Le Mans 24-hour race

The giants destroy themselves

Le Mans, France, June19-20th.
THERE were 51 starters in the Le Mans race, but to all intents and purposes it was a straight fight between Ferrari and Ford, with an equal number of cars on each side, for the Americans really put in a lot of material this year. Ferrari relied on his works team, his agents and private owners, while Ford shared out their entries between Shelby, Ford-France, Ford Advanced Vehicles of Slough and Alan Mann, and loaned cars to people who had entries but no car, such as Rob Walker, whose Serenissima VS Prototypes did not turn up. After scrutineering, the score stood at eleven a side, made up as follows:

Among the rest of the runners were an Iso-Grifo, with fibreglass body and i.r.s., a brand new “birdcage” Maserati with a 5-litre V8 engine in the back, two 8-cylinder Porsche coupés, a 6-cylinder Porsche in a 904, the Dino 166 Ferrari, the Rover-B.R.M. turbine car, a trio of works Alfa Romeo GTZ, Austin Healey Sprite, an M.G.-B, and numerous Triumph Spitfires and Renault-Alpines.

For the first time in history the first evening of practice had to be abandoned, because of a young tornado that swept across the Sarthe, but the next evening was fine and dry, avid the works Ferraris set the pace, with Surtees putting in a lap at 3 mm. 38.1 sec. However, the Ford coupés were not far behind, though the 7-litres were not handling too well. The abandoned practice session was replaced by an additional one on Friday evening, but being the night before the race a lot of people did not bother to practise, being content with Thursday’s times, arid these included Surtees, so that Ford were able to take the honours and, buying got the 7-litre mid-engine coupés to handle properly, Phil Hill shuttered everyone with it lap in 3 min. 33 sec.–227.509 k.p.h. (approx. 141.5 m.p.h.).

The weather for the race was perfect and in the opening hour the two 7-litre Ford or Prototype coupés, driven by McLaren and Amon, ran sway from everyone, the two 4-litre Ferraris of Surtees and Guichet being unable to keep them in sight, though they could cope with the 4.7-litre Fords quite easily. The lone Ferrari GTB was no match for the Cobra Daytona coupés, especially that of Dan Gurney, who was up among the Prototypes. The speed of the 7-litre Ford V8 Prototypes had to be paid (or by fuel consumption and they both stopped to refuel after a little over an hour. Although they regained their lead when the Ferraris stopped to refuel, from this point onwards the Ford Prototype challenge fell apart and by the third hour Ferraris were going strongly in the first five places, followed by the Ford 7-litre of Miles/McLaren that was in trouble with its Dearborn-built gearbox. By this time numbers 6, 7 and 5 had retired with mechanical troubles, in engines and gearboxes, and the second 7-litre had been delayed by a deranged gear-selector mechanism. As the Fords fell by the wayside the Cobras moved up and Gurney was in fifth position as darkness began to fall, behind the two 4-litre works Ferraris, Surtees/ Scarfiotti leading, then the Bonnier/Piper 4.4-litre, followed by the works 3.3 litre P2. By quarter-distance, 10 p.m. Saturday, there was only one Ford left, the 7-litre of Hill/Amon and it was a long way down the list, but going fast, and Hill act a whole row of record laps, ending with 3 min. 37.5 sec. – 222.803 k.p.h. Ferraris were now in the first six places, as Gurney’s Cobra lost a lot of time when its oil pressure dropped dangerously low. By 11 p.m. it was all over and the last Ford Prototype had gone out with clutch trouble, but all the Cobras were still running and the score was Ferrari 11, Cobra 5.

