LE MANS 24 HOURS 1959

20th - 21st June

53 starters 13 classified finishers

Only 13 finishers, among them two Aston Martins on the same lap and in the first two places. A just and long - awaited reward for a make whose debut on the Sarthe circuit went back to 1928! Only 3 sports prototypes at the finish out of the 31 at the start, most of them retiring for mechanical reasons. The pre - race favourites, Ferrari, flattered only to deceive while Aston Martin's victory confirmed their Nurburgring success. It was a tactical victory with Stirling Moss in the role of the "hare" while the team organisation was looked after by John Wyer and Reg Parnell. The Italians managed to impose their law in the GT class and aD. B won the Thermal Efficiency Index. The race was a disaster for Porsche as none of their cars finished. None of the Jaguar engined cars reached the chequered flag either, but one of the 2 Lotus Elites at the finish won its class. At the wheel of one of them was a driver who was to become one of motor racing's legends, a certain Jim Clark making his Le Mans debut. The start was given by Mr. Maurice Herzog, the under - secretary for youth and sports.


CIRCUIT :

13,461 km layout. Track partially resurfaced and improved light signals. First appearance of computers thanks to I. B. M who looked after the classifications and gave out the results.

REGUlATIONS :

Organisation. of the April test session. Creation of a new Index for, Thermal Efficiency, the calculation of which took into account the weight, average speed and fuel consumption. Commercial fuel for all participants. Minimum average speeds raised. Creation of a technical file on all cars scrutineered. Official practice on Wednesday and Thursday evenings shortened by one hour. Competitors split into 2 categories: Sports Prototypes and Grand Touring.

STARTERS:

53 cars 5 nations 16 makes

France: 7 D:B. s

Germany: 6 Porsches

Great Britain: 1 A. C, 5 Aston Martins, 1 Cooper, 1 Frazer Nash, 1 Jaguar, 2 Listers, 6 Lotuses, 1 M. G. , 1 Tojeiro, 3 Triumphs. Italy: 11 Ferraris, 2 Oscas, 3 Stanguellinis. Sweden: 2 Saabs

SUMMARY:

The 6 Ferrari TRs weighed 50 kilos less and were fitted with disc brakes and the no. 23 Dino 196 S was fitted with a V6 2000 cc engine. The winning DBR 1 Aston Martins both had 7 bearing crankshafts (instead of 4) and half faired - in rear wheels. The DB4 GT had the same engine as the DBR Is. The 4 RSK Porsches were fitted with wishbone suspension at the rear. First appearance of the Lotus Elites, 3 of which were entered in the GT category. The 7 D. B Panhards, of which the 2 HBR 5s had a modified chassis, and the 5 HBR 4s were fitted with 4 overhead camshaft 851 cc engines modified by the Chancel brothers. Debut of Saab with a couple of type 93s in virtually series production form. The Ecurie Ecosse D - Type (XKD 603) had modified bodywork and was the last D-Type to be works prepared for Le Mans, while the Listers and the Tojeiro designed by Frank Costin also had Jaguar power.

Following a very carefully - hatched plan Stirling Moss willingly sacrificed his car and, abandoning all notion of endurance, set off at high speed hoping to lure the Ferraris into over - stressing their engines. It worked and even if the Moss - Fairman Aston finally went out after 4 hours the trap had been sprung. The Allison - Da Silva Ramos TR was the first to go but the biggest blow for the Scuderia was the retirement, just after midnight, of the Behra - Gurney car which led for most of the early part of the race. After their retirement, the Shelby - Salvadori Aston took over first place but then threw a tyre tread. Salvadori reported vibrations and Reg Parnell made one of his rare mistakes: thinking it was transmission trouble he told Salvadori to stay out for another 7 laps to enable repairs and refuelling to be done at the same time. This allowed the Gendebien Hill Ferrari into the lead ahead of the 2 Astons. However, knowing that 2 Ferraris had succumbed to overheating, prayers for hot weather were offered up in the David Brown camp.

And they were answered when Sunday dawned clear and sunny. Around midday the Ferrari, which had led from 3HOO in the morning came into the pits for an unscheduled stop, went out again for a slow lap before retiring with overheating leaving the way clear for the brace of DBR Is, some 330 kms ahead of their nearest pursuers, 4 GT Ferraris. Among these the California style drop - head coupe of Bob Grossman and Fernand Tavono made it into fifth place. The only remaining sports proto in the race was the Giraud - Delageneste Stanguellini which finished thirteenth and last. The sole surviving Saab managed the exploit of finishing just ahead in twelfth position setting its fastest time on its final lap! None of the 250 TR Ferraris saw the chequered flag but the Prancing Horse marque would take its revenge in the first half of the sixties.

RECORDS:

The 1957 ones still held. In the Aston Martin camp reliabilty had been privileged over speed, and the winning car covered around 48 kms fewer than Flockhart and Bueb in 1957. Jean Behra's fastest lap in just over 4 minutes was small consolation for Ferrari.

Film of 1959

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Author: ArchitectPage

Ferrari 250 GT