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#26 1953 Netherlands Grand Prix

2021-04-10 01:00

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#1953, Fulvio Conti, Ludovico Nicoletti, Translated by Monica Bessi, Translated by Alessia Borelli,

#26 1953 Netherlands Grand Prix

On Sunday, June 7, 1953, the Dutch Grand Prix will take place in Zandvoort, on the characteristic 4193-meter circuit winding through the sandy dunes o

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On Sunday, June 7, 1953, the Netherlands Grand Prix will take place in Zandvoort, on the peculiar 4.193-metre circuit winding through the sandy dunes on the North Sea coast. In that race, on August 17, 1952, Alberto Ascari essentially won the World Championship, guaranteeing himself an unbridgeable lead in the championship standings. In second place there was Farina, in third Villoresi; three Ferrari cars in the first three positions at the finish line, with a two-lap lead over Hawthorn's Bristol-Cooper: a great technical and sporting success for the Italians but, due to the superiority of Scuderia Ferrari, these are almost three hours of boredom. Quite different is the outlook for next Sunday. The situation has changed since last year, becoming more lively, uncertain, exciting. The Netherlands Grand Prix will still count as the third round for the World Championship. The technical supremacy is still Italian, indeed Maserati's return to the Grand Prix has, so to speak, doubled it. Sporting interest, too, is increasing by this resolute return. Scuderia Ferrari, with its aces Ascari, Farina and Villoresi and with the excellent English driver Hawthorn, still manages to prevail as it did in the first round of the World Championship in Buenos Aires in January, where Ascari prevailed, and finally in Naples in the most recent Italian race of the aces, won by Farina on a great day. Even as a prognosticator, the scales are tipped on the side of Ferrari, who can count on the massive weight of his countless successes.

 

But since the 1951 Monza Grand Prix, motor racing has lost the bleak and drab monotony of Zandvoort. The 4-cylinder type Ferraris, a classic stop in the field of racing construction, found in the 6-cylinder Maseratis, driven by Argentine aces Fangio and Gonzalez, a demanding term of comparison. At Syracuse, the four Ferraris in the race had mechanical failures, and a Maserati, driven by the Swiss De Graffenried, won. In Buenos Aires, in the first round of the World Championship, Gonzalez's Maserati finished third, behind the Ferraris of Ascari and Villoresi, but ahead of Hawthorn's. In Naples, right after Farina in a Ferrari, came Fangio in a Maserati, 19 seconds behind. Zandvoort is a circuit with fast characteristics, but not too much. So far the superiority has been Ferrari's, both in the very fast circuits like the Monza Autodrome and in the slow-motion mazes like the Naples track. Each track has its own special requirements, and different cars adapt to them differently. Zandvoort will give a useful intermediate technical response. Also as a performance by the drivers Sunday's race promises interesting aspects, both for the confrontation between the field of Italian and Argentine aces and for Ascari's redemption after his unlucky race in Naples, where Farina defeated Fangio. It must be noted that the second round of the World Championship was held in Indianapolis last Saturday, without the participation of Ascari, Farina, Fangio, Villoresi, Gonzalez, etc. For their part, Americans do not compete in European races; therefore, the Indy 500 will count for very few drivers for the purposes of the World Championship, and Zandvoort will essentially be the second round.

