The calendar for the Argentine summer included the unspecified and unspecified Eva Peron Grand Prix for January. The organisers put it on the programme, to make the most of the long trip to Argentina, without attaching too much importance to it: the immediate and absorbing purpose of the trip in force in the Argentine Republic was the Gran Premio Generale Peron that opened the season, largely endowed with prizes, strongly advertised: a race that was run on the Bonearensa circuit of the Parco Palermo, on Sunday the 18th of December 1949, with Ascari's superb triumph. It was precisely this triumph that put the second race in the name of the sporting and passionate president into the limelight with overwhelming importance. The snub suffered by the local idol, the hugely popular Juan Manuel Fangio, the instigator of a cheer that had already caused decidedly unpleasant incidents against the Italian racers in the first Grand Prix, was not consigned to the archives. Press organs and spokesmen of public opinion had attributed Fangio's albeit honourable second place, behind Ascari's brilliant, overwhelming march, to a series of entirely fortuitous mishaps, which would have taken the measure of the champion's entire chances. It is natural that, when the matter was put forward in such terms, the holding of a subsequent Grand Prix on the same circuit, over the same distance, with the identical cars of December 18th, i.e. the Ferrari, could not appear under any other aspect than that of a fierce, inexorable, unfailing rematch. And of the word rematch are full the Argentinean newspapers that speak of the coming event, as if to suggest that, if Sunday the 18th of December 1949 was a matter of prestige, Sunday the 8th of January will also be a matter of chivalry, for the revered name of the race's kind patroness.
It is not clear why, on the subject of chivalry, the guests from overseas should offer their defeat, but what is clear to everyone is that Fangio must win and will win. In this red-hot atmosphere of national cheering, almost incomprehensible to our much more surrendered, though no less passionate mentality, Sunday's Grand Prix certainly promises to be tougher, more interesting, more crowded than the December edition. And since it had already been said of that one that it beat every world record in terms of spectacular contours to a motor race, we would be on the eve of a historic event in the annals of motor sport. Ascari, Villoresi, Taruffi are up to the task. However, there is no need to upset them in the comfort of an express prediction, especially as the Fangio-Ascari duel, as mentioned above, takes place on absolutely equal technical terms. The Ferrari, the most evolved expression of that free formula that Europe has abandoned for its excess of power and danger, does not admit of any secrets of special tuning. It is only worth mentioning, however, that even Farina and Villoresi's Maseratis, derived from the classic 1500 with displacement increased to 1700 cc, are not to be considered as extras, their power being very close to that of the Ferrari. The same car has the Argentine Campos, the number one candidate for popular favour. None of the numerous other entrants can seriously threaten this group of favourites. On Friday, January 6, 1950, the little rain that fell between 6:00 a.m. and 7:00 a.m. made the Buenos Aires circuit rather difficult. However, the qualifying for the starting order in the Eva Pèron Cup took place without incident between 9:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m.
The best times are those of the Ferraris of Fangio, Ascari, Villoresi and Serafini. The classic Argentinean driver and the three Italians will therefore all start on the front row, with Fangio on the right and Serafini on the left. The second row will consist of Prince Bira's Maserati, Rosier's Talbot, and González's Maserati. The third row will be made up of Campos, Bonetto, Bucci and Étancelin, and the fourth row will be occupied by Baron De Graffenried, Carini, and Chiron. The fifth row will see Uruguayan Cantoni, Englishman Parnell, Farina, and Puopolo lined up. Finally, the last row will see Whitehead, Biondetti, and Taruffi. Van Brautschisch will not take part in the race. The minimal differences marked by the four Ferraris in the classification times make it likely that there will be a fierce fight from the very first lap to take the lead of the race. Naturally, all Argentinians are cheering for Fangio and multicoloured flags are being sold with Fangio's effigy and next to it the indication of his victory, which for now is only a hope. However, no one hides the fact that Ascari and Villoresi are two worthy contenders, and the thirty laps of this difficult circuit with its dangerous curves may hold some surprises in store. The times obtained by the favourites in the official practice for the Eva Pèron Grand Prix only made the anticipation for the race on Sunday the 8th of January 1950 more morbid. At the start, just as expected, Fangio leapt decisively into the lead, quickly gaining a considerable advantage. Villoresi followed him into second place. The other favourite of the race, Alberto Ascari, was injured in an accident just seconds after the start. At the first bend, Ascari's racing car, passing at full speed over an oil slick, skidded fearfully and almost crashed into the fence.
Prince Bira, who immediately follows him, manages to avoid a dangerous collision by braking his Maserati abruptly. The Italian ace in turn manages to dominate the car, but cannot prevent the front end from grazing the protective barrier, so that the radiator is seriously damaged and the fuel tank is dented. Ascari is now last, but tenaciously continues the race, and on the third lap he is already twelfth. However, the damage to the car was very serious: the engine temperature rose frighteningly, and the car began to emit ominous smoke. Seeing the futility of continuing, Ascari resigned himself, on lap six, to the inevitable retirement. At the end of lap five, Juan Manuel Fangio, always wild, passes the grandstands with a sixteen-second lead over Villoresi. But ignition problems prevented him, once again, from giving a demonstration of his well-known class. Halfway through the race, on lap 15, Villoresi led the roaring merry-go-round, while the unfortunate Argentine, relegated to tenth place, chased furiously, while the entire Bonearen crowd cheered him on passionately. At this point, Serafini overtook Farina, reaching third place ahead of the Turin ace, whose car began to report irregularities. From lap 19 onwards, the harshness of the circuit made itself felt: the series of retirements began with the Swiss driver De Graffenried, for a broken steering wheel, then it was the turn of the Uruguayan Cantoni and the Monegasque Chiron. Farina, meanwhile, retook third, but stopping for a spark plug change, the Turinese driver had to give way to Argentine González. On lap 20, the riders passed in this order: Villoresi, Serafini, González, Bucci and Farina.
Sixth is Fangio, who with daring courage is making a spectacular comeback amidst the incessant cheers of the crowd. But the vibrations of the car, pushed at full force and unsparingly, cause the bodywork at the rear to break at a certain moment. A fragment breaks off in a very tight bend. With lion-like courage, Fangio refuses to retire. On lap 29 it is González who is eliminated from the competition. His car comes to a halt off the track and the driver is just in time to leap onto the grass before the engine, for unspecified reasons, catches fire. The finale is without much history. Villoresi and Serafini grind out the last laps at a training pace, without worrying about Fangio's last furious efforts. The countless Italians watching the race and, indeed, even the Argentinean public, although disappointed that their idol failed to win, give Villoresi the most enthusiastic applause. Masses of fans even try to penetrate the track to get close to the winner, but they are vigorously stopped by the police. In the evening, the main actors of the grandiose, competition talk on the radio, and the Italians, with moved voices, bid farewell to distant loved ones. Some champions will return to Europe at the end of January, immediately after the Grand Prix of Mar del Plata, which will take place on the 15th of January 1950, as they will have to start their preparation for the European racing season. The line-up at the Grand Prix of Rosario, the fourth and last of the great Argentine races, on the 29th of January 1950, would therefore not be compact. The Turin ace Giuseppe Farina sent the following article from South America to the Italian newspaper La Stampa, on the eve of the General San Martin Grand Prix that would take place on Sunday January the 15th 1950 over 37 laps of the Circuito del Mar del Plata, some 70 kilometres from Buenos Aires. Here, in South America, amidst the enthusiasm of so many Italian fans and even more Argentinean fans who have made Fangio their idol, one feels even more the urge to fight to the limit in order to win and when the vehicle in our hands does not respond to our desire and will, the disappointment and internal torment become more nervous and the desire to write goes away. In the Buenos Aires race, victory was one hundred per cent Italian thanks to Alberto Ascari and Luigi Villoresi and the magnificent Ferrari.
Amongst the Italians who had been pestering each other since the first days of our arrival, almost begging to win, we saw scenes of delirium at the finish line. Ascari and Villoresi carried their perfect machines to the finish line magnificently and in the style of great champions. Now we are all working for the other two battles that await us. Unfortunately after the first race in Buenos Aires they kept us idle for about 20 days doing nothing, and now we have to run three races in 18 days and about 800 kilometres apart. Tomorrow we will run the Grand Prix of Mar del Plata and on Sunday the 22nd of January the Grand Prix of Rosario, which is about 100 kilometres from Mar del Plata. In addition to a very efficient vehicle, a lot of luck is also needed, because whoever breaks down in one of the cohesive races inevitably finds himself in trouble to participate in the next one. The Mar del Plata circuit bears a certain resemblance to the Monaco Grand Prix in Europe. Rosario, on the other hand, is a tiny circuit of just over two kilometres and with all the less fast corners and almost straight stretches. The averages will be around 110 km/h at Mar del Piata and 100 km/h at Rosario. With my Maserati, around which I have worked a lot, I hope I can place well, even though I know I have a car that is clearly inferior to those of my best rivals. I also hope that luck will be a little more benign with me. Mar de Plata is one of my best memories, because I have won in the past. Let's hope that the victory will also be fond of tradition. On Sunday, the 15th of January 1950, the beautiful race held at Mar del Piata, an elegant seaside resort some 70 kilometres from Buenos Aires, demonstrated the great class of the Italian riders, especially Ascari, the magnificent winner, and Farina from Turin, who jumped like a lion and came second with an inferior mechanical means. The race got off to a scorching start at 5:00 in the afternoon. The darling of the Argentinians, Juan Manuel Fangio, immediately took the lead at the wheel of his Ferrari named after Juan Peron. The Argentinean driver knows who he is up against and that the 100.000 spectators (many thronging under the hot sun at the Torreon circuit) want something exceptional from him.
But at the end of the first lap (just over four kilometres) Ascari is already with the radiator behind the exhaust manifold of the Argentine's car. On the third lap Villoresi, who had had the track closed off at the start, managed to pass Farina and set off in pursuit of Ascari. On lap 10 came the incident that could have taken two top drivers out of the sport of driving. Villoresi and Fangio collided at the Torreon bend. Villoresi would tell the pits that he had tried to overtake the Argentine at the bend. He had just passed his car at the five-metre mark when the steering wheel snapped. The car, under the impact of the brakes and out of control, began to zigzag. Fangio, arriving at high speed and at such a short distance, could do nothing to avoid contact with the Italian driver's car. But thanks to the Argentine driver's infinite skill, the two cars only grazed each other, before toppling over. Villosi exits first, shaking his head and taking off his helmet and goggles, before walking back to the pits. Fangio, on the other hand, remains stationary in the car. Ascari continues the race in first position, followed by Farina and Taruffi. When Ascari crosses the finish line the crowd invades the post. The warnings of the police, who have to use water cannons as they had been used earlier at the Torreon bend when Fangio and Villoresi had overturned, are of no avail. But here things take a turn for the worse because not even water can extinguish the enthusiasm of the spectators. And the police then release the police dogs. Much shouting but no damage. There are no fatalities in the Fangio accident, but five people are transported to hospital. There had been a fatality earlier, when a spectator crossing the track was run over by the Cisitalia of Argentinean Nicola Delle Piane during the sports car race. At the last moment it was learned that another accident, apparently without serious consequences, occurred at the finish. Farina, who came second, crashed his car into Carini's at the finish line to avoid a bloody gap in the crowd that had invaded the track. Fortunately, the damage would be limited to property. To the journalists interviewing him, Ascari declared:
"I am happy to have obtained my second victory of the season, and it is not without emotion that I think back on the chance offered to me to once again hold my fort against aces like Fangio and Villoresi. I was very sorry to have to abandon the race. Unfortunately, things often go like that in this kind of race. It is due to their coolness and skill that the accident did not have serious consequences. It could have been a catastrophe".
