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#31 1953 Swiss Grand Prix

2021-04-05 00:00

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#31 1953 Swiss Grand Prix

Il Gran Premio di Svizzera solitamente apriva le danze del campionato del mondo, ma quest’anno, per tentare di evitare condizioni climatiche avverse,

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The fight for the ninth edition of the Senigallia motor racing circuit is taking on more and more interesting aspects as the hours go by and the news heralds the closing event of the Marche region's motoring week as a competition of true international renown. With the secrecy that still accompanies the unofficial entry list, the news that a Maserati will take to the track in Senigallia is gaining more and more credence, and the rumour that the Argentinean Juan Manuel Fangio will be driving is now persistent. It is an early rumour that awaits official confirmation, but one that naturally gives a foretaste of the signs of a thrilling race as the Ferraris are officially present and can count on the ace Villoresi and the new champion Paolo Marzotto, and all the more so as the experimental Alfas are also expected to take to the track. Between Villoresi, winner of the 1951 edition, and Paolo Marzotto, conqueror of the Adriatic Cup in 1952, the game remained open, and the rematch was represented by this 9th Edition; if a car piloted by the champion Fangio entered the scene, the battle would become truly exciting for the values in the field. On Thursday, 6 August 1953, the organisers of the Senigallia motor racing circuit are not giving up hope of having the Argentinean champion Juan Manuel Fangio among the starters. The driver is expected to take part in the race at the wheel of a Maserati: it seems that the Modena team is willing to give him one of the latest cars, to allow him to compete with the Ferraris. The news, however, is not official. The Argentine's presence would naturally increase the interest in the event, as it is easy to predict that the fight between the Maranello cars and the Maserati would be fierce. Ferrari, absent World Champion Ascari who wants to rest until the eve of the Swiss Grand Prix, and absent Farina who has taken a ten-day holiday, has officially entered Luigi Villoresi, Paolo Marzotto and Miglioli at the Senigallia circuit.

 

Should Fangio be missing, the central motif of the event would be the rematch between Villoresi and Marzotto. Last year this race was won by the second at an average speed of 147.827 km/h. On Friday, 8 August 1953, practice for the Grand Prix motor race in Senigallia ended with a clear superiority of Luigi Villoresi over his direct rival Paolo Marzotto. On Sunday, the Milanese ace should prevail, barring any surprises of mechanical mishaps. Villoresi has a Ferrari 4500 cc with a spider body; Marzotto has a Ferrari of equal displacement, but with a closed body. An unexpected result was that of the Swiss Ruesch, better known as a writer of sports novels, than as a racer, who at the wheel of his Ferrari 4100 recorded an hourly average for the timekeepers that was only slightly lower than that of Paolo Marzotto. They were followed in the standings by Maglioli, to whom Ferrari entrusted a new 3-litre cylinder car driven by Ascari in the recent Monza Grand Prix, and Carini, with a 3-litre 12-cylinder Ferrari, also from Ferrari. The fight for the lead will undoubtedly narrow down to these five racers, all with Ferrari cars. A dramatic fight is therefore not to be expected, but rather, some remarkable technical results. Already on Saturday, Villoresi improved his very high average of 170 km/h on the 9300 metres of the Marches circuit on his last practice lap. A large crowd attended today's practice session. The Argentinean ace Fangio was present as a mere spectator; Giletti from Biella, who was supposed to race in a Maserati 2-litre, also gave up. The film director Rossellini, a motor racing enthusiast, and his wife Ingrid Bergman also came to Senigallia to watch the races. The trials, favoured by excellent weather, were not saddened by any accidents. However, a very curious fact should be noted. A small stone, thrown like a bullet from the wheels of a car, hit a spectator's wedding ring, severing the metal but without causing the slightest injury to the hand.

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It is precisely the Swiss Hans Ruesch, motor racing driver and author of sports novels, who on Sunday 9 August 1953 has the most fictional of adventures that can happen to a driver: his car overturns at high speed on the bend named after the hospital that stands right in front of it. There were just two laps to go before the end of the Grand Prix of Senigallia; Ruesch was in second position and was chasing Paolo Marzotto, who was only about ten seconds ahead of him. By now, victory can no longer escape the young billionaire from Valdagno, yet the elderly Swiss driver does not desist from daringly challenging his big 4100 cc Ferrari. The difficult hospital bend is at right angles; the width of the road, however, allows him to take the turn at over 100 km/h. The car pirouettes as if mad, leaving the road, amid the screams of terrified spectators. Ruesch was unable to jump out of the driver's seat, but in the tremendous impact he was unharmed, as if by a miracle. The victory, as last year, went to Paolo Marzotto; and again, the Milanese ace Luigi Villoresi was betrayed by bad luck. The race begins a few minutes after 3:00 p.m. Thirteen cars start. The rain is looming. Villoresi immediately took the lead and on the first lap was about ten seconds ahead of the truly surprising Swiss driver Ruesch. He was followed at short intervals by Maglioli, Carini, Stagnoli, Castellotti, the Portuguese De Oliveira, Scotti and Paolo Marzotto, who was delayed due to the engine shutting down in the very brief phase of the race. Paolo Marzotto goes wild in pursuit: on the second lap he is already in fifth position. On the next lap he becomes third, tailing Ruesch who is closing in on Villoresi. The roar of Villoresi's car is not perfect. The exhaust manifold is emitting a lot of smoke. The fourth lap ends with Villoresi leading the race, followed by Ruestcth and Marzotto. Fourth is Maglioli, fifth Carini. Castellotti retired: a stone shattered his windscreen. On lap five, Ruesch and Marzotto pulled away from Villoresi, who came slowly into the pits, stopping there for a long time, only to retire due to a high lubrication failure. Marzotto goes on to renew his success of last year on this same circuit.

 

Ruesch, however, still held out During lap 12, Maglioli disappeared from the fight due to a mechanical problem. Bordoni moved into third; fourth became Carini, who had lost ground to his direct rival. On lap 14, Ruesch had a dramatic accident. Count Paolo Marzotto not undeservedly adds a new laurel to his family's motor racing glory. For example, his brother Giannino won the last Mille Miglia. It is truly an astonishing fact that these billionaire brothers occasionally race with professional racers and manage to beat them. The race is attended by 80.000 spectators. The Argentinean ace Fangio and the film director Rossellini are also present; his wife, the famous actress Ingrid Bergman, stays at home. During the lap of honour Paolo Marzotto, in a fine gesture of thoughtful chivalry, stops by Ruesch's car to ask for news of his unfortunate rival, a fact that pleased the crowd who then applauded Marzotto with renewed enthusiasm. The concomitance with the Senigallia race did not diminish the interest in the second Reggio Calabria motor racing circuit held on the Lungomare track and reserved for cars up to 1100 cc and over 1100 cc. More than 20,000 people attended the event. In the race for cars up to 1100 cc, Siracusa and Lorenzetti won. Then the cars over 1100 cc take to the track. It is Musso, who had set astounding times and averages in practice, who takes the lead right from the start. For 42 laps out of 50 the Maserati driver holds this position. At this point, however, Musso was forced to stop in the pits to have the car overhauled and Piotti, who was about twenty seconds behind him, accelerated to the maximum and managed to overtake him. The episode is decisive for the outcome of the race. Finally, the Grand Prix of Les Sables-d'Olonne is won by Frenchman Louis Rosier, in a Ferrari. Rosier covered the 90 laps of the circuit in 2 hours, 12'56"1 at an average speed of 119.833 km/h. In second place was his compatriot Chiron, in an Osca, in 2 hours, 13'23"5, while the classic German uphill race Freiburg-Schaninstand ended with the success of the Swiss driver De Graffenried, in a Maserati 2-litre, who preceded his compatriot Fischer (Ferrari 2000) and the German Stuck at the finish line. Italian Giardini, in an Osca, won the same race in the up to 1100 cc class.

