Ferrari 250 TR – 24 hours of Le Mans 1958 overall Winner, car #14 driven by Phil Hill and Olivier Gendebien.
A finely detailed model at 1:18 scale.
The 250 Testa Rossa was designed to offer customers already racing with the 500 TRC a much more powerful engine on a similar chassis to help retain the former model’s great handling. Rumour also had it that the FIA would place a three-litre limit on prototypes and this indeed proved to be the case. As a result the reliable V12 from the 250 Gran Turismo was used albeit with a radically tuned with six twin-choke carburettors. Compared with the 500 TRC, only the valve covers were painted red, but the car still kept the Testa Rossa name and won the Manufacturers’ World Championship in 1958
The race was run in terrible weather conditions and around two hours in an enormous storm fell on the circuit, flooding the track and reducing the visibility to almost nil.
With night falling and the rain pouring even harder, the track became awash and a terrible series of accidents began, a series which only ended with the checkered flag. Between 18:30 and 22:00, no less than 12 cars were involved in bad crashes. Several people were injured, one fatally. Jean-Marie Brousselet, who raced under the pseudonym “Mary”, was fatally injured when his Jaguar went out of control just beyond the Dunlop bridge. Also involved in this terrible accident was Bruce Kessler. The American ran into the remains of the Jaguar at high speed, just a few seconds after Brousselet had crashed. Luckily for Kessler, he was thrown out of his Ferrari, receiving only serious bruises and broken ribs, but his car was completely demolished and burned. Another American, Jay Chamberlain crashed his Lotus and was lucky to be picked off the track, before François Picard’s Ferrari crashed into it, totally destroying the little Lotus. Fortunate both Chamberlain and Picard only received minor injuries. Among the casualties during this period were Stuart Lewis-Evans (who had replaced Shelby as Salvadori’s team-mate) in his Aston Martin; Jean Hébert whose Alfa Romeo burned to nothing and Maurice Charles was another Jaguar driver to crash at high speed requiring hospital treatment.
After six hours of racing, the high-speeds coupled with the severe weather conditions, had already resulted in 21 cars eliminated. Meanwhile Hill and Gendebien were leading the race for Ferrari by over a minute from their team-mates, the all-German pairing of von Trips and Seidel. Closing up rapidly was the Jaguar of Hamilton and Bueb, who had passed the last Aston Martin of Brooks and Trintignant. The all-English Ferrari of Hawthorn and Collins had fallen back to 11th place. During the next hour, Bueb was driving magnificently, quite at ease in the wet and making remarkable progress. He passed the leading Ferrari shortly after 23:00 and the two cars were now circulating together, soon joined by von Trips. Just before midnight Hill took over from Gendebien. Minutes later Hamilton did the same in the Jaguar and Seidel in the second Ferrari. In the early hours of Sunday morning Phil Hill demonstrated that he was one of the world’s finest sports car drivers on adverse weather conditions. In the next two and half hours not only did Hill regain the lead, he lapped Hamilton.
The morning hours saw more storms and more casualties. Hawthorn and Collins retired their Ferrari. Gearbox troubles accounted for Brooks and Trintignant. With only a few cars remaining it seemed that nothing could alter the result. Just before midday, just as a fresh storm fell heavily on the circuit, Hamilton left the road resulting in a trip to the hospital with only slight injuries. That was the end of the last Jaguar, making it a tough day for the Coventry marque.
Under a menacing black sky the triumphant Phil Hill crossed the finishing line at 16:00 ending one of the wettest and most difficult 24 Heures du Mans in history.
The winning partnership, averaged a speed of 106 mph. The race was run in such terrible conditions that only 20 cars out of the 55 starters were able to complete the 24 hours, and just 17 were classified as having covered the official distance.