On Monday the 16th of January 1950, both the newspapers La Critica and La Epoca openly accused Villoresi of having deliberately caused the accident between his car and that of the Argentinean Fangio, when the latter was leading the race at Mar Del Piata on Sunday. Both newspapers called for an investigation. To the newspapers, Fangio stated that, while racing alongside Villoresi's Ferrari, he suddenly saw the Italian's car turn around, but was unable to realise what was happening. Villoresi confirmed that the steering gear of his car broke while he was about five metres in front of the Argentine. The car spun on itself, making the collision inevitable. Italian racers, even in the heat and daring of the race, generally keep a firm grip on their nerves and do not let themselves get carried away by the overwhelming power of the mechanical means, unless an irreparable accident occurs. Such is the case of the Fangio-Villoresi collision, which occurred fatally when the steering wheel of the Italian car broke. Intentionality on the part of Villoresi, who, like any sensible person, did not at all want to take on the role of the driver of death, must be absolutely ruled out. However, the Fangio-Europe challenge so far sees the Argentine ace clearly defeated 3-0. Villoresi, Ascari, Farina and all the others in the great Circus of daring and valour are on their way to Rosario, which is 800 kilometres from Mar del Plata. No consequences for the Italians from Sunday's accidents. Villoresi is unhurt. Farina telegraphed home, to his wife, writing:
"Second - kisses - Nino".
The joy of a coveted satisfaction magically erases the tragic shadows that sometimes touch these champions. On Sunday 22 January 1950, the Argentine temporada ended in Rosario on the most treacherous and difficult circuit. Fangio, thirsty for revenge, will attempt the impossible to assert himself, but the Italian aces have already won with Ascari, Villoresi and Ascari again the two races in Buenos Aires and Rio del Piata. They certainly will not let the opportunity slip to complete the fine series of successes despite the value of their rivals. And indeed, there is another Italian victory in the fourth and final race of the Argentinean motorsport season. The event starts at 6:00 p.m. The race is 60 laps At the lowering of the flag, the Argentinean Juan Manuel Fangio takes off in first place, tailed ten metres behind by Ascari. Farina and Villoresi chase in third and fourth place respectively. After five laps Fangio is still in the lead, 150 metres ahead of Ascari, Farina and Villoresi. On lap ten Ascari stops to refuel, while Fangio accelerates, tailed by Farina and Villoresi. The Argentinean Campos moves up to fifth place, ahead of de Graffenried and Parnell. Then the first twist: Ascari is forced to abandon due to a mechanical failure.
Fangio increased his lead to 12 seconds by lap 16. There is then a fine comeback by Gonzalez, who attacks Farina for second place; the valiant driver from Turin appears to be in trouble. Finally Villoresi, with perfect running regularity, comes in second place, behind Fangio. The Argentinean champion was about to start the thirteenth lap, but in the meantime the second surprise occurred: his car made an impressive turn on itself, crashing into the straw bales placed along the course to protect the spectators. Several of them are injured, while Fangio emerges unhurt from the accident. Damage to the steering wheel forced Fangio to retire, having been warned by the mechanic that it was impossible to repair the fault immediately. Villoresi thus took the lead in the race. Farina, now second again, had to stop for a refuelling stop, giving way to Campos who was in hot pursuit of Villoresi. The Italian was in fact overtaken by Campos, but on lap 20 Villoresi returned to first place after a fierce fight. Villoresi's superiority became more and more evident in the finale. On lap 31 the Italian had an 8-second lead over Campos, followed at one lap by Parnell and Farina and at two laps by Gonzalez, Etancelin, Puoppolo and Bucci. Villoresi, with magnificent regularity, finally detached Campos.
Events of great importance are looming on the horizon of motorsport, promising an exceptionally interesting racing and technical year. The most striking items are Russia's debut and Alfa Romeo's return to competition. The war brought to the Soviet Union - we mustn't forget this - many technicians from Auto Union, the German marque that in the pre-war period became famous for its silvery racing cars, dominators in so many races. The news of Russian intentions comes from London. It is well known that when Moscow sends its representatives abroad, in any field, it does so with the certainty of obtaining prestigious results. It is evident that this news belongs to the sensational genre. The facts will tell its veracity. One thing is certain: that on the other side of the Iron Curtain, work is hard at work in the racing car branch and that, if not this year, the debut will come sooner or later. No less important is the good news that Alfa Romeo has decided to return to the idea that publicity is made above all by winning races. When an Italian car makes a name for itself abroad, the advantage basically belongs to the entire Italian industry. The formal obstacles that stand in the way of Alfa Romeo's intentions should be overcome precisely in relation to this consideration, tested by a hundred experiences. The cars will be the 1500s that were idle but not forgotten last season. The technicians and specialised departments worked equally hard to keep them at the level of the continually advancing mechanics. It is known that the companies' official teams are formed on the basis of at least three units. Sanesi, loyal to Alfa Romeo's long waiver, would certainly be one of the owners. Ascari and Villoresi are not likely to break away from Ferrari, which is preparing the most modern cars.
A return to Alfa Romeo by Farina is very possible, who could at last demonstrate his driving skills again. Decisions are imminent. Participation would be limited, as is logical, to European Grand Prix and a few other races of exceptional importance. But this is not the only important news: the Germans are known to be about to descend into the motor racing arena. Since the end of the war they have immediately started working in the experimental departments again. Something first-rate is to be expected. No wonder we would see aces like von Brauchitsch, Stuck or Lang at the wheel of the mighty Mercedes. Of Muller nothing is known, perhaps he disappeared in the whirlwind of the war. Caracciolo, from his last accident, suffered serious consequences to a leg, not to mention the effects, on the nerves, of the concussion. But Germany can still be scary, in motor sports. The British have tested a brand new car that develops the frightening power of over 400 horsepower, 12,000 rpm, and is equipped with a special compressor at low revs. This would be an interesting creation. It seems, however, that the enterprise does not abound in financial means. The French at Talbot are working on a new model of the type they prefer: the 4500 cc without a supercharger. Maserati is apparently not expected to present any new models. However, Ernesto Maserati is thinking of an Osca 4500 without compressor, which would be driven by Farina and, after exhaustive testing at Monza, would compete in the world's greatest competition, the Indy 500 at the end of May. Roll would also go there. Ferrari would validly defend its prestige and that of Italian motor racing in Europe. Then there is Fangio, who is coming to compete in Europe.
In Argentina, he failed to prove that he is the king of two worlds. All in all, we will soon see some good things. Argentine motor racing ace Juan Manuel Fangio, who was received by President Peron before leaving for Italy, is expected at Rome airport on Sunday 12 March 1950. The Argentinean driver intends to start on Sunday 19 March 1950 in the Marseille Grand Prix - with Ferrari 2000 cc cars - his intense programme of participation in the greatest European races. Meanwhile at Monza, the Italians entered in the French race on St. Joseph's Day are training. Bracco in a Ferrari laps the north-west ring in the record time of 1'04"0. In the following days, Ascari, Villoresi and Sommer will also take to the track. News also came from London that the new B.R.M. could not make its debut before the European Grand Prix at Silverstone on Sunday 13 May 1950, in the presence of the British royal family. The overwhelming power of the original cars revealed, in testing, complex drawbacks in the stability factor. For the third of the drivers who would officially represent Alfa Romeo at Silverstone and other major races of the season, Bonetto's name was also mentioned. The other two starters will be, as is known, Farina from Turin and Sanesi. The Fangio candidature would be definitively discarded. On Sunday the 19th of March 1950, in Marseille, France, the motor races would begin and the alliance against Fangio would begin to work. Explanation: one must refer to this winter's races in Argentina. The South American public, hot-blooded by nature and somewhat naive and immature when it comes to motor racing, genuinely believed that Fangio was the World Champion of the wheel.
The imperious victories of Ascari and Villoresi at Buenos Aires, Mar del Piata and Rosario disappointed and annoyed the more hardened public. Before, after and during the races some unpleasant misunderstandings happened against European drivers. Most of the time the environment was more to blame than Fangio. But every action provokes an equal and opposite reaction. It is a fatal law of physics and of the human soul. Many European drivers said: When Fangio comes to Europe, we will not let him win a race. What will this war that awaits Fangio be like? On Friday, 17 March 1950, the first practice already gave strong emotions. Farina sets the fastest lap. Then he gets back behind the wheel to better test the spark plugs. But at a bend the car hits a step, half-hidden by protective bales of straw, toppling over. Giuseppe Farina fractures his collarbone. Accustomed to larger, more powerful racing cars, the great drivers are sometimes fatally betrayed by the ease of tiny mechanical jewels such as the new Osca 1350. Farina had signed up for honours and to keep himself in training. But he encountered that damned invisible step. Two days later, the inclemency of the weather raged over Marseille during the IV Grand Prix Auto-motoclistico. It's raining cats and dogs. The competitors in the motorbike race open the event at 2:00 p.m.; then, at 4:30 p.m., the four-wheelers are given the go-ahead. Cars up to 2000 cc without a supercharger are allowed. The rain increases in intensity. Difficult and dangerous is the task of the thirteen drivers at the wheel. The race is 80 laps of the winding circuit, totalling 195.200 kilometres. The fight immediately appears to be between three competitors: the Italians Ascari and Villoresi and the Argentinean Fangio. From the first laps these three drivers impose an indisputable superiority on their opponents.
The 2000 cc Ferraris dominate. Ascari and Villoresi take turns at the lead, replaced twice by Fangio, who chases them like a shadow, Villoresi beats the speed record on the 32nd and 50th lap, recording an average of 111.472 km/h. The three racing cars pass on the grandstands straight only separated by a few metres. It is a relentless battle, despite the small number of protagonists. The three Ferrari drivers perform miracles of skill in the difficult curves, staying constantly bunched up. The last kilometre is an impressive sprint. Under the finish banner Villoresi, Ascari and Fangio are so close to each other that the jury cannot immediately identify the winner. Alberto Ascari is at first proclaimed as the winner. A few minutes later he is relegated to second place. Victory is awarded to Villoresi. The four Ferraris finished first, second, third and fourth. The 1950 season began with a triumph for Italian motor racing. The French Simca-Gordinl 1500s of Simon, Trintignant, Manzon and Gonzalez are literally outclassed. The race takes place in Borelli Park. The course was modified from last year, making it faster. This was not enough for Sommer, the favourite of the Marseillais, to win. The class of the Italian champions came out on top. Also entered in the race was Farina from Turin on an Osca 1350. He was unable to take the start. On Friday, he fractured his collarbone in training. His car accidentally overturned. With splendid behaviour, Fangio was perhaps able to win himself a permanent place in the official Alfa Romeo team, which is about to make a grand return to competition.
