Throughout the years, Giuseppe Farina received important proposals made by Mercedes but always rejected them. The former world champion, who still hasn’t got a contract for this season except for the Indy 500, is invited to test both the Vanwall and the B.R.M. in England. He’ll be testing a direct injection car, made by the London based team, at Silverstone. He is close to the track record after a couple of laps at the wheel of the Vanwall, which he had set some years ago in a Ferrari. He then suggests some changes to apply to the car. He is then called by B.R.M. after the Silverstone test. The Boum based team (160 kilometers from London) show him one of the nine cars which are still in a preparation phase. In 20 days, Nino will come back to England to test the car and he’ll also decide whether to sign a contract or not. As everyone knows, Schell would be his teammate at Vanwall while Hawthorn and Brooke would be his teammates if he signs with B.R.M. Meanwhile, the Temporada Argentina is continuing with the 1000 kilometers of Buenos Aires on Sunday 29th January 1956. 26 cars, representing 12 nations, are attending the race. The race is immediately exciting with the duel between the Ferraris of Gendebien-Hill, Musso-Collins and Fangio-Castellotti and the Maseratis. Fangio takes the lead at the start of the race, followed by Musso, Gendebie, Gonzalez, Fayen and the neapolitan driver Maria Teresa De Filippis, who is driving for Maserati. The defending world champion is lapping really fast. The previous lap was done at an average speed of over 157 kph. Behind him, the race is getting more and more interesting. On lap 27, Maria Teresa De Filippis is being blocked by another driver. She crashes out of the race after a series of spins. She’s fortunately unharmed and is able to leave her damaged machine to go to the medical center on her own legs.
She only has minor abrasions to her arms and her back. After the 30th lap, Castellotti replaces Fangio in the leading car whilst Collins is driving Musso’s car, since he is suffering from a burning foot. Castellotti and Collins battle for the lead but Moss recovers very quickly and takes the lead on lap 40. Soon after, Castellotti loses valuable time thanks to a flat tyre. Collins and Musso recover the disadvantage and retake the lead for a few laps before retiring on lap 60, following a mechanical breakdown. Fangio, who retakes the wheel of the Ferrari, Moss and Gendebien are dueling for the lead in the final part of the race. On lap 76, Moss is still leading but Fangio is pushing on the limit and is hot on his heels. He is only 6 seconds away. Anyway, on lap 89, Fangio is forced to retire due to a mechanical failure. Moss controls the race pace in the last 17 laps and goes on to win without risking too much. Behind him, Gendebien and Hill are classified 2nd whilst Gonzalez and Behra complete the podium in 3rd. The Temporada Argentina comes to an end on Sunday 6th February 1956 with the third international race of the season: the Buenos Aires Grand Prix for F1 cars. The race is actually held at the San Martin de Mendoza race track, a city which is about 1000 kilometers west of Buenos Aires. The competition, even if it’s held in a different venue, will always be attractive, just as the first two races that were held in the Municipal Autodrome of Buenos Aires. The Mendoza track is going to be very selective for the drivers: 4184 meters for 60 laps and a total race distance of 251 kilometers. It is a distance which is considered to be fit for such a technically interesting race, without adding up the difficulties of the previous races. The field of drivers is immediately considered a success.
Thousands of spectators are attending the race that are even coming from little towns in the Andes. The field is restricted to the best 13 drivers. Fangio, Collins, Gendebien, Castellotti and Musso will race for Ferrari. Stirling Moss Moss, Chico Laudi, Behra, Piotti, Pablo Gulle and Menditeguy. Mike Hawthorn and Alberto Uria will also race for Maserati. The duel between Ferrari and Maserati starts in the first practice sessions. Fangio takes pole position with a lap time of 1’48"7 on his 2500 Ferrari. It is a new track record. Luigi Musso is 2nd on the grid with a time of 1’49"2 on the second 2500 Ferrari. The Roma driver Castellotti does good lap times as well. Stirling Moss is the best driver among the Maserati drivers once again, with a time of 1’50’5 without taking too many risks with the car. He put himself in the élite of the drivers. 12 drivers will start the race in the traditional Argentinian heat, given that Alberto Uria will not attend. The start is incredibly quick, spectacular and exciting. Luigi Pirotti’s car catches fire due to a fuel leak. Fortunately, the driver escapes unharmed. However, the track is now very slippery as the fuel that came out of the tank makes the track difficult to judge. Castellotti immediately takes the lead, followed by Fangio and Musso. After 150 meters, though, Castellotti is overtaken by Fangio. On lap 4, Moss spins out but he’s able to control the car and restart. Behra overtakes Moss for 4th place. The British driver rejoins in 6th place, behind Menditeguy. On lap 7, Fangio is pushing and has a 3-second advantage over Castellotti while Behra and Menditeguy are battling for 4th. 20 meters separate the two drivers while Moss is a little bit further back. On lap 10, Piotti is lapped by Fangio. Castellotti is forced to retire 5 laps later for a mechanical breakdown. Some time before, on lap 9, Luigi Musso crashed out and retired in a dramatic fashion: the car locked, spun out and hit some hay bales. In the end, the race goes on without a hitch. After 60 laps, Fangio wins. Moss is 2nd ahead of Behra, Menditeguy and Collins.
Compared to the Argentinian GP, where the World Champion crushed the competition after recovering from a very compromised situation, Fangio wins in style this time out at Mendoza. He led every lap without showing, if you can call it, any emotion. When Stirling Moss’ Maserati started threatening the Argentine’s lead, his reaction was as immediate as apparently easy: there is nothing that the British driver can do in order to win. The latter desperately wants to be the best driver in the motorsport world. Fangio’s position was quite delicate after his teammates Musso and Castellotti had to retire. Musso retired during the first third of the race in a dramatic way even if he was fortunately unschathed. Collins and Gendebien were instead packed in the midfield. Fangio couldn’t make any mistakes and his Ferrari had to be reliable. Ferrari has the best car but Maserati isn’t too far away in terms of performance. That’s what everyone understood after the two F1 Argentinian races. The Ferrari is really good but still needs some minor changes in order to reach complete reliability. There are slight adjustments to make in order to achieve a more complete resistance to stress, especially in the hands of less sensitive drivers. Fangio is not included in this category in this instance. Maserati honorably loses to Ferrari at the Buenos Aires and Mendoza races. In Formula 1, it is likely that the Maserati V8 cars are still a little bit slower than Ferrari. The Maserati mechanics, working in the HQ that is located in Via Menotti, are working under far more pressure than the Ferrari guys. This South American experience has been very precious for Maserati, in sight of the great duels of spring and summer.
In Sportscar racing, the positions are inverted. The less powerful 3000 cc Maserati car has beaten the strong 4900 cc Ferraris, thanks to their better reliability. This 3000 cc Maserati is such a great car. It is a car that has been trialed and is capable of winning the constructors’ championship after gaining 8 crucial points at the end of the Argentina race. The 4900 cc Ferrari is much faster than the Maserati in terms of top speed with its 360 engine horsepower. This Ferrari is also quite handy but needs improvements on the reliability of the gearbox and the transmission. It is perhaps stressed beyond the breaking limits. This problem will be solved for sure and the car will be unbeatable on circuits like Le Mans and Carrera Messicana. On Sunday 26th February 1956, Maurice Trintignant wins the Agadir race at the wheel of a Ferrari. American Harry Shell finishes a close 2nd even though Jean Behra led for most of the race. The French driver retired on lap 90 for a mechanical issue. André Pilette crashes out while running in second position and breaks his collarbone. Trintignant scores his second consecutive victory at the Dakar Grand Prix on the 11th March 1956, at the wheel of a 3000 cc Ferrari. Harry Schell comes home 2nd while Jean Behra finishes 3rd on his Maserati. On Saturday 24th March 1956, the World Sportscar Championship resumes in Florida with the ultimate challenge: the 12 hours of Sebring. Four factory teams are gonna duel for the ultimate prize: Ferrari, Maserati, Jaguar and Aston Martin. This British-Italian duel is going to be really interesting. It’s not only Ferrari vs Maserati or Fangio vs Moss this time out. Jaguar and Aston Martin are really competitive and have really good crews.Fangio-Castellotti and Musso-Schell will be racing for Ferrari.
Behra-Perdisa and Taruffi-Menditeguy will be driving for Maserati, Hawthorn-Walters for Jaguar and Moss-Collins for Aston Martin. The grid is highly competitive even without considering the others. Fangio is not present. He is still stuck in Argentina. He is under a political-administrative investigation by the Argentine Government. He is so popular in Argentina given that Argentine dictator Peron looks up to him. Fangio is in fact a businessman and an importer for Mercedes-Benz in Argentina, without mentioning other affairs that have gradually come rigged. However, his field of activity was mainly about automobiles. Whilst Peron is the dictator in Argentina, there is a traffic of import licences and arbitrary extra prizes for all the people who want to buy a new car. Anyway, Fangio is minding his own business. In the end, the investigation turns in his favor. The Government returns the passport to him since he is found innocent. Fangio is such a great driver and gentleman. Fangio enters the Sebring 12 Hours race as the favourite. Moss is not racing for Maserati in Sebring for a simple reason: he signed a contract to race full time in Formula 1 for Maserati and part-time in sportscar racing. He will also race partially for Aston Martin. It’s an important loss for Maserati for the standings, after the Buenos Aires 1000 kilometres race. After Agadir and Dakar, the 3000 cc Ferrari cars seem to be slightly better than the 3000 Maseratis. Let’s not forget that Maserati suffered from reliability issues in the two African races. Jaguar has excellent possibilities but their actual progress is still yet unknown. It’s interesting to see that Chevrolet is also racing. The American team will try to challenge the European constructors for the time, although there’s still some gap between their cars.
