1955 24 Hours of Le Mans

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1955 24 Hours of Le Mans
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Index: Races | Winners

The 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. A huge crowd had gathered for Europe's classic sports car race, around the 8.38-mile course. In the golden age of sports car racing, the top-quality entry list meant this race promised to be the most eagerly anticipated of the decade. Instead this is remembered for the disaster that killed 84 people, plus some 120 injured in the most catastrophic accident in motor racing history.

Le Mans in 1955

Regulations[edit]

The Automobile Club de l'Ouest (ACO) again lifted the replenishment window (just changed the year before) of fuel, oil and water from 30 to 32 laps (just over 430 km), but by the same token, the maximum fuel allowance for all cars was increased to 200 litres for the race.

On the track, road improvements continued with the whole back section, from Tertre Rouge around to Maison Blanche resurfaced.[1][2]

Entries[edit]

A total of 87 racing cars were registered for this event, of which 70 arrived for practice, to qualify for the 60 places on the starting grid, and included 15 factory teams. Curiously, not one of the 60 starting cars had a roof.[3]

Category Classes Entries
Large-engines S-5000 / S-3000 26 +1 reserve
Medium-engines S-2000 / S-1500 17 +7 reserves
Small-engines S-1100 / S-750 17 +4 reserves

The great battle of the previous year's race between Coventry and Maranello was raised to a higher level with the return of Mercedes-Benz, fresh from an awe-inspiring debut triumph in the Mille Miglia with their new Mercedes-Benz 300SLR. Along with dark-horses Cunningham, Aston Martin and Maserati – all with new 3-litre cars – and Talbot, Gordini, Cooper and Austin-Healey, it led observers to the highest expectations and anticipation for a great contest.

Title-holders Ferrari arrived with the 121 LM, a new lighter, smaller design from Aurelio Lampredi with a straight-six engine derived from the previous year's Formula 1 car (and stepping away from the usual 12-cylinder Ferrari engines) producing a mighty 360 bhp.[2][4] The works team mixed its current F1 drivers along with new talent: Eugenio Castellotti with Paolo Marzotto, Maurice Trintignant with Harry Schell and Umberto Maglioli drove with Phil Hill (Maglioli and Hill had been Ferrari rivals in the previous Carrera Panamericana, narrowly won by the works driver. Hill was invited to the works team after the recent death of Alberto Ascari.[5] There were also two 3-litre 750 Monza's run by French private entries.

Having conquered Formula 1, Mercedes-Benz had now turned its attention to sports-car racing. Their cars, designated W196S although they were commonly called 300SLRs, rated by many experts as the best sports cars in the world, were an adaptation of the design that had brought them dominance in Grand Prix racing. The fuel-injected, desmodronic valve 3-litre straight-8 engine was the most advanced of the entire field, sharing many details with the F1 car. It produced a 300 bhp[2] and was mounted at an angle of 33°. The inboard drum brakes, however, were only questionably adequate for the heavier chassis, facing the tough braking and endurance demands of Le Mans. To compensate, a hand-operated air brake was added to the rear deck for high speed braking.[6] Team manager Alfred Neubauer, in a remarkably diplomatic move (recalling that the war had only ended a bare 10 years earlier), assembled a multi-national team for the race: pairing his two best drivers Juan Manuel Fangio and Stirling Moss in the lead car, 1952 race-winner Karl Kling with Frenchman André Simon (both also in the current F1 team) and American John Fitch with one of the elder statesmen of French motor-racing Pierre Levegh. It had been "Levegh's" epic solo drive in the 1952 race which failed in the last hour, which gave Mercedes-Benz their fortuitous first victory.[7][8] (Belgian racing-journalist Paul Frère had originally been approached but he had signed to drive for Aston Martin this year[9])

Jaguar arrived with three works Jaguar D-Types. This year's model was 190mm longer and engine power was increased from 250 to 270 bhp with a top speed of almost 280 kph.[10] Regular drivers, and 1953 winners, Tony Rolt and Duncan Hamilton but otherwise it was all change. With Moss now with Mercedes-Benz, up-and-coming English star Mike Hawthorn was coerced from Ferrari for the race, paired with debutante Ivor Bueb. Jaguar test driver Norman Dewis was in the third car with Don Beauman. They were backed up by D-Types entered by the Belgian Ecurie Francorchamps team, and from the American Briggs Cunningham's team.

Cunningham hedged his bets this year – along with the Jaguar he loaned a Ferrari 750 Monza to French privateer Michel Pobejersky (racing as "Mike Sparken") and American Masten Gregory. He also brought (for the last time, as it happened) a new Cunningham C6-R, giving up on a big V8 Hemi to instead use an Indianapolis-style Offenhauser 3.0L straight-4.[11] He and Sherwood Johnston would race it.

The Maserati team did make it this year – with a pair of their elegant new 3.0L 300S cars which had already shown promise at Sebring. They were run by the team's regular F1 drivers Roberto Mieres with Cesare Perdisa and Luigi Musso with endurance veteran Luigi ‘Gino’ Valenzano. Maserati also ran a smaller A6GCS in the S-2000 class. Louis Rosier's privateer Talbot did not make the start this year so the large-engined French challenge this year came from Gordini with a 3-litre T24S for F1 drivers Jean Behra and Élie Bayol. Like Maserati they also ran a smaller T20S in the S-2000 class.

