners Olivier Gendebien-Phil Hill. But the two Mexicans were delayed on Sunday morning by ignition problems before their engine gave up altogether at 2:00 p.m., as they were in third position. But their incredible performance (which earned them best race lap) attracted the public's enthusiam. The following year, the Rodriguez brothers were once again the toughest rivals for Gendebien-Hill, but were once again forced to retire shortly after the halfway mark in the race. It would be Ricardo's last appearance at Le Mans due to his death on November 1st during the free practice at the Grand Prix of Mexico (non-championship).
Greatly affected, Pedro hesitated for some time before deciding to continue his career. His long-time loyalty to Ferrari (from 1960 to 1967) at the 24 Hours of Le Mans was poorly rewarded (a seventh place finish and seven retirements). It wasn't until after he joined the Gulf team that he was able to win, in 1968, along with Belgian driver Lucien Bianchi at the wheel of the Ford GT40. When he took the wheel for this same team, the Porsche 917 in Pedro's hands became his ultimate weapon, and the car of his greatest exploits. At its wheel, in 1971 Pedro scored a pole position record at the 24 Hours of Le Mans (3:13:9 at an average of more than 250 km/h). But that 14th participation, which unfortunately ended in a retirement, would also be his last. He passed away on July 11th at the German circuit Norisring.
On September 4, 2016, the memory of Pedro and Ricardo Rodriguez, two Mexican endurance pioneers, will be a strong force the moment the green flag is waved at the 6 Hours of Mexico, at a circuit carrying their name.
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 10-11 1961. For two years, Pedro and Ricardo Rodriguez were the duo Phil Hill-Olivier Gendebien's toughest opponents for victory.