The Sebring race takes place at an old airport that is close to the city. The track is 8360 metres long. The race starts at 10 am on Saturday. There are going to be two different standings: the overall one and the ones based on the performance. The latter will take the cylinders into account. 60 cars are going to participate in the race. Magnoli and Seneli will not take part. The Alfa Romeo was shipped to Sebring by ship but the rough sea caused a fatal delay. The Italian car does not arrive in time for the race. On Thursday 22th March 1956, the organisers complete the grid by replacing Magnoli and Senel’s Alfa Romeo with the Cooper car of Americans Scott and Bum. The mayor of Sebring gives the command to get the race underway. The most famous American sports car race starts as scheduled in front of 55.000 spectators. After the signal, the drivers rush to their cars and start the engines. At the start of the race, Mike Hawthorn is the fastest driver on track. During the first hour, he has a 17-second lead over Stirling Moss in 2nd position and a 22-second advantage over Juan Manuel Fangio in 3rd. Hawthorn still leads at the start of the second hour. Soon after, though, Fangio overtakes both Moss and Hawthorn to take the lead of the race. In the meantime, some drivers retire. The Venezuelan Pola is disqualified. His car was left stranded in the middle of the race track since the driver is unable to restart it. Menditeguy crashes out in a scary accident: the car flips over and he is terribly wounded. He is taken to hospital and he is found to have a skull fracture as well as other lesions. At the end of the third hour, Hawthorn leads over Behra and Fangio. Hawthorn continues to the race, at the start of the fourth hour, with Fangio in 2nd position. Behra is relegated to 6th. During the fourth hour, both Moss and Collins have to retire due to an engine carburetor issue. During the sixth hour, the crew of Fangio and Castellotti is leading, followed by Hawthorn-Titteringhton. Musso and Shell are 90-second behind in 3rd. The top positions don’t change during the seventh hour. During the eighth hour, the Italian-Argentine crew retakes the lead. They are a full lap ahead of the Hawthorn-Titteringhton duo.
Castellotti, Fangio’s teammate, is still leading the race after nine hours of racing. There is then a plot twist during the tenth hour. Hawthorn has to retire due to reliability issues, whilst Fangio and Castellotti keep the lead at the wheel of the red rocket. The other Ferrari, driven by Musso and Schell, is 2nd. There’s the communication of another accident: Parnell and Brooks in the Aston Martin retire after crashing out from 4th, 5 laps down on the leader. The last part of the race doesn’t reserve any surprises. The Ferrari, driven by Fangio and the young Castellotti, finishes 1st. The victorious parade of the Ferrari can only be triumphant if you think of the way the other constructors were demolished by Fangio-Castellotti and Musso-Schell. Considering the speed of the Ferraris, Jaguar and Aston Martin’s resistance has crumbled. The Ferrari engine is the new 857/4C: a 4 cylinder 3428 cc that produces 280 horsepower at 5600 rpm: its debut is brilliant. Ferrari obviously overtakes Maserati in the constructors’ championship. Anyway, Maserati is hit by bad luck: Menditeguy has a scary crash. In the following days, the doctors find a double skull fracture after an X-ray exam. Fortunately, he’s slowly getting better. Behra and Taruffi suffered from reliability issues and ended up 5th. Regarding the Corvettes, the race went on as expected. The Corvette are touristic cars rather than sports cars. They thus couldn’t match the European cars. That’s why Fitch and Hangen’s 9th place finish overall must be considered as a good result. After the race, Fangio flies to Italy to finally meet Enzo Ferrari. They haven’t seen each other since the autumn of 1955. They meet in Modena at the Scuderia headquarters. The Argentine is accompanied by his girlfriend Andreina and, of course, by his manager Giambertone. Ferrari is very happy to have him in the team, such is the importance of a champion like him. Fangio even participates with Ferrari in some minor races like the Siracusa Grand Prix. Fangio, of course, accepts. As soon as he is back home from Geneva, where he went for a business trip, Giuseppe Farina rushes home to find an Easter Egg and a car seat on Friday 30th March 1956. Both are with a surprise inside. A friend gives him the traditional chocolate, a Consolata medal and a little superfluous ticket that says:
"Take it to Indianapolis".
The seat has been strengthened in Uncle Pinin’s factories. Before Farina, no Italian driver has had such a specifically equipped car and, above all, a car that is shaped in a special way, from the special shaped tyres to the chassis, to the disposal of the tanks and the plants. It takes into account the experiences that were made on the famous track that hides the good luck gold tile. His car is a Bardahl Ferrari Experimental. Bardahl is a lubricants company where the car takes its name from. Ferrari lends the engine, the famous 4500 cc. In the Osca garages in Bologna, there is work in progress on the Kurtis Kraft chassis. It’s an international combination. Farina’s car will be painted in red, like every other Italian race car. On Saturday 31st March 1956, around 1 pm, Farina does some practice laps. He is not pushing to the limit. Farina has to adapt to the car and understand it. The Italian driver already tested the car on the Via Emilia but couldn’t naturally test it on a road open to traffic. The first real test of the car, that he will drive at the Indy 500, is on Sunday 1st April 1956 at the catino of Monza. It is a simple contact. Farina says that he didn’t push too much. In reality, he laps at an average speed of over 184 kph. Many minor details are still to be developed on the car, starting with the rev counter. This object forces Farina, as soon as he comes to the circuit, to go back to Milan to get a new piece. Once back to Monza, he can finally sit on a special armchair, bodied in Pinin Farina’s factory, Giuseppe’s uncle. After testing ended, the Ferrari-Bardahl is sent to Bologna, where the steering wheel, gearbox and other parts will be modified in order to test the car again on Tuesday at Monza. The car and the driver will leave for the United States around mid April. The racing season, in the meantime, is in full fervor. There are races practically every week everywhere and the big spring races are imminent. In Italy, the Tour of Sicily is coming soon as well as the Siracusa Grand Prix and the famous Mille Miglia.
Teams, workshops and drivers are getting ready: there will be problems to solve for everyone and there will be new challenges. For the time being, people can only make predictions on the technical side, by analysing datas and news that came out from the environment close to the sport of the steering wheel. Interestingly, on Easter Monday, Stirling Moss wins in Goodwood on a brand new F1 spec Maserati. The win doesn’t seem to be exceptional but it actually is. The car has been fitted with a brand new engine that Maserati had been working on for a long time. It’s a six cylinder engine. The traditional carburetors have been replaced by a new injection system that Mercedes has recently adopted for their race cars. It’s not easy to explain this kind of system in a few lines. The carburetor has to mix, in the desired proportions, both air and gasoline which are necessary to the combustion. It has to send the mix of air and fuel in the cylinders by aspiration. It’s as old as the internal combustion engine. It was quite simple back then. Now it’s more complicated but it’s safe and reliable. There’s no carburetor in the diesel engine, where the fuel is injected, pulverised in a boiling part of the engine which is full of pure air. This air is compressed by the piston under a high pressure and it lights up, determining the active phase of the cycle. Even if they’re not based on the same principle, there’s a kind of analogy between the diesel engine and the petrol one which works by injection. Even here, there are little pumps, one per cylinder, that push the pulverised pure fuel - or the special fuel in the case of Grand Prix engines - in the combustion chamber. Here, the fuel mixes with the air pushed by the valve, creating the mix that the spark plug will light up. Very rapidly, this is how the direct injection system works. There are also less complex systems such as the indirect injection system: here, there’s no injection inside the cylinder.
It actually happens along the air intake duct. Anyway, Mercedes and Maserati adopt the direct injection system. This system offers more advantages than a carburetor: a better combustion and performance of the mixture, a better fuel distribution among the various cylinders and the possibility to use a higher engine compression. It also means more power, more recovery and more fuel efficiency. The new Maserati is now way better on accelerations and has a 15 horsepower advantage. In fact, Moss tests the car at Goodwood to check the new engine. Maserati, who noticed how the test went very well, is likely to run the direct injection cars at the imminent Syracuse Grand Prix or at Monaco, for the second race of the Formula 1 World Championship on 13th May. The balance of forces with the Ferraris doesn’t exclude a priori the success of the attempt. The realisation of the new Maserati, kept under secret until now, seems to present innovative aspects compared to the Mercedes. Concerning the injection for a moment, it seems likely that, from the exasperating experience of the racing employment, new horizons can be also opened for normal tourism engines. In other words, the direct injection system may be destined to move, in the short term, to road cars. It will happen as soon as the system is perfected and as soon as production costs will decrease. In fact, the costs to convert this system from race cars to road cars are still too high, because of the precision required in the processing of many of its details. That day, the engineering will be able to recognise itself to have opened the way for an important progress. In the meantime, research and development go on. For sure, research will go on.
