All five double Le Mans winners came to the Festival of Speed

14th July 2023
Ethan Jupp

You’ll hear it before, throughout and at the end of any running. The drivers and teams will tell you any time. Finishing the 24 Hours of Le Mans is an accolade in itself, let alone making the podium. Winning your class is an incredible feat, let alone winning outright. So what are the chances of the same chassis winning outright twice? Well, in the 91 runnings and 100 years since the very first Grand Prix d’Endurance de 24 Heures in 1923, five cars have done it, so you do the maths.


They're certainly unlikely to be joined, given that in the modern era chassis are rarely carried over into sunsequent years. Perhaps just as unlikely as becoming a member of such an exclusive club, is getting all five current members together.

Well, in celebration of the Le Mans 24 Hours centenial at the 2023 Goodwood Festival of Speed presented by Mastercard, that’s exactly what we’ve done. We couldn’t not line them up for a spectacular photo shoot.

Bentley Speed Six – 1929, 1930

It makes all the sense in the world that the Bentley Boys would have contributed the first entrant, within the event’s first ten years, no less. That perhaps speaks to the outright dominance of the Bentley factory efforts at Le Mans in the late 1920s. It was with this Speed Six, as it secured its second win in 1930, that one Woolf Barnato (then Bentley director) became the first three-time winning driver at Le Mans, having won in the very same car a year earlier in 1929 and first in a 41/2 Litre in 1928. 

The first race in 1929 for the then-new Speed Six was one Bentley intended to dominate, with the Woolf Barnato/Tim Birkin car one of a five-car factory assault. Indeed, grid monopoly is a long-standing method with which many have bred their success at Le Mans, one that arguably was first championed by Bentley. Come the end, there was time and miles enough between the Bentleys and their rivals to fall in for the first-ever formation finish, per the orders of W.O. Bentley. It was a top four lockout for the green cars, with the fifth-placed Stutz finishing a full four laps behind. 

In 1930, the onus was on the newly-minted ‘Blowers’ to bring the supercharged fight to Mercedes and Alfa Romeo, though bad tyre luck put them out of contention. It was up to the Speed Sixes to take up the fight and, while the lead was contested, Le Mans ultimately made the final decision, as the Mercedes retired, with the winning Speed Six of the year before racking up its second. Yes, this Speed Six, which now lives at the Motor Museum of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. And rightly so.


Ferrari 250P/275P – 1963, 1964

Sometimes the truth of these things gets lost in the muddled annals of history. Indeed, it wasn't until 2018 that Ferrari Classiche discovered that there was indeed one single Ferrari to have won Le Mans twice, albeit with two different chassis numbers at the time. That Ferrari was the 250P of 1963, which became the 275P thanks to the fitment of an enlarged 3.3-litre V12 for its second win in 1964.

The first win for the 250P (as was) came in 1963, which had arrived for that year’s season as the first mid-engined V12 Ferrari. It was also the first mid-engined car to win Le Mans. A famously attritious race, just twelve cars were classified as finishers. The 250P’s win is a testament to the fact that multiple ingredients are required in the mix for a true potential winner: pace, yes, but arguably more important are consistency and reliability and, as with Jaguar and indeed Bentley before them, plenty of entries. A few of the top-six finishers are known to have driven their cars to Paris for post-race parties – amen.

For 1964 it was a similar story of 'turn up in force, be reliable and be consistent'. The 330Ps with their larger more powerful 4.0-litre V12s lead a wedge of the race, but yielded to the 275P following reliability issues. Of course, as above, it wouldn’t be known that it was a double-winner for over 50 years.


Ford GT40 – 1968, 1969

Of course, Ferrari’s period of dominance in the early and mid-1960s was always going to come to an end, given that one Henry Ford II had made as much his mission. It took them a couple of years and involved a number of collaborators but by 1966, the Ford GT40 was a bonafide class-beating racing car, with three cars locking out the podium in poetic and controversial (another well-known story) fashion. We’d hazard to suggest however that the GT40’s true place as a legend of the game wasn’t guaranteed until 1969, when an example became the third chassis to join the double-winner club. 

