For many years Aston Martin had been a regular competitor at Le Mans. When Le Mans resumed in 1949 after the War years, there were six Aston entries at the 24 Hour classic. Their cars appeared every year in the 1950s, but were unable to break the stranglehold on the race held by Jaguar and Ferrari. In 1955, 1956 and 1958 an Aston Martin finished second, but victory still eluded them.
In 1959 Astons fielded their strongest effort yet with a trio of three-liter DBR/1s, plus another privately-entered DBR/1. Stirling Moss was sent out to be the “hare,” to try to tempt the factory Ferraris into a self-destructive early “grand prix” while the other Astons ran to a strictly planned speed calculated to put them in a position to both last and have a shot at the win. The engine of the Moss Aston, co-driven by journeyman Jack Fairman, gave up in the fifth hour. But the strain on Maranello’s cars began to be felt. The Ferrari of Jean Behra and Dan Gurney then led but retired in the early morning hours. The sister 250TR/59 of perennial threats Phil Hill and Olivier Gendebien then took over first place and looked to be headed for the win when it also had overheating maladies as the sun came up and the weather got hotter and was forced to retire.
Astons had won! And a second of the DBR1s, driven by Frenchman Maurice Trintignant and the talented Belgian journalist Paul Frère, came home in second place. But there were plenty of Ferraris waiting for the Astons to have trouble, with their 250GTs taking third through sixth positions.
Here, just after four in the afternoon on Sunday, June 21, 1959 is the winning Aston with American Carroll Shelby at the wheel having just passed the checker. Behind Shelby with a big smile is his co-driver Roy Salvadori. Stirling Moss gets a ride in the winner, sitting at the right, while Aston Martin owner David Brown, nattily-dressed as usual, holds the winner’s champagne.
Shelby told the story that he then took David Brown for a victory tour, along with a pretty young lady sitting on Brown’s lap. However, said Shel, Brown did not really enjoy it at all because his fancy jacket had fallen to the oil-covered floor of the car and was a write-off.
Photo by Ami Guichard ©The Klemantaski Collection
Remember: our end-of-year sale is still active at http://www.klemcoll.com!