Sports Cars - 2019 Motor Sport Hall of Fame nominees

Legends of Le Mans and endurance events around the globe: sports car nominees for the 2019 Motor Sport Hall of Fame

Photo: Motorsport Images

Speeding around the clock, through day and night; rain and glaring sun: surviving in sports car racing takes some character, let alone thriving. The drivers among this year's Hall of Fame nominees have triumphed at the most gruelling settings in racing, including Le Mans, Daytona, the Nürbirgring and in the Targa Florio.

But we've also recognised one of the designers who created cars that had the speed to win and the durability to see the chequered flag.

Only one will be inaugurated into the Hall of Fame this year: your votes will decide who.

Scroll down for more details on each of the nominees, or click on a name to go straight to a particular individual.

Alternatively, you can vote in the Sports Car, F1 and Inspiration categories straight away by pressing the button below. All voters will be entered into a prize draw for a limited edition Stirling Moss print.

 

Sports Car nominees: 2019 Motor Sport Hall of Fame

 

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Olivier Gendebien

Sports car career
  • 1955 to 1962
  • 4 Le Mans 24 Hours wins
  • Other victories:
    12 Hours of Sebring (3)
    Targa Florio (3)

 

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Few drivers receive so little recognition for success on his scale. A gentleman racer in the truest sense of the term, but simultaneously quick and stylish, Gendebien was an official Ferrari team member for several seasons but made only occasional appearances in grandes épreuves.

He started 15 world championship grands prix between 1955 and 1961, finishing in the top six seven times and on the podium twice – a commendable strike rate, but his broader CV paints a much more accurate picture. He competed eight times in the Le Mans 24 Hours, won the race on four occasions (including a 1960-62 hat-trick) and might have achieved more had he not opted to retire from the sport at that stage, to engage in less perilous pursuits (tennis, for instance).

In addition to the above, he also won the Tour de France Automobile, Sebring 12 Hours and Targa Florio three times apiece, the Reims 12 Hours twice, the Nürburgring 1000Kms and a number of prestigious rallies, including the Liège-Rome-Liège. If the Daytona 24 Hours had existed during his heyday, he’d doubtless have won that, too… He was, quite simply, one of the finest endurance racers there has ever been and his achievements merit greater acknowledgement than ever they seem to receive.               

 


  

Pedro Rodríguez

Sports car career
  • 1958 to 1971
  • 1 Le Mans 24 Hours win
  • Other victories:
    Daytona 24 Hours (2)
    Paris 1,000Kms (2)

 

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He will forever be on a plinth for that memorable drive in the 1970 BOAC 1000Kms at Brands Hatch. Summoned for a pit bollocking early on, having overtaken under yellow flags that had been hard to see amid dense spray and teeming rain, he returned to the track in a particularly determined frame of mind, began circulating about five seconds more briskly than the other ‘quick’ cars, recovered from his delay to take the lead and then vanished over the horizon. By the end, he and co-driver Leo Kinnunen were more than five laps clear of the rest… a gap that owed everything to the Mexican’s spectacular gift.

But Rodríguez was more than just a wet-weather specialist. Like Gendebien, he was a paragon of versatility. A motorcycle racing champion at national level in the 1950s, he was still in his teens when he switched to cars and made his world championship grand prix debut with Lotus at Watkins Glen in 1963.

He would win only two races of such stature – the second of them in 1970, in the last F1 race on the original Spa-Francorchamps – but consider the balance of his CV: Daytona 24 Hours, Le Mans, Watkins Glen Six hours, Monza 1000Kms, Montlhéry 1000Kms… He won them all.

 


 

Vic Elford

Sports car career
  • 1967 to 1983
  • Daytona 24 Hours win
  • Other victories:
    Targa Florio
    Nürburgring 1,000Kms (3)

 

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The ultimate expression of motor sport adaptability? Consider the following. In the first seven months of 1968, Vic Elford won the Monte Carlo Rally in a Porsche 911, flew directly to America to conquer the Daytona 24 Hours (in a 907, Porsche’s first outright win in a 24-hour circuit race), shared the victorious 907 on the Targa Florio, secured the first of what would be three Nürburgring 1000Kms triumphs (in a 908 shared with Jo Siffert) and took his Cooper-BRM to fourth place in the French Grand Prix at Rouen. As you do…

Among all that lot, his Targa performance merits particular scrutiny. On the opening lap, one of his 907’s wheel nuts worked loose several times, which cost him 18 minutes. Once it was properly secured, with victory now little more than a pipedream, he obliterated the lap record by more than a minute, moved up the field as others struck trouble and then handed over to co-driver Umberto Maglioli. When it was Elford’s turn to take the final stint, he put together consecutive 36-mile laps within 2sec of each other. Victory was theirs, by the best part of three minutes.

