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#38 1954 German Grand Prix

2021-04-07 00:00

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#1954,

#38 1954 German Grand Prix

Una settimana dopo il Gran Premio corso a Silverstone, in attesa di partecipare alla gara prevista per il 1° Agosto sul circuito del Nurburgring, dome

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Such a vast ferment in motorsport theatre had not been felt for a while. For fifteen years the popularity of the sport of the wheel had stagnated in a kind of euphoric ordinariness: life and blood, of course, for the specialised fans - but something slightly alien and very uninspiring for the man in the street, for the masses. It lived on the commonplace: Italian motor racing thrives in an ivory tower, because it notoriously has an unattainable technical tradition, and a breeding ground of champions of the highest breed. The art of the wheel, it was said, is ingrained in our nature. So it took the last two international races of this strange middle of the season to suddenly stimulate general attention, to bring the motorsport back to the forefront of popularity. The competent have known this for a while, but the laymen have only now suddenly realised it. With the first race, the French Grand Prix held at Reims, it was discovered that Mercedes can throw down the gauntlet to the Italian cars and come out victorious; with the second, the British Grand Prix, it was discovered that the revenge of Ferrari is possible, but in foreign hands. Either the car, or the driver: but the enchantment of the pairing seems broken. The problem, which has awakened the crowds (and this is undoubtedly a positive side of the situation), is therefore twofold. The old, flowing, implied Italian superiority is undoubtedly in serious danger: other cars are extremely competitive, and threaten to do better. And behind the ageing Italian champions, who is preparing to take over? A few days ago, Mr Marzotto. one of the authentic champions (among the young, but no longer very young) discussed the double problem, especially from the drivers' point of view.

 

There is little to add to his remarks: except, perhaps, that in part the lack of new names in the very first ranks also depends on the trend of the organisers, who have been throwing themselves into road racing for years, reserving the closed circuits for the few. As for the cars, we are really at a turning point of extreme interest. Last Sunday's Ferrari triumph is indicative, but not revelatory: we should be under no illusion that Mercedes' defeat is more than occasional. A brand new Grand Prix car, which so triumphantly dominates on its race debut, is not destined to come second in the rankings. What its secret is, the most conspicuous, indeed the only one known so far, is the injection power supply. The classic carburettor, in which the air-fuel mixture sucked in by the engine is formed by depression, is abolished. In its place is a pump that pressure-injects atomised petrol into the pure air, which the piston is compressing in the cylinder. Something similar, in short, to the working scheme of Diesel engines, except for the lower compressions and the consequent spark ignition instead of spontaneous ignition. It sounds like a joke, easy to realise: yet petrol injection on fast engines has been under study for decades, and few have solved its delicate multiple detail problems. Among the few and among the best is undoubtedly the specialist Bosch, which has supplied this special type for high speed to Mercedes. Injection means: more power due to the absence of the diffuser bottleneck; greater efficiency of the explosive charge introduced in each displacement due to the better homogeneity of the mixture, its high turbulence, its uniform flammability.

 

Better pick-up, acceleration and pulling power due to the avoidance of condensation at low revs and the instantaneous adjustment of the stock in regime variations; finally, it means less consumption per horsepower-hour, i.e. greater range, or less dead weight. It does not appear that the Italian manufacturers (although they have studies and experiments underway in this regard) have perfected this fuel system: the delay must obviously be made up as soon as possible, because this is a substantial advance, which in a few years will also conquer touring cars. Other glimmers of hope, perhaps still open to Italian scholars, concern suspensions: the Italians have rediscovered the De Dion type bridges as a panacea on sports cars, repudiating independent wheels. Even four-wheel drive will have to be achieved sooner or later, taking away from aerodynamics the task of increasing, with today's body styles, the car's grip against the ground, i.e. precisely that weight which we are trying so hard to reduce. In short: the problems are varied and subtle, the solutions urgent. In this matter we walk in cycles and the smell of the new is in the air. In the meantime, the Portuguese Grand Prix, held on Sunday 25 July 1954 at the Monsanto circuit near Lisbon, records the triumph of Ferrari, its two official drivers, the Argentinean Gonzalez and the Englishman Hawthorn. But the surprise of the day is the third place won by the young American Gregory from Kansas City who races in a Ferrari of his own. Twenty-one cars take the start and have to complete 60 laps of the 5470-metre circuit, equal to a distance of 328 kilometres.

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Immediately the two Ferrari drivers take the lead: Hawthorn drives and Gonzalez follows him, but on lap 15 the Argentine enters a corner that is not the circuit's and is forced to stop and turn back. Masten Gregory in his personal Ferrari took advantage of this to move up to second place, but after a furious chase Gonzalez, on lap 31, moved back into second position and continuing to force his way into the lead on lap 40. A thrilling duel took place between the two Ferrari drivers: Hawthorn, following his team-mate like a shadow, attacked him decisively on lap 60 and overtook him, but Gonzalez recovered immediately and, fighting metre by metre, after one lap he was again in the lead. The now unleashed cabezon on lap 53 set the record for the day at an average speed of 138.140 km/h, and crossed the finish line victoriously followed a few metres behind by Hawthorn. At the same time, Frenchman Trintignant in a Ferrari won the Caen Grand Prix, covering the 211-kilometre course at an average speed of 142.477 km/h. Three Ferraris, three Maseratis and three Gordinls take part in the race. At the start the Englishman Stirling Moss in a Maserati took the lead, tailed by Trintignant who with a powerful chase managed to overtake him on lap 46. The Englishman counter-attacked and by lap 62 was back in the lead: the duel between the two drivers continued with riveting interest. Even with three laps to go Trintignant overtook his rival on the corners and kept the lead until the end. The series of interesting competitions put motor sport in the spotlight. From the Aosta-Gran San Bernardo to the Lisbon competition, in the mountains as well as on the circuit, the red Italian cars triumphed.

