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#43 1955 Europe and Monaco Grand Prix

2021-04-22 00:00

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#1955, Fulvio Conti, Translated by Nicola Carriero, Luca Saitta, Translated by Aurora Ricci,

#43 1955 Europe and Monaco Grand Prix

At the end of the first Gran Prix, held in Argentina, Gonzàlez, who during the race suffered terribly from the strong heat, now has to remain at rest,

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At the end of the first Gran Prix, held in Argentina, Gonzàlez, who during the race suffered terribly from the strong heat, now has to remain at rest, especially since the pain in his spine, a memory of an accident that occurred in previous years, begins to be felt again. Castellotti, who had to be admitted to the infirmary for a sunstroke, is feeling better. Those who did not suffer from the hardness of the race is Giuseppe Farina. The Turin driver, who returned to competition after almost a year of inactivity, resisted the exhausting pace of the Bonaerense Grand Prix. Giuseppe hopes that the season begun with a brilliant second place repays him the bitterness that the absence from the races has brought him in recent months. Tuesday, January 18, 1955, a part of the technicians of the Lancia departs by plane to Malpensa, while the drivers and other members of the group leave on Thursday 20. Only Castellotti stops in Buenos Aires to race - on a Ferrari Sport - the 1000 Kilometres, after Lancia - which could have made his cars race in the free formula competition - gives up this second race, taking into account that, of the machines brought to Argentina, perhaps only that of Villoresi could have been repaired on the spot having only a broken fuel pump, while the others, due to the off-tracks, require more serious work to be done in the factory. Lancia’s mechanical parts will be shipped on 29 January 1955 with the motor ship Giulio Cesare. Thursday, January 20, 1955, Navone, just back from the Lancia tests, tells journalists what happened in Argentina:

 

"They are not forty degrees in the shade as we do; it is an oven that spreads over a whole zone. The Sunday before the automotive Grand Prix, we came back from the circuit about thirty kilometres from the capital city. The heat was so much that we had to close the windows of the car, because with the windows open, hot air entered like a hair dryer. Compared to the highlights they are a joke. You had to see the stop of Castellotti in the pits. Our driver number three arrived with considerable delay on schedule. He collapsed on the steering wheel. He just had the strength to murmur: I can’t see anymore. I took half a ride driving in a state of trance. Then he had to be transported to the infirmary. The helmet didn’t do him any good. Villoresi jumped on his car, who had his car out of action due to a failure at the gas pump, but even Gigi ended up off track as Ascari. Alberto’s accident was really scary, because the car left on his own. The skill of the driver could not help. On the 17 de Octubre Circuit there was a bicycle race, and at 2:00 p.m. a motorcycle race. In the first race, oil had not leaked, from the second it had. When, At 4 p.m. it was given the start to the cars, the track was not perfect, A car then was stopped at the entrance of a corner losing a large amount of oil. The attendants were throwing sand over the stain when Ascari, who unfortunately was in the lead, came. If González had been the first to chase the Italian at that time, he would have ended up against the protective wall. Ascari, instead, drove the carousel and bid farewell to the race. A frightful pirouette, a scream of those present. The driver was saved, but the race for him is over".

 

Saturday, January 22, 1955 Ascari, Villoresi and Castellotti, with the technical director Pasquarelli and the mechanics Boi and Viglio, despite being expected to be at the airport of Malpensa at 3:00 p.m., arrive just before 6:00 p.m., because they did not find a place in Zurich on the KLM flight, already full, subsequently using a four-engine T.WA, coming from New York almost three hours late. After making a stop in Zurich, the powerful US plane slightly reduces the high delay. To receive the silent sextet of the House of Turin, in addition to television operators and RAI and numerous photographers, friends and family, also the designer Jano and the test driver Navone are present. Ascari, Villoresi and Castellotti, close from all sides, show their deep regret for the bad outcome of the race, and the high temperature on the track at the time of the race. Even Fangio, immediately after the race, had to be admitted to the hospital with a temperature of 40 degrees. And since after such brief statements no one intends to say a word, some Buenos Aires comments were kindly remembered; with a veil of sadness in the voice, Villoresi answers for all.

 

"The cars held beautifully until Ascari and I went off track because of the bloody oil stains that dotted the path like authentic puddles after a downpour. Ascari retired on lap 21, after being in the lead in the first part of the race and having almost reached 150 km/h".

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Castellotti, saved from oil stains, was a victim of a sunburn instead:

 

"Yet during practice, the temperature was the same and I had not suffered the slightest disturbance; instead after just two laps I did not understand anything, I saw nothing, the brakes did not respond to my commands and a flaming pickaxe hit me on the back of the neck. I collapsed on the steering wheel and found myself half an hour later in the infirmary, where I saw Navone’s frightened face".

 

The following day, Sunday, January 23, 1955, Enrique Saenz Valiente and José-Maria Ibanez, aboard a Ferrari 375 Plus, win the 1000 km of Buenos Aires raced on the Autódromo Municipal-Avenida Paz, the first race of the eight scheduled for the Sportscar championship. And seven days later, Sunday, January 30, 1955, Juan Manuel Fangio also won the Grand Prix of Buenos Aires, aboard his Mercedes, winning the Argentine temporada. Mercedes leaves only on Hermann’s car the 3.5-litre engine, while the other cars entrusted to Fangio, Kling and Moss use a three-litre engine, the same one with which the German manufacturer intends to participate in the next Mille Miglia. For its part, Ferrari modifies two cars leaving three of Formula 1: the latter are driven respectively by González, Trintignant and Bucci; Farina runs with a 3000 engine and Maglioli with the new 3750. The nine Maserati are all for Formula 1 and the same goes, without modification, for the three Gordini. Saturday, January 29, 1955, during the qualifying for the Buenos Aires Grand Prix, the drivers were hindered by the rain: at a certain point, Musso’s car slips into a corner and goes out for a few metres of track. When the Italian gets back on track, Fangio chivalrously slows down the pace in order not to engage the Roman driver. Once the rain stopped, the speed increased considerably, and Fangio, with his Mercedes, gets the best time of the day with 2'31"5, followed in order by Trintignant, González and Moss, who will start in the front row with the reigning World Champion. The race day starts at 4:00 p.m. at the 17 de Octubre circuit in Buenos Aires. The Ferrari, driven by Farina, in the first series of the race proves to be able to keep up with the cars of the Stuttgart house.  But bad luck hit the Italian right at the beginning of the second series, while he bravely gets back behind the wheel of his car, despite having suffered burns to the legs due to the effect of the exceptional warmth.

 

The stifling heat had again its part in the defeat of the driver that could have given Ferrari the revenge desired. The Englishman Stirling Moss, aboard a Mercedes, promptly sprints to the start and takes the first corner of the route. Fangio follows him on the wheel and in third place follows Kling. In this order, the three Mercedes drivers passed at the end of the first lap, while González was fourth in the Ferrari 2500. But just when a new overwhelming race of the cars of Stuttgart seems to loom, the valid counter-offensive of Farina begins, who leaps first to fourth place overtaking teammate González, Then, he desperately chases the cars that are ahead of him. The race, made very hard by the torrid and oppressive climate, lives phases full of emotions thanks to the reckless momentum of the Turin driver who is always closely following the trio of Mercedes. After ten laps, Stirling Moss continues to lead the race, followed by Fangio a few meters and Kling, but Farina always pushed despite the heat of the engine had reopened the burns suffered in the tremendous adventure of Monza. He is now ready to launch his decisive assault. Kling, however, is determined not to give way to the Ferrari flagbearer so as to require the intervention of the race director waving the flag requires the German not to hinder the comeback of the Italian. Farina surpasses Kling and Moss with momentum, and then projected in the wake of Fangio who in the meantime took the lead; then the World Champion will confess that, when he looked on the two small mirrors, instead of the silver Mercedes of teammate Moss, he saw a red car that became more and more distinguished, did not believe his eyes, and finally understood why since four or five laps, every time he ran in front of the box, Neubauer has kept signalling him to increase the pace: it cannot be that Giuseppe Farina, he said between himself, and he prepared to repel the attack. The qualities of class and heart of the Turin ace trigger the enthusiasm of the spectators, especially when a magnificent and terrifying duel with Fangio is engaged at a crazy speed.

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On the eighteenth lap, the cars of the two drivers are at the same height and Farina, thanks to his boldness, manages to overcome his very strong opponent: for a moment, the two cars graze, but the collision, which could have had terrible consequences, only causes a slight dent to the Ferrari. With the road clear, Farina wins the first heat. The twists, however, are not finished yet: in the short interval between the first and the second test, the drivers hydrate in the shade vainly looking for a refreshment in the terrible heat of the tropical day that makes the thermometer rise to over 35 degrees. The unbreathable atmosphere is particularly painful for Farina, whose leg injuries cause unbearable pain. The managers and technicians of Ferrari gather, as a result, in the box to make a decision, for so long that rumour has it that the Turin driver would no longer leave his place to González. Farina, however, after recovering from a collapse, returns to his Ferrari, and regularly starts for the last heat. However, as a precautionary measure, it was decided to stop González at the box to replace Farina, while Maglioli took Trintignant’s car, which in turn took the wheel of González’s 2500. The Turin driver takes the starting order, but he is immediately overtaken by the three Mercedes; Farina, desperately trying to recover, is at this point the actor of a dramatic adventure that, fortunately, ends without serious consequences. The Argentine Birger on Gordini slips fearfully right in front of Farina, launched at very high speed; Giuseppe manages to avoid the clash, but he is forced to lose a lap and, passing in front of the box, swaps places with González. Birger goes off track in the accident, with no consequences for himself or for the car. At the end of the race, the Turin champion immediately let his family know that he is well and that he is not affected by the hard challenge, except for an exacerbation of the pains that the still recent burns to his legs cause: Elsa Farina, the driver’s wife, received a telegram from her husband, where he announced his return to Italy, adding that he was fine.

