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#69 1958 Belgian Grand Prix

2021-04-19 00:00

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#1958,

#69 1958 Belgian Grand Prix

Domenica 15 Giugno 1958 si corre sul velocissimo circuito di Spa-Francorchamps il Gran Premio d'Europa e del Belgio, quinta prova del Campionato Mondi

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On the difficult and insidious circuit of Nurburgring, traced by a capricious hand through the wooded hills of the Eifel, the 1000 Kilometres for cars of the sports category will run on Sunday, June 1, 1958. This is the fourth season test for the Sport scar World Championship, whose ranking today sees Ferrari at the lead with 24 points, followed by Porsche with 14. But practically the question of the highest title is now resolved in favour of Ferrari, which is enough either a victory or even just a good placement to be safe from surprises in the remaining two trials (24 hours of Le Mans and Tourist Trophy). It is therefore not this aspect of the Adenau race that is of the greatest interest. It is rather the new episode of the struggle between Italians and English, or rather between Italian and English technique, that gives 1000 kilometres a high level of competitiveness. For a couple of years, specialised manufacturers across the Channel have been making a methodical attack, on the supremacy of Italian machines, and with alarming results. The only Italian brand that still validly faces the heaviest situation - the Ferrari - was to defend itself on two fronts: in that of Formula 1 it has lost some ground - although it is not at all the case to talk about surrender; better the situation in sports competitions, where the three previous tests valid for the world title were as many triumphs for the cars produced in Maranello Yet even in this area the British offensive is obvious. At the Nurburgring, against the four official Ferraris of the Musso-Munaron, Collins-Hawthorn, Gendebien-Hill and Trips-Seidel pairs, the English houses Jaguar and Aston Martin shipped many cars and drivers.

 

Especially alarming appears the Aston Martin, who this year engaged the Italian cars in Sebring, and in the recent Targa Florio broke the new record on the lap but proved to be just as fast and manageable as rather fragile. Also worth reporting is that Aston Martin won last year in Nurburgring, making the same record as the Brooks-Cunningham crew. Less dangerous seem like the Jaguars, whose higher speed in an absolute sense is only relatively important on a track as winding as this. They shouldn't have been surprised by the Porsches and Borgwards, German cars of excellent skills but disadvantaged by the too heavy handicap of displacement (1500 cc against the limit of 3000 ccs of Italian and English cars). The comparison - and this is also demonstrated by today's official test times, as we will see later - will therefore be a duel between Ferrari and Aston Martin. The latter will line up three machines, respectively piloted by Moss-Brabham, Brooks-Lewis Evans and Salvadori in pairs with a conductor who to date has not yet been designated by the House's sports director and former corridor Reginald Parnell. The gruelling distance on which the race will be fought (44 laps of the circuit of 22,810 metres, equal to 1003.640 kilometres), in the predictions of the experts grants a certain favour to the Italian machines, whose robustness is proverbial, and which boast proven skills of power and agility. The predictions could only suffer a severe blow if the Aston Martins proved to have overcome their congenital lack of tightness - which is far from being ruled out. In today's tests, Collins was the fastest, but only three-tenths of a second more were credited to Moss: the balance between the two cars is therefore very evident.

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On the final day of training for the Thousand Miles of the Nurburgring, the 3-litre Ferrari of the Hawthorn-Collins crew records a new record by turning at 11'43"1 at the remarkable average of 140,700 km/h. The Turinese Munaron, who will run in pairs with Musso, also manages to significantly improve his limit. The dominant reason for the gruelling race will be the Ferrari-Aston Martin duel. With a win, Ferrari could definitively win the title of World Champion for sports cars and thus take an act of nice revenge for the defeat suffered in the racing car field last Sunday in Zandvoort, in the Dutch Grand Prix. But Ferrari's task is quite difficult if you keep in mind that Moss-Brabham is not more than 2.5 seconds behind the Hawthorn-Collins pair. Overall, 60 cars will take off, divided into various categories. The Nurburgring’s 1000 Kilometres ends with the victory of British crew Moss-Brabham over Aston Martin; seats of honour are acquired at the Ferraris of Hawthorn-Collins and Trips-Gendebien. The Turinese Munaron, the protagonist of a very regular test, ranks fifth together with the German Seidel. The race is unfortunately plagued by a dramatic accident when it is now practically over. As the last cars are reaching the finish line, it is signalled to stop at Ferrari led by German driver Erwin Bauer, but he does not notice the signal. Convinced indeed that he can recover some positions, he accelerates and in this attempt, he goes off the track in a curve. His car, with a fearful crash, crashes into a tree. Bauer, promptly rescued, is transported to the hospital where health workers experience a skull fracture. His condition is desperate.