The exasperating sporting duel will continue in the next race, which is the Tour of Sicily. 166 cars are on the list of competitors. The tour will start on Sunday 8th April 1956. It’s already a success. Castellotti, Musso and Collins are racing in a factory spec Ferrari while the Belgian Gendebien is racing with the 12 cylinder 8000. Taruffi is racing for Maserati while Bordoni and Pucci are racing as secluded. Osca is racing with great names such as Luigi Villoresi, Umberto Maglioli and Giulio Cabianca. Sanesi is racing with an Alfa Romeo Giulietta. On Friday and Saturday, the cars are checked by hallmarking, in order to be able to participate in the 16th Tour of Sicily. The competitors are numerous and, with a constant rhythm, arousing the continuous interest from the spectators who don’t get tired of applauding the most popular champions. The race starts one minute after midnight. The drivers pass with an exasperating slowness. The duties of the punching takes up a short stretch of the day and a thousand thoughts have the race track for reference The tour of Sicily, this year, hasn’t lost any of its characteristics that make it one of the most appreciated road races in the world. It is 1080 kilometres long. It’s full of turns, very often tight or sharp, with dangerous mountain roads that are characterised by an abrasive tarmac which causes damage to the tyres. The Tour will be a hard test for both cars and drivers. It will also test the talent and the calmness of the drivers. In this case, it is useless to say how important the perfect knowledge of the roads and the skills of drivers will be. Taruffi knows this very well as he will be the only one with the 3.0 L Maserati to fight against the factory spec Ferraris driven by Castellotti, Musso and Collins. Taruffi wants to perform really well here for multiple reasons: he feels at home in Palermo. He’s admired and recognised when he’s in the city. He’s so popular that everyone thinks:
"He’s going to win for the third time".
In fact, Taruffi is the man that everyone will keep an eye on, since he won the previous two editions of the race. If he wins again this year, he will be one of the few drivers to have won 3 times in this classic and tough race. He has every reason in the world to be competitive in this 16th edition. He will use all his experience to try to fight against Ferrari. Castellotti also wants to win in order to continue his momentum, after winning in style the 12 Hours of Sebring together with Fangio. As soon as he arrives in Palermo, he’s confident. His Ferrari has shown great stability and handling. He certainly does not hide the difficulties he will have to overcome. He perfectly knows very well that, on this course, engine power is important up until a certain point. Then, the handling and the drivers’ skill become fundamental. Certainly, Castellotti can’t help thinking about Luigi Villoresi, who is racing on the fast and promising 1.5 L Osca. He may well be in the game. Castellotti, don’t forget it, is a Ferrari fan and has so much confidence in the team he loves. Another driver to keep an eye on is Luigi Musso, who loves the Tour of Sicily and finished behind his teammate Castellotti in Sebring. The real unknown, and therefore one of the main reasons of interest, are the three Osca of Villoresi, Maglioli and Cabianca. They, put together, form a team that is able to impose itself even outside of its displacement. The presence of the Osca, in fact, technically seems to be the main reason for the Tour. The Tour, which is one of the toughest races in the world and ruthlessly selector and prodigal of twists, starts on Sunday 8th April 1956. Peter Collins wins the race while everyone was expecting Piero Taruffi’s third consecutive win. It’s fair to say that the British driver wins on the finish line. While in Messina, Taruffi has a 8:30 minute lead over the rest of the drivers. This huge advantage may have ended up betraying him.
There, Taruffi is informed to slow down and that’s where Collins would win the race. He had already recovered two and a half minutes over Taruffi, after stopping less times for refueling. He could attack Taruffi without making him realize it. The Maserati driver improves last year’s best time and crosses the line as the race winner. The Palermo crowd greets him triumphantly. Soon after, drama happens. Taruffi is considered as the initial winner. When he was going to be rewarded, at an angle of Politeama square, Piero Trauffi lives his own personal drama. There, with a face fully covered by mud and a strange expression, he can’t believe that he lost the win on the road from Messina to Palermo, where he built his previous wins. The spectators are also under the impression of the last dramatic twist that characterized this fantastic race. A mortar fire and Taruffi crosses the line, hailed as the winner by the crowd. The Maserati driver walks to the centre of the square to leave his car to his mechanics. Sportsmen, spectators and photo reporters chase him. As the laurel wreath of the winner is going to wrap his neck, someone shouts something incomprehensible. Collins reaches the finish line but the explosions of the mortars, which signals his arrival, are covered by the crowd that applauds Taruffi. To the general amazement, when someone is about to crown Taruffi with the traditional laurel, Collins arrives 1 minute and 7 seconds later. Collins started two minutes after Taruffi and had conquered a surprising win. The laurel wreath, raised on the human cluster around Taruffi’s car, has a sway and is then withdrawn. Taruffi barely touches it. He has just experienced for a moment an ephemeral apotheosis. Collins is shocked by the win. Photo reporters chase him and a girl is about to reward him when he says:
"No… that is not for me".
Collins is reassured and so the British driver appears happy and smiley. He’s living his triumph, a very unexpected triumph. The Maserati driver can’t believe it. He wasted a great chance for just a few seconds and makes no mystery of his bitterness. He protests against the fatal signal to slow down.
"I lost all my advantage when I started slowing on the road from Messina to Sant’Agata. One of the wheels was almost touching the fender and one of the dampers wasn’t working properly. Had I known he was attacking me... What are 53 seconds? Nothing...".
53 seconds are nothing but were enough for Collins to win the race. Just like in 1951, when Vittorio Marzotto beat him in extremis on the road from Palermo to Messina, Taruffi must swallow the bitterness of a victory escaped by just a breath.
"The Tour of Sicily is fun but also dangerous. I lost ground at the beginning thanks to clutch problems. This Ferrari is an amazing car because it performed well on a track where we could have struggled".
A fully positive and excellent balance for Luigi Villoresi as he comes home P3. He was a worthy protagonist in the shadow of the first two:
"I raced in various Tours of Sicily and I’ve never enjoyed it so much before. I’m not so tired after all. I drove a fantastic car, light, fast and ready on the brakes. I tested the car the other evening for 15 kilometres and I didn’t know the limits. It was so smooth to drive... The car was so smooth that it was good even on such a bumpy course. But as soon as the road went plain, there was nothing to do against the greater power of others".
How can you explain Taruffi’s unexpected loss?
"Taruffi overtook me just before reaching Messina. When he overtook me, he was slow and he kept going so slow that we raced together for 60 kilometres. I was following him 200 metres behind. Had I reached him, I could have told him that Collins was serious but I didn’t manage to do it. What a shame...".
The misunderstanding that perhaps made Taruffi lose the third consecutive victory in the island race must not intact the value of Collins’ win, a truly superb win to crown an excellent racecraft. He also set a new race record, lapping at an average speed of more than 108 km/h. The race was initially marred by Castellotti’s retirement due to a mechanical issue. He was in Fiumefreddo, just before Messina, when he retired when he was dominating the race up until that point. Taruffi inherited the lead. It seemed like he was going to win until Collins recovered all his advantage. Collins was the only surviving Ferrari as Luigi Musso had to retire just a few kilometres into the race in Alcamo, thanks to a broken headlight. Collins wins in the same four cylinder Ferrari car that had won the 12 Hours of Sebring. In the shadow of the duel between Ferrari and Maserati, Luigi Villoresi had a very good race in his 1.5 L Osca which provided a truly wonderful proof. With a car displacement much lower than those of the rivals, the valiant driver has made miracles. In Gela, at a certain moment, even if for a few kilometres, he was second overall behind Castellotti and ahead of Taruffi. Osca’s decent race is completed by Maglioli’s 5th place finish. Another revelation, together with the Osca, is the Fiat 8V driven by Velia and Arezzo. Velia manages to beat the 2.0 L Maserati by finishing 6th overall. In the Gran Turismo category, Gendebien manages to beat the two non-factory Mercedes. Gianni’s Fiat 600 was able to keep the pace of Cotton’s Dyna Panhard until a crash ended his race in Messina. On Wednesday 11th April 1956, Giuseppe Farina signs some cards that will be sent to the United States, Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Spain, Portugal, Uruguay and Mexico.
The Italian also receives the news that he will be racing with the #9 in Indianapolis. A little delay is costing time to ship his Ferrari to Indianapolis as the carburetor from America hasn’t arrived yet. It should arrive in a few days. On Thursday 12th April 1956, Farina is in Modena to make the last checks on the engine of the Ferrari 4500 car. The sixth edition of the Syracuse Grand Prix brings to the extreme strip of Sicily the 15 best drivers that will represent 5 European nations and Argentina. Juan Manuel Fangio will be racing in Syracuse for the first time in his career and 150.000 spectators are going to attend the race. Also for this reason, on the eve, an unequal duel is expected between the super powerful Ferrari and the Connaught, with the Gordini as gooseberry. On Wednesday 11th April 1956, Luigi Villoresi will drive a factory spec Maserati. He was supposed to compete with a Maserati of the Scuderia Centro-Sud. A second factory spec Maserati will be racing thanks to Behra. This direct injection model was recently tested in Modena. On Friday 13th April 1956, Syracuse already lives in the most intense climate of sporting enthusiasm for the sixth edition of the Grand Prix. Everyone gets the first summary datas on the first day of practice. It's clear that Ferrari, which has been credited as a likely dominator of the race, doesn’t waste too much time in clarifying his intentions. Castellotti, Fangio, Musso and Collins line up on the first four places of the grid. The data that must be considered is that the Syracusan track is unknown for everyone except Musso, who’s the only that can boast of knowing it deeply. Fangio arrives at 2:00 p.m. from Modena by the Freccia Sud train and, after a couple of tasting laps, beats the lap record held by Brooks. He laps in 2'01"0 and decides to stop. Castellotti, in the meanwhile, laps furiously. His time is faster than Fangio’s with a 2'00"8, which is the best time of the day and only six tenths slower than Brooks’ lap. Good laps for Collins (winner of the tour of Sicily) and Musso as well. Ferrari has been already analysed, let’s see the brand new Maserati.
