New enthusiasts often react with surprise as they begin to grasp the enormous breadth of motor racing which went on through the classic period of the 1950s. The World Championship Formula 1 and sports car scenes are well understood – well served by so many books, magazine features and websites – but there’s an even richer background tapestry of long-forgotten and obscure races run at all kinds of unlikely sounding venues.
Occasionally one is reminded of these lesser Internationals by uncovering new or long-forgotten photographs. Here’s one which I recently unearthed, showing the grid formed up for the two-hour Grand Prix du Senegal at Dakar, in March 1956. Mr Ferrari was perfectly amenable to his contracted drivers running his works sports cars in any potentially money-earning race – and particularly among a potential market – almost anywhere in the world. His man Maurice Trintignant qualified on pole in the big 3.2-litre Ferrari 857 Sport, with its two distinctive bonnet-top blisters clearing the tall four-cylinder engine’s cam-boxes. He faced the Maseratis of Jean Behra, Cesare Perdisa and Benoît Musy and won handsomely, while Harry Schell and Jean Lucas finished second and fourth behind him – bracketing Behra – in Ferrari 750 Monzas.
Study the photo carefully, and back there on the outside of row three is the curvaceous shape of a D-type Jaguar – Duncan Hamilton’s car ‘OKV 1’ driven that time-misted weekend by Graham Whitehead. Above all it’s the Dakar grandstand which tickles me – economising on scaffolding the Senegalese first threw up an enormous man-made sand dune on which to build it. Eat your heart out, Hermann Tilke.