Posts Tagged ‘Juan Manuel Fangio’

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Juan Manuel Fangio eases his Maserati 250F through Tatts Corner,  Aintree, Liverpool during the 1957 British Grand Prix on 20 July…

Fangio qualified 4th but retired on lap 49 with engine problems, its an amazing shot ‘the maestro’ looks so relaxed at the wheel. Its the cover shot of a book i have, much of my library is in storage, a real pain in the arse in terms of access to research material, maybe one of you have the same book and can recall the title?

The race itself was a Vanwall benefit; Moss lead then took over Brooks car when his own engine went off song, Stewart Lewis-Evans Vanwall also lead briefly before being passed by Moss, he and Brooks shared the win from the Lancia Ferrari 801’s (LF801) of Luigi Musso and Mike Hawthorn.

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Stirling Moss in Tony Brooks Vanwall VW57, Aintree 1957 (Michael Turner)

This article is pieced together around a swag of photos of Fangio aboard Maserati 250F’s in 1957, in many ways the combination defines the 1950’s for me. The greatest driver of the decade in its quintessential car, it may not have been the fastest of the era but for sure it provided a platform for so many drivers from journeymen (and women) to gods, to strut their stuff.

Monaco, 19 May 1957…

Between Moss who left Masers to join Vanwall and Fangio who left Ferrari to join Maserati the seven 1957 championship rounds, ignoring Indianapolis, were mopped up by those two drivers- Juan with 4 wins and Stirling 3.

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Fangio’s Maser 250F being unloaded from its transporter in Monaco

Fangio made the 250F sing, the car was towards the end of its long competitive life with the great Argentinian extracting all it had to offer. He was at the height of his powers, I don’t doubt he retired at the right time, he was 46 years of age by the end of the season after all.

Having said that it would have been fascinating to see if he could adapt to mid-engined cars, I don’t doubt he would have had he raced on for a few more years. But best to retire at the top, and alive. So many elite sportsmen and women do that one season too many, Michael Schumacher for one, Fangio did not.

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# Carlos Menditeguy DNF spin and #34 Giorgio Scarlatti DNF oil leak in the Officine Maserati garage, Monaco 1957. 250F x 2

Fangio popped his 250F on pole in the Principality but Moss led into the first corner with Fangio behind him. Sterling went off and crashed at the chicane on lap 4 with Collins, LF801, taking exasive action and hitting a stone wall as a result! Fangio managed to get through without a problem and Brooks Vanwall braked hard only to be rammed up the chuff by Hawthorn’s Fazz.

Only Brooks was able to keep going- but he was 5 seconds behind Fangio by the time he was up to speed again. Jack Brabham was up to 3rd late in the race in his little Cooper T43 Climax. It was a portent of the 1958 breakthrough win for a mid-engined car by Moss in Argentina, but had to push the car home as result of fuel pump failure, Jack was classified 6th, with Fangio ahead of Brooks, Masten Gregory in a Maserati, Lewis-Evans Vanwall and Trintignant LF801.

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Fangio during Monaco practice in Giulio Alfieri’s 250F V12. The 60 degree, DOHC, 2 valve, 24 plug, Weber fed 2.5 litre engine developed circa 300-320bhp at a dizzy 10500rpm, about 50bhp more than the venerable inline 6 but the power was all at the top of the band. The engine had conrod and valve spring troubles early in its development too. Behra raced one in the Italian GP, he chomped thru tyres, such was the engines power and then retired with a lubrication problem. The engines time would come, but not for a decade!

Whilst the 250F was in the Autumn of its life Maserati were still developing the thing, not least with a 2.5 litre, quad-cam, 2 valve, Weber carbed 300 odd bhp V12. Fangio is putting some development laps into the thing at Monaco above.

The engine raced only once at championship level at Monza 1957, but suitably evolved in 3 litre, fuel injected form won a race or two mounted in the back of Cooper’s T81 and T86 in 1966/7. (Wins for Surtees ’66 Mexican GP and Rodriguez ’67 South African GP, both in T81’s)

An interesting Australian sidebar to this Maser V12 is Frank Gardner and Kevin Bartlett testing a 2.5 litre variant in the butt of a ‘cut and shut’ Tasman Brabham BT11A in February 1966. Sydney Alfa/Maserati dealer and former Australian 1960 Gold Star Champion and AGP winner Alec Mildren used his impeccable Maserati connections to score the engine which the team sussed as an alternative to the venerable Coventry Climax 2.5 litre FPF  which was the Tasman staple moteur at the time. Simply put the engine was like an on/off switch in terms of its power delivery, then blew, which rather settled the matter of a ‘Warwick Farm 100’ start. A story for another time.

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Fangio, quayside at Monaco in 1957, enroute to victory. He won in Argentina, Monaco, France and Germany. The Vanwalls won in Britain, Pescara and again in Italy at Monza; Moss/Brooks, Moss and Moss

The thing that always amazes me when looking at photos of Fangio is just how relaxed at the wheel he is. It’s key to great lap times, if you are that tense that your butt-cheeks grab the seat cover as you alight your racer you are definitely not going to feel what your steed is doing to extract the best from it! I remember Frank Gardner talking to me about this very point several decades ago.