 

On the rugged San Bernardo route, where the asphalt, improving the road year by year, contributes to making the race easier, Castellotti drove his Lancia 3300 to a record of considerable technical value. An average speed of more than 88 km/h over the 33.9 kilometres of the difficult track was a clear demonstration of the driver's and the car's skills. This series of competitions increased the anticipation for the scheduled race in Germany, at the Nurburgring circuit on 1 August 1954. Only world champion Ascari will not take part in the race, in which the duel between Mercedes and Ferrari will have its third and perhaps most exciting chapter. Mercedes Benz will field four cars. The beautiful but cumbersome aerodynamic bodywork will be abolished for the occasion. Mercedes will also not adopt the conventional open-wheel superstructure, known as the silver fish. Ferrari for its part will enter three cars that will be entrusted to Gonzalez, winner of the recent British Grand Prix, Trintignant and Hawthorn. The Maserati colours will be defended by Villoresi, Marimon and Mieres. Alberto Ascari, as mentioned, declined the invitation to race the German race with Maserati, in order to spend some time off with his family. At the same time, he assured Maserati itself that he would not miss the next round of the World Championship at the Swiss Grand Prix in Bern. In the meantime, the young driver from Turin, Roberto Piodi, is in serious training at the Nurburgring. The Italian driver will not run next Sunday's race, reserved as is known for Formula 1 cars, but will participate on 29 August in the 1000 kilometre race, a competition that is already arousing lively interest among motoring enthusiasts. In it, in fact, the new Mercedes sports cars with special bodywork, one of which was driven by Fangio, are expected to line up. Lancia, for its part, will race for the first time the 3800, which already gave excellent results in testing at Monza. Ferrari and Maserati will complete the Italian line-up with their best cars.

 

In the drivers' field there will be the world's best aces, from Ascari to Fangio, from Villoresi to Gonzalez and Marimon. Only Farina, who is still resting because of the well-known accident, will not be able to measure himself against the strong opponents. The Lancia squadron will consist of Ascari, Villoresi, Taruffl, Castelletti, Manzon and Piodi. Precisely in view of the 1000 kilometre race, the Turinese, who is just 30 years old, has taken himself to the Nurburgring for a training period. He would return around 4 or 5 August 1954 after getting to know the 23-kilometre race course well, to return to Germany in the run-up to the 1000 kilometres. As far as the 1954 season was concerned, the German Grand Prix was named the European Grand Prix, a not particularly significant title that the FIA awarded each year in turn to one of the major seasonal events hosted by the different nations of the old continent. The awarding of this title to the German Grand Prix, however, throws the Automobile Club of Germany into chaos, as normally the events held at the Nürburgring are models of good organisation; but this time everything seems to be more confused. The wristband pass system is so complicated that it is only thanks to the mechanics and drivers that the races manage to run smoothly. The coloured wristbands are changed every few hours and complete freedom of movement is absolutely impossible. Another serious mistake made by the organisers is that they also plan two national sports car races and three international races at the same time as the Formula 1 Grand Prix, with the result that the restricted space in the paddock and pits is overcrowded. Many problems would be solved if the organisers would take a cue from their Belgian neighbours and devote all their energies to Formula One and the smooth running of the Grand Prix, as they do at Spa.

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Testing begins on Thursday, the 29th of July 1954, but there are only the Maserati and Ferrari teams running in decidedly gloomy weather. Ferrari still relies on the 1953/54 cars, with the new short-chassis single-seaters being discarded until there is time for sufficiently serious and detailed testing. Scuderia Ferrari brings four Formula 1 cars and a 750S sports car with a 2.5-litre engine, to be used during testing and to do some preparatory testing ahead of the 1,000 kilometres at the end of the month. With Farina still at a standstill, Ferrari hires Taruffi and entrusts him with the fourth single-seater, alongside Gonzalez, Trintignant and Hawthorn. The chassis is the same as in 1953 and Gonzalez and Hawthorn have new engines, introduced in Rouen the previous month, with a further change: the two magnets mounted vertically in front of the engine, as on the 750S sports engine. In fact, the crankcases are identical to the sports car engines, although they have a flange on the timing box for mounting a dynamo between the two magnets. Trintignant on the other hand has a normal 1953/54 car, as does Taruffi; the latter in particular drives the single-seater that won the race at Caen the previous weekend. All the team's drivers alternate between the sports car and the single-seaters, but given the gloomy weather and the time still available, being only during the first practice session, no fast times are recorded. The Maserati team is in its usual state of uncertainty and Ascari wisely decides not to drive, given that the last two attempts have proved unsuccessful. Villoresi is instead ready to make another attempt, having nothing to lose. There are four red Maseratis with de Dion's bridge, with drivers Villoresi, Marimon, Mantovani and Mieres, although the last two are racing as privateers, albeit followed and controlled by the Modenese company.

