Carroll Shelby delicately guides his Ferrari 375 up the slippery Wilkes-Barre, Pennyslvania, Hillclimb setting a course record of 58.768 seconds for the on 20 July 1956…
Later Grand Prix driver and ’59 Le Mans winner, Shelby’s Ferrari was one of four 375’s sent to the US to race at the ’52 Indy 500, the car raced by Alberto Ascari was the only car to qualify, i wrote about the 375 a while back;
The 375 then was owned by John Edgar, Shelby raced it for him at three ‘climbs in 1956; ‘Mt Washington’ on 15 July, the following week at ‘Giants Despair’ and finally ‘Breakneck Hillclimb’ on August 5th. No doubt the 4.4 litre, 380bhp F1/Indy car was quite a challenge on the tight hillclimb courses!
Historian Michael Lynch noted; ‘…the body had been modified since the car ran at Indy. The cars original serial number was simply no 1. That was then changed to #0388 in Ferrari’s normal sportscar numbering series, probably when the bodywork was modified’.
‘Giants Despair’ was first used in 1906, the event is one of the oldest continuing motorsport venues in the world, held over a 1 mile course and the hill rises 650 feet with grades of 20% over its 6 turns.
The hill starts with a long gently rising straight of 1/4 mile long which leads into a fast left-hander, then onto a short chute and then ‘Devils Elbow’ a sharp rising hairpin. Then their are series of 90 degree turns connected by short straights. Finally comes the ‘The Incline’ a 1/4 mile stretch which rises a little over 20 degrees to the finish.
The best time in 1906 was 2 minutes 11.2 seconds, by Hugh Harding’s Daimler. The record is currently held by John Bourke, 38.024 seconds in a ’97 Reynard Indycar, click on the link for his record run in 2014.
Both photos, Michael Ochs Archives