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#35 1954 Belgian Grand Prix

2021-04-10 00:00

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#35 1954 Belgian Grand Prix

La trentottesima edizione della Targa Florio, disputatasi domenica 30 Maggio 1954 sul tortuoso circuito delle Madonie, è vinta da Piero Taruffi, che s

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The thirty-eighth edition of the Targa Florio, held on Sunday 30 May 1954 on the tortuous Madonie circuit, is won by Piero Taruffi, who writes his name for the first time in the list of winners of the glorious Targa. In a Lancia 3300 Taruffi covered the 576 kilometres in 6 hours 24'18"0, at an average speed of 80.930 km/h; second place went to Luigi Musso, in a Maserati 2000, in 6 hours 31'51"0, at an average speed of 88.198 km/h. The race was uncertain and exciting from start to finish. Musso, Maserati's standard bearer, pushed by the necessity of starting before the Lancia's men, threw himself into the fight, lowering several times the average, which belonged to Maglioli since last year. Taruffi's victory, obtained in the last phase of the event, takes on special prominence for the great duel with Musso, who has the merit of being the real protagonist of the race, having dominated for three quarters of the way. Between the two was Castellotti, who, with a fast and safe race conduct, had joined Taruffi in chasing Musso, supporting him strongly. Unfortunately, on the last lap, he was forced out of the race due to an accident that rendered his car unusable. However, the Lancia's success was completed by Italian driver Roberto Piodi, making up the Castellotti team in the position of honour. Biondetti (Ferrari), on the other hand, was a bit of a disappointment today Even the technical success of the race was remarkable: the average speed record was raised to 89.930 lm/h, a high average if you take into account the particular difficulties of the course, which for the most part winds around tight hairpin turns. Castellotti also beat the lap record at an average of 93.117 km/h, while the best flying kilometre was set by the winner, with a very high average of 253.521 km/h.

 

The race started at a great pace: since the first laps Musso took the lead and all the Lancia's men immediately followed in his wake. The average lap time, which belonged to Taruffi, was immediately lowered; in fact, at the first passage from the grandstands of Cerca, Musso set a time of 47'44"3, equal to 90.484 km/h. Behind Musso, the pursuit of the Lancia's drivers was furious: Castellotti and Taruffi were following him, while Cabianca managed to enter the duel, and even if he was driving a car with a much lower capacity he played the role of third wheel. The coup de théâtre took place suddenly almost at the half of the race, when Musso was obliged to make a short stop in front of the pit for refuelling and Taruffi shot like a fireball snatching the lead from his rival. Also Castellotti, launched in the wake of the Roman driver, overtook Musso; Castellotti, however, had to pay dearly for his effort.  Castellotti went off the road and fortunately remained unhurt in the accident, but the car broke down, becoming completely useless. The race is now reduced to a duel between Taruffi and Musso and at the fourth lap the Roman driver is in the lead with 3 hours 12'26"0, at an average speed of 89.796 km/h, while Musso follows at only 6 seconds; third is Cabianca, at 11 seconds; then follow Manzon, Piodi, Biondetti and Bellucci. Shortly afterwards, however, Taruffl gradually accelerated and put a decisive end to the Maserati driver's ambitions. The XIII Grand Prix of Rome, scheduled for Sunday, June 6, 1954 on the Castelfusano circuit, gets just the eve of an unexpected success of entries. Even the new Ferrari 2500, which would debut in the next Grand Prix of Belgium, will be at the start of the race, driven by the Argentine Gonzalez. Scuderia Ferrari announced during the night of Saturday, June 5, 1954 to have already ready the new car.

 

The news of Gonzalez's participation in the race arouses a certain animation in the Maserati clan, whose team, strong with Marimon, Mieres, Mantovani, Schell and Moss is already in Ostia since Friday, June 4, 1954 (the tests for the Grand Prix start only on Saturday morning, because of the works still in progress on the track). Also the two official Gordini 2600s of Behra and Simon, and the Ferraris of the privateers Rosier and Manzon are already on the spot. It's foreseeable for Sunday's race a close duel between the two Italian teams, with Gordini as a third wheel. The track is very fast, and after the last adjustments can allow averages in the order of 180 km/h. The event will see the debut of Taraschi's Giaur 750 single-seater with compressor. Before the start, the new Fiat Turbine, which aroused so much interest during the last Turin Motor Show, will be presented to the Roman public. With regard to the new car, it has been announced that the English Automobile Club will organise the first race in the world for turbine-powered cars next September, inviting not only Fiat but also the English Rover (the world's first turbine-powered car) to take part. On Sunday 6 June 1954, Argentinean driver Onofre Marimon in a Maserati wins the 13th Rome Grand Prix for Formula 1 cars, held on the Castelfusano circuit, over a distance of 395.400 kilometres (60 laps of the track). The race is preceded by the presentation of Fiat's big news, the turbine car driven by Carlo Salamano. The Mayor of Rome kicks off the Grand Prix. The Frenchman Behra on Gordini takes the lead, followed by Manzon and Marimon. However, on the second lap Marimon managed to catch up with Manzon and Behra, taking the lead.

