The Triple Crown. Achieved only once in the history of motorsport. The accolade where a driver wins the Formula 1 Monaco Grand Prix, the Indy 500 and the 24 Hours of Le Mans. But here at Badger GP, we’re interested in another achievement – the Triple Clown.
To be eligible to join the Triple Clown Club, a driver must have retired from the Monaco Grand Prix, the Indy 500 and the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Nicky Haldenby takes a look at which highly skilled drivers have achieved this feat, and who could be joining the list in 2018.
The two-time Formula One world champion Alberto Ascari competed in the Indy 500 only once, in 1952. Driving for Ferrari, he was the only non-American to compete that year. He retired just a fifth of the way through the race due to a broken wheel.
In both of his F1 championship winning years, 1952 and 1953, Ascari entered the 24 Hours of Le Mans with Ferrari. In both years his co-driver was F1 team-mate Luigi Villoresi. In 1952, they retired after three hours with clutch issues and in 1953, despite setting the fastest lap of the race, the pair were forced out again with clutch problems, this time just four hours from the end of the race.
Ascari became the first member of the Triple Clown Club in what would be his final race, and in quite dramatic circumstances. The Italian only competed in Monaco twice. In 1950, he finished as runner-up to Juan Manuel Fangio. In 1955, Ascari ended his race in the harbour, as his Ferrari catapulted over the wall and into the sea.
Despite surviving, Ascari would be tragically killed just four days later during a testing session with Ferrari at the Monza circuit.
The man who was the very first Formula One World Champion is also, arguably, the second member of the Triple Clown Club.
His first retirement from the 24 Hours of Le Mans came all the way back in 1953, while he retired from the Monaco Grand Prix on its first appearance on the F1 calendar in 1950.
Six years later, the Italian headed to the Indy 500 but failed to qualify due to the weather conditions. He never returned to the oval for a second attempt.
Jim Clark ticked off the first of the three parts of the ‘Triple Clown’ by retiring from the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1961. This was the third and final time Clark competed at the 24-hour race, having participated in the preceding two years. He finished second in class in 1959 before finishing in an overall third position in 1960.
His first retirement from the Monaco Grand Prix came in 1962. Clark never had much luck at the street circuit. Despite starting from pole four times, he never won the race and retired three times. In 1965, the Scotsman actually skipped the Monaco round of the championship to compete in the Indy 500, which he won.
Clark completed the Triple Clown accolade by retiring from the Indy 500 in 1964. Leading for fourteen laps, he retired on the 47th lap of the race with suspension issues. He’d retire from the race once again, on his final attempt in 1967.
Jack Brabham completed the first part of the Triple Clown by retiring from Le Mans in 1958. He’d finished third in class in the previous year but retired in 1958 with engine troubles after just three hours of racing. Stirling Moss was his co-driver that year. Brabham returned to Le Mans for another try twelve years later, but once again retired, this time after seven hours.
The Australian was disqualified from the Monaco Grand Prix in 1960, before retiring from it in 1961 and then retiring from the race every year between 1964 and 1969.
Brabham took part in the Indy 500 on four occasions, and only finished once – on his first attempt in 1961, where he finished ninth. In his next three attempts – 1964, 1969 and 1970 – he retired from the event, solidifying his place in the Triple Clown Club.
He and Jim Clark became members of the club on the same day, with Brabham joining thirty laps after Clark.
The 1970 Formula One World Champion first set about competing in Le Mans in 1964. He was to drive a Ferrari for the North American Racing Team but didn’t get the chance to get in the car during the race, as co-driver David Piper failed to complete a single lap, with the Ferrari dripping oil almost immediately from the start. Rindt returned to Le Mans the following year with the same team and triumphantly won the 24-hour race.
The Austrian won in Monaco twice, but failed to qualify for the race in 1965 and retired three times in three years between 1966 and 1968, ensuring he’d ticked off two of the three elements of the Triple Clown accolade.
The Austrian competed in the Indy 500 twice, in 1967 and 1968. He had a trying time during his first appearance and wasn’t compelled to return after retiring on the 108th lap with a broken valve and joining the Triple Clown club.