There was great interest for British fans, aside from the Jaguar team. In total there were 27 British cars starting, nearly half the field.[12] Aston Martin pared back its effort a bit with just three of the DB3S (now with disc brakes and an improved 225 bhp 3-litre engine[13]) but came with a good driver line-up: Peter Collins and Paul Frère, 1951 winner Peter Walker and Roy Salvadori, and debutantes Tony Brooks and John Riseley-Prichard. They also persisted with the Lagonda project – the 4.5L V12 being biggest engine in the field. This year Reg Parnell was co-driven by Dennis Poore. After boycotting the previous year's race, Austin-Healey returned with a single 100S prototype. Cooper arrived with two cars – one a Jaguar-engined T38, and the other, a T39, had a Climax engine. In the S-2000 class, along with a pair each of Triumph TR2s and Frazer Nash Sebrings, Bristol was back, this time with its 450C open-top variant. To save pit-time, the team also pioneered a multi-barrel spanner to remove and re-apply all the wheelnuts together when changing the wheel.[14] MG returned after 20 years with the EX.182 prototype – a 1.5L forerunner of the upcoming MGA roadster.[12] Colin Chapman, racing with Scotsman Ron Flockhart arrived with his new Lotus 9 sports car – like the other small English firms Kieft, Cooper and Arnott, running the 1100cc Climax engine. Daphne Arnott, a former wartime engineer at Hawker Aircraft, is believed to be the only female race-car manufacturer.[15]

After a fortuitous class-victory in 1954, Porsche arrived in force with a mix of works and (nominally) private entries: four cars in the S-1500 and two in the S-1100 classes. In contrast, after the despair of their 1954 race, OSCA only had a single privateer in the S-1500 class.

The smallest, S-750, class was again dominated by French cars, from Panhard, Monopole, DB (all with Panhard engines) and a VP-Renault. Panhard also fielded two bigger, 850cc-engined, cars that had to run in the S-1100 class. However several Italian teams arrived to take on the French with entries from Moretti and Stanguellini. Perhaps the most unusual entry was the tiny catamaran-style Damolnar Bisiluro from Ufficine Nardi – where the driver sat in one boom and the engine and running gear was in the other.

Practice[edit]

As expected the Ferraris showed themselves to be extremely fast on a single lap, and Castellotti set the fastest official time, easily breaking the lap record and was a second quicker than Fangioin his Mercedes. But there were also a number of serious accidents during practice: Moss was leaving the pits just as the DB-Panhard of Claude Storez came in, the small car hit Jean Behra. While both cars were able to start the race, Behra had face and leg injuries that forced him out, to be replaced by reserve driver Robert Manzon.[16] Coming into Maison Blanche, Behra's erstwhile teammate Élie Bayol in the new Gordini T24S came upon two spectators crossing the track. He swerved and rolled the car and was taken to hospital with a fractured skull and broken vertebrae; Peter Taylor was also severely injured when he crashed the new Arnott. Prophetically, "Levegh" came in after a close brush with a Gordini commenting "We have to get some sort of signal system working. Our cars go too fast".[17] Neubauer tried, unsuccessfully, to persuade the ACO to allow him to erect a small signalling tower at the top of pit-line for his team.[18]

As a comparison, some of the lap-times recorded during practice were:[19]

Position Car Driver(s) Best Time
1 Ferrari 121 LM #4 Castellotti 4min 14sec
2 Mercedes-Benz 300SLR #19 Fangio 4min 15sec
3 Mercedes-Benz 300SLR #21 Kling
4 Jaguar D-Type #6 Hawthorn
5 Ferrari 121 LM #3 Maglioli / Hill 4min 21sec
- Maserati 300S #16 Musso / Valenzano 4min 23sec
- Gordini T20S #30 Ramos / Pollet 4min 47sec
- Porsche 550 RS Spyder 4min 50sec
- Panhard VM-5 < 4min 50sec

Over the flying kilometre on the Mulsanne straight, the following top speeds in practice and the race were recorded:[2]

Car Engine Maximum Speed
Ferrari 121 LM Ferrari 4.4L S6 291.2 kph
Jaguar D-Type Jaguar 3.4L S6 281.9 kph
Mercedes-Benz 300SLR Mercedes-Benz 3.0L S8 270.7 kph
Cunningham C6-R Offenhauser 3.0L S4 237.6 kph
Aston Martin DB3S Aston Martin 2.9L S6 236.8 kph
Porsche 550 RS Spyder Porsche 1.5L F4 225.3 kph
D.B. HBR-MC Panhard 745cc F2 170.8 kph

Race[edit]

Start[edit]

This year the honorary starter was Conte Aymo Maggi, the President and organiser of the Mille Miglia.[20][21] Giovanni Moretti's two cars arrived on the start grid a few minutes after the 2pm deadline and were excluded from starting.[22] It was Castellotti, by dint of being near the front of the grid formation, who was first under the Dunlop Bridge and leading the first lap, followed by Hawthorn in the Jaguar. Fangio's start was delayed when his trouser leg snagged on the gear shift lever, but he worked his way up the field to join Hawthorn and Castellotti. The crowd's expectations of a showdown between the three top marques were soon fulfilled as, by lap 4, the three manufacturers’ works cars filled the top 8 places – excepting Trintignant's Ferrari in the pits with an early issue. One of the first casualties was on lap 5 as the leaders started lapping the backmarkers – the tiny Nardi was literally blown off the road into a ditch by the slipstream of the bigger cars.[23] The pace was furious but Castellotti managed to keep Hawthorn and Fangio at bay for the first hour. Behind them was Maglioli's Ferrari, the American Jaguar, the other pair of works Mercedes-Benz's and Jaguars and in 10th Mieres in the Maserati.