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Both Maserati and Ferrari enter teams of four cars, while Gordini enters three, as do Connaught, and H.W.M. two. These are supported by the private Ferrari of Rosier, the Gordini of Wacker, the Connaught of Claes and Wharton’s Cooper-Bristol. Ferraris are out in full force with Ascari, Farina, Villoresi and Hawthorn all driving the normal 4-cylinder models, while a fifth car is kept as spare. The Maseratis are the new models that first appeared at Naples, with parallel instead of splayed 1/4-elliptic rear springs, left-hand gear-levers operating in the central gate by a swinging link arrangement, the 12-plug engines and the redesigned bodywork. Fangio and Bonetto have brand new cars, while Gonzalez has the one with the small headrest that Fangio has driven at Naples. Graffenried, fresh from a victory at Eifelrennen, is driving the fourth car which is the first of the new models and that which Gonzalez has driven in Naples. Of the Gordinis, Trintignant is on the dual-exhaust system car and Schell and Mieres are on the normal six-cylinders as is Wacker. The three works Connaughts are all fuel-injected, driven by Salvadori, MacAlpine and Moss, though the last one is not officially entered by the factory, but is hired by Moss to replace his Cooper-Alta that has not gone too well at Nurburgring the previous Sunday. The two H.W.M.s are driven by the normal team men, Macklin and Collins. Only just over a week before the race the circuit is completely resurfaced with a special non-skid tarmac, but the top dressing has not worn off with the result that there are large quantities of loose gravel about the place and the corners are terribly slippery. To add to the drivers’ difficulties the usual layer of fine sand covers the whole area, the course is situated in sand dunes, and this rises in a fine spray as cars brake heavily, having a sand-blasting effect on anyone following.

 

During practices, great efforts are made to gain good starting-line positions and it is soon evident that Ferrari and Maserati are the only teams with any hope of winning. The battle between these two rises to untold heights and by the end of the second practice period the tension is as exciting as any race, with final honours going to the Ferraris, Ascari making the fastest lap in 1'51"1. This is over a second faster than Fangio’s best but nowhere near the existing lap record of 1'46"0, due to the bad surface. On the spare car that Ascari plays with, a large wire gauze screen has been fitted in an attempt to minimise the danger of flying grit; this car is also fitted with 4.5 litre front brakes, which are larger than the normal Formula 2 type. However, this car is not used on race day and stays in the paddock under a dust sheet. The Maseratis take a leaf front of the Ferrari book and are fitted with wire mesh screens running the full width of the cockpit, held in place by the rear-view mirrors, more or less admitting that they do not expect to spend much time in the lead. The lineup for the start sees Ascari on the inside of the front row, with Fangio and Farina beside him, while behind there are Villoresi and Gonzalez. Then comes Hawthorn, Graffenried and Rosier, and in row four the first green car, Moss’ Connaught with Schell alongside in the first Gordini. The fifth line comprises Salvadori, Trintignant and Bonetto, followed by MacAlpine and Macklin and then Collins, Claes and Wharton with Mieres alone at the back as Wacker does not start. The recently overhauled track is quite slippery in some places. Racers hope the road will be better on Sunday, as teams of workers are feverishly working to eliminate the inconvenience. Organisers are concerned about this, however, for the safety of the drivers and the public. Belgian John Claes, who took 2'03"9 in his Connaught at an average speed of 121.830 km/h, regrets the track conditions at the end of practice.

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The Belgian driver admits that his relatively mediocre time is due to the carburation woes, but also observes that the pieces of the tarred macadam flying in the air when the cars pass bothers them and prevents them from driving perfectly. Look at this stuff, he says picking up a bunch of black rocks. Cars and drivers come to the pits looking like they have been coated with sandpaper, indeed. On the topic of cars there is talk and discussion, often, about team orders. What these orders really are, how they’re followed and how much they affect the race’s outcome, just a few outside the secret world of team crews know and can judge. Undoubtedly, there are tactic plans, more or less implemented or implementable, agreements between drivers, interests hidden to the public. You can sense it by some things during the race, obvious even to the layman's eye. On some occasions the winner has to be one driver instead of another, possibly. The reasons are suggested, from time to time, by the requirements of the environment, circumstance, and place. They are always brand propaganda reasons, that is, commercial reasons. The logic says that in a World Championship with multiple trials, or sums of points, team orders become a firm rule, from which it would be naive and disastrous to disregard for the sake of sport in its virgin state. Ascari during the 1951 races proved himself as an amazing irresistible driver; but at some point his teammates Farina and Villoresi did not do much to delay the win of the World Championship. The main goal became, for all Ferrari’s drivers, to win the title as soon as possible, against any surprises. Ascari predominated in the first races of the Championship, where you battle without team orders, defending each of their possibilities. Then his teammates gladly let him off the hook. It was a waste of time complicating things with intern rivalries; besides, Alberto Ascari, in dazzling form, would have still managed to prevail.

