1953 British Grand Prix race report - Ascari holds off Maserati




Ascari (Ferrari) Holds off Maserati Opposition. Full Supporting Programme.

UNDER showery conditions the Daily Express Meeting at Silverstone on July 18th, organised for the R.A.C. by the B.R.D.C., was run off promptly before a vast crowd of spectators. Ominous rain clouds passed over the circuit with nothing worse than a heavy shower a quarter of an hour before the finish of the British Grand Prix and a few spots during the Sports-Car Race.

Interest was sharply focussed on the British G.P., because after Hawthorn’s magnificent victory in the French G.P., everyone wondered if he would do it again on his home-ground at Silverstone, or whether Maserati would heat Ferrari on this rather more difficult circuit.

Ferrari and Maserati fielded the same ears they had at Reims, rumours of hush-hush new Ferraris proving false. The teams were, respectively, Ascari, Villoresi, Farina, Hawthorn, and Fangio, Gonzalez, Bonetto and Marimon. [EWA. put in Macklin, Collins, Duncan Hamilton and Fairman in rather tired-looking ears. Connaught had patron McAlpine, Salvadori, and ” new-boy ” Biru in ears with the American-type of carburettor-less induction, which is not true fuel-injection but injection into the inlet tract. In addition, Ian Stewart had the Ecurie Ecosse Connaught, and Bolt had Rob Walker’s Connaught. Ken Wharton had a Cooper-entered Cooper-Bristol, James Stewart the 1.•:curie Ecosse Cooper-Bristol (” Wilky ” has a ” mixed-hag ” to tune !), Alan Brown and Bob Gerard drove their own ears of this make. This time three CooperAltos were due to run, those of Moss, Whitehead (now tuned by Inarton’s former mechanic) and Crook, but Moss’ had burst its clutch at Reiins and non-started. Chiron’a °sea was the only other absentee and an interesting field was made up with the Automobiles Gordini team–Schell, Trintignant, Behra—in the usual six-cylinder ears, the new V8 not materialising, and de Graffenried’s Maserati.

The first training period was held in the rain, with the rather unstable result that Peter Whitehead made fastest lap at 90.06 m.p.h., a whole 4 sec. faster than Hawthorn, who was ‘2 see. quicker than Farina, while Ascari was content, with his friend Villoresi, to be 2 sec. slower still. The works Maseratis hadn’t arrived, and Schell’s Gordini was fifth fastest, a second behind the slowest Ferrari.

Heavy showers characterised the Friday session, but Aseari now went round in I min. 48 sec. (97.57 m.p.h.), Gonzalez Was is second slower for Maserati, and Hawthorn received a special back-slap of appreciation from Ferrari’s ‘ream Manager for tie-ing with the Argentinian. Fangio and Farina both managed 1 min. 50 sec. Villoresi and Marimon 1 min. 51 sec., with Trintignant and Schell at 1 mm. 52 sec. So stop-watch-clickers retired to their cars, tents and caravans, confident of a strong Ferrari-Maserati-Gordini battle on the morrow. Ascari practised in Villoresi’s car as well as in his own. It took the mechanics a long time to fit the shields between air intakes and exhaust system and make the bonnet fit. The rigidly mounted Weber carburetters first tried at Spa were retained.

After Earl Howe had unveiled the Pat Fairman Memorial Drinking Fountain, which has at last been moved from Donington to a permanent home at Silverstone, the 28 cars were wheeled or driven to the starting grid. The Maseratis were the Reims cars, with auxiliary fuel tank on the driver’s right, the second auxiliary tank and headrest removed from Gonzalez’ car. His name Was on the cockpit sides.

Fangio (Maserati), Hawthorn (Ferrari), Gonzalez (Maserati) and Ascari (Ferrari) occupied the fret-it row, as a foretaste of the battle to follow, with Marimon, Villoresi and Farina in the row behind. Alan Brown made pretence of polishing the white bonnettop of de Graffenried’s Maserati, Fairman could be heard loudly inquiring of John Heath what sort of race he was required to drive, and gradually the moments came nearer to flag-fall. This time no one mistook Kenneth Evans’ intentions and the field, naturally creeping slightly, roared away.

At Copse, the first corner, Fangio led, but as his Maserati drifted wide, Ascari lost no time in going through. Packed tight behind were Villoresi and Gonzalez. followed by the rest, de Graffenried last after a bad start.

At the end of lap one Ascari led Fangio, with Gonzalez and Villoresi behind, and then a little gap before Marimon, Hawthorn, Farina, Bonetto and Macklin appeared—Ferrari, Maserati, Maserati, Ferrari, Maserati, Ferrari, Maserati, H.W.M. In lap two Gonzalez moved up in front of his team-mate and Hawthorn had passed Marimon. A lap later the spectators were perplexed when Hawthorn was seen to have dropped back—except

those in the pits grandstand, who had seen him spin wildly out of the tricky Woodcote Corner and slide backwards onto the grass. He got out of this nasty high-speed gyration, which could easily have ended his career, and continued, visibly shaken. A lap later Ferrari had him in for a check-over of the car, and a slight fuel leak was discovered. Aileen had set a new Formula Ii lap record of I min. 51 sec. (94.93 m.p.h.) on his second circuit, whieh Gonzalez promptly equalled on the next round—the Ferrari/Maserati battle was well and truly joined !

Lap four saw Ascari, driving superbly so that he looked slow, pull out 1 min. 50 sec. (05.59 m.p.h.). Clearly, even in a race which was to be run non-stop for 263 miles, he could not afford to give the Argentinian a second. His high speeds so early in the race with full tank were the product of true virtuosity.

The field had already been depleted, for Crook’s Cooper-Alta couldn’t get fuel to the carburetters and McAlpine’s Connaught also failed to leave the grid. Moreover, Wharton’s formerly-reliable Cooper-Bristol was in while pressure was restored to the lubrication circuit, and thus early Trintignant was having a broken exhaust pipe repaired, while plugs were changed on Schell’s car. Whitehead’s Cooper-Alta required brake adjustment after a mere seven of the 90 laps which constituted the full distance.

It is significant of how well matched were the rival Italian teams that the official lap-chart from laps I to 30 shows no change of position in the first three—Aseari, Gonzalez, Fangio—from lap two until lap 17, when Villore.si came up to third place, and Gonzalez fell to fourth because he had been brought in, with some difficulty, by the officials, who suspected his Maserati of dropping oