Le Mans 24-Hour Race

The same G.T. and Prototype muddle existed at Le Mans as at the other long-distance races this season, but by ignoring the complicated rules and regulations with which G.T. racing is becoming bogged down it was possible to enjoy Le Mans for once because the sun was shining.

At the start of the race Gendebien in the 4-litre V12 sports (sorry, Prototype) front-engined Ferrari and Graham Hill in the 4-litre Aston Martin Prototype waged a short duel, with Gendebien getting the upper hand before long. Third place was disputed between the three fierce and noisy front-engined 4-litre V8 Maserati coupés and Pedro Rodriguez in a works rear-engined 2.4-litre V6 sports (sorry, Prototype) Ferrari. The Aston took the lead when the leading Ferrari stopped for Phil Hill to take over, but Hill broke the lap record at 3 min. 57.3 sec. (126.9 m.p.h.) and soon regained the lead, Rodriguez getting through to second place when the Aston stopped for Ginther to take over. Ginther got the Aston back into second place but was then forced to stop for a dynamo armature change, which lost it several minutes, and as darkness fell an internal oil pipe broke, putting the Aston out for good.

This left the Hill/Gendebien Ferrari in the lead, but the Rodriguez brothers, driving the V6 very hard, took the lead whenever the big Ferrari stopped at its pit. The Baghetti/Scarfiotti V8 rear-engined 2.6-litre sports (sorry, Prototype) Ferrari lay third at midnight, while the Maseratis which had looked promising early on had faded away, only the McLaren/Hansgen car still running, having suffered tyre trouble and a slight crash. The Thompson/Kimberley car had been crashed and the Trintignant/Bianchi car was withdrawn with damaged rear suspension.

The Rodriguez Ferrari dropped out at 4.30 a.m. on Sunday with transmission trouble, the car actually being in the lead at the time. The McLaren/Hansgen Maserati went out with a broken piston, followed by the Baghetti/Scarfiotti Ferrari, which was then in second place, with gearbox trouble. This left Hill and Gendebien quite safely in the lead and the privately-entered G.T.O. Ferraris of Noblet/Guichet and “Elde” / “Beurlys” moved up to second and third places, while the E-type Jaguars of Lumsden/Sargent and Cunningham/Salvadori moved up to respectable positions. The two Lotus Elites of Hobbs/Gardner and Wyllie/Hunt were going like trains, the former averaging over 100 m.p.h.

The leading car began to sound slightly rough towards the end but with no opposition the drivers could afford to slow down, going on to win with ease for Ferrari’s sixth win, Gendebien’s fourth and Hill’s third. The Lumsden/Sargent E-type began to suffer gearbox trouble and dropped back to fifth behind the similar car of Cunningham and Salvadori, while the Hobbs/Gardner Elite, which had sounded superb almost to the end, went off tune with valve trouble, losing seventh place overall to the Barth/Herrmann Porsche Abarth, but they had the consolation of winning the Index of Energy category. The only other British cars to finish were the Lawrence/Shepherd-Barron Morgan, which won its class and finished 13th overall, and the Harper/Procter Sunbeam Alpine, which finished 15th.