Three Ferrari berlinettas are lined up in front of the Le Mans pits during practice for the 24 Hour race to be run on June 13-14, 1953. The first one is a Ferrari 375MM which will be driven by the friends and teammates Alberto Ascari and Luigi Villoresi. The two other Ferraris are 340MM berlinettas with 4.1 liter motors instead of the more powerful 4.5 in the Ascari/Villoresi car. Beyond the Ferraris, which included a 340MM spyder for Tom Cole and Luigi Chinetti, there was a truly impressive field with three powerful Cunninghams, including the very fast C4RK coupe, three Alfa Romeo 3000CM “Disco Volante” berlinettas, a quartet of Lancia D20Cs, a pair of powerful Allard J2Rs, two Aston Martin DB3S, and three Talbot T26GS, including a now upgraded one which had nearly won in the prior year, now to be driven again by “Levegh” who had driven it in 1952 and Charles Pozzi. Then of course there were four Jaguar C-types, the three works cars having the new Dunlop disc brakes.
And the surprise turned out to be the Jaguars which while not as fast as the Ferraris along the Mulsanne Straight more than made up for their power deficit with the significant gains made with their disc brakes. Here is the Ascari/Villoresi 375MM Ferrari in the Esses early in the race when they were running second behind the Jaguar of Stirling Moss, but soon to take the lead when Moss went to the pits. Then the Jaguar of Tony Rolt and Duncan Hamilton took over as darkness descended over Le Mans and overnight the British duo expanded their lead to a full lap. Unfortunately, just after 6 a.m. the popular Anglo-American Tom Cole crashed his Ferrari 340MM spyder at the White House bend and was killed.
The Rolt/Hamilton Jaguar continued to set a very hard pace which, if it continued (and it did), would become the first Le Mans winner with an over 100 mph race average. In fact the seven leading cars all broke the 100 mph barrier, with the works Jaguars in first, second and fourth, being split by the Cunningam C5R in third. Only one of the four Ferraris would finish, that being the 340MM berlinetta of the Marzotto brothers in fifth place.
Photos by Corrado Millanta ©The Klemantaski Collection – http://www.klemcoll.com
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