On Monday, September 6, 1954, the executive board of the Modena Automobile Club decides to give up for this year the organisation of the Modena Grand Prix. The decision is adopted after that Maserati grants its membership, while Ferrari, Lancia and Mercedes let know that they do not see any possibility of being present at the event, not even with the change of date from September 12 to September 10, 1954. This is because on Saturday, September 11, 1954, the Tourist Trophy is hosted in Belfast, the fifth valid race for sports cars, in which Ferrari takes part with two 3000 cc cars, the 750 S model, winner of the Supercortemaggiore Grand Prix, and the pair of drivers Gonzales-Trintignant and Hawthorn-Maglioli; Lancia participates with four cars, of which 3 are the new 3800 cc model and one is the 3300 cc, respectively with Ascari-Villoresi, Fangio-Castellotti, Taruffi-Piodi and Manzon-Valenzano; Maserati participates with some 2600 cc and 2000 cc model cars in the hands of its young drivers; Jaguar with its 3500 cc cars and the pairs of Moss-Walker, Rolt-Hamilton and Whitehead-Swaters, who will race equipped with special gas tanks, made of rubber, to save time avoiding some stops at supplies. And again with Italian cars, English and French privateer drivers will race. This Tourist Trophy is hosted on the famous track of Ulster. The circuit measures 11,935 metres, and is very winding, but not very fast, with turns of the most varied radius. The race is made of 94 laps, equivalent to 1121,880 km; and it is precisely this extremely severe distance - especially considering the characteristics of the track - to give to the Tourist Trophy a strong technical interest, which is added to the comparison between Lancia, Ferrari and Jaguar, never made before in the present season. The two Italian car manufacturers faced each other in the Mille Miglia and the one from Turin won; Ferrari and Jaguar gave everything at Le Mans and it was the Italian car manufacturer to dominate. Keeping in mind the previous situations, it is easy to imagine with how much determination the fight will be carried out. With particular interest the debut of the new Lancia 3800 cc will be followed, the last evolution of the six cylinders, one that, through subsequent increases in the displacement, has gained many probing victories from this year to now, like the Mexican Carrera and the Mille Miglia race. On its side Ferrari prefers facing the pitfalls of the Ulster track with the four cylinder three litre car, which triumphantly established itself in the first race a couple of months ago in Monza, instead of using the overpowering twelve cylinder 4900 cc, the winner of Le Mans.
The comparison between the two Italian cars is strongly open. At the Tourist Trophy all the main protagonists of the Italian Grand Prix will meet again, beginning with Fangio, Ascari and Villoresi - this time as teammates, but serious rivals at the same time - and Stirling Moss with his fast Jaguar, Gonzalez, Hawthorn and all the others, except the German drivers, because Mercedes has renounced to all the races of the year. The race weekend begins on Thursday, September 9, 1954, with a scary accident that happens to José Froilán González. The Argentine driver is on the fourth test lap, driving his Ferrari, when in a turn faced at 200 km/h the car skids. The driver sharply brakes and the car has a rotation movement on itself crashing with the back hood against the edge of the track, so it bounces, makes some turns on itself and falls next to the track. The car crashes against the edge and Gonzales is thrown to the ground. Right before the ambulance comes to rescue him, the Argentine driver gets up; even if stunned, he takes his helmet off and waves at the nurses. As a consequence, his teammate, Hawthorn, renounces to his training to take him to the hospital. Here the doctors, after a first brief examination, only ascertain relatively minor injuries; the prognosis is marked by optimism. But not long after, when the doctors, taking advantage of the better conditions of spirit of the patient, can proceed to a more accurate examination, they officially announce at the Royal Victoria hospital that the driver suffered a leg fracture. The word spread immediately in the field of the Tourist Trophy competitors makes a painful impression. Argentine driver Fangio, brotherly friend, even though he is harmed as well after a slight accident, also goes to the hospital. The other drivers who every day share with the Argentine the risks of the dangerous profession are alongside the infirm to make him their speed recovery wishes, too. After this, it is announced that Gonzalez has also suffered a dislocation of the shoulder. The Argentine, talking with the journalists, expresses his regret at not being able to race in the Tourist Trophy driving his Ferrari, but is not able to give a clear version of the accident. The slight shock and a feverish state do not allow him to recall the details of the episode that sees him as the victim. Another accident occurs to Juan Manuel Fangio who, with his Lancia S7S0, crashes against a track protection, slightly damaging the car.
The mechanics push him in the pits for a quick check and, shortly after, the managers of Lancia state that the Argentine will be able to go on track for the final training. Fangio did not suffer any contusion. The accidents, by the way, are not finished here, providing that previously Piero Taruffi, who will participate in the race with a Lancia, has been hit by a car in the pits and has been pushed against a tyre inflation pump. In the accident the Italian driver suffers some contusions, but even if he is limping, he manages to get behind the wheel of his car and take part in the training. Around 3.000 people watch it, and the best times of the day are from Ascari, who on board of his Lancia beats, not officially, the lap record, at an average speed of 143.70 km/h; the same average is reached by Taruffi, the winner of the 1952 edition. The frightening crash that happened to Gonzalez significantly changed the balance of forces in Lancia's favour. Apart from the sure impossibility of repairing in time the damaged car in the disastrous road exit, it is not sure if Ferrari can replace the unlucky Argentine driver, and the one who will drive the only Ferrari left in the race, choosing between Hawthorn and Trintignant. The third driver available of Ferrari, Umberto Maglioli, had indeed left on September 9 for Italy, having received the mournful news of the unexpected death of his mother. On Friday, September 10, 1954, before the beginning of the training, Taruffi examines the track with his teammate Luigi Piodi, with who made a careful walk recognizing the fearsome characteristics of the track, and later expresses the opinion that high speeds will be reached in the race.
"It is clear that the turns of this track are the most tricky ones I have ever seen in my career".
The practices are then held in the late afternoon, under a cloudy sky and on a wet track because a thin rain fell around twelve. Towards the evening, a torrential water will fall and it will lead the drivers to press the accelerator less and less. Only Hawthorn sets the time of 4'58"0, equal to the average of 144.200 km/h. Fangio, instead, does not take any risks and declares that, because of the weather, the daily practices cannot have an indicative value for the race. French drivers Gerard Laureau and Paul Armagnac win the Tourist Trophy with the small Panhard; they get the prize of 500 pounds, the prize for the first-place finishers in the advantage trial. At only 37 seconds from the two Frenchmen, the Ferrari of Hawthorn and Trintignant take the chequered flag and ensure the victory in the world championship of the sports cars, apart from the 100 pounds prize for the second team that reach the finish line. The Tourist Trophy, which began at 9:15 a.m. and ended eight hours later, was held to advantages granted to starters according to their displacement, thus creating huge difficulties of understanding the positions in the rank for the audience and for the journalists. The two Ferrari drivers had almost reached - on the finish line - the two French drivers of Panhard, who in the start had gained an advantage of 27 laps. The two drivers of the Italian team raced at an average of 138.532 km/h, slightly higher than the one of the Italians Taruffi and Manzon, ranked fourth while in third place it is the Maserati of Mantovani and Musso, with an average of 130.163 km/h. The Jaguar of the Englishmen Whitehead and Wharton is fifth and the Lancia driven by Fangio, who is the teammate of the Italian Valenzano, sixth. During the race, Hawthorn beats the lap record, but the most considerable result of the day, on the technical side, is the lane kilometre of Alberto Ascari, that, in a going action, reaches the speed of 144.6 miles per hour, equal to 232.710 km/h. After an hour the driver from Milan will be forced to withdraw because of a failure that could have brought serious consequences: the breaking of the shaft, with the smashing of the bottom of the car that just happened to leave the driver unharmed. So Ascari gets out of the car and walks to the pits, resigned to his fate after getting away from the worst. Another accident is the one that occurs to the Aston Martin of Parnell and Salvadori, who goes off track, reporting damage while the drivers are unharmed. Out of the 43 drivers who start, 14 have to retire. Among the most distinguished victims of the really tough race is also Fangio, who during lap 18 has to repent from the fuel tank progressively losing its contents. Fangio, however, is able to switch to another car, alongside the Italian Valenzano. Around 50.000 people watch the race, held with great weather, after the heavy rain of the night that left in the beginning the bottom of the track wet and slippery. On Sunday, September 19, 1954, taking advantage of the official teams of Ferrari and Maserati, the drivers of Mercedes easily win the Grand Prix of Berlin, held on the fast track of Avus, 8.400 metres long.
Karl Kling carries the Mercedes with aerodynamic bodywork to triumph, achieving an hourly average of 213.600 km/h. In second and third place are his teammates Fangio and Herrmann. At the same time, the Bologna-Raticosa uphill speed car race is held in Italy, over a distance of 43.200 kilometres. There is a tight and exciting duel between Castellotti and Perdisa, in which the latter prevailed in the Lancia 3300 by just five seconds, showing an unquestionable class in exploiting his vehicle to the fullest. On Wednesday, October 6, 1954, in the absence of races to be held in Italy or Europe, Ascari and Villoresi, returning from the brilliant tests held on the Monza racetrack - where with Lancia Formula 1 cars they beat the track record by running at an average speed of 195.517 km/h and 192.520 km/h, respectively - travel to Turin for a long interview with engineer Gianni Lancia, during which they report the outcome of the testing of the new cars, expressing their satisfaction with the power they achieved. During the conversation the three men also talk about Lancia's participation in the Spanish Grand Prix, on the Barcelona circuit, to be held on October 24, 1954. About the decision taken, nothing is known because no statement is issued about it, but from leaked rumours it turns out that Lancia is likely to participate in the race with two Formula 1 cars that will be precisely driven by Ascari and Villoresi. This would be the first time that Ascari would take the field behind the wheel of such a Lancia in a race valid for the World Championship. The Barcelona circuit would then see the best European cars line up at the start, because Ferrari, Maserati and Mercedes will also be there.