Behra, calm and reflexive, has analysed the track very precisely before facing the big unknown of his car. His lap time is decent: a 2'06"4. It can be improved if the car keeps up the pace of the Ferrari but also its reliability and handling. The duel between Ferrari and Maserati is the main topic of the race. For the sixth Syracusan Grand Prix, Pirelli offers a prize of 250.000 lire in cash to the overall winner, as long as he has Pirelli tyres. The race starts on Sunday 16th April 1956 at 4pm as the prefect De Luca waves the flag. On lap 1, Castellotti is leading the race, followed at 10 metres by Fangio and Musso. Behind them, there are Collins, Behra and Villoresi. Soon, Fangio takes the lead and sets the fastest lap on lap 8. Behra then comes to a stop on lap 10. He retires after suffering an issue with the new direct injection system. The car is taken to Parc fermé. Evidently his experimental Maserati was not yielding as he would have liked. The race proceeded at a very fast pace until the end of lap 12. Only five cars have not been lapped yet: Fangio, Castellotti, Musso, Collins and Villoresi. Everyone else is either 1 or 2 laps down. From that moment on, the race is an all Ferrari monologue. The four Ferrari drivers are 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th. They are exchanging the lead multiple times. Villoresi is 1 minute behind at half race distance. On lap 40, he stops the car transversely at the last corner before the straight, where grandstands have been named after Castellotti. The driver from Lodi walks to reach the pits while his car, which was in a dangerous position, is removed from the track. After some analysis, the Ferrari driver was found to have lost control of the car causing damage to his car. The three top cars are in the lead of the race even if essentially it doesn’t change anymore. Fangio wins the 80-lap race followed by Musso, Collins, Villoresi (Maserati), Gerini (Maserati) and Manzon’s Gordini. The first three drivers reach the finish line side by side with the applause of the spectators during the parade lap. On Saturday 28th April, 400 drivers will compete in the Mille Miglia. The stages will start at 11:00 p.m. and will finish at 6:00 a.m. Fangio’s car will be the last one to leave Brescia on Sunday. Despite all the uncertainties and the reserves, it has ended up with the prevailing criterion of leaving this traditional race alive.
It, to the undoubted drawbacks of various kinds revealed in the mass formula adopted by the organisers in the post-war period, still contrasts the great charm of popular sports events and an even sensitive technical aim. Naturally, by giving the permission of hosting the race, the government asks for precise guarantees concerning the greatest possible safety for spectators. In the past, they unfortunately gathered along the 1597km course in fearful clusters. The wait for the thrill made them forget the danger. This time, a much severe discipline should be guaranteed by closing down the course and by employing new law enforcement agents. Race organisers, for their part, limit the number of drivers that can compete in the race to 400 drivers. Race organisers require for the admission special guarantees of ability, determined by the recent qualification of drivers into three categories. Cars under 600cc and touring cars are banned. On 27th April 1956, the Mayor of Brescia rewards the winners of the 1955 edition. He emphasises the satisfaction of the city because the Italian Government authorised the continuation of the race, despite the warnings. The Mayor underlines that the Mille Miglia is a social, psychological and moral heritage that absolutely can’t be destroyed. In the meanwhile, the city is heating up for the start of the race. In Piazza della Vittoria, punching operations will start on 28th April and end on 29th April. The most powerful cars are arriving on 29th April. On 27th April, together with the marshals, the real protagonists of the racing Sunday can be seen. On this occasion, Giovanni Bracco comes back racing after some sabbatical years. I am here to make up the numbers, says the Biella driver but no one believes in these surrendering intentions of the eve. Suddenly, at the control desk, he realises that he forgot his international licence. He wouldn’t be able to compete in the race without it. He urgently phones home, where the document is found. It must be sent to Brescia by the night. Stirling Moss looks at the grey sky and says:
"I’ll drive slower if it rains, I want to do many more things in my life".
Castellotti is t’he most favourite Italian driver. The young Cabianca is very good on uphills. The veterans of the race, such as senator Cornaggia Medici and Franco Cortese, compete in the race for the thirteenth time. The Marzotto brothers are both absent. Angelo Pacchetti, a wholesaler of butter and cheese from Cremona, is absent as well. He participated 12 times in the Mille Miglia. He drove the last one together with his son.
"Why isn’t Pachetti here?"
The loyalists of the race are anxious, wondering if the dairy crisis is not unrelated to Mr Pachetti’s resignation. If you’re not a professional racing driver, the Mille Miglia is very expensive: 40.000 lire for the participation, 80.000 if you decide to participate at the last moment. Everyone has to pay for fuel, equipment and the car which may need repairs after the race. Everyone needs insurance, which costs 36 000 lire with a maximum of 10 million and 61.000 with a maximum of 40 million (in case of a tragedy). Mr Alessandro Bottini, a decatur from Brescia, is a key character of the eve of the race. Since 1927, when the first Mille Miglia was held, Mr Bottini has been painting the numbers that had been extracted for the drivers on the nose, sides and back of the cars. He had been working during Nuvolari’s heroics and he’s still present today with these new skoopy taped body shapes cars. At the beginning, the enthusiastic effort of Mr Bottini was enough to meet the need. A fine brush is used to draw the outline of the figures. He then dips a larger brush in the jar of white lead and patiently gives substance to the numbers that the whole Italy would read on the fleeing bonnets. Throughout the years, anyway, this precise and diligent work seems to steal too much time to the drivers that cannot wait anymore. So, Mr Bottini leaves the job to his son and his two co-workers. He sits quietly, smiling under a parasol, and keeps an eye on the cans of his biacca. Bottini checks whether the figures are sharp and of equal measure. He’s pleased with the detachment of an art critic in front of a painting exhibition. Here come the amazons, the handbags with the make up left behind the seats. The Belgian driver Gilberte Thirion (number 75) races alone. She is tall and blond. Her Nordic beauty is a little sawing. The French Driver Gilberte Stempert is 41 years old. She will race alone in a Panhard, unaccompanied.
She’s wearing a sailor suit. Under her hands, there’s the engine characterised by awesome tremors and roars. The Persoglio family will race as well, brother and sister, on a Renault. Bellemo’s 1100 Sighinolfi is the oldest car in the field, it’s 3 years old. Every car, no matter if it’s new or old, is full of amulets: pendants, four-leaf clovers, black stuffed or furry cats. Everyone needs luck in this race. In any case, the race loses its character of being a highly selective competition, in order to expand the mesh of regulation to the growing numbers of fans of the sport and to the detriment of its clarity of conduct. Everyone is focusing on the fight for the overall win, another duel between Ferrari and Maserati. The two manufacturers are racing with their factory drivers. Fangio, Castellotti, Musso and Collins for Ferrari and Moss, Taruffi, Perdisa for Maserati. Behra will be racing in the 1600 sport class. They are men who, by class or experience or for the quality of being road racers, can aim for the ultimate prize. In the Mille Miglia, anyway, the possibilities depend on the machine: drivers need power, handling and reliability. In other words, a mechanical balance. A prediction is almost impossible because there are new cars. The 12 cylinder 3500 Ferrari had a very good Tour of Sicily even if it didn’t finish the race. The brand new 3.5 12 cylinder Maserati had datas that are still unknown. The performance comparison of the last 12 months, among the different cars, can be verified only when the race begins on the 1597 km course. Last year’s prodigious record, held by Stirling Moss, is unlikely to be beaten except in the case of particularly favourable circumstances. The race should be interesting, even in other classes for technical-agonistic reasons. In the 1500 sport, the duel will be between the German Porsches, the Osca driven by Villoresi - Magnali - Cabianca and the Maserati driven by Behra. In the 3000 gran turismo class, the duel will be between Gendebien’s Ferrari and Mercedes, whose drivers are getting factory support. The truth is that, in racing, interest flows up only when there’s a true international duel. Piero Taruffi had 20.000 kilometers of testing and participated 13 times in the race before this year’s edition.