Finally, after 70 minutes, it was Castellotti's mistake braking for the Mulsanne corner that let the Jaguar and Mercedes through.[21] Those two then set about pushing harder still, dropping the Ferrari and successively beating the lap record – broken ten times in the first two hours and finally claimed by Hawthorn on lap 28 – setting it over 7 seconds faster than the Ferrari's practice lap.[3][24]

It was 6.20pm, at the end of lap 35 when the first pit-stops were due, that the dreadful accident occurred as the leaders lapped slower cars as they approached the pit straight (Refer to the 1955 Le Mans disaster article for more detail and analysis). Having got the order from his Jaguar crew to pit Hawthorn,[25] having just overtaken Lance Macklin's Austin-Healey braked sharply right in front of Macklin, who himself braked hard, getting off the right-hand edge of the track, throwing up dust.[26][27][28][29] Macklin's car veered across to the centre of the track, apparently briefly out of control. This however only put him into the path of Levegh's fast-approaching Mercedes-Benz, running 6th having just gone a lap down, but still travelling at 150 mph. Levegh's right-front wheel rode up onto the left rear corner of Macklin's, using it as a ramp and launching the car into the air rolling end over end for 80 metres over spectators. The video and photo-stills illustrate the thinnest margins – a fender width – between a near miss and complete disaster.

The car slammed into a 4’ earthen embankment – the only barrier between the spectators and the track - and disintegrated. The momentum of the heaviest components of the car – the engine, radiator and front suspension - carried on their deadly trajectory straight in the crowd for almost 100 metres. Those who had climbed onto ladders and scaffolding to get a better view of the track found themselves in the direct path of the lethal debris. The remainder of the car, on the earth bank, exploded into flames, burning with extra heat from its magnesium-alloy body. Levegh was killed instantly in the impact. Given the scale of the disaster, the race officials took the only reasonable action to keep the race running. If the huge crowd had tried to leave ‘’en masse’’ it would have clogged the roads severely restricting access for medical and emergency crews trying to save the injured.

Meanwhile, Hawthorn after being initially waved through his stop because of the confusion and potential danger, and the other lead cars, made their scheduled pit stops and driver changes. Then just thirteen minutes later, the MG of Dick Jacobs lost control exiting Maison Blanche, rolled and landed upside-down, burning. Jacobs, although critically injured, survived the accident, but he never raced again.[15] Phil Hill, now driving Maglioli's Ferrari noted "At this point I was numbed by it all, shocked that all this could be happening at once and on my first-ever Ferrari racing lap of Le Mans. But then Stirling Moss went by me like a streak in his Mercedes 300 SLR, and that woke me up. That was a lesson I never forgot, which was that when something happens, get on the gas."[30][31]

His teammates, Castellotti and Marzotto, were the first of the leaders to falter: a slipping clutch eventually led to engine failure just before 8pm. Maglioli & Hill took up their third place until they too were stopped about 11pm when a rock pierced their radiator.[18]

Night[edit]

With the driver changes from Hawthorn to Bueb and Fangio to Moss, the Jaguar team's talent was outmatched and the Mercedes team was able to extend its lead. At midnight, the Mercedes of Fangio/Moss was leading Hawthorn/Bueb by two laps, themselves two laps ahead of the Kling/Simon Mercedes and the other two works Jaguars all scrapping between themselves. Further back were Musso's Maserati, Collins’ Aston Martin, the Belgian Jaguar and the remaining big Ferrari fighting its way up from the back of the field. The race remained competitive, however with Hawthorn behind the wheel, as the lead was whittled down to 1½ laps by 2am.[32] The other Mercedes still trailed the Hawthorn/Bueb car by two laps. Race spotters' reports on the Mercedes' braking points led the Jaguar team to believe that their brakes were weakening.[33]

After the catastrophic accident, John Fitch, picking up on the early media reports, had urged the Mercedes team to withdraw from the race – he could see that win or lose, it would be a PR disaster for the company.[31] Mercedes team manager Alfred Neubauer had already reached the same conclusion but did not have the authority to make such a decision. After an emergency meeting of the company directors in Stuttgart, Neubauer finally got the call approving the team's withdrawal just before midnight. Waiting until 1.45am, when many spectators had left, he stepped onto the track and quietly called his cars into the pits, at the time running 1st and 3rd.[34] The public address made a brief announcement regarding their retirement. Chief engineer Rudolf Uhlenhaut went to the Jaguar pits to ask if the Jaguar team would respond in kind, out of respect for the accident's victims. Jaguar team manager "Lofty" England declined.[33]

Meanwhile, Don Beauman had planted his works Jaguar in the sandtrap at Arnage. Having taken over an hour to dig it out, he had just got it free after 10 pm when Colin Chapman came off at Arnage and smacked the Jaguar. Chapman quickly reversed and got going again only to be disqualified because he had restarted without the marshal's permission[2][35]

The Aston Martins had been running to a strict lap-time set by team manager John Wyer, but keeping just in the top-10. Either side of midnight two of them were sidelined by mechanical issues. They followed their sister-Lagonda that had run out of fuel from a loose-fitting filler-cap.[13]

Soon after the Mercedes-Benz team withdrawal, the last Ferrari (that of Trintignant / Schell) retired with engine trouble, having fought back up to 10th position. With no further challenge from Mercedes-Benz or Ferrari, Jaguar were holding a comfortable 1-2, although Rolt and Hamilton were having problems with their gearbox.

