Sunday, May 15, 2016

Automoblog Book Garage: Klemantaski: Master Motorsports Photographer

Book Garage

The saying “a picture is worth a thousand words” certinately rings true for the work of Louis Klemantaski, often considered the architect of Motorsports photography. His eye captured the raw action on the front lines of racing’s golden era.

Klemantaski’s shot it all during his storied career, from F1 and Grand Prix to road and track racing.

Rare Treasures

Klemantaski: Master Motorsports Photographer showcases hundreds of the best, most breathtaking images from the Klemantaski archives. To date, no other publication on Klemantaski even comes close. A lifetime of work like this, wrapped up beautifully in a single volume for the world to enjoy – to say it’s special, unique, or even tremendous would be an understaement.

There are no words and that’s okay … the photos do the speaking.

Lewes Speed Trial August 22, 1936 The Brighton & Hove Motor Club ran the first Lewes Speed Trials on July 24, 1924, on the Downs above the town, but the exact route of this inaugural event is lost to history. In 1936 the course was approximately 1/3 of a mile. This is the Villiers Supercharger, that was created from one of the 1922 TT Vauxhalls by Raymond Mays and Amherst Villiers and which debuted in 1928. It was dramatically modified and consistently developed over its life, featuring a Villiers’ designed “blower,” and Mays had many successes with it at hill climbs and sprints up to 1932. By 1936 it was developing over 250 bhp but was some 896 lbs (407kg) heavier due to all its strengthening and mechanical changes, and it was no longer competitive. This is probably the 1936 Kent & Sussex Light Car Club meeting on August 22, 1936, and the driver is Sidney Cummings who had bought the car from Raymond Mays some years earlier. He posted a time of 18.8 seconds, but as it was set during a special match run, not during the official runs, this was not recognized. The Villiers, which seems to be constructed of bridge girders and riveted paneling, copiously leaking from every joint, is the very epitome of ferocity and speed. Monaco GP May 11, 1961 Donington GP October 2, 1937 Bernd Rosemeyer was the fastest man on a GP grid and the 6-liter 520 bhp V-16 Auto Union a formidable weapon if you could handle its rear-weighted bias and swing-axle rear suspension. Nevertheless, Manfred von Brauchitsch’s Mercedes-Benz W125 might have won, but a rear tire blew at 160 mph on the Starkey Straight and he had to settle for second place. Rosemeyer flies over the Melbourne Rise on his way to victory. Unlike the Mercedes, which took off front end first, the rear-engined Auto Unions lifted off at the rear.

Determined Spirit

Klemantaski suffered an injury early in his career that kept him out of the driver’s seat. However, that didn’t mean he was going to stop racing; it was in his blood and part of his very being. Klemantaski jumped in head first, be it standing on a tight corner or strolling the infield. Many times, he would ride shotgun as seen in some of his Mille Miglia photos.

Klemantaski’s photos show no matter the obstacles, our dreams can still become reality.

The Klemantaski Collection consists of over 500,000 racing and related automotive photographs. It is one of the largest, most culturally significant libraries of its kind in history.

BARC Easter Meeting Brooklands April 1938 Reid Railton’s (1895-1977) stunning Land Speed Record car with temporarily exposed wheel tops made its public debut outside the Thomson & Taylor showroom at Brooklands. Known as the Railton Special, it was powered by two old in-line Napier Lion W12 aircraft engines donated by sportswoman, oil millionairess, and tattooed lesbian Marion Carstairs, a close friend of Malcolm Campbell, and sourced from her speedboat Estelle V. The Special broke the World Land Speed Record twice before the war leaving it at 369.70 mph as set by John Cobb at Bonneville, Utah, on August 23, 1939. Swiss GP Bremgarten August 20, 1938 The 1938 version of Kautz’s Auto Union’s D-type was quite a smooth and attractive car. This was a dismal race for Auto Union as apart from Stuck who finished 4th, Kautz retired with a fuel leak, Müller crashed, and Nuvolari had constant plug problems finishing 9th and four laps behind. JCC 200 Brooklands August 27, 1938 In 1938 Britain, obsolete GP Maseratis, Alfa Romeos, and Bugattis were good enough to win or finish in the top three in most domestic races, their main opposition being the 1.5- and 2-liter ERAs and voiturette class Maseratis. These once-great cars were both obsolete and beginning to wilt, especially given the type of punishment you can see inflicted here. Bira, with engine cover flapping open, goes airborne around the Members’ banking in the White Mouse Garage’s Maserati 8CM (3011) to finish second behind Johnny Wakefield’s ERA, in a race he would have won but for fading brakes.


