The following morning, while holding 1st and 3rd place, Mercedes-Benz withdrew from the race, and Hawthorn was left alone at the head of the pack, a full five laps ahead of the 2nd place finisher, the Aston Martin DB3S, driven by Paul Frere and Peter Collins. The D-Type had won its first Le Mans, but at no small cost to the state of racing.
Meanwhile, XKD 501 appeared at the Leinster Trophy on 9 July, where Desmond Titterington took the car to 9th overall and 1st in class. Ecosse driver Ninian Sanderson assumed driving duties at the British GP on 17 July, claiming 6th place.
Titterington returned to action in early August, finishing 1st and 2nd at the races at Charterhall, and then enjoyed two 1st-place finishes at Snetterton a week later. Sanderson rotated in for a 1st and 2nd place at Crimond, and the two drivers teamed up for a 2nd place finish during the nine-hour race at Goodwood on 20 August. Another 2nd place by Titterington at Aintree on 3 September completed the 1955 season.
Victory and Vindication
During 1956, rule changes mandated the implementation of full-width windscreens, and XKD 501 was so equipped while receiving the engine from XKD 561 (engine number 2036-9), which the Ecurie Ecosse had acquired in the interim. The car continued to turn in solid performances during the first part of the season, with 3rd place finishes at Aintree and Charterhall, and a 1st and 2nd place at Goodwood on 21 May while piloted by Ron Flockhart. Flockhart and Sanderson teamed for the 12 Hours of Reims on 30 June, where the D-Type model put on a clinic. The two Ecosse drivers finished 4th, behind the three factory D-Types at 1-2-3, notably defeating the latest Ferrari TR Spider, and an F1-derived Gordini.
In late July, the 24 Hours of Le Mans was held, delayed from its usual June date due to the modifications to the Sarthe circuit intended to make the track safer for both drivers and spectators. The Jaguar factory again entered three D-Types with longnose bodywork, though in the face of the latest rule restrictions, the cars were equipped with fuel injection intended to improve mileage (a new consideration in the wake of reduced fuel allowances). Two carbureted 1955 privateer D-Types were also entered, fielded by the Garage Francorchamps and the Ecurie Ecosse. Ecosse’s entry, this car was again guided by the team of Sanderson and Flockhart. It was here that XKD 501 turned in its greatest performance, but as Motor Sport related two months later, “everyone had to do 34 laps on 120 liters of fuel, which worked out at approximately 11 miles per gallon, with nothing to spare for emergencies. Naturally, the small cars were sitting pretty while the Jaguars and Aston Martins, Ferraris, and Talbots were doing plenty of worrying.”
They continued: ” … the Jaguars, both factory and private, were easily the fastest cars on the course.” Certainly, everyone was expecting a repeat of Reims, but it was not quite that simple.
Although Hawthorn in the factory D-Type took an early lead, on the second lap of the race, everything changed with an early accident and two possible winners were eliminated, followed by Hawthorn, who came in after only four hours with a misfire. With 23 hours and 30 minutes still to go, the complete Jaguar team was in trouble; two cars were eliminated, and one was struggling with a bad fuel line. From a Works standpoint, the race appeared lost and Aston Martin and Ferrari were poised to outrun the older D-Types. The race report continued: ” … this left the Ecurie Ecosse Jaguar to uphold Coventry honors, and right nobly it did this, for by 5:00 p.m., it was in the lead and for the rest of the race, it was a game of cat and mouse between Flockhart/Sanderson and Moss/Collins. While Flockhart was driving, he was able to keep ahead of Moss, and after 34 laps when Collins took over the Aston Martin, he made up ground on Sanderson, who took over the Jaguar. Then, the next 34 laps saw the position reversed and the result was that the Scottish Jaguar had the race under its kilt, providing they played their cards wisely. With David Murray in charge of the time-keeping and Wilkie Wilkinson in charge of the pit stops, they could hardly go wrong.”
Certainly, the Aston Martin did not quite stand a chance. The D-Type was so exceptionally fast that “Jaguar lapped regularly with nearly 1,000 rpm in hand” without significant fuel concerns while the Aston had to be red-lined, gear by gear, entering the pits on fumes, simply to keep up. On occasion, Moss and Collins would even slip into neutral well before the end of the Mulsanne Straight and dart behind the Porsches’ slipstreams, all in an effort to save fuel.
By the race’s final lap, however, with just 14 cars remaining in the field, the D-Type had a seven-lap lead on Trintignant and Olivier Gendebien’s Ferrari 625 LM spider, and a narrow lead over Stirling Moss in the Aston. Swaters’ D-Type held at 4th place, and this is the order in which the cars finished, with XKD 501 claiming its definitive victory at the 1956 24 Hours of Le Mans.
XKD 501 completed 2,507.19 miles at an average speed of 104.47 mph and a maximum speed of 156.868 mph on the Mulsanne Straight, good enough for 9th in the Index of Performance rankings. In doing so, XKD 501 upheld the D-Type’s dominance despite the adversity faced by the factory cars (to his credit, the skilled driver Hawthorn managed to roar his way back to 6th overall). Following the amazing finish at Sarthe, XKD 501 returned to action in Britain, with a 2nd place at Aintree and 3rd at the Goodwood Trophy Race, but these triumphs paled after its perfect performance in France.