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Just two days later, on Tuesday 11 August 1953, at 6:50 a.m., in his villa in Via delle Rimembranze in Mantua, the most popular racer of all time, Tazio Nuvolari, passed away. If the motor racing of the heroic age, which ended with the First World War, bears the name of the many pioneers who were at one and the same time racers, mechanics, test drivers and, in a certain respect, missionaries of a word that was still difficult for the crowds, if the motor sport of the last post-war period has flanked the names of illustrious survivors with those of valiant youngsters, multiplying and broadening sympathies, schools, styles and sources of popularity, the motor racing of the twenty years between the two wars bears only one name: Nuvolari. The first telegram of condolence for the death of Tazio Nuvolari was from Coppi; then came bundles of them. The medical report attributes the cause to a cardiopathy, i.e., heart disease, the final episode of which was broncho-pneumonia. The death comes after a long stay in hospital. Tazio had already been suffering for some time from severe lung ailments caused by exhaust fumes from racing cars. In August 1951 he wanted to test his strength again and entered the Daily Express Trophy in England. Nivola took to the track for training, but shortly before the race he felt ill and was unable to start. It was truly the end of a thirty-year career, studded with ninety-one victories: just under thirty as a motorbike racer and around seventy in motor racing. In the summer of 1951, his health suffered a serious blow: it was a hot June afternoon when Nuvolari, returning to Mantua by car from Rome together with a friend, Mr. Carlo Viani, suddenly collapsed between Cesena and Forlì: the right part of his body, from the leg to the face, had become inert and semi-paralysed. Nuvolari begged his friend not to stop, not to take him to a hospital:

 

"Lead me home, even if I die on the journey".

 

Nuvolari loved his big, beautiful house very much; he himself chose the furniture, the furnishings, and lived there with his wife, Perina Carolina, and sister Artura (another sister, Maria, lives in Turin). Since then, Nuvolari's condition has had its ups and downs. The affectionate assistance of his wife and sister, as well as the doctors' care, were of great benefit to him. Tazio returned to driving the car in short rides, with great caution, but a new attack cut short the last hopes and aggravated the paralysis. Yet he was still thinking about the great passion of his life, motoring, so much so that a friend had gone to visit him, and he begged him to renew his ACI membership card. The agony was slow and long. On the Thursday before his death, Tazio called his sister close to him for a caress on the face. His wife would spend the next days and nights at the flying Mantuan's bedside, while he stared at her with a gaze full of love and gratitude for the conjugal happiness, she had given him in the thirty-five years of their marriage. When he began to murmur Mamma... Mama as all dying people do, it became clear that his suffering was now over. Tazio sought the comforts of religion, for in life he had been a good believer. The funeral will take place on Thursday 13th August 1953, at 9:00 a.m., at the expense of the Mantua Town Hall, and the body will be buried in the family chapel, where an imposing series of cups and trophies are lined up in several rows. This familiarity with wounds and physical pain he had acquired as a child. He experienced his first fracture when he was five years old: he liked to be dragged, attached by the tail, by the blackberry Toni, until the day the colt got angry and kicked him hard in the leg. Broken knee. Tazio Nuvolari stays in bed for a few days. Then, taking advantage of an hour of his mother's inattention, he comes down jumping, leans on the tiny crutches they had prepared for him, and goes to see his little friends in the square of his hometown of Castel d'Ario, before going back to bed quietly, obediently: the important thing was to have succeeded. 

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His father and uncle, both good cyclists and pioneers of the bicycle sport, did not mind this gesture. That is why, at the age of six, the two gave him a bicycle, on which Tazio enjoyed riding downhill with his feet resting on the handlebars and his hands in his pockets, whistling. At thirteen, his father and uncle let him try out his first motorbike: his first rides on the Mantuan roads, a sea of dust dotted with potholes, earned him the nickname of the devil's son from the good peasants. At the age of ten, his father took him to see a car race in Brescia; it was on this occasion that, in front of the racing cars whizzing by at sixty kilometres per hour, the young boy discovered his vocation. Not everyone, however, is convinced that he would make a good driver. An army general, for example, will take a contrary view. In the First World War, Tazio Nuvolari serves as an ambulance driver, and three bombs, with the usual luck, miss him by a hair's breadth. One day he has to pick up a general, whose car has broken down; but at a bend the brakes fail and ambulance, general and driver...go into the country: he says so, when he ends up in the meadows at the edge of a track.

 

"What’s your name?"

 

He sternly interrogates the newly recovered high officer.

 

"Soldier Tazio Nuvolari".

 

The answer comes peremptorily:

 

"Right, the wounded carry them by hand. And slowly. You were not made to drive".

 

And Nuvolari had to answer: Yes, Sir. to this advice-prophecy, but a short time later, his fame as a flying devil would become universal. At Monza, with the Bianchi 350, against the formidable international coalition of the 500s, horizontally and stunned by the casts of a fresh trouble, tied to the bike to withstand the jolts, he came first overall amidst a delirium of applause. His career is summed up in this episode, repeated with unforeseen variations dozens of times, right up to the last race at the Turin circuit, when he laps in record time after having thrown the loose steering wheel into the pit lane, holding the steering wheel by the steering column tube, or as when, in 1927, he races the Stuttgart Motorcycle Grand Prix despite not knowing the route, since, due to a series of mishaps, he arrived at the circuit a few hours before the start, just in time to make a superficial reconnaissance in his car. Tazio began cautiously, to study how the other competitors were marching; then he accelerated and took the lead. But a heavy fog descended on the difficult ring; some had abandoned, others continued to turn, and Nivola, logically, was among them. Suddenly, in the thickening fog, Tazio did not see an indicator arrow, missed the turn and went into the countryside. Nivola is taken unconscious to hospital: concussion, multiple wounds, absolute immobility for thirty days. But the accident seems even more serious, and the telegraph announces, to the newspapers and the Casa Bianchi, that Tazio has perished. Zambrini therefore has one of his men leave for Stuttgart, to arrange the funeral, but at the border the Bianchi envoy has the surprise of meeting the Mantuan ace on the other train on his way back to Italy. What had happened? At 3:00 a.m. Tazio Nuvolari had woken up and looked around, realising he was in hospital. He did not like it. He first got the dismayed nuns, then the terrified doctors, then got dressed and got on the train. When he arrived in Milan he protested to his automobilistic House:

 

" Too much haste, Zambrini, to leave me for dead. When they say Nuvolari is dead, always wait three days. You never know".

