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f there’s one lesson to be taken from
84 previous editions of racing’s greatest
endurance event, it’s this: Le Mans will
always be Le Mans. Technology, sports
science, safety and the track itself will
continue to evolve, but the basic challenge
remains much the same today as it did
when André Lagache and René Léonard
won the inaugural race in 1923. The
24 Hours of Le Mans asks more of a team
and its drivers than any other single event.
Toyota offered a poignant reminder of
that last year when its lead car broke down
just a lap away from the checkered flag, a
first win eluding it yet again. The world’s
biggest manufacturers can bring massive
budgets and resources to bear, but at
Le Mans that isn’t necessarily enough.
Sometimes though, it is. By the
standards of the time, Ford’s Le Mans
program in the 1960s was larger – way
larger – than Toyota’s is now, and 50 years
ago, that firepower delivered all-American
glory when FoMoCo, Dan Gurney, A.J. Foyt
and Shelby American combined to deliver
the Blue Oval a second successive win.
Despite shocking luck in previous visits
to Le Mans, Gurney’s part in the win was in
some ways expected, given that he was
already regarded as one of the best road
racers of the era. But Foyt’s natural habitat
was ovals, and his contribution to the
victory offered another reminder that the
greatest drivers tend to be versatile drivers.
That versatility has become harder to
replicate in today’s more isolationist
environment – which is why the entire
racing world has been so energized by
Fernando Alonso’s plans to race in the Indy
500. The circumstances that led to the
deal were unique, and moonlighting will
remain the exception rather than the rule
for the foreseeable future. But the fact
that two million people worldwide tuned in
on May 3 to watch Alonso (ABOVE) lap the
Speedway alone for his Rookie Orientation
Program proves that when something like
this does happen, the whole sport wins.
“The entire racing world
has been energized by
Fernando Alonso’s plans
to race in the Indy 500”
1967 was quite a year for A.J. Foyt (LEFT) and Dan Gurney.
As well as their all-American, “won and done” win for Ford at
Le Mans, Foyt won the Indy 500 and his fifth USAC national title,
while Gurney took his Eagle to a famous win in the Belgian GP.
Limousin, France-based Paul Fearnley
(with his Cornish
Rex cat, Oscar – and
why not?) pulled
together the many
pieces for our 1967
Le Mans retro.