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The positions in the first places didn't change until the tenth lap, when Manzon and Mieres stopped at the pits, the first one for a few minutes, the second one not to start again. After lap 16 a surprise occurs. The French driver Behra loses a wheel before the pond turn and is forced to retire. Moss then moved up to second place and was seen to gain a few tenths of a second on Marimon. The last laps were enlivened by Moss' attempt to get closer to Marimon, an attempt immediately foiled by the Argentine. The English driver, however, put his car out of action by damaging the differential. On the fifty-sixth lap Moss stopped at one meter from the finishing line, waiting to finish the race pushing the car by hand as soon as the winner had finished the sixtieth and last lap. The race finished with the complete affirmation of Maserati, which with Marimon, Shell and Mantovani took the first three places. At the same time, the Italian driver Piotti, paired with the Frenchman Trintignant at the wheel of a Ferrari 3000, wins the 12 Hours of Hyères at a record average speed of over 133 km/h. Twenty-nine cars take part in the race. Trintignant and Piotti take the lead and stay there until the end of the 12 hours. The competition is tough and forces many competitors to retire, including the Englishman Whltehead. Another British rider, Griffith, had a frightening accident. His car overturned and ended up in a ditch, and the Briton had to be taken to hospital, injured. The last hour of the race is very animated. Bourrely, driving a Gordini 1400, loses the left front wheel but manages to avoid rolling over. Shortly afterwards, the English crew Gaze-Abecaasis (Jaguar 8000), second in the general classification, was disqualified. 

 

For the forthcoming 24 Hours of Le Mans, on Wednesday 9 June 1954, Lancia authorised the French driver Manzon to take part in a Ferrari. The Turin-based company will not take part in France as they were unable to prepare their cars in time. On the other way, Ferrari's participation is certain, even if there are doubts about the presence of Hawthorn, who went to England to attend the funeral of his father who died in a car accident. As is well known, Hawthorn had been at the centre of a sensational case, as he hadn't returned home for several years and was therefore unable to do his military service. There had even been a questioning of the Municipalities. In view of the special circumstances under which Hawthorn returned to England, the British Government suspended the order to call up the well-known driver. While the attention of motor enthusiasts is focused on the Le Mans race, there is finally news in Turin that Giuseppe Farina will return to racing. The former World Champion has recovered from the dreadful accident he suffered in the Mille Miglia and, although his arm is still not in perfect condition, he has already returned to driving his personal car. On Thursday 10 June 1954, the driver from Turin will travel to Modena to get back behind the wheel of the racing car. Giuseppe Farina intends to race on Sunday 20 June 1954 at Spa, in the Grand Prix valid as the third round of the World Championship. It should be noted that the Turin star had previously won at Silverstone thirty-nine days after a jump at Marseille, with rather serious consequences.

 

Farina had been forced to apply an elastic band to his healed shoulder, and in these conditions he had set such a time that it was very difficult for him and Fangio to improve on it two months later on the same track. The precedent may be a good one for the future. If the meticulousness of the preparation can be a serious indicator to place the teams competing in the 24 Hours of Le Mans on the scale of values, it is certain that the English Jaguar (whose first driver is Stirling Moss) and the Italian Ferrari (entrusted to the French Manzon and the Argentine Gonzalez) would occupy an ex-acquo place in the unofficial classification. In fact, the managers, staff and drivers of the two teams haven't overlooked a single detail; they haven't left any chance to arbitrate the duel that will oppose them during 24 interminable hours on the difficult (and this year probably more dangerous because of the rain that occasionally appears) circuit. Among the big displacement cars, the fight is between the Jaguar, last year's winner, and the Ferrari 4900. In practice on Friday 11 June 1954, the Jaguars toppled the track records, although only unofficially. Stirling Moss laps in 4'21"0, which is an impressive average for such a circuit of 186.095 km/h, beating the record set by Ascari last year by almost 5 km/h. The start of the fifty-eight cars participating in the race will be given on Saturday, June 12, 1954 at 4:00 p.m. by Prince Bernhard of Holland. Although the weather forecasts indicate that the race will be affected by bad weather, it is estimated that at least 200.000 people will crowd the circuit to watch the exciting and uncertain duel between the Jaguars and the Ferraris.

