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Le Mans 1949-59 The Official History of the World's Greatest Motor Race.
ISBN 978 1 84425 537 5
Published Oct 2011. (Hardback, 384 pages).
Review date Jan 2012.
UK RRP £45.Buy this Book:
|This is the latest in a series of books by this author, describing the Le Mans 24 hour sportscar race with reviews of each year's event in detail. This book, launched in October 2011, concentrates on years 1949 through to 1959. Previous publications in this series cover 1960 to 1969, and 1970 to 1979, with plans in place to ultimately produce eight volumes, starting with the earliest races in the 1920s, continuing through to the races of recent times. Organisers of this annual event, the Automobile Club de l'Ouest, give their official approval to this series of books.|
|This large format hardback book is packed with both period photographs, in both black and white, and colour, easily justifying the cover price alone, so varied and well reproduced are they. 1949 would be the first time since WW2 that the 24 Hour race was held, largely due to the damage that had taken place to the venue during the war. As with subsequent chapters, a full entry list is given, along with tables describing the marques represented in that year's race, the winner(s), and an overview of the weather conditions that both works' and privateer drivers would have to face. Page by page, in-depth analysis guides the reader through the race as it unfolds, describing not just the activities at the front of the field, but happily also those further down the leaderboard, and the behind-the-scenes action in the pitlane. I didn't know, for example, that a Belgian privateer chose to enter a car based on the Alvis TA14. Featuring a bulging open-top body made especially for the race, this ungainly-looking machine only completed six laps before its engine expired.|
|Diesel-powered cars are now a regular feature of Le Mans entry lists, but even in 1949 the race spectator would be faced with an oil-burner, the first time a diesel-engined car had competed in this race. The car was the Delettrez, a sizeable single seater built by intrepid brothers. Powered by a GMC truck engine, fitted into a chassis built up from Unic truck parts, it was clothed with a body removed from a (crashed) Delage 135. Although ultimately not a great success, to simply compete for (in all) three times at Le Mans was a great achievement in itself, and the team's exploits - along with others up and down the pitlane - are well covered.|
|Chapter by chapter, each year's race is described in full, providing a useful reference tool for anyone with a passion for classic sportscars, and/or racing in the post-war era. 1955 is probably the best known race of the era covered in this publication, and sadly for all the wrong reasons. The horrific accident that claimed so many lives on Saturday 11th June is described in detail, accompanied by photographs showing the beginnings of the accident unfolding, as Levegh's Mercedes-Benz tangled with the rear corner of Macklin's Austin-Healey, launching the former into the air.|
|Fortunately, the many other stories of 1955 away from the headline disaster receive appropriate coverage too in this chapter. Porsche, with their entry of 550 RS Spyders, and Aston Martin, with their DB3S sportscars and the lone Lagonda V12 driven by Poore and Parnell, are described, as is Briggs Cunningham's effort with the C6-R. Other British entries included a lone Arnott sportscar, a small open-top car that sadly crashed during Thursday practice and didn't make the start. MG was represented by a trio of EX.182 cars, introducing the MGA shape to the public. Full race results, as with earlier and subsequent years, are given at the end of the chapter.|
|If D-Type Jaguars racing in British Racing Green appeal more to you than diesel-engined, sponsor-laden Audi R18s, then I can well recommend this book to you. As a record of post-war sportscar endurance racing at the legendary La Sarthe course, this is a brilliant book. The only downside to having read through this book is that I now feel the need to hunt down copies of the other two books already in print.|
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