28th - 29th July

49 starters 14 classified finishers

Exceptionally, the race was run in July instead of June (first time since 1923) to allow sufficient time for the completion of the circuit modifications required as a result of the 1955 accident. For the first time (and certainly not the last! ) the race was excluded from the World Championship for Makes. Only 49 cars came under starter's orders and persistent rain in the first half of the race led to many accidents. Thanks to Ecurie Ecosse Jaguar scored their fourth victory in spite of stiff opposition from Aston Martin. For the sixth time in 7 years a Panhard engined vehicle won the Index of Peformance. Mr. Simon de Peyerimoff, President of the Automobile Club de France, gave the start of an event which celebrated the Golden Wedding anniversary of the A. C. 0 and Motor Sport (1906 to 1956). The organisers' decision to limit the maximum amount of fuel taken on during refuelling to 120 litres was, in fact, the first serious attempt to create a fuel consumption formula linking performance to economy.


The whole pit and timing area had been completely re - built as far as the Dunlop curve whose radius had been enlarged. Creation of a slowing - down zone before and in front of the pits. The spectator terraces were now separated from the track by a ditch. The road between Maison Blanche and Tertre Rouge had been resurfaced. The length of the circuit had been reduced from 13, 492 to 13, 461 kms.


The maximun cubic capacity for prototypes (fewer than 50 models produced) was limited to 2500 ccs. Fuel tank capacity was limited to 130 litres with the minimum distance between 2 refuelling stops being increased to 34 laps. Obligatory windscreen dimensions : height 20 cms and width 1 metre. Only 2 practice sessions on the Wednesday and Thursday evenings. No driver could drive for more than 72 consecutive laps and the total overall driving time was fixed at 14 hours. The number of cars allowed to start was reduced from 60 to 55. Creation of the post of Assistant Clerk of the Course in the person of Charles de Cortanze who lent a hand to the veteran Charles P Faroux.


49 cars 4 nations 19 makes

France: 4 D. B. s, 3 Gordinis, 3 Panhards, 1 R B. , 1 Salmson, 2 Talbots, 1 V. P. Renault. Germany: 1 Mercedes - Benz, 6 Porsches. Great Britain: 3 Aston Martins, 1 Cooper, 1 Frazer Nash, 6 Jaguars, 3 Lotuses.

Italy: 6 Ferraris, 2 Maseratis, 2 Morettis, 1 Osca, 2 Stanguellinis.


Because of the regulations fuel consumption was effectively limited to 26 litres per 100 kms. Apart from Jaguar who could prove that the D - Type was a series production car (more than 50 having been either built or sold) all the leading contenders had to reduce their cubic capacity. There were few modifications to the 3 works cars from Coventry except formodified combustion chambersfor greater fuel burning efficiency and quick change pads for the disc brakes. Jaguar's main British rival, Aston Martin, had a new 2. 5 litre engine, a sleeved down version of the 3 litre one originally planned, installed in the DBR 1 prototype. The DB 3Ss slipped in as series production models. The works Ferraris had a 4 cylinder 2.5 litre ex-Formula 1 engine giving a reputed 225 bhp installed in a Testa Rossa chassis. Debut of the Porsche RS coupe with a swing - type rear axle set very low at the back. The Talbots were fitted with Maserati grand prix engines while the two 2500 cc Gordinis had an 8 cylinder and a 6 cylinder engine respectively. Two of the 3 works Jaguars were fitted with fuel injection.

The race started disastrously for Jaguar as on lap 2, Paul Frere closely followed by Jack Fairman, lost control of his D - Type in the Esses and thumped the wall. Fairman took avoiding action and managed to miss his team - mate but was hit in turn by Fon de Portago's 625 LM. Exit 2 works Jaguars and 1 works Ferrari! Shortly afterwards worse was to come when Louis Hery over - turned his Panhard at Maison Blanche and succumbed to his injuries on the way to hospital. In all there were 13 accidents. Up front the misfire which hit the sole remaining works Jaguar Oater traced to a crack in a fuelline) allowed the Sanderson - Flockhart Ecurie Ecosse entry into the lead hotly pursued by the Aston Martins. Indeed, the Jaguar swapped the lead with the Moss - Collins DB3 S until well into the night when the superior power of the Scottish D - Type began to tell on the drying track. In addition, the Aston Martin,was without second gear for the last 7 hours, a crucial handicap because of the slow Mulsanne and Arnage corners. At the finish the DB 3S was only 16.3 kilometres behind the D - Type. Panhard lost 3 entries but the Laureau - Armagnac car still managed to win the Index of Performance and finish tenth overall. Allison hit a dog on Les Hunaudieres sending himself into retirement and the unfortunate quadruped to its canine paradise! Another Lotus however won the 1100 cc class. The Ferraris were handicap21stped by a lack of power but the Scuderia's honour was saved by the third place of Gendebien and Trintignant. There were no Talbots or Gordinis at the finish. The no. 6 Jaguar, driven by Robert Walshaw and Peter Bolton, which was disqualified during the 21st hour for premature refuelling- was an XK-140 the only appearance of this model on the Sarthe circuit.


New layout, new records. Mike Hawthorn was again the fastest of the drivers getting round the 13, 461 km circuit in 4'20", a speed of 186, 383 km/h. The victorious D - Type covered 4034,929 kms some 100 kms fewer than the 1955 winner; something only to be expected as the new layout had been designed to slow the cars down.

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Author: ArchitectPage