 

Meanwhile, in Italy, the condition of the well-known Florentine motorist Clemente Biondetti worsened on Monday, January 31, 1955, following a cardiac arrest. Biondetti had been subjected to a difficult throat surgery twenty days before, at the hospital of San Giovanni di Dio. Wednesday, February 2, 1955, the return of the last Italian drivers from South America transforms the airport hall, to Malpensa, into a crowded Grand Prix grandstand. Drivers’ friends and family, sportsmen, journalists and photographers come from Turin, Biella and Milan to welcome drivers and technicians and to hear the direct impressions on the Temporada. Maglioli is awaited by his lovely young sister, Miss Jolanda, by his brother Cesare as well as by Dr Casalegno, an acquaintance of the family who started to run together with Umberto but then left the competitive activity. Also waiting for the veterans from the American tour are the in-laws of Gianni Lancia, Magliola, with his daughter, in the company of the Turin driver Ammendata with his wife, the president of the Lancia sports group, and others. Mrs Farina comes from Turin accompanied by Giuseppe’s personal doctor, Dr Perazzo, who wants to be among the first ones to congratulate the Turin ace for the magnificent races. The journey of Dr Perazzo is made out of pure friendship, because already before the wheels of the Alitalia’s DC 6B aircraft touch the ground it is known that the Farina’s health conditions are good. The former World Champion, as is well known, made his return to the races in Buenos Aires after the fearful accident of last June, when he was forced to throw himself out of the burning car, while testing on the track in Monza. Farina, after many months, still carries in his legs the traces of the tremendous burns, and the very hot climate of Argentina - where in these days it is full summer - and the exhausting pace of competition, with a consequent warming of the engines had rekindled the disease. Nothing serious, however, and Farina quickly descends from the ladder of the plane to throw himself into the arms of his wife.

 

"How am I? Well. I already telegraphed you from Buenos Aires".

 

Giuseppe Farina says, heartening his wife, who answers:

 

"It’s true, but until I see you, I’m never completely calm".

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The Turin driver, not far away, assures his wife still on his condition. He walks perfectly, and the aforementioned burns no longer bother him much. After that, he describes the really exciting details of the race held on January 30, in which he narrowly missed victory.

 

"It was a really interesting run-up. On three occasions I slightly touched the cars of Kling, Moss and Fangio, which preceded me by a few centimetres. I was forced to get back on the brakes and throw myself into the corners. And that increased the emotions of the spectators. However, everything went well: I took the lead and, therefore, gaining about a second per lap, I was able to cross the finish line of the first heat. At halftime, I took off the woollen fireproof clothing I had worn to preserve my legs, and I rested. It was perhaps seeing me lying down that raised the rumour that I was in poor condition or that I wanted to retire. The burns gave me little bother, but I had a heavy foot in braking, but I was not damaged, so much that in the second heat I started very well. My misadventure occurred on the third lap. Birger, an Argentine, who had already inadvertently obstructed Villoresi and Behra in a corner on January 16, did the same with me. I found myself in front of the Argentine’s car. I braked abruptly and the engine stopped. My race ended there, because in order to restart I lost two laps. We left Buenos Aires last Monday. The trip on the route, Rio de Janeiro, Recife, Dakar, Lisbon, was great. I had the armchair-bed on which Gina Lollobrigida had returned to Italy. Let it be said incidentally in Buenos Aires a film was screened in which I appear next to Alida Valli and Amedeo Nazzari. When I stop running, I’ll have the cinema, but for now I don’t even think about it".

 

Logically, Giuseppe Farina is satisfied with his performance and above all with his condition. The Turin driver will rest briefly, then he will start the preparation for the Syracuse Grand Prix. Maglioli, who leaves in the car with his sister and friends for Biella, will remain for a short time in Italy, as he will race in Sebring. With Giuseppe Farina, the drivers Mantovani, Trintignant and Maglioli, the engineer Lancia and lady, the managers and technicians of Ferrari, Ugolini and Amorotti have travelled. Everyone comes down from their device tanned, as if they were coming from a mid-August cruise. Maglioli, more than dark, appears in a dark mood, because of the misadventure occurred in the Thousand Kilometres:

 

"We hoped to win, when the car on which Bucci and I ran stopped because of a failure in the gas pipeline".

 

But Ugolini says by talking to his wife who is waiting for him:

 

"Nothing of importance".

 

Back in Turin, Giuseppe expresses his desire to have an aperitif. Late at night, getting out of the car with his wife, Farina finds a photographer waiting for him to portray the strange gifts brought from Buenos Aires. In addition to the usual silver plates and cups, Farina has taken from the suitcase a bombilla with its pipettes to suck the mate, and not being sleepy, he enjoys chatting.

 

"I hardly saw anyone there. I was resting in the hotel, getting up, going to the circuit, going back to rest and so on every day. It was not a brilliant life. On the other hand, the races were exciting: all three races were fought. Five cars within a second in test number one, twists and turns in the 1000 kilometres, my half-victory and unfortunate retirement in the Buenos Aires City Grand Prix, a series of electrifying episodes. And then the adventure of Ascari. Also, the road trip during the race valid for the World Championship. The Lancia driver attacked with great enthusiasm. A spot of oil betrayed him. He flew off the track. Fortunately, this year the mounted police defended the barbed wire barriers, necessary to keep spectators away. The public was at least 50 meters from the road. So the exit of Ascari, which was not the only one, did not cause casualties. In the first races there were at least 300,000 people".

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Certainly, and I can add that if it hadn’t been for the complicated matters of the changes, in the race of 16 January Ferrari could have won. Nevertheless, seventy-eight million lire were collected. All the expenses of three races are so amply covered, even if the prizes are divided in proportion between the constructor and the pilot.

 

“The real profits are made by Argentine drivers. If they win, they get government import licenses for cars that sell at a high price there. In Buenos Aires it is rumoured that Fangio, thanks to his success in the World Championship, managed to own about five hundred cars. Over half a billion worth if the rumours are true. This recent Temporada 1955 will have yielded to the cuecho over forty or fifty, licenses. Lucky him. Business aside, the Argentine is strong. He withstood beautifully the torrid heat. To avoid the inconvenience of overheating we had to fill the drivers' seats with asbestos. González and I took turns in one car, another Trintignant, González and I, and a third Maglioli and again González and I. More like a relay race. On 30 January, then, I managed to leave a gap from the ace Fangio in the first part of the Formula Libera race. If it wasn’t for Birger and his car being sideways...".

 

After a short rest in the mountains, Farina will go to Modena to test a new Ferrari, while the German engineers prepare a more powerful Mercedes six-cylinder. Lancia will perfect its cars and Maserati is setting up interesting cars too. Enzo Ferrari and his technicians do not want to stand back, so they too have original cars to prepare for the Syracuse Grand Prix, and for a possible participation in the Indianapolis 500. In this regard, two special chassis arrived in Modena, costing more than fifteen million lire. Farina, if the machines will be set up on time, as is almost certain, he really wants to debut in the US race. Days go by, and waiting to face new challenges, on Tuesday, February 15, 1955, in Turin surprising news begins to circulate, which would involve Alberto Ascari as organizer of a team in his name, to be founded together with his friend Luigi Villoresi and Eugenio Castellotti. Lancia, after the brilliant wins in the Mille Miglia, Carrera Panamericana and others obtained in the past in the Sportscar categories, this year is focused only on Formula 1: hence the rumour that the three steering wheel axles intend to buy Ferraris or Maseratis, in order to run in sportscar competitions.

 

"If I had so many millions to buy such cars, I would go and enjoy them immediately in the Riviera instead of staying here to work. I completely deny my team. But it is not excluded that I run this year on Sportscars. If Lancia, as it did before, will authorize me, I can take part in some races. I will choose them from time to time. For now, I have no plans".

 

Meanwhile, Giuseppe Farina returns to Turin, who had gone skiing to forget among the snows of Claviere the tremendous heat suffered in the Argentine temporada. The former World Champion, before returning home, makes long trips, being in perfect condition. And always on the subject of arrivals, a few days before, in the middle of the night, the ship on which the Lancia that took part in the Argentine Grand Prix and the Buenos Aires Grand Prix arrived in the Genoa harbour. The three red cars descended from the Giulio Cesare and immediately returned to Turin, where the technicians will get to work to put them back in a short time in complete efficiency. Wednesday, February 23, 1955 it is learned through the Italian newspapers that the Grand Prix of Valentino, the classic Turin race, returns to the calendar, which, for reasons unrelated to the will of the organizers, has been so far an occasional race: after the war, it was only held in 1946, 1947, 1948 (Italian Grand Prix) and 1952. Then difficulties arose due to the plethora of international calendar appointments that practically does not leave free Sundays, reserving, among other things, eight to the priority tests, i.e. the World Championship. If you add the immovable races, such as Mille Miglia, Le Mans, Targa Florio, and the others of the International Championship Sportscars, every available holiday is vividly disputed by the organizers of half of Europe, several of which are willing to take the risk of competition, which is very lively, limited being the number of cars and drivers able to allow a Grand Prix worthy of the name.

