With a horde of quick young Brits recently forsaking Formula 1 (Will Stevens) and IndyCar (James Jakes) for a life in the FIA World Endurance Championship, we’ve cast our minds back to the series’ last true predecessor, the FIA World Sportscar Championship, which pitted top drivers and numerous big-brand manufacturers against each other in long-distance marathons around many of the world’s finest circuits between 1953 and 1992. Britain was well represented in the WSCC, with 40 drivers winning at least one race, against 37 from America, 33 from Italy, 30 from Germany and 17 from France. Who, you might just be wondering, were our five most successful, in terms of race wins? Well, wonder no more – here, in ascending order, are the top-five British long-distance legends, all of whom, we’re pleased to add, have raced regularly at the Goodwood Revival. In fact, one of them was victorious on both occasions that the Motor Circuit hosted a WSCC round a good few years ago…
5 Martin Brundle (8 wins)
Brundle made his debut in the World Sportscar Championship at Mosport in Canada in 1985 for the TWR Jaguar team, aboard its XJR-6. He was still a fully-fledged Grand Prix driver at the time, with the Tyrrell team, and would only tackle a full endurance campaign in 1988, his year off from F1.
He won the drivers’ title that season, thanks to five victories in the XJR-9. Other big sportscar wins on Brundle’s CV include victory in the Daytona and Le Mans 24 Hour classics in 1990, again with Jaguar. His last WSCC outing came at Silverstone in 1991, in which he took third in a solo drive in the Jaguar XJR-14 – a result he considers one of his finest.
1987 – Spa-Francorchamps 1,000km, Jaguar XJR-8 (Raul Boesel/Johnny Dumfries)
1988 – Jarama 360km, Jaguar XJR-9 (Eddie Cheever), Monza 1,000km, Jaguar XJR-9 (Eddie Cheever), Silverstone 1,000km, Jaguar XJR-9 (Eddie Cheever), Brands Hatch 1000km, Jaguar XJR-9 (John Nielsen/Andy Wallace), Fuji 1,000km, Jaguar XJR-9 (Eddie Cheever)
1990 – Silverstone 480km, Jaguar XJR-11 (Alain Ferté)
1991 – Monza 430km, Jaguar XJR-14 (Derek Warwick)
4 John Fitzpatrick (9 wins)
This ultra-successful privateer touring car and sportscar veteran made his World Championship prototype debut in a Ferrari 250 LM at Brands Hatch in 1967 and would dovetail success tin-top and endurance races throughout the 1970s. His biggest win was probably his first, in the 1976 Silverstone 6 Hours alongside Tom Walkinshaw in a BMW CSL.
‘Fitz’ was still winning into the early ’80s, taking his self-run Porsche 956 to victory in the 1983 1000km at Brands Hatch, although that was one of three extra races that season that didn’t count for WSCC points, rather for the one-off European Endurance Championship, won by his former Porsche 935 wingman Bob Wollek.
1976 – Silverstone 6 Hours, BMW 3.5 CSL (Tom Walkinshaw)
1977 – Hockenheim 6 Hours, Porsche 935 (Bob Wollek)
1978 – Mugello 6 Hours, Porsche 935 (Hans Heyer/Toine Hezemans), Watkins Glen 6 Hours, Porsche 935 (Peter Gregg/Toine Hezemans)
1979 – Mugello 6 Hours, Porsche 935 (Manfred Schurti/Bob Wollek), Silverstone 6 Hours, Porsche 935 (Hans Heyer/Bob Wollek), Nürburgring 1000km, Porsche 935 (Manfred Schurti/Bob Wollek)
1980 – Mosport 6 Hours, Porsche 935 (Brian Redman)
1981 – Riverside 6 Hours, Porsche 935 (Jim Busby)
3 Stirling Moss (12 wins)
Our greatest motorsport all-rounder, who famously adopted a race-anything-anywhere-anytime attitude, took numerous big wins in enduros while also successfully flying the flag for Britain in Formula 1. His greatest triumph of any sort was arguably his 1955 Mille Miglia win for Mercedes, in which he and journalist Denis Jenkinson covered 1,000 miles in a little over 10 hours – on public roads! Moss also helped Aston Martin to the manufacturers’ title in 1959 after jumping into the DBR1 of Jack Fairman and Carroll Shelby after his own car had caught fire in the pits.
Perhaps the only omission on Moss’s sportscar CV is a Le Mans win. It was a race he didn’t like, but led on several occasions, with reliability issues preventing a victory.
1954 – Sebring 12 Hours, Osca MT4 (Bill Lloyd)
1955 – Mille Miglia (Italy), Mercedes-Benz 300SLR (Denis Jenkinson), Tourist Trophy (Dundrod), Mercedes-Benz 300SLR (John Fitch), Targa Florio (Sicily), Mercedes-Benz 300SLR (Peter Collins)
1956 – Buenos Aires 1,000km, Maserati 300S (Carlos Menditeguy), Nürburgring 1,000km, Maserati 300S (Jean Behra/Harry Schell/Piero Taruffi)
1957 – Kristianstad 1000km, Maserati 450S (Jean Behra)
1958 – Nürburgring 1000km, Aston Martin DBR1 (Jack Brabham), Tourist Trophy (Goodwood), Aston Martin DBR1 (Tony Brooks)
1959 – Nürburgring 1000km, Aston Martin DBR1 (Jack Fairman), Tourist Trophy (Goodwood), Aston Martin DBR1 (Jack Fairman, Carroll Shelby)
1960 – Nürburgring 1000km, Maserati Tipo 61 (Dan Gurney)
2 Brian Redman (17 wins)
The greatest living Lancastrian, as this modest and super-talented all-rounder is affectionately dubbed, was a winner in sportscar racing’s top tier for the discipline’s greatest marques: Ford, Porsche and Ferrari. He famously won the 1000km race on the daunting, super-fast, eight-mile Spa on four occasions, in four different cars – Ford GT40, Porsche 908, Porsche 917 and Ferrari 312PB.
