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#24 1953 Argentine Grand Prix

2021-04-12 07:07

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#1953, Fulvio Conti, Ludovico Nicoletti, Translated by Monica Bessi, Translated by Valentina De Sanctis,

#24 1953 Argentine Grand Prix

Winter is already over for the steering wheel heroes. On Saturday, January 9, 1953, Ascari, Farina, Villoresi, Bonetto and the young English driver, H

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Winter is already over for the steering wheel heroes. On Saturday, January 9, 1953, Ascari, Farina, Villoresi, Bonetto and the young English driver Hawthorn will depart from Rome by plane to Argentina, where in the summer season people walk in short sleeves and drink orange peel. The 1952 racing season has just ended, for a month and a half, with the Mexican Carrera; and here begins the 1953 World Championship: first race on Sunday, January 18, 1953, at the Autodromo in Buenos Aires. Ascari, Farina and Villoresi have remained with the triple alliance, in the official team of Scuderia Ferrari. Over the past year, the races were almost all won by Ascari; the World Champion title rewarded his exceptional period of happiness. Today the Milanese Alberto Ascari is the most efficient and complete racer on circuits. His competitors are the first to admit it. So what is the current situation in the Ferrari team? Is there a ranking between Ascari, Farina and Villoresi? The answer is offered by a recent episode. It must be said that in the race on Sunday, January 18, 1953, Scuderia Ferrari will go for cars with a displacement of two litres without a compressor, as established by the regulation of the race. Taking the opportunity from the presence of the European champs in America, another competition will be played, after two weeks, again in Buenos Aires, not for the championship, and with free formula. For this circumstance, Ferrari shipped to Argentina a 4500 cc car, of course, equipped with more power, and destined to precede the two-litre console without a compressor in the Grand Prix set up for February 1, 1953. Who has the privilege of driving the 4500? Is it Ascari, Farina or Villoresi? The decision was made by drawing: three tickets, with the names of the three aces, in a hat.

 

Generously, the luck favoured Ascari, who, except for any inconvenience, will quite easily win the competition on February 1, 1953. From the episode of the three tickets in the hat, one can draw, in a certain sense, this deduction: between Ascari, Farina and Villoresi there is an unspoken rule of mutual respect and substantial equality, at least concerning the first races of the upcoming 1953 championship. On Sunday, January 18, 1953, in the first test, everyone will try to shine as much as possible, without stable obligations. The physiognomy of the ranking, after two or three tests, will possibly suggest how to assign tasks and impose obligations and discipline. It is nice, however, that there is a good agreement between the three great drivers; it is a rare thing. The tests on Sunday, January 18, 1953, promise to be difficult and tiring. The track is difficult: a circuit of about four kilometres, with a ranking at the third hour of the race; the track allows a speed of about 130 km/h. This means suffering from curves, a heavy job for the drivers. The core of the participants is predominantly Italian, as racers and even more as cars, because Italian motorsport is still very important. The two strongest teams are Ferrari and Maserati. The first is reinforced by the Englishman Hawthorn; the second features Bonetto and the Argentines Gonzales and Oscar Galvez and maybe Juan Manuel Fangio himself, who would return to the races after the complicated accident that happened to him last spring in Monza. To test his strength, Fangio will be taking a test on the Buenos Aires track these days. Farina, who hardened himself with two weeks in Sestriere, dedicating himself to the skiing he adores, returned to Turin on Tuesday, January 6, 1953, in the evening, from Paris, where he had gone for a couple of days to do business.

 

"Emotion begins".

 

Admits Farina while getting off the plane, on the Malpensa field. The landing, due to poor visibility, had made the passengers hold their breath. Taken by car to Turin, Farina immediately prepares his suitcases for the trip to Argentina. Until Friday at 9:00 a.m., departure time, it has to leave him in the difficult and passionate speciality of him: he fills, closes, opens again, packs, undresses, permanently closes, and then reopens the suitcase. In the end, the set time comes. He leaves by train, with a calm mind, and then realises that he might have forgotten many essential things instead of the useless ones he brought. That is what happens to everyone. There is one thing that the not-very-young Farina will certainly not leave home: his unharmed passion as a racer. Maserati, during the winter, seems to have solved the problem of consumption, so much so that it can avoid supplies during the 500 kilometres or three hours that a Grand Prix lasts depending on the characteristics of the track. 

