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#56 1956 Italian Grand Prix

2021-04-16 01:00

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#1956, Fulvio Conti, Translated by Nicola Carriero, Simone Pietro Zazza, Translated by Michela Petrillo,

#56 1956 Italian Grand Prix

After his son’s disappearance, looking for certainties, Enzo Ferrari travels to Turin in August. In the offices of Mirafiori’s factory, the constructo

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After his son’s disappearance, looking for certainties, Enzo Ferrari travels to Turin in August. In the offices of Mirafiori’s factory, the constructor from Modena meets Vittorio Valletta, the maker of the great industrial miracle called Fiat. Ferrari and Valletta have been knowing each other since the spring of 1922, when Fiat’s manager was already one of the directors of the Turin house and Enzo was already a driver of great hopes. With Valletta, who was also the main protagonist of the free disposal of all Lancia’s material, Ferrari talks about future: in the middle of a meeting, he informs him of the situation in the company after his son’s disappearance, and he does not deny the deep crisis of discouragement in which he threw himself. For the first time in his whole life, future does not seem to belong to him or even be one of his interests. But Valletta reassures him:

 

"Behind this table a friend sits, and this friend represents Fiat".

 

Therefore, Ferrari and Valletta leave each other without a definite agreement, but with the understanding that the Modena constructor could always turn to the Fiat for every need. Meanwhile, Ferrari keeps winning on the circuits all around the world: on Sunday, August 12, 1956, Ferrari wins the Swedish Grand Prix, last of the five valid attempts for the sportscars’ world championship. The triumph is completed by the Frenchman Maurice Trintignant, who takes first place paired with the American Philip Hill, by the car driven by von Trips and Collins, who occupy second place, and by Hawthorn and De Portago, who complete the podium. As if it were not enough, two of his unofficial cars, always produced in Maranello, come fourth and fifth respectively. Italian company’s success gains an incredible meaning, if one thinks that only six cars are able to finish the race: all Ferrari except one, the Jaguar driven by Peter Graam, the only survival of all the opponents. With this victory, Ferrari wins the sportscars’ world championship, with 24 points. The race is tough, studded with countless crashes, thankfully without serious consequences for the drivers but several cars report sever damage or remain wrecked. The race held in Råbelövsbanan, Kristianstad, starts at 12:10 a.m. in the presence of 70.000 spectators, with a cloudy sky and with a slightly slippery track due to the rain. Out of the 18 starters, the fastest driver is Collins with a Maserati, who right away takes the lead followed by Stirling Moss on a Maserati, while Castellotti (paired with the world champion Fangio) is rather delayed and struggles to follow the group. Immediately, the series of incidents begins: the British Ron Flockhart on a Jaguar, winner of this year’s Le Mans, goes off track, but after half an hour spent in the pits he will be able to re-join the race. 

 

More unlucky is the Italian driver Taruffi on a Maserati who, after losing control of the car in a turn, goes off track; the driver remains unharmed, but the car shows serious damage. During the twenty-fifth lap, there is another crash: this time, the injured is Godia on a Maserati, who goes off track but is unharmed, much that after 15 minutes he re-joins the race; but, later, he is forced to retire. Meanwhile, the race keeps going at a brisk pace. A little later, among the clouds the sun peeps out, and a gentle breeze dries the track’s bottom. After 48 laps, Collins stops in the pits to refuel; the procedure takes two minutes, and in the meantime, Gendebien, the second driver, gets behind the wheel, leaving the first place to Stirling Moss. Shortly before the sixtieth lap, Behra takes the place of Moss behind the wheel of the Maserati, De Portago relieves Hawthorn and Hill takes the place of Trintignant, driving the Ferrari. During the sixtieth lap, the positions are the following: in third position there is Behra with Maserati, followed by von Trips’ Ferrari, while Castellotti follows in third position, replaced by Fangio at lap 62. After few laps, the Argentine driver gains second position, followed by his teammates, Collins, Gendebien, Hill, and De Portago. Behra drives with a hellish pace to resist the Ferrari chase, but his car, subject to too much effort, is forced to stop in the pits because of mechanical problems. During lap 61, Behra on Maserati is forced to stop in the pits again, because of mechanical trouble; this accident seriously compromises Maserati’s fate. On lap 66, the reserve driver for Ferrari, Manzon, who took Gendebien’s place, goes off track and is forced to retire. The same accident happens to Hill, but he manages to resume the race. But the series of crashes is not finished yet: during lap 80 Collins, who is at the head of the race, goes off track at Raabeloevs’s turn. 

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But the driver, with admirable cold blood, manages to keep control over the car, re-entering the circuit. The British driver, however, is overtaken by Fangio, De Portago and Behra, who will lead in this order. While Collins and De Portago, both on Ferrari, and Behra, on Maserati, stop in the pits to refuel and change tires, Hill takes second place. On lap 92, four Ferraris are leading, followed by the two Maserati driven by Behra and Villoresi, who will be replaced by Stirling Moss during lap 92. On lap 96, Behra’s Maserati is permanently removed from the race: the car takes fire while it is stopped at the filling spot. However, the firefighters manage to push the car away from the stalls, avoiding further troubles. The Maserati driver takes some risks, but is able to get out of that frightening adventure unharmed. Right after, Flockhart on a Jaguar goes off track for the second time and he retires from the race. Meanwhile Ferrari’s safe march continues. The last hopes for Maserati fade away during lap 117, when the only Maserati in the race gets eliminated by an accident: Moss’s car loses control in a corner, goes off track and catches fire. The driver is saved, but his car is practically destroyed. At this stage the Scuderia Ferrari orders the drivers not to push. Later, Castellotti takes over for Fangio; on lap 120, his car is leading, but lurking bad luck conspires against the Italian, because, while heading to a sure victory, his car accuses mechanical failures and is force to retire from the race. But success will not escape the drivers of Ferrari. Ferrari, instead, will not be present to the next motoring appointment, the Pescara Grand Prix, that is held on Sunday, August 19, 1956. At this race, 44 drivers are present, who represent seven nations. Even if Ferrari’s line-up is not present, the starting field is full of important names, among which stand out Maglioli, Chiron, Villoresi, Manzon, Schell, Musso, Rosier, Behra, and Taruffi. A valuable line-up that ensures full success to the race, governed as it is known by the formula based on displacement up to 2000 sports, with an exclusive ranking up to 1500 cubic centimetres. The latest news talk reports rumours of a substitution: Cesare Perdisa, the friendly driver from Bologna, got injured at the Nürburgring, and in order to heal he needs four months off. His place, in Pescara, is taken by Luigi Bellucci. 

 

The official practice takes place on Saturday, August 18th 1956, from 8:00 to 10:00 p.m., while the race starts on Sunday morning, at 9:00 a.m. The race will see four racing cars sprint to the finish line in Pescara, an unforgettable finish and a surprise win: Manzon, on the light blue Gordini, makes up three positions in the last 500 meters. He was fourth but comes first, burning at the finish line Taruffi’s hopes, Munaron and Cortese ranked in this order. The 26-year-old from Turin, in a special way, is disappointed because of his car’s sprint to the finish line. At the variant located about 300 metres from the finish grandstands, he seemed on his way to a fine achievement, which would come on top of his victory in the 12 Hours of Hyeres and other races. But the slowdown of his Ferrari was fatal: Manzon and Taruffi sped past him. But this is not the only twist of the last few laps in Pescara: starting with Behra’s retirement, who with his Maserati was leading until now the fast carousel, ending with the announcement of the speaker that Taruffi was now definitely in the lead. Taruffi was driving very cleverly and his success was more than likely, but even the last-minute prediction is now blown. The race starts at 9:30 a.m., with a delay of 30 minutes than originally planned, when the starter - ACI’s president, prince Caracciolo - lowers the start flag. Behra starts with slight delay, and Cortese gains some metres. But after a few kilometres, Behra takes the lead, followed closely by Cortese on a Ferrari, by Maglioli on Porsche 1500, by Villoresi on Osca 1500 and by Bellucci on Maserati. The first lap completed in 11'29"3, at the speed of 135.700 km/h, is an assurance of competitiveness. The Frenchman dominates the race for twelve laps, accumulating minutes upon minutes. Interesting and followed with passion is the steady ride of the trio Munaron-Carini-Bonnier, which is then joined by Manzon, who, with a spectacular skill, overtakes all of them in the last stretch. A little apprehension follows when Piper’s Lotus, at the exit of last turn, skids and gets stuck in a straw bale. No fear and no harm. The driver will manage to put the car in place and resume his race with the front end all dented. Meanwhile out of the starting 30 cars, only 18 are still in the race; the largest retirements occur because of the strong heat. On lap 12, Behra is still leading, followed by Taruffi, Villoresi, Manzon and Munaron, and while the end of the race is certain, the twist happens: Behra’s Maserati loses time.