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The spectacle offered by the immense enclosure where the stands for the public and the stands of the manufacturers competing in the 24 Hours of Le Mans race are located is incredible. Three hundred thousand people; tens of thousands of cars are headed towards the circuit located eight kilometres from the city, by a strict security service established from the early hours of Saturday morning. And it is at precisely 4:00 p.m. that the starter, flanked by Prince Bernard of Holland, who is the President of Honour of the 1954 race, gives the starting signal to the fifty-seven drivers waiting on the opposite side of the road in front of their cars. A quick and beautiful foot race, a lightning start and Gonzalez's Ferrari opens the way for the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The fantastic carousel begins. The laps follow one another at an impressive speed, and it is the Ferraris driven by Gonzalez, Marzotto and Manzon that lead the race; the official chronometers record an average of 185.103 km/h on a lap by Gonzalez, who is the first to beat the record set last year by Alberto Ascari, with 181.692 km/h, immediately imitated by Marzotto, who averages 185.740 km/h on the lap, and 263.578 km/h on the kilometre in a straight line. Stirling Moss's Jaguar follows a few seconds behind. The rhythm of the race is too high for the Porsche of the German Hermann and the D.B. driven by Thirion, who retire almost at the same time, after only forty laps. Others go off the road, seriously damaging their cars, including the small Panhard of Dussous and the Ferrari of Baggio-Rubirosa (the well-known Dominican diplomat). It is Baggio who is at the wheel at the time of the accident, but fortunately he emerges from the car unharmed. After two hours of racing, only five competitors aren't still  lapped: the three Ferraris of Gonzalez, Marzotto and Manzon and the two Jaguars of Moss and Rolt. The duel that was planned on the eve of the race between Ferrari and Jaguar was very close: it was a severe fight that, however, as the hours went by, was outlined in favour of Ferrari cars that, by keeping an infernal rhythm in the race, succeeded in detaching Moss and gaining two laps' lead.

 

In the meantime, there were some retirements due to irreparable mechanical failures, and among them, besides Levegh's Talbot, also the tiny Nardi (760 cc) driven by the well-known pharmacist from Turin, Damonte. Even the rain makes the drivers' task more difficult. In the meantime Gonzalez, forcing the pace, beats the lap record at the astounding average of 189.139 km/h. At the seventh hour the Ferrari driven by Maglioli, who had just replaced Marzotto at the wheel, was forced to stop due to an irreparable gearbox failure. At midnight, after eight hours of racing and some other retirements, among which those of the Lagonda driven by the American Brown and the other Talbot of Rosler Junior, the classification was established with Gonzalez-Trlntignant (Ferrari) in the lead with 102 laps, followed by Whithead-Dewis (Jaguar), with 100 laps to their credit. The night, which passed between one downpour and another, brought no change in the race leadership. The Ferrari, driven alternately by the Argentine Gonzalez and the France driver Trintlgnant, continued to lead, at a given moment taking its advantage to three laps of the circuit, i.e. almost 13 minutes, over the number 14 Jaguar driven by the Englishmen Rolt-Hamilton. At this point (the 18th hour) only one more lap separated the Ferrari, driven by Gonzalez, who replaced Trintignant during a refuelling stop, and the Jaguar driven by Rolt. The team order, following a small accident that happened to the French Ferrari driver (a slip resulting in a slight exit from the road) had slowed down the race of the crew at the service of the Italian manufacturer in the last hours of the morning, and its advantage had naturally diminished. Gonzalez, however, while limiting himself to pushing hard on the less dangerous straights on which a fine, freezing rain continued to fall, gradually gained ground and at midday (during the 20th hour) the Argentinean brought his lead back to almost two laps of the circuit. The general average of Gonzalez and Trintignant remains high in spite of the bad weather conditions that hinder the drivers, making their task very dangerous.

