Olivier Gendebien

Olivier Gendebien (12 January 1924 – 2 October 1998) was a Belgian racing driver who was called "one of the greatest sportscar racers of all time".[1]

Olivier Gendebien
Born12 January 1924
Brussels, Belgium
Died2 October 1998 (aged 74)
Les Baux-de-Provence, France
Formula One World Championship career
NationalityBelgium Belgian
Active years19551956, 19581961
non-works Cooper, Emeryson and Lotus
Entries15 (14 starts)
Career points18
Pole positions0
Fastest laps0
First entry1956 Argentine Grand Prix
Last entry1961 United States Grand Prix
24 Hours of Le Mans career
TeamsEquipe Nationale Belge
Scuderia Ferrari
Best finish1st (1958, 1960, 1961, 1962)
Class wins4 (1958, 1960, 1961, 1962)

Rally racer

Gendebien entered a Veritas sports car in the 1955 Grand Prix des Frontières at Chimay. However, following this race he switched his focus, and teamed up with Fraikin to compete in rally racing using a Jaguar sports car.[2] Together with Pierre Stasse, Gendebien won the sixth running of the Tulip Rally in Zandvoort in April 1954. Their car was an Alfa Romeo 1900 TI.[3][4] The Gendebien and Fraiken partnership gained the nickname "the eternal bridesmaids", owing to their number of second-place finishes,[2] but after two previous attempts they triumphed in the Liège-Rome-Liège Rally, the Coppa d'Oro delle Dolomiti and Rally Stella Alpina in 1955, driving a Mercedes-Benz 300SL.

Formula One driver

Gendebien's success in rally competitions brought him to the attention of Enzo Ferrari, who offered him a contract to drive a Ferrari in sports car events and selected Grands Prix. Much respected as a true gentleman by everyone who knew him, he remained a member of the Ferrari team until he retired from racing. Enzo Ferrari summed him up as "a gentleman who never forgets that noblesse oblige and, when he is at the wheel, he translates this code of behaviour into an elegant and discerning forcefulness."[1]

During his career he competed in only 15 Formula One races as most of the time he was Ferrari's spare driver, filling in only occasionally. He nonetheless scored points in five races, and was only one place away from a points-scoring finish on a further two occasions.

He made his début at the 1956 Argentine Grand Prix, with the Ferrari team, but it was during a stint driving for the British Racing Partnership's Yeoman Credit Racing team in 1960 that Gendebien scored his best finishes; he took second in the 1960 French Grand Prix and third in front of a home crowd at the 1960 Belgian Grand Prix.

The second of these was a somewhat bitter-sweet success, as Gendebien's team-mate at the time, Chris Bristow, was killed in an accident during the race. Gendebien himself walked away with slight injuries in October 1961 after his Lotus-Climax failed to negotiate a turn during practice for the 1961 United States Grand Prix at Watkins Glen, New York. The car flipped over and Gendebien's shoes were torn off by the impact.[5]

Sports car competition

However, it was in sports car racing, particularly the long distance and endurance events, where Gendebien excelled. Piloting a 2.5-litre Ferrari, Gendebien teamed up with Maurice Trintignant to place third in the 1956 24 Hours of Le Mans. They were seven laps behind the winners, privateer Ecurie Ecosse Jaguar drivers Ron Flockhart and Ninian Sanderson.[6] The 1958 Grand Prix of Buenos Aires was a 1,000 kilometre event in which Gendebien paired with Wolfgang von Trips. They finished second to a fellow Ferrari pairing Phil Hill and Peter Collins. In the race Argentine Maserati driver, Jorge Magnasco, died after his car skidded and turned over.[7]

The same year he partnered Hill and won the prestigious 24 Hours of Le Mans. Their victory came in a 3-litre Ferrari and secured the World Sportscar Championship for the Ferrari factory. They covered 2,511 miles with an average speed of 107 miles per hour. Hill became the first American to win the event and their Ferrari was the sole factory-sponsored car running at the end.[8] Ferrari drivers took the first three positions at the conclusion of the 1961 24 Hours of Le Mans and, as they were to be again the following year, Hill and Gendebien were first, averaging 115.89 miles per hour, and establishing a race record.[9] The duo were a natural fit and together they won the Le Mans race three times in total, with Gendebien winning it a fourth time, partnered by fellow Belgian Paul Frère in 1960. Gendebien's record number of Le Mans victories was not exceeded until 1981, when fellow-Belgian Jacky Ickx won for the fifth time.

