The date of this superb photograph is July 9, 1949 and Luigi Chinetti is driving a Ferrari 166MM through the famous Eau Rouge bend at Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium. The race was the 24 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps and would become the second 24-hour endurance race victory for Chinetti and Ferrari within a single two week period, Chinetti and Lord Selsdon having recently won Le Mans in a different 166MM. Eau Rouge was so-named for the small river which ran under the road at this point and the bridge wall is visible next to the car.
Chinetti almost did not finish! Just before the end of the race he swerved to avoid a spectator who chose to walk across the road down near Stavelot, skidded on some oil and then went off the road and hit a fence which caused the car to roll. Fortunately uninjured, Chinetti was able to get the Ferrari back on its wheels and continue slowly for his final two laps without losing the lead. His Ferrari was no worse for the experience, except for a wood fence post which had rammed itself under the hood when the car rolled against the fence.
Chinetti’s co-driver for this race was his friend Jean Lucas who had often driven for Gordini, whose cars had had the fastest entries for Spa. Chinetti and Lucas played a waiting game behind the Gordinis for the first half of the race and when the French team finally retired Chinetti had the race to himself, if his car would last the distance. Chinetti had slightly de-tuned the engine of this barchetta, knowing well both the rigors of the circuit and the necessity for endurance. His caution, both in preparation and driving, gave him this important victory.
Photo by Louis Klemantaski ©The Klemantaski Collection – http://www.klemcoll.com