The Le Mans-winning car that almost wasn't entered at all

Gary Watkins



#26 Porsche AG Porsche 911 GT1: Emmanuel Collard, Yannick Dalmas, Ralf Kelleners

#26 Porsche AG Porsche 911 GT1: Emmanuel Collard, Yannick Dalmas, Ralf Kelleners Patrick Martinoli

Patrick Martinoli








#7 Joest Racing TWR Porsche WSC 95: Davy Jones, Alexander Wurz, Manuel Reuter

#7 Joest Racing TWR Porsche WSC 95: Davy Jones, Alexander Wurz, Manuel Reuter Sutton Images

Sutton Images

Joest wasn't flush with spares or money for its one-car Le Mans campaign when it took WSC95-001 back to the Circuit de la Sarthe in '97. The shortage of cash meant it procrastinated long and hard between taking a paying driver and going for someone worthy of the vacant seat alongside Alboreto and Johansson. It opted for the latter and plumped for Kristensen, who was then rekindling his European career in Formula 3000 after plying his trade in Japan since 1992.




Michele Alboreto, Joest Racing

Michele Alboreto, Joest Racing Gavin Lawrence / Motorsport Images

Gavin Lawrence / Motorsport Images

If the amazing story behind Joest's '97 triumph wasn't enough, there are a couple of other, more personal reasons that explain why it is still my favourite Le Mans after nearly a quarter of a century.


Better high-tail it back to the pits, I thought, to speak to the man of the moment. When I got there, Alboreto was sitting on a tool chest at the back of the pits all on his own.

It's a great memory to have of a much-loved driver, which became all the more poignant after we lost Michele after a testing crash with Audi in 2001.


Words for Gary Watkins

Words for Gary Watkins Gary Watkins

Gary Watkins

Only the process wasn't entirely clear, not to me and certainly not to Joest Racing.




Podium: winners Tom Kristensen, Stefan Johansson, Michele Alboreto, Joest Racing TWR Porsche with Reinhold Joest

Podium: winners Tom Kristensen, Stefan Johansson, Michele Alboreto, Joest Racing TWR Porsche with Reinhold Joest Motorsport Images

Motorsport Images