In the 2-litre category, the Maserati and Gordini had been battling each other, well ahead of the British cars and just outside the top-10. The Gordini was delayed by a defective battery, but the Maserati then retired just after midnight with ignition failure. Even at this stage though, the two works 1500cc Porsches were ahead of these bigger cars. Further back, third in class, was the Belgian-entered Porsche (giving a first Le Mans drive to future endurance great Olivier Gendebien)

Morning[edit]

Dawn broke under a heavy, overcast sky and by 6am it had started to rain. Soon after, the class-leading Gordini pitted with a holed-radiator just two laps before its replenishment window. Trying to inch its way round the circuit it over-heated and had to retire.[16] The S-2000 class fell into the lap of the Bristols. Around 8am, the second Jaguar's gearbox finally seized and they were out. With gloomy weather and little enthusiasm now for the race, it became a fairly predictable affair. Second place remained in contention until late morning as the Valenzano/Musso Maserati, five laps down from the leader was pushing hard and being chased by the Collins/Frère Aston Martin until the Maserati retired with a seized transmission.[36] About the same time the Cunningham also retired: never in the running, lapping in 13th behind the smaller Porsches and Bristols, it had lost its lower gears the night before. A disappointing end to Briggs Cunningham's Le Mans career. A special mass was held in the morning in the great Le Mans Cathedral for the first funerals of the accident victims.

Finish[edit]

The race finished in melancholy drizzle. Bueb, in his first event for the Coventry marque, handed over the leading Jaguar to Hawthorn for the final quarter hour and in the end they coasted to a comfortable, but empty, victory, completing a record-breaking 306 laps and finishing five laps ahead of the Aston Martin (achieving their best result to date, and only finish since 1951). The podium was completed by the Belgian pair of Johnny Claes and Jacques Swaters, in their yellow Ecurie Francorchamps Jaguar D-Type. Although 11 laps (nearly 150 km) behind the winners, they were again a model of reliability.[37][38]

Porsche had its best finish yet with the remarkable trio of 1.5 litre Porsche 550 Spyders finishing fourth, fifth and sixth with Helmut Polensky and Richard von Frankenberg winning the S-1500 class, the Index of Performance, as well as the Biennial Cup. The Belgian Porsche had a terrific drive late in the race to split the two works cars. Additionally the privateer Porsche comprehensively won the S-1100 class finishing nearly 40 laps ahead of the unclassified Cooper.

The three-car Bristol team finished 7-8-9, in formation for a consecutive year at the top of two-litre class. Managing director Sir George White quietly donated the team's winnings to a charity for the disaster's victims.[14]

After their debacle of the previous year's race, it was perhaps fitting that the only Italian car to finish this year was the 1.5L OSCA. Two of the DB-Panhards were only French cars to finish in the normally reliable small-car classes.[2][39] For the first time none of the Cunningham team cars finished.[11]

Despite the disaster and poor weather, there were a number of new records set: Both first and second beat the old distance record – and five new class records were set. In fact, the two leading 1.5L Porsches both went further than the overall distance covered by the 1952-winning Mercedes-Benz.[22] The opening hours had also seen the lap record smashed comprehensively.

Post-race and Aftermath[edit]

The catastrophic crash, which came to be known as the 1955 Le Mans disaster, is the greatest tragedy in the history of motorsport, The actual death toll is uncertain, put at from 80 to 84, including "Levegh", with many more than that number severely injured.[3][7][8][40][41] Spurring mentions that the official report cites "Levegh" and 80 spectators were killed and 178 were injured.

The next round of the World Sports Car Championship at the Nürburgring was cancelled, as was the legendary Carrera Panamericana. The accident caused widespread shock and immediate bans on auto racing in many countries. A number of racing teams including Mercedes-Benz, MG and Bristol had disbanded and withdrawn from racing by the end of the season. The horror of the accident caused some drivers present, including Phil Walters (who had been offered a drive with Ferrari for the rest of the season[6]), Sherwood Johnston, and John Fitch (after completing the season with Mercedes-Benz), to retire from racing. Fitch was coaxed out of retirement by his friend Briggs Cunningham to help the Chevrolet Corvette effort at Le Mans in 1960 and later worked to develop traffic safety devices including the water-filled "Fitch barrels". Less than three months later, Lance Macklin decided to retire after being involved in a twin fatality accident during the Tourist Trophy race at Dundrod. Juan-Manuel Fangio never raced at Le Mans again.

Although Hawthorn was relieved to have gotten his first Le Mans victory, he was devastated by the tragedy. An inopportune press photo showed him smiling on the podium swigging from the victor's bottle of champagne, and the French press ran it with the sarcastic headline "Here's to You, Mr Hawthorn".[42]

The official enquiry concluded that no one driver was to blame and that it was instead a tragic combination of circumstances that had caused the accident, including serious deficiencies in the track design and safety.[34]

For a long while the future of the iconic race was in doubt, however the ACO was able to convince the French Government and the FIA with plans for extensive for redevelopment. Before the 1956 event, the grandstands and pits were demolished, as well as straightening and widening the track at and approaching the pits, and realigning Dunlop Curve. They increased the separation between the road and the spectators including a wide ditch, and revised other hazardous stretches of the track.[43][44] Track safety technology and practices evolved slowly until Formula 1 driver Jackie Stewart organized a campaign to advocate for better safety measures 10 years later. Stewart's campaign gained momentum after the deaths of Lorenzo Bandini and Jimmy Clark.

