#28 1953 French Grand Prix

2021-04-08 00:00

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#1953, Fulvio Conti, Ludovico Nicoletti, Transated by Damiana Iovaro,

#28 1953 French Grand Prix

Monday 29th June 1953, during the afternoon, Monza autodrome reopens to a non oceanic, but torrential flow of fans for the usual end of spring Gran Pr


Monday 29th June 1953, during the afternoon, Monza autodrome reopens to a non oceanic, but torrential flow of fans for the usual end of spring Gran Prix, that this year falls delayed, as the season goes: sixth in series of Gran Prix of the Autodromo, not to be confused with the end of summer super classic, the Gran Prix of Italy and Europe. Combined with the Lotteria of Monza, even this event however has guaranteed a big spectacular resonance. The formula is original for two reason: in subjective composition of admissions - sport cars up to 3000 cc - and in objective conditions of confrontation, consisting in two distinct and short following races, each one disputed not with elimitation but from all competitors, with standing to simple sum (absolute) of times. With the first limitation, they wanted to bring back closer to the original strain of the reason for being of sport car, that with its greatest exponents was becoming the authentic car of pure competition, domesticated proforma in tribute to a international rules less and less convinced of himself. Wisely the Automobile Club of Milan wants to give an example of a call to common sense, to traditions and to a minimum standard of security that is became a increasingly rare feature of the motorsport races. At the same time reduction of engine capacities allows the unique class standing, with obvious advantages not only for economic reasons (for who gives and for who receives the award) but even for trasparency and interest of spectators. With the two races with sum of times , then, the racer is tied to a continuing combativeness, even when this last conquered the position of honor: its obvious that could be first even who did not have won no one of the two race.


Even because is left the right, in the break between the two races, to make any operations of maintenance on the engine. The track is not exceptionally heavy: 220 kilometers equal to 35 laps of track: even it suitable to the fast performance of the formula. Reasons of concrete interest, according to the list of starters, are considerable but not so many: the limitation to 3000 cc eliminated (as indeed was scheduled) larger and combative of class international cars: Jaguars, Cunninghams, Talbots, new Alfa Romeos. Indeed, the milanese company abstained all along the line. And of most visible champions, Farina, for not talking of minors, is busy in Rouen. The deployment of twentyfive competitors is therefore focused essentially on the duo Ferrari-Lancia: it is such but to widely compensate every absence. The automobile torinese house wrote, with the argentine ace Gonzalez, the french champion Manzon, Bonetto and pheraps Maglioli, a team of his new 3 litres sport (six cylinders of 86x85) of 220 HP, with fixed brakes detached from tyres. Two of them are doubly new, because bodied with open spider-sport, very aerodynamic, by Pinin Farina. Ferrari on the other hand seems certain that he will present for the first time, in testing exhibition, his brand new 2500 formula 1954: the car that is build for next years Gran Prix, without supercharger: a 4 cylinders of over 200 HP, lighter and at least as fast as Lancia: it will be entrusted to Alberto Ascari. They will accompany three litres of 12 cylinders with Villoresi and Marzotto. The fearsome third between the two probable protagonists is the french Gordini of 2300 cc of 6 cylinders, of 150 horse power, with Bordoni. Fangio, instead, as far as in via of reestablishment, is improbable that he can start. Brave Maserati 2 litres start for a relative affirmition and not absolute.