On Sunday, March 26, 1950, the Italian motor racing season was officially inaugurated at Monza with the running of the Coppa Inter-Europa, an international speed event for touring and sports cars meeting certain characteristics, according to very well thought-out and interesting regulations. Each of the two groups of cars will race separately, with class rankings. The race, instead of distance, is timed: that is, the competitors will drive around the magnificent Monza circuit for exactly two hours, and the classification will naturally be compiled according to the mileage covered by each. There are many names that are not new to victories: among them are Sanesi, one of the official drivers of the reconstituted Alfa Romeo team, Scagliarini with the Abarth car from Turin, Cornacchia in a Ferrari, the Englishman Macklin at the wheel of a fast Aston Martin, Valenzano, as well as several other specialists in touring car and sports car racing. Basically, however, the field of starters in the various classes presents a perceptible balance of values, guaranteeing a very hard-fought race open to all predictions. The fastest in practice were Jesi in a Maseratl in the Gran Turismo category in 2'58 (at an average of 127.415 km/h) and Facetti in a Fiat in 2'58"2; in the sport category Sanesi in an Alfa Romeo in 2'27"1 (153.450 km/h), Bianchetti (Ferrari 2'35"2) and Scagliarmi (Abarth 1100) 2'46"3. The trials lasted six hours; fifty-one competitors were punished. There was a lot of spectators. Noted as spectators were Villoresi, Ascari, Taruffi, Bonetto and various personalities from the motoring world. The race will start at 10:00 a.m., with the test for the international gran turismo cars, while at 3:00 p.m. the sport group will start.
In between, there will be a race for small cars powered by engines of only 125 cc, recently recognised by the Sporting Commission as a junior sub-class, and driven by youngsters between the ages of fourteen and eighteen. This is also an interesting experiment of great propaganda value. It was a beautiful day of motor racing, that of Sunday, at the Monza Autodrome, characterised by lively, hard-fought, at times uncertain races, which began with a spectacular French-style start: competitors lined up on one side of the track, in front of the cars, a short race to get in, start the car and drive off. As mentioned, the regulations of the event do not provide for an absolute classification, but by classes. And yet, the comparisons between the kilometres covered in the two hours by the most highly-rated competitors, and the interest of the certainly not imposing but highly competent public that followed the trials of the two categories as a whole - without distinction of engine size - put the excellent Consalvo Sanesi, official Alfa Romeo driver, at the top of the scale of values. In a 2500 cc berlinetta of the experimental type of the Milan team, he covered almost 295 kilometres in the two hours, that is to say an average of over 147 km/h. He also set the fastest lap time (2'26"2, at an average of 154.216 km/h). The Ferraris do not stand out here, despite young Stagnoli's fine defence, just as the big and beautiful British Aston Martin is less than expected. Scagliarmi in the new Abarth dominates in the 1100 sport class at a more than respectable average. In the group of cars that in the gran turismo - which are something in between the sport and production cars - the fight is full of episodes of combativeness, underlined by numerous spectacular road runs, all fortunately resolved in a bloodless manner.
On Sunday, April 2, 1950, the top finishers in the Giro Automobilistico di Sicilia will share exactly one hundred cups. A fabulous treasure donated by Indian princes. There is one, the Agnelli Cup, not to be handed over immediately. It will be kept aside. And it will only be awarded after the Mille Miglia, which will take place on Sunday 23 April 1950 and will be given to the driver with the best overall ranking between the two races. This formula centred, and almost sculpted, the true meaning of the 1080-kilometre race; in fact, the Tour of Sicily was equivalent to a grandiose dress rehearsal for the Mille Miglia; the southern race summed up a tone, an importance, a class such as to sustain a parallel and a bond of interdependence with the famous Brescian marathon. This explains the impressive number of entrants: over 160. Ascari, Villoresi and Biondetti, and Nuvolari himself did not disdain to join a competition that is for sports and touring cars, and crowded with amateurs and gentlemen of the wheel, as well as all the talented specialists in small displacements. A victory in Sicily is worth an International Grand Prix on a circuit. And then the fascination, the long carousel on roads open to traffic, the pioneering atmosphere that subsists in the cross-country trials, the unknowns of a route that, no matter how studied in training, always contains surprises, fascinated Tazio Nuvolari, who succumbed to the lure of the race. The driver from Mantova has forgotten his years, which number around sixty, and felt as if he had recovered from the intoxication caused by the exhaust fumes of the racing cars that had blocked him. Nuvolari will drive an Abarth. After training in Turin, the Mantuan driver said:
"The roar of my car will have to be one scream, from the start...to where I will arrive".
Alluding to the gearbox, to the decision with which he would engage the gears, driving in his inimitable style. How far could Nuvolari go? If as far as the finish line in Palermo, then the ranking of his 1100 will be able to sustain an initial comparison, however indirect, even with the mighty Jaguar of Biondetti and the Ferraris of Ascari and Villoresi still hidden, in the entries, by two x's. Then Tazio Nuvolari would try his luck again in the Mille Miglia. In the meantime, in a hospital room, Giuseppe Farina, champion of the wheel, racer of all daring, is stationary due to a somersault performed with his car in Marseilles. His shoulder is in plaster, but the Italian driver avidly reads the sports papers and dreams of the moment when he will have the steering wheel of his new Alla Romeo in his hands. Two champions visit him: Zeno Colò, winner of two world titles in ski racing in Aspen, and Vittorio Chierroni. They are friends the speedsters of asphalt and snow. Not for nothing did Colò and Chierroni, who had just arrived in Turin, want to visit Farina. This, while on Wednesday, 30 March 1950, the drivers and their cars, who will be competing in the Giro Automobilistico di Sicilia (Tour of Sicily) on Sunday, arrive in Palermo. The competition is for touring cars and sports cars and will count towards the respective Italian championships, with double points for the category winners. The route goes from Palermo to Cefalù, Messina, Taormina, Catania, Syracuse, Ragura, Gela, Enna, Caltanissetta, Agrigento, Sciacca, Castelvetrano, Marsala, Trapani to finish in Palermo. The fight for the lead seems to be restricted to the big Jaguar of Biondetti, winner in the last two years and recordman at an average of 88.766 km/h, the Ferraris of Ascari and Villoresi, Rol's experimental Alfa Romeo 2500, the Alfa Romeo 4500 that a Milanese industrialist had privately prepared for Bonetto, transforming it and stripping it of its compressor, and the V.W. of the Germans Mailer and Von Hanstein, which is one of the many unknowns of this race, prelude to the great Mille Miglia.
But to take the start there will - almost certainly - also be Nuvolari, who at the age of sixty returns to racing, fully recovered in physique and with irrepressible passion. On Saturday the 1st April 1950 at midnight, the start of the Giro Automobilistico di Sicilia will begin. The riders will go all around the island, except for the inland leg from Agrigento to Enna, then back to the coast at Gela. The first arrivals in Palermo are scheduled for 4:00 p.m. Ascari was entered in a 2000 cc Ferrari, but will compete with the car equipped with the 3300 cc engine that was only due to make its debut at the Mille Miglia. Villoresi remained at the wheel of a 2000 cc. Villoresi and Ascari played heads and tails. The new Ferrari 3300 fell to Ascari. As a result, Biondetti's big Jaguar and the Alfas of Rol and Bonetto saw their chances of victory especially increase. Fiat is present and a big favourite in the smaller classes, with many cars transformed and prepared by enthusiasts. A prediction for the Giro Automobilistico di Sicilia is the stuff of totals. So much so that they ended up actually instituting it. So they say, at least. It is difficult to choose the champion to bet on. The roulette for the overall record has seven holes, with these numbers, corresponding to their respective starting times: Nuvolari, Ascari, Villoresi, Rol, Bonetto and Biondetti, who will be the last to start. The ball should stop in one of the six numbered holes, but it cannot be ruled out that, pushed by the capricious hand of luck, or played with unsuspected skill by a new champion, it will hit the seventh hole, the one with the X. Indeed, the number of participants is impressive, and anything is possible in a Tour of Sicily.
Particular battles then break out in the two categories sport and tourism, class by class. Well, the chronicle is soon done. Ascari starts from Palermo largely dominating the situation. Villoresi loses time in the first section; Biondetti is taken out of the fight due to technical problems near Agrigento. Nuvolari abandons at Castelvetrano, struck by a nervous breakdown. Victory seemed safe for Ascari, when - in view of Messina - a short distance from the finish line, Ascari too was forced to retire due to a breakdown of the lubrication system. Bernabei suddenly leapt into first place, tailed by Bornigia who followed at around six minutes. In the Messina-Palermo stretch, along the ramps from the Palermitani mountains, Bornigia went on the attack, closed the gap and also gained a good lead over his adversary. He therefore won the seventh hole. On Easter Monday, over a distance of 304.590 kilometres, the fastest Formula 1 cars will compete. There are fourteen entrants, including Ascari, Villoresi and Sommer in Ferraris, Fangio and Bonetto in Maseratis and the Talbot and Simca teams. The lap record has belonged since before the war to Caracclola and Von Brauchitsch in 1'47"0. Last year Fangio won. In the meantime, directly from Indianapolis, we have news that thirty-five people have registered so far for the Indy 500 to be run on Tuesday, 30 May 1050. Italy will be represented by Farina and Rol, at the wheel of two Maseratis. Their arrival in America is scheduled for Thursday, May 18th 1950, by plane. From Bordeaux, Toulouse, Biarritz, Saint-Sebastien, Tarbes and many other large towns in the surrounding area, 10,000 of thousands of fans arrived in Pau on Monday the 10th of April 1950, flocking to watch another phase of the duel that has pitted the best Italian drivers and the Argentinean Juan Manuel Fangio against each other since the beginning of the season.
As had already happened on Sunday the 19th of March 1950 in Marseille, the fight remained between Donna Evita Peron's protégé and the Italians. But this time it is the Frenchman Rosier who, at the wheel of a 4500 Talbot, manages to take third place; Ascari retires on lap eight due to mechanical problems. Thirteen competitors take the start at 2:30 p.m.. The fight is furious after just a few laps. On lap 15 it was Fangio who went on the attack and managed to establish himself firmly in the lead. But by lap 23 his lead over Sommer was only 13 seconds and 25 seconds over Vliloresi. It was the furious brawl in Marseille that was repeated under the blue Basque sky at the foot of the Pyrenees. But here Fangio dominates, partly because he knows the circuit better than Villoresl; moreover, the Argentine's car is a little more powerful. Villoresi, forced to refuel at the end of the forty-sixth lap, stops, but will only lose 30 seconds, which on the other hand he will regain shortly afterwards, when Sommer in turn stops. The fight is fierce and the protagonists of the fantastic race are cheered on their every pass by the vibrant southern crowd. On lap 53 it was Luigi Chiron (Maserati 1500) who was also forced to retire due to a mechanical failure; Villoresl recovered some of the lost ground and moved into second place. Rosier becomes third and Sommer drops back to fourth. On lap 70, Fangio's lead over Villoresi dwindled to just 17 seconds and the overall race average dropped to 93.974 km/h, although it still exceeded the single-lap record set by German Caracciola back in 1938. The end brings no change to these positions.
