Posts Tagged ‘1953 Le Mans 24 Hours’

jag le mans

(Max Staub)

The winning Tony Rolt/Duncan Hamilton Jaguar C Type ahead of the Phil Walters/ John Fitch Cunningham C5R Chrysler and Alberto Ascari/Gigi Villoresi Ferrari 375MM at Le Mans 13/14 June 1953…

Early in the race it was clear the Jaguar C Types, Ferrari’s 340/375MM and Alfa Romeo 6C/3000CM were the cars in the hunt for outright victory, the Lancia D20’s and Talbot T26GS were outclassed.

Moss, the initial hare from the start in a works C Type had a misfire in his 3441cc DOHC straight-six, which set in after 20 laps putting him back to 21st and out of contention. Worse for Hawthorn and Farina was disqualification of their 4.1 litre V12 340MM Ferrari after brake fluid was added before the requisite 28 laps were completed. Fangio’s Alfa was out with engine dramas in his 3.5 litre, DOHC straight-six, the car shared with his countryman, Onofre Marimon, at about 6pm

As darkness fell the Ferrari/Jag battle intensified between the Ascari/Villoresi 375MM and Rolt/Hamilton C Type with the Alfas not too far back. Rolt and Hamilton led, the best placed Fazz was hampered by a sticking clutch and a thirst for water.

At dawn the same two cars led, with Moss up to 3rd  in the car he shared with Peter Walker, as the mist cleared they still led. By 9am the lead Ferrari had dropped back to 5th, retiring at 11am. The works Paolo Marzotto/Giannino Marzotto Ferrari 340MM challenged the lead Jags and Cunningham finishing 5th behind the winning car driven to the finish by Duncan Hamilton with Moss/Walker 4 laps back with the Phil Walters John Fitch Cunningham C5-R Chrysler 5.4 litre V8 a lap further adrift in 3rd. The third works Jag C Type of Peter Whitehead and Ian Stewart was another 2 laps back having driven a pace to finish throughout.

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Tony Rolt and Duncan Hamilton chew the fat, Silverstone 6 May 1955, the car is Rolt’s works D Type ‘XKC 403’…

Love this carefully posed shot, perhaps used to promote the meeting the following day. Its practice for the 7 May ‘Silverstone International’ sportscar race, a 190Km event won by Reg Parnell from Roy Salvadori, both aboard works Aston DB3S’, then came Rolt, Hamilton and Mike Hawthorn in works D Types. Mike started from pole and set the fastest lap.

Credits…Max Staub, Central Press, F2 Register

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Pierre Levegh relaxed during the 1953 Le Mans weekend beside the Talbot Lago T26GS he drove to 8th place together with Charles Pozzi…

He famously came within an ace, an hour in fact, of winning the race solo in a similar car the year before.

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Levegh led the race from about 2am, during his long hours at the wheel the engine developed a vibration, which he felt he could nurse better than his co-pilot given he was in synch with the cars rhythm.

But an hour from the end of the classic the car coasted to a halt at Maison Blanche, about a mile from the pits. The Talbot was mortally wounded, either a conrod let go after a big over rev or a bolt holding the central crankshaft bearing came loose. What was never clear, Pierre was driving with a broken rev-counter, is whether the engine succumbed to the malady present for much of the race or whether in his exhausted state the driver missed a gear.

The Frenchman’s real name was Pierre Bouillin, his racing pseudonym Of Levegh was the surname of an uncle who was a pioneer driver who died in 1904. Alfred Levegh was a leading member of the Mors racing team at the turn of the century. Pierre assumed his uncle’s surname in 1938 but when he commenced racing in a Bugatti 57T in 1937 raced using his own name.

The wealthy Parisian brush company owner was a talented sportsman, being a world class tennis and ice hockey player in addition to his talents behind the wheel, a career he started pre-War in his early thirties but did not flourish until after the cessation of global hostilities.

Pierre, driving a factory Mercedes Benz 300SLR was an unwitting and innocent part of the tragic sequence of events which took his life, and those of 83 others at Le Mans in 1955. Not a subject I care to explore and an incredibly sad and inappropriate epitaph for a driver who was a journeyman in Grand Prix cars but good enough in Sports Cars to be invited into a team containing Moss and Fangio…

Levegh, Talbot Lago T26GS during his heroic but ultimately unsuccessful 1952 Le Mans drive (unattributed)

Credits…

Stanley Sherman, Klemantaski Collection, oldracingcars.com