 

After some persuasion, Stirling Moss accepted the official marque's support for the German Grand Prix: his car had to be painted red and Maserati made itself available to provide him with service in the event of mechanical problems. After the last two races, at Silverstone and Caen, the British manufacturer began to realise that it was no match for its rivals and that seeing a green Maserati ahead of the reds could not be considered a good result. Driver and team came to an agreement and Maserati allowed Moss not to paint his single-seater entirely red: the front bonnet remained painted green, even though it clashed horribly with the rest of the colour scheme. The official cars of Villoresi, Marimon and Mieres are all fitted with a new oil system, with the tank mounted at the rear of the car, instead of under the carburettors. his is an attempt to reduce the temperature of the oil and the consequent foaming in the tank; the solution seems to be successful, although the mass of pipes running down the side to the tail of the single-seaters is not aesthetically pleasing. Marimon has a brand-new car, the last to be built, with a new type of heavily-rimmed petrol tank, also fitted on Mieres' car. Having accepted support from the factory Moss receives some new parts for the engine, and as a result his car is not ready in time for the first free practice; in order not to keep him away from the track he is given permission to do a few laps in Mieres' car, a possibility also granted to Villoresi. The Argentinean Gonzalez, at the wheel of the Ferrari, sets the fastest lap on the first day of official practice for the European Grand Prix. The recent winner of the Portuguese Grand Prix, despite the fact that the track was wet in several places, covers the 22,810 metres of the circuit in 10'15"2, at an average speed of 133.400 km/h.

 

Alongside the Argentinean, the Maserati drivers particularly stood out. Contrary to what had been announced, Mercedes does not turn up for today's test, postponing the start of practice until Friday. Nor does Gordini. The organisers announced in the evening that twenty-three cars would take part in the European Grand Prix. As is known, the official teams of Ferrari, Maserati, Mercedes and Gordini are entered in this race. The biggest attraction of the competition is the third episode of the duel between the Italian cars and the German Mercedes. It had been many years since motor racing had aroused such a high level of interest, even among the layman, and this confirms the theory, already tried and tested many times before, that in motor sports the greatest attraction is determined more by the struggle between different makes - especially when the nationality is also different - than by the events that have the drivers as protagonists. The return of Mercedes to racing, triumphant at first, clouded by reservations later, was the leaven of this new phase of motor sport in its most evolved expression of racing governed by the international formula, i.e. by that technical compromise that has or should have as its ultimate aim the practical experimentation of the most far-reaching ideas in terms of constructive progress. After an absence of fifteen years, the Stuttgart company's resurgence in racing coincided with the impressive victory at Reims in the French Grand Prix, which seemed to destroy the edifice painstakingly built by the Italian artisan constructors in the post-war period with a single great battering ram. The reaction of these, and first and foremost Ferrari, was just as immediate, and a fortnight later, at Silverstone, the Germans of Mercedes came out of the clash badly defeated, though not humiliated.

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Interpretations were drawn from the two episodes that were not all marked by the cold objectivity that would have been desirable. Above all, it was forgotten that no action, no fact, no battle can be considered definitive in the evaluation of the man, the instrument or the army involved. In particular, those organisms that are as perfect as they are delicate, which are racing cars, are subject to continuous evolutions that can also profoundly change their functionality: unbeatable today, tomorrow they can become unserviceable, for little that their health is not taken care of. So let's wait until the end of the season before working on the final figures, which will not even be the European Grand Prix to define that question of superiority that took shape with the challenge launched by Mercedes to Ferrari and Maserati. Certainly, the third act of this exciting struggle has everything to make it an event of exceptional magnitude. Mercedes, presenting itself to its public for the first time, will take to the difficult circuit of Nurburgring with four cars, all of them of the brand new model specially made for the not-so-fast tracks, i.e. with an orthodox open-wheel bodywork and - it seems - a new, shorter chassis: a car that is undoubtedly lighter and more manageable than the one fielded at Reims and Silverstone. Needless to say, the Mercedes Nurburgring edition represents the great unknown of the race, as it is not prudent to rely on the contrasting impressions aroused by the two previous tests, and in the absence of precise elements on the possibilities of the new model. This unknown factor the German engineers want to keep alive until the very end, as can be seen from the fact that the cars did not participate in Thursday's tests.

