#32 1953 Italian Grand Prix

2021-04-03 00:00

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#1953, Fulvio Conti, Ludovico Nicoletti, Translated by Chiara Cavina,

#32 1953 Italian Grand Prix

Last Sunday, the Milanese ace Alberto Ascari virtually won the fourth World Championship in Bern. Of the ten rounds valid for the 1953 title, eight ha


Last Sunday, the Milanese ace Alberto Ascari virtually won the fourth World Championship in Bern. Of the ten rounds valid for the 1953 title, eight have already taken place. The Italian Grand Prix in Monza (September 13, 1953) and the Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona (October 21, 1953) remain on the schedule. However, by now Ascari has such a point advantage in the rankings that it cannot be bridged anymore, even if he does not participate in the last two races. Of the eight races already held, the Ferrari leader has won the Argentine Grand Prix, the Dutch Grand Prix, the Belgian Grand Prix and the Swiss Grand Prix in Bern, the Englishman Hawthorn, in a Ferrari, has won the French Grand Prix; Farina has won the German Grand Prix; no European driver took part in the Indy 500. In the Championship rankings, Ascari is followed by Farina, Hawthorn, Fangio, González and Villoresi. Farina’s performance in the races so far this year has been exceptional: together with teammates Villoresi and Hawthorn, the Italian driver has loyally and effectively contributed to the complete success of his team. It is the fourth out of four times that an Italian car dominates the World Championship, in order: 1950 Giuseppe Farina (Alfa Romeo); 1951 Manuel Fangio (Alfa Romeo); 1952 Alberto Ascari (Ferrari); 1953 Alberto Ascari (Ferrari). Alberto Ascari is the son of the great champion Antonio Ascari, who died on Sunday, 26th April 1925 on the Montlhéry track at the age of 42. The current World Champion, born on 13th July 1918 in Milan,  is 36 years old. He started his career as a racer, but without much luck. He is married, has two children and lives in Milan. The first Supercortemaggiore Grand Prix, to be held on Sunday, September 6, 1953, on the brand-new Merano circuit, is on its way to perfect success. Some very recent news which is certainly going to draw the technicians’ interest and the sportsmen’s curiosity is that Lancia has chosen the Merano event to debut their unprecedented over 3000 cc cars.


At the Supercortemaggiore Grand Prix, a speed race for Sports category cars without restrictions on engine capacity, the Lancia official team is composed of Taruffi, Bonetto and another driver chosen among Palmieri, Castellotti, Piodi and Lang. Ferrari is taking part in this competition as well, with at least two cars up to 4500 cc: as for the drivers, no official decision has been taken yet. Maybe Villoresi and Farina will compete, but it is not to be ruled out that the choice could fall on Maglioli, Hawthorn or Marzotto. Meanwhile, Maserati have submitted their team’s entry, with 2-litre cars that, even though they are less powerful than those of Lancia and Ferrari, could be favoured by their higher manageability. Meanwhile, the promoters continue to receive numerous entry requests (Scuderia Sant Ambroeus’ and Scuderia Guastalla’s ones among the others): it is therefore predictable that the maximum number of 35 competitors will be exceeded, and a preliminary selection will be carried out. On Saturday, September 5, 1953, a regularity race open to all engine sizes takes place on the Cortemaggiore-Solzano-Merano racetrack. On Sunday, September 13, 1953, the 24th Italian Grand Prix takes place in Monza. It is the penultimate round of the World Championship, since, as mentioned, a last round to be held in Spain, on the Barcelona racetrack, is also scheduled. This race, although not important for the rankings, given that Alberto Ascari is mathematically already the 1953 World Champion, nonetheless maintains a considerable charm due to the great participation of men and means. However, before getting to this important event, on Wednesday, August 26, 1953, an incredible piece of news spread: Ferrari withdraws from motor racing. This happens while World Champion Alberto Ascari, Luigi Villoresi and British driver Hawthorn, kept in the dark about the sudden decision made by Ferrari during the night, are travelling to the Nürburgring to take part in the Nürburgring 1000 km, valid for the World Sportscar Championship. Giuseppe Farina, Nürburgring-bound too, is taken aback when journalist Dino Zannoni asks him for some clarification, as he waits for the Turin-Modena phone call to talk to Ferrari himself:


"This decision is astounding. Last Sunday, in Bern, our Alberto Ascari won the World Championship for the second time in a row with a Ferrari. And now we are all unemployed: Ascari, Villoresi, Hawthorn and me. Who will I race for in the future? I don’t know: Mercedes, Maserati, Lancia? Who knows. In any case, I’ll be waiting, without any rush. I’ll choose very carefully. Is this news about Ferrari withdrawing from racing really true? Or is it a bombshell from you journalists?"


The journalist decides then to call the founder of the team that bears his own name, late in the evening, fearing to receive a rude answer, so paradoxical does the question he has to ask him seem. However, the confirmation comes peremptorily from Modena:


"Yes, it’s me, Enzo Ferrari, the car manufacturer. The news is true: no more races, and this time I’m not going back".


But why such a decision, not even a week after winning the World Title for the second time in a row?


"Allow me to not answer, neither to you, nor to anybody else, at least for now; I have my good reasons. And maybe I won’t reveal the real reasons for the withdrawal to anybody. I’ve never asked for any kind of help; therefore, I don’t feel obliged. I just say that I don’t want to hear anything about racing anymore".


Great bitterness shines through Ferrari’s voice. What, then, are, the reasons behind such a sudden change of course? The iron will against every obstacle had always been a characteristic of the small Maranello workshop, which was specialised in race cars and had achieved the highest sporting triumphs.


"The reason? It’d be too long to explain. And also, to whom do I owe an explanation? Nobody has ever thought of helping me, even though for some time now the cars I build claim at least fifty wins per year, in Europe and in America. After all, I’ve never asked, and I don’t ask anything to anybody. I’ve given Italy two World Championships; I’ve forced every foreign race car to surrender, including B.R.M. that, ultra-defeated, has had to declare failure, and Mercedes has asked for a break until next year to prepare properly. The Maranello factory, the drivers, the engineers, the workers, all the personnel and the material of the Scuderia cost me greatly. I build and sell only race cars. There aren’t many buyers in this field. My drivers do stunts on racetracks, but my designer, engineer Lampredi, does wonders, and I have to do as many in the financial statement. When will Italian sports directors remember me?"


Financial troubles? It does not seem likely, even though the costs of keeping a racing team alive are very high; between fees from circuit organisers, and prizes won, as well as the sale of expensive sports cars, the balance sheet assets should also be considerable. Anyway, Ferrari has always had a hard life and probably, claiming the second World title, was hoping for a subsidy as a prize from the highest sporting bodies. Or maybe, after many battles, many worries, Enzo Ferrari wants, right in the moment of the highest triumph, to put an end to his activity as a race car manufacturer. It may well be a need for physical rest: it is well known that Ferrari, a bit of a heart sufferer, has not been attending his cars' races lately, fearing strong emotions. The manufacturer from Modena, while talking, points out that the race scheduled for next Sunday in Germany, on the Nürburgring track, is probably going to be the last for Scuderia Ferrari, since the big vans carrying the race cars have already departed from Modena, and the drivers, Ascari and Villoresi, totally uninformed, are travelling to the Nürburgring, as well as the Turin ace Farina - unaware of everything too - who is taking off in the plane from Malpensa.


