Friday 10th October 1958 FIA announces that, for the first time in the history of motorsport, a Grand Prix will take place in the United States of America ruled by European laws, i.e. with Formula 1 cars. It will be valid for the drivers championship. The race will be available to single-seater cars equipped with a 2500 cc engine without compressor, it will take place in Sebring (Florida) the 22nd March 1959, i.e. the day after the famous 12 Hours reserved for sports cars.
The decision to let Formula 1 cars race in America may have good consequences in Italy: Ferrari, which has officially raced, and Maserati, which has assisted clients, have been with Vanwall, B.R.M. and Copper, main manufacturers of the championship, which will end the 19th October with the Moroccan Grand Prix. Now, while threats are growing in motorsport, the opening of a new scenario of races in Formula 1 will offer new elements of interest that cannot be underestimated. The 10 races valid for the 1959 world constructors championship will be: 22nd March, USA; 10th May, Monaco; 30th May, Indianapolis (500 Miles); 31st May, Netherlands; 14th June, Belgium; 5 July, France; 18th July, Great Britain; 2 August, Germany, 23rd August, Italy (Monza); 11th October, Morocco.
A new calendar is provided for the 11th international sports cars championship (trademarks): 21st March, 12 hours of Sebring; 7th June, 1000 km of Nurburgring; 20th-21st June, 24 hours of Le Mans; 5th September, British Tourist Trophy (in Goodwood); 8th November, Venezuelan Grand Prix. Before, as already told, the 19th October 1958 the dramatic Formula 1 championship will end. The Moroccan Grand Prix takes place, the last race of the world constructors championship, and finally everyone will know who will be the successor of Fangio in the greatest triumph of motorsport.
It took ten Grand Prix to get to the solution, beginning in January in Buenos Aires, on a puzzling swing of results, unfortunately matched with terrible deaths: Luigi Musso in Reims, Peter Collins on the tremendous Nurburgring. And now the conclusive race will take place in Africa, an unusual event that was part of the tendency of expanding the championship in non-European countries. After World War II, Motorsport was found in South America; now it is the time of the United States of America and Africa (where, however, it is a comeback because, before the conflict, the Grand Prix of Tripoli and Tunisian Grand Prix were famous). Therefore, in Casablanca, the long duel between Hawthorn, first driver for Ferrari, and Moss, number one of Vanwall will end.
The world championship rules are full of meticulous nuances and, for this reason, nothing has been decided because, first of all, only the best six finishes are counted on the total of completed races; Hawthorn has achieved eight finishes on nine Grand Prix and, therefore, he can’t improve his rank, in case he gains more than four points in Casablanca (corresponding to his third place at the Argentinian Grand Prix). For example, if he wins on Sunday, the eight points gained won’t replace the four already gotten.
While Moss (recently winner of Tourist Trophy, raced the 13th september 1958, at the end of the championship for sports car won by Scuderia Ferrari) is forced to go for broke and gaining the maximum points (8+1); for Hawthorn it will be sufficient to check the gear and at best avoid that other drivers of Vanwall, Brooks and Lewis-Evans stay ahead and cross the finish line before him. For these reasons it’s not difficult foreseeing a very tense Grand Prix, where good qualities and weaknesses of cars will come up. On the other hand Ferrari will have to defend with low power, because Hawthorn will have only Gendebien as a teammate; it’s desirable that he won’t have to worry about tyres, as already happened in Monza with crucial consequences. The grid of the Moroccan Grand Prix will be composed by: B.R.M. with Behra, Schell, Bonnier and the fresh Flockhart, making his first appearance since the Rouen incident; Scuderia Centro Sud with Gregory, Seidel, Hermann and Gerini; Cooper with Fairman, Trintignant and Salvadori and Lotus with Allison and Graham Hill.
The epic battle that guided all the 1958 championship will come to an end. On the Ain Diab circuit the final event takes place, which will once and for all give the world championship title to one of the two great protagonists: Mike Hawthorn with Ferrari and Stirling Moss with Vanwall. As the 1958 season started, seeing Vanwall preceding all other teams in the classification was certainly not a surprise, above all considering the technical superiority shown by British teams in the first races of the year. Ferrari then managed to fix and optimise its single-seater, allowing Hawthorn to arrive in Morocco as leader of the drivers' classification.
For this reason, it is important to take a look at the Ferrari cars. The three cars were an assorted collection, which one of them was the Monza 500 Dino with coil spring rear suspension, now with Girling disc brakes; the second one was a F2 car with alloy front brake drums with Dino 246 engine; the third one was the normal Dino car fitted with Dunlop disc brakes that Hawthorn used at the Italian Grand Prix. Remaining in the technical side, B.R.M made history with four 1958 cars running at the Grand Prix. All four cars had different oil coolers, consisting of finned tubes behind the water radiator, with two air scoops on the top of the nose cowling.
