There are three Sports Car endurance races that have been run over the past sixty-plus years that have been referred to as the ‘Triple Crown’. Arguably, some can say other races should also be included, but these three have withstood the test of time, and they are the Le Mans 24 Hours, the Sebring 12 Hours, and the Daytona 24 Hours.
The Le Mans 24 Hours started in 1923, and apart from a brief hiatus for the Second World War, it has been going ever since. The 12 Hours of Sebring was started in 1952 (it ran as a 6-hour race in 1950 and 1951) by Alec Ulmann on a World War II vintage US Air Force base, in Sebring Florida, making use of some disused runways to create a 5.2-mile circuit. Daytona, the youngest of the three races, started out of course as a NASCAR stock car track in 1957. In 1962, the France family added an International sports car race to the schedule, and the 24 hours of Daytona was born, although the first two races were 3-hour races, and then 1964 and 1965 they were 2000 km events. In 1966, the first 24 hours was run, only taking a hiatus in 1974 when, due to the oil crisis, the race was cancelled. There was an additional oddity in 1972 when the race only ran to a 6-hour distance due to the fragility of the 3.0-litre cars of the day.
Each of the races has its own idiosyncrasies and have proven difficult to win. Le Mans, a high- speed event, has proven very hard on machinery, the speed taking its toll on mechanical components and driver concentration. Daytona, with its high banks, is especially hard on cars and tyres, and due to the shorter circuit length (compared with Le Mans), is especially difficult due to the traffic. The Daytona race, because of the time of year it is held, also runs over fifty percent of the event in darkness, unlike Le Mans, which has a longer daylight period. Sebring, while just 12 hours long, is just as difficult. The bumpy nature of the concrete roadway (the airport runways were built in the 1940s) takes its toll on suspension and gearbox components. It’s a hard race to finish, never mind win.
Over the years, the rules have also changed, and the same cars did not always run at each event in a given year, although this is more the case now than in days gone by.
As you would suspect, Porsche has played a leading role in all three of these races. Starting in the 1950s, and up through to recent years, cars like the 718, 907, 935, 956 and 962 have claimed many overall victories on these three circuits. Porsche however, was not the exclusive car for the drivers who have accomplished this feat of winning all three races in their careers.
Amazingly, only nine drivers have accomplished the feat of winning this ‘Triple Crown’ (that is, the Le Mans 24 hours, Daytona 24 hours and Sebring 12 hours), and all but one are still living. If you count the five events at Daytona that did not run a 24-hour distance (1962, 1963, 1964, 1965, 1972), then you could add three additional drivers to the list.
By now of course you are wondering, who are these nine drivers? Without further ado then, they are: Hans Herrmann, Hurley Haywood, AJ Foyt, Al Holbert, Andy Wallace, Mauro Baldi, Jackie Oliver, Marco Werner and Timo Bernhard.
Sports Car Triple Crown of Endurance winners
|Driver||Total wins||Year completed||Daytona 24 Hours||Sebring 12 Hours||Le Mans 24 Hours|
|Hans Herrmann||4||1970||1968||1960, 1968||1970|
|Hurley Haywood||10||1977||1973, 1975, 1977, 1979, 1991||1973, 1981||1977, 1983, 1994|
|AJ Foyt||4||1985||1983, 1985||1985||1967|
|Al Holbert||7||1986||1986, 1987||1976, 1981||1983, 1986, 1987|
|Andy Wallace||6||1992||1990, 1997, 1999||1992, 1993||1988|
|Mauro Baldi||4||1998||1998, 2002||1998||1994|
|Marco Werner||7||2005||1995||2003, 2005, 2007||2005, 2006, 2007|
|Timo Bernhard||4||2010||2003||2008||2010, 2017|
If you count the five Daytona races that were not 24 hours in length
|Phil Hill||6||1964||1964 (a)||1958, 1961||1958, 1961, 1962|
|Dan Gurney||3||1967||1962 (b)||1959||1967|
|Jacky Ickx||9||1972||1972 (c)||1969, 1972||1969, 1975, 1976, 1977, 1981, 1982|
(a) When Phil Hill won the Daytona race in 1964 in a Ferrari it was only 2000 km in distance
(b) When Dan Gurney won the Daytona race in 1962 in a Lotus Climax it was only a 3-hour race
(c) When Jacky Ickx won Daytona in 1972 it was only a 6-hour race
Hans Herrmann was the first to win all three. He won Sebring overall in 1960 in a Porsche 718 RS 60 co-driving with Olivier Gendebien, beating a similar car driven by Bob Holbert (Al’s father) and entered by Brumos Porsche. In 1968, Herrmann was again part of the winning crew at Daytona driving a factory Porsche 907. He completed the Triple at Le Mans in 1970 in a Porsche 917 (Porsche’s first overall victory in the French race) with Richard Attwood. He then promptly retired!
