Lancia-Ferrari D50, and its heir 801, a world championship with Fangio and many disappointments with

2021-04-12 00:00

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Lancia-Ferrari D50, and its heir 801, a world championship with Fangio and many disappointments with

In the summer of 1953, Gianni Lancia decided to attempt the adventure of Formula 1. The famous designer Vittorio Jano finished the executive design of


In the summer of 1953, Gianni Lancia decided to attempt the adventure of Formula 1. The famous designer Vittorio Jano finished the executive design of the first single-seater of the Turin-based company in September of the same year.


However, the problem of hiring the drivers immediately arises: this is solved quite quickly, given that Gianni Lancia manages to convince two high-sounding names, Alberto Ascari and Luigi Villoresi, who on 21 January 1954 signed the contract with the Turin-based company after having had to abandon Ferrari.


Naturally, the fact raised perplexity and even some controversy: there are a lot of talks about super millionaire engagements, but Ascari decides to switch to Lancia due to the frequent contacts he had in recent periods - it seems also for worldly reasons - with Gianni Lancia in person: in any case, the minimum remuneration guaranteed to Alberto Ascari for the two-year period 1954/55, twenty-five million Italian lire per year, is by no means despicable.


As for Villoresi, his decision is not surprising since the bond of deep friendship that unquestionably binds him to Alberto is well known. The Lancia team also includes Eugenio Castellotti, a pupil of Ascari, who sees him as his worthy successor, even if the latter will only make his Formula 1 debut in the 1955 season.


The single-seater of the Turin-based company, once born, was baptized with the acronym D50, making its first release on February 20, 1954. The most salient feature of the new car lies in the arrangement of the fuel tanks, located more precisely one on each side, overhanging the body of the car, between the front and rear wheels, representing a completely new and unconventional position for the time.


The car stands out for its impeccable finishes, completely unusual on a racing car, and for a decidedly low weight and lower than that of rival single-seaters, such as Mercedes, Maserati, and Ferrari: at its debut the D50 weighs about 620 kilos empty, against the 690 kilos of the brand new Mercedes W196 in the normal version (720 kilos is the weight of the faired version), the 670 kilos of the Maserati 250F and the 650 kilos of the four-cylinder Ferrari type 625.


However, the gestation of the D50 is long and troubled: the debut, initially scheduled for June 20, 1954, on the occasion of the French Grand Prix, is postponed and will take place four months late, October 24, 1954, in Barcelona, ​​on the occasion of the Spanish Grand Prix. In the meantime, Alberto Ascari and Luigi Villoresi, while continuing to test the new car, in order not to be penalized by the constant delays are left free to race with cars from other manufacturers during the season.


During the 1955 season, however, a completely unexpected episode took place: the top driver of the Turin manufacturer, as well as a great friend of Luigi Villoresi and Gianni Lancia, and Alberto Ascari who died in a test.


Following this episode, the owner of Lancia decides to take a step back, effectively abandoning the Formula 1 project.


The move to Ferrari and the abdication of Gianni Agnelli


After the Spanish Grand Prix in October 1954, in 1955 the D50s competed, with varying success, five other Grand Prix races in Argentina, Turin, Pau, Naples and Monaco.


Later, however, after the accident in which Alberto Ascari died, during an occasional test session in Monza, Lancia announced the suspension of racing. However, the engineer has time to grant a car to Eugenio Castellotti to race the Belgian Grand Prix, in Spa, at the latter's request.


To help Enzo Ferrari, in economic and therefore technical difficulties with Mercedes, Prince Filippo Caracciolo, father-in-law of Gianni Agnelli and president of the Automobile Club of Italy, works at FIAT until an agreement is reached to three, on the basis of which Lancia donates its racing equipment to Ferrari, and FIAT undertakes to provide the house of the prancing horse, for five years, with a financial contribution equal to fifty million Italian lire.


The ceremony for the transfer of ownership takes place on July 26, 1955 in the courtyard of the Lancia in Via Caraglio, in Turin: the honors of the house are made by the lawyer Domenico Jappelli and by Mr. Attilio Pasquarelli, while for Ferrari there are the engineer Mino Amorotti and the knight Luigi Bazzi.


FIAT is represented by Dr. Pestelli, while for the Automobile Club of Italy there is the Vice-President engineer Arnaldo Trevisan. Among the other speakers, in addition to Vittorio Jano, Count Carlo Biscaretti di Ruffia (Vice President of the Automobile Club of Turin) and Dr. Giovannetti of the National Association of Automotive Industries and Similar.


