My father is now a published photographer.
Back in March I got an email out of the blue from someone asking whether I’d be interested in publishing some of my dad’s 1959 Le Mans photos in a book. Ha ha, very funny I thought. Then I googled the chap’s name – Quentin Spurring. It turns out he’s a motorsport author who has published books like “Le Mans 24 Hours: The Official History of the World’s Greatest Motor Race 1960-69” and 1970-79, and I realised that this was a serious query and he must be doing the 1950-59 version.
I didn’t take long to decide that yes, I’d be happy for his images to appear! To cut a long story short, The Official History 1949-59 has just been published and I received a complimentary copy today. It’s lovely, and the 9 of my dad’s photos have come out beautifully – including one on the back cover, one as a two-page spread as the title page for the 1959 race and another on a full page.
What do you mean I last posted in March? It wasn’t that long ago, surely? Oops…
Now, where were we? Ah yes, 1961, and it’s Le Mans time again – for the third and final time, my father and his friend Bill went to Le Mans for the 24 hour race.
This, believe it or not, is the start of the race. The drivers have just run over from the bank in the foreground and are just getting into the cars. And yes, the spectators really are that close. The two cars are Aston Martins DB4 GT Zagatos. #4 is Roy Salvadori & Tony Maggs’ car, while #5 is Jim Clark and Ron Flockhart.
This is taken from directly above the pits – the Ferrari garage in this case. This is #10, a Ferrari 250, with Phil Hill getting in.
Night view from above the pits, with Bill watching.
The Salvadori/Maggs Aston Martin, in the process of retiring, 19 hours into the race. There is a sequence of several photos, showing the car coming into the pits, mechanics attending to it as usual, and then the appearance of the rather ominous leak at the back. Then there are shots of concerned mechanics studying the rear end, and finally the car being wheeled back into the garage. Fuel leak apparently.
This little selection is from behind the scenes at Le Mans
One of the bars at night
People sleeping in the stand
La Calandre, the small hotel/restaurant where my father stayed. I can’t find any reference to it still being open, but there is a Rue de la Calandre in Le Mans, so I suppose that’s where the hotel was.
In June 1959, my dad and his friend Bill Greenstreet went to the Continent for a holiday – not a common thing to do in those days. No nipping over on the cross-channel ferry for them. Instead they used the wonderfully named “Air Bridge” – a Bristol freighter which flew them to France. That’s Bill’s car being loaded.
A typical French road, lined with plane trees – near Nogent-Sur-Seine if you’re really interested.
The Basilica in Lisieux
This is Le Mans cathedral, and that should tell you a lot about why they really went to France. The first box of 50 black and white films can probably be summarised as “student days”, while the second box (the one I’m on now) can probably be summed up as “petrolhead” – it looks like about half of the films are dedicated to motorsport meetings all over the place – Silverstone, Brands Hatch and most significantly of all, Le Mans. But, we’ll come to that soon…
After the visit to Le Mans, it looks like they went on a bit of a pilgrimage of motorsport venues, also managing to fit in visits to the circuits at Reims and Spa in Belgium. It has to be said that these two aren’t really on any kind of direct route back from Le Mans towards, well anywhere in England really.
This shot is of the Spa circuit, looking back towards the pits from the legendary Eau Rouge corner.