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The evidence of the facts will tell whether the placement of the tanks and the weight distribution were done correctly. However, this can be assumed: that Ferrari and Maserati are today almost on par with autonomy, speed and road holding. It is understood that this is an inevitability for the Ferraris, considering the victories achieved; for the Maseratis, it is a hope that the promising tests will confirm. The decisive factor in the Argentine Grand Prix should be the track, difficult and tiring, so much so that it does not allow an average speed of more than 150 km/h. The effort will especially affect the chassis, brakes, suspension and accessory parts, which in a racing car constitute the most sensitive and perhaps least evolved part of the engine, which has already found its canons for more than one classic setting for some time. It is less problematic to draw a good engine, than to then conveniently place it on the proper chassis. Ultimately, many unknowns of Sunday, January 18, 1953, will be solved by the drivers: the resistance of the cars varies depending on the stresses imposed by the driving style of the driver. It is understood that his role always remains to luck: in motorsport, you cannot predict everything at all. Fight between drivers rather than cars, unless there are resounding surprises, such as the kind of consumption in Monza. The Ferrari team is the favourite because Fangio is in good physical condition but poorly trained and because Gonzalez, magnificent in enthusiasm, is not inclined to save the energy of the car. As things stand, the World Champion Ascari is undoubtedly the best driver; Farina has long re-tempered his energies in Sestriere and, like Villoresi, is ready to fight loyally even with his teammate Ascari. 

 

Predictions are in favour of Ferrari; but this is also a good test for Maserati because the oppositions of fate could upset the least skilled of the two rivals in this initial phase of the duel, which is the most delicate. Experience alerts that the Grand Prix could not last long with the mere semblance of a fight between the Ferraris and the French team Gordini, rich in enthusiasm and self-love, but not able to create a real rivalry with the Italians. Until the new race formula comes into force, and this will happen next year, motor racing needs the Ferrari-Maserati fight. The latest news from Buenos Aires informs that the wait is very high and that places have been prepared at the Autodromo for 400.000 spectators. All the Italian aces will leave at 8:30 a.m. from Ciampino. The plane will take to Buenos Aires Farina, Ascari, Villoresi, Bonetto, the English driver Hawthorn, the sports directors of Ferrari and Maserati and a handful of technicians and mechanics. Rome-Madrid-Lisbon-Dakar and finally the landing in Buenos Aires on Monday morning. Practices will begin on Thursday, January 15, 1953. On Friday, January 9, 1953, at Porta Nuova station, family, friends, and sportsmen from the steering wheel with Giuseppe Farina had a good trip. The Turin champ will return to his city in a month or two; he does not even know when; it will be a long adventure. On February 1, 1953, again in Buenos Aires, a second race will take place. And there is still a chance of a couple of races in Uruguay. For Giuseppe Farina all this means happiness. The reckless four-wheeled carriages and carrousels represent joy for him, his true life.

 

"You leave on Friday".

 

His friend points out to him.

 

"It doesn’t matter".

 

The superstitious Farina answers back, facing the train window. And then he explains:

 

"If it was Friday the 17th, then I would have to postpone the start of the trip. But a simple Friday is not worth it".

 

No one dares to contradict him, because everyone knows his competence in what brings luck or bad luck.

 

“Which charms did you choose for Argentina?”

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Another one asks him.

 

"Which lucky charm?"

 

Farina then pulls out of the pockets a trinket, a tiny rack-portrait case, as small as a cigar lighter. He bought it on Monday, January 5, 1953, in Paris. It contains a microscopic photograph of his wife.

 

"I will always carry this charm with me, even in my racing car, during the Grand Prix".

 

And the wife promptly replies:

 

"Courage, you’ll see that everything will be fine".

 

Giuseppe Farina concludes by saying, just before the train leaves:

 

"And kisses dad and mom for me".

 

Farina's elderly parents suffer from some ageing ail. Farina, as a good son, spent almost all Thursday near them; he also went to welcome Uncle Pinin and was then received by lawyer Gianni Agnelli, a passionate about motorsport almost as much as football; the two friends talked a lot about sports and lawyer Agnelli wished Farina good luck. A journalist asks:

 

"Was he also at the Consulate?"

 

Farina answers:

 

"Yes. Last night, at 6:00 p.m. I went alone, I never miss kneeling and praying at that altar. The Consulate has protected me many times, in terrifying running accidents; only the Consulate can save me. Naturally, in packing my bags, I didn't forget my special helmet, like Indianapolis, as light and durable as steel: it didn't break even in the fall I made over the past year at the Valentine, La Baule and Les Sable circuits".

 

The starting signals follow. Last handshakes, last wishes and greetings:

 

"Honour yourself! Goodbye".