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In Cappelle, Franco Cortese takes the lead of the race, followed closely by Taruffi and Manzon. In Montesilvano, Taruffi overtakes Cortese, so he leads the race followed by Cortese and Munaron who press. Then comes the emotional end. A few days later, Saturday, August 25, 1956, the original 10 Hours Night of Messina comes back in the fifth edition with a remarkable innovation, due to the restrictions imposed by the Interministerial subcommittee that reduced its duration to only five hours. The race, even if maimed, has not lost its importance: indeed, even this year it is listed in the international calendar of the motoring races and is a test of the Italian championship conductor. After the official practice carried out during the night, the 10 hours race enters in the eve burning phase. The start is set at 8:00 p.m. The race’s rhythm, very strong, provokes a first selection: the contenders Mac Fraser, Guarducci and Carini are forced to retire. Thrill does not lack: during the sixth lap, Bonnier, with his Alfa Romeo, skids into a turn and crashes against the wall: the car brings back damage but the driver remains unharmed. After the first hour of the race, Hill is leading on Ferrari, followed by Musy on Maserati, meanwhile, in the class up to 1500 cubic centimetres, Garavaglia is leading on Maserati. Hill, going on with his safe pace, is leading even at the end of the second and third hour, and in between the retirements of Munaron, Starabba, Gerini and Pottino happen. The American driver continues his race undisturbed, leading until the end of the fifth hour, gaining the victory. Meanwhile in France, Sunday, August 26 of 1956, the bizarre driver Harry Schell wins the Caen Grand Prix with his Maserati. The race presents rather few drivers, most of them isolated (only the Gordini signs up its official team for the competition). The American driver, living in Paris, when he is in the right mood, he seems unstoppable, but he is also well known in the sport environment for his oddities. The previous week, Schell signed up for the Ollon Villars race and the Caen one at the same time, going for the last one without notifying the Swiss race organizers. They immediately asked FIA to withdraw the driver’s license, on which hangs the very serious penalty, which, if applied, will prevent him from defending Vanwall’s colours next Sunday in Monza. It would be unpleasant, because the European Grand Prix is the most important test of this glimpse of season, the last of the Formula 1 World Championship, and it deserves to take place in full ranks. 

 

Unfortunately, there is another threat, made up of the Maserati’s reserves, which, although it has entered his own team, has hinted that it will only take part in the race if the tests of the newly set up cars are positive. These tests are supposed to take place in Monza on Tuesday, August 28, 1956, and it is easy to realize that the race’s technical/agonistic interest depends largely on these. The Italian Grand Prix, which will end on Sunday at Monza, the Formula 1 World Championship, has taken on this year - because of the normal seasonal rotation - the title of XVI Grand Prix of Europe. In the previous fifteen editions, this title - which clearly is just honorary - has been assigned four times to the Italian Grand Prix, the same number of times to Belgium’s, two times to France, and one to Switzerland, Germany, Great Britain, Spain and Mexico. Italian or European, the upcoming Grand Prix still has the entire importance that tradition assigns to it, that is the privilege of being the annual closing race of the racing season for Formula 1, and also the privilege of probably being the most classical European car event, taking place in the country regarded as the mecca of racing cars. It should be added that the famous race, after the renewal made during the 1955, shares with the Indianapolis race (which however has completely different characteristics) the privilege of being the fastest of the whole world, and as such it has, upon the constructors and the drivers, the primordial fascination of absolute achievements, of that pure speed that constitutes the first target of motorsports. As usual, the demonstration is to be framed in two different aspects: the technical one and the sporting one. Under the last aspect, the European Grand Prix is called to crown the 1956 World Champion. It is very likely that the title will be gained for the fourth time - third consecutive - by the current owner Juan Manuel Fangio, the Argentine ace, Ferrari’s colour bearer. In the standings, Fangio is indeed leading with 30 points, against the 20 points of his teammate Collins and the ones of the Maserati’s driver, Jean Behra. Now the points at stake are just nine (eight for the first place and one for the one who will mark the best lap time), and to subvert predictions, it would be necessary for Collins or Behra to gain the most points, which theoretically could happen, but simultaneously with Fangio not being in the first five or retiring. Among other things, the regulation and the teamwork give the chance of fixing situations that seem compromised: the delayed driver or retired can take the wheel of a car still in the competition, dividing the score gained with the replaced driver.

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So, unless there are any big surprises, always possible in motor sports, the world title issue should exhaust itself in reconfirmation of Fangio, who totally deserves it, being unanimous the judgment of technicians on his superiority. More uncertain, and more interesting, seems the technical reason of the European Grand Prix. Because, if it is true that Ferrari has won five of the six races held this year, proving to be on a significantly higher average performance plane than the opposing cars, these, Maserati especially, to which the English Vanwall has added in the last times, have given the feeling of being able to cope with it. By the way, Maserati has won a championship round (Monaco). It is possible to believe that, in terms of pure power delivered by the three engines mentioned - all of 2500 cubic centimetres, the maximum limit allowed by the current formula - there is a sensitive balance between Ferrari and Maserati, meanwhile, the four-cylinder Vanwall, powered by a direct injection system - like the Mercedes’ engines of last year - should be even superior, approaching 290 horsepower. Ferrari lets emerge its employment skills in the distance hold, in the stability of the car chassis and in the best aerodynamic performance of the bodywork, which on the fast tracks means higher absolute speeds. Just in this regard, on Wednesday, August 29, 1956, Maserati tests in Monza a modified car that, driven by Behra, unofficially improves the track record established the previous year by Moss’s Mercedes. This car is provided with a special fairing and presents a wheel moved to the right, keeping in mind the direction of the track. In addition, this car is lower and elongated, and it has the final line slightly higher. On the circular ring, the Frenchman reaches the speed of 258.445 km/h average, while over the entire ten kilometres of the race the average speed is 210.867 km/h. The main technical interest in Monza falls on the new two Maserati driven by Moss and Behra, because, even if the most of the mechanical components are the same, shortly before the bulkhead, the chassis is bent outward in order to make the cockpit larger, and the carburettor is assembled inclined towards the left, so that the drive shaft can go under the left side of the driver’s knee. This implies a new 5-speed gearbox assembly, always following the same principle of the main and sideways shaft, but with input chamfers. Because of this, the driving seat has been lowered and assembled lightly on the right of the cockpit, while the fuel tank is being shaped to form a headrest behind the driver. 