 

But returning to the race’s chronicle, Stirling Moss, in splendid shape, accomplishes an admirable feat by doing about three-quarters of the race alone. The British driver is more than half a minute away from his most dangerous opponents before the end of the third lap. However, the most surprising Sterling's accomplishment is between the fifteenth and twentieth lap, which is when he has to make up for the time lost by comrade Brabham who climbed the Aston Martin after 100 kilometres of running. Ferraris, despite the victory of the English brand, are distinguished by their qualities of endurance and regularity. All four official cars of the Italian house reach the finish line in full efficiency by collecting positions of honour. Taking advantage of the good weather, tens of thousands of people have begun to invade the areas of the Eifel since the early hours of the morning. At 2:00 p.m. precisely, the starter began the boards, divided, according to their displacement, into various categories. Stirling Moss at the end of the first lap is about ten seconds ahead of Hawthorn (Ferrari), Brooks (Aston Martin), Trips (Ferrari), Salvadori (Aston Martin), Behra (Porsche) and Luigi Musso. In subsequent laps, Moss further increases the pace of his speed and at the third, he sets the new record on the lap for sports cars in 9'43"0. After a few kilometres, the race comes alive again. Moss stops at the pits to refuel to temporarily cede, as prescribed by the rules, the steering wheel to Comrade Brabham. Hawthorn takes advantage of this stop to pass the lead during a few laps of the run. However, when Hawthorn also stops to be replaced by Collins, everything is in order. On the nineteenth lap the Behra-Barth crew (who with the small 1500 cc Porsche manages to fit between Ie large displacements while maintaining the fourth position), must retire due to a mechanical failure.

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In the second part of the race, Hawthorn suddenly runs a violent offence recovering about a minute against the leader of the dizzying carrousel. But then, following a sling in a corner, he loses almost two minutes compromising every chance of Ferrari's victory. Two laps from the end of the race the Aston Martin loses the Brooks-Evans car and stops along the circuit due to lack of gasoline, while Gregory goes off the track in the vicinity of his grandstands due to a crossbow breakage. Fortunately, the American driver gets away with minor injuries. In addition to the dramatic incident, reported in the beginning, in which the German Bauer fell victim after crossing the finish line in the eighth position, there are other minor injuries. After Moss's Aston Martin's victory that cuts the finish line first followed by four Ferraris, the Sport scar World Championship ranking still sees Ferrari in the lead with 30 points. The Aston Martin is third behind the Porsche. At the Italian House, it will be enough to earn another 2 points to win the title. Stirling Moss is the man of the day in the automotive world; he is collecting one wreath after another: on Monday, May 26, 1958, he triumphed in the Dutch Grand Prix and on Sunday, June 1, 1958, he imposed himself, together with the young Brabham, in the 1000 Kilometres of the Nurburgring, one of the most difficult races on the continent. Despite the massive offence of the Ferraris, ranked dot second in fifth place, the English ace did it. And it must be added that his task was made extremely difficult by the fact that teammate Brabham did not look too up to the situation. In order not to jeopardise his success, Stirling Moss almost always stayed behind the wheel of the green Aston Martin. At the end of the race, Moss flees to the assault of his admirers and with his young wife - the daughter of a Canadian industrialist - returns to the Adenau hotel where journalists will ask him some questions.

 

"It was one of the most challenging races of my career as a driver. The Ferraris were well prepared. Especially the Hawthorn-Collins crew ranked second, which gave me a lot to think about. I would also like to address particular praise to Munaron, who with his courageous hold of courage has graduated a true champion".

 

Who doesn't know how to give peace is Mike Hawthorn:

 

"Without that damn queues of the thirty-third lap that made me lose over two minutes, maybe I could have reached Moss in the final lap. I was engaged in a furious chase and from the refuelling stalls they signalled me that I earned every round 8-7 seconds against Aston Martin".

 

Munaron, before leaving for Turin, simply says:

 

"The car entrusted to me wasn’t too good, otherwise I could have done better. However, I'm satisfied with the fifth place".