 

The train is moving. Farina, facing the window, is a little pale. He smiles, excited, shaking his right hand. On the other, he holds his charm tight. The train goes to Rome, the first stage of the great adventure of an eternal boy's heart, who believes in Friday 17th bad luck, desires danger and kneels at the altar of the Consulate, passionate and fierce as a great sportsman who knows how to be. Meanwhile, on Sunday, January 11, 1953, Fangio does another test at the Buenos Aires autodrome. It is the second test for the Argentine ace, after the last accident in June, in Monza, during the Grand Prix of the Autodrome, in which he had an injury to the cervix. Fangio achieves the best result in 1’51"0 (at an average speed of 128.203 km/h); the first test took place on Saturday. 

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Gonzalez is also testing on Sunday. Fangio's participation in the Grand Prix on Sunday, January 18, 1953, is now certain. The plane of Ascari, Farina, Villoresi, Bonetto and Hawthorn is expected on Monday. Ferrari and Maserati cars will arrive, by sea, on Tuesday, January 13, 1953. Official practices will begin on Wednesday. Belgian driver Claes, attending Fangio’s tests, says:

 

"It’s always him, with his usual Varzi’s style".

 

On Monday, January 12, 1953, the door of the aeroplane opens and on the entrance, from the belly of the cockpit, appears Ascari’s big face, then Villoresi’s metallic hair, the wide forehead of Farina, the child's face of the long Hawthorn, the boney physiognomy of Bonetto; all the team is reunited. They all seem a little tired, groaned by the many hours of flight, and almost afraid of touching Argentine soil again. Three years ago the trip of Ascari, Farina and Villoresi in America had an electric episode of South American passion. Fanaticism for Fangio assumed stormy aspects. Nothing serious happened, yet the Italian expedition went back to their homeland with a sigh of relief. But everything is far away by now, every bad memory no longer counts. At the foot of the ladder resting on the cockpit of the plane, the Italian divers recognise Fangio, their eternal enemy - and a very formal colleague of passion.

 

"Welcome, friends".

 

Fangio exclaims, waving his hat. And the big crowd around him shouts long live to the Italian drivers. Ascari, Villoresi and Farina and in line all the other divers speed up the step down the ladder while smiling; and arriving on the ground they receive the hug of Fangio, who shortly after climbs into a car with Ascari and Farina. An immense procession of cars, escorted by police motorcyclists, accompanies the entourage to the princely Hindou Club. Everyone in Buenos Aires is waiting for Sunday's race. The Argentines are mad about their divers: Fangio, Gonzalez and Oscar Galvez. The next day the centre of attention moves to the seaport, waiting for the arrival of the steamer that takes the Ferraris to Ascari, Farina, Villoresi and Hawthorn, and the Maseratis to Fangio, Gonzalez, Oscar Galvez and Bonetto. Thousands of people are gathering on the dock. Official practices will begin on Wednesday. 1953, a year full of important sporting events, assigns to Latin America two major world events: the first, at the beginning of the season, will be the Argentine Grand Prix, and the other at the end is the Mexican Carrera, which will take place in November. The expectation, in Buenos Aires and inside of the Republic, is huge and not easily describable. There is endless talk, on every street corner, in all public places, in the sports clubs, between the walls of the house, about the cars of Ferrari, Maserati, Gordini and Bristol; the two Italian teams, the French and the English one will be the protagonists of the great show that will take place in the current Argentine summer. Enthusiasm and impatience are increasing now that Fangio’s participation in the race is certain. The Argentine ace finalised his healing, after the Monza accident, trying to drive a racing car at the Autodromo in Buenos Aires. The experiment went well. Fangio feels completely healed. The Argentine sportsman, even if bound by a kind of unconditional fanaticism for Juancito, does not forget that to represent the national colours there is always the red-faced cabezon Froilan Gonzalez and the brilliant-popular-divo Oscar Galvez who will run in the Maserati team. Next Sunday, the great dream of Argentine fans will come true: see their three best drivers race in the same team - Maserati - in the biggest race of the South American season. Organisations' work has now reached a particularly crucial stage. There are hours of waiting at the Automovil Club and the Autodrome. Particularly enthusiastic is the work on the circuit, where teams of workers are making numerous changes to the racetrack and installations, made necessary by the expected huge inrush of the crowd on the day of the great test. The Cooper Bristols have already landed in the last few days and the Italian cars arrive on Tuesday. The European drivers, who have arrived in Buenos Aires, will only have four days to carry out the tests. Qualifications for the effects of the starting line-up will take place on Saturday. After three years of absence, the comeback of the three champions of motorsport Ascari, Farina and Villoresi, in Scuderia Ferrari, is also considered by the men of the road as an act of reconciliation after the little-known, but quite serious accidents of December and January 1950. 

