The 24 Hours of Le Mans and the U.S.: 10 winners, 10 stories

The 24 Hours of Le Mans and the U.S.: 10 winners, 10 stories

Between the Detroit Auto Show and the Rolex 24 at Daytona, the U.S. has the market on the first days in 2015 motorsports. A good time to look back at the American drivers victorious at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

It took until the 26th edition of the 24 Hours to witness, thanks to Phil Hill, an American driver win for the first time in La Sarthe. In all, 10 Americans have been victors with 16 wins between 1958 and 1996: Phil Hill, Masten Gregory, Dan Gurney, A.J. Foyt, Hurley Haywood, Don and Bill Whittington, Al Holbert, Price Cobb and Davy Jones.

-Three-time winner in Le Mans (1958-61-62), Hill (1927-2008) also became the only driver in the history of motorsports to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the F1 world title in the same year (1961). Additionally, he was a member, along with Belgian driver Olivier Gendebien, of the first driver line-up to win three victories in La Sarthe.
-Along with Austrian Jochen Rindt, in 1965 Masten Gregory (1932-1985) gave Ferrari its ninth – and last to-date – win at the 24 Hours of Le Mans…narrowly: his 250 LM's différential, put to the test during a long climb toward victory, gave up just as the American crossed the finish line!
-Winners in 1967, Dan Gurney and Anthony Joseph "A.J." Foyt were both single-seater drivers and constructors at the time: Eagle for the first, Coyote for the second.
-Foyt is the only driver in history to have won the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the two legendary American oval circuit races: the Indianapolis 500 (in 1961-64-67-77) and the Rolex 24 at Daytona (in 1972).
-In 1967, a week after his win in La Sarthe, Gurney became the only American driver to win in Formula 1 at the wheel of his own car, at the Spa-Francorchamps circuit.
-Three-time winner in Le Mans, Hurley Haywood was a member of an exclusive group: the drivers who had won the 24 Hours in three different decades: 1977, '83 and '94.
-In 1979, an American brotherhood won: Don and Bill Whittington won the 24 Hours, along with German driver Klaus Ludwig. They beat another Porsche 935, driven by a certain Paul Newman…
-Already a winner in 1983, Al Holbert (1946-1988) was a part - along with the Brit Derek Bell and German driver Hans-Joachim Stück - of the first three-driver driver line-up to win two consecutive victories at Le Mans (1986-87).
-Winners in 1990 and 1996, respectively, Price Cobb and Davy Jones shared the wheel of a Jaguar XJR 9 prototype with their fellow countryman Danny Sullivan. They finished 16th. It was with the British constructor that Cobb won two years later with Martin Brundle and John Nielsen.
-In 1996, Jones' win entered the record books thanks to one of his teammates: Alex Wurz, who at 22 became the youngest driver to win in La Sarthe. The American and the Austrian had as a teammate German driver Manuel Reuter.

The 83rd edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans will take place Saturday and Sunday, June 13-14, 2015.