 

Even if Ferrari has managed to place its four cars in places of honour, the outcome of this 1000 Kilometre is far from satisfactory for Italian colours. After losing supremacy in the field of Formula 1 cars, as evidenced by the results of the Grand Prix of Argentina, Monaco and Holland, it now seems that the Maranello team must also lose it among the sports cars. The Aston Martin proved to be superior in terms of speed. The Ferraris, however, showed excellent endurance qualities: four cars played, and four arrived. Of the three Aston Martins, on the other hand, two were eliminated for mechanical gloves. However, it is to be feared that Ferrari's position will become even more precarious as soon as Aston Martin has been able to eliminate the inconveniences.

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On Sunday, June 15, 1958, the Grand Prix of Europe and Belgium is run on the very fast circuit of Spa-Francorchamps, the fifth round of the Formula 1 World Championship. The race happens at a time of absolute uncertainty regarding the superiority of one car over another: so far the British brands have won the first three tests (Argentina, Monaco, Holland), twice with Cooper, once with Vanwall. There had been three unforeseen results, not to say disconcerting: every time the predictions had given Ferrari as a favourite, and every time the Italian car failed to tick it, for one reason or another. We will therefore see on Sunday how things really are, and if there really will be nothing to do for the Ferrari against the Vanwall and the B.R.M. (the Coopers should be cut out of the fight, given the characteristics of the Spa-Francorchamps circuit, where you need a power that the English car does not own). The question is exciting and gives exceptional interest to this Grand Prix of Europe. Ferrari brings to Belgium Musso, Hawthorn, Collins and Gendebien, Vanwall brings Moss, Brooks and Lewis-Evans, B.R.M. brings Behra and Schell, Cooper brings Brabham and Salvadori, and Lotus brings Allison. Maria Teresa De Filippis, Trintignant, Gregory, Seidel, Kavanagh, Bonnier and Godia complete the deployment. There has been talking of the technical reasons for the Grand Prix of Europe: they include those relating to the events of the World Cup.The ranking sees Stirling Moss at the lead with 19 points, ahead of Musso with 12, Schell with 9, Trintignant with 8, Hawthorn with 7 and Behra with 6.

 

It's easy to see that a new victory by Moss would give a categorical indication of the good right of the English driver to collect the legacy of Manuel Fangio (and in reality, it would be the official consecration of supremacy that is recognised by all). The eventual affirmation of a Ferrari driver would instead make the fight for the climb to the maximum title of motorsports more uncertain and interesting. In any case, nothing will decide the Grand Prix of Europe in this regard, as there are still seven trials on the calendar. One voice, it is not known how knowledgable - she would like that between Moss, Hawthorn and Collins, that is, the strongest drivers across the Channel, an agreement has been made to split equally the prizes won by each of them. The accusation is serious, but you want to believe it is completely unfounded. Combinations, in motorsport, are extremely rare, fortunately. In this case, the losers would be Ferrari and Vanwall because it is obvious that the situation of each race could lead those interested to avoid the fight and thus give up the Defence of their respective colours. You don't think that's possible. Car drivers are extremely proud, even when they have achieved celebrity and economic safety. Stirling Moss, for example, after several years in the antechamber, has never made any mystery that his greatest aspiration is to become a world champion. After all, he wouldn't even have to throw himself into such a juniper. The European Grand Prix will be held over twenty-four laps of the circuit, amounting to 338,400 kilometres.The lap-record time of 14.100 meters belongs for Formula 1 to Moss, in a Maserati, at an average of 199.575 km/h; the overall time is in the possession of Gendebien in a Ferrari 4100 sports car at 203.202 km/h.

 

The Spa circuit has one major new feature: due to the tragic death of Scott-Brown, a driver who also took part in the 1956 Formula 1 Grand Prix of Great Britain during a sports car race, metal protection barriers were inserted in many sections of the track. Such an improvement, combined with the greater smoothness now provided by the circuit located in the Ardennes, should ensure significantly faster lap times than in the past. With the roads used for the circuit being part of the everyday road system around the area between Francorchamps and Stavelot, practising is limited to a two-hour session for each of the three days preceding the race, and on Thursday evening Vanwall, Ferrari, B.R.M. and Cooper team cars appear and one lone Maserati. Vanwall has three cars for Moss, Brooks and Lewis-Evans, the team leader having a car fitted with 17" diameter wire-spoke wheels, the other two have 16" diameter alloy wheels. Ferrari has four Dino 246 cars out, two with the heavier Formula 1 chassis frame and two with the lighter Formula 2 frame, and all have new air intakes for the sets of three downdraught double-choke Weber Carburetters. In the past Ferrari has tried a Perspex screen around the carburetters with an opening at the top, a Perspex bubble with an opening at the rear, and now they have aluminium covers with front openings. Hawthorn, Collins and Musso are the drivers and, if all went well, Gendebien is to have the fourth car. B.R.M. has two 1958 cars for Behra and Schell and a 1957 car as spare, for Flockhart’s crash at Rouen prevented him from making up the full Bourne team. Cooper has two entries but only Salvadori is out on this first evening, for Brabham is suffering from a cold, so he drives both cars, one having a 2.2-litre engine, the other a 1.96-litre engine.