 

As for the situation in the Italian field, the Ferraris give full reliance, especially for their great agility, which on a circuit like the Nurburgring can be decisive. From the Maseratis one can expect a more persuasive test than in the last two races: a lot will depend on the drivers, a problem that especially in recent times has appeared very delicate and that cannot be solved if not by the spontaneous germination of new back-up. The European Grand Prix is the sixth round of the Drivers' World Championship. Fangio currently leads the standings with 28 points; he is followed by Gonzalez with 15 points and Trintignant with 11 points. A new success for the Argentinean ace would put him in a position that would be difficult to reach; if, on the other hand, his compatriot, Ferrari's current number one, were to prevail, the question of the title would not be settled. On Friday the 30th of July, it seems that everyone is willing and able to take part in the practice session, but when torrential rain falls on the circuit, no one is inclined to be on the track. The Ferrari team runs in the wet with the single-seaters, keeping the sports car dry instead. Moss is not stopped by the rain either, followed by Schell, Rosier and Manzon; the latter two in their private Ferraris. Towards the end of practice Mercedes-Benz also makes an appearance, with Kling and Hermann running in one of the aerodynamic cars; there is still no sign of any new Mercedes-Benz cars. What was shaping up to be an interesting free practice session is completely ruined by the poor weather conditions, which once again prevent fast times being recorded. Some drivers did, however, get close to ten minutes on the lap, a pretty good time considering the conditions of the asphalt.

 

Not even on Friday, during the second official practice day for the European Grand Prix, were the new Mercedes cars seen on the Nurburgring track. Neubauer, sports director of the Stuttgart-based company's racing department, assures that all four cars prepared for this race will test on Saturday. It is whispered, however, that the cars are not ready, and that feverish work is going on in the Untertürkheim workshops in order to have them finished by tonight. However, three of the four drivers entered by Mercedes, namely Fangio, Lang and Hermann, ran with the aerodynamic model, without, however, completing many laps. This did not prevent Fangio from setting an excellent time of 10'05"1, which is the best time achieved on the circuit between Thursday and Friday. A time that was matched by Stirling Moss. It should be noted that violent gusts of rain and, at times, an icy wind made the track rather treacherous, and even though the Argentine made his exploit towards the evening, when the weather cleared up, nonetheless the entire southern section of the track was wet. The Mercedes team leader's time did not come as a surprise, however, as the Englishman Stirling Moss - who will be part of the official Maserati team in the race - had lapped in the identical time. As for the others, no one did anything exceptional. Gonzalez lapped for quite a long time, but without committing himself, almost always at the wheel of a three-litre sports car that Ferrari had brought to the Nurburgring in preparation for the 1000 kilometre race in a month's time (Lancia had also brought a 3300 for the same purpose).

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The most interesting novelty concerns Piero Taruffi, to whom Ferrari entrusts one of its single-seaters for the race. So the Maranello team will also be in the field with four cars. Taruffi drives for a long time at reduced speed, more like studying to get familiar with the car. At the end of the first two training sessions, it is difficult to have an exact idea of the situation: the aerodynamic Mercedes do not seem suited to a circuit such as this, but meanwhile they have so far, and albeit jointly, the best time; the Ferrari drivers - cars of the model that won at Silverstone, i.e. not the most recent edition - have not visibly committed themselves; Moss's lesser-rated Maserati has done wonders (even if he knows the Nurburgring like few;. finally, there is the unknown of the new Mercedes undressed, i.e. without aerodynamic bodywork. In short, there is a sign of surprise, or rather disorientation, that only Saturday's final practice may perhaps dispel. This does not detract from the fact that throughout Germany there is great anticipation for the race, which is valid as the sixth round of the World Championship. The last free practice session takes place on the morning of Saturda the 31st of July 1954. The temperatures rise and the rain disappears; there are finally conditions for high-speed racing. The fastest lap ever recorded on the German track's 22.81 km of twists and turns was set in 1939 by Hermann Lang, with a time of 9'52"2 and an average speed of 138.5 km/h. In the 1953 season, however, Ascari dropped to 9'56"0 in a 2-litre Ferrari. It seems quite reasonable to assume that the 1954 Formula 1 cars could come close to Lang's record. Mercedes-Benz finally finished work on its single-seaters: these were mechanically identical to those seen at Silverstone the previous month, but the aerodynamic bodywork was cut and wrapped as closely as possible around the existing chassis tubes.

 

Aesthetically, this resulted in a single-seater with no wide-open corners. The only real improvement over the Silverstone cars is that the driver can now see the wheels. Three of these single-seaters are present, driven by Fangio, Kling and Lang, while Hermann is at the wheel of one of the original aerodynamic cars. Ferraris and Maseratis also drive, while Bira shows up in his blue and yellow car. Then there are four Gordinis: Behra in the five-speed model, Frère and Bucci in the other two official cars and Pilette driving the Belgian Gordini. The Veritas single-seater driven in 1953 by Hermann is now in the hands of Helfrich and has been renamed Klenk-Meteor, even though the former Mercedes-Benz sports driver is still the owner. Fangio is the first to lap under the ten-minute limit, going faster and faster until he comes close to setting the track record. The Argentine finally managed to break the pre-war record with a scorching lap of 9'50"1, disproving rumours about how badly he was driving swing-axle cars. It takes more than just a good driver to record such a time. Hawthorn is the one who comes closest to Fangio, with a time of 9'53"3. Only these two drivers manage to get under ten minutes, while Moss misses the target by a few tenths, still clearly being the fastest Maserati driver. While these fast laps are being completed Marimon crashes just before the Wehrseifen bridge, which is on the opposite side of the track from the pits. News is so slow to arrive that Gonzalez decides to jump into the Ferrari sports car to go and find out what has happened. On his return he brings the terrible news: Onofre Marimon has died a few minutes after the crash.

