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Despite its sculptured Scaglietti flanks, never has an 860 Monza looked quite so good…actress Linda Christian adorns ‘Fon’ de Portagos’ Ferrari

The Marquis Alfonso De Portago, Spanish nobleman and journey-man driver was accompanied by Linda Christian at the 1957 Cuban Grand Prix, an event for Sports Cars.

Fidel Castros’ insurgents’ were on the move in the countryside but for the Batistas’ life went on. Keen to attract wealthy American tourists to the country to pump much needed funds into their moribund economy, an annual motor race was part of a plan to raise Cuba’s profile and provide an event to ‘attract the punters’.

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Out of focus and slightly surreal as a result…Fangio in his Maserati 300S, Malecon Boulevard, Havana, 1957 (Hy Peskin Collection)

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Wonderful panorama of Havanas Malecon circuit. # 14 is the Phil Hill Ferrari 857S, De Portagos’ Monza behind it with Linda Christian alighting…# 16 also a Ferrari , driver unknown ( Pinterest)

Ferrari 860 Monza…

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‘Fon De Portago Ferrari 860 Monza, unprotected nature of the circuit clear, 7 spectators killed in the 1958 event (Pinterest)

The 860 Monza was Ferraris front line sports car weapon, together with the V12 290MM in 1956.

It was part of the family of sports cars built over much of the ’50’s based on the Lampredi designed DOHC, 2 valve, Weber carbed 4 cylinder engine which first found success in the Tipo 500 F2/F1 cars. Ascari won the Championship in 1952 and 1953 in the Tipo 500.

The engine gave circa 310BHP from its 3431cc, gearbox was 4 speed. The usual Ferrari ladder frame of the period was used, drum brakes all round stopped the relatively light car which tipped the scales at 860Kg. The cars curvaceous body was built by Scaglietti.

Independent front suspension by wishbones and coil springs was new for the 860, and effective. A De Dion rear axle was at the rear, sprung by a transverse leaf spring.

 3 cars were built, the models most notable victories were at the Sebring 12 Hours and the Rouen GP, both in 1956.

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The field before lining up pre grid on Malecon Avenue, Havana

The Race and Aftermath…

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On the front row, De Portago Ferrari Monza, Phil Hill Fazz 857S Monza and Schell in the yellow Maser 300S, all the fun of the fair, over 100,000 spectators (Pinterest)

De Portago fought a race long battle with Fangios 300S and Carroll Shelby’s Ferrari 410 finishing third on the Havana waterfront street circuit.

The public relations opportunities for Batista evaporated rapidly when the Presidential motorcade, enroute to his palace was confronted by a relatively small group of ‘natives’ seeking favours from the President, the armed escorts beating the people with unbelievable ferocity and brutality. This fuelled the flames of the resistance movement further .

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Start of the race, Moss Maserati 300S, D Type Jag # 24 of local driver Alfonso Gomez-Mena (Pinterest)

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Fangio # 2 passes De Portago who is slowing a bit on lap 69 in Parque Mart. Maserati 300S and Ferrari Monza (Pinterest)

Jumping forward a year Fangio was kidnapped at gunpoint from his hotel the evening before the race by the rebels. He was returned to the Argentinian Embassy after the abortive event in which 40 spectators were injured and 7 died after local driver Armando Cifuentes lost control of his Ferrari and ploughed into the unprotected crowd.

The ‘race’ lasted 15 minutes or 6 laps Stirling Moss was declared the winner in his Maserati 300S.

Fangio was later to say he was never concerned for his safety,  he was held in a comfortably appointed apartment, was fed well, given a radio to listen to the race and was personally apologised to by Castros’ second in command.

In 1959 the race was not held as Castros revolution was in its final stages, in 1960 he had power. Anxious to create a sense of normality the race proceeded albeit on a circuit at army ‘Camp Freedom’, Moss the winner in a Maserati Birdcage.

