Race Day for Triumph at Le Mans

Triumph at Le Mans.
Image courtesy of Dave Gleed / The TR Register

Come the race day, the cars looked great. We were running 928 HP (no. 59) and 929 HP did not run due to a bad engine oil leak. 928 HP was the spare car, and incidentally was the car I principally worked on during the build.

The clock was ticking; everyone including the spectators were watching the clock. It was as if time was standing still. The drivers leapt into their cars – the noise was deafening. Ballisat was away, Leston was away, Peter Bolton nearly stalled his car, managed to just miss a 250 Berlinetta  Ferrari, got the revs up and he was away.

Exciting and impressive

The most exciting and impressive cars exiting the pits were the V12 Ferraris; there was not another sound like it. Soon after the start on Saturday, two Ferraris ran out of fuel, trying to make up time by saving weight, but they got the figures wrong.

During the early hours of Sunday morning, the Bolton Sanderson car came in for service and driver change – fuel in, windscreen cleaned, oils etc. checked. Ninian Sanderson jumped in and hit the starter button and… nothing happened. Ken Richardson called us all down off the pit counter, summing up the situation by saying the starter motor was knackered, possibly due to heat under the bonnet building up and causing a voltage drop.

Discrete repairs

Ken told me to discreetly go to the back of the pit and get a starter motor and stuff it in my overalls, so that no-one could see; which I did and strolled back over to the pit counter. By then the car was up on the quick lift jack, so I dived under and started to change the starter motor. Whilst I was struggling in the heat and darkness under the car, the lads were leaning over the engine bay trying to hide what I was doing, which was quite illegal.

The next thing we knew, a French TV team arrived, complete with camera and a big flood light. Of course the lads retaliated with various Anglo-Saxon style shouts and expressions of annoyance, and the TV team went, leaving me to do the necessary. I had to shove the hot starter motor inside my overalls, which gave me quite bad burns. I still carry the scars today.

The missing driver

By mid-morning Sunday, our three cars were all still running, but getting tired, with lap times falling, maximum rpm being 4,300 or thereabouts. All the cars came in for plug changes, the plugs were getting cooked, as they say in racing circles. Later that morning the cars were coming in for fuel and servicing etc – the drivers had four hours on and four hours off. Come the time for the Bolton/Sanderson driver change, Peter Bolton came in, we did the necessary, but there was no Ninian Sanderson. Ken Richardson began spitting venom again, shouting where is he? Suddenly, Ninian appeared; it was all a big mystery, and Ken was not a happy man. Later, we heard that Ninian Sanderson had gone off and scrounged a drive in a Porsche Spider for a few laps. We all broke the rules, or rather bent them slightly.

Finishing the race

All three cars finished, quite an achievement, 15th, 18th, and 19th overall, TR reliability shining through again. Later, on return to Coventry, we heard that the main problem was the valves hammered into the seats, closing cam clearances.

This is part three of an abridged version of an article that appeared in TR Action, the TR Register magazine, in 2007-2008. Further information can be found on their website. For the full article, please contact them.

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