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#11 1951 French Grand Prix

2021-04-09 00:00

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#1951,

#11 1951 French Grand Prix

Il trentottesimo Gran Premio di Francia, denominato anche dodicesimo Gran Premio d’Europa, che si disputa il 1º luglio 1951 sul circuito di Reims, si

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On Sunday, June 24, 1951, the eighth Automobile Grand Prix of Naples, contested during the morning at the Posillipo Circuit. does not record a very close race, since Ascari takes the lead from the start, and maintains first place until the finish. All the rivals remain delayed by boredom: among them also Luigi Villoresi, who, after losing, due to gearbox trouble, second place on lap three and regaining the place of honor on lap 10, is then finally forced to retire. A good fight was then engaged, in Ascari's wake, between Schell and Cortese: the American finally succeeded in imposing himself. At the same time, beating all records established to date, the British pair Whitehead-Walker (Jaguar) triumphs in the great motor race of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, saddened by an accident that costs the life of the Frenchman Larivière, on board a Ferrari. These races serve as a preamble for the European and French Grand Prix, to be run on Sunday, July 1, 1951, at Reims. In France, whoever beats the old record will receive a prize of 300.000 francs. The very high speeds allowed by the circuit and the long distance of 600 kilometers of racing suggest a spasmodic struggle, an alternation of good and bad luck for the protagonists from the race, from the refueling that will have to be done and with the stops for the inevitable change of tires. On the title page of the European Grand Prix is a familiar headline: Alfa Romeo vs. Ferrari. The most exciting chapter still promises to be the one dealing with the legendary Fangio-Farina rivalry. At present in the World Championship standings Farina and Fangio have ten points apiece, chased by the Ascari-Villoresi-Taruffi trio. The long sweeping street track situated in between the towns of Reims and Gueux plays host to the French Grand Prix once again. The race would for 1951 also hold the honourary title of this year's European Grand Prix. The powerful Alfa Romeo's are expected to run well on this circuit, however the more fuel conservative Ferrari's still has a good chance in the race.

 

Alfa Romeo has proved in Spa-Francorchamps that they remained the team to beat, having dominated their Ferrari rivals. Giuseppe Farina has reclaimed the championship lead, the reigning champion benefitting once again from mechanical troubles encountered by teammate Fangio. Fangio sits only two points behind Farina and is determined not to lose out to him in France. Consalvo Sanesi will once again drive the third car whilst the paddock has a warm welcome to the return of Luigi Fagioli to the Alfa Romeo seat. Fagioli who has battled for the championship the previous year, has been dropped by Alfa Romeo as a regular driver, he has re-signed for 1951 however largely as only a test driver. However the team gave the old veteran a chance to race for them once again at Reims-Gueux. Ferrari is left frustrated after Belgium, the team is determined to win a race, the Alfa Romeo domination has gone on too long, yet the team still hasn't been able to beat them in Belgium. Alberto Ascari sits third in the championship with six points. He remains six points adrift of championship leader Farina, yet hopes to close the gap in France. He is joined by regular teammate Luigi Villoresi, however the third driver of Piero Taruffi is taken ill and can not participate in the race. The team then punts on hiring José Froilán González, the quick young Argentine that has been considered Fangio's prodigy. González has failed to find a drive for 1951 and is forced to participate in the start of 1951 as a lone gun. González stepping in for Taruffi would finally get the opportunity to prove his worth in a top level car. Peter Whitehead is entering his old private Ferrari 125 for the event whilst Reg Parnell, being funded by B.R.M. financier, Tony Vandervell is able to participate in the new modern Ferrari 375 as a privateer.

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The private Maserati's also has a limited number of entries. Enrico Platé is once again the major team entering the Maserati's. Emmanuel de Graffenried has returned to the team for Reims-Gueux whilst he is joined by the team's new driver, American Harry Schell. The team's old driver Prince Bira, for the third race in succession plans to enter the Maserati-OSCA, however once again he has opted to withdraw the car due to its lack of competitiveness. Scuderia Milano's attempts as a manufacturer has proven difficult during 1950. The Ruggieri brothers are back in 1951 attempting to run their Milano engined Maserati once again. This time, another Argentine prodigy of Fangio's, Onofre Marimón willbe piloting the car. Simca-Gordini is the only French manufacturer to enter a works team. The successful Formula Two outfit is slowly making its impression on Formula One. The team would interestingly enter four cars for the event. Regular drivers Robert Manzon, Maurice Trintignant and André Simon are all entered into the event. However Simca-Gordini has entered a fourth car for Aldo Gordini, making his Formula One debut in France. Aldo Gordini is the son of the team's founder and leader, Amédée Gordini. Aldo usually works in the team as a mechanic, rarelys he participates as a racing driver, however for his home race and for his father's team, he made the decision to enter the event as a driver. The other French manufacturer represented at their home race is Talbot-Lago, however they are without a works team having ceased their Formula One development at the end of 1950.

