1955 24 Hours of Le Mans

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1955 24 Hours of Le Mans
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Index: Races | Winners

The Les 24 Heures du Mans was the 23rd 24 Hours of Le Mans, and took place on 11 and 12 June 1955 on Circuit de la Sarthe. It was also the fourth round of the F.I.A. World Sports Car Championship. Some 250,000 spectators had gathered for Europe’s classic sports car race, around an 8.38-mile course. This race is infamous for the disaster that killed 84 people, plus some 120 injured in the most horrendous accident in motor racing history.

Le Mans in 1955

Report[edit]

Entry[edit]

A grand total 87 racing cars were registered for this event, of which only 70 arrived for practice, trying to qualify for the 60 places for the race. In spite of the anticipated battle of previous years between Coventry and Maranello concerns, they were joined by the Stuttgart marque, Daimler-Benz, fresh from their triumph on the Mille Miglia. Scuderia Ferrari’s hope were in the hands of Umberto Maglioli and Phil Hill, Eugenio Castellotti and Paolo Marzotto, and Maurice Trintignant and Harry Schell. Jaguar arrived with three works Jaguar D-Types. Similar to the cars that raced in 1954, they were in the hands of Mike Hawthorn and Ivor Bueb, the 1953 winners, Tony Rolt and Duncan Hamilton and Don Beauman and Norman Dewis. They were backed up by a pair of D-Types from the Belgian team, Ecurie Francorchamps, and from the American, Briggs Cunningham team. Cunningham also brought over to Europe, a Cunningham C6-R.[1][2]

Meanwhile, Daimler-Benz assembled an all-star team for the race, pairing Juan Manuel Fangio with Stirling Moss, Karl Kling with André Simon and Pierre Levegh with John Fitch. Their cars, although designated W196S, they were commonly called 300SLRs were rated by many experts as the best sports cars in the world. Simon and Levegh were not regular members of the Mercedes team, but team manager Alfred Neubauer felt it would be popular, even diplomatic, to include two local drivers. Remember, World War II ended only ten years previously, and in the 1952 race, driving solo, Levegh almost won the race, until the 23rd hour when mechanical trouble sidelined him, handing the win the Mercedes.[1][3][4]

Race[edit]

At the end of the opening lap, local hero Pierre Levegh was in seventh place, but ahead of his Mercedes team-mates. This was good politics, but on the next lap Fangio made his move. His battle with Hawthorn became so intense that the Englishman missed several calls to pit.[5]

Two hours into the race, a dreadful accident occurred on lap 35: Hawthorn, leading in a Jaguar D-Type, was duelling with Fangio for the lead. As Hawthorn tried to stay ahead, he continually ignored signals to stop for fuel. By now, Levegh was just behind Hawthorn, albeit a lap down, when Hawthorn cut across Lance Macklin's Austin-Healey to enter the pits for fuel. Macklin braked and swerved into the path of Levegh's Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR, which struck the Austin-Healey and became airborne, soaring towards the left side of the track, where it landed atop the earthen embankment separating spectators from the track itself. The car hit the mound at such speed that it somersaulted and disintegrated. The bonnet decapitated tightly jammed spectators like a guillotine. With the front of the spaceframe chassis — and thus crucial engine mounts — destroyed, the car's heavy engine block also broke free and hurtled into the crowd. Spectators who had climbed onto trestle tables to get a better view of the track found themselves in the direct path of the lethal debris. Levegh was thrown free of the tumbling car, but his skull was fatally injured when he landed. Many others suffered burns when the fuel fire ignited the magnesium-rich alloy bodywork. When firefighters attempted to douse the flames with water, the fire burned even hotter owing to the resultant chemical reaction. Officials put the death toll at 84 spectators, plus Levegh.[3][4][6][7]

Ten minutes later, the MG EX182 of Dick Jacobs crashed near White House, turned over in the swale and began to burn. Jacobs survived the accident, but was badly injured.[5]

By midnight, the Mercedes of Fangio/Moss and Kling/Simon were leading by two laps from the Jaguar of Hawthorn/Bueb. Just after 2:00am, eight hours after the crash, Mercedes’ engineer Rudolf Uhlenhaut received a call from Stuttgart. Neubauer stepped onto the track and called his cars into the pits and were withdrawn (in leading position) as a sign of respect for the dead and injured. The public address made a brief announcement regarding their retirement. Polite applause was heard from the crowd.[5]