When the laconic Aussie all-rounder returned home in 1975, in that first year he drove Bob Jane’s Holden Torana Chev Sports Sedan and fronted the Jane/Gardner Racing Drivers School at Calder. He wasn’t there much. In fact ex-Aussie F3 driver/mechanic and later Hardman F2 designer/builder Jim Hardman did most of the driver instruction aided by Andrew Newton, who also raced with some success. Both of them looked after the fleet of Elfin 620B Formula Fords driven by the bright eyed hopefuls, of whom i was one.

Anyway, on this particular frigid July day ‘ole FG was in effusive mode telling me about both the car setup advice and driver coaching he was giving to a well known fellow who had not long before jumped up from Formula Ford to F5000-105bhp to 500bhp is a big step.

His central point in talking about ‘the big car challenge’ was all about relaxing in the car- having soft hands and gentle feet and just being able to, as a consequence of not being so tense, feel what the car was doing and therefore be able to push the thing to its limits by  better sensing said limits when reached…Easy to say of course, harder to do especially when you have 500bhp of fuel injected Repco-Holden V8 shoving you ferociously towards the horizon!

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FG would have approved of Fangio’s relaxed demeanour in a car. Don’t confuse my meaning with the ferocious competititiveness and delicacy of control that went with the outer calm one can see here!

Fangio never looks anxious whether he is being closely followed at Monaco in third gear or drifting through the very high speed swoops of rural France at over 140mph in fifth.

It was magic to observe Fangio’s car control at close quarters when he was 67 years old and booting his W196 Benz sideways lap after lap in third gear through Sandown Park’s Shell Corner, only 30 metres away, during ‘The Fangio Meeting’ in 1978. The sight of this grand man of racing flicking the bellowing, powerful straight-8, silver beastie around is forever etched in my memory.

Cool, calm, collected, composed and FAST! Exactly as he was in 1957…

French GP, 7 July 1957…

The classic was held at the super fast Rouen-Les-Essarts road circuit in Grand-Couronne and Orival, northern France.

There are so many wonderful 250F shots of Fangio in 1957 drifting the sublimely forgiving chassis at well over 140 mph on public roads through wooded hillsides. I’m not suggesting, in describing the car as forgiving, it was easy my friends!

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Crusin’ in having set pole i wonder? Rouen 1957. The lines of the 250F in 1957, here it’s Fangio’s ‘regular ‘Long nosed, lightweight’ chassis ‘2529’ spec are perfect, inch by sculpted inch. The cars epitomise everything great about Italian racing machines. Alfieri’s ’57 lightweight chassis was 40% stiffer than in ’56 with greater rear weight bias-48/52% front/rear. The 250F was maybe not quite the fastest tool in the 1950’s shed but it was close to it, enduring and capable of winning the 1954 and 1956 titles in addition to ’57 with more luck or the right bloke behind the wheel all season! No-one was going to beat Fangio in a W196 Merc in 1955 i don’t think

Fangio was fastest from Behra and Musso also on the front row. Behind them were Schell 250F and Collins then back a row Salvadori, Vanwall VW57 Hawthorn and Trintignant. At the jump Behra lead but Musso soon got ahead. Fangio was 3rd then Collins and Schell giving chase and then a fast-starting McKay-Fraser, BRM P25. Fangio worked his way past Behra on lap 2 and then took Musso for the lead on lap 4.

Collins got past Behra and the order remained unchanged at the front all the way to the flag with Fangio winning from Musso and Collins. Behra slipped behind Hawthorn, giving the Lancia-Ferrari 801 a 2-3-4 finish behind Fangio.

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Hang on…Fangio indulging in one of his signature, oh so fast, oh so subtle and oh so wonderful, delicate, four wheel drifts. Poetry in motion innit!? Wonder who or what he tapped?

Germany, Nurburgring, 4 August 1957: Greatest GP of all?…

Fangio’s heroic drive at this most demanding of circuits proved to be his greatest ever drive and one of the best in the history of Grand Prix racing.

Fangio took pole with Hawthorn, LF801 Behra, 250F and Collins LF801 completing the front row. Then came Brooks, Schell and Moss on Vanwall VW57, 250F and Vanwall VW57. At the start Hawthorn and Collins battled for the lead with Fangio and Behra giving chase. On lap 3 Fangio passed Collins and soon led. Collins then passed Hawthorn and chased after Fangio with the great man edging gradually away.

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Nurburgring 1957: Hawthorn and Collins, L Ferrari 801, Fangio and Behra 250F, then Moss and Brooks Vanwall VW57, Masten Gregory’s white Maser 250F, Lewis-Evans Vanwall VW57 and the rest…

A slow mid-race pit stop, scheduled for 30 seconds, lasted 1 minute and 18 seconds. One of the mechanics dropped the wheel hub nut under the car, it couldn’t easily be found! This left Fangio a minute behind the two Ferraris but then the chase was on! He drove absolutely at the limit, at the ragged edge of the cars capabilities, chasing down the two much younger men.

