It happened today

A final farewell to Olivier Gendebien

2 Oct 1998

On 2nd October 1998, Olivier Gendebien died at Les Baux de Provence in France. Born in Brussels on 12th January 1924, the Belgian racing driver was one of the best of his generation in Sports-Prototype races, winning the Le Mans 24 Hours four times, the Targa Florio, the Sebring 12 Hours and the Tour de France Automobile three times, the Reims 12 Hours twice and the Giro di Sicilia and the Nurburgring 1000 Kilometres once. All these victories came at the wheel of a Ferrari, apart from the 1960 Sebring 12 Hours, which he won in a Porsche. Occasionally, Gendebien also raced in Formula 1, taking part in a total of 14 Grands Prix, of which eight of them were in a car from the Maranello Scuderia. His talents were recognised by Enzo Ferrari in the book “Piloti, che gente,” even if the Founder did not hold back from having a pop at the Belgian’s ego: “Olivier Gendebien was able to transform the nobility of his background which could be felt in his life into elegant and shrewd impetuousness when in a car. On track, he raced and won, also in Formula 1, but his talent really came out in Sports cars in endurance races. His consistent pace allied to a fast racer, for example Phil Hill, proved for many years to be the key to success. Gendebien drove cleanly, doing a good job of looking after the car entrusted to him and he could be counted on to lap consistently and to drive with consistency, character and intelligence. However, you needed to be patient and let him speak when he won, which he would do at length. And patience was also needed when I read his memoirs, in which he was stingy in his acknowledgements unless they referred to himself.”