Much of practice was spent rehearsing and analysing pit stops, fine-tuning the fuel injection – ‘Wilkie’ was still running it up the road on the morning of the race – and keeping out of harm’s way as Ferrari and Maserati butted heads. There was no point trying to match the red cars, particularly as multiple world champion Juan Fangio, fastest in practice, was unlikely to contest a race that he had come to detest, while Maserati team-mate Stirling Moss, no fan of this French enduro either, was aghast at his new, supposedly tailor-made 450S Coupé. There had been talk that the latter, based on drawings by Frank Costin, the aerodynamicist responsible for the distinctive Formula 1 Vanwall, would be capable of 200mph, but the reality was that its build had been rushed, corners cut, and that it was slower than its open-topped cousin. Ferrari, meanwhile, was fretting over problematic new pistons and was busy fitting older versions into a cylinder bank of the car to be shared by Collins and America’s Phil Hill.
Despite being warned to run-in these items, the former set a new standing lap record – and retired steamily on the second lap; Enzo reportedly was not best pleased with his former favourite. Mike Hawthorn, who had given Moss a shock by breezing gleefully by the low-slung Maserati, now took the lead for Ferrari and pulled away relentlessly.
Meanwhile, sitting contentedly on the fringes of this madness, was a Flag Metallic Blue Jaguar, with its Saltire and identifying Lance-corporal stripe: ‘Ivor the Driver’ was playing it cool. And further back in the pack were four other privateer Ds, each awaiting their moment…
Photography courtesy of LAT Images