Fangio famously broke the lap record 10 times and passed both Collins, and then Hawthorn on the penultimate lap. Fangio won the race and in the process, his 5th and final World Title in a drive still spoken about in reverential terms and forever remembered whenever the great GP races are considered.

Pescara GP, 16 August, The Coppa Acerbo…

The FIA included the Coppa Acerbo, Pescara GP in the World Championship for the first time given the cancellation of the Dutch and Belgian GP’s early in the season due to squabbles about money. The daunting, dangerous 16-mile road circuit on the Adriatic Coast, still used then for non-championship events was the longest ever for an F1 race.

Ferrari didn’t bother to send 801’s for Mike Hawthorn and Peter Collins as the World Championship had already been won by Fangio and partly as a protest against Italian government’s move to ban road racing following Alfonso de Portago’s, Ferrari 335S Mille Miglia accident earlier in the year. Local boy Luigi Musso convinced Ferrari to lend him a car however, which he entered as a privateer. Shades of NART entries in the 1960’s when Ferrari wanted to protest, but not too much!

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Shot at left shows Fangio’s Maser having a rear wheel replaced after spinning on Musso’s engine oil and danaging it

The Pescara battle was between Maserati and Vanwall and resulted in a Maserati pole for Juan-Manuel from Moss’s Vanwall VW57 and Musso’s ‘private’ Ferrari 801.

Musso took the lead but Maserati 250F privateer Horace Gould hit a mechanic who was slow to get off the grid. Brooks retired his Vanwall VW57 early with mechanical troubles. Moss took the lead from Musso on lap 2 from Fangio in 3rd but the field thinned as the heat took its toll; Lewis-Evans, Vanwall with tyre failures, Behra 250F engine failure. Then Musso disappeared on lap 10 when his engine blew, the oil caused Fangio to spin and damage a wheel. When Fangio rejoined, Moss had an unassailable lead, he won the race ahead of Fangio, Schell in 3rd ,Gregory 4th and Lewis-Evans 5th.

Fangio won the World Championship on 40 points from Moss and Musso on 25 and 16 points respectively. Maserati 250F, Vanwall VW57 and Lancia Ferrari 801.

Credits…

All photos by Louis Klemantaski/Getty Images, Michael Turner

Tailpiece: The Maestro, Karussell, Nurburgring, Maser 250F  chassis ‘2529’ German Grand Prix 1957, history being made. Majestic shot…

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(Maurice Jarnoux)

The Mercedes Benz 1955 1,2; Fangio and Moss in W196, 22 May 1955…

Mercedes had three 1/2 finishes for the year; at Spa and Zandvoort when Fangio led Moss and at Aintree where Moss led Fangio. At Monaco things were looking good for another but JM’s car broke a rear axle on lap 49 and Moss had an engine failure in the closing laps of the race (lap 80 of 100).

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(Jarnoux)

Maurice Trintignant (above) took a somewhat lucky, but well deserved win in his Ferrari 625 from Eugenio Castellotti’s Lancia D50, the Italian putting in a charge in the final stages of the race trying to catch the Frenchman.

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Ascari and Castelotti in D50’s ahead of Behra’s 250F, later in the race but before lap 80 when Alberto took his afternoon swim (Jarnoux)

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Moss discussing the Mercedes teams prospects with its legendary engineer/test driver Rudy Uhlenhaut during Monaco practice. This car was comprehensively rooted later in the day when Hans Hermann had a bad accident, hurting himself as well as the W196. Andre Simon was brought into the team to race the spare (GP Library)

This was the famous race in which Alberto Ascari crashed his Lancia D50 into the harbour perhaps distracted by Moss’ engine problems in front of him late in the race. He popped to the surface unharmed but was killed several days later testing a Ferrari sportscar at Monza.

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Ascari’s D50 cruises past Lance Macklin’s Maser 250F, DNQ. Ascari 2nd on the grid (unattributed)

 

It was a pivotal time in the history of GP racing; Ascari’s death robbed Lancia of the driver around which its GP campaign was built and Gianni Lancia’s lavish race program was quickly driving his company into insolvency.

The famous ‘handover’ of Lancia assets to Ferrari occurred later in the year, solving Enzo’s immediate need of competitive cars. The ‘sponsorship’ in the form of an annual contribution to the Scuderia’s budget from Fiat laid the foundations of a strategic partnership which, via ownership of the road-car division from 1969 and ultimate acquisition of the company upon Enzo Ferrari’s death continues today.

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Louis Chiron 6th let’s teammate Gigi Villoresi 5th Lancia D50 past whilst Jean Behra’s equal 3rd placed (with Cesare Perdisa) Maser 250F threatens (GP Library)

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Farina’s Ferrari 625 4th about to be swallowed by Ascari’s Lancia D50 (GP Library)

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That! high speed Mercedes transporter, Monaco 1955 (GP Library)

Credits…

Maurice Jarnoux, GP Library

Tailpieces…

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Moss heading up the hill from Ste Devote,  Monaco 1955, Mercedes W196 (unattributed)

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The master in the lead; Fangio led from pole until transmission dramas intervened on lap 49, Benz W196, Monaco ’55 (unattributed)

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Juan Manuel Fangio wins the first F1 Grand Prix at Pau. Maserati 4CLT/48, 10 April 1950…

He is ahead of Luigi Villoresi’s Ferrari 125, 2nd. Louis Rosier was 3rd in a Talbot-Lago T26C.