 

Many tears are shed for the nice young Argentinean, always so happy and cheerful, friendly with everyone and appreciated by everyone who knew him. With this terrible blow all enthusiasm for practice fades and most of the drivers lose interest in continuing with the activity on the track. Thus ends the morning. The eagerly awaited European Automobile Grand Prix will take place under the sign of mourning. The unfortunate Argentinean racer, one of the best of that Argentinean school that for some years now has been supplying the ever-sparse breeding ground of top-class drivers with authentic champions, was on his first laps of practice. At the end of the long descent that touches the lowest point of the Nurburgring's capricious altimetry, near the bend called Kling, because two years ago the Mercedes driver had a frightening accident there without serious consequences, it seems he was unable to change gear before tackling the aforementioned bend (and this would be demonstrated by the gear lever found in a neutral position). It seems, therefore, that Marimon found himself having to rely on the brakes alone to slow the car down. But evidently the manoeuvre failed him: the bolide smashed through the boxwood hedge bordering the road and rolled down the deep valley on the left, nor was a tree - sliced clean through - enough to stop it. The driver was thrown from the driver's seat and fell to the ground, a few metres away from the car. There are, however, other possible explanations for the terrible accident, according to some drivers. Villoresi maintains that sometimes, when braking appears to be long, one continues to lean on the brake pedal without attempting any other manoeuvre, as if pinned down with no possibility of reacting, and ends up falling victim to the car's trajectory, i.e. going off the road, perhaps even at reduced speed.

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However, it does not seem likely that this was the case for poor Marimon, otherwise the car, had it not still had an enormous live force to dispose of, would not have been able to bring down a plant a good twenty centimetres in diameter in its flight. According to Mantovani's opinion, the Argentine driver must have made a mistake between the brake and the accelerator, i.e. he would have leaned his foot on both pedals, which in reality on the car are quite close together. So, in an attempt to brake he would also have accelerated the car. But even this version would leave doubts, as the position of the gearstick of the damaged car was found to be neutral. One thing that seems certain, and from a sad but human point of view it is better this way, is that Marimon's death must have been instantaneous: in fact, after the impact against the plant, which in all probability caused the steering wheel to smash into his ribcage, the driver was thrown out, so much so that he was found a few metres away from the car. The first rescuers who arrived on the scene immediately stated that the poor Argentine driver was no longer showing any signs of life, and the same was reported by the nurses of the ambulance that immediately rushed to the scene. He must have died instantly from a fractured skull base and crushed chest. Marimon's father, after composing his son's remains in the mortuary of the Adenau cemetery, returned to the circuit to collect his personal belongings. Onofre Marimon, who leaves behind his wife and two children, was born 30 years ago in Coquin, a town in the province of Cordoba. He had started racing in 1948, and had been an official Maserati driver since last year.

 

In the late afternoon, the Minister of Argentina in Bonn arrived in Adenau, who brought the condolences of his government and President Perón to Marimon's father, who had accompanied his son as usual. Perón himself had previously spoken by telephone with the Argentinean pilot Juan Manuel Fangio, to whom the president had made arrangements for the embalming of the poor racer's body, which would be flown to Argentina probably by Wednesday, leaving from Frankfurt. The funeral would take place at the expense of the Argentine government. Onofre Marimon was born on 19 December 1923 in Buenos Altea and lived in Coaquin (Cordova). His passion for motor racing had ignited him when he was still a boy. His father was in his time one of the most skilled Argentinean racers, a true carreer specialist and several times a national champion in the sports category. A fanatical admirer of Fangio, Onofre ended up becoming one of his most loyal supporters. After the war, he approached him and asked if he could become his pupil. Fangio accepted the task as master, as he had done for many other young Argentine drivers, and in 1947 lent Marimon a touring car in which the 24-year-old pupil won a mountain race at La Cumbre and placed in several other competitions. Subsequently, Marimon raced Chevrolets and cars of other makes, and succeeded in gaining the attention of the technicians. In 1950 Fangio decided to entrust him with a Wayne 4500, a single-seater with which Marimon was to race in Argentina in the 1951 and 1952 seasons. In these three years he achieved eight victories and four second places.