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Although seven Maseratis are entered by private owners, only Kavanagh turned out on Thursday evening for a few slow laps, and in fact, the practice opened on a very gentle note as drivers felt their way around this ultra-high-speed circuit. The B.R.M.s are the first to show any signs of speed when they begin lapping in times around 4'20"0, but it is not long before the Vanwalls begin to get wound up, and Brooks gets down below 4'10"0 and finally settles for 4'06"0, which is something near the sort of lap time everyone expected. The Ferraris has been touring round like the B.R.M.s until the show of speed by the Vanwalls stirs things up and Hawthorn finds himself in close company with Moss, whereupon each driver tries to either show how good his car is or not let the other one see how fast he can really go. While indulging in this little game of hide-and-seek, Hawthorn laps in 4'06"0, so everyone really sits up and takes notice. When he comes in there is no one more surprised at the lap time than Hawthorn himself, so after a pause to let things settle down again he goes out and puts the cat among the pigeons, or, more correctly, the Ferrari among the Vanwalls, with a lap in 4'00"0, an average speed of 210.9kph. Meanwhile, the B.R.M. team are not very happy, for, apart from not having enough speed on the very fast straights to improve on 4'20"0, Behra haul gets himself into real trouble. Entering the 145mph ens-bend on the Masta straight he gets into a slide, due to oil on the rear tyres, and goes right through the left-hand curve on full right lock and then through the following right-hand curve sideways on full left-hand lock and, just as it seems like is going to get away with it the nose of the car struck a hedge, the cowling and radiator are torn off and be spin to rest, shaken but unhurt. Schell goes round in his B.R.M. and collects his team-mate and brings him back to the pits, but there isn’t much enthusiasm for trying to challenge Hawthorn’s fastest lap.

 

The Vanwall team, on the other band, are on their mettle and Moss and Brooks try hard to approach the Ferrari time but could not. Being the first practice period the handling is not yet 100 per cent for such speeds, nor are the gear ratios right for chopping off the last few seconds, so Moss has to be content with 4'04"8 and Brooks with 4'05"6, though they are both faster than Musso and Collins, while Lewis-Evans is next, this being Isis first visit Francorchamps. Activity on this first evening has not been terrific and seldom is, but Hawthorn’s time augurs well for the following practice periods. Friday practice is again from 6 pm to 8 pm and conditions are warm and dry, and this time Ferraris have painted their fourth car bright yellow, the Belgian racing colour, and it is driven by Gendebien. B.R.M. has not repaired Behra’s car, so he is out in the old practice car with little hope of joining in on the top dicing, but Vanwalls are all set for battle, being better geared and prepared to experiment with different size tyres and wheels to try the effects on steering and road-holding. Brabham is out in the 2.2-litre Cooper and Salvadori in the smaller one, while Lotus has arrived with their two single-seaters for Allison and Hill. A long line of Maseratis are in front of the pits, three under the banner of Centro-Sud for Gregory, Seidel and Trintignant, the last being Gerini’s car on loan, the privately-owned ones of Bonnier, Godia, Kavanagh and Signorina de Filippis, and another one bearing the letter L in place of a number. This car is a brand new six-cylinder; shorter lighter and smaller than the normal 250F, and while all the Maserati drivers are standing around wishing it were theirs, drivers and engineers from other teams are sniffing around to find out what it is all about. Meanwhile, the Maserati factory people, Ugolini and Bertocchi, are trying to look as if it is nothing to do with them, for everyone knows that Maserati has given up racing, officially.