The Maserati driver was and will always be a meticulous coach in every race. Taruffi will be for sure one of the protagonists of the 23rd edition of the race held in Brescia. In any case, the drivers prepare for the race in their own way. For example, Cesare Perdisa, the young Maserati driver that showed to the world the previous year, never runs on the course. He trusts in improvisation, instinct and inspiration. He did the same last year as well and finished 3rd overall, behind the Mercedes of Moss and Fangio, in Florence. It’s a matter of temperament. In any case, the method of the Roman driver is considered to be the better one. The Mille Miglia is such a serious race. Drivers race as if they are racing on an actual circuit. One difference is that you would brake at 300 metres before the corner on a normal track while you brake at 150 on a true racetrack. A good knowledge of the track is an advantage in terms of performance and safety. For the 23rd edition of the race, RAI is the official broadcaster of the race via radio and TV. They start broadcasting at 8.30 p.m. with the commentary of the start of the race on the TV and on the radio. On Sunday, the radio program Programma Nazionale will broadcast the race at 10:00 a.m. The drivers will be at Pescara, in Rome at 11:00 a.m. and 1:10 p.m., in Florence at 2:20 p.m., in Bologna at 4:00 p.m. until the drivers reach the finish line in Brescia at 4:30 p.m. The arrival in Brescia will be broadcasted on TV, it’ll be available throughout Europe. On Saturday morning, the glances of the fans will be satisfied by the sight of the axes and the bright racing cars. Here, the cars are welcomed with applause by the fans. The ritual operations are being carried out: painting of the numbers on the bonnets, checks on the engines, registration of the crews, insurance and other racing documents. Even in the morning, the competitors of the other classes are cheered by the fans. Villoresi and Maglioli are racing on the 1500 Osca. Bracco, who won the race in 1952, is racing on the 1500 Porsche. Chiron, the oldest winner of the race, has still not been recognised by many. He’s asked whether it is his first time at the race. Chron smiles a little disappointed and answers:
"I started racing here 22 years ago".
Giannino Marzotto, twice winner of the Mille Miglia, is attending the race. He looks around and deeply breathes, with a little bit of regret, all this magic atmosphere. The smell of the burned fuel, the mechanics, the noise of the screaming engines, that have been torning the eardrums of the citizens for three days, the brakes. The sudden hair-raising noises complete this atmosphere of celebration . Brescia is enthusiastic. The notes of the recent Frescobaldian concerts are still in the air, in celebration of the great musician. Meanwhile, around 11:00 a.m., Stirling Moss is seen in the punching fence, a young blond boy with blue eyes, all nerves and muscles. Last year, he won the race by a fraction. He says:
"I couldn’t shave this morning because I left really early to test the track. I arrived at Futa and here I am".
At 11:00 p.m., on Viale Rebuffoni, the undersecretary, the honourable Egidio Ariosto gives the command for the start of 23rd Mille Miglia. The Padova driver Santimello is the first one to start on his Fiat 600. He is replacing Chanchell, who is suddenly moved to an upper category. The latter also lost the primacy that befell him. Then, the little red banner goes to the veteran mossiere of the race Renzo Castagneto, president of the Automobile Club of Brescia and one of the four founders of the Mille Miglia. He’s always wearing a gray bowler, the same he was wearing on the evening of the first edition in 1927. The bowler symbolises continuity and the reckless sporting tradition that was inaugurated on that memorable year. At 6:00 a.m., Juan Manuel Fangio’s race starts as he’s the last driver to be waived by the little chequered flag. Nobody remembers such a tough race in the middle of heavy rain, cold and fog. On Sunday morning, there aren’t enough references to verify whether there have been more crashes and retirements than in the previous 22 editions. It is highly likely that it will happen. Anyway, the news journalists are getting reports of many skid offs, retirements and flipped cars. In these conditions, the record average speed can’t be broken. Despite the difficult conditions, Eugenio Castellotti’s average speed of 137.442 kph must be considered as exceptional In the context of this tregendous day. He couldn’t ask for anything more. The youngster from Lodi takes the lead in the first stages of the race. He will never leave it, although he is challenged by Taruffi and the German Von Trips, on a Mercedes in the middle stages of the race. The race is still uncertain before Castellotti shows all his superior speed and crumbles everyone’s resistance. In Verona, where it wasn’t raining, Castellotti laps at an average speed of 193 kph followed by Tarasi (191), Musso (187), Perdisa, Moss and Fangio. On the wet roads, it goes down.
In Ravenna, Castellotti (172.159 kph) still leads with a 19-second lead over Taruffi and a full minute over the unexpected Wolfgang Von Trips. The latter is having a more comfortable race, thanks to his covered wheel Mercedes. On the road to Forlì, Taruffi, on his 3000 Maserati, overtakes Castellotti. He is then forced to retire, thanks to a broken radiator after a slight bruise against a wall caused by a loss of control due to a water infiltration in the brakes. Castellotti laps in Rimini at an average of 164.462 km/h. The Mercedes of Von Trips and Riess are not too far behind. The other Ferraris of Collins, Musso and Fangio are minutes behind, while Moss (in a new 3500 Maserati) and Perdisa are nowhere to be seen. They’re out of contention. In Pesaro, Castellotti is overtaken by Von Trips. The Italian, though, immediately retakes the lead at Ancona and builds a 49-second advantage over the German. While crossing the mountains from east to west, Riess (Mercedes) is 6min. 33sec. behind, Collins (Ferrari) 7min. 40sec. behind, Fangio 11 minutes behind. Soon, a discouraged Moss retires. Von Trips retires as well after crashing out. Castellotti, in the meantime, escapes. On the road to Rome, the Ferraris attack Riess’ only remaining and dangerous Mercedes. In fact, Collins overtakes Riess, who is 9min. 30sec. behind Castellotti. Then, on the road between Viterbo and Siena, Musso, after overtaking Fangio, is catching up. After gaining several minutes, he passes a very tired Riess. He is sorely tried because of the tough resistance to the Ferrari men and has a kind of breakdown. Drivers then face the Futa and the Raticosa under a heavy rain before encountering fog in Bologna. Castellotti is untouchable even if he loses his glasses in Bologna and gets all the rain in his eyes on the road to Mantova. Last straights: he completes the final 23 kilometres from Manerbio to Brescia in 7 minutes, almost 200 kph on average. Castellotti is the winner of the 23rd Mille Miglia, after not sleeping the night before. The 26-year old now enters the elite of the best drivers. As soon as he comes back home, he realises that the Automobile Club thanked him with posters wallpapering Lodi.
"To our Italian champion, who dominated the fury of elements and adversities of all kinds with his iron will and his youthful ardour, we have planted on a famous summit the banner of Lodi next to the Flag of Italy, we publicly express our enthusiasm and gratitude".
On Sunday 6th May 1956, Giuseppe Farina departs from Malpensa Airport to go to Indianapolis, after spending a busy week between Modena and Bologna to supervise the preparation of his Experimental Bardahl-Ferrari. The injector from America doesn’t give the expected results, due to an airbox that does not fit the Ferrari engine. In any case, thanks to more traditional carburetors and a special fuel pump, Giuseppe hopes to have maximum power from the car that will leave for the United States between the 8th and the 9th May by plane. While waiting for the car coming from Italy, Farina will have a training car in Indianapolis with which he’s going to do 200 kilometres per day. In the meanwhile, on Saturday 5th May 1956, at Silverstone, in front of hundreds of spectators, Stirling Moss wins the Daily Express Trophy on a new Vanwall. On the 6th May, Robert Manzoz wins the Grand Prix of Naples at the wheel of a modest Gordini. In both races, the factory Ferraris retired due to various technical issues: Fangio and Collins in England, Castellotti and Musso in Posillipo. It is not a tragedy: the Modena cars maybe weren’t prepared like in previous occasions. In fact, the Maranello team made a great effort for the Mille Miglia and gave everything to prepare their race-winning cars. They either may have neglected the other racing material or have undervalued the presence of foreign race cars in Silverstone and Posillipo, which in the past had always proved to be unlikely. In the beautiful Posillipo course, Gordini wins only because Castellotti, Musso and Villoresi- a Maserati driver- retired. Moreover, Musso literally dominated the race up until his retirement. At Silverstone, the situation got worrying at the Daily Express trophy. Fangio’s skill wasn’t enough to prevent the dominance of the B.R.M.s and Moss’ Vanwall.
The two new British cars had an exceptional race, although Hawthorn fell down very soon after leading a quarter of the race. Moss, free from contractual commitments with Maserati on this occasion, gives the English sportsmen the first satisfaction in a long time. He demonstrates that the new car, which had been so tenaciously prepared by Tony Vanderwell’s mechanics, is fearsome as everyone was affirming. The Vanwall is a 4 cylinder car that was created at the behest of English millionaire Tony Vanderwell. The latter spent hundreds of pounds to build and fine-tune his creation. Moreover, he had endured years of cruel disappointments and had procured himself hearty stomach ulcers. After his win, in the first race of the season for Vanwall, Stirling Moss declares: "This Vanwall is fantastic. It will make the world talk about it". Brilliant race for another British car, the B.R.M. For some reason, the car was never able to finish a race. At Silverstone, on Saturday, the B.R.M. had to retire. This time though, the B.R.M. team was ahead of the other competitors for 13 laps. The restart of the world championship may be getting interesting again as in the days of Mercedes. On Saturday, two sports cars races are taking place at Silverstone. Roy Salvadori wins both races, at the wheel of a 1500 cc Cooper and a 2000 cc Aston Martin. Roy also participated in the F1 race in a Maserati, retiring on lap 49 after crashing out and flipping. Even scarier is Mike Oliver’s crash during the F1 race. His Connaught flips three times at Woodcote and lands on an embankment after hitting a stray bale. Fortunately, the car stops just a few metres shy of the spectators. A repeat of the Le Mans tragedy is thus avoided. Oliver is taken to the hospital where he’s found with a brain concussion. Scott Russell only has light wounds after his crash, although his car burst into flames during the sportscar race. In the same race, Reg Parnell and Peter Collins avoid for a second a crash with Titterington and Sanders’ damaged Jaguar. In Monaco, however, Moss will drive for Maserati. Therefore, Vanwall’s win chances are greatly reduced even if they will give everything for their number one driver Harry Schell.
