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The narrowest winning margins in Motorsport: Part 1
Laura Leslie investigates the closest finishes in Motorsport history.
Sep 10, 2021 at 11:00 AM
by: Laura Leslie

Often in racing there are few things more thrilling than a close finish and not knowing who will win a race until the very last second. Here are some of the closest finishes from various disciplines across motorsport history.

F1 – 0.01s

Even today, the 1971 Italian Grand Prix remains unmatched for its close finish. It was before Monza had chicanes and it came in an era where slipstreaming was the word of the day.

With 10 laps to go Chris Amon was set for the win, Amon had made his way to the front of the field after cars ahead of him dropped out with mechanical failures and driver errors. The ever unlucky Amon too succumbed to a mechanical problem which left Swedish driver Ronnie Peterson in the lead.

Peterson was battling with Francois Cevert, Peter Gethin, Mike Hailwood and Howden Ganley in a slipstreaming masterclass. None of the drivers involved had ever won a grand prix before, so the determination was high and they all pushed their cars to the absolute limit.

On the final lap the quintet entered a straight drag race coming out of the famous Parabolica. They eventually crossed the line within 0.061s of one another, Gethin’s BRM coming out on top by just 0.01s from the March of Peterson with an average race speed of 242.615km/h. The race held this average speed record for a whopping 32 years until it was beaten by the 2003 Italian Grand Prix – won by the Ferrari of Michael Schumacher.

MotoGP – 0.0s

Thanks to timekeeping only being able to classify riders to within a tenth of a second, the 1975 500cc Dutch TT at Assen remains the only premier class bike race to have finished in a dead heat for first place.

Then 7-time champion Giacomo Agostini finished alongside Barry Sheene who was riding his Suzuki to his first ever 500cc class victor. Agostini would go on to take his 8th and final 500cc world title that same year.

WRC – 0.2s

It seems absolutely remarkable that a rally could have a winning margin as narrow as 0.2s given the amount of miles covered over the course of a number of days. That’s exactly what happened in the 2011 Jordan Rally though.

Initially the rally was due to be held across three days, however cargo docking issues in Syria left the teams running late and so the schedule was condensed down to just two days.

Over the course of day two, Sebastien Ogier had his 18.9 lead whittled down by Jari-Matti Latvala in a thrilling crescendo. Latvala eventually stole the lead by 0.5s as the pair prepared for the powerstage finale. However Ogier fought back to beat Latava by 0,7s on the powerstage and win the entire rally by 0.2s. It was a Hollywood ending for a rally which had begun in utter turmoil.