 

The cockpit’s sides and the polymethylmethacrylate windshield are all carried in the tail of the car, so that only the driver’s head is visible, putting the shoulders and the arms in the cockpit. The fuel tank is assembled on the tire and placed by spring bolts, taking the place of the usual flat steel belts, anyway the new idea will not be successful. The hood is wrapped tightly around the engine and the fuel intakes are covered with a tubular duct with an opening at the front, coated with gauze on Behra’s car but equipped with a long extension forward on the nose of Moss’s car. The radiators are lower and larger and they have some deflectors to bring hot air to the bottom and to the outside through the underbody. The front and the rear suspension, the brakes, the clutch and the engine are all identical to the normal Maserati for Grand Prix, but the steering box is placed on the chassis of the new cars, instead of being on the clutch box as usual. Apart from all the changes, the pace has been lengthened by 20 millimetres and, with the lower centre of gravity, the handling has been greatly improved, while the lower frontal area and the more aerodynamic bodywork takes into account the speed improvement. Both cars, apart from the normal ones, uses single tailpipes, but for the race they will convert to the regular system of dual exhaust tailpipes. The Lancia-Ferrari does not show any changes from its last appearance. The Scuderia Ferrari is satisfied with a constant development of the engine. On the car driven by Collins is used a curved polymethylmethacrylate windshield instead of a normal aerodynamic glass screen. Also, the Vanwall are mechanically unchanged, but they are equipped with the steel bridges de Dion of much higher thickness to avoid breakage on the bumps of the elevated runway, while the fuel load will be limited so as not to stress the suspension. If it is true that, on next Sunday, the fight for the world championship conductors will end and that Fangio has many possibilities of winning for the fourth time the maximum success, another interesting rank comes to an end as well: the constructors one. Fifty million lire, raffled off by the ACI, are available to the team that has gained in the season the best score in at least five valid tests for the world title. Ferrari has basically assured the sum, having won in the season five races on the six played so far. Maserati will look for a prestigious success. 

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Right on the car of the Orsi brothers, as said, doubts arise on its participation in the Monza race, but on Tuesday, August 28, 1956, every doubt is dissipated after the practice sustained by Villoresi and Behra on a car of old and new type. So, Maserati is driving this Sunday and an intense battle is expected during the European Grand Prix. The sixteenth European Grand Prix, the 27th of Italy, is just around the corner: the international motoring world shines the spotlight on an event that every year renews glories, enthusiasm and interests. Monza has been representing a flag for 31 years, has followed the growth and the technical evolution of the racing car after World War I, has held the christening of dozens of new cars, has majored the greatest champions of this complex and fascinating sport. Monza’s history identifies itself, in short, with the one of the most automotive technical pushes and of the men who have made of it their ideal. On Sunday, September 10, 1922, inaugural day of the race track, the red Fiat of Bordino and Felice Nazzaro sped victoriously across the finish line: one car and two Turin drivers. From that day many other no less celebrated cars have stepped on the concrete of Monza, Alfa Romeo, Bugatti, Maserati, Delage, then the formidable Mercedes and Auto Union, until the latest Ferrari. And many glorious names, from Salamano to Antonio Ascari, from Brilli Peri to Benoist, from Chiron to Varzi, from Campari to Nuvolari; and again Cracciolo, Fagioli, Rosemeyer, Stuck, Trossi, Farina, Villoresi, Alberto Ascari, Fangio. Only those who won at Monza can express himself as a complete champion. The drivers know that, and the teams as well: because of this, everyone trains with a will and scrupulousness that exceed the ones normally applied in every other race. The previous week it has been Ferrari to complete the preparation of its formidable resources. The house of Maranello is, between all, the most peaceful: it has the perfect cars and a first-rate team. Today, lastly, a new Ferrari hits the track. So, the preliminary phase of the Grand Prix, the one made of anxieties and secrets, of voices and hopes, comes to an end. On Friday, the official practice will begin, then on Sunday not only the chronometers will count, but also the many kilometres pulled at the pace of 200 km/h average. The line-up is nearly completed: five Ferrari, four Maserati, three Vanwall, three Gordini, six individuals of great value. 

 

Overall, 24 cars, two Italian brands, two English ones and French one. The B.R.M. and the Bugatti miss, but it is an absence that doesn’t burden the show and the technical meaning of the race. Between the drivers of international class, the injured Giuseppe Farina, who is currently at Brussels hosted by the royalty of Belgium, Perdisa and Hawthorn will not be present: sad news from the elderly Turin ace who at Monza, in 1950, was proclaimed Champion of the World. The sixteenth European Grand Prix will end, by the way, the three years of application of the formula itself, which prescribes a maximum displacement of 2500 cc for engines without a supercharger or 750 cubic centimetres in the case of supercharged engines. As it is known, no constructor sticks to this possibility, considering the too severe handicap of displacement and the fact that even without the use of the compressor the most advanced motor technology has by now achieved very brilliant achievements, significantly exceeding the 100 HP per 1000 cc. This goal, which before the war has been reached only through the forced power supply by compressor, clearly expresses the progress achieved by the designers of sport cars in solving the problems proposed to the actual Formula 1, which through the limitation of displacements has the aim of pushing for the research of the maximum possible power. Now, the great race at Monza, because of the peculiar planimetric configuration of the new track - which is the fastest of the world - has the function of highlighting the qualities of power and speed of Formula 1 cars, meaning those two elements that are the base of mechanical sports. On Friday, August 31, 1956, the European Grand Prix enters its preliminary phase with the beginning of the official practice. From these tests, some indications on the drivers’ potential for the last test of the World Championship are expected; after three hours of dazzling day in the mugginess of a sun-drenched afternoon, one first conclusion has arrived, the Ferrari are still at the forefront of values, and Fangio is still the number one among the drivers. It can be that on Saturday, final day of training, the impressions have to be changed, but only in terms of cars. It can be that the events of the race lead to a change in balance power, but having to reduce the judgment to what we saw on Friday, one cannot help but conclude that the superiority of Maranello’s single-seaters seems difficult to measure. 

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Not only in the rank of lap times three Ferrari occupy the first three places with Fangio, the surprising Musso and Castellotti, but the World Champion accomplishes the sensational feat of exceeding on the full ten-kilometres lap an average speed of 220 km/h, a limit that was seen as unreachable. The new Maserati are quite detached, but the engineers and the drivers, even after declaring themselves convinced of the possibility of doing better on Saturday (ratios on the cars will be applied) do not get their hopes up too high facing the times of Ferrari. Vanwall did little too, but the only car that hits the track, and on which Taruffi and Schell took turns, is a test car. The Vanwall, according to the official affirmations, is still not okay with reports. If that is not the case, they would be a real disappointment. Connaught are non-existent, of which one of the drivers is Archie Scott-Brown, right forearm amputee, who uses a special device to drive. The medical check-up declared him capable and there is nothing to check, except that the world of races is a crazy one. The tires’ behaviour causes some concern, stressed out of ordinary by the high speeds and the tarmac temperatures. The Friday practice is, in this regard, useful for developing tire pressure and the most adapt measures. But from this problem there are always surprises to be expected, which might influence in a decisive way the outcome of the race. The first round of practice for the European Grand Prix helped to mitigate many illusions between the rivals of Ferrari. The cars from Maranello, wonderfully crafted, more efficient than ever, offer a categorical demonstration of Fangio’s possibilities, who exceeds an average speed of 200 km/h. The Argentine ace’s feat leaves everyone stunned, and alive is the curiosity of seeing if on Saturday the limit - which during the race will remain of course at a more reasonable level - will be exceeded. But the biggest surprise comes from Luigi Musso. Meanwhile, car apart, Fangio confirms himself the best driver of the moment. The friendly Roman driver, after the Nürburgring’s crash in last May, had not recovered, and even on Friday, before beginning his round of training, he is nervous and defied.

 

"I can’t find my shape anymore and, if I go too slow, I’m always blaming the car, but it’s me, Luigi Musso, I’m becoming a jerk".

