This is Mike Hawthorn, leaving the exit from Tertre Rouge corner onto the Mulsanne Straight on June 23, 1957, driving a Ferrari 335 Sport. This was chassis number 0674, which he shared with Luigi Musso. They retired on lap 57 with engine failure, a condition which struck several Ferraris at Le Mans that year. The 335 Sport was the height of Ferrari’s development of its very powerful yet highly complex four-camshaft front-engined sports cars – racers which would win the World Sports Car Championship in 1957, defeating arch rival Maserati. Phil Hill said these were the best front-engined cars ever built by Ferrari. Certainly they were the fastest.
Hawthorn and Italian Luigi Musso were perhaps an odd pairing for Le Mans, because both Hawthorn and his close friend and fellow Scuderia Ferrari driver Peter Collins were known to put pressure on Musso, often through English schoolboy taunts. Collins, paired with Phil Hill, also had a 335 Sport at Le Mans, but the car lasted only two laps before the engine expired. The cause was thought to have been a new more aggressive piston design which did not like the somewhat low octane fuel supplied through the Le Mans organizers. The third big Ferrari was a slightly less powerful 315 Sport, the Piero Taruffi car which had won the Mille Miglia with a 335 motor, assigned to Ferrari test driver Martino Severi and Englishman Stuart Lewis-Evans. They drove a more conservative race and came in fifth overall behind four Jaguar D-Types.
The Ferrari 290/315/335 four-camshaft engines, each with a larger displacement, had been designed primarily by ex-Maserati engineer Vittorio Bellentani with assistance from the famed prewar Alfa Romeo engine designer Vittorio Jano. These engines also had a passing design relationship to Jano’s Formula 1 Lancia D50 V-8s of 1954/55 which had been given to Ferrari when Lancia withdrew from racing. However, at Ferrari these power units were generally known as the “Bellentani engines.” The chassis of these1957 cars was a development of that of the 860 Monza and 290MM sports racers of 1956 with coil spring front suspension and De Dion rear suspension, and utilizing a hefty four-speed transaxle. For 1957 there was a true war of Italian titans between these big Ferraris and the “quattro e mezzo” 450S Maserati V8s which probably produced even more power than the Ferraris.
Six of these four-camshaft Ferraris survive today, of which two were built for American owners in 1958.
Photo by Louis Klemantaski ©The Klemantaski Collection