With all the Ferraris having retired and the Mercedes team ordered home, Hawthorn and Bueb were now leading the race. By the halfway mark, their D-Type was still in front. Dawn erupted grey and flat, by 6:00am it started to rain and with it the long weary drive to the 4:00pm finish. Bueb, in his first event for the Coventry marque, surrendered the winning Jaguar in the final hour to Hawthorn for the final few laps.[5]

Hawthorn and Bueb drove their D-Type to victory, covering a distance of 2,569.61 miles (4,135.38 km), over 306 laps, averaging a speed of 107.067 mph (172.308kph). Peter Collins and Paul Frère, in second place in their Aston Martin DB3S were five laps behind at the finish. The podium was completed by the Belgian pair, Johnny Claes and Jacques Swaters, in their yellow Ecurie Francorchamps prepared Jaguar D-Type, who were 11 laps (over 92 miles) behind the winners. The remarkable Porsche trio of little 550 Spyders were fourth, fifth and sixth, with Helmut Polensky and Richard von Frankenberg winning the Sports 1500 class. The three-car Bristol Aeroplane Company team finished in formation seventh, eighth and ninth at the top of two-liter class.[2][5][8]

Aftermath[edit]

Main article: 1955 Le Mans disaster

The race was marred by this spectacular crash which came to be known as the 1955 Le Mans disaster, and still considered the greatest tragedy in the history of motorsport, with 84 spectators killed and over 120 injured.

The consequences of this race were and are far reaching. This accident led to great changes in the measures taken to ensure the safety of drivers and spectators involved with the sport and everyone who uses a car. Its fallout also led to many car manufacturers pulling out of motorsport (including Mercedes), and even the temporary outlawing of circuit racing in several countries. The next round of the World Championship at the Nürburgring was cancelled, as was the legendary Carrera Panamericana. The American Automobile Association stopped sanctioning motor sport competitions, as it decided that auto racing distracted from its primary goals, and the United States Automobile Club was formed to take over the race sanctioning/officiating.[3][4]

Official Classification[edit]

Class Winners are in Bold text.

Pos Class No Team Drivers Chassis Engine Laps
1 S
5.0
6 United Kingdom Jaguar Cars Ltd. United Kingdom Mike Hawthorn
United Kingdom Ivor Bueb
Jaguar D-Type Jaguar 3.4L L6 307
2 S
3.0
23 United Kingdom Aston Martin Ltd. United Kingdom Peter Collins
Belgium Paul Frère
Aston Martin DB3S Aston Martin 2.9L L6 302
3 S
5.0
10 Belgium Ecurie Francorchamps Belgium Johnny Claes
Belgium Jacques Swaters
Jaguar D-Type Jaguar 3.4L L6 296
4 S
1.5
37 West Germany Porsche KG West Germany Helmut Polensky
West Germany Richard von Frankenberg
Porsche 550 Spyder Porsche 1.5L Flat-4 284
5 S
1.5
66 Belgium Ecurie Belge /
France Gustave Olivier
West Germany Wolfgang Seidel
Belgium Olivier Gendebien
Porsche 550 Spyder Porsche 1.5L Flat-4 276
6 S
1.5
62 West Germany Porsche KG Germany Helmut Glöckler
Guatemala Jaroslav Juhan
Porsche 550 Spyder Porsche 1.5L Flat-4 273
7 S
2.0
34 United Kingdom Bristol Aeroplane Co. United Kingdom Peter Wilson
United Kingdom Jim Mayers
Bristol 450C Bristol 2.0L L6 271
8 S
2.0
33 United Kingdom Bristol Aeroplane Co. United Kingdom Mike Keen
United Kingdom Tommy Line
Bristol 450C Bristol 2.0L L6 270
9 S
2.0
32 United Kingdom Bristol Aeroplane Co. United KingdomTommy Wisdom
United Kingdom Jack Fairman
Bristol 450C Bristol 2.0L L6 268
10 S
2.0
35 United Kingdom Automobiles Frazer Nash Ltd. France Marcel Becquart
United Kingdom Dickie Stoop
Frazer Nash Sebring Bristol 2.0L L6 260
11 S
1.5
40 Italy Edgar Fronteras Italy Giulio Cabianca
Italy Giuseppe Scorbati
Osca MT4 1500 Osca 1.5L L4 256
12 S
1.5
41 United Kingdom MG Cars Ltd. United Kingdom Ken Miles
United Kingdom John Lockett
MG EX182 MG 1.5L L4 249
13 S
1.1
49 Germany Porsche KG France Auguste Veuillet
United States Zora Arkus Duntov
Porsche 550 Spyder Porsche 1.1L L4 245
14 S
2.0
28 United Kingdom Standard Triumph Ltd. United Kingdom Bob Dickson
United Kingdom Ninian Sanderson
Triumph TR2 Triumph 2.0L L4 242
15 S
2.0
29 United Kingdom Standard Triumph Ltd. United Kingdom W. Ken Richardson
United Kingdom Bert Hadley
Triumph TR2 Triumph 2.0L L4 242
16 S
750
63 France Ecurie Jeudy-Bonnet France Louis Cornet
France Robert Mougin
D.B. HBR Panhard 0.7L Flat-2 236
17 S
1.5
64 United Kingdom MG Cars Ltd. United Kingdom Ted Lund
Switzerland Hans Waeffler
MG EX182 MG 1.5L L4 234
18 S
1.5
65 France Gonzague Olivier France Gonzague Olivier
West GermanyJosef Jeser
Porsche 550 Spyder Porsche 1.5L Flat-4 234
19 S
2.0
68 United Kingdom Standard Triumph Ltd. United Kingdom Leslie Brooke
United Kingdom Mortimer Morris-Goodall
Triumph TR2 Triumph 2.0L L4 214
20 S
750
59 France Ecurie Jeudy-Bonnet France Louis Héry
France Georges Trouis
DB Barquette Panhard 0.7L Flat-2 209
21 S
1.1
47 United Kingdom Cooper Car Co. United Kingdom John Brown
United Kingdom Edgar Wadsworth
Cooper T39 Coventry Climax 1.1L L4 207

