Louis Klemantaski, probably the best-known racing photographer of them all, was born of Anglo-Russian stock in 1912. He covered racing of all types from 1936 to 1974, his remarkable compositional skill and trademark technique of short lenses and bold panning giving a convincing feel of speed.
The friend of many drivers, as his relaxed pose with Fangio at the 1956 British GP makes clear above, he rode five times in the Mille Miglia, taking remarkable onboard shots. Here we present some of his most evocative images.
24 Hours of Le Mans, June 11/12, 1955
Eugenio Castellotti leans in against the centrifugal force at Tertre Rouge. In the early laps of the endurance classic, his Ferrari 121LM jousted for the lead with Fangio and Hawthorn.
Prescott Hillclimb, May 14, 1939
George Abecassis drifts his 2-litre Alta into the Esses on the Gloucestershire hill. Though car and scenery are blurred as the driver winds off lock, the steering wheel is pin-sharp.
French Grand Prix, July 3, 1938
The phenomenal power of the Mercedes W154 is almost palpable during Rudolf Caracciola’s tyre-blistering start. He finished second over the Flat expanses of the Reims circuit.
Belgian Grand Prix, Spa, June 22, 1952
Klemantaski’s low viewpoint captures the climb through Eau Rouge to Raidillon, where Alberto Ascari sits completely composed in his Ferrari 500 in the year he became World Champion.
French Grand Prix, Rouen, July 7, 1957
The Scuderia Ferrari lines up before the race to take on fuel in the pine grove which was the paddock at Rouen-les-Essarts. Early morning sun highlights the flanks of the modified Lancias.
Mille Miglia, April 28/29, 1956
Some of Klemantaski’s most arresting images came from within the car. In 1956 he accompanied Peter Collins on the Mille Miglia. At the second refuelling halt, he pressed the shutter as Collins braked the Ferrari to an inch-perfect stop.
Giro di Sicilia, April 8, 1956
Familiar from the cover of Enzo Ferrari’s book Piloti, che Gente, this remains probably the finest shot of a racing driver at work ever taken from aboard the car. Klemantaski sat alongside Peter Collins who won the 671-mile event in a Ferrari Monza.
Maranello, May 1957
Ahead of the Mille Miglia, Ferrari staff swarm over still unpainted team entries. Klemantaski will again passenger Collins; Taruffi will win ahead of von Trips; de Portago will crash with tragic results.
Monaco Grand Prix, May 13, 1956
Low sun shadows Fangio’s Lancia-Ferrari as he drifts round Mirabeau during morning practice. Despite the tanks obscuring the kerb, his astonishing precision is clear.
Italian Grand Prix, July 16, 1951
On his way to victory at Monza, Alberto Ascari glances back from his Ferrari 375 to see whose Alfa Romeo 159 is edging up on him. A fortuitous moment, beautifully captured.
French Grand Prix, July 7, 1957
Diagonals of shadow and concrete intersect in an unusual overhead view of the Rouen pits. Hawthorn’s Ferrari 801, the final Lancia DSO derivative, waits as Trintignant’s is fired up.
Peco Trophy, Brands Hatch, August 5, 1962
Standing virtually on the Paddock Hill Bend kerbing, Klem is almost looking down on John Surtees in the Bowmaker Ferrari 250GT0, bringing an immediacy today’s long shots lack.
Italian Grand Prix, September 11, 1955
Eugenio Castellotti looks confident as the mechanics wheel his Super Squalo Ferrari to the Monza start-line. His third place behind the superior Mercedes was the car’s highest result.