Ultimately, at least one check is required to assess the real danger of the British machines. Anyway, the alarm bell is ringing. Perhaps it’s good, no competitor should be undervalued. The Valentino Grand Prix will be held on Sunday 20th May 1956. It assumes an unthinkable importance for the very special moment where it falls and for the circumstances that occurred a few days before in the racing car industry. The manufacturers understand the value of the Turin race, thanks to the registrations that were already received in the days following the Silverstone race. The organisers of the Automobile Club give notice to the representatives of the press on 8th May 1956. The situation so far is the following: three Ferrari cars for Fangio, Castellotti and Musso (or Collins), two cars for Vanwall (Schell and Trintignant), Connaught (Scott Brown, Titterington or Scotti). The winner of the Naples Grand Prix, Robert Monzon will race for the Gordini constructor while the other drivers haven’t been announced yet. Luigi Villoresi, Rosier and Gould will for sure race in a Maserati. The drivers of the Maserati factory team are still missing. They will decide after the Monaco Grand Prix, depending on the behaviour of their cars. If it succeeds, they’ll race in Turin with two cars: one for Jean Behra and the other for either Stirling Moss or Cesare Perdisa. B.R.M. may race as well, with Mike Hawthorn as their number one driver. However, the presence of the Maserati Factory Team is desirable as the Valentino Grand Prix would gather all the best forces currently available in the sports car sector. The Turin race offers abundant topics of great interest both on sporting and technical level, starting from the mentioned but uncertain duel between the Italian cars and British cars. Another one is the presence of World Champion Juan Manuel Fangio, who’ll race in Turin for the first time in his career.
The track is 4.2 km long and there will be 80 laps. That’s the same track where the F1 Lancia won last year, thanks to the late Alberto Ascari, at an average speed of 144 kph. The total race distance will be 336 km. Naturally, this subject is unfortunately very topical. Race organisers are seriously concerned about ensuring that the race is as regular as possible, particularly in regards to the safety of the spectators. They decide to take a series of measures, ranging from the perfect arrangement of the road surface (helped by the understanding of the municipal authorities), to the withdrawal of barriers at a reasonable safety distance and from the wider caution in prohibiting spectators from certain sectors to the reinforcement of the means of protection. Everything is humanly thinkable. The eve of the Grand Prix is quiet for the Ferrari drivers as, in a big villa on the French Riviera, the fully dressed Castellotti is thrown in a pool by Musso. Castellotti is still wearing some black and shiny loafers. The scene that follows is exhilarating. His sunglasses sink in the pool and a laugh contest starts again. That is until a fan from Lodi, an improvised diver fisherman, returns the sunglasses to Eugenio with the help of his mum, who is amused as well. On Thursday 10th May, the Monaco Grand Prix starts very early. The practice sessions begin at dawn, at 5 am. It’s still dark and the lights of the castle of the Prince continue to point their beams of light on the royal palace. The sulky drivers walk the deserted streets and head towards the pits. The practice sessions will start soon. There are few drivers. The three big manufacturers that are racing in Monaco decide for different reasons to postpone until tomorrow the second practice session for almost all the cars. Ferrari has one one spare car and one race car. World champion.Juan Manuel Fangio has the race car and uses it to set the best time at an average speed of 108 kph. The Modena team waits until Friday 11th May 1956 for the other Lancia-powered Ferrari cars.
In fact, this morning, Fangio, Musso and Castellotti are continuing to sleep. Only Peter Collins, the 24 year old English driver who won the tour of Sicily and came second in the Mille Miglia, is participating in the practice sessions today. In Monaco, Ferrari presents itself by giving the final version of the Maranello single seater to Fangio, Collins and Musso. The brand new Ferrari derives from the Lancia and has an eight cylinder engine capable of producing 270 horsepower at 8000 rpm. It is equipped with light alloy side shells that are perfectly integrated with the car body, for a total weight of 625 kg. Castellotti is driving the traditional D50 with detached fuel tanks and an extra weight of 50 kg. The Lodi driver prefers to drive the traditional D50, because he was convinced by the fact that extra 50 kg would mean extra grip around the twisty street circuit. The first cars that go out on track are the British cars. Trintignant lines up in his Vanwall, from the non pleasant line for the Italian taste, but undoubtedly fast. The car designed by Colin Chapman shows interesting solutions, such as a tapered tube developed in the outer part of the car useful for oil cooling and a fuel tank as high as the driver’s head that occupies all the back of the car while the front is very low. In addition, the driver is surrounded by a plexiglass cockpit that gives the idea of an aeroplane pilot. Aesthetics aside, this Vanwall is very fast even though the direct injection engine, a 4 cylinder with double shaft cams capable of delivering 300 horsepower at 7500 rpm, is not really suited for this roller coaster track. In the meantime, the very low and very aesthetic B.R.M.s, driven by Brooks and Hawthorn, start to merrily wake up the whole Principality at 5:45 a.m., thanks to the noise of their engines. They’re followed by Gould’s private Maserati and the Gordinis driven by Manzon, Pilette and Bayol.
Peter Collins sets the best time of the day. He’s ordered not to push but laps in 1'47"0. Regarding Maserati, they are trusting in the usual six cylinder engine with three carburetors capable of producing 250 horsepower. However, this engine is inferior to the Ferrari one on horsepower but it’s more efficient on low revs. Maserati gives the cars of Moss, Behra and the young and promising Permisa to the mechanics. They work on Friday, while the drivers rest and discuss, or rather, repeat in chorus the fact that the injection engine is of little use in Monaco. It’s better to race with the carburetors as handling is more important than top speed. The second day of practice thus begins in a reduced tone and takes place at dawn, at an infernal time. In fact, if the Monaco Grand Prix followed the same schedule of the other races with practice in the afternoon, the residents of the Principality, for three days, wouldn’t be able on board, to go to school, to catch the train, to withdraw a check and to play roulette. Thus, this explains why rehearsals take place from 5:45 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. On Thursday 10th May, at 5:45 am, a group of journalists gather on a balcony on the seventh floor of a kind of skyscraper. This original press grandstand guarantees the view of three quarters of the track. The Monaco Grand Prix is nicknamed the 1000 corner track. It’s a tremendous city track, with lots of turns and ups and downs. Musso, encouraged by Fangio who races in Turin on Sunday 20th May, gives a raw definition of the Monegasque race:
"If we compare Monaco, I’d say that the Turin track is a real walk. You’ll be very fine on the large Turin avenues".
Fangio, the great favourite for Sunday’s race, smiles at the thought of the Turin race. However, he doesn't joke about the current competition. In Monaco, there are no restful hundred metres for the drivers. There are corners and counter corners with lots of continuous uphills and downhills. The crucial point is the exit of the tunnel. The race organisers make some changes to the exit of the tunnel, in order to make the switch from dark to light less abrupt, by placing under the vault a battery of yellow spotlights. After the tunnel, drivers go downhill on a dangerous corner which is surrounded by the harbour water. There, Alberto Ascari slided and fell into the sea last year. Now, the space has been covered with a gate like the slalom of skiers. It should slow down the cars and make the ride safer. Actually, the drivers are close enough to the barriers to give the chills to those who watch their passage. It is with a certain anxiety that you see the cars launching into this race. The first practice is at the civilised hour of 4:00 p.m. on Thursday. It will last for two hours. In addition to times that will count for qualifying, there is a prize of £100 for the driver that sets the fastest lap. This means that there is considerable activity during the afternoon. The whole meeting gets away to a flying start, unlike some events which do not warm up until the day before the race. Conditions for the practice sessions are perfect. The circuit is only altered in one part, in the chicane, where the road comes downhill from the tunnel and does an S onto the harbour front. Here, the angles of the esses are much sharper, so that the cars join the harbour front at a lower speed. the chances of a repetition of Ascari’s plunge into the harbour are minimised. It means slower lap times, the chances of the old record being broken are slight.
This record belongs to Fangio in 1'42"4. He set this time during last year’s race, though he also recorded a 1'41"1 in practice. It is most heartening to see green cars, the B.R.M.s and the Vanwalls, going out on track and setting the pace. The rest are soon after them. The drivers are settling. The times come down to just over 1'50"0. Fangio then goes out and starts off at 1'49''0 and rapidly gets down to 1'45"6, which is the bogey time for most of the afternoon. The Maserati team sends their drivers off in carbureted cars first of all. Moss then changes over to an injection car for half a lap. He perseveres with this new toy but can’t go as fast as the normal car. The other Maserati drivers are having some issues. Perdisa is wheeling his car back to the pits whilst Behra is leaving him out on the circuit. The Vanwalls and B.R.M.s are overgeared for the twisty course. The Bourne cars are having trouble with pick-up from low revs, out of the hairpins. Schell has some trouble with the complete lack of pick-up until he finds that a throttle link has dropped off. It is soon put in the right position. The Ferrari team has only two modified Lancias for their four drivers on this first day and there is a lot of chopping and changing going on. Maserati have all their cars available. Gordini has one six-cylinder car running which Manzon and Pilette are sharing, whilst Rosier and Gould are going round in their private Maseratis. Before putting the Weber-carburetors model away, Moss beats Fangio’s best time with a lap in 1'46"2. He can’t approach this time with the fuel-injection model though. By 5:30 p.m. there is a lull and everyone feels they have done enough. With 15 minutes left to go until the end of practice time, Fangio goes out on an empty track and does some very quick laps, getting down to a shattering 1'44"2. Then Collins takes the car and has a go, but can’t approach the governor. It looks as though the £100 will go to Fangio and the credit to Ferrari.
