Photo credit: Revs Institute, Mercedes-Benz, RM Sotheby’s
It’s only fair to ask ourselves whether the birth of Ecurie Ecosse in 1951 concealed a Scottish desire for retribution against the English after centuries of wars, marriages of convenience among rulers, and religious conflicts. The very name “Ecurie Ecosse” sounds like an homage to the ancient alliances between Scotland and France, united against the rich and powerful England. If this hypothesis were true, then the results in motorsport would seem remarkably balanced: the Jaguar D-Types, painted in the blue and white colours of the Scottish Racing Team, on the one hand, outperformed even the green works D-Types racing for the English manufacturer, but on the other, they brought immense prestige to the British automotive industry by clinching victory at the 24 Hours of Le Mans for two years straight, beating the formidable Ferraris in the process. Ultimately, these victories solidified the unity of the two nations in the name of sport.
Ecurie Ecosse founders with the two Jaguar D-Types in front of their garage on the doorstep of Edinburgh.
It was David Murray, a Scottish gentleman driver, who founded the Ecurie Ecosse Racing Team while he was co-director of Merchiston Motors, a garage he had established in the south-west of Edinburgh.
The journey began with the XK120, a highly performance-oriented competition vehicle that clinched victory at the 24-hour race in 1951, before transitioning to the C Type, which also won in France in 1953. In 1955, while competing against the Mercedes 300 SLR equipped with dynamic brakes (a kind of reverse DRS), the official works team Jaguar won with the car driven by Mike Hawthorn and rookie Ivor Bueb on the day of the painful tragedy.
Mike Hawthorn's 1955 Le Mans-winning official Jaguar D-Type precedes the Mercedes 300 SLR of Juan Manuel Fangio and Stirling Moss moments before the tragic accident that occurred on the corner before the pits.
However, the tide soon turned, and the subsequent two years saw the triumph of the D-Types entered by Ecurie Ecosse. In 1956, the car driven by Ron Flockhart and Ninian Sanderson won, defeating the Aston Martin DB3S driven by Stirling Moss and Peter Collins, as well as the Ferrari 625 LM driven by Olivier Gendebien and Maurice Trintignant, with Hawthorn’s official D-Type finishing a mere sixth.
Ron Flockhart and Ninian Sanderson at the awards ceremony for the first of Ecurie Ecosse's two victories at Le Mans. Number 4 Jaguar beat also Mike Hawthorn's official D-Type.
In 1957, Jaguar totally dominated the race with no fewer than four privately-entered D-Types in the top four positions. First, Ron Flockhart with Ivor Bueb, and second, Ninian Sanderson and Jong ‘Jock’ Lawrence, both cars driving for Ecurie Ecosse. The first Ferrari managed only a fifth-place finish.
Difficult years for Ferrari those dominated by Jaguar and Aston Martin.
The professionalism and strategic excellence of Ecurie Ecosse during those years injected fresh vitality into British motorsport. After Ferrari’s victory in 1958, with the Testa Rossa driven by Olivier Gendebien and Graham Hill, Aston Martin celebrated a remarkable double victory in 1959 with the enchanting DBR 1. This marked the end of an era, after which Ferrari, Ford, and Porsche dominated the race for many years, without ever erasing the achievements of the boldly Scottish Ecurie Ecosse.
Carroll Shelby and Roy Salvadori take the flag from Jaguar in 1959, leading the Aston Martin DBR1 to its only victory at Le Mans.