#29 1953 British Grand Prix

2021-04-07 00:00

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#1953, Fulvio Conti, Ludovico Nicoletti, Translated by Monica Bessi,

#29 1953 British Grand Prix

The mountain race specialists - almost all the locals specialists, a lot of national fame and some of international class - will chase each other on S


The mountain race specialists - almost all the locals specialists, a lot of national fame and some of international class - will chase each other on Sunday, July 19, 1953, in the picturesque steep swirls of the Susa-Moncenisio race. Everything is specialisation: the popular aces of universal resonance, on dizzying circuits at very high speeds, do not participate; however, they do take part sometimes only to honour their signature at the road cross-country race, but they participate less and less to a race uphill, even if it is the most classic, ancient and interesting one in Europe, like the Susa-Moncenisio. Another type of sensitivity, training, risk; the direct opponent is invisible, replaced by the stopwatch. The time they lose for training does not pay off by only a few race minutes. About this race, they took advantage of these daring and skilled drivers that, not less good in the absolute line, have suffered and kept the charm of the uphill race, that is the most historical, logical and intuitive race for cars, dedicating themselves with intelligent patience and progressively more brilliant results. Most of partecipants, maybe, after they gave themselves also on the tracks or in street circuits Grand Prix: the fact remains that there cannot be the opposite outcome, and that the drivers class is specialised. Only few of them will use a car of the race category, that will not be as competitive in the mountain categories, but it is free from any regulatory constraint in the constituent data and displacement, like the curious Alfa 4500 of the Swiss Daetwyler, the overall winner in 1951 who, after the large collection of victories abroad, returned back as unbeatable. His direct contenders of the category are the aged Austrian Hans Stuck in a A.F.M., Maglioli in a Ferrari 2500 and Stagnoli in a Ferrari 3000. But maybe the Swiss driver has to look around for the combative opponents that enrich the sports category such as the famous and versatile Giovanni Bracco, recordman of the race in 1950 and winner of many other races during this after war. Another probable protagonist of the nourished 1000 class and beyond the International Sport is Eugenio Castellotti in a 3-litre Ferrari, that has been presented this season; Fleury and Ducrey, both in the famous Jaguar, winner of Les Mans; Scotti and Sterzi in the Ferrari, Giletti in the Maserati, that in the last few race appeared in great shape; Bordoni in the French Gordini. 


Are these all the eligible candidates for the victory? Maybe, but not obligatorily because, with the help of random factors, the winner can also come out from the category International Turismo, where there are a lot of Aurelia GTs. Under showery conditions, the Daily Express Meeting at Silverstone on July 18, organised for the RAC by the BRDC, is run off promptly in front of a vast crowd of spectators. Ominous rain clouds pass over the circuit with nothing worse than a heavy shower a quarter of an hour before the finish of the British Grand Prix and a few spots during the sports car race. Interest is sharply focussed on the British Grand Prix because, after Hawthorn’s magnificent victory in the French Grand Prix, everyone wonders if he will do it again on his home-ground in Silverstone, or whether Maserati will beat Ferrari on this rather more difficult circuit. Ferrari and Maserati line up the same cars they had in Reims, rumours of new Ferraris proving to be false. The teams are, respectively, represented by Ascari, Villoresi, Farina, Hawthorn, and Fangio, Gonzalez, Bonetto and Marimon. HWM lines up Macklin, Collins, Duncan Hamilton and Fairman. Connaught has McAlpine, Salvadori, and Bira, with the American-type of carburettor-less induction, which is not true fuel-injection but injection into the inlet tract. In addition, Ian Stewart has the Ecurie Ecosse Connaught, and Bolt has Rob Walker’s Connaught. Ken Wharton has a Cooper-entered Cooper-Bristol, James Stewart the Ecurie Ecosse Cooper-Bristol, Alan Brown and Bob Gerard drive their own cars of this brand. This time three Coopers are due to run, those of Moss, Whitehead (now tuned by Inarton’s former mechanic) and Crook, but Moss has burst its clutch at Reims and does not start. Chiron is the only other absent and an interesting field is made up with the Automobiles Gordini team - Schell, Trintignant, Behra - in the usual six-cylinder cars, the new V8 not materialising, and de Graffenried’s Maserati. The first practices are held in the rain, with the rather unstable result that Peter Whitehead makes the fastest lap at 90.06 m.p.h., a whole 4 sec. faster than Hawthorn, who is 2 sec. quicker than Farina, while Ascari is content, with his friend Villoresi, to be 2 sec. slower. 