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This year, the date assigned by the International Sports Commission to the Automobile Club of Turin was that of Thursday, June 2, 1955, three days before the 24 Hours of Le Mans. It meant sure failure, since the French race is in the Sportscar Championship. There was nothing left for the Turin organizers to do but ask for the date to be moved to a day free from events, that is to say at the beginning of spring, even if the weather conditions are uncertain. Therefore, it was requested and accepted on March 27, 1955. In this regard, Ferrari, Lancia and Maserati ensure their presence in forces at the Valentino Grand Prix, while Mercedes, as is known, this year only joins the world championship races; it is also likely the participation of the Frenchman Gordini. Particularly awaited is the race of the cars of via Monginevro, since that of 27 March 1955 will be their third official appearance. For the Turin cars, the Grand Prix of Valentino offers the opportunity to attempt the greatest achievement pursued so far. It is well known that the setting of a new car requires a lot of time and effort and it is therefore no wonder that the difficult beginnings of Lancia Formula 1 have begun. And it is equally certain that Giuseppe Farina will really care about racing in his city. The former World Champion, back from his trip to the mountains, is in excellent condition and is waiting from hour to hour for a phone call from Modena, having to go to try a new Ferrari that could be called super-shark, which will of course run in Valentino.

 

"I have never been able to win in my city, and I am pleased that I am offered a new opportunity to race in Turin. I will do my best even if I know I have very strong opponents".

 

Admits Giuseppe Farina, reached by phone by the editorial staff of La Stampa. Sunday, March 13, 1955 at 10:00 a.m. under a clear sky, and with an almost summer temperature, the fifth edition of the 12 Hours of Sebring kickstarted, the classic race that is valid as the second round of the world championship for sportscars. The race takes place a few kilometres from the city from which it takes its name, on a winding circuit around the old abandoned Hendrick airport. About 10.000 spectators are present on the grandstands and on the lawn next to the track. The start takes place regularly for seventy-nine of the eighty cars admitted to the competition. When the starter lowers the flag, only the Ferrari of the American Jim Shakespeare stops at the finish line, as the battery is low. After a few minutes, the mechanics manage to set it in motion, but Shakespeare, after a few metres without conviction, retires. It is the first retirement of the day. But after a few laps, many more, more eventful and dramatic ones will come. At the start, Mike Hawthorn’s Jaguar, enrolled by the American Briggs Cunningham, followed by the Spaniard De Portago that pairs with Maglioli on Ferrari, the Californian Ernie McAfee, the Italian Taruffi and Phil Hill, all on Ferrari. On the second lap, a Renault driven by the Parisian Jean Rédélé slides on a spot of oil, and after a scary spin he remains motionless in the middle of the track. The pilot is unharmed, but an ambulance is immediately directed towards him. At the same time Bob Said’s Ferrari comes, an American of Russian origin. The Russian madman (such is the nickname with which he is known by the fans) cannot avoid the clash and ends up in full speed in the side of the ambulance. No injuries, not even after this second collision, but retreats rise to three. In the first hour of the race there are no other inconveniences: Hawthorn’s Jaguar is constantly in the lead, while behind, Taruffi and the duo Valenzano-Perdisa on Maserati follow. At the start of the second hour, the Dominican diplomat Porfirio Rubirosa leaves the street at full speed. His Ferrari even crashes into a spectator’s car in a parking lot. Unfortunately, after about an hour and a half, one of the most valuable machines, that of Maglioli and De Portago, disappears from the fight. The Biella driver, who is currently at the wheel, has to stop for a gearbox issue and then pushes the car for almost a kilometre to the box. Three hours from the start, a second, more sensational twist is about to happen: it is Hawthorn who stops at the pits for a review, but manages to restart before being overtaken. During the fourth hour, the Taruffi and the American Schell’s Ferrari overtakes that of Hill and Shelby and reaches second place with a one-lap gap from the Hawthorn and Walters’s Jaguar. The latter covered seventy-eight laps while the two Ferraris in second and third place covered seventy-seven, but in the next hour the Valenzano and Perdisa’s Maserati recovered two positions and went close to Taruffi.

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Between the sixth and the seventh hour, Hawthorn manages to lap once again all the competitors, while behind him there is only one change, the Spear and Johnston’s Maserati has overtaken the Hill and Schell’s Ferrari taking fourth place. The ending is quite particular: Hawthorn and Walters, on Jaguar, and Hill and Shelby on Ferrari, are proclaimed in turn winners by the Sports Commission of the American Automobile Association. For hours, everyone wonders: who was the winner of the race? To try to shed some light on the matter, we will have to explain that in this kind of tests of great depth, anyone who tries to follow the trend by eye and cross, soon ends up not understanding anything: between overtaking, stops at the pits, after a few hours of running, it is difficult to even understand who is still in charge. In other words, only the timekeepers and those who are responsible for calculating the laps of each competitor can, at the end of the race, reconstruct the stages and establish the finish order. At Sebring it happens that after the start of the eleventh hour of the race, the speakers announce that the Hill and Shelby’s Ferrari are leading from Hawthorn and Walters’s Jaguar. During the last hour, the distance between the two cars remained unchanged, and after the end, the timekeepers announced that it was Jaguar that won, having crossed the finish line first despite being in the same lap of the Italian car. Now there are two cases: either Hawthorn managed to gain more than one lap from Hill during the last hour, something that none of the 10.000 spectators seems to have noticed, or it is wrong to report the time that Ferrari was in charge. However, the decision on the winner is postponed, but in this regard the representative of Ferrari in the United States, Luigi Chinetti, and the owner of Hill’s car, the oil tanker Alien Guiberaon, make a formal complaint. The jury examines during a long session that lasted until night, after which the finish order is confirmed unofficially. So, twelve hours after the conclusion of the race, it is still not known who the official winner is, being first in turn both Hawthorn and Hill with consequent complaints and counter-claims. Waiting for the sports commission to shed light on the situation, the three Ferrari drivers Piero Taruffi, Harry Schell and Umberto Maglioli, accompanied by the sports director of the House of Modena, Nello Ugolini, depart on Monday night from New York, by plane, to Rome. Before the start, everyone confirms to be sure that the victory in the 12 Hours of Sebring is taken by Ferrari, and therefore they hope that the jury will eventually be able to review the judgment.

 

Meanwhile, Carini wins the Dakar Grand Prix for Sportscars behind the wheel of a Ferrari, and while waiting for the return of the cars and drivers in the workshops of Maranello, the men of the Prancing Horse complete the development of the brand new single-seater racing car to which with the colours of the Modena house for the international races of the constructors’ season 1955. To such purpose, the arrival of Farina is expected, to whom the car will be handed for the first examinations. The new creation curated by engineer Lampredi does not implement revolutionary criteria, but it represents a refinement of the brave experimental shark that turned out to be the best racing car out of the construction site of the house of the prancing horse and won the Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona. The experience of last season has been precious for the technicians of Ferrari, who have collected after each race a vast mass of technical data, through the examination of which the model now on the test bench has been made. The characteristics of the new car are as follows: two and a half litre engine with four cylinders in line, and displacement of 250 horsepower (it would have reached the limit of 100 horsepower per litre of displacement, which for many years was the hope of the designers). The bodywork introduces innovative solutions, also not differing as conception from the structure of the shark. The line is more tapered and streamlined, the side tanks - which give the machine its particular shape - are back and tapered and are now born at the elbows of the driver, the frame has a longer wheelbase and rests on a rigid bridge of the type De Dion. Even the front and rear suspensions undergo changes, with revolutionary solutions, which for now are not revealed by the house. The machine has already made a couple of secret tests on the roads of the Apennines, near the plant, with test cars. Thus, while on Monday, March 14, 1955 Ascari, Villoresi and Castellotti tested for a long time two Lancia Formula 1 cars on the track of the Monza circuit, on which appropriate changes have been made by placing special hay bales in order to imitate the Valentino circuit (the special difficulties of the route, characterized by three variants studied by the technicians according to the layout of the next Turin race, give little importance to the times set by the two cars, kept secret anyway). Wednesday, March 16, 1955, Giuseppe Farina tests in Modena, on the racetrack, the brand new single-seater car that the Ferrari company prepares for the 1955 Formula 1 races. 

