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An Everyday Journey Through Motoring History, Facts & Trivia

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On This Day


Sunday 14th June 1953

65 years ago

Jaguar cars finished 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 5th in Le Mans 24-hour Grand Prix d’Edurance. At 4:00pm on the Saturday, the flag fell and the race was on. At the end of the first lap, the Allard led the field, which was closely bunched behind. The first few laps at Le Mans means very little and it was not until after the 30 minutes that the true picture really become close. Rolt had already put in a lap record at 96.48 mph, while Moss led the way, closely followed by Villoresi, Tom Cole, Rolt, John Fitch, with Karl Kling rounding out the top six. Sydney Allard early lead lasted hardly any time, and by lap four he had to retire with a collapsed rear suspension that severed a brake pipe. Moss was also in trouble. Although he had smoothly pulled away from the chasing pack, until a misfire set in. His subsequent unplanned pitstop for spark plugs, plus another later to the eventual cure – removal of a clogged fuel filter. At least Jaguar remembered the pit regulations. Ferrari topped up the brake system on Mike Hawthorn’s 340 MM before the specified 28 laps had been completed, thereby Hawthorn/Farina were disqualified. Whilst all this was going on, Villoresi had taken the lead. By 5:00pm, the order had settled down, and it became clear that the Jaguars, Ferraris and Alfa Romeos were the forces to be reckoned with. The Lancias and Talbots were quite outclassed, as was the Aston Martins. Consalvo Sanesi in his Alfa Romeo 6C, continued to lower the fastest lap, with Rolt moving into the lead for Jaguar. Just before 6:00pm, Fangio retired with engine troubles in his Alfa Romeo. The pace continued at a fantastic pace and now it was Jaguar setting it. At the three-hour mark, Rolt/Hamilton led from Ascari/Villoresi, followed by Cole and his partner, Luigi Chinetti, Sanesi with Piero Carini, and the Germans of Kling and Fritz Riess. Already these five cars had pull out a two lap advantage over the rest of the field. As darkness fell, the Ferrari-Jaguar battle continued unabated, between Ascari/Villeoresi and Rolt/Hamilton, with the Alfa Romeos close behind. During the early hours of the morning, Rolt/Hamilton continued to lead with no sign of tiring, while Ascari/Villoresi was now losing ground. By 3:00am, the rear suspension on Sanesi/Carini car has collapsed, and they were out, along with George Abecassis and Roy Salvadori as oil was getting into their Aston Martin’s clutch.Although the Ascari and Villeroesi still was taking the fight to the Jaguars, the car was lame, for it was suffering from a sticking clutch and drinking a lot of water. However, the Italians, in a win-or-burst attempt were driving flat out at all times, but it had no effect on Rolt and Hamilton. Their Jaguar now had a lap lead over the Ferrari. Despite the night being very clear and fine, dawn approached a certain amount of mist in the air, making driving conditions very tiring. The windscreen on the leading Jaguar had been smashed early in the race, and as result Rolt and Hamilton were suffering from wind buffering, but the pair kept up the pace, nevertheless, with an average speed of well over 105 mph. By the time the mist had cleared, Rolt and Hamilton still lead by a lap ahead of the Ascari and Villoresi’s lame Ferrari. Third place was over three adrift was the Cunningham of Fitch/Walters. A lap further back was the fast Jaguars of Moss/Walker and Whitehead/Stewart. It was during this period, when disaster struck at Maison Blanche, when Cole crashed his Ferrari and was killed instantly.Shortly after 8:30am, the leading Jaguar and Ferrari both made routine refuelling stops at the same time, while Moss moved up to third when the Cunningham came for its stop. At 9:00am, the lame Ferrari was dropping back, and was now back in fifth place, following clutch issues. Rolt and Hamilton were now clear up front, but they could not rest as the American of Fitch/Waters started to challenge the Moss/Walker Jaguar for second place. The lame Ferrari retired at 11:00 am having dropped down the order to sixth place. This left only the Marzotto car to challenge the Jaguars and the lead Cunningham. It could not do it and raced to finish in fifth, keeping the Gordini of Maurice Trintignant and Harry Schell behind them. With three hours to ago, the Jaguars were still lapping at over 105 mph, however the pace had slackened a little. In the closing stages the order did not change, as Hamilton took over from Rolt to complete the last stage of the race, they were followed home by Moss, Fitch, Stewart, Giannino Marzotto, and Trintignant. Rolt and Hamilton driving their British license plated Jaguar C-Type, to victory covering a distance of 2,555.04 miles (4,088.064 km), over 304 laps, averaging a speed of 106.46 mph (170.336 km/h). Their team-mates, Moss and Walker were four lap adrift at the finish, in second place was their C-Type. The podium was completed by Walters and Fitch, in their Cunningham-Chrysler C5-R. The third works Jaguar finished fourth, two laps behind the Americans. The fourth Jaguar, entered by Ecurie Francorchamps for Roger Laurent and Charles de Tornaco, although supported the works team, with a standard C-Type, but still finished in ninth place.The winning duo’s performance, other than not being bothered by a bird to the face at 130 mph, set a number of records: The first win with an average speed over 100 mph (105.85); The first win with a distance over 4000 kilometers (4088.064); The first win with more than 300 laps completed (304). Just to put these numbers in perspective, the total distance would have been enough to win the race in 1995.

Le Mans 1953

Le Mans 1953

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