 

Even the engineers, however, at some point in his career, regarded him as finished. In 1929 he won only one race, on a motorbike, on the Lario circuit, while with single-seaters he did not manage to place even once, even though he put several cars out of action. He is already thirty-seven years old, and many say he has burnt out. They don't know him well. The Alfa technicians, however, show confidence in the man who had led Bianchi to triumph so many times, and entrust him with their best car. Nivola, for his part, prepared a sensational rematch for the 1930 Mille Miglia. He was lucky enough to start ten minutes after his great rival Varzi. In Bologna he was first, in Rome still first, but in Terni Varzi took the lead. Tazio does not give up, and from Ancona to Bologna he snatches seven minutes from his rival; before Peschiera he has almost caught up with him. Then he wants to make one of those Nuvolari-like gestures that excite. Nuvolari sidles up to his rival's car, slows down a little and turns off the headlights. Night has fallen; Varzi doesn't notice anything. At a certain point, with a flick of the accelerator and a sharper blow of the horn, Nuvolari pulls up alongside Achille, greets him with a wave of his hand, turns the headlights back on and flies alone towards the finish line. He had devoured, kilometres and kilometres of road, at an average speed of 130 km/h, without a thread of light, for the sake of playing the great adversary by surprise.

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In 1932, Nuvolari lined up at the Circuit de l'Avrus with a leg in plaster, stuck in an aluminium tube; he had had the car's controls adapted so that he could drive with one foot. A few days earlier, at Alessandria, he had gone off the road in a collision with Trossi and had been injured; but such a trivial accident was not enough to keep him out of a race. But even more sensational would be the race held in Germany, in 1935, when Nuvolari humiliated Hadolf Hitler's desire for supremacy. It was run at the Nordschleife, twenty-two laps totalling 502 kilometres. Hitler, eager to show the world the superiority of German technology also in the automotive field, orders the Avio Union (an automotive industrial group, born from the union of the four German car manufacturers DKW, Audi, Horch and Wanderer; this group was founded in 1932 in Chemnitz, Saxony, to cope with the Great Depression) and the technologically advanced Mercedes raced on this important sporting occasion, against far less competitive opponents, such as the Scuderia Ferrari, which lined up three old Alfa Romeo P3Bs for that Grand Prix, one of them driven by the stainless Tazio Nuvolari. At the end of qualifying, everything goes as expected: the two Mercedes take the front row, and the sports director of the German house exclaims:

 

"Nuvolari is the past, the Fuhrer's German cars the future".

 

The three hundred thousand spectators who flocked to the circuit were waiting for nothing more than the triumphant victory of the German cars. However, the one who does not believe in this possibility is Tazio Nuvolari himself, who before the start of the Grand Prix asks and demands to be allowed to have a tricolour flag because he feels he can win in front of the Führer, who has also flocked to the circuit to see the superiority of his cars over the rest of the competition. However, at the start the Mercedes start their runaway and the crowd bursts into proud and enthusiastic celebration for their favourites. But the Nordschleife is a long and treacherous track; so, after only two laps, one of the Mercedes cars skids, bending a rim. Race over. Nuvolari moves up to second place and begins a furious comeback until, with daring stubbornness, on lap ten he manages to leap into first place. But the twenty-three kilometres of the Ring certainly didn't spare the tyres, and so the pit stop on the next lap was necessary. Unfortunately, however, the situation in the pits is hectic, as the mechanics are nervous and the routine operations do not run smoothly: they break the refuelling nozzle, thus having to pour the petrol in with a bucket. Because of this, Nuvolari returns to the track in sixth place. And so it is that the flying Mantuan begins his comeback, recovers and overtakes his rivals rendered powerless by his superiority. After a few laps, Nuvolari was back in second position, and began his pursuit of the leading car, despite the fact that from the pits they were telling him to slow down so as not to wear out the mechanical components, which are often subject to sudden breakdowns. In the meantime, from the pits they indicate to the leading driver that Nuvolari is behind him again: a huge mistake. The driver in the lead suffers a psychological breakdown, discovering that Nuvolari is behind him, and begins to make mistakes, thus favouring the pursuit of the flying. When there are eleven kilometres to go, just half a lap, Nuvolari is twenty-four seconds behind the leading rider. But then the irreparable happens. The leading driver's frenzy leads to excessive tyre wear, which, left on the plies, explodes a few kilometres from the finish. Nuvolari crosses the finish line in first place, in front of an enraged Hitler. When the race is over, the organisers try everything to change the finish line, as they are convinced that Nuvolari had been lapped, but the verdict is irrefutable: Tazio Nuvolari is the winner of the German Grand Prix. Afterwards, the flying Mantuan invites the organisers to hoist on the flagpole the flag he had brought with him during the race and celebrates his victory in front of the German public.

 

"Italy won that day".

 

There is no Grand Prix of Italy, Germany, France, Belgium, Tunisia, Hungary, Yugoslavia that does not record a success at least by Nuvolari in its history. He was proclaimed overall champion of Italy in 1932, 1935 and 1936, won the Mille Miglia road race in 1930 and 1933, and was invited to compete in New York in the 1936 Vanderbilt Cup, almost ridiculing the most famous American aces. But if on the racetrack Tazio was considered the son of the devil, in private life he was very peaceful; only when he heard the roar of a racing engine did Nuvolari transfigure himself. He came to Turin from time to time to visit his sister Maria, who got the tragic news in Val d'Aosta and immediately reached Mantua to attend the funeral. The last time he was a guest in Turin as a racer was in 1950. The Abarth factory prepares a special 1100 for him for the Tour of Sicily: Tazio Nuvolari spends about fifteen days in the shadow of the Mole. So much time is needed to please him, he who seemed so shy of attention to the racing cars they entrusted to him, in every detail. At Abarth they still remember how long it took for the seat to be in order; Tazio even took an interest in the foam rubber used in the padding. Later, he participated in the Giro di Sicilia, but after a hundred kilometres he was knocked out of the race by a trivial accident. The following week, on 10 April 1950, he entered the Palermo-Monte Pellegrino uphill race, and with the silver bolide produced by the Turin-based craftsman, he came first overall. This was Tazio Nuvolari's last race. The destiny that bent the knight of audacity away from the battlefield wanted Tazio's career to end with a victory. Only D'Annunzio's gift stands out on the racing outfit. The corpse is, in fact, dressed in a racing outfit: canvas helmet, yellow T-shirt with the initials T. N. and a tiny metal turtle pointed at his chest, blue racing trousers. The first time he wore that yellow shirt of his, his colleagues told him he looked like a canary. Tazio took no offense, and wittily replied:

 

" As much as a canary will make its song heard".

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The poet wanted to meet Nuvolari, invited him to the Vittoriale and, bidding him farewell, gave him a golden turtle. From then on, this small symbol became the champion's personal badge. A portrait of Gabriele d'Annunzio bears this autograph dedication:

 

"To Tazio Nuvolari of good Mantuan blood, who in the tradition of his race combined courage with poetry, the quietest technical power with the most desperate risk, and finally life with death, in the path of victory".

 

All the great motorsport personalities flock to Mantua for Tazio Nuvolari's funeral. Among them, Commendatore Castagneto, Compagnoni, and Alfonso Nini, recall, during the evening of 11 August 1953, the extraordinary life of Nuvolari, recounting his most famous exploits to the journalists, with emotion.

 

"He was closed tempered, reserved, almost shy. He looked as if he couldn't say two words. But this was just modesty. At the end of the banquet to celebrate the first Mille Miglia in Brescia, Tazio stood up, and to the general surprise gave a speech. Everyone was left speechless. Nuvolari spoke about motor racing with acute clarity of ideas, with fervour and using beautiful images and expressions".