 

This bitter belief – it is not sure if fully sincere - has to turn into the most outspoken happiness when, after a series of laps more and more brilliant, will be announced to him the formidable time of 2'43"7. The thoughts, the joys, the anxieties of the drivers are all connected with these fractions of time, which deeply constitute the real essence of motor sports. For instance, the engineer Alfieri of Maserati is in a sad mood at the end of the training.

 

"A lot of sacrifices, a lot of work, a lot of passion to get ready, in a decent way, for this race and then we notice that is not enough. Yet we don’t give up in ourselves: during the night we will work without a minute of stop and tomorrow we will be here again, stopwatch in hand, ear strained to perceive the roar of our approaching engine, and with many renewed hopes. But what a difficult life, what an attrition for the nervous system".

 

This is the environment on the eve of this outstanding European Grand Prix. The main characters are the drivers and the constructors, mechanics and entourage, who focus on the stopwatch in their hands and on a few hours of race. Friday afternoon is the first official practice period and there are six Lancia-Ferraris out, with Fangio, Colllins, Castellotti, Musso, de Portago and von Trips, the first five being entered as the official team with the German driver as reserve, even though if the two days of practice finish without the loss of a car, then all six would run in the race. Maserati have their two new cars out for Moss and Behra, the latter still unpainted, and in addition a normal 250/F1 with fuel injection and two similar cars with carburettors. As Perdisa’s Nürburgring crash proved more serious than initially imagined, he is still unable to drive and his place is taken by Villoresi, with Maglioli added for luck. Vanwall enters three cars, with a fourth one standing by as spare, and the drivers are Schell, Trintignant and Taruffi, the major problem with the cars being to keep them in one piece over the high-speed bumps around the banked corners. 

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Connaught has three cars running, with Fairman, Leston and, hopefully, Scott-Brown, but as the Italian authorities are not prepared to accept Archie’s physical disabilities, his place is taken by Flockhart, there being no B.R.M. for him to drive. To complete the factory teams there is Gordini with two eight-cylinders for Manzon and da Silva Ramos and a six-cylinder for Simon. This collection alone would make a worthy field for a Grand Prix, but the list is enlarged even more by Graffenried with the Scuderia Centro-Sud Maserati, Gerini with the Scuderia Guastalla Maserati, Piotti, Godia, Salvadori, and Halford with their private Maseratis, making a total of 24 cars. The first practice session begins to cause problems, especially for the Ferrari team, for they are running on 16-inch Englebert tyres, the same as they tried last year, and once more they are having trouble with treads lifting when driving really hard around the banked corners though they are lapping very fast and Fangio records an all-time fastest with 2'42"6. The Pirelli firm is refusing to let any of their customers run on anything but 17-inch diameter tyres as it is trying to prevent tyre troubles and this makes it difficult for Connaught as it normally uses special Dunlop wheels of 16-inch diameter and there are no 17-inch rims available of this special type. All the Maseratis are able to use 17-inch Borrani Wheels, so Connaught are in a quandary until Avon comes along and agrees to let them run on their 16-inch tyres, being confident that they would take the high speeds on the banking. Musso is totally recovered from his broken arm and is right back in form, lapping in 2'43"7, while Castellotti is next fastest with 2'45"2. Apart from the tyre problems, the Ferrari team are going exceptionally fast and very reliable, whereas Maserati are not so happy, the new cars not being as quick as the Ferraris, while Behra’s new one keeps boiling. Moss is becoming happier with his car although it is his first introduction to it, not having been present during the trials earlier in the week, and, as a consequence, the driving position does not really fit to his liking. The injection car is not being taken at all seriously and is soon discarded. Neither the Vanwall team nor the Connaught team are really in their stride on this first afternoon and, apart from the tyre troubles, Ferrari are in a very comfortable situation. On Saturday, September first, 1956, the weather is cool; it rains at times, and only towards the sunset the tone of the practice becomes interesting. In the first half of the afternoon, few drivers make an effort, but there is no lack of big excitement when the reserve driver of Ferrari, the young German von Tips, flies off the road at the Roggia corner, which connects the grandstands straight to the circuit road layout. By 4:00 p.m., some drivers, passing forward the grandstands and moving the arm in a rotational direction, a sign that means that someone was involved in a crash. There are not many cars on track, and immediately the name of who might be is made: von Trips, after these signs, did not show up.

 

"Something must have happened to him".

 

It is said in the pits, the alarm spreads immediately. Then in the pits comes Collins, followed by Castellotti. The British driver says that, little before, passing on the road section that follows the turn after the main straight, noticed on the grass a smashed car and nearby a man crumpled on himself. Straight after Castellotti clarifies that it is von Trips’ car, and he is standing and gave him a sign that everything was fine. The race director immediately stops the session, and he quickly heads to the scene of the accident on a car followed by a tow truck, where there is von Trips standing, luckily unharmed. Transported to the infirmary, he is treated for minor scratches and bruises to his right arm and neck, despite being tumbled by a car spinning at least 23km/h.

 

"It went like this. Meaning, I don’t know what really happened. Maybe because I don’t have much familiarity with the car and with the track, maybe because of another reason, I was not able to verify, fact is that suddenly the car lost control and began doing pirouettes. It did three or four of them, spinning on itself. Luckily, during the first, I was thrown out of my car seat, I did some pirouettes on the ground myself, but less dangerous than the one that the car kept doing, which ended stopping against a tree, and it is clear that is pretty damaged".

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So, the T car is reduced to a pile of twisted metal sheets, and who knows in which state would have been von Trips if fortune did not throw him out of the car during the first pirouette. Shortly after, smiling, the German driver loiters in the grandstand, as if the protagonist of the accident was someone else. The last day of official practice brings a new element, not really unexpected, making the concrete possibilities of the Vanwall resurface to a certainly much more sensitive extent, at least the one driven by the best driver and the one with the most experience, Piero Taruffi. The driver from Rome has indeed set the second-best performance, after the one of Castellotti, wedging himself in the general rank of times made during the two rounds of training, close to the fastest three Ferrari, and ahead of Maserati. These last one seems improved compared to Friday, as the times obtained by Moss and Villoresi show, but the performance gap in terms of speed against Ferrari is still quite wide. Naturally, one thing is the times of the practice and another 500 km pulled at an average speed of more than 200 km/h. And it is this consideration that, despite impressing judgments clearly orientated towards a prediction in favour of Ferrari, leads to caution in the predictions. It is certain that neither Maserati nor the same Vanwall will give up a battle in the Grand Prix. In the garage, during the eve’s practice, first rumours about the composition of the teams for the next season are circulating. It is sure, for example, that Fangio has a verbal commitment with Enzo Ferrari to run even in 1957 with Maranello’s cars, despite tempting offers from Vanwall. However, the Argentine ace reportedly asked to compete only in the Formula 1 World Championship practice. For the English House it seems that Moss has decided to race and, moreover, Vanwall attires a lot of drivers, because it is thought that the car for next year would be a great opponent of the Italian ones, and because Mister Tony Vanderwell pays really well. On Sunday, September 2, 1956, after the usual ceremonial parade of national flags participating drivers, the anthems, and the alignment of the cars, the starter - the president of the Automobile Club of Italy, prince Caracciolo, at 3:00 p.m. starts the European Grand Prix.  When the flag falls, Musso leads away, with Castellotti and Fangio in echelon, followed by Moss and Collins, but before the first lap is completed, the green Vanwall of Schell is up amongst the leaders, and they go by in the order Castellotti, Musso, Fangio, Schell, Collins and Moss. 