 

At the 20th hour it is 171.760 km/h, the Ferrari having covered 3521.412 kilometres. At 2:00 p.m., that is, after 22 hours of hellish carousel (Trintignant is at the wheel at the moment), the advantage over the Jaguar is 8'50"0. Barring any last minute unforeseen events, Maranello has now won the great race, the greatest European competition, the one that all the world's constructors hope to win. However, at the last refuelling - there is barely an hour to go until the end of the race - the Ferrari doesn't even start. The starter motor has jammed. An anguished drama experienced by hundreds of thousands of people - the radio immediately communicated the information to the four corners of the circuit - which risked transforming the almost certain victory into an unexpected loss. The minutes pass inexorably; the crowd falls silent, the mechanics move busily around the car, which finally manages to restart after a 7'40"0 stop, without any irregular help. Meanwhile, Rolt drove past in his green Jaguar. There was an hour to go. The duel from fascinating becomes painful for all the Italians and for all the Maranello supporters. However, Gonzalez manages not only to keep the small lead, but to increase it by a few seconds during the last laps. The initial 1'30"0 becomes 1'40"0, 1'50"0, 1'55"0. In the meantime, other retirements were reported, including that of Blanc's Talbot. Only nineteen competitors remained in the race and the persistent bad weather slowed down the action even of the most daring ones; the general average decreased in this dramatic final by a few hundred meters. In the last few hours, around 250.000 spectators are present on the circuit. The Gonzalez-Trintignant duo in the Ferrari 4950 triumphs after a thrilling duel with the Jaguar driven by Rolt and Hamilton, at an astonishing 169.240 km/h. The first and second placed cars finished less than two minutes apart.

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With the cancellation of the Dutch Grand Prix the first round of the World Championship in Europe was run at the fast circuit of Spa-Francorchamps in the south-eastern corner of Belgium on Sunday 20 June 1954. The entry list for the Belgian Grand Prix in past years was never very large, but always inevitably included the best drivers in the Grand Prix category. In 1954, the tradition continued. The Scuderia Lancia wanted to participate, but there were many doubts, because the tests done at Monza showed that the single-seaters were not yet up to the task of battling with rivals like Ferrari and Maserati; so the Italian team decided to retire even before the start of the tests. With high expectations the Belgian organizers only accepted entries from high level teams, a choice that led to a lower number of participants: to compete for the victory on the Belgian circuit there were only fifteen drivers, but all of them with proved talent. Scuderia Ferrari - once again - has its full team at its service: Farina is fit again after his accident at the Mille Miglia and Hawthorn is ready to get back behind the wheel after the Syracuse accident. Accompanied by the recent winners of Le Mans, Gonzalez and Trintignant, the Ferrari quartet picks up the pace and during the first practice session, held on the evening of Thursday 17 June 1954, the Modenese cars are the only ones to appear. The Maranello team brought three 1954 and two 1953 models; Hawthorn and Trintignant raced in 1953 single-seaters, while Farina and Gonzalez raced in the new 1954 ones. As is well known Hawthorn had been at the centre of a sensational case, as he hadn't returned to his country for several years and consequently couldn't do his military service, but given the particular circumstances under which Hawthorn returned to England, Her Majesty's Government suspended the order to call up the well-known driver.

 

Since its last race at Silverstone, Ferrari's 1954 version has been modified, and although the original car is available, the Maranello team decides to put two later models on the track. Externally, there aren't radical changes, but the engine has been moved further forward, redistributing the weight, and the interior of the cockpit has been cleaned up, with panels covering the side tanks and the chassis tubes. The handling of the two new cars has been greatly improved, and Gonzalez seems particularly pleased with the upgrades, but Farina isn't happy, as he isn't yet fully able to adapt his driving technique to this new low and wide Ferrari. Hawthorn's car is fitted with a new gear lever, mounted at an angle to the chassis to provide a better lever position and arm-selector movement, while Trintignant's car isn't modified at all. During the first practice session the Ferraris don't look for fast laps, and when a light rain begins to wet the asphalt the Italian team decides to stop its drivers and call it a day. At the practice sessions that take place on Friday 18 June 1954, all the teams are finally present, but one man in particular attracts the attention of the entire paddock: Juan Manuel Fangio, who in his first European appearance in 1954, at the wheel of the new Maserati with De Dion bridge on the suspensions, is ready to further turn the spotlight on the Belgian Grand Prix. Normally one would expect a driver to take time to get up to speed after a few months away from the high speeds of Formula 1, but Fangio wasn't an ordinary driver. The Argentinean immediately kept up with the Ferraris, starting a splendid battle for the front row of the grid. Once again the weekend was eventful right from free practice, where the drivers immediately put all their talent on the line in an attempt to set ever slower times.

