The Les 24 Heures du Mans was the 25th 24 Hours of Le Mans, Grand Prix of Endurance, and took place on 22 and 23 June 1957, on Circuit de la Sarthe. It was also the fifth round of the F.I.A. World Sports Car Championship. Some 250,000 spectators had gathered for Europe’s classic sports car race, around an 8.38-mile course. The prospect of an exciting duel between Ferrari, Maserati, Jaguar, Aston Martin and Porsche was enough to draw large crowds to the 24 Hours race, now back at its usual date and reintegrated into the World Championship.
Never before in the previous 25 races, did a single nation sweep the board so completely as Britain did in 1957. The brilliant success of the Jaguars in taking first four and sixth places became all the more significant when it is considered that every one of these cars was privately entered, and matched against the works teams of most of the greatest sport car manufacturers.
A grand total 82 racing cars were registered for this event, of which only 58 were allowed to practice, trying to qualify for the 55 places for the race. The number of starters was fixed at 55 following some regulations changes prior to the event. Some other changes included no limitations on cubic capacity or fuel consumption; windscreen height reduced; minimum interval between refuelling now reduced to 30 laps. No drivers allowed more than 36 consecutive laps in anyone stint.
The battle of the previous years between Jaguar and Italian concerns of Ferrari and Maserati was joined by the English marque, Aston Martin, fresh from their triumph on the 1000km of Nürburgring with their Aston Martin DBR1. For this race, they brought along a new DBR2, backed up by a brace of DBR1s. Scuderia Ferrari’s hope laid with two 335 S, a 315 S, a 290 MM and a Ferrari 250 TRC. Two of the Maseratis were the brutal 450S models, with sporting a special coupé body designed by Frank Costin. Of the five Jaguars, three were ex-works D-Types, the two Ecurie Ecosse cars and Duncan Hamilton’s, while only the Ivor Bueb/Ron Flockhart version had fuel injection.
The big question from pre-race scrutineering was whether Maserati were going to appear with the coupé body, with its rumoured slide back roof and dropdown doors. The car did indeed turn up, but with normal opening type doors. Another point of interest was whether Juan Manuel Fangio, nominated as a reserve driver, was going to appear at all. He did, completing a few circuits in the closed cars and then taking over the open one.
Despite the poor weather leading up to race day, it began cloudy and humidly muggy. By the 4 pm start, the crowd was around 250,000. The first car to clear the pits was the Ferrari of Peter Collins, followed by the Aston Martins of Roy Salvadori, Graham Whitehead and Tony Brooks. Next came Olivier Gendebien in the new Ferrari, André Guelfi(Gordini) and Paul Frère in the first of the Jaguars. At the end of lap 1, Collins was in the lead, followed by Brooks. Stirling Moss whose Maserati coupé had started well down the field, had made up many places during that mad dash. Although 52 cars came round at the end of the first lap. Mike Hawthorn held third place, Gendebien fourth and Salvadori fifth; behind them cam Ivor Bueb in the Ecurie Ecosse Jaguar, Whitehead, Frère, Stuart Lewis-Evans and Jean Lucas. By the time the cars completed their second lap, Collins had dropped back to tenth, having suffered a partial piston seizure. Hawthorn now led from Moss, Brooks and Gendebien. Collins pitted on his third lap, despite hasty work carried by the Scuderia mechanics, the car was eventually pushed away with a seized piston - and before Phil Hill had had a drive.
At the end of the sixth lap, Lucas brought hid D-Type into the pits and dropped from 12th to 16th place. While Jean Behra was bringing his Maserati up through the field, Hawthorn continued to build up his lead and Moss dropped back into third, being passed by Behra. Steadily, the Frenchman closed his distance behind Hawthorn.
The Jaguar of Ninian Sanderson/Jock Lawrence pitted to change plugs when lying in 12th, and Moss’ Maserati began to smoke ominously and heavily. After 19 laps, Hawthorn came into the pits to change a wheel. The task of inserting the new spare into the Ferrari’s tail took considerably longer than to change the wheel. Mike now desperate to get back into the race, leaped into the car – to be ordered out again smartly by a marshal. In the meantime, Behra took over the lead, and Moss, Gendebien and Bueb also passed a slowing Hawthorn, who re-joined back in fifth place, a head of Brooks. After his first pit stop, Hawthorn lowered his own lap record to 3min 59.6sec – the first official race lap under four minutes. The Moss Maserati, now in the hands of Harry Schell after a long pit stop, was soon to retire with rear axle trouble, and joined their team-mates Behra/André Simon who had already retired with a split fuel tank following an accident. Hawthorn refuelled and handed the Ferrari over to Luigi Musso.