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The greatest interest in the Italians from Argentina is directed to the planned duel between Ferrari-Maserati, a duel that here too, is considered as the continuation of what took place in the autumn in Monza and Modena. Sunday's race will last three hours, on a circuit of about 4 kilometres, which allows for an average speed of about 140 km/h. On Tuesday, January 13, 1953, the Italian drivers are welcomed by President Perón, and during the afternoon they make some test laps of the circuit, in closed cars, for sightseeing and made available by the organisers, as it rains heavily, accompanied by Juan Manuel Fangio. On Sunday, January 18, 1953, the Argentine Grand Prix will take place. The entire city seems mesmerised by this extraordinary sporting event, which will put the best European and American drivers against each other, and which will count as the first of ten races for the 1953 World Championship. It has been all talk in Buenos Aires for a week now. The tickets, half a million, are now sold out. The wait is spasmodic. After suffering a severe neck injury in the Monza Grand Prix in 1952, Fangio was forced to miss the entire Grand Prix season leaving his rival, the Ferrari driver Alberto Ascari, to dominate the season unchallenged throughout 1952. The Argentine Grand Prix, his home race, will mark the return to racing for the Argentine champion. There has been little change amongst the Ferrari squad for the 1953 season. However, one notable change is that Piero Taruffi has departed from the team to work in the Lancia sportscar programme. He has instead been replaced by Mike Hawthorn, a young British competitor. Hawthorn, competing in his first grand Prix season, has impressed all by regularly fighting among the leaders in a privateer midfield Cooper. With the departure of Taruffi, Enzo Ferrari has offered the rising talent of Hawthorn a place among the leading team. The Ferrari 500 is still expected to be the leading car in the field; except for the Indianapolis 500, the Ferrari 500 has won every race it has competed in. Alberto Ascari, who dominated the grand Prix scene for the team in 1952, is still expected to be the title favourite. Ascari's friend and mentor Luigi Villoresi remains in the team, as did Formula 1 first World Champion Giuseppe Farina. Fangio will drive the Maserati A6GCM for the 1953 grand prix season. The car was introduced the previous year, proving to be the only car capable of challenging the all-dominant Ferrari 500. Maserati is hoping to provide a more serious challenge to Ferrari in 1953 with the return of Argentina's national champion. Maserati has further signed Gioacchino Colombo, the engineer who oversaw the development of the dominant Alfa Romeo marque during 1950 and 1951, and former colleague of Fangio has also signed to join the Maserati team for the 1953 season. 

 

He has already conducted modifications to the car's suspension and brakes in order to make it more viable to compete against Ferrari. Partnering with Fangio at Maserati is José Froilán González, a fellow Argentine considered to be a great friend and student of Fangio. González has demonstrated the true potential of the Maserati squad when he nearly defeated the Ferrari 500 of Alberto Ascari at the final round of the championship at Monza. Felice Bonetto, the Italian veteran, has also been retained for the 1953 season. The trio of Fangio, González and Bonetto will complete Maserati's regular line-up. Making a special appearance for the Argentine round of the championship is Oscar Alfredo Gálvez. Gálvez is one of the great Argentine road racers and a former rival to Fangio during his early career. Unlike Fangio and González, Gálvez has opted not to seek further fortune in travelling to Europe to race. Remaining as a domestic Argentine racer, the Argentine Grand Prix presents one of the few opportunities for Gálvez to showcase his skills among the great grand prix competitors. The Gordini squad will continue with their T16 chassis for the 1953 season. The team hopes that an improved reliability record will allow them to mix for regular points finishes in the 1953 season. The team will have an unchanged line-up of Frenchmen Robert Manzon, Maurice Trintignant and Jean Behra. Making one off appearances for their home grand prix are Carlos Menditeguy and Pablo Birger. The Cooper squad has previously never entered the grand prix scene as constructors. They have simply sold their cars to privateers who have chosen to compete in the grand prix calendar of their own volition. However the success of the Cooper T20 in the hands of Mike Hawthorn in 1952 has prompted Cooper to trial run as a works constructor in 1953. Charles and John Cooper had travelled to Argentina, running a works Cooper squad for the first time. The duo has previously only operated in Formula 3 as a works entrant. Debuting their new Cooper T23 challenger is John Barber. Whilst also competing for the team in the older T20 model is Alan Brown and local Argentine entrant, Adolfo Schwelm Cruz. The practice sessions are afflicted by rain in the earlier runs. The weather will gradually improve, however the earlier times provide some excitement as the drivers are forced to get some grip with the slippery track. Alberto Ascari continues to assert his dominance, the Ferrari driver taking pole position once again. He is nearly a full second faster than the returning local hero, Juan Manuel Fangio. Fangio, however, is affected by a transmission failure and suffers two spins on the wet surface. 