 

Castagneto, the well-known organiser of the Mille Miglia, recounts, while Decimo Compagnoni, who was the Mantuan ace's mechanic in the victorious Mille Miglia of 1933, explains Tazio's skills as a driver:

 

"He never spared himself or gave the machine a break. His characteristic was insistence. The other drivers, even the best aces, only force the engine at a certain moment of the race when they are making the decisive attack on their opponents. And when they are in the lead and confident of winning, they do not ask more of their car than is necessary. This tactic was inconceivable for Nuvolari. He was always going faster, even without necessity. He didn't race to win, he wasn't content with distancing himself from his rivals. He raced against time, against records. It was frightening to ride with such a daredevil driver. I knew him well, and I was never afraid with him. He was not an enthusiast, but a great lover of the sport. He dominated the racing cars using every art: the sharp turn or a magical touch on the steering wheel, the unerring glance. He approached a bend in a hundred different ways, to his heart's content. He got everything from the car. On the Turin circuit the steering wheel slipped off him and he went on for a while driving who knows how, in that episode there was all of Nuvolari".

 

Alfonso Nini, another Nuvolari loyalist, recalls the great duels between Tazio and Achille Varzi. They were two opposing temperaments: Varzi had an exact, meditated style; one seemed the contradiction of the other. From their rivalry, the sporting chronicles had tremors that excited the crowds. Nuvolari and Varzi, in racing, were fierce enemies:

 

"And who was his best friend? It was Varzi. they esteemed each other and loved each other. They almost needed this antagonism that kept them anxious at all times and gave their sporting activity, their endurance, the tone of a continual challenge between paladins".

 

Alfonso Nini recounts, while on the table, in the room next to the funeral chamber, the pile of condolence telegrams that have arrived from all over swells. Every now and then a car stops in front of the gate, from which people with sad faces, and eyes red with tears, get out. The lawyer Emilio Fario, provincial CONI delegate and executor of the will, receives the guests and accompanies them to visit the body. Valerio Riva, the not-to-be-forgotten motorcyclist who in 1925 was in the Bianchi team together with Nuvolari, remembers Tazio's audacity and reviews in his mind the accident that robbed his companion and adversary of victory in the 1928 Stupinigi circuit:

 

"In a straight line a wheel flew off him, but as was often to happen on so many occasions that devil got off almost unscathed. He loved Turin because it was a quiet city and let him wander in peace through its beautiful and orderly streets".

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Reached by the news, Alberto Ascari, his voice trembling and almost sobbing, recounts this anecdote:

 

"Nuvolari has disappeared? My dear Nuvolari, Idol of my youth. I remember a very popular Mille Miglia race as if it were today. It was, if I am not mistaken, in 1948, and Tazio was the great animator of the race on that occasion. He had arrived in Brescia on Saturday morning and was looking for a car. It was hard to find. Woe if my wife knew, he told those around him, that I was planning to race. She certainly wouldn't have let me come here, for the most beautiful race in the world. I had told her a little big lie: that I was going to see the start of the Mille Miglia and to greet old and new friends. Now that I'm there I'd like a car, I'd like to race too. Some representatives of manufacturers were happy to give Nuvolari a car, but for a fee. But Enzo Ferrari, who was watching the dialogue, understood Nuvolari's drama at once: he took it under his arm and the car came free. On Sunday morning, when Mrs Nuvolari opened the radio and heard that across half of Italy her husband was first with almost thirty minutes on Biondetti, who was then to win the race, crackers. But shortly afterwards the coup de théâtre: at Reggio Emilia Tazio Nuvolari, without a seat, without a bonnet, with a car that was losing parts, was forced to retire near Villa Ospizio due to a broken rear leaf spring pin. Only then did Mrs Nuvolari calm down".

 

Nuvolari's passing finds Turin driver Giuseppe Farina on the starting line for England, where he will take part in a free formula race at Chartehalle on Saturday:

 

"I am very sorry I cannot attend poor Tazio's funeral. I cannot renounce the British race; I will send a wreath of flowers. On my return I will go to greet the great champion at his grave. Tazio was for me a teacher and a friend. When I joined the Alfa Romeo team in 1934, I found in him a wise counsellor, a brother. We went that year or the year after, I don't remember well, to the Nurburgring. I didn't know the route, and Tazio invited me to stay behind him: he would be my outrider. One word, follow him. I pushed to the maximum and at every curve he would go away from me; on the straight I would get back into his slipstream, but after a few hundred metres he would disappear again. Nuvolari certainly understood my drama and told me seriously: Nino, do one thing, follow me as far as you can, then stop, then on the next lap follow me for another stretch, and so on. That's what we did, and in a whole day's practice I got to know the Nurburgring track, which was extremely hard. A great champion of unparalleled audacity. He said I reminded him more than anyone else of the way he raced, the way he took corners. But the episode I remember most about racing with Nuvolari was at Monza in 1938. By then Tazio was in the Auto Union, I was still in the Alfa. What he did that day is impossible to say".

 

Giuseppe Farina, who had returned to Turin in the evening, having just returned from a short rest period in Claviere, was reached by the news on his return journey. Understandably, it was with great emotion that Farina heard the sad news, and consequently decided to send his family a telegram of condolence in which he apologised for not being able to be present. Farina, in fact, was leaving for England, where he was to take part in a race on the Chartehalle circuit on Saturday 15 August 1953. But on his return from Britain, he will visit Tazio Nuvolari's grave where, in the meantime, a wreath of flowers will be laid. As soon as the news reaches Maranello, Enzo Ferrari decides to leave for Mantua on the hot afternoon of 11 August 1953. But in his haste, the founder of the Scuderia of the same name gets lost in a maze of narrow streets in the old town. So, he decides to get out of the car, and asks a tinker's shop for the way to Villa Nuvolari. An elderly workman comes out, who before answering takes a turn around the car to read the number plate, and when he realises, takes one of Ferrari's hands and shakes it warmly:

 

"Thank you for coming, there will be no more like him".

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Meanwhile, on Tuesday, 11 August 1953, Alberto Ascari was summoned to answer and defend himself, at the Court of Brescia, against the charge of murder for speeding. During the 1951 Mille Miglia, at Desenzano, a few kilometres after the start, Alberto Ascari's car went off the road, hitting two spectators who were in the vicinity, intent on watching the passing of the race. They were Dr. Umberto Felicianl, a doctor from Montichiari, who died on impact, and the trader Scipione Greppi, who was seriously injured, and was only saved after numerous operations. Those who were present reported that Ascari's car was travelling very fast, and that, after a quick turn, it had spun on itself, ending up off the road. However, from the investigations carried out by the judicial authorities, it would appear that the accident occurred because Ascari would have, as he approached the bend, suddenly accelerated, causing the car to skid; When questioned, Ascari would have given a different version of the facts, claiming that he had been dazzled by the glare on his helmet and mask, which he wore to protect his face, from a spotlight suddenly turned on by a spectator in order to read the number of the passing car. However, after the initial investigations, a lawyer from Brescia, on behalf of the widow of the deceased doctor and the injured trader, presented a petition to the competent magistrate with the reasons of the injured parties and asked for legal action to be taken against the driver; the judge was faced with two opposing arguments, one from the driver, the other from the civil party, which argued that the skidding of the car certainly preceded the switching on of the headlight by the unwary spectator.