"My intention would be to put an end to it at the Nürburgring, therefore to not present my cars to the race in Monza; however, my moral commitments to the organisers of the Grand Prix are such that I can hardly say no".


And what about the new car, the one which should debut exactly in Monza against the likewise new Maserati race cars? And what about the cars that you have in store for next year, when the German manufacturer Mercedes is coming back to race with the intention to beat the Italian cars?


"I’ll sell my new cars if somebody will be willing to buy them. Not the factory, that’s mine. I’ll produce other things, but not race cars anymore".


And what will engineer Lampredi, designer of your racing cars, Master Ugolini, sports manager of the Scuderia, Ascari, World Champion, and the other aces, Farina, Villoresi, Hawthorn, say and do?


"Life won’t stop because of this".


Ferrari replies, his voice almost shaking with tears.


"They have a contract with me. Therefore, every month, up until the expiry of my commitments, all the people you mentioned will come to me to get their salary, and they will receive it regularly".


But what will the public, sportsmen from Italy and around the world, used to the triumphs of your cars in the various racing events, from the Mille Miglia race to the pure speed Grand Prix, say?


"My heart breaks like that of sportsmen; but allow me, allow me not to talk about this no more. What I’ve told you is everything. Have a good evening".


Ferrari’s decision, if maintained, is destined to revolutionise motor racing: the Italian sport would lose one of its most powerful means of victory. Had an instruction from above banned motor racing out of the blue, perhaps Italian sporting circles would not be in such turmoil as they are currently after Ferrari’s resounding declaration of withdrawal. And yet, in Modena, on Thursday, August 27, 1953, the two local newspapers do not publish anything on this, and even the authorities and trade unions seem to ignore it. Those who know the most find it difficult to believe that Enzo Ferrari will put his intentions into action. There is much speculation, of course, to explain one way or another the sudden and unexpected move: there is talk of a forty or fifty million deficit, of new formulas that would make life difficult for the Maranello brand, of World Champion Alberto Ascari being contractually committed to Alfa Romeo when they resume racing, of bitter disagreements with the Automobile Club di Modena, of opposing coalitions for the coming year, of reduced wages that would soon weigh on the budget, since Ferrari does not have a commercial production and earns money only by racing. Thus, in the opinion of the quiet people from Modena, the declarations of withdrawal, suddenly expressed by the Commendatore after a mysterious phone call from Milan which has put him in a bad mood like bad news do, would tend to achieve, if anything, a financial combination, with the intention of alleviating concerns for the future. So, the first question to ask the Commendatore could not be another but this: is your decision to withdraw adamant, or is it, as some malign, a press coup planned to resolve an uncomfortable situation? After several fits of coughing, the manufacturer from Modena answers the journalist again, looking tired and bored:


"Write what you wish, but the reality is only one: I am a free citizen who, at a certain moment, says stop, I’ve had enough. Too many disappointments, too many disillusionments. You have no idea how much suffering this desertion causes to my poor heart, because sport is fighting, and I don’t feel able to fight alone in such conditions anymore. The bronchial asthma I contracted in the practice rooms has gotten worse. Don’t you hear that I sound like a lorry when I speak?"


These are all valid reasons, but a bit vague; it is true that you are not accountable to anyone for your decisions, but Italian sportsmen, by now so used to your triumphs, would like to know precisely why the glorious Ferraris will not race anymore.


"The truth is distressing, and I cannot reveal it to anybody, also because it’s complex and in some respects a little intimate, who suspects some financial difficulty can go and have a look at the bank, in fact whoever wants is authorised to do it; the important thing is this: I am adamant".


No concerns, no scruples, then?


"My only concern is to settle my three hundred employees, whom I’ll never abandon; in half an hour I’m leaving to give myself a rest, as the doctor wants, without telling anybody my itinerary and my destination, otherwise it would be more hassle. Without the Ferraris, the world will go on just the same".


The news about Ferrari’s withdrawal comes to Modena as a bolt from the blue. The situation that has arisen has still unknown background details, and only based on assumptions it is possible to reconstruct the precedents of the matter. Ferrari had long expressed his bitterness, and he came back on this topic from time to time during many meetings, over the lack of government support. Already during the 1952 Carrera Panamericana, the founder had expressed the intention to withdraw from racing, observing that victory had slipped away from them just because of a defect in preparation due to a lack of means. Will he back out of his intention? The question has arisen immediately, after overcoming the surprise of the first announcement. On the morning of Thursday, August 27, 1953, the workers, who have already felt something in the air for a few days and are therefore dismayed, carry on with their work regularly in the Ferrari workshops. Studies and projects for the new formulas continue briskly: nothing has changed, at least for now, in the little town of Maranello. Even the managers and the workers of the factory in Maranello greet the Commendatore without the slightest apprehension. In them, more than the worry of losing their job (these are highly skilled technicians and specialists and all of them would find another equally profitable job within a few hours) the pain of seeing their bottega (as everybody, starting from Ferrari, calls jokingly the Maranello company) closed forever is clear. In the morning, a committee of workers and technicians knock on the door of the Commendatore’s office, who receives them immediately. No man can say what the manufacturer and his workers, who have been linked to him for years by affection, as well as by work relations, said to each other. When the meeting is over, Enzo Ferrari is again at the door of its office to dismiss his craftsmen. Among these, many have red eyes, and the manufacturer’s face is furrowed with a sorrowful wrinkle too, just like his voice is emotional, broken, as of someone who is about to bid farewell forever to the most beloved of his creatures.


Meanwhile, from Rome comes the news that Bruno Zauli, secretary-general of the Italian National Olympic Committee, has stated that in any case Italy’s highest sports body will not grant any subsidies, since this is not included in CONI’s tasks. In the meantime, in the Milanese motor racing circles Ferrari’s declarations of withdrawal come as a bolt from the blue. However, after the surprise of the first moment, the belief that there is nothing definitive is growing, and that the dramatic announcement made by the manufacturer from Modena tends to reach a certain aim, for now difficult to discover. As a matter of fact, Enzo Ferrari is not in good health: he had to give up driving race cars due to a bronchial asthma, which has now considerably worsened following the long periods of time spent in the practice rooms. Moreover, the twenty-one-year-old son of the founder, Alfredo, more commonly known as Dino, is not able to stand in for him due to his health problems and is therefore logical that in front of the unknown future, the manufacturer from Modena seeks to consolidate his company, and to reduce commitments and responsibilities. In regard to this, the name of Marzotto, the Venetian industrialist who is very much familiar with motor racing and could take over as reinforcement, is mentioned; however, these are only inductions rather than anticipations. Before leaving Modena to give himself a period of much deserved rest prescribed by the doctor, Enzo Ferrari wants, with his withdrawal declaration reiterated in dozens of interviews, to throw motor racing in confusion. Except in Modena and in the nearby Maranello, where everything is still and quiet, as if the event which has caused a sensation everywhere would not interest anybody. Recently, the lockout of a small factory and the resulting dismissal of about eighty workers had caused mayhem, with the intervention of local authorities and political parties: for Ferrari, instead, there were no signs of agitation, but actually a confident wait. On September 1, 1953, in an interview to the news agency Ansa, the manufacturer from Modena, regarding his intention to disband his own car racing team, emphasises once again:


"About the possibility of a return of Ferrari to racing, I can assure that this doesn’t depend for now only on the will of myself and my collaborators".


