Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Carroll Shelby - The Only Man to Win at Le Mans as a Driver, Builder and Team Owner!

Michael and I had the opportunity to meet Mr. Carroll Shelby twice. The first time was back in 1992  when we took a road trip to Watkins Glen in New York State for the SAAC Show. You had to stand in line at 5:00 am to purchase a poster. That got you the privilege of standing in line again for a couple of hours in order to meet the legend. Was it worth it? Oh yeah! We both had our photos taken with him, and I had him sign one of the original black and white magazine ads. That brought a smile to his face. "I haven't seen one of these in a long time," said Shelby. We still have the ad.

The second time was more recently at the Canadian Motorsports Hall of Fame event in 2010 honoring Shelby. This time, with an entourage of people around him, it was just a quick hello and congratulations.

Shelby on stage at Motorsports Hall of Fame, Toronto.

As an automotive enthusiast, you cannot NOT know who Carroll Shelby was. But, you may not be aware of just what some of his incredible accomplishments were. One of them being his place in history as the only person to ever have crossed the finish line in first place at the famous Le Mans course in France as a driver, builder and team owner.

With driving in his blood, and already well recognized the world over, the chicken farmer from Texas joined the Aston Martin team in 1954. In 1959, Shelby, along with co-driver Ray Salvadori, took first at 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Winners Ray Salvadori, Carroll Shelby and David Brown
In 1964, the Cobras and the team at Shelby America were victorious at the prestigious 24 Hours of Le Mans, coming in first. The Cobra placed fourth overall and first in the GT class ... beating Ferrari! In subsequent years, the team would win at Le Mans again and again. 
"My proudest moments are beating Ferrari for the World Championship in 1965, and working with Ford to win Le Mans in 1966 and 1967." - Carroll Shelby
1964 Le Mans pits.
Waiting for the #5 Shelby Daytona Cobra Coupe.

And Shelby didn't stop there. Developing a driving school, marketing a chili mix and designing cars, Carroll Shelby's life seems to have been about pushing hard and winning, whatever the challenge. It was Shelby's incredible journey and resulting success in the world of international racing, that was one of the inspirations for Michael's Ford Racing painting, "The Competition Has Arrived".

Michael wanted to create a piece that paid tribute to the cars that over several years, would take Europe by storm. The resulting painting captures the electricity in the air, as both the Porsche and Ferrari team members look on in amazement as the new American competitors are being unloaded.

"The Competition Has Arrived" by artist Michael Irvine
"I decided to take the creative route and concentrate on the excitement and awe that must have been felt by everyone present when the Shelby team landed in Europe. I wish I could have been there!"- Michael Irvine
From the response of collectors and enthusiasts around the globe, I'd say Michael succeeded! — Linda