 

The preliminary trial therefore takes place, and the Public Prosecutor argues that it is not possible to blame the runner, since even if the runner had gone off due to a wrong manoeuvre caused by excessive speed, in a race one cannot in any case speak of high speed, as this is the primary prerequisite for the existence of the race; But the judge takes a different view and remands the champion for trial, arguing that the defendant's version is not acceptable, and recognising the guilt in the excess of speed in not having taken into account the conformation of the road, the terrain, which was rather wet due to a recent downpour, the poor visibility, all referring to the main articles of the highway code, which must be observed even when racing. It is now up to the court in Brescia to rule on the case, which looks interesting, as it will have to choose between those who support the sporting necessities and the undeniable reasons of human life. And speaking of speed, on Friday 14 August 1953, Giuseppe Farina, in a Ferrari, set a new record for the Chartehall circuit during practice for the race to be held on Saturday 15 August 1953. Farina completed his fastest lap at an average of 87.69 mph. The official circuit record is held by Farina himself, who set it last October with an average of 85.27 mph. An accident occurred during practice: the British racer Parnell, in a B.R.M., ran off the road while racing at a speed of 160 km/h. The British driver crashes his car into a wooden barrier but emerges unhurt from the mishap. Farina then returned to Italy to travel to Bern, where the Swiss Grand Prix, a World Championship race, took place on Sunday, 23 August 1953: the driver from Turin officially represented Ferrari, along with Ascari, Villoresi and Hawthorn. At Sunday's race, Farina takes part driving a Ferrari 4500 cc, owned by an Englishman; this car has undergone several transformations and adaptations, at the initiative of its owner.

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Just as he was on the verge of another victory, on Saturday 15 August 1953, at Charterliall in the 100-mile race, the Turin ace Giuseppe Farina was forced to stop due to a mechanical failure. The 100-mile race, which is 160.900 kilometres long, is open to all types of cars, i.e., free formula. Also taking part in the race is one of the famous British B.R.M. cars; their displacement is, as is well known, 1500 cc with a supercharger; they were designed to give British motoring supremacy in the world, but in the big races the B.R.M. cars have only given their builders and backers bitter disappointments. Sold at auction to the highest bidder, they are now only used in non-major races in England. The last adventure abroad was at Albi; it ended in disaster, despite the driving expertise of the aces Fangio and Gonzalez hired for the occasion. Farina led the race for the first eleven laps, dominating. Wharton's B.R.M. was already beaten. But the Turin ace was forced to stop in the pits, where the mechanics worked feverishly around the car, trying to repair the fault. Farina restarted, but after two more laps he stopped again in the pits, switched off the engine, got out of the car and retired from the race; the fault could not be repaired. The lead will therefore be taken by Warton's B.R.M. and the race will lose much of its interest, as the confrontation with Farina will be lost. At the same time, the Italo-English couple Maglioli-Hawthorn, driving a Ferrari 4500 cc, triumphed on the day of August in the 12 Hours of Pescara, narrowly beating the record set by Bracco-Paolo Marzotto in the previous edition. But this year the variant before the grandstands had been reintroduced, intended to reduce the speed; this fact and the withdrawal of Villoresi-Marzotto (Ferrari 4500 cc) induced the winners to keep a prudent pace, after the high average of the first hours of the race. The two drivers of the Maranello team, who had wiped out their rivals, were enthusiastically greeted by the spectators who packed the grandstands when at six minutes past six their Ferrari, piloted by Hawthorn, was stopped and immediately surrounded by journalists, photographers and cameramen. The applause of the public mingled with the notes of the anthems, the Italian for Ferrari and the Turinese Maglioli, the English anthem for the young British engineering student Mike Hawthorn, who - already a winner at Spa with Farina in the 24-hour race - thus took his second victory in grand prix racing. Wreathed with the laurel crown, the two drivers received the Tazio Nuvolari cup, recalled immediately after the start by the official speaker, and that of the Automobil Club of Pescara.

 

The selection was tough on this magnificent circuit, which is particularly suited to this kind of competition; it is a course for champions: it demands every requirement from the drivers, from speed, to courage, to recklessness on the long straights; and it demands from the cars and tyres an extraordinary resistance to effort. Of the forty cars that started, thirteen were classified; three finished outside the maximum time limit. The other official Ferrari - driven by Villoresi and Paolo Marzotto - sustained a very fast and interesting duel with the Ferrari of Howthorn-Maglioli; Villoresi and Marzotto were 3 and 40 seconds ahead, when they had to retire on lap 39 due to a broken transmission bridge. Maglioli, who had set the record on lap 12 in 10'35"8 (average 144.385 km/h), thus found himself in the lead, 16'01"0 ahead of Portuguese champion De Oliveira, who had been driving his Ferrari 3000 uninterruptedly since the start of the race. But even the lone Portuguese champion was forced to abandon due to a broken differential after the ninth hour of the race. The Englishmen Whitehead-Hamilton, piloting a 3500 cc Jaguar, took the lead at the start, but were then overtaken and distanced, also due to a pit stop. However, the retirement of the Villoresi-Marzotto duo revived some hopes for the Jaguar pair. In fact, the English crew found themselves in third position, behind the Ferrari of Hawthorn-Maglioli and Musso's Maserati 2000 cc, first in the class up to 2 litres. However, just after the ninth hour, Witehead and Hamilton were forced to abandon due to steering problems. Thus fell the hoped-for Jaguar-Ferrari duel, which should have been a kind of revenge - on a smaller scale of course - of Jaguar's great victory in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The Bracco-Bonomi and Biondetti-Piotti pairs, after a promising start, were also taken out of the race, the former because of mechanical failures, the latter because Piotti, on his turn, went off the road. Mayer's Aston Martin never bothered the other competitors and also delayed by mechanical problems, arrived out of time. Of the two Gordini's, the one of Bordoni-Venezian was taken out of the race while it was in fifth position by a broken differential, the one of Casella-Ricci retired while it was third in class, after the ninth hour. Osca repeated last year's success with Maria Teresa De Filippis, who was brilliant. The race took place from 10:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m., despite intense heat and in the presence of a large crowd.

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The organisers of the Bernese motor races, which will take place on Saturday 22 August 1953 and Sunday 23 August 1953 on the 7.280 kilometre-long Brengarten circuit, announce that both Ferrari and Maserati will officially take part in the Swiss Grand Prix, the eighth round of the World Championship. As is well known, the classification of this competition is currently led by Alberto Ascari, who has 33.5 points to his credit; he is followed by Farina with 20 points, Fangio with 19 and the Englishman Hawthorn with 18 points. With a victory, or even just a good placing, Ascari would definitely win the title of World Champion for the second time. Ferrari would field the quartet of Ascari, Farina, Villoresi and Hawthorn in Berne, while Maserati, who had tried in vain to beat the rival team's drivers in the current season, was forced to make some changes in the ranks of its team as Bonetto and the Argentine Gonzalez were unable to compete. Consequently, the six-cylinder cars of the Modenese team were entrusted to the Argentineans Fangio and Marimon and the German ace Lang, who after a long absence returned to the big international races for racing cars; the fourth driver would be appointed later. The Brengarten circuit is also very fast and dangerous due to its characteristics and the circumstances under which the races take place. The organisers, for their part, claim that for economic reasons they could not give too much heed to advice and requests to improve the track. Instead, they improved the road surface of the circuit and removed some trees along the edge of the track. One of these trees was fatal in 1948 to driving champion Achille Varzi, who went off the road during car trials and was killed. The apprehensions for Saturday and Sunday's races are therefore not exaggerated; unfortunately, the Bremgarten circuit has its own tragic mystery that not even the engineers have been able to fully explain in their investigations.

