Dating a mans best friend
[reference ‘The First Healey’, By James Watt] ‘Le Mans 24 hour’, the name stirs up such imagery. Certainly one with a huge following today, as it had then. Programmes and tickets from the immediate post war period sell today for hundreds of pounds simply because of the images of the cars and the drivers they conjure up. These were the underdogs taking on the big organised manufacturers and their teams, often these were the most intriguing stories of them all.
We all have our favourites of the period, the pre-war Bugattis and Bentleys, the post war Astons, Allard, HRG – the adrenaline flows just to mention the names. Produced by small manufacturers in low volumes, typically only ever making a few appearances. [reference Les Healey au Mans 1949-1970 by Herve Chevalier] It was the summer of 1949.
The races were strictly for sport cars, but for 1949, approved prototypes were allowed – to give some leeway to the developing post-war motor industry.
As usual, repairs could only be carried out using spares and tools carried in the cars and then only by one assistant to the driver.
A quarter of a mile of new pits stood alongside the track next to the ruins of the old.
On the gallery above, 250 flags of the competing nations fluttered under the blazing summer sun.
Fifty two entries were accepted for this first race.
all the ingredients of a first class continental motor race’.However, closely following this first prototype was a second. This car, though also strictly a prototype, was the first truly finished car.It was driven to Italy in late 1946, scrutineered and proven to average over 104 mph over 100 miles on poor roads which were still in use.As it swept down the line of men broke and, in what seemed like a moment, Chaboud’s Delahaye, a vicious two-seater with vast aerodynamic wings, swept off into the lead, followed by Paul Vallee’s Talbot……….Slow to move off were Villeneuve’s Delehaye and Walker’s Delehaye driven by Tony Rolt. were very hesitant and poor Jack Bartlett in the Healey saloon didn’t get off until the car had been rocked to unglue the starter and then pushed, some three minutes being lost thereby.’  For those of us who have had Lucas starter motors – I think we have all been there.
New concrete grandstands and a 1,000 seater restaurant had been made ready for the event.