Nevertheless, Rindt would return the following year, but there was only more disappointment as he retired once again, this time after just five laps of the oval.
Graham Hill is the only man to have taken the Triple Crown in the history of motorsport. He won Monaco an impressive five times, earning him the nickname ‘Mr Monaco’. Then, in 1966, he won the Indy 500 despite leading just ten of the 200 laps. He finally completed the hat-trick and took victory at Le Mans in 1972.
Yet Hill also achieved the ‘Triple Clown’ accolade. He retired from the Monaco Grand Prix five times and failed to qualify for the event in 1975. In all five of his first attempts at Le Mans, in which he competed with four different teams, Hill retired. He finally made it to the podium in 1964, finished second in his class in 1965 and then retired once again in 1966. Hill’s co-driver in his winning year was Henri Pescarolo, who competed in Le Mans a near-unbelievable 33 times, winning the event four times.
From three appearances at the Indy 500, Hill retired twice. His first retirement was due to a piston issue after 23 laps in 1967. He joined the Triple Clown Club just eighteen laps after Jochen Rindt.
Denny Hulme first retired from the Monaco Grand Prix in 1966. He was forced out of the race with transmission issues after fifteen laps. He’d only retire from Monaco once more in his career, during his final season in 1974.
Hulme had a successful time at Le Mans, finishing first in class on his first attempt in 1961 and second overall in 1966. In 1967, on his third and final appearance at Le Mans, Hulme’s car was retired from the race due to an accident by co-driver Lloyd Ruby, which caused terminal damage.
The New Zealander finished fourth in his first two appearances at the Indy 500 in 1967 and 1968 but recorded his first DNF, and with it joined the Triple Clown Club, in 1969. He was forced to retire after 145 laps with clutch issues. He’d return once more to the oval in 1971, but would again retire from the race.
Mario Andretti is one of the most successful American racing drivers of all time, yet even he is a member of the Triple Clown Club. Unusually, Andretti ticked off the first two elements of the Triple Clown in the same year.
Andretti competed in the Indy 500 29 times between 1965 and 1994, so it’s no surprise that he had a fair few retirements from the oval race during that time. He retired on nineteen occasions, the first being in 1966. After starting on pole and leading sixteen laps, he was forced into retirement on Lap 27.
His first retirement from the 24 Hours of Le Mans also came in 1966, just three weeks after his first retirement from the Indy 500. Competing in a Ford GT40 alongside Lucien Bianchi, the pair retired after a third of the race with a blown head gasket. Andretti was running in seventh place at the time of the retirement. The pair returned the next year, but once again failed to finish the race, with Andretti suffering a huge accident which left him with three broken ribs. Andretti would return to the race another six times in his career, with his third and final DNF coming an impressive thirty years after his first.
Andretti completed the final component of the Triple Clown accolade by retiring from the Monaco Grand Prix in 1975. He’d go on to have a further two retirements at the Circuit de Monaco, in 1979 and 1981.
Clay Regazzoni only entered Le Mans one, in 1970. He drove for Ferrari alongside co-driver Arturo Merzario. The Swiss driver crashed into an unsighted car after 38 laps, leading to his retirement from the race.
Regazzoni retired from the Monaco Grand Prix four times during his Formula One career, recording his first DNF in the Principality in 1971.
He also participated in Indy 500 only once, in 1977. He wrecked his car during a crash on the Saturday before the race but was uninjured. He went on to qualify in 29th and retired on Lap 25 with a fuel cell issue, sealing his place in the Triple Clown Club.
Teo Fabi’s retirement from the first of the three cornerstone events came in 1980 when the Lancia car he was driving in the 24 Hours of Le Mans retired just six laps into the race. He made five more appearances at the event over the next eleven years, recording two further retirements, and the best finish of overall runner-up on his final appearance in 1993.
The Italian failed to pre-qualify for the Monaco Grand Prix on his first attempt in 1982 and suffered two retirements in 1985 and 1986. He skipped the Monaco race to compete in the Indy 500 for the second time in 1984. This was the last time that an active Formula One competed in the oval race until Fernando Alonso in 2017.
Fabi retired from the 500 in all five of his first attempts, before recording top ten finishes in 1993, 1994 and 1995.
