Former Grand Prix drivers Alan Rees (73 today) and Emanuele Pirro (49 today) are celebrating their birthdays today.
While neither would achieve relative success in Formula 1 as drivers, but were principally famous for their feats in other areas of motorsport: Rees was one of the founding fathers of the March, Shadow and Arrows F1 teams, while Pirro would achieve huge success in endurance racing.
Welsh-born Rees was a useful driver in the junior formulae, Rees achieved success with Lotus in Formula Junior before a crash at the 1962 Nurburgring 1000km sports car race put an end to his season.
He joined the Roy Winkelmann team in 1963 and would become a fixture in the outfit as a driver, later moving into a team management role where he would later find his true calling.
While behind the wheel, he achieved many successes in the team’s Brabham chassis’, frequently beating more notable drivers like Jochen Rindt, Jackie Stewart and Jim Clark, but his appearances in F1 were restricted to two races in the team’s F2 car and a sole outing in a rather long-in-the-tooth Cooper at the 1967 British Grand Prix.
By 1969, Rees decided that his skills lay in team management, and he moved on to become a founding member of the March equipe, before later moving into team manager roles at Shadow and Arrows.
A regular visitor to the Vallelunga circuit as a child, Emanuele Pirro had his first kart outing at the age of 11 and was immediately hooked. He won several national titles before graduating to Formula Fiat Abarth in 1980, winning the title at his first attempt.
He moved into the European F3 series, but before that, he’d already managed a class win at the Daytona 24 Hours in a Martini Lancia Beta.
After three years in Formula 3 (while continuing to dabble with endurance racing), Pirro moved to Formula 2 in 1984 before it rebranded into Formula 3000 in 1985, where he finished third overall and won a test with Brabham.
Unable to land an F1 drive for 1986, he took a multi-disciplined approach, racing everything from Japanese F3000 to sports cars and in the World Touring Car Championship, and by 1988 he had been appointed as McLaren’s test driver.
Impressed by his work developing the all-conquering MP4/4, Benetton hired him for 1989 as its test driver, and Pirro also took the opportunity to win the Nurburgring 24 Hours with BMW before he was brought in to replace Johnny Herbert in the F1 seat, peaking with fifth at the rain-soaked Australian Grand Prix.
Scuderia Italia hired him full-time for the 1990 season, but the car was not competitive and he failed to grace the points that year. A further year with the team yielded mixed results – the highlight being sixth at Monaco (pictured), although he was slated for his appalling manners being lapped – and he quit F1 at the end of the year to concentrate on touring cars, first with BMW and then Audi.
Appointed by Audi to contest the 1999 Le Mans 24 Hours, he finished third in 1999 before peeling off a hat-trick of wins in the dominant R8 LMP900 partnering Tom Kristensen and Frank Biela, also winning the 2001 ALMS title.
Two more Le Mans wins would follow – he became the first driver to win the race in a diesel-powered car in 2006.
Still involved with Audi’s Le Mans project (although in a more managerial capacity today), Pirro was the FIA guest steward at the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
Click here to view Emanuele Pirro’s complete F1 results.