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#54 1956 British Grand Prix

2021-04-18 00:00

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#1956,

#54 1956 British Grand Prix

Set aside the controversies that cast a shadow over Collins' victory in Reims, the motor racing on Sunday, July 8, 1956, sees only sports cars engaged

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Set aside the controversies that cast a shadow over Collins' victory in Reims, the motor racing on Sunday, July 8, 1956, sees only sports cars engaged: on the circuit at Ronen-Les Estate, on the road in the X Coppa d'Oro delle Dolomiti. Almost all aces are involved in the French race, with the big exception of Juan Manuel Fangio. The Rouen Grand Prix would not offer particular reasons of interest if it weren't for the curious situation that the deployment of forces on the field has determined, a situation that would seem made specifically to spice up the obvious reasons for the rivalry that the French Grand Prix blew up. It's well known that the English driver's Moss and Collins, despite being part of Italian teams, have reserved in contract some races - not valid for the two world championships - on British cars. For example, in May Moss ran and won with Vanwall at Silverstone. Well, in Rouen-Les Esearts both Collins and Moss race at the wheel of the Aston Martins, and will have Castellotti and De Portago on Ferrari as opponents, and Behra and Perdisa on Maserati. It's easy to imagine, after last Sunday's big words, with what fury they will play the Collins and Castelletti race, free, this time, to play all their cards sportingly without harnessing or facilitation. Thanks to this, on Sunday, July 8, 1956, Eugenio Castellotti showed his whole class by imposing himself brilliantly in the Rouen Grand Prix for sports cars, beating a lot of drivers, including all the best, on the continent. Restored, as is equally known, to speak, peace in the family, Castellotti wanted to prove his value to Rouen. With magnificent weather, in the morning the semi-stage of the tour starts with the dispute of two distinct car tests.

 

In the first, the Delamare de Bouteville Cup, reserved for cars from 500 to 1500 cubic centimetres, wins the Englishman Chapman, on Lotus. Second is Cliff Allison, also English and also on Lotus, and third is the American Shell, also on Lotus, followed by the Frenchman De Cagny and the German Helfrisch, both on Porsche. An immense crowd pours over the Essarts circuit to attend the double show offered by the organisers. The Grand Prix, reserved for sports cars, consists of fifty laps of the circuit, which measures 6,548 metres, for a total of about 327 kilometres. Perdisa takes the lead at the start, with a lot of impetuosity, and at the first pass, he precedes Collins, Hill, Mass, Castellotti and Behra. The fight immediately seems uncertain, but Perdisa remains in charge, pressed by Collins, while Moss soon overtakes Hill, and Behra overcomes Castellotti, who seems to want to use an initial waiting tactic. The whole group of the best, however, is included in a space not too much higher than fifty metres. Moss is the first to beat the official record of the lap, but shortly after Behra does even better. In the fifth passage, Perdisa precedes Collins, Behra and Moss, closely beheld by Castellotti. The American, Harry Shell has to quit the broadcast due to boredom and shortly after Behra, forcing, manages to overtake Collins first and then Perdisa, therefore becoming the tread of the fast patrol. Rosier denounces ignition annoyance and stops at the pits, while the young Perdisa, far from declaring himself beaten, still throws himself into the fight with admirable ardour returning to lap ten in the second position, just behind Behra who in the meantime had still improved his record on the lap.

 

Moss moves to third place, immediately close to Collins, Castellotti, Brooks and Hill. The brilliant Behra still improves his time, while during the fifteenth lap Collins stops: his mechanics cannot proceed with the necessary repairs and must therefore retire, imitated, after the thirty-seventh passage, from Perdisa, for mechanical boredom. On the fortieth lap, only five cars remain on the circuit without having been dubbed. Castellotti leads to the second position, just sixteen seconds, attacking the Frenchman with a lot of daring, imitated by Moss. The race becomes dramatic and despite showing a strenuous will, the French Behra, who seems to no longer be able to trust the brakes of his car, must let himself be overtaken first by Castellotti and shortly after by Moss. The duel between the two great rivals becomes exciting: Moss tries the impossible, showing a reckless audacity in approaching the curves, especially the so-called New World one, considered particularly dangerous. Moss, despite his efforts, fails to fill the gap of a few hundred metres from the wonderful Italian driver and must be content to finish in second place, despite being very close to the superb winner, who deserves a prize of one and a half million francs, while the runner-up a million. The significance of Eugenio Castellotti's victory in the Rouen Grand Prix will not escape anyone. Just a week ago, due to the well-known events in Reims, the Lodi driver reacted with deep discouragement.