From the distant horizon of Argentina a new star, Juan Manuel Fangio, is rising rapidly. He trained driving Italian cars. Last year he won some races in Europe, not very important ones, but he won. The South Americans are crazy about him. The Argentine government uses him as a flag. Gifted with great courage and considerable skill, Fangio did not seem until recently to be up to the level of the real European aces, such as Ascari, Villoresi, Farina. They never worried too much about it; now, however, the situation is beginning to change, especially after his victory on Easter Monday at Pau. That race, which took place at a record pace on a difficult course, taught one very important thing: Fangio is no longer an adversary to be taken lightly. All he needed was a slightly more powerful car to force all the European aces who were at Pau to surrender. The rivalry will move to Sanremo on Sunday, on the Ospedaletti circuit. An enchanting setting, on the shores of the bluest Mediterranean. But the drivers will have more to do than just admire the view. They will have to fight for about three hours on a difficult track, a mixture of curves and slight ups and downs, on roads that are not too wide. The average will not stray far from 100 km/h in the ninety laps that will give a total distance of 304 kilometres. If Ascari and Villoresi show up in twin-compressor Ferraris that can develop around 300 horsepower and that have been made even more streamlined and manoeuvrable, then the two Italian aces will certainly be able to support the impetuous boldness of the Maserati with which Fangio won at Pau. But if the Modenese company, aiming for the European Grand Prix to be held on Saturday 13th May 1950 at Silverstone, England, were to take the field - as in Monday's race - with older, less powerful types, the Fangio danger would, again, become very urgent.
And it cannot be ruled out that at Sanremo the Alfa Romeo 158s will make their pre-announced reappearance, also aiming at Silverstone as their first major objective. In this case Fangio, who is among the drivers hired by the Milanese company for the next races, would threaten Ascari and Villoresi very closely even if they had the most powerful Ferraris. The Alfa Romeos in fact develop 330 hp. Perhaps more than less. Wednesday 12th April 1950 Juan Manuel Fangio arrives in Sanremo by car, arriving directly from Pau, the town in the Pyrenees where he won on Monday, defeating Villoresi and Ascari. On Thursday 13th April 1950 the official training sessions begin. Fangio has an Alfa Romeo 158 at his disposal in practice. It is possible that the Argentinean will appear at the start of the Grand Prix at the wheel of this car, which returns to racing after a long period of abstention of the Milanese manufacturer. Perhaps Fangio will be joined by Sanesi. also in an Alfa Romeo. Otherwise, if Alfa Romeo limits the testing of the 158 to trials only, the Argentine champion will drive the same Maserati with which he won at Pau. Fangio's great adversaries will be Ascari and Villoresi, two of the three best drivers in Italian motor racing, because Farina from Turin, convalescing from his accident in Marseilles, will only compete again at Silverstone, on Saturday 13th May 1950, The fight at Sanremo will be balanced and important, especially if Ascari and Villoresi will be able to have at their disposal the best Ferraris, those that develop around 300 horsepower. The race course consists of 90 laps of the winding, narrow Ospedaletti circuit. The total distance will be 304 kilometres. The average speed will be around 100 km/h. Sanremo will gather the best that is ready and available today in terms of drivers and cars. Instead of Sanremo, on Thursday 13 April 1950 Juan Manuel Fangio's Alfa Romeo 158 is tested at the Monza circuit for more than three hours, by Sanesi.
On Friday 14th April 1950 the car is expected at the Ospedaletti circuit. Fangio is already in Italy, meanwhile training in a Maserati. The fastest, however, is Gonzalez, another Argentinean, with an average time of 103.110 km/h. Fangio laps in 1'68"3. But these are the first passes. The record is set by Prince Bira, averaging 104.100 km/h. The arrival of Ascari and Villoresi with their Ferraris is announced for Friday. On Friday, 14th April 1950, a messenger of a woman, Eva Peron, flies from Buenos Aires to San Remo with a president's cup for the best of the Italian drivers in Sunday's Grand Prix. From Rome, the ambassador of Argentina arrives in Liguria with a retinue of twenty people. Sanremo is these days the convention of many Argentineans living in Europe. They will cheer on Fangio, the impetuous driver who has become the idol of the South American republic. The stages of the race will be broadcast by radio directly to Buenos Aires. The telephones are blocked for three hours by Argentinean journalists who will dictate entire pages of reporting to overseas editorial offices on Sunday evening, especially if Fangio wins. Fangio's rematch in Europe has turned for the ardent Argentine subjects into something bordering on a major issue of state. They are convinced that the prestige of their country is entrusted to a racing driver. For Ascari and Villoresi, the drama is far less complicated and is reduced to the right proportions of a heated sporting rivalry. This winter, in Argentina, they won four out of four. Last Monday, in Pau, Fangio had a great game against the Italians' less powerful cars, leading to a facsimile of enthusiastic national celebration in Argentina. It is now up to the 90 laps of the Sanremo circuit to unravel the skein of a rivalry that is set to make history in motor racing.
The eve is uncertain. It is raining, during the last practice runs. The oddity of the weather has set aside for the Grand Prix practice sessions a light rain that does not suit the usual face of the city of flowers, its smile of sky and sea. On the wet roads of the circuit, beautiful roads of an authentic autodrome, the trials are held at a pace of understandable caution. There is no need to look at the training results, Prince Bira's record remains intact, but not for long, is the general opinion. At Sanremo the clouds are soon banished. Fangio tests the Alfa Romeo 158, the car that (by now there is no doubt) will be his workhorse. The first contact gives the idea of being a little uncertain. It is an exuberant steed. Then the Argentine pulls on the reins and rides away casually and confidently, taking curves with a single stroke of the steering wheel, in the manner of his master Varzi, the Italian ace who discovered and launched Fangio before immolating himself at Berne. Ascari and Villoresi watch carefully. Their two-cylinder Ferraris have not yet arrived from Modena. On board a mule, one of those machines that serve to familiarise the driver with the course, Villoresi completes a few laps without any time commitment. In the meantime, Ascari walks around, pausing at every bend, studying step by step the 3380 metres of the race track. Hinging on the Ascari-Villoresi-Fangio rematch, the race should not, barring any surprises, give the other racers a chance for overall victory, given the lesser power of their cars. However, the Maseratis of Chiron, Biondetti, Gonzalez, Parnell and Bonetto will be able to defend themselves well and fight back. The mechanics meanwhile worked day and night around the Maseratis of Bira and the Swiss De Graffenried. The rope of the crane, while embarking in London, snapped and the two delicate cars plunged into the hold, denting themselves. It is hoped to repair them in time.
Sunday 16 April 1950 Ascari and Villoresi are very sad and mortified in their prestige as champions; disheartened, almost weeping. The Italian public soon understands their drama and applauds them much more than Fangio the effortless winner. The Argentinean is a great driver. The first to recognise this are Ascari and Villoresi themselves. But is it right to start ceding arms, just because Fangio was favoured and drove the fastest Italian car, the Alfa Romeo, which after a long abstention returned to racing precisely at Sanremo? After what the Italian racers had to suffer in Argentina, guilty only of having beaten Fangio four times out of four, with equal means. Villoresi and Fangio did not even look at each other at the start. Their cars were on the front row in line with Ascari's. The younger, good-natured Ascari shook hands with the Argentinean, muttering a good wish (good luck). But you could tell it was a guest phrase and pro forma. Then it was off to the twenty bolides, on the road wet from the recent rain, amidst a packed crowd hoping for a balanced fight. The Alfa Romeo 158 is more powerful but this is not its most suitable circuit; here it is a question of talent. The best driver will win. Ascari and Villoresi will do everything not to be beaten. So it was predicted, and so many hoped. But what exactly does the general public know about the power of engines? It just looks at who is first, Perhaps the generous hearts of Ascari and Villoresi were also cradling a sweet dream.
The last stratagem to force Fangio to surrender was to fully engage the grip of his Alfa Romeo. The two Italians and the Frenchman Sommer, i.e. the Scuderia Ferrari's best drivers, immediately applied it. Until the fourth lap the Argentine remained behind them by very little, but it was enough for him to push a little on the accelerator to overtake first Sommer, then Villoresi and finally Ascari on lap 18. The evidence of the disproportionate means is very clear. Ascari and Villoresi chase furiously, bravely. Hopes, however, were soon dashed. Villoresi on the 18th passage stops to check the spark plugs, losing almost a lap. Ascari remains 15 seconds behind Fangio, while Sommer is already further behind. Then Ascari no longer passes. In a corner his car spun around and brushed against a wall. Nothing wrong with that. But all that remains for Ascari is to walk back to the pits. The race can precisely be called over at this point. Fangio overtakes Villoresi by one lap. The Italian driver reacts, not wanting to suffer this humiliation as well. Villoresi in the finale regained ground, coming within a minute of Fangio and setting the fastest lap of the day, right on lap 90, the last lap. The many Argentinians seem mad with enthusiasm when Fangio crosses the finish line. Well advised by the Alfa Romeo experts he understood the race and won in fine style. But if he really is the World Champion, as his compatriots swear, we will soon see when Farina has recovered and is able to return to racing, with a car equal to the Argentine's and when Ascari and Villoresi can fight with Fangio in less inferior conditions.
The next Mille Miglia will represent the 17th edition and has already broken a record, that of the number of entrants, which is 477. Another record is that of the prizes. Never before in Europe has a car race offered prizes totalling 11,500,000 Italian lire. The race will start at 00:01 on Sunday, 23 April 1950, from Brescia. The route will be reversed, i.e. the first region to be crossed will be Veneto. The competitors are divided into two categories, depending on the type of car: normal touring cars and sports cars, with the addition of a special group of international grand touring cars. Normal touring cars are the ordinary ones, without engine conversions. The sport cars are the fastest and resemble the real racing cars on the circuit. Each category is already divided into classes, depending on the engine capacity. The Argentinean Fangio will have an Alfa Romeo. His rivals Ascari and Villoresi will each have a 3300 cc Ferrari. Biondetti will instead pilot a Jaguar, a powerful English car. The starting order will be decided by drawing lots. Everything will be new in this 17th edition of the Mille Miglia, starting with the name (which, for prudential reasons, has abandoned the matricular numbering, the 16th edition having taken place last year). The route is partially new, as is the direction of travel: no longer the crowded afternoon returns from the Veneto, but the reverse Verona-Ravenna-Pescara-L'Aquila-Rome on the outward journey, and Livorno-Florence-Bologna on the return. Above all, the record number of entrants is new: a good 481, divided into 246 in the three classes of the turismo category, with a strong prevalence among the 750s; thirty-nine in the new Gran turismo internazionale category, which brings together the sports cars with saloon bodywork, built in small series, and 190 competitors in the classic Mille Miglia category, the sport, from which the first overall winner will jump. As is well known, in the top class the confrontation between Ascari and Villoresi on the one hand, and the Argentine Fangio on the other, will be renewed.