After the record-breaking lap achieved at 195.612 km/h by the Lancia Formula 1 on the Monza track, Ascari, Villoresi, Castellotti and Piodi return at the wheel of two Formula 1 cars and a 3800 Sport on Friday, October 8, 1954. Instead of the Monza track, however, they prefer to tackle the Ospedaletti circuit, to see how the cars perform on a track full of turns and difficulties. Testing begins around 12:00 a.m. and continues until the afternoon. This training confirms that the Turin-based manufacturer is willing to line up on Sunday, October 24, 1954, in the last Grand Prix of this season. Under the watchful eyes of Lancia's engineers, as on the fast Monza circuit and on the winding and challenging Ospedaletti circuit, Lancia's new Formula 1 racing car pulverises every record. Driving it, Ascari turns over 113 km/h, improving the record he himself set during the 1950 Grand Prix test in a Ferrari. However, practices are momentarily interrupted at about 1:00 p.m. following a frightening accident, fortunately without serious consequences, which occurs to Villoresi right on the straight in front of the pits. The car, launched at over 150 km/h, suddenly skids and makes three or four turns in the middle of the road before hitting a side wall with its rear end. Driving the other Formula 1, Ascari, meanwhile, gets close, but is stopped before he plunges into the vast slick of oil and gasoline formed on the spot. Villoresi emerges unharmed from the car, which only by virtue of his great skill was able to control while avoiding greater trouble. The driver hit his head slightly at the time of the final collision; nothing serious.
"Have I really taken a serious risk?"
Luigi Villoresi asks with a touch of irony, coming back to the pits, while the car, that reported serious damage to the tail, is stowed in the tow truck.
"It was like taking a dive from a three-metre diving board. I do not know why the car suddenly started to dance a rumba. I was looking at the road like a path, and the bolide zigzagged like a drunkard. I have never had the impression, though, that I was getting out of control of the situation. Even in those difficult situations the car has shown to be fragile to my orders. The mishap apart from a slight headache had no consequences. Proof of this is that I was still able to ride at the same circuit".
After a short break, Castellotti completes several laps in the 3800, while Ascari and Villoresi take turns at the wheel of the second Formula 1. Villoresi runs in oscillating times of 1'52"0 and 1'53"0, while Ascari improves from lap to lap, finally setting a time of 1'52"0 without having otherwise given the impression of having asked the most of the car. At the end of the tests the Lancia engineers, technicians and drivers appear visibly satisfied with the result achieved.
The tests were supposed to take place the next day as well, from 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 a.m., but a last-minute rethink cancelled the prearranged plans. No indiscretion could be obtained about the next activity of the team.
"We will have another meeting on Monday and set our schedule. There is no way we can get these guys to go slow. We have in vain advised Ascari, Villoresi and Castellotti not to force their cars, but drivers are not made for caution. However, the figures of the speeds achieved speak for themselves".
Gianni Lancia speaks about a possible participation in the Spanish Grand Prix, before leaving the circuit and returning to Turin by train. Mercedes-Benz, for its part, enters three cars for the same race to be driven by Fangio, Kling and Herrmann, respectively, and intensifies training by responding to the record Lancia set in Monza, in turn obtaining a record at the Nurburgring. Engineer Uhlenhaut, driving the new two-and-a-half-litre car without a supercharger, covers the circuit's 22.810 kilometres in 9'47"2, with an average speed of 189.500 mph. The previous record belonged to German Lang, who in 1939, driving a car equipped with a supercharger, had set a time of 9'52"1. At the same time, also in Modena, on Friday, October 8, 1954, Ferrari completes a series of laps at a very fast pace with Umberto Maglioli, driving both a sport and a Formula 1 car. Finally, the Maserati team, also on the same day, confirms the official registration of its drivers to the Spanish organisers for the race on Sunday, October 24, 1954. The designated drivers are Moss, Mantovani, Mieres and Musso. After forbidding entry on the Monza racetrack, the Ferrari team, which arrived early in the morning from Maranello, tests the new Squalo 2500 car on Friday, October 15, under the supervision of master Ugolini and the trusted technician Meazza. Argentine González, not yet fully recovered from the accident that happened to him in Belfast, completes only about ten laps. Instead, the Englishman Hawthorn stays on the track for almost two hundred kilometres or less, also forcing the new car to reach high speeds. According to certain rumours provided by the racetrack management, Hawthorn would run over 192 mph. This is in spite of the fact that the tests, which began at 10:00 a.m., are suspended at 2:00 p.m. because of a mechanical accident, which is said to have somewhat displeased Ferrari's technicians. Hawthorn therefore departs to London using an aircraft at 3:30 p.m. from the Malpensa airport, while Gonzalez, who remains in Milan, points out that the new racing car set the fastest lap in 1'57"4 at an average speed of 193.155 km/h, and that after the necessary repairs the car itself would take part into the next Spanish Grand Prix, where the Lancias would also be present.
The Spanish Grand Prix, the last round of the World Automobile Championship scheduled for Sunday, October 24, in Barcelona, takes a curious prologue in Turin during the morning of Tuesday, October 19, 1954, as a kind of chase race between Scuderia Lancia and Maserati. While the operations for the departure of the large truck with special engine that will take the Turin Formula 1 cars to Spain are taking place in the Via Monginevro plants, an almost identical Maserati vehicle is refuelling with fuel oil at a nearby garage. Three of the six cars that will race in Barcelona are accommodated on the Modenese company's large truck, while a second Modenese transport vehicle will follow the first a few hours later, and both will travel on the same route as the Lancia one. This is enough to trigger this curious challenge prior to the Grand Prix. Since early morning, in the Lancia team there is great movement to prepare the final details of the long journey. On the huge twelve-metre vehicle there are the three cars for Spain. In addition to the cars and the various racing equipment, a sizable group of mechanics, test drivers and technicians settle on the spacious mechanical vehicle, while others such as chief test driver Navone, chief racing mechanic Levizzani, chief experience test room Mattei, motor mechanic Ferrari, and Motto will be carried aboard two private cars. Completing the Turin team are the two truck drivers who boast about a hundred thousand kilometres on the road, including the 17.000 from New York to Mexico City on the occasion of the Carrera Mexicana, Vinassa and Gallo, electrician Bo, motorists Daniele and Nervo, fitter mechanics Viglio, Peruzzi, Luoni, coachbuilders Corte, and timekeeper Busca. Project office chief Jano will make the trip by train, while Ascari, who leaves on October 20 by plane from Malpensa at 1:00 p.m. along with Villoresi and Scuderia director Pasquinelli, arrives in Turin on Monday, October 18, 1954, to attend the final touches and to agree on departure arrangements.
Shortly before, Ascari and Villoresi, together with Scuderia Director Pasquarelli, had lunch above Genoa admiring the profile of the Matterhorn, which seems to stand out just a few kilometres away, before descending for coffee. Amidst shots by photographers and always under the lens of television and newspaper film cameras, Alberto Ascari gave a few lines of interview before leaving:
"At Monza and Ospedaletti the new cars responded satisfactorily to the strain. Of course, it is one thing to complete one lap, albeit at a very high average, another to hold for the five hundred or more kilometres of a Grand Prix".
But Villoresi comes after his friend:
"Us drivers insisted that Lancia hurry up debut times, but we are well aware that we face an unknown in Barcelona. In any case, Sunday's race will be a valuable experience".
And Pasquarelli, director of Scuderia Lancia, closes with saying:
"For us it will be a success. Keeping up in the first laps to the already proven opponent cars, then we will see".
The caution in the statements, this time, is not diplomatic but corresponds to the reality of facts, since an insignificant and unpredictable failure could be enough to compromise the fruit of long studies by the technicians of three thousand hours of work in the workshop and two hundred and more hours of testing in Caselle, Monza and Ospedaletti. Among the drivers from the Turin-based manufacturer Castellotti is missing: he will race with Lancia in the Firenze-Siena, a race valid as the last round of the Italian championship for the sports category. Castellotti had already won the title, but at the last moment the Tuscan race was added to those already run, and the racer was thus forced to forget the Spanish trip to defend his supremacy. The three Lancias, two racing and one training, arrive on Wednesday, October 20, 1954, in Barcelona on the truck just before the drivers' plane, and are subsequently locked in Ravà's garage; around them, the company's mechanics mounted guard. Only the next day will the prying eyes of the public get a glimpse of these eight-cylinder cars when the first act of the long comparison between the Lancia and the Mercedes takes place, with Ferrari and Maserati all but willing to play second fiddle, not to mention the Englishman Collins' Vanwall. For the Italians, it is interesting to note that as many as four red cars will be driven by compatriot drivers: the two Lancias will be entrusted to Ascari and Villoresi and the two Maseratis to Musso and Mantovani. Too bad Farina is missing. The wait for the official opening of practice is only disturbed by the weather. The weather report speaks of clouds and anticyclones moving in to bring rain over Spain. In fact, in the afternoon the sky is cloudy and in the evening a few drops of water fall. The record of the expected 300.000 spectators and that of the over 167 km/h are in doubt, but the weather may change while the passion of the public and the skill of the drivers give hope that in any case the eighth Spanish Grand Prix will truly succeed as an exceptional event. It is presented under the banner:
"Los mejores pilotos, los coches más veloces del mundo". [The best drivers, the fastest cars in the world, ndt]
Forced absence of Farina and Gonzales aside, the latter still with a swollen knee, it can be said that this time the slogan does not exaggerate. Meanwhile, Ascari, Villoresi and Musso arrive at the airport and are expected by the Turin racer Piodi, who had preceded them by car, former Lancia executive Ravà and, of course, journalists and photographers. So Ascari and Villoresi, with Piodi's car, test as tourists the 6,000 metres of road winding through the Pedralbes district. Both Lancia drivers find the road surface much improved, as in some areas the track is covered with completely new bitumen.