The first championship Grand Prix for ‘Formula 1’ introduced at the start of 1950 was the British GP held at Silverstone on May 13.

Fangio, somewhat fittingly is therefore the first winner of an F1GP albeit a Non-Championship one! Farina took the Silverstone race in an Alfa 158, the car of 1950/51.

Credit: Keystone-France

Tailpiece…

pau gp

 

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(Klemantaski)

I chose these two shots of the thousands of the great Argentinian as they demonstrate his delicate touch and judgement at very high speeds…

The first is driving the Alfa 159 for his beloved ‘Alfa Corse’ at Reims on 1 July 1951, his first championship winning season. He is clipping the inside grass on the back section of this French Grand Prix road course in the Champagne Region.

The second is at Bremgarten driving the Mercedes Benz W154 bang on line during the Swiss Grand Prix on 22 August 1954, also a title winning season of course.

Marvel at the finesse, it’s as clear in these neutral or slight understeer shots as the many high speed oversteer shots many of which are at Reims at well over 125mph…

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(Klemantaski)

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1954 French, Reims GP: Victory in #18 Mercedes Benz W154 upon its debut (Klemantaski)

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Fangio, French GP, Reims 1954 (Klemantaski)

Credits…

Klemantaski Collection, Maurice Jarnoux

Tailpiece: Mobbed in Milano, 1 September 1958…

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(Maurice Jarnoux)

 

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(Louis Klemantaski)

Froilan Gonzalez plays with the limits of adhesion of his victorious Ferrari 375 V12 at around 140mph. Copse Corner, Silverstone, 14 July 1951…

The dominant force in Grand Prix racing in the immediate post-war period was Alfa Romeo, the pre-war ‘Alfetta’ voiturettes progressively modified to remain winners; they had not been beaten since 1946.

Ferrari had achieved success at Le Mans, the Mille Miglia and the Targa Florio and now took an alternative Grand Prix design path to Alfa and BRM for the 1951 season in building cars powered by a normally aspirated 4.5 litre V12 rather than the supercharged straight 8/V16 route of his rivals. Instructive had been the reliability and speed of the Talbot-Lagos despite the cars relative lack of sophistication given the French machines road-car origins.

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Gonzalez, Silverstone 1951, Ferrari 375, the burly Argentinian master of this car. Note exhaust system of the V12 and twin radius rods locating rear axles (unattributed)

Ferrari’s Type 375’s were first entered at the Pescara Grand Prix on 15 August 1950, but were not ready. The cars made their championship debut at Monza on 3 September 1950 with entries for Alberto Ascari and Dorino Serafini. Ascari qualified 2nd and was dicing with the lead group of Fangio and Farina both 158 mounted, before retiring on lap 21 with engine overheating.

Click here for an article on the Type 375 i wrote a while back;

https://primotipo.com/2014/11/10/vi-gran-premio-del-valentino-april-1952-ferrari-375/

In order to test the cars over a full GP distance,375’s for Ascari and Serafini were entered for the GP do Penya Rhin, at Pedralbes, Barcelona on 29 October. The cars finished 1/2, no Alfa’s were entered but the cars completed a GP distance without problems. With further development over the winter the 375’s were ready for 1951.

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Alfa Romeo pit British GP, Silverstone 1951 (unattributed)

By 1951 the supercharged Alfa’s, designated ‘159’ developed around 410bhp from their supercharged 1.5-litre engines, while Ferrari had been working on a twin-plug version of the 4.5-litre V12. It wasn’t as powerful as the Alfa but it was more efficient, less fuel meant less pit stops.

Alfa ignored most of the early season non-championship races. In their absence Ferrari 375’s won at Siracuse and Pau on 11 and 26 March, Gigi Villoresi the winning driver on both occasions. Ascari won the San Remo GP on 22 April.

The Alfa’s finally appeared for the ‘BRDC International Trophy’ race at Silverstone on May 5, but the works Ferari 375’s did not. Fangio and Farina each won a heat for Alfa with the final held in torrential rain led by Reg Parnell’s Ferrari 125/375 when the race was ended after 16 minutes on lap 6.

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Engine and brake detail of the Alfa Romeo 159, Silverstone 1951. 1.5 litre two-stage supercharged straight-8 (unattributed)

The first 1951 Championship GP was at Berne for the Swiss Grand Prix. Ascari was suffering from a burn to the arm received during a Formula 2 race at Genoa the weekend before and Villoresi slid off the road in wet conditions. Progress was indicative of Taruffi’s Ferrari second place splitting the Alfas of Fangio and Farina, first and third.

At Spa, a jammed wheel at a pit stop cost Fangio his second successive win, Farina took Belgian GP win for Alfa Romeo from Ascari and Villoresi in Ferrari 375’s.