 

This is really going to be an end-of-season battle and there are no holds barred, the Ferrari drivers throw caution to the winds and forget all possibilities of tyre trouble, and Castellotti and Musso race side by side having a very personal battle and completely overlooking any possibilities of team tactics. Schell is holding a terrific third place, leading Fangio, Collins and Moss, who are almost touching each other, while a few yards behind there is Taruffi, and already - after only two laps - there is a considerable gap before the rest of the field arrives, led by Behra and Portago having a wheel-to-wheel battle. Fairman is leading the Connaughts and all the private owners and Manzon stops at the pits with a broken chassis frame. On the next lap, the leaders hold the same positions with no increase at all in the separating gaps, and Villoresi stops to change plugs and lets Bonnier have a go in the car. On lap four, Schell drops from third to sixth place, but this is not serious as it means only a matter of a few car lengths in this really close battle. It is clear that Castellotti and Musso are out to win or blow each other up, and halfway round the fifth lap the trouble starts, for both cars throw the left-side rear tyre tread, and as Moss, Fangio, Schell and Collins go by in a group, Castellotti and Musso slither to a stop at the pits and scream for new tyres. In a matter of seconds, they are both back in the race but they dropped to 13th and 15th place, as everyone is going very fast. On the very next lap, de Portago has his left rear tyre tread come off and after a hair-raising 160 mph slide down the banking, he motors slowly back to the pits, but cannot continue as the suspension is damaged. Then, Leston retires with a stripped torsion-bar spline on the rear of the Connaught, and on the next lap Bonnier stops with the Maserati sounding very flat and Salvadori comes in to investigate a fuel leak in the auxiliary tank in the cockpit. The fight for the lead is still going on unabated, with Schell and Moss going back and forth, the Vanwall having to lift off on the banking but being much faster down the straights. Schell would lead at the end of the road circuit and Moss would then pass him around the banking, and meanwhile Fangio and Collins are sitting close behind, wondering how much longer their rear tyres are going to last. 

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Musso and Castellotti are making up time rapidly, going as hard as they know how, Musso’s gear-changes as he passes the pits being so fast that there is no audible break in the exhaust note. Maglioli, who is running eighth, is being worried by the fact that his rear bonnet catches are undone but continues hopefully, and Halford is pouring out smoke front worn-out pistons. At the end of the ninth lap, Taruffi is still holding a steady fifth place but then comes into the pit, as oil is leaking from the transmission. At almost the same moment, Castellotti is screaming around the very edge of the south banking and about to join the finishing straight when once more his left rear tyre throws its tread and the car spins helplessly off the banking on to the infield, strikes a barrier and ricochets back on to the track and, still spinning wildly, crosses the inner track and comes to rest on the grass, and a rather furious and somewhat shaken Castellotti gets out completely unhurt. The race is now becoming fantasy and, on lap 11, Collins has the left rear tyre burst and stops at the pits. All these troubles are caused by the terrific centrifugal loads due to the high speeds around the banking, together with the roughness of the concrete. At the end of this lap, Schell manages to hold his lead for a full lap and the Vanwall is well and truly in the lead of the Grand Prix of Europe for the first time in history. However, Moss and Fangio are right on his tail, in the Maserati and Lancia/Ferrari respectively, and for the next six laps there is never more than a few feet between the three of them, the Vanwall once more proving itself the fastest existing Grand Prix car but not the most roadworthy. Taruffi is still at the pits, and then Trintignant retires with broken front spring mounting and Fairman comes in with his left front tyre in shreds. Musso and Collins are still making up time and are fifth and seventh, respectively, while eighth place is now a wheel-to-wheel battle between Flockhart and Godia, first one leading and then the other. Taruffi restarts, does one lap and retires, the oil leak from the rear still being impossible. On lap 18 Musso, overtakes Behra and takes fourth place, and on the next lap, a new series of troubles starts for Ferrari, for Fangio comes slowly into the pits with his front wheels pointing in opposite directions, the right-hand steering arm having broken. 

 

At the same time, a shower of rain falls and Schell, quite reasonably, is not brave enough to keep up the pace in the prancing Vanwall on a wet track, and Moss then draws away into a comfortable lead of 10 seconds. In less than half the race distance, the whole Ferrari team has now suffered trouble, although only Fangio manages not to burst a tyre, which he makes up for with the broken steering arm. Although the shower of rain lasts only three laps, it completely changes the order of things, and Moss is now the length of the finishing straight ahead of Schell, with Musso in third place, followed by Behra, Collins, Maglioli, Flockhart, Gerini and Fairman, the others trailing along in the rear. Moss laps Flockhart and then Behra retires at the pits with a faulty magneto and, it is also discovered, a split fuel tank. Maglioli is then flagged in and the car is given to Behra, but before it is noticed that the bonnet is still undone, the Frenchman has gone. As soon as he reaches maximum speed the rear of the bonnet lifts off and, on the next lap, Behra stops to have it re-fastened, not knowing that Maglioli was running most of the time with it undone. This is exactly half distance, or 25 laps, and Moss is sitting comfortably in the lead by 13 sec from Schell, who is leading Musso by 16 sec, with Collins other 55 sec behind in fourth place; these four being the only ones on the same lap. On the 28th lap Schell, comes in for a refuel, as he started with the tank only half full of fuel in order to reduce the load on the rear suspension, and, in a few seconds, he is tanked up and off again, despite being now in third place, just ahead of Collins. During the stop, it is noticed that Schell is soaked in oil almost to the waist, so that his terrific opening battle with Moss and Fangio is all the more heroic. During the 28th lap, Musso, who now follows Moss at 25 seconds, is stopped as a precautionary measure because of the left rear wheel’s situation, but he is able to restart again in second position, without giving to Fangio his car, indeed ignoring the team order, also strong in the favour of sports director Sculati. Also, Castellotti restarts his race on the Argentine driver’s car, which the mechanics were able to repair, while Juan Manuel Fangio, the defending World Champion, is stopped in the pits, disappointed for the inability to return to the track. During the 32th lap, Schell’s Vanwall passes by while skidding fearfully and stops at the end of the straight with the transmission out of action.

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This is now the racing order: Moss, serene as ever, Musso, still going hard, Collins, and then, through sheer regularity and lack of trouble, Flockhart in fourth place, though a lap behind the leaders: Behra, in Maglioli’s car, is in fifth place, closing up fairly rapidly, Godia follows, slowing slightly by a defective front shock absorber, and Fairman running like a train. Salvadori is back in the race after a long stop to remove the leaking auxiliary fuel tank, and Piotti, Graffenried and Simon are all still going. Shortly after, during 34th lap, one of the most noble sporting acts ever seen in a sporting competition happens: Collins, who was in the pits because of the planned tire replacement and who saw Fangio detained and withdrawn not clearly because of his fault, sportingly yields the steering wheel to the Argentine driver.

 

"The World Champion has the right to defend his prestige in the last race of the year".

 

Juan Manuel, touched by such sportsmanship, hugs Collins before hitting the track again, and also lady Fangio hugs him; she is called Andrea, and is the biggest admirer of her husband. As Moss starts a new lap, Musso is on the other lane, passing the pits, and as Musso completes the lap on the outside lane, Fangio is on the inside one by the pits, and so the three of them run, with never more than a few yards difference. Behra catches Flockhart but then retires out on the circuit with a broken steering box and all seem set for the end of the race. But the emotions are not over yet: during 45th lap Moss, running out of fuel, stops at the level of the Lesmo corner. He coasts on and by sheer good fortune Piotti is the next along, and being surprisingly quick to sum up the situation, he noses his car up behind the coasting Maserati and pushes it all the way back to the pits, Moss freewheeling into his pit, with the tank tiller held open, ready for a quick 25 litres to be thrown in. Moss shoots off more his pit notices that the near-side rear tyre is completely devoid of tread. The next lap for the Maserati is a new track record and then the pit slows him down for fear the bald tyre should burst. Musso passes before the restart of the English driver and he is first: the audience seems to have gone crazy, but the joy is of short period because after just one lap the generous driver from Rome is force to withdrawn because of the broken steering wheel. As Musso comes around the south banking, confident of maintaining the lead to the finish, he feels the steering go funny and as he leaves the banking and joins the finishing straight the left-hand steering arm breaks and the tyre bursts, causing him to slide right across the track towards the pits, struggling to maintain control, but not daring to brake for fear of causing the car to spin.