There have been talks of lack of subsidies, of reduced and denied payments that other foreign car manufacturers would be willing to give up. Could one or all of these be the reasons for the withdrawal?


"Ferrari have requested no subsidies as such, neither for the sporting activity nor for the manufacturing one. As for the payments, I can point out that all foreign promoters, except for two, and all Italian ones, except for one, have always tangibly supported the participation of my team. I believe that this situation wouldn’t be compromised in the future since my cars, both in case they continued representing a cutting-edge product, and in case they would get beaten, they’d always be a positive element for the promoters".


World Champion Alberto Ascari, who returned from Germany at 2:30 p.m. on Wednesday, September 2, 1953, claims to have learned from the Italian newspapers, shown to him by a compatriot who had come from Italy to the Nürburgring, the news, much to his surprise, of Ferrari's withdrawal from racing. Soon after arriving in Milan, the World Champion tried to get in touch by phone with the manufacturer from Modena, but without success. Ascari is somewhat perplexed, also in relation to the practice sessions that would be due to start at the Monza circuit:


"I don’t know anything. I wait for Ferrari to figure the situation out because I don’t want to drive for a manufacturer that stops racing. How can you drive for a manufacturer that you don’t even know if it will take part or not?"


Eager as well to know something, the Milanese driver does all one can for answering questions to which only the manufacturer from Modena could answer, but he was not reachable. On Wednesday, September 2, 1953, at 11 a.m., in Monza the Scuderia Ferrari cars get to the track for testing, with aces Ascari, Farina and Villoresi at the wheel, in view of the Italian Grand Prix on September 13. The car being tested is the new two-litre Ferrari without a compressor, which had been briefly seen in action at the racetrack in Imola. Scuderia Ferrari’s participation in the Italian Grand Prix seems almost certain, but it is not possible to predict whether it is going to be the Modena-based team’s last race, or if Enzo Ferrari will want to change his mind on the known decision of bidding farewell to the sporting activity. Such a decision would be caused by health reasons; however, there are serious reasons as to not exclude the chance that Scuderia Ferrari carries on their activity. The Ferrari drivers and technicians, questioned about the well-known events concerning the Modena manufacturer, maintain the strictest confidentiality, and even the sports director Ugolini, as well as the designer, engineer Lampredi, who must have received precise and peremptory instructions before leaving Modena, are careful not to say a word, bound as they are to the fate and responsibilities of the Maranello car manufacturer. Better informed than anyone, however, seems to be Villoresi, who, unlike Ascari and Farina, has managed to speak to the Commendatore in the late evening of September 1, 1953:


"When Enzo Ferrari will be able to talk, everybody will fully agree with him; for now, silence is required".


Villoresi later adds that at first the manufacturer from Modena had decided to come to Monza to see the tests of the new Ferrari 2000 without a compressor in person and to explain the situation to Ascari and Farina. But the fear of receiving too many questions from outsiders has advised him not to do it. So, it is likely that Ascari and Farina will go to Modena, unless the Commendatore decides on another location for the confidential meeting he intends to hold with his two collaborators. 


In the meantime, during the evening of September 1, 1953, from Maranello, Enzo Ferrari denies the news published in some newspapers, according to which he has reported to the judicial authorities a young technician from his design department as being responsible for having stolen copies of drawings and allowing himself to be bribed by a rival manufacturer. Ferrari specifies that he has merely filed a complaint with the Carabinieri in Maranello, pointing out to them the feeling expressed by engineer Lampredi, head of his design department, that some copies of drawings have disappeared. The complaint against unknown persons, which bears the signatures of Ferrari and his lawyer Lancellotti, indicates as date Saturday, August 29, 1953, so this event is to be considered subsequent to the sensational declaration of withdrawal from motor racing made by Ferrari to the press. Speaking to a journalist from the news agency Ansa, Ferrari declares, among other things, the reasons that have prompted him to give up motor racing:


"It’s not just one cause, as I’ve mentioned a while ago, but several others, the latest of which is the complaint made by one of my technical directors, which has indeed obliged me to involve the judicial police authorities. For the rest, I’ll probably decide to talk after the withdrawal from the races".


Can you say something about Monza?


"My cars are going to race, and the results will say what you’d like to hear from me today".


There have been talks about personal reasons as well. Is this true?


"Undoubtedly, I’m worn out by the uninterrupted activity that I have been carrying out for a long time; however, there’s no determining cause that leads me to stop working. As you could see from meeting me, you had to come to Maranello, where we were testing the new car for Monza".


A few newspapers have mentioned your concerns about knowledge of Italian and foreign car manufacturers.


"When I started manufacturing sports and race cars in 1947, there were two Italian and several foreign car brands that were fighting for the world title. This has not prevented me from joining in and winning the World Championship for two consecutive years. However, in the world of racing there is room and glory for everyone".


The inscrutable declarations made by Enzo Ferrari lead to the suspect that important drawings of a new engine have been stolen from the technical office of the Modena-based company. Who is the perpetrator of the theft, if it was theft? What, precisely, were the stolen drawings? No answer has been given to these questions. At the same time, Maserati begins its tests, led by González and test drivers Giletti, Di Biella and Mantovani. The Argentine, however, is not participating in the Italian Grand Prix: as a matter of fact, the Maserati driver announces his departure for Argentina, which will take place the following Saturday, for health reasons. Meanwhile, on Tuesday, September 1, 1953, Sanesi does some tests with a Mille Miglia Alfa Romeo. Maserati tests also continue during the morning of Thursday, September 3, 1953, with Fangio, Marimon and Bonetto. On the other hand, on Friday, September 4, 1953, Scuderia Ferrari has no training plans, given that a meeting in Modena between Enzo Ferrari himself and his dependent drivers, Ascari, Villoresi and Farina, seems imminent, to define the team's future programme: dissolution or continuation of sporting activity. Furthermore, the promoters of the Barcelona Grand Prix, which will take place in October, are expected in Monza, on the occasion of the tests for the Italian Grand Prix on September 13. The Spanish commission aims to sign up Scuderia Ferrari for the Barcelona race, which is a World Championship round: the manufacturer from Modena will answer yes or no, so the race on the 13th of September is likely not to be the last for the Ferraris. 


