Wednesday 10 June 2015

'Mercans at Le Mans

The #40 Krohn Ligier JS P2 is driven by team owner, American
 entrepreneur and business mogul Tracy Krohn and his team-mates Nick
Jonsson (SWE) and Joao Barbosa (PRT). Pictured here practising
driver changes on Tuesday afternoon. 
Since the early years, but mainly since WW2, there has been a long and distinguished history of American cars and drivers competing in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, many scoring overall wins and often multiple overall success. 18 Americans and 2 Canadians are among the total of 168 drivers in this year's race.

Americans who have won overall, in reverse chronological order:

Davy Jones 1996, Hurley Haywood 1977/83/94, Price Cobb 1990, Al Holbert  1983/86 Bill Whittington 1979, Don Whittington 1979, Dan Gurney 1967, AJ Foyt 1967, Masten Gregory 1965,  Ed Hugus* 1965, Phil Hill 1958/61/62, Carroll Shelby 1959, Luigi Chinetti* 1949.

*Ed Hugus was not credited as a winning driver by the ACO, but maintained that he did drive the car when Masten Gregory had vision problems in the early morning while Jochen Rindt was taking his break. This is controversial because the only currently living person who was there at the time is Chinetti Jr and he says it didn't happen. Hugus was no stranger to Le Mans and was a softly spoken man not prone to 'line shooting', so we are disposed to give him the benefit of the doubt. In his words; "Masten got out of the car and said 'Goddam fog, I can't see. With my eyesight I'm afraid I'll run off the road', Rindt was nowhere to be found so Luigi turned to me and said 'Get your hat and go.' I only drove six laps I think, then I came back in and Rindt took over."

*Chinetti was for all intents and purposes an American, but he was not officially naturalised until March 1950, however he had already applied for citizenship in '49 and had lived in the USA for many years. It is therefore right to include him in the list.

This year there are eight drivers here who have competed in major American open wheel series.

Scott Sharp         IRL 1986, CART 1993-2009 (Indy 500 15 times)

Mike Conway         CART 2009-14 (Indy 500 4 times)

Tiago Monteiro      CART 2003

Michael Krumm       CART 2001

Nicolas Minassian   CART 2001 (Indy 500 once)

Jan Magnussen       CART 1996-99

Ryan Briscoe        CART 2005-15 (Indy 500 10 times)

Townsend Bell       CART 2001-15  (Indy 500 9 times)