On Thursday 31 August, the Cedar Lawn at Woodcote Park was graced by some of the most prestigious cars in the history of motorsport. Club members and their guests joined us to celebrate the diamond anniversary of the Jaguar D-type’s legendary finish at the Le Mans 24 Hours race in 1957, which is still regarded as one of British motorsport’s greatest achievements.
It was in this race that five privately-entered D-types didn’t just win the race but dominated the fiery pack made up of prototypes and romped home in the first four places, with the fifth car crossing the line in sixth. To commemorate this milestone – the best result in the D-type’s racing history and its third consecutive win at Le Mans – the Club played host to a unique reunion of the first, second and third place cars, and a handful of the key figures behind the winning Jaguars.
In 1956, David Murray’s one-year-old Ecurie Ecosse D-type, piloted by Ron Flockhart and Ninian Sanderson, defeated the odds and took the win in the Le Mans 24 Hours at its first attempt – against rival racers such as Sir Stirling Moss and Mike Hawthorn. The winning streak continued in 1957 for the privateers, despite being pitched against more powerful prototypes. Ecosse bought two of the 1956 works cars, XKD 606 and XKD 603 and began work on what would become a legendary journey to a hat-trick victory for Jaguar.
Prepared by tuner and co-director ‘Wilkie’ Wilkinson and chief mechanic Ron Gaudion, the two cars were loaded onto a pair of 1929 single-decker buses and hit the road to Le Mans. As the cars geared up for the race, Flockhart, now paired with ‘Ivor (Bueb) the Driver’, in the Flag Metallic Blue D-type and Sanderson, teamed with rookie John ‘Jock’ Lawrence, completed the five-strong hungry line-up of privateer Jags awaiting their moment in the spotlight.
Bueb entered the pits in second position when he handed over the reins to Flockhart and the Edinburgh driver went on to lead the race as night began to fall. The second of the Ecosse cars, driven by Ninian Sanderson and ‘Jock’ Lawrence, meanwhile, was slowly working its way through the pack to second position. It was Le Mans-born rally racer Jean Lucas in XKD 513, paired up with Jean-Marie ‘Mary’ Brussin, who completed the top three.
We were delighted to welcome XKD 606, 603 and 513 to the Club, along with Hugh McCaig of Ecurie Ecosse, former Ecurie mechanic and engineer Ron Gaudion, chief test driver and development engineer for Jaguar Cars (1952 to 1985) Norman Dewis OBE and current Director of Design at Jaguar Cars, Ian Callum.
‘We didn’t arrive at Le Mans expecting to win in ’57,’ explained Gaudion, the only person to have a direct link to all three D-type wins at Le Mans. ‘We just wanted to see the two Ecurie cars cross the line in one piece. It was midway through the race when we realised we were in with a chance of securing the win, and possibly second place, too.’
Today, through the genius of Ian Callum, Jaguar continues to filter through the iconic design of the Jaguar D-type, and later the E-type, into its modern cars. Callum said: ‘The D-type is not only a stunning car to look at it, it’s the best drive I’ve ever had.’
McCaig told us: ‘For me, the spirit of Ecurie Ecosse will never fade and our aim is to keep it alive. We are still very much a racing team and there’s no doubt you’ll see us competing in 2018.’
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