Before midnight the Ferrari confidence was shattered when Surtees had a long pit-stop to replace a broken front coil-spring, the English 4.4-litre was delayed by a broken exhaust manifold, and their 275LM had its gearbox burst asunder. As the works Ferraris ran into trouble, the agents’ cars moved up, and as they went out the private owners took over. By 1 a.m. there was panic in the Ferrari pits for the P1 and P2 models were running into trouble with cracked brake discs, as they were using a nor type of disc with radial ventilation slots. One by one they ran into trouble, until Dumay/Gosselin in the private 275LM found themselves in the lead. Meanwhile the Cobras were falling apart, and the score at 2 a.m. on Sunday morning was Ferrari 9, Cobra 1, but both sides had sick cars. Ronnie Hoare had now lost both of his cars, the r exhaust manifold breaking up Completely, while the three works P2 cars and the Chinetti P1 were all in brake disc trouble and the pits were trying to sort out enough non-perforated discs to get at least one car going. Number 12 Cobra went out with a broken crankshaft damper, and 59 with a loss of oil pressure, while the Gurney/Grant car was still running with low oil pressure and Sears had an accident with number, 11 which smashed the radiator. A new one was listed at the pits and he rejoined the race. As the Ferraris and Cobras ran into trouble, the Porsches moved up into the picture, and at 4 a.m., just before dawn broke, the order was Ferraris in the first four places and then two Porsches, the 906 of Klass/Glemser and the 908 of Linge/Nocker. This was half-distance and the yellow 275LM of Dumay/Gosselin was two laps ahead of the red 275LM of Gregory/Rindt, with the yellow GTB of Mairesse/ “Beurlys” in third place and leading the GT category. All three works Ferraris were back in the race, but a long way behind, and running on a miscellaneous collection of solid and perforated discs, and there were 26 of the original 31 still running, but not all of them too healthy. The Rover-B.R.M. driven by G. Hill/Stewart had shown signs of running too hot and its performance had been cut down to that of an Alpine-Renault, in order to try and finish. Storemaker crashed one of the Triumphs, another went out with engine trouble, and Zeccoli put an Alfa Romeo GTZ in the sand at Mulsanne, where it was abandoned; Baghetti drove the Dino 166 hardly any time at all before the engine broke, and Siffert hit the bank at Tertre Rouge and broke the radiator on the V8 Maserati. The score for the giants was Ferrari 8, Cobra 2.

With clear skies and a warm sun rising, the situation was that Ferrari drivers who would not normally be in the running were in the first three places, with the three factory cars charging along in pursuit, trying to make up the time lost due to the brake trouble, and hoping that no further troubles would appear. Their hopes were in vain, for the 3.3-litre went out with engine trouble and the 4-litre of Surtees/Scarfiotti had a gearbox bearing break up and leaked oil onto the external clutch at the back of the box. A very long pit stop saw the bearing replaced and the clutch renewed, and Surtees joined the race again, to do hardly any laps at all before a gearbox shaft broke, and that was that. The tired and weary mechanics had barely finished the Surtees car, when the N.A.R.T. 4.4-litre came in with the same trouble and they had to start all over again. While all this was going on the Parkes/Guichet 4-litre was in trouble with its gearbox breaking up and they were driving without some of the lower gears, and the engine had an internal water leak. The Belgian car driven by Demay/Gosselin was still leading, chased by Gregory/Rindt, both in 275LM Ferraris, while the GTB Ferrari was still third, but overheating a bit.

By 8 a.m. Ferrari were reduced to a very dodgy eight cars and Cobra one, as the Gurney/Grant car had gone out with engine trouble caused by the crankshaft damper breaking up, as on Cobra number 12, for when these big V8 engines run unbalanced they shake themselves to bits. By mid-morning the score was down to 7 to 1, with some sick cars amongst the seven and the lone Cobra in a pretty dilapidated state. The lone works Ferrari was limping along in third place, behind the two LM Ferraris, so that Maranello were still in a position to win, through their private owners. The Porsche ranks were also diminishing as cars went out with engine breakages and oil leaks, so that by mid-day on Sunday there were only 77 cars left running and four hours still to go, with the giants score at 6 to 1.