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The car was first presented at the Modena circuit, while the director of Ferrari, Nello Ugolini, the designer Lampredi and the engineer Massimino, were present, as well as numerous car technicians attracted by the novelty. Giuseppe Farina had arrived just before, and as soon as he saw the car in the Ferrari headquarters in Modena, he expressed the desire to try it. The Turin driver immediately enters the driver’s seat and after a couple of laps at a reduced pace, after which the mechanics give a last look at the spark plugs, starts a dizzying carousel running around almost continuously for over an hour and racing with the fast 175 of Bianchi that simultaneously test on the same track, driven by Manganelli, Montanari and Fumagalli. At the end of the tests, Farina appears enthusiastic about the car, which he defines perfect in the recovery and stable when braking. The exceptional stability is in fact the main feature of the new car, whose chassis has been studied for about ten months, modifying and finally remaking almost from scratch that of the old shark. Also, in the afternoon Farina takes to the track, running for half an hour and recording remarkable times. On the same track in the afternoon also Valenzano and a Maserati test driver, both on two-litre Sportscar. On Wednesday, March 16, 1955, at Valentino the work to surround the park and build stands, boxes, and other installations is completed. In Turin, Ferrari will entrust its cars to Giuseppe Farina, Maurice Trintignant and Harry Shell, the last purchase of the Scuderia Modenese, deploying the Super Shark. Lancia will give its cars to Ascari, Villoresi and Castellotti, while the Maserati will be driven by Behra, Mieres and the two young Musso and Mantovani. Meanwhile, the organizers plan to finalize the ongoing negotiations with the French Gordini for sending two cars. On Thursday, March 17, 1955, at 12:00, the layout of the Valentino circuit is officially announced by Farina and the Count of Pero, managers of the Automobile Club Torino. Two hours after the official announcement of the track, the former World Champion gets on a car of the Italian newspaper La Stampa and cruises through the avenues of Valentino, after willingly accepting the invitation to try the track in absolute preview.

 

"On my behalf, the best way to familiarize yourself with the track is to look up, observe four poles that you see beyond each curve. This gives you the impression of distances. It’s a bit like seeing the path through a radar. In the first rounds of tasting, like this, I carefully observe if there are any bumps. The second tremendous corner is taken in full speed by all drivers, even beginners. It is not even a corner, it is a deviation".

 

Then Farina stops in Corso Massimo d'Azeglio right at the intersection with Corso Dante, gets out of the car and studies the point meter by meter.

 

"The avenue bends slightly right. Doing it between 50 and 100 km/h is a joke, at 100 it becomes a problem, plus, there are rails".

 

Then he exclaims, before leaving again:

 

"We’re good now".

 

Because the circuits are won at an average speed of 150 km/h, but they are also prepared for walking in a family car, walking and observing the rails of the tram. Wednesday, March 24, 1955, the racing department of the Lancia works non-stop, while Ferrari and Maserati try on the track of the Aerautodromo di Modena. Maranello’s cars with Giuseppe Farina on the super-shark, Shell, Trintignant and De Portago on the usual single-seaters; Maserati alternating with Behra, Musso, Mantovani and Perdisa on the six-cylinder. The only Argentine Roberto Mieres, expected in Modena in the morning of Thursday, March 25, 1955, is absent. Despite the fact that the sports directors of the two rival houses are concerned to avoid direct comparisons on the track, the drivers cannot resist the call of the fight transforming at some point the training into a real race of speed with daring overtakes in the corner. The result is the unofficial breaking - recorded by the stopwatch of the sports directors - of the speed records of the circuit, having both Farina and Shell, Behra and Perdisa shot repeated times below 1'02"0, at an average speed almost 134 km/h. 

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Both the engineer Lampredi of Ferrari and the engineer Bellentani of Maserati, at the end of the tests, appear very satisfied with both the tests and the setup of the cars, which will reach Turin on Thursday 24 Mano 1955, and will arrange the material in the garage Leone in via Madama Cristina (where the punching operations of the cars will also be performed). For Maserati, the garage of Fontanella and Maochieraldo will be made available, which will also host the Ferrari of Bernardo Taraschi. Friday, March 25, 1955, after the road is closed to traffic at 12:30 a.m. and the Automobil Club draws the race numbers, the official practice begins. At 1:30 p.m. Alberto Ascari starts the test laps aboard a docile test car, looking for the harmony with the track’s asphalt. For over four and a half hours, the drivers make laps to test the track and the cars with which they will compete. In these phases Giuseppe Farina, climbed aboard his super shark Ferrari, after only five laps, is stopped because of a recovery pipe of the oil cut sharply because of the bumps caused by an insidious irregularity of the asphalt in the underpass of Ponte Isabella (made more insidious by the tram tracks). This allows the lubricant to spread on the track, forcing the technicians of the Maranello team to withdraw the car without having been able to fully control the behaviour. Shortly after, Farina remained still along the path for the jamming of the gearbox, after taking his place on another car. Meanwhile, Villoresi only makes a few more laps without falling below 1'49"0, while Castellotti works both on the test car and with his own car, however, blaming on the latter some inconveniences to the suspensions, caused by the bump present after the underpass of Ponte Isabella, which during the day will cause - besides the already mentioned Farina - problems to more than one competitor. At the same time, the Frenchman Jean Behra, team leader of Maserati, makes a beautiful sequence of faster and faster times, as well as the two young drivers Mantovani and Musso, confirming the good preparation of the House of Modena for the race. In the last hour of practice, the three Ferrari drivers, Farina, Trintignant and Schell run long enough, while in the pits, built close to the large gate to the castle, the owners of the teams, drivers and great fans of motoring talk quietly about the upcoming race. Even the lawyer Gianni Agnelli visits the Lancia and Ferrari and Maserati pits, entertaining himself, perhaps risking some cautious prediction, about tomorrow. 

 

Even Prince Bira, after completing practice laps, sits on the counter of a box and, legs crossed to the East, marks the times of the other competitors sometimes distracted to chat with his beautiful wife. The Frenchman Rosier, calmer, looks down on the Ferrari cars. The engineer Giovanni Lancia, however, is not present during all the test time; he appears only in the end, and looks with affection at the car on which Castellotti had turned until a few moments before. Saturday, March 26, 1955 from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 a.m. and from 1:30 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. the qualifying tests take place: Alberto Ascari wins the pole position, followed by the Maserati of Behra and Musso. Giuseppe Farina is fourth, more than two seconds away from the Lancia driver, who on Sunday, March 27, 1955 won the seventh Grand Prix of Valentino among the roaring applause of the crowd. Upon arrival at the finish, the Marquise Trevisani offers the Lancia driver a bunch of lilacs, while his wife hugs him and leaves lipstick marks on his cheeks blackened with oil, while in the box of the Lancia the blue overalls embrace each other, without even trying to hide the wet eyes of emotion. Later, Mieres, Vllloresi and Castellotti come, but the audience still applauds the winner; for the crowd, about 50.000 people, the victory has only one face, that of Alberto Ascari. To see it, the audience breaks the barrier and invades the track. Ascari managed, with difficulty, to find an opening and take refuge in the courtyard of the castle. Then, as if the already many kilometres travelled were not enough, he will climb again in his private car and will go exhausted. At the start, the departure of Musso and Behra is lightning fast, while Ascari, specialist in quick starts, remains surprised. Farina presses a few meters, then Trintignant, Castellotti, Schell, Villoresi and the twenty-two-year-old Perdisa join the group. After the first lap, Musso leads the race, followed by Mieres, Behra and Ascari. After a few laps, it becomes clear that the race is between the Lancia and the Maserati, since the Farina’s Ferrari complains about a gearbox issue. The sprint of the four leaves no breath to the spectators, who sit in the most interesting points of the circuit. Alberto Ascari makes forget the stunts of Giuseppe Farina, who is without a gear and must each time go directly from second to fourth, losing ground until he is forced to retire on lap twenty-two.

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Eugenio Castellotti, the young Lancia driver, cries tears of emotion among the public in the area of the underpass when he grabs a platform with the right wheel. He then stops at the pits for a moment to check the front axle, and starts again in fury. He does not know yet that he is heading towards a magnificent placement. On the twelfth lap, Behra must interrupt his sprint for a bridge failure; Perdisa complains about the same inconvenience. The French ace and the Italian hope, sitting side by side, now look with a hint of melancholy at the teammates and opponents who fly on the short straight of the grandstand. Ahead, Ascari’s Lancia is opposed by the two Maserati of Musso and Mieres and is followed by Villoresi’s Lancia, who leads a very intelligently managed race, and by Trintignant’s Ferrari. At this point, Maserati could be a team player, but on the 21st lap a murmur of the public suggests an accident. The leading trio has broken down. Ascari is the first to pass in front of the stands; Mieres is on his heels. And Musso? What happened to Musso? Moments of apprehension. The misadventures occurred during the tests to Mantovani and Bira make fear the worst. Ascari had made a sign with his hand, as if to indicate a spun car off the road. And so it was, intact. But luckily, no consequences for the driver. The perfect signalling service after a few minutes can reassure everyone: the Roman driver suffered an accident at the corner of Corso Raffaello. Soon after, Musso himself arrives on foot, greeted by a great and deserved applause. The following lap, the twenty-second, Farina stops permanently because of the gearbox malfunction. When Madame Farina is feverish at home, when she learns that her husband has retired, she is seized by a collapse. From here they call the circuit looking for the family doctor, who immediately speaks to Joseph.