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Even though he, at his home race, is struggling to get the Maserati to match the pace of the Ferrari, he nonetheless runs faster than the other Ferrari cars of Villoresi, Farina and Hawthorn. Hawthorn, still adjusting to his new team, can only manage sixth on the grid, falling behind the second Maserati of González. The Gordini cars of Trintignant and Manzon head the midfield, whilst local drivers Gálvez and Menditeguy complete the top ten. Behra's Gordini can only manage eleventh, however most disappointing is Bonetto in the Maserati who lines up on the last row of the grid. Bonetto, like Fangio, has suffered transmission problems. Reliability is proving to be problematic for Maserati. Cooper evidently has a lot of work to do, its cars are overall the slowest, Brown and Schwelm Cruz manage to beat only the aged Simca-Gordini model car of Birger and the hampered Bonetto. The final Cooper of Barber is the final car to line up on the grid. 

 

"My children, let them in".

 

Proclaim Juan Perón on race day. In a bid to promote Argentina's new championship and grand prix status within motorsport, Perón has declared that the race in Buenos Aires will be free of charge for those wishing to witness Argentina's first championship grand prix. It is estimated that about 300.000-400.000 people have come to watch the race. The grandstands are full, however this does not detract the Argentine people. The track has become overcrowded and has suddenly become too big for the small police force to manage the crowds. Spectators are packed into every inch of the circuit, they can be seen packed standing on the edge of the circuit, as well as in very dangerous places such as the exit of corners. There is concern amongst the drivers ahead of the race start. The massive crowd will mean the risk of hitting the uncontrolled mass of people. Nonetheless, the race start will go ahead as planned and all the drivers have every intention of competing in the race. Ascari gets a strong start in his Ferrari, his chief rival, Fangio, is slow off the line upon his return to racing. The second Ferrari of Villoresi is the fastest of the leaders, challenging Ascari into the first corner; however he outbreaks himself and allows the Maserati cars of Fangio and González to overtake him. Before the end of the first lap, Bonetto has also overtaken Villoresi, meaning the three Maserati cars are left chasing the leading Ferrari of Ascari for first place. On the second lap, Farina will make his way past Bonetto, however Villoresi's Ferrari will  be forced into the pits at the end of the second lap. Hawthorn's first race for Ferrari has gotten off to a poor start, he has dropped down to thirteenth position. He is forced to fight in the midfield with the Gordini cars, led by local talent Menditeguy. The first concern for safety among the crowd happens when the Cooper of Schwelm Cruz has an axle failure which causes one of his wheels to break loose and bounce into the crowd.

 

There are further retirements for the Gordinis of Birger and Menditeguy, however the tragedy that is feared to occur comes on lap 32. Throughout the race, the spectators have grown ever more wild and daring. As is recounted by Mike Hawthorn "time after time, I waved at them to get out of the way, but this only made things worse. They began standing in the roadway holding shirts and pullovers, which they snatched away at the last moment like a toreador playing a bull”. It is on lap 32 that Farina, continuing to chase the Maserati cars of Fangio and González, is caught out by the unpredictability of the spectators. A small boy has darted in front of Farina's car, forcing the Ferrari to take evasive action, losing control of his car at the Curva Nord Este and ploughs into the spectators. It is believed that Farina's crash killed 13 spectators. The hysterical crowd is suddenly panicked; in the pandemonium, Brown's Cooper hits and kills another young boy who has run out onto the circuit. Juan Perón's national grand prix has turned into a national disaster and, following Farina's crash, he has quietly left the circuit. Despite this chaos, the race continues and none of the drivers will willingly withdraw from the race. Ascari continues to lead the race; Fangio, unable to match the lead Ferrari, retires on lap 36 with a broken universal joint. His retirement has gone unnoticed by his Argentine supporters, there is little remaining focus on the race. Bonetto has dropped out of the race as well, leaving González the last driver left to lead the Maserati charge. The Ferrari cars of Villoresi and Hawthorn have recovered, and have climbed back to third and fourth places. Manzon in the Gordini is a distant contender, he is racing in fifth place, not too far behind the two Ferraris ahead of him. Manzon however, will be forced into the pits on lap 43 to replace a degraded tyre.