The French Grand Prix was a furious battle between Ascari and Fangio, both of whom changed cars with Fangio taking the win for Alfa. Ascari’s 375 had gearbox failure and Froilan Gonzalez, who had led the race briefly and pitted to refuel, was asked to hand his car over. Fangio took over Luigi Fagioli’s Alfa, JM’s car failed on the first lap of the race. This was Gonzalez’ first race for Ferrari. Just before the French Grand Prix, Enzo Ferrari had approached him to replace the unwell Piero Taruffi. The Fagioli/Fangio car won the race from the 375 of Gonzalez/Ascari.

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Gonzalez in his first Ferrari drive, he lead the French GP at Reims before offering his 375 to Alberto Ascari, the pair finished 2nd to the Fangio/Fagioli Alfa 159 (unattributed)

Froilan recalled the French GP in Gonzalez ‘The Pampas Bull’; ‘The dream was to be very brief. I was utterly determined to make my mark at Reims in the Grand Prix de France and after a tough battle I managed to lead the race. But when I stopped at the pits to refuel (Ferrari Team Manager) Ugolini told me to hand over my jewel to Alberto Ascari who had walked back to the Ferrari pits after his own car had broken down’.

‘Recalling it now I suppose it was understandable. Ascari was more experienced in the Grand Prix arena than I, and since he was now available, it was obviously more sensible to let him take over. But at the time I was mystified and wounded. I assumed I had in some way failed one of Ferrari’s mysterious tests. Yet nobody would tell me where I had failed’.

‘I was just as puzzled when Enzo Ferrari sent for me. Puzzled and timid, for Ferrari was a powerful experienced man of the world while I had only recently arrived in Europe I had no idea how to address the ‘sacred monster’ of the motoring world when I was led into his office. I managed to say ‘Good morning’ in Spanish and then stood there speechless, wondering why I was there and what to do next. Don Enzo, realizing my embarrassment, helped me out by smiling and shaking my hand. And to my utter amazement he – the greatest figure in world motor racing – actually congratulated me for what I had done at Reims. I was even more astounded when he suddenly asked me: ‘Would you like to sign a contract to drive for the Ferrari team?’ I can feel even now the almost painful thumping of my heart. This just isn’t true, I told myself.’
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Ascari cruising the Silverstone pitlane, Ferrari 375 during practice DNF lap 56 with ‘box failure (Getty Images)

Alfa Romeo brought 159’s to Silverstone for Fangio, Farina, Consalvo Sanesi and Felice Bonetto. Ferrari brought three Type 375s for Ascari, Villoresi and Gonzalez with Peter Whitehead in Tony Vandervell’s  ‘Thinwall Special’ Ferrari…

Talbot returned with three T26C 4.5-litre, straight-6 cylinder cars. Maserati relied on ageing 4CLTs for David Murray and John James, while Philip Fotheringham-Parker raced an older 4CL. ERA had Bob Gerard and Brian Shawe-Taylor and Joe Kelly was in his Alta.

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Scuderia Ferrari drivers Silverstone 1951; Gigi Villoresi left, Alberto Ascari and Froilan Gonzalez, all remarkably ‘well-nourished’ by driver standards of today! And older of course (Getty Images)

BRM turned up on the morning of the race having missed practice. Reg Parnell and Peter Walker started from the rear of the grid as a consequence.

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Peter Walker’s BRM Type 15, 7th being given a shove during practice (unattributed)

John Bolster of Autosport commented about Gonzalez’ speed and technique; ‘Thursday found me walking round the circuit, trying to work out how on earth these boys get round the corners the way they do. My stopwatch was busy in my hand, and I had a conversion table, so it was with immense excitement that I observed that Froilan Gonzalez had lapped at 99mph. His next tour looked even faster and, yes, the magic 100mph had been topped at last!’

‘The interesting thing is that he brakes later than anybody else, actually enters the corner faster, and gets through in an immensely long drift. He has none of the ease in the cockpit that Farina exhibits, and certainly does not follow the same path every time. Unlike all the other drivers, he changes down without gunning his motor, and yet there is no clash of gears and the box stands up to the treatment. John Wyer and I listened to this for lap after lap at Woodcote, and were fair amazed. A phenomenon, this Froilan!’ Bolster observed.

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Froilan Gonzalez Ferrari 375, Silverstone 1951, lovely portrait of the Argentinian Champion (unattributed)

Gonzalez lapped Silverstone in 1 minute 43.4 seconds and was on pole, a second quicker than Fangio’s Alfa. On Friday the track was damp and those times prevailed. Froilan’s time was set without the latest the latest twin-plug V12 fitted to Ascari’s car.

Gonzalez; ‘Ferrari had the gift of instilling confidence in its drivers. Although I was still very inexperienced I arrived at Silverstone for the 1951 British Grand Prix feeling that I really belonged in the Scuderia Ferrari, feeling eager also to pit my car’s power against the almost unbeatable Alfa Romeos – and my own skill against the world’s greatest racing drivers. Silverstone was the meeting place for international statesmen, industrialists, and millionaires, all looking for excitement’.
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Silverstone was the first time an Alfa Romeo had not been on pole position since the world championship began the year before…

Around 50,000 spectators arrived at the Northhamptonshire circuit on the Saturday, eager to see a great contest between Alfa, Ferrari and BRM.