Robert Moreno competed at Le Mans only once, in 1984. Driving a Porsche alongside former British F1 drivers Guy Edwards and Rupert Keegan, the car completed 72 laps before a crash brought an end to its running.
The Brazilian competed in the Indy 500 four times over a lengthy 21 year period. On all four occasions, he failed to see the chequered flag at the race. His first retirement came in 1986 when he stalled his car at the final turn on the 159th lap.
Moreno’s first retirement from the Monaco Grand Prix followed three years later, in 1989. A DNF due to gearbox issues saw him join the Triple Clown Club. He’d retire two more times from the street race, in 1992 and 1993. The 1992 Monaco Grand Prix was the only race which he successfully qualified his Andrea Moda car during the whole season.
Derek Daly opened his bid to join the Triple Clown Club with a retirement from the Monaco Grand Prix in 1980. He’d previously failed to pre-qualify for the event in 1978 and failed to qualify in 1979.
His first Indy 500 retirement came on his first appearance at the oval, in 1983. The only Irishman in the field retired after 126 laps with an engine failure. It was at Le Mans in 1989 where Daly would join the Triple Clown Club. Having finished fourth overall at the 24-hour race in the previous year Daly returned with hopes to go one better and make it to the podium. His car retired after 85 laps of the race. A similar fate awaited in 1990, as Daly retired from the event just over a hundred laps short of the finish.
During his tenure in Formula One, Eddie Cheever suffered five retirements from the Monaco Grand Prix and failed to qualify for the race twice. His first non-qualifying result in Monaco was in 1980. He then recorded his first retirement at the track two years later, when an oil leak put him out of the race on the 27th lap.
Cheever finished second in class in Le Mans in 1981, but in 1986 he recorded his only non-finish from his three appearances at the event. Driving a Jaguar alongside Derek Warwick and Jean-Louis Schlesser, the team was forced to retire from the race after 239 laps as a result of a puncture.
The American made fourteen Indy 500 appearances between 1990 and 2006, winning the event in 1998. Cheever became a member of the Triple Clown Club in 1991 when he retired from the 200 lap race with electrical issues. He went on to retire from the event four more times – in 1995, 1997, 1999 and 2001.
Michele Alboreto began his journey to the Triple Clown Club with a retirement from the Monaco Grand Prix in his first year in Formula One in 1981. He’d go on to retire from the race another four times in his career, as well as recording three podium finishes in 1985, 1987 and 1988.
Driving alongside Rolf Stommelen and fellow-future Triple Clown Club member Teo Fabi, Alboreto first retired from Le Mans in 1982. He’d record another three retirements during his appearances at the race, while he also won the race in 1997.
A year before his Le Mans victory, Alboreto competed at the Indy 500. On the only appearance at the oval during his career, he retired from the race. He retired 43 laps in with gearbox troubles.
Nelson Piquet opened his bid to join the Triple Clown Club with a retirement from the Monaco Grand Prix in 1979, during his first full season in Formula One. He retired just eight laps from the end of the race with a transmission issue. He’d retire from Monaco another seven times during his career, as well as being disqualified from the event in 1990.
Immediately after his F1 career, the Brazilian moved to participate in the Indy 500 in two consecutive years in 1992 and 1993. Piquet failed to make the start of the race in 1992 following a crash on the penultimate day of practice, which saw him sustain extensive leg injuries. He returned the following year but had to retire from the event after 38 laps with a blown engine.
Finally, Piquet entered into the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1996 and 1997. He finished eighth overall in 1996, but it was in 1997 when he joined the Triple Clown Club, with his car retiring after 236 laps.
Sebastien Bourdais’ first appearance at the trio of historic races was at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1999. In an all-French team alongside Pierre de Thoisy and former Formula One driver Jean-Pierre Jarier, the Porsche car from the GTS class retired after 134 laps. Bourdais has since made ten more appearances at Le Mans, finishing as the overall runner-up on three occasions and, most recently, finishing first in the GTE Pro class in 2016.