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As soon as practice is underway, Hawthorn sets the ball rolling with 4'02"5, but though he tries hard he can not approach his time of the day before, for he now has a different rear-axle ratio and though the car is better on the return run from Stavelot to the pits it is not so good on the fast outward run. Collins is, at last, getting into his stride and beginning to throw the Ferrari about its beautiful controlled slides, and the result is an equalling of Hawthorn’s 4'00"6, while Musso is steadily working his way towards some really fast times. Vanwalls makes a rather hesitant start, but then Brooks shows that all is going well and does 4'01"7, though Moss is still lapping around 4'07"0 and not very happy with the handling of his car, and Lewis-Evans is not really in the picture, even though he has made the creditable time of 4'08"0. Most of the Maseratis seem to be creeping round if lap speeds of over 110mph can be called creeping, though they are relative to the really fast boys, who are approaching 130mph averages. The only Maserati to get out of the rut is that of Gregory, who is driving the blue-and-white Centro-Sud car, which is by no means the ultimate in Maseratis; he records the remarkable time of 4'05"4. Such performances are now becoming expected of this fragile-looking quiet American, for after driving smoothly but unsparingly all last year he has now added a remarkable degree of speed to his very neat driving methods. With conditions now ideal for high-speed motoring and everyone getting the hang of cornering at around 150mph, something none of the drivers have done so far this year with the current Grand Prix cars, things begin to get stirred up. Moss tries 16" wheels on the front of his Vanwall and finds less gyroscopic effect and begins to approach the 4min mark, while Musso, through sheer perseverance; is doing likewise. Collins is creating, a great impression and also not far off 4min laps, and the real excitement now lay in seeing who is going to be the first to get under 4 min. Collins equals Hawthorn’s best with 4'00"6, and then Musso does 4'00"2, while Moss is hovering on the brink of beating both of them.

 

All this competition rather overshadows the efforts of the tiddlers, but Allison is really enjoying himself on this high-speed circuit and is down to 4'10"6 with the 2.2-litre Lotus and Brabham is 5 sec slower with the big Cooper, but before he can challenge the Lotus, the main bearing broke. Moss now tries 16" wheels on the rear of his Vanwall as well as on the front, and the slightly lower gear it affords, together with the already improved handling, sees him rapidly approach a 4min lap, and then he does an electrifying 3'57"6, which staggers everyone, and follows with another at 3'59"0, then stopped, leaving Ferrari to ponder on the performance of the Vanwall. In the Maserati pits the new car is still standing unused until near the end of practice Maston Gregory did a few tentative laps in it at around 4'18"0, but it is very much like a test-run to make sure everything is working all right. With Moss making such a shattering lap time and Hawthorn, Collins and Musso hovering close to 4min, any other times seems slow by comparison, but Gendebien is making a good impression on his first outing in a Dino V6 Ferrari and his best lap, in 4'03"7, is very creditable, while Schell does a worthy 4'07"4 in the 1958 B.R.M. It is now pretty obvious that the circuit has been modified and speeded up until it is potentially faster than the cars’ capabilities so that extreme accuracy of selection of axle ratios is critical, the speed differential between the cars not being very large and the circuit not allowing any marked superiority of driving among the top few to show any great difference on time. On Saturday practice is held in the afternoon from 3:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m., so that final carbonation and tyre settings can be approximated for race day, the race is scheduled to start at 4 pm on Sunday. Everyone is out for a final fling, the starting grid being arranged according to the best times of the three days’ practice.

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Moss and the Vanwall team are so sure that their time of 3'57"6 would not be approached that his car is not taken to practice, the time being spent on making sure it is in 100% condition for the race. Brooks is soon circulating rapidly, and almost before everyone is underway he does 4'00"5 and then 3'59"1, so now Vanwalls are one and two. Before he can go any faster his gearbox shows signs of seizing so he stops, and it is left to the Ferrari team to dominate the scene. BRM has repaired Behra’s 1958 car and he is going a lot quicker than before, but it is clear that the Bourne machine has insufficient maximum speed or power to approach the leaders. Brabham is pressing along in the Cooper, now with a 1.960cc engine fitted, and Allison is down to 4'07"7, while Hill in the smaller Lotus is keeping ahead of some of the Maseratis but is still learning about really high-speed driving. Hawthorn now leads the attack on the apparent Vanwall supremacy, and after some laps, at close on 4min he does 3'57"1, a heroic effort and FTD Brooks can not retaliate as his gearbox is in trouble, and poor Moss has to sit and watch, his car being back in the garage in pieces, only Lewis-Evans having a Vanwall available and he just not being quick enough to worry the Ferraris, his best time being 4'07"2. Having nothing to drive, for the time being, Maserati lends Moss a new experimental sports car they have with them, this being a V12 cylinder 3-litre engine in a modified 300S chassis. After a pause, all four Ferraris go out again and as if to show that Hawthorn’s time is not a fluke, Collins does 3'57"7 and Musso does 3'57"5, and the Vanwall team has to sit by helplessly, unable to defend their positions in the front row of the starting grid. The order was now Hawthorn, Musso, Moss, Collins, and Brooks, all well under 4min, while Gendebien was still working hard to try and achieve the magic 4min lap. Gregory is by far the fastest Maserati driver and while he takes the new works Maserati out for a few laps he lends the blue-and-white one to Trintignant.

