Olivier Gendebien ( born January 12, 1924 in Brussels, † October 2, 1998 in Tarascon, France) was a Belgian racing driver in the late 1950s and early 1960s, winning the 24 -hour race of Le Mans four times alone was and is considered one of the best sports car racers of that era.
Paratroopers and mercenaries
Both his origin and his way to Motorsport was unusual. The trade press has often been speculated that Gendebein noble origin was, but not owned by direct evidence. What seems certain is that the native of a wealthy family, Olivier worked as a paratrooper during the Second World War for the Resistance.
Even after the war did not come to rest, he signed up for four years in the Belgian Congo to work there on a non- traditional kind in the vicinity of Stanleyville. There he met the rally driver Charles Fraikin who eventually pointed out to him the way of racing. Fraikin was reportedly impressed by the orientation skills gendering Biens and its vehicle control. Besides, he lamented that in Europe he had at home no suitable co - pilots available.
The rally co-pilot
After both had traveled back to Belgium, launched Gendebein on a Veritas at the Grand Prix of the Frontières at Chimay, where he finished as the sixth -placed. He then joined Fraikin to occasionally attend a Jaguar at rally events.
Your cooperation would last until 1955. But up to this point, Gendebein had established itself as an independent and competitive riders. At the time of their separation, had already given them the nickname " The eternal bridesmaid " played because it always took second place, but not achieved victory in many races. Twice she had thus completed the Liege - Rome - Liege rally, but in 1955 they were in a Mercedes 300SL finally successful.
Start their own career
Without Fraikin Gendebein had considerably more success, as he won in 1954 in its class with a Plymouth Italy rally, the Dutch Tulip Rally and the Northern Roads Rally in a Porsche.
Sports cars and Formula 1 races for Ferrari
However, his career calmed somewhat. The other efforts gave the impression that Enzo Ferrari had offered him a contract for work for sports car racing and some inserts in Formula 1. But his first start for Ferrari ended up in a pub for " Tourist Trophy " in Dundrod to everyone's disappointment in a serious accident in which he suffered a concussion.
At the start of the Formula 1 season 1956 his health was satisfactory again. Without any experience on a one -seater reported him for the Grand Prix of Argentina, which he finished with a remarkable fifth place and his first World Cup points. A sixth place finish at the Grand Prix of Mendoza confirmed his good form.
During the year, he could show some excellent missions in sports car racing: second places in Buenos Aires, the " Super Corte Maggiore " in Monza and at the 1000 - km race at the Nürburgring at the Alfonso de Portagos side, a third place at Le Mans with its Maurice Trintignant and colleagues at the Targa Florio.
Then he started for the later "Equipe Nationale Belge " Jacques Swaters on a Ferrari 250 GT, with whom he also finished two great tours in third place. 1956 was determinant Biens breakthrough in the racing scene, but six more years of success should follow.
In 1957 he celebrated with his cousin Jacques Washer as a passenger an outstanding victory in the Tour of Sicily on a Ferrari 250 GT, with whom he went out an amazing third place at the last Mille Miglia.
In the following, he won the same car the 12 - hour race at Reims with his colleague Paul Frère and finished the season by winning the Tour de France at the Lucien Bianchi page. Gendebein, which was extremely popular in Belgium, now regarded as the star of the sports car scene, who celebrated a veritable series of victories in the following years.
The great victories
In 1958 he again won the race in Reims. This was followed by a series of victories at the Targa Florio, the same year along with Luigi Musso, three years later with Wolfgang Graf Berghe von Trips and finally the Targa 1962 with Willy Mairesse and Ricardo Rodríguez.
Other outstanding victories were in the 12 Hours of Sebring in 1960, driving a Porsche with Hans Herrmann and 1961 with Phil Hill Ferrari. He also won the 1000 km race at the Nürburgring, one year later for yourself.
His outstanding achievements should unprecedented for a long time four wins to stay in Le Mans, where he in 1958, 1960, 1961 and 1962 triumphed in order to explain it after his retirement from racing. Three times he shared the victory with Phil Hill, but in 1960 was allowed Paul Frère celebrate with him.
His dominance in the sports car scene can be already foreseen from the fact that he had with Phil Hill and Peter Collins significant role in ensuring that Ferrari in the late 1950s and early 1960s could win numerous World Sportscar Championship title.
Completion of his Grand Prix career
Behind this impressive successes of his Formula 1 career is something back. However, in 14 starts 1956-1961 he was able to record in half the points race for themselves. Most starting as a guest driver for Ferrari, he achieved his greatest Grand Prix success, ranked third at Spa- Francorchamps in 1960, with a Cooper T51, and a second place in Reims. Though he alone had failed four races during the 1960 Formula 1 season, he found himself on a respectable sixth place in the World Cup competition again.
The following year he competed in his home Grand Prix in Spa on a painted yellow in the national color of Ferrari 156, which was, however, in contrast to his team-mates not equipped with the latest specification engine. In the first few laps he led from pole position to the delight of the audience the race with wins, but later in his colleague referred him to fourth place.
Retreat into private life
With 38 years Gendebein resigned from motorsports, as he too many of his teammates over the years had seen die and the risk to please his wife no longer wanted to record. Tragically passed away this little later from cancer. He then emigrated to the United States, where he was very successful in cattle. Later he settled in the south of France, where he died in 1998.