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New Zealand’s immense success at Le Mans

As the Repco Garage builds up to this year’s 100th anniversary of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the success of New Zealanders at France’s temple of speed has been frequent in recent years.

However, it was Chris Amon and Bruce McLaren making history as both capped off Ford’s ambitious attack on Le Mans by winning in 1966 in the iconic GT40.

As chronicled in Ford vs Ferrari, the American brand was determined to beat the best Europe had to offer at the prestigious 24 Hours of Le Mans. A journey starting in the UK before moving to the United States in 1964 produced an underdog story for the ages as just two years later the New Zealanders greeted the chequered flag.

Both are revered now as New Zealand heroes after reaching the pinnacles of Formula 1, while McLaren ventured into sports cars as well by manufacturing his own before sadly passing away following a crash at Goodwood in 1970. As for Amon, he is universally acknowledged as the best driver not to win a Formula 1 race in a career spanning almost a decade as once retired he became a television personality in New Zealand as he passed away in 2016.

Recent for New Zealand has resulted in five victories for the nation during the last decade spread between two drivers.

Earl Bamber maybe entering this weekend’s event as a Cadillac driver, but it was with Porsche he secured two victories in 2015 and 2017. Enjoying a long relationship with the German marque spanning back to 2013, Bamber joined Nico Hulkenberg and Nick Tandy to win on debut after sweeping all before him in Supercup the year prior.

Now part of the furniture at Porsche just two years later, Bamber was victorious again alongside Timo Bernhard and a fellow New Zealander where the story continues below.

After the disappointment of his Formula 1 career with Toro Rosso, Brendon Hartley had certainly made up for it in his sports car career.

The same year he made his Formula 1 debut, Hartley secured his maiden 24 Hours of Le Mans victory alongside countryman Bamber and Bernhard as previously stated to cap off Porsche’s run in the World Endurance Championship. Since the German sports car brand’s pull out, Hartley has found a home at Toyota as it built an era of dominance as the New Zealander added two more 24 Hours of Le Mans trophies in 2020 and 2022.

With both Bamber and Hartley competing against each other in the burgeoning Hypercar/LMDh Class, New Zealand has a strong chance to add another 24 Hours of Le Mans success in 2023.