The Lancia D50s of Formula 1 donated to Ferrari are six: to these must be added two Formula 1 bodies, one normal and the other faired, as well as of course many spare parts and mechanical parts in general.


Under the name Lancia-Ferrari, the D50s are brought by Scuderia Ferrari to Monza for the Italian Grand Prix in September, but they do not race for reasons related to the grip of the tires, undersized to withstand the new parabolic curves, and end their career at Oulton Park in October 1955, during which they achieved a good performance in the Gold Cup, with Mike Hawthorn second behind Stirling Moss.


The final assessment of the D50, in about a year of Grand Prix, is only little more than discrete, since the participation in eight Grand Prix resulted in two victories in Turin and Naples, and three squares of honor in Pau, Monaco, and Oulton Park, while on the remaining three occasions in Spain, Argentina, and Belgium, none of the D50s crossed the finish line.


The following year, the D50s, which are now identified as Ferrari-Lancia, underwent modifications that were certainly not marginal, and won the Formula 1 World Championship, thanks also to the contribution of the Argentine Juan Manuel Fangio.


Technical Analysis


The salient feature of the project lies in the arrangement of the fuel tanks: the idea is certainly advantageous in terms of performance, as there are aerodynamic advantages with an improvement in the CX value, demonstrated in a series of tests carried out in the wind tunnel of the Politecnic of Turin with a 1:10 scale model of the single-seater.


The other side of the coin, however, seems to derive from the extreme variability of the centering of the car following the continuous drop in fuel level, obviously due to consumption in the race.


In fact, the D50 seems to enjoy a stability that is exceptional when running with full tanks, but decreases as the tanks empty, making it unstable and unpredictable in certain situations.


The regulation of the new Formula 1 comes into force from 1 January 1954, and provides for a maximum engine displacement equal to 2,500 cm³ for atmospheric engines, or 750 cm³ in the case of supercharged engine with compressor, and does not impose weight limits nor restrictions on the characteristics of the fuel to be used.


Considering the precedents of Jano, who has always favored supercharged engines, it is surprising that the design of an engine with such a fuel system has not even been taken into consideration: but probably what has curbed any enthusiasm was the too penalizing limit of displacement, with 3,333:1 coefficient compared to aspirated engines.


Initially, perhaps also for reasons of economy, an engine directly derived from the three-liter one adopted on the D20 sport was put on the construction site, then a 60° V-six cylinder suitably reduced in displacement, with a bore of 82 mm and a stroke equal to 78 millimeters, for a total displacement of 5471.52 cm³ which at the dyno delivers a power of 230 horsepower, at a speed of 7.200 rpm.


But Vittorio Jano, convinced that this engine would not have allowed adequate development possibilities, presses for the creation of a 90° V-shaped eight cylinder, and the project is entrusted to the Lancia motorist par excellence, Ettore Zaccone Mina, who creates a drive unit with 2485.99 cm³ of displacement, 76 millimeters bore, and 68.5 millimeters stroke.


One of the peculiar characteristics of this engine, which stands out for the light alloys used especially for the monoblock, and for the two cylinder beds, is given by the fact that the engine block is an integral part of the structure of the machine itself, being rigidly connected with tubular frame elements.


The distribution consists of four overhead camshafts, two for each bank, driven by gears; the singularity is given by the particular attention paid to the cooling of the exhaust valves, which are positioned, not to say drowned, in the cooling water duct of the cylinder heads.


The valves are operated with needle springs, while the rocker arms between the cams and the valve stems are of the finger type. Some discussion between the Lancia technicians, and in particular between Vittorio Jano and Ettore Zaccone Mina, arises with regard to the power supply system: the first is definitely in favor of traditional power supply, while the second, supported by the other than Gianni Lancia, he leans towards direct injection power, a technology that Mercedes is about to adopt also on its Formula 1 cars.


To be able to find the right technical solution, a 310 cm³ single-cylinder engine is built, exactly one eighth of the engine capacity expected for the engine of the D50, fueled by injection. But in the end, after a few tests, Vittorio Jano's idea prevailed and the D50 was born with a completely traditional fuel system, using four Solex 40 PIJ double-barrel inverted carburettors. In the initial version the two side tanks contain about ninety liters each.


The ignition is with double spark plugs for each cylinder, and the engine is mounted with an inclination of about twelve degrees with respect to the longitudinal axis of the car, to ensure that the transmission of the transmission shaft takes place to the left of the driver's seat. and allows the seat to be lowered with the consequent reduction of the passenger compartment section, to the advantage of aerodynamics.