 

Almost unnoticed, due to the excitement among the top boys, Brabham has recorded a remarkable 4'05"1 with the 2-litre Cooper, beating Gregory’s best time with the old Maserati, his best time with the new works car being 4'11"0. Towards the end of the afternoon, Gendebien is still trying hard and just before practice ended he does a lap in 4'00"5, and follows this with an excellent 3'59"3, thus getting the fourth Ferrari under the 4min mark. While Ferraris are rejoicing at the end of practice and Vanwalls are wondering. Maserati are most unhappy for Kavanagh, after beating Godia, brakes a rod and wrecks his engine, Gregory brakes a valve while doing 7.800rpm down the straight, and Bonnier has his propeller-shaft break, narrowly missing very serious physical injury. It has been quite an afternoon, and the sun has shone brilliantly all the while. Overnight Vanwall fits a new gearbox to Brooks’ car, and Maserati repairs Bonnier’s car and bodged-up Gregory’s engine and hopes that it would at least start, but Kavanagh’s engine is beyond repair. Ferrari polishes all their cars and goes to bed early. As the race is like a sprint event, being over a mere 24 laps and 338 kilometres (approximately 210 miles), and would probably last less than 1¾ hours if the practice speeds are anything to go by, the Royal Automobile Club of Belgium is faced with a lot of spare time on their hands, especially as the Grand Prix is due to start at 4:00 p.m. As the FIA has given the race the title of the Grand Prix of Europe, for what that is worth, it would have been nice to have seen a reasonable length of race visualised; instead, the day is filled up with a series of carnival acts, first there being a parade of Bugatti cars organised by the BOC of Holland, and then there is a handicap race for touring and grand touring cars open to Belgian drivers and lesser foreign drivers; though amusing for the competitors it does not have a place at such a meeting.

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But if the premise as a guarantee of entertainment is great, the race holds the first twists and turns even before it begins. An hour before the start of the Grand Prix the sun is really hot, and then a parade of drivers takes place in real Hollywood film-star style, each driver sitting on the back of an open two-seater, such as 190SL, 300SL, Giulietta, etc, with his (or her) name on a huge placard across the front of the car, and they are driven slowly round the circuit for the crowd to applaud. This air of carnival must have got into the Grand Prix organisers, for when the cars are given their positions on the starting grid they are lined up time wrong way round, with fastest time on the left instead of on the right. Under a really hot sun the 19 cars are now ready to start and for once green cars do not dominate the scene, the three red Ferraris and Gendebien’s yellow one are well placed and out to save the honour of Italian motor racing. Although the race is to be a short one it obviously is going to be a fierce one, but, unfortunately, incompetent bungling by the starters spoil all prospects of a good race before it is started. The two-minute signal is given and the Ferrari mechanics wait another minute before starting their cars with the portable starters, and then everyone starts up, for 60 seconds is about as long as a Grand Prix car likes to be kept waiting on the line, especially under time sweltering sun. Just as everyone is ready to go the starter signalled another minute to go, but as the last few seconds ticked by Gregory’s Maserati is still being pushed up and down, the bodged-up engine being reluctant to fire, and without giving any indication the timekeepers and starters decided to wait another 60 seconds.

 

Nerves are at breaking point, for a driver always anticipates the last 10 seconds and his leg begins to release the clutch, but now they are all straining to go and still the flag is not raised. Water temperatures are rising rapidly and then it happens, Collins’ Ferrari begins to boil, the water temperature gauge needle is right off the dial and the oil temperature is dangerously high. What can the poor driver do, enveloped in steam: he can not switch off for time start is now 30 seconds away. Mechanics, drivers, team-managers and onlookers all starts waving and shouting, and everyone is in a high state of tension; the cars behind the front row began to creep forward while officials waves them back, and all the while the timekeeper and the starter are waiting for the last 20 seconds to pass by. Twenty seconds is not long, but under the prevailing, tension and surrounded by the excitement it seems a lifetime. The Ferrari is spewing out water and steam, and the paint on time bonnet is blistering, and any second the other cars might start boiling, while all the drivers are frantically watching their rising temperature gauges, the three in the front row conscious of a turmoil behind them but not really knowing what is going on. At 10 seconds the starter hurriedly raises the flag and drops it, much against the wishes of the timekeeper, and the screaming pack are away. Nerves are all jangled by this time, so it is not surprising that Musso and Hawthorn muff their starts, the Ferraris being difficult at the best of times, having no special low starting gear as on the Maseratis and Vanwalls. So it is Moss who leads away, followed by Brooks. The boiling Ferrari has obscured the fact that Gregory’s Maserati has still not fired, and when all the shouting has died down he is left on the line, to be pushed away eventually, banging and misfiring in a very unhappy state. The air of carnival has certainly seeped into the Grand Prix, but unhappily it has serious consequences.