It is also thought that perhaps Ferrari's withdrawal plans have been caused by a temporary moral crisis of its managers, a moment of despair for help from above, as a reward, hoped for and not arrived. The episode of the drawings that would have been stolen - by whom is still unknown - cannot be the only and decisive reason for the withdrawal from racing. Then there is an interesting matter, and it is that of the Sports category World Championship. As is well known, there are two world championships: that of Grand Prix racing cars, which Alberto Ascari has now won again this year, and that of sports cars, whose fight for the title is not yet over. During the tests, rumours begin to circulate insistently in Monza that Maserati will not participate in the Italian Grand Prix on September 13: this is because the Modena team would have asked for a starting prize equal to the one that will be awarded to Scuderia Ferrari, that are going to present a completely new car model. Should this request not be satisfied, Maserati would not attend the race. However, on the evening of September 8, 1953, the Automobile Club of Milan, promoter of the race, announces that Ferrari should be present with at least four cars, and stresses that Maserati has completed the registration of five cars. On Thursday, September 3, 1953, during the evening, the Ferrari and Maserati racing teams leave the Monza racetrack. The cars, by means of large and special vans, return to their respective workshops in Modena. Meanwhile, in Modena, the technicians and mechanics of the two rival car manufacturers will have work to do: there are just about ten days to go until the Italian Grand Prix, and both Ferrari and Maserati will present new cars. As for Ferrari's withdrawal from racing, a clarification is likely immediately after Monza. The organisers of the Barcelona Grand Prix, which will take place in October, have made the very first approaches to signing up the team from Modena. The actual negotiations are set for the days immediately before and after the Grand Prix scheduled for September 13. Meanwhile, the Ferrari aces have returned to their respective homes: Ascari and Villoresi in Milan, Farina in Turin. The Monza racetrack will reopen its doors on Tuesday, September 8, 1953, ahead of the Italian Grand Prix. The new Maserati driven by Fangio laps in 2'02"0 at a respectable average speed of 185.901 km/h (approximately 115.513 mph), while Ascari laps in 2'03"0 with the two-litre Ferrari that has taken part in every Grand Prix this year. And as far as new cars are concerned, news coming from Stuttgart informs that Mercedes is going to take part in the Barcelona Grand Prix on October 26, with a brand-new 2-litre car without a compressor. From Modena, however, we learn that after a meeting between representatives of Ferrari and Maserati, which lasted over an hour and a half, the following statement was issued in the afternoon:


"Commendatore Adolfo Orsi, president of the Officine Alfieri Maserati, and Commendatore Enzo Ferrari, of Ferrari, have met today at lawyer Carlo Alberto Perroux’s office in Modena, for the purpose of agreeing upon the way to protect the mutual respectability in the face of the arbitrary conjectures that some of the press have rashly drawn from the episode of the complaint made by Ferrari against unknown persons. On this occasion, Ferrari has made it clear that he could never think that the above-mentioned arbitrary conjectures could touch his colleague and friend Orsi".


The causes behind Ferrari’s decision continue to be talked about: and if the manufacturer from Modena’s decision to abstain, which would be implemented immediately after Monza, were to be considered irrevocable and everlasting, this 24th Italian Grand Prix to be held on Sunday, September 13, 1953 at the Monza circuit would appear to have been designed on purpose to highlight the enormous, irreplaceable weight of the melancholic decision, its negative power on the whole racing structure. The promoters and specialised newspapers have a great deal to do to highlight the secondary protagonists of the upcoming race, who drive foreign cars, either by elaborating on the already famous champions or by exploiting the exoticism of the names for the other drivers, which surround them with some halo of optimistic possibilities. In short, there is a great deal of interesting contribution of international technique and combativeness to make stand out: but the race, for those who are not entirely laymen, is restricted to choosing between a Ferrari monologue and a Ferrari-Maserati dialogue. Or to put it better: the dialogue could also take place within the group of the Ferraris, if one of the sextet really starts the race, as seems likely, with an example of the unprecedented two-litre car, which is in contention for the considerable prize reserved for the presentation of new cars at the Italian Grand Prix, even though it is expected that the leading defences will be maintained by the already known and already accustomed to winning two-litre car.


In other words, the presentation, rather than introducing a better means of fighting, would be an end in itself, or better, an end to obtain the prize. The changes, not slight, made to the new car model, which still has four cylinders, but is a little lighter, lower and perhaps more powerful, do not neutralise the uncertainty inherent in any mechanical debut. Perhaps for the first time in many months, therefore, the victorious Prancing Horse manufacturer will have to work hard to defend itself against a real threat. And should it be the last time? Will Maserati have to remain in the field, alone, with usual, routine management victories as long as foreign teams act as extras, and with the very serious risk of finding themselves alone? It will therefore make for an egregious and interesting event if Ferrari, as is still hoped, withdraws his intentions on the eve of the race. Otherwise a spectacular end in itself, the 24th Italian Grand Prix will repeat its fascination, which still rests on grounds of uncertainty on the question: will Ascari, already crowned World Champion for the second time today, really give his all into opposing Fangio's Maserati, which appears no less fast in practice? There is also a special attraction in Sunday's race: a new rivalry that has arisen between Ascari and Farina, after a misunderstanding between the two teammates at the Swiss Grand Prix in Bern. Swiss newspapers report the episode: towards the end Farina was in the lead, Hawthorn second, Ascari third, all driving a Ferrari. 


As usual, the positions were now locked, and Farina should have won the race. Either due to a wrong indication from the Ferrari pit garage, or an inaccurate interpretation by the racers, Ascari overtook Hawthorn and Farina almost by surprise, and won the Grand Prix, claiming the 1953 World Championship title. There seems to be some resentment between the two Ferrari aces. On Thursday, September 10, 1953, the official practice sessions for the Italian Grand Prix begin at Monza, and continue on the afternoon of Friday, September 11, 1953, with a dry track and a clear sky, after the morning's autumn rain. World Champion Alberto Ascari does not linger, and with 2'02"9, at an average speed of 184.540 km/h (approximately 114.667 mph), he sets the best time of the day, which is however higher than the unofficial record set by Fangio in a Maserati (2'02"0). Fangio himself starts the official practice sessions in the late afternoon, but his best time is just a 2'04"6: Farina manages to do better with 2'03"8. Fangio's time is matched by Villoresi, while the fourth Ferrari driver, the Englishman Hawthorn, laps in 2'04"9. The former King Leopold of Belgium and his wife Princess de Réthy, who are accompanied by the president of the Automobile Club of Milan, also attend the free practice sessions. The two nobles, friends of Farina, are particularly interested in the practice sessions of the Turin ace but congratulate Ascari on his record. Mercedes engineer Neubauer is also present in the pits, as is Enzo Ferrari, whom many people ask:


"Commendatore, when will you give us the announcement that your team will continue racing even after the Grand Prix in Monza? Is it true that you regret announcing Ferrari’s withdrawal from racing?"


The manufacturer from Modena invariably replies:


"I repeat that, after Monza, my technical-sports organisation will have nothing more to do with speed racing".


At that moment, a sportsman from Modena exclaims:


"I bet that next Sunday, September 20, Ascari’s, Farina’s, Villoresi’s and Hawthorn’s Ferraris will race in Modena at the Tazio Nuvolari Grand Prix".


Calmly but firmly, Ferrari replies:


"I bet 100.000 lire that my cars won’t be there".