 

By sheer luck he comes to rest a matter of inches from the pit counters and is helped out weak and very shaken, with the Italian Grand Prix once more wrested from his grasp. Fangio is stepping in, and Moss responds with a stretch, during which he establishes his new lap record. This does not stop the fact that, at the finish line, the two great drivers are only 5.7 seconds apart. Conclusion in character of this dramatic European Grand Prix, which proclaims Juan Manuel Fangio as the new World Champion for the fourth time. At the end of the race, which will see Ron Flockhart in third position with his Connaught, followed by Paco Godia and Jack Fairman, the new World Champion will collect the laurel wreath with Peter Collins, thanked for a long time for his generous act. The chronicles do not recall a Grand Prix as exciting, dramatic, as this that saw the victory of Stirling Moss on Maserati, and a series of breath-taking plot twists. After saying that the English ace, leader of Maserati, did not steal nothing from anyone, actually accomplishing a technically perfect race, it seems necessary to add that great deciders were the tires, thus concretizing the fears of the eve. Ferrari has been the victim, its drivers have all indistinctly complained about tread gaps caused by the really high speed and by the temperature, suddenly rising again after hours of rain, in the crucial moments of the race. The impetuous Castellotti and Musso were also victims - especially the latter, who, despite everything, had for a moment the chance of winning in the very last minute, just like Fangio, Collins and De Portago. However, it is difficult to say how it would have ended if they went regularly.

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On the aspect of mechanical performance, Ferrari and Maserati were equal, and Vanwall for half of the race fought on the same level of the Italian cars too. But the comments and the immediate impressions cannot give an exhaustive idea of the situation. And not even the same rank. The win at Monza of the British Stirling Moss on Maserati, at the European Grand Prix, cannot strictly be considered as a surprise, since the predictions of the eve pointed to, in the battle between the best drivers of Maserati and Ferrari, the main theme of the end of the Formula 1 World Championship. But the race itself has been a continuous succession of surprises and emotional episodes, in parts even dramatic, which in the complex clears the way for Moss’s affirmation. The chronicles have talked in details about the repeated tire mishaps that, involving four-fifths of the Ferrari in the race, have seriously compromised the possibilities of the drivers. The gap of the tread (meaning the disconnection of the rubber layer covering the plies forming the carcass) is a fact caused by the centrifugal force that acts on the tire peripheral masses. The high speeds, the high temperature of the tarmac, the weight and the set-up of the car are the factors that promote its occurrence. As said, only one Ferrari, Fangio’s one, is unharmed by the degradation on the left rear tires, the ones most stressed by the layout conformation of the track of Monza. With another tire brand, Maserati do not complain about inconveniences of any kind. With all this, although Moss was leading for 43 of the 50 laps of the race, the final result - which in a certain moment appears decided - returns to the edge of uncertainty at only five laps remaining, then Moss comes back in the pits without fuel in the tank.

 

Luigi Musso, who after an initial freewheeling rant with Castellotti had to stop for the first tire change of the day, at the end of a superb hunt finds himself leading, with a great win at hand. Just one lap and also this dream falls apart: the Ferrari of the young driver from Rome, suddenly complains a mechanical failure that stops him. This twofold, sudden change is the last twist of a Grand Prix as equally no one remembers. The Ferrari have reconfirmed the great acceleration qualities and pure speed, but, apart from the tires, the ones driven by the drivers who felt most at ease on the track of Monza, Fangio and Musso, complain about the steering failure. Of the two new model Maserati, the one assigned to Moss is behaving in a fantastic way, even if because of a simple fuel leak it risks compromising the affirmation gained through 450 kilometres of full efficiency. Behra’s car shows, on the other hand, problems at the ignition. The English Vanwall perform well for 20 laps with Schell, who then is forced to give up because of lubrication problems. Taruffi stays in the race for little more than 100 kilometres. Connaught’s seal allows two of these modest but well-kept cars to finish in the first five. With the European Grand Prix Fangio, arrived at the finish line thanks to the sportsmanship of his teammate Collins, who voluntarily gave him his car, was proclaimed for the fourth time World Champion. Before the Grand Prix, Enzo Ferrari talked to Peter Collins, to who he did not explicitly asked for a waiver in favour of Fangio: Ferrari was a driver and he knew that such an order from the team would have been an abomination. But he wanted to know the driver’s opinion in the moment in which it could have happened what that in the end happened. Collins modestly and generously answered:

 

"I have never thought that a 25-year-old youngster like me could take on a responsibility this big".

 

Collins told Ferrari that a driver like Fangio deserved to be World Champion. And, about himself, he was young and he would have had time to win the title. But other drivers impressed in a positive way, starting with Stirling Moss: his value is unquestionable, and he superbly ended a season not so lucky. Then Musso, irreducible fighter, who reacted to the initial misadventure with courage equal to his skill, enough to get really close to his affirmation. And also, the outgoing Schell, the brave and unlucky Castellotti, Collins, Flockart, Maglioli. A lot of young drivers have grown during this season, and it is possible that Fangio’s sceptre has to go, in not many years, in new hands. They are especially English people to continuously launch young forces in this difficult sport, but also the new Italian drivers may give some hope. 

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After the end of the Formula 1 World Championship, it is known that on Tuesday, September 6, 1956, Fangio is having a meeting with Enzo Ferrari, constructor of the cars that allowed the Argentine driver to win the world title, but the news related to an invitation of Fangio’s mother arouses considerable surprise in the sports environment, at her son’s address, about retirement.

 

"The possibility of the retirement of our champion seems new to me, and only in a few hours I can be precise in this regard. But I frankly believe that maybe the Argentine will continue racing with our team. He has declared, before Monza, that he wants to defend his title even next year".

 

Ferrari points out, but maybe, in the end, that Fangio will limit himself to race for Formula 1 Grand Prix, limiting his activity for other things. However, the meeting will not have a positive outcome, and between the constructor from Modena and the Argentine driver a notable groove will be created, to the point that, during the end-of-year dinner, Ferrari will not grant the classic gold medal that is granted generally to all the drivers who have contributed to the victory of the championship, because the World Champion is on holiday in Argentina and he is not coming back to Italy for this circumstance. After the race, the Connaught that is placed third is stripped down and measures to ensure that it is of 93.5mm by 90 mm and 2470 cc as stated on the entry form. This is found to be correct and the Italian Automobile Club engineers who inspect the car are most impressed with the internal cleanliness of the engine. On the following Monday, the race car is re-assembled and Leston and Rodney Clarke drives it around the circuit many times, carrying out tyre temperature tests for Avon’s technical man Don Turner, and doing brake and shock-absorber tests for Connaught. Fairman’s car is unusable as both front spring mountings split on his extra lap after the finish and the car arrives at the pits with the wheels leaning inwards and the sump rubbing itself out on the ground until all the oil comes out. The only thing that is wrong with Leston’s car is that the splines on the forward end of one of the rear torsion-bars tear through the opposing splines on the anchoring arm. After completing the whole Grand Prix, Flockhart’s car is able to lap the banked track at just on 160 mph without any effort at all. The Vanwall team is not so lucky, all their cars being out of action, except that Schell’s car can be driven but shows a tendency to pull sideways all the time indicating that something is amiss in the final-drive assembly. 

