13th -14th June
60 starters 26 classified finishers
Sarthe classic with 19 makes officially represented adding up to 50 works cars out of the 60 starters. A win for Jaguar with the Rolt - Hamilton car and the second, third and fourth placed finishers all breaking the 4000 km and 170 km/h barriers. First ever Le Mans triumph for disc brakes. While Jaguar and Cunningham reached the _finish with all their cars still running none of the Alia Romeos, Allards, Aston Martins, Borgwards, Bristols or Lancias made it to the chequered flag. Panhard succeeded Monopole in the Index of Performance, but it did not look as if any French manufacturer would, in the forseable future, be able to playa leading role in the chase for outright victory. American Tom~ Cole lost his life in an accident at Maison Blanche. The start was given by Mr. Jean Masson, the national education secretary.
Unchanged 13, 492 km layout. First official spot timimg of speeds on Les Hunaudieres, the quickest being the no. 2 Cunningham at a speed of 249, 135 km/h.
Following the creation of the World Championship for Makes the average speeds imposed in the cubic capacity classes were increased once again. Each driver had to undergo a medical examination. As a consequence of "Levegh's" retirement the previous year, no driver could do more than 80 consecutive laps with a total of 18 hours maximum driving time. Creation of a reserve drivers'list. Supercharged cars allowed to enter but with a coefficient of 2:
60 cars 5 nations 22 makes
France: 1 Constantin, 2 D. B. s, 3 Gordinis, 5 Panhards, 4 Renaults, 4 Talbots, 1 V. P. Renault.
Germany: 2 Borgwards, 4 Porscher.
Great Britain: 2 Allards, 3 Aston Martins, 2 Austin Healeys, 2 Bristols, 2 Frazer Nashes, 4 Jaguars, 2 Nash Healeys.
Italy: 3 Alia Romeos, 4 Ferraris, 1 Fiat, 4 Lancias, 2 Oscas.
U. S. A. : 3 Cunninghams.
First appearance of Alfa Romeo since the revival of the race in 1949, with 3 Disco Volantes powered by 3.5 litre six cylinder engines with 4 speed gearboxes, and Fangio and Marimon as team leaders. The Scuderia Ferrari's honour was defended by a 375 MM with a 4.5 litre engine for Ascari and Villoresi backed up by three 4. 1 litre 340 MMs. The works Jaguars were all fitted with disc brakes and were lightened and more powerful versions (220bhp) of the 1951 car. A new 2.5 litre Gordini debuted and the Talbots had modified bodywork. There was a new Cunningham, the type C5 - R with a 310 bhp Chrysler engine under its streamlined bonnet The Allards had their trusty V8 Cadillac fitted into a new chassis designated the type J2R with a De Dion rear end. The aerollClutic engineer, Riffard, responsible for the Caudron - Renault planes, designed the bodywork for the Panhards.
Lancia entered four D20 Coupes whose 2.7 litre engines were fitted with superchargers as well as twin overhead camshafts per bank of cylinders. Also using "a blower" was the Peugeot Constantin, the Morel - Chambas Talbot and the 2 Pegasos which were both of which were withdrawn after practice. The 3 works Jaguars looked very similar to the 1951 cars but were much lighter and were fitted with 3 double choke Weber carburettors giving a wider and more usable rev. band. And of course they were fitted with the famous disc brakes. Aston Martin entered 3 of their DB3 Ss, the shortened version of the DB3. The Bristol 450s, whose chassis was derived from the 1952 G - Type F2 E. R. A. , had twin rear fins and their fuel tanks were located in the front wings. The Borgward coupes had twin overhead camshafts. The V. P Renault was in fact almost the same as the tank that had beaten records on the Montlhery circuit. Two of the 4 Porsches were hardtop versions powered by the 1500 cc engine lightened by Wiederhausen. Finally, a British chassis, American engine and Italian bodyWork for the Nash - Healeys.
Once the Allard's flash in the pan was over, Moss's Jaguar and Villoresi's Ferrari were locked in a nail - biting duel. Luckily for Jaguar the Rolt - Hamilton car was there to pile on the pressure when Moss's car began to fall back due to fouled plugs caused by a dirty fuel filter. The Lancias soon quit the dance as did all the Alia Romeos and Aston Martins. All through the night the no. 18 Jaguar and the no. 12 Ferrari swapped the lead until the clutch gave up the ghost on the Italian car. It was a a tragic morning for Ferrari as Tom Cole was killed in an accident at Maison Blanche in his 340 MM. The Moss - Walker car came back into contention after its early problems and gave Jaguar a well deserved double ahead of the first of the Cunningham C - 5Rs. Next up was the Jimmy Stewart - Peter Whitehead XK 120 C which had started in 11th place and worked its way steadily up through the field to finish ahead of the Marzotto brothers'Ferrari. Into sixth came the Trintignant - Schell Gordini which had been in ninth place at the end of the first hour's racing. The eighth place of "Levegh" and Pozzi saved Talbot's honour. Neither Bristol finished and a cockpit fire in the no. 38 car burned Tommy Wisdom quite badly. There were no Aston Martins at the finish either and Reg Parnell gave an original - reason for his accident stating that he lost control while thinking about his pigs! Pierre and Robert Chancel won the Index of Performance by a mere 2/1000 of a point in front of the unlucky pairing of Bonnet Moynet who were initially declared winners.
Ascari went ever quicker in his Ferrari 340 MM beating the record he set in 1952 at the wheel of the 250 S by No fewer than 13"leaving it at a speed of 181.642 kmph. Rolt and Hamilton became the first driver Rolt and Hamilton became the first driver to break the 4000 km and 170 km/h barriersl covering 4008, 060 kms, some 354, 264kms more than the 1952 winners, at an averag e speed of 370, 33 km/h.
Sports Car Races