The anticipation for the Grand Prix is great, but even greater is the anxiety to know Ferrari's final decisions, immediately after Monza. Official practice sessions for the Italian Grand Prix end on Saturday, September 12, 1953, without setting the sensational times that on the eve of the last edition sparked debate and even some doubts. World Champion Alberto Ascari confirms himself as the fastest, lapping in 2'02"7, followed by Fangio, who sets a time of 2'03"2 at an average speed of 184.090 km/h (approximately 114.388 mph), even though the Argentinian driver is not very satisfied with the car he has been given. As a matter of fact, a quarter of an hour before the end of practice, the Maserati driver tries out the car assigned to Bonetto, but before the big north turn damage to the left rear tyre causes a frightening skid, which is resolved with a forced about turn at the edge of the track. Fangio himself, a little shaken up, would later report the dangerous adventure to the pits, which however has only resulted in damage to the wheel. Fangio's emotion is more than understandable: it was precisely at Monza that the accident in which the Argentinian ace was seriously injured in a cervical vertebra took place. Fangio was then forced to stay away from racing for a long time, and even today he cannot say to be fully recovered from the consequences of that dramatic adventure. Marimon, Villoresi and Hawthorn are starting from the second row, while on the third row are Bonetto, Trintignant and De Graffenried. The Italian Grand Prix starts at 2:30 p.m. on Sunday, September 13, 1953. At the start, given by the Honourable Giulio Andreotti, there are a total of thirty cars, six more than last year. The quickest to start is Ascari, who drags all the competitors behind him except Bayol, who remains stationary. By the time he manages to restart, the Frenchman is four laps behind. The race is attended by about 30.000 people; not many, given that the Italian soccer championship begins at the same time; and, on the other hand, the motor-racing public today is not a very large elite; one must also consider that Monza is a very inconvenient trip for those who do not have a car. Those who venture there once, by train, then by streetcar, finally on foot, hardly ever return to the next Grand Prix. Lively curiosity, especially in the female field, arouses the presence of the former King Leopold of Belgium, very fond of motor racing, with his elegant and beautiful wife Princess De Réthy. At the start Ascari immediately took the lead, while Bayol remained stationary and was able to restart when the group of participants had already covered four laps. On the first lap Ascari transited in the lead, followed by Marimon, Fangio and Farina. 


Moss is already detached. Ascari maintains his leading position, while Farina manages to move into second place. On the fifth pass, Ascari precedes Marimon, Fangio and Farina, packed within a second of each other. Villoresi, Hawthorn, Trintignant, de Graffenried and Bonetto follow close behind. Moss pits, but will resume the race. The struggle of the leading group and in the chasing group is fierce, so much so that it is difficult to record the continuous changes of position. It should be emphasised that even in the heat of the race the drivers behave with true fairness, without indulging in risky or dangerous manoeuvres. On lap seven Fangio takes the lead, but his rivals remain within striking distance. The four leaders of the race give rise to a spectacle that one rarely has occasion to see in motor racing, thrilling the audience. Very often Ascari, Fangio, Marimon and Farina come out of the curve that leads into the main straight in tandem. Halfway through the race the situation does not change, and it is therefore easy to assume a sprint finish. Then, due to a skid in the curve, Marimon's car leaves the track: the driver dominates the car and brings it back, without stopping, from the grass to the asphalt. But a rock, splashing like a bullet, punctures the oil tank. Marimon, after a couple of pit stops, will find himself measured in the final melee that is foreign to him. With 20 laps to go Ascari is in the lead, a couple of seconds ahead of his pursuers. On lap 75 Onofre Marimon retires for good, after running off the track. Before him had stopped Lance Macklin (on lap 6, engine), Johnny Claes (on lap 7, fuel system), John Fitch (on lap 14, engine), Élie Bayol (on lap 17, engine), Chico Landi (on lap 18, engine), Roy Salvadori (on lap 33, throttle), Piero Carini (on lap 40, engine) and Toulo de Graffenried (on lap 70, engine). Felice Bonetto will also stop during lap 77, running out of fuel in the tank. Kenneth McAlpine, Ken Wharton and Jack Fairman will not be classified. Almost three hours have passed as if in a flash; as the race draws to a close, the impatience of the public increases: the great motor race of over 504 kilometres would end in a fantastic three-way sprint. Penultimate lap: on the straight opposite the finish line Farina, Ascari at one metre, Fangio at five metres can be seen passing; in front of the grandstands they wheel by, in order: Ascari, Farina and Fangio. 


The crowd is all on its feet, now scanning the straight opposite the finish line: Farina, Ascari, Fangio. And here comes out of the last corner and victoriously crosses the finish line to the general surprise, the Argentinean Fangio in a Maserati; 80 metres behind him is Farina, then Villoresi, who is a lap behind. Mike Hawthorn and Maurice Trintignant come fourth and fifteenth. And where is Ascari? He certainly went off the road, at the last corner; it could not be otherwise; the extreme phase of the fierce race betrayed him. The anxious public wonders what he has done to himself, and whether he is injured, as at the finish line, in the pits, it is a scramble, a rush. Ascari's wife is pale, distraught, her anticipation is tremendous. Fortunately, one can really say by a miracle, everything ends without any bad consequences. Ascari had indeed had an accident, after his Ferrari had first skidded into the last corner, overtaking Farina's car, and then made a high-speed turn. Farina, who was following Ascari no more than five metres behind, managed to brake and avoid running over his teammate, while Fangio, aided by the slowdown of his two rivals who were ahead of him, albeit by a small margin and who had perhaps already beaten him, sped past, skimming the inside edge of the bend. But Ascari's misadventures did not end with the fearful about-face; in fact, in the final laps the three great adversaries Ascari, Farina and Fangio found themselves having to fight not only with each other, but also being forced to watch out for other racers such as Marimon, Villoresi and Hawthorn who were one or more laps behind and had fallen into the group of the top three. Villoresi, passing with his wheels on the grass beyond the edge of the track, managed to avoid Ascari's car stopped in the middle of the road; not so the Argentinean Marimon, who with his Maserati plunged into the tail of the Milanese driver's Ferrari, causing it to make a terrifying jolt. Marimon was wounded in the face, fortunately not seriously, while Ascari, completely unharmed, reached the finish line in another car, amidst the roaring applause of the public, freed from the nightmare of a misfortune. Bonetto, who was seventh, also got his Maserati caught in the tangle and was therefore unable to finish. At the end of the race, Fangio, moved by his victory, said a word for his friend and rival Ascari:


"Ascari perhaps couldn't avoid that abrupt turn; there was an English Cooper car in front of him, just a few metres behind him. He had to correct the radius of his corner precisely at the most delicate moment, just past Farina; unlucky Farina, he too had a great race. I had the inspiration to throw myself into the corner rope; what a moment. A dart: it was victory".


Shortly afterwards, Ascari, shocked, gets out of the car that took him from the corner of the accident to the finish line. The World Champion looks very emotional, embraces his trembling lady, and immediately regains the extraordinary calmness of his temperament. The Ferrari driver does not beg for excuses, and admits:


"I made a mistake, that's all. But what anger, what rage. What did I think at that moment? I said to myself: goodbye victory".


Giuseppe Farina, who came second, also talks about the final incident:


"It had to go like this, but I am equally happy with my performance: all three of us, me, Fangio, Ascari, pushed hard throughout the race. No, in the final crash, no car crashed into mine".


Then, pointing to the deep indentation in the front bodywork, the former 1950 World Champion explains:


"This mark is the consequence of a collision between me and Ascari, a few laps from the end, right at the point of the subsequent about-face. Ascari then apologised to me, with a nod, in the middle of the race, as if to say: what can you do, be patient. Now I'll say goodbye to you all, I have to leave, I'm invited to Villa d'Este by Leopold of Belgium and De Rethy".


Marimon, his face bleeding, heartens the audience, and jokingly says:


"It's nothing, just a bit of excitement".