The former, as well as Serafini, will probably have at their disposal the brand new 3300 cc Ferrari sports car, which is currently completing its tuning; Fangio will also have a new car, the Alfa Romeo 3 litre, derived from the 2500 sports. Biondetti, the veteran Mille Miglia specialist, participates this year with a 3500 cc Jaguar, which, however, does not give him much chance of victory. On Wednesday, 19 April 1950, scrolling through the entries for the next Mille Miglia, one discovers that Juan Manuel Fangio will be racing with Sanesi. It is an exceptional team. On the one hand the Argentine's impetuousness and class, on the other the technique of Sanesi, who is an excellent driver, but above all a perfect connoisseur of the car and its possibilities. The Italian is in fact one of the most skilled test drivers for the Milanese manufacturer. However, there is the problem of race positions. The draw meant that one of the 3300 cc Ferraris to be driven by Ascari and Villoresi would start immediately after the Italian-Argentinean pair. The Alfa Romeo of Fanglo and Sanesi will have the disadvantage of serving as a foothold in the march of the two Italians, who will both start after the Argentine. The fight, as cars, this time promises to be a balanced one, not like at Sanremo where Fangio had an excellent advantage. The Ferraris would be the same ones that debuted in the Giro di Sicilia on Sunday, 2 April 1950, retiring due to trivial fuel line failures. But the test of the engines and chassis was excellent. To Villoresi and Ascari, mortified by the snub of Sanremo, the wait seemed like a century, in the impatience of a longed-for revenge. It should be noted that initially they were not too enthusiastic about racing in the Mille Miglia. Now that Fangio is here, they will go wild. Biondetti, winner of four separate editions of the Mille Miglia, will have to defend his prestige in conditions that do not seem the most suitable for the exceptionally tense situation. Meanwhile, Alfa Romeo has given its consent to participate in the Mexican Grand Prix to be held on Sunday, May 5th 1950.
The driver will be Taruffi, the car an experimental 2500. The race has a gran fondo course and the winner will earn nine million Italian lire. The next day, Thursday 20 April 1950, the punching-box operations for the 17th Mille Miglia automobile race begin in Piazza Vittoria. Only a few hours remain before the start of the most important automobile race of all countries and of all times begins in Brescia: however, the final shape of the race cannot yet be said to be fully defined. It is the numbers that overwhelm the prospect; the exuberance of success. It was inevitable that not all the former would be discovered before the last hour; that many competitors would avail themselves of the faculty to designate drivers even after the draw for the starting order, or to move them between the cars of a team; to assort them into pairs other than the reported ones, etc. Add to this the effect of the bad weather throughout this week of preparation, which has made the participation of not a few hoped-for protagonists, so far only rehearsed in principle, uncertain. It is therefore understandable that the true physiognomy of the Mille Miglia - determined by the twenty or so specialised and qualified pairs for the overall classification - is being built up by the hour around the table of the race officials who regularise the positions of the latecomers. Assuming good weather, first of all the likelihood of a demolition of the overall record, which, as is well known, has stood since 1938, set at an average of 136.391 km/h by Biondetti with an Alfa Romeo 3-litre compressor, on a route with characteristics that are perhaps more difficult than the current one, due to the greater percentage of Apennine roads. Speaking of the route, let us remember that the radical changes made this year represent the thirteenth variation to the original route, which has never lost its general character, from the 77.23 km/h average recorded in 1927, at the first edition, by Minola-Morandi.
Whose chances of demolishing the record? The Alfa Romeo-Ferrarl contention is now assured: and with a very close prediction. Fangio is not only favoured by his Alfa Romeo (assuming that the fine-tuning on the road has been completed) but also by his aptitude for gran fondo races disputed and won in the two Americas, with mileages even more severe than these. However, on the Mille Miglia the specific experience, of open road racing, counts for a great deal; only one foreigner, in fact, has so far managed to win one of the sixteen editions, and after a few fruitless attempts. Ascari and Villoresi, in the Ferrari, will therefore perhaps have in Sanesi an equally or more dangerous adversary than their Argentine companion. And Biondetti, five times winner? He will be piloting the 6-cylinder Jaguar with 3600 and 160 horsepower: less fast than the two great Italian antagonists, but suited to the Tuscan's cross-country temperament, ready to take advantage of the slightest misadventure of the all-out sprinter. And what about Bornlgia, winner at the recent Tour of Sicily? And how can we forget, among the favourites, Rol from Turin or Bonetto from Milan, with their powerful, though not very young, Alfa Romeos? Only one prediction is possible: an unprecedented triumph for the popularity of the sport of driving. In the uncertain night between Saturday 22 April 1950 and Sunday 23 April 1950, but with wide clear skies, followed by the early afternoon dry after so many days of deluge, the cars of the Mille Miglia hurtle 30 seconds at a time towards the darkness of the East, to the rhythmic lowering of the chequered flag, a little ghostly under the photographers' flashes. Serene, anxious, curious, impassioned faces: there is no sign of sleep in this large crowd, which we leave on Viale Rebuffone to reach the telephone, while touring cars are rolling along the road to Verona. Brescia knows, for the Mille Miglia, the art of making good use of insomnia, for two nights in a row. The only ones, perhaps, who are sleeping at the moment are the racers in the big sports cars, who will start last, in a few hours, after sunrise: they are the veterans of the Mille Miglia.
The novices' hearts beat too fast to sleep. The staggering number of entrants had forced the organisers this year to occupy the entire Piazza della Vittoria with their preparatory equipment - fences, parasols, banners, signs. One enclosure, near the skyscraper, for touring cars; another, on the opposite side, for sports cars. In the middle, and all around, stands a compact, swaying crowd all day long, cheering their favourites as they converge on the punching posts. Open for three days, they have been practically concentrated this afternoon for the majority of the cartel tenors. Loudspeakers present them to the public: special applause greets the Argentinean Fangio, who presents his Alfa Romeo 2500 at the punching ground. Equally warm is the welcome for Ascari and Villoresi, who present two brand new twelve-cylinder Ferrari 3300s: 225 horsepower cars, the most powerful in the race. Serafini presents the two-litre Ferrari, already used by Ascari at the Giro di Sicilia: wonders are said about this car, and Serafini could be a big surprise. Biondetti, the veteran Mille Miglia winner and record-holder since 1938, says he is a little uncomfortable with his Jaguar, which is heavier and less fast than the two big antagonists: nevertheless, he hopes. In the evening, due to a procedural irregularity in the preliminary operations, which provokes critical remarks from Ferrari and a threat of complaint, a clamorous issue arises between race officials, Ferrari executives and Alfa Romeo men. It seems at one point that all Ferraris or all Alfa Romeos are withdrawn. Then everything settles down. At 0:01 a.m. on Saturday 22 April 1950, Minister Sceiba lowered the white and blue chequered flag of the Automobil Club of Brescia, giving the start to the small Fiat in the 750 cc turismo category driven by Giordani-Panozzo.
At half a minute, as stipulated by the race regulations, the Nimici-Ghidini crew, also in a Fiat, takes the start. They were followed by Rossi-Coluzzi, Frezzi-Andreatta and gradually all the others, with chronometric regularity, as is the tradition. The chronicle of such a complex and multiform event can only be schematic. Once again this year, the great mass of participants in the Mille Miglia cannot claim the honour of a citation: less so, indeed, for its overflowing number. Moreover, except for a tiny minority, the citation would be very likely to be inaccurate or mispronounced: suffice it to say that the communiqué updating and correcting the official entry list, distributed by the organisers to the press during the race, includes no less than 108 pairs: 216 surnames of runners, who will not even get a printed record of their start from their risky effort. This is a painful consequence of the extremely popular and crowded character assumed by the Mille Miglia, which, in conjunction with other obvious elements, opens up quite a few questions about the structure of future editions. The starts take place from midnight between Saturday 22 April 1950 and Sunday 23 April 1950, until 7:43 a.m.: first under a promising crescent moon, then under cloud cover, and after 6:30 a.m. in the rain. The start of the first stage is given by Mr Scelba. Of the 480 cars entered, 375 start, a world record in any motor race. The most numerous class is that of the 750 turismo (Topolino di serie) with no less than 116 starters; the fiercest is naturally the Sport class over 2000, where the Ferrari and Alfa Romeo drivers fight with something more than hard will. The latter are still waiting for the start, that from the control of Ravenna (km. 303), and then Pescara (km. 604) come the first news.
The weather is here and there clear or cloudy but, so far, dry. This, however, is not enough to explain the staggering averages achieved by the Topolino, of over 96 km/h. At the same time, news arrives of the first accidents, encouraged by the initial rush and the wet roads. A few kilometres from the start, the Sassi-Belardi duo, in Ferraris, go off the road, while Aldo Bassi is transported dying to the hospital in Croscia. Several other cars go off the road in the same corner, and Rovelli also ends up in hospital. At Ferrara, one of Alfa Romeo's champions, Sanesi, is a victim of excessive cornering, and is injured, but not seriously; several other cars, including that of the popular Bernabei, dot the roadsides of Romagna. The selection in the first third of the race is tough. Fierce, on the brink of seconds, is the dispute in the Sport classes, except among the 750s, where Bordoni-Dagrada, good firsts in Ravenna, increase the gap on the Stanga brothers in Pescara, without having to work too hard. Among the 1100s, Montanari emerged who, caught up with Sighinolfi before Pescara, threw himself into the difficult task of regaining the lead on the Abruzzo Apennines. But especially uncertain and swirling is, at this stage, the fight in the top classes for the overall lead. A. Ravenna, first ahead of the aces of the official teams is the gentleman from Vicenza, Giannino Marzotto (a whole family dynasty of Marzottos is racing in the Mille Miglia this year) in a Ferrari, followed by Villoresi, Serafini, Bonetto, Fangio, Bracco and Biondetti; at Pescara Villoresi jumps into the lead, by ten seconds; Serafini keeps third place; Ascari reaches fourth; Biondetti, delayed by a broken leaf springs, passes with a ten-minute delay, but chases furiously. At the checkpoint in Rome - where the heavy rain resumed - Marzotto was again in the lead; Serafini chased by a few seconds; nine empty minutes followed, corresponding to the places of Villoresi and Ascari, who had disappeared from the leading group.
Third overall is therefore Fangio, the last one left in contention among the great champions of Alfa Romeo. Threateningly, from sixth place, was Cortese in the Frahzer; compact, immediately afterwards, were the three Jaguars of Englishmen Johnson and Elaines and Swiss driver Wild. Thus began the return leg: the Rome-Brescia, with its new route, should allow the records to be lowered, but the bad weather continues to rage. The berlinettas are favoured, namely Fangio's Alfa Romeo. The Turinese Rol has retired due to brake failure. At Livorno, positions are almost unchanged in the touring category: Piodi-Citterio, among the Topolino, has now nineteen minutes on the champion from Livorno Filippi; Mancini-Lenzi, among the Fiat 1100, precedes by nine minutes the couple Begre-Valenzano Among the over 1100 Cornaggia, after a beautiful race, is delayed; in the lead is Perovelli, followed by Ippocampo and Rivetti. Leonardi took the lead at 750 sports, ahead of the Stanga brothers and Fiorio-Avalle, the two from Turin who, with patient pursuit, moved up a dozen positions. From this point, the Leonardi-Prosperi pair only increased their lead, maintaining the lead of the entire ride and crossing, first among all the cylinders, the tiring finish line of the Brescia return at 6:45 p.m. amid roaring applause. This is the first time that a topolino has opened the parade of the Mille Miglia along the rain-sodden route without being caught up. A long wait now divides the arrival of the racing cars, which are announced to the crowd gathered at the finish line in Viale Rebuffone, in transit via Florence, Bologna and Piacenza. In the meantime, the first of the minor classes burst onto the finishing straight: Mancini, the brilliant leader of the 1100 turismo, pursued and Sitasi joined at the finish line the Segre-Valenzano duo, victorious last year; Piodi-Civerio, who with their 500 C touring car achieved an average speed of 90 km/h over the entire course.