Ascari and Villoresi think that the lap record held by Fangio can be beaten: it will be a matter, as mentioned, of exceeding 167 km/h on the entire track, which is of a mixed nature with several difficulties of various kinds. A fascinating feat, but the first indications of this will be when at the closed circuit they will battle in official practice. The Formula 1 cars will take to the track at around 3:00 p.m., assuming all entrants arrive on time. Fangio, for example, is not present in Barcelona, as he has to arrive on his own from Italy via Paris. A somewhat odd itinerary that explains the slight delay. However, Mercedes executives do not doubt that the great driver will be on the field from the first laps of practice. The new Ferrari, the one referred to as the shark, shows up after having driven around Monza at the wheel of Hawthorn: the recent Mercedes improved a few weeks ago the Nurburgring record; the brand new Lancia finally achieved exceptional speeds at Monza and Ospedaletti. In other words, on the two tracks the highest averages to date were achieved. Now from the training or experiment phase we move on to the practical act. From 2:00 p.m., the wide boulevards of the connecting streets that make up the Pedralbes circuit will be closed to traffic. For an hour they will test the sports cars, which will be engaged in the category race on Saturday, then from the pits the red Italian, silver German, blue French and green behemoths of England will take off. The top four teams are the ones who dominate the field as quality of drivers and not just in numbers. The strongest team is the Maserati one, with Musso, Mieres, Mantovani, Moss and with a fifth driver, the Spaniard Godia, in the official lineup, plus Prince Bira, Baron de Graffenried, Harry Schell, Louis Rosier, Ken Warthon. It is curious to know that Moss was about to be involved in a refusal discussed by Maserati, since at the time the Modenese manufacturer had entered Villoresi as its driver, since it was not known that the Lancia would debut at Pedralbes. After the launch of the Turin Formula 1, Maserati naturally removed the Lancia driver from its roster by putting Musso on the official team. The organisers in Barcelona, wishing, however, to have a Spaniard in the race for obvious reasons, had insistently put forward the candidacy of Godia, a good driver, who finished fourth in a 24 Hours of Le Mans, but certainly not an ace. Maserati was reluctant to entrust the value of several million Italian liras to a driver not well known, but the Penya Rhin Club by contrast refused to accept Musso's entry. When it seemed that the disagreement was irremediable and the house of the trident, in protest, did not even have to have its cars unloaded from transport vans, everything settled down with the participation of both contenders. Ferrari entrusts its shark to Hawthorn and the other car to Trintignant, but also has Manzon in the race as an individual. In the German cars will run Fangio, Kling and Herrmann, while Ascari and Villoresi will drive the Lancias. The eve of this first meeting between the great rival manufacturers is cloaked in the utmost secrecy. The Germans, anxiously awaiting Fangio, who will arrive only in the night having moved by car from Italy to Spain via Paris, are nowhere to be found. It is less difficult to talk to four Maserati drivers, and especially Musso and Mieres. The Roman is on his third Formula 1 outing. He is 30 years old and considered one of the great promises of Italian motor racing. With racing cars he came first in Pescara and retired instead in Rome and Monza. Now, in comparison with the most famous champions of the wheel, he feels like a gymnasium student in a university classroom. It should be let understood, however, that he does not feel too much reverential awe:
"It’ll go wrong or I'll make a name for myself".
The young Roman driver confesses. Mieres, the Argentine who has been pendulating a few months between Barcelona and across the Atlantic, is anxious to end the European season and return to his homeland to enjoy some vacation time on his yacht before tackling the Carrera. For Sunday's race, he does not want to make any predictions. During the evening of October 20, until almost midnight the Argentine talks with Ascari and Villoresi, but not about cars, but about flying disks. A short time earlier, in Turin, Luigi Villoresi tells of seeing, at about 6:00 p.m., for ten seconds a luminous body move from the hill, and he had time to warn Ascari, who turned swiftly to look. Alberto also says he observed the strange vehicle, blue-grey in colour, proceeding rapidly with perfectly horizontal flight, and emitting intermittent flashes, before disappearing with a final flicker. Ascari on that same day had complained of an accident on the highway, but had equally retained full alertness of reflexes. Equally sure of what he saw was Villoresi, who intimated to those present:
"You tell me I am a visionary, but I caught a very good glimpse of the object in the sky. I don't know what it was, but it certainly left a curious impression on me".
Mieres, obviously intrigued, continues to press for details. Apparently, the prospect of having to one day come face to face with Martians worries him a lot more than driving a 360 km/h bolide. Bizarre as the tale may be, Lancia's stable manager, Pasquarelli, and the head of the project office welcome the ultra-terrestrial diversion, especially since it serves to ease the drivers' nerves. And it seems to work, since in Barcelona, on Thursday, October 21, 1954, Ascari sets the best time, at over 164 km/h, and Villoresi, in a car of the same make, is second. There is, after all, something electrifying in the air when the Lancias are pushed into the pits, and everyone interrupts for a moment the various operations to which they are assigned to observe the three new mechanical creations entering the limelight of motor racing. The fusiform bodywork, not at all weighed down by the side tanks, contrasts with the almost massive power of the purely aerodynamic Mercedes-dressed cars, and the bright red paintwork adds to the festive aspect of the scene; the powerful roar and the sprint with which the cars tackled the initial straight immediately make it clear that the official debut of the Turin Formula 1 cars was not to go unnoticed. Ascari immediately sits aboard the car marked with a T, the so-called mule, employed in practice, and jumps into the wake of a Mercedes driven by Kling. At this point one expects the beginning of the great Italian-German duel, but this does not happen, as the order is not to force the car, and the two drivers obey, and the two cars continue to pass on the straight at an unchanged distance. Gigi Villoresi, who started almost at the same time and on the car already marked with the race number 36, is content to warm up the engine and test the course; then he stops, so as not to subject his bolide to unnecessary wear and tear. About ten minutes later he brakes Ascari abruptly, amid a cloud of smoke. A great rush of people in suits around the forklift followed, and finally the response: nothing serious, a little oil leaking from the exhaust manifold. During the night the necessary work will be done to repair the inconvenience for the two race cars as well. The former World Champion will remain stationary and give way to Villoresi. Fangio, on the other hand, will take turns at the wheel of the Mercedes with aerodynamic bodywork known as the clothed one and the undressed one, that is, with the wheels not covered by the sheet metal, to test which of the two types rendered better. But neither, however, allowed him to reach the expected speeds on the straight. At about 4:50 p.m., finally, Italian race car #34 is pushed to the starting point, and Ascari leaps on it, while engineer Gianni Lancia, who had arrived in the morning by plane, shouts to him:
But Ascari, after leading a few laps at bland speed, disobeys and sets the fastest time. The announcement is greeted by roaring applause. As if to make the Italian's skill more obvious, Stirling Moss is seen slowly arriving in the pits shortly afterward. The Englishman, at the Paseo De Manuel Girona corner, went just before to bump with his hood against a straw bale, bouncing then against the same obstacle with the rear of the car:
"I pressed the accelerator wrongly thinking I was braking. The pedals on this Maserati are arranged differently than on my car. Hence the confusion".
Stirling Moss' six-cylinder suffered some damage to the oil cooler pipe and clutch, but could be repaired by the next day. However, the Englishman gets an old type car, which had nailed a horseshoe to the hood, and resumes practice. Hawthorn also arrives at the pits almost at walking pace and with his shark all dented. Quite excited, the British driver admits:
"In the turn at the beginning of the descent, I skidded on the tarmac. My Ferrari bumped its tail against a protective barrier, and it went back into the middle of the track, spinning like a top. I had time to catch a glimpse of a tree coming at me. I said to myself, goodbye, it's over. Instead, the car came thrashing back, again from the rear, three metres away. I had not moved the steering wheel. It was a real miracle".
Then, talking to Lampredi, he asks:
"Is there anything irreparable?"
The Ferrari engineer replies:
"Nothing, just the crooked bodywork, you restart quietly tomorrow".
