Unsung heroes of Le Mans - Goodyear recaps 14 endurance race wins

Carroll Shelby at 24 Hours of Le Mans 1965. Image: Quickpic
Carroll Shelby at 24 Hours of Le Mans 1965. Image: Quickpic

• The 88th running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans takes place this weekend. 

• The world's most well-known endurance race was postponed from June 13 due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

• The entry list includes LMP1, LMP2, GTE Pro, GTE AM categories. 

Almost unbelievably this weekend sees the 88th running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans at the Circuit de la Sarthe, Le Mans, France. We say unbelievably because the race was postponed from June because of the coronavirus pandemic. 

Thankfully, one of the world's most iconic motorsport event's gets underway on Saturday 19 September at 14:30 and the chequered flag is flown at 14:30 on Sunday 20 September.

A reconfigured schedule means the race serves as the penultimate round of the 2019–20 FIA World Endurance Championship.

Ahead of the race, we're focusing on elements of racing cars that are integral to victories and success on the track. And arguably one of the most important elements of racing are the tyres, even more so in endurance racing. 

Tyre manufacturer Goodyear has a long, successful history at Le Mans. They have tasted success in Formula 1 and endurance racing and have more F1 wins than any other tyre manufacturer and 14 wins at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

The company's second Le Mans win in 1966 has become one of its most famous. Ford's win in the GT40 was brought to the big screen in the recent Ford v Ferrari movie. The story of the triumphant but controversial Bruce McLaren and Chris Amon victory to a new generation. It was also a highly unusual win for a tyre manufacturer, as the switch to Goodyear happened during the race. 


Image: Ken Miles and Denis Hulme's Ford GT makes a pitstop during the 24 Hours of Le Mans 1966

The first Le Mans win: 67 years of preparation

1965 marked Goodyear's first win at Le Mans. The rubber was used by the works Ferraris, the North American Racing Team (NART), run by US Ferrari importer and three-time Le Mans winner Luigi Chinetti, also represented Maranello.

With national pride at stake, NART chose American tyres and this played a role in the outcome. Despite losing an hour in the pits with electrical issues, the pace of Masten Gregory and Jochen Rindt moved them relentlessly up the order. It was the first win by a privateer since 1957 and the first international race victory for Goodyear tyres.

There may have been 67 years between the formation of the company in 1898 and the first Le Mans win, but it was a period of enormous success in American racing. From the dawn of motoring, Goodyear realised that motorsport is a place to learn and develop: something that remains true today and at the core of Goodyear Racing’s philosophy. Charlie Stutz used Goodyear experimental tyres to take the podium in the Indianapolis 500 in 1913. 


Image: Quickpic

Six years later, the 160km/h barrier was broken at Indianapolis by Howdy Wilcox, who took his Peugeot to victory on a set of Goodyear tyres. Another eight of the top ten finishers used the Akron-made tyres and Goodyear had truly arrived in top-level motorsport. Two of the drivers completed the 804kms on one set of tyres, reflecting the drive for performance and durability that is still needed to win at events like Le Mans today.

Dominating various motorsport disciplines

Between the World Wars, Goodyear reduced its focus on racing, but stormed back in 1957 in the stock car arena with the huge growth of the championship now known as Nascar. It saw its first Daytona 500 win in 1960 and by 1962 more Nascar winners chose Goodyear than any other tyre. 


Image: Quickpic

Move to Europe

After a development period in F1 with the all-American Scarab team, the company set up a European racing base and partnered both the Brabham and Honda F1 teams in 1965.

It was fitting that US driver Richie Ginther in the Honda saw Goodyear's first win in F1. In fact it was in the same year as Gregory and Rindt did the same at Le Mans. Between 1965 and 1998, Goodyear amassed 368 Formula 1 victories, a record that still stands today. 

Le Mans and all that comes with it

In endurance racing, Goodyear racked up a total of fourteen 24 Hours of Le Mans between 1965 and 1997, before announcing its return at Le Mans last year. In the 15 months since, Goodyear has expanded even further into several high-level racing disciplines, including prototypes, GTs, touring cars and even electric motorsport.

Endurance racing, however, is a very special challenge for all involved. The physical and mental strain of a 24-hour race is unparalleled in racing and the demands of flat-out performance on the world’s toughest racetracks mean only the best can win. says the company. The unique challenges of endurance races like the 24 Hours of Le Mans and Nürburgring 24 Hours are what draw people to the sport.


Image: Quickpic

Goodyear's Le Mans Hall of Fame

1965: Jochen Rindt/Masten Gregory/Ed Hugus - Ferrari 250 LM – 4677.11km

1966: Bruce McLaren/Chris Amon - Ford GT40 Mk. II - 4843.09km

1967: Dan Gurney/A.J. Foyt - Ford GT40 Mk. IV - 5232.9km

1970: Hans Herrmann/Richard Attwood - Porsche 917K - 4607.81km

1972: Henri Pescarolo/Graham Hill - Matra-Simca MS670 - 4691.343km

1973: Henri Pescarolo/Gérard Larrousse - Matra-Simca MS670B - 4853.945km

1974: Henri Pescarolo/Gérard Larrousse - Matra-Simca MS670C - 4606.571km

1975: Jacky Ickx/Derek Bell - Mirage GR8-Ford Cosworth - 4594.577km

1976: Jacky Ickx/Gijs van Lennep - Porsche 936 - 4769.923km

1980: Jean Rondeau/Jean-Pierre Jaussaud - Rondeau M379B - 4608.02km

1990: John Nielsen/Price Cobb/Martin Brundle - Jaguar XJR-12 - 4882.4km

1994: Yannick Dalmas/Hurley Haywood/Mauro Baldi - Porsche Dauer 962 - 4678.4km

1996: Manuel Reuter/Davy Jones/Alexander Wurz Porsche WSC-95 - 4814.4km

1997: Michele Alboreto/Stefan Johansson/Tom Kristensen - Porsche WSC-95 - 4909.6km 

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For 14 free days, you can have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today. Thereafter you will be billed R75 per month. You can cancel anytime and if you cancel within 14 days you won't be billed. 
Subscribe to News24