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Then a clarifying interview with Enzo Ferrari, the solidarity of the Italian sportsmen and above all the moral qualities of the young man ended up making him regain stability, accompanied by a great desire to take an act of big and immediate revenge. And in the initiative he succeeded splendidly, giving a clear demonstration of the way he realised it. It could have been thought that Castelletti, in Rouen, threw himself in confusion, driven by an uncontrolled youthful heat, indeed fuelled by the particular psychological situation. But no: Castellotti has shown admirable self-control, a sign of great confidence and security in himself, class and intelligence. He let Behra and Collins and Moss rush in a long exhausting fight, then he switched to the attack at just the right time, sporting freshness, physical skills, and perfect driving technique: he crumbled Moss' endurance, then that of the good Jean Behra who had been in command for most of the time, and he won the victory that perhaps more than any other he cared about Collins this time was behind the wheel of an English car, the Aston Martin, and he re-entered if not normal, at least in a more exact evaluation of the values. Ferrari has also reconfirmed itself in the sports category as the best car of the moment, but Maserati also aroused an excellent impression. Another young man, Cesare Perdisa, showed great skills at the Rouen-Les Easarts circuit, realising, among other things, the best lap time. Too bad that a mechanical failure frustrated his efforts. Monday, July 9, 1956, arrived at Malpensa airport, Eugenio Castellotti was intercepted by journalists.

 

"It was the toughest race of my career and not for fear of the responsibilities assumed, but for spoiled meat poisoning. I had eaten at 10:30, then I had been on the Les Essarts circuit where the half-time trial of the Tour took place. What a cheer for Italian cyclists. Everything went well, however, until the moment of the start. When the flag is lowered, the revolution breaks out in my stomach. In the first twenty laps, I envied the fasters by profession. They don't suffer certain pain".

 

He interrupts engineer Sculati, Ferrari's technical director.


"But you always ran as a consummated tactician".


And Castellotti replies.


"I think I've taken them away from me, and I have to thank you for your valuable reports".

 

Tuesday, July 10, 1956, Castellotti will talk to Fangio, who also complained about the story of Reims, and probably with Ferrari, but he already knows that in the next competitions he will be able to run his race, without orders to slow down. The first test will take place on Saturday, and it will be the British Grand Prix, held at Silverstone, valid for the Formula 1 World Championship. Ferrari will carry five cars and drivers Fangio, Collins, Castellotti, De Portago and Gendebien on a special plane. Departure is scheduled for Wednesday, July 11, 1956. Monday, July 9, 1956, at Malpensa airport, while the Ferrari men descend, Ugolini, Maserati's sporting director, shakes a silver cup, relating to the fastest lap marked by Cesare Perdisa. It's not great, but it has immense sporting value. This year fate had fun entrusting Cesare Perdisa with the dark task of Moss' gregarious. In almost all races he had to cede Maserati to the number one of the team when he stopped due to mechanical trouble. Stirling in those circumstances had always found a car in a great race position, a sign that the guy is fine and to his credit. In the Gran Premio auto sport of Rouen, no order stopped Perdisa and the Bolognese was in the lead in the first five laps, broke the circuit record, and then had to stop due to trouble at the clutch while he was in the second position. A bearable misadventure and an overall excellent test. Cesare handed over the cup to Ugolini, Maserati's technical director and is so happy that in Rouen he immediately embarked on the Fiat 1100 of a Bolognese photographer and left for Italy.

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This is the beautiful story of Maserati's very young ace. Maserati has already shipped, also by plane, the Formula 1 cars of Moss and Behra, and by a truck that of Perdisa: the duel between Italian brands, therefore, continues lively. Before getting on the blue Fiat 1100 that brings him back to Milan to celebrate his short license in Italy, Castellotti describes the main phases of the Rouen competition. After the little poisoning, he fought with his teeth with Behra, Moss and, as long as he remained in the race, with Perdisa. The four were in the space of half a minute. He ran the ugliest adventure on the penultimate lap when he found himself in front of Salvadori; the Aston Martin driver, and four seconds behind, Moss on a sport of the same House.