Before, however, on Sunday 28th June 1963 there is less turnout than previous years on Essart circuit for the Rouen Gran Prix. The race takes place on 306 kilometers distance, equal to 60 laps of the circuit of 5400 metres. Fifteen competitors start. Giuseppe Farina and the english Hawthorn, the two leaders of Ferrari, take the lead since the start, and already at the lap 3 the torinese driver improves the lap record taking it to 2’13’’3 at average of 131 km/h (previous record: Ascari 2’11’’3). After five laps only five drivers remain in the same lap: are in order Farina, Hawthorn, Trintignant, Behra and Rosier, but these last two with a minute gap from Farina. At the end of the twelve lap Giuseppe Farina has already doubled seven of the rivals and among them all the Talbot drivers. The torinese makes an exciting race and beats again and again his record taking it to 2’13’’0, and that is an average of 138 km/h. Shell (Gordini) is also forced to give green light to Ferraris that double one after the other and at a phenomenal rate all the rivals. The waited duel Ferrari-Gordini ends, you can say, since the first part of the race with the defeat of the parisian costructor of which only two representatives, Trintignant and Shell remain in the race (Behra is forced to retire at lap 20 because of an irreparable brake failure). The only Trintignant continues bravely the unequal fight and the stopwatch marks for the french 30 seconds of gap to Farina and 35 seconds to Hawthorn. But at lap 81 even the Gordini of Trintignant disappears from the race. The car of the french ace is reported broke down on the circuit far from his refuelling stand. Even for Trintignant the race is over. Rosier passes to third place to one lap and 45 seconds from the last Gordini drove by Shell.


Meanwhile the triumphal march of Farina and Hawthorn continues; the english takes also the luxury of beating in turn the Giuseppe Farina’s record marking the lap as 2’12’’8 equal to average of 138.253 km/h. The cadence of two Ferraris increase progressively from the start of the race: and numbers clearly indicate it: 136 km/h of average at tenth lap; 136.1 km/h until fifteenth lap; 136.212 km/h until the twentyth; 136.600 km/h at the thirtyth. After 200 kilometers only ten competitors remain in the race and for Ferraris the victory is virtually gained. This their thriumphal carousel takes away of course most of the agonistic interest from the race in which the salient fact does not stay anymore in the fight between the two french Rosier and Etancelin (Talbot 4500) for the conquest of third place. All of them are already three laps behind Farina and Hawthorn; and the torinese ace continues undisturbed to the end. The victory is also a good sign to Ferraris 2500 cc coming which have run in a cadence that reveiled how the drivers made the race following probably a predeterminated plan: in addition to victory technicians of Maranello’s team wanted even conquer the certainty that new models are definitively on point, the hard Essart circuit putting to the test in addition to the engine different parts and mechanical ratios of the new car ( change of speed, differential assembly, and so on) has given them even this confidence. Thirty thousands spectators attended to the trial that was preceded by the dispute of a race reserved to turismo cars of small capacity which categories were won respectively by the american Bob Said (Osca) and the french Bedelé (Beynault). In the meanwhile, the fifth Giro Automobilistico of Umbria, took place on a route of 390 kilometers, marks the triumph of Luigi Musso on Maserati 2000, that beats of around 2 minutes torineses Piodi and Valenzano, both on Lancia, classified respectively at second and third place.


On Monday 29th June 1953 the sixth Gran Prix of the Autodromo, not particularly favored neither by the pouty weather, neither by the discrete but not massive turnout, would deserved a brighter fate. It goes however considered between beautiful successful events, for the class and combativeness of competitors, for the interest of the formula, for the vivacity of its surprising episodes, for the very high and the grinding race pace. Between competitors, many names of first order, as the World Champion Ascari, Luigi Villoresi, the argentine Gonzalez, the french champion Manzon, and even Giuseppe Farina, winner on Sunday at Rouen Circuit, with his teammate Hawthorn, in second place, arrived by flight during the morning in Monza, just in time for some laps of rushed reconnaissance of the circuit, with the new Ferrari of 2 litres and half. The formula, as is known, consist in limitating to sport cars the capacity under three litres, called to dispute, in a category and unique class, two different races of 35 laps each, with a standing a sum of times. Absent the Veritas 2100 of the belgian De Kando, that was not qualified, harmless Gordini B250 of Casella and Bordoni, as the Maserati 9000 of Giletti, the two races scheduled are lived on the duel Ferrari-Lancia. The Maranello team lines up the World Champion Alberto Ascari, Farina, Villoresi and Hawthorn, Lancia takes the argentine Gonzalez, Bonetto and Manzon. When everything, in first race, predicts an easy success of Ascari, that doubles almost every competitors, a banal accident has, unfortunately, to remove him from the race: at Lesmo turn, trying to overtake mrs Bianca Maria Piazza, Ascari ends with gentely run her over. Luckily the two, even going on the grass, get away without damage and can, after a good drink of cognac, go back with their own cars to the pits. A real shame, in the race Ascari was equal to himself until this moment. The italian driver, after a flying start in the manner of Indianapolis, had soon taken the lead , followed by Bonetto, Gonzalez, Farina, Manzon and Hawthorn. But at the second lap Palmiera was already stop for a failure, and for him the race was already over.