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Start of the GP with Gonzalez, left on pole Fangio and Ascari #11 on the outside. Ferrari 375, Alfa 159, Ferrari 375 (unattributed)

Felice Bonetto made the best start from seventh, the front row delayed with excessive wheelspin,  and lead at the end of lap 1 but Gonzalez took over with Fangio chasing.

Gonzalez; ‘As we passed the pits for the first time I noticed that both the Alfa and Ferrari team managers were signaling the same instructions, which were in effect that we should drive our own race. The alarming start meant that team tactics must be abandoned. ‘Go for the lead’ came the urgent message and soon as I saw that I went flat-out. By the next lap I was leading’.

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Felice Bonetto Alfa being chased by #12 Gonzalez Ferrari and #1 Farina Alfa 159 with #11 Ascari Ferrari just in shot (unattributed)

‘I could not hear them but I had the feeling that the British crowd had forgotten their usual restraint. They were jumping and waving and, it seemed to me, yelling like mad. ‘Pepito. You are ahead of the Field Marshals,’ I thought, and kept my foot hard down on the accelerator pedal. Then suddenly my rear-view mirror showed a red car, growing bigger and bigger. A signal from my pit as I shot past told me it was Fangio’s Alfa Romeo. ‘Pepito. Don’t do anything foolish. Don’t panic. Even Fangio will have to do a re-fuel.’
Within 15 laps, Fangio was five seconds ahead of Gonzalez. the duo were 44 seconds ahead of third-Farina who was scrapping with Ascari from Bonetto and Villoresi. It was Alfa Romeo, Ferrari, Alfa Romeo, Ferrari, Alfa Romeo, Ferrari. The fuel stops would settle the issue.
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Nice color panned shot of Gonzalez on the way to victory. Shows the big, butch lines of the Ferrari to good effect, the delicacy of touch required to drift the thing at 140mph readily apparent, and appreciated!  (unattributed)

Gonzalez hit the straw-bales at Becketts but gradually closed on Fangio to retake the lead on lap 39. At the end of lap 48, Fangio pitted and Gonzalez came in 13 laps later. Ascari had retired with gearbox trouble and Gonzalez climbed from his car and offered it to his team-mate.  Ascari refused and urged Gonzalez to continue. The stop took 23 seconds, Fangio’s 49  seconds, JM had his rear wheels changed and his fuel tank filled. The gap between the leaders was then 1 minute 19.2 seconds.

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Pitsop for the thirsty Parnell BRM Type 15 ; passing is the Farina Alfa being closely watched by Alberto Ascari, astride the white line, retired from the race. The balding Raymond Mays looks away from the BRM , to Mays right beside ‘the copper’ is journalist and racer John Bolster (unattributed)

‘When Fangio caught me in the 10th lap I let him overtake, placing myself directly on his tail. We traveled in tandem, our two cars seeming to be roped together. Even when he increased speed we remained like this, driving like men pursued by the Devil himself. There was a moment of danger around the 25th lap when I took Becketts Corner too fast and hit the straw bales. But this made me keener than ever and I set off again after Fangio. I began to close on him, having been perhaps 5 or 6 seconds behind him with both of us averaging about 97 mph until, on the 39th lap, I eventually took him. Towards the end of the race I was more than a minute ahead of him’.

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Gonzalez leads Fangio during their great Silverstone race (unattributed)

‘Motorsports’ August 1951 issue described the events as follows: ‘Try as Fangio could and did, it was over. Gonzalez came round, crash hat and visor in his left hand, waving them to the crowd.

‘Ferrari with the unblown 4.5-litre had at last broken the might of the two-stage supercharged 159 Alfa Romeo, as they have been threatening to do since Monza last year. Froilan Gonzalez had driven impeccably and is now in the front rank.

‘Fangio drove like the master he is, but couldn’t catch the Ferrari, nor could his longer pit-stop explain the 51 second gap and he was the meat in the Ferrari sandwich. And how these Argentinians drive!’

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Froilan Gonzalez takes the Silverstone chequered flag to record an historic personal and team win, Ferrari 375 (unattributed)

Villoresi was third after Farina retired at Abbey Curve, with smoke billowing from the engine compartment but the failure reported as ‘clutch’. Bonetto was a further lap behind the Ferrari in fourth.

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Farina’s Alfa 159 hors ‘d combat on lap 75 with a failed clutch (unattributed)

Reg Parnell was 5th in the BRM with Walker 7th. The BRM drivers completed the race burned by their exhausts and dazed by fuel vapours. In the hurry to complete the cars for the race, the exhausts hadn’t been properly insulated and the drivers were ‘cooked’.

brm

The BRM Type 15′ s get away at the start; Walker left 7th and Reg Parnell #6 5th (unattributed)

‘It was very confusing’ said Gonzalez aftewards, ‘But very exciting. Everyone was shouting and talking; the mechanics saying over and over again that the Alfa Romeos had been beaten. Then I was taken to meet the Queen and given a laurel wreath. Of course, I understood little of what was said but it was a very nice feeling to have all those people congratulating me.

