Lagonda M45R "Rapide"



The 1935 edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans had the biggest number of cars until then: 58 cars were lined up on Saturday afternoon 15 June. British cars again dominated, with a total of 37 cars, most of them in the 11/2 litre or smaller classes. But thas year Britain also fielded a contestant in the big car class: two 41/2 litre Lagonda Rapides, entered by Fox and Nichol.

Each of the cars who took turns to lead the race, were meanwhile challenged by the Lagondas of Hindmarsh/ Fontes, while the second (Benjafield/Gunter) Lagonda eventually dropped down the field with gearbox problems, although it did finish the race.


1935: The 41/2 litre Lagonda of Hindmarsh and Fontes.

The Hindmarsh/Fontes car overtook the Alfa on Sunday morning; then in the final hours of the race its oil pressure failed and Dreyfus gained on the Lagonda as it made several pit stops with its speed dropping, while also having damaged steering caused by a collision with a spinning Aston Martin in torrential rain. During the race the Lagonda team, made up of drivers John Hindmarsh and Luís Fontes, was put under extreme pressure by the Alfa Romeo driven by ‘Heldé’ (the pseudonym used by the famous racing driver Dreyfus) and Stoffel. When Dreyfus passed the British car and Alfa Romeo was planning to take its fifth consecutive victory, thus equalling Bentley’s record, Heldé pit manager was confused and signalled that he was now in the lead when in fact he still had one lap to make up; but when the mistake was realised it was too late. Hindmarsh and Fontes nursed their sickly Lagonda home to the first British victory since 1930, having covered 3,006.8 kilometres at an average speed of 125.3 km/h.

So ended a memorable race with a surprise finish - the Alfa Romeo robbed of its ultimate triumph by a British dark horse.

The Le Mans-winning Lagonda displayed in the museum is completely original; even the upholstery has never been replaced. It is one of two Lagondas entered for Le Mans in 1935 by car dealer Arthur Fox, who hired test-drivers John Hindmarsh and Luís Fontes to form his racing team. The 21-year-old Fontes was one of the favourites, but this talented driver retired from racing after one successful season. After ‘Le Mans’ the car was sold to the then-new Lagonda chairman Alan Good, who hired a new technical director: Walter Owen Bentley.