The 1955 Le Mans tragedy that took 84 lives including the driver Pierre Levegh forever changed, not only the 24 hours of Le Mans but the world of motorsports itself. And that tragedy was not the only one of that time as it was common for racers as well as innocent spectators lose their lives. The safety features in both the race car and the track itself were not taken seriously back then but it all changed after the terrible tragedy and by 1956, the 24 Hours of Le Mans committee wanted to make sure that the tragedy would not happen again. The track was changed especially the pit area where the tragedy happened, the radius of the Dunlop Curve was now increased and slow down zone was created right at the entrance to the pits. The pit stop signal for the drivers has now been centralized which would have probably helped prevent the 1955 crash. A ditch now separates the track and the grandstand.
New rules were implemented that put limitations to the engine capacity, making all the cars safer. The prototype class was limited to 2.5 L, the capacity of the fuel tanks was reduced to 130 L and the minimum number of laps between every refuel was change to 34 laps. The continuous driving time for every driver would not exceed 72 laps and a total driving time of no more than 14 hours for every driver. These actions were for the best intentions of making the race safer for both drivers and spectators.
Because the Jaguar produced more than 50 cars which are the required number for a model to be labeled as production cars, the Jaguar’s 3.4 L XK engine was retained and this gave them a huge advantage.
With that engine capacity advantage, the Jaguar D-Types were used in the 1956 24 Hours of Le Mans. Although the restrictions for the fuel tank and refueling time were still applied which means that each car needs to do 100 KM per 26 L of fuel so the Jaguar’s advantage was probably not that great.
3 Jaguar D-Types were entered by Jaguar’s official team, Mike Hawthorne drove one of the D-Types. Hawthorne was the champion of the tragic 1955 Le Mans and unconsciously contributed to the tragedy. Private Scottish team Ecurie Ecosse competed with a 1955 Jaguar D-Type in dark blue finish used by the team that featured the Scottish flag and a white St. Andrews cross with a blue background.
The drivers that competed in the 1956 Le Mans consisted of racing legends that include Sir Stirling Moss, Colin Chapman from the Lotus team, Maurice Trintignant, America’s legendary racer Phil Hill, Lucien Bianchi, and 2 drivers from the Ecurie Ecosse tea: Ron Flockart from Edinburgh and yachtsman Ninian Sanderson.
The 24 Hours of Le Mans has always been a dangerous race and in 1956, a total of 13 accidents occurred including 1 death. The 3 D-Type from the Jaguar team were not able to complete the race which leaves Ecurie Ecosse and his D-type to go head to head with Aston-Martins, the legendary British racer Stirling Moss was among the drivers of the Aston-Martins.
The Ecurie Ecosse and his blue Jaguar D-Type was able to defeat Stirling Moss and Peter Collins, an incredible feat after the fact that the 2nd gear was no longer functioning. Ecosse’s blue 1955 Jaguar D-Type has remained intact and is now in its 1956 Le Mans configuration.
It will be heading to RM Sotheby’s Monterey auction this August 19, 2016. In its original glory day’s condition and a remarkable history, it is expected to be sold between $20,000,000 and $25,000,000. This blue 1955 Jaguar D-Type is certainly an iconic post-war era classic car that is among the pioneers of the motorsports.
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