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Aston's tribute to '59 Le Mans winners
53 cars competed in the 1959 Le Mans race, with such esteemed dignitaries as Mille Miglia winner Stirling Moss; Graham Hill, who later went on to win the Formula One world championship twice; Phil Hill, who would take the F1 crown two years later, and Bruce McLaren, founder of the company that later built the McLaren F1.
Four notable drivers, neither of whom managed to finish the 24 hours. No, the 1959 race was won by Texan speed merchant Carroll Shelby and Essex-born Roy Salvadori, driving an Aston Martin DBR1. They were helped to victory by chief engineer Ted Cutting, and this week, Aston has decided to commemorate the race-winning trio.
Why the odd 53-year anniversary? Because sadly, all three passed away this year. Says AM’s head of motorsport David King: “We were deeply saddened by the loss of Carroll, Roy and Ted. They all played a hugely important role in Aston Martin’s racing history and will forever remain part of the company’s heritage.”
In fact, a few years back on the 50th anniversary of the win, Carroll spoke of just how much it meant to the team. “We went through gallons of oil, and at the end of the race, David Brown (then Aston owner) got in the car for the victory lap, dressed up in all of his finery with a new sports coat and everything.
“After he got into the car he sat in about an inch of oil, but I guess under the circumstances he didn’t mind too much.”
He also spoke about the sheer physical effort required. “I had dysentery during the entire race. And back then it was very different - everything was a series of compromises. There was no automatic rev limiter, only our feet, and the gearbox and clutch were not very strong. One slip and you could blow the engine.”
In tribute, Aston will take the iconic DBR1 to Le Mans this weekend to display near the start of the pit straight, while the factory-entered Vantage GTEs actually racing will carry commemorative plaques. All six drivers will bear Shelby and Salvadori’s initials and racing number 59 on their helmets.
They’ve also put together this nifty little silent, pathe-style homage to the trio, cut together using original footage from the 1959 race. We demand you watch it and provide your own unique voiceover in a period accent.
Of course, you’ll know we’re at Le Mans this weekend, so keep an eye on TG.com for regular updates from the team.