Official results[edit]

Results taken from Quentin Spurring's book, officially licensed by the ACO[45] 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 S6 307
2 S
3.0
23 United Kingdom Aston Martin Lagonda Ltd United Kingdom Peter Collins
Belgium Paul Frère
Aston Martin DB3S Aston Martin 2.9L S6 302
3 S
5.0
10 Belgium Ecurie Francorchamps Belgium Jacques Swaters
Belgium Johnny Claes
Jaguar D-Type Jaguar 3.4L S6 296
4 S
1.5
37 West Germany Porsche KG West Germany Helmut Polensky
West Germany Richard von Frankenberg
Porsche 550 RS Spyder Porsche 1498cc F4 284
5 S
1.5
66
Reserve
Belgium Ecurie Belge /
France Gustave Olivier
West Germany Wolfgang Seidel
Belgium Olivier Gendebien
Porsche 550 RS Spyder Porsche 1498cc F4 276
6 S
1.5
62 West Germany Porsche KG Germany Helmut Glöckler
Guatemala/Czech Republic Jaroslav Juhan
Porsche 550 RS Spyder Porsche 1498cc F4 273
7 S
2.0
34 United Kingdom Bristol Aeroplane Co. United Kingdom Peter Wilson
United Kingdom Jim Mayers
Bristol 450C Bristol 1979cc S6 271
8 S
2.0
33 United Kingdom Bristol Aeroplane Co. United Kingdom Mike Keen
United Kingdom Tommy Line
Bristol 450C Bristol 1979cc S6 270
9 S
2.0
32 United Kingdom Bristol Aeroplane Co. United Kingdom Tommy Wisdom
United Kingdom Jack Fairman
Bristol 450C Bristol 1979cc S6 268
10 S
2.0
35 United Kingdom Automobiles Frazer Nash Ltd. France Marcel Becquart
United Kingdom Richard ‘Dickie’ Stoop
Frazer Nash Sebring Bristol 1971cc S6 260
11 S
1.5
40 United States Edgar Fronteras
(private entrant)
Italy Giulio Cabianca
Italy Giuseppe Scorbati
O.S.C.A. MT-4 O.S.C.A. 1491cc S4 256
12 S
1.5
41 United Kingdom MG Cars Ltd. United Kingdom Ken Miles
United Kingdom John Lockett
MG EX.182 MG 1489cc S4 249
13 S
1.1
49 Germany Porsche KG France Auguste Veuillet
United States Zora Arkus-Duntov
Porsche 550 RS Spyder Porsche 1097cc S4 245
14 S
2.0
28 United Kingdom Standard Triumph Ltd. Scotland Ninian Sanderson
United Kingdom Bob Dickson
Triumph TR2 Triumph 1991cc S4 242
15 S
2.0
29 United Kingdom Standard Triumph Ltd. United Kingdom Ken Richardson
United Kingdom Bert Hadley
Triumph TR2 Triumph 1991cc S4 242
16 S
750
63 France Ecurie Jeudy-Bonnet France Louis Cornet
France Robert Mougin
DB HBR-MC Panhard 745cc F2 236
17 S
1.5
64 United Kingdom MG Cars Ltd. United Kingdom Ted Lund
Switzerland Hans Waeffler
MG EX.182 MG 1489cc S4 234
18 S
1.5
65 France Gustave Olivier
(private entrant)
France Gonzague Olivier
West GermanyJosef Jeser
Porsche 550 RS Spyder Porsche 1498cc F4 234
N/C * S
2.0
68
Reserve
United Kingdom Standard Triumph Ltd. United Kingdom Leslie Brooke
United Kingdom Mortimer Morris-Goodall
Triumph TR2 Triumph 1991cc S4 214
19 S
750
59 France Ecurie Jeudy-Bonnet France Louis Héry
France Georges Trouis
DB HBR Spyder Panhard 745cc F2 209
N/C * S
1.1
47 United Kingdom Cooper Car Co. United Kingdom John Brown
United Kingdom Edgar Wadsworth
Cooper T39 Coventry Climax 1098cc S4 207
  • Note *: Not Classified because of Insufficient distance, as car failed to cover 70% of its class-winner's distance

Did Not Finish[edit]

