Here we are above the pits at Le Mans before then start of the 24 Hours on July 28, 1956. Because of the tragic accident in 1955, the Automobile Club de l’Ouest had decreed that for 1956 the engine displacement of cars running as prototypes would be lowered t0 2.5 liters. Production cars were not displacement limited but required 50 identical units produced – or planned – which allowed Jaguar and Aston Martin to meet that requirement with their competition cars . There was a lot of unhappiness with the resulting “interpretations” which allowed such not quite normal production car options as alloy blocks, twin-plug heads and fuel injection.
In addition, a lot of money had been spent to make various changes to the circuit, including widening the front straight and its pit lane and rebuilding the opposite spectator area, as can be seen here. There were other safety-oriented changes to the prototypes as well, including minimum windshield height, the same size wheels front and rear, and decreased fuel consumption.
The three prime entries from Scuderia Ferrari seen here were basically the 500TR model, but fitted with an updated version of the four cylinder Lampredi-designed motor now of 2.5 liters and special Carrozzeria Touring bodywork which had been further streamlined for Le Mans. These cars were known internally as the 625LM. Car n. 10 was assigned to Phil Hill and André Simon, n. 11 to Alfonso de Portago and Duncan Hamilton (The latter had joined Ferrari after being fired by Jaguar for winning the recent Reims 12 Hours, against team orders.) and n. 12 to Olivier Gendebien and Maurice Trintignant.
Things went downhill as it were and quickly for Ferrari. Portago arrived at the Esses on the second lap in a light drizzle and took out the Jaguar D-Types of Paul Frère and Jack Fairman. When Portago got back to the pits he told Hamilton, “Now Ferrari should have no worries, Duncan,.I just took out the Jaguar team.” The 625LM of Hill/Simon lasted rather longer but eventually retired with rear axle failure. That left the car of Gendebien/Trintignant to soldier on to finish third overall seven laps behind a Jaguar D-Type and an Aston Martin DB3S, both of which ran as “production cars.”
Photo by Yves Debraine ©The Klemantaski Collection – http://www.klemcoll.com
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