It should not be forgotten that the points’ system allows Moss to look forward to becoming the leader, because at the end of the season only the six best results are considered. It is for this rule that Moss is hopeful. The Vanwall driver can rely on three hypothetical scenarios to mock Ferrari rival in the last race:
- Win the race and hope Hawthorn doesn’t reach the podium, even if he had to get the fastest lap;
- Win the race and hope Hawthorn, without getting the fastest lap, doesn’t reach over the third position
- Win the race and get the fastest lap, forcing Hawthorn to reach the second position to maintain the lead in the standings.
The fastest circuit of Ain Diab represents an interesting testing ground: the circuit is 7,618 meters long and has a rectangular shape, provided with very long straights. It is not certainly the most selective circuit of the calendar and it is easy to expect a fight starting from the qualifying.
Saturday the 18th October 1958 the qualifying session sadly features a fatal crash in Casablanca for the Moroccan Grand Prix. The British driver Hans Rager - who was practising for the sports race - dies in the hospital following the severe injuries caused while he was driving on his Triumph car. Rager’s car, launched at full speed on a corner, went out of the track landing on its roof. In the tragedy, a Moroccan policeman was injured. Rager, immediately transported to the hospital aboard a helicopter, dies just after his hospitalization.
In the course of the qualifying session, Hawthorn tops with a lap time of 2’23’’1, preceding Moss, his rival, of a tenth. Stuart Lewis-Evans with the other Vanwall takes the third position, preceding the B.R.M. of Behra and the Ferraris of Phil Hill and Oliver Gendebien. The winner of the Italian Grand Prix, Brooks, will start seventh ahead of the Swedish Jo Bonnier, driver of B.R.M. In the evening, Mike Hawthorn and Romolo Tavoni have dinner together in a hotel. Mike sits at the head of the table and, when the dinner is finished, asks the Ferrari sporting director:
"You always drink coffee, right Romolo? Let’s go drink it at the cafe".
The two go upstairs, where there is a big balcony with a lot of people. Mike, in this moment, confesses to Tavoni:
"Whether I win or whether I lose, at the end of the year I will retire. Life is short and it’s meant to be deeply lived and enjoy it. Now, when I’m in two-thirds of the race, I have to hang on to the physical resources I have left. And this makes me think. I have talked about this with some of my English colleagues and they told me that Fangio said the same thing a month before retiring".
Romolo replies, instinctively:
“Yes, but we want to aim for the World Championship. After the incidents happened in Reims and at the Nurburgring, we have continued for this reason".
"You are right, you are doing more than I deserve. Do not inform the Commander about this, when you’ll talk to him on the phone”.
Right after, Romolo Tavoni talks with Amorotti, also agreeing about not telling Ferrari anything about the discussion, because he is convinced that the relationship could bring another driver to win the title. The two, then, decide to talk with Phil Hill, who however anticipates them confessing to Tavoni and Amorotti that Vanderwell has contacted him asking if he could race with him for the next season, offering the same conditions as Moss.
"What should I do?"
The American asks, but Romolo invites him to wait; the next day Tavoni talks with Ferrari, who asks the sporting director to sign a new agreement with Hill for the 1959 World Championship. In the briefing, Tavoni explains to the American driver that Mike can win as cannot win, therefore he has to do his race.
"But what if Mike can't manage to race because of his kidney problems? How can I help him?"
Hill asks and Tavoni replies:
"Drive your race without having doubts. Moss will go away and you behind him. If you find the occasion, try to overtake him. If you are second and Hawthorn is behind you, I will ask you to give him the position. Do it, please, and you will have the 1959 season guaranteed".
A curious episode happened just before this little discussion between Tavoli and Hill, Sunday 19th October 1958, in the morning: the Ferrari sporting director enters in Mike Hawthorn’s room and finds him laying on the bed completely naked, while his future wife pours a talcum powder on his body:
"I gave myself a present: getting talcum powder from the prettiest girl in the world".
Few hours later, the start of the Moroccan Grand Prix immediately provides great surprises: Moss takes the lead, followed by a straordinary Phil Hill, author twice in a row of the fastest starting. The American driver tries in different ways to catch Moss, but his attacking attempts are too impetuous and force him to go out of the track because of drum-brakes, losing the position favouring Mike Hawthorn and Bonnier. Hill, however, doesn’t lose heart and rejoins the track more competitive than ever, retaking his position from the B.R.M. driver.