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Moss leads down through the Malmedy corner and along the Masta straight he has quite a considerable lead, which he increases rotund the fast Stavelot corner, but then disaster strikes and whether it is the result of the starting-line chaos he would not say, but it might well have been. As he accelerates out of Stavelot in fourth gear he reaches peak revs and whips the gear-lever back into fifth gear, but he mistimes it and it does not go in it is only a matter of one-hundredth of a second but it is enough, the revs go up to the sky and valves and inseams meet each other with disastrous regales, arid the field streams by the stricken Vanwall and its unhappy driver. It is Brooks who leads at the end of the first lap, closely pursued by Collins, whose water temperature and oil temperature are still way up in the danger zone; then comes Gendebien, much to the delight of the Belgians. followed by Hawthorn, Behra, Evans, Musso, Schell and Allison, the Lotus leading the mini-cars anal all the Maseratis, while poor Gregory never re-appears, his engine failing halfway round the opening lap. The next time round Collins is leading, with Brooks right on his tail, while Evans is about to pass Musso and Hawthorn already past Gendebien and in third place. The standing lap has been covered in 4'12"0, and as the tail-enders have streamed by Moss has pulled into the pits to retire and explain why the car has no compression. Brooks and Collins are really battling now, lapping at 4'02"0, and as they pass fair the third time it is the Vanwall leading, but the Ferrari is so close it is almost obscured under the high green tail of the British car. Lap four the order is reversed, and the gap is still so small it could not be measured on an ordinary stop-watch; but it can not go on, for the Ferrari has overheated too badly on the starting line. As Gendebien brakes for the hairpin before the pits at the end of the fourth lap, he is struck on a rear wheel by the nose of Lewis-Evans’ Vanwall which is close behind, and the result is that the yellow Ferrari spins and bumped its nose against the inside retaining wall of the hairpin and the engine stalls.

 

All the following cars run round the outside, and when they have gone Gendebien has to manhandle the car backwards up the steep camber until he has enough room to swing round and roll down to the pits to have the nose beaten out so that some air could get to the radiator. He is right at the end of the field when he gets away and nearly a lap behind the leader. Meanwhile, a third retirement is that of Schell, whose Maserati’s rear suspension is acting up and then Brooks goes by on his own, followed by Hawthorn a bit later, and Collins coasts into the pits and retires. Neither the water temperature nor the oil temperature has ever shown signs of returning to normality, and when the oil pressure begins to sag as a result of the overheating Collins wisely switches off before the engine breaks. Behra also comes in with the B.R.M. suffering from low pressure, quite probably due to initial overheating at the start, and he retires, While on the next lap, the sixth one, Musso fails to appear, it being reported that a tyre has burst and he has skidded off the road, fortunately with no personal damage. Only a quarter of the race has been run and already six cars are out and all prospects of a race are now finished, a high-speed procession now developing. There are 11sec between Brooks and Hawthorn on lap seven and this increases lap by lap, until it is 37 sec by half distance, while the gap between Hawthorn and Lewis-Evans, who is in third place, has risen to 47sec. Running in fourth place is the cheeky little 2.2-litre Lotus driven by Allison, while behind him comes Salvadori and Brabham, followed by the private Maseratis, with Gendebien working his way steadily past them. Brooks has set up a lap record on lap five with 4'00"5 and is continuing to lap in about 4'02"0 (approximately 130mph), and has already lapped the last five cars; while Hawthorn is doing the same. Just as the Ferrari is about to lap Hill’s Lotus the little green car disappears in a cloud of smoke as a con-rod comes out through the side of the engine, and Hill has to be content to be a spectator from then on.

