Jacky Ickx: a legendary driver
His victories in the 24 Hours of Le Mans earned him the famous nickname “Monsieur Le Mans”.
Jacky Ickx is one of the greatest 20th century drivers. After starting his career on two wheels, he went on to make a major mark on the history of motor racing. As a Formula 1 driver from 1967 to 1979, he took part in 114 Grand Prix and won his first victory at the French Grand Prix in 1968, at the age of 23. But Jacky Ickx is above all famous for his performances in the field of endurance races, notably at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, a competition he won six times, including four times with Porsche. He held this record for many years. His most memorable victory is doubtless that of 1969. That year, the cars were lined up at an angle on one side of the track and all the drivers were preparing to rush to their speed machines and drive off. All, except one: Jacky Ickx. To protested against this type of start that he considered as dangerous and pointless within the context of a 24-hour race (with drivers hurtling off at dizzying speeds without buckling their safety belts), the Belgian driver decided to walk to his GT40. He remembered only too well the accident suffered by Willy Mairesse the previous year when he was caught in a hydroplaning tyre spin on Les Hunaudières straight. Without the restraint of a safety belt, Willy had been thrown from his car and severely injured. At 2 pm on June 14th 1969, Ickx therefore strolled across the track of the 24 Hours race, as other drivers sprinted ahead in order to jump into their cockpits. The Belgian won the race by the smallest margin in its history: just 120 metres. This victory vividly demonstrated that this type of start was pointless in ensuring an exciting race. A page in the history of Le Mans was thus turned and the rules were modified the following year. Jacky Ickx, a driver with a strong character, thus risked losing an important race in order to help change the starting rules. This decidedly multi-faceted champion also finished first in the 1983 Paris-Dakar rally.