The Le Mans Era
1950 – 1955
1953: Top Ten Trio  Text by Kane Rogers
 
  Two C-4Rs, the coupe and one of the roadsters, were joined on the grid by the new C-5R “Shark”, so named because of the visage presented by its jaw-like grille. Phil Walters and John Fitch were assigned to drive the C-5R, while Briggs and Bill Spears would again drive the C-4R, and Charles Moran and John Gordon Benett got the nod for the C-4RK.

Benett had first met Briggs in 1951 at Elkhart Lake where he was driving a borrowed Allard. Briggs, impressed with Benett’s talent, had said to him, “We’ve got to get you a ride in a Cunningham.” Two years later and across the Atlantic, Benett had his ride. He went on to race for Cunningham for several years and eventually had a hand in Briggs’ later partnership with Jaguar.

The Cunningham team had arrived at Le Mans well prepared for almost any eventuality, even to the extent of having projected the average speed required to win. What they did not allow for, however, was Jaguar’s use of the innovative new Dunlop disc brakes. The Walters/Fitch C-5R’s top speed was higher than
the Jaguars by a wide margin, but the British cars were able to maintain their velocity much deeper into the corners, thus erasing the Americans’ advantage. “Long after we started braking,” Phil Walters said, “the Jags were still going flat out.” Despite averaging almost eight miles per hour faster than the previous years’ winners, the Fitch/Walters car finished third, behind two factory C-Types.

Cunningham and Spears also beat the previous year’s winning time and finished seventh, with Moran and Benett bringing the coupe home in tenth for a Team Cunningham top-ten sweep. “Three cars-third, seventh and tenth-in the top ten at Le Mans,”  Briggs later commented, “I guess that wasn’t too bad.”

Charles Moran, who in 1929 had been the first American to race at Le Mans, agreed: the seventh place he shared with John Gordon Benett was his best ever and his final drive in the 24 Hours.

           
1950 1951 1952 1953 1954 1955
           
 

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Credit to Kane Rogers for his important contributions to this website's creation.