 

"To pass I had to touch Salvadori's car with the bonnet. It's a risk, but I had to run it. Everything ended well I’m happy and now I rest for a couple of days. Goodbye, if you allow, two more words. Collins argument".

 

The Italian champion emphasises that his relationships with Peter were and have always remained excellent.

 

"It was the Englishman who accompanied me on his blue-yellow sedan from Rouen to Orly airport".

 

The trip has strengthened a friendship not even touched by the events of the fight for the Formula 1 World Championship because the real drivers feel the rivalry, but they know how to understand each other. Saturday, July 14, 1956, the British Grand Prix was held in Silverstone, a highly anticipated round of the world championship that will have to answer some exciting questions. First of all, the one concerning the arrangement of the drivers' ranking, which is now quickly approaching the end of the long struggle for the highest title of sports motoring. It's not said, however, that the results of the Silverstone race must be decisive in this regard, and indeed it could reduce even more the five men aspiring to the championship - Collins, Behra, Fangio, Mass and Castellotti - in the space of very few points. Then there is the technical theme of the race, which this time does not seem limited to a question of superiority between Ferrari and Maserati, but extends to the two English brands Vanwall and B.R.M., which during the official tests on Thursday positively impressed with their power skills. Vanwall manufacturer Tony Vandervell says he has great confidence in the car entrusted to the recovered José Froilán González and in the other two that will be assigned to Harry Schell and Maurice Trintignant.

 

"Convincing González to come to England was not easy, but the Argentinean, who already won in Silverstone in 1951 and 1954 two races that seemed desperate at the start, told me that he was very satisfied with the car".

 

González, for his part, declares:

 

"I was looking forward to the time to return to racing and a suitable car. The Vanwall walks very well, much better than I expected. The only unknown is that of the villa, but I hope well".

 

The mansion: it's precisely on this point that the technicians once again grant the favours of prediction to Italian cars, tested by many victorious races. Opinions are divided between Ferrari and Maserati. So far the Maranello cars have proved superior, but in the tests carried out Thursday for this race, Stirling Moss' Maserati gives the impression of having made great progress, even admitting that the English driver knows this strange and difficult circuit like no other. A surprise is provided by the B.R.M., who with Hawthorn won the third absolute best time of the tests on Thursday, July 12, 1956. Blonde Mike seems to have the tooth poisoned against everyone, and at the end of the tests, he makes rather bold statements and is also a little ungenerous about the Formula 1 cars driven so far, which in his opinion would all be inferior to the B.R.M. But these young English drivers are all fearsome: not to mention Collins, who is well determined to consolidate at the top of the world classification, Roy Salvadori also goes very strong between Thursday and Friday with a Maserati of his own modified, by injection, Tritterington with Connaught and Archie Scott-Brown, a surprising boy mutilated on his right arm but who drives Friday, July 13, 1956, the fastest, on a wet track, is Fangio: the world champion does not want to talk, but it is clear that he has not given up fighting to preserve the title at all, and the great favourite is still him. Castellotti also escapes interviews, but he is always with Fangio to remind over plans for the imminent battle, which judging by the premises, should be the most uncertain and exciting among those fought this year.

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The British event to count in the World Championship series returns once more to Silverstone, sponsored by the Daily Express, where the circuit continues to receive improvements in the way of definition and surface, though the ditches between the track and the public are looked upon with dismay by some of the Continental drivers, they quite rightly considering that driver safety should come before public safety. With lap speeds rising steadily, this year’s race had to be lengthened to 101 laps in order to extend the duration of the race to three hours, rather than choosing the alternative of 500 kilometres as laid down in FIA regulations. Before the event are two practice periods, one on Thursday evening and another on Friday morning, which mean rather a lot of hasty work in between for anyone who has trouble. Actually, both practices go off without any great difficulties and the first one sees ideal racing weather conditions, with a dry track, cool atmosphere and no troublesome sunshine, so that some high speeds are recorded in the way of lap times. As always, the factory teams are trying all their drivers on all their cars and generally doing some shuffling about. Ferrari has Fangio, Collins, Castellotti and de Portago on their V8 cars, Maserati are fielding Moss. Behra and Perdisa, and looking after Godia’s private car and that of Piotti for Villoresi to drive, while Maglioli is going to have another go at Formula 1, using the Scuderia Guastalla Maserati. There is a very big turn-out of real British Grand Prix cars, Hawthorn, Brooks and Flockhart having B.R.M.s, Scott-Brown, Fairman and Titterington with Connaughts, and Schell, Trintignant and Gonzalez with Vanwalls, the last-named driver making his re-appearance in European racing. To complete the factory teams there are two eight-cylinder Gordinis, with Manzon and da Silva Ramos. Added to this are all the better-known independent drivers of Grand Prix cars, providing a Grand Prix field as good as can be desired.

