Klemantaski told us that he considered this to be his best ever photograph. It shows Juan Manuel Fangio winning the French Grand Prix at the Rouen-les Essarts public road circuit on July 7, 1957. The original square image, on 120 film, was shot using a Rolleiflex, not Klemantaski’s usual Leica. He was trying to pan on the head of Fangio, hoping it would remain sharply focused while the rest of the image would be blurred. As he remarked, he had no way of knowing if he had succeeded until he returned home and developed the film. Not only are Fangio’s head and goggles in perfect focus, but in a large print his eyes can be seen behind the lenses of his goggles.
The Rouen circuit was used between 1950 and 1993 in several different formats, and was used for the French Grand Prix in 1957, 1962, 1964 and 1968. After the fiery crash that took the life of Jo Schlesser in 1968, the Rouen circuit was judged to dangerous for F1 cars. After racing was stopped here one could still drive past the empty grandstand, but that is now long gone to the bulldozer. However, one can still get an impression of the difficult, if not terrifying, high speed descent through a series of flat out sweepers from the old start/finish line on the top straight down to the bottom hairpin.
In the race itself Fangio was a talent all his own, taking that challenging descent in a series of opposite lock drifts as shown in this fine Edward Eves photograph. It appears that the dent in the nose of Fangio’s Maserati 250F came from when he pushed his teammate Jean Behra out of the way after Behra had jumped the start. At the finish Fangio was some 52 seconds ahead of the second place now much-modified Lancia-Ferrari of Luigi Musso. This race was The Master at his best, perhaps only exceeded by his performance at the German Grand Prix a month later.
Photos by Louis Klemantaski and Edward Eves ©The Klemantaski Collection – http://www.klemcoll.com
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