Did not finish[edit]

Pos Class No Team Drivers Chassis Engine Laps/Reason
22 S
3.0
16 Italy Officine Alfieri Maserati Italy Luigi Musso
Italy Gino Valenzano
Maserati 300S Maserati 3.0L L6 239
Gearbox
23 S
3.0
22 United States Briggs Cunningham United States Briggs Cunningham
United States Sherwood Johnston
Cunningham C6-R Offenhauser 2.9L L4 196
Piston
24 S
5.0
7 United Kingdom Jaguar Cars Ltd. United Kingdom Tony Rolt
United Kingdom Duncan Hamilton
Jaguar D-Type Jaguar 3.4L L6 186
Gearbox
25 S
2.0
30 France Automobiles Gordini Brazil Hermano da Silva Ramos
France Jacques Pollet
Gordini T15S Gordini 2.0L L8 145
Holed radiator
26 S
750
52 France Société Monopole France Jean Hémard
France Pierre Flahault
Monopole X86 Panhard 0.7L Flat-2 145
Accident
27 S
750
60 Italy Automobili Stanguellini France René Philippe Faure
France Pierre Duval
Stanguellini S750 Bialbero Stanguellini 0.7L L4 136
Ignition
28 S
3.0
19 Germany Daimler-Benz AG Argentina Juan Manuel Fangio
United Kingdom Stirling Moss
Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR Mercedes-Benz 3.0L L8 134
Withdrawn
29 S
3.0
21 Germany Daimler-Benz AG Germany Karl Kling
France André Simon
Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR Mercedes-Benz 3.0L L8 130
Withdrawn
30 S
1.1
51 France Automobiles Panhard et Levassor France René Cotton
France André Beaulieux
Panhard VM5 Panhard 0.9L Flat-2 108
Gearbox
31 S
5.0
5 Italy Scuderia Ferrari France Maurice Trintignant
United States Harry Schell
Ferrari 121LM Ferrari 4.4L L6 107
Clutch
32 S
5.0
8 United Kingdom Jaguar Cars Ltd. United Kingdom Don Beauman
United Kingdom Norman Dewis
Jaguar D-Type Jaguar 3.4L L6 106
Accident
33 S
3.0
24 United Kingdom Aston Martin Ltd. United Kingdom Roy Salvadori
United Kingdom Peter Walker
Aston Martin DB3S Aston Martin 2.9L L6 105
Engine
34 S
3.0
12 France "Heldé" France "Heldé"
France Jean Lucas
Ferrari 750 Monza Ferrari 3.0L L4 104
Distributor
35 S
750
58 France Ecurie Jeudy-Bonnet France Paul Armagnac
France Gérard Laureau
D.B. HBR Panhard 0.7L Flat-2 100
Wheel
36 S
1.1
48 United Kingdom Lotus Engineering United Kingdom Colin Chapman
United Kingdom Ron Flockhart
Lotus Mark IX Coventry Climax 1.1L L4 99
DISQ — reversed
37 S
2.0
31 Italy Officine Alfieri Maserati Argentina Carlo Tomasi
Italy Francesco Giardini
Maserati 200S Maserati 2.0L L4 96
Distributor
38 S
1.1
50 France Automobiles Panhard et Levassor France Pierre Chancel
France Robert Chancel
Panhard VM5 Panhard 0.9L Flat-2 94
Fuel system
39 S
5.0
1 United Kingdom Aston Martin Lagonda Ltd. United Kingdom Reg Parnell
United Kingdom Dennis Poore
Lagonda DP166 Lagonda 4.5L V12 93
Out of fuel
40 S
3.0
25 United Kingdom Aston Martin Ltd. United Kingdom Tony Brooks
United Kingdom John Riseley-Pritchard