Lap by lap, Moss distances himself from Hawthorn and, at the same time, Phil Hill overtakes first Bonnier and then Hawthorn, retaking the second place on lap eight, the time when Moss was lapping the F2 cars, while Phil Hill in the middle of the traffic could not hope to gain any places. Hawthorn realises that he hasn’t Moss’ pace and immediately guesses that the only person, who can cause problems to Vanwall’s rival, is his teammate; so he decides to nod at the American and let him through, urging him to attack Moss. On lap thirteen, Moss is ten seconds ahead of Hill, Brooks overtakes Bonnier and sets out to catch Hawthorn. Four laps later, the Vanwall was alongside Hawthorn’s Ferrari. Brooks finds out the purpose of the two Ferrari drivers and goes on the offensive to help his colleague, overtaking Hawthorn: as it goes, Moss is potentially World Champion.
But the Vanwall’s driver goes through a lot on lapping Wolfgang Seidel, lightly damaging his single-seater; the British, however, is able to get away with it, setting the fastest lap. For Hawthorn, fourth on the grid, the situation is getting more and more complicated and he is forced to react, if he wants to again catch the crown, which is little by little getting out of hand.
Consequently the British starts to put pressure on Brooks, but for eight laps he doesn’t manage to overtake him. On the twenty-fifth lap Moss was twenty seconds ahead of Phill Hill, which doesn’t let him get back in the second position. Luck, however, is on Hawthorn’s side, because the Vanwall’s engine of the Italian Grand Prix winner blows up: Brooks (he will come back in Italy, after this race, and Tuesday 21st October 1958 will go to Pavia) is forced to retire on the thirty lap, adding himself on the retired drivers’ list which include: Gendebien, because of an incident on the twentyninth lap; Behra, because of an engine failure; Seidel, because he was involved in an incident on the fifteenth lap; Flockhart, because of a broken engine; Trintignant, because of a engine failure.
Brook’s retirement from the race left Hawthorn unhampered in third position behind Phil Hill, who was twenty-seven seconds behind Moss and losing ground steadily. With no hope of catching Moss, Ferrari signals Phill Hill to ease up and let Hawthorn overtake him for the championship title. After some laps, the Ferrari crew chooses to call Hill, with a lot more speed, inviting him to overtake Hawthorn to allow the American driver to chase Moss. Vanwall’s hopes are now all placed in Lewis-Evans, invited to take away points from his teammate’s rival. Lewis-Evans tries many times to catch Hawthorn’s Ferrari, but he isn’t able to complete the overtaking manoeuvre.
Attempts for the podium finish came to an end when, on lap 41, Luton Vanwall’s driver Lewis-Evans went off the track following an engine explosion: in the episode, oil ran over the engine, starting a fierce fire. Lewis-Evans managed to jump out of his car but suffered serious burns. Later, during the 47th lap, Romolo Tavoni, Ferrari's sporting director, seeing that it was impossible to overtake Moss, indicated to Phil Hill to leave the position to Mike Hawthorn; two laps from the end the British driver went up in the second position, after Hill, who arrived in the main straight, touched the ignition key making the engine to lose power. After two hours and nine minutes, at the end of the fifty-third lap Stirling Moss won the Moroccan Grand Prix, but Hawthorn, thanks to the second place obtained with the help of Phil Hill, became World Champion with only one point advantage. At the end of the race, the winner stepped towards the champion and shook his hand warmly exclaiming without rancour:
"That’s it, old man, you did it".
Stirling Moss' win didn’t surprise people: the British ace had to take his best shot in an attempt to overtake Hawthorn in the overall standings and become Fangio's successor as number one driver. Moss absolutely needed to secure full points: eight points for victory plus one point for the fastest lap. He succeeded in doing so, but it was not enough to win the world title, as Hawthorn managed to finish second, thus retaining enough points to become World Champion.
It is a great satisfaction for the blond English racer, who last year seemed to be on the way to decline and instead this season has completely restored to favour himself, assuming at a certain point the great responsibility of defending, almost alone, the colours of Ferrari. And it is a reward for the Modenese company, so hard tested by a series of troubles to discourage anyone. In the minutes following the end of the race, Mike arrives at the garage and says nothing for a minute. He simply takes off his helmet, rushes towards Amorotti, to the chief mechanic and to his mechanic and hugs them. For a minute he stood there with a smile on his face. When they called him up to the podium, surrounded by 300 people, Mike asked for more time:
"Leave me alone for a moment".
