Before darkness came to Le Mans, Louis Klemantaski often went out to the slow Mulsanne Corner at the end of the straight and climbed up on the earth bank at the apex to capture the leading cars as they swept round. Here early Saturday evening on June 22, 1957 is Les Leston, best known for his race clothing business in London, at the wheel of an Aston Martin DBR1/300 that the shared with Roy Salvadori. Klemantaski’s shadow is clearly visible. During the night Salvadori and Leston experienced the almost standard Aston failure – the gearbox – hardly a great advertisement for Aston Martin owner David Brown’s gear systems business.
Astons had entered three works cars for the 1957 Le Mans race, two of the three liter DBR1/300s, and a new DBR2 based on an old Lagonda chassis with the larger and more modern 3.7 liter motor from the DB4. The other DBR1/300 was given to Tony Brooks and Noel Cunningham-Reid, who ran as high as second overall, while the DBR2 was entrusted to the Whitehead brothers, Graham and Peter. Astons was also the entrant for an older DB3S for the French amateurs Jean Kerguen and Jean-Paul Colas. The DBR2 proved quite fast in practice, but its engine was hobbled in the race by a jury-rigged fuel system. However, these three works entries all fell by the wayside and all experienced gearbox failures. Tony Brooks had a big accident due to his, ending up under his car on top of the Tertre Rouge sandbank, from which he was lucky to escape without very serious injuries. The privately run DB3S would reach the finish, down in 11th place overall. Jaguar D-Types took the first four places.
From this nadir at Le Mans, Aston Martin would do better and better with the DBR1/300, achieving what they celebrated as “The Final Victory” at Le Mans two years later.
Photo by Louis Klemantaski ©The Klemantaski Collection – http://www.klemcoll.com
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