 

During practice it is difficult to assess accurately just how well everyone is going, for official times are not available over the loudspeakers and any that are revealed are only to the nearest second. This causes some confusion when the official times are published at the end of practice, for having timed Fangio at 1'41"6, several times when he was so obviously trying hard, he was given 1'42"0 officially. Equally, Hawthorn has been well under 1'43"0 by our timing, but officially he did 1'43"0. Due to this vagueness of timing it is not possible to compare drivers or cars, though Moss is obviously going very fast in the works Maserati, looking very much at his ease, the handling of the Maserati seeming to suit the Silverstone type of corner. In complete contrast the Lancia/Ferraris are anything but at ease. Fangio having to work very hard to go fast, and Collins also putting a lot of effort into his driving. Salvadori is being outstanding on his home ground, and hurling the Gilbey Eng Maserati into the corners with great verve. Of the Vanwalls, Schell is well on form, while Gonzalez is going nearly as fast, but not completely happy about the way the car handles, the light steering and typical Lotus-like wandering of the chassis being strange to him, just as it is to Trintignant. Connaughts are not at all happy, and during the first practice Fairman blows-up Titterington’s car before the Irishman even has a chance of trying it, though he receives an official lap time nevertheless. With the second day’s practice having wet weather to start with, and the track never properly drying, it is Thursday’s times that count for the grid positions. An additional practice is allowed at the end of Friday, as there is some time to spare, but not many drivers have need of it, though Moss tries out his car with a new engine fitted.

 

The rain, which falls throughout the day, forces the drivers to march with relative caution. This explains why the best times recorded in the first round of practice are not even approached. Many drivers, moreover, prefer to stay in the pits hoping in vain for a clearing of time. However, even today's times have an indicative value, precisely because of the pitfalls of the slippery track that has highlighted the stability of some cars and the reckless audacity of some drivers. During the tests there is also an accident, fortunately, revived with slight consequences. The English driver Don Parker, at the wheel of a Cooper-Bristol, perhaps because of the slimy terrain, bumps at the exit of a corner against the tail of Scott-Brown's Connaught, and after a pair of tailheads overturns: immediately transported to the hospital and subjected to radiographic examination, no fractures or injuries of any The Silverstone circuit, which measures about 4,710 metres, is housed on an abandoned military airport, and the track is bordered by empty bins: two long rows of something very similar to pins that wind on a kind of huge concrete clearing. That's why the circuit is judged the safest in the world in an absolute sense for spectators and the drivers themselves. In the British Grand Prix, which will be held over a distance of one hundred and one laps, equal to about 475 kilometres, the starting alignment will see Moss, Fangio, Hawthorn and Collins in the front row; in the second row González, Schell and Castellotti; Behra will be in the third row and Perdisa, also on Maserati, in fourth. Three tests remain to be held, but the regulations prescribe that each driver will score the points obtained in the five races where he will have been better classified, and therefore Collins' advantage is not only numerical but above all solid by the two victories won at Francorchamps and Reims.