After the prize-giving ceremony, Mike answered the journalists' questions, but always in a very hasty manner. Even Vandervell, who came to congratulate him, was dismissed with a quick smile in response to a gesture from the British constructor. When asked to whom he dedicates his victory, Mike replies:
"There was a person for whom I did these things, but he is not here now. And you wouldn't understand anyway".
Many might think that this statement is addressed to his friend Peter Collins, who recently passed away, but in fact the thought is directed at his father, who also tragically passed away. In the meantime, his girlfriend remains in the corner of the box, without ever being asked for the whole time of the festivities. The 1958 World Championship event lasted almost ten months: it began in January in Buenos Aires with the Argentine Grand Prix, then went on to the Grands Prix on the European continent, and finally ended on African soil. It took ten rounds to designate the new World Champion, and as it turned out, the duel between the two leading drivers was uncertain until Casablanca. This is the first time that the top title in motor racing has ended up in Great Britain, and this is to be expected, as in recent years the school of British drivers has become the leading one in the world, replacing the Italian one, which has partly dried up, and partly deprived of its most valuable last representatives: Alberto Ascari, Eugenio Castelletti and Luigi Musso.
Perhaps the situation will not change so easily, even if the future of motor sport does not seem too bright nowadays, at least in relation to the future activity of the manufacturers. Vandervell, owner of Vanwall, would like to retire (if he lost the drivers' title by a breath, he won the trophy for the constructors, with six victories out of ten races); Ferrari seems to want to reduce the number of participations in many races on the calendar; Maserati will certainly not get back, at least next year, into such a difficult and expensive activity. In short, there are signs of fatigue, which is perfectly understandable after such a dramatic season.
Unfortunately, the Moroccan Grand Prix, the final race of the World Drivers' Championship, was also characterised by a series of very serious accidents, whose origin is, as always, difficult to identify, but which can generally be traced back, without being too far from the truth, to the very high speed allowed by the Casablanca circuit. The most dramatic incident, for the conditions in which it occurred, was the one involving the Cooper cars of Picard and Brigger and the Ferrari of Gendebien, who, coming in behind the first two (who were a lap behind), was unable to avoid the collision. The Belgian's car goes off the road and the driver is thrown out. The Englishman Brigger is the least damaged, while Picard and Gendebien suffer various injuries and fractures.
But in particular, it was Lewis-Evans' accident that had serious consequences. The British driver's Vanwall suddenly caught fire, engulfing Lewis-Evans in flames, who was able to coolly stop the car and leap out of it, running across the track and rolling on the ground before anyone could get to him. The news from Casablanca says that the conditions of the three injured people remain stationary; the most serious is Stuart Lewis-Evans, who suffered fairly extensive second-degree burns all over his body. The British pilot is being urgently transported to England to the East Grinstead clinic, which is specialised in treating injuries caused by fire.
The fight against death lasted just six days, as on Saturday 25 October 1958 Stuart Lewis-Evans, the 28-year-old driver who returned from the Moroccan Grand Prix with severe burns, died in a hospital near London. He was married with two children, an eight-year-old boy and a two-year-old girl. Lewis-Evans began racing when he was eighteen years old and achieved a brilliant series of successes in the 600 cc category.
Last year he suddenly jumped to the forefront of world motor racing. He left Ferrari and joined the British team Vanwall, with his compatriots Stirling Moss and Tony Brooks. When they fell ill, he represented Vanwall at the Reims Grand Prix, where he finished third. Last Sunday, he was again racing for Vanwall, but the car jumped off the track and was engulfed in flames. The young driver managed to escape from the fire, but his clothes, soaked in petrol, had already caught fire and his body suffered terrible burns. Stuart Lewis-Evans is the fourth British driver to die this year, after Peter Collins (Ferrari), Archie-Scott-Brown and Peter Whitehead. Other victims include the Italian Luigi Musso in 1958. Mike Hawthorn states about Lewis-Evans:
"His death is a great loss for motorsport. Stuart was a very promising driver. In a year's time he would have been one of the top men".
Stirling Moss remembered his friend with these words:
"Stuart had a cheerful and jovial character and all his colleagues loved him. He was an excellent driver who quickly established himself over the last two years. He will be missed by hundreds of friends and colleagues in motorsport".
On Sunday, 23 November 1958, the Carrera Venezuelana will be run in South America. It is a race on roads open to traffic, about 800 kilometres long, from Maracaibo to Caracas. The Venezuelan competition, in its first round, comes to assume considerable importance. With the Mexican Carrera having been abolished and the formula of the Mille Miglia changed, the race ending in Caracas automatically becomes the most interesting of its kind. However, there are still reservations about the risks involved in racing on traffic roads.
