Road Racing Drivers Club member (since 2008), and former race-car driver and longtime entrant of the Le Mans-winning Mirage Team, Harley Cluxton III, was named Honour Member No. 1 of the prestigious International Club des Pilotes des 24 Heures du Mans.
Harley Cluxton III – on right – with, from left, Mario Andretti, John Wyer, John Horsman, and Michael Andretti, at the 1982 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Cluxton, who established Grand Touring Cars, Inc., in Scottsdale, Ariz., in 1973, was selected by the Board of Directors of the Automobile Club de l'Ouest (A.C.O.), as its first Honour Member in its renewed effort to reestablish the elite organization that was founded in 1953. The A.C.O. originated the 24 Hours of Le Mans (France) in 1923 and has sanctioned it ever since. The Club's goal is to honor those teams and team leaders whose achievements and successes have contributed to the spirit, the legend and the living tradition that makes the 24 Hours of Le Mans the most famous automobile race in the world.
With help from multiple Le Mans-winning team manager John Wyer, Cluxton, who raced for the Ferrari factory team and NART (North American Racing Team), purchased the assets of the Gulf Research Racing Company in 1975. The acquisition included the Mirage team and all associated manufacturing rights to the Mirage marque. After hiring John Horsman as GTC's Director of Racing, he moved the operation to Arizona in 1976.
As a Group 6 Prototype entrant, and later a Group C Prototype entrant, Cluxton continued successfully contesting the Mirages at Le Mans as a two-car team. With Wyer's counsel and Horsman’s direction, the Mirages won in 1975 and finished second overall in 1976 and 1977. From 1974 to 1978, the Mirages never finished outside of the top-10, posting a first, two seconds, a third, a fourth, a fifth, and a 10th.
Among the drivers who raced for Cluxton's Mirage team were RRDC members Mario Andretti, Michael Andretti, Derek Bell, David Hobbs, John Morton, Sam Posey and Vern Schuppan, as well as Jean-Pierre Jaussaud, Jacques Laffite, among others.
"It is quite an honor to be named the Honour Member No. 1 of the Club des Pilotes des 24 Heures du Mans," said Cluxton. "Those were magical days during the '70s at Le Mans. As an American and one of only two independent manufacturers to ever win Le Mans after World War II, and to be recognized for our efforts in continuing the Mirage team's success, is really quite humbling."
Cluxton will be formally inducted as Honour Member No. 1 of the International Club des Pilotes des 24 Heures du Mans at this year's running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, June 9-11.
Additional information may be found at http://www.gtc-mirage.com/MIRAGE/the-mirage-story.html and http://www.pilotes24hdumans.com/bienvenue-au-club.php.