Olivier Gendebien Biography: Olivier Jean Marie Fernand Gendebien was a Belgian racing driver widely regarded as “one of the greatest sportscar racers of all time.”
Olivier Gendebien Biography
Olivier Gendebien Biography: Olivier Gendebien, born on January 12, 1924, in Brussels, Belgium, led a remarkable life as a race car driver. He began his racing career in the early 1950s and quickly gained recognition for his skill and determination. Gendebien won four 24 Hours of Le Mans titles and three Targa Florio races.
Olivier Gendebien Wiki
|Date Of Birth||January 12, 1924|
|Birth Place||Brussels, Belgium|
|Died||2 October 1998|
Olivier Gendebien Career
Gendebien’s ability in rally contests attracted the attention of Enzo Ferrari, who offered him a contract to drive a Ferrari in selected Grands Prix and sports car events. Everyone who knew him regarded him as a true gentleman, and he remained a member of the Ferrari team until he withdrew from racing. Enzo Ferrari described him as “a gentleman who never forgets that noblesse oblige &, when he is behind the wheel, he translates this code of conduct into an elegant and discerning forcefulness.”
He only appeared in 15 Formula One races during his career because he was mostly Ferrari’s spare driver, filling in only sporadically. Despite this, he scored points in five races and was only one place away from scoring points on two more occasions. Gendebien debuted with the Ferrari team at the 1956 Argentine Grand Prix. Still, during a stint with the British Racing Partnership’s Yeoman Credit Racing team in 1960, he achieved his best results, finishing second in the 1960 French Grand Prix & third in front of a home crowd at the 1960 Belgian Grand Prix.
The second was a bittersweet victory, as Gendebien’s teammate, Chris Bristow, was killed in an accident during the race. Gendebien was injured when his Lotus-Climax failed to negotiate a corner during practice for the 1961 United States Grand Prix at Watkins Glen, New York, in October 1961. Gendebien’s shoes were ripped off as the car flipped over.
However, Gendebien excelled in sports car racing, particularly long-distance and endurance competitions. Gendebien and Maurice Trintignant placed third in the 1956 24 Hours of Le Mans, driving a 2.5-liter Ferrari. They were seven laps behind the winners, Ron Flockhart and Ninian Sanderson of the privateer Ecurie Ecosse Jaguar. In the 1,000-kilometer 1958 Grand Prix of Buenos Aires, Gendebien partnered with Wolfgang von Trips. They placed second behind the Ferrari duo of Phil Hill and Peter Collins. Jorge Magnasco, an Argentine Maserati driver, perished in the race after his car turned and flipped.
He and Hill won the prestigious 24 Hours of Le Mans the same year. The Ferrari factory secured the World Sportscar Championship with their 3-liter Ferrari victory. On average, they traveled 2,511 miles at a speed of 107 miles per hour. Hill was the first American to win the race, and their Ferrari was the only factory-sponsored vehicle to finish. After the 1961 24 Hours of Le Mans, Ferrari drivers occupied the top three positions, with Hill and Gendebien finishing first, averaging 115.89 miles per hour, and establishing a new race record. Together, they won the Le Mans race three times, with Gendebien winning a fourth time in 1960 while partnered with fellow Belgian Paul Frère. The record number of Le Man’s victories held by Gendebien wasn’t exceeded until 1981 when Jacky Ickx won for the fifth occasion.