Paul Parker is a UK-based author specializing in historic motor racing and Motorsport photography. He has published books with Haynes, Karl Ludvigsen, and Palawan Press. He also works regularly with top UK magazines including Octane, Classic and Sports Car, Autosport, and Motorsport.

Klemantaski: Master Motorsports Photographer is available through Motorbooks and Amazon.

Klemantaski Gallery

JCC International Trophy Brooklands May 6, 1939 Evans finished 3rd in the International Trophy with his ex-Nuvolari Alfa Romeo P3. It rained heavily during the race, and here Evans motorboats in the sort of conditions that today would induce mass panic in officialdom. JCC Brooklands May 6, 1939 One of Klemantaski’s most iconic images, and a fine example of his ability to capture the spirit of racing. This is Norman Wilson (1911–1942) in ERA R4A which was using a 57.56 x 69.8 mm 1,088 cc engine built for the 1,100 cc class. He finished 8th here. R4A was the first ERA “customer car” bought by Pat Fairfield in 1935 and raced by him in South Africa during 1937. Wilson campaigned the car with reasonable success in Ireland, England, and Switzerland during 1938 but only contested 5 races in 1939. He was a flight lieutenant (air gunner) in the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve and was killed when Lancaster R5539 crashed near Malmesbury during diving trials on April 18, 1942. Campbell Trophy Brooklands August 7, 1939 Robert Arbuthnot, born into a Scottish banking dynasty and educated at Eton and Cambridge, was typical of the wealthy amateur British racing driver of the period. He looks a trifle alarmed here as he manhandles his recently purchased ex-Reusch Alfa Romeo 8C35 (50013) around the Campbell circuit at Brooklands. He proved very fast in the race and was in 4th place at one point before spinning and having to restart at the back of the field. Arbuthnot (1914 -1946) raced very little before the outbreak of World War II, after which he bought one of the 1939 Le Mans Lagonda V12s which he unsuccessfully attempted to qualify at Indianapolis in 1946. He owned High Speed Motors in partnership with A. V. Wallington at Watford near north London. Ironically, having survived the war, he was killed when an oncoming Buick went out of control and hit his Peugeot head on. Bo’ness June 26, 1948 The Bo’ness hillclimb was renowned for its specials dating back to the 1930s, and one of its adherents was Ian Hopper, who competed here in such cars during 1947–1954. Hopper’s creations were backed by his family garage business and the Hopper Special was their first postwar car. Its chassis came from a prewar Riley Kestrel fitted with a Triumph Dolomite engine and a windscreen resembling that later used for the Jaguar XK120 FHC. Blandford Camp August 27, 1949 A parade of cars at Blandford with the Jaguar XK120 HKV 500 (670001) which Peter Walker had raced to 2nd place in the One Hour Production Car Race at Silverstone a week earlier, still bearing its crumpled front wing. Blandford was an army camp in Dorset that hosted motor racing in 1949–1950, but a series of incidents and two fatal accidents ended its brief flirtation with speed. At the inaugural meeting on August 27, Gordon Wood crashed his BMW, receiving fatal head injuries, a car landed on the roof of one the army huts, and Jack Fairman broke his arm in a collision with another competitor. Then in 1950, well-known hill climb racer and innovative engineer Joe Fry was killed on the nearby hill climb course and that was the end of car racing here, although the motorbikes that had first used the circuit in 1947 continued on into