Paul Newman waiting to get racing in 1979
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WEC

6 celeb racers who took on Le Mans

We countdown the famous faces who’ve tried their luck at the world’s most famous 24 hour race.
By Greg Stuart
4 min readPublished on
The 24 Heures du Mans has always been an irresistibly glamorous affair, causing millions of people to morph into passionate endurance racing fans for one weekend in June every year.
The allure of the race has proved strong for celebrities over the years too, with a fair number making the trip to the Circuit de la Sarthe in western France to see if they've got the skills to mix it with the best in one of the world's toughest races.
Here's RedBull.com’s list of six of the most famous stars who gave Le Mans a go…
Paul Newman Year: 1979 Cars driven: Porsche 935
Paul Newman was part of that circle of Hollywood stars including Steve McQueen, James Garner and James Coburn, who were not only charismatic, impossibly good looking and great actors but also talented racing drivers, which seems a bit unfair. But while McQueen only raced Le Mans on the big screen, Newman took a tilt for real at the rain-soaked 1979 race. Partnered with Rolf Stommelen and Dick Barbour, Newman won his class and finished second overall driving a Porsche 935 famously emblazoned in Hawaiian Tropic livery.
Newman was still racing in his late 70s, while his driving career is set to be celebrated in comedian Adam Carolla's upcoming documentary Winning: The Racing Life of Paul Newman, released next month. Check out the trailer below.
Fabien Barthez Year: 2014 Cars driven: Ferrari 458 Italia GT2
They say when you put a Le Mans driver line-up together, you need a safe pair of hands in the car, and they don't come much safer – at least in the football world – than former Manchester United and France goalkeeper Fabien Barthez.
Barthez had his first taste of Le Mans last year, after showing himself to be a decent pedaller in other sports car series, such as the FIA GT and Blancpain Endurance Series. And while many footballers spend their evenings falling out of nightclubs attached to pneumatically-enhanced women, Barthez prefers to spend his hammering a Ferrari 458 down the Mulsanne Straight, which is fine by us!
Former Manchester United and France goalkeeper Fabien Barthez racing at Le Mans 24 Hour race in France
Fabien Barthez trying not to come off his line
Nick Mason Years: 1979–80, 1982–84 Cars driven: Lola T297, BMW M1, Dome RC82, Porsche 956
Not only does Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason own a collection of cars that you'd mortgage your own mother to get your hands on – he likes giving it some on the racetrack as well. With Pink Floyd at the height of their 1970s pomp Mason, who'd been a club racer since 1973, headed to the Circuit de la Sarthe to have his first of five attempts at Le Mans.
By his last 24 Hours in 1984, Mason had worked his way up to competing in the dominant car of the day, a privately-entered Porsche 956 – although his best result was second in class in a Lola T297 at his first Le Mans in 1979.
Watch historic racer Mark Hales talking through Nick Mason’s car collection in the video below.
Mark Thatcher Year: 1980–81 Cars driven: Osella PA8, Porsche 935
Yes, that's Mark Thatcher, son of Margaret 'Iron Lady' Thatcher, Britain's Prime Minister from 1979 to 1990. Thatcher Junior received a lot of publicity for his exploits in Britain's amateur racing scene in the 1970s. He stepped his driving career up a gear in 1980, driving at Le Mans in an Osella PA8 alongside Lella Lombardi, returning in 1981 for a go in a Porsche 935. But Thatcher's most famous racing exploit, unfortunately for him, remains the time he got lost for 48 hours during the 1982 Paris-Dakar Rally.
Mark Thatcher: A Conservative driving style?
Mark Thatcher: A Conservative driving style?
Eddie Jordan Year: 1981 Cars driven: BMW M1
Before Eddie Jordan was the motor-mouthed jester of Formula One punditry, and even before he was the paddock's most eccentric team boss, he was a driver in his own right, competing in Formula Ford, Formula Atlantic and even briefly testing for McLaren.
The jovial Irishman took on Le Mans in 1981 in one of the cars of the moment, the BMW M1 that the German firm had collaborated on with Lamborghini. Sadly, Jordan and his Bimmer didn't make it to the finish, and soon after he turned all of his attention to team management. And shirt purchasing.
Eddie Jordan tried Le Mans in 1981
Eddie Jordan tried Le Mans in 1981
Patrick Dempsey Years: 2009, 2013–14 Cars driven: Ferrari 430 GT2, Porsche 911 GT3-RSR, Porsche 911 RSR
Better known as McDreamy from hospital drama Grey's Anatomy (so we're told), Patrick Dempsey is also a serious gentleman racer in his spare time, even briefly co-owning a team with Italian footballer Alessandro Del Piero.
Female TV viewing figures for Le Mans presumably went up considerably when he made his first appearance in 2009 in a Ferrari 430 GT2, while Dempsey now prefers to do his racing in Porsche 911 GT3s. He's pretty good too, managing a best of fourth in the GTE Am class in 2013.
Watch Patrick Dempsey perfecting his driver changes in the video below.
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