The last shifts in the top class - Serafini's delay; the final duel for the positions of honour between Fangio and Bracco - did not change the character, which was the undoing of the aces and the triumph of the enthusiastic young gentleman, more daring than experienced, a new name among sporting celebrities, Count Giannino Marzotto from Vicenza, who almost always drove his Ferrari personally. To his impetus, the men of the official teams did not hold. Of Ferrari only Serafini remained, of Alfa only Fangio was saved, who thus saw, by this unexpected intrusion of the new man, the great open question with his great rivals truncated without response. And open remains, despite the two Ferraris at the top of the standings, the exciting topical question, which on the eve of the race seemed to have degenerated into a major diatribe between the two manufacturers. The question is not just an academic one or one of technical curiosity: it will be answered, in place of a Mille Miglia that in essence was more grandiose than substantial, by the coming races. Valdagno has been following the radio reports on the Mille Miglia race with keen interest to see Marzotto's action, whose statement comes as a welcome surprise. The sons of Count Castano Marzotto prefer sports that give the thrill of speed so much so that last year Giannino Marzotto, the current winner of the great Brescian race, was accompanied in his race by a plane piloted by his brother. Today, the great wool industrialist experienced an anxious day. The four sons were entered in the Mille Miglia but the first-born's car did not start. Umberto the second son had an accident in Peschiera, he was unhurt, but the car was wrecked. Nineteen-year-old Paolo completed a fine race in his 2000 Ferrari and Giannino (third son) gave the family great satisfaction. Despite being only twenty-three years old, he is an expert in road racing.
The bad weather and the roads made slippery and slippery by the rain most of the time during the Mille Miglia cause a number of accidents, some of which - unfortunately - result in death. The two fatal accidents occur one just fifteen kilometres from the start, at Porta San Marco, and the other between Vicenza and Padua, at the Barbano di Zocco flyover. At the first location, the Ferrari 2000 sports car driven by Aldo Bassi, whose co-driver is Berardi, goes off the road and crashes into a field. Bassi, promptly transported to the hospital in Brescia, expires there from the serious injuries sustained in the frightful flight, while Berardi is in serious condition. Aldo Bassi was a veteran of the Mille Miglia and had participated in national and foreign competitions for many years. His most recent victory was the 24 Hours of Spa last year. The accident between Vicenza and Padua involved the English couple; Wood and Mongouse, on board a Healey, competing in the sports category over 2000 cc. The car, arriving at 8:35 a.m. at the Barbano di Zocco flyover, skidded on a bend, knocked down the signposts and two bollards, and then went off the bridge, flying fifty metres and plunging into the wet ground. The two drivers, thrown twenty metres away from the car, are picked up seriously injured and promptly transported to the hospital in Padua. Wood was found injured in various parts of his body, in a state of shock, and fractured several ribs and his right leg. Even more serious appeared to be Mougouse's condition, as he was found to have numerous head and chest injuries, and a concussion. The pilot got worse and worse and, despite a blood transfusion, died at 10:50 p.m. Wood, however, seemed to pull through. In Peschiera, the car piloted by Aldo Pizzo and Luigi Ronconi, both from Rovigo, crashes into a plane tree, causing it to skid on the wet asphalt. Pizzo suffered bruises to his face, while Ronconi suffered a fractured septum.
At Villa Ida, the Ferrari Sport 2000 driven by Umberto Marzotto skids on a bend and crashes into a tree, splitting in two. Marzotto escaped unharmed from the serious accident, while the second driver, 26-year-old Count Franco Cristaldi from Turin, was hospitalised in Verona with a fractured pelvis and multiple contusions, and was judged to have recovered within two months. Other serious accidents are reported from Ferrara. At the 24th kilometre, between Consandolo and S. Nicolò, the #350 car driven by Crivelli-Crespi, tailed a few metres by the #349 with Aspes-Cesari, has to brake in a bend and given the high speed skids overturning in the ditch at the side of the road. The same happens to Aspes' car, which, being too far under the previous car, notices the bend too late. The two cars crash. Crivelli and Crespi, who are not seriously injured, are taken to the hospital in Argenta where they are judged to be recoverable in fifteen days. Aspes and Cesari, on the other hand, are fortunately unhurt. Two frightening accidents occur in the middle of Ferrara. Around 9.30 a.m., the Alfa Romeo 3000 driven by the well-known driver Consalvo Sanesi, with Giovanni Bianchi as mechanic, skids at Porta Catene, crashing against the edge of the pavement amidst the panic of the spectators. The drivers, thrown from the car, made a flight of over ten metres, overtaking the public and falling not far away. Immediately rescued and taken to hospital, Sanesi was diagnosed with a head injury and a traumatic collapse, and Bianchi with head injuries and bruises to his right shoulder. However, their conditions are not serious. This accident causes another one a few minutes later: the driver Richard Robin in the #736 car, in order to avoid Sanesi's car immobilised in the middle of the road, swerves and crashes into a kerbstone and overturns. Of the two Englishmen on board, only Richard Robin fractures his left tibia. At Monselice (Padua), the Fiat 517 piloted by the Schera-Tenaglia couple plunges into a canal about ten metres deep. Schera got away with light injuries, while Tenaglia suffered serious fractures. Another rider, Sella Vittorio di Cesare, a 22-year-old from Biella, was hospitalised at Careggi with symptoms of petrol vapour intoxication, believed to have been caused by fumes. The, prognosis, however, is favourable.
It takes forty days in plaster and a lot of physiotherapy to heal from a fracture. On Saturday 18 March 1950 Giuseppe Farina broke his shoulder in Marseilles. Nevertheless, on Wednesday, 3 May 1950, the Italian driver was at Monza, at the wheel of the Alfa Romeo 158, and in just a few laps he beat the record for the small circuit, improving on Fangio's time and touching 300 km/h in a straight line. After almost four years, Farina and Alfa Romeo meet again. Four years in which the Turinese ace almost always struggled to compete with cars that were insufficiently prepared or unsuitable for his class of champion. Four years of successes snatched by force and of bad luck that seemed never-ending, and of mistakes too, naive mistakes. When he found himself sitting inside that car, Farina felt he had found himself again, even though his shoulder still hurt a little. Driving almost single-handedly, the Italian driver left his sports managers stunned. Immobile in plaster at the hospital, and then at home convalescing, Farina had been thinking for forty days continuously about Silverstone, about the European Grand Prix to be held on Saturday 13 May 1950. He knew it well, Farina, that race. Last year he came second, ten metres behind Ascari. This year the Turin ace goes to Silverstone as team leader of Alfa Romeo. The team will be completed by the Argentinean Fangio, the Englishman Parnell and the elderly Fagioli, hired on Wednesday 3 May 1950. The cars are already travelling to England. In Modena, meanwhile, on Sunday, 7 May 1950, the lunatic race track was inaugurated. That was the name given to those who, about a year ago, launched the idea of the now completed auto-aerodrome.
It took 110,000 working days, one and a half million bricks, 3,000 quintals of concrete, 4,000 of iron, 60,000 of cement. On Sunday, the track will be driven 80 times, a total of 304 kilometres, and the race will count for the Italian drivers' championship. Two-litre cars without a supercharger are allowed. The Ferraris of Fangio, Ascari and Serafini and one that could unveil Villoresi's name, Biondetti's Maserati and Scagliarini's Abarth will be entered.When Sunday 7 May 1950, at 3:30 p.m., the Minister of the Merchant Navy, Simonini, accompanied by the city's highest authorities, cuts the tricolour ribbon officially inaugurating the Modena circuit, a light rain falls from the sky that seems to want to jeopardise the success of the Modena event; but at the start - at 3:45 p.m. - the sky has already cleared and Ascari's triumphant arrival at the end of his ride will then be lit up by the sun. Mr Flohr, of the Eca-Erp, the former King of Romania and Nuvolari attend the event, which is greeted - at its start - by three fighter planes performing spectacular manoeuvres. There are 30,000 spectators at this test run of the airfield, a test that turns into a monologue by Ascari. Immediately on the first lap, the Ferrari driver takes the lead, pursued by Serafini and Fangio in that order, but on the fourth lap the Argentine overtakes Serafini and throws himself into pursuit of Ascari. When he seemed to improve his position, Fangio's car felt the strain and on lap 16 the driver stopped at the refuelling and repair stations, only to restart immediately and stop again at the start of the next lap due to a broken piston.
The race thus loses its central motif, namely the Ascari-Fangio duel. The average fell, until Palmieri - with a lap at a speed of over 110 km/h - induced Ascari to force the gear to obtain the palm of the fastest lap. Halfway through the race, after forty, laps of racing, Fangio, Biondetti, Serafini and Mieres retired due to engine trouble, and Tadini took second place. The race continued without any changes in position. Palmieri causes a few thrills with his exits and turns on himself in the corners. He covered the forty-sixth lap at a record average speed of over 111 km/h. Sighinolfi disappeared from the fight, and on lap 60 Ascari was followed by Tadini and Carini. Continuing his triumphant march, Ascari increased the race speed even further; on lap 70 the Ferrari driver covered 266 kilometres in 2 hours 26'57"0 at an overall average of 108.603 km/h. Pushing further, Ascari manages to set the fastest lap, on lap 78, with a time of 1'58"1 at an average of 115.736 km/h. Ascari crosses the finish line on the eightieth and final lap to the applause of the crowd. At the same time, also on Sunday, 7 May 1950, Italian ace Luigi Villoresi won the Erlen Grand Prix in a Ferrari 2000 cc without compressor, completing the forty laps of the circuit in one hour, 1'55"3 at an average speed of 108.385 km/h. Vallone (Ferrari 2000) also had a great race, finishing 1.6 seconds behind Villoresi. The Swiss De Graffenried went off the track and miraculously remained unharmed. We are now at the European Grand Prix, which will take place on Saturday 13 May 1950 on the English circuit of Silverstone.