 

On lap 34, also De Portago is forced to retire due to a mechanical failure: the nose of his car touched in the terrible bump after the underpass, the car loses water and the Spanish marquis stops, But, in his debut in Formula 1, he has still had a good performance. Even Girard, exhausted by the fight with unequal weapons, is blocked exactly in the middle of the race. Ascari at the same time laps Castellotti, but does not run away from him; drags in his wake the young teammate and if he will then let him go back in front, alternating with him to lead so that all the Lancia will finish the race at full number of laps. Meanwhile, the Frenchman Trintignant, caught in the grip between Ascari and Castellotti, pushes to the maximum, but in vain. With eleven laps to go, he will be forced to stop due to a mechanical failure. All the others are voiced several times, including Prince Bira who stops every thirty kilometres to adjust the suspensions. Against the three Lancia, only Mieres fights with tenacity: the Argentine is as regular as a clock, but cannot threaten Ascari who literally dominates the race. As time goes on, Jano, designer of the car, and Pasquarelli, director of Scuderia Lancia, are pale as if they were losing, while engineer Lancia is following the race first from his plane and then on television. When there are three laps to go, the Lancia mechanics begin to smile; the managers do not. They fear a blow of bad luck, always possible in motor racing. But when, finally, Ascari crosses the finish line, almost getting up in the car seat and waving an arm cheering, the motorist Nervo, a boy who had seen the misfortune of Barcelona and the misadventure of Buenos Aires, jumps up on a stack of tires and shouts:

 

"Long live Turin".

 

The success tenaciously pursued in Spain and Argentina, has finally arrived for the House of Turin. A magnificent Ascari, first arrived before the young talent Mieres, a tenacious Villoresi and a generous Castellotti, have conquered him on the avenues of Turin. When he stops after the lap of honour, Ascari looks for Vittorio Jano, the father of the victorious car. But the designer is in a corner, alone, in the large courtyard of the Valentino palace. Ascari runs towards him, they look into each other’s eyes.

 

"Thank you, Commander".

 

Shouts Alberto.

 

"Thank you, Ascari".

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Answers Vittorio Jano. At the end of the race, short interviews are released with the protagonists of the Grand Prix of Valentino. The first interview is with Alberto Ascari, winner of the race:

 

"I am grateful to all the mechanics of the Lancia who have developed the car as best you could not. Difficult opponents? All of them, but the Roman Musso and the Argentine Mieres deserve together the greatest praises “.

 

Musso and Perdisa, the two young drivers who together with the unfortunate Mantovani formed the trio of Maserati, comment on their misadventures. The Roman, after explaining his accident for the umpteenth time, curses under his breath at the breaking of the bridge of Behra. And to those who ask him about his excessive anger at the misadventure of the Frenchman, Musso replies:

 

“If Behra didn’t rock, Ascari would have had a tough nut to crack. In the meantime, I could perhaps have put between my wheels and those of Ascari a very considerable advantage with the consequences easy to draw".

 

The Grand Prix car held on Sunday at the Valentino circuit has fully maintained the premises with which it had appeared, at the very last moment, in the calendar of the beginning of the season. The observations that emerged in the Turin race were on the technical level of sure interest, and essentially concern the test, of Lancia’s Formula 1 cars at their third exhibition in the race. After the race, the three Lancia’s Formula 1 cars that dominated the Grand Prix of Valentino were immediately taken over by Mattei, Levizzari and Navone, the three loyal designers Jano. A few hours after the triumphant sprint, technicians and mechanics of the Turin workshop are back to work around the cars.

 

"Valentino has shown that our cars can withstand the gruelling pace of a Grand Prix. They will face in Pau and Monaco average speed of about one hundred km/h, which is very nervous. Then they will go to Belgium, where the average speed will be around 180 km/h. The Lancia will then be tested on different types of circuit. At the end of these races, we will really have the confirmation that our efforts have achieved the goal. Naturally, the result of Sunday’s Grand Prix gives us hope".

 

Says the director of Scuderia Lancia, Pasquarelli.

 

"All the programme, except Pau and Monaco, is drawn up in principle, since the economic agreements are to be defined. From Naples, for the competition of May 8, urgent invitations continue to arrive. It will be difficult, however, to answer affirmatively, despite the best will".

 

After eight days from the dull performance of Valentino, Monday, April 4, 1955 Piero Taruffi wins with the Ferrari 118 LM the fifteenth Tour of Sicily, the race that starts the cycle of great road racing. This classic event has a long tradition, connecting to the Targa Florio, which is the oldest race in the world. The route of the Giro - a complete tour of 1080 kilometres - is the most difficult one can imagine, with its 11,000 turns, its steep slopes, and the crossings of cities and villages. The drivers say that this is an even more exhausting race than the Mille Miglia, because it does not allow a single moment of relaxation. The fact that Piero Taruffi won with a new car, the 3750 six-cylinder that debuted in January in Buenos Aires in the 1000 kilometres, is the most interesting technical fact of the race in Palermo, because this Ferrari is destined to represent the flagship model of the Scuderia Ferrari. Wednesday, April 6, 1955 the Lancia cars leave during the night in the specially equipped truck, driven by the popular Villoresi, who travels in the direction of Pau accompanied by Commander Jano, as well as by the director Pasquarelli and other technicians and mechanics.

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Lancia will undergo an interesting and new race test on the street circuit of Pau, reminiscent, as characteristics, of the circuit of Monaco, second round of the World Championship, which the Turin house cares a lot for, while Ferrari renounces its participation to dedicate itself to the preparation of the Sportscars participating in the Mille Miglia, and of the new Formula 1 cars. On the eve of the Pau Grand Prix, the fight between Lancia and Maserati promises to be close. In the practice held on April 10, 1955, Ascari prevailed over Behra for a minimum fraction, in a day characterized by a scary accident that excited the audience. While the tests are being carried out, due to the rupture of the oil pipe of Simon’s car, a large and slimy patch forms on the track, on which Simon himself spins without consequences; however, De Portago, in order to avoid the oil stain, comes out of the track and ends his race against the barrier of compressed straw. In the race, Behra succeeds against Castellotti, who comes second, and Ascari, who finishes the race in fourth place, behind his friend Luigi Villoresi. Ferrari, which on 11 April 1955 is absent from the race in Pau, returns to the competitions participating in the Grand Prix of Bordeaux, while Lancia, also invited to this Grand Prix, cannot comply with the requests of the organizers. The House of Prancing Horse, after the Circuit of Valentino, has withdrawn its Formula 1 cars, disassembling and reviewing them in every part, before entrusting two of his machines to Farina and Trintignant. The Turin driver left in the morning of Thursday, April 21, 1955 and, via Ventimiglia, reached the French city to start training.

 

" I already ran a couple of seasons ago in Bordeaux, but I had to retire after the fastest lap. It is a street track, at medium, not very high speed. The average speed will be 130 km/h. For Indianapolis, as far as I know, Ferrari is working hard to prepare a special car, but it is not known if it will be sent across the Atlantic by May 30, 1955. Indianapolis has a special charm for every driver: I would like to try this new experience for me".

 

Alberto Ascari, who was announced by some agency as a likely participant in the US competition on a Ferrari, has ruled out wanting to try the adventure across the Atlantic this year. Despite the good conditions for Ferrari, Sunday 24 April 1955 Jean Behra and the Maserati are the great protagonists of the Grand Prix of Bordeaux, won after a fierce duel that puts him first to Maurice Trintignant and then to Giuseppe Farina, after being forced to withdraw from an irreparable mechanical failure, replaces the French, victim of an indisposition due to the great heat that reigns in the Bordeaux region. Farina’s efforts, author among other things of a spectacular - and fortunately without consequences - spin that puts the exit from a bend in the reverse position to that of the race, are vain: Ferrari, not yet at point, nothing can contend for the individual victory of the French champion and that no less significant team Maserati. The following week, Ferrari is again engaged in the race fields. Saturday, April 30, 1955, at 9:00 p.m., the twenty-second edition of the Mille Miglia begins. Over 550 crews out of 643 subscribers, a record number, will begin the gigantic marathon of 1597 kilometres, and the departures will last until 7:28 the following morning. In these last feverish hours of waiting, the garages, the gates, the courtyards of Brescia and surroundings regurgitate machines and mechanics intent on finishing touches. In the afternoon, the verification of the machines in Piazza della Vittoria is completed, paved with advertising banners and bubbling of the usual compact and noisy crowd that does not miss a beat of what happens inside the two fences reserved for punching. The order is generally maintained, but when the teams of the three great rival teams, namely the Mercedes that arrives Friday, April 29, 1955, and the Ferrari and Maserati that instead arrive the next day, the barriers hold even a moment, and drivers and machines are so close in a siege that is close and inexorable. The challenge between the three car manufacturers is very important, and to prove this, Fangio runs the track eight times, while his teammates Kling, Moss and Hermann do it even sixteen times. Indeed, the German company has disposed, among other things, of special and very fast light trucks, driven by the 300 SL engine of the three-litre grand turismo, with over 200 HP, which were used to bring up and down from Stuttgart the cars prepared for the race and that needed changes from time to time. In this regard, it seems that in the environment of Mercedes there is some concern for the brakes. It is Fangio himself who would have let Dorino Serafini understand him in a brief stop in Pesaro, during his penultimate training lap, adding that Mercedes starts to win at any cost.