The last driver to win the Triple was Timo Bernhard, when he won Le Mans in 2010 in an Audi R15 TDI, completing the last leg of the Triple. Bernhard’s road to winning the Triple started with the first leg back in 2003 by winning the Daytona 24 Hours overall in a Porsche 996 GT3 RS when the faster prototype cars all broke down. This was followed in 2008, when he won Sebring overall as part of the driving crew in the Penske entered Porsche RS Spyder. Since his Le Mans win in 2010 in the Audi, Bernhard has also added a 2017 victory to his tally.
Jackie Oliver won all three races, on one occasion each. In 1969, he won both Sebring and Le Mans with Jacky Ickx in the Gulf Ford GT40, and he completed the Triple in 1971 by winning Daytona with Pedro Rodriguez in the Gulf 917.
Only one of the nine drivers accomplished the feat without driving ANY Porsches to victory in his winning years, and that driver is Andy Wallace. He won Le Mans in 1988 for Jaguar, then Daytona and Sebring with the Dan Gurney Toyota team in the early 1990s. He added two additional Daytona wins in the Riley&Scott Mk III-Ford in the late 1990s.
Hurley Haywood won ten of these races, incredibly all in Porsches. He won Daytona five times, using the Carrera RSR three times (1973, 1975, 1977); the 935 (1979) and the 962 (1991). He won Sebring twice, once with the RSR (1973) and once with the 935 (1981). At Le Mans, he used the 936 (1977), the 956 (1983), and the 962-Dauer (1994). No-one else in the Triple Crown winners group has won more of these three races than Haywood.
American Indy Car driver AJ Foyt famously won Le Mans in 1967 with Dan Gurney in the Ford Mk IV just two weeks after winning the Indianapolis 500. Then, almost 20 years later he won Daytona in a 935 (1983) and then won Daytona and Sebring back-to-back in Preston Henn’s 962 (1985).
Al Holbert, sadly, is the only one of the nine who is deceased, having died in an airplane crash in 1988. He won Daytona twice in his own 962 (1986, 1987), Sebring twice, once in an RSR (1976) and once in a 935 (1981). Le Mans he won in both a 956 (1983) and the 962 (1986,1987).
Mauro Baldi won Le Mans in 1994 with the Dauer 962 GT, then completed the Triple in 1998 winning both Daytona and Sebring in the Ferrari 333 SP of Gianpiero Moretti.
Marco Werner started by winning Daytona in 1995 in the Kremer Porsche K8 (962 derivative), then completed the other two with various Audis between 2003 and 2007.
Several great Porsche endurance drivers never completed the triple crown, but came awful close
Brian Redman won Daytona several times, as well as Sebring. He was leading Le Mans in 1973 with only an hour or two to go, when the engine in his Ferrari let go. He has a class win at Le Mans, but has never won overall.
Derek Bell has won Daytona and Le Mans several times each, but never Sebring. His best result at Sebring was a second place which he achieved in 1985 and again in 1995.
John Fitzpatrick has won Daytona in a BMW (1976), and Sebring in a 935 (1980). He has finished in the top five at Le Mans multiple times, winning his class, but no overall victory.
Hans Stuck has won Sebring several times in Porsches (1986, 1988), and even in a BMW CSL (1975). He also has won Le Mans several times in a Rothmans 962. However, even with multiple attempts at Daytona, his best finish was 4th in 1985.
Ken Miles was on track to win all three in one year, which has never been done. He won both Daytona and Sebring in 1966 in a Shelby Ford GT 40 with Lloyd Ruby. At Le Mans, driving with Denis Hulme, he was involved in the staged ‘photo finish’ by Ford at Le Mans, and was declared 2nd by the ACO, as he was deemed to have started ahead of the McLaren/Amon car on the grid, thereby covering less distance. Alas, he was killed testing later that year, and never got a chance to complete the triple.
Tom Kristensen has won Le Mans and Sebring several times each, but never Daytona. During most of his career with Audi, the cars were not eligible to run at Daytona, and he did not seem to drive in any other cars that were legal there.
As IMSA and the FIA/ACO seem to be diverging once again in the rules for 2019, it might prove even more difficult to accomplish this feat in the future. This is especially true, as the ACO rules for 2020 and beyond seem to be totally structured to favour only a few factory entries. While Porsche played a large part in overall victories in these three events since 1960, they may play less of a part going forward, as the current management is focusing on GT cars only.
Written by: Martin Raffauf
Images by: Porsche Werkfoto, Martin Raffauf and Virtual Motorpix/Glen Smale