Aston Martin DB3S Aston Martin 2.9L L6 83
Battery
41 S
3.0
27 France Jean-Paul Colas France Jean-Paul Colas
France Jacques Dewez
Salmson 2300S Cabriolet Salmson 2.3L L4 82
Oil leak
42 S
5.0
3 Italy Scuderia Ferrari Italy Umberto Maglioli
United States Phil Hill
Ferrari 121LM Ferrari 4.4L L6 76
Clutch
43 S
1.5
38 Switzerland Walter Ringgenberg Switzerland Walter Ringgenberg
Switzerland Hans-Jörg Gilomen
Porsche 550 Spyder Porsche 1.5L Flat-4 65
Engine
44 S
1.5
43 United Kingdom Connaught Engineering United Kingdom Kenneth McAlpine
United Kingdom Eric Thompson
Connaught ALSR Lea-Francis 1.5L L4 60
Engine
45 S
5.0
4 Italy Scuderia Ferrari Italy Eugenio Castellotti
Italy Paolo Marzotto
Ferrari 121LM Ferrari 4.4L L6 52
Engine
46 S
2.0
69 France Alexandre Constantin France Jacques Savoye
FranceJacques Poch
Constantin C Barquette Peugeot 2.0L L4 52
Gearbox
47 S
1.1
46 United Kingdom Kieft Cars Ltd. United Kingdom Alan Rippon
United Kingdom Ray Merrick
Kieft 1100 Coventry Climax 1.1L L4 47
Oil leak
48 S
750
57 France Ecurie Jeudy-Bonnet France René Bonnet
France Claude Storez
D.B. HBR Panhard 0.7L Flat-2 44
Distributor
49 S
5.0
9 United States Briggs Cunningham United States Phil Walters
United States William Spear
Jaguar D-Type Jaguar 3.4L L6 43
Valve
50 S
5.0
11 United Kingdom Cooper Car Co United Kingdom Peter Whitehead
United Kingdom Graham Whitehead
Cooper T38 Jaguar 3.4L L6 38
Oil pressure
51 S
2.0
36 United Kingdom Automobiles Frazer Nash Ltd. United Kingdom Dick Odlum
Republic of Ireland Cecil Vard
Frazer Nash Sebring Bristol 2.0L L6 34
Engine
52 S
3.0
20 Germany Daimler-Benz AG France Pierre Levegh
United States John Fitch
Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR Mercedes-Benz 3.0L L8 32
Fatal accident
53 S
750
53 France Société Monopole France Francis Navarro
France Jean de Montrémy
Monopole Sport X88 Panhard 0.7L Flat-2 31
Oil leak
54 S
3.0
26 United Kingdom Lance Macklin United Kingdom Lance Macklin
United Kingdom Les Leston
Austin-Healey 100 S BMC A90 2.7L L4 28
Accident damage
55 S
1.5
42 United Kingdom MG Cars Ltd. United Kingdom Dick Jacobs
Republic of Ireland Joe Flynn
MG EX182 MG 1.4 26
Accident
56 S
750
56 France Automobiles VP France Yves Giraud-Cabantous
France Yves Lesur
VP 166R Renault 0.7L L4 25
Engine
57 S
3.0
15 Italy Officine Alfieri Maserati Argentina Roberto Mières
Italy Cesare Perdisa
Maserati 300S Maserati 3.0L L6 23
Gearbox
58 S
3.0
14 France Mike Sparken France Mike Sparken
United States Masten Gregory
Ferrari 750 Monza Ferrari 3.0L L4 22
Engine
59 S
750
61 Italy Nardi Automobili SpA Italy Dr. Mario Damonte
France Roger Crovetto
Nardi Bisiluro Giannini 0.7L L4 6
Accident
60 S
1.5
39 United Kingdom Kieft Cars Ltd. United Kingdom Berwyn Baxter
United Kingdom John Deeley
Kieft Turner 1.5L L4 4
Overheating

