The Impossible Win

Here is the Ferrari 250LM entered by Luigi Chinetti’s North American Racing Team which has just, quite improbably, won the 24 Hours of Le Mans on June 20, 1965. The drivers who achieved this result – actually winning by five laps from another 250LM  – were veteran American driver Masten Gregory and coming Austrian star Jochen Rindt. Just to add a bit of mystery, there was a possible third driver for the LM, the American Ed Hugus, never admitted at the time, who might have done a stint during the night unseen by the officials. Hugus was listed as a reserve driver, but had he got in and the driver he replaced ever got back in the car once again, the winning NART entry would have been disqualified. It is a question which continues to this day.

Also, although this Ferrari model is called a 250LM, indicative of a three liter motor as was fitted to the prototype of this model, all 250LMs, including that prototype, eventually received larger “275” motors of 3.3 liters displacement.

How did this unexpected win occur? The two works Ferrari P2 prototypes, each much faster than the LM, both retired, one of them not too long before the finish. A third P2, also entered by NART, would finish seventh after various maladies during the race and a fourth P2 run by Ferrari’s English distributor Maranello Concessionaires had retired during the night. Then of course there were the Fords. The three private GT40s and the two works GT40 Mk. IIs all failed to finish.

Gregory, from a wealthy background in Kansas City, Missouri, had started his racing career in America in 1952 with an Allard. Quickly moving up the ladder to ever-faster cars he would get his first Formula One opportunity at Monaco in 1957 where he finished an excellent third with a private Maserati 250F. He then continued with occasional F.1 and sports car drives throughout the 1960s.

Rindt, much younger than Gregory, had started racing in the early 1960s and quickly had success in F.1. He became the World Champion in 1970 for Lotus, although posthumously, after losing his life in a practice crash at Monza before the 1970 Italian Grand Prix.

Improbable as it might have been, 1965 Le Mans saw the win go to a car that no one expected to win, including its drivers, and one that was perhaps driven in the night by a driver who never admitted to having driven it.

Photos by Yves Debrain ©The Klemantaski Collection –

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