 

Once more, none of them suffer from engine trouble. On the Tuesday after the race, a visit to Ferrari shows Collins/Fangio’s car still under the official seals, awaiting the ACI engineers to measure it, but the wreck of Von Trips’ car is in the workshops and it is discovered that his crash is due to a broken steering arm, exactly as suffered by Fangio and Musso. Had the car been inspected immediately after the accident, there would have been time to reinforce the arms on the team cars and thus avoided the loss of the race to Musso. No doubt, had the practice crash happened to Fangio, the car would been inspected closely; being Von Trips in his first try-out as a Grand Prix driver, it is assumed that he just went into the corner too fast. Of the mortality or the Englebert tyres, Ferrari merely hope that next time they would prove better. The tachometers on the Lancia-Ferraris are all at 9.000 rpm with the exception of Musso’s, which was at 8.600 rpm. The recommended limit given before the race is 8.500 rpm and it is obvious that no one reaches 9.000 rpm in fifth gear, so clearly there is some excited over-revving in the lower gears. At Maserati, the winning car is being stripped down for measurement and the bore and stroke verified as 84 by 75 mm and 2494 cc; the interiors of the engine are all in good condition, in spite of having revved to 13,700 rpm. Many people assume that Moss slows down for the last few laps because of engine trouble and, to prove the contrary, Behra is about to take it out on the Modena Racetrack. However, when fuel is poured into the tank, it runs straight out at the bottom as it is split along one of the riveted seams, which accounts for Moss running out of fuel during the race. The eight-cylinder Gordini is started up after the race and no water leak can be found: it appears that the radiator filler cap is not tightened properly and water flows out at high revs, causing da Silva Ramos to abandon it on the far side of the circuit assuming that something awful happened. 

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Unfortunately, the day after the meeting between Fangio and Ferrari, September 7 1956, the test driver Sergio Sighinolfi passes away at the age of 31, after crashing with a track driving a Ferrari prototype, in San Venanzio, between Modena and Maranello, on Tuesday, February 6 1957. Few days later, even being distraught as often happened in the past, Enzo Ferrari stays updated thanks to engineer Fraschetti, his technical director, on the possibility of finding a valid replacement for the unlucky Sighinolfi. The knowledge of engineer Fraschetti gets even to a relative of Bizzarrini, and from here the meeting will come about and also the next hiring in Ferrari, dated February 6, 1957. The assignment of Giotto Bizzarrini will be to assist, in the testing department, the leader Luigi Bazzi; one of the first works of Bizzarrini will be the introduction of a new type of disc brakes, that is the ventilated ones. Thereafter, Ferrari will summon Bizzarrini, and will verify if, through his knowledge, someone can substitute engineer Fraschetti. Bizzarrini will remember his collaboration with the engineer Carlo Chiti back during Alfa Romeo’s times, who in turn will be called to Maranello. Thereafter, Ferrari will take care of writing a letter to the ANCAI Vice President, so that in the next meeting that the Corridors’ Mutual Assistance Fund would hold, he could take into account the fact that Sighinolfi had left behind a two-year-old girl, his wife and two old and disabled working parents who derived their livelihood solely from their son’s business. 

 

Enzo Ferrari would have personally contributed to the support of Sighinolfi’s family, with discretion, trough don Sergio Mantovani, the young priest who had taken possession of the parish of Saint Caterina in which the infant Enzo had been baptized two years before the beginning of the new century and who in the world of the races was making a name for himself as chaplain to the drivers. Without the priest ever being authorized to reveal the name of the benefactor, Sighinolfi’s mum will receive for years 3,000 lire per month, the equivalent of a salary of a specialized operator. On Sunday, September 30, 1956, Eugenio Castellotti – for the occasion lent by Ferrari to Osca – wins the Schell Grand Prix hosted on Imola’s track. Castellotti takes over the leading of the race during lap 9 of the 60 planned, and then has arranged the rivals at his will. The 35-year-old driver from Naples Guido Perrella, who drives a Maserati, is victim of a serious crash. During lap 26, the driver loses control of his car that goes off track, flipping over and catching fire. Perrella, catapulted out of the car seat, is immediately helped and taken to the hospital of Imola, where the doctors find a fracture of the right forearm, a chest contusion and a suspected rib fracture. The prognosis is reserved. Even the Swedish Joakhim Bonnier has a crash during the last six laps, while being in second position with his Maserati: in an attempt to overtake the rival Garavaglia, also on a Maserati, comes into collision with this one and goes off track. Luckily, he only reports only a slight bruise to the head. Facts prove that the car races are becoming more and more dangerous:

 

"I am alive, I don’t even know how. I was hunting Behra and I was trying to get the maximum engine performance from my Maserati. The car suddenly had a skid and a terrible impact. I went off track. It even seemed to me that I lost a tire, and then I fainted. This is what I remember of my accident. Castelfusano’s circuit is wonderful, but extremely tricky".

 

This is what Luigi Villoresi narrates in a moment of lucidity in his room in the clinic of Villa Marina, in Ostia, where on Monday October 22, 1956, he is hospitalized until the previous day. Again Luigi, a driver of old-guard, has seen death very closely.  He has saved himself because of his experience, thanks to his cold blood and a little bit of luck, but he is seriously harmed, after going off track during lap 17 of the Rome Grand Prix, hold on the circuit of Castelfusano. Villoresi in the previous days obtained the fastest lap and found himself in first row with Behra, Schell and Bellucci, all driving for Maserati. When the flag lowered, the three red bolts went off with fury. Villoresi, instead, stayed behind because of mechanical problems, but chased with the rushing style of his young ages, gradually making his way through the rivals. De Portago, one of the aces of Ferrari, with his gran turismo seems threatening, but Villoresi overtakes him, reaching the shoulders of the first drivers. Lap after lap, the driver with the white hair was gaining on his rivals, who started before him. The thrilled audience has followed the battle at distance. 

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In five laps, car number 56, the one of Villoresi, came close to 18 seconds to the Behra’s one, who was leading. Schell is in third position. And here it is, while the battle is becoming more and more compelling, the eyewitnesses see Luigi Villoresi’s Maserati getting in the turn of the mixed section after Cristoforo Colombo avenue, side by side with another car. Villoresi, drawn by his momentum, fully presses the throttle. Suddenly, a great fuss is raised: the Maserati went off track. Immediately taken from the car that seems horribly twisted, the famous driver is taken to the clinic of Villa Marina of Ostia, where he arrives at 1:00 p.m. The driver from Rome is examined by Professor Carlesimo: the first response talks about a complete exposed fracture of the left leg, a fracture of the left humerus, and lacerated contusion injuries to the right food, with resection of the extensor tendons. The driver gets to the hospital in a serious status of shock, complaining with a thread of voice because of the wounds. After a transfusion of blood plasma, at 5:00 p.m., Villoresi undergoes surgery to reduce the fractures. Surgery is done by the professors Sciocco, Castellano and Carlesimo. For two and a half hours, the driver remains in the operating room. At 8:00 p.m., the prognosis is reserved, but the conditions are less worrying. Doctor Carlesimo, who did not move for a second from the bedside of the wounded, declares:

 

"Villoresi’s status is slightly getting better. It will take others transfusions of blood and plasma during the night, but the worst hypothesis can be excluded: Villoresi is safe".

 

On Monday morning, the driver, who is assisted by his sister-in-law, will be subjected to a second surgery to his shoulders, because during the first surgery was only to his legs. The famous driver has been visited by Maserati’s director, Ugolini, and by the mayor of Rome, Tupini. Later on, the driver from Turin, Munaron, will give other details about Villoresi’s accident.

 

"I found myself about 30 metres in front of Gigi’s car and I was expecting him to overtake me. Suddenly I saw the people looking at me. By instinct, I brought my eyes above the rear-view mirror, and I saw Villoresi’s car going against a tree among an immense fuss".