Italian cars and drivers will also take part in the Venezuelan Carrera, which offers a prize of $100,000. Five three-litre Ferraris of the Gran Turismo category will be leaving Modena at the beginning of November. The Modenese cars will be at the disposal of a group of drivers consisting of Frenchman Jean Behra, Turin-based Gino Munaron and Miro Toselli, Neapolitan competitor Maria Teresa Defilippis, Gerini and Gavazzoli. The Italian drivers will fly to Venezuela on Thursday 13 November 1958 and arrive at their destination the following day.
While waiting for this race to take place, on 12 November 1958 American driver Harry Schell takes part in a press conference announcing the probable formation of a rival federation to the International Automobile Federation to protest against the latest decision to reduce Formula 1 engines from the current 2500 cc to 1500 cc, and declaring himself to be the spokesman for the International Association of Professional Drivers and Manufacturers of Racing Cars. However, he does not say which manufacturers or drivers are prepared to support this initiative. Schell states that if motor racing really is dangerous, it should be stopped immediately and not from 1961 onwards.
"They want to limit our speed but nothing has been done to limit the speed of the 3.000 cc Grand Touring cars, which are faster than any Formula 1 car. This strange situation forces us to protest. We demand to review and correct the problem, otherwise, the International Drivers' Association will be forced to put in place a dissident federation, organising its own championships of fifteen races".
Harry Shell's protests reflect the stance of British racers and industry against the reduction of engine capacity in single-seater racing cars. As it is well known, at a meeting of the International Sports Commission held in London on 8th October 1958, it was decided that from 1 January 1961 Formula 1 cars would be limited to 1500 cc and 500 kilos minimum weight. Since Italy already owned the Ferrari 1500s, i.e. with the displacement of the new formula, while the British, especially with their very fast Vanwalls, thought they could still dominate for a long time, even if this year the World Drivers' Championship was won by Hawthorn in a Ferrari 2500. Across the Channel a violent controversy arose against the decisions taken.
Moss and Hawthorn are the first to declare their opposition to the reduction of engine capacities and now Schell is even talking about the possible creation of a second Federation. The drivers’ statements are interesting, but should be taken with great caution. On other occasions the drivers have taken sides against this or that circuit, but then went back on their proposals. For example, at the first edition of the 500 Miles of Monza, there was a sort of pronouncement by European drivers, who the following year accepted to race there, even though the European cars were not suitable for comparison with the American ones. It will therefore be necessary to see whether the revolutionary intentions will be kept. The new Formula 1, although it provokes much discussion, is dictated by the concern to reduce the dangers of racing and has therefore found much approval. Hawthorn, in an interview with an Italian weekly magazine, declares that the current Formula 1 should be maintained because it is safer and arouses greater interest in the public.
"In my opinion, the safer a racing car is, the more powerful it is".
Others, also in Britain, claim that the 1500s will be just as fast as the 2500s. It's probable; but apart from the fact that in that case Hawthorn would have nothing to regret, given that the 300 horsepower of the current single-seaters would not be enough for him, to what limits would they reach in three or four years?
In the meantime, the motor racing season, practically closed in Europe, continues in Africa and America, perhaps with reduced ranks. On Sunday, 23 November 1958, the Venezuelan Grand Prix will take place, a race that is, in a certain respect, revolutionary. Simply because, instead of a circuit and with the participation of racing or sports cars, it will be run on the road by touring and grand touring cars. A revolutionary race because it takes up a formula that has been ostracised in Europe - and with good reason: road racing in Europe ended its cycle with the terrible Mille Miglia of 1957.
But motorsport is, after all, very young in the two Americas, and consequently the enthusiasm is much more alive than elsewhere. It is logical that organisers and fans are attracted to races that take place in the natural element of the cars. Let's hope they don't have to go through the tough European experience. The Venezuelan Grand Prix will compete in his pure speed, on the Venezuelan section of the Pan-American Highway, where the fastest competitors are expected to reach very high averages: it is predicted that the winner can complete the race in less than five hours.
More than 100.000 spectators will attend the event on the Pan American Highway, which winds in the west between the steel towers of the oil fields. The favourite, Jean Behra, does not deny the predictions: after a series of uncertainties due to a disqualification for having previously taken part in an unauthorised race, the former motorcycling ace, who has been on four wheels for several seasons, can line up at the start.
Running with him - all on Ferrari 3000 GT - there are another Frenchman, Jean Lucas, the Turin Gino Mimaron (paired with Bruno Gavazzoli) and Miro Toselli, the Neapolitan Maria Teresa De Filippis on Lancia G.T. 2500, the only woman in the race, the Swedish Joachim Bonnier on Volvo and the German Horst Von Hanstein on Porsche. There are also some South American drivers, including the Italian Mauricio Marcotulli on BMW and Julio Pola on Ferrari. The Venezuelan Grand Prix, the only speed road race left on the international calendar, has a very tortuous and difficult course in the first part.
