50th Anniversary Of Its First Victory In The World’s Greatest Race
The Hotel de France in La Chartre-sur-le-Loir was the headquarters of the Gulf JW Automotive Racing team throughout the 1960s and 1970s, so there could be few more appropriate places to mark the occasion and look forward to this year’s participation than at the Le Mans 24 Hours.
In a packed programme for media and guests, Gulf brought members of the victorious 1968 winning team back to their erstwhile race week HQ – including Team Boss John Horsman. John, who oversaw the team’s day to day activities and the development of winning race cars was reunited with former Team Owner, John Wyer’s PA Wendy Milligan, her husband Bill – who was a mechanic at the time – and also the team’s spare parts coordinator and, we learned, refueller, John Maitland Cook.
They gave an insight into how the race was both run and how the team organised their activities 50 years ago, which was a fascinating contrast with how Gulf’s current partners, Gulf Racing, approach this year’s Le Mans 24 Hours.
Gulf Racing have qualified an excellent 2nd in the LM GTE AM category with the latest Porsche 911 RSR – their new car for this year – and, with the drivers, Ben Barker, Alex Davison and Mike Wainwright in action at the annual Driver Parade in Le Mans Town Centre. Team Manager, Owen Daley, gave an insight into the team’s preparations for this year’s race and their strategy for the race itself.
WIN Motorsports, the current Asian Le Mans Series Sprint Cup Champions, are also at Le Mans, competing in the Road to Le Mans race that immediately precedes the 24 hours. Team Principal, William Lok, and other members of the team also took to the stage to talk about their Le Mans hopes for this year and for future participation. They are also joined in the Road to Le Mans race this year by the Gulf Marine Ligier LMP3, which is run by United Autosport.
To honour the 50th anniversary of Gulf’s first victory in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, Gulf’s Watch Partner, TAG Heuer launched a 50-piece special limited edition of the Monaco Gulf. The watch with the famous 39 mm square case and petroleum blue dial also bears the instantly recognisable colours of Gulf – blue and orange. On the back of the watch is Gulf’s anniversary emblem and the individual number XX/50.
TAG Heuer also launched a new Gulf edition TAG Heuer Formula 1. Measuring 43 mm in diameter, this quartz chronograph features a notched steel bezel and an aluminium ring with a tachymeter scale. On the dial, one blue stripe and one orange stripe recall the model’s origins. The case-back is engraved with the Gulf logo. The movement is accurate to a tenth of a second – an indispensable feature in a motor racing watch!
Gulf’s wider sporting partnerships were also highlighted, as Manchester United legend, Andrew Cole, talked about Manchester United’s own celebrations that commemorate 50 years since they first won the European Cup – nowadays the Champions League – and, as well as looking back on this memorable achievement, Andrew also talked about playing for England and his thoughts on the 2018 World Cup.
Gulf also celebrated an excellent debut at the Isle of Man TT races. Gulf BMW Road Racing rider, Davo Johnson, who finished fourth in both the Superbike and Superstock TT races – together with both of his 2018 TT bikes – was on hand to give an insight into racing on the world’s toughest motorbike races, staged over the 37 mile/60-kilometre Isle of Man road course.
The event ended with an ‘Homage’ to the days when the residents of La Chartre-sur-le-Loir were treated to the sight of Gulf race cars and team vehicles driving through the streets of the town and off down the road to Le Mans. The cavalcade, flagged off by John Horsman, featured two of the latest Porsche GT3 Cup cars, a period VW Service Van and Crew bus – both in the famous Gulf-Porsche team colours – as well as various other Gulf road cars and one of the Isle of Man TT Bikes.
This year, the race organisers are also honouring the Gulf victory in 1968 with an excellent dedicated display at the Le Mans Museum entitled “50 Years of Blue and Orange at Le Mans”.