Soon after even Gonzalez stops at pits for clutch problems; time lost facilitates the double by Alberto Ascari. The argentine driver stops again at pits in the next lap. Then, at lap 13, Ascari and mrs Piazza collide at Lesmo turn. Villoresi comes to find himself automatically at lead, in front of Farina and Bonetto, Hawthorn, Castellotti and Bordoni and the leaderboard remains unchanged until the end of the race. With the retire of Gonzalez at lap 21, Lancia lost his first rider, but has regained Bonetto. Infact the piemontese, with a smart tactic, is able, lap after lap, second after second, to steal to Farina 3.6 seconds that was spacing him out and to end in a good second place, after a dramatic, impetuous close duel with the former teammate. The fight is almost unequal in the second race: Bonetto, on Lancia, have to fight against Ferraris coalition, that is against Villoresi, Farina, Hawthorn. But the Lancia leader at start takes on the lead soon, traipsing Villoresi and Farina, that alternates in the chase. Attacks of the two rider of the Maranello team, insistent and prolonged, come one after the other, but Bonetto does not intend to give the position. And at each lap, even in a fraction of a second, seems he rise his advantage. But for a little more: infact, efforts of Villoresi are crowned by a success: just in the Lesmo turn, the italian driver takes the lead, followed by Bonetto and, thirty meters behind, by Farina. For two laps positions do not suffer variants; Farina presses and Bonetto has to defend the second position through gritted teeth; but later he is passed. The race is by now a monologue of the two Ferraris, even if the Lancia champion, at lap 16, is able to take himself again in second position, to give it soon later to Farina, and regain then, definetively. The fight between the two piemonteses is exciting. Options of little importance in the back. The closed spyder of Villoresi does not know breakes and continues the race victorious, while Bonetto and Farina, with the open chassis, continue the close fight. A burst of applause from the 40.000 spectators, welcomes the triumphant arrival of Villoresi, winner of both races: to him goes even the Coppa Arturo Mercanti. In the applause are together Bonetto and the two tireless veterans of the Rouen onors, Farina and Hawthorn.


The sports-cars have not been put away until midnight Saturday, the Formula II cars have their final practice and Ferraris and Maseratis are out in full force until the practice battles we are becoming used to proceed. All the faster times are an improvement over the sports-car record and it is Gonzalez who appears to have the upper hand, but then Ascari and Villoresi deal with him severely, only to have the Argentine take Bonetto’s Maserati and equal their times. Outwardly neither of the teams have changed their cars since the Belgian Grand Prix and it is surprising that Ferraris can challenge the speeds of the Maseratis, but with two hairpin bends, requiring really heavy braking the Ferrari brakes are making up for a slightly inferior maximum speed. Although practice has been slow off the mark it finished at a peak with the sports-car race art open one between Cunningham, Jaguar, Gordini and Ferrari, and the Grand Prix with Ascari, Gonzalez, Villoresi, Fangio and Farina having only 1.3 seconds between the fastest and the slowest. Of the new boys Hawthorn makes a better time than Marimon, while of the private owners Graffenried beats Rosier. Behind comes the rest, led by Bira driving a works Connaught, and Gerard’s Cooper-Bristol thanks to some quick laps puts in by DA Clarke. As midnight approaches on Saturday the whole of the pit-area is superbly floodlit, bands play, fireworks are let off, cabaret turns are performed on open-air stages and the restaurants and stands are full to overflowing. Starting a race in the dark is indeed a novelty to the public but the drivers of the faster cars are not looking forward to it, for a Le Mans start at 4 o’clock in the afternoon is hair- raising enough and the added handicap of plunging out of a pit-area like daylight into the pitch black of midnight is not a comforting thought. Officially there is no general classification in this race, though naturally everyone is interested in the team that is going to go the farthest distance in the 12 hours.