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With all this, the championship is far from decided: from Silverstone, however, a definitive word could come, in the form of a third full success of the young Irish ace. It's a hypothesis far from to be discarded, although not extremely likely, given that after the French Grand Prix the well- known controversy broke out between Castellotti and the managers of Scuderia Ferrari, accused of facilitating Collins' victory. On which side reason itself is not easy to say, since neither the sentimental nor those of a practical nature that divided the opinions could be neglected. However, it is difficult to believe that - repeating the same situation - the good Sculati, sporting director of the Modena Scuderia, would feel like bearing the weight of such a decision. Unless the events of the race lead Collins to dominate the situation. For this to happen, however, it would be necessary that Fangio was again targeted by bad luck, that Castellotti did not find himself paired with Collins at the crucial moment when the conventional signal comes out of Ferrari's pits to stabilise the positions, and that Maserati with its Moss, Behra and Perdisa was irretrievably distanced. This is yet to be demonstrated because all these speeches do not take into account the possibilities of the Bear cars, which have been prepared with particular care given the race: Maserati has two men well placed in the world ranking, and its cars seem singularly suitable for the strange Silverstone circuit, which among other things is famous for the surprises that happen there.

 

Finally, the unknown represented by the Vanwall remains, these English cars that perhaps have not yet expressed their full possibilities, and that in any case at Silverstone obtained their first and only victory against continental Formula 1 two months earlier with Stirling Moss. It is said that the real face of the Vanwalls would only appear if they had drivers of the authentic class behind the wheel: this time it seems that the man is there if it is true that the resurrected José Froilán González is the number one of the team. However, the Argentine is obviously out of shape, his appearances in the race have now become very rare. But González's name brings to mind the reputation of the circuit of surprises that Silverstone has since it was here that the cabezon, in 1951, at the wheel of a Ferrari, in one of its proverbial days of flair, broke the dictatorship of Alfa Romeos for the first time; and it was still he who, again with Ferrari, beat the Mercedes returned from Reims' admonitor triumph in 1954. However, having removed the questions of competitive flavour proposed by the fight between drivers for the world title, the British Grand Prix is very interesting for this new confrontation between Ferrari, Maserati and Vanwall, which despite recent appearances is very uncertain. Saturday, July 14, 1956, at 3:30 p.m. the British Grand Prix starts with the two English drivers, Hawthorn and Brooks leading the B.R.M., which was modified and equipped with a four-cylinder engine instead of a six- cylinder.

 

The weather on race day is just about as dull as could be imagined, and the whole of Silverstone is covered by a heavy cloud with a mist in the air that is almost rain. Luckily this damp mistiness is not enough to wet the track, and though the day seems for the spectators it's ideal for racing. The track remains dry, the atmosphere is helpful for unblown engines and the temperature is just the thing for tyres and drivers, while there is no sun glare to worry them. The Silverstone circuit being so wide, it is possible to line the cars on the grid in rows of four- three-four-three, and the front line sees the sort of thing that is becoming pleasingly regular; there are three British drivers in the first four, and one British car, the order being Moss (Maserati), Fangio (Lancia/Ferrari), Hawthorn (B.R.M.), and Collins (Lancia/Ferrari). Then comes Schell (Vanwall). Gonzalez (Vanwall), and Salvadori (Maserati), and in row 3, Brooks (B.R.M.). Titterington (Connaught), Scott-Brown (Connaught), and de Portago (Lancia/Ferrari). There are so many green cars in these first three rows that the possibility of a British success is not unreasonable. Then there come Behra (Maserati), Gould (Maserati), and Castellotti (Lancia/ Ferrari), and in row five, Perdisa (Maserati), Trintignant (Vanwall), Flockhart (B.R.M.), and Manzon (Gordini). The remainder of the 28 starters are in the order, Villoresi, Halford, Fairman, Gerard (Cooper-Bristol), Emery (Emerson), Maglioli, Godia, Ramos, Rosier and Brabham. There are only three non-starters from the official entry list, these being the fifth Lancia/Ferrari that Gendebien should have driven, but he does not arrive, Volonterio (Maserati), and the fourth Connaught that was going to be driven by Leston, but is withdrawn after practice for technical difficulties.

