This lovely image was taken by our dear friend the photo-journalist Jim Sitz during practice for the Swedish Grand Prix, a six hour race for sports cars at the Råbelövsbanan circuit at Kristianstad, which took place on August 8, 1957. This portrait is of the talented Belgian driver Olivier Gendebien who was driving one of the two Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa prototypes entered for this race. The car Gendebien was driving was what Ferrari would call a “bastarda,” an internally built-up experimental car using parts from other cars. This sports racer was based on the chassis of the new four cylinder 2 liter 500TRC, but with a 3.1 liter V12 motor and a chassis rear section probably as used for one of the year’s big Ferrari sports racers featuring a de dion rear suspension and transaxle. Gendebien was paired with Maurice Trintignant but the Frenchman would not get to drive as this prototype retired with engine failure after 43 laps. The other 250 TR prototype, also and more closely derived from a live rear axle 500TRC, would likewise fail to finish after 30 laps.
Here is how photographer Jim Sitz described this image and his work that year in Europe:
“My arrival in Italy in the Spring of 1957 was just in time to witness the grand Mille Miglia, a chance to see the best Italian drivers and, for me, especially the great Olivier Gendebien who was known for his prowess on the open road. I had read of his exploits in Italy two years before when driving his personal Mercedes 300SL and having embarrassed the local Ferrari drivers which allowed him to capture a contract with Enzo Ferrari for future events.
“I got myself situated just south of Bologna along the downhill Raticosa Pass. Gendebien came roaring down in his Ferrari berlinetta and it was a breathless experience for a young enthusiast. I remember that he would finish third overall.
“This image was taken later in Sweden for the enduro at Kristianstad. Gendebien was there in a new Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa prototype and I took the photo as he looked over his shoulder for approaching cars as he pulled out of the pits. It is one of my favorites. He might look like a tough hombre but actually he was a gentle soul and a bit of an aristocrat. When I shot it I had just come from the German Grand Prix and arrived in Sweden on my 19th birthday. There I was in the pits, close to the action, and felt I was riding high – and right where I belonged in the scene.”
Photo by Jim Sitz ©Jim Sitz and the IMRRC.
To see photos from the Klemantaski Collection, please go to: http://www.klemcoll.com/TheGallery.aspx
Jim was an artist with his Hasselblad in the pits and on the track. He had the ability to be in the right spot, at the right time. What courage it must have taken him at 18 years old to embark on such an adventure. We are all thankful that he did. I have seen much of his work, and it could only have been taken by someone with a keen eye for our sport. His words also add so much depth to his photographs.
Historically yours, Allen R. Kuhn
A wonderful photograph from a real enthusiast. Jim brings to life what he saw through his lens so others can enjoy.
Jim – That was the right look at the right place at the right time. What a wonderful photograph. Truly a classic. All the best – Carl