 

The lap record on the Francorchamps circuit is 4'23"0, set by Fangio in an Alfa-Romeo 159 in 1951. Gonzalez starts to power the new Ferrari and records a time of 4'25"0, immediately balanced by Fangio. But the track conditions became worse and the times increased to over 5 minutes, forcing drivers and spectators to take a forced break. During the evening the air cooled and the conditions improved considerably. Gonzalez rejoined the track and lapped in 4'23"6, catching and overtaking Farina on the way. The new car of the Argentinean driver looks fluid at this rate, but the oil keeps warming up: to solve the problem the metal grid in front of the radiator is removed. However the time already recorded by Gonzalez is considered good and no further attempts at a fast lap are necessary. Farina tested Hawthorn's 1953 car and made no secret of the fact that he thought it was better than the new one. Gonzalez, on in contrary, remained firmly convinced of the opposite: perfectly satisfied with the 1954 single-seater he defined it as amazing, very clever in mastering its driving and adapting to its main feature, the weight distribution focused on the wheelbase. The main difference between the two models is that with the new single-seater the driver has less time to react when driving to the limit, because when braking it pulls out without warning due to the different road holding. It is now up to the driver to be agile and quick-witted, always anticipating the movements of the single-seater, and no longer standing still waiting for them.

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At the practice sessions that take place on Friday 18 June 1954, all the teams are finally present, but one man in particular attracts the attention of the entire paddock: Juan Manuel Fangio, who in his first European appearance in 1954, at the wheel of the new Maserati with De Dion bridge on the suspensions, is ready to further turn the spotlight on the Belgian Grand Prix. Normally one would expect a driver to take time to get up to speed after a few months away from the high speeds of Formula 1, but Fangio wasn't an ordinary driver. The Argentinean immediately kept up with the Ferraris, starting a splendid battle for the front row of the grid. Once again the weekend was eventful right from free practice, where the drivers immediately put all their talent on the line in an attempt to set ever slower times. The lap record on the Francorchamps circuit is 4'23"0, set by Fangio in an Alfa-Romeo 159 in 1951. Gonzalez starts to power the new Ferrari and records a time of 4'25"0, immediately balanced by Fangio. But the track conditions became worse and the times increased to over 5 minutes, forcing drivers and spectators to take a forced break. During the evening the air cooled and the conditions improved considerably. Gonzalez rejoined the track and lapped in 4'23"6, catching and overtaking Farina on the way. The new car of the Argentinean driver looks fluid at this rate, but the oil keeps warming up: to solve the problem the metal grid in front of the radiator is removed. However the time already recorded by Gonzalez is considered good and no further attempts at a fast lap are necessary.

 

Farina tested Hawthorn's 1953 car and made no secret of the fact that he thought it was better than the new one. Gonzalez, on in contrary, remained firmly convinced of the opposite: perfectly satisfied with the 1954 single-seater he defined it as amazing, very clever in mastering its driving and adapting to its main feature, the weight distribution focused on the wheelbase. The main difference between the two models is that with the new single-seater the driver has less time to react when driving to the limit, because when braking it pulls out without warning due to the different road holding. It is now up to the driver to be agile and quick-witted, always anticipating the movements of the single-seater, and no longer standing still waiting for them. Scuderia Ferrari's men are satisfied with the recorded times, very close to the track records, and decide to end the day's work on the circuit. On the other hand, the Maseratis don't allow themselves a break and a few minutes before the end of practice, Fangio goes out on the track again, recording a time of 4'22"1, not only the fastest of the free practice session, but the fastest in the circuit's history, beating the 1951 record. For this magnificent performance, Fangio pushes the Maserati to its absolute limit, bringing the engine up to 8100 rpm, i.e. 700 rpm over the limit that the factory recommends for private owners. The car seems to really suffer, with oil leaking, brakes sizzling, the engine releasing a large cloud of hot smoke. It is clear that the car isn't capable of putting up with another lap at this level, but despite the immense efforts, the Maserati manages to shine, finishing Friday's practice magnificently. Fangio's masterful performance puts the efforts of the other drivers in shadow.

