Sebastién Ogier will make his long-awaited first outing in Toyota’s hybrid hypercar at the rookie test of the FIA World Endurance Championship on Sunday.
The seven-time rally world champion follows a long line of drivers who have gone from conquering the intense world of rallying to the equally intense environment of endurance sports car racing.
Some of these drivers even took part in the greatest challenge in sports car racing: the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
While it is currently uncertain whether Ogier will compete in the French endurance classic with Toyota, MotorsportWeek.com is scrutinizing some of the best and brightest rallyers who have made the leap to the world’s greatest endurance race.
It should be noted that Ogier, one of the most successful rally drivers to ever get into the sport, is not entirely new to sports car racing.
Before that, he completed several individual outings in series such as the DTM, the ADAC GT Masters and the French GT championship. However, he is unfamiliar with the world of prototype competition and, unlike some of his predecessors, did not compete in the Le Mans 24 Hours.
Sébastien Loeb, the only man to have won more titles than Ogier, is arguably the best-known modern example of a rally driver who has tried his hand at the world of endurance racing.
In 2005, while working to secure the second of his nine WRC record titles in a row, the Frenchman made his debut at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. He joined the strong French private squad Pescarolo Sport, one of the greatest challengers to Audi’s dominance in the early 2000s. His first start alongside Soheil Ayari and Eric Helary didn’t go so well. After starting from second place, an eventful race ended with a crash for Ayari on Sunday morning.
His second assignment a year later went much better. Loeb stayed at Pescarolo Sport alongside Ayari and the new partner Franck Montagny. While the power of the newly introduced Audi R10 could not be beaten, the trio took second place overall.
In the years that followed, Loeb continued to enjoy occasional sports car excursions and collected more and more rally titles. In 2012 he founded his own team, Sébastien Loeb Racing. In 2013 he drove for the team in the FIA GT Series and achieved several race victories as well as occasional races in the Porsche Supercup.
Sébastien Loeb Racing would also get into LMP2 racing in 2014 and contest the entire campaign of the European Le Mans Series and the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Röhrl is best known for his two world rally championships with Fiat and Opel, but also for his Group B heroics for Audi and Lancia.
In addition to his rally success, the now 74-year-old German has contested several major long-distance races. It is noteworthy that he took part in the Le Mans 24 Hours twice, at the age of twelve between his first and second appearance.
In 1981 he was Jürgen Barth’s partner on board a factory-prepared Porsche 944LM that drove in the GTP category. The duo took a dominant class win and finished sixth overall.
His next start in the big race was not due until 1993, when he brought Hurley Haywood and Hans-Joachim Stuck together on board a 911 GT car. However, their run ended prematurely when Röhrl dropped out after contact with a prototype.
Colin McRae’s foray into the sports car racing world was brief, but it caused quite a stir. In 2004 the Scot contested the 24 Hours of Le Mans in a Ferrari 550-GTS Maranello used by Prodrive. His co-drivers were the later three-time class winner Darren Turner, who made his second start, and the Swede Rickard Rydell.
McRae had won his only World Rally Championship title in a Prodrive-built Subaru Impreza in 1995, so it was something of a reunion for the rally star.
While Corvette Racing would clinch a double victory in the GTS category, Turner, Rydell and McRae completed the class podium in third place. Compatriot Allan McNish stated that McRae “had an adapter far better than people expected”.
Unfortunately, it was the only time Le Mans got to see the Scottish star at work as he wouldn’t be returning to the race before he lost his life in a helicopter crash in 2007.