There are three categories, the first being up to 750 cc, the second 750-2000 cc and the third over 2000 cc, so that there are to be three races and three winners. That is officially, but generally speaking the Le Mans atmosphere has so invaded Reims that a general classification is expected. As at Le Mans the cars line up in order of engine size with the drivers on the opposite side of the road and a quick glance down the line shows two Cunninghams, both open models, the new one driven by Fitch- Walters and the old one by Cunningham-Johnson, three Talbots as at Le Mans driven by Rosier- Cabantous, Levegh-Meyrat and Mairesse-Grignard, the 4.5-litre Ferrari of Maglioli-Carini, a 4.1 open Ferrari of Hill-Chinetti, the Moss-Whitehead works Jaguar, the Ecurie Ecosse, Jaguar driven by Scott- Douglas and Sanderson, a French 120C of Roboly-Simone, the Abecassis-Frere HWM with transverse-leaf, and torsion bar De Dion rear, and two Gordinis, the 3-litre of Behra-Lucas and a 2.5- litre of Trintignant-Schell. On account of a supercharger Constantin’s Peugeot 203 is in this group, which comprises category three. ln the middle class are the two Le Mans Bristols, bravely having another go, driven by Macklin-Whitehead and Fairman-Wilson, three assorted Gordinis, Mieres- Guelfi and Layer-Rinin with two open versions of the 2-litre and Bourelly-Creapin with a 14-litre coupe. Clarke and Scott-Russell are driving Gerard’s Le Mans Fraser-Nash, the owner running in the Grand Prix, Salvadori and Crook with the works Fraser-Nash coupe, two 2-litre Ferraris, a coupe driven by Picard-Pozzi and an open one by Legenier-Rubirosa, while Said’s blue and white 1350 cc Osca makes up the class. Naturally the 750cc class is especially for French cars and has most of the Le Mans competitors running, with D.B., Panhard, Monopide, Renault, and V.P.-Renault, making a total of fifteen in this class. It would have been nice to see a specially prepared Lotus-Austin having a go at this French monopoly.


It is doubtful whether more than two drivers saw the flag fall, but they all get away and the race is on, with Villoresi in the Ferrari coupe soon going into the lead, followed by Behra (Gordini), Walters (Cunningham), Trintignant (Gordini), Moss (Jaguar), and Abecassis (HWM). Mieres leads the 2-litre class, ahead of the other works Gordini and the Fraser-Nash coupe goes out with clutch trouble. Drivers soon get used to the darkness and the Ferrari draws away from the rest of the field, while Behra comes in with a flat rear tyre. It is found that the new car is too low for the jack, when the tyre is flat, and the whole staff try lifting, but to no avail; eventually another jack is produced and the wheel changed, the car now being way back among the 2-litre class by the time it restarts. By 1:00 a.m. things have settled down, the Ferrari being still farther ahead, followed by Trintignant, Walters, Moss, Abecassis, and Rosier with the first of the Talbots. The leading 2-litre Gordini has broken its accelerator pedal, letting the Loyer-Rinin car take its place, while Plantivaux and Bruwaere are leading the babies with one of the super-streamlined Panhards. Graham Whitehead retires one of the Bristols with a broken clutch before Macklin has a chance to drive, and Roboly’s nice new Jaguar runs a big-end. Just before 2:30 a.m. pit-stops for fuel and new drivers begin and at one end of the pits the marshals allow only two mechanics to work on the cars, while at the other end marshals allow three. Officially the rules says that one mechanic can refuel and while he is doing that two others, or one and the driver, can work on the car, but no one is too sure and it is soon clear that few of the marshals had practice at supervising long-distance race pit-stops. However, nobody bothers too much and everyone refuels and changes drivers, fuel is spilt everywhere, no one catches fire, by a miracle, and the numbers around the cars depend on the nationality of the crew. The leading Ferrari continues to retain its lead, except during the pit-stop reshuffling, and Carini takes some time to get into the stride of Maglioli but by 3:00 a.m. he achieves it near enough.