Pos Class No Team Drivers Chassis Engine Laps Reason
DNF S
3.0
16 Italy Officine Alfieri Maserati Italy Luigi Musso
Italy ‘Gino’ Valenzano
Maserati 300S Maserati 3.0L S6 239 Gearbox (20hr)
DNF S
3.0
22 United States Briggs Cunningham United States Briggs Cunningham
United States Sherwood Johnston
Cunningham C6-R Offenhauser 2.9L S4 196 Piston (19hr)
DNF S
5.0
7 United Kingdom Jaguar Cars Ltd. United Kingdom Tony Rolt
Republic of Ireland Duncan Hamilton
Jaguar D-Type Jaguar 3.4L S6 186 Gearbox (16hr)
DNF S
2.0
30 France Automobiles Gordini Brazil Hermano da Silva Ramos
France Jacques Pollet
Gordini T15S Gordini 1987cc S8 145 Holed radiator (14hr)
DNF S
750
52 France Société Monopole France Jean Hémard
France Pierre Flahault
Monopole X86 Panhard 745cc F2 145 Accident (23hr)
DNF S
750
60 Italy Automobili Stanguellini France René Philippe Faure
France Pierre Duval
Stanguellini S750 Bialbero Stanguellini 740cc S4 136 Ignition (17hr)
DNF S
3.0
19 Germany Daimler-Benz AG Argentina Juan Manuel Fangio
United Kingdom Stirling Moss
Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR Mercedes-Benz 3.0L S8 134 Withdrawn (10hr)
DNF S
3.0
21 Germany Daimler-Benz AG Germany Karl Kling
France André Simon
Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR Mercedes-Benz 3.0L S8 130 Withdrawn (10hr)
DNF S
1.1
51 France Automobiles Panhard
et Levassor
France René Cotton
France André Beaulieux
Panhard VM-5 Panhard 850cc F2 108 Gearbox (13hr)
DNF S
5.0
5 Italy Scuderia Ferrari France Maurice Trintignant
United States Harry Schell
Ferrari 121LM Ferrari 4.4L S6 107 Clutch (10hr)
DNF S
5.0
8 United Kingdom Jaguar Cars Ltd. United Kingdom Don Beauman
United Kingdom Norman Dewis
Jaguar D-Type Jaguar 3.4L S6 106 Accident (11hr)
DNF S
3.0
24 United Kingdom Aston Martin Lagonda Ltd United Kingdom Roy Salvadori
United Kingdom Peter Walker
Aston Martin DB3S Aston Martin 2.9L S6 105 Engine (10hr)
DNF S
3.0
12 France "Heldé" France "Heldé" (Pierre Louis-Dreyfus)
France Jean Lucas
Ferrari 750 Monza Ferrari 3.0L S4 104 Distributor (10hr)
DNF S
750
58 France Ecurie Jeudy-Bonnet France Paul Armagnac
France Gérard Laureau
DB HBR-MC Panhard 745cc F2 101 Wheel (23hr)
DSQ S
1.1
48 United Kingdom Lotus Engineering United Kingdom Colin Chapman
Scotland Ron Flockhart
Lotus Mark IX Coventry Climax 1098cc S4 99 reversed on track (12hr)
DNF S
2.0
31 Italy Officine Alfieri Maserati Argentina Carlo Tomasi
Italy Francesco Giardini
Maserati 200S Maserati 1986cc S4 96 Distributor (9hr)
DNF S
1.1
50 France Automobiles Panhard
et Levassor
France Pierre Chancel
France Robert Chancel
Panhard VM-5 Panhard 850cc F2 94 Fuel system (11hr)
DNF S
5.0
1 United Kingdom Aston Martin Lagonda Ltd United Kingdom Reg Parnell
United Kingdom Dennis Poore
Lagonda DP-166 Lagonda 4.5L V12 93 Out of fuel (8hr)
DNF S
3.0
25 United Kingdom Aston Martin Lagonda Ltd United Kingdom Tony Brooks
United Kingdom John Riseley-Pritchard
Aston Martin DB3S Aston Martin 2.9L S6 83 Battery (9hr)
DNF S
3.0
27 France J.-P. Colas
(private entrant)
France Jean-Paul Colas
France Jacques Dewez
Salmson 2300S Cabriolet Salmson 2.3L L4 82 Oil leak (9hr)
DNF S
5.0
3 Italy Scuderia Ferrari Italy Umberto Maglioli
United States Phil Hill
Ferrari 121LM Ferrari 4.4L S6 76 Clutch (7hr)
DNF S
1.5
38 Switzerland W. Ringgenberg
(private entrant)
Switzerland Walter Ringgenberg
Switzerland Hans-Jörg Gilomen
Porsche 550/4 Porsche 1498cc F4 65 Engine (8hr)
DNF S
1.5
43 United Kingdom Connaught Engineering United Kingdom Kenneth McAlpine
United Kingdom Eric Thompson
Connaught AL/SR Lea-Francis 1484cc S4 60 Engine (9hr)
DNF S
5.0
4 Italy Scuderia Ferrari Italy Eugenio Castellotti
Italy Paolo Marzotto
Ferrari 121LM Ferrari 4.4L S6 52 Engine (5hr)
DNF S
2.0
69 France A. Constantin
(private entrant)
France Jacques Savoye
France Jacques Poch
Constantin 203C Spyder Peugeot 1425cc S4
Supercharged
52 Gearbox (9hr)
DNF S
1.1
46 United Kingdom Kieft Cars Ltd. United Kingdom Alan Rippon
United Kingdom Ray Merrick
Kieft Sport Coventry Climax 1098cc S4 47 Oil leak (6hr)
DNF S
750
57 France Ecurie Jeudy-Bonnet France René Bonnet
France Claude Storez
D.B. HBR Panhard 745cc F2 44 Distributor (9hr)
DNF S
5.0
9 United States Briggs Cunningham United States Phil Walters
United States William 'Bill' Spear
Jaguar D-Type Jaguar 3.4L S6 43 Engine (Valve) (7hr)
DNF S
5.0
11 United Kingdom Cooper Car Co United Kingdom Peter Whitehead
United Kingdom Graham Whitehead
Cooper T38 Jaguar 3.4L S6 38 Oil leak (4hr)
DNF S
3.0
20 Germany Daimler-Benz AG France "Pierre Levegh" (Pierre Bouillin)
United States John Fitch
Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR Mercedes-Benz 3.0L L8 34 Fatal accident (3hr)
DNF S
2.0
36 United Kingdom Automobiles Frazer Nash Ltd. Republic of Ireland Cecil Vard
United Kingdom Dick Odlum
Frazer Nash Sebring Bristol 1971cc S6 33 Engine (6hr)
DNF S
750
53 France Société Monopole France Francis Navarro
France Jean de Montrémy
Monopole Sport X88 Panhard 745cc F2 30 Oil leak (6hr)
DNF S
3.0
26 United Kingdom Lance Macklin
(private entrant)
United Kingdom Lance Macklin
United Kingdom Les Leston
Austin-Healey 100 S BMC A90 2.7L S4 28 Accident damage (6hr)
DNF S
1.5
42 United Kingdom MG Cars Ltd. United Kingdom Dick Jacobs
Republic of Ireland Joe Flynn
MG EX.182 MG 1489cc S4 27 Accident (6hr)
DNF S
750
56 France Automobiles VP France Yves Giraud-Cabantous
France Yves Lesur
VP 166R Renault 747cc S4 26 Engine (8hr)
DNF S
3.0
15 Italy Officine Alfieri Maserati Argentina Roberto Mières
Italy Cesare Perdisa
Maserati 300S Maserati 3.0L S6 24 Gearbox (6hr)
DNF S
3.0
14 France "Mike Sparken"
(private entrant)
France "Mike Sparken" (Michel Pobejersky)
United States Masten Gregory
Ferrari 750 Monza Ferrari 3.0L S4 23 Engine (piston) (3hr)
DNF S
750
61 Italy Ufficine Nardi Italy Dr. Mario Damonte
France Roger Crovetto
Nardi ‘Damolnar’ Bisiluro Giannini 735cc S4 5 Accident (1hr)
DNF S
1.5
39 United Kingdom Kieft Cars Ltd. United Kingdom Berwyn Baxter
United Kingdom John Deeley
Kieft Sport Turner 1493cc S4 4 Overheating (1hr)