 

The most significant successes were those achieved at the Junin circuit (Evita Peron's birthplace) and La Cumbre, races he won twice, the Mar del Piata circuit, Buenos Aires (inaugural race for Argentinean racers), S. Nicolas or Esperanza in which he achieved the overall record. In the summer of 1951 Marimon came to Italy with Fangio and raced three races in which, after showing his unscrupulousness, he had to abandon. More precisely he raced in the Modena Grand Prix with a Ferrari, the European Grand Prix at Reims with a Maserati and the 24 Hours of Le Mans (paired with Gonzalez) with a Talbot. In 1952 he stayed in Argentina and finally returned to the European continent the following year, where he raced the Mille Miglia in an Alfa 1900 in which he went off the road at a tricky curve a few kilometres after the start. In the following seasons he had also enjoyed flattering success, so much so that he was hired by Maserati. Marimon's passing casts a shadow of mourning over the anticipation for the race that will be run on Sunday. The news of the catastrophe has inevitable psychological consequences on the drivers engaged in the most important day of practice, in which the starting grid for the Grand Prix must be established. Dismayed the Maserati men, in particular the Argentineans who immediately suspended practice, followed by almost all the other competitors and colleagues. Only the Mercedes drivers continue for a long time, two of the new open-wheelers having arrived from Stuttgart in the meantime. In one of these, Fangio set a new overall record at the Nurburgring with a time of 9'50"1, at an average speed of over 139 km/h, beating the record Lang had set, again in a Mercedes, back in 1938.

 

After this exceptional feat by Fangio, in the ranking of the tests we find Hawthorn in a Ferrari, Moss in a Maserati, Herrmann again in a Mercedes, then Gonzalez, Freré in a Gordini, Trintignant in a Ferrari. Further away the others, including Lang and Kling who complete the Mercedes squadron. On Sunday the new German cars will have Fangio and the elder Lang at the wheel, while Kling and Hermann will drive the aerodynamic type. Based on the results of the tests, and taking into account other factors, psychological and technical, it is difficult to make predictions for this German Grand Prix. One would, strictly speaking, have to consider Fangio as the man to beat, but the race has so many unknowns (such as the difficulty of the track, the length of the test, some uncertainty about tyre grip) that following this thesis too simplistically could hold big surprises in store. Especially since, in the Italian field, both Ferraris and Maseratis have proven to be perfectly at ease on such a tormented course. Much may depend on the condition of the drivers closest to poor Marimon, especially Gonzalez, on the one hand, and Fangio on the other. There is no hiding the fact, however, that the game is big: Mercedes wants to offer its public the great satisfaction of a victory, and, as is well known, has prepared for the Grand Prix by even setting up special cars. Facing the German colossus are the two small Italian teams of Ferrari and Maserati, with so much faith and will, and also with cars that, in the end, have only had to bow once before the Stuttgart drivers. A success for the Italian teams, even if not definitive, would have more value than just a sporting victory.

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As early as Friday, thousands of people traffic around the Nurburgring, some camping in the Eifel mountains, and on Sunday 1st of August 1954, around noon, a crowd of 300.000 people spread out around the circuit. For some obscure reason the organisers decided to line up the cars on the grid in rows of three-two-three-two, whereas in previous years they were lined up in rows four-three-four-three, with the starting area large enough for even six cars at once. Fangio, Hawthorn and Moss are in the front row, in Mercedes-Benz, Ferrari and Maserati respectively, and the sight of the two English boys alongside the master is very encouraging to the many Brits present. On the next row are Hermann and Gonzalez, with the young German having recorded an excellent 10'01"5 on his aerodynamic Mercedes-Benz in tests over the previous days. In the third row there are Frère, with a time of 10'05"9 with the Gordini, and Trintignant, while the third place is vacant: it should have hosted the unfortunate Marimon. The rest of the twenty participating drivers lined up at the back, with Lang on the fifth row and Kling at the back to close, as he was running all the tests in the other drivers' cars and could not record any official time. In memory of Marimon, the Maserati team withdrew the other official entry, that of Villoresi, while Mantovani and Mieres both chose to drive their private cars. All of Ferrari's hopes seem to be focused on Hawthorn, but when the flag is lowered by the starter, Gonzalez gets off to a lightning start and immediately reaches the front row. Fangio took full advantage of the Mercedes-Benz's five-speed gearbox and managed to pull away from Moss and Hawthorn. But Gonzalez furiously manages to overtake his compatriot, leading the pack as they arrive at the South-Kerve hairpin, in the area where the circuit runs behind the pits.

 

As the twenty cars race around the north bend the order sees Gonzalez leading the race, followed by Fangio, Moss, Lang and Hermann, with Hawthorn just behind at the head of the second group. About halfway through the first lap, i.e. at Breidscheid, the order is unchanged, but Pilette already has to stop because the front suspension of his Gordini breaks. When the first drivers reached the final straight Gonzalez was still in the lead, but just along the straight Fangio overtook him passing in the lead: therefore it was the Mercedes-Benz to arrive at the starting area in first position, but the Ferrari was not far behind. In third place was Moss, in full control of the situation; followed by Lang, Hermann and Hawthorn, the last two very close together; then Behra, Trintignant, Mantovani and Kling, the latter who in his own way managed to go from last place on the grid to tenth in one lap. Nineteen cars completed the first lap, which Fangio finished in 10'01"0, giving the impression that the Mercedes-Benz could make up for the Silverstone debacle. Halfway through the second lap Moss loses positions and is subsequently forced to stop: his Maserati has engine problems. Once again fate is against him, just when he seemed in a position to get into the thick of the battle. This problem with the Englishman's car grants third position to Lang, who drives magnificently and gives the impression of having returned to his old form, despite the fact that a good fifteen years have passed since his last Grand Prix with Mercedes-Benz. At the end of the second lap Gonzalez finds himself wedged between the two silver German cars, with Hawthorn behind him, driving the aerodynamic Mercedes-Benz in Hermann's slipstream.

