The duo, who have seven Le Mans victories between them, were paired together in a JW Automotive-run Ford GT40 and clinched the independent team’s second consecutive win, and Ford’s fourth on the bounce, in 1969 – a result that was far from a foregone conclusion as Porsche battled hard in search of their first victory at Le Mans.
The 1969 race was also the occasion of Jacky Ickx’s famous protest against the traditional Le Mans start – which saw drivers run from one side of the track to the other before jumping into their cars and speeding off, often without doing up their belts. A year earlier, Willy Mairesse was seriously injured while trying to shut his door on the first lap of the race. Ickx, who had qualified in a lowly 13th, refused to take part in the sprint to the cars. Instead he walked slowly to his car and took time to do up his belts before setting off – the protest almost cost him the first of his six Le Mans triumphs.
Despite many of the works Porsches dropping out of contention, Ickx and Oliver only beat the second-placed 908 of Hans Hermann and Gérard Larrousse by roughly 100 metres after 24 hours of racing. Indeed, the final laps were more akin to a Formula 1 race, with the GT40 making up ground on the corners, and Hermann’s 908 reeling it back on the straights. On the final lap alone, the two cars passed each other four or five times. Such was the crowd’s delight, it invaded the circuit when the race finished.
Ickx, of course, would go on to win the race a further five times, while Porsche would finally score its first victory with Hans Hermann and Richard Attwood the following year. Jackie Oliver wouldn’t win Le Mans again, nor would Ford’s GT40. Their place in history, however, had been sealed.
Speaking about the celebration Jackie Oliver said: “Le Mans, the World Championship, Formula 1 and the Indy 500, back then it was the absolute crème-de-la-crème of drivers. It’s wonderful and I’m delighted to hear that the Duke of Richmond has decided to celebrate this anniversary with the original GT40. It wasn’t the quickest car in the race, but John Wyer put together a great strategy which ultimately gave us the win. I learned a lot from him when I founded my own team.”
Not only will Ickx and Oliver take to the Goodwood Hill in the race-winning car, but there will also be a selection of other machines and drivers from the 1969 Le Mans 24 Hours at the Festival of Speed.
Tickets for the Festival of Speed are available from ticketing.goodwood.com and from Goodwood Customer Sales on 01243 755 055.