The works Maserati have not arrived yet, and Schell’s Gordini is fifth fastest, a second behind the slowest Ferrari. Heavy showers characterise the Friday session, but Ascari now goes round in 1’48"0 (97.57 m.p.h.), Gonzalez is a second slower for Maserati, and Hawthorn receives a special back-slap of appreciation from Ferrari’s team Manager for tie-ing with the Argentinian. Fangio and Farina both manage 1'50"0, Villoresi and Marimon 1’51"0, with Trintignant and Schell in 1’52"0. So the participants retired to their cars, tents and caravans, confident of a strong Ferrari-Maserati-Gordini battle on the morrow. Ascari practises with Villoresi’s car as well as with his own. It takes the mechanics a long time to fit the bulkheads between the air intakes and the exhaust system and make the bonnet fit. The rigidly mounted Weber carburettors first tried at Spa are retained. After Earl Howe has unveiled the Pat Fairman Memorial Drinking Fountain, which has at last been moved from Donington to a permanent home in Silverstone, the 28 cars are wheeled or driven to the starting grid. The Maseratis are the Reims cars, with auxiliary fuel tank on the driver’s right, the second auxiliary tank and headrest removed from Gonzalez’s car. His name is on the cockpit sides. Fangio (Maserati), Hawthorn (Ferrari), Gonzalez (Maserati) and Ascari (Ferrari) occupy the first row, as a foretaste of the battle to follow, with Marimon, Villoresi and Farina in the row behind. Alan Brown pretends to polish the white bonnet top of de Graffenried’s Maserati, Fairman can be heard loudly inquiring of John Heath what sort of race he is required to drive, and gradually the moments comes nearer the start. This time no one mistakes Kenneth Evans’ intentions and the field, naturally creeping slightly, roars away. At Copse, the first corner, Fangio leads, but as his Maserati drifts wide, Ascari loses no time in going through. Packed tight behind are Villoresi and Gonzalez followed by the rest, but de Graffenried is last after a bad start. At the end of lap one Ascari leads Fangio, with Gonzalez and Villoresi behind, and then a little gap before Marimon, Hawthorn, Farina, Bonetto and Macklin appears - Ferrari, Maserati, Maserati, Ferrari, Maserati, Ferrari, Maserati, H.W.M. 


On lap two Gonzalez moves up in front of his teammate and Hawthorn passes Marimon. A lap later spectators are perplexed when Hawthorn drops back - except those in the pits grandstand, who have seen him spin wildly out of the tricky Woodcote Corner and slide backwards onto the grass. He gets out of this nasty high-speed incident, which can easily have ended his career, and continues, visibly shaken. A lap later Ferrari calls him in the pits for a check of the car, and a slight fuel leak is discovered. Ascari has set a new Formula 1 lap record of 1'51"0 (94.93 m.p.h.) on his second circuit, which Gonzalez promptly equals on the next lap - the Ferrari/Maserati battle is well and truly joined. Lap four sees Ascari, driving superbly so fast that he looks slow, pulls out a lap in 1’50"0 (95.59 m.p.h.). Clearly, even in a race which is to be run non-stop for 263 miles, he cannot afford to give the Argentinian a second. His high speed so early in the race with full tank is the result of true virtuosity. The field has already been depleted, for Crook’s Cooper-Alta cannot get fuel to the carburettors and McAlpine’s Connaught also fails to leave the grid. Moreover, Wharton’s formerly-reliable Cooper-Bristol is in the pits while pressure is restored to the lubrication circuit, and Trintignant is having a broken exhaust pipe repaired, while plugs are changed on Schell’s car. Whitehead’s Cooper-Alta requires brake adjustment after seven of the 90 laps which constitute the full distance. It is significant of how well matched are the rival Italian teams that the official classification from lap 1 to 17 shows no change of position in the first three - Ascari, Gonzalez, Fangio - but then Villoresi comes up to third place, and Gonzalez falls to fourth because he has been brought in, with some difficulty, by the officials, who suspect his Maserati of dropping oil - there is some liquid round the track which has resulted in the striped oil-warning flag being flown for a time - this some British drivers slow down, but Ascari just presses unconcernedly on. After a rowdy pit stop, Gonzalez is allowed to continue - it is possible that the back axle is venting slightly. The order Ascari, Fangio, Villoresi, Gonzalez, holds for lap after lap, but Alberto is a comfortable quarter mile, ahead of the Maserati, having averaged 92.72 m.p.h. to Fangio’s 92.19 m.p.h. 