‘On the winners podium I was embraced warmly by Fangio. That meant a lot to me. Then they played the Argentine National Anthem. I had never experienced anything like this before. When I saw my country’s flag being hoisted, it was just too much for me and I cried. That moment will live with me for ever.’

british wife

Gonzalez being congratulated by his wife and crew after the historic win, the enormity of it all still to set in (unattributed)

Enzo Ferrari’s dogged determination to win Grands Prix with his own cars was achieved against Alfa Romeo, for whom for many years he lead their pre-War racing programs. It was the first time the Alfas had been beaten since the first post-war French Grand Prix in 1946.

At the end of the season, Alfa Romeo applied for a significant increase in their government grant, the company still within the control of the agency which took it over after its insolvency pre-war. It was refused and the team withdrew from Grand Prix racing, a return finally made with the provision of engines in 1970 and more wholistically as a team in 1979.

In his Richard Williams biography, Enzo Ferrari said of his first Ferrari GP victory: ‘I cried for joy. But my tears of enthusiasm were mixed with those of sorrow because I thought, today I have killed my mother’…

Etcetera…

alfa paddock

Alfa’s in the Silverstone paddock; #3 Consalvo Sanesi 6th, #1 Farina DNF (unattributed)

start 1

Front row makes a poor start; #12 Gonzalez, Farina  better away and Ascari #11 on the right with Fangio’s Alfa almost beside Ascari and Felice Bonetto, Alfa coming up quickly behind Fangio (unattributed)

ascari farina

Alberto Ascari from Giuseppe Farina Ferrari 375 and Alfa 159, Silverstone 1951, both DNF (unattributed)

pitstop

Gonzalez supervises his Ferrai pitstop whilst Ascari, right, looks on having sportingly declined to take the car offered to him by Froilan allowing him to take the well deserved win (unattributed)

Bibliography…

f1fanatic.co.uk, grandprixhistory.org, Team Dan, silhouet.com, J Perez Loizeau and Ors ‘Jose Froilan Gonzalez:The Pampas Bull’

Photo Credits…

Louis Klementaski, Getty Images, Michael Turner art

Tailpiece…

britsi art

Painting depicts Gonzalez’ pursuit of Fangio with a blue Talbot-Lago T26 ahead (Michael Turner)

 

 

merc staub

(Max Staub)

Mercedes Benz returned to Grand Prix racing with a vengeance at Reims in 1954, here Fangio leads Karl Kling in the W196 Streamliners…

Mercedes had a habit of re-entering racing in the French Grand Prix every 20 odd years, when doing so bringing new standards of engineering excellence with them.

In 1914 the 4 cylinder SOHC 4483cc engined Mercedes 18/100 of Sailer, Lautenschlager, Salzer, Pilette, and Wagner crushed the opposition at Lyon just before The Great War. The course was 37.6 Km long, 20 laps of it took the winner Christian Lautenschlager 7 hours 8 minutes!

1914

Three of the 1914 French GP winning Mercedes team cars at Unterturkheim post event. L>R #28 Lautenschlager 1st, #39 Salzer 3rd, #40 Wagner 2nd. (unattributed)

In 1934 Auto Union and Mercedes came to Monthlery with cars which would largely sweep the board until War again intervened.

Although on that day an Alfa Romeo triumphed. Louis Chiron won in a Scuderia Ferrari Alfa P3 from Achille Varzi similarly mounted, the three 2.9 litre supercharged straight-8 Mercedes W25 of Rudi Caracciola, Manfred von Brauchitsch and Luigi Fagioli retiring with a variety of maladies.

1934

1934 French GP, Montlhery. Rudy Caracciola Mercedes W25 DNF, from Avhille Varzi Alfa P3/Tipo B, 2nd. (unattributed)

And so it was that Mercedes returned to racing after a break of 15 years at Reims on the weekend of July 4th 1954, 40 years after Lyon and 20 after Monthlery…

fangio reims

JM Fangio, Mercedes Benz W196, Reims victor 1954. (Jesse Alexander Archive)

cutaway 1

The W196 was a triumph of complex engineering, the 2.5 litre straight eight cylinder car had the following new features; Direct injection of fuel into the cylinders for more precise ignition of the incoming fuel charge, the engine lying on its side only 20 degrees from the horizontal to allow a lower bonnet line and the driveshaft to pass beside the driver rather than him sitting on it.

Desmodromic or mechanical operation of the valves allowed higher rpm than the valve springs of the day could handle, 4 wheel independent suspension using a new type of swing axle at the rear, inboard brakes front and rear to lower unsprung weight and a streamlined all enveloping body helped the car to quicker thru ze air.