At lunch-time the battle between the private LM Ferraris was getting close and held more than passing interest for it was the focal point of the great tyre battle that has been raging all this season. The Belgian Ferrari was on Dunlop and the American one on Goodyear, so there was quite a stir when the yellow car struck a hard object and burst its right rear Dunlop while going down the straight. By the time it had limped round on the rim, had a new wheel and tyre fitted and straightened out the bodywork damage, the Goodyear shod car was well in the lead, having changed tyres to play safe. With two hours to go to 4 p.m. on Sunday afternoon, and the end of another “Grand Prix d’Endurance,” Ferrari cars were still in the first three places, thanks to the American and Belgian teams, and the sick works car had dropped bits another place. The little British cars had outlived their French rivals, all the Alpine-Renaults having retired, but now one of the Austin Healeys went out. 3 p.m. came and still they fell, the heat of the afternoon being great, and the last works Ferrari succumbed. Score 5 to 1. Slowly the last hour passed and the LM Ferrari of Masten Gregory and Jochen Rindt headed towards victory, followed by the thirteen other survivors, all of whom can be proud or the achievement to finish the 24 hours of Le Mans.—D. S. J.


XXXIII Le Mans 24-hour “Grand Prix d’Endurance”
warm and dry

1st: M. Gregory/J. Rindt (Ferrari 275LM) (Chinetti N.A.R.T.) 4,677.11 km — 194.880 k.p.h.

2nd: P. Dumay/G. Gosselin (Ferrari 275LM) (Marquet-Dumay) 4,602.60 km — 191.773 k.p.h.

3rd: W. Maitresse/”Beurlys” (Ferrari 275GTB) (Ecuris Franchorchamps) 4,562.95 km — 190.085 k.p.h.

4th: H. Linge/P. Nocker (Porsche 8 cyl. P) (Porsche Engineering) 4,507.50 km — 187.813 k.p.h.

5th: G. Koch/A. Fischhaber (Porsche 904GTS) (Porsche Engineering) 4,366.66 km — 181.944 k.p.h.

6th: A. Hoffer/D. Spoerry (Ferrari 275LM) (Scuderia Filipinetti) 4,385.18 km — 181.432 k.p.h.

7th: P. Rodriguez/N. Vaccarella (Ferrari 365 P1/P2) (Chinetti N.A.R.T.) 4,300.19 km — 179.175 k.p.h.

8th: J. Sears/R. Thompson (Shelby Cobra Daytona) (A. C. Cars Ltd.) 4,076.12 km — 169.838 k.p.h.

9th: J. de Mortemart/J. Fraissenet (Iso Grifo Chevrolet V8) (Iso Grifo Bizzarini) 4,063.57 km — 169.315 k.p.h.

10th: G. Hill/J. Stewart (Rover B.R.M. turbine) (Owen Racing Org.) 3,815.36 km — 158.937 k.p.h.

11th: P. Hopkirk/A. Hedges (M.G.B.) (British Motor Corporation) 3,794.75 km — 158.115 k.p.h.

12th: P. Hawkins/J. Rhodes (Austin Healy Sprite) (Donald Healy Motors) 3,762.43 km — 155.268 k.p.h.

13th: J. Thuner/S. Lampinen (Triumph Spitfire coupé) (Standard Triumph) 3,637.77 km — 153.074 k.p.h.

14th: J. Piot/J. Dubois (Triumph Spitfire coupé) (Standard Triumph) 3,525.67 km — 146.903 k.p.h.

Winner of Index of Performance: H. Linge/P. Nocker (Porsche 8 cyl. P).
Winner of GT category: W. Maitresse/”Beurlys” (Ferrari GTB).
Winner of Index of Energy: Koch/Fischhaber (Porsche GTS).

Fastest lap: P. Hill (Ford 7-litre), on lap 59, in 3 min. 37.5 sec. — 227.803 k.p.h. (new record).
51 starters — 14 finishers