The touring and grand touring cars reserved for the race cannot develop high averages, but the fight before reaching the big straight after the 300th kilometer is equally fierce, testing the skill of the drivers and the resilience of the cars. Behra's race is a model of consistency. He - after the announcement of the amnesty decreed against him by the Automobile Federation - is immediately in the lead, but allows himself to be overtaken by some competitors in the middle part of the race. Then, with an overwhelming finale, he crosses the finish line victorious, imposing himself on the Venezuelan Pola and on the two Turin drivers Munaron and Toselli.
At the control of Barquisimeto, Mauricio Marcotulli on BMW and Julio Pola on Ferrari are in the lead; they are followed in third position by the Porsche of the German Von Hanstein. The roaring carousel is engaged in a tough duel, between winding roads, in the area of oil fields behind the capital. The average is not high, but the cars are subjected to an unusual effort. Swedish driver Joachim Bonnier in a Volvo retires, while Behra, in his three-liter Ferrari, climbs position after position and takes the lead at the 150th kilometer, after a little more than an hour of racing. In San Felipe - having finally left behind the oil fields - the drivers face the long sprint on the Pan-American highway. At the lead there are the two Venezuelans Marcotulli and Pola, followed by the Turinese Toselli and Behra. At this point the French ace is unleashed, pushing hard on the accelerator. In his wake are launched the Turinese Munaron and Toselli and the Venezuelan Pola. The fight becomes very close and on the final straight Behra is ahead of two opponents.
The Venezuelan Grand Prix is a success: the event, in fact, records only one serious accident, when the Venezuelan of Hungarian origin Teodor Szabo goes off the road suffering serious injuries. Out of more than seventy participants in the race, the percentage of accidents is very low; not so low, however, as to justify the jubilation of the supporters of the inappropriateness of the suppression in Europe of speed races on the road. It should not be forgotten that the Venezuelan race takes place on a highway, therefore easier to close and control: the risks for drivers are and always will be many on any track, on the road as well as on the track; but those who do not have a short memory will remember that the veto to certain types of races was suggested essentially by the dangers to which spectators are exposed.
If anything, the formula adopted for the Venezuelan Grand Prix proved that only motorways (apart from the disruption to traffic) could replace normal roads in speed racing. The South American race saw a new triumph for the Ferrari 3-litre GTs that occupy the first places in the general classification of the Venezuelan Grand Prix, with the French champion Jean Behra, the local racer Jullo Pola and the two young drivers from Turin, Gino Munaron and Miro Toselli. For the first one, no surprises: the easy prediction was respected.
Munaron's and Toselli's performances, on the other hand, were remarkable, especially considering the various difficulties encountered in the days leading up to the race. The Venezuelan adventure had already begun with great excitement when the plane carrying the two young men and Behra to Caracas suffered a failure in one of its four engines in the middle of the Atlantic: in order not to lose altitude, the captain decided to lighten the aircraft, dumping 20,000 litres of fuel into the sea with the engines running, then reversed course to land on Isola del Sale (an airport and four huts). A ten-hour stopover to repair the fault and, finally, back in the air.
On Saturday 15th, Behra, Munaron and Toselli were in Caracas, determined to start training on the race straight away, but nothing. Since in Venezuela, as in other countries, drivers - racers or not - must be in possession of a driver's licence issued locally, the two Italians and the French ace had to go through a long line of paperwork in various offices until, after a three-day wait, they managed to get hold of those indispensable document. Thus the three Ferrari drivers' race preparation went through an unexpected delay.
The second place finisher, Julio Pola, is Venezuelan and was therefore racing on his home roads (the first 172 kilometre section between Palmarejo and Acquaviva was particularly difficult), where the Pan-American road is tormented by considerable gradients and sinuosity, as well as having a treacherous gravel surface mixed with traces of crude oil, of which the subsoil is very rich, and the double advantage was decisive in winning a second place overall.
Second-placed Julio Pola is by no means a stranger, even though he only likes to race in South America. A specialist in road races and a perfect connoisseur of the Pan-American highway, especially the Venezuelan section between Palmarejo and Caracas, Pola managed to beat all the other European and American competitors, except Behra, of course. But despite the environmental advantage, and the fact that Munaron, due to bureaucratic obstacles, had not been able to complete a satisfactory training session, the Venezuelan preceded the Turinese at the finish line in Caracas by just one minute and fifty seconds. Munaron can therefore be satisfied with the great feat that brings to a more than flattering end a season that began well and was interrupted disastrously by an unfortunate accident that happened to him - ironically - during a peaceful rally.