Such grubby bourgeois activities as motor racing ceased and ‘Camp Freedom’ used to house the sort of people who attended such events…

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The beauty of the city and enthusiasm of the crowd, and its size come thru in all these shots! De Portago, Ferrari Monza 860 (Pinterest)

Linda Christian and De Portago…

Linda Christian was a successful Mexican/ American actor who starred in the first TV adaptation of the Bond novel ‘Casino Royale’ and in Tarzan, amongst many others. She was with De Portago for that fateful Mille Miglia later in 1957…

De Portago kissed Christian, jumped into his Ferrari 335S, and 70Km before Brescia the car blew a tyre, ploughed into the crowd killing Portago, co-driver Ed Nelson, 9 spectators and the Mille Miglia.

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de Portago and Phil Hill before the race, Havana 1957 (Pinterest)

Etcetera…

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Hill/O’Shea Ferari 857S Monza, Malecon Circuit pits, Cuba 1957 (Pinterest)

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The Castellotti Ferrari 290MM, V12 engined compared with the Monza 4 cylinder engine, both were Ferraris 1956 works Sports Car Championship entries . Castellotti in yellow polo shirt. (Pinterest)

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‘Chicken-plucker’ Carroll Shelby in trademark farmers overalls in the third place Ferrari 410, 1957 would be a great year for him. (Pinterest)

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Military very much to the fore…Fangio Maserati 300S # 2, Castellotti Ferrari 290MM # 10 (Pinterest)

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Juan Manuel Fangio beside his Maserati 300S in Cuba at the start of his final full season of racing in 1957. He drove for Maserati in both Sports and Grand Prix events, winning his fifth F1 World Title in the fabulous and by that time evergreen Maserati 250F…that car finally getting the title it deserved (Pinterest)

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Moss Maserati 300S beside the John Edgar owned # 78 Ferrari 4.9 driven by Carini (Pinterest)

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Hill/O’Shea Ferrari 857S Monza, Cuba 1957. Paul O’Shea checking out the engine (Pinterest)

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Fangio after the 1958 Cuban Grand Prix and release by his Castro captors…(Pinterest)

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It is not recorded if Che and Fidel attended one of Cubas’ Grands Prix…

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Photo and Other Credits…

Pinterest, Havana May Blogspot, Hy Peskin Collection

The End…

 


 

Comments
  1. Great article about a forgotten era, thanks for that!

  2. alberto says:

    Great! do you have photos about the GT races on Cuba? best Alberto

    • markbisset says:

      Thanks Alberto, no I don’t have any more shots than those posted, it constantly amazes me just how popular the article on this Cuban event is! Mark

      • alberto says:

        Thanks Mark.
        I’m preparing an article about the Mercedes 300 SL racing in Cuba in ’50 years, but I need more photos …
        best
        alberto

      • markbisset says:

        Best of luck, I have done some simple fossicking but found no shots at all, that’s the game we are in I guess, finding stuff most folks haven’t seen! Regards, Mark

  3. Jack Shea says:

    I have info on GT race in Cuba in 1960

    • markbisset says:

      Thanks for making contact Jack, happy to include the results if you would like to share them, at the time I wrote the article results details of any kind were hard to find. Mark

  4. […] Primotipo (2014): “Cuban Grand Prix 1957: Batista, Castro, de Portago, Fangio…” […]

  5. Great articles, thanks for sharing. For historic racing images, try The Revs Institute. http://www.revsinstitute.org and their archives https://revslib.stanford.edu/

    • markbisset says:

      Thanks Keith,
      I have occasionally used ‘Revs’, should contact them to see if they will do me a deal on price, free that is!
      Thanks for your interest, what eras of racing interest you most?
      Mark

  6. Manel Baró says:

    The smart white/blue Ferrari # 16 is the nowadasy famous 375Plus #0384AM,,owned at that time by Jim Kimberly, of Kimberly & Clark, who loaned to Howard Hively for the first Cuban GP. ( DNF: got burnt !).
    Resurrected in recent times, fully restored, it has been the silent protagonist of a very noisy ownership dispute and auctioned at record price, “Faenza 43” did a fne !/43 scale model of it.

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