The Frenchman’s first appearance at the Indy 500 also ended in retirement. He crashed out just two laps from the end of the race as the result of a battle for fifth place. Bourdais returned to the oval seven years later and has competed every year since 2012. He withdrew from the event in 2017 following a huge crash which left him out of action for most of the year.
Bourdais had a single retirement from the Monaco Grand Prix during his F1 career, again on his first appearance at the event. In 2008, his Toro Rosso car aquaplaned off the track and slithered into the back of David Coulthard’s Red Bull, which had suffered the same fate. With that unfortunate accident, he secured entry into the Triple Clown Club.
Justin Wilson retired from Monaco when driving for Minardi in his only season in the sport, in 2003. His only entry into Le Mans was in the following year. Driving for the ‘Racing For Holland’ team alongside Tom Coronel and Ralph Firman, the car retired after 313 of the 379 laps.
His first of two retirements from the Indy 500 came in 2008, with a crash on the 133rd lap. The 2008 Indy 500 and the 2008 Monaco Grand Prix were held on the same day, so Wilson joined the Triple Clown Club just a few hours after Bourdais. Wilson would retire once more from the 500-mile race in 2009, then went on to finish the race in every year until his untimely death in 2015.
Our Nige was a dab hand at retiring from the Monaco Grand Prix, recording seven DNFs there in his F1 career. His first came in 1981. After winning the F1 title in 1992, Mansell moved to CART series and competed in the Indy 500 for the first time in 1993, finishing third. It was in the following year where he got two-thirds of the way into the Triple Clown Club, following a rather odd looking accident with Dennis Vitolo 92 laps into the race.
It would be a further sixteen years before Mansell would become a fully fledged member of the club, as he retired from his only Le Mans appearance in 2010. Entering his own team with his two sons Greg and Leo, Nigel was at the wheel just four laps into the race when a puncture caused him to crash out and finally seal his place in the Triple Clown Club.
Jean Alesi’s F1 career may have ended seventeen years ago, but he’s one of the latest drivers to join the Triple Clown Club. Le Mans was the first of the three events which the Frenchman retired from. Driving a Porsche for Team Schuppan, the car retired 69 laps into the 1989 running of the 24-hour race. Alesi returned to Le Mans in 2010, driving alongside Giancarlo Fisichella and Toni Vilander, taking sixth place in his class.
In 1992, Alesi completed the second of the two requirements to be a Triple Clown by retiring from the Monaco Grand Prix – a race which he’d go on to retire from another five times during his career.
It was another twenty years before Alesi finally became a member of the Triple Clown Club when he made a somewhat catastrophic entry into the Indy 500 in 2012. He entered as part of the Indy Lights team Fan Force United’s one-off appearance at the legendary race, powered by a Lotus engine. The only issue was that the engine simply wasn’t good enough for the demands of the oval track. Alesi struggled to get up to speed and failed to pass the Rookie Orientation Program on his first attempt.
Come race day, he and team-mate Simona de Silvestro were black-flagged from the race after just nine laps for lapping too slowly. Alesi was in further trouble as he took more than two laps to respond to the black flag signal. As a result, he was dropped to last place in the final classification. The race remains Alesi’s last competitive appearance.
Joining them this year?
Fernando Alonso and Juan Pablo Montoya could join this list of drivers in 2018.
Fernando Alonso has retired from Monaco on four occasions, while he also retired from his only Indy 500 appearance so far. He suffered an engine failure on lap 179 last year. He enters Le Mans for the first time in 2018, where he’ll be hoping to repeat his success from the first round of the 2018 World Endurance Championship, rather than join the Triple Clown club.
Juan Pablo Montoya became the first driver to win the Indy 500 on his first attempt since Graham Hill in 1966, but another win and sixteen years later, he finally recorded a retirement at the race, crashing out after contact on only the second lap in 2016. He’s also retired from the Monaco Grand Prix twice in his career – in 2001 and 2002. The Columbian enters Le Mans for the first time this season. Montoya could become a member of the Triple Clown Club in the same year as his former Formula One rival.
The table below shows the full list of Triple Clown Club members, the year in which they recorded their first retirements from each race and the year in which they joined the Triple Clown Club:
|Indy 500||Le Mans||Monaco||Triple Clown Club|