The race counts, with double points, for the World Motorsport Championship. Ferrari renounced its participation, due to a lack of agreement on the entry fees. No Ascari and Villoresi. Favoured by the general prognostication is the Alfa Romeo team, with Farina as first driver, and with the Argentinean Fangio, the Englishman Parnell and the elderly Fagioli. The B.R.M.'s - the brand new, powerful British cars - are not yet ready. Unless they turn up by surprise in the trials that begin on Thursday, 11 May 1950. The race is an impressive 500 kilometres. In anticipation of the start of the British event, at the Turin Motor Show a lubricants organisation presents three interesting documentaries on modern technology in the field of special engines in special screenings. One short film is about car models. It is a sport that boasts excellent devotees in Italy, as well as in England and America, where there are hundreds of thousands of enthusiasts, with miniature racetracks and specialised magazines with very large print runs. Some models weigh only two kilos and go over one hundred kilometres per hour on special tracks. The problem here is also harmonising minimum weight with maximum power. This problem is ingeniously solved by enthusiasts who devote themselves to patient studies in their free time from their normal occupations. If the results could be transferred proportionally to normal cars, they would result in cars capable of running at 800 km/h. The second film takes up the history of Grand Prix motor racing in quick succession and recounts, in a comprehensive and demonstrative manner, the events of the 1949 British Grand Prix, won by De Graffenried, the first achievement of the talented Swiss driver in a Grand Prix. The subject is shown in a competent manner.
Practice continued for the Grand Prix race to be held on Saturday the 13th of May 1950 at the Silverstone circuit, on a 4.649 kilometre circuit to be repeated seventy times. In today's practice Farina was the fastest, lapping in 1'50"8, followed in order by Fanglo and Fagioli. All three drivers run on Alfa Romeos. Englishman Fry (Maserati) and Englishman Gerard (Era) did not take part, but are expected to start the race, bringing the number of participants to twenty-one. At the start the Alfa Romeos will all be on the front row. The Royal Family of England will attend the competition. Silverstone is a town of 1030 souls. From London it is possible to travel by train to Brackley - in Northampton - about one hundred kilometres north-west of the British capital. From Brackley, to get to Silverstone, one normally has to make do with buses. Now, for the huge crowds that are flocking to the circuit, a gigantic transport organisation has come into operation. Silverstone used to be home to Donnington Park Airport. The war damaged it. Its importance declined. Then the idea was to use what was the perimeter strip of the disused runway and design a racetrack there. From a technical point of view, the circuit is certainly not suitable for an event like the European Grand Prix. The main defect is the not too compact surface. The bend called Beckett is particularly difficult. Even in England - where the Grand Prix preparations are followed with enormous interest - the general opinion is that Alfa will dominate the race. Farina - well known and highly rated in British circles - is predicted to be the winner anyway.
And here we come to the European Grand Prix, which will take place on Saturday 13th May 1950 on the English circuit of Silverstone and which will count, with double points, for the motor racing World Championship classification. It is an artificial circuit, laid out in a demolished airport - a hundred kilometres north-west of London - with frequent and challenging corners. Speeds of around 145 km/h can be reached. Last year this race did not have the rank of European Grand Prix; it was won by Ascari, who preceded Farina by ten metres. This year there is no Ascari, and there is no Villoresi; in fact, there are no Ferrari cars, because the Maranello team did not get the engagement they wanted from the organisers. The English offers had been £250 per car. Italian motor racing is present at Silverstone, especially with the Alfa Romeo cars; they - at this time - can be said to be the fastest in Grand Prix racing. What is missing, on this very important occasion, is the struggle with the talented Ferrari drivers. Alfa Romeo's success, the Italian success, was certain - however certain - ever since it became known that the Milanese manufacturer had entered no less than four cars for Silverstone, entrusting them to the driving of Farina, the Argentinean Fangio, the Englishman Panell and a fourth driver who was then chosen in the elderly but still very valid Fagioli. The team leader is Farina, a champion proven by numerous successes, although not very lucky in recent times. The Turin ace needs a big win to restore lustre to his star. Silverstone seems to be an opportunity tailor-made for him. That circuit suits his means, his style.
The only really problematic difficulty for Farina today is his endurance over the distance of a Grand Prix. The recovery from the shoulder fracture from the accident of the 18th of March 1950 in Marseille took place very quickly, earlier than normal. Farina had already tested at Monza, and very well, the type of car he would race in at Silverstone. His shoulder still ached a little. It is to be hoped that the robust and athletic fibre of the Turinese driver has regained the necessary resistance to such a prolonged effort. Farina has too much courage, impetus and impatience after the torment of immobility and the feverish wait to return to racing. Under normal conditions, victory at Silverstone should be his. Fangio, the Argentine of so many good and bad controversies, the champion of two worlds - as his countrymen call him - well Fangio should not win, against Farina, for several reasons. Firstly, because the Argentinean is a great driver but does not yet boast Farina's experience and career. Secondly, even in motor racing there is a ranking. If the Milanese cars dominate the race, as is to be expected. Fanglo would be duty-bound not to give battle to his team boss, to a driver who is rightly judged to be better than the Argentine, in order to avoid an unnecessary risk complex. But will he be able to obey Fangio? That and the problem, seemingly absurd, but very possible. The way things are going, there should be no opponents for the Milanese team. Too much is the power gap between the Alfa Romeo 158 and the other cars of the moment.
Fangio's walk at Sanremo was a very clear demonstration. The Silverstone Grand Prix does not - therefore - hold any unknowns in the mechanical sector; as an evaluation of drivers we are perhaps at a turning point. What exactly is Fangio's place in the ranking of the aces? If there is no need for a fight and if Fangio follows team orders - as is his duty - then Farina will win undisturbed. In absolute terms, the problem of the confrontation between the Italian drivers is Fanglo, between Farina and Fangio in this case, will be postponed to another occasion. And we will have to wait for a more open field, even with Ascari and Villoresi - all possibly on an equal footing - i.e. a true challenge between the three Italians and the star rising from the Argentine horizon. But let's make a hypothesis, with all due respect to Fangio and his loyalty in obeying obligations that have always existed and that have profound technical and human reasons. If, at Silverstone, he were to get into a fight, and forget about pacts and instructions, and fail to heed orders or listen to reason, then something that has already happened in the history of racing and racing houses might result: the assault of the domestique on his team leader. A technically dangerous fight, useless and counterproductive to industrial effects. It would, however, be a good test for Fanglo, a touchstone for what is said, sworn or denied about his class, from one continent to another. Fangio World Champion? Farina could well give the answer, even on behalf of the absent Ascari and Villoresi. The task is not easy, but - in physically fit condition - Farina should certainly prevail.
The usual pre-race excitement is evident at Silverstone on May 11th and 12th, as the vans bringing the cars in the Grand Prix arrive from Italy, France and Belgium to mingle with those familiar at our meetings. The Royal box, between the two stands facing the pits, lends an extra splash of colour to a picturesque scene and reminds us that this should be the meeting of the year. Everyone is in their best clothes, a party atmosphere prevails and all is set fair for the 11th GP of Europe, except the non-arrival of the Ferraris and the R.A.C.'s dislike of such worthy racing cars as Rolt's rebuilt Delage and Alfa-Romeo, Shawe-Taylor's B-type E.R.A., Duncan Hamilton's Maserati and Abecassis' H.W.M. We all breathe more freely when the big Alfa-Romeo vans, Alfa-Romeo, Gomme, Pirelli on their flanks, arrived with the four 158 Alfa-Romeos, for the first time on English soil, accompanied by their attendant Alfa-Romeo lorry full of tyres and equipment. Even more imposing are the spotless and vast E. Chaboud-bodied Citroen vans, one towing a covered two-wheeled trailer, each containing two Talbots. They wore Dunlop and the French flash and one has an identification lamp. Platé's Bianchi lorry, laden with mini jerry-cans and Shell tins, brings the Maseratis; Etancelin drives up in a 203 Peugeot saloon. The Italian drivers use an Alfa-Romeo saloon with Winner, 1,000 Miglia, 1950 on its back panel, and the big Fargo van of Ecurie Belge, Specialité Voitures Course et Sport, trundled into the pit-area. Tony Curtis tests his 125 loud-speakers and seven miles of wiring, the police rehearses the timing of the Royal tour, and the air of expectancy increases. As well-turned out as any of the Continental transports is Geoff Crossley's Chevrolet van, bearing the slogan Alta-Sport, Brightwell Baldwin, England. The arrival of the cars before a Grand Prix never fails to thrill.
On Thursday Bira, de Graffenried and Bonetto faile to practise and the last-named is posted a non-starter. Fastest lap is made by the head of Alfa Romeo’s research department, Guidotti, who is trying Fagioli’s Alfa-Romeo so as to act as reserve driver in place of Taruffi, who doesn’t come over. He gets round in 1’52"4; Fagioli and Fangio 1'51"0. Farina did 1'50"8, or 93.85 mph, 0.5 mph faster than the lap record for the 1949 B.R.D.C. course, which is a few hundred yards longer due to taking a wider path at Stowe. Both the 500cc and GP cars practise on Friday. Kelly’s two-stage Alta arrives in a Bedford van bearing the Irish shamrock and mechanics proceed to virtually assemble the Alta in the Paddock. To meet Alfa-Romeo’s requirements they are given pits at the top end of the row and the grass is cropped behind them so that they could get down to work in their own roped-off paddock–it was all very reminiscent of the Germans pre-war. They bring masses of spare wheels using 7.00-16 Pirellis on the back, 5.50-17 Pirelli Corsa on the front wheels. Each car has a big tachometer reading to 9.000 rpm. They reach over 150 mph on the straights. A bit of British enterprise behind the pits is the bright-red G.P.O. mobile post office, complete with telephone and telegraph facilities, on an articulated Morris Commercial chassis, registered GPO 1. Sir Algernon Guiness, Bt., and His Grace the Duke of Richmond and Gordon displays great interest in it, and Chiron, in full racing attire, is one of the first to use it. Good show, G.P.O. Another minor sensation is the arrival of a Javelin Jupiter. Round the course the dreaded straw-bales are still in use, each one bearing a Daily Express slogan, and in places, large stones are seen on the road. Practice produces few incidents, de Graffenried having his moments, however.
Kelly’s Alta sounds dreadfully rough and noisy. Bira’s Maserati is clearly quicker than Chiron’s old car, which nearly loses its bonnet on one round. Etancelin, king of the sawing wheel, is on one occasion passed on the outside of a bend by Rosier, who also fights his wheel to some extent. British hopes, not very buoyantly, rest on the two E-type E.R.A.s. Johnson, who tells us he craved 100 more bhp, experienced gearbox trouble which necessitated new parts being brought from Dunstable. Walker has a dicey ride. The Alfa-Romeos are obviously far faster than anything else. You can tell which is which by the radiator cowls - yellow for Fangio, blue for Fagioli, white for Farina and green for Parnell. Each night the cars are driven out of Silverstone in their vans. The Talbots of Cabantous and Martin have the latest engines, with exciting power-bulges between bonnets and air-intake tunnels, those of Rosier and Etancelin the older engines. All are entered by Automobiles Talbot. Col. Barnes has a Sunbeam-Talbot drop-head as course-car and Dean Delamont alternates between his old Vauxhall saloon and a two-seater Cooper. This evening in the bars in Buckingham and adjacent towns there is only one topic of conversation - the Grand Prix. Even before 150.000 people flock to the course we feel that motor-racing has arrived in England. Before the Final the B.R.M. which arrives in a transporter presented by Austin, is demonstrated by Raymond Mays. It is announced that one or more of these cars will make an initial appearance in the B.R.D.C. Daily Express Meeting at Silverstone on August 26th, possibly after high-speed testing on the Continent. So now we know. Mays' car is painted in light green and beautifully turned-out.