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The cars of Stuttgart, all 300 SLR models with cylinders of 3000 cc, differ slightly in the bodywork: those of Fangio and Kling, who leave alone on board, have the specs of the single-seater, while the cars of the other two have a double tail fairing and large wraparound windshield. Moss’s competition partner will be fellow countryman Jenkinson, a bearded journalist. To give an idea of the preparation of the Mercedes drivers, it must be taken into account that each of them has trained for a long time even to make any small makeshift repairs: wheel change, clutch adjustment, replacement of candles, etc. The men of Ferrari will have powerful six cylinders of 3747 cc. Even Taruffi (who consumes with his touring car, more than 4.000 litres of gasoline to study the route), Castellotti and Maglioli (who however still has an aching wrist) have completed about fifteen laps each. As for Maserati, Musso and Perdisa start with the eight litres; Giardini, Scarlatti, Bellucci and Maria Teresa De Filippis with the 2000; Giro Valenzano (which is at its seventh Mille Miglia, although it is only thirty-four years old), with the new 1600. The participation of Vittorio Marzotto, who could not train being in the classroom of Montecitorio, is difficult, while Luigi Villoresi starts with a Fiat 600. Shortly before the start of the race, engineer Neubauer, technical director of Mercedes, is silent as a monument, while Fangio, cued by journalists in the verification precinct lets himself release some statements, confessing that he is definitely afraid of Ferrari, because driven by Taruffi, Maglioli and Paolo Marzotto. For the Argentine, the Maserati is a wild card, therefore it does not advance any forecast, however he knows that he has to deal also with the other House of Modena.

When asked if he considers being forced to tread on others as a handicap, Fangio answers:

 

"I go as fast as I can and I don’t have to think about what others do. The fundamental prerogative when facing the Mille Miglia is to be cautious at the beginning in order to have sufficient reserves of physical energy and mechanical possibilities to cope with the tightening of others in the final part. In fact, the Mille Miglia is won on the Apennines".

 

For Ferrari, the order to follow is to respect the precise timetables for a meticulously calculated long time (and it is easy to see Taruffi’s intervention here), while Maserati leaves carte blanche to the drivers, not having any pre-ordered plan. Sunday 1 May 1955, the great Ferrari vs Mercedes fight for the record of the twenty-second edition of the Mille Miglia is resolved in favour of the German cars. And if the Scuderia Ferrari can advance valid mitigating factors to justify the progressive failure of its vehicles (inexplicable, subsequent tread disconnections of the rear tyres on two cars, before; issue to an accessory organ of the power supply on the car in Taruffi later, just at the crucial moment of the ride), the truly sensational average speed held by the winner Stirling Moss, 157.650 km/h, more than 12 km/h higher than the previous average speed record has to be observed, to illustrate better than any speech the exceptional qualities of the new car that Mercedes has built for the great tests of world Sportscar championship. The twenty-second Mille Miglia has in its first two thirds, that is up to Viterbo, a very eventful appearance, full of twists and exciting phases; then, the situation stabilizes in Moss’s linear drive, with which he flew to the finish line of Brescia without however decreasing the pace of the race, and indeed still raising the average speed. After the initial leap from the start at the first checkpoint of Ravenna from the experimental Ferrari 4500 of Castellotti, on the Adriatic roads the young driver from Lodi complains about a double detachment of the rear treads and abandons, replaced at the command by Taruffi. He reaches Pescara at almost 190 km/h of average speed, followed by the Mercedes of Moss, Herrmann, Kling and Fangio (whose engine appears, of the four, the least efficient). In the Adriatic city, the predominance of Italian cars ends: in Rome, Moss is first. Heading north, Taruffi tries to attack, but something of the car gives up shortly after Viterbo, clearing the way for the German cars; except Kling, who in the meantime went off the road just outside the capital. In the dynamics of the accident, two people are injured. At km 8.300 of Via Cassia, his Mercedes skids a kerbstone with one of the front wheels and goes out of the road. Two spectators are grazed, but one of them receives the parachute. Both are hospitalized. Even the driver is injured, so much that in the emergency room they find a fractured rib and a lumbar contusion. Retired on Futa also Herrmann, with the car damaged by a collision, Moss precedes with great advantage Fangio, pressed by the Maserati 3000 of the young surprising Perdisa, who had passed Maglioli, which struggles with mechanical problems. But soon after Perdisa is stopped by a gearbox fault, and the Mille Miglia has no more history. 

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After the unfolding of the Mille Miglia, third round of the Sportscar World Championship (after the 1000 Kilometres of Buenos Aires and the 12 Hours of Sebring), the standings still see Ferrari in the lead with 18 points, followed by Maserati at 11, Mercedes and Jaguar at 8, The Porsche with 3 points, the Gordini with 2 and the Austin-Healey with 1. The situation is therefore still favourable to the Italian colours, which will have to try again in the next round, the famous 24 Hours of Le Mans, the difficult revenge of the Mille Miglia. Engineer Neubauer, technical director of Mercedes, even before the end of the test, is sure that his cars would win. Therefore, with typically German phlegm, he does not go to the finish line to wait for his drivers, preferring instead to sit on a wooden box, at the Fiat branch, in the enclosure where all the cars will gather at the end of the race.

 

"Mercedes drivers race without any pre-ordered plans. Each of them is completely free to race, as he believes. I have more faith in machines than in tactics".

 

Tells Neubauer to the journalists. Then, Moss’s entry into the Fiat enclosure surprised him in these considerations. Neubauer gets up, jumping easily from his box, and goes to meet the English driver and his companion, hugging them, both visibly moved.

 

"It was a great test, a great test: you also demolished the Mille Miglia record".

 

The director of Mercedes exclaimed, before giving Moss the opportunity to comment on his test:

 

"The car worked like clockwork, and all along the way I only had a moment of fear. I don’t know which locality we were crossing: suddenly a dog appeared before me and I instinctively pressed on the brake. The car spun a frightening spin but the accident had no consequences. I turned the wheel and left faster than before".

 

Then comes Fangio, followed by new hugs and congratulations. The Argentine of course is not as satisfied as Moss:

 

"It was the fuel injector that ruined my day. It failed already in the first few kilometres and I could not go as fast as I wanted".

 

Meanwhile, on May 2, 1955, in Modena, Giuseppe Farina and Alberto Ascari try a new Ferrari, whose characteristics are kept secret, so much that the test, which is held around 12:00 a.m., is top secret. Maserati also tested its new Sportscar, called 150 S, which underwent a real endurance test. Behra, Mieres, Musy, and the Italians Rossi and Santovecchi alternated seamlessly at the wheel of the car. The Posillipo Grand Prix, scheduled for Sunday, May 8, 1955, this year is really important due to the official participation of Lancia. The Turin manufacturer decides to send two Formula 1 cars to Naples on Sunday, which will be entrusted to Ascari and Villoresi. The young Castellotti, tired from the demanding race in the Mille Miglia, will be left to rest. The Naples one will be the fourth race of the season of the new Lancia cars: in Argentina it did not go very well, then came the triumphal success in Turin followed by the second place of Castellotti in Pau, behind Jean Behra’s Maserati. In the French competition, Lancia had been in the lead for most of the race, but a banal accident had stopped Ascari. At Posillipo, the Turin drivers are hoping for a revenge on Maserati, which will be complete. Behra, Mieres, Musso and perhaps Perdisa will run for the trident house. The Neapolitan circuit is not very fast and can seriously engage the cars in the race. The big Lancia van with the two red Formula 1 cars on board leaves Wednesday, May 4, 1955, for Naples; Ascari and Villoresi will reach the city of Vesuvius traveling on their personal cars. On Friday morning, however, Vittorio Jano, the sports director Pasquarelli, the test driver Levizzani and a timekeeper will leave Turin for Naples by plane. Lancia has carefully prepared its cars for this race, carrying out a series of tests in Monza and in the workshop. When going from testing to racing, however, surprises are always possible, and Pasquarelli, team director, will not be quiet until after the end of the race. Ferrari will be absent from Naples, which do not seem to be ready yet. 