We should also mention that Elford won the very first rallycross event (Lydden Hill, 1967), the Sebring 12 Hours and a Trans-Am race at Watkins Glen – a compelling body of evidence.

 


 

Emanuele Pirro

Sports car career
  • 1981 to 2008
  • 5 Le Mans 24 Hours wins
  • Other victories
    ALMS champion (2)
    12 Hours of Sebring (2)

 

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Today he is firmly associated with Audi, the by-product of touring car titles, five outright wins at Le Mans and, remarkably, nine consecutive podium finishes in the world’s most celebrated enduro. Sports car racing wasn’t an afterthought for the Italian, though: he was a class-winning fifth overall in the 1981 Daytona 24 Hours, shortly after his 19th birthday.

He also competed at Le Mans that season, although it wasn’t a happy experience – driver Jean-Louis Lafosse and a marshal were killed in separate incidents, and several other marshals were injured – and he didn’t imagine he’d ever go back… Through the early 1980s he focused on continuing his ascent of the single-seater ladder, with occasional diversions into saloon car racing, but after a couple of missed opportunities – and a stint as McLaren-Honda test driver, abetting Messrs Prost and Senna – he finally made it into F1 towards the decade’s end. But the Benetton he drove was too small for his lanky Roman frame, so he was never truly comfortable, and Scuderia Italia’s Dallara was mostly a midfield proposition.

He stepped away to become a touring car champion in Germany and Italy, win the American Le Mans Series twice and, after an 18-year hiatus, return to Le Mans. Which is where we came in…

 


  

Stefan Bellof

Sports car career
  • 1982 to 1985
  • World Endurance Champion (1984)
  • Other victories:
    Nürburgring 1,000Kms
    Silverstone 1,000Kms

 

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“He knew no limits, but later on, with more experience, if somebody had directed all that raw talent and speed… He was as quick a racing driver as I’ve ever seen.” The words come from Martin Brundle, Bellof’s F1 team-mate and a man who knew him better than most, when he spoke to Motor Sport in 2015, on the 30th anniversary of the German’s death. If, if, if…

When Ayrton Senna was pulverising his opposition in British Formula Ford during the summer of 1981, Bellof was doing likewise in Germany. The difference? Senna made the modest step up to FF2000 the following year, while Bellof graduated to F2 – and won his first two races against the cream of the world’s rising stars.

He dipped a toe into the world of sports car racing that season, too, before becoming a full Porsche factory driver the following season. Sharing with Derek Bell, he won first time out at Silverstone before going on to shatter several records at the Nürburgring (his famous 6min 11.13sec lap put him on pole by 5.7sec)… and then somersault out of the race. No limits, as Brundle said. In ’84 a (slightly) becalmed Bellof dovetailed his Tyrrell F1 commitments with the World Endurance Championship and won the latter, but future potential conquests would be stemmed by fate’s intervention at Spa the following autumn.

 


 

Norbert Singer

Sports car career
  • 1970 to 2010
  • Involved in 16 Le Mans wins
  • Developed Porsche 935
  • Styled Porsche 956/962
  • Developed GT1-98

 

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Much is rightly made of Tom Kristensen’s nine Le Mans wins – but they pale alongside Singer’s 16. He might not have been behind the wheel, but he played a part in each of Porsche’s first 16 outright victories (a record tally that has since risen to 19 in his absence).

When Singer arrived at Porsche in 1970, one of his first tasks was to improve the transmission cooling and fuel system on the fast but fragile 917, which went on to achieve Porsche’s first outright Le Mans shortly afterwards. He was the architect behind development of the (loosely) 911-based 935, which won in 1979. He styled the Porsche 956/962 that dominated the event for much of the 1980s. He was closely involved with the 936 that won in the mid-Seventies and the (TWR Jaguar-derived!) Porsche WSC-95 that did likewise 20 years later.

And then there was the GT1-98, his 16th winner in ’98. Le Mans was always the race that mattered most, but Singer can also be credited with much of Porsche’s enduring success with customer racing cars. He’s an arch-pragmatist, too: when told that his works 935 needed a working rear light at Daytona in 1977, the team taped a pocket torch to the back of the car and smeared the bulb with lipstick. Job done.


F1 nominees
Full details

Inspiration Award nominees
Full details

 

LATEST ISSUE

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Ford vs Ferrari: The Le Mans '66 Film Special
 

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