 

And on the Zandvoort circuit, at the Netherlands Grand Prix, the 1953 edition of which is being held tomorrow, the Milanese ace aims for securing the title, having accumulated a points lead in the standings that can no longer be bridged by the other drivers in the next three scheduled rounds. The Netherlands Grand Prix will not be the seventh round, as in 1952, but the third for the World Championship. It will practically count as the second episode, since - as mentioned - the Indy 500, deserted by the European aces, will not affect the fight for the title, to which the Americans, for their part, do not aspire. The standings have not yet stabilised, although Ascari won, on Sunday, January 18, 1953, in Buenos Aires, in the first round. Each Ferrari driver can play his cards at Zandvoort, at least up to two-thirds of the race, as seems to be customary in the Maranello team. After two-thirds, if opponents from other teams do not press, whoever is first remains so. And the others line up. The days when Ferrari won easily are gone now. The Modenese constructor is the first to rejoice because he is a man who loves a fight: victory has value only in relation to the opponents being beaten. Maserati, with Fangio and Gonzalez and with Bonetto, is likely to be a danger to Ferrari even in the last third of the race. No team orders, then. The world title is a result still within reach of everyone, teammates or not. And sometimes, in the reality of racing, personal antagonisms manifest themselves more acutely between colleagues than between rivals. In the Netherlands Grand Prix, mainly Ascari, World Champion, Farina and Fangio, already title holders and eager to regain it, and Villoresi and Gonzalez will be in contention. It was a rant of pride and ambition, a drivers' fight, even more so than the strenuous Ferrari-Maserati mechanical duel. Then, soon enough, team reasons will block individual ambitions. It was this time or never. Such seems to be the motto at Zandvoort. A victory that will perhaps be worth a whole championship.

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From the fall of the flag the race is dominated by Ascari who leaps into the lead with a string of red cars following him, and as they fight for position to go into the first corner Fangio is squeezed almost to a standstill by Villoresi and Farina converging on him from each side. By the end of the first lap Ascari is out on his own and runs the whole 90 laps non-stop and faultlessly with no possible fear of ever being challenged. After the squeezing episode Fangio never has an opportunity to get near the three Ferraris and the Ascari-Farina-Villoresi order is unchallenged for two-thirds of the race. Fangio runs in a steady fourth place with Hawthorn in fifth, after which there is a big gap before the rest of the field appears. Moss has clung on to the tail of the red cars at the start, but by the fourth lap his position changes from tailing the leaders to leading the midfield. Gonzalez, as so often happens, makes a poor start, finishing the first lap in 14th place and then proceeds to work his way through the field, passing Trintignant, Rosier, Schell and Bonetto, who are locked in a fierce battle, and Graffenried, soon outpacing the latter to run on his own in the long gap between Hawthorn and the Baron. Gradually he gains on the English-driven Ferrari until he has it in sight and then on lap 22 he coasts to a standstill behind the pits with a half-shaft broken on the near side. This disaster has its fortunate side for it means he is able to walk quickly back to the pits and take over from Bonetto who is flagged in. This breaks up the interesting battle he is having with Schell, the latter driving a brilliant race, but as their duel is for the eighth place it is more important that the burly Argentinian should have the car. He starts off again in ninth place shortly after Hawthorn has gone by, now a whole lap in front of the Maserati, and the determination with which he sets about catching the Ferrari again is a wonderful sight.

