This selection of six images providing a look back from 1925 to 1963, a period of tremendous change in motorsports, provokes emotions through the heartbreaking events and triumphs that occur during racing competitions such as the renowned 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Each photograph stops time to share a momentous story of the pioneers of racing, portraying heroic pursuits of the finish line as well as epic crashes.
The talent behind most of these original shots is the highly acclaimed French photographer, René Pari. Born in 1913, Pari was recognized for his perfect technical mastery and exceptional ability to snap the optimal shot at just the right moment in time. The Berque & Brison team procured Pari’s treasured negatives, majestically reviving them using a delicate restoration process.
"Motorsport is clearly a mechanical thing, but the story is mostly about human relationships."
In the image On the Road to Victory - Alfonso de Portago - Tour de France 1956, Pari freezes time in a way that conveys the exhilaration of speed. This powerful composition reveals the horsepower of the Ferrari 250 GT no. 73 (chassis 0557GT) by perfectly contrasting the blur of the road with the sharp focus of this sensual car.
To capture this iconic shot, Pari achieved the impossible by leaning out of a press car with a twin- lens Rolleiflex, a technical challenge given the situation. Additional prestige is provided by the legendary drivers, Spanish nobleman Alfonso de Portago and American Edmund Nelson, who together secured first place during the 1956 Tour de France. The duo was tragically killed in a crash during the 1957 Mille Miglia.
“These are undoubtedly great testimonies of technical expertise and true artist’s eye, the pioneers of motor racing immortalized by the pioneers of photography,” explains Berque.
A master of photography, Pari secured the poignant Achille Varzi - Spa 1947 using a Graflex Speed Graphic view camera, a complex machine requiring several steps to successfully operate, including loading a new 4x5 inch sheet film holder for each exposure. This picture depicts the determination and focus of Italian driver Achille Varzi surrounded by an enthusiastic crowd at the X Grand Prix Automobile de Belgique (VIII European Grand Prix). His Alfa Romeo 158, nicknamed Alfetta, is an important car in automotive history as it won 47 of the 54 Grand Prix races it entered.
Such is Life in Racing – Le Mans 1954 portrays an unfortunate incident in which Italy’s Count Innocente Biaggio and Dominican playboy Porfirio Rubirosa raced a Ferrari 375 MM no. 18 (chassis 0380) entrusted by Luigi Chinetti, founder of the North American Racing Team, an early arm of Ferrari in the United States. Speeding around the famed Mulsanne corner of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the car uncontrollably spun out into the sand banks. Biaggio was determined to get back on the track by digging out the Ferrari even while sporting a light grey Alpaca suit, silk shirt, and black bowtie – true class!
His efforts prevailed for about an hour, after which he threw in the towel. He dusted off his trousers and shoes, replaced his hat, and lit a cigarette. Pari was in just the right place at the right time to capture this iconic moment in racing history.
The storytelling continues both on and off the track: Mont Ventoux 1925 by an anonymous artist takes us to the south of France in 1925 where the uphill climb of a Delage DF was captured perfectly with a Linhof Technica Master view camera, now precisely restored to excellence. Motor racing doesn’t come without its pains, as the Such is Life in Racing - Reims 1951 shows the grit and perseverance of works driver Consalvo Sanesi pushing the Alfa Romeo 159 no. 6 after a mechanical failure.
These quintessential racing moments don’t always happen on the track as Behind the Scenes - Le Mans 1963 shows: it provides insight into the secret preparation of the Porsche team for the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1963.