Away from Circuit de la Sarthe, Gendebien also triumphed in the Targa Florio (1958, '61, '62), the 12 Hours of Sebring (1959, '60, '61), the 12 Hours of Reims (1957, '58) and the 1000 km Nürburgring (1962).[1] When asked about the key to winning as a race car driver, Gendebien responded: "It is a matter of taking the corners a little faster than one would want."[10] In honour of Gendebien's three wins at the 12 Hours of Sebring, the turn onto the Ullman straight is named after him. He also won the Dolomites Cup, a one-lap sportscar race that took place on a 188-mile circuit in the Dolomite Mountains in Italy.

Major race victories

Post race life

Married with three children, Gendebien’s wife pressured him to get out of the dangerous sport of automobile racing where more than two dozen of his competitors had died at the wheel. At 38 years of age, in 1962 Olivier Gendebien retired following his fourth victory at Le Mans. Independently wealthy, and an avid skier, tennis player, and equestrian rider, he devoted the rest of his life to running a variety of businesses. In 1998 King Albert II awarded him the Belgian Order of the Crown.

Olivier Gendebien died in 1998 at his home in Les Baux-de-Provence in southern France.[11]

Racing record

Complete Formula One World Championship results


Year Entrant Chassis Engine 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 WDC Pts.
1955 Equipe Nationale Belge Ferrari 625 Ferrari Straight-4 ARG MON 500 BEL
1956 Scuderia Ferrari Ferrari 555 Ferrari L4 ARG
MON 500 BEL 23rd 2
Lancia-Ferrari D50 Lancia V8 FRA
1958 Scuderia Ferrari Ferrari Dino 246 Ferrari V6 ARG MON NED 500 BEL
NC 0
1959 Scuderia Ferrari Ferrari Dino 246 Ferrari V6 MON 500 NED FRA
USA 15th 3
1960 Scuderia Ferrari Ferrari Dino 246 Ferrari V6 ARG
MON 500 NED 6th 10
Yeoman Credit Racing Team Cooper T51 Climax L4 BEL
1961 Equipe Nationale Belge Emeryson Mk2 Maserati L4 MON
NED 14th 3
Scuderia Ferrari Ferrari 156 Ferrari V6 BEL
UDT-Laystall Racing Team Lotus 18/21 Climax L4 USA

Non-championship results

(key) (Races in bold indicate pole position) (Races in italics indicate fastest lap)

Year Entrant Chassis Engine 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21
1956 Scuderia Ferrari Ferrari 555 Ferrari BUE
1957 Scuderia Ferrari Lancia D50 Lancia V8 BUE SYR PAU GLV NAP RMS
1961 Equipe Nationale Belge Emeryson Mk2 Maserati L4 LOM GLV PAU

24 Hours of Le Mans results

Year Team Co-Driver Car Class Laps Pos. Class
1955 Belgium Ecurie Belge Germany Wolfgang Seidel Porsche 550 RS Spyder S
276 5th 2nd
1956 Italy Scuderia Ferrari France Maurice Trintignant Ferrari 625 LM S
374 3rd 2nd
1957 Italy Scuderia Ferrari France Maurice Trintignant Ferrari 250 TR S
1958 Italy Scuderia Ferrari United States Phil Hill Ferrari 250 TR/58 S
305 1st 1st
1959 Italy Scuderia Ferrari United States Phil Hill Ferrari 250 TR/59 S
1960 Italy Scuderia Ferrari Belgium Paul Frère Ferrari 250 TR/59/60 S
314 1st 1st
1961 Italy SEFAC Ferrari United States Phil Hill Ferrari 250 TRI/61 S
333 1st 1st
1962 Italy SEFAC Ferrari United States Phil Hill Ferrari 330 TRI/LM E
331 1st 1st