The very experienced pre-war engineering team of Dr Fritz Nallinger and Rudy Uhlenhaut were in control of the conception, design, development and testing of the new car.

french paddock

Reims 1954 paddock shot. #18 Fangio and #22 Hans Hermann Mercedes W196 Streamliners being prepared for the race. Open bodies used from Nurburgring 1954 onwards, Streamliner body about 60 pounds heavier than the ‘Nurburg’ slipper/open wheeler bodies. (unattributed)

The purpose of this article is not to write in detail about a car which has had everything written about it, rather the words are a support to the wonderful painting and cutaways originally published in that splendid annual, Automobile Year, in this case the 1955 edition.

cutway 2

(Automobile Year)

In his Automobile Year technical review of the 1954 season noted journalist/Le Mans Winner/GP driver Paul Frere explains in great detail the technical advances of the car but also makes clear all of the Benz victories in ’54 were scored by Fangio, saying that the cars speed was partially a factor of Fangio’s dominance as a driver rather than it being a function of the cars speed itself. He and Alberto Ascari were the standout drivers at the time.

The W196 won four of five 1954 races entered, impressive with a new car; Frere also makes clear that the development potential of the car was obvious and subsequently reinforced in their 1955 season!

french start

French GP Start; #18 Fangio, #20 Kling Benz W196, #10 Alberto Ascari Maser 250F #2 Gonzalez Ferrari 553, #12 Marimon Maser 250F, #46 Prince Bira Maser 250F, #22 Hans Hermann Benz W196, #6 Hawthorn Ferrari 553, #4 Maurice Trintignant Ferrari 625, #34 Robert Manzon Ferrari 625, #14 Luigi Villoresi Maser 250F. (unattributed)

At Reims Fangio was on pole with his young German teammate Karl Kling alongside and Alberto Ascari in a factory Maserati 250F. Alberto and Onofre Marimon were ‘loaned’ to Maserati by Gianni Lancia given his new D50 GP car was still not raceworthy and the drivers otherwise unemployed for the weekend.

Ascari’s race was over on lap 1 due to either gearbox or engine failure depending upon the report you read, this left Fangio and Kling to run away with the race.

Hawthorn and Marimon scrapped for 3rd before the Argentinian stopped for a plug change and dropped to the back of the field.

start 2

Fangio left, and Kling Mercedes W196 well clear of Ascari’s Maser 250F shortly after the start. (unattributed)

Pre-war Thai driver Prince Bira drove a great race in a customer 250F dropping to 4th having run out of fuel and losing time switching to his auxiliary tank, and his 3rd place, so Robert Manzon was 3rd in a Ferrari 625.

Hans Herrman in the other W196 took fastest lap early in the race before over-revving the engine leaving its telltale at 9100rpm!

So, a dominant Mercedes start to a run which sadly only lasted until the end of the 1955 season before their modern era return and the dominance of 2014/5…

fangio thillois

Fangio, Thillois Hairpin, Reims 1954. MB W196. (unattributed)

Etcetera…

grid shot

Front row pre start. Fangio, Kling and Ascari. Hawthorn fiddling with his goggles on row 3. (unattributed)

cutaway 3

(Automobile Year)

merc w 196

Nice section of the W196 cylinder head and operation of its desmodromic valve gear. (Automobile Year)

Race Footage…

Credits…

Max Staub, Automobile Year, Jesse Alexander Archive

Reims 1958

Jesse Alexanders’ great shot from the rear of the Reims grid, French Grand Prix July 1958…

Down ze back its the #24 Lotus 16 of Graham Hill to the left,  #30 Maser 250F of American Troy Ruttman to the right and at the rear the Lotus 12 Climax driven by Cliff Allison. The race was won by Mike Hawthorn in a Ferrari Dino 246 from Moss in a Vanwall and Von Trips in another Dino.

Very sadly this was the race in which Luigi Musso lost his life, chasing teammate and championship rival Hawthorn through the flat out Muizon corner he lost control at 150mph, crashed and died later from injuries sustained in the accident.

cliff allison french gp 1958 lotus 12

Allisons’ Lotus 12 amongst the Champagne-Ardenne fields, i wonder what that crop is!? The 12 was built as an F2 contender originally  but quickly evolved into a GP car, Lotus’ first, as the capacity of the Coventry Climax FPF engine progressively edged its way towards 2.5 litres. (Unattributed)

Reims 1958 panorama

Gerino Gerini Maser 250F 9th, Jean Behra BRM P25 DNF, Stirling Moss Vanwall, 2nd and Francisco Godia-Sales Maser 250F DNF French GP 1958. (unattributed)

Behra and Collins French GP 1958

Peter Collins Ferrari Dino 246 5th and Jean Behra BRM P25 DNF start of French GP 1958. (unattributed)

Ferrari Dinos' French GP 1958

Ferraris’ Dino 246 X 3 French GP 1958; #4 Hawthorn, ill fated #2 Musso and #6 Von Trips. (unattributed)

Fangio French GP 1958 Maser 250F

Juan Fangio finished 4th is his last grand prix in the ‘Piccolo’ lightweight Maserati 250F, car now past its prime. (unattributed)

Photo Credit…

Jesse Alexander Archive