We of course refer to John Wyer’s GT40 Mk1, which came up trumps finally in 1968 and 1969, making it what we now know to be at the time, the third chassis to win Le Mans twice. The cause was helped in 1968 by rule changes banning engines larger than 3.0 litres in the Group 6 class, leading Ferrari to boycott the race. The GT40, being a Group 4 car, could run a more powerful 5.0-litre engine. The car was also prepared with learnings from the Mirage programme, with cutting-edge materials to reduce weight. Even with more muscle, the three Gulf GT40s were far from the quickest cars out there, but as time wore on Le Mans did its thing and, come the night, multiple leaders had tapped out with issues, leaving the two remaining GTs in the lead. By the early morning, the Pedro Rodriguez/Lucien Bianchi GT40 was out on its own with a tidy lead that it held to the finish. 

In 1969 it had none other than the incredible Porsche 917 to contend with, sporting a monster 5.0-litre engine ready to take advantage of the more slack Group 4 rules. Except it wasn’t. For a car that was rushed through, the fact it led up until the last three hours was impressive, but not enough. Reliability issues postponed a first outright victory for Porsche until 1970, leaving the number 6 Wyer GT40 with Jackie Ixck at the wheel to battle for victory with the remaining 3.0-litre Porsche 908 of Hanz Herrmann. The story of that victory is legend – fading reliability for both cars, mind games, clever tactics and dab-handed driving – all in the well-known wheelhouse of would-be record-setting Le Mans winner, Jackie Ickx. It was the first of five wins he’d claim, his last coming 13 years later in 1982.


Porsche 956B – 1984, 1985

Ickx continued to race at Le Mans until 1985, when he would see the next inductee to the double-winner club earn its stripes. Fitting the bill of a fast, reliable and consistent racing car perfectly, the Porsche 956 and 962 platform would be considered a legendary endurance racer even without this achievement. But Joest Racing, with this 956, got it done three years into the Group C era. The 1984 finishing order is also proof once again that monopolisation is your friend. Porsche 956s took the top seven spots, with only the Ferrari V8-engined Lancia LC2 mixing things up in eighth. Of course, not all 956s and teams are equal, so how did Henri Pescarolo and Klaus Ludwig do it? 

Well, this win comes with another Le Mans lesson: you’re only out when you’re out. By the end of the first hour, the New Man 956 was a lowly 30th after pitting with fueling issues. But a race of delays, issues, crashes and, sadly, the death of a marshal, meant not a single car ended up having run an issue-free race. It just so happened theirs was early on and one they could recover from, with a charge as consistent as it was aggressive by the experienced winning duo. Those Lancias locked out qualifying and lead convincingly for a time, before succumbing to issues. You’re not out until you’re out. 

If anything, the 1985 win came easier, with the Joest Porsche only jousting with a 956 GTi of Richard Lloyd Racing, before that car stumbled with engine issues. Managing their car, delivering consistent pace and dealing with tighter fuel restrictions, they brought home that second win. Ludwig and this car are exemplar of endurance and legends of the sport.


TWR-Porsche WSC95 – 1996, 1997

Joest wasn’t finished, however. Using the TWR-developed WSC95, which was for all intents and purposes a Jaguar XJR-14 running a Porsche engine, our final double-winner etched itself into the history books in 1996 and 1997. So caught up in the romance of McLaren’s 1995 GT1 win with the McLaren F1, and still in the shadow of the World Sportscar Championship’s demise after 1992, everyone wanted in on the GT1 loophole. 

So therein lies another lesson, one that benefitted Toyota over the last few years: capitalise when competition is sparse. And our final lesson? One that goes back to Wyer’s GT40 and beyond; you don’t need factory backing. Money and a swanky uniform doth not a Le Mans winner make. Just ask Ford. Fast and consistent cars, fast and consistent drivers, and a tightly-knit team certainly do. Davy Jones, Alexander Wurz and Manuel Reuter did the business in 1996, then in 1997 Tom Kristensen (for his first win, of nine), Stefan Johansson and Michele Alboreto did it again with a car that, as so many winners at Le Mans did, traded outright dominant pace for consistency and reliability.


So those are the (abridged) stories of the five examples of cars that, throughout history, have claimed two wins at Le Mans each. That’s well over ten per cent of Le Mans wins, carried on 20 wheels. Each emerged victorious after 24 hours a first and second time, sometimes with sheer dominance, often with plenty of backup on the grid, more often than not with consistency and always with skill and determination. 

But truly, truly, the final ingredient to finishing, and winning Le Mans, let alone winning it twice? Luck, in commensurate measures. That’s what any endurance racer will tell you. How awe-inspiring it is to have them all together.

The 2023 Goodwood Festival of Speed is underway! You can watch every moment of the action by watching our live stream.

Photography by of Pete Summers.

  • FOS 2023

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