 

The excessive number of races in two days, the slippery veil caused on the asphalt by the passing of tyres and oil spray, the too-short training sessions, all these factors undoubtedly have a strong bearing on the history of Bremgarten, a history in which accidents are counted by the dozens. For example, last year, in addition to the deaths of Frigerio and Bennett, there were a number of other misfortunes, such as the road accident of the German ace Rudolf Caracciola; his Mercedes sliced through a tree 30 centimetres in diameter like a twig, and a photographer was almost run over. Caracciola suffered very serious leg injuries and has not yet fully recovered. The sad balance also included the injury of a nurse on duty. The reason for the extreme danger of Bremgarten lies in the fact that the circuit winds its way through a forest; at some points the environment is almost gloomy, in the shadow of the thick trees; then, in an instant, the cars and motorbikes launched at high speed break into non-wooded areas, where the brightness is full and almost dazzling due to the contrast with the shadow from before; and immediately one is plunged back into the semi-darkness of the forest; and again back into the sun of the grassy area. The reaction of the human eye is perhaps less rapid than this lightning-fast transition from light to shadow and back again. And in fact, two accidents, which fortunately do not have such serious consequences as was at first feared, disrupt the course of the first practice for the Swiss Grand Prix for cars and motorbikes. On Friday, 20 August 1953, at around 2:00 p.m., the young racer Augusto Wick, one of the greatest hopes of Swiss motor-racing, loses control of his racing car and goes off the road, crashing into a masonry wall at the edge of the track. The unfortunate rider, who loses consciousness, is immediately picked up by some medical staff who transport him to hospital, where he is found to have fractured his femur. The other accident, in which the driver John Wacker - an American who has been living in Germany for several years and who occasionally takes up motor racing - was injured, took place at around 6:00 p.m., at the bend known as Eymatt.

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This is one of the most dangerous sections of the circuit, and it was at this turn that Frigerio and Bennett perished last year. John Warker, who drives a two-litre Gordini of his own, gets off with the fracture of some spinal vertebrae. The good weather naturally favours the influx of spectators; it is estimated that already on Friday more than 15.000 people attend the trials, which begin at 12:00 a.m. with the entry of the motorbikes onto the track. As has been traditional for many years, the Swiss Grand Prix is held at Berne on the Bremgarten circuit, acclaimed by many people as one of the best road-racing circuits in Europe. Lying just outside the City of Berne, literally at the end of the municipal tram tracks, the Bremgarten circuit is fast becoming unique in that it remains unaltered throughout the years. Nowadays so many circuits present an entirely different aspect each year that it is difficult to form any sort of continuity between the races held over a period of years. Since its inception the Berne circuit has remained unchanged in shape and the only changes have been slight widening and resurfacing, so that pre-war records still mean something today. In one feature the Bremgarten stands alone and that is the fact that it has no straights, being made up entirely of curves and corners, and the slowest of these is a hairpin taken at around 50 mph. The result is a circuit upon which driving skill pays dividends and road-holding is all important. It is rather significant that the out-and-out lap record still stands to Bernd Rosemeyer with an Auto-Union in 1936 at 2'34"5, a speed of 169.632 mph, and though Fangio approached this in practice in 1951 with a 159 Alfa-Romeo to within fractions of a second, as a race record it still stands.

 

Naturally the Swiss Grand Prix counts for the World Championship but also it is something of a classic event in its own right, for it is held at the height of the holiday season, the town of Berne is fascinating and Switzerland at any time is a good place to be in, with the result that Berne is one of those events that everyone feels they must attend. The meeting has the further attraction of being combined with the Swiss Motor-cycle Grand Prix, so that the two internal combustion engine worlds combine in a veritable orgy of speed. Over the years the Bremgarten circuit has attained a reputation for being a dangerous circuit, due to numerous fatalities that have occurred in the past, but this is not altogether justified, for while it is not the safest of circuits, it is certainly not the most dangerous, but it is, however, not a circuit on which to learn, nor is it a circuit on which to make mistakes. In the past a number of accidents have occurred at the Eymatt corner, at a point where the circuit changes from very fast downhill swerves in bright sunlight to an uphill section under the shade of large trees and thick undergrowth, and it is said that the sudden change of light conditions is severe on the human eye and likely to cause faulty judgment. This year the corner is lined with a wall of straw bales, painted black and white, and the road within is reduced slightly in an endeavor to make competitors more conscious of the corner’s severity and visibility, on the old principle that the more dangerous a thing appears the more cautious people will be. Apart from this modification, as remarked at the beginning, the circuit remains unchanged. Two evening practice periods are allotted to the Grand Prix cars and right from the word go the battle for the front row of the starting-grid commenced.

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Ferraris are out in full force with Ascari, Farina, Hawthorn and Villoresi, supported by the private four-cylinders of Swaters, Rosier and Hirt, the last driving the Ecurie Espandon car, while de Terra drives the old 12-cylinder car from the same stable. With Gonzalez being out of action the Maserati force is weakened somewhat, and Fangio, Bonetto and Marimon are supported by Hermann Lang on the fourth works car, while de Graffenried has the Plate car and Chico Landi makes his first European appearance this year, with one of the Scuderia Banderiantes cars of last year, now fitted with a 12-plug engine, so that it is eight Ferraris against six Maseratis. With Harry Schell at Goodwood. Gordini fields two cars only, driven by Trintignant and Behra. With the entry limited to only 21 cars, this means only another five vacancies and all these are allotted to English cars. Wharton is an obvious choice, with his Cooper-Bristol, having finished fourth last year with the Frazer-Nash, the three H.W.M.s are very old customers and reliable starters, and the remaining place is allotted to Connaught, with Bira nominated as driver. However, this last entry does not arrive and for the first evening’s practice his place is taken by Wacker with his Gordini Six. Ascari uses his practice car and for some peculiar Swiss reason is allotted a new number from that in the programme, and he even keps to this number for the race. The first evening is fine and sunny and ideal for fast motoring, and the opportunity is taken to travel across the centre of the circuit and watch some cornering, far gone are the days when cars were fast enough to get into difficulties: out the curve past the pits. The 1½-litre Alfa-Romeos used to take the pits curve on the very limit of adhesion and driving styles could be compared with ease, but since the domination of Formula II this curve has presented no difficulty whatsoever.

 

Observing an uphill left-hand bend, on a rather bumpy surface, Ascari’s ability stands out, his speed through this bend being noticeably faster than anyone else’s. It is soon seen that the battle of times is between Ascari and Fangio and, though the Maserati’s road-holding is inferior, Fangio is really motoring. Farina is fast, but never seems to be on the same line twice, while Villoresi is not outstanding and Hawthorn is not feeling very fit, his driving suffering in consequence. On this same bend the H.W.M.s shows clearly that their road-holding leaves nothing to be desired, though they lack sheer power, and Wharton is driving superbly in spite of the dubious handling of the Cooper, as us Trintignant, the Gordini looking most dangerous as it skittered on its suspension. Marimon enlivens the proceedings by getting his blue and yellow Maserati into a lock-to-lock bounce as he approaches the corner, correcting in an effortless manner and cornering with that blank look on his face like a Sunday tripper to Brighton. At first it seems rather unwise of everyone to motor so fast on the first practice day, Fangio is fastest with 2'40"1, Ascari next with 2'40"7, followed by Farina next in 2'42"6 and Trintignant in 2'43"8, but it turns out to be a wise move because the next evening’s period is run in heavy rain and everyone’s times are naturally a great deal slower. Ascari retains his spare car again and having done some pretty steady training he takes over Hawthorn’s car and goes even faster. Hawthorn afterwards takes it over again and proceeds to beat Ascari’s time by 0.1 sec., these two being easily the fastest in the wet. Fangio also indulges in some car changing; having done 2'51"5 in his own car, he takes over Lang’s and does 2'58"7, whereas the German driver cannot do better than 3'02"2 with it. Paul Frere, who is driving an H.W.M. in place of Duncan Hamilton, goes very quickly in the wet, very nearly equalling Trintignant’s time, but all the others are much slower. When practice finishes, in almost total darkness due to the very bad weather, it is Hawthorn who has the fastest time but, of course, he is a lot slower than the previous day.

