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#10 1951 Belgian Grand Prix

2021-04-10 00:00

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#1951,

#10 1951 Belgian Grand Prix

On Sunday, June 3, 1951 the Coppa della Toscana race takes place. It starts from Florence, continues through Siena, Radicofani, Viterbo, Tarquinia, Gr

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On Sunday, June 3, 1951 the Coppa della Toscana race takes place. It starts from Florence, continues through Siena, Radicofani, Viterbo, Tarquinia, Grosseto, Livorno, Massa, Lucca, and finally returns to Florence, for a total of 680 kilometres. Over 200 teams are entered. Giannino Marzotto - on Ferrari - is immediately in the top positions attacking when Scotti is delayed by a broken leaf spring. From Grosseto forward, after an admirable race for its solid pace, Giannino Marzotto has not given up the lead. His brother Vittorio - also on Ferrari - is in second place, just over a minute. Biondetti, delayed in the first part of the race from an irregular behaviour of his Jaguar, makes a long and continuous chase, settling for fourth place. There are a lot of incidents, but without serious consequences: near San Casciano di Val di Pesa the car of Countess Maria Teresa De Filippis ignites and the mechanic Davide Bruni, twenty-two years old from Rome, has first and second-degree burns on his hands - which will be healed in ten days - in an attempt to smother the flames. Near Lucca, the car driven by Piero Peruzzi, from Cena di Vetralla, overturns in a side field: the injured driver will recover in ten days. In other incidents, the driver Sicilani and his mechanic Netti and the mechanic Triggiani of the driver Anelli are slightly injured. Giannino Marzotto repeats the success on Sunday, June 10, 1951. There is enthusiasm in the crowd at the circuit of the Baths of Caracalla for the Grand Prix, the most important race of the Roman car season. The race takes place according to Formula 2 for cars up to 2000 cc, on 60 laps; the prediction that favours the Ferraris of the Scuderia of Giannino Marzotto is fully respected with the variant that not the team leader, delayed by an initial failure, but the outsider Mario Raffaeli, manages to cross the finish line in first place. Biondetti, whose Cisitalla Special denotes a sudden inefficiency of carburetion, retires.

 

Even Von Stuck retires (the A.F.M. of the German champion loses a tyre on lap 45), thus, there is only the H.W.M. of Moss to challenge the Ferrari racing cars for the expected victory: the success of Raffaeli, in first place from the beginning, was never in danger. Wednesday, June 13, 1951, in Belgium, at Francorchamps, the official practice for the Belgian Grand Prix, the third race of the World Championship of motor racing, begins. It is necessary and essential to remember that in Bern the car of the World Champion, weighed down by an experimental tank, paid dearly for the advantage of not doing a pit stop, as Fangio had to do, for refuelling; with the fuel consuming, the game of the suspensions became stiff and the running stability was impaired. It was a test, or rather half of a test. The other half was completed in the same race by Alfa Sanesi; on this car was placed the De Dion tube that allows strong load variations. This attempt was successful. Now the two experiments, the one carried out in Bern on Farina’s car and the one carried out on Sanesi’s car, have been combined on a single car. That is: the new type, marked with the number 160, will have the large tank of Farina’s car, but the problems complained about in Bern will be eliminated with the most suitable suspension tested by Sanesi. The result should be the one which the Milanese car constructor has been dreaming for so long: the elimination of one of the two supplies normally needed to a car with a 1500 cc dual compressor engine in races of 600 kilometres as the Grand Prix of the World Championship have to be. Such will be the length, approximately, of the Belgian race. The exception of Bern (306 kilometres) depended on organisational needs. The new situation, which will be tested by the competition next Sunday, looks like this: on one hand, the Ferraris of 4500 cc without compressor, less agile and less powerful, but able to not stop for any refuelling. On the other hand, the renewed Alfa Romeo cars, which should have eliminated a refuelling, and increased the relevant advantage of greater power. It seems that the final adjustments to the engine have brought the availability of more horsepower.