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When the flag falls, it is Hawthorn who shoots out into the lead, closely followed by Brooks, who makes a brilliant get-away from the third row, the two B.R.M. cars out-accelerating all their rivals. In the centre of the track, there is some rapid dodging as the Vanwall of Gonzalez breaks a drive shaft and comes to rest, so that 27 cars roar into Copse Corner in a jostling bunch with the two tiny B.R.M. cars in the lead. At the end of the opening lap, there are cheers for Hawthorn who is way ahead on his own, followed by Brooks, these two leaving the rest of the field quite a way behind in only one lap. Fangio is leading the pack, hotly pursued by Schell, Castellotti, Salvadori and Collins. The second lap sees another struggling crowd of cars behind the two B.R.M.s and drivers heading for corners three and four abreast, the wide spaces of the Silverstone track allowing them room to run side-by-side through the bends. Hawthorn and Brooks are looking completely untroubled and by the third lap are 5 sec ahead of Fangio, who has detached himself from Collins, Salvadori, Schell and Moss. Then come de Portago, Castellotti and Scott-Brown, beginning to get fierce with each other, and the rest of the field in twos and threes and fours. Already some are missing, for Flockhart has gone out on the second lap with engine trouble in the third B.R.M., and Brabham has stopped with the ex- Owen Group Maserati. Now that Fangio has a clear run he begins to go after the two green cars, but though he gains on Brooks, there is nothing he can do about Hawthorn, who is still keeping 5 sec ahead. Fangio gets past into second place on lap six and meanwhile, Moss is closing rapidly on Collins, though Salvadori is still holding on to the two works drivers.

 

Schell stops at the pit with a broken rear shock absorber, so that the Vanwall threat is now finished, for Gonzalez’s car has been pushed away and Trintignant is way down the field in 11th place. The field is now sorting itself out into groups of its capabilities and Scott-Brown is giving nothing to the two Lancia/Ferraris of de Portago and Castellotti, while farther back there is a four-cornered battle in progress between Maglioli, Halford, Godia and da Silva Ramos, while Gerard and Rosier are bringing up the rear. On lap eight the pace is still as hot, and Hawthorn leads from Fangio, Brooks, Moss, Collins and Salvadori, and as they go into Copse Corner, the “aerodrome king” forces his private Maserati past, Collins, into fifth place, while about the same time but some way back, Scott-Brown gets between the two red cars he is dicing with. When they all get around to Becketts Corner, Fangio overdoes things and spins off, but keeps the engine going and re-starts in the gap between Collins and the Lancia/Ferrari- Connaught battle. Now Moss is settling down, and having got himself a clear stretch of road, he sets after Brooks, passing him at the beginning of the 11th lap and taking second place behind the flying Hawthorn, who is still leading, while Fangio catches and passes Collins before that lap is out. Behind this rather select leading group of Hawthorn, Moss, Salvadori, Brooks, Fangio and Collins, there is quite a considerable gap and then comes Scott-Brown with two furious Continentals trying to catch him, and behind them, Titterington, with another Connaught, is getting into his stride and closing up rapidly.

 

At the end of lap 14 the situation is unique, for the first four places are occupied by British drivers and a British car is in the lead, while back in the field more British cars and drivers are sorting out the Continentals, but the next lap it comes to an end, for Moss goes by Hawthorn with complete ease as they go into Copse Corner, and Fangio passes Brooks to take fourth place, so the order as they come by at the end of the 16th lap is Moss, Hawthorn, Salvadori, Fangio, Brooks, Collins, and then everything is upset, for the Connaught of Scott-Brown stops at Becketts Corner when a rear hub assembly collapses. For a short time, the race settles down, with Moss drawing away to a comfortable lead, looking completely relaxed, followed by Hawthorn, still pressing on with the BRM, hotly pursued by Salvadori, who is on top of his form, then comes Fangio, working hard and with a strained look on his face, followed by Brooks at the same speed, looking almost asleep, so relaxed is his driving, while Collins brings up the rear of the leading bunch, working as hard as Fangio, the Lancia/Ferraris not being at all clever the way they are cornering. The rest of the field come by in the order, Castellotti, de Portago, Titterington, Behra, Fairman, then Gould, just a lap behind Moss, and Villoresi, Manzon, Godia, Halford, da Silva Ramos, Maglioli, Perdisa, Gerard and Rosier. The Vanwall team are in complete disorder, which is disappointing after their Reims effort, and Schell is running again, but many laps behind and Trintignant has lost a lot of time at the pits with fuel- feed trouble.

