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What is the motorsport triple crown and who has claimed the feat?

Becoming a Formula 1 World Champion is believed by many to be the ultimate achievement in motorsport, but what if there was a better way of deciding who the best driver across the globe is?

Graham Hill, Lotus 49B Ford

Photo by: Rainer W. Schlegelmilch

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That is where the motorsport triple crown comes in, as it can only be awarded to a driver who has achieved success across different racing disciplines.

So, what is the triple crown and who has claimed this feat?

What is the motorsport triple crown?

The triple crown consists of three races, each one showcasing a driver’s skill in a different racing discipline. It includes the Indianapolis 500, 24 Hours of Le Mans, and Monaco Grand Prix. These are generally regarded as the three most prestigious races in motorsport and typically take place every year from the end of May to beginning of June, though the triple crown is an unofficial title meaning no trophy gets awarded.

The Indy 500 is the oldest of the three races, as drivers first tackled 500 miles of Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 1911, 12 years before the inaugural 24 Hours of Le Mans. The Monaco GP is the newest of the three races, as the principality first hosted its now-famous race in 1929 when William Grove-Williams won in his Bugatti.

The triple crown is a notoriously difficult feat to achieve, partly due to the fact that the races form part of different series and racing disciplines. The Indy 500 is part of the IndyCar season, Le Mans is a round of the World Endurance Championship (and before that the World Sportscar Championship amongst others), while Monaco is a mainstay on the F1 calendar.

But this wasn’t always the case. The Indy 500 found its way onto the F1 calendar in the 1950s, yet participation was limited as many non-American drivers and manufacturers opted against travelling to the US with the race being run to different regulations.

That’s why – to this day – Graham Hill is the only racing driver in history to have accomplished the much-revered triple crown. Hill took his first of five Monaco GP victories in 1963 and won the Indy 500 in 1966 at his first time of trying.

Le Mans proved trickier for Hill to master. He entered the endurance race every year from 1958 to 1966 and his best result during that period was second in 1964 - he retired from the race on six other occasions.

It was only in 1972, at his final time of trying, that Hill emerged victorious. Hill joined the Matra sports car team at a time when his F1 career was drawing to a close, racing alongside Henri Pescarolo. The duo won the race by an impressive 11-lap margin over the team’s sister-car.

From a racing team standpoint, McLaren is the only one to have accomplished the triple crown. Beginning with the Indy 500, where the British outfit won the 1972, 1974 and 1976 editions, the team went on to take its first of 15 Monaco GP victories in 1984. The team claimed its sole Le Mans win in 1995 when JJ Lehto, Yannick Dalmas and Masanori Sekiya won for the team on its race debut.

Current drivers who could take the motorsport triple crown

Fernando Alonso has made no secret of his pursuit for the illustrious triple crown, as the 2006 and 2007 Monaco GP winner turned much of his focus to other motor racing categories in the late 2010s.

This began in 2017 when the then-McLaren driver skipped the Monaco GP to enter the Indy 500. Despite a strong showing in the early stages where Alonso ran no lower than 12th, it ended in disappointment as his Honda engine blew with 21 laps left. Alonso then switched his focus to Le Mans by competing in the 2018-19 WEC campaign for Toyota, with which he won the championship alongside co-drivers Sebastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima to take two thirds of the triple crown.

Juan Pablo Montoya is the only other current driver to have completed two-thirds of the triple crown - and he’s arguably come closer than Alonso. Montoya won the 2000 and 2015 editions of the Indy 500, as well as the 2003 Monaco GP. Although Montoya won at the 2021 24 Hours of Le Mans, it was in the LMP2 Pro-Am class - hypercar is the top category - meaning he did not take outright victory so it doesn't count towards triple crown glory.

Of the current racing crop, there are several drivers who have claimed one third of the triple crown. This includes MoneyGram Haas F1 Team driver, Nico Hulkenberg, who dominated the 2015 edition of Le Mans, alongside team-mates Nick Tandy and Earl Bamber.

There are of course a host of current F1 drivers to have won the Monaco GP. Of the still-active ones (Max Verstappen, Lewis Hamilton, Daniel Ricciardo and Sergio Perez), Ricciardo perhaps has the strongest chance of attempting the remarkable triple crown. While others have played down any interest in racing stateside, Ricciardo is fond of US racing culture and it’s well-known he was courted by IndyCar teams when his F1 future looked uncertain in 2022. He also came close to contesting the 24 Hours of Le Mans back in 2015, before his then-team Red Bull blocked the opportunity.

Drivers to have completed two-thirds of the motorsport triple crown

Driver 

Indianapolis 500 winner 

24 Hours of Le Mans winner 

Monaco Grand Prix winner 

Tazio Nuvolari 

N/A 

1933 

1932 

Maurice Trintignant 

N/A 

1954 

1955, 1958 

A.J. Foyt 

1961, 1964, 1967, 1977 

1967 

N/A 

Bruce McLaren 

N/A 

1966 

1962 

Jochen Rindt 

N/A (best finish: 24th in 1967) 

1965 

1970 

Juan Pablo Montoya 

2000, 2015 

N/A (best finish: 7th in 2018) 

2003 

Fernando Alonso 

N/A (best finish: 21st in 2020) 

2018-19 

2006-07 

 Other versions of the motorsport triple crown

As the triple crown is an unofficial title, its definition is hotly debated. For example, Jacques Villeneuve believes that it should include the F1 world championship instead of Monaco - a definition created by Hill himself.

If it were to be adopted, Hill would remain the only triple crown winner to date, while Mike Hawthorn, Phil Hill, Jim Clark, Mario Andretti, Emerson Fittipaldi and Villeneuve would have all completed two-thirds of the title.

There is also a triple crown dedicated for endurance racing. The endurance triple crown is given to those who win the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the Rolex 24 at Daytona and the Sebring 12 Hours during their career. Nine drivers currently hold this particular triple crown, and this would be 10 were it not for the famous photo finish at the 1966 Le Mans race where Ken Miles lost his victory to Bruce McLaren and Chris Amon.

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