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In these past few days, three sensational arrivals have moved the life of the Belgian. That of Margaret Truman at Bruxelles, where she declared to be attracted to Gregory Peck; that of the famous boxer Ray Robinson at Liegi for a boxing match with Jean Walzack; that of Rik Van Steenbergen at the Melsbroek airport, who was welcomed as the moral winner of the Tour of Italy. However, the attraction of the day is the Belgian Grand Prix who will be held on Sunday, June 17, 1951, at Spa as the second race of the World Championship. The Belgian car racing phenomenon has helped to look forward to the fight between the two strongest Italian teams, to feel the honour beyond the pleasure of hosting Alfa Romeo and Ferrari for the second race of the season. The phenomenon is precisely that of the popularity of four-wheelers in this country which is the only one in Europe that does not have its own motor industry, thus favouring import without any customs tax, where people can drive without a driving licence, and yet it manages not to collide. The respectful, almost religious, passion for motorsport is shown by the fact that, in order to have the most suggestive, interesting and fast track of Europe they have spent a lot of money. Maybe there was the intention to overcome the smoothness of the track of Reims. The fact is that in one year the entire circuit of Francorchamps was expanded from 6 to 9 metres for 14 and a half kilometers. 1504 trees were cut down and resold. However, 22.000.000 Belgian francs were still needed. The frame of the Alfa-Ferrari duel could not be more impressive. On Sunday, Belgium and Luxembourg will be on the hill of Francorchamps, 560 metres above sea level, while technicians and sportsmen from all over Europe arrive. There are two things that seem a bit contradictory in Spa. The famous local cures and the classic mineral water that are addressed particularly to the sick of liver, while instead between the leaders of Alfa and those of Ferrari there will be unavoidable crises. And bad weather.

 

On Friday, it rains at intervals, like in Bern. Farina, in experimenting with a special ointment for glasses, says that with rain the race will be distorted while the risk will be more violent than that of Bremgarten. Here in fact the road forces to press on the accelerator and the asphalt is too smooth and therefore is slippery. On Saturday, however, for the two hours of additional official practices, the climate is again favourable, the sky, although sprinkled with clouds, is bright and at a certain moment the sun floods the valley of Francorchamps where the heat also makes its appearance. The technicians are therefore also concerned about the tyres that will have to be fitted on their cars, tyres that both Alfa and Ferrari will certainly have to change at least once, given the high speed. The entry list for the Belgian Grand Prix is much smaller, the Castleton Trophy Libre support race for the Isle of Man TT has claimed the interest of most of the British contingent on the field. As well as this the Maserati privateers will also be absent from the race. Enrico Platé plans to enter the lone car of José Froilan González, regular drivers De Graffenried and Schell being unavailable. However, the team fails to arrive for the event and thus the race is absent of the Maserati drivers. Prince Bira once again plans to enter the Maserati-OSCA hybrid, however the team withdraw the car. Alfa Romeo reduces its entries to its three regular drivers, only Farina, Fangio and Sanesi will participate for them in the race. Bremgarten winner Fangio will race the car with the triple fuel tank, Farina will take the car with the single extra fuel tank whilst Sanesi, like in Bremgarten, will compete with no extra fuel tanks. Ferrari have been quick in Switzerland, however they don’t close the gap to Alfa Romeo as much as they have hoped. Their fortunes hope to change with Ascari returning to full fitness after injuries at a Formula 2 event in Genoa has hampered his performance at Bremgarten. Piero Taruffi, who has acquainted himself well with Ferrari with a second place at Bremgarten and Luigi Villoresi remain partnered with him in the team.

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The man designated to lead the eventual B.R.M. charge, Reg Parnell is entered a private Ferrari 375 by major B.R.M. financial backer, Tony Vandervell. Parnell however withdraws his entry, preferring to compete in the Castelton Trophy at the Isle of Man. Parnell will go on to win the event. The remainder of the entries are made up of Talbot-Lago T26's. Louis Chiron who has driven one race for Enrico Platé in Switzerland decides to join Louis Rosier's privateer Ecurie Rosier for the remainder of the season. Chiron will race Talbot-Lago's alongside his team mate and manager, Louis Rosier. Rosier, another privateer Étancelin and Johnny Claes, participating at his home grand prix will run the DA model of the T26, the more recent and powerful version of the car. In standard T26's all entering as privateers are Yves Giraud-Cabantous, Pierre Levegh and André Pilette. André Pilette starting his first Formula One race at his home grand prix. Pilette is a driver of strong racing heritage, his father Théodore Pilette has been a pre-World War One grand prix driver. On the eve, the situation of the Belgian Grand Prix sees two races in one: the first, the real one, between six drivers, could be considered the fight of the records, weather permitting; the second is for second and third place between the seven Talbots. Rosier was the only one, who drove a special type of Talbot which was faster, to have come very close, but he was twenty seconds off Fangio. On the afternoon of Saturday, June 16, 1951, the drivers are relaxing, while the technicians and the mechanics make the latest changes that in some cases reserve authentic surprises. Alfa and Ferrari don’t hold back and show off their secrets happily at the last moment. However, we can think that the 200.000 spectators expected on Sunday have already a clear idea even of the technical means of the two rivals: on one hand, the Alfa with three engines of 430 horsepower, two of which fitted on the cars that will be driven by Fangio and Farina (and the Argentine also has the De Dion tube).

