The news that eight-time World Rally Champion Sébastien Ogier will embark on a full season of circuit racing in the World Endurance Championship – which features the iconic Le Mans 24 Hours – has given us an indication of just what the future may hold for him in sportscar racing.
He’s agreed a deal to race in the second tier LMP2 class with the Richard Mille Racing team run by renowned French prep firm Signatech.
Although entering a tier below the main Le Mans Hypercar (LMH) class, it’s far from a stretch to foresee Ogier – who remains a Toyota Gazoo Racing contracted driver – stepping up to fight for the overall honors at the classic French enduro before long.
Ogier is not the first WRC driver to try their hand at circuit racing though; particularly endurance events. Indeed, over the years it was entirely normal to see household rallying names on the entry lists of some of the biggest events across the globe.
We’ve compiled a list of 10 WRC drivers who have dabbled in endurance racing over the past. How will Ogier stack up against these peers? Only time will tell.
Major achievements: 5 class wins at Le Mans 24 Hours; overall victory in Spa 24 Hours
The first ever winner of a certified World Rally Championship event, Jean-Claude Andruet was a key cog in the Alpine juggernaut of 1970s rallying. With his prowess on asphalt having won all three of his WRC rallies on the sealed surface – on the Monte Carlo Rally in 1973, Tour de Corse in 1974 and Sanremo in 1975 – it’s little surprise that Andruet was able to transfer this talent onto the circuit.
His first appearance in the classic Le Mans 24 Hours came in 1967, the first of 19 participations which yielded five class victories and a staggering 20 podiums. His maiden class triumph came in 1968 at the wheel of an Alpine Renault A210 alongside future Peugeot WRC sporting director Jean-Pierre Nicholas.
Another notable result came in 1976, where he took a Porsche Carrera to sixth in the Group 5 class with none other than future Dakar creator Thierry Sabine as his team-mate. He then won the Spa 24 Hours in 1977, when the event was still run as a touring car race.
Major achievements: 2 class wins at Le Mans 24 Hours
Another winner from the inaugural WRC season in 1973, Bernard Darniche’s motorsport career is as vast as his personality. Having won with Alpine, Lancia and Fiat across nine seasons, Darniche was renowned for his versatility and, more importantly, adaptability. Particularly when it came to night-time driving.
Darniche was especially impressive on the iconic Col de Turini stage of the Monte Carlo Rally, which was often held under darkness, and still holds the record for number of stage victories on this demanding test.
That skill may have helped his transition to the circuits, as Darniche scored six podiums in the Le Mans 24 Hours, including two class victories (GTP in 1978 alongside Jean Rondeau and Jacky Haran, and the following year next to fellow WRC winner Jean Ragnotti in Group 6).
Major achievements: 4th in the Le Mans 24 Hours 1978, 2nd in GTP class 1980
It seems a bit strange that the future Citroën team boss only ever managed one WRC victory in his career, given just how close he and co-driver Jean Todt ran Ari Vatanen to the 1981 title. Alongside his rallying career, Guy Fréquelin was also an avid endurance racer in the Le Mans 24 Hours, finishing a superb second in class in 1980 driving a WM Esso Peugeot P79/80 in the GTP category alongside Roger Dochry.
Two years prior, Fréquelin narrowly missed out on an overall podium aboard the factory Alpine Renault A442A, finishing fourth, with Ragnotti, Jean-Pierre Jabouille and José Dolhem as team-mates. This was a changing of the guard for Alpine as it was contesting its final Le Mans as a factory effort before moving fully into Formula 1 for 1979.
The race was won by Dolhem’s half brother Didier Pironi – who was taken to hospital post-race after suffering extreme dehydration and exhaustion – and the late Jean-Pierre Jaussaud.
Major achievements: European 2-Liter Sports Car Championship one-off appearance
Back in 1983, Henri Toivonen’s rise in rallying was described as “meteroric”. It was esy to see why when the Finn had only properly burst onto the scene four years prior. Having started out in go-karting as a young boy, Toivonen made the switch to rallying as a means of making money to finance his single-seater circuit racing dreams.
When he found more opportunity in rallying, Toivonen’s attentions turned to the off-road discipline until his untimely death in 1986.
But that didn’t stop the WRC maverick from continuing to dabble in endurance racing. Although known mainly for his exploits in Formula 3, Toivonen contested a one-off round of the European Endurance 2-Liter Championship in 1983, at the wheel of a Porsche 956 run by the eponymous team owner Richard Lloyd.
He tested the car at Imola before running in the next race at Mugello alongside multiple Le Mans winner Derek Bell and soon-to-be 3-5-liter F1 champion Jonathan Palmer.
Major achievements: 2nd overall in the Le Mans 24 Hours 2006
The nine-time WRC champion has a bit of a habit of finishing one event and jetting straight to another one and performing on cue. He did it this year, finishing second on the Dakar Rally before going to Monte Carlo and scoring his 80th WRC victory and first of the new hybrid era.
Back in 2005, Loeb’s first appearance at Le Mans came off the back of victory on Rally Turkey. He needed to complete the required 10 laps of track action on the official test day prior to the race, which he managed: his helicopter landing at the La Sarthe Circuit at just after 6.15pm. The first race outing ended in retirement following crash damage, but one year later, things went decidedly better.
A second edition in the Pescarolo Sport Judd V10-powered prototype alongside Éric Hélary and Frank Montagny netted a sensational second place finish, four laps behind the race-winning Audi.
Since then, Loeb has also contested a number of French GT Championship races and has run his own team at Le Mans.
