Thursday, October 5, 2023

LE MANS: Triple Crown Winners, Part 3

Time for the crossed Flag symbol, as we’ve reached the Halfway point of this arduous story Ladies  and Germs…


Otay, we’ve finally gotten to the Yank’ driver Y’all were expecting to be on this informal list of Triple Crown Sports Car winners. With another forgotten Great behind Him…


A.J. Foyt

Birthplace: Houston, Texas

DOB: January 16, 1935, Age: 88

Wins: Le Mans, 1967; Daytona, (2) 1983, 1985 and Sebring 1985


Arguably known as thee “GOAT”, nee Greatest Of All time racing driver, Anthony Joesph Foyt Jr’s feat of accomplishments in motor racing are simply too long to attempt typing! Not to mention Y’all cannot adequately put into words everything ‘Ol SuperTex’ has done!


We All know that Foyt became the first driver to win the Indianapolis 500 four times between 1961-1977, for which only three other drivers had joined A.J. in this rarefied club of Four-times winners, i.e.; foyt, Al Unser, Rick Mears and Groan, Helio Castroneves.


Foyt is the only driver to have won the Indianapolis 500, 24 Hours of Le Mans, Daytona 500 and 24 Hours of Daytona. His tally of 67 career IndyCar wins, seven Championships and 35 consecutive Indy 500 starts are all records that continue to endure.


Along with being the only driver on this list to have won races in front and rear engine Open Wheel Racing cars. Not to mention winning the Indy 500 both as a driver and team owner…


A.J. began His racing career competing in USAC Midgets at age 18, making His debut in 1953 before progressing to Sprint Cars three years later. Foyt made His Indianapolis 500 debut in 1958 after His impressive 1957 USAC Sprint Car win at Salem, Indiana firmly put Him on the radar of USAC team owners. Foyt won His first Indy 500 in 1961 and as they say, the rest was History!


A.J. holds the record for ten wins in the 14 race 1964 USAC National Championship Trail season, along with a record 159 USAC victories. But Hey! I said I wasn’t gonna try typing up All of His accomplishments! As it’s funny to think that Sports Car racing was just an “Afterthought” for Foyt. Whilst reportedly the brash Texan angered the French by telling them that the Mulsanne Straight was nothing more than a ‘lil ‘Ol country Road…


As Foyt won His one and only outing at Circuit de la Sarthe in the All conquering Shelby Ford GT40 Mk IV in 1967 with Dan Gurney. And then won twice at Daytona and Sebring in the early 1980’s behind the keyboard of those Porsche 962 Panzerwagons.


Tend to recall that the late Bob Wollek, a four times Rolex 24 winner initially didn’t want to drive with Foyt, or didn’t think He was that great of a driver. But Monsieur Wollek begrudgingly came to respect Foyt’s driving prowess after the pair had won at Daytona and Sebring.


Yet for everything Y’all can say about ‘Ol SuperTex’, my favourite three memories are of Him blaming that Damn Coogan! Along with Foyt Hammerin’ the Shit outta an offending IndyCar’s recalcitrant Pop Off valve with a Craftsman rachet! And pummeling the Crap outta an Engineer’s laptop after one of His cars had run out of fuel!


Whilst obviously I’m dating myself by telling Y’all I got to see Foyt running around at the rear of the field in His iconic black Copenhagen IndyCar multiple times at Portland International Raceway. Along with His arch nemesis Mario Andretti…


Al Holbert

Birthplace: Abington Township, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania

DOB: November 11, 1946

Died: September 30,1988, Age: 41

Wins: Sebring, (2) 1976, 1981; Le Mans, (3) 1983, 1986-87 and Daytona, (2) 1986-87


Hard to believe that it’s Gory 35 years ago now that Al Holbert perished aboard His Piper PA-60 shortly after takeoff from nearby Columbus, Ohio after attending an IMSA Sports car race.


As a few memories instantly jump out at me regarding Holbert. Most notably those iconic Lowenbrau Porsche 962’s, which I still think were one of the best looking racecars!


Along with my supervisor wanting the full page spread 11 X 34 inches? Green and white Quaker State Porsche IndyCar center-page spread poster I used to hang upon my workspace’s overhead metal book shelve…


Not to mention I know I’ve previously scribbled hear upon No Fenders somewheres’ about His DeKon Monza IMSA GT racecars that Holbert won two of His five IMSA GT Championships with. Ah, here it is…


As I was unaware that Holbert had majored in Mechanical Engineering at Lehigh University, which I suppose is part of why His racing cars and team were so competitive. Not to mention having briefly worked for El Capitano’, nee Roger Penske, whose “Attention to Detail” also rubbed off upon the ultra competitive Sports Car racer.


Al’s father bob Holbert was also a noted Sports Car racer, along with having opened a Porsche Dealership in Warrington, PA, one of the first in the U.S. Hence Al’s natural gravitation towards Porsches.


As Holbert’s winning co-drivers reads like a veritable Who’s who of motor racing. Having won alongside Hurley Haywood, ‘lil al’, aka Al Unser Jr, Derek Bell, Hans-Joachim Stuck, Vern Schuppan and Chip Robinson. Whilst I’ve already regaled Y’all about winning at Sebring in 1981 for Hometown Bayside Racing with it’s proprietor Bruce Leven and Messer Haywood…


Yet for Mwah, Holbert’s legacy stands out for having brought Porsche into Indy Cars, albeit briefly. Since obviously you could say on  the surface, the IndyCar “project” quietly fizzled after Holbert’s untimely death.


As Al wouldn’t get to witness Teo Fabi scoring Porsche’s first Pole position ironically at my Home track of Portland International Raceway during the 1989 Budweiser/G.I. Joes 200. Or Fabi subsequently scoring Porsche’s lone IndyCar victory also from Pole at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course later that summer.


Porsche then expanded to a two car entry during it’s final IndyCar season (1990) with Fabi being joined by “Gentleman John” Andretti, before pulling the plug upon the programme.


Since it’s funny that my Boss whom I called thee Amazing Huzar! Was so infatuated with that Road & Track pull-out, or dare I say Pin Up? Since it was of the actual 1987 Porsche produced 2708 IndyCar chassis that was quickly shelved in favour of customer March IndyCar chassis instead.


And I didn’t know that Holbert had finished fourth in the 1984 Indianapolis 500, where runner-up Roberto Guerrero and fifth place finisher Michael Andretti were named co-winners for Rookie Of the Year…