In 25 laps Ascari has increased his lead by a few more seconds but the Ferrari, Maserati, Ferrari, Maserati, Ferrari, Maserati order dominates the leading six. Stewart has retired the Connaught due to plug problems, Wharton has needed oil and Whitehead further adjustment of his brakes; Schell’s Cordial never recovered its lost sparks and de Graffenried is troubled by misfiring, which has spoilt his start but which he dashingly tries to overcome. Massacre is heavy, for Trintignant’s Gordini succumbs to the old complaint, axle failure, Bonetto’s Maserati has been delayed for a plug change, Hamilton’s H.W.M. is out with a clutch not working, and then Bonetto stops twice more as the carburettors are checked and a blocked jet changed. The last remaining Gordini of Jean Behra comes in with a blocked fuel system and Macklin’s H.W.M. splits its clutch housing, while to de Graffenried’s troubles is added a broken accelerator. Peter Whitehead takes on fuel for his Alta engine in 38 seconds after 1 hr. 28 minutes. Collins also refuels the H.W.M., in 60 seconds. The race position, so far as the rather widely-spaced duellists are concerned, remains the same lap after lap and if the heartstopping struggle which has been seen at Belittle is not renewed, certainly neither Ferrari nor Maserati have sufficient superiority over the other for any of their drivers to let up for a second. Indeed, isn't that more like a drivers fight than a team fight? Halfway through the race, Ascari has increased his lead to 28 sec. over Fangio and his speed to 93.46 m.p.h.; Villoresi is 50 sec. in front of Gonzalez (who, however, has had to debate his black-flagging) at 92.33 and Farina, in characteristic style, leads new-boy Marimon by a mere second, at 90.37 m.p.h. The battle between the latter, holders of fifth and sixth places, is an interesting sub-feature of the race and, sure enough, at half-distance, Marimon’s blue and yellow Maserati, the only one in Argentine colours, has gone by, to lead the veteran Italian by 3 sec. Another clutch breaks down and Fairman retires, and Collins soon afterwards goes off the track rather violently, at Chapel Curve, walks to Becketts, runs back to his car, having summoned mechanics, only to discover the machinery unstartable. Gonzalez stops for 41 sec. for fuel and oil after 55 laps, suggesting he may have started with a half-full tank, as at Reims. Ascari is still piling on speed, his average up to 93.84 m.p.h. at two-thirds distance. 


The six-slice Ferrari-Maserati sandwich-spread is unchanged, although Fangio is now 41 sec behind; Gonzalez’s pit-stop has enabled Farina to close up but not to pass. Wharton is going well again, although his yellow-nosed Cooper-Bristol calls for 10 gallons of fuel, which his pit-staff got in a splendid 20 sec. We now begin to speculate on which British car will be the first to finish. James Stewart is going great guns, in tartan shirt, in the Cooper-Bristol. Bira is driving a faultless race in the Connaught. Thai driver is going exceedingly well, although losing 60 sec for refuelling on his 66th lap. As the leader completes the same number, the solid block of the first six is shattered. Villoresi’s Ferrari breaks its back axle and at the same time Marimon’s Maserati stops at Copse Corner. Baron de Grafrenried, too, gives up an unequal struggle with his sick car. The order now alters to Ascari, Fangio, Gonzalez, Farina, Hawthorn, who is steadily regaining the ground his spin has cost him, and Rolt’s Connaught. Brown’s Cooper-Bristol now retires with a broken fan belt, casting a hope that Bristol will soon have ready a racing engine as good as their touring unit has proved to be, for the latter is able to lose a race by casting away a form of drive so often seen lying about on our main roads. With half an hour to run, rain falls heavily, preceded by hail, and Silverstone becomes flooded. This has its effect on the British finishers. Just before the storm Rolt has driven off the course at Becketts and announces back-axle trouble. He is rushed to the Paddock on a police pillion, but the mechanics declare the car beyond repair. This brings Stewart in sixth place, rather more than 2 minutes behind Hawthorn. Alas, the wet race is his undoing, for he crashes at Copse ten laps from the end, luckily escaping injury. Bira spins twice in the Connaught but avoids the grass and continues. Ascari merely adjusts his cornering limits to suit and in this he is followed by his Continental confreres. Bonetto has replaced Stewart in sixth place, Bira in the first British car some way behind him, followed by Wharton as leading British driver. This order holds to the finish, the sun out again but the course wet, so that Ascari’s average, up to 93.97 m.p.h. on lap 80, falls to an overall of 92.97 m.p.h.