Before handing over Maglioli makes the fastest lap in 2’42"8, a speed of 184.585 km/h, which would have put him in the second row of the Grand Prix line-up. The Ferrari now seems quite uncatchable and sounds perfectly healthy and the order in Class 1 is the Ferrari, followed some way back by the new Cunningham, Trintignant still driving the 2.5-litre Cordial, Whitehead having taken over from Moss on the Jaguar, Frere driving the HWM, and Rosier driving the leading Talbot single-handed. Loyer and Rinin are still leading the 2-litres and the Chancel brothers have now taken the lead in Class 3 with the second streamlined Panhard. According to the regulations lights have to be kept on until 5 am irrespective of weather conditions and when the Ferrari goes past at 4:30 a.m. with no lights it is quite obvious that it is asking to be disqualified. A visit to the Ferrari pit to hear what the organisers have to say is imperative and as Charles Faroux, the Race Director, approaches he has disqualification written all over his face. Before he reaches the pit Cornet’s Panhard coupe goes by without any lights, as do several DBs, the French-owned 2-litre Ferrari, one of the Gordinis and many others on sidelights only. The disqualification changes to a warning and the pit waves frantically to Carini to put the lights on again, as do all the other offenders, while Faroux gesticulates to those on sidelights, and nobody really knows whether the regulations mean sidelights or headlights. Returning towards his office Faroux meets Divo, the Assistant Race Director, and at that point the Ferrari comes in for a pit stop. It is refuelled and Maglioli gets in, and then fuel gushes out of the filler onto the ground. Many hands push the car clear of the spilt fuel, the engine bursts into life and Maglioli is back in the race. This is at 4:40 a.m. and as he leaves there are no rear lights showing, while to those behind the car, including the Race Director, the car appears to have been push-started.


Without more doubts a meeting of the marshals is called and five minutes later the loudspeaker announces that no more lap times are going to be taken for Ferrari #18 as it has infringed numerous regulations. No mention is made that it has been disqualified, merely that no more times would be taken. It is now nearly three laps in front of the second car and going at the same furious pace. Ugolini, the pit manager, is soon at the Director’s office to find out what rules have been infringed and a furious argument starts, which goes on for over 1 hour. From this point the race turns into a farce as partiality has been shown over the interpreting of rules and, much more serious, the organisers flagrantly ignore one of the most important rules of the International Sporting Code. As Faroux states to Ugolini, a decision has been made; why or how or whether it is justified is another matter which can be discussed, but the actual decision to stop taking times for the leading Ferrari can not be altered. When a car is disqualified, for whatever reason, it must be stopped by the Race Director with a black flag and the number of the car concerned. This is not done and the Ferrari continues unchecked, while the loudspeakers, at 4:50 a.m. announces that it has completed 100 laps of the circuit. The rights or wrongs of the disqualification depend entirely on the statements of the marshals concerned and when questioned more closely by Ugolini these statements begin to vary. For example, those behind the car say it left without any lights, those in front say the headlights were on; those behind say the car was push-started, those beside the car say Maglioli pressed the starter, though no one is sure whether the car was still rolling or stationary at the precise moment. The question of the number allowed to work on the car arises again and it is clear that opinions or interpretations of the rules vary, but still the Ferrari is allowed to circulate; nothing is said about putting all the lights out before 5:00 a.m. After a while Lofty England appears on behalf of the Jaguar that is now officially leading, to suggest stopping the Ferrari if it is out of the race, as Moss is needlessly racing with it, thinking that he is still leading.


