Olivier Gendebien - Sports Car Competition

Sports Car Competition

However, it was in sports car racing, particularly the long distance and endurance events, where Gendebien excelled. Piloting a 2.5-liter Ferrari, Gendebien teamed up with Maurice Trintignant to place third in the 1956 24 Hours of Le Mans. They were seven laps behind the winners, privateer Ecurie Ecosse Jaguar drivers Ron Flockhart and Ninian Sanderson. The 1958 Grand Prix of Buenos Aires was a 1,000 kilometer event in which Gendebien paired with Wolfgang von Trips. They finished second to a fellow Ferrari pairing Phil Hill and Peter Collins. In the race Argentine Maserati driver, Jorge Magnasco, died after his car skidded and turned over.

The same year he partnered with Hill and won the prestigious 24 Hours of Le Mans. Their victory came in a 3-liter Ferrari and secured the World Sportscar Championship for the Ferrari factory. They covered 2,511 miles with an average speed of 107 miles per hour. Hill became the first American to win the event and their Ferrari was the sole factory-sponsored car running at the end. Ferrari drivers took the first three positions at the conclusion of the 1961 24 Hours of Le Mans and, as they were to be again the following year, Hill and Gendebien were first, averaging 115.89 miles per hour, and establishing a race record. The duo were a natural fit and together they won the Le Mans race three times in total, with Gendebien winning it a fourth time, partnered by fellow Belgian Paul Frère in 1960. Gendebien's record number of Le Mans victories was not exceeded until 1981, when fellow-Belgian Jacky Ickx won for the fifth time.

Away from Circuit de la Sarthe, Gendebien also triumphed in the Targa Florio (1958, '61, '62), the 12 Hours of Sebring (1959, '60, '61), the 12 Hours of Reims (1957, '58) and the 1000 km Nürburgring (1962). When asked about the key to winning as a race car driver, Gendebien responded: "It is a matter of taking the corners a little faster than one would want." In honour of Gendebien's three wins at the 12 Hours of Sebring, the turn onto the Ullman straight is named after him.

Read more about this topic:  Olivier Gendebien

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