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There was talk, instead, of a participation of the Modena company in the Silvestone races scheduled for next Saturday, with two cars entrusted to Farina and Trintignant, but even this eventuality seems to be excluded. Farina is in Turin and has not received any instructions. The absence of Ferrari from Naples, however, does not take away interest in the Neapolitan race. Moreover, the current intense automotive activity has a single purpose, that is to prepare drivers and cars for the great race in Monaco, the second race valid for the Formula 1 World Championship, in which Italian manufacturers will face the threat of Mercedes. Sunday, May 8, 1955, the day after the BRDC International Trophy in Silverstone, only ten cars are registered. Starting from pole position, Ascari immediately takes the lead of the race, followed by Luigi Musso and Jean Behra on Maserati. During the race, the French driver crashes in the difficult downhill corner after the finish and loses four laps for repairs to the pits, while Ascari continues with a regular pace but is able to gradually increase its advantage until the conquest of the second seasonal success. On Sunday, May 22, 1955, after a long wait, Monte-Carlo returned to host a Formula 1 Grand Prix. After the great tussle that took place there in 1950, the Monaco Grand Prix was no longer organized, precisely because the course had all of a sudden seemed unsuitable for Formula 1 cars. Now, however, this famous race is being revived in grand style and has the good fortune to coincide with the renewal of the exciting confrontation between the Italian manufacturers Lancia, Maserati and Ferrari on one side and Mercedes on the other. The anticipation of this first Grande Epreuve was strongly felt throughout Europe for some weeks, and the entry proves to be one of the finest seen for many a year. It is the first 1955 appearance in Europe of the W196 Mercedes-Benz cars and in view of the fact that the Monaco circuit is a tortuous one, the Stuttgart firm built two special cars for the race. These are shorter in the wheelbase than any previous models, and as a result there is no room for the inboard brakes at the front, so these are mounted normally, on the wheel hubs. At the same time, there is a great weight reduction, with the lack of drive shafts and universals; at the rear, the brakes remain in the normal position. Other than this major alteration, the two short-chassis cars are similar to the Argentine models, though the car given to Fangio has the engine mounted slightly farther forward, while the car driven by Moss has it in the normal position, relative to the driver that is. 

 

Having no knowledge on the handling of these very short cars, the Mercedes-Benz engineers make the two cars slightly different in order to learn something. Their third entry is a long-chassis car with all four brakes inboard and in the hands of Herrmann, as Kling is not fully recovered from his Mille Miglia accident. Gordini enters a team of three cars, Manzon and Pollet with the earlier chassis models, but the former car now fitted with Messier disc brakes, and Bayol on the only 1955 model. Then Rosier and Simon are down to compete with their private Maserati and Macklin with the Moss’s one, with disc brakes, Dunlop wheels and all. Two Vanwalls are entered, with Hawthorn and Wharton as drivers, while the Lancia team has four entries, the drivers being their regular three, Ascari, Villorresi and Castellotti, with the fourth car loaned to Chiron, for old-time’s-sake. Four official Maserati are in the hands of Behra, Mieres, Musso and the new boy Perdisa, and to complete the entry, Ferrari has two Tipo 553 cars and two Tipo 625 models, the drivers being Farina, Trintignant, Schell and X. Finally, the lone independent Whiteaway, with his HWM and, out of this formidable list of runners, only twenty are going to be allowed to start, being the choice based on the organisers and obviously on practice times. Originally, the three practice periods were planned for the earlier hours of the morning on the Thursday, Friday and Saturday before the race, but certain teams pointed out the impossibility of trying to carburate at 6:00 a.m. for a race to be held at 3:00 p.m., so Thursday sees the practice changed to the afternoon. Another dubious rule has been inserted in the regulations, which says that only the times recorded on Thursday will count for the front row of the starting grid, the rest of the rows being decided in the early morning practices. This is to encourage drivers to try hard on the opening practice and thus induce the public to pay to come and watch that practice, and needless to say, the idea is not at all popular with the drivers, many of whom have not driven before on this difficult winding 3.145-kilometre circuit. The only drivers that are not out for the first practice are Hawthorn, whose Vanwall is delayed by the Channel crossing, Wharton, who is going to be a non-starter after his Silverstone accident, Macklin, as Moss’s Maserati is still being rebuilt, and the complete Gordini team, who are simply not ready. 

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Fangio and Moss are soon in their stride and Ascari, using Castellotti’s car, is not far behind, while a fourth Mercedes-Benz, another long-chassis car, is being driven by engineer Uhlenhaut, so that he can find out what the circuit is all about and know what the drivers mean if they complain about the cars. Farina is trying both a Ferrari 555 and a 625, the latter fitted with new brakes that are bigger and better than before. It is not long before the usual practice split-second battle begins between Fangio, Moss and Ascari, with the Italian now on his own Lancia and also at time on the Turin team’s spare car. They have five present cars, all fitted with yet another type of oil cooler, this time having a normal oil radiator mounted on each side of the cockpit, between the body and the pannier fuel tank. As would be expected, Behra is the fastest Maserati driver and, although he joins in the dice for the front row, he cannot approach the two short chassis Mercedes-Benz cars. During this practice period, Herrmann has a bad slide at the top of the hill before the Casino and goes through a stone palisade, wrecking the car and damaging his leg and his lungs, while Schell brakes one of the 555 Ferraris so that the end of practice sees only the Lancia learn feeling happy and confident. The result of the battle for the front row is in the following order: Fangio, Ascari, Moss, Castellotti, Mehra, Trintignant, Villoresi and Musso, the rest being some way behind, so the first three can rest easy. Next morning sees practice start just before 6 AM, and this time Gordini has his three cars out, the lone Vanwall appears, driven by Hawthorn, and Macklin is present. Ferrari are undecided about their race order, but Farina wants to drive the 625 with the new brakes, still refusing to get used to the handling of the Super Squalo, Trintignant is given the second 625 and Schell one of the new ones. For the second new car, they bring in Taruffi and Frere and they both practice, to see who will start in the race. Towards the end of practice, Moss tries the short Mercedes-Benz which was to be used by Fangio and gets within one-tenth of a second of the Argentinian’s time, whereas on his own car he is more than two seconds slower. Although Moss is not very happy about this, the engineers are instead, for they have learnt a great deal more about weight distribution. With Herrmann out of the race, Simon is co-opted into the Mercedes-Benz team, with Le Mans as the long-term view, and he is given the spare long-chassis car and begins the difficult task of learning how to control the really fast Grand Prix car. Another driver who is trying to convince himself he can deal with a 1955 Grand Prix machine is Chiron and he is making steady progress, but not lapping terribly fast. The Vanwall, with its fuel-injection and Amal GP carburetor bodies, used as air intakes and for providing throttle, is sounding its usual crisp self and going quite well. Behra is now getting into his stride and Castellotti is still showing a great form. 

 

On the third day, the session was due to start at 6:15am, but Macklin pours oil all over the track from the green Maserati and there is a 40 minute delay while the mess is cleared up and some rude words are exchanged. All the time the weather is proving perfect, and the last practice period sees the top boys trying all they knew, though the reason why is difficult to understand, for the front row is already decided. Despite this, Ascari turns 1'41"1, equalling Fangio’s best for Thursday, just to show the Germans that Lancia is going well, and Fangio replies with a one-tenth of a second slower lap and then Castellotti goes at 1'42"0, which surprises everyone and probably himself as well, and practice finishes with everything at fever pitch and excitement high for the race. As an interlude, Uhlenhaut drives Moss’s Maserati. On Sunday, May 22, 1955, the weather in the Principality of Monaco is excellent: clear skies, packed grandstands, and bright sunshine provide the backdrop for the event. The circuit is 3.145 kilometres long and a total of one hundred laps will be run on it, equivalent to 314.5 kilometres. In the pre-race, a light blue Lancia Aurelia B24 Spider, driven by members of the organization, makes a lap of the track to check that everything is fit to start. Starting at 2:45 p.m., the Grand Prix is to run over 100 laps of the tiny circuit and everyone is anticipating a great deal of bumping and is eager to be indulged in with so many top Grand Prix cars and drivers on the grid. Out of the total entries, Macklin and Whiteaway did not qualify and 20 cars line up on the quayside facing towards the gasworks hairpin, with Fangio, Ascari and Moss on the front row, last year’s World Champion being on the inside; behind are Castellotti and Behra, followed by Mieres, Villoresi and Musso, Trintignant in the best Ferrari, with Simon alongside and the others in threes and twos behind. At flag-fall there is nothing to choose between the leaders and out of the hairpin Mercedes-Benz leads Lancia with a thundering horde right behind them. Fangio appears out of the tunnel on this far side of the quay, well ahead of Castellotti, Moss, Ascari, Behra and the rest and away goes the Argentinian to build up a lead. After five laps, Moss scrabbles past Castellotti but by now Fangio is about seven seconds ahead and so, when the turmoil begins to settle a bit and things take some semblance of order, Fangio still leads. 

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At lap 10, he is nine seconds in front of Moss, who is the same distance ahead of a close trio comprised of Castellotti, Ascari and Behra, the first two overtaking each other continuously, then comes Mieres running alone, to be followed by another dicing trio, Villoresi, Perdisa and Trintignant. Schell and Hawthorn are in close company, and the rest is beginning to struggle, with Farina right at the back having dented his car’s nose on someone’s tail on the starting melee and been pushed to the back. So close are the cars in the opening laps that nearly everyone has dents at front or back, and Rosier has spun completely and wiped off the tail of his car, the oil tank later coming adrift. Fangio and Moss are well out on their own, while Ascari is being harassed by Castellotti and then Behra passes both Lancia and takes third place. At 20 laps the gap between the two short-chassis Mercedes-Benz cars is still around 9sec, but they are more than that much in front of Behra’s Maserati and the two Lancia. Trintignant gets past his two opponents and begins to get closer to Mieres who is in sixth place, and on lap 23 Hawthorn is overdue, arriving later with a broken throttle linkage on the Vanwall and having to retire. Simon bursts the engine on his Mercedes-Benz, Musso has broken his Maserati and Manzon and Taruffi have been at the pits, the furious pace beginning to tell. The leaders are lapping, at 1’46” and soon Moss closes up on his teammate and the two cars run a few feet apart, in complete control of the race and seemingly all set to give a Mercedes-Benz demonstration. On lap 35, Castellotti hits a kerb and the following lap a rear tyre goes down and he stops to change it, refuelling at the same time, and then Behra calls into his pit with trouble, all of which leave Ascari securely in third place, but more than 40 seconds behind Fangio. Trintignant has caught and overtaken Mieres, but now the Maserati driver is beginning to retaliate and they are having a private race together, while Castellotti is working his way up from ninth place, to which he has dropped. Perdisa has been consistent, shaking off Villoresi, but when Moss laps him, he tends to get in the way, and the Mercedes-Benz driver gave him a severe talking-to as he eventually gets past. On lap 50, just halfway through the race, Fangio comes to a sudden halt on the far side of the circuit, by the railway station, when his transmission brakes, and Moss appears past the pits on his own; then Behra and Perdisa are flagged into the pits together and they change cars and go off again, the Frenchman now being seventh and having regained the lap he lost due to his pit stop. 