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This year the race is lengthened from the usual 42 laps to 65 laps, a total distance of 473.2 kilometres, and under perfect weather conditions the field lines up for the start, with Fangio. in number one position, the grid being as follows :-Farina (Ferrari) Ascari (Ferrari) Fangio (Maserati) Marimon (Maserati) Trintignant (Gordini) de Graffenried (Maserati) Hawthorn (Ferrari) Villoresi (Ferrari) Bonetto (Maserati) Wharton (Cooper) Swaters (Ferrari) Behra (Gordini) Lang (Maserati) Macklin (H. W.M.) Rosier (Ferrari) Scherrer (H.W.M.) Hirt. (Ferrari) Frère (H. W.M.) Landi (Maserati) de Terra (Ferrari). As the flag falls both Fangio and Ascari move off together, but after only a few yards the Maserati begins to forge ahead, while Farina hangs very badly and is passed by half the field before his Ferrari picks up properly. Everyone is away and as they stream round the Bethlehem corner after the start it is Fangio in the lead, but not for long, for when they reappear at the end of lap one it is Ascari who is in the lead and by a considerable distance, followed by Fangio, Hawthorn, Marimon, Villoresi, Bonetto, Farina, de Graffenried, Trintignant and the rest of the field, all of them being spaced at fairly regular intervals. A quick count shows that not the whole field has passed; there are two cars missing, the Ferraris of Rosier and Swaters, and, as last year on the opening lap, Rosier has spun off the road on the climb up through the woods on the return leg of the course. In the general melee he touches Frere’s H.W.M. and is deflected into the bushes fortunately without damage, but it means that he is out of the race as soon as it has begun. The other private Ferrari, that of Swaters, also runs into the bushes in the crowd for the Forsthaus hairpin, but again with no damage, while the other Belgian driver, Frere, is out on lap two when a conrod brakes on his H.W.M.

 

Meanwhile Ascari steadily builds up a commanding lead and for four laps the order remained unchanged among the Italian ears, but, on the fifth lap Marimon loses some time and drops back three places and Farina begins to get into his stride, catching first Bonetto and then Villoresi and Hawthorn, and by lap seven he is in third place. By 10 laps Ascari is out on his own and Fangio looks to be losing ground and, sure enough, at the end of that lap he comes into the pits, to be followed very soon afterwards by Bonetto. In quick time they change cars and rejoin the race, but the next lap Fangio is in again to have the near side front wheel changed, so that Bonetto is still ahead, now in Fangio’s car. Already Ascari has lapped the slower cars and before another five laps are over there are only nine cars on the same lap, at the tail of which is Wharton, driving remarkably well and keeping ahead of de Graffenried’s Maserati and not far behind Lang’s. Now things begin to settle down, with Farina in second place, after Fangio’s stop, Villoresi and Hawthorn scrapping for third place, followed by Marinton, Bonetto, Trintiguant and Fangio, the last rapidly making up time. When all looks fairly settled, Villoresi suddenly arrives at his pit with the nose cowling dented from contact with the palisades on the edge of the track, the dent being deep enough to foul the steering connections. While this is cured he drops back to sixth place and soon after that is passed by Fangio, who is now moving up pretty steadily, but not lapping as fast as Ascari for he is now over a lap in arrears and still losing ground on the leader. Things begin to settle down again, with Ascari still all on his own, followed by Farina, equally alone, then Hawthorn with Marimon not far behind and gaining a little, these two not yet having been lapped by the leader. After a lengthy pause comes Fangio, then Bonetto, Villoresi and Trintignant and after another long pause is Wharton, now leading the two Maseratis of Lang and de Graffenried.

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Right out of the running come the remainder of the field, in the order Macklin, Behra, Minch. Scherrer and de Terra, the last going slower than any Ferrari has ever gone. On lap 28 Fangio passes the pits with a cloud of smoke coming out of the exhaust pipe that is so vast that following cars have to slow to a crawl due to the bad visibility, and it looks rather as though a conrod has come out through the side in a big way. He manages to complete another lap and comes into the pit, the mechanics lifting the bonnet very carefully and taking a quick peep underneath only to hurriedly shut it and wheel the car away. It is one of the biggest engine blow-ups seen for a long time and the anti-splash guard on the side of the engine cowling is covered in tiny particles of aluminum, while the maximum indicating needle on the rev counter stands at 9.700 r.p.m. A little white later Macklin puts up another smoke screen, but much smaller, and he is out with a broken piston. By less than half-distance Ascari has settled into such a commanding lead and is lapping so regularly that it seems that nothing could stop him, and Farina is equally settled in second place. Third position, however, is a different story, for Marimon, who has been speeding up for some time, now catches Hawthorn, and the two younger members of the Grand Prix fraternity start an interesting duel that takes the attention from the leader, until on lap 39, as he passes the start, Ascari’s car suddenly makes it very flat-sounding noise just as if the magnetos have got on full retard. He completes the lap and comes into the pits just as Farina takes the lead, and the mechanics spend 11 minutes looking for the trouble. The engine is firing on all four cylinders but seems to have gone flat and Lampredi looks underneath to see if anything is hanging out. Eventually the trouble is traced to a choked jet in one of the carburetters and a judicious tap with a mallet freed the obstruction and all the power returns. Ascari accelerates back into the fray, now in fourth place behind the Hawthorn-Marirnon scrap.

 

All this naturally leaves Farina with a long lead, which he makes sure of by putting in a lap in 2'43"1, and it seems unlikely that Ascari can make up the loss, but he tries hard and on lap 44 sets up a new record for the race in 2'42"0, a speed of 162.778 k.p.h. Marimon eventually wins his duel, but no sooner has he outdistanced Hawthorn than the Maserati goes sick and he drops right back, eventually to disappear out on the circuit with mechanical trouble on lap 47. In the meantime, Trintignant, who has, as usual, been the only non Italian car in the running, stops out on the circuit as well, with a broken rear end, while Behra is already in the dead-car park with a broken oil pipe. Villoresi is in twice for water, the car sending up a gusher of steam when the radiator cap is released, but, contrary to all text-book ideas, a can of cold water is poured straight in and he is away again. Wharton does a smart refuel without losing a place, but he has already been overtaken by Lang, though de Graffenried is still behind. The works cars are all going through non-stop, only the slower cars having to refuel, and Landi is as swift at taking on fuel as de Terra is slow. After taking on more water. Villoresi comes in yet again, this time to have his right-hand rear wheel changed, and this lets Lang get by into fifth place though the Ferrari is not too far behind, and at the same time de Graffenried stops at the pits and retires his Maserati with internal trouble. As the leaders come by on lap 50, more or less equally spaced in the order Farina, Hawthorn, Ascari, the pit gives them the blue and yellow flag and a sign to ease up now, because they are all more than a lap in front of the nearest Maserati, driven by Bonetto. However, at this point the sun is going down and as the drivers come round the curve by the start they receive its glare full in the face and have to drive with one hand, shielding their eyes meanwhile with the other. It may be due to this that none of them see the signal, or, alternatively, they conveniently forgot what it means, for none of them slows up and the very next lap Ascari is on Hawthorn’s tail, to pass him on lap 52.

