Driver, mentor, team owner/manager
Is there any greater proof of Chinetti’s contributions to American motorsports than the fact that he was the first American driver to win Le Mans? Plus later his North American Racing Team (NART) was the first American team to win the fabled French classic? Born in Italy, Chinetti drove to victory at Le Mans twice (1932, ’34) before emigrating to the U.S. and capturing his third (1949), this time as an American citizen. That victory at the wheel of a Ferrari 166M was Ferrari’s first. Now the firm’s official US importer, Chinetti, started NART in 1958 and masterminded his team’s stunning upset in the 1965 24 Hours. (Ford’s first win came the following year.) A brilliant talent spotter, Chinetti directly or indirectly furthered the careers of a generation of up-and-coming Americans, including future inductees Dan Gurney, Phil Hill, Mario Andretti, Richie Ginther and Masten Gregory. In 1964, a political dispute led to Chinetti becoming the official Ferrari entrant for the two season-ending F1 races that earned John Surtees that year’s World Championship.