28 Nov 2012

French Le Mans Racing Blue

French cars have won the Le Mans 24 hours outright on many occasions -the last being in 2009 with Peugeot -but a French speciality in the 1950's and 60's was competing in and winning the low capacity classes and the Index of Performance -- a class which took into account fuel usage and distance travelled and which used a complex formula to determine an, invairably French,class winner.
The blue cars competing in these minor classes were very simple vehicles with fibreglass or aluminium bodywork over a simple space frame-- from small specialist French manufacturers such as DB -usually powered by two cylinder air cooled engines of under 750cc.
Imagine buzzing down the Mulsanne Straight in the middle of the night in one of these flimsy cars in the rain with plumes of spray behind you flat out at 120 kms an hour with just two tiny rear lights and Mike Hawthorn in a works D-type Jaguar or Karl Kling in an Mercedes bearing down on you at over 240 kms an hour.And in those days even the front running cars had very poor headlights .It was a receipe for disaster.Even in the last two years with no small slow cars competing and the speed differentials much smaller there have been three massive accidents due to faster cars clipping slower cars .
Many of the small French cars from the earlier era survive -surprisingly- and compete at the Le Mans Classic.I consider their pilotes very brave men and the cars are a really fascinating part of Le Man's history.And the cars are French racing blue with no sponsorship decals.
Leica X1 photos from July 2012.

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