Did not start[edit]

Pos Class No Team Drivers Chassis Engine Reason
DNS S
5.0
2 France Ecurie Rosier France Louis Rosier
France Georges Grignard
Talbot Lago Sport Talbot 4.5L L6
DNS S
3.0
17 France Automobiles Gordini France Robert Manzon
France Élie Bayol
Gordini T24S Gordini 3.0L L8 Accident in practice
DNS S
1.1
45 United Kingdom Arnott Racing Cars United Kingdom Jim Russell
United Kingdom Peter Taylor
Arnott Sports Coventry Climax 1.1L L4 Accident
DNS S
750
54 Italy Moretti Venezuela Lino Fayen
France Herman Rogenry
Moretti 750S Moretti 0.7L L4 Gridded too late
DNS S
750
55 Italy Moretti Italy Giorgio Ubezzi
France Mesnest Bellanger
Moretti 750S Moretti 0.7L L4 Gridded too late
DNS S
750
70 France Société Pierre Ferry France Jacques Blaché
France Louis Pons
Ferry F750 Renault 0.7L L4 Reserve
DNS S
750
72 France Automobiles VP France Jean-Marie Dumazer
France André Héchard
France Jérôme Pourond
V.P. 155R Renault 0.7L L4 Reserve
DNS S
750
75 France Louis Rosier France Jean- Louis Rosier
France Jean Estager
Renault 4CV/1063 Renault 0.7L L4 Reserve

Class Winners[edit]

Class Winners
Sports 5000 6 Jaguar D-Type Hawthorn / Bueb
Sports 3000 23 Aston Martin DB3S Collins / Frère
Sports 2000 34 Bristol 450C Wilson / Mayers
Sports 1500 37 Porsche 550 Spyder Polensky / von Frankenberg
Sports 1100 49 Porsche 550 Spyder Veuillet / Arkus Duntov
Sports 750 63 D.B. HBR Cornet / Mougin
Biennial Cup 37 Porsche 550 Spyder Polensky / von Frankenberg
Index of Performance 37 Porsche 550 Spyder Polensky / von Frankenberg

Standings after the race[edit]

Pos Championship Points
1 Italy Ferrari 18
2 United Kingdom Jaguar 14
3 Italy Maserati 11
4 West Germany Mercedes-Benz 8
5= United Kingdom Aston Martin 6
5= West Germany Porsche 6
  • Note: Only the top five positions are included in this set of standings.

Championship points were awarded for the first six places in each race in the order of 8-6-4-3-2-1. Manufacturers were only awarded points for their highest finishing car with no points awarded for positions filled by additional cars. Only the best 4 results out of the 6 races could be retained by each manufacturer. Points earned but not counted towards the championship totals are listed within brackets in the above table.

References[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Quentin Spurring. Le Mans 24 Hours: The Official History of the World’s Greatest Motor Race 1949-59. Haynes Publishing. ISBN 978-1844255375
  • Brian Laban. Le Mans 24 Hours: The Complete Story of World’s Most Famous Motor Race. Haynes Publishing. ISBN 978-1852270629


World Sportscar Championship
Previous race:
Mille Miglia
1955 season Next race:
RAC Tourist Trophy

External links[edit]