After lunch the Royal Party toures the 2 mile 1.564 yard circuit and the drivers are presented to them by Earl Howe. Their Majesties spend a very considerable time talking with each man and everyone will agree that never had the Royal family looked nicer, or to be enjoying themselves so much ! They eventually take their places in the Royal box, after the officials of the F.I.A. are presented to them. The band of the Grenadier Guards plays, flags of half-a-dozen nations flutter in the breeze, and the mechanics, those of Alfa-Romeo in blue Pirelli overalls, accompanied by Ramponi, walk to their cars. Earl Howe, sitting between the King and Queen, explains the procedure and as the flag is about to fall the King looks up from his programme and eagerly down towards the starting grid. As the cars roare away he appears to be keenly interested, but the noise and smoke took the Queen a trifle unawares, as the mass-start of a race does to those close to the course. A moment later she, too, is following the progress of the field, while Princess Margaret seemed to want to concentrate solely on what was happening, and to regard conversation as merely incidental. But this is to anticipate. Mays chat with Farina. Claes’ mechanics wheel out their Monoplaque starting battery in a yellow trolley to match his car, and zero hour comes nearer. Then the flag fell and in a crash of sound and eddies of smoke-haze they were away. Farina is well in the lead, chased by Fagioli. Fangio and Parnell. But what is this? Already Walker’s E-type E.R.A. is at its pit, and smoke is pouring from Johnson’s. Past Woodcote corner Johnson sees flames amid the smoke and steers the car onto the grass, stumbling from the cockpit before the car stops.
He is unhurt and walks back to his pit, but the E-type hoodoo returnes; the supercharger is useless. Walker goes on after 40 sec., but Rolt is driving and soon he, too, retires, with gearbox trouble. Thus early the race is robbed of all real interest and we settle down to see a demonstration of Italian supremacy that is to cost £1.000 in prize money, apart from starting-fees. The 500-c.c. racing was really much more exciting, although no insult to the Italians is implied - indeed, Farina does his second lap at 94.02 m.p.h. Another car that cuts off the race for good so early in the afternoon is Martin’s Talbot, with oil outside instead of inside the engine. The Alfa-Romeo team are having grand fun amongst themselves, driving superbly, the cars sounding grand. After five laps the order is Farina, Fangio 0.6 sec. behind, Fagioli, Parnell. Bira lay fifth, in front of de Graffenried, who is shielding his face from oil-mist. Parnell, in a blue crash hat, visor and overalls, sits low and at ease. Farina leans back stylishly, the burly Fagioli is more upright and leans forward to change gear, and Fangio, in linen helmet and a coloured collar showing above his overalls, takes much the same attitude as Parnell. Ten laps, and it is Fagioli, a mere 0.4 sec. ahead of Farina, then Fangio and Parnell. Five more laps and Fangio leads by 0.2 sec. in this ding-dong place-changing Farina goes ahead again, by a second, after 20 laps, and de Graffenried abandons his Maserati at Abbey Curve with a broken con.-rod, letting Cabantous, who peers sternly from his Talbot’s cockpit, into fifth place behind Bira. Gerard is content to tail Harrison, away in the background. But the note of his E.R.A. spells Reliability and his driving looks safe as houses.
Fagioli is 0.4 seconds in front of Farina after 25 laps, having averaged 91.66 m.p.h., and it is obvious that the Alfa-Romeo team are instructed how to finish Farina 1st, Fagioli 2nd, Fangio 3rd and Parnell 4th - but appear to be racing to please the crowd. A hare dents the cowling of Parnell’s car, but otherwise all is well and Reg. driving with confidence. Behind, troubles are beginning. Chiron’s Maserati is throwing oil but he pulls up, refuells and goes on, only to retire before 4 p.m. with oil in the clutch and a broken gearbox. Kelly also has clutch trouble but resumes, later refuelling with 150 litres of petrol in 24 sec. After 30 laps only 17 cars were left, and Farina was 2.8 sec. ahead of Fagioli. Fangio has a spell in second place, 1.8 sec. behind Farina at 35 laps, but always Parnell is fourth. Fangio appears to be chasing Farina, closing to 0.4 sec. at 40 laps, the leader’s average 90.84 m.p.h. Bira’s Maserati stopps, coming down Hangar straight, and although officials pushs it to Club corner, then to Abbey, and tries detaching the wire to the magneto switch, fuel starvation ends the Prince’s fast, steady drive. Rosier, too, speeds up and is sixth, behind Cabantous. The Alfas refuell slickly, Fangio’s, Fagioli’s and Farina’s taking 25 sec., Parnell’s 30 sec. Etancelin changes a plug, Fry’s Maserati is refuelled in 51 sec. and taken on by Shawe-Taylor (how nice for you to be in a modern car, S.-T.!). and Crossley’s Alta wastes 125 sec. because his pressure-hose system fails.
Hampshire takes on fuel and oil in 30 sec., Murray doing likewise in 54 sec. The latter, however, soon retires with a defective engine and Crossley stopps by Copse Corner. Fifty laps see Farina 1.2 sec. behind Fangio, the average up to 91.01 m.p.h., but five laps later Fangio is 2.6 sec. behind, although Farina isn’t going perceptibly faster. Then the Argentinian closes, during the following five laps, to within 0.6 sec. of Farina. Then he makes a mistake, hitting a straw-bale at Stowe. He never recovers from this episode for his engine note become rough and he retires with a broken con.-rod. Five laps from the finish Fagioli is 41.8 sec. behind Farina, but he closes this gap to 2.6 sec. going over the line. Parnell is a well-deserved third, Cabantous holds his fourth place from Rosier, the Talbots having run exceedingly well, and great hand-claps greets Gerard’s arrival in sixth place, first Britisher in a British car to finish, for which he takes the Fred Craner Memorial Trophy. The R.A.C. G.P. de l’Europe, then, is no better than preceding races in the series, a sentiment with which we feel sure those who arrive late because of traffic congestion, those who spend four hours or so getting out of the car parks, those who receive the wrong passes and those honorary club marshals who have to sleep the Friday night in old tents because R.A.C. patrols have taken the beds in the huts, will readily concur.
The Turin ace Giuseppe Farina returns as a great gentleman to the front row of driving champions. The Italian driver won the biggest race in the world, the European Grand Prix, in the presence of 150,000 spectators. It was the first time in motor racing history that a European Grand Prix was held in England. And, for the first time in the history of the English monarchy, the King and Queen attended a car race. Twenty-one drivers from nine nations participated in the race: Italy, England, Siam, Argentina, Switzerland, France, Monaco, Belgium and Ireland. The powerful racing cars were lined up in front of the starting line in six rows, alternating between four and three cars, when the Royal Family of England and Princess Margaret arrived by car at Silverstone, accompanied by their entourage. The four Alfa Romeo cars had been the fastest in official practice on Thursday and Friday; therefore the drivers Farina, Fangio, Fagioli and Parnell occupied the front row seats at the start. On the front row the four musketeers of the Milanese manufacturer remained continuously, lap by lap. The power of the red Italian cars overpowered, as had been predicted, the ambitions of all the other cars, spinning out a rosary of impressive superiority for each of the seventy laps of the race. The only surprise was Fangio's retirement on lap 62.
The Argentine had wanted to make the mid-race refuelling too quickly. He had got into a bit of a fight with his team leader Farina, who was dominating him with classic, impassive skill. Fangio had restarted tumultuously from the pits without giving the mechanics time to fill the oil tank. But he paid dearly for the expedient, because Farina, somewhat surprised by the manoeuvre, immediately jumped on his tail and overtook him again. Then Fangio's engine ran out of gas. Farina continued his great race with sustained pace and impeccable style and won to the ovations of the public. He then disappeared under a large laurel wreath, the traditional British tribute to triumphants in sport. Farina looked radiant, almost with tears in his eyes for joy. Finally a car worthy of him, finally, again, the sunshine of the most beautiful victory. Next Sunday the Italian driver will race in Monaco, in the same car. Behind Farina and Fangio the Grand Prix affair was even clearer and clearer. The 52-year old Fagioli and the Englishman Parnell, both in cars equal to those of the two racing standard-bearers, far outdistanced all other opponents. In the early laps, Fagioli had even managed to keep up the pace of Farina and Fangio, leading the race for short stretches. Twelve drivers managed to finish the race; the others retired: among them were Prince Bira, the Swiss De Graffenried, the Monegasque Chiron, and Fangio, the Argentinean who finally seemed to have found a worthy rival.
It is about 5:00 p.m. when, after the ceremonies have ended, both the Royal Family of England and Giuseppe Farina, worried about the sea of cars on the road back to London, set off. Just as he had gone to Silverstone in his overalls, in the same way the Italian driver drove away from the circuit without even a speck of grease, after a race of over 300 kilometres. Proof that his Alfa Romeo enjoys excellent mechanical quality. The winner of the first Grand Prix, having arrived in London during the night, goes straight to bed and enjoys a good night's sleep, as the next day he is on his way back to Turin, foregoing the official celebrations. The next day, Giuseppe Farina is on the road again, heading for Turin, foregoing the official celebrations. Next Sunday is the race in Monaco, for the second round of the World Championship. Farina still needs treatment and massages to his shoulder. The crack caused by the accident in Marseille hurts him a little. The winding and demanding Monaco circuit requires hard driving. The Italian driver arrives in Turin in the morning, and by the afternoon he is already at the nursing home, with his arm inside the cage of the electric oven. The doctors are amazed at how he was able to race and win so early. At Silverstone the Italian raced with his arm and torso tightened by bandages. In such conditions he was able to fend off every attack from team-mate Fangio. The Argentinean had to ask too much of his engine. Fangio at the finish was rather mortified. He would have preferred to finish second, rather than break down, as the cars of the two rivals were identical. The comparison between the class of drivers also takes into account how the car is exploited.
Already in tests, carried out on the same mule, i.e. the training car, by Farina, Fangio, Fagioli and Parnell, the Argentine had consumed more fuel than the Turinese. A sign of lower gear use. Alfa Romeo left the team freedom to fight, but on one condition. The Milanese company's success was a foregone conclusion. There was no point in taking excessive risks. For the British and European Grand Prix Alfa Romeo had prearranged refuelling in the middle of the race. Farina arrived without even resorting to the reserve. Farina won by sparing the throttle five hundred revolutions. Sometimes, in the straights, he even pulled away, i.e. he reduced the use of the accelerator. Farina, of course, was delighted. The European Grand Prix was the race of his redemption from the tyranny of bad luck. He now has the car for himself. He has shown that there is still a step difference between the very good Fangio and the Italian aces. He is first in the World Championship standings, with 9 points. The Italian driver will start on Thursday 18 May 1950 for Monte-Carlo. Big battle, in the labyrinth of the Principality; there will be, apart from Fangio, also Ascari and Villoresi with the Ferraris that won in September at Monza renewed in their chassis and considerably improved. Their sprint, their agility, are fearsome in that race. But Farina, with the Alfa Romeo, is finally able to defend himself and attack against any opponent.