 

The fourth Mercedes-Benz, driven by Kling, continues to make up ground; a stopwatch shows that it is even gaining on Fangio. Behra stops to find out the reason for a problem with his Gordini: he operates a spark plug change and restarts, but the solution does not seem to be sufficient. In the meantime, the order of the leaders is unchanged, although Kling is now within striking distance of the official racers, and when they appear beyond the pits at the end of the third lap Kling is very close to Hermann and Trintignant. Mieres pits and is forced to retire at the end of lap two because his Maserati is leaking fuel. Taruffi meanwhile is far behind the other competitors, having to drive with a flat rear tyre. He then stops in the pits and Ferrari takes the opportunity to change both rear wheels and top up the fuel tank, as the Ferrari cars do not seem able to finish the race without stopping to refuel. In fact, the 1954 race was lengthened to 22 laps, compared to 18 in the previous editions, covering an impressive 500 kilometres. Shortly before, at Rouen, the Ferraris had had to refuel after only 480 kilometres. Halfway through the fourth lap the rear axle of Hawthorn's Ferrari gave out, forcing him to retire and highlighting how unlucky the day was for the British drivers in the race. Kling thus climbs to fourth place. All three Mercedes-Benz cars are new and are racing magnificently; Gonzalez is practically surrounded by them, loses ground and is overtaken by Lang on the final straight at the end of the fifth lap. The Argentine had already shown little inclination to race after the incident at Marimon, and finding himself pressed by the Mercedes-Benz team he totally loses interest in the race, being overtaken before the end of the seventh lap even by Kling. The crowd cheers happily after waiting years and years to see three Mercedes-Benz cars in the top three positions again at the Nurburgring.

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Lang is 15 seconds behind Fangio. Kling follows in third place, 32 seconds behind the leader. The German driver is in turn being chased by Gonzalez, 3 seconds behind. These four have pulled clear of the rest of the group, which meanwhile sees Trintignant in the lead, as Hermann has also retired due to a broken fuel line. During his rapid progress to third place Kling also recorded the fastest lap time of 9'59"3, gaining seconds on Fangio. His driving is fast and safe, and so the driver proves he has complete control over the car. Frère, on the other hand, driving the Gordini, finds himself in a moment of great anxiety: he has to deal with a broken spindle. His car loses a wheel and the brake hose, but fortunately when this happens the driver is driving down a straight line, so he manages to stop without causing further damage. The fight for the top positions seems to have come to an end for Gonzalez, who is getting further and further behind the leaders, while Kling continues to close in on his team-mates. By lap 10, Kling was just a few seconds behind Lang, but before the end of the next lap he took second place. The latter is now only 20 seconds behind the first of the three silver cars. Kling again records the fastest lap time of 9'58"2 and appears totally capable of overtaking Fangio. During the eleventh lap Lang is the victim of a spin: the engine dies and the driver is unable to restart it on his own. He is thus forced to retire, giving up third position. The mishap spoils what now seemed to be a demonstration race for the Stuttgart company. However, given the spectacular performance before the mistake, Lang is greeted by applause from the crowd as he arrives at the pits. Many undoubtedly remember 1939, when the young driver and former mechanic was almost unbeatable. In the meantime, Bucci also retired after the front suspension of the third Gordini broke during the eighth lap.

 

Behra continued to turn, but very slowly. With these retirements only seven cars remain in full race; Schell, Bira, Rosier and Behra are all lapped by the leaders. Fangio and Kling finish lap 13 just 7 seconds apart, receiving the signal to slow down as Gonzalez is almost 3 minutes behind them. Lang is allowed to show them the signal, which consists of a white disc with two inscriptions on the sides: on one side the inscription Pi (pianissimo) for Fangio, and on the other an L (Langsam) for Kling. Both codes indicate two words that in their respective languages (Spanish and German) mean slowed down. Fangio responds by immediately lifting his foot off the accelerator, while Kling continues to push until the end of the next lap, by which time the two cars are now side by side. As they passed the Sudkerve at the start of lap 15, Kling overtook Fangio, taking the lead in the Grand Prix. It is quite obvious that the two drivers no longer want to obey the signal given by the mechanics in the pits. Kling finishes lap 15 in 9'55"1, with Fangio trailing him all the way. On the next lap the Mercedes-Benz technical director gives them the signal to slow down again, this time accompanied by a stern look. Everyone waits to find out if the drivers will respect the team order this time. Ferrari meanwhile brings Gonzalez back into the pits to refuel and, to the delight of the crowd, to substitute the driver for his partner Hawthorn, while the unhappy Gonzalez rests in the pits. All eyes eagerly await the passage of the two Mercedes-Benz cars across the finish line, but there is a surprise: Fangio arrives alone, and only almost half a minute later Kling's car can be glimpsed, proceeding at a considerably reduced speed, indicating something broken in the rear suspension on the left side. Fangio is now completely alone.

