1. Tom Kristensen
There’s a reason why Kristensen is known as “Mr Le Mans” in the motorsport world. The racing legend tops the Le Mans winners table with a staggering nine victories. He enjoyed championship success in German and Japanese Formula 3, before scoring podiums and wins in Formula 3000, the BTCC and DTM.
His first Le Mans win came in 1997, his debut at the iconic endurance race – quite a way to make an impression. He was a late choice for the team too, replacing the injured Davy Jones. After two years at BMW, he returned to Joest Racing, then running Audi prototypes and won in 2000, 2001 and 2002.
Kristensen’s run of success at the world’s most famous endurance race continued in the following season despite a switch to Bentley. He then triumphed with Audi Sport Japan in 2004 and ADT Champion Racing in 2005, making it six consecutive Le Mans victories. A truly incredible achievement. Returning to the Audi factory outfit, he had to wait two more years before standing on the top step of the Circuit de la Sarthe podium in 2008 once again.
Peugeot broke the Audi dominance one year later, before the German manufacturer returned to the front with a different car. Kristensen’s last victory arrived in 2013 with the R18 e-tron quattro. He finished second in his final outing in 2014, before retiring. He not only holds the record for the most Le Mans wins but also the most victories at the 12 Hours of Sebring, with six. Quite a career for arguably one of the world’s greatest ever racing drivers.
2. Jacky Ickx
Ickx is the second most successful driver at the 24 Hours of Le Mans with an amazing six victories, adding to some brilliant achievements during a motorsport career spanning several decades. The Belgian raced at Le Mans while also competing in Formula 1, a stint which began in 1966 and ended in 1978.
He started 116 races (from 124 entries) and claimed eight victories, driving for iconic F1 teams like Brabham, Ferrari, McLaren, Williams and Lotus. His first Le Mans victory came at his third attempt, in 1969 driving the famous Ford GT40. He won again in 1975 with the Gulf-liveried Mirage GR8-Ford Cosworth, before adding to his tally in 1976 and 1977 with Porsche.
His success continued at Le Mans with several more podiums, before winning in the Porsche 936 in 1981 and the 956 in 1982. He remained with Porsche for 1983 and 1985 before retiring. But despite calling a time on his racing career, he continued to compete, driving in the Dakar rally – an event he actually won in 1983. Ickx is one of those drivers who impressed in F1, but really came into his own in endurance and sports car competition.
3. Derek Bell
Three of Bell’s Le Mans victories are shared with Ickx, with the two drivers being paired up numerous times throughout their illustrious and rich Le Mans careers. The loveable British driver first competed at the 24 hour event in 1970 and made his last outing a staggering 26 years later in 1996.
He made nine F1 starts over eight seasons, with a best finish of sixth at the 1970 US GP for Team Surtees. Bell clearly had speed, impressing Enzo Ferrari enough to make his debut for the Prancing Horse with two outings in 1966, but he failed to really get a big break in the series. However he really found his stride in sports cars and is best known for his success at Le Mans, as well as claiming the World SportsCar Championship twice and winning the Daytona 24 three times.
Bell enjoyed a long career in endurance racing and Le Mans, with his first win coming in 1975 alongside Ickx with the Mirage GR8-Ford Cosworth. The two were partnered up once again in 1981 at Porsche, where they once again claimed the win. They then added to their tallies one year later with another first place overall.
His final two Le Mans wins came in 1986 and 1987 alongside Al Holbert and Hans-Joachim Stuck, driving the beautiful Porsche 962C. He continued to race for the German manufacturer for several years before moving across to drive a McLaren F1 GTR in his final two outings, finishing third and sixth overall.
4. Frank Biela
The German racer matches Bell for victories, with five triumphs at Le Mans. Biela has enjoyed a long association with Audi, which all began in 1991 in the DTM series, which he won. He then spent several seasons racing in touring car championships, claiming titles in France and Britain (racing the iconic silver-liveried A4) before switching focus to endurance racing. It was clear he was one driver to watch out for!
Biela raced the Audi R8R in 1999 at Le Mans, finishing third, before moving across to partner Kristensen and Emanuele Pirro with the R8. They scored three consecutive wins together from 2000 to 2002, before registering a DNF in 2003 and finishing fifth in 2004. He returned to the top step at the Circuit de la Sarthe in the next two years, alongside Pirro and Marc Werner with the R10 TDI. As well as his achievements at Le Mans, Biela also won the American Le Mans Series in 2003 and 2005 and has scored victories at the 12 Hours of Sebring four times.