Shortly afterwards Mike calms down with a cigarette. The third Englishman to fall victim of circumstances is Peter Collins, who, due to a skid, drives his Vanwall at 150 km/h into a meadow; the car is ruined, and therefore he will not be able to start the race, but the driver is unharmed, and that is what counts. The series of accidents do not produce serious consequences, and the numerous skidding that almost all the drivers in practice have to deal with show that the Pedralbes circuit is even more difficult than expected. The Lancias, which appeared among the most balanced, should be favoured by the situation. The two first places occupied in the list of fastest laps by Ascari and Villoresi, if they are an excellent omen, should not, however, be taken as an indication of absolute character, since the Mercedes got the gear ratios wrong. Fangio, Kling and Hermann were separated by more than three, five and six seconds respectively. A bit too much, especially as far as the Argentine ace was concerned. Ferrari also complained of the same gearbox ratio mishap, while the Maserati drivers gave the impression that they had not pushed hard enough. The uncertainty thus remains complete. The new Lancia Formula 1 simply wins the first round. It is amusing to know that the Spanish driver Godia, who trains with Musso driving the same car, is credited with the time actually achieved by the Roman driver. The timekeepers at the Penya Rhin are actually not really on top of their game: in fact, at one point it is thought that the not-so-well-known French driver Pollet had performed an exceptional exploit. At the end of practice the Gordini is assigned the second best time, immediately behind Ascari, but later comes the correction. Finally, even for Villoresi, it seems that the timekeepers gave the gift of a few fractions of a second, since Luigi never pushed as hard as his time would show. In this case, the mistake, if mistake it was, would not betray the reality of the situation since Ascari and Villoresi were clearly the best in the tests in which the Lancias resoundingly asserted themselves by obtaining the two fastest laps in the first practice runs of the Spanish Grand Prix. Once the practices are over, journalists ask Fangio for his opinion on the new Lancia:
"We knew it was going strong. In Spain it confirmed the outstanding times in Monza and Ospedaletti. Now the struggle between the various manufacturers will be fiercer. To the Turin factory's credit, this Spanish Grand Prix does not represent the close of the 1954 car season, but the opening of the following season, and the prologue, that is, to a series of exciting new comparisons. I think the Penya Rhin has always brought me luck. With those there as opponents, though. It is true that Mercedes not only thinks about Formula 1, but also has a car in the pipeline, a special one for Indianapolis. Certainly not for 1955, if anything it will be talked about in 1956".
Another curious note concerns American driver Harry Schell, who claims to be a veteran of French jails; and he is not kidding. He in fact spent ten hours in jail because of his automobile. He had purchased it in Paris during the morning before arriving in Spain, and towards the evening he had set out on the road to Barcelona. He had not even left the French capital, however, when a policeman stopped him, asking for his vehicle registration. Schell had forgotten it. A phone call is then made to the car dealer to ascertain that the car had not been stolen. Not only had the dealer already left the office, but he had not yet entered the number of the sold car on the register. Thus Schell, a fake car thief, spent a night in jail. New kind of risks for a car racer. The next day, Friday, October 22, 1954, at the end of the second - and final - series of tests on the Penya motor racing circuit, the official table of best times is for Italian sportsmen a kind of victory bulletin, precisely because it reports nothing new. Ascari is therefore still first and Villoresi follows him like a shadow.
Fangio squeezes all the power he can extract from his Mercedes, but he is unable to overtake his Lancia rivals. The Argentine's time is achieved with the Mercedes undressed. This proves that the World Champion was right when he insisted very briskly to the German engineers that they should coach him a car with uncovered wheels. On the undressed Mercedes the ace from across the Atlantic set a very good time, but on all other courses he took a couple of seconds longer. At the end of practice he states without hesitation:
"By my own account I have decided. I will race with the most manoeuvrable type. The aerodynamic bodywork gives more speed on the straight, but then hinders visibility in the remaining part of the circuit. And it is in the bumpy section that you lose or win the competition".
This choice is probably the only definitive one made by the German manufacturer, since the ratio problem has in fact not yet been solved. Certainly, during the twenty-four-hour stoppage before the race, much more work will be done in the workshops marked with the three-pointed star. The fate of the Lancia, on the other hand, is now settled, and it is related to the new car's resilience to the tremendous wear and tear of a 505-kilometre race. Here one is no longer faced with practical matters, but with the imponderable. Everything that could be solved has been solved, including the three difficulties that loomed: a special anti-stone masking is now placed in front of the hood to save the radiator tip, the oil leak from the exhaust manifold is repaired, and the brakes are adjusted to perfection. The overall performance is shown by Villoresi's improvement. In the race, Mercedes is not expected to refuel, as is Ferrari. On the other hand, the Lancia engineers are concerned about the last ten kilometres for which they have no absolute assurance that there is enough fuel. However, it is believed that Ascari and Villoresi should be able to finish the race without the need for a fuel stop. On the last day of practice, for that matter, there is general progress on the part of all the Italian manufacturers. Hawthorn, on the repaired shark after the previous day's accident, runs so fast that he is almost a revelation. So does Schell, who gets the same time on the Maserati. Still under the banner of youth, the same Maserati remains in the limelight, with Moss and Musso. Mantovani, too, is sure to have turned in a time about equal to that of his teammates, when he got on Villoresi's tail and stayed close to him just as Luigi made one of his fastest runs. The Milanese does not appear in the official ranking, however. His father, who follows him as technical director and especially as super-fan, naturally files an unofficial complaint. The jury rushes to consult a special video clip on the timekeepers, but does not accept the protest. Mantovani's remains one of the many mysteries of the timekeeping department, a department that so far has not appeared to be up to the standard of the remaining organisational part. It is not surprising, however, that the eve of a motor racing Grand Prix is marked by discussions or protests. For the Circuit of Penya Rhin, however, a record of nervousness was beaten. Blame the timekeepers and the gap between the times given to some drivers and the times actually used in practice. Based on these times, as is well known, starting places are assigned, and therefore it is understandable how competitors harmed by misunderstandings express their discontent. The Milanese Mantovani, who had an unwelcome gift of three-tenths of a second rained on his shoulders, will say during the morning of October 23, 1954:
"One competitor is out of the question: Ascari, who is the fastest of all. Fangio's average also seems to me to have been super controlled. But those of the others...".
Apparently, a picturesque confusion was involved in the figures of the others. The British ace Moss, alternating driving the #14 Maserati with Musso and Godia, made his teammates go like rockets, as these two were also assigned the times actually achieved by Moss. For Musso, the advantage is minimal, since the young Roman driver knows how to go fast on his own and has actually gone so during preparation. Remarkable, on the other hand, and almost unbelievable is the gain of Godia, who in the starting position will precede at least four competitors stronger than him. Villoresi, finally, was even downgraded, since the second driver of Lancia had been credited by mistake with a measurement obtained by Ascari. On Saturday, October 23, 1954, the error was corrected by not giving him the time he had actually obtained and bringing him to fifth place with the forklift.
On the final day, Ascari and Villoresi had both driven this car, doing instead a few practice laps with the competition cars. To avoid misunderstandings, the times of the mule were ignored. Ascari thus remained first, but Villoresi, as noted, moved up to fifth place, and into second. Fortunately, the avenue Generalissimo Franco, from which the cars will start, is over twenty metres wide, and mistakes in the starting positions can soon be made up. Ascari and Fangio, will therefore find themselves close from the first minute of the race, and if unforeseen factors do not intervene, the struggle must have these exceptional aces of the wheel as protagonists. Ascari will ask for minor changes to be made to the carburetor fuel system and will beg test chief Navone to make a few taster laps on Sunday, October 24, at 5:00 a.m. to warm up the engine and make sure everything is in order. On Sunday, October 24, 1954, the eighth Spanish Grand Prix took place at Penya Rhin on a bright sunny day and a light wind, which cooled the 360.000 spectators, while causing considerable discomfort to the drivers especially on the straight where speeds reached around 300 km/h, as they saw fluttering sheets of paper coming at them. At 11:00 a.m. the race begins. After having their appetites whetted by the Saturday race the Spanish populace turns out in vast numbers for the Grand Prix and the starting grid is a fine example of the healthy state of Grand Prix racing. In the front row, in order of practice times, are Ascari (Lancia), Fangio (Mercedes-Benz), an exposed wheel type, the streamlined car being abandoned, Hawthorn (Ferrari) and Schell (Maserati), four different makes and four very different designs, all capable of giving the same result; also, the front row drivers are from four different countries, altogether a most satisfactory line up, though Schell’s, time of 2'20"6 was not announced in practice. In row two are Villoresi (Lancia), Moss (Maserati) and Musso (Maserati), followed by Trintignant (Ferrari), Herrmann (Mercedes-Benz), Mantovani (Maserati) and Mieres (Maserati), in row four are Kling (Mercedes-Benz), Godia (Maserati) and Wharton (Maserati), while the rest of the slower cars make up the field of 21 starters. Only 3.9 seconds cover the difference in time of the first 10 cars, and as the sun shines down on the starting grid there is a tension in the air and the feeling that this end-of-season race is going to be a hard battle. Ascari, Fangio and Schell get away wheel to wheel with the rest of the 21 cars in hot pursuit and at the end of the opening lap it is the blue and white de Dion Maserati of Schell in the lead, closely followed by Hawthorn, Ascari, Trintignant, Moss, Fangio, Herrmann, Villoresi, Mantovani, Kling, Musso and Mieres, all going by in a continuous string.