 

It will finally turn out that the crash, in which Villoresi was heavily harmed, has taken place in the sixth turn of the track, right before Cristoforo Colombo avenue. Villoresi was overtaking Cortese, but going off track he touches the left curb and so he goes against a tree crashing the rear wheel. As it is known, during summer Enzo Ferrari has putted forward the idea of withdrawing his commitment form motor racing. However, during the month of October, Enzo Ferrari writes to the Italian journalist Gino Rancati, confessing that he was thinking of being able to continue his activity in the motorsport:

 

"Dear Mr Rancati, I received your letter on September 18 and I’m sorry to hear that you are indisposed; I hope you can come back soon to your work. I should stop at Cremona soon and I will ask about you. For the future, I have not decided anything, but in not many days I will necessarily take some action that will be the consequence of the whole situation in the drivers’ ambience, rears, accessories and of whatever else is stirring in the motor racing environment. Best wishes".

 

Incidentally, the engine 156 is about the be created, which would have debuted during the month of November 1956, five months after Dino’s departure, therefore, the retirement intentions expressed during the summer from the constructor from Modena come back, and Ferrari can go on with its history. Few weeks after, in Melbourne, on Sunday, December 2, 1956, almost 100.000 spectators are there on the grandstands and lawns in order to assist to the Australian Grand Prix, race reserved for Formula 1 cars. As in the Australian Tourist Trophy of the previous Sunday, Stirling Moss again, on a Maserati, wins over the large batch of competitors. 

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The domain of Maserati’s cars is almost constant: only in the beginning, Moss finds himself in slight delay, while the French Behra cannot find the right pace to gain the lead of the race. In first place there is Whitehead, who driving a Ferrari performs laps upon laps with perfect mastery. The other competitors, as the 100 kilometres scheduled before the end of the race come to a close, give away sharply, and the battle remains limited to the men of the three Italian cars, and so the two Maserati of Stirling Moss and Jean Behra and the Ferrari of Whitehead. Wonderful and thrilling is the winner’s comeback, who reduces his gap from the first: Stirling, breaking every doubt, pushing his car over the limits and apart from establishing the fastest lap (1'52"2), overtakes Whitehead, catches Behra and in the end leaves him behind. This race order will not change until the end, because Moss continues his race to the victory, consolidating his advantage that in the end will be of over 2 minutes and 12 seconds on Behra, and of over 3 minutes on Whitehead. At the same time, on Sunday, December 2, 1956, on Modena’s circuit, Enzo Ferrari attends the first practice in view of the new season. Eugenio Castellotti, Luigi Musso and Cesare Perdisa will represent him on the tracks of all over the world, then the English Peter Collins and Mike Hawthorn, the Spanish marquis De Portago and the German count Wolfgang von Trips. Considering the young age of these seven drivers, who fully represent rightfully the first real generation of drivers from the post-war, Gino Racati baptizes the official line up of the Ferrari young team. And it is in this occasion that Gino Rancati himself is taken under the arm of Eugenio Castellotti, who asks to accompany him to an artificial variant created along the turn leading to the pits. In the stretch of road, however, Rancati notices that Castellotti is not calm, and tells him:

 

"You are right, I’m in a delicate moment of my life. Delia wants me to stop racing, I want her to stop making theatre.  I’m ready to give up, but she wants me to be the only one to say goodbye to the biggest passion of my life".

 

The journalist, distressed by this confidence, reminds Eugenio that he is a driver, and that his role requires enormous serenity, but the Italian driver is distracted and distant, with his eyes and with his mind. A week later, exactly on Monday, December 10, 1956, the economic agreements related to the participation of Ferrari to the Argentine Temporada, which seemed really unlikely, are finally nearing completion, since, in the meantime, the managers in Buenos Aires have nominated in Italy one representative, who is in charge of taking the commitments of Enzo Ferrari and signing them. Ferrari will be present with its Formula 1 cars at the first test of the Formula 1 World Champion, which will start on Sunday January 13, 1957, and to the next races like the 1000 Kilometres. The Ferrari cars will be assigned to the Italian drivers Castellotti, Musso and Perdisa, to the English Collins, to the German von Trips and to the Spanish De Portago. To this list, surely in extremis, Hawthorn takes part, who telegraphs from London asking to race with Ferrari.

 

"Given that as a driver he has made himself in Ferrari, there will always be a place for Mike".

Enzo Ferrari confesses. It is unknown, though, if the commitment between the English and the constructor from Modena will count for all the season or only for some races. The cars will depart from Genova by sea on December 12, 1956. Collins and Trips will be transferred by ship, while the other drivers will get by plane. This is the prelude to the press conference of the end of the year, in which Ferrari announces that he would have indeed come back to racing also because of the desire of honouring his son’s memory. This, after confessing to his friends:

 

"Witnessing the disappearance of close people, it is obvious to ask: what is left there? But as a beast with a formidable spirit of adaptation, I convinced myself that it is possible to learn how to live without loving life and especially without understanding the reason why we are in this world".

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All the greatest conductors of Europe are going to be present to the race across the Atlantic. For Maserati these drivers are going to race: Fangio, Menditeguy and Behra, while the south-central Scuderia is going to field Piero Taruffi, Giorgio Scarlatti and Alessandro De Tomaso. In this list of aces there is not Stirling Moss; the great rival of the World Champion Fangio is probably going to race for an English team, unless his contract with Maserati will be confirmed. But during the waiting of dismissing the reservations, the British driver continues gaining success: with his three-litre Maserati, Stirling wins the third annual edition of the Nassau Trophy, over the distance of 210 miles. The British wins with two miles of advantage on the American Masten Gregory with Ferrari, followed by the marquis Alfonso De Portago, who because of mechanical problems, in the first part of the race, was forced to stop two times in the pits with his Ferrari. If Moss’ Maserati is excluded, the race is controlled by the Ferrari and Porsche: it is not a case that in the first ten places of the rank there are four Ferrari, four Porsche and a Jaguar. Of the 120 contenders who took part in the race, the organizers have chosen only 42, judging the initial number too large. Only 22 cars remained in contention in the end of the race that was hold on Sunday, December 9, 1956, in New Zealand. Now it is the end of the season, on Friday, December 21, 1956, it is the eve of the automotive resumption of the year 1957: this year, the drivers and the cars did not catch a break. Jean Behra, for example, has travelled 64.000 kilometres, most often by plane, just to complete 1000 kilometres in the race. It is kind of a record. Regarding the Frenchman, he returned to Paris, from Venezuela and Australia, and he declared himself enthusiastic about Maserati with which Moss and the French driver have achieved the first places.

 

For the Argentine Temporada, according to what the French ace has declared, Maserati has prepared a Formula 1 car that is slightly different from the one with which, Stirling Moss, has won the Italian Grand Prix. The 1957 version will be better profiled and shorter. On the Buenos Aires circuit, where cars run at an average speed of 140 km/h, the car should show good results. The Maserati team will include also Stirling Moss, together with the already confirmed Fangio, Schell and Behra. Even if the British driver has a contract for seven races with Vanwall, for all the other races he will drive a Maserati. As of Fangio, he is not tied by any commitment: he will choose the car every time, unless the Argentine practice does not lead him to forge definitive relationships with Maserati. It was possible to deduce, in this last period of time, that Maserati would have offered very high sums to the World Champion in order to have him driving its cars during the season. Someone talked about 60.000.000 liras. The professor Ugolini, Maserati’s sports director, in this regard declares that Fangio will race with the same conditions of the other drivers, and that for now the relationship between the Argentine driver and the Italian team only concerns the Temporada’s free practice. Ugolini adds that also the Swedish Bonnier will race in Argentina on a Maserati. Ferrari, after the signing of Perdisa and the recent one of Hawthorn, does not announce news. Maranello’s engineers have refined their eight cylinders engine by increasing its power, which was rumoured to be 270 horsepower at the end of the season, and improving its front end in preparation for the start of the new racing season.


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