  1. ^ a b c Cooper, A. 1998. Obituary: Olivier Gendebien. Motor Sport, LXXIV/11 (November 1998), 4
  2. ^ a b "Driver: Gendebien, Olivier". Autocourse Grand Prix Archive. Archived from the original on 21 December 2007. Retrieved 2007-11-18.
  3. ^ "Belgians Win Auto Race". The New York Times. 1 May 1954. p. 20.
  4. ^ "Olivier Gendebien". motorsportmemorial.org. Retrieved 24 October 2009.
  5. ^ "Belgian Racing Ace Crashes". Los Angeles Times. 7 October 1961. p. A1.
  6. ^ "Flockhart and Sanderson Take Le Mans Auto Endurance Race". The New York Times. 30 July 1956. p. 26.
  7. ^ "Auto Race Driver Dies of Injuries". The New York Times. 27 January 1958. p. 31.
  8. ^ "Hill of California and Gendebien Triumph With Ferrari in Le Mans". The New York Times. 23 June 1958. p. 30.
  9. ^ "First Three At Le Mans All Ferraris". The Times. 12 June 1961. p. 4.
  10. ^ "Life in a Sports Car". Los Angeles Times. 2 October 1961. p. C1.
  11. ^ "Olivier Gendebien". grandprix.com. 5 October 1998. Retrieved 4 July 2019.

External links

Sporting positions
Preceded by
Ron Flockhart
Ivor Bueb
Winner of the 24 Hours of Le Mans
1958 with:
Phil Hill
Succeeded by
Carroll Shelby
Roy Salvadori
Preceded by
Carroll Shelby
Roy Salvadori
Winner of the 24 Hours of Le Mans
1960 with:
Paul Frère
Succeeded by
Olivier Gendebien
Phil Hill
Preceded by
Olivier Gendebien
Paul Frère
Winner of the 24 Hours of Le Mans
19611962 with:
Phil Hill
Succeeded by
Ludovico Scarfiotti
Lorenzo Bandini
12 Hours of Reims

The 12 Hours of Reims (official name: 12 Heures internationales de Reims) were a sports car endurance racing series held from 1953 to 1967 at the Reims (Gueux) circuit in the Marne district of the Champagne region in north-eastern France. The 1926 Coupe d’Or was the first 12-hour endurance race held at Reims and is considered to be the direct ancestor of the modern endurance series.

12 Hours of Sebring

The 12 Hours of Sebring is an annual motorsport endurance race for sports cars held at Sebring International Raceway, on the site of the former Hendricks Army Airfield World War II air base in Sebring, Florida. The event is the second round of the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and in the past has been a round of the now defunct World Sportscar Championship, IMSA GT Championship and American Le Mans Series. In 2012, the race was the opening event of the FIA World Endurance Championship.

1956 Argentine Grand Prix

The 1956 Argentine Grand Prix was a Formula One motor race held on 22 January 1956 at Buenos Aires. It was race 1 of 8 in the 1956 World Championship of Drivers.

With the withdrawal of Mercedes from Formula One, Fangio and Moss would begin the season with new teams. Fangio would join Ferrari while Moss would lead the Maserati team. The grid at Argentina was completely composed of Italian cars. Ferrari and Maserati showed up with five cars each. The other three cars were Maseratis: two private entries and Hawthorn for the B.R.M. team.

Ferrari dominated practice and occupied the first three grid positions with Fangio's pole time 2.2 sec faster than second. However, Maserati dominated the early race with Menditeguy and Moss leading the field. Fangio was a non factor with a faulty fuel pump. He took over Musso's car on lap 29 and re-entered in fifth place. Fangio quickly passed Behra but lost his position after spinning. From laps 40-43 disaster struck the leaders. While third Castellotti's gearbox broke, Menditguy left the lead with a broken driveshaft, and new leader Moss's engine began to smoke. Fangio, who had overtaken Behra, passed the ailing Moss on lap 66 and finished unchallenged after Behra spun late. The race was not without controversy when the Maserati team manager lodged a protest that Fangio was push-started after the earlier spin. However, the protest was rejected by both the stewards and the F.I.A.