On Saturday, July 18, 1953, ahead of a great crowd, around 100.000 people, the Italian drivers take two wonderful affirmation, Alberto Ascari in a Ferrari 2000 wins the British Grand Prix, valid for the World Championship, and Giuseppe Farina, in a Ferrari 4500, that wins the category of free formula. The day after, on Sunday, July 19, 1953, more than for the sports result - discounted at the start, and remained in line with expectations - the 17th Susa-Moncenisio will be reminded for some interesting technical starting point and for the truly spectacular setting: for the number of cars and people intervened from one side to the other, and for the sense of high mountain that for a cold wind, in the clear sky, between the very low snow this year, makes the manifest, in contrast with the plain, making the leap more miraculous, for the primacy of the winner cars. From the hot valley bottom to the cold top, up for 300 turn of the Napoleonic street, in less than 14 minutes from 500 to 2000 metres at over 95 of average, between a hedge of cars, every type of dress and multicolor shawls and scarves, used to wave for a greeting, and smile and incitements; that is the summary of the 53rd edition of the Susa-Moncenisio. A success in every point, also for the organisation, except the regrets to not simplify radically the border formalities that will determine, at the return in the evening, some bottlings. Technically, it’s interesting to see the collapse of all the record, even with the same cars or with less power, of the other edition, even with the mountain wind, blower in the face of the drivers: mostly in the fast straight (under the Scale, before the finish line), has making a contrary action. The absolute record went under, for the first time, the minute, thanks to Daetwyler, in the same special Alfa that make him a winner and recordman in the 1951; and of Maglioli in the new Ferrari 2500, that lost only 4 second from the Swiss.


Daetwyler, it is true to say, that has a car that is better, shortened and heavy, compared to the one of two years ago, with a better car body in his curious big car, with an old Alfa Romeo engine Grand Prix of 4 L, that will use 400 horsepower: the half a minute from his past record, can be explained. Also the driver improved himself during these two years, with some victory in this specialty, the uphill race. Maglioli, another brave specialist, has a car with astounding capabilities, that can leave some hypothesis about a long tuning and a more patient harmony. Less easy, maybe, to explain is the victory of the first two of the sports category, Castellotti e Bracco, with a Ferrari 3 L, with a record done in 1951 by Bracco with a Ferrari 4100, whose qualities have never been denied. Because there is no proof to say that the Biellese old driver refined in the last period also because at the finish lane he was preceded by the young Eugenio Castellotti, that would rule out a chance, we can say that in the last two years the 3 L has largely exceed the 4100 of now: technically the relief is important. Praise to the two champions, most to the winner of the category Castellotti, that in the last few races had some wins, his 14'35"0 make him third in the total classification ahead of Hans Stuck (third in the category of the one without limitation of displacement). A result like this for a Berlinetta-sport has big propitiatory shadows of a Lancia and of a Nazzaro, that he is remembered like a hero, from the tormented primorders of motoring, rocky and grassy cliffs. Interesting is to confront the official timing of the first five drivers in the difficult ramps of the Scale. The fastest one, also the most manageable car, was Maglioli with a time of 1'41"8; followed by Daetwyler with 1'44"0; Bracco with 1'46"4; Stuck with 1'46"5; Castellotti with 1'47"8.


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