 

Farina recorded a time of 4'26"0, and Marimon with the second Maserati a 4'27"8. Hawthorn was back on form but didn't take any risks, while Moss wasn't satisfied with his Maserati that was losing oil on the track. Mantovani is at the wheel of the third official Maserati but isn't at his ease on a pure speed circuit; the same situation for Mieres with his 1953/54 car, who proceeds carefully on his first occasion at Spa-Francorchamps. Bira is at the wheel of a Maserati with a new De Dion bridge, also equipped with a renewed gearchange and gearbox, and gradually gains confidence with the new model. Three Gordinis are also running, including the two factory cars driven by Behra and Frère. Both recorded good performances but knew they couldn't hope to challenge the Ferraris on such a fast track with high-speed corners. The third Gordini is the Belgian driven by Pilette. Also Belgian is the 1953/54 Ferrari driven by Swaters, which circulates slowly because it is still unreliable following a reconstruction. There was another free practice session left, on Saturday afternoon, during which there was a much more peaceful atmosphere, with some of the slowest cars managing to improve their time. Hawthorn set a time of 4'29"4 and Moss at 4'40"8, while Trintignant drove a few laps in the reserve 1954 Ferrari to get ready for the moment when the whole team would have the new cars at their disposal. On Sunday, June 20, 1954, the group lines up on the starting grid. The race starts at 3:00 p.m., with perfect weather conditions. At the signal of the starter, the fourteen cars start quickly. Fangio took the lead, followed by Gonzalez and Farina, with the two young up-and-comers Hawthorn and Marimon in the second row. At the back of the grid there was a fifteenth car, not in the race but still starting at the drop of the national flag: it was a 1953/54 Maserati driven by de Graffenried, with a camera mounted on the nose to get authentic footage for the film The Racer.

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As the cars went over the Eau Rouge bridge and up the steep slope Gonzalez was in the lead, because Fangio made a slight mistake at the start that condemned him to be stuck at the back of the rivals. Up the hill in the woods of Burneville the order sees Gonzalez in the lead, followed by Farina and Hawthorn; then the rest of the drivers already distanced, still using Eau Rouge and Raidillon. Suddenly, in the middle of the running cars, Mieres' Maserati caught fire and by pure chance, or luck, the rivals managed to avoid it. The driver brakes hard and jumps out of the car while it is still moving. The sudden problem was caused by a mistake in closing the fuel tank cap, which was slightly loose and caused fuel to splash onto the car while the Maserati driver was braking in turn 1. Steering to the right towards the uphill, the fuel spilled onto the drain pipe and inevitably caught fire. Mieres was lucky and came out only with light burns on his back, perfectly able to walk back to the pits. Meantime the battle between Ferrari and Maserati started, and at the end of the lap Farina preceded Hawthorn and Fangio, with Marimon fourth, who stopped at pits. Instead, there was no sign of Gonzalez, who appeared only a few seconds after the passage of the rest of the group, to go back to the pits and retire: the engine of his Ferrari failed a few kilometres from the start. Jacques Swaters was forced to retire too with his yellow Ferrari because of an engine problem, while Marimon restarted after changing the spark plugs. On lap two Fangio overtook Hawthorn and as he passed the pits he was right behind Farina, only managing to complete the overtaking move on the next lap at the Malmedy turn. The three drivers had already distanced the rest of the group, led by Trintignant, who was busy defending himself against Behra's attacks.

 

Having taken the lead, Fangio had a clear path and gained second after second, while Farina watched him go. Hawthorn comfortably maintained third position. It is certainly interesting to note that of the top three drivers, one was in his first race after months of stop, while the other two were in their first race after being released from hospital. On lap 10 Farina suddenly closed in on Fangio and on the next lap he returned to the lead, but Fangio visibly had a problem: the strap of his visor had broken, and at the end of the lap he was forced to slow down to enter the pits, where he threw off his helmet and put on the glasses he had around his neck. Meanwhile Hawthorn is in trouble with a crack in his exhaust pipe, with fumes entering the cockpit and causing him dizziness. Further back Behra overtook Trintignant but suffered a rear axle breakage and was forced to retire on lap 12. Fangio took only two and a half laps to catch up with Farina again, and although the latter did all he could to stay in the lead, he was overtaken by the Argentine, who immediately pulled away as the rival cars passed Stavelot on the climb to the finish. Shortly before completing the fifteenth lap Farina's single-seater had problems, forcing him to stop on the side of the road and let Fangio go, by now unchallenged, since Hawthorn was more than a minute behind, with Trintignant even further behind. Over the next few laps Hawthorn began to slow down: it was clear that his physical condition wasn't the best. The Ferrari team, thinking that its driver hadn't yet fully recovered from the accident suffered at Syracuse, and that his injured leg was giving him problems, invited Gonzalez to take over his car, stopping the Briton at the beginning of lap 19.

