Sat, Dec 03, 2011 - Page 19 News List

Infamous Le Mans race car stored in a barn sells for record

AFP, LONDON

A picture distributed on Thursday shows an Austin-Healey race car awaiting a pre-race inspection before the 1955 24 Hours of Le Mans in France.

Photo: BONHAM’S AUCTION HOUSE/EPA

A vintage British racing car at the center of motorsport’s most deadly accident sold for a record-breaking £843,000 (US$1.32 million) at a British auction on Thursday.

The 1953 Austin-Healey 100 Special Test Car, which had been left untouched in an English barn for 42 years, was involved in the 1955 Le Mans disaster which claimed the lives of French driver Pierre Levegh and 83 spectators.

“This is a fantastic result for the Austin-Healey and a world record for any car of this make at auction,” a spokesperson for the Bonhams auction house said.

“Everyone is delighted,” the spokesperson added. “The auction went on for about 10 minutes and there was a tense, excited and hushed atmosphere in the room as four bidders competed for the car.”

The car, which was driven by Briton Lance Macklin during the ill-fated 1955 race, was clipped by Levegh’s vehicle, which then fireballed into the crowd.

The auctioned vehicle, which also competed in the 1953 24-hour race, was impounded by French authorities after the accident before being released back to the Donald Healey Motor Company 18 months later. It was then repaired and restored before being bought by Thursday’s seller in 1969.

The car remained unrestored in the owner’s barn until it was brought to auction at Mercedes Benz World in Weybridge, southeast England.

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