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A wheel nut will then jam forcing him out of the race. González continues to attempt to challenge Ascari, however the Maserati does not have as strong a fuel economy as the Ferrari, and unlike the Ferrari cars he will be forced to make a pit-stop. Following González's stop, Ascari is left unchecked at the front of the field. He will thereafter extend his dominance to lap the entire field. González's pit-stop has also allowed Villoresi to retake second position, putting Ferrari back into a one-two scenario.  Ascari will continue where he left off, he has once again dominated the field, however Maserati has demonstrated a renewed challenge. Their car, still suffering from fuel consumption, has nonetheless continued to close the gap to the Ferrari cars. The Milanese driver Alberto Ascari, winner of the 1952 World Championship, triumphs in Buenos Aires in the first of the ten races of the 1953 World Championship. The race, held at the autodrome inaugurated last February, was attended by more than 500.000 spectators. In the gallery there is Perón, President of the Argentine Republic, together with the major national authorities. Many supporters, in every order of places, are the Italians of America. On a summer day, the atmospheric temperature is 28 °C; track heat is 39.7 °C. Ascari is brought in triumph by the crowd, on his back, to the tribune of Perón, who praises him. The World Champion, invited to the microphone, addresses a few words in Spanish to the audience, thanking them, and arousing enthusiastic cheers. The Argentine crowd, regardless, grieving due to the misfortune of its blessed Fangio and Gonzalez, had to bow to the demonstration of superiority, the spectacle of impetus and style of the Italian. A second race, but not a world championship race, is scheduled on the same racetrack for Sunday, February 1, 1953. The victory of Ascari and Ferrari raises unconditional admiration throughout Argentina, despite the authentic fanaticism surrounding the local idol Fangio. Interesting is an interview with Ascari, published by a South American newspaper. Ascari declares:

 

"When Fangio was forced to retire on the thirty-sixth lap, I was sure to win. Everything was easy without him. My friend is a real threat, he is the most difficult competitor to beat in every race. From the beginning I felt comfortable, having him behind me and not having to be the one to pursue".

 

Ascari had special rear-view mirrors set up near the dashboard of his car so he could keep an eye on his pursuers.

 

"Frankly, I didn't think Fangio could run so well, after almost eight months of inactivity, but I'm very happy that this is the case, because we are great friends, despite being rivals, and it doesn't happen often".

 

And finally, the Milanese driver tells an anecdote unknown to most:

 

"I suffered discomfort caused by the oil temperature, which increased after the first half hour of the race; then I realised I had a burn on my left foot".

 

Ascari does not comment on the fact that he raced for two and a half hours with a burned foot, but simply says that the credit for the victory goes entirely to the car. Meanwhile, the police announce that the casualties from the accident at the local racetrack are nine dead and twenty-six injured. Earlier reports had given ten dead and thirty-six injured. It is also announced that Englishman Brown - on Cooper - ran over the crowd during the Grand Prix, killing a spectator. The sports correspondent of a group of Chilean newspapers, Guillermo Jiminez, writes about the incident:

 

"There must have been about five hundred thousand people at the racetrack. Ten thousand came down from the grandstands to go to the most dangerous part of the curve, despite repeated warnings from loudspeakers to move away. Marshalls used sticks to drive back that reckless crowd, which even rebelled against orders; some madmen even ran across the track, between passes of the Grand Prix cars".

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The fight between the Ferrari and Maserati teams was resolved with a triumph for the first, confirming the results of last year, but the race was decided above all by the great class of Ascari. The cars were all made of a cylinder capacity and no more than two litres without a compressor, as the regulation wants. The Gordini teams, French, and Bristol-Cooper, English, were beaten resoundingly by Italian cars; only Manzon (Gordini) was able to fight sometimes among the firsts. Luck did not witness him much, and Manzon maybe demanded too much from his car. A chilling matter. In the last part of the race, Manzon's car lost a wheel: only one miracle avoided a second disaster, as the crowd had still invaded the track, overwhelming the barriers and the order service. Many spectators were touched, without damage, by Manzon's blue bolide. The French driver, at the time, was bravely fighting against Gonzalez, almost as equals. An air parade took place before the Automotive Grand Prix, with evolutions and stunts. However, as mentioned, a massive accident disturbed that big sports party that is the Argentine Grand Prix, as Giuseppe Farina fell on the crowd with his powerful Ferrari, with tragic consequences. Seven spectators have died, and over thirty injured have been hospitalised, some in very serious condition. The disaster occurred at the end of round 31, while the former World Champion was behind the winner Ascari. The responsibility for the drama, however, lies neither on the driver nor on the car, but the recklessness and unruly cheering of the spectators. Over half a million people, taking advantage of the magnificent summer day, crowded the Buenos Aires municipal autodrome to attend this race. The enclosure was already overcrowded for quite some time before the race began; it had to be preceded by an air demonstration. At 3:00 p.m. President Peron made his entrance into the tribune of honour. The air parade immediately began, which was attended by English-made Globe Meteor military aircraft and about fifty civilian aircraft; then the cars lined up for the race. Thousands of people have at this time tried to break through the fence to take a seat on the racetrack, who is completely sold out; meanwhile, groups of fans, either because they are pressed by the spectators arriving by force, or in the hope of following the race better, they came out of the stands and, crossing the track, took their seats on the turf inside it. 