1960 Belgian Grand Prix

The 1960 Belgian Grand Prix was a Formula One motor race held at Spa-Francorchamps on 19 June 1960. It was race 5 of 10 in the 1960 World Championship of Drivers and race 4 of 9 in the 1960 International Cup for Formula One Manufacturers. Stirling Moss and Mike Taylor were seriously injured in crashes during practice, and Chris Bristow and Alan Stacey were killed in accidents during the race. With the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix, it is one of two occasions in which two driver fatalities have occurred at a Formula One race meeting.

1960 British Grand Prix

The 1960 British Grand Prix was a Formula One motor race held at the Silverstone Circuit, Northamptonshire, England, on 16 July 1960. It was race 7 of 10 in the 1960 World Championship of Drivers and race 6 of 9 in the 1960 International Cup for Formula One Manufacturers. The race was won by reigning World Champion Jack Brabham and Innes Ireland finished in third place. Between the two, multiple motorcycle Grand Prix World Champion John Surtees (in only his second ever Formula One Grand Prix) took second place.

1960 French Grand Prix

The 1960 French Grand Prix was a Formula One motor race held at Reims-Gueux on 3 July 1960. It was race 6 of 10 in the 1960 World Championship of Drivers and race 5 of 9 in the 1960 International Cup for Formula One Manufacturers.

The 50-lap race was won from pole position by Australian driver Jack Brabham, driving a works Cooper-Climax. Belgian driver Olivier Gendebien finished second in a Cooper-Climax entered by the British Racing Partnership, while New Zealander Bruce McLaren was third in the other works Cooper-Climax.

1960 Pau Grand Prix

The 1960 Pau Grand Prix was a Formula Two motor race held on 18 April 1960 at the Pau circuit, in Pau, Pyrénées-Atlantiques, France. The Grand Prix was won by Jack Brabham, driving the Cooper T45. Maurice Trintignant finished second and Olivier Gendebien third.

1960 Portuguese Grand Prix

The 1960 Portuguese Grand Prix was a Formula One motor race held at Circuito da Boavista, Oporto on 14 August 1960. It was race 8 of 10 in the 1960 World Championship of Drivers and race 7 of 9 in the 1960 International Cup for Formula One Manufacturers.

Scottish racing legend Jim Clark scored his first ever Formula One podium at this race.

John Surtees achieved his first pole position at this race.

1960 World Sportscar Championship

The 1960 World Sportscar Championship season was the eighth season of the FIA World Sportscar Championship. It was a series for sportscars that ran in many worldwide endurance events. It ran from 31 January 1960 to 26 June 1960, and comprised five races. The 1000 km Buenos Aires returned to the calendar at the expense of the RAC Tourist Trophy, which formed part of the inaugural FIA GT Cup.

1961 Brussels Grand Prix

The 1961 Brussels Grand Prix was a motor race set to Formula One rules, held on 9 April 1961 at Heysel Park, Belgium. The race was run in three "heats" of 22 laps each and the times were aggregated. The race was won by Australian driver Jack Brabham in a Cooper T53.

1961 Formula One season

The 1961 Formula One season was the 15th season of FIA Formula One motor racing. It featured the 1961 World Championship of Drivers and the 1961 International Cup for F1 Manufacturers, which were contested concurrently from 14 May to 8 October over an eight race series. The season also included numerous non-championship races for Formula One cars.

Phil Hill of Ferrari won his only Drivers' Championship after his teammate and rival Wolfgang von Trips was killed at the Italian Grand Prix, the penultimate race of the season. Ferrari won its first F1 manufacturers' title.

1961 World Sportscar Championship

The 1961 World Sportscar Championship season was the ninth season of FIA World Sportscar Championship motor racing. It featured the 1961 World Sports Car Championship, which was contested over a five race series that ran from 25 March to 15 August 1961. The title was won by Italian manufacturer Ferrari.

1962 World Sportscar Championship

The 1962 World Sportscar Championship season was the 10th season of FIA World Sportscar Championship motor racing. It featured the 1962 International Championship for GT Manufacturers, which was contested in three engine capacity divisions, and the 1962 Coupe des Sports, which was contested in three engine capacity divisions. The season ran from 11 February 1962 to 21 September 1962 over 15 events.

For this season the FIA shifted the focus to production based GT cars and the World Sportscar Championship title was discontinued.