It is not until the last five or six cars pass that the field brakes formation and hardly has the dust settled before they are all round again, that is all except Villoresi. His Lancia has been driven out to the start some while after the other cars are in place on the grid and appears to have had some last minute work done on it; on lap two it succumbs and he comes into the pits after everyone has passed and retired, the car being driven round the back. Ascari makes up for this first retirement by moving up into second place, but still Schell is driving all he knows, determined to set the pace. He started the race with a light load of fuel and is out to break up the opposition, but on lap three Ascari passes him and begins to draw away. The order settles for a moment, being Ascari, Schell, Hawthorn, Trintignant, Fangio and Moss, the rest begins to lose ground a little, while after Kling, in 11th position, there is already a long gap before the also-rans come by headed by Behra in the new Gordini. Ascari begins to gain at the rate of 2 seconds a lap and on lap nine when he seems quite settled he suddenly draws into his pit, staying there and talking to his pit-staff before Schell, Hawthorn and Trintignant goes by, now in a close bunch. Ascari restarts but only does one lap before stopping for good, the second Lancia also being driven round behind the pits, the reason given at clutch trouble. In 10 laps both new Lancias have been withdrawn, but at least they have shown remarkable speed up to the point of retiring. The leading trio is still very close together followed by Moss who has overtaken Fangio, the Mercedes-Benz team being right out of the running, with the other two cars in sixth and tenth position, being Herrmann and Kling respectively. Hawthorn has a slide and loses the other two cars, dropping behind Moss for a moment but he soon gets back into third place and begins to catch up on Schell and Trintignant again, they still being wheel to wheel. Moss is now slowing and also trailing a tank strap and on lap 10 he pulls into the pit, as it seems his oil scavenge pump is not working properly and two laps later he retires. After 20 laps Trintignant is just leading from Schell and Hawthorn and the three of them have left Fangio far behind, and only Herrmann and Musso are keeping up with the Argentinian, all the others dropping a long way back, though the pace is still fast.
The leading trio now changes places rapidly, the lead being taken again by Schell, then Hawthorn, then Schell and then the American overdoes things and spins, denting the Maserati tail and dropping back to fourth place leaving the two Ferrari drivers only 2 seconds apart and with a lead of 30 seconds over Fangio. After five more laps Schell appears going slowly and draws into his pit to retire with a damaged gearbox having had a real go, setting up the fastest lap in 2'17"8, and showing some of the form he had at the end of the season last year. The event is now only just over a third of the way through, the race being 80 laps in length, and trouble is setting in, for Trintignant stops with a broken oil feed on his gearbox and loses a lot of time while a repair is made and Hermann’s Mercedes-Benz is not sounding too happy. At the back of the field there is trouble, both Gordinis having been into the pit, Behra to retire with disk-brake trouble, while Wharton also has to stop with the Maserati. Hawthorn is now 23 seconds in front of Fangio and it does not look as though the German car has any more speed in hand, while 20 seconds farther back comes Musso, driving a beautifully steady race and gaining on Fangio. Hermann goes by with his engine popping and banging and he eventually stops at his pit to talk to Uhlenhaut while the plugs are changed. A new problem affects things, for a high wind blows down the long straight, carrying clouds of dust and paper and leaves, with the result that drivers goggles are getting covered and the radiator intakes are becoming choked with debris, some of the cars having as-much as 20% of the opening blanked off by leaves and newspaper, with subsequent overheating. Herrmann is now only able to keep going by pumping furiously at the hand-circulating pump for the injection system, there obviously being an obstruction in the lines somewhere, while Bira is in trouble with boiling and stops for water. Musso is driving a very nice race, running a steady third, with his teammate Mantovani not far behind, but all the time Hawthorn is going round well in the lead, the stumpy Ferrari really behaving itself for once and though has slowed occasionally Fangio never get closer than 18 seconds, the Argentinian driver’s lap times being a model of consistency in 2'24"0. Herrmann’s trouble becomes worse and worse and he eventually retires on the 50th lap, while Trintignant also stops about this time, the temporary repair being ineffective and all the oil coming out of his gearbox.
All this time Kling has been running steadily but without showing any great turn of speed, though as cars run into trouble he moves up until he is in sixth place, shortly after to go into fifth place, when Mantovani retires. The young Italian has suddenly put on a spurt and catches Musso, only to have his brakes lock on and disappear up an escape road. Though he gets going again he stops two laps later and retires with a damaged rear-end. What started as a furious battle has turned into an endurance race with Hawthorn comfortably in the lead, though with a notoriously unreliable type of motor-car, followed 30 seconds later by Fangio with a car that already had a lucky win under similar circumstances. Musso is another 33 seconds behind, going very nicely and a lap later comes Mieres and Kling, though a long way apart. Wharton stops once more, this time for a plug change which does not cure a rough-sounding engine. Bira is still stopping at intervals for water and Rosier is going along, gently. Graffenried has been going round quite well, but now lets Volantario drive for him and the car slows noticeably, finally stopping, while all this lets the Spanish driver, Francine Godia, into sixth place with the new un-louvred Maserati team car. There seems no hope of anyone changing places and the race settles into a procession until the finish line, with the exception of Fangio. With 12 laps to go it becomes obvious that hot oil is spraying over his left arm and shoulder from somewhere within the car and he begins to lose ground to Hawthorn and the next lap the Mercedes-Benz is smoking. A lap later it sounds very rough and begins to slow visibly so that Musso gains ground rapidly. Fangio is now suffering badly, the whole of his left side being soaked in hot oil, but drives on as hard as the sick Mercedes-Benz would go, but he cannot stop Musso going by into second place only six laps before the finish. It seems now that Hawthorn must win, though remembering Moss’ feat in Monza no one uncrosses their fingers and in addition it does not seem possible that Fangio can keep going in his bath of oil, nor that the Mercedes-Benz could finish the race losing so much oil. Two laps before the end Hawthorn laps the unhappy Fangio and only Musso remains on the same lap as the leader. A few minutes after three hours of racing Hawthorn receives the chequered flag to win his second major Grand Prix race for Ferrari, but more important to chalk up the first real success for the Type 553 that has given so much trouble all the season.
Musso finishes a worthy second, having driven a faultless race, looking entirely unruffled throughout, the gallant Fangio limping home third, followed by Mieres and Kling both of whom have driven steady unspectacular races, while the remaining four runners are some way behind. Mike Hawthorn won in his Ferrari, followed in second by Musso's Maserati. For Fangio, despite a nightmarish race and an uncompetitive W196, the season ends with a third-place finish, achieved with a lap to spare, while Robert Mieres and Karl Kling collect the remaining points up for grabs. The first-place finishers will be awarded a prize of 180,000 pesetas, although, in reality, each car would have a prize of engagement ranging from one million to one and a half million Italian liras. At the end of the race, Argentine driver Fangio looks very blackened by smoke created by brake friction, and very sportingly admits:
"Nothing to do today against Hawthorn's Ferrari. The Lancias went fast at the beginning but then did not hold. This did not surprise me. In today's race I experienced a moment of danger when the smoke from the brakes almost fogged up my glasses and I had to make the straight, wiping the soot with the handkerchief".
The next day, the comments in Spanish newspapers are naturally full of praise for the success of the Italian cars in the Penya Rhin Grand Prix. La Hoia del Lunes, the first newspaper to come out Monday morning in Barcelona, headlines its report on the Spanish Grand Prix:
"Clear success of Hawthorn in a Ferrari and massive affirmation of Italian industry, which managed to place its cars in the top two places and wore down the resistance of the German Mercedes".
In the last race of the World Championship, the German manufacturer, despite placing its cars third and fifth, thus turned out to be the big loser of the race. The silver beasts engaged for the first time in a serious and continuous way for the duration of a circuit, losing the myth of unbeatability. In other words, it was found that Mercedes, while having excellent qualities, did not hold the absolute superiority that seemed to have loomed in Reims. The Silverstone defeat that occurred immediately after the French competition had been attributed to the fairing, which hindered visibility and diminished handling. For the Penya Rhin, this mitigating factor failed. After a long series of tests, engineer Neubauer had decided to run all three of his cars with open wheels. Of the three stripped Mercedes taken off at the start, only the one driven by Kling, who had been given cover duty, reached the finish line in good condition. Herrmann's car stopped definitely on lap fifty and Fangio's car gave out after four hundred and forty kilometres. Both the first stop and the Argentine ace's diminished mechanical performance were caused by serious engine problems, not occasional failures of secondary parts. Even the Mercedes, despite the long preparation done before making their Grand Prix debut, thus lacks the tremendous wear and tear that these severe races impose on the most refined means. The large number of victories of the German manufacturer in the current season must be attributed in large part to the skill of Fangio who, even in the last difficult period of his racing, demonstrated both his courage and his mastery of the wheel. Now, after the results of Penya Rhin, the field looks increasingly open to an exciting struggle for the coming season. The Lancia, which was stopped after very few laps due to minor failures, has treasured this necessary toll paid to the unforeseen setbacks of the debut. Team director Pasquarelli says he is satisfied with Ascari's best lap time on three successive days, including the race day, and says the Turin-based automobile manufacturer will insist on carefully tuning its Formula 1. Turin's red cars would go down in force on Sunday, January 16, 1955, in Buenos Aires in the Argentine Grand Prix. Lancia's technicians, while acknowledging that the retirements of the two cars occurred too early, are finally keen to emphasise that these were not due to substantial engine deficiencies. Ascari was stopped by clutch problems and Villoresi by a failure in the circulation of the oil pipes in the radiator, which occurred a few minutes before the start. For the following season, the Via Monginevro-based company will prepare three or four Formula 1 race cars, in addition to its training ones, so that it will be well assured of facing the fierce opposition lineup on equal terms.