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 T26 GS Spyder Talbot 4.5L S6 Engine
DNS S
3.0
17 France Automobiles Gordini France Robert Manzon
France Élie Bayol
France Jean Behra
Gordini T24S Gordini 3.0L S8 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 1098cc S4 Accident in practice
DNS S
750
54 Italy Moretti Automobili Venezuela Lino Fayen
France Herman Rogenry
Moretti 750S Moretti 750cc S4 Took grid too late
DNS S
750
55 Italy Moretti Automobili Italy Giorgio Ubezzi
France Mesnest Bellanger
Moretti 750S Moretti 750cc S4 Took grid too late
Reserve S
750
70 France Société Pierre Ferry France Jacques Blaché
France Louis Pons
Ferry Sports F750 Renault 747cc S4
Reserve S
750
72 France Automobiles VP France Jean-Marie Dumazer
France André Héchard
France Jérôme Pourond
VP 155R Renault 747cc S4
Reserve S
750
75 France Ecurie Rosier France Jean-Louis Rosier
France Jean Estager
Renault 4CV/1068 Spyder Renault 747cc S4

Index of Performance[edit]

Pos Class No Team Drivers Chassis Score
1 S
1.5
37 West Germany Porsche KG West Germany Helmut Polensky
West Germany Richard von Frankenberg
Porsche 550 RS Spyder 1.241
2 S
5.0
6 United Kingdom Jaguar Cars Ltd. United Kingdom Mike Hawthorn
United Kingdom Ivor Bueb
Jaguar D-Type 1.232
3 S
3.0
23 United Kingdom Aston Martin Lagonda Ltd United Kingdom Peter Collins
Belgium Paul Frère
Aston Martin DB3S 1.228
4 S
1.5
66
Reserve
Belgium Ecurie Belge /
France Gustave Olivier
West Germany Wolfgang Seidel
Belgium Olivier Gendebien
Porsche 550 RS Spyder 1.204
5 S
1.5
62 West Germany Porsche KG Germany Helmut Glöckler
Guatemala/Czech Republic Jaroslav Juhan
Porsche 550 RS Spyder 1.193
6 S
5.0
10 Belgium Ecurie Francorchamps Belgium Jacques Swaters
Belgium Johnny Claes
Jaguar D-Type 1.186
7 S
750
63 France Ecurie Jeudy-Bonnet France Louis Cornet
France Robert Mougin
DB HBR-MC 1.179
8 S
2.0
34 United Kingdom Bristol Aeroplane Co. United Kingdom Peter Wilson
United Kingdom Jim Mayers
Bristol 450C 1.139
9 S
2.0
33 United Kingdom Bristol Aeroplane Co. United Kingdom Mike Keen
United Kingdom Tommy Line
Bristol 450C 1.131
10 S
1.1
49 Germany Porsche KG France Auguste Veuillet
United States Zora Arkus-Duntov
Porsche 550 RS Spyder 1.128
  • Note: Only the top ten positions are included in this set of standings. A score of 1.00 means meeting the minimum distance for the car, and a higher score is exceeding the nominal target distance.[46]

21st Rudge-Whitworth Biennial Cup (1954/1955)[edit]

Pos Class No Team Drivers Chassis Score
1 S
1.5
37 West Germany Porsche KG West Germany Helmut Polensky
West Germany Richard von Frankenberg
Porsche 550 RS Spyder 1.241
2 S
1.5
62 West Germany Porsche KG Germany Helmut Glöckler
Guatemala/Czech Republic Jaroslav Juhan
Porsche 550 RS Spyder 1.193
3 S
2.0
33 United Kingdom Bristol Aeroplane Co. United Kingdom Mike Keen
United Kingdom Tommy Line
Bristol 450C 1.131