His final season in the World Championship came for the Aston Martin Group C squad in 1989, 33 years after his first outing in a prototype at that level. He took a fourth place at Brands Hatch, alongside David Leslie in the AMR1, proving, at 52 years of age, he could still mix it with the young chargers. A true sportscar-racing legend, whose recollections of the glory days of endurance events in the 1960s and ’70s will be published any day now. We can’t wait to read them…
1968 – Brands Hatch 6 Hours, Ford GT40 (Jacky Ickx), Spa-Francorchamps 1000km, Ford GT40 (Jacky Ickx)
1969 – Brands Hatch 6 Hours, Porsche 908/2 (Jo Siffert), Monza 1,000km, Porsche 908L (Jo Siffert), Spa-Francorchamps 1000km, Porsche 908L (Jo Siffert), Nürburgring 1000km, Porsche 908/2 (Jo Siffert), Watkins Glen 6 Hours, Porsche 908/2 (Jo Siffert)
1970 – Daytona 24 Hours, Porsche 917K (Leo Kinnunen/Pedro Rodriguez), Targa Florio (Sicily), Porsche 908/3 (Jo Siffert), Spa-Francorchamps 1,000km, Porsche 917K (Jo Siffert), Osterreichring 1,000km, Porsche 917K (Jo Siffert)
1972 – Spa-Francorchamps 1,000km, Ferrari 312PB (Arturo Merzario), Osterreichring 1,000km, Ferrari 312PB (Jacky Ickx)
1973 – Monza 1,000km, Ferrari 312PB (Jacky Ickx), Nürburgring 1,000km, Ferrari 312PB (Jacky Ickx)
1980 – Mosport 6 Hours, Porsche 935 (John Fitzpatrick)
1981 – Daytona 24 Hours, Porsche 935 (Bobby Rahal/Bob Garretson)
1 Derek Bell (21 wins)
And our greatest sportscar racer of all time? Step forward Derek Reginald Bell MBE. Bell, who was brought up close to Goodwood, made his competition debut at the circuit and remains inextricably linked with it to this day, competing as he does in the Members’ Meeting and Revival.
His big break in sportscars, after a successful junior single-seater career led him briefly to F1, came with Belgian privateer Jacques Swaters, who hired him to race his Ferrari 512S at Spa in 1970. A works Ferrari deal came for Le Mans that year, before he got into bed with Porsche and the John Wyer Gulf 917 team for 1971, winning in Buenos Aires first time out. He raced for Wyer’s Mirage team and for the Alfa Romeo and Renault squads before rekindling his relationship with Porsche, initially with private outfits such as Georg Loos, Reinhold Joest and the Kremer Brothers, and then with the factory at the start of the Group C era in 1982.
The 1980s were a happy hunting ground for Bell, in the World Championship and the US IMSA equivalent. He won countless races in his beloved 956 and 962 prototypes, including Le Mans three times, the Daytona 24 Hours three times, and the Drivers’ World title in 1985 and ’86. His last race in a WSCC event came in a 962 alongside son Justin and Tiff Needell at Le Mans in 1992, the trio finishing 12th.
Bell continued to race long after the demise of the WSCC. Ask him which race he looks back on with the most pride and satisfaction and he’ll say Le Mans in 1995, when he stood on the podium with son Justin and fellow Brit and former winner Andy Wallace after a stunning drive to third in the Harrods-sponsored McLaren F1 GTR.
1971 – Buenos Aires 1000km, Porsche 917K (Jo Siffert)
1973 – Spa-Francorchamps 1000km, Mirage M6 (Mike Hailwood)
1975 – Spa-Francorchamps 1000km, Alfa Romeo T33TT (Henri Pescarolo), Osterreichring 1000km, Alfa Romeo T33TT (Henri Pescarolo), Watkins Glen 1000km, Alfa Romeo T33TT (Henri Pescarolo)
1981 – Le Mans 24 Hours, Porsche 936 (Jacky Ickx)
1982 – Le Mans 24 Hours, Porsche 956 (Jacky Ickx), Brands Hatch 1000km, Porsche 956 (Jacky Ickx)
1983 – Silverstone 1000km, Porsche 956 (Stefan Bellof), Fuji 1000km, Porsche 956 (Stefan Bellof), Kyalami 1000km, Porsche 956 (Stefan Bellof)
1984 – Monza 1000km, Porsche 956 (Stefan Bellof), Nürburgring 1000km, Porsche 956 (Stefan Bellof), Spa-Francorchamps 1000km, Porsche 956 (Stefan Bellof), Sandown 1000km, Porsche 956 (Stefan Bellof)
1985 – Hockenheim 1000km, Porsche 962C (Hans-Joachim Stück), Mosport 1000km, Porsche 962C (Hans-Joachim Stück), Brands Hatch 1000km, Porsche 962C (Hans-Joachim Stück)
1986 – Monza 1000km, Porsche 962C (Hans-Joachim Stück), Le Mans 24 Hours, Porsche 962C (Al Holbert/Hans-Joachim Stück)
1987 – Le Mans 24 Hours, Porsche 962C (Al Holbert/Hans-Joachim Stück)