Staying in the realm of predictions, there is talk in Barcelona of an Alfa Romeo debut, but for now this is not confirmed. Instead, against the two largest factories, Ferrari and Maserati will certainly remain to field their beasts, which have shown here in Barcelona that they can hold their own against their opponents. In the driver field, too, more interest and a fiercer fight is expected after Barcelona for the upcoming races. The young Britishman Hawthorn has raced as an ace, however he often appears uneven. There is also the excellent performance of Musso and that of the unfortunate Mantovani to be noted. Behind the major aces, such as Fangio, Ascari, Villoresi, Farina who would soon return to racing, González and others, a group of future drivers is forming. On Tuesday, October 26, 1954, at the initiative of Popolo Nuovo, a popular subscription is organized to offer the not-yet-fully-healed athlete a gold plaque and a valuable parchment. The delivery of the two items takes place during a banquet at which Enzo Ferrari and the Ferrari technicians returning from the recent Spanish Grand Prix were supposed to be present. But Enzo Ferrari could not move, while the others sent a nice telegram:
"Passage Turin, return Spain, we are unable to attend this beautiful initiative, but we want to recognise his merits for being the first Italian driver world champion, we cheer well wishing imminent recovery. Signed Cavallino rampante: Amorotti, Baggi, Lampredi, Ugolini".
The Undersecretary for Industry and Commerce, the Honourable Quarello, presented Giuseppe Farina with the beautiful plaque, and with a brilliant speech recalled the triumphs of the former World Champion to whom he wished a victorious next sporting season. Among other endorsements read that of Prof. Valletta, Chairman of the Fiat Board of Directors. In a beautiful letter, in fact, professor Valletta remembered the great Fiat Champions who gave glory to Italian and Turin motor racing and wished Farina, a Turin ace, new shining triumphs. Giuseppe appears moved as he gives thanks for the touching and successful event:
"I am only waiting for full recovery to resume the wheel of the Ferrari, which I intend to drive again next season".
Finally, friends and sympathisers especially wish Farina a safe start at the Turin Grand Prix, to be held in Valentino in June 1955. The Turin champion's schedule for the next few weeks is to stay in Turin until Monday, November 1, 1954, to attend the meeting of the Racing Association of which he is president, having Villoresi and Spotorno as deputies. He will then travel to Modena to resume official contacts with Ferrari, then, making a brief stop in Rome, he will move on to Taormina. The return to Turin is scheduled for mid-December, and it is not ruled out that Farina at that time will make some getaways to Monza with the aim of beginning training in racing cars; everything, of course, will depend on weather conditions. As planned, during the morning of Sunday, November 14, 1954, Giuseppe Farina arrives in Modena to resume contacts with Ferrari and other Scuderia Ferrari representatives, where a special 1500 cc felt compressor car, which would be fielded at the start of the next Indianapolis race, is being prepared. At the end of the meeting, the popular Turin racer announces that in early December, wearing a special suit, he will test his condition at the Monza racetrack. Meanwhile, word leaked in city sports circles of the transfer from Maserati to Lancia of a well-known triad of high-class mechanics: Guerrino Bertocchi with his brother and son. However, on November 18, 1954, Maserati's workshop managers and Bertocchi himself announce that the move will not take place. The good mechanic and his family members, also very knowledgeable in automotive technology, therefore remain at Maserati. On Friday, November 19, 1954, Princess Liliana de Rétby, arriving at 11:00 a.m. in front of the workshops of Via Cigliano in Turin, driving a black touring car, in the company of Prince Leopold of Belgium meets Giuseppe Farina in the factory of a well-known Turin coachbuilder, amid the noise of hammers and electric welders. Liliana is an experienced driver, loves fast cars and wild racing, and has a Ferrari Sport 260 in the works. Princess Liliana de Rétby wears a broad white cloak edged in dark beaver, with a small beige hat and two large pearl earrings.
"It is a great pleasure for automotive enthusiasts to enter your yards".
She confesses cheerfully, before heading to the offices to choose the colours of the new car. Leopold of Belgium, getting out of a black Ferrari, follows her in silence, and to his wife's technical discussions he occasionally responds affirmatively, smiling. He is an unpretentious king, with a sport coat and his hands in his pockets: his wife's elegance is enough for him in the family. Liliana thought for a long time before deciding on the hues, looked at the swatches, matched the face, then the coat, light against light.
"This is fine. I think it's suitable for a lady. For the top, beige is better. And now, let's think about King Baudouin".
She finally comes to say, pointing to a foncé grey looking at her husband for a moment. Then Liliana takes care of the Aston Martin ordered for the young ruler from the same coachbuilders, telling the coachbuilders that Baldwin likes blue and green, and that he wants a very comfortable car. Then the princess meets with Giuseppe Farina, her friend and instructor; with him Liliana does not hesitate to have her picture taken next to the chassis of his Ferrari.
"This is the car that fits me. I will finally be able to be equal with my husband, who until now had a faster car".
Leopoldo and Liliana therefore set themselves a challenge: we will see who will finish first. Meanwhile, on the Monza racetrack, also on Friday, November 19, 1954, the Lancia drivers test the Formula 1 car at length after the technicians and mechanics made the necessary changes, based on their experience in Barcelona. Ascari, Villoresi and Castellotti take turns at the wheel of the Turin car setting exceptionally satisfactory times. Ascari achieves a time of 1'56"0 net, which corresponds to an average speed of 195.517 km/h. The best laps of the other two drivers are 1'57"0 for Villoresi, and 1'68"0 for Castellotti, respectively. The latter, finally, truncating the rumours that had long been circulating about his possible move to Ferrari, signed the contract linking him with Lancia for the 1955 racing season: the Turin team for Formula 1 testing would therefore consist of Ascari, Villoresi and Castellotti. All this takes place while Ferrari is preparing to participate in the Mexican Carrera, a race that boasts an enviable organisational apparatus, with planes, helicopters, radios, and telephones mobilised, so much so that the cost of developing the organisation itself is around two million pesos, something like $75.000. It is estimated that, in addition to the approximately one hundred and fifty crews registered for the Carrera, no less than three hundred and fifty journalists, one hundred and fifty of whom are Mexican, one hundred and fifty photographers and film cameramen, sixty radio commentators, then race officials, timekeepers, mechanics, medical personnel, and so on, for a total of more than two thousand people mobilised, will follow the race. The Carrera adventure is an irresistible lure, not only for the manufacturers who enjoy and exploit its long publicity, but also for many famous and unknown drivers. Especially, perhaps, for the latter. The Pan-American race is hugely popular throughout the world, and is the most watched, most photographed and most filmed race in America, to the point that perhaps not even Indianapolis achieves such a record. This is the race where the highest speeds are reached. And even the prizes are on the same level as the exceptional nature of the event, as much as $35.000, although in this respect the advantages are more in favour of American drivers, since for Europeans the expenses are prohibitive, and the balance becomes satisfactory only in the case of a good final placing. Among the citizens of the New Continent, the record of participation in the Carrera rightfully belongs to the Argentines, who have a predilection for their long road races in big American touring cars. In this year's edition, the compatriots of Fangio and González entered are forty-six, compared to thirteen Americans, twelve Mexicans, eight Chileans, four Guatemalans, one Cuban, one Dominican, and one Colombian, to stay with just the Americans. But in Carrera-related motorsports circles there is much talk about Umberto Maglioli and his great chances of victory: the young driver has been very popular in Mexico since the previous year, as the Biellese driver had won four stages and the Mexican public remembers the vehement and unfortunate attack on the Lancia team. After all, even the previous year Maglioli had completed the third edition of the Pan-American race very brilliantly, finishing fourth overall behind two Mercedes and a Ferrari, despite having a Lancia Aurelio Gran Turismo of much less power.
The Ferrari driver, a student of Bracco, is thus a veteran of the great Mexican race, and this could be it. The great anticipation for the inaugural stage of the Carrera, which begins on Friday, November 19, 1954, at 6:00 a.m., is overshadowed by the tragedy that accompanies the jubilation of victory for the many sympathisers Ferrari counts among Mexican sportsmen, for during the race the car carrying McAfee and Fred Robinson overturns, and the latter passes away. The drivers are completing their finishes at the Oaxaca finish line and a cheering crowd presses behind fences and cordons when, from the radio speakers, floods the first tragic communication of this fifth Carrera. The names of Jack McAfee and Ford Robinson are repeated again and again amid the clamour and consternation of the crowd. The announcer later returns to provide technical details, while at irregular intervals, arrivals follow one another. The accident to the two racers occurs a little more than a hundred kilometres from the finish line: following a skid on a turn, the Ferrari of the two Americans ends up at full speed in a ditch, and the impact, very violent, sends it to pieces. Robinson, as mentioned, loses his life, while McAfee is extracted from the car with broken legs, although, during the evening, word spreads of his death. This brings to four the number of people who have already lost their lives in the Carrera. Two drivers passed away during practice, while another had died a few hours before the start: he was the American David Ramsey, who collided with a service car in a curve near Tehuantepec that is one of the most dangerous on the course and which already caused a very serious accident last year, when a car plunged into the crowd taking eight people with it. Ramsey's mechanic, who was travelling alongside him, was seriously injured and is in mortal danger at the hospital. The exceptional harshness of the track, exacerbated by the exceptionally humid heat that hangs over men and cars, prevents famous race runners such as Giovanni Bracco, Rubirosa and Lance Macklin from completing the stage within the five-hour limit. While in the international sports category, which remains the one destined to attract the most attention from sportsmen, Umberto Maglioli is second behind American Phil Hill, who, in the overall standings, is four minutes ahead of him. Small curiosity: the results of the rankings can sometimes be distributed even several hours after the end of the finishes. This is one of the characteristics of the Carrera, for various reasons.
