Le Mans: 1949–59


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Le Mans: 1949–59
Le Mans: 1949–59
By Quentin Spurring

This was a very important period in the Le Mans story. Ferrari and Jaguar raced to stake claims as the foremost manufacturers of high-performance cars. Mercedes-Benz came back from war-ravaged Germany and again set the standards in race-car engineering. Aston Martin finally won at its 20th attempt. Enormous crowds – approaching half a million people – saw the first rear-engined saloons to compete at Le Mans, and the first mid-engined sports-racing cars, and the first diesels.

As the victorious manufacturers actively promoted their successes, their commercial rivals also set out to win. As many as 15 brought ‘works’ teams every June, with purpose-built cars. On-track performance soared. In 1949 the fastest car hit 135mph (217kph) on the unique Mulsanne straight. Before the end of the 1950s, top speeds exceeded 180mph (290kph).

This fascinating book tells the stories of these increasingly potent racing cars and conveys the punishing nature of an incomparable event – the ultimate test of the mental and physical abilities of the fragile individuals who make up racing teams, be they drivers, engineers, strategists or mechanics.

The thorough statistics in the book result from fresh research, and there are more than 400 evocative photographs, many of them – including very rare colour images – never published before.

  • ISBN: 9780992820961
  • Format: 280 x 230mm
  • Jacketed hardback
  • Page extent: 384pp, colour throughout
  • Illustration: 400 photographs, some rare colour
  • Word count: 80,000

Quentin Spurring entered motorsport journalism on the editorial team of Autosport in 1966. He became the weekly magazine’s deputy editor but left in 1970 to try his hand as a freelance, also serving two years as the media officer of the British Automobile Racing Club and the editor of its monthly publication.

He was the launch editor of Competition Car magazine in 1972–74, and the press officer of Graham Hill’s Formula 1 team in 1975. He returned to Autosport in 1976 as its editor, and served in this capacity or as its executive editor until 1988.

On April Fool’s Day, ‘Q’ left to form Q.Editions, a specialist contract publishing company, which was successful in Formula 1 and high-end sportscar racing. Q.ED clients included the FIA, Asprey, Castrol, Jaguar, Marlboro, Mercedes-Benz and Shell, as well as professional Group C teams such as Brun, Schuppan and Spice.

Having originally learned his trade on Civil Engineering magazine, he saw the need for a trade and technical periodical serving the global motorsport industry. In 1992, Q.ED launched Racecar Engineering magazine, for which he subsequently received individual achievement awards from both the UK’s motorsport industry trade bodies, AMRA and the MIA. He sold the title late in 1996 and quit as its editor in 2000 to edit two internet projects, F1i.com and RaceAccess, Marlboro’s extensive motorsport media website.

In 2008–09, he edited The Paddock, a monthly magazine focusing on the business of professional motorsport. He has been the European Motorsport Correspondent of the US publication, AutoWeek, since 1982.

His first book, Formula 1 in Camera 1980–89, which featured the photographs of Rainer Schlegelmilch accompanied by a detailed commentary, appeared in 2005, published by by Haynes Publishing. Other titles followed on Jim Clark, Gilles Villeneuve and Ronnie Peterson. With David Bull Publishing he wrote Grand Prix: Images of the First 100 Years, which won an award from the American Publishers Association (APA).

His long-held passion the Le Mans 24 Hours – he has reported from the race 26 times – made him the ideal author for a new project detailing the history of the race decade by decade in individual volumes. Published by Haynes in collaboration with L’Automobile Club de L’Ouest (ACO), organisers of ‘The World’s Greatest Motor Race’, the first four volumes were launched in the order 1960–69 (2010), 1970–79 (2011), 1949–59 (2011) and 1980–89 (2012). Evro Publishing then took over the series, introducing the fifth volume, 1990–99, in July 2014.

He is married with two children (and five grandchildren), and lives in south London.


“If you’re interested in 1950s Le Mans 24 Hours races, then look no further. This is an extremely comprehensive review of the period which includes some great images, all the results and plenty more.”

Motor Sport

“The author is clearly passionate about the race he regards as the greatest in the world and his superbly illustrated book contains meticulously compiled and detailed accounts of each of the eleven races of the period… it’s the fascinating race-by-race inside stories of individual teams, cars, entrants and drivers that form the bulk of the book, make for absorbing reading and results in the most in-depth account that this reviewer has yet seen of what was arguably the most revolutionary decade in the history of the Le Mans 24 Hours… fans of the race and motorsport historians in general will find this book, and its companion volumes, indispensible.”


“Perversely, it is best to start this book from the back. Among the brilliant data-fest of appendices are reasons for retirement, marque and driver records, fastest laps, margins of victory, and even pseudonyms. Add to that the stats with each chapter and you’ll barely notice that there are also a bunch of words and some brilliant photos.”

Classic & Sports Car

“Far superior than anything else that we have read on the subject.”

Veloce Today

    Le Mans: 1949–59
    Le Mans: 1949–59