The 24 Heures du Mans was the 27th 24 Hours of Le Mans, Grand Prix of Endurance, and took place on 22/21 June 1959, on Circuit de la Sarthe. It was also the fourth round of the F.I.A. World Sports Car Championship. Some 150,000 spectators had gathered for Europe’s classic sports car race, around an 8.38-mile course. The prospect of an exciting duel between Ferrari, Aston Martin and Porsche was enough to draw large crowds to the 24 Hours race.
A grand total 97 racing cars were registered for this event, of which only 54 when allowed to practice, trying to qualify for the 54 places for the race. The number of starters was fixed at 54 following some regulations changes prior to the 1957 event.
Aston Martin, fresh from their triumph on the 1000km of Nürburgring with their DBR1/300, arrived at Le Sarthe with an incredibly strong driver line-up in order to give themselves chance of victory. David Brown Racing Dept. brought along three cars, to be driven by Stirling Moss/Jack Fairman, Roy Salvadori/Carroll Shelby and Maurice Trintignant/Paul Frère.
Up against the English team would be no fewer than six Ferrari 250 TRs, entered by numerous teams including Scuderia Ferrari and North American Racing Team. The works squad of drivers included 1958 winners, Phil Hill/Olivier Gendebien, and they were joined by Jean Behra/Dan Gurney and Hermano da Silva Ramos/Cliff Allison. In addition to the Ferraris, there would be a pair of Listers and five Porsches, just raring to go for overall victory.
Qualifying was held over two sessions for a total of 540 minutes over the 17 and 18 June, a few days prior to the race.
When the French tricolour fell at 16:00, it was Moss who would make the best getaway, and lead the field around the Dunlop curve and over the hill toward the esses. By the end of the lap, Moss was leading from the chasing Ferraris. For lap after lap, the red cars appeared to be on the hunt, chasing Moss. The Astons were considered to be the long-shots for race victory. They would have to have a proper strategy for the entire race and pray that providence would see their cars through to the end, at the head of the field.
Prior to the race, the management at David Brown Racing Dept., who ran the Aston Martins decided to send Moss and Fairman out as hares, to try an induce the Ferraris to chase them. And chased them, they did as the plan worked brilliantly. Moss and Fairman lead the way and the Ferraris were obliged to follow. This was torture for the No.4 car, trying to maintain such a pace, and after 70 laps, the car suffered engine failure and the English pairing were out of the race, but the tactic had worked. The pace wouldn’t just take its toll on the Ferraris, as the sole Jaguar D-Type of Innes Ireland and Masten Gregory retired on the same lap as the Aston. In all, by lap 100, twenty-three cars would be out of the race.
However, unfortunately for Aston Martin, the vast majority of the Ferraris were still running, and in the hunt. Nonetheless, the Aston Martin pairing of Salvadori and Shelby were prepared to take the fight to the Ferraris and would even have the lead as the race headed into the night-time hours. But as the dawn gave way to late morning, they were running the stronger of the surviving Astons, with their team-mates, Frère and Trintignant right behind them. At 4am, the English cars had been running down in fifth and sixth place, following a chunk of tread had come off the Salvadori/Shelby car that caused some vibration issues. By noon, they managed to move through the field, to run first and second.
Lap after lap, the two Astons would continue to hold onto the top spots. And then, finally, the race would be in final moments, with Salvadori back behind the wheel, now enjoying a full lap advantage over Trintignant. Finally, Salvadori and Brown’s Aston Martin had done it, securing victory for the English marque. In the case of Shelby, he was fighting a bout of dysentery and the side effect associated with it. Shortly after the race, the Texan would collapse and sleep for hours afterwards.
The winning partnership, averaged a speed of 112.569 mph, and their winning margin over the second placed crew was over a lap adrift, as Trintignant finished almost behind Salvadori. Such was the pace of the Aston Martin, the third car home was 26 laps behind the winners. That car was the GT Ferrari 250 GT LWB of ”Beurlys” and ”Eldé. In the end, only 13 cars out of the 54 starters were able to complete the race, and actually just 12 could be classified as having covered the official distance.
Class Winners are in Bold text.
Failed to complete 70% of winner's distance (226 laps)Fastest Lap: Jean Behra, 4:00.9secs (124.996 mph)
Note: Only the top five positions are included in this set of standings.
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 3 results out of the 5 races could be retained by each manufacturer. Points earned but not counted towards the championship totals are listed within brackets in the above table.