5. Emanuele Pirro
Pirro’s career crossed over with Biela’s in the endurance world, with the two drivers sharing all five of their Le Mans victories, as well as partnering “Mr Le Mans” Kristensen for three of them. They proved to be an unstoppable pairing for Audi, demonstrating the German manufacturer’s dominance of the race for the last two decades.
The Italian enjoyed plenty of success during the early years of his career, with top three positions in Japanese and International Formula 3000. But despite the impressive results, he – like Bell – never found a substantial drive at a top team. He debuted for Benetton in 1989, replacing the injured Johnny Herbert, before spending two seasons at the struggling Scuderia Italia. He scored three points in 37 starts.
He raced in several touring car series, winning the Italian championship in 1994 and 1995. Sportscars was next up on his rich and diverse career in motor racing. He actually debuted at the Circuit de la Sarthe in 1981, which was won by Ickx and Bell for Martini Racing, but had to wait until 1998 to return to Le Mans in a McLaren F1 GTR.
He joined the Audi Joest outfit for the following season, finishing third overall, before claiming three consecutive victories between 2000 and 2002. Biela and Pirro added two more to their tallies in 2006 and 2007. During his endurance racing career he also won the American Le Mans Series twice. Despite retiring in 2008, he raced at Le Mans in 2010 with Drayson Racing and continues to get behind the wheel of race cars.
6. Olivier Gendebien
For many years, Genderbien was the most successful driver to ever race at Le Mans. He claimed four victories in the late 1950s and 60s, a hugely exciting and rapidly evolving time for endurance racing. Another seriously quick Belgian racing driver, he started racing in rallying before catching the eye of Enzo Ferrari, who offered him a contract to race in selected sports car and F1 events.
Many of his drives in F1 were with Ferrari, but he also drove Cooper and Lotus machinery in the series. Between 1955 and 1961 he started 14 races, scoring two podiums and 18 points in total. His first taste of Le Mans came in 1956, where he finished third, and in 1958 he won the race alongside Phil Hill in the beautiful Ferrari 250 TR. He won again alongside countryman Paul Frère in 1960 and partnered Hill again to score his final two victories in 1961 and 1962.
With pressure from his wife, as racing was incredibly dangerous at the time, he retired in 1962. As well as his Le Mans wins, he also enjoyed success at the Nurburgring, 12 Hours of Sebring, the Tour de France Automobile and the Reims 12 Hours. Genderbien sadly passed away in 1998.
7. Henri Pescarolo
In the 60s, 70s and 80s, it was common for racing drivers to compete in many different championships, from Le Mans and sports cars to F1 and F2. Pescarolo was one such driver. He made 57 starts in F1 from 1968 to 1976 for a number of small teams, scoring 12 points and one podium at the 1970 Monaco GP.
But like the other drivers on this list, sports car racing is where he excelled. In fact, he holds the record for the most Le Mans starts, with 33 appearances. His first time at the 24-hour race was in 1966 for Matra. He suffered five consecutive retirements before finding success driving the Matra-Simca MS670 (in its various versions) in 1972, 1973 and 1974.
The following years produced a mixed bag of results, but in 1984 the Porsche 956B the Frenchman shared with Klaus Ludwig picked up the win for the Joest Racing team. He picked up a few class wins and podiums too and made his final appearance in 1999, driving for his own team, before retiring. His endurance outfit continued to race at Le Mans until 2013. Alongside his F1 and Le Mans achievements, he also won the Daytona 24 and competed in the Dakar Rally. Quite a mixed career!
8. Yannick Dalmas
Dalmas also claimed four victories at Le Mans, matching Pescarolo and Genderbien. He picked up wins in International Formula 3000 before racing in F1 for cash-strapped backmarkers Larrousse and AGS, failing to score a point and qualifying for just 24 of the 49 races entered. But while his F1 career failed to take off, his endurance racing career did.
Each of his wins at Le Mans came with a different team. He raced 12 times at the 24-hour race, at the wheel of cars like the Porsche LMP1-98 and Audi R8. His first triumph came in 1992 with the stunning Peugeot 905, partnering Derek Warwick and Mark Blundell.
Two years later his Dauer 962 (based on the Porsche 962) won and he then scored a third victory in 1995 with a McLaren F1 GTR. His final Le Mans win came in 1999 with the BMW V12 LMR alongside Joachim Winkelhock and Pierluigi Martini. His last Le Mans race was in 2002.