This is one of those stories that only 24 Hours of Le Mans, the largest race in the world, can offer us. And it is that, the legend that accompanies the participation or not of the American pilot Ed Hugus in the 1965 edition it has grown over time to become almost the official history of the race.
Lets start by the beginning. Edward James Hugus was a pilot of some level in his day. Born in Pennsylvania (United States) in 1923, he served as a paratrooper in World War II, after which he dedicated himself to buying and selling automobiles. Around the same time, he became a regular in sports racing in the 50s and 60s. Between 1952 and 1955 he raced in his country, with models like the Jaguar XK120, Mercedes-Benz 300 SL, Cooper T39 or the Porsche 550.
His growing success made him go abroad, crossing the pond to debut in the 24 1956 Hours of Le Mans. Together with his compatriot John Bentley and at the controls of a Cooper T39 boat, they were seconds of class and absolute eighths. Just a year later, he would win his class in a Porsche 550A and accompanied by Dutchman Carel Godin de Beaufort.
ED HUGUS WITH COBRA AND FERRARI
Our protagonist would not reach such high heights in the races again, but he did continue to compete for another decade. By the way, financed the construction of the first seven units of the Shelby Cobra, since Carroll Shelby did not have the money or the necessary facilities. In fact, Hugus became one of the first drivers to appear in a Shelby Cobra Daytona in competition.
At the 24 Hours of Le Mans, participated regularly with the North American Racing Team. Better known as NART, was a team that, with some frequency, involved Ferrari models together with the brand's officials and with some support from it. Even in 1962, he was part of the official formation of Scuderia Ferrari.
Precisely, Ferrari had become the great dominator of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, with victories in the 1949, 1954, 1958, 1960, 1961, 1962, 1963 and 1964. It was the time when the Scuderia trucks left Maranello on their way to competitions around the world. were achieved victories around the globe and the company's prestige kept growing and growing. Those days of wine and roses would soon come to an abrupt end, but that's another story.
THE 24 1965 HOURS OF LE MANS
After five consecutive victories, Ferrari was the absolute favorite to win again in La Sarthe. And the brand founded by The Commendator He was going to enforce this condition despite growing opposition from Ford with its GT40. In fact, up to eleven models of the Italian brand took part in the test, registered by the Scuderia itself and also by other teams.
Among these squads was Luigi Chinetti's NART, which lined up two cars, including a Ferrari 250 LM with the number 21 and Jochen Rindt and Masten Gregory like pilots. As a reserve pilot, attentive to the data, Ed Hugus was registered, who, for the first time in years, was not going to participate in the test. Except for the problem of the starting drivers, of course.
El ford mk ii Chris Amon and Phil Hill took pole position ahead of the Ferrari 330 P2 of John Surtees and Ludovico Scarfiotti. All in all, none of the official cars entered by the American brand, nor by SEFAC Ferrari would reach the finish line, victims of various mechanical problems. That left the fight for victory to the more reliable and veteran 250 LM.
NART car number 21, had problems with the dealer in the 4th hour, which caused him to lose half an hour in the pits. From here, they played to come back furiously, even at the cost of ending up breaking the car. During the night, they managed to recover up to 5 seconds per lap from the leaders. Those were other times, of course. The privateer 250 LM of Pierre Dumay and Gustave Gosselin suffered problems with a few hours to go, putting Jochen Rindt and Masten Gregory in first place with five laps ahead. From then on, they just took the car to the checkered flag and won the mythical event for the first time in their lives.
THE THIRD MAN
This is how the story of what, finally, was Ferrari's last victory in the 24 Hours of Le Mans to date. But, after the death of Ed Hugus, in June 2006, showed up a letter yours dated May 24, 2005 that changed everything. It was a letter to a fan, Hubert Baradat, in which our protagonist wrote the following:
“…Regarding 1965, as you know, for many years I had my own registration for the 24 hours. That year, he was going to drive Luigi Chinetti's Ferrari in the race. Unfortunately, the factory did not finish the car on time and Luigi put me as a reserve driver for the 250 LM. At night, around 4? Masten had gotten out of the LM. The smoke from the famous Le Mans barbecues had spread and Masten, with his poor eyesight and his thick glasses, couldn't see well. Rindt had disappeared, no one knew where, so Luigi gave me to put my helmet on and get out, so I finished the last hour of Masten's relay. Luigi told me many times that he had informed the officers about the fact. In any case, as Luigi said, maybe they were too busy with a bottle of wine behind the pits to do anything. He was just as disappointed as I was. This is life.".
Thus, and always as stated by Ed Hugus in his letter, he would have driven the winning car. That would make him the winner of the 24 Hours of Le Mans.. In fact, it is more and more frequent that he is credited as the winner, and even in some official books of the Automobile Club l'Ouest, the ACO, organizer of the test, the letter of our protagonist is quoted. However, the official result of that year has never been changed.
THE PROBLEMS OF HISTORY
There are some parts of what Ed Hugus tells in his letter that grate a bit. starting because It was written when the rest of the protagonists were already dead and they could not refute his story. We refer mainly to Luigi Chinetti, Jochen Rindt and Masten Gregory. There has been no shortage of those who have spoken of the fanciful mind of Hugus, to discredit the story. Or the fact that he only talked about it in the last years of his life.
With everything, the least credible part is the one where Chinetti went to talk to the commissioners. According to the rules, if the reserve pilot went into action, the driver he replaced could not return to the controls. That is to say, Masten Gregory should have stayed in the box and not have driven again. If the stewards had known that Hugus drove instead, they would have disqualified the team. Therefore, it is hard to believe that, if the story was true, Chinetti thought of telling it to the officers, quite the contrary.
En this article from the english magazine Motorsport, They speculate on what could have been the relief of Ed Hugus. The conclusion they reach is that such relief did not exist. However, the story has permeated the collective imagination and Ferrari's last victory at the 24 Hours of Le Mans It will always be remembered for the mystery surrounding Ed Hugus as well.
ALL THE VICTORY OF FERRARI IN THE 24 HOURS OF LE MANS
|Luigi Chinetti / Peter Mitchell-Thomson
|Ferrari MM 166
|José Froilán González / Maurice Trintignant
|Olivier Gendebien / Phil Hill
|Paul Frere / Olivier Gendebien
|Ferrari 250 TR59 / 60
|Olivier Gendebien / Phil Hill
|Ferrari 250 TRI/61
|Olivier Gendebien / Phil Hill
|Ferrari 330 TRI/LM Spyder
|Lorenzo Bandini / Ludovico Scarfiotti
|Jean Guichet / Nino Vaccarella
|Masten Gregory / Jochen Rindt / Ed Hugus*
|* Participation subject to controversy
Photographs of Ferrari and the ACO.