‘John Winter’, The Sad Story of The Man Who Won Le Mans Under A Pseudonym

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The ’24h of Le Mans 1985′ winning Joest-Porsche 956 of Ludwig, Barilla and “Winter”

Louis Krages, born into a family running a wood-selling business – turned his family’s business into one of the biggest companies in Bremen, Germany. Louis Krages GmbH & Co was a company with a worth of over 100 million Deutschmarks, and held a good reputation. This wealthy businessman Louis Krages, who would be known in the racing world as ‘John Winter’, only raced as a hobby. The reason being: his mother was concerned about the safety of racing, so, in order to hide his participation in motorsports, he decided to race under a pseudonym. Krages did however keep his pesudonym even after being found out by his family, after winning Le Mans, but raced under his real name during his final racing season in 1995, driving the Mercedes-Benz C-Class in the DTM.

Porsche 956 – #7 New Man. Winner, Le Mans 24hrs 1985

The name John Winter would not become known until the 1984 24 Hours of Le Mans, where the privateer would end up in first place. Driving the Porsche 956, for Joest Racing, alongside teammates Klaus Ludwig and Paolo Barilla. However, to keep it fair to his teammates who were previous Le Mans winners, Krages only drove a total of 1 hour and 10 minutes of the total 24 hours of Le Mans. Klaus Ludwig, nicknamed “King Ludwig”, had won Le Mans the previous year for Joest Racing in the Porsche 956.

Krages would find success once more in motorsports, winning the 24 Hours of Daytona in 1991, however in the succesor to the Porsche 956, the Porsche 962C for Joest Racing once again. The 962 was an improvement upon the 956, which also featured safety improvements which were shown to be neccessary after Stefan Bellof passed away at the 1985 1000km of Spa, following an accident colliding with Jacky Ickx’s newer Porsche 962C.

In 1994, after the IMSA GTP series ended, Krages and his team defected to DTM, the German Touring Car Championship. At the German AVUS track, Krages had an accident in his second-last ever racing season, where his Opel Calibra disintegrated into a fireball in a dangerous accident. Luckily, though, Krages would only suffer from minor burns in his face and walked away from the accident safely.

However, Louis ‘John Winter’ Krages, timber-merchant and privateer, would find very little success in either of his activities. Krages retired from motorsports in 1995, due to financial issues. In his last ever racing season he would only score 3 points in the DTM, and finished second last in the driver’s championship. Krages was forced to sell Louis Krages GmbH & Co to the Finnish timber producer Finnforest (known today as Metsä Wood), which his grandfather had started, largely due to poor management. Countless rumors would begin, claiming Krages’s company failed to due his racing ventures as “John Winter” played the biggest role in the business’s failure. Following the sale of his business, Krages decided to move to Atlanta, USA. There, he started a new business named Evertoys in an attempt to produce quality toys, but his business venture would fail, and so would his marriage. In a sad turn of events, John Winter took his life in 2001 in his Atlanta home, with a self-inflicted gunshot wound due to depression and financial troubles.

Footnote: If you feel you might be suicidal, and live in the United States, I urge you to call the Suicide Hotline at 800-273-8255 or navigate to for a live chat and additional resources. If it’s not an emergency, but you want to know more about mental health, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) offers information on their website and a free HELPLINE 800-950-6264. If you do not live in the United States please seek out local resources. /r/SuicideWatch has a list that may cover your country:

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