This picture was taken at the start of the 1985 Le Mans 24-hour race. For a Porsche fan, it was heaven because five of the cars the front of the field are Porsches. Number 7, the Joest Racing 956B driven by Klaus Ludwig, Paola Barilla and ”John Winter” finished in first position, followed by four more Porsches. It was a Porsche benefit. The only competition to the Porsches came from the Ferrari-powered Lancias — the other two cars visible in the photo — which were quick but fragile.
In 1985 I was the sales and marketing head for the Australian importer of Jaguar and Land Rover. I was at Le Mans with a group of Australian Jaguar dealers. We were there to see Jaguar’s toe-in-the water exercise in contesting the 24-hour with a six-litre V12 sports car built and entered by the American Group44 racing team. It was a valiant effort, but the two Group44 Jaguars were not on the pace.
Subsequently, the Jaguar factory decided to make an all-out assault on Le Mans with Tom Walkinshaw’s TWR racing team. Despite a mega budget, it took TWR another three years before they could beat the Porsches. And, even then, it was only by a very slim margin.
Being a Porsche enthusiast from a very early age, I could have had very divided loyalties that weekend. But I, and I suspect the Jaguar factory staff, knew that the Jaguar effort was never going to provide real opposition to the massed and very experienced Porsches.
I had a seat in the main grandstand and took the picture just one minute before the start. The man at the front is holding up the one minute board. I was using my Leica M4-P with, I believe, an Elmarit 28mm lens. I was using colour negative film, not slide film, because it was cheaper. I could make prints to share and, also, it had greater exposure latitude.
At this point you may well be asking yourself why the photo above is black and white if I had used colour film to record such a colourful spectacle. The answer is simple. After 33 years, the colour negative has “rotted”. To be precise, it has discoloured and erupted in uneven blotches. This may be due to the local hot conditions or, more likely, a combination of the conditions and the fact that the film was inadequately stabilised and washed during processing. Whatever the reason, the negative is a mess. I decided that retouching it in colour was not feasible, so I scanned it and converted it to black and white in Silver Efex Pro. Then I set about retouching it in Photoshop. It was not easy, even in black and white.
It certainly is a special photo worth saving.The picture has been published in a local Porsche magazine and well received. It definitely would be better in colour but in this case it was black or white or nothing, so it’s better in black and white.
You can find more from John Shingleton at The Rolling Road and on Instagram at therollingroad.