 

This type, as opposed to Sanesi’s car, will make just one stop for refuelling and it is undoubtedly the most powerful of every other car that takes part in this race. On the other hand, three Ferraris with aspirated engine and double ignition, which must do a pit stop at least for the tyre change, especially with the sun and the heat, because the tyres will be worn out under the torture of speed and braking. Concerning the three Ferraris, it is said that one is more powerful than the others and this would explain the lap time of this morning made by Villoresi who starting in the front row should have the special car. The wheel ratios adopted by the two teams would be 19" and 16", respectively. At the end of the three official practices, the race direction filled in the starting line-up of the Belgian Grand Prix - which, as we know, is the third round of the World Championship - on alternate rows, with three and two cars. The first row is the same as the Swiss Grand Prix in Bern. The battle for pole position as expected is fought between the Alfa Romeo's and Ferrari's. Fangio once again helds the measure on the field in qualifying, his pole time being a full three seconds faster than teammate Farina's second fastest time. Ferrari continue to close the gap to Alfa Romeo, Villoresi who sits the third fastest time is only a second off Farina's best time. Ascari is in fourth a further second down on Villoresi ahead of the final Ferrari of Taruffi. Sanesi has a dismal qualifying in his Alfa Romeo, he is eleven seconds slower than Fangio and sits behind all three Ferrari's sixth on the grid. The remainder of the field comprises the Talbot-Lago entries who are considerably slower. Rosier is the fastest Talbot-Lago in seventh, however he is 20 seconds slower than Fangio's pole time. Cabantous is next ahead of Chiron, Étancelin, Claes, Pilette and Levegh.

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The drivers are greeted with fair weather for the grand prix at Spa-Francorchamps. This is in direct contrast to the conditions the drivers have raced in at Bremgarten. At the start, the two Alfa Romeo's of Fangio and Farina are bogged down at the start allowing the Ferrari of Villoresi to snatch the lead of the race. Fangio's start is terrible, he drops to fifth place behind Villoresi, Farina, Ascari and Sanesi. Étancelin fails to make it off the start-line, his Talbot-Lago failing with transmission problems. Villoresi clings onto the lead, however it is clear that Farina's Alfa Romeo is quicker. On lap two, Farina overtakes Villoresi only for the Ferrari driver to snatch the lead back in the next corner. Fangio is also beginning his recovery, having past Sanesi early on to give flight to the two Ferrari's of Villoresi and Ascari ahead of him. On the third lap, Farina finally makes it past Villoresi to take the lead of the race. Villoresi thereafter begins to fall back, on the fourth lap his teammate Ascari takes second place, a lap after that, Fangio also moves past Villoresi's Ferrari. The Ferrari's begin to fall away, a lap after passing Villoresi, Fangio also makes his way past Ascari to take second position. Taruffi has not been matching his Ferrari teammates pace in sixth place and on lap eight he pulls out of the race with transmission failure. Villoresi is then brought into the pits, a loose oil pipe giving him problems. Sanesi inherits fourth place, however it will not last. Alfa Romeo will have a disastrous day in pit-stops. Whilst coming in for his first stop, Sanesi's radiator begins to overheat forcing him to retire.