 

They weren't satisfied with standing on the lawn, several even got on the circuit. Many times the race director, through the speakers, was forced to repeat the order of immediate eviction of the track, threatening, otherwise, not to start the race. For the first laps, the order was heard, but as the race progressed and became more and more electrifying, the undisciplined spectators tightened more and more closely the space destined for the cars. The Buenos Aires autodrome is brand new, having been inaugurated in February last year. Its track measures about four kilometres and has a great advantage: that of not having trees in the interior, but fields, this avoids a serious risk for the drivers. However, driving on this circuit is quite difficult, so much so that it does not allow averages well above 130 km/h. On Saturday, during practices, the circuit had appeared very slippery and, trying his Ferrari at high speed, Giuseppe Farina rolled backwards, going off the track. On Sunday, however, the track appeared in excellent condition: dry, and with a reasonable wind blowing from the northwest. No accident, perhaps, would have disturbed the race without the intemperance of the fans. And instead, just for a miracle, two catastrophes were unleashed instead of just one. As mentioned, the Frenchman Manzon, lost a wheel, found himself in front of a group of spectators who had come into sight, and prodigiously managed to avoid them. Farina was not equally lucky. The race was at lap 31, and the Turin driver was closely following his rival and teammate Ascari. At the exit of the last corner, he found himself in front of him and suddenly, a group of spectators. With a sharp turn, he managed to avoid them, touching them at a frightfully close distance. But the car, thrown at high speed and engaged in the curve, took a strong yaw, rolling backwards on itself, and fell like a bolide on another group of spectators, unleashing carnage. Immediately after the accident, public force agents, doctors and nurses with ambulances, and race officers rushed to the scene. First, the track was vigorously cleared to avoid another disaster, while the conventional warning sign was placed on the circuit. The emotion of the public was great, and the most alarming news immediately began to spread: for some time it was impossible for the press to get precise news about both the driver and the victims. 

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At first, it seemed, from an official source and contrary to the catastrophic rumours heard in the stands, that the dead were only one or two. Unfortunately later, also because some of the wounded, helped at the hospital in desperate conditions, it was not possible to save them, it was reported that there were seven dead, and thirty-three wounded. Giuseppe Farina, who was feared to be injured in one leg, came out practically unharmed from the terrible accident. The Italian driver only complains about a few one-handed abrasions. Of the dead, one is a twelve-year-old boy. The injured were sorted in Salaberry and Pineiro hospitals. More than twenty are now lying in the first clinic, relatively close to the racetrack; some are in serious condition, and doctors reserve the prognosis. They were visited by the governmental and municipal authorities, who also arranged for the preparation of the burning chamber. Farina had leaned on this race with particular care. At first, he had been uncertain whether or not to participate in the race, as his parents, who are very old, are both suffering. After agreeing to leave for Argentina, Farina had spent about twenty days at the Sestriere, for a quick athletic recovery, and before boarding, he had gone to pray at the Sanctuary of the Consulate, to which he is particularly devoted. Some incidents similar to the one unleashed in Buenos Aires had already involved the Turin racer in his long career: the most serious of all was the one that happened in Czechoslovakia. Seven died even on that tragic day of September 1949, and even then the spectators had invaded the protective ditch, intended to separate the crowd from the very dangerous track. At the Valentino Circuit, Turin, in April 1952, Giuseppe Farina had left the street and had broken some ribs, but without causing any victim among spectators. In the following days, the Argentine press is unanimous in exonerating Giuseppe Farina from any responsibility for the very serious accident that cost the lives of ten spectators. Thirty are injured; ten of them are in serious condition. Among the victims of the accident are some Italians. They are dead: Giovanni Gallo, 45, and his son Italo, 25. Among the injured, there are Ernesto Collan, 24, and Leopoldo Palazzolo, 25. The agonised and dual mourning of the Roosters particularly discouraged the Italian families in Argentina. Tens of thousands of emigrants had rushed to the circuit, to nudge compatriots Ascari, Villoresi, Farina and Bonetto. The newspapers of the Argentine capital complain about the inefficiency of the order service in some areas of the racetrack and the imprudence of those spectators who did not keep a safe distance from the track. 