Before losing himself in laughter. Finally, engineer Lampredi, designer of the Ferraris, intercepted, allows himself a confession:


"If Ferrari really retires from racing? I don't know, really, I swear. However, I continue to work as if they will be racing. Yes, there will be a race on Sunday in Modena. Who knows".


The public can be largely satisfied, even if the long-awaited final sprint was missing. Ascari therefore officially became World Champion, while Fangio proved once again that he was a great driver and perhaps his greatest adversary. At the end of the race, Ferrari, informed with a detailed report on the Monza race with an urgent phone call, welcomed the news without too much drama, and congratulated Farina by phone for his great race. On Tuesday, September 15, 1953, in Milan, the former King Leopold of Belgium and his wife Princess de Réthy offer a friendly dinner at a well-known Tuscan restaurant in Porta Vittoria to the Turinese driver Giuseppe Farina, who is accompanied by his wife; the table of diners is completed by four Milanese nobles. Ascari and Villoresi, who had left for Santa Margherita Ligure and San Pellegrino respectively in the late afternoon, did not attend the little party, which was held privately and confidentially, with no reservations. In the meantime, Ascari, Farina and Villoresi are forewarned of a meeting that should take place this week in Modena with Enzo Ferrari, during which the situation of the Modena company will be re-examined with regard to the pre-announced withdrawal from racing, since it is confirmed that as soon as possible the presidency of the Automobile Club of Italy, on behalf of the executive committee, will convene representatives of Ferrari, Maserati and Osca in Rome, to agree on action plans for government intervention in the critical situation of Italian motor racing. As a result of this, many maintain in Modena that Ferrari will not give up racing and that the founder wants to take his revenge as soon as possible, perhaps on Sunday, September 20, 1953, at the Tazio Nuvolari Grand Prix in Modena itself, possibly even by giving up his cars privately to the drivers. But Ascari, who was spending a short period of rest at his home in Santa Margherita Ligure because of a lumbar contusion, and Farina, waited in vain for a telephone call to summon them to the Maranello factory, where the definitive interview should have clarified the situation without any possibility of misunderstanding, and on the contrary, they had to receive a dry denial of participation in the Modena race from the Scuderia Ferrari's sports director, Ugolini:


"No Ferrari car will take part in any kind of race in Italy or abroad this year".


On Wednesday, September 16, 1953, the organisers of the Modena race confirm to the press that Ascari, Farina and Villoresi will not race, as they have not been entered. Moreover, as far as the Grand Prix of pure speed is concerned, Ferrari, having regained the World Championship since the Swiss Grand Prix held in August, will not give in to the insistence of the organisers of the Barcelona race, which was supposed to take place on October 26, 1953 as the last round of a championship that had already ended. This appointment will therefore be cancelled. Quite different is the situation in the Sports Car Championship, where Ferrari and Jaguar are both in with a chance of winning the title: the Carrera Panamericana will decide the outcome of the competition. On Monday, November 16, 1953, engineer Gianni Lancia returns to Turin from Mexico, where he prepared and checked the organisation of his racing team for the Carrera that will start on Thursday, November 19, 1953. The Turin-based company will be competing with five sports cars entrusted to the Argentinean ace Fangio, the Biella-born Bracco, Taruffi, Bonetto and Castellotti. Departing from New York, the plane carrying engineer Lancia attempts to land at the usual Paris stopover, but the fog is too thick and after two dramatic attempts in which the wheels have already touched the runway, the pilot prefers not to risk it and reattaches the engine, continuing on to Brussels. One more air stage Brussels-Milan; finally the arrival in Turin. The news from Mexico is this: the Lancia drivers will do the very long race alone, which is 3030 kilometres in eight stages over five consecutive days, without the mechanics at their side, to save weight. 


The latest tests on the wide, straight Cuernavaca highway record top speeds of around 270 km/h for Maglioli's Ferrari. Less fearsome would be the other Ferraris of Chinetti and Stagnoli. The sports category, from which the overall winner of the Carrera will emerge, seems to be an Italian domain, hinging as it does on the Lancia-Ferrari rivalry. However, the French Gordini cars should not be forgotten, especially Behra's three-litre, which surprised everyone by winning the first stage last year. The other sports cars should not worry the Italians. The competition is endowed with prizes totalling 70.000.000 lire, also includes the touring and special touring categories, and also includes a classification for sports cars up to 1600 cc without a compressor, or up to 800 with a compressor. At least 5,000 cars per year are admitted to the touring category. The greatest expectation naturally concerns the big and very fast sports cars: the most popular racer in Mexico is Bracco from Biella, for his daring and unfortunate events in 1952; last year the German Kling won, in a Mercedes, at the record average of 165.096 km/h; this time Kling is the favourite in the sports group up to 1600 cc with the newly built Porsche. The first stage goes from Tuxtla to Oaxaca: 530 kilometres of tortuous climbs and descents. The second and third stages are also in the mountains and plagued by many twists and turns. In the other five, there is no shortage of gradients, but the road to the finish is interminably straight. The road surface is rough, so it will be necessary, according to engineer Lancia, to change tyres halfway through the first stage, and then at the end of each of the others. The Carrera counts as the last round for the world sports car championship, in which Ferrari is directly involved, although not officially present. Lancia, instead, is aiming for a world championship, independently of the championship, and has mobilised many technicians for the Carrera. On Thursday, November 19, 1953, the Mexican Carrera starts in a triumphant manner for the Italian cars. The classification of the first stage Tuxtla Gutierrez-Oaxaca sees eight Italian cars in the top ten places. Scuderia Lancia places four of its five 3300 sports cars in the top four places, with Bonetto the overall winner of the stage, followed by Taruffi, the Argentinean Fangio and the young Castellotti; the other Lancia of the official Turin team finishes seventh, with the driver from Biella, Giovanni Bracco, delayed by tyre changes. 


The Ferrari cars of the Scuderia Guastalla take fifth place with Maglioli from Biella, ninth with Mancini and tenth with the American Hill. The only non-Italian cars that still seem to be in contention for overall victory at the end of the eight stages of the Carrera are the French Gordini cars of Frenchmen Behra and Lucas. Behra, who is driving a 3000 cc car, is in sixth place between Maglioli and Bracco, 9'25"0 behind Bonetto. The other Frenchman, Lucas, has a less powerful Gordini, with an engine capacity of 2500 cc; he is in eighth place. The results, by and large, match the general forecasts for the Carrera. The fight, in fact, right from the start in Tuxtla Gutierrez, was raging between the Lancias, the Ferraris and the Gordinis, with Maglioli's Ferrari initially prevailing, and he was first overall two-thirds of the way through the stage. The Lancias then move decisively to the attack; four Lancias overtake Maglioli's Ferrari. There are around one hundred and fifty starters, divided into the four categories: international sport, sport up to 1600 cc, standard touring, special touring. Twenty-eight cars in the international sport category are vying for the overall victory. On the first day of the Mexican Carrera, American Bob Christie's series-production Ford touring car overshoots a curve and flips over; many spectators rush to the scene of the accident, attracted by curiosity. However, as the driver and his mechanic Ken Wood emerge unharmed from the accident, Mickey Thompson's Ford comes along and runs straight into the group of onlookers blocking the highway. Four onlookers are killed in this accident. The driver and the mechanic of the Ford, who are unharmed, suffer a severe nervous shock from the impression they felt when they saw their car cut through the crowd. In another disaster, an Italian competitor lost his life: on the Tehuantepec straight, the Ferrari of Scuderia Guastalla of the Brescian racer Stagnoli skidded and fell into a ravine; from the wreckage, the mechanic Scotuzzi was extracted lifeless, while Antonio Stagnoli was rushed to hospital. His condition turns out to be very serious. The second day is also expected to be a tough one for the cars and drivers, as two half-stages are scheduled: the Oaxaca - Pueblo and the Puebla - Mexico. On Friday, November 20, 1953, Fangio arrives at the start very dark in the face: in the throng of admirers, a swift hand had robbed his wallet of 20.000 pesos. The day is hot, almost sultry. 


