I was lucky enough to drive at Montlhéry, in company with some friends from Cambridge, for a week in an A35 in 1957, and for a further week in a ‘Healey 3000 in 1958. My strongest impression was how extraordinarily rough, the banked bits of the track were — the test was not of the cars’ engines and transmissions, but of their suspensions.
It was possible to walk about underneath the track, which was made of concrete about 10″ thick, with holes in it in places big enough to climb through; we tried to mark these, but the markers tended to fall down the banking, and there was always a danger of running over a marker in the dark when it was raining, so one just had to remember where the biggest holes were and try to miss them.
The A35 stood up better — it averaged 75 m.p.h. for the week overall, and seemed to go better when the weather was hotter; when the air temperature got up to 90, so did the lap speed, but at night it wouldn’t lap at much over 80. The only failure was a spring shackle, of which we were fortunately carrying a spare — which I thought was pretty good for ever 121/2 thousand miles of rough going. We came home with a dozen or so International class records.
The aim with the Healey was 100 m.p.h. for the week, but after a day or so the clutch started slipping on some Castrol R that had been intended to stay in the engine, and on the second day a rear spring broke, and that was not one of the spares we were carrying, so we stopped, the car was rebuilt, and we started again — but could only go for four days because the French wanted their track for a Monomil race or some other local festivity. We clocked up 10.000 miles at just over 97 m.p.h. in the end, which netted seven International class records.
Meanwhile the inevitable black Citroén Light 15 was trundling round the inner parts of the track at a steady 60 m.p.h. or so, as it had apparently been doing for a year or two, pursuing yet another million kilometres.
T. J. Threlfall