Major achievements: 3rd in GTS class at Le Mans 24 Hours 2004
Another WRC legend to take on the Le Mans 24 Hours was none other than 1995 champion Colin McRae, who teamed up with former employers Prodrive in a Ferrari 550 in the GTS class. Up against the might of Chevrolet at the time, few within the endurance paddock believed that the Prodrive Ferrari stood a chance of upsetting the applecart for class victory. Indeed, there were plenty of naysayers doubting McRae’s ability to withstand a 24-hour of this caliber either.
And while the dominant Chevies proved too fast for the competition, McRae did finish third on the podium alongside team-mates Rickard Rydell and Darren Turner.
Major achievements: ELMS champion in 2021
OK, this is a little bit of cheating, we’ll grant you this one. But by the time Robert Kubica drove onto the grid for the second round of the Creventic Endurance Series 12 Hours of Mugello in 2016, he’d already been crowned WRC2 champion in rallying in 2013. Therefore, we reckon he makes the cut!
The one-time grand prix winner in Formula 1 drove a Mercedes GT3 car with WRC and Dakar regular Martin Prokop as team-mate, before going on to contest the Dubai 24 Hours the following season.
Following a brief return to F1, Kubica has since made even bigger waves in the world of endurance racing, finishing ninth in the Daytona 24 Hours last year before going on to clinch the European Le Mans Series title with Team WRT with three victories.
Major achievements: Multiple winner of Nürburgring 24 Hours and Spa 24 Hours
Hailing from nearby Verviers, it’s no wonder three-time Belgian Rally Champion Marc Duez is a multiple winner of the Spa 24 Hours endurance classic. Duez’s WRC career began in the early 1980s on Rally Portugal, although a full season campaign always deserted him. Partial seasons in 1989 yielded a best finish of fifth in Portugal, while in 1991 he recorded a fourth-place finish on the Tour de Corse.
Duez then shifted to sportscar racing, becoming a four-time winner of the Nürburgring 24 Hours between 1992 and 1999 and a three-time winner at Spa between 1997 and 2001.
Duez still competes in rallying to this day, with his last appearance to date coming on the Ypres Rally last year at the wheel of an Alpine A110 Rally RGT, finishing 34th overall.
Major achievements: Double Le Mans Series champion, 2nd in the Le Mans 24 Hours (five times), overall victory in Spa 24 Hours
This incredible all-rounder is by far the most successful rallying to endurance convert on the list. Such is the versatility of Stéphane Sarrazin, his resumé stretches on seemingly at will. Although primarily known as a circuit racer, don’t let Sarrazin’s love for circuit racing fool you into thinking he isn’t a dab hand at rallying.
He never did a full season of the WRC but his results in the third works Subaru Impreza between 2005 and 2006 were proof that he could adapt quickly to the discipline. Sixth place on his second outing on the Tour de Corse and then narrowly missing the podium next time out in Spain in 2004 showed a sign of things to come.
Fourth was the best result he’d get on the world stage, but he bagged an Intercontinental Rally Challenge podium on the Monte Carlo Rally in 2009 and then victory in the final European Rally Championship round in 2014 in Corsica.
Twice a Le Mans Series champion and a three-time race winner in WEC, the only blemish on Sarrazin’s endurance career was perhaps that he never won the 24 Hours of Le Mans, finishing second five times between 2007 and 2016. Despite this disappointment, Sarrazin scored an overall victory in the Spa 24 Hours in 2008 as part of the dominant Vitaphone Maserati team.
Luis Perez Companc
Major achievements: 2 class podiums at Le Mans 24 Hours
Between 2005 and 2008, the privateer Ford Focus of Luis Perez Companc proved popular on the WRC stages. Perez Companc might not have achieved a great deal of success during his career at the top level – one fifth, one sixth and seventh his best results – but the Argentinian’s determination and passion for rallying could not be denied.
Since departing the WRC in 2008, Perez Companc has plied his trade almost exclusively in endurance racing and competed in the Daytona 24 Hours as recently as last weekend at the wheel of a Ferrari.
He has a pair of class podiums in the Le Mans 24 Hours to his name, achieved in 2012 (driving for PeCom Racing in the LMP2 class) and 2014 (GTE class).
Markku Alén & Walter Röhrl
Major achievements: 3 Le Mans 24 Hours appearances, 1 class win (Röhrl)
Although he never won an official WRC drivers’ title, Markku Alén could count himself as the best in the world after winning the World Cup for Drivers in 1978. For his long-term rival Walter Röhrl, it was another story altogether, claiming the title on two occasions, with Fiat in 1980 and Opel two years later.
Both had fleeting appearances in the Le Mans 24 Hours, with Alén contesting the 1980 edition as part of Lancia Corse’s three-driver line-up of Piercarlo Ghinzani and Gianfranco Brancatelli. The turbocharged Montecarlo model was Lancia’s weapon of choice to take up the fight to the Porsches in the Group 5 two-liter class. Unfortunately for Alén, his race was run by the fourth hour with oil pump failure.
Röhrl had slightly better fortunes in his two appearances in the great race for Porsche, winning his class in 1981 before coming home 20th in 1993 alongside Hurley Haywood and Hans-Joachim Stuck.
We felt it was necessary to add in the caveat of this feature being primarily about drivers who have gone on to endurance racing, but it would be remiss to exclude the exploits of those who achieved success as team bosses.
Ove Andersson’s career in the WRC produced one victory on the Safari in 1975, but his life is probably best known for his management of Toyota Team Europe which he led through rallying and subsequently into sportscars.
Similarly, former co-driver and recent FIA president Jean Todt also made his name post-competition career as an extraordinary team principal, first with in the World Sportscar Championship, twice winning the 24 Hours of Le Mans before moving onto Formula 1 with Ferrari.
Current Prodrive boss David Richards is another to have tasted success in endurance racing, with the likes of Ferrari and then Aston Martin securing silverware at the top level of sportscar racing.