Six unforgettable F1 driver Le Mans moments

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Unless you have been living in a Tibetan monastery for the last year or so, it won’t have escaped your attention, that Fernando Alonso is swapping his McLaren for a Toyota and is tackling the Le Mans 24 Hours this weekend, as part of his Triple Crown quest.

Also racing there this weekend is his former Macca team-mate, Jenson Button, Pastor Maldonado (and we can’t wait to see him back in action) and Juan Pablo Montoya.

In fact, in addition to Alonso, there are on the grid, 23 former F1 drivers.

JPM has already completed two of the three legs of the Triple Crown, the only active driver to have done so, winning the Indianapolis 500 in 2000 and 2015 and the Monaco Grand Prix in 2003.

Just imagine if he somehow pulls off the win this weekend, beating Alonso to his dream - talk about a story.

So, here are just six of the many F1 driver Le Mans moments, from the heroic to the disastrous to the triumphant…

1991 - JOHNNY HERBERT (F1 for Benetton, Tyrrell, Lotus, Ligier, Sauber, Stewart and Jaguar)

An unconscious Herbert, carried from his car after his epic 1991 win.

Johnny Herbert, one of Britain’s best loved F1 drivers, achieved a quite remarkable win at Le Mans in 1991, partnering ex-F1 driver Volker Weidler and soon to be Jordan Grand Prix driver, Bertrand Gachot.

Just two years before this race, after his huge F3000 shunt at Brands Hatch, surgeons were close to amputating a foot.

Pulling in a double stint at the end of a gruelling - and for him painful - race, Herbert secured the victory for Mazda, making them the first (and Toyota please note, so far, the only) Japanese manufacturer to win the French classic.

Unfortunately for Johnny, he got out of the car and promptly passed out, missing out on the podium but still securing an iconic place in Le Mans history.

True grit.

1991 - MICHAEL SCHUMACHER (Jordan, Benetton, Ferrari, Mercedes)

A 22 year old unknown, legendary status just months away...

Finishing just a few places behind Herbert in an impressive fifth, was a future teammate of his: one Michael Schumacher

As part of the Mercedes young driver team, Schuey was making what would turn out to be his one and only Le Mans appearance for Sauber-Mercedes, with Fritz Kreutzpointner and Karl Wendlinger, the latter of these joining forces again with Sauber when they made their F1 entry in 1993.

Young Guns! Fritz, Karl and Michael in full on boy band mode.

Setting the fastest lap, among a field of vastly more experienced Le Mans specialists, woke many up to this young German debutant.

Just three months later, Schumacher would make his stunning debut for Jordan at the Belgian Grand Prix.

And the rest, as they say, is history.

2010 - NIGEL MANSELL (Lotus, Williams, Ferrari and McLaren).

Oh Nigel...

For Nigel Mansell, his sole Le Mans appearance was a bit of a family trip, as he entered the race with sons Leo and Greg.

It very soon transpired that maybe Center Parcs would have been a better, safer bet for their weekend away.

However, as has been so often the case in the past, drama followed Nigel to Circuit de la Sarthe and for the 1992 F1 World Champion, his 24 hour race lasted all of 17 minutes.

Nigel, racing an LMP1 Ginetta Zytek, picked up a rear puncture at well over 200 mph that threw him into the barriers on both sides of the track on the run down to Indianapolis from Mulsanne Corner.

Five laps.

One almighty shunt.

Game over.

2016 - KAZUKI NAKAJIMA (Williams)

Heartbreaking.

Toyota’s history at Le Mans is a catalogue of near misses, awful luck and a very weird retirements. The team has finished second in the LMP1 class at Le Mans five times but has yet to win.

No pressure this year then.

In 2016 though, finally, they looked to have it in the bag. Kazuki Nakajima had a healthy lead, with just one lap between him and victory for Toyota and teammates Sébastien Buemi and Anthony Davidson.

The next three minutes turned into three minutes of utter heartbreak as when Kazuki crossed the start-finish line to take the final lap, an air hose broke on the TS050, leading to an immediate loss of power.

From race winners to not classified after 23 hours and 57 minutes of racing.

Beyond cruel.

2017 - KAMUI KOBAYASHI (Toyota, Sauber, Caterham)

Just what on earth did he think he was doing?

Well, here is that very weird retirement.

Just one year after the nightmare for countryman Nakajima, Kamui Kobayashi was also put out of the race with mechanical failure during the night.

This though, has to be one of the most bizarre reasons to retire, not just at Le Mans, but in any form of motorsport.

Leading the race around ten hours in, Kobayashi was, during a safety car period, waiting at the end of the pit lane, ready for the signal to go.

For reasons only he can come up with, another driver, Vincent Capillaire, inexplicably walked over to the stationary Toyota to give our Japanese hero a friendly thumbs up.

Unfortunately, and again, this is bizarre, his race overalls, especially in the dark, closely resembled the marshal’s overalls and Kamui thought he been told to go.

Off he went, only for the team to tell him to stop again, which meant he had to start again.

At which point, the clutch cried enough and committed Hari Kari.

Disaster, but a note to Toyota: a car costing millions should have a clutch that can cope with a bit of stopping and starting…

2015 - NICO HULKENBERG (Williams, Force India, Sauber and Renault)

A VERY rare sight, Nico Hülkenberg on a podium.

Nico Hülkenberg: 144 Grand Prix entries and still no podium, and by the look of things this year, a visit up there still looks a long way off.

One visit to Le Mans on a weekend away from F1 and in the stunning Porsche 919 he only goes and wins the damn thing.

Now if Alonso can go and repeat that feat this coming weekend and Hülkenberg can finally break his F1 podium duck, all will be happy.

Fingers crossed…

Which F1 driver provided YOUR most memorable Le Mans moment? Stick him in the comments below, be it a good, bad or ugly drive!

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Comments (5)
  • Did Mark Webber Mercedes fly through the air?

    3 months ago
  • Can’t leave out Bruce McLaren and Chris Amon

    3 months ago
  • Jj Lehto 1995 McLaren F1, through the night in the rain, masterclass!

    3 months ago
    1 Bump
  • Hulkenberg,till now. We will see wheter Alonso or JB would be able to better him

    3 months ago
    1 Bump
  • Hi congratulations - your post has been selected by DriveTribe F1 Ambassador for promotion on the DriveTribe homepage.

    3 months ago

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