 

The Talbot-Lago privateers are now starting to run dated machinery, however the Talbot-Lago cars still hosts some of France's best drivers. The Monagasque, Louis Chiron once again joins Louis Rosier in his Ecurie Rosier team. Like in Belgium, Yves Giraud-Cabantous enters cars for both himself and Guy Mairesse. The old French veteran, Philippe Étancelin would once again enter his Talbot-Lago whilst Johnny Claes and Eugène Chaboud also enter as privateers. Fangio once again proves indomitable in his Alfa Romeo in qualifying. He consistently runs the quickest throughout the practice session to take pole 1.7 seconds ahead of the champion, Farina. The Ferrari's are pleased to see they are closing the gap, Ascari is only seven tenths off Farina's best time. Villoresi has also done well to put his Ferrari into fourth position. Sanesi can only manage fifth ahead of the Ferrari debutant González . Fagioli on his return for Alfa Romeo will start in seventh. Chiron is the leading Talbot-Lago in eighth place, managing to run faster than even the private Ferrari 375 of Reg Parnell. The grid is then followed by the Talbot-Lago cars of Étancelin, Cabantous, Claes, Rosier and Chaboud. Marimon in the Milano engined Maserati, is the fastest of the Maserati cars. Whilst behind him comes De Graffenried's Maserati. Aldo Gordini, is interestingly the fastest of the Simca-Gordini cars in his debut. Trintignant in eighteenth is the next of the Simca-Gordini's in eighteenth. Mairesse is the slowest of the Talbot-Lago in nineteenth. Whitehead is the slowest Ferrari in his old 125 chassis. Simon has work to do to in his Simca-Gordini from twenty first. Manzon, in the final Simca-Gordini car is at the back of the grid, Schell's Maserati splitting the pair on the final row.

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Fangio immediately takes away into the lead at the start, Farina has got a lot of wheelspin off the line and has dropped several places. The two Ferrari's of Ascari and Villoresi have made it past Farina as Sanesi and González. Ascari is running extremely well, by the end of the first lap he has taken the lead from Fangio's Alfa Romeo. The Reims circuit is notorious for breaking cars, and after only a single lap, Whitehead has retired with a blown engine. De Graffenried also retires his Maserati with engine problems. Marimón's first race in the Milano engined Maserati also comes to an end after two laps when his Milano blows up. Manzon who has been having an underwhelming weekend is also out on lap three with engine troubles. Simon in a second Simca-Gordini car then blows its engine on lap seven. The mechanical troubles are even hitting the front runners, Sanesi in fourth place begins to develop a misfire in his engine which allowes González and Farina past him. Farina is then able to make his way past González's Ferrari, however the top trio of Ascari, Fangio and Villoresi are still some way ahead. González, holding his own in his first Ferrari race maintaines a gap to Sanesi and Fagioli. Parnell in his dark blue Vandervell enters Ferrari is doing well to hang onto the tails of Sanesi and Fagioli in seventh. It is looking like Ferrari were going to take their first victory in the world championship, Ascari is comfortably leading the race, for the first time they have truely managed to put Alfa Romeo on the defensive. However their hopes of a first victory are dashed when Ascari's gearbox seizes up on lap ten bringing him out of the race. Fangio then retakes control of the race, Farina meanwhile has closed on Villoresi's second place and quickly takes the place back from the Ferrari driver. Alfa Romeo is back in control of the race. However Fangio then begins to develop a misfire problem, forcing him into an early pit stop so his mechanics could check the car.

 

After a once-over by the mechanics, Fangio returns to track, however the problem has not subsided and he then returned to the pits. This has brought his car well out of contention of the race. Further retirements see Trintignant's engine blow, then the last Maserati in the race of Schell retires with overheating problems. The last Simca-Gordini of Aldo Gordini then pulls into the pits to retire his first race with engine troubles. Farina has therefore inherited the lead of the race, he is pushing his Alfa Romeo hard, Farina taking a lead nearly a full minute clear of Villoresi's Ferrari behind him. Fagioli, the only other Alfa Romeo not to encounter problems has also picked up speed, moving past González's Ferrari to take third place. However when he comes in for his customary pit stop, the Alfa Romeo team orders him out of his car, in order to give Fangio a chance at the race. A furious and reluctant Fagioli nonetheless complies and Fangio takes over the third positioned Alfa Romeo that has been run by Fagioli. Fagioli, unused to being treated like a secondary driver, is asked to take over Fangio's battered machine, to allow the team leader to return to the race in Fagioli's healthy car. An angered Fagioli is forced to wait in the pits as the Alfa Romeo mechanics take their time in repairing the car that is formerly occupied by Fangio. Fagioli rejoines the race, however restarts nine laps adrift of the leaders and in last place of the race. Farina, the race leader has a comfortable and uneventful pitstop, coming out of the pits still well in control of the race. González in second is ordered during the pit stops to give up his car to lead driver, Ascari who has retired earlier in the race. Farina still leads the race, however it is Fangio in the car started by Fagioli that is setting the pace. He is setting fastest lap after fastest lap, the Ferrari's of Villoresi and Ascari ahead of him are no match and he soon begins to quickly close in on Farina's minute lead of the race. Fangio is lapping so fast he breaks the lap record of the track by eight seconds.

