29 champions from sportscar racing were inducted into the FIA Hall of Fame this evening at the Automobile Club de France in Paris. After 33 Formula One and 17 World Rally champions were recognized into the hall in 2017 and 2018 respectively it was endurance racing’s turn this year to celebrate its most decorated talents.
27 of the 29 listed champions were present at the event in France, with only Teo Fabi and the late Stefan Bellof unable to attend. (Stefan’s brother Georg was on hand to collect the award)
The list of drivers presented with awards spanned three decades of world championship sportscar racing from the 80s, 90s and 2010s, and included nine-time Le Mans winner Tom Kristensen, F1 and FIA WEC champion Fernando Alonso and five time Le Mans winner and multiple World Endurance Champion Derek Bell.
“Endurance racing occupies a special place in the History of motor sport as well as in my heart, and the legendary 24 hours of Le Mans is a major event on the WEC Calendar. Even though the discipline has evolved significantly over the years, the passion remains intact. I do look forward to the Hypercar’s arrival in 2020 that will mark a turning point in the Championship’s life.
“It is therefore my greatest pleasure to inaugurate 29 FIA WEC title-winners in the FIA Hall of Fame, which is growing with a new discipline joining those that have been previously celebrated: Formula 1 and the World Rally Championship.”
Each champion was handed the opportunity to speak on stage, to reflect on the past. Seven time Le Mans winner and double World Champion Jacky Ickx’s words were arguably the most poignant.
“This evening is extremely emotional,” he said on stage. “We all belong to the same family, a huge family. I love that there is a strong future for endurance racing. I have been very lucky to have raced in my time, the 80s, but it was very dangerous.
“When Stefan (Bellof) died in Spa, I was involved, and those are very sad moments that you never recover from. It’s nice to be able to remember and celebrate him, because the cars were simply not safe enough.
“But we have to be grateful to the FIA for making racing cars and tracks safer. We still have fatalities, because the job is never done.
“I would like to dedicate this to my teammates and those behind the scenes. 80% of success is from the job of those who work on the cars, that you rarely see, because you all see the glory of the drivers. Without them we are nobody.”
Timo Bernhard, a two-time Le Mans winner and FIA WEC champion with Porsche also used his chance on stage to pay tribute to Stefan Bellof. The German, who broke Bellof’s Nordschleife lap record in the Porsche 919 Tribute back in 2018 told the audience: “I could never compare myself to him. He was always my idol.”
The first half of the ceremony was dedicated to the champions of the 20th century, and the second celebrated the champions from the FIA WEC hybrid-LMP1 era. It served as a stark contrast from two completely different eras in sportscar racing and provided a rare chance to reunite some of the best duos and trios from the sport’s past.
“What a wonderful evening,” Martin Brundle, 1988 champion with Jaguar said when asked about his memories from the sport. “I love sportscar racing, I love Le Mans. In endurance racing, you just get in the car, get stuck in and drive for a few hours. That’s why I enjoy it so much and always compete when I can. Sportscar racers do it best, and they do it the longest!”
The champions recognized at the ceremony were:
- Bob Garretson (1981)
- Jacky Ickx (1982, 1983)
- Stefan Bellof (1984)
- Derek Bell (1985, 1986)
- Hans-Joachim Stuck (1985)
- Raul Boesel (1987)
- Martin Brundle (1988)
- Jean-Louis Schlesser (1989, 1990)
- Mauro Baldi (1990)
- Teo Fabi (1991)
- Yannick Dalmas (1992)
- Derek Warwick (1992)
- André Lotterer (2012)
- Marcel Fässler (2012)
- Benôit Tréluyer (2012)
- Allan McNish (2013)
- Loïc Duval (2013)
- Tom Kristensen (2013)
- Anthony Davidson (2014)
- Sébastien Buemi (2014, 2018-19)
- Brendon Hartley (2015, 2017)
- Mark Webber (2015)
- Timo Bernhard (2015, 2017)
- Marc Lieb (2016)
- Neel Jani (2016)