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By 20 laps the weaker are beginning to drop out and the pace begins to tell, the Emeryson retiring, Titterington stopping for plug changing, and Rosier re-setting his carburetters. The BRMs have now shot their bolt and Hawthorn is slowing, so that Salvadori is able to carve him up going into Copse Corner and take second place behind the works Maserati. Then, after completing 23 laps, Hawthorn draws into his pits with all the grease leaking out of a transmission joint, and, not wishing to have it seize up, he withdraws, so the race now becomes in steady procession, with Moss the complete master out in front, followed by Salvadori, more than content to settle in second position, and Fangio some way behind, unable to make up any time at all. The weather is still very overcast and it tries hard to rain, but the odd spot that falls does not wet the track, though many cars are spilling oil and conditions call for great care. Only eight cars remains on the same lap, so that the fast boys are continually lapping other cars, and Fangio is passing on all sides and overtaking into corners on the over-run and entering corners much too fast for neatness, while Salvadori and Moss are making full use of the good roadholding of the Maseratis. Behra is running eighth with a car that just can not produce any power worth having, and by the 28th lap Moss has lapped him, much to the Frenchman’s displeasure. The duel between Castellotti and de Portago is still going on, the Italian leading, but with his mouth open and looking very harassed, while the Spaniard is sitting right behind wearing a wonderful pokerface expression, and every time Castellotti nips by a slower car, his shadow follows through, regardless of whether they are on the straight or in the middle of a corner.

 

By the 33rd lap Moss is going round Maggotts Corner as Salvadori passes the pit area, and Fangio is 30 sec behind the leader and Collins is about to overtake Brooks. Castellotti feels there must be something wrong with his car, so close is de Portago sitting, that he stops at the pits to investigate and this leaves the Spaniard comfortably in sixth place, but a lap behind Moss. Now, nobody seems likely to pass anybody else and it is a matter of sitting back and waiting to see what happens. Unfortunately, it is Brooks who disturbs the order of the race, for, after stopping to fix the throttle control the BRM suffers a structural failure in the rear end and the car and goes end-over-end, throwing the driver out and then catching fire. Brooks receives facial injuries and is taken off to hospital, while the car is burnt right out. Then it is Salvadori’s turn to run into trouble, and though not serious, it is infuriating after such a splendid drive. As he starts his 48th lap a tank-retaining strap breaks and though the tank has aircraft-elastic safety straps as well as the normal steel strap, he has to stop and fix it, so that he drops down to fourth place. This lets Fangio into second place behind Moss, but some 40 sec in arrears on lap 50, then Moss stops for more oil, so that the gap is suddenly reduced to 20 sec, and the Maserati then loses some of its power, so that the gap closes to 8 sec and then 5 sec, but there it stays. Fangio, with a car that handles badly, and Moss, with a car that is down on revs, are now about equal, so that after the half-way mark the order is Moss (Maserati), Fangio (Lancia/Ferrari), Collins (Lancia/Ferrari), Salvadori (Maserati), these being the only ones on the same lap.

 

Then comes de Portago, Behra, closing up quite fast. Fairman with Gould hot on his tail, Castellotti, Villoresi, Godia, Manzon and da Silva Ramos, Perdisa and Gerard, while Schell, Trintignant and Titterington are still circulating, though many laps behind. Many cars, especially some Maseratis, are spilling oil, so that the circuit is in a bad state and the faster drivers are having hectic moments in places, though thanks to their skill, none of them causes any accidents. Collins has not been doing anything spectacular, being content to run a steady and consistent race, and as a result is comfortably in third place, but then his engine begins to overheat and finally all oil-pressure disappears, so he withdraws at the pits. As de Portago is now being menaced by Behra, the Ferrari pit pulls him in and gives the car to Collins, who sets off with renewed vigour, especially when he finds this car goes much better than his has ever gone. Meanwhile Salvadori has begun to suffer from fuel starvation and has dropped right back, finally stopping at the pits and retiring after a drive that suggests he should have been in a works car instead of a privately-owned one. Now Moss and Fangio are in complete command, there being no one else on the same lap with them, and the gap between them being constant and both drivers having settled down to complete regularity. Then, at the 69th lap, the Maserati drops from the lead, when Moss stops at the pits to investigate further loss of power and the ignition leads are changed, but with little effect, so that even if he rejoins the race in second place, ahead of the Lancia/Ferrari now being driven by Collins, he can not lap as fast as Fangio and loses ground rapidly, soon being 11/2 min behind.