 

Probably the organisers had not realised what a mass of half a million spectators meant; the crowd, with its irrepressible strength, collapsed the palisades that blocked access to the most dangerous points on the circuit. After the escape and the astounding first moment, the crowd returned to the tragic place. The major authorities of Buenos Aires immediately visited the hospitalised in the evening; the funeral of the victims would certainly be unforgettable. Farina, as is known, was practically unharmed, having brought back simple scratches to a hand and a leg. The crowd recognised that the disaster was not caused by the Italian driver, but rather by the indiscipline and carelessness of the overwhelming crowd, which celebrated Farina when he returned on foot to the refuelling station. The former World Champion, who has already had several impressive accidents in his motorsport career, is desperate for what happened. He, shortly after the disaster, sends a cablegram to his family members to comfort them about their physical condition. It is not known if Farina will run again, or if - horrified by the terrible accident - will prefer to withdraw from the sport. Faced with the impressive disaster of Buenos Aires, people instinctively ask themselves a question: why is bad luck so angry against Giuseppe Farina? And the pity for those ten deaths on the tragic circuit, the sense of human solidarity with those thirty wounded, and the compassion for the unfortunate fatally involved in such a miserable affair, immediately after turn into a sense of sorrow for Farina. Easy to imagine his desperation, his drama. There must be times when the heart can break with alarm, and the brain can give in from time to time. After the instinctive relief for its miraculous safety, an indescribable storm unleashes in his soul, in the presence of what happened. Unfortunate Farina. It seems like all of them have to happen to him. Sixteen racing bulls were chasing each other on the difficult Buenos Aires circuit, among a flood of undisciplined, fearful crowds. The fences, the barriers, the service of the order, the warnings and the invocations thrown by the speakers, nothing could hold back those 500.000 people exalted by the events of the Grand Prix, furious to see, greedy of the thrill. The crowd is an irrepressible force when it is unleashed. It was easy to predict that something would happen. It happened to him. Fangio, the stylist par excellence, the student and the heir of Varzi in words of driving, in the practices on Saturday he left the track twice, at full speed, as had to happen to Farina on Sunday. 

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The Argentine ace had the chance of not finding obstacles in his chilling skiddings. During the race, Manzon and Menditeguy were also in the same conditions, no longer in control of their cars. Manzon was even without a wheel, amid the public chaos. No one can explain how there were no victims in those two cases. Unfortunately, public opinion is led to generalise. But important details are soon forgotten. For example: only in the following days it is learned from Buenos Aires that even the English driver Brown hit the crowd, unfortunately killing a person. Deaths rise to ten, because a police statement states that the victims of the biggest accident are nine and not ten. This dreadful Grand Prix of Buenos Aires will remain among the most profit-making pages of motorsport, such as the massacre in Monza, carried out by the car of Materassi. However, it is unacceptable to talk about incompetence about an ace that won a World Championship. As for fearlessness, it cannot be measured, because such a problem would not make sense in a circumstance that mainly needs risk. If anything, the question of the reason for racing and sporting fearlessness can be a burning topic because it leads to a far-reaching problem, so it can be addressed before the victims have been buried. The time will share the facts from their real perspective. For now, from the delicate but precise information that comes from Buenos Aires, it is possible to establish this: Farina's non-reliability. He went out of his way to avoid the human barricade that suddenly stood in front of him near a curve. Surely, the Turin driver tried the impossible. Once in Geneva, in order not to run over Villoresi who had been thrown out of the car in front of him, on the asphalt, he deliberately steered against a wall, to save his friend. And luckily, he was saved too. Other irrefutable facts, admitted in chorus by the Argentine newspapers: the imprudence of the public, the spread of people on the track during the race; the vain efforts of the security services. People still wonder: what will Farina do now? Will he keep racing? Will he retire from racing, as he said he wanted to do last year? Only Farina can answer these questions, only his soul, his nerves, his sporting passion, and the circumstances of his life. One thing is much more important than Farina's intentions, and it is this: that the problem of the racing is tackled in all its gravity; and that it will be provided with very strict regulation, once and for all, to safeguard that irreplaceable good that human life is. If the crowd does not obey, marshalls must intervene. In this regard, on Monday, January 19, 1953, a letter from Giuseppe Farina to his loved ones arrives in Turin, full of affection and hope, a letter written on the plane on the journey from Italy to Argentina. The drama leads us to forget, as it is natural, all the rest of the Grand Prix, even the wonderful affirmation of Ascari and his Ferrari. But it must be agreed, the whole world must recognise that today no one can beat Ascari.


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