This was also the first year that each class had its own championship, instead of a single overall title.

1998 in motorsport

The following is an overview of the events of 1998 in motorsport including the major racing events, motorsport venues that were opened and closed during a year, championships and non-championship events that were established and disestablished in a year, births and deaths of racing drivers and other motorsport people.

Lancia Grand Prix results

These are the complete World Championship Grand Prix results for Scuderia Lancia, the official name of the works Lancia team in Formula One. And results of Lancia Grand Prix cars entered by other entities.

List of 24 Hours of Le Mans winners

The 24 Hours of Le Mans (24 heures du Mans) is the world's oldest sports car endurance race and one of the most famous and influential in motorsports history.

The overall winners of all events since 1923 are listed here. The race has been run every year since its inception with the exception of 1936, where the race was not run due to worker strikes, and 1940 to 1948, due to World War II. Records for wins are also listed. Lower class wins are not included.

136 total drivers have won in the eighty-six runnings of the event.

Paul Frère

Paul Frère (30 January 1917 – 23 February 2008) was a racing driver and journalist from Belgium. He participated in eleven World Championship Formula One Grands Prix debuting on 22 June 1952 and achieving one podium finish with a total of eleven championship points. He drove in several non-Championship Formula One races.

He also won the 1960 24 Hours of Le Mans, driving for Ferrari with fellow Belgian teammate Olivier Gendebien.

Phil Hill

Philip Toll Hill Jr. (April 20, 1927 – August 28, 2008) was an American automobile racer and the only American-born driver to win the Formula One World Drivers' Championship (Mario Andretti, an Italian American driver, won the World Drivers' Championship in 1978, but was not born in the United States). He also scored three wins at each of the 24 Hours of Le Mans and 12 Hours of Sebring sports car races.

Hill was described as a "thoughtful, gentle man" and once said, "I'm in the wrong business. I don't want to beat anybody, I don't want to be the big hero. I'm a peace-loving man, basically."

Rosso corsa

Rosso corsa is the red international motor racing colour of cars entered by teams from Italy.Since the 1920s Italian race cars of Alfa Romeo, Maserati, Lancia, and later Ferrari and Abarth have been painted in rosso corsa ("racing red"). This was the customary national racing colour of Italy as recommended between the world wars by the organisations that later became the FIA. In that scheme of international auto racing colours French cars were blue (Bleu de France), British cars were green (British racing green), etc.

In Formula One, the colour was not determined by the country the car was made in nor by the nationality of the driver(s) but by the nationality of the team entering the vehicle. A yellow Ferrari 156 was entered and driven in the 1961 Belgian Grand Prix by Olivier Gendebien from Belgium, scoring 4th behind 3 other Ferrari 156s painted in red as they were entered by the Scuderia Ferrari itself, and driven by US drivers Phil Hill and Richie Ginther as well as German Wolfgang von Trips.

Ferrari won the 1964 World championship with John Surtees by competing the last two races in Ferrari 158 cars painted white and blue -the national colours of the teams from the United States- as these were entered not by the Italian factory themselves but by the US-based NART team. This was done as a protest against the agreement between Ferrari and the Italian Racing Authorities regarding their planned mid-engined Ferrari race car.

National colours were mostly replaced in Formula One by commercial sponsor liveries in 1968, but unlike most other teams, Ferrari always kept the traditional red but the shade of the colour varies. From 1996 to 2007 Ferrari F1 cars were painted in a brighter, almost orange day-glo to adjust for colour balance on television screens. The original Rosso Corsa may appear almost dark brown in older television sets. The Rosso corsa shade of red made a return on the F1 cars at the 2007 Monaco Grand Prix, possibly in line with the increasing market presence of higher quality high definition television.

Red cars are also traditional in Alfa Romeo and Ferrari car running in other motorsport champsionships, such as Supertouring championships in the former and the 24 Hours of Le Mans and 24 Hours of Daytona in the latter. In contrast, since the 2000s Maserati has been using white and blue and Abarth has been using white with red flashes. Rosso Corsa is also an extremely popular colour choice for Ferrari road cars, nearly 80% of all Ferraris sold are in the colour.

Winners of the 12 Hours of Sebring


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