The fact that the Biellese driver was four minutes behind Hill, even though he knew the course well, is likely due to the caution placed in the early stages of the race. Moreover, Phil Hill improved the record for this leg by completing the course in three hours, five minutes and sixteen seconds, which is three minutes less than the best time recorded the previous year by Bonetto, who later died during the third race leg. On Saturday, November 20, 1954, the public's interest consists of the splendid duel between Californian Phil Hill and Italian Umberto Maglioli, a duel on the edge of 160 km/h, with high-level competitive blows and responses. At first the American stunned with his lightning-fast start, which secured him the first stage, but Maglioli responded in the Oaxaca-Puebla by regaining all the lost time and even something more, so much so that he ousted Hill from the top of the standings, albeit by only six seconds. Starting four minutes after Hill, Maglioli makes the most of the car's greater power along the 407-kilometre high mountain course and overtakes his rival by finishing more than four minutes ahead. It is then exciting the Santa Monica racer's rejoinder in the third leg, Puebla-Mexico City, in which he manages to regain the lead in the overall standings, albeit facilitated by a tyre accident that happened to Maglioli. So, after three legs and more than 1050 kilometres covered, only thirty-nine seconds divide the two protagonists. The exciting affair did not end even after the two aces had crossed the finish line, but continued on paper. Protagonists of this off-schedule, the data that race officials and organisers studied in order to clarify who in fact had won the second stage of the Carrera. Thus continues the appendix, all typical of the Carrera, of news and denials of which there are three salient phases: at first it appears that Maglioli had also been first at the finish line in Mexico City; then it turns out that he was second, but first in the standings; finally, Maglioli was overtaken by the Californian both in the order of finish of the afternoon semi-stage and in the overall standings. Also on Sunday, November 21, 1954 - as on Friday and Saturday - in the first two days of the race, the protagonists were Umberto Maglioli and American Phil Hill in 4.900 cc and 4.500 cc Ferraris, respectively. The start from Mexico City, where Hill retained, albeit by only thirty-nine seconds, the lead in the overall standings, was given at 7:00 a.m. and the first car to launch itself towards Leon, the finish line of the first stage, was precisely that of the American, followed at one minute's interval by that of Maglioli and then, gradually, by the others still in the race.
The finish in Leon, after four hundred and twenty kilometres of racing, saw Maglioli as winner, followed at two minutes and forty-six seconds by Hill's white Ferrari. On Sunday, November 21, from Durango to Parrai and from Parrai to Chihuahua, the two decisive rounds of the Fifth Carrera Panamericana are most likely to take place, as Umberto Maglioli, in the 4900 cc Ferrari, wins them both by dominating from end to end of the 704 kilometres that make up the total length of the two fractions. During the morning, the gap between Maglioli and Hill was five minutes and forty-nine seconds, and it seemed that the duel would not be over yet, but at the end of the evening between the Biellese and the Californian the distance rose to twenty-five minutes and seventeen seconds. A distance that is almost unbridgeable, both because Maglioli's Ferrari is in full efficiency, while his rival's car has in the second fraction accused clear symptoms of the opposite, and because the former's class and road-racing qualities are undoubtedly superior. It is a great day for the young Italian driver, whose popularity in Mexico is simply becoming enormous; in both the first and second stages, the Biellese driver does not simply win outright, but - demonstrating a commendable fighting spirit and a very likeable sportsmanship - decides to give battle against the stopwatch, with the intention of breaking the partial records he himself had set in 1953. And the feat was fully successful: the hourly average of the Durango-Parral was improved by more than a kilometre, and that of the Parrai-Chihuahua by as much as six kilometres and seven hundred metres. On the start from Durango, Maglioli gradually increased his pace along the undulating 404-kilometre route to Parrai, where another four minutes or more were added to the now substantial stock of his lead over Hill. In the next very fast fraction, Hill dropped in performance, while the Italian driver engaged solely in an attempt to improve on his record of last year, covering the three-hundred-kilometre distance in one hour, twenty-four minutes and fifty-eight seconds, at the staggering average speed of 211.847 km/h. On Monday, November 22, 1954, Umberto Maglioli - after the two dizzying sprints from Durango to Parrai and from Parrai to Chihuahua - is calm and in control of himself and his feelings.
"If the devil doesn't get in the way, tomorrow night I will have won the fifth Carrera Panamericana. My car runs beautifully, I feel great, I have confidence that everything will end the way I have been dreaming of for four days".
That the Biellese driver is the best among those who are tackling this massively dangerous Mexican adventure, everyone agrees in affirming it. It is also recalled that never in the previous editions of the race had a driver imposed himself as consistently as Maglioli. Words of admiration are also needed for the mighty Ferrari who has not missed a beat, and indeed seems to grow as he devours the kilometres. And so, finally, on Tuesday, November 23, 1954, the Biellese driver wins the fifth edition of the most difficult and dangerous road car race, the Carrera Panamericana, which ended in Ciudad Juarez with a great Italian affirmation. Umberto Maglioli and his Ferrari beat all opponents and improve records giving a clear demonstration of absolute superiority. Suffice it to say that from last year's record time (Fangio in a Lancia 3100) the driver from Biella manages to take off something like more than half an hour, bringing the average to 173.718 km/h, winning five of the eight stages planned, and breaking three partial records. In the face of the eloquence of these figures, any comment on the value of the driver and the excellence of the mechanical means would be superfluous. Ferrari also placed one of its cars in second place overall with the very talented Californian driver Phil Hill, winner of the last stage and the only opponent who was able to oppose Maglioli in the initial phase of the race. And again we find Ferrari cars in fifth and sixth place overall, with Cornacchia and Chinetti, respectively. The last stage, from Chihuahua to Ciudad Juarez, of 358 kilometres, has no history. This is the fastest sector of the Carrera: an almost uninterrupted and perfectly flat straight, where the most powerful cars can exceed 300 km/h. Maglioli set off from Chihuahua first, with such a commanding lead over Hill as to assure him absolute peace of mind. The Biellese, if he had one concern, was to save the engine of his very powerful Ferrari to secure himself from any unpleasant surprises. The stage victory thus belonged to Phil Hill, who achieved a time of one hour and thirty-seven minutes. While tens of thousands of people, first at the finish line and then in front of the hotel, cheer him enthusiastically, Umberto does not lose his unflappable calm: he is a quiet man; this athletic big guy who learned to race alongside another Biella native, Giovanni Bracco.
So Maglioli pulls a pipe from his suit pocket, loads it and lights it with a steady hand as he makes his way through the crowd in search of a bathroom, followed by telephone communication with Italy to say goodbye to his dad and brothers. Now, even in Mexico, they know that Maglioli was born in Bioglio, a small town plunged into the green just a stone's throw from Biella, on June 5, 1928, and that Umberto made his first racing experiences in 1947, when he was just 19 years old, behind the wheel of a little car he built, and then switched to Bracco's side in cross-country races. Bracco never let him drive, but the boy watched and learned. Then came his turn as first driver in the 1952 Mille Miglia, at the wheel of a touring car Lancia: first great success. From that moment the manufacturers had faith in him and the rapid ascent began, of which the overall victory, with the Lancia, in the Targa Florio, and with Ferrari in the 12 Hours of Pescara in 1953, and in the 12 Hours of Buenos Aires paired with Giuseppe Farina, as well as in the Supercortemaggiore Grand Prix in the Conchiglia d'Oro in Imola. Umberto was the son of an esteemed doctor from Biella who wanted to start him in his own profession, but his passion for engines induced him to enrol - having completed his middle school studies - at the polytechnic in Turin. However, since more than the formulas on the blackboard attracted him to the automotive workshops where the engine is seen to be born, heard to throb, the brief university interlude soon came to an end between one test bench and another, as well as on expeditions in Bracco's retinue, to Brescia, Sicily, the Dolomites, and so on. So Biella now has one less engineer but one more steering wheel ace, who will return to Italy in December. In the meantime, on Tuesday, December 14, 1954, Giuseppe Farina travels again to Modena to meet Ferrari and takes part in an initial takeover of the cars that Maranello's is setting up for the following car season. In the late morning the driver from Turin goes to the Modena racetrack, which is closed to the public for the occasion, and takes to the track at the wheel of a single-seater with a very low body, with which he completes a few laps. Although without much force, Farina reaches remarkable averages, touching 200 km/h on the straight. The Turinese racer fears that the reported impression might make itself felt on his driving ability, but during the test he finds, instead, that he is perfectly at ease on the racing cars. Farina, who returns to Turin during the evening, therefore hopes to participate in the races scheduled for Buenos Aires in January 1955, along with Gonzalez and Trintignant.