The second day of the Mexican Carrera car race also records a clear Italian supremacy: the two half-stages are won by engineer Piero Taruffi, with one of the five Scuderia Lancia sports cars. The other four cars from the Turin team also placed very well, with Bonetto, Argentine Juan Manuel Fangio and Castellotti. At the end of the second day of racing, the overall leader is Felice Bonetto, winner of the first stage. The only adversary able to challenge the Turin team's success seems to be Umberto Maglioli from Biella, who drives a big Ferrari. The Italian driver struggled a bit on the course of the first two days, studded with hard bends, but it is assumed that Maglioli will be able to express himself at his best during the next stages, which include very long straights, particularly suited to super speed. However, this will have the unknown factor of endurance during the long effort. On Saturday, two half stages will take place again: the Mexico-Leon, which Villoresi won in 1952, and the Leon-Durango. Nine hundred and fifty kilometres in one day. The Carrera would end on Monday, November 23, 1953, in Ciudad Juárez, at the end of a further 1074 kilometres. In the course of the day, however, there is very sad news for the Italians: the driver from Brescia, Antonio Stagnoli, who had been seriously injured in an accident during the first stage, dies at the hospital in Tehuantepec. Five Lancias against Maglioli's Ferrari: this is the dominant theme, which has now clearly emerged, in the 4th Mexican Carrera. So far the course has favoured the cars from Turin. This was somewhat expected, especially on the very difficult first stage. What is not expected is what will happen on Saturday afternoon: while Maglioli is launched at over 200 km/h, during the fifth stage a wheel comes off the axle and falls off the car. The bolide remains on three wheels, but the large brake drum, characteristic of the Ferrari, keeps the car from toppling over. For Maglioli the race is over. All that remains is for him to retire, thanking fate for having saved him in such a dangerous situation. However, on Sunday, November 22, 1953, impassive, as if nothing exceptional had happened to him, Maglioli continues in the Carrera: the regulations allowed the change of car between drivers, so the Italian driver takes Ricci's place at the start of the sixth stage at the wheel of the latter's Ferrari. Ricci is eighth in the standings, almost two and a half hours behind Fangio; so the Biella driver starts in Ricci's time, i.e. eighth. There is therefore no longer any hope of final victory for Maglioli, given the large gap in the standings, but only the desire to race again. Maglioli's test of coolness has only just begun: unleashing the Ferrari on the long straights from Durango to Parrai in stage six, and then from Parrai to Chihuahua, the Biellese driver wins the two stages, demolishing the record of Kling's Mercedes. Monday will see the last stage, from Chihuahua to Ciudad Juarez, which Kling won in 1952 at an average speed of 218 Km/h. In the international sport category, nine cars remain in the race; in the other categories, too, the selection is very strong. But this Mexican Carrera is sadly best known for its many victims. On this subject, an American newspaper writes:


"This is the Carrera of death".


Bracco, who retired due to an accident identical to Maglioli's, states in an interview:


"If we continue to race the Carrera in the coming years we will all die".


This also followed the unfortunately fatal accident involving Bonetto, which caused a deep impression, almost a general bewilderment; this is another reason why Maglioli's cold-bloodedness is incredible. Of Bonetto's disappearance we have these details: Bonetto was in front of everyone. His teammate Taruffi was tailing him at 200 km/h, trying to overtake him. The two cars almost touched. At a bend, Bonetto had to brake sharply. Taruffi immediately put on the brakes and his car skidded, stopping against a kerbstone after making a three-way turn. Taruffi was able to resume the race almost immediately. Five more kilometres and Bonetto, on reaching the village of Silao, skidded, crashed into a lamppost, bounced off another lamppost and lost his life. A witness, a certain Jesus Gonzales, declared that Bonetto's demise was possibly caused by the freshly resurfaced road surface and a bump where the car skidded. With great emotion the public learns from the radio and newspapers the last words of Bonetto, who before leaving Mexico City, said:


"I will try to curb my impetus; in every race I aim for this; I hope to succeed, I mustn't risk too much at the age of fifty. But when I start the engine I feel compelled to step on the accelerator all the way".


His body and those of Stagnoli and Scotuzzi, who also perished in the Carrera, will be flown to Italy. As for the final victory, this should no longer elude Lancia, due to the large lead and the order to the drivers not to risk the unnecessary. Everyone is tired in this Carrera. The fourth Mexican Car Carrera ends on Monday, November 23, 1953, at the finish line in Ciudad Juarez, on the US border. The final classification of the eight stages sees the Lancia of the Argentinean Fangio in first place, followed two seconds behind by Taruffi and Castellotti, also from the Turin team. The last stage, characterised by endless straights and very few bends, was won by the young driver from Biella, Umberto Maglioli, who thus took four stage victories in the eight stages of the Carrera. Fangio thus took the overall victory, with the best overall time, without having won any stages, and at the end of the race he declared:


"The problem in the Carrera is to keep the car in excellent condition and to keep yourself wisely in the best possible position".


The Lancia's triple win was in a way facilitated by the accident that happened to Maglioli on the fifth stage, as the Italian driver was then second overall, a minute behind Fangio, and could perhaps have taken first place in the following stages. Fangio, Taruffi and Castellotti logically no longer needed to force their Lancias, given the unbridgeable advantage over Maglioli who had been relegated to eighth place. But Maglioli gave an impressive display of audacity in the final stages, unleashing the Ferrari 4500 had by Ricci at full speed. The most impressive fact is that during the last stage an extremely violent wind blows, raising a dense swirl of sand, reducing visibility to no more than forty metres; at times you cannot see ten metres in front of you. In the midst of the blinding whirlwind, while all the other racers slow their pace so as not to risk too much on the last stage, Maglioli brings the mighty Ferrari up to full speed, to the point that in some sections, on the longest straights, the Modena car even touches 280 km/h on the road.


