This is Jacques Swaters driving a three liter Ferrari Monza (chassis 0518M) at the Tourist Trophy race on September 18, 1955. The “TT” as it was called counted for the World Sportscar Championship that year and was run on the narrow and dangerous Dundrod public road circuit in Northern Ireland over a distance of just over 1000 km. This yellow Ferrari (the Belgian racing color) was one of two Ferrari 750 Monzas delivered to Swaters’ Garage Francorchamps in Brussels for the Equipe National Belge racing team, created by Swaters and his co-driver the Anglo-Belgian Johnny Claes.
Swaters had a long and successful career as the Ferrari distributor for Belgium, as an amateur driver of his Ferraris, and as the owner of his famous Ecurie Francorchamps Ferrari sports car team which regularly competed at Spa-Francorchamps and Le Mans. Swaters ultimately sold his business to Ferrari and lived in retirement, primarily in Spain, until his death in 2010. Claes was a customer of Swaters and was also a jazz musician and band leader who had had a well-known London jazz group called the Clay Pigeons. Claes would die of tuberculosis in 1956.
At Dundrod Swaters and Claes had various suspension problems late in the race and could only finish 13th. Mercedes-Benz 300SLRs took the top three places with the winner being driven by Stirling Moss and the American John Fitch.
The life of a competitive racing car in the 1950s was often a rough one and 0518M was no exception to this rule. Before the Dundrod race it had already appeared in races at Dakar in what was then French West Africa (now Senegal), Spa-Francorchamps, Bari in Italy and Chimay in Belgium. At Chimay Claes had had a crash which necessitated a pause for repairs in Brussels. Early in 1956 the Monza went to Agadir in Morocco where there was another crash with André Pilette at the wheel, this one requiring a trip to Modena for repairs which included a new chassis at Ferrari and revised bodywork at Scaglietti. Once repaired, 0518M went to several races during 1956 before being traded back to Ferrari by Swaters and sold to John Kilborn in the USA. After several American, British and Swiss owners, a great many more races, a Chevrolet V8 after the four-cylinder Ferrari motor blew up in Oklahoma, and a subsequent V12 from a Ferrari 275GTB, the originally yellow 750 Monza is perhaps now back in America once again.
Photos by Louis Klemantaski ©The Klemantaski Collection – http://www.klemcoll.com
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