Musso only lasted until the fourth hour before his engine gave up after running out of oil and blowing up, leaving the Gendebien/Maurice Trintignant car as the remaining challenger from Maranello, before it too retired in the tenth hour. As for Jaguar, the Ecurie Ecosse car of Flockhart/Bueb went into the lead at the start of the third hour. By 9 pm, when the majority of fuel stops had been completed, the Jag still led the race, now with Bueb back behind the wheel; Brooks back in the Aston Martin, held second place, Gendebien in third, Masten Gregory, in Hamilton’s Jaguar, fourth with the second Ecurie Ecosse Jaguar laying in fifth.
Just before 10:30 pm, the Aston Martin of Salvadori retired on lap 82 – the gear-changing mechanism having failed. The trouble occurred soon after Les Leston handed the car back to Salvadori, at the second fuel stop. The remaining Aston was lying second to Bueb’s D-Type. When Brooks took over the Aston, he was four minutes behind Bueb; two hours later, he was about two minutes adrift, when gear selection trouble befell the car, but remained in second. Gendebien’s Ferrari was third, two laps behind Flockhart, who now back at the wheel of the led Jag.
By midnight the order remained the same. Brooks had closed the gap to the leading Jaguar to within 2 mins 20 sec., when he handed to car to Nöel Cunningham-Reid; but soon the Aston start dropping back – with only fourth gear available. Meanwhile, Hamilton’s Jaguar was also slowing because of a burnt-through exhaust pipe which was filling the cockpit with fumes and overheating the fuel lines. When Hamilton finally pitted, the exhaust system was welding up and the car returned to the race. The only Aston Martin of Salvadori/Leston was also having gearbox issues, with only top gear, came to a halt with engine trouble at Mulsanne – and retired on lap 113. Ferrari was also their own problems. The Gendebien/Trintignant car dropped out with a broken piston and a hole in the crankcase; the second well-place Ferrari of Lewis-Evans/Martino Severi was steadily losing ground, now running with no brakes.
At 1:50 am, Flockhart’s Jaguar came through the pit area, astern of Brooks’ Aston, but in fact now all but two laps ahead. Just twenty minutes later, Brooks had rammed the sandbank and overturned the car, at Tertre Rouge and had in turn, been shunted by Umberto Maglioli’s Porsche – the two cars lying second and seventh respectively. Both drivers were taken to hospital for examination through neither was seriously injured. The accident changed once more the positions amongst the leaders, putting the Ecurie Ecosse Jaguars in first and second. Jaguar also occupied third and fourth positions, with Lewis-Evans Ferrari headed the challenge in fifth place.
At half-distance, Paul Frére, in the Equipe Nationale Belge D-Type, had passed Lawrence for second, albeit a full five laps adrift. Lewis-Evans, although now in sixth, was steadily gaining on the Jaguars at the rate 20 to 30 seconds a lap.
By 5:30 am, the circuit was covered in a thick mist, but this not affect the lap times. From this point on came the real test of endurance – not many cars left and nothing left to do but slog it out. An hour later, the lead Jaguar completed its 200th lap. At 6:55 am, the Jaguar of Freddy Rousselle, who partnering Frère which was lying second, was held up at Mulsanne for some time with ignition trouble. Rousselle eventually got the car moving again and pitted. He later rejoined down in sixth place, after losing 55 mins out on the circuit. This order remained constant for some time.
At 4:00pm, the chequered flag fell and, for the second year in succession, Flockhart brought a dark blue Ecurie Ecosse Jaguar D-Type first past the finishing flag – followed this time by his team-mate, Sanderson. The winning partnership, averaged a speed of 113.843 mph, was never challenged in a trouble-free run except for one non-scheduled stop to change a light bulb. In fact, the car spent only 13 minutes and 9 seconds on pit lane during the 24 hours! The margin of triumph over the Jaguar of Lawrence/Sanderson was eight laps, who were followed home by Equipe Los Amigos Jaguar of Lucas/Jean-Marie Brousselet who were a further two laps adrift. Equipe Nationale Belge Jaguar took fourth place with Rousselle/Frère, but their D-Type finished 17 laps adrift of the winners. The Lewis-Evans held on to fifth place, with the Hamilton Jaguar just one lap behind. Hamilton’s D-Type was the only one to hit serious trouble when he and Gregory lost two hours due to electrical problems.
Although the glamour was associated with those that took an outright victory, the magnificent performance of the Lotus marque should not be overlooked. Four cars entered, four finished, winning the Index of Performance (which recognized the greatest measure of achievement by any car above the average for its class). The seal on this success was set by the awards of Biennial Cups to Jaguar, Aston Martin and Lotus. The cup awarded to entrant, who qualify by outstanding performances in the previous year. English drivers, though they did not finish in their more powerful Ferraris, set a new standing-start lap record (Collins) and lap record (Hawthorn).
Class Winners are in Bold text.
Did Not Start
Standings after the race
Championship points were awarded for the first six places in each race in the order of 8-6-4-3-2-1. Manufacturers were only awarded points for their highest finishing car with no points awarded for positions filled by additional cars. Only the best 4 results out of the 7 races could be retained by each manufacturer. Points earned but not counted towards the championship totals are listed within brackets in the above table.