24h Le Mans
They never won...
They never won... Le Mans
Fangio, Stewart, Schumacher… they won all but Le Mans !
History only remembers the the winners, and yet...
Even a colossal investment does not guarantee victory at Le Mans. In 1990, Nissan failed to reach the podium despite entering seven cars! Another example, also Japanese: Toyota can boast 14 years of presence at Le Mans with some of the most famous prototypes (TS010 GT-One), but no victory. The best result is the world's leading manufacturer has so far is 2nd place in 1992 and 1999. Europeans and Americans have also had their share of misfortunes, including Lancia, Chrysler and Cadillac.
Same is for drivers: the most persistent and the most promising are not always the best rewarded. Jean-Louis Schlesser has two World Champion titles in endurance racing, two pole positions, 1 podium, but no victory. His last appearance in 1991 with Mercedes, had resulted in retirement after 16 hours in the lead!
Another example, also Mercedes but more catastrophic, with Pierre Bouillin, alias Pierre Levegh. He, who acquired hero status by dominating the 1952 race until the 23rd hour, and was offered a second chance in 1955 ... But perished when his powerful Silver Arrow was involved the most tragic accident in the history of racing.
That same year, Juan Manuel Fangio was leading the race to up to 1 am, when the director of Mercedes ordered him to retire after the disaster. The Argentine, who had succeeded as F1, then decided to call it quits after four attempts and four retirements. It was the same fate for the triple F1 World Champion Jackie Stewart: 4 starts and 4 DNF. Other single seater starts to have failed in the Sarthe include ; Nino Farina, Alberto Ascari, Jack Brabham, Denny Hulme (1 podium), Mario Andretti (2 podiums), Alan Jones, Nelson Piquet, Keke Rosberg, Nigel Mansell, Michael Schumacher, Jacques Villeneuve (1 podium) and Damon Hill.
Another driver unlucky in La Sarthe is Jean-Pierre Jabouille: 14 starts, 4 podiums, 2 pole positions, 0 wins ... He spearheaded major French offensives, Matra Peugeot Renault Alpine through, found himself seven times in the same marque of prototype as the winner ... But never in the right car!
Yojiro Terada, with 29 starts, holds the record for the most number of entries without success. Of active drivers, Emmanuel Collard has a similar record with 18 participations with large teams (Porsche, Toyota, Cadillac, Pescarolo), 2 podiums and 1 pole position but not yet a win.
Finally, the prize for most unlucky in La Sarthe is the late Bob Wollek: winner of the biggest endurance races (Daytona, Sebring) works driver for Alpine, Matra, Porsche, Lancia, Jaguar, Toyota, accumulating 30 entries and 6 podiums but ... No victory!