 

However on lap 36, Fangio's car is forced to halt its charge when it came into the pits for its second standard pit stop. However Farina will gain far from any advantage when a lap later, his front left tyre suffers a spectacular blow out. Farina did well to maintain control of the car, however he will be forced to slowly make his way back to the pits. Once he arrives he overshot his garage marks, scattering his mechanics and losing even more time. In this mayhem, the Ferrari's of Ascari and Villoresi has managed to get past. Parnell who is running quietly two laps down on the leaders, also manages to pass Farina in his chaotic pit-stop. Ascari for the second time has found himself leading, however Ferrari then lost it again when Ascari begins to encounter brake troubles and returnes to the pits. Fangio flew past, now sensing victory he once again begins to put in some incredible flying laps. His margin to Ascari has increased enough so that when he comes in for his final pit-stop, he has retained the lead of the race. The final retirements see Étancelin retire his car with engine troubles, whilst Rosier, another Talbot-Lago driver go out with transmission troubles. Claes, another of the Talbot-Lago privateers has a big accident on lap 54 but luckily he emerges from the car unscathed. Fangio and Fagioli will take the shared victory as well as the last place. The shared car of Ascari and Gonzalez will also take second. Villoresi's Ferrari will take third, the podium will remarkably be occupied by seven drivers in this race. Parnell never challenges the lead cars, nonetheless fourth place is good in his private Ferrari. Farina meanwhile is a disappointed fifth following his tyre blowout. González has been left concerned after Ferrari team manager Nello Ugolini has ordered him to hand over his car to Ascari. González is left concerned that he has unimpressed in the race, only for Enzo Ferrari to offer him a contract for the rest of the season. Fagioli whilst also being accredited the victory alongside Fangio is left incredibly insulted in being demanded to swap cars with Fangio in the race. His future amongst the Alfa Romeo outfit is quickly thrown into doubt. Fangio goes on to take the race win in one of his most dominant displays of driving yet.

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Fagioli, has finished the race nine laps adrift in Fangio's original car, however he is equally awarded the race victory to Fangio as he has entered the race winning machine at the start of the race. Fangio and Fagioli therefore take the first shared victory in Formula One. The two driver's have also become the first drivers to come in both first and last position in the same race. Fagioli is pleased by the victory, however it isn’t he who took the chequered flag. He has been dropped from the regular Alfa Romeo line-up and upon his race return in 1951, Fangio has won the race in his car lapping immediately significantly faster than what he had done all weekend. Fagioli, now at 53 was seriously contemplating his continued ability to compete at grand prix level. Fangio retakes the lead of the world championship, however the two points salvaged by Farina has meant the reigning world champion remaines only one point behind. Ascari, only being awarded half points for his second place is six points off Fangio's championship lead. Villoresi now only a single point behind Ascari in the standings as well. González has also been left concerned after Ferrari team manager Nello Ugolini has ordered him to hand over his car to Ascari. González is left pondering what he had done in his race, however a meeting with Enzo Ferrari, the following week removes any doubts from his head. The Ferrari maestro has been impressed enough by his performance to offer him a race contract for the remainder of the season. The European Grand Prix was favored by a beautiful day, so that the sporting triumph of the event could be complemented by an immense popular success. The struggle, circumscribed, as expected, between the Alfa and Ferrari drivers, fulfilled the promises of the eve: fertile with interesting phases, uncertain until the end, the race is agonistically exciting even as it relates to the result, as Alberto Ascari contested the victory to the Argentinean Fangio until the last kilometers, finishing less than a minute behind the impetuous South American driver.

 

It should still be noted that Fangio was forced to stop for a mechanical failure on lap 14 and restarted on lap 25 in fourteenth position on the car of teammate Fagioli, later remounting to first place. Giuseppe Farina, who also made, as usual, a wonderful run, faced a series of problems. The Turinese driver was betrayed by the tires when brilliantly and with authority he was leading the race until lap 40: he lost precious time and thus any chance of victory. Of Ascari we have already said: he too was the victim of a problem on lap 10 and forced to abandon the race, the Milanese driver replaced - during one of his stops on lap 35 - the Argentine Gonzalez, excellently placed in third position and only 1'34"0 from the first, (at that time Farina). With the Argentine's car, Ascari, after taking first place on lap 41-the place that Fango would take from him on lap 49 because the Ferrari had to stop for refueling-threatened his rival until the end of the exciting European Grand Prix. The numerous abandonments accurately reflect the severity of the competition, in which the high speed imposed by the duel between the Italian cars caused an inexorable selection: the German Lang's (Mercedes) lead was subsequently beaten several times by Giuseppe Farina from the very first laps, but Fangio won the lead by completing lap 38 in 2'27"8 at an average of 190.369 km/h. Fangio and Ascari, having changed cars in Reims, are forced to share the points earned in the European Grand Prix with the first drivers of these cars, respectively, namely Fagioli and Gonzalez. As for the lap record, it belongs to the one who beats him, whatever car is used. So Fangio benefits from another point for his record.

 

Ludovico Nicoletti

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