Roche produces a black flag which he gives to Divo, who in turn produces a number 18 which is given to Faroux; meanwhile the public scream abuse and call for the reasons for the uproar. Faroux with the number and Divo with the flag wait for the Ferrari to appear and first of all show them to a red Panhard coupe and then to the 2-litre Ferrari coupe. When Maglioli finally appears there is a distinctly unassured air about the Race Director, and as the car passes he holds up the number and points to the car while Divo keeps the flag by his side. Naturally Maglioli does not stop and a lap or two later Divo goes down to the beginning of the pit area and waves the black flag, but with no number, so again Maglioli does not stop. By now the whole affair has gotten completely out of hand and the officials are all for sitting down and forgetting the whole incident, but Ugolini does not have it and continues to keep the pot boiling. No more official attempts are made to stop the Ferrari and just before 5:30 a.m., amidst an uproar from the public, the Ferrari pit signals Maglioli to come in, which he does immediately, accompanied by a continuous chant of sympathy from the crowd, some of whom proceed to pluck the decorative flowers from the grandstands and throw them on the car as it stops. Maglioli justifies his action of not stopping before by simply quoting the International Sporting Code, pointing out that a number on its own means nothing, neither does a black flag. This utter farce and mismanagement on the part of the officials cause much of the interest of the race to die away, the crowd begins to disappear and go to sleep, and the remaining hours drag heavily. While all this has been going on Fitch has crashed the new Cunningham while in the lead, writing it off completely, Schell has pushed the leading Gordini in with its starter motor permanently locked to the flywheel, the H.W.M. has broken its rear suspension and pit stops have continued, with fuel splashing about everywhere, cars being pushed about, more than three people working on cars, depending on which end of the pits they are at. What has been a first-class race has turned into a shambles.


As those people who have been to bed begins to filter back to the course after breakfast Moss- Whitehead are leading with the Jaguar, followed by Rosier-Cabantous in the Talbot and Cunningham- Johnson in the Cunningham in Class 3, Loyer-Rinin are still leading in Class 2 from Fairman-Wilson in the Bristol and Picard-Pozzi in the Ferrari coupe, while many of the little cars are still going round, the Chancel brothers in the lead. Little of the daybreak excitement is known to them and no official announcements are made, so that opinions can only be gathered from hearsay and various improvements are made to the actual happenings, by the sleepers. Ferraris finally packs up and goes home to bed threatening to return to Modena and not run in the Grand Prix, while Carini starts the coupe on the starter and drives it round the back of the pits, unintentionally disproving any stories about the car being unable to be started other than by pushing. As the heat of the day approaches and the hours to midday tick slowly away it is becoming rather obvious that the experiment of starting a race at midnight is not a good one, from the point of view of those keen ones who stayed up all time. Also, the much advertised music and dancing that was supposed to go on all night has fizzled out before the race even started and as Moss brings the dark green Jaguar into the finish he is loudly acclaimed by the crowd that is beginning to assemble again for lunch. Cabantous finishes second in time to Talbot, followed by Johnson in last year’s Cunningham, which he has shared with the owner. That, officially, is Class 3, though to the crowd it is the race itself, while Class 2 sees the Bristol finish a deserved first after their Le Mans set-backs, the Loyer-Rinin Gordini having broken its gearbox, followed by the Picard-Pozzi Ferrari and the Clarke-Scott Russell Frazer-Nash, having run many hours without a filler cap on the tank and having to stop twice as many times as scheduled. In Class 1 the brothers Pierre and Robert Chancel keep their odd looking, but effective, Panhard in front of their team-mates and third is a DB Panhard driven by Bayol and Hannenmuller.


As if all the foregoing are not enough for one meeting, preparations now begins for the 40th Grand Prix of France and the Ferrari threat of not starting does not materialise, naturally—the FIA consequences being too great—but they delay their arrival until the last possible moment and receive a huge ovation from the crowd when they eventually line up in front of the pits. The cars form up on the grid, there being Ascari, Villoresi, Farina, Hawthorn and Rosier on four-cylinder Ferraris, Gonzalez, Fangio, Bonetto, Mathison and Graffenried on Maserati Sixes, Moss with his Cooper-Alta, Bira and Salvadori with fuel-injection Connanghts, Claes with his standard Connaught, Collins, Macklin and Cabantous with HWMs, Bayol and Chiron with Oscars, Wharton and Gerard with Cooper-Bristols, and right at the back, having not practised, are the four works Gordinis driven by Trintignant, Schell, Behra and Mieres. While Faroux prepares to drop the starting flag, amidst cries of derision from the crowd every time his name is mentioned, it is rather noticeable that Moss and Cabantous have only recently finished completing the 12-hour race, doing the last three hours of driving, and Chiron, Mieres and Behra have not practised on the Grand Prix cars. Violation of regulations seems to be part of the Reims organisation. With a Maserati-Ferrari duel coming to boiling point trifling matters take a back seat, and as the whole field roars off in a glorious start everyone waits to see the cars appear out of the Garenne woods on the far horizon and hurtle down the hill to Illinois. A long line of red cars appears, bunched closely under braking and then comes screaming past the pits in a glorious tumult of noise and dust that restore everyone’s sense of proportion. It is Gonzalez who is leading, from Ascari, Villoresi, Bonetto, Hawthorn, Farina, Marimon and the rest, with Bira leading the non-Italian cars.