 

Meanwhile, with less than a third of the race completed, Macklin is out. Wharton retires with a broken rear wishbone, Salvadori has been into his pit to change a plug but continuing on three cylinders retires with valve-gear trouble and Claes starts a series of long pit stops with rear-suspension issues. The highlight of the race now is the driving of Gonzalez which is of the inspired type that only the Latin temperament can seem to produce. Five laps after restarting he has Hawthorn in sight up the hill behind the pits and every lap he comes out of the hairpin in a long tail-slide, steering with his left hand and shaking the other fist at the disappearing tail of the Ferrari. By lap 32 he gets past and presses on with a complete lap to make up for the remaining 58 if he is to get in the money. By now only the first five are on the same lap, Ascari out on his own, Farina and Vilioresi very close and occasionally changing positions, Fangio running alone and Hawthorn bringing up the tail of the race-dominators. On lap 37 Fangio retires out on the course with his rear axle broken and this leaves Ferrari in full command of the first four places. Meanwhile, Gonzalez passes Graffenried and is now fifth, and at the speed at which he is making up the lost ground it is clearly possible for him to catch Hawthorn. The Ferraris are quick, but the English boy is going as fast as he can with safety and makes this clear to them. Slowly but very surely the Maserati closes on the Ferrari and on lap 48, while all alone on the long Tarzan hairpin, Gonzalez spins completely round, ending up rolling gently backward at right angles to the direction of travel. He still has the engine running and letting the clutch in with a bang he continues, with his rear wheels spinning furiously. Ascari is causing a little worry in his pit as there is smoke coming out of the bonnet side from a faulty exhaust manifold but, due to the pits being on the opposite side of the car, the mechanics can not see the cause and stand ready for an emergency pit-stop, but it is not necessary.

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Shortly after Ascari laps Hawthorn, which means that only the leading three Ferraris are on the same lap and ten laps later Farina and Villoresi lap the junior member of the team. However, he is still running regularly and fully justifying his place among the big boys, though naturally not able to match their ability. About this time Schell’s brilliant run comes to an end when the Gordini transmission gives up and MacAlpine, who has been holding on to Rosier for a considerable time, pulls in with a suspected collapsed piston. Moss, in the remaining works Connaught, is running ninth and then appears very slowly with a bung blown out of the pressure relief of the injection system. He has to stop again, the tanks are refilled and he continues at the back of the field. Shortly after he gets away, the Ferrari pit wall has a surprise when Villoresi stops on the hairpin behind the pits; the car is made to run again to finish the lap and is then withdrawn. This leaves the order Ascari, Farina, Hawthorn, Gonzalez, the Maserati driver now having the last Ferrari in sight once again and re-commencing the wild fist-waving business, urging the car on with great heaves of his body. Trintignant is running well in sixth place behind Graffenried, both six-cylinder engines sounding beautifully crisp, while Rosier, Collins and Moss bring up the tail end. With only 12 laps to go Gonzalez achieves what has appeared impossible, making up a complete lap on the Ferrari, and he passes Hawthorn to take third place, a lap behind Farina. For two laps Hawthorn clings on to the tail of the masterly-driven Maserati, but frightens himself so many times in the process that he very wisely eases up and settles with fourth place. Ferrari, however, is not so content and thought they should have kept the Argentinian at bay, though second thoughts make them realise that a young driver who knows his own limitations will be far more useful to them in the Iong run.

 

The last ten laps run out and Ascari is flagged home as the winner of the Netherlands Grand Prix, smiling happily and surely knowing that he is still the teacher. Magnificent as Ascari’s demonstration has been, the real hero of the day is Gonzalez and the crowd show its appreciation of his efforts in a big way. Despite the fact that he has driven to the limit for most of the race, he climbs up into the press box to make a recording for Argentinian radio as soon as he gets out of the car, being a little puffed, but not so much that he cannot describe his feelings into the microphone for about a minute and a half without a break. The first round of the European leg of the World Championship has proved a glorious day for the red cars and we can look forward to further great battles between Ferrari and Maserati. Opening the day’s proceedings a one-hour sports-car race is held, restricted to non-expert drivers, by the simple expedient of refusing entries from drivers of the calibre of Moss, Wharton and Salvadori, who would have liked to participate. This produces a very mixed bag of cars and drivers, and F. C. Davis has very little difficulty in winning with his fast Bristol-engined Tojeiro, painted green for the occasion. For a time the Dutch driver de Koster in a 2-litre Maserati makes some opposition but he soon gets tired. Three of the peculiar central-driving-seat Kieft-M.G.s run, driven by Meyers, Lines and Van der Lof, but are not able to compete with larger engined cars. The Maserati car is interesting, being a cross between the 1949 type of A6G and the present model, having the latest type of engine and front suspension, but the earlier ½-elliptically sprung rear end. During practice Fangio demonstrates the possibilities of the car by running consistently in 2'04"0 and later takes the new owner round in the passenger seat to show him how it is done. The third man home is the pre-war driver Hertzberger with a DB 2 Aston Martin saloon.