 

On the next lap Kling gesticulates again, complaining, but does not stop in the pits despite the fact that Trintignant in fourth place has also returned to refuel. On lap eighteen Bira pits with a steering problem and he too is forced to retire. Fangio crosses the line to start his twentieth lap and finally Kling comes into the pits to deal with a broken suspension. Immediately about fifty people including officials, marshals, photographers, stooges and people who should not even have been in the pit area rush forward, surrounding the car; Neubauer, who had previously indicated with a flag to Kling exactly where to stop, turns around with a roar of anger and chases the whole group away, waving the flag threateningly. The area around the Mercedes-Benz pits clears completely in an instant, and the mechanics together with Kling can proceed with refuelling and wiring the broken torsion bar support. Neubauer's reaction is accompanied by the cheers of the crowd in the grandstands, who having paid to watch the pit stops up close are satisfied when the area is cleared and the view of the single-seaters and mechanics at work becomes clear again. Meanwhile Hawthorn moves into second place, and Trintignant is also not far behind when Kling manages to restart. His Mercedes-Benz can now only proceed at a fraction of the pace it had previously maintained, and at the end of lap 20 the order of the standings sees Fangio leading the race, followed by Hawthorn, Trintignant and Kling. Mantovani, who was running a mediocre race, was now in fifth place after making a pit stop to refuel, losing very little time. Hawthorn could not really catch Fangio, although the Argentine slowed down to make the most of the last lap before victory. Fangio completed the 22 laps with a lead of a minute and a half over Hawthorn. 

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One by one the other drivers also reached the finish line, with only the top five completing the full distance. Maurice Trintignant finished in third place, followed by Kling and Mantovani. Although not totally reliable and indestructible, the Mercedes-Benz cars showed strength and quality, disproving several critics and making up for the mistakes made at Silverstone. For a completely new design to be able to win two of the first three races run is something worth being satisfied about. European Grand Prix, the ovation of the 300.000 spectators was a bit like the end of a nightmare, because at a certain point in the race, precisely when there was only half an hour or so to go, of the four Mercedes that had taken the start and had been the protagonists of the race up to that point, only the Argentinean's, and - although he was marching in the lead with a large advantage - from some symptoms that had not escaped the most attentive observers, also seemed to be in slight difficulty. On the other hand, the class and driving ability of the great Argentine champion were largely sufficient to lead his Mercedes to victory intact. There was nothing to object about the perfect regularity and fairness of the car, even if there was no lack of reservations and doubts in the comments, suggested by some valid justifications that the chronicle of the race itself highlighted. Suffice it to say that at a certain moment three Mercedes cars were in the lead, and that the Italian cars seemed relegated to a secondary role of extras.

 

Then, one after the other, the aluminium-coloured bolides abandoned the fight for the lead: Lang for a spin with the engine shutting down, making it impossible to restart it; Herrmann, who also retired following serious mechanical problems (the fuel system broke down, with petrol continually splashing in his face) and Kling, who arrived at the finish line despite the precarious condition of his car. This hint is enough to imagine the mood of the spectators, who had been looking forward for almost three hours to one of those choreographed, side-by-side, triumphant car finishes so dear to engineer Neubauer's direction. The European Grand Prix therefore ended with victory for the Argentinean Fangio in a Mercedes. A victory that at a certain moment had seemed to take on grandiose proportions, and which instead was - if not by a narrow margin - at least fairly laboured. However, it was the second success for the German manufacturer, which had prepared for the biggest European Formula 1 race of the year a new car model specially designed for tracks that were not very fast and plagued by numerous bends. Of the four Mercedes cars in the race, three were of precisely this type, with conventional, open-wheel bodywork; the fourth, on the other hand, (entrusted to the piIot Herrmann) with full aerodynamic bodywork. The changes made, however, did not only concern the external structure, but also the suspension, which in the British Grand Prix at Silverstone, fourteen days ago, had proved completely insufficient to ensure good road holding.

 

At the Nurburgring these modifications were successful from a functional point of view, but not so much in terms of fatigue: an element that reduced the German success to sporting proportions acceptable to the beaten, namely Ferrari and Maserati. Apart from the more obvious technical consideration that emerged from Sunday's race, to which we must add that Fangio's average speed is lower than that obtained last year by Farina's Ferrari 2000, it is worth highlighting the extenuating circumstances that partly justify the Italian cars' less than brilliant performance: first of all the absence of two drivers who for knowledge of the dreadful circuit and for class could have changed the course of things, namely Farina and Ascari; then the non-participation of Villoresi, a consequence of the withdrawal of the Maserati as a sign of mourning for the tragic death of Marimon during practice on the eve of the race, the state of mind of Gonzalez, the immediate elimination of two men in great shape like Moss and Hawthorn. Certainly, however, and this is nothing new, in the face of the astonishing results obtained by Mercedes, of the great means that allowed the Stuttgart manufacturer the luxury of building different types of cars to be used according to the nature of the circuit, one can't help but look with great concern at the future; not so much the near future, because the game is not yet over, but rather what will happen from the 1955 racing season onwards, when the Mercedes technical offensive will be launched in full, to back up the sporting successes with commercial propaganda for its products. For therein lies precisely one of the fundamental reasons for motor racing's existence.

 

Simone Pietro Zazza

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