 

With only Moss and Ascari on the same lap, the race begins to settle down, with a 84-second gap between the two cars on lap 60, and when on lap 65 Mieres has the transmission of his Maserati broken, just after he has overtaken Trintignant again, the result seems settled. Moss is driving steadily and smoothly and, although Ascari is resigned to second place he is now being attacked by Perdisa, for the young Maserati driver, having been lapped by Ascari, suddenly begins to drive at a furious pace and sets right behind the Lancia. This goes on lap after lap and Ascari just cannot get rid of the Maserati on his tail, while Moss is beginning to make up a full lap on the Italians, and everyone is expecting to see when he will lap the Italian champion. As has happened so often to Moss, what was going to be a certain victory is snatched from his grasp, but this time with unexpected additional drama. As he completes lap 81, a cloud of smoke pours from under the bonnet as the engine bursts and spews oil onto the exhaust pipes and he enters the pits. While most people are watching to see if anything can be done to the Mercedes-Benz, Ascari is coming down the hill approaching the chicane leading onto the promenade, still with Perdisa just behind him, and then without warning, the Lancia slid straight across the road, crashes through the straw bales and sand-bags and goes over the edge to plunge down into 15 feet of water, the hot engine sending up an enormous cloud of steam. For some moments there is chaos, and while frogmen in wetsuits swim to where the Lancia has disappeared and boats speed across the harbour, Ascari resurfaces and is retrieved suffering only front a slight cut on the nose, but very lucky to have escaped drowning. In a few seconds, the whole race has changed completely, Trintignant is now left in the lead, followed by Castellotti and Behra, but the Maserati spins almost immediately and stalls, and now Perdisa moves up into third place. At last, the excitement dies down and the last ten laps close quietly, with a very surprised Trintignant as the winner, the Ferrari team finding it hard to believe, and Castellotti in second place. Farina keeps profiting by retirements and climbs to fourth place, followed by Villoresi, Chiron, who has kept his Lancia going steadily, Pollet with the only Gordini, with the second 555 Ferrari, shared by Taruffi and Frere, in eighth place. The other car of this type driven by Schell has disappeared in a cloud of smoke. As in complete anti-climax, Moss pushes his broken Mercedes-Benz to the line to be classified ninth and last.

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Maurice Trintignant wins for the first time in his career aboard the Ferrari 625, followed by Eugenio Castellotti’s Lancia, while Perdisa completes the podium, detached by a lap. One lap behind the winner there are Farina and Villoresi, respectively on Ferrari and Lancia, while the rest of the classified, nine drivers in total, accumulate over five laps of delay. It should be noted that, in the standings, the ninth position of Stirling Moss at nineteen laps behind is recorded, since the British driver, at the end of the race, pushes the car parked in the pits over the finish line, in fact winning the position. A meager consolation for Juan Manuel Fangio, who manages to snatch an extra point getting the fastest lap in the race with a time of 1'42"4. At the end of the second stage, Trintignant leads the world ranking with 11.33 points, followed by Fangio at 10, Farina with 6.33 and Castellotti with 6 points. After the unexpected conclusion of this dramatic European Grand Prix, everyone is still shocked by the spectacular accident that happened to Alberto Ascari. An accident that only a miracle prevented what could have resulted in a tragedy. Never in a car race has something like this happened. In this regard, many experts say that the Monte-Carlo circuit, as classic as it is, does not at all have those reasonable safety requirements that are indispensable when it comes to making a world championship car race. At the point where it happened, the road is narrow and the bottom is not made of asphalt, on which the tyres can have the correct grip, but of polished concrete tiles. In fact, this stretch of the circuit takes place on the paved sea promenade for pedestrians and not for vehicles. 

 

This fact can partially, but very vaguely, explain the circumstances that generated the initial skid of Ascari’s Lancia. There are even three eyewitnesses of the accident. One asserts that Ascari was blinded by the cloud of smoke that Moss's car was spreading. This smoke inside the tunnel, a hundred meters long, preceding the offending point, would have completely cancelled the visibility. So, the driver may have been off course. It must be noted that the chicane forms in this point a kind of them for which the attitude of the car changes direction twice. Others claim that the car bumped into the right sidewalk, bouncing off the other side with its nose facing the sea. Finally, the third version. Moss's Mercedes would have left a patch of oil on which Ascari would have slipped without being able to control his car, leaving the road after breaking the light barrier of straw bales, and passing between two large docking pylons. The driver is literally catapulted out of the car seat and into the water about twenty meters from the car. Fortunately, Ascari was not injured enough to prevent him to emerge immediately and to reach with four strokes a boat that in the meantime had immediately headed towards him and that picks him up, then approaching shore. Ascari loses blood from a shallow cut in the nose and after a brief dressing, is transported to the American hospital of Monte-Carlo. Lying on the bed, with a band-aid on his nose, Ascari quietly tells his wife and a small group of visitors, including Luigi Vilioresi, the young Perdisa, Ugolini, Amorotti and Meazza, of Ferrari, the terrible moments experienced:

 

"I can’t figure out how it happened. Coming out of the tunnel I braked like every lap in that point: I don’t know if there was any oil on the ground, but the car went sideways, hit the sidewalk and jumped on the other side, pointing clearly outwards and passing very tightly between two iron pylons, while I literally flew in a dive that never ended. Really, I got off easy. But water is better than a wall anyway. The day before yesterday, while I was walking along the circuit with Villoresi, we had stopped right there and I had said: you could go to the bathroom, here. Well, these are not hunches".

 

Ascari tells us, as Stirling Moss arrives to shake his friend’s hand:

 

"And to think you could win".

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Admits Moss by speaking French with Alberto. On Monday, May 23, 1955, the doctors performed an X-ray because Ascari felt a pain, not strong, at the hip, before signing the discharge sheet at about 10:00 a.m. to allow him to return to his home, in Milan. Meanwhile, the Ferrari mechanics, who until Saturday did not show confidence in their cars, celebrate an unexpected victory. Those who asked them why the cars did not go well, on Saturday the mechanics were shrugging or picking on this or something particular that did not want to know to go his way. On Sunday night and Monday, however, they are radiant, and they admit that, with a bit of luck, after all, Ferrari deserved it. The happiest of them all is engineer Aurelio Lampredi, Ferrari’s designer:

 

“We’re still alive, aren’t we? Good luck has helped us in an unexpected way, however, because German cars, Lancia and Maserati go very strong. We must have no illusions: there is a lot to work to keep up with. The future will be very hard because the Germans will prepare a revenge by all means".

 

Even Bazzi, the old Turin technician who is one of the most trustworthy elements of Enzo Ferrari, admits that:

 

"The races are like this, today is good for one, tomorrow for the other, but you almost never win without a pinch or even two of luck".

 

Fortunately or not, Ferrari in Monte Carlo has shown a great talent: that of keeping itself at everyone’s distance. Trintignant’s car did not miss a single shot, and Farina himself, without an unfortunate initial swipe against a step, would have most likely managed to finish close to the first two, if not better. However, the Turin ace has made a very courageous race, also because he was behind the wheel of a vehicle that, the day before, was judged to be significantly inferior to the others, and did not stop fighting until the last. Enzo Ferrari knows this well: the gap against Mercedes is substantial and difficult to fill for a small team like his. But being forced to admit the excessive power of Mercedes does not mean accepting it. Looking for new solutions and despite the contrary opinion of some of his closest collaborators, Ferrari gives its approval to the design and subsequent development of a two-litre and a half twin-cylinder engine, supported by its technical director, Aurelio Lampredi, whose long stay in Maranello led to see the master of the factory, who lacks his theoretical preparation, with a certain sufficiency less and less hidden. It will become famous a sentence pronounced by the Livorno technician to the address of a sceptical Enzo Ferrari just about the two-cylinder engine:

 

"Here, among many practitioners, the engineer is me".

 

The agreement between Ferrari and Lampredi includes a clause according to which, if the engine had not been performing, the technician would have left Maranello. This will happen punctually after the twin-cylinder engine will be mounted on the bench and will not produce more than 160 horsepower.


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