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100 years of Le Mans 24 hours

Updated: Oct 22, 2023

A century ago, the very first Le Mans 24 hour “endurance trial” was run, starting on the 26 and ending on the 27 of May 1923. There are many stories about this amazing race over the years, but one of the most remarkable is what happened in 1966.


This is the story of the Ford GT 40 which had been specifically designed to beat Ferrari who had dominated at Le Mans for years – winning 7 of the previous 8 races.


In 1966, there were a number of Ford GT 40s racing. To celebrate the centennial, I created a painting of one of those GT 40s - car number 1015 - driven by British driver/engineer, Ken Miles. Ken was leading the race, way ahead of the field, including his fellow GT 40 drivers, but he had received instructions that ultimately changed the course of history.

Ken was asked to allow two of the other GTs to catch him up, so that all 3 cars could be photographed finishing the race at the same time. Ken slowed down and the cars all crossed the finish line together. The race win was awarded to Ken’s team mates, Bruce McLaren and Chris Amon, because they started the race further back and had therefore covered a greater distance in the same time.


Ken and his co-driver Denny Hulme were officially placed second. Ken, who was known for his stubborn determination, calmly accepted the situation and congratulated the winning pair. What a gent! Earlier that year, Ken had won the 24hr Daytona and the Sebring 12 hr. Had he been allowed to win at Le Mans 24hr, he would have been the only man to achieve this amazing feat. Sadly, Ken lost his life test-driving a Ford J-Car on 17 August, only a few weeks later.


Here you see my diptych painting of Ken’s Ford GT 40. It will be on display on our stand at #YorkshireElegance at Bowcliffe Hall on 18 and 19 July 2023, do come and say hello.

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