But in some ways, even more surprising was the performance of Miro Toselli, the other Racing Club 19 driver, at his first challenging international experience, and after a very short period of getting used to the powerful 3-litre Ferrari. Toselli has raced for a few years now, but his first notable successes were in 1956, when with the Fiat 8 V he managed to win the title of Italian champion in the 2000 GT class. Later, he tried without much luck to move up to the sports category with a 1500 Osca. Finally, this season, he obtained a series of excellent successes with the Alfa Giulietta.
A couple of months ago, he suddenly switched to the Ferrari, immediately making a name for himself in a few uphill races. Now, in Venezuela, the confirmation of his qualities arrived as a thoughtful driver, particularly suited to road racing (we remember his excellent Mille Miglia in 1956, in the rain). If he doesn't let it go to his head, Toselli will be able to make further good progress: he has age, passion and means at his disposal. The Venezuelan experience will not be lived in vain.
The affirmation of the likeable driver from Nice could definitely open the doors of the Scuderia Ferrari (it is an old aspiration of his): we will know something precise about it on 9 December 1958, the day Ferrari invited journalists to Modena for the traditional annual meeting. This is also because, according to increasingly persistent rumours, Mike Hawthorn, the driver who was the first Englishman to win the World Championship with an Italian car, is about to announce his retirement from the sport. At the same time, he is also expected to announce his engagement to Miss Jean Howard, a young London model. The only person maintaining absolute silence on the subject, for the moment, however, is Hawthorn himself, who has been scrupulously avoiding even journalists who are personal friends for a few days. In British motor racing circles the announcement of Mike's retirement from racing was expected at the end of a luncheon of the racing club last Friday. However, until Monday 8 December 1958 Hawthorn made no announcement, mainly, it is said, out of consideration for Enzo Ferrari, who will hold his traditional annual meeting of journalists, technicians, drivers and mechanics the following day in Modena to announce next year's programme.
But there are those in London who assure us that Mike Hawthorn has already reported his decision to Ferrari, first by telegram and then by letter, and that it would be reiterated in Modena the following day during the Ferrari meeting. The decision would have been taken at the end of the Morocco Grand Prix, at a time when Hawthorn was not only the first English driver, in a long tradition, to reach the coveted position of 1958 World Champion, but also at the end of a season during which the Ferrari driver had lost two of his best friends, Peter Collins and Luigi Musso, both killed in racing accidents. At the end of that race, Hawthorn would have reported his decision to the director of the Scuderia Ferrari, Tavoni, but he would either not have believed him or, in the atmosphere of enthusiasm for winning the world championship, would not have understood the sincerity of what the English driver was telling him.
So, on Tuesday, 9 December 1958, in Modena, receiving Italian and foreign journalists specialised in motoring, after the classic lunch, Enzo Ferrari offers interesting statements on the current situation in the world of motor racing and on the future programme of his company. Adopting a new and amusing formula, Ferrari, after showing the over one hundred journalists from all over the world around his workshop and announcing the start of mass production of the 250 Gran Turismo and a new two-litre sports car (260 of the former will be produced each year), receives the journalists in a hotel lounge and invites them to ask him questions. A series of very interesting responses arose: Ferrari first of all announced the new line-up of his team, which would be composed by the Belgian Olivier Gendebien, Americans Phil Hill and Dan Gurney, Englishman Cliff Allison and Frenchman Jean Behra. When the line-up was announced, the question was immediately asked:
"Don’t you believe that there is even an Italian driver able to fill a small role in Formula 1 and sports cars championships?"
"We have tested several Italian drivers, namely Cabianca, Gerini, Lualdi, Munaron and Scarfiotti, and we intend to test others as well, including Govoni, Quadrio, Scarlatti and Taramazzo but, because of all the accusations that have been made about the recent mournful incidents, particularly after Musso's death, we don't feel like to take on the responsibility of racing Italian drivers, at least as long as we are alone, as we were during the time of criticism and disapproval. We don't think, therefore, that we can use Italian drivers, even though we are convinced that among these young people there are elements that have every chance of becoming champions".
Regarding the absence of world champion Hawthorn's name from the list of racers, Ferrari reads a letter from the English driver, dated 27 October 1958, in which he talks about his decision not to race cars any more. Enzo Ferrari also makes interesting and controversial statements about the dangers of racing and the call, repeatedly made by sections of public opinion and even newspapers, for its suppression. Belgian journalist Paul Frère asks him:
"Do you believe that less powerful cars will be safer?"