The engine designated for the Lancia D50 is therefore of atmospheric architecture, in this case an eight-cylinder with 90° V-banks of 2.5 liters of displacement, a limit set by the Formula 1 regulations in force since January 1, 1954.


The suspensions are independent wheels type at the front, while maintaining the De Dion bridge architecture at the rear. The gearbox, arranged transversely, is five-speed and the clutch, gearbox and differential unit are all arranged in the rear part of the car, with the gearbox arranged transversely.


Development of the car


On February 20, 1954 the Lancia D50 took its first steps for the first tests at the Turin-Caselle airfield. After the head test driver Giuseppe Gillio started the engine and traveled a few hundred meters, the bi-World Champion Alberto Ascari sits. In this version it can be seen that no air intake is still present on the side of the left side tank.


Since Gianni Lancia's intention was to make the D50 debut in the French Grand Prix, scheduled for July 4, 1954, testing proceeds at a fast pace: in the winter and early spring of 1954, the car, even due to meteorological factors, is often sent to the Ligurian Riviera, on the Ospedaletti circuit, then, in May, in Monza, Alberto Ascari is involved in an accident that fortunately sees him come out unharmed.


The tests are continued by Giuseppe Navone, already in force in the same role in the Maranello team. During the numerous tests, an almost square engine is also mounted, with bore and stroke measurements different from the original ones, which is credited with a power exceeding 250 horsepower and which seems to be able to rotate up to 9.000 revolutions per minute.


The expected debut in France skips: the car is not yet deemed capable of racing. Gianni Lancia is deeply embittered, also because the Mercedes W196 makes its debut at the French Automobile Club Grand Prix, and it is an extraordinary first time, given that Juan Manuel Fangio leads the silver German car to victory.


Finally, after a series of convincing tests carried out at the beginning of October on the Caselle and Ospitaletti circuit, at Monza Alberto Ascari sets the time of 1'56", almost three seconds better than Juan Manuel Fangio's fairing Mercedes W196 pole, in ufficial practice of the Italian Grand Prix of 5 September 1954.


Enthusiasm is skyrocketing, and two D50s are shipped to Barcelona for the Spanish Grand Prix scheduled for October 24, 1954. The debut is decided despite persistent braking problems attributed to the complicated three-shoe system developed by Vittorio Jano.


In Barcelona, ​​the very fast D50 test engines experimented with engines with different sizes, including a D50A with 74 mm bore and 72.20 millimeters stroke, for a total of 2484.17 cubic centimeters of displacement.


The Ferrari transformation


Between October 1954 and June 1955, the D50 undergoes, as is normal in a Formula 1 single-seater, a series of changes aimed at increasing performance and reliability: the capacity of the fuel tanks is increased to two hundred liters, considered necessary to avoid refueling in the race, the air intakes on the bonnet and on the side pontoons are often modified according to the needs of the various circuits, the lubrication circuit undergoes several improvements, while the weak point of the car, or the braking system, is the subject of constant attention.


The windshield is reduced and equipped with adjustable inclination, while the wheelbase and the carriageways are also subject to continuous variations: the first ranges from 220 to 230 centimeters, the second from 125 to 129.4 centimeters, with the rear track reaching 133 centimeters wide.


As for the engine, the power output varies from a minimum of 250-255 to a maximum of 265 horsepower, and the rpm range is between 8.000 and 9.000 rpm, while the compression ratio is between 10.5: 1 and 12:1.


The different engines used, in any case all eight cylinders in a 90 ° V, have the following dimensions:


  • 2485.99 cm³ of displacement (bore 76.00 millimeters and stroke 68.50 millimeters);
  • 2488.02 cm³ (bore 73.60 millimeters and stroke 73.10 millimeters);
  • 2477.29 cm³ (bore 74.00 millimeters and stroke 72.00 millimeters, defined D50A).


The maximum speed that can be reached by the D50, in its most powerful version and with the longest gear ratio, is in the order of 300 km/h.


Sports activity


The sporting activity of the Lancia D50 must necessarily be divided into three periods:


  • The first starts from October 1954 to June 1955, during which we can talk about a Lancia product registered and participating in the Formula 1 Grand Prix in the name of Scuderia Lancia;
  • The second period is decidedly shorter, which represents the participation in the D50 races, still unchanged in the configuration of the Turin-based company, no longer as Scuderia Lancia but as Scuderia Ferrari, and starts from August to September 1955;
  • The last period that is identified starting from 1956, with the D50s that will race for Scuderia Ferrari, and will receive gradually more substantial changes that will clearly differentiate it from what was the initial project.


