He ran 4th with this Belgian-liveried Ferrari 156 in his home Grand Prix at Spa in 1961.
Photo: Ed McDonough Collection
Wealthy Belgian aristocrat Olivier Gendebien has the unique distinction of being Ferrari’s most successful GT and sports car racer. He won 24 top endurance classics, including the 24 Hours of Le Mans four years out of five, the Targa Florio, 12 Hours of Sebring, and Tour de France Automobile three times each between 1958 and 1962.
But he never won the race he loved most, the Mille Miglia. He once said, “The atmosphere, the incredible spectators and an exciting route made it the greatest race in the world.” Olivier did, however, win the GT class of the legendary one-day marathon in 1956 and 1957, but only managed a respective 5th and 3rd overall. The victory of which he was most proud was in a race within a race, the Tazio Nuvolari Grand Prix over the Cremona-Mantua-Brescia section of the last Mille Miglia. He was faster along that more or less arrow-straight road in a three-liter factory Ferrari 250 GT than either the event’s winner, Piero Taruffi, or 2nd-placed Wolfgang von Trips, both of whom drove more powerful 3.7-liter Ferraris. Olivier set a record average speed of 123.92 mph over the home straight to win the coveted gold tortoise, awarded in memory of the great Italian ace.
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