Round they come again and Bonetto spins at Thillois, letting the four works Ferraris into a line behind the flying Gonzalez, then comes Fangio and Marimon, followed by Trintignant showing his usual superiority over the followers. Gonzalez draws away relentlessly and Ascari, Villoresi and Hawthorn run so close together that at times they are literally side by side, chopping and changing positions all the time. Farina is back a little with Fangio and Marimon at his heels, and Trintignant crouching down in the Gordini cockpit endeavouring to do his utmost to keep the tail of the Italian horde in sight. A large gap soon appears between him and Graffenried and Bonetto, and then another long gap sees Bira come by with the Connaught way ahead of the rest of the field. Lap by lap Gonzalez increases his lead until he has some 20 seconds in hand by the end of lap 22; the three Ferraris are still engaged in a furious battle amongst themselves, while Fangio begins to get into his stride to shake off Marimon and starts catching Farina. This he does, and just before half-distance he gets by and is soon amongst the Ascari-Villoresi-Hawthorn trio. In making this gain he naturally tends to draw Farina and Marimon along with him and when at 30 laps Gonzalez comes in to refuel, Fangio, Hawthorn, Ascari, Farina, Marimon and Villoresi are in such a tight bunch that all or any of them can be leading at any moment. This is a really cracking pace and it is going to be a survival of the fittest, with no time for tactics. With half the race run the first seven cars are still going as if on the opening lap, while the rest of the field struggles along behind. Trintignant has burst the Gordini, Schell and Mieres also, Moss is having clutch slip and Salvadori has lasted no time at all. The air behind Gonzalez is now clear; he started with a small amount of fuel hoping to make up a sufficient lead in the first half of the race, but it does not quite work out that way and be restarted in the midst of the battling mass of Ferraris and Maseratis.


Still it is anyone’s race and by lap 33 Hawthorn and Fangio begin to share the lead between them rather consistently and after another half-dozen laps a gap begins to appear between these two and the remainder, which is still a turmoil of Gonzalez, Ascari, Farina and Marimon, Villoresi having tired and dropped back. The young English boy is driving all he knows and lap after lap he and Fangio appear out of Thillois so close behind one another that it looks like one car, which then split into two as they approach the pits and disappear under the bridge and round the full-throttle right hand curve, side by side. This itself is real motor racing, but there is more to come, for behind comes Gonzalez and Asian locked in an equally deadly struggle and going through the same motions. Now another flaw in the organisation makes itself apparent, for the programme says the race is over at 56 laps, while the store sheets handed to the Press says there are going to be 60 laps. To make matters worse there are two loudspeaker announcers, operating and one says 56 laps while the other says 60 laps. If it had been 100 laps it would have made no difference to the furious battles waging out on the Circuit. Neither Maserati nor Ferrari give in and finally someone must have tossed up and said the race is going on for 60 laps. By three-quarter distance Bonetto is lapped by the open war, as is Graffenried, though for a time these two have played the part of the prelude to the storm, for the scream of their Maserati exhausts is acting as a warning of the approaching fury. Fifty laps go by and still no quarter is given. The Ferraris refuse to let go of the Maseratis, making up on braking anything they might be losing on speed. Hawthorn loses a little on the climbing right-hand turn past Geux and making it up again on the following left-hander and the hairpin leading to Gurenne.