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The reigning World Champion, Alberto Ascari, authoritatively placed his candidacy for the title of World Champion in 1953 as well. In fact, the Milanese driver won at Zandvoort the Netherlands Grand Prix, the third round of the current world championship, and installed himself firmly in first place in the championship standings. A close duel between the drivers of the Italian Ferrari and Maserati racing teams was expected; however, the expected brand confrontation did not take place. Ascari remained in first place from start to finish, for the whole ninety laps of the Grand Prix. Ferrari's success was completed by the second place of Giuseppe Farina from Turin, who crossed the finish line some fifteen seconds after Ascari. Maserati took third, with the Argentine driver Gonzalez, the author of a courageous and masterful pursuit that thrilled the crowd, and which softened the monotony of the Grand Prix dominated by the superiority of Scuderia Ferrari. Bonetto had to surrender his Maserati during the race to teammate Gonzalez whose car was stranded by mechanical problems. Fangio retired because of a breakdown of his Maserati; the same thing happened to Villoresi, of the Ferrari team.

 

"My eyes are as red as a guinea pig. I blame the freshly paved road surface and the bits of macadam that were flying through the air. Villoresi is in the same condition as me. Ascari is better and blesses a pair of special glasses, which he had a good idea of putting on his nose at the start. Bonetto, on the other hand, would have a hard time spotting a sparrow a mile away. In fifteen minutes a Dutch ophthalmologist will examine us, then we will sprint off to Brussels. Tomorrow, at any rate, to put the cross on the ballot in the right place I will see just fine".

 

Giuseppe Farina says to his wife at the end of the Netherlands Grand Prix. The lady, who had lived through hours of anxiety - the dreadful afternoon of the brides of champions in driving or motorcycling when the drivers are competing - discovers her sense of humour. She is happy. Her husband is fine and has had a magnificent race. Through the storm, raging over the city of Turin, Mrs. Farina sees a blue sky, with a few pink clouds.

 

"How are you getting there? On a jet Comet made available to you by the Queen of England, or are they sending you a special flying saucer from Mars?"

 

His wife asks Giuseppe Farina.

 

"No kidding. I really hope to make it in time to vote. This is the program".

 

Railroad schedules, airline schedules and mileage tables in hand, the patrol of Italian drivers in Holland studied a special itinerary so as not to lose the right to express their electoral ideas. And so, as soon as the Grand Prix on the Zandvoort circuit is over, the little group moves quickly to Brussels. Two hundred kilometres to add to the 377.820 on the circuit. A chore, but well worth the effort. On Monday morning from Brussels, with a single plane hop, the six hundred kilometres to Malpensa will be covered. At this point Ascari and Villoreai, who live in Milan, are home. Before they go to hug their families, they will make a detour to their respective polling stations. For Farina, however, the difficulties will begin. The plane is scheduled to arrive at 12:20 a.m.: ten minutes are needed for customs, five to get to Gallarate, and the rest will be a sprint down the highway. A friend, Dr. Priggione, will go and wait for him at the airport, then hand over the wheel of his sports car to the polling station on Corso Matteotti, where he must arrive before 2:00 p.m., when the polling stations close. If all goes well. Farina will join the list of Turin sportsmen who were simply voters. To him goes the first goodwill award.


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