Statistics[edit]

Taken from Quentin Spurring's book, officially licensed by the ACO

  • Fastest Lap in practice – Castelloti, #4 Ferrari 121 LM – 4m 14.0s; 191.14 kp/h (118.77 mph)
  • Fastest Lap – Hawthorn, #6 Jaguar D-Type – 4m 06.6s; 196.96 kp/h (122.39 mph)
  • Fastest Car in Speedtrap – Fangio, #19 Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR – 292.21 kp/h (181.57 mph)
  • Distance – 4135.38  km (2569.73 miles)
  • Winner's Average Speed – 172.31 km/h (107.07 mph)
  • Attendance – about 400 000

World Championship Standings after the race[edit]

Pos Championship Points
1 Italy Ferrari 18
2 United Kingdom Jaguar 16
3 Italy Maserati 11
4 West Germany Mercedes-Benz 8
5= United Kingdom Aston Martin 6
West Germany Porsche 6
6 France Gordini 2
7 France Austin-Healey 1

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.

Citations
  1. ^ Spurring 2011, p.214
  2. ^ a b c d e f Moity 1974, p.60
  3. ^ a b c Spurring 2011, p.215
  4. ^ Laban 2001, p.116
  5. ^ Cannell 2011, p.65
  6. ^ a b Spurring 2011, p.221
  7. ^ a b John Fitch, "Racing with Mercedes" (Photo Data Research, ISBN 978-0-9705073-6-5, 2005)
  8. ^ a b http://www.sportscardigest.com/1955-24-hours-of-le-mans-race-profile/
  9. ^ Moity 1974, p.59
  10. ^ Spurring 2011, p.219
  11. ^ a b Laban 2001, p.117
  12. ^ a b Clausager 1982, p.93
  13. ^ a b Spurring 2011, p.228
  14. ^ a b Spurring 2011, p.230
  15. ^ a b Spurring 2011, p.231
  16. ^ a b Spurring 2011, p.225
  17. ^ "Death at Le Mans". Time. USA. 20 June 1955. 
  18. ^ a b Spurring 2011, p.223
  19. ^ Clarke 1997, p.132: Road & Track Sept 1955
  20. ^ Spurring 2011, p.212
  21. ^ a b Clarke 1997, p.133: Road & Track Sept 1955
  22. ^ a b Clarke 1997, p.117: Autosport Jun24 1955
  23. ^ Spurring 2011, p.232
  24. ^ Moity 1974, p.57
  25. ^ Clarke 1997, p.130: Road & Track Sept 1955
  26. ^ Foster 2013, p.1968
  27. ^ Whitaker 2014, p.88
  28. ^ Anderson 2000, p.14
  29. ^ Spurgeon, Brad (11 June 2015). "On Auto Racing's Deadliest Day". The New York Times Company, Inc. Retrieved 1 September 2015. 
  30. ^ Hill 2004, p.122
  31. ^ a b Cannell 2011, p.75
  32. ^ "Le Mans 1955 - Reel 2 Part 4". 
  33. ^ a b "Paul Skilleter, Le Mans". 
  34. ^ a b Spurring 2011, p.218
  35. ^ Spurring 2011, p.234
  36. ^ Clarke 1997, p.129: Autocar Jun17 1955
  37. ^ http://www.wsrp.cz/wsc1955.html#4
  38. ^ http://www.teamdan.com/archive/wsc/1955/55lemans.html
  39. ^ Spurring 2011, p.233
  40. ^ http://www.ewilkins.com/wilko/lemans.htm
  41. ^ http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00sfptx
  42. ^ Cannell 2011, p.76
  43. ^ Spurring 2011, p.250
  44. ^ Laban 2001, p.118
  45. ^ Spurring 2011, p.2
  46. ^ Clarke 1997, p.88

References[edit]

  • Spurring, Quentin (2011) Le Mans 1949-59 Sherborne, Dorset: Evro Publishing ISBN 978-1-84425-537-5
  • Anderson, Gary G. (2000) Austin-Healey 100, 100-6, 3000 Restoration Guide MotorBooks International ISBN 978-1-61060-814-5
  • Cannell, Michael (2011) The Limit London: Atlantic Books ISBN 978-184887-224-0
  • Clarke, R.M. - editor (1997) Le Mans 'The Jaguar Years 1949-1957' Cobham, Surrey: Brooklands Books ISBN 1-85520-357X
  • Clausager, Anders (1982) Le Mans London: Arthur Barker Ltd ISBN 0-213-16846-4
  • Foster, Frank (2013) F1: A History of Formula One Racing BookCaps Study Guides ISBN 978-1-62107-573-8
  • Hill, Phil (2004) Ferrari, a Champion's view Deerfield: Dalton Watson ISBN 978-1854432124
  • Laban, Brian (2001) Le Mans 24 Hours London: Virgin Books ISBN 1-85227-971-0
  • Moity, Christian (1974) The Le Mans 24 Hour Race 1949-1973 Radnor, Pennsylvania: Chilton Book Co ISBN 0-8019-6290-0
  • Pomeroy, L. & Walkerley, R. - editors (1956) The Motor Year Book 1956 Bath: The Pitman Press
  • Whitaker, Sigur E. (2014) Tony Hulman: The Man Who Saved the Indianapolis Motor Speedway McFarland ISBN 978-0-7864-7882-8

External links[edit]


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