The assesment of the first period can be summarized as follows: between 24 October 1954 and 5 June 1955 the D50s participate in seven Grand Prix, four of which are valid for the Formula 1 World Championship; in the four Grand Prix titles the D50s obtained three pole positions, a second place, a fifth place and a sixth place (all at the 1955 Monaco Grand Prix), and recorded seven retirements, of which four due to mechanical failures, and three due to Street.


The results obtained in the three extra-championship races are more positive, as the D50s obtain two victories, a second place, two third places, two fourth places, a fifth place and no retirements; three poles and a fastest race lap complete the picture.


The second period includes only two races, the 1955 Italian Grand Prix where three D50s take part in the tests, obtaining a fourth, fifth and eighth place, but do not line up at the start, and the Gold Cup at Oulton Park, a Grand Prix not titled where the two D50s get pole, a second and a seventh place.


In the 1956 season the D50s, now in all respects real Ferrari cars, appeared from the first Grand Prix with several changes to their assets: apart from a moderate increase in engine power, several changes also affect everyone. the mechanical parts, including the strengthening of the frame, the front suspension with new stabilizer bar, and the reinforced De Dion bridge. But the biggest difference lies in the role assigned to the side tanks which now perform almost only aerodynamic functions, because the real fuel tank is placed at the rear of the car and the two side pontoons simply act as additional reserve tanks, so much so that they are crossed by the side drains.


During the year, among the numerous variations in construction details, the bore and stroke values ​​should be noted, which become respectively 76 and 68.50 millimeters, for a displacement of 2485.98 cm³, and a further development concerning the side tanks, which are no longer detached from the car body but are an integral part of it: this evident innovation is observed for the first time on Fangio's car at the Syracuse Grand Prix in April. It should be noted that, already at the 1956 Italian Grand Prix in September, the former Lancias were assigned the designation Tipo 801.


In the seven races of the 1956 Formula 1 World Championship, these Ferrari-Lancias obtained, as best results, five victories in Argentina, Belgium, France, Great Britain and Germany, and two places of honor in Monaco and Italy, also excelling in practice, where they won six poles and a second best time, again thanks to Fangio. In the race, in four of the seven Grand Prix disputed, the Ferrari-Lancias set the fastest lap.


In this same 1956 they also participate in other minor races, not titled, in which Fangio wins the Buenos Aires Grand Prix and the Syracuse Grand Prix, while on two other occasions, the International Trophy and the Naples Grand Prix, both D50s that show up at the start are forced to retire.


Further modifications were developed for 1957, including the adoption of a new chassis and the total elimination of the side tanks, upsetting the D50, which is now only a relative of the original Lancia version. For the sake of completeness of information, it must be said that even in 1957 examples of the previous year's version were sometimes used, that is, the one with the side tanks integrated into the body.


The 1956 season ends with the conquest of the world title by Juan Manuel Fangio, aboard the Ferrari-Lancia D50. For the 1957 season the car underwent numerous modifications, so much so that Ferrari decided to change its name to 801, where 8 stands for 8 cylinders and 01 for Formula 1.


Technical features


The Ferrari 801 is a totally Ferrari evolution of the D50. The changes lead to the adoption of a new tubular frame, a revamped eight-cylinder V-engine, and some changes to the bodywork, which remains of traditional architecture.


The most noticeable change is represented by the elimination of the two characteristic side tanks, in favor of the adoption of two side tanks of reduced capacity, plus one located behind the pilot.


This intervention does improve weight distribution, but in the race the car will suffer more from the progressive emptying of the three tanks.


The engine, as previously described, is also subject to some modifications: in particular, the bore is increased to 80 millimeters, and the piston stroke is reduced to only 62 millimeters, obtaining a total displacement of 2.498 cm³, and a power equal to 275 horsepower achieved at 8,200 rpm.


The gearbox is always presented in block with the five-speed differential plus reverse, while the chassis is slightly modified at the front with the elimination of the front tubular structure introduced at the beginning of 1956, and the adoption of the front suspension used for the first time aboard the Supersqualo.


Development over the season


On the occasion of the inaugural Grand Prix, held in Argentina, an engine with a particular short stroke is used, a modification that will never be used again in the rest of the season.


At the Naples Grand Prix, not valid for the world championship, a new type of independent wheel suspension is tested, which replaces the De Dion bridge.




The 1957 was lacking in satisfactions in Formula 1 for Scuderia Ferrari. Juan Manuel Fangio, who has always chosen the right car at the right time, has in fact moved to Maserati, after a year in Ferrari full of misunderstandings, both with the team and with Enzo Ferrari.