And Ferrari answers:
"I don't know what do you mean by the word safety. But safety still exists today if the machines we use on the circuits were used for the purpose for which they were built".
Then Ferrari reminds that very often, like at Reims for example, up to three races take place on the same day: at Reims, a 12 Hours, a Formula 2 Grand Prix, and then the Formula 1 Grand Prix. Nobody bothers to see if the track is in the best condition and whether any residues of lubricant and fuel and tyre abrasions have created any imbalances, as is required to exploit safe machines such as the current single-seaters. On the recent fatal accidents of Musso and Collins, Ferrari also makes notable statements:
"Do you have any idea about the cause of the fatal incidents of Musso and Collins?"
Someone asks Ferrari.
"Yes, I have ideas on the subject, or rather convictions. On what concerns Musso, I think I've already pointed out what the Italian technical commissioners (if they were at Reims, I don't know) didn't see or didn't point out. The track was not in the best condition for a Grand Prix. It is perfectly idle to keep asking who is to blame. The blame lies in the fact that people forget the elementary rules of prudence that should govern all organisations. In the case of the Collins accident, it only takes to look at a photo report published in France to see that the earth shelters placed at the edge of the track serve to make the cars take off. If there were efficient defences at the Nurburgring, as there were at Monza, the pitied Collins would probably have been postponed".
And regarding accusations against him, Ferrari declares:
"Once racing in Italy was praised, then it was appreciated, in a third time it became tolerated. Today it is put on the index, while the Queen of England invites the World Champion to her table, thus recognising the function of motor sport. We were deeply moved by the moral condemnation that came our way. We wondered, along with all our technicians, whether we had actually overlooked something that could have prevented such disasters".
But from these internal questions, Ferrari and his team have drawn the conviction that they have done everything humanly and technically possible to prevent and avoid any accident. A few days later, when the Italian newspapers gave wide coverage to his testimony, Ferrari asked for and obtained a meeting with Priest Azzollini, the Jesuit who had attacked him in October in Civiltà Cattolica. To approach Priest Azzollini, Ferrari used a Jesuit priest from Parma named Mosè Molin, who was a friend of the journalist Gino Rancati and acted as an intermediary. Accompanied by another priest, Gambigliani, Priest Azzollini appeared in Modena in mid-December. Ferrari went to the archbishopric and argued with his censor for five long hours, at the end of which he convinced him of his reasons, to the point of convincing him to return publicly to the subject, but this time in his favour. Leonardo Azzollini thus signed a second article that appeared in the March 7, 1959 issue of Civiltà Cattolica entitled:
"The speed of car racing".
With the same wealth of documentation, Azzolini actually overturns the version he gave five months earlier in an article, writing that it had provoked and continues to provoke reactions that are not entirely serene and objective and some, indeed, tendentious. For this reason, and not out of any desire for vain polemics, Azzolini considered some clarifications necessary. What convinced him to return to the subject was Enzo Ferrari's decision not to field any more Italian drivers and to withdraw from future races in Italy:
"It was such a serious decision that it could not have been taken lightly, but developed in the light of considerations of various kinds, including moral ones. We think that we may differ from Ferrari on other points, but we cannot honestly fail to recognise his moral sensitivity in his work as a constructor, which does him credit".
The sentence expressed in the previous article, he wrote, had not in fact been a personal sentence of Enzo Ferrari. If Ferrari and, with him, the sports car manufacturers had been acquitted, it was necessary to point to other culprits. Thus Priest Azzollini, echoing what Ferrari said in his press conference on 9 December 1958, distributed the responsibility for the races entirely and only to the organisers and those in public power.
"The manufacturers, therefore, and even less Ferrari, have nothing to do with it, first or secondly".
Thus comes to an end one of the most dramatic motor racing seasons in history. Mike Hawthorn, a very special driver, has decided to stop racing. Mike, who over the years has always worn size 45 shoes, i.e. a size larger to prevent his feet from swelling and tingling, decides to stop and dedicate himself to his car showroom. His habit of wearing a bow tie, a characteristic of his, was born following an invitation to the first club of his life, where he showed up without a tie: on that occasion, the British driver went out and walked towards his mother, from whom he asked for a belt of coloured fabric from his suit, with which he created a bow tie in the moment. "Life is short" has always been his favourite quote. As for Stirling Moss, the choice for 1959 did not fall on any particular team: the British driver prefers, under the advice of Ron Walker, to choose each time with which single-seater to take to the track in an attempt to win his first World Championship title.
Simone Pietro Zazza