the early 1960s. Sussex International Trophy Goodwood June 2, 1952 Arguably Louis Klemantaski’s most famous photograph. That’s Mike Hawthorn in the Cooper Bristol who is apparently aimed straight at Klem as he sweeps through Fordwater. The car is being balanced on the throttle and Hawthorn with a suitably determined expression is on his way to winning the race. Note the exposed sump of the very tall Bristol engine. In Challenge Me The Race Hawthorn remarked that he could not understand how he had not run down Klem. Belgian GP Spa June 22, 1952 The field rushes through Eau Rouge on lap one of the Belgian GP led by Ascari and Farina, pursued by Jean Behra’s Gordini, Mike Hawthorn’s Cooper-Bristol, Ken Wharton’s surprisingly effective Frazer Nash FN48, and Stirling Moss in the ugly and unsuccessful ERA G-type. Ascari won the race easily from Farina with Robert Manzon 3rd for Gordini and Hawthorn 4th despite stopping twice for fuel caused by a leaking tank. The demise of Alfa Romeo’s racing team and the failure of BRM’s V16, the obsolescence of the Talbot Lagos, Maseratis, assorted ERAs, and other even less-likely machinery, left only Ferrari (and soon Maserati) with viable cars. Thus the 2-liter F2 championship came about, supposedly as a temporary measure as organizers wanted the big cars, but in reality the 1.5-liter s/c and 4.5-liter unblown cars were consigned to lesser events and eventually history. This suited Enzo Ferrari, who had an already-developed a 4-cylinder racer, the 500, and Alberto Ascari backed up by “Nino” Farina and others. The competition was led by Maserati, whose 6-cylinder A6GCM was almost a match for Ferrari, with Gordini, Connaught, HWM, Cooper, et al. making up the numbers. Mille Miglia May 1 and 2, 1954 Klem photographs former World War II prisoner Luigi “Gino” Valenzano’s Lancia D24 (0009) from Parnell’s DB3S in the early morning fog of the Mille Miglia. Valenzano (1920 –2011), who had known Gianni Lancia from childhood, drove for Lancia at Sebring in 1954 where he finished 2nd, sharing a car with the notorious playboy Porfirio Rubirosa, but would later crash out here. He continued competing the following year for Maserati but retired from racing after his brother Piero was killed during the 1955 Coppa d’Ore delle Dolomiti. Parnell/Klemantaski meanwhile would also crash out, near l’Aquila, without injury. Italian GP Monza September 11, 1955 A smiling Eugenio Castellotti and mechanics walk the Ferrari 555 Squalo (555-4) to his 4th-place grid position as the omnipresent and camera-bedecked Bernard Cahier approaches. The Italian finished an impressive 3rd after the Moss Mercedes Benz W196 streamliner expired, better than the rest and all of them powerless in the face of Mercedes Benz superiority. Le Mans June 11 and 12, 1957 Aston Martin entered three team cars at Le Mans plus Jean Kerguen’s “customer” DB3S. Two of them were the DBR1/300s for Tony Brooks/Noel Cunningham-Reid (DBR1/2) and Roy Salvadori/Les Leston (DBR1/1). This is Les Leston (1920–2012) rounding Mulsanne corner with Klemantaski’s shadow making a guest appearance on film. The car retired after 112 laps with a fractured oil pipe. Lewes Speed Trials August 21, 1937 Klemantaski’s shot of a young boy holding the chock as a competitor prepares to blast off gives a good idea of the slightly curved and uneven roadway of the Lewes course. Note the car’s twin Brooklands fishtail exhaust ends and the exposed spectators. Inside Back Cover
Louis Klemantaski Obituary

Last week on Automoblog Book Garage, we highlighted Ford’s racing story.

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