The overall winner Fangio earned a total of 20.000.000 Italian lire: 12.000.000 as a classification prize, 2.000.000 in additional prizes and 6.000.000 for a bet with an Italian industrialist who did not believe Fangio capable of finishing in the top three. Contrary to what was originally planned, on December 5, 1953 it is learned that the World Motorsport Champion Alberto Ascari and the Turin ace Giuseppe Farina are to take part in the 12 Hours of Casablanca, Morocco, scheduled for December 20, 1953, in Ferrari cars, albeit privately. From this we begin to guess Ferrari's probable intentions for the future, namely to decide from time to time on participation in races, depending on the conditions of the bids. This is understandable, considering the Modenese factory's heavy expenditure on racing. The official announcement of Ferrari's programme would most likely be made on December 12, 1953 in Modena, during the traditional annual meeting of managers, drivers and technicians. On December 30, 1953 Alberto Ascari and his inseparable friend Luigi Villoresi go to Lancia, where they both have a long talk with the managers of the racing team of the Turin-based manufacturer. Ferrari offers Ascari to sign a new contract for 1954, which previously expired in April of that year. The Milanese driver would be delighted to sign a new contract, as the alternatives would be the newly-formed Lancia or Mercedes, but he demanded that the victory prizes and pay be similar, if not equal, to those offered by the competition. Ferrari does not accept, and Ascari leaves Ferrari headquarters in tears. Luigi Villoresi would recount over the years that the cause of the abandonment was mainly Ferrari's behaviour:


"They did not want to tell us what we would do in 1954. They wouldn't give us any plans, they wouldn't say a word, and so we wasted time. Until we went, Alberto and I, to Modena. Ferrari took Alberto with him, I stayed with Ugolini. But we got nothing out of it. We left Modena and on the way we called Gianni Lancia to tell him we were ready to sign for him. Then we warned Ferrari".


Once the visit is over, the two drivers leave for Milan, only to say goodbye to each other to celebrate New Year's Eve outside their normal premises. In this regard, Ascari goes to Cortina d'Ampezzo, Villoresi to Santa Margherita Ligure. Meanwhile, at 5:15 p.m. on December 31, 1953, Ferrari issues the following official statement from Modena:


"On December 31, 1953, the existing relationship with the racer Alberto Ascari came to an end. The sole reason for this divorce was Ascari's desire to orientate his future activity in such a way as to secure prospects, even of a commercial nature, and in any case such as to guarantee a peaceful future for the family he headed. Scuderia Ferrari learnt of the decision with intuitive regret. Although we understand the need for the aspirations that led Mr Ascari to leave the company that collaborated with him to win two world championships, Ferrari regrets not having been able to offer what other car manufacturers have assured or will be able to assure the World Champion".


It had already been known for some time that Ascari had received offers from Lancia and Mercedes-Benz, and Ferrari had been made aware of this. Lancia's press office, in response to insistent questions from journalists alarmed by Ferrari's statement, confirmed that negotiations were well advanced, but not formally concluded. As for Villoresi, Lancia explicitly confirmed that he had come to Turin, but without adding whether he had attended the talks as a friend and adviser to Ascari, or to plead his own cause as well. At first, it would appear that Lancia wanted to restrict Ascari to racing in the World Championship in the Sport category, in races, that is, such as the Mille Miglia, the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the Carrera Panamericana, with the victorious cars in the recent Mexican race. As for Grand Prix cars, the Turin-based company would have the technical plans ready, but any racing programme would naturally be conditional on the outcome of the experimental phase. Ascari would therefore race for Lancia in 1954 in the sporting category, and test the new Grand Prix cars that could take to the field in the second half of 1954 and even in 1955. In this regard Lancia was extremely reserved: the tests of the Grand Prix cars could turn out badly and the programmes could change; therefore Ascari, in addition to racing for Lancia in the sport category, would race a few Grands Prix for another make, Mercedes for example, or Maserati. The latter house, however, has already secured a large deployment of forces: Fangio, Marimon, and it seems unlikely that they would want to sign Ascari as well. There will be no Felice Bonetto, who was the victim of a serious accident in Silao de la Victoria in Mexico, on November 21, 1953, while participating in the Carrera Panamericana.


Late on the night of December 30, 1953, the Mercedes-Benz management neither confirms nor denies the news that it has signed Alberto Ascari. These claims are corroborated by the statements of the head of the press office, Kuehnert, who admits that Mercedes has been negotiating with the Italian ace for some time and that flattering offers have been made to him regarding the signing bonus:


"After all, it is certainly not news if I say that Mercedes-Benz has been intending to secure a foreign driver for the coming season for several months. As you know, in Germany, as in all other motorsport countries, there is a great shortage of first-class drivers, who can be counted, I believe, on the fingers of one hand. So far we have engaged local drivers, Hermann Lang, Karl Kling, and Hans Herrmann. However, the first two, although they are very good drivers, cannot be compared to such outstanding drivers as Ascari, Fangio or González, while the last one, still very young, does not have the routine to be able to emerge in a Grand Prix. Under these conditions, there was nothing left for us but to turn to a foreign driver. Initially we established relations with the Argentinean Fangio who, as was announced at the time, tested our new car for competition in the sport category at the Monza circuit. We have also been in contact with González, as well as with the Englishman Hawthorn. But for the moment I can only say that negotiations with the British ace have failed".


In Modenese circles close to Ferrari, the official announcement of the decision not to continue the collaborative relationship with Ascari is greeted with obvious regret. It is highly probable that the reasons for the rift were technical differences of opinion and differences of temperament between the great driver and the brilliant constructor. 


Ferrari, who has, albeit with extreme loyalty, accepted the blow and publicly expressed his regret at being deprived of his best man, is not, however, a man to declare himself in trouble. His attitude in the final days preceding the announcement can now be interpreted as an attempt, which perhaps has now come to fruition, to remedy the gap created in the ranks of his team. For the 1954 season Ferrari will be betting on former World Champion Farina, on Maglioli, on the young Englishman Hawthorn and on the Argentine González, who would thus move from Maserati to Ferrari, at the last minute. The speculation about a Ferrari-Fangio contract, on the other hand, seems to be ruled out. The Argentinean ace, who is undoubtedly Ascari's most formidable rival, is in fact bound by a contract with Maserati for formula racing, and will almost certainly race for Lancia in Formula Sport races. Who will go to Argentina to drive the Maranello cars? On this point Ferrari has been very secretive, as has Ugolini, the sports director:


"The cars left. Eleven in all. We still don't know whether we will also go with our drivers, and with how many or which ones, or whether we will use drivers from Argentina".


One thing is certain: Giuseppe Farina will certainly be present in Argentina.


"I will remain faithful to Ferrari, who has always behaved with me as a gentleman. I already have my plane ticket for Buenos Aires ready; all the better if my old teammates will be my adversaries tomorrow".


The former World Champion leaves Turin on Thursday, January 7, 1953, to travel to Buenos Aires, where three important races are imminent, including the Grand Prix on January 17, 1954, the first round of the Formula 1 World Championship. From Turin, Farina travels to Milan to collect his passport, then immediately goes on to Modena where he will have a meeting with the manufacturer Ferrari: during the meeting, the Turin ace examines the problem of hiring a fourth driver, as the agreements with González are not yet finalised. So, finally, on Saturday, January 9, 1954, together with Hawthorn and Maglioli, the three Ferrari drivers leave in the morning for Buenos Aires. So it cannot be ruled out that the Modenese manufacturer decided to limit its team to three drivers, relying on careful preparation of the cars, rather than a very large line-up as in previous years. As for Ascari and Villoresi, it does not appear that they have yet signed a contract with Lancia. The signing, however, would only be a formality: it is widely believed that the two Milanese aces, who will not be going to Argentina, have now decided to race in 1954 for the Turin-based manufacturer. The first of the ten rounds of the World Championship would be run on January 17, 1953, in Argentina: the Ferrari and Maserati cars were already on their way. The challenge begins again.


©​ 2024 Osservatore Sportivo


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