The opening race, in Argentina, immediately makes it clear that for this year too the Argentine driver and the Modenese team would have been the couple to beat: the Argentine wins easily ahead of three other Maseratis, with the Ferrari 801s only classified in fifth and sixth place, two laps behind the winner.


In Monaco the script is more or less the same, with Fangio victorious and the Ferraris delayed by some retirements, from which only Maurice Trintignant is saved who closes in fifth place.


In the subsequent Grand Prix of France, Great Britain and Germany, the three best results of the season for the Maranello team arrive, namely: three second places, conquered by Luigi Musso and Mike Hawthorn, and two third places conquered by Peter Collins in France and Germany.


The last two races of the season, the Pescara Grand Prix and the Italian Grand Prix in Monza, saw the affirmation of Stirling Moss, already victorious in Great Britain aboard the British car Vanwall.


The Ferraris, on the other hand, do poorly in Pescara, with Luigi Musso the only flag bearer and retired, while in Monza they at least manage to take third place with Wolfgang von Trips.


The Formula 1 world championship was won for the fifth time, and the fourth in a row, by the Argentine Juan Manuel Fangio, with fifteen points ahead of Stirling Moss, and twenty-six over Luigi Musso, the best of the Ferraristi.


The only races that see the victory of a Ferrari 801 are at the Grand Prix of Syracuse, Naples and Reims, none of which are valid for the world championship, thanks to Peter Collins and Luigi Musso.


The Ferrari 801 was replaced in 1958 by the Ferrari 246 F1 after winning a total of only seven podiums and a fastest lap in the world championship, three non-valid victories for the 1957 Formula 1 championship, and only 48 world championship points.

Ferrari 555 F1


Finally, it is important to mention the Ferrari 553/555 F1, nicknamed the super-shark due to its shape, the car with which the team from Maranello races part of the 1955 Formula 1 World Championship, before being replaced by the D50.


At the end of 1954, the 553 F1 undergoes radical modifications aimed at improving its performance which proved to be somewhat disappointing. The result of these changes is the 555 F1, which by 1955 should have represented the flagship car of the Scuderia Ferrari, the one on which the Maranello manufacturer would have concentrated all its efforts to counter Mercedes and Lancia.


Overall, the 555 F1 is revised in the chassis, which now incorporates the rear suspension, and adopts the new front suspensions that had already been tested starting from the 1954 Spanish Grand Prix. A new smaller radiator is also adopted which allows to improve the aerodynamics of the nose, which is now more tapered, thus accentuating the formal characteristic of the car. The engine remains unchanged.


As for the 553 F1, the name, contrary to the tradition of the brand, refers to the unit displacement (499 cm³ rounded up to 500 cm³) only in the first digit followed by the year of production of the car, in this case 1955.


However, the 555 F1 will not be particularly successful and its performance, also due to the powerful Mercedes W196s, will be somewhat disappointing, so much so that in some races of the 1955 season it will prefer the old 625 F1 which will prove to be more competitive and reliable. The efforts of Ferrari will be worth nothing, forcing the Maranello technicians to a frantic work to seek and possibly recover the technical disadvantage against Mercedes, which has a much higher technical and economic potential. From 1956 it will be definitively replaced by the more competitive Lancia-Ferrari D50.


Racing activity


Overall, the results of the 555 F1, in the few races in which it takes part, are quite fluctuating and seamless. The debut in Formula 1 took place at the Monaco Grand Prix in 1955, but, while Maurice Trintignant's 625 F1 took the top step of the podium, as well as the only victory of the season for Scuderia Ferrari, the two 555 F1s Taruffi arriving only eighth, while Harry Schell is forced to retire due to engine problems. The next race, the Belgian Grand Prix, will be luckier, with Farina third at the finish line, followed by Paul Frère.


Starting from the Dutch Grand Prix, the team will be joined by Eugenio Castellotti, orphan of Lancia after the latter decided to give up racing due to the tragic death of Alberto Ascari, and Mike Hawthorn, returning from an unhappy experience with the Vanwall. In the Dutch Grand Prix the 555 F1 leads another anonymous race, with Castellotti fifth, Hawthorn seventh and Trintignant withdrawn due to a broken gearbox. The last career race of the 555 F1 will be the Italian Grand Prix, where he will do well thanks to Castellotti who will conquer an honorable third place.


Subsequently the unfortunate single-seater from Maranello, replaced by the Lancia-Ferrari D50, will continue to appear in some free formula races, but with a different engine.


Andrea Rasponi

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