Motorsport’s best
unconventional wins

Laurens Vanthoor made history by winning the FIA GT World Cup on his roof last year. But he’s not the only one to take an unconventional route to the chequered flag…

Motorsport’s best
unconventional wins
Motorsport’s best unconventional wins 01

Flying Finish
Audi driver Laurens Vanthoor made history by becoming the first driver to win a race and a title on his roof last year, following a massive crash at the Macau FIA GT World Cup. It’s almost certainly the first race won by Pirelli where the tyres weren’t actually in contact with the ground as well. The incident brought out the red flags, which meant that Vanthoor was actually declared the winner, being the last person to lead a full lap. But there have been several highly unconventional wins before, so Vanthoor, who recently signed for Mercedes, is in good company. 

Vittorio Brambilla: 1975 Austrian Grand Prix
Brambilla’s one and only grand prix win came at a soaking wet Austrian Grand Prix in 1975, which turned into carnage. Brambilla, driving a March, powered his way past race leader James Hunt – whose engine had lapsed onto seven cylinders – as the rain fell harder. On lap 29 of a planned 54, the organisers stopped the race. Just in the nick of time, as Brambilla spun when he took the flag and crossed the line sideways before hitting the barriers.

Motorsport’s best unconventional wins 02

Michael Schumacher: 1998 British Grand Prix
In one of the most controversial incidents in Formula 1®, Michael Schumacher was handed a stop and go penalty close to the finish for overtaking under yellow flags much earlier in the race. The rules stated that he had to serve the penalty within three laps of the notification and Ferrari complied with this. Ingeniously, they brought him in on the very last lap – which meant that he crossed the finish line (in the pit lane) and won the race.

Motorsport’s best unconventional wins 03

Jochen Rindt, 1970 Formula 1® World Championship
Jochen Rindt won the 1970 Formula 1® world championship while dead: the only driver ever to do so. The Austrian was comfortably leading the championship up to Monza: four races before the end of the year. But in practice, he suffered a fatal accident at the Parabolica. Such was his points lead that none of his rivals could catch up, and Rindt ended the year with a five-point lead over Jacky Ickx in the final standings.

Sebastien Loeb, 2006 World Rally Championship
He dominated the 2006 Word Rally Championship season, but then Loeb broke his arm badly on a mountain bike (he later admitted it was a motorbike) and was ruled out of the final four rallies. Ford’s Marcus Gronholm failed to make up the points deficit that he needed to win, so Loeb ended up claiming the championship – by just one point – while sitting at home on his sofa, watching the title-deciding Rally Australia on TV.

Motorsport’s best unconventional wins 04
Race vehicles passing during the Italian Grand Prix held in Monza on 2 September 1956. In the foreground is Jack Fairman in Connaught no. 6, Maurice Trintignant in Vanwall n. 20 and Roy Salvadori in Maserati no. 44 (photo Publifoto) – ARCHIVIO STORICO FONDAZIONE PIRELLI

Juan Manuel Fangio, 1956 Italian Grand Prix
Fangio won the world championship by finishing second in the Italian grand prix, using a different car to the one that he started it in. The Argentinian legend was on course to win his fourth title in Italy, but then damaged the steering on his Ferrari. His team mate Peter Collins – who was also in contention for the title – came in and voluntarily handed his car over to Fangio, who went on to score the points he needed to claim the title.

Juha Kankkunen, 1986 World Rally Championship
The Flying Finn won the last title of the Group B era in a courtroom in Paris: and he wasn’t even there at the time. The FIA hearing related to the Sanremo Rally earlier that year, where the stewards had decided that the side skirts fitted to the Peugeot team (which Kankkunen drove for) were in fact illegal aerodynamic devices and disqualified the entire team. The FIA then reversed that decision and cancelled all the results from Sanremo – meaning that Kankkunen suddenly became champion.

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