Bruce McLaren won the 24 Heures du Mans in 1966 with his Ford GT finishing second
As you might be aware, we are great fans of Bruce McLaren and also the McLaren brand itself. It really has provided a lot of great moments in motorsports. We particularly like this story, as it is one of the more dramatic finishes of a race in history. Following the Le Mans tradition for racing we think is even more dramatic than the 2016 finish we recently lived between Porsche and Toyota.
Mr McLaren in 1966 was to become 29yo and had already left Cooper Team to start his own Scuderia. He was not going to do it alone, his fellow Kiwi friend and driver Mr Chris Amon was also in. Mr Amon is widely regarded as one of the best F1 drivers never to win a championship Grand Prix. His reputation for bad luck was such that fellow driver Mario Andretti once joked that "if he became an undertaker, people would stop dying”. Can you imagine !!
At the same time, Ford GT40 MK II was a reliable car in 1966. It wasn't in the previous years but after two years of improvements and developments, Ford manage to get a great winning car. As you all well know Ford tried to buy Ferrari but they couldn’t. Ford decided then to show who good they were when they focus on racing cars and the outcome was the magnanimous Ford GT40. The car is a complete milestone in car racing. This model manage to destroy some racing cars like the non raced beautiful Jaguar XJ13 or the Ferrari 330, Porche 907 or the Alpine A210.
The story can be summarised as follows: one of the drivers of the Shelby-American Inc team, Mr Ken Miles had managed to win the 24 hours of Daytona and the 12 Hours of Sebring and was also racing in Le Mans in 1966. Ford intention was to smash the race and they certainly did. First, second and third car to pass the final line were 3 Ford GT from the mentioned team. Amazing job !!
So, how comes you finish second and you win the race? here comes the trick. Mr Miles and Mr Mclaren car both finish with 360 laps reaching the final line by a very close margin. Main reason for this situation was because Ford wanted to take a picture of the cars by the finish line and showing the 1-2-3 win. At the checked flag Mr Miles car was first and McLaren was second. So far so good, but according to Le Mans rules in 1966, the winner car has to be the one completing the greatest distance as of the end of the last lap. Taking into account McLaren car started in the second row of the grid and the fact Mr Miles started from the front row, the race went to Mr McLaren car.
I can only imagine Mr Miles disappointment! It is probably one of the most unfair finishes ever. The rule got changed and this won’t happen again. I’m certain Mr Miles was not aware of that rule and the Shelby-American Team was not willing to punish Mr Miles for any reason, but again, one of the most unfair and saddest finish on a race.