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Among the rest of the heavily-depleted field, Villoresi and Godia are having a private race together, until the Spaniard spins momentarily, and Fairman is having Castellotti close up on him gradually. Titterington comes to rest with a collapsed piston and subsequent appearance of a connecting rod through the side of the engine, and the more regular of the slower drivers are beginning to get on the leader board, Gould being seventh and Villoresi eighth. A complete calm settles over the race for a time and it is quite obvious that no-one is going to catch anyone, so it is just a question of waiting to see if any of the cars are going to give trouble. Moss stops for more oil, and Gould does likewise, while Castellotti is called in and de Portago takes over to see if he can catch the steadily-plodding Fairman, whose Connaught is going on and on without any sign of needing to stop. Actually, Castellotti has spun and buckled a front wheel, so his stop is necessary anyway, but he probably doesn’t think a change of driver is called for. By lap 90 Fangio has lapped Collins, who is lying third and is not far from lapping Moss, but this indignity is not to befall Britain’s number one driver, for as he starts his 93rd lap a horrid noise comes from the gearbox and he vainly stirs the gear lever about in search of gears, finally coming to rest on the far side of the circuit on the next lap, after Collins has taken second place from him. This leaves Behra into third place, followed by Fairman in fourth place and Gould fifth, these three having profited by other drivers’ misfortunes. Behra has been going as fast as his under-powered car permits him. Fairman has been deliberately driving steadily, hoping that everyone blows-up, and Gould has been really enjoying himself. Now it is all over, and the cars left running are reeling off the remaining laps until Fangio completes his 101st lap and receives the chequered flag for the first time since his Syracuse win in April.

 

Immediately after the end of the Grand Prix, Stirling Moss gets on board a Maserati and wins the race reserved for cars in the sports category, followed by an Aston Martin and the Jaguars of the Scottish team. Juan Manuel Fangio's victory at Silverstone, in the British Grand Prix, has pleased the vast majority of sportsmen, who rightly consider the Argentine champion still the best in the absolute sense. The Argentine had not had much luck in almost all the tests held this year and indeed, those of the Formula 1 World Championship had managed to win only the Argentine Grand Prix, in Buenos Aires. Second, in Monaco, mechanical failures had forced him to retire at Francorchamps and Reims, while he was largely in the lead; in the world standings, he was preceded by teammate Peter Collins and Maserati driver Jean Behra. Silverstone's race has therefore fallen at a very delicate moment, indeed decisive, and there is something pathetic about the recovery of the champion who knows he is worth even more than the young drivers on the rise. Fangio's race behaviour was also a masterpiece of tactics: influenced by fears about the tightness of the car, the Argentine driver initially limited himself to controlling his opponents, moving on the offensive only when the hardness of the race had begun to weaken the resistance of the vehicles. It's true, however, that the disadvantage compared to Maserati of the unleashed Stirling Moss could perhaps no longer have been filled without the mechanical failure that stopped the action of the English driver.

 

But if a little luck helped Fangio this time, it's just compensation for the too many negative changes that had hit him in the last races. Meanwhile, the ranking of the world championship has profoundly changed the situation: Collins is always first with twenty-two points, but Fangio practically reached him, being only one step below. Behra is at eighteen and the unfortunate Moss at thirteen. Among these four drivers, the title will be decided in only two valid tests that remain: the German Grands Prix, on the Nurburgring and the Italian circuit, in Monza. In terms of the car, Ferrari has brought to four the number of victories achieved in the five rounds held so far. But Maserati has proven to be worth as much as the rival car, dominating for long periods and achieving the fastest lap with Moss. Also on this point, the two races that remain are under the sign of the most lively uncertainty, especially since even the English cars continue to progress, even if they still lack tightness. B.R.M. had an overwhelming start to the race, demonstrating power and speed superior to Italian cars. Next year it will be necessary for Italian houses to do something new because the British threat is a reality that should not be underestimated. Think then that the many English drivers who are establishing themselves from race to race are just waiting for the moment to have British cars able to fight as equal to equal with the Italian ones, to leave behind the latter. Moss, Collins, Hawthorn, not to mention Brooks, Salvadori, etc., at the wheel of well-prepared English cars would become difficult to overcome.

 

Simone Pietro Zazza

 

Translated by Valentina De Sanctis

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