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One more lap and he has Farina in sight and on the next lap he is back in the lead. At this point in the race, with only eleven laps to go, Landi comes to rest with a broken gearbox on his Meserati, which leaves only seven cars in the running, though the two Swiss drivers, Scherrer and de Terra, are still circulating, the former on the only remaining H.W.M going quite well, and the latter going so slowly on the old 12-cylinder Ferrari that on every lap it looks as though he is coming into the pits, but he never does. Scherrer spins round on the hairpin, just before half-distance, and stalls the engine and pushes valiantly the car back to the pits, a distance of nearly a kilometer. Having arrived, the mechanics tell him that he can’t go, meaning that the engine has stopped due to spinning round, but omits to mention that, that they begin to look for some trouble and the only thing they can find to suspect is the magneto, which is changed in double quick time and the Swiss driver rejoins the race, whereas in actual fact there is nothing wrong with the car apart from a stalled engine. Villoresi continues to press along and recatch Lang, taking fifth place, but no sooner has he done this than the Ferrari is again boiling and he has to steep on lap 58 and have more water poured in, which lets Lang by once more. Not content with catching Hawthorn and Farina. Ascari continues to motor quickly, and builds up over a minute lead from his team-mate and keeps up the pace right to the end of the 65 laps. The last eight laps are reeled off without incident, quite a change after such a varied race, for at no time has the entire field settled down to any sort of order, as usually happens in a long race; if it is not an unexpected pit-stop, it is a battle for a position, or a retirement, but at all times there have been something of interest happening. 

 

By winning the Swiss Grand Prix and also making the fastest lap, Ascari puts the seal on the World Championship and, though there remain the Italian race and the Spanish race, he now cannot possibly be beaten on points. Ascari, Farina and Hawthorn finish in that order, on the same lap, with Bonetto in fourth place, one lap behind, having driven a very steady and reasonably fast race in Fangio’s car. Three laps behind comes Lang, Villoresi and Wharton, the last having driven an excellent race in a car that is hopelessly outclassed on performance but which nevertheless finishes creditably by reason of its driver’s ability. The two Swiss nationals are way behind, content at having finished, but with a large deficit of laps. While being a walk-over for the Ferrari team, it is by no means an easy race for them, for though the opposition gives no trouble, they are hampered a bit by their own mechanical reliability but manage to have all four cars finish the race. Maseratis, on the other hand, make an early tactical error in changing drivers, for has Fangio kept to his original car he would have certainly been fourth and possibly third, instead of which he achieves nothing but a ruined engine, whereas the swarthy Bonetto, who obviously does not take the stuffing out of a car like the Argentinian, has no trouble in finishing fourth. Lang’s drive in the Maserati team for the first time, while not outstanding, is a sound first attempt, for he finishes without damage and not having done anything stupid, which, after all, is the most important thing to do when lent a car for the first time, for a searing first-lap lead and car upside down in the ditch never impresses the team-chiefs or anyone else for that matter. Apart from all that, of course, there is nothing like keeping your hand in, on someone else’s car, ready for the 1954 Grand Prix season. The Berne meeting always spreads the racing over two days, and this year the Saturday is given over to national sports-car races, with classes for standard sports cars and racing sports cars.

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These events produce some of the dreariest drivers imaginable and, apart from one or two exceptions, there seems little point in wasting petrol in some of the cars. The first category is for under 1.500 cc cars and the standard class is a procession of Porsches, while the super-sports class should have been won by a Glockler-Porsche, but this blows up soon after the start and a Veritas wins at a vastly inferior speed to the standard Porsches. The over 1500 cc class is enlivened by the presence of Willy Daetwyler with his V12 Alfa-Romeo, this being an ex-Ferrari car with a similar chassis to that of Dennis Poore’s 3.8 liter but fitted with the s/c. 4½-liter 12-cylinder engine that Alfa-Romeo played with in 1936-37 but never used for racing. With a very light two-seater racing shell this car is fantastically fast and, in winning the super-sports class, Daetwyler sets up a new sports-car record in 2'52"4 (152.019 km/h), beating Lang’s last year record with the 300SL Mercedes-Benz. The rest of the class are two laps behind in 10, while the winner of the standard class, runs at the same time, is only one lap behind. Behind three standard Jaguar 120s and in front of a Nash-Healey comes a Bugatti coupe, religiously described as a 57SC, but which is in fact a rather well-preserved Type 55. To complete the speed orgy the Swiss Grand Prix for motor-cycles and for sidecar machines is run during the two days and at the end of each of the four races, three solo and one sidecar, the crowd stand to God Save the Queen, for British riders dominate the whole meeting in spite of strong opposition from Germany and Italy, but unfortunately, apart from the sidecar outfit, they are all mounted on foreign machines, it would appear that England is equally out of the running on two wheels as she is on four wheels. With this further victory, Alberto Ascari won his second world title. The Argentinean driver Juan Manuel Fangio, who had got out of the car during the race shrouded in a cloud of white smoke, within which he nervously waved, underlining his disappointment, at the end of the Grand Prix stated chivalrously:

 

"Ascari deservedly won the World Champion title. One must bow to his class".

 

Ascari's clear victory should not make one think of a race devoid of interest; on the contrary, there was no lack of drama. Fangio, once again, proved to be a fierce rival of the Ferrari champion, so much so that, having started from a favourable position, he immediately began a dizzying march. This exploit was, however, crushed by Ascari who soon took the lead. Fangio tailed him desperately, relentless as a shadow. But the Argentine perhaps demanded too much from his car, and on lap 12 he was forced to stop in the pits to swap his Maserati for Bonetto's. During this substitution he lost two minutes, and managed - soon afterwards - to catch up with Ascari. No less than eighty thousand people, gathered in the Bremgarten forest - despite the weather on the eve of the race being very threatening - witnessed the Swiss Grand Prix, in which Alberto Ascari won (or, rather, regained) the title of World Champion. In second place came Giuseppe Farina, the protagonist of a race admirable for its regularity. He took the lead while his team-mate Ascari was in difficulty. At this stage, holding his own against his rivals, the Turinese driver made a valuable contribution to Ascari and Ferrari winning the coveted World Champion title. He weathers, which was truly excellent, favoured the great sporting event. However, there was no shortage of accidents, although - fortunately - they had no serious consequences. The Belgian Swaters, at the wheel of a Ferrari, skidded into the curve known as the Forsthaus, broke through the protective barrier and was thrown from the car. His condition is not alarming. Uninjured was the Frenchman Rosier, who ran off the road. On the contrary, the condition of the Swiss driver Schweirer, who was the victim of an accident on Saturday during the sports car event, worsened considerably. Without consequences a collision of Villoresi's Ferrari against protective straw bales.

 

Ludovico Nicoletti

 

Translated by Rosita Raso

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