Three major players in the world of the motor car will be honoured at the 2015 Le Mans 24 Hours race starting on Saturday June 13th.
William Clay Ford Jr., Executive Chairman of Ford Motor Company, will be the honorary starter of the 83rd race; Tom Kristensen will be the Grand Marshal and Yoshiaki Kinoshita will be awarded the Spirit of Le Mans Trophy.
William Clay Ford Jr.
Bill Ford, the Executive Chairman of the Ford Motor Company, will start the 83rd Le Mans 24 Hours on Saturday 13th June at 15h00.
The history of Ford at Le Mans goes back to the mid 1960s when the American manufacturer decided to come and take on the Europeans at the legendary Le Sarthe circuit. The Ford family already was honoured in 1966 when Henry Ford II, grandson of the founder of the Blue Oval, Henry Ford, started that year’s Le Mans 24 Hours race. In 2015, the great-great grandson of the famous American manufacturer will drop the French flag to unleash the field.
Bill Ford joined the Board of Directors in 1988, has been the company’s chairman since January 1999 and was named executive chairman in 2006. A lifelong environmentalist, he has worked for many years in the area of sustainable mobility by advocating for the development of electric and hybrid vehicles. He also has been at the forefront of the future mobility challenge and the company’s vision of what sustainable transportation will look like in the years ahead.
It’s a great honour for the Automobile Club de l’Ouest that this central figure in the world of the motor car, a passionate car enthusiast, and accomplished sportsman, has accepted this invitation.
“The history of my family is very closely linked to the legendary La Sarthe circuit event,” said Bill Ford. “Fifty years ago, the duel with Ferrari out on the track became one of milestone periods in the history of motor sport. It’s a great honour to come to the Le Mans 24 Hours this year and drop the flag to start this legendary endurance race as my uncle did back in 1966.”
In 2015, Tom Kristensen will follow in the footsteps of his former team-mate, Allan McNish. The Dane will be the Grand Marshal for the 83rd Le Mans 24 Hours.
Tom Kristensen has won the race nine times (1997, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2008 and 2013), in 18 participations and is a living legend in the history of the Le Mans 24 Hours which has earned him the name Mr. Le Mans!
He raced in the event for the first time in 1997 and won. This victory sealed his motor sport destiny. In 2000 he joined the Audi works team and quickly became one of the spearheads of the German make’s attack. In 2013 he won the FIA World Endurance Championship title. Thanks to his skills behind the wheel, his charisma and his simplicity Kristensen has not only built up one of the greatest sets of results in the history of endurance (and motor sport in general), but he has also won over the hearts and affection of the public.
In 2014 he hung up his helmet and this year he will have the job (among others) of driving the leading car, the official vehicle that is in front of the cars during the formation lap and pulls off at the end of the lap when the French flag is waved to unleash the field!
Yoshiaki Kinoshita has dedicated his working life to Toyota’s motorsport projects combining his engineering capabilities with a personal passion for all things racing. During the 90s he gave the Japanese manufacturer the benefit of his expertise in the world rally championship. At the same time his love affair with Le Mans began and he experienced the thrills and frustrations of the Sarthe as an engine engineer on the TS010.
When the F1 programme ended, the Le Mans regulations seized the Japanese company’s attention and Toyota, a pioneer in hybrid engine technology, began to carefully plan its comeback to endurance in secret. Kinoshita san returned to Le Mans in 2012 as President of the Toyota Racing team in the World Endurance Championship with two TS030 Hybrids. In 2014, the team narrowly missed out on victory in the Sarthe, but won the drivers’ and manufacturers’ titles in the FIA World Endurance Championship.
In April 2015 Kinoshita san was called back to Japan to open a new chapter in his career as General manager of Toyota Technocraftt.
On Thursday 11th June at the ACO press conference he will receive the Spirit of Le Mans Trophy awarded by the Automobile Club de l’Ouest to people who have best served the Spirit of Le Mans!