The shipping of the Ferrari cars by sea is scheduled for Sunday, December 19, 1954, while the drivers will get there by plane. The race cars will be of the type already used in previous Grand Prix, but with a modified engine. In addition to the Turinese's Ferrari, Maserati's experimental cars will also test at the Modena track, driving at length with test driver Berlocchi and some customers. For Maserati, the sure participants in the first round of the World Championship will be Behra, Musso, Mantovani, Mieres, Bucci and Mendeteguy. On Friday, December 17, 1954, Umberto Maglioli, winner of the Pan-American Race, arrives at 1:15 p.m., an hour late at Malpensa Airport, on an Italian airline plane, after spending the night in Rome. His father, Professor Nicola, his sister Jolanda, still recovering from an appendicitis operation she had undergone about ten days earlier, his brothers Cesare and Claudio, and a dozen close friends have been waiting for him since noon. On the same plane, Giovanni Bracco, the other Biella racer who had lined up at the start of the Carrera, takes his seat. The first to appear at the twin-engine hatch is Bracco, but when he sees the photographers, the elderly runner cavalierly gives way to the triumphant runner of the gruelling race. As soon as he hits the ground, Maglioli lets out a cry: “finally”, which he then justifies by saying that air travel does not excite him at all. His meeting with family members is particularly touching. The first hug is from Jolanda, who takes it upon herself to update him by telling him all the news that has happened in Biella since the day of his departure. At the same time, a few metres away Mrs. Melania Bracco tenderly embraces her husband. Umberto Maglioli does not have many episodes to tell. According to him, it was a Carrera devoid of particular excitement, but one that he had to win at all costs. The first stage, run with perhaps excessive caution, served to convince him that Hill was a truly dangerous opponent, and so he pressed the accelerator a little harder, but without forcing it. Only today was it possible to learn about his sister in Malpensa. Maglioli narrates that the tyre blowout while his Ferrari was travelling at full speed was caused by an Indian, who unintentionally created an accident that could have had disastrous consequences because at that moment Maglioli was along a steep descent lined with deep ravines. In Pueblo, as in all the other stages, during the night following the finish, mechanics had taken over the Ferrari, checking it piece by piece.
One of the tyre mechanics, who had indeed Indian origins, in the animation of the moment, did not notice that he had remounted a wheel, letting the tyre pinch the inner tube. The next day, Maglioli set off regularly for Ciudad de México, without noticing the mishap, and after just sixty kilometres the car reared up: by dint of pressing, the tyre had ended up shearing off the protruding piece of inner tube, causing the tyre to suddenly sag. The young champion is welcomed by Biella motorists in the hall of the Automobile Club, where a conference with Biella's leading personalities comes to life. Councillor Beppe Mongilardi, representing the mayor, utters words of celebration, emphasising above all the fact that Maglioli managed to win even though he left Biella prostrate over the death of his beloved mother. Afterwards, the president of the Automobile Club, Commendatore Franco Bocca, presents Maglioli with the gold badge that the association reserves for its best members. On Saturday, December 18, 1954, in the morning, Maglioli leaves for Modena together with Bracco to attend the meeting of all Ferrari racers. On this occasion, the Carrera winner makes new arrangements about his future activity, especially with regard to the economic aspect, since it should not be forgotten that Maglioli raced in tandem with Chinetti and Goldschmidt, who provided him with the Ferrari 375 Plus, but above all that expenses were strong, while prizes were significantly reduced, and he tells Ferrari about the day he experienced on his return from Mexico:
"I didn't know what saint to devote myself to anymore, because requests were coming in without giving me a moment's respite. They demanded the most unlikely poses; I had to let myself be photographed while shaving, while having lunch, while pretending to sleep. One even demanded to catch me in the bathroom, and he almost took a bath".
On Saturday, December 18, 1954, following a meeting with its drivers, Ferrari lets the press know that it will participate in all the major races of 1955, and that Giuseppe Farina will resume his activities on Sunday, January 16, 1955, participating in the first race of the World Championship on the Buenos Aires circuit. In addition, it seems that the Maranello company will take part in the Indianapolis 500: this is the outline program announced by Enzo Ferrari during the annual meeting that the Scuderia Ferrari organises in a large hotel with the participation of the best-known drivers and major personalities of the sporting world. Farina, Ascari, Maglioli, the brothers Paolo and Vittorio Marzotto, Taruffi, Trintignant, Manzon Cornacchia, Scotti, Della Favera, Bianca Maria Piazza are the drivers present who attend the banquet together with Ferrari and the engineers of the House of Modena, including Ugolini, sports director, and engineers Lampredi and Bozzi. Guests of honour are the president of the Automobile Club, Prince Caracciolo, the director of Alfa Romeo, Engineer Quaroni, and other directors and representatives of car accessory manufacturers. On the occasion, Enzo Ferrari presents a gold medal to Prince Caracciolo, also entrusting him with the task of awarding drivers, technicians and mechanics of his team. Special trophies are offered to Farina, Serafini, Bozzi and mechanics Salami, Castrini and Parente, who were injured in various accidents during the year. Gold medals are presented again to Farina, Maglioli, Trintignant, the Marzotto brothers, Manzon, Biondetti, Cornacchia, Scotti, Musitelli, Pinetti, Bianca Maria Piazza and Piodi. Then Enzo Ferrari rises to speak, reviewing the activities carried out in the past year by his team, and he offers praise for drivers and technicians, speaking of the difficulties they had to overcome, and those on the horizon in the coming season:
"Mine is a small industry fighting against giants. Ferrari doesn't have ambitious programs, we will officially participate in the races that are valid for the title, but our cars and drivers will be present everywhere, all over the world, at all the important races".
Then, having to talk about the drivers, Enzo Ferrari's voice begins to have shades of sadness:
"I have the car ready for Indianapolis and I count on participating in the most spectacular race in the world: I would like to have the joy of entrusting it to Italian hands".
So saying, his gaze rests on Farina and Ascari, who sit next to him. The last doubt concerning Farina's presence in Buenos Aires (this depended not on Ferrari, but on Farina himself and his physical condition) is finally dispelled by Ferrari, who announces the imminent departure for Buenos Aires of Trintignant and Farina himself, who will be joined, to complete the line-up of drivers, by the Argentine González, already on site. In the meantime, Ascari goes to Turin to make final arrangements with the Lancia engineer and to follow closely the work of preparing the cars destined to take part in the Argentine Grand Prix. On Tuesday, December 21, 1954, the new bolides are tested by Navone on the Caselle track, while the Automobil Club awards its champions. In preparation for the Argentine Grand Prix, Lancia prepares five Formula 1 cars, three of which will be entrusted to drivers Ascari, Villoresi and Castellotti, and the other two will serve as mules. Some of the equipment has already been shipped by sea, on the steamer Anna Costa, while the drivers, managers and mechanics, with the cars, will make the trip on a specially chartered plane. Engineer Lancia and Mrs. will also travel to Buenos Aires to attend the first race of the world motor racing championship, in which the Turinese cars will be engaged. The departure of the group will take place on January 3 from Caselle, and on the 5th evening the plane will arrive in the Argentine capital, after a long stop in Recite. On Thursday, December 23, 1954, in Turin, the president of the Automobile Club, Engineer Arnaldo Trevisani, opens and closes with brief words the event rewarding local racers, emphasising the fact that Turin racers, after so many years, have returned numerous to the limelight in the national and international arena. Among them is also Countess Paola della Chiesa, who receives at the Automobile Club of Turin headquarters the ninety-eighth medal of her career, commemorating the two first places won in the season's motor races. The driver from Turin is the only woman honoured during the event, at which more than one hundred drivers who distinguished themselves in 1954 appear - in front of the table covered with medals and cups. Giuseppe Farina, overall social champion and tricolour helmet on par with Musso, is presented with two silver trophies and as many gold medals.
"I have not yet set the date of departure for Argentina. Of the accident I had in Monza in June, I am left with nothing but a sad memory and many scars. After Christmas I will go up to Sestriere and around Epiphany I plan to take a plane to South America".
Farina confesses to the guests present, talking about his return to racing and the upcoming Argentine Grand Prix:
"With the Buenos Aires circuit I have an open account. Last year I was ranked second, but you may remember Ferrari's complaint against Fangio, who was first. About this official protest the final word has not yet been said. On my own behalf, I would like to put the record straight with a good performance in the upcoming race. I only hope that the burns on my legs, which still remind me of the frightening adventure in Monza, will not bother me".
Thus ends the 1954 motorsport season, with drivers and car manufacturers about to leave for Buenos Aires, site of the first Grand Prix of the new Formula 1 World Championship season. Meanwhile, in Modena on Christmas Eve, Friday, December 24, 1954, Enzo Ferrari is busy with a hectic day full of appointments. The Modena builder, in the company of Romolo Tavoni, tours all the churches, visits the prefect and the quaestor, and meets the mayor and the president of the province, to whom he brings scarves for the ladies, and pins for his daughters. At 8:00 p.m., Tavoni tries to take leave of Ferrari:
"If you don't need me anymore, Commendatore, I would go home. You know, it's Christmas, my family is waiting for me".
But Ferrari, who is sitting behind his desk, his hands propped up, at first remains silent, then almost moved replies:
"Eh, Tavoni, you are lucky: you have your family, your affections...".
Then, after a long silence, he asks Tavoni to stay with him some more, before bursting into tears:
"Stay a little longer with me. Can't you see that I am a dog in the middle of a deserted street?"