 

Farina is managing to extend a good lead, however when he comes into the pits it takes him nearly a minute to refuel and change tyres. However worse is to come when second placed Fangio comes into the pits. The Argentine has a redesign on his suspension which unfortunately causes his left-rear wheel to become stuck on its hub. The team spend over three laps, attempting to disassemble the car to get the wheel off and putting a new one on. Fangio remains cool throughout the pitstop, his frustrations appearing to not show through his character. Fangio takes to the race track in last place. The race will yield one final retirement when Chiron breaks down with engine problems. Despite his own troubling pit-stop, Farina is dominating the race. During his second pit-stop he hasn’t even lost the lead to Ascari's Ferrari in second. The Alfa Romeo continues to consolidate its position at the top, the reigning world champion will eventually take the win nearly three minutes ahead of Ascari's second place. Villoresi also manages to put his Ferrari in third place, however the team leave Belgium frustrated, they being truely dominated by the Alfa Romeo squad at Spa. Rounding out the final points places are Rosier and Cabantous, the top runners for Talbot-Lago in fourth and fifth. Pilette does well to take a sixth place at his home and first grand prix whilst compatriot Claes is seventh ahead of the final finishers of Levegh and Fangio. Fangio despite once again demonstrating to be the fastest in out-right pace amongst the Alfa Romeo's is hampered by poor reliability on his car.

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Maybe not everyone knows the story of the ten incidents of Giuseppe Farina. They started when he was fourteen and fell off his bike, then continued when he was eighteen and completed his first car race against his father and when he was a tank commander during military service. Farina went off track six times and in two of them he flew on the grass at 200 km/h. He jokes saying that he doesn’t have a bone that hasn’t been mended; but maybe he doesn’t know that these injuries bring him good luck. Last year he was injured in Marseille and when he got out of the hospital he won in Silverstone with his chest still plastered. A few days before the Belgian Grand Prix, when he was coming back from Belfast - another successful race - the champion, in order to avoid a reckless biker, went off the road in Bussoleno reporting contusions on the back of his head and on the right foot. In the free practices helded on the Spa-Francorchamps circuit Farina was limping; but maybe it was a curious attitude or habit. He was feeling very good and he showed it during practices even without pushing too much. However, before the start he was suddenly agitated and nervous. The atmosphere of these Alfa-Ferrari duels become extremely deleterious and even the most expert drivers can’t escape the tension. In fact, almost all of the six axes of European motoring are more or less agitated. Maybe Farina was thinking about his personal car, feeling that he wasn’t favoured between the two new cars available. The car of his friend and rival Fangio has in addition the De Dion tube that provides more stability. But the reality had to prove that Farina’s car was perfect, chronometrical and solid in performance; as well as the extremely sensitive driver from Turin, who - warming up with the temperature of the race - had to pull off one of those days where no one is able to beat him: an authoritarian attitude, more and more regular, confident and brave. Nothing seems impossible to Farina. The Italian driver calmed down when he reached Villoresi who, at the start, was going away leading the race. It took him just three laps to overtake Luigi Villoresi, who was ahead of Fangio and Ascari.

 

Four axes in 50 metres. Taruffi and Sanesi, who retired on the ninth and the fourteenth lap for having broken a tyre in a curve and having suffered radiator issues, were far behind since the start. Not to mention the seven Talbots, of which only the one driven by Rosier was able to maintain a decent gap. On the fifth lap, Farina is starting to create a gap, while Fangio, having overtaken the two Ferrari drivers, is trying to help his friend. If the fairest fatality had not occurred in spite of the Argentine, the first two places would have been disputed between Giuseppe Farina and Juan Manuel Fangio. The Turin driver runs regularly in 4’24"0 with ruthless precision. The Argentine accomplishes the exploit on the tenth lap setting the lap record: 4'22"0 at the incredible pace of 193.941 km/h. Ascari and Villoresi (as they will say at the end of the race) realised that it was impossible to hold that pace. On the fourteenth lap, Farina had almost a two-minute advantage and in 54 seconds was able to fill the tank with fuel and to change tyres. Immediately after, Fangio made a pit stop for the same purpose. But here comes the drama. The rear left tyre didn’t come out even under the most angry efforts of the mechanics; the hub was overheated and literally stuck. A complex operation was necessary, but that caused the Argentine driver to lose over fifteen minutes. Meanwhile, Farina continued his race and resumed gaining minutes of advantage, also because Ascari stopped once briefly in the pits, while Villoresi made two pit stops for tyre changes that the heat and the asphalt had consumed. Then, Farina allowed himself the luxury of making a second pit stop for precautionary purposes. In the end, the reigning World Champion was applauded with three minutes of advantage on the second and four and a half minutes on the third. Add another minute or so spent in the luxury pit stop and you will have an idea of his feat.

 

Ludovico Nicoletti

 

Translated by Monica Bessi

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