 

Brabham calls in for water and Salvadori enlivens things by passing Allison’s Lotus, but he leads for only three laps and then the Lotus retake fourth place and Cooper’s clutch begins to slip. With 10 laps to go Brooks has a 41sec lead and began to take things a little easier, but not for long, for Hawthorn now begins to pile on speed in a last do-or-die effort, first of all setting a new lap record in 3'59"3 and then reducing the Vanwall’s lead steadily every lap. Brabham retires with head-gasket troubles and then Godia goes out with a broken piston, and Brooks retaliates to Hawthorn’s challenge with a lap in 3'59"7, not a record but sufficient to stem the Ferrari’s onslaught. All this time Lewis-Evans is running in third place, driving quietly and steadily, with no hope of challenging the leaders but way ahead of the fourth car, which is still the Lotus putting up a remarkable run and still not lapped by the leader, all the rest of the 10 runners long since having been lapped, including even Schell in the B.R.M., who is lying fifth. It is now virtually all over, little more than 1½ hours after the start, and as Brooks rounds the Source hairpin for the last time and accelerates down to the chequered flag something tightens up in the Vanwall gearbox and it is fortunate he does not have to do another lap. Less than half a minute later Hawthorn storms down the hill to the finish and just before crossing the line piston brakes and a cloud of white smoke shot out of the exhaust, and the Ferrari is flagged second with a ruined engine, but Hawthorn has the satisfaction of setting up a new lap record on that last lap with a time of 3'58"3, and he has not taken the engine over the permitted 8500rpm. The last lap has not finished reaping havoc for Lewis-Evans arrives in third place going quite slowly for the top right-hand wishbone out the Vanwall has broken. The first car to arrive in a fit and healthy no after this very high-speed event is Allison’s Lotus in fourth place, and if there has been another lap to go it might have been in 1st place, which would have confounded the experts.

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At the end of the fifteenth lap, Vanwall's lead is even 40 seconds: from the pits, they signal to Brooks to slow down, and Hawthorn approaches him sensibly, also breaking the lap record; but only a mechanical failure could have changed the result. So Anthony Vandervell's car takes its second victory of the season, appearing even better than the last performance, while Hawthorn's Ferrari loses an engine piston two hundred metres from the finish, evading a white smoked culture. He closes third Lewis-Evans, but he also passes under the chequered flag with the damaged single-seater: contact with Gendebien's car has cut off the suspension arm and dangerously tilted the tire; so the runner's courage is to be praised since on a track like the one in Spa-Francorchamps it is a real miracle to end the very fast Francorchamps circuit, with an average of over 209 km/h, the Vanwall with the driver Tony Brooks, considered in a way an outsider, wins the Grand Prix of Europe, the fifth round of the world championship for conductors. According to forecasts, Ferrari was favoured, whose conductors had reached the best times during the tests. The race, however, saw a series of sensational withdrawals, corresponding to as many accidents, so every expectation was disappointing. And this is not only said about the Italian colours: even Stirling Moss, considered the most titrated successor to the Fangio champion, was eliminated from the fight from the first lap for breaking a valve. Note, in this regard, that a similar failure already touched the Vanwall during the Monaco Grand Prix.

 

Luigi Musso also had to retire, so at the top of the world championship title, he is still at the head of Moss with 17 points, propped with 14 points by his compatriot Hawthorn who, despite irregular race conduct, placed his Ferrari in second place and achieved in the final lap the new absolute record of the circuit in 3'58" 3, corresponding to the average of 213.008 km/h. Therefore, another all-English victory is confirmed at the end of the fifth round of the world championship conductors, in a Grand Prix of Europe that according to the indications of the eve should have been the rebirth of the Ferraris. Actually, once again the men of the Maranello team were targeted by bad luck, but it would not be fair to give credit to a line of the fate of the splendid claim of the Vanwall of Tony Brooks, the former London mechanic dentist who in a couple of years managed to enter the narrow elite of the aces of motoring. As well as first place overall (this is the first time Tony Brooks has established himself in a world championship race), Vanwall also takes third place with Lewis Evans. Finally, it should be remembered and highlighted how Neapolitan Maria Teresa De Filippis ranked in tenth place in Maserati, the first woman to participate in a Formula 1 race. When you consider the fearful speed of the race, you will be able to understand the value of the reckless Italian motorist. A result not at all despicable, if you consider that the Neapolitan girl participated for the first time in a Formula 1 race, and above all that the Spa-Francorchamps circuit is one of the most impressive that exist for the very high speeds that are reached there. Maria Teresa's average was above 190 km/h.

 

Simone Pietro Zazza

 

Translated by Valentina De Sanctis

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