 

Fangio took only two and a half laps to catch up with Farina again, and although the latter did all he could to stay in the lead, he was overtaken by the Argentine, who immediately pulled away as the rival cars passed Stavelot on the climb to the finish. Shortly before completing the fifteenth lap Farina's single-seater had problems, forcing him to stop on the side of the road and let Fangio go, by now unchallenged, since Hawthorn was more than a minute behind, with Trintignant even further behind. Over the next few laps Hawthorn began to slow down: it was clear that his physical condition wasn't the best. The Ferrari team, thinking that its driver hadn't yet fully recovered from the accident suffered at Syracuse, and that his injured leg was giving him problems, invited Gonzalez to take over his car, stopping the Briton at the beginning of lap 19. Hawthorn entered the pits and collapsed on the steering wheel, immediately lifted from the seat and replaced by Gonzalez. Trintignant took advantage of it to take the second place. While Hawthorn is regaining consciousness in the pits, Gonzalez discovers the reason of the English driver's collapse, which isn't due to the pain of his injured leg, but to the smoke coming from the broken exhaust pipe into the cockpit. At the end of the lap Gonzalez stops again to solve the problem, because besides the smoke there is also a heat trail burning the Argentinean driver's arm. The problem went ignored during the exchange between the drivers because the exhaust pipe is on the opposite side of the car to the drivers' downhill and uphill sides, and because Hawthorn, who lost consciousness, was unable to inform anyone in time.

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Fangio completes twenty-one of the race's thirty-six laps and while the Ferrari's exhaust pipe is being repaired, Gonzalez loses almost an entire lap. The race as such was over for him. Of the fourteen drivers at the start only seven are still in the race. Moss drives with confidence and thanks to all the retirements and delays of the rivals he rises to the third place, about half a lap behind Trintignant. For the same reason Pilette with his yellow Gordini found himself in fourth position, followed by Bira and Mantovani, the latest stopped three times to change spark plugs. Paul Frère retired because of a broken rear axle, after having already lost ground compared to the rivals due to two pit stops forced by a radiator problem, commonly present on Gordini cars. Fangio slowed down his rhythm and started to drive at a 4'40"0 time, so as to make Trintignant come close, but not dangerously. Unless the Maserati presents sudden problems, the Argentinean is the certain winner of the Belgian Grand Prix. Gonzalez restarted from the pits and found himself in sixth position, immediately catching up Bira. After a few laps Pilette rejoined too, while Moss was by then too far and unavailable, therefore Ferrari gave up the idea of gaining another position. But without the Italians' knowing Moss lost all oil pressure and drove with his fingers crossed, hoping that his car could complete the race if not submitted to excessive efforts. With seven laps to go Trintignant doubled Moss, just as Fangio had already done; only the first two cars were therefore on the same lap.

 

The Belgian Grand Prix thus finished with Fangio taking a well-deserved first place in the race, collecting a prize of 100.000 Belgian francs, or approximately 2.000 dollars, and asserting his leadership in the World Championship after a fantastic comeback in European racing and after  being able to set the fastest lap of the race. His average speed was  a new record too, being faster than Farina's 159 Alfa-Romeo in 1951. It is a demonstration that the new Formula 1 cars are making great progress. The Argentine's driving was remarkable throughout the race and in free practice, and after bringing the Maserati trident back to victory it will be interesting to see what he can do on his return to the Mercedes-Benz seat. Next on the podium was Maurice Trintignant in the Ferrari and Stirling Moss in the other Maserati. Fourth at the finish was José Froilán González, who shared the three points with teammate Mike Hawthorn, while Belgian driver André Pilette finished fifth in his Gordini. On Monday 21 June 1954, the Ferrari drivers, busy at Spa for the Belgian Grand Prix, stop at Reims where they test the circuit. It seems that Maserati intends to debut its racing cars at Reims in fifteen days.

 

Simone Pietro Zazza

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