It does not seem possible that this pace can go on, for it is telling on spectators so must be absolute hell for the drivers, but continue it does and Hawthorn, in his green wind jacket, continues to do battle with Fangio in his blue and yellow jersey. At the end of lap 58 the absolute peak is reached, of this and possibly any race ever before, when Hawthorn and Fangio dead-heated across the finishing line, to be followed by Gonzalez and Ascari also in a dead-heat as they cross the line. The passing of Farina and then Villoresi, on their own at over 140 mph come as quite a relief. As they start the last lap Hawthorn has a slight lead over Fangio, while Gonzalez and Ascari are still in a dead-heat. Everyone is on their toes, this is going to be the finest finish of all time, the English are inches off the ground, Hawthorn, leading at Garenne, is still leading down the bill to Thillois; not only is this the motor race of the age, but an English driver is leading. Round the Thillois hairpin for the last time, four cars in a tight build, all of them red, all of them with oval-shaped air-entries, for the Maserati has removed their grilles before the start. The tension is terrific, Faroux raises the chequered flag and whoosh, a blur of cars passes, Hawthorn, Fangio, Gonzalez and Ascari, as quick as that. The cheering reached fever pitch, the crowds surge onto the course and the also-rans, who have all driven hard and fast for over 2 hours, come in one by one. Following the first four come Farina, then Villoresi, Graffenried, Rosier, Mathison, who have been forced to stop and repair his oil-radiator when a stone from Ascari’s rear wheel punctures it, Behra limping along minus many cylinders. Gerard, his Cooper-Bristol sounding very healthy but lacking Italian speed, with Claes and Collins bringing up the tail. The race finishes with an Englishman coming out on top. The fact that he is not driving an English car matters little; when the flag fell he started on equal terms with the great names in motor racing and is the first to receive the chequered flag.


Not only has he kept the Union Jack high, but he has also put the Scuderia Ferrari back on its hind legs after it has stumbled noticeably. The Reims-Gueux Circuit is not a difficult one on which to drive in comparison with many, so that sheer finesse of driving skill is not vitally important, but endurance and judgement are needed and, as all the drivers started on the same footing as the circuit has never been raced on before, Hawthorn can feel justifiably proud at having beaten the world’s finest drivers. Let us hope that every Englishman is equally proud of his effort. The sportiveness of Ferrari managers, has avoided that the 32’’ French Gran Prix was ruined by problems. At accident origin, that for many hours have put in danger the success of the great automotive manifestation, is the strangely sever decision of 12 Hours director, Charles Paroux. In this competition, that as is known precedes the Gran Prix, the director, by applying with excessive severity rules, decided to disqualify Ferrari driven by Maglili-Carini that half race setted leading with over a lap ahead of Moss- Witheahead Jaguar. Maglioli, in that momento was in the stand where he refueld, push-started, by three mechanics instead of two how is expected by rules.


And this slight infringement, unified with the fact that the lights were turn off before the sunrise, was enough in making that two italian disqualified and declared out of the race. Thus the 12 hours was won by english Whitehead and Moss on Jaguar, who have run 2036.356 kilometers at average of 169.296 km/h. Second the Talbot of Rosier-Giraud with 2002.806 kilometers (at average of 166.856 km/h). The only other eventful episode was the accident, without grave consequences, occurred to Fish that went out of the road hitting against a tree, luckily not hurtinh himself. The fact of the day, although was the Maglioli-Carini disqualifing. This decision, communicated more than half hour of discussions among the same stewards that were not unanimous in homologate it, raised many protest from the crowd and provoked the rightful resentment of Ferrari mangers, who decided to communicate to the Modena office at the end to ask directives. Calls moltiplicated themselves during the two hours that separated the arrival of the 12 Hours and the starting of the velocity Gran Prix and when the abstention of the Ferrari house semed already an accomplished fact a last telephone intervention of organizers to Enzo Ferrari has managed to save te race from the sportive failure and four Ferraris lined up at the starting grid greeted by a warm cheering of the crowd. From the dramatic fight resulted from the Gran Prix of France came out as winner the young british driver Mike Hawthorn, beating in a sprint Juan Manuel Fangio and José Froilan Gonzalez.


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