There is a most heartening moment for the British fans when Schell then sets off in the Vanwall, sounding wonderfully crisp after the deep bellow of the Lancia megaphones. In spite of being a bit overgeared, Schell tries hard and puts in a very creditable 1'45"2. It is now nearly 6 pm and Moss suddenly discovers about the £100 prize and rushes back to the Maserati pit. His fast carburetor car though is round at the garage on the other side of the circuit. The only available cars are the injection models, which have gone tick inside. In the meantime, Perdisa’s car has pushed in and the only way back to the garage is via the circuit. Horace Gould comes to the rescue and lends his car to Moss to go round to the Maserati garage and collects the healthy factory car. Moss reappears at the pits, four pairs of hands change the 12 plugs for hard ones. The English driver is away, trying to go after the £100. On a perfectly clear track, Moss really has a go but it is no use. He can’t better his 1'45"2. Practice ends with Fangio on top. In the following morning, there is another practice period at the unreasonable hour of 5:45 a.m. The whole town is starting to wake up from its slumber. This is a very uninspired session. Few people are ready at such short notice after the previous evening. No factory Maseratis are appearing at all. Ferrari let Collins out for a very short while. Both B.R.M.s are running, but not very well. Hawthorn and Brooks are far from happy. Trintignant is the only Vanwall driver present. Gordini has all his men on parade, Manzon, Bayol, Pilette and Silva Ramos are sharing two eight-cylinder cars and one six-cylinder. Chiron appears with the Maserati, belonging to the Scuderia Centro-Sud, on track. He is circulating rather slowly but still manages to drive the car to a standstill, with the rev-counter nearly off the scale, no oil pressure and all the bearings ruined.
When practice ends at breakfast time, Collins makes the fastest lap of the morning, with a 1'47"0. Trintignant is only one-fifth of a second slower. During the day, the Maserati garages have cars and engines strewn about everywhere. Ferrari is still awaiting the arrival of some more cars. B.R.M. is thinking of some way to make their cars go. In the meantime, Vanwall is doing some routine work. The last practice period, on Saturday, is again at 5:45 a.m. The conditions are good, except that the hot sun is causing some dazzle going up the hill from Ste Devote corner. Everyone is out and having a last fling but Schell is frustrated by a faulty clutch. Trintignant is still bothered by being fully enclosed by Perspex and having to look sideways through it on the slow hairpins. In spite of this, he tries hard and the Vanwall is a credit to its country and designers. Moss uses both types of Maserati cars. He is still driving faster with the carburetor model. Behra is trying to take the corners to the limit. Bayol overdoes things at the chicane and bends the near-side front suspension of the new eight-cylinder Gordini. The Lancia/Ferrari cars die on Musso. The Italian has to walk back to the pits. Castellotti is going very well so far. The two B.R.M.s do a few slow laps and then give up. The faces of the pit-staff are worried. The private owners are trying to keep out of the way of the big boys, who are using the entire road. Fangio sets off with a determined look on his face. Just as he gets wound up, the bonnet comes undone and he has to stop to have it fixed. Off he goes again. This time there is no messing about. He puts in a series of laps in the 1'44"0. He is right on the limit of adhesion all the way round, Fangio is on the limit and it is well worth watching. This little flurry ends with a lap in 1'44"0 and that is that.
Maserati lends his precious fuel-injection car to Chiron, since the blown-up engine from yesterday is still in pieces. He goes round for a few laps before an almighty bang is heard whilst he is going through the pits. The Maserati engine falls out all over the road, with the rev-counter once more nearly off the dial. Practice is over at 8:15 a.m. The teams have the rest of the day to prepare the cars for the race. There is then a revealing tour of the various garages in the afternoon. Looking at the Maserati garage, there are three carburetter cars that are almost complete. Moss and Perdisa are using right-hand throttles in their cars. There is thus a spare for the team leader. The number one car has the four-speed gearbox, while the other two have two five-speed ones. All three are using twin tail-pipes. Down at Ferrari, the mechanics are busy polishing the paintwork. All four team cars are being completed. Fangio, Musso and Collins have the Syracuse models whilst Castellotti has an Argentine type. In the town, the Gordini team is repairing the Bayols bent chassis, since it was steering better than the other eight-cylinder car anyway. Manzon and Silva Ramos have two six-cylinder cars. Pilette is the reserve driver. The fans then make a quick trip out of town. The Vanwall team has both cars in good order. The mechanics are busy making sure that everything is tight and in place. Whilst returning to town, the BRM garage is found empty. The team is despairing in trying to cure their engine troubles. They then decide to pack up and go home. The B.R.M drivers are upset by the withdrawal but not the opposition. It is reported that the engines are suffering from front valve trouble. One can only assume that it is because they haven’t been tested properly before leaving Bourne. Out of the private owners, only Rosier and Gould are starting in the race. Maserati shovels all the wreckage of Chiron’s efforts into a box and washes their hands. Scarlatti, with his 2 litre Ferrari, is just not fast enough.
On Saturday 12th May 1956, the 20 participants in the competition don’t hesitate to unleash themselves in the frantic pursuit of the best starting position. The cars have been tested on Thursday and on Friday and are now fully tuned. Drivers know that starting from the first rows is fundamental. Setting a good lap time is key. Moss tries the impossible to remove Fangio from the pole position. The duel at distance is now between them. In the final stages of qualifying, with the engines well heated up, the drivers are pushing to the absolute limit. Fangio sets the best time so far, in his Ferrari, with a 1'44"0 with an average speed of 106.866 kph. He is the provisional pole sitter for the time being. Moss sets better times and is faster compared to the previous practice days. He is now up to 2nd position with a 1'44"6 lap time. Behra, on a Maserati, and the Italians Pedrisa and Castellotti, are in the fight. Perdisa sets a 1'46"0, his time is good enough for 3rd for the majority of the morning. In the end, Behra and Castellotti improve their lap times. Behra sets a 1'45"4 whilst Castellotti a 1'44"9, which is good enough for 3rd position, despite almost not lapping at all during the practice session. In the end, even Chiron is able to set a time, at the wheel of a borrowed Maserati that is characterised by the letter P. The letter indicates the injection engine. The Monegasque champion will for sure start the race. At the end of this hasty chronicle of this morning practice session, where twists and turns occured, predictions remain essentially unchanged. Fangio is the great favourite but Moss will be a dangerous opponent. The duel between the Ferrari champion and the Maserati one will depend on the reliability of the cars. Castellotti, Perdisa and Behra will be in the game for sure. This difficult track does not really suit the British Vanwall cars, even though Schell sets the third fastest time on Thursday's practice sessions. Therefore, it would be a big surprise if the green cars managed to dominate.
On Sunday 13th May 1956, the two B.R.M.s don’t show up for the race. The practice times had given the first alarm to the Britons. Technical problems on the carburetor and the brakes are forcing the team to withdraw from the race. They will be back in Turin on Sunday 20th May 1956. They will look for revenge. The B.R.M.s, already at dawn, are boarded on the truck that will bring them back to Great Britain. The number of drivers is further reduced to only 14 drivers on the grid. In order to avoid dangerous traffic situations, the number of participants, compared to the 1955 edition that counted 20 drivers, is reduced to 16 at first. The scream of the engines reaches some spectators, who are lying in the hotels’ terraces, and the farthest spectators who are watching the race on the trees. 50.000 spectators are so seized by the anxiety of the competition. In the harbour, the yachts manoeuvre into the centre of the water in order to follow the rest of the race, together with a load of beautiful girls and binoculars. On race day, the sun is shining as everyone is getting ready for a 2:45 pm start. The two Vanwall cars and the Gordini team are already on the grid. The three factory Maseratis do a very slow warm-up lap nose to tail whilst the Ferrari cars are wheeled by hand from the garage to the pits. A general air of chaos has surrounded the Maserati team since the beginning of the season. The complete calm that prevails inside the team is most convincing. The front row of the grid sees Moss sandwiched between Fangio and Castellotti. Behra and Schell line up on the second row of the grid. Trintignant, Perdisa and Musso are on the third row, followed by Collins and Silva Ramos. Manzon, Bayol and Rosier are on the fifth row. Gould is on his own at the back of the grid. It is a small but selected field of 14 runners. The start is superb and the whole bunch leaps for the gasworks hairpin.
Castellotti and Moss are side by side whilst Fangio is half a length behind. Moss chops his way to take the lead of the race going into the hairpin. The two Lancia/Ferraris cars are going wheel to wheel. The whole bunch are screaming up behind the pits. Schell is right in amongst the red cars. Trintignant bumps someone’s tail and drops to the back of the grid. The nose of his Vanwall is badly crumpled. The roar of the 14 cars hits the tunnel. The approach to the harbour front is wonderful. Moss comes round the corner and into the pit area in a wonderful controlled power-slide. He is well out in front ahead a seething jostling bunch of red cars. Schell’s green Vanwall is sandwiched in the middle of the Ferraris. The next lap is motor racing at its best. Everyone seems to be going completely mad. The only exception is Moss, who is looking smooth and relaxed. Behind the pits, the race order is: Moss, Fangio, Collins, Castellotti, Behra, Musso and Schell. The rest of the field is already quite far behind. The leader is now starting the third lap. Going under the footbridge and into Ste Devote corner, Fangio overdoes things and spins. Castellotti, Collins and Behra are jostling for position. Fangio then turns round in a big loop. The Argentinian now finds himself face to face with a hurrying Musso and Schell. They both dodge Fangio wildly. Musso rams the straw bales and breaks his steering. Schell spins and hits a wall, bending the Vanwall’s front suspension. Meanwhile, Fangio turns around and sets off into the hill, leaving two bent cars and two very furious drivers behind. As always, the opening laps sees nearly everyone denting noses or tails. Somehow Collins avoids contact with the other cars and Moss is way out on his own. It has to be said that the initial start was a bit squirmish. Things begin to settle down a bit after the first few laps. Trintignant retires with an overheated engine, due to the crumpled nose blanking off the radiator. Rosier brings the car to the garage for a short time, in order to take a look at the rear tyres.
At the start of the 10th lap, the race order is crystallised. Moss is the race leader. His driving, with a relaxed precision, is a joy to watch. Collins is in 2nd place, concentrating on what he is doing. Behind him come Behra and Castellotti. Fangio is trying to make up for lost time. Perdisa leads the rest of the drivers whilst Manzon leads the Gordini trio. The next 10 laps are spent watching Fangio regaining his lost positions. Castellotti sees the old man in his mirror and then Behra. The former is not very interested in letting his team leader get by. Fangio tries to pressurise Castellotti into a mistake for the next three laps. Then, Fangio forces his way past going into the final chicane. Into the hairpin, a very peeved Castellotti tries hard to bump Fangio’s rear. By the end of the next lap, Castellotti is barely able to keep with Fangio’s, let alone try to bump his rear. The World Champion is now after Behra. The Maserati driver keeps giving nervous looks over his shoulder but is determined not to give way. However, Behra's cornering gets wilder as Fangio gets closer to him. The Argentinian gets by at the end of the chicane. Now it is Collins’ turn to suffer the wrath of the old Master. The young Master, Stirling Moss, is driving superbly and increasing his lead all the time. The British driver looks comfortable out there while the Maserati sounds perfect. Collins keeps an eye on his mirror whilst trying to not ease off at all. He is staying outside of the track most of the time, in order to give Fangio plenty of room to overtake if he can. After being very thoroughly dealt with by his team leader, Castellotti has his clutch pack up. He is unhappily walking back to the pits. Before the end of the 30th lap, Fangio is right behind Collins in the battle for 2nd. Not even a second later, the champion overtakes the Ferrari driver for 2nd place. Beforehand, though, he crumpled the nose of the Lancia against a hard object.
Moss is lapping over the 1'48"0 mark. Fangio is gritting his teeth and doing a 1'46"2. Ugolini, from the Maserati pit, is informing the wonder boy about the current situation. While gritting his teeth, Fangio overdoes things on the bend before the pits. He hits the right hand wall but gets away with it with a bent rear wheel. This small incident slows him down and Collins is re-catching him. The two Lancias are now nose to tail. Fangio’s looking a battered wreck and Collins’ all nice and new. Speaking of the others, Bayol gets tired and hands the car over to Pilette. Manzon goes very steadily and takes quick looks up the road as he goes round the hairpin, to see if anyone is following. Silva Ramos runs along quietly and keeps out of the way, as is Gould. Perdisa, who is supposed to be keeping his car nicely on-the boil, in case Moss needs it, now finds it getting woolly. On lap 40, Fangio dives into the pits for a variety of reasons. The clutch is beginning to slip and the bent rear wheel is slowing him down. He is losing time to Moss and, at the same time, holding up Collins. Behra, who is 4th, is now catching them. Castellotti walks back to the pit and the tattered wreck of Fangio’s car is given to him, while the team leader has a rest. The scene, which is surreal to say the least, generates quite a bit of disbelief inside the pit, so much so that Ferrari's sporting director, Eraldo Sculati, asks Fangio:
"Should I stop Collins?"
The Argentine driver does not answer the question. He sits in the Ferrari pit wall, removing his goggles, helmet and gloves, and remains motionless for several moments. It is clear that the episode is taking the entire Maranello team aback. They are in disbelief when they see their driver leave the scene in this manner. After a short time, Fangio gets up and waves to the mechanics. He is ready to return to the track. Ferrari calls Castellotti back to the pits, entrusting the Englishman's Ferrari to the champion from Balcarce. The latter began a completely different race when he gets back on track. Fangio no longer has a nervous and aggressive driving style. He instead brushes all his trajectories and begins to set incredible times lap after lap. With a clear road ahead, Collins speeds up and draws away from Behra, who had previously got to within six seconds. After a while, Moss builds a half-minute over the 2nd placed driver. By lap 50, or half-distance, the order is: Moss is 32 sec ahead of Collins. Behra is 15 seconds further back. Castellotti, driving Fangio’s car, is a lap behind the leader in 4th position, ahead of Perdisa and Manzon, Pilette and Silva Ramos, Rosier. Gould is still running, although far behind. This is a classic occasion for British racing history. The British drivers are 1st and 2nd and in complete command of the race. The next step will be when they are driving British cars. The order is Maserati-Lancia-Maserati-Lancia-Maserati. On lap 54, Collins goes into the pits and hands his car over to Fangio. This lets Behra into 2nd place, 50 sec behind Moss. The latter is well aware of what is happening and is surprised it has not happened earlier. Once more Fangio has to force his way past Behra. It is easier this time out since the Maserati engine begins to sound flat. The question now is whether Fangio can make up 50 sec on Moss, providing that both cars will keep going. Although Fangio is trying all he can to close the gap it seems unlikely that it will happen. Moss is obviously driving well within his limits and can speed up if required.
By three-quarters distance Moss laps Behra and now only Fangio is on the same lap as the leader, though he is driving Collins’ car. The gap is down to 43 sec., but then it remains constant and meanwhile Castellotti drows into the pits to complain about the heap of wreckage he is given to use as a racing car, but is told to go away. Perdisa is now touring round, aiming to finish, and most of the others, and finally hits both sides of the chicane, bending the front suspension but, after a quick inspection at the pit, he goes on. On lap 80 the gap between the first two is down to 39sec., Behra is still third and Manzon is catching Castellotti for fourth place. On the 87th lap Moss is about to lap Perdisa once more when the young Italian driver panicks and puts his brakes on, so that the leader rams him in the tail. This slight setback drops the gap to 32sec. and Fangio is still going as hard as he knows how, the car sounding perfect. As a result of the pushing match the leading Maserati has a crumpled nose, but more serious is the fact that a front bonnet catch is broken and the bonnet lifting on one corner. With 10 laps to go Moss is going under the bridge at Ste Devote as Fangio joins the finishing straight on his way down to the Gasworks hairpin, and the gap is 28sec. Moss knows what he is up to and makes no attempt to hurry, though he has to keep an eye on the lifting bonnet. As the remaining laps tick by the gap comes right down until Moss crosses the line the winner by a mere 6secs, but he knows that one second will be enough. Fangio’s closing laps are a joy to watch, for he goes faster and faster all the time, believing that the race is never lost until the chequered flag falls. On his 100th and last lap he sets a new fastest time in 1'44"1, which is outstanding in view of the amount of rubber and oil left on the road after three hours of racing.
At last Moss had really won a classic Grand Prix, and was elated about it, but nothing like so much as the Scuderia Maserati, who had made a real effort over this World Championship event. The Maserati driver deservedly wins for the first time this season with a 6-second advantage over Fangio. The Monaco Grand Prix was a double racing experience for the Argentine. The latter will condemn the nervous and reckless driving during the first part of the race, counting himself lucky to have come out unscathed from the first half of the Grand Prix. The reigning champion recovered from the difficult start, thanks to his class. He defines his performance, after returning to the track, as one of the best in his entire career. Behra finishes 1 lap down. He will step on the lowest step of the podium. Castellotti is 4th. Hernando da Silva Ramos finishes 5th in his Gordini albeit 7 laps down. 6th place goes to the Bayol-Pilette duo although they finish 12 laps down. Among the drivers, let’s give full and complete praise to Moss. The Englishman was the true leader with a flawless race. Fangio perhaps appeared more moving for the commitment and the momentum with which he reacted to the misadventures. Credit must be also given to Stirling for the coldness with which he regulated the race. Behra was good and Castellotti, as always, was convincing. The latter was confirmed to be both a stylish and brave driver. Almost all the drivers, who participated in this Monaco Grand Prix, will be back in Turin in a week’s time to do a wonderful rematch.
Simone Pietro Zazza