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Aysedasi’s Useless Facts - 1998  

1.  There were 141 drivers taking part in Le Mans 1998 (3 drivers in each of 47 cars).  Their total ages amounted to an incredible 5,320 years.  The average age of the drivers at Le Mans was therefore 37.7 years!

2.  The oldest competitor this year was (due to be) Larry Schumacher in the 60 Konrad Porsche 911 GT2.  American Schumacher, who was making his 2nd appearance at Le Mans turned 62 years in February 1998.  (Unfortunately, due to co-driver Ham’s accident, he didn’t get to drive!).

3.  You can guess the next one, can’t you!  Youngest driver at Le Mans was Frenchman Franck Montagny.  At 20 years of age, Montagny had already been racing for 8 years, having started in karts when he was 12 years old.

4.  Lastly on the subject of age, the oldest driving crew at Le Mans was that of the Elf Haberthur Porsche 911 GT2 No. 68.  The combined ages of drivers Eric Graham (47), Hervé Poulain (57) and Jean Luc Maury-Laribière (55) totalled 159 years!  The youngest driving crew, by comparison, was that of the Courage Competition No. 14, whose drivers Fredrick Ekblom (27), Patrice Gay (24) and Takeshi Tsuchiya (25) could manage only 76 years between them!

5.  Between them, the 141 1998 Le Mans drivers had made a total of 582 previous starts (which includes drivers whose cars retired before they got to drive them!), an average of just over 4 starts per man.  High achievers (in terms of the number of starts made) were Henri Pescarolo (31), Bob Wollek (27), François Migault (22), Pierre Yver (20), Yojiro Terada (18) and Hans Stuck (17).

6.  As is the case every year, there were a large number of first-timers making their debut in the Vingt Quatre Heures, namely Vincenzo Sospiro, David Murry, Patrice Gay, Takeshi Tsuchiya, Franck Montagny, Xavier Pompidou, Didier de Radigues, Wayne Gardner, Pierre Bruneau, Uwe Alzen, Laurent Aïello, Michael Krumm, Andréa Montermini, Takuya Kurosawa, Satoshi Motoyama, Mark Webber, Ricardo Zonta, Tim Sugden, Bill Auberlen, Rinaldo Capello, Christophe Tinseau, Jamie Davies, David Donohue, Luca Drudi, Ni Amorim, Gonçalo Gomes, Matt Turner, Berhard Müller, Michael Trunk, Ernst Palmberger, David Smadja, Michel Nourry, Nick Ham, Manuel Monteiro and Michel Monteiro.  An incredible 35 drivers (or, if you prefer, nearly 25% of the drivers taking part), who had never driven in the 24 Hours before!  No wonder traffic is so difficult for the experienced boys!

7.  Several drivers did not get out onto the track in anger during this year’s race, due to the early retirement of their cars.  The unfortunate 8 were Klaus Ludwig, Mark Webber, Ricardo Zonta, Johnny Cecotto, Hans Stuck, Larry Schumacher, Peter Kitchak and Angelo Zadra.

8.  In 1998, Le Mans boasted 29 drivers who had taken part in a Formula 1 Grand Prix (not including those who failed to qualify), namely (Grand Prix starts in brackets), Pierluigi Martini (119), Johnny Cecotto (18), Mauro Baldi (36), Jean-Christophe Boullion (11), Michele Alboreto (194), Stephan Johansson (79), Yannick Dalmas (22), Pascal Fabre (11), François Migault (13), Eric van de Poele (5), Olivier Grouillard (41), Henri Pescarolo (?), Ukyo Katayama (95), Martin Brundle (158), Thierry Boutsen (163), Geoff Lees (2), Erik Comas (60), Jan Lammers (23), Andréa Montermini (21), Aguri Suzuki (64), Bernd Schneider (9), Jean Marc Gounon (7), Emanuele Pirro (36), Eric Bernard (45), David Brabham (24), Karl Wendlinger (41), Olivier Beretta (9), Pedro Lamy (32) and Jean Pierre Jarier (136). 

9.  With the absence this year of Jesus Pareja and Jurgen Laessig, there were only 6 drivers who had taken part in each of the 13 Le Mans I had attended!  They were John Nielsen, Henri Pescarolo, Pierre-Henri Raphanel, Jojiro Terada, Bob Wollek and Pierre Yver. 

10.  To finish with, here is a thoroughly oddball selection of weird and wonderful lesser-known facts about this year’s drivers:-

David Murry (Porsche 8) is an instructor at the Skip Barber Racing School in the States. 

Pascal Fabre (Ferrari 10) was the winner of the very first F3000 race at Silverstone in 1986 (and I was there!). 

Fermin Velez (Ferrari 12) was the first world motor racing champion from Spain when he won the C2 category of the World Sportscar Championship in 1987. 

In 1993, Henri Pescarolo (Courage 15) won the French Helicopter Championships and is the President of the French Helicopter Federation. 

Rocky Agusta (Kremer 16) is the heir to the Agusta motorcycle concern and is also a promoter of construction and tourism in South Africa and Botswana! 

Almo Coppelli (Kremer 16) holds the C2 lap record at Le Mans from 1988.

Lionel Robert (Debora 22) has competed 8 times in the 24 Hours Motorcyle Race at Le Mans, and came second in the 24 Hour Kart Race in 1993. 

Edouard Sezionale (Debora 22) owns 2 hotels and 2 restaurants at Clearwater Beach in Florida! 

Bob Wollek (Porsche 25) won World Skiing Championships on 3 occasions in 1965, 66 and 68! 

Ralf Kelleners (Toyota 29) is the son of Helmut Kelleners, three time winner of the European Touring Car Championship in 1980,81 and 82. 

Christophe Bouchut (Mercedes 36) has his own web site at (and it's still going - Aysedasi - 2001!)

Steve O’Rourke (McLaren 40) is the Pink Floyd’s musical director! 

Andy Wallace (Panoz 45) is so keen on the 24 Hours that he now lives in Le Mans. 

David Donohue (Viper 53) is the son of the late Mark Donohue, the American TransAm and CanAm driver who won the Daytona 24 Hours in 1972. 

Michael Trunk (Porsche 61) was a fully paid-up test driver for the Porsche factory between 1985 and 1994. 

Ernest Palmberger’s (Porsche 61) claim to fame is the sausages he produces in Rosenheim, where he lives! 

Michel Ligonnet (Porsche 64) used to race under the pseudonym “Michel Ramirez”. 

André Ahrle (Porsche 65) is the manager of a bodyguard company which has protected celebrities such as Frank Sinatra, the Rolling Stones, Phil Collins, Tina Turner, Pavarotti and Janet Jackson! 

Hervé Poulain (Porsche 68) was responsible for the original colour-schemes of the works BMW cars at Le Mans between 1975 and 1979. 

Jean-Louis Ricci (Porsche 69) is the heir to the Nina Ricci perfume fortune - no wonder he can afford to race! 

Jean Luc Chereau (Porsche 72) is a really cool customer!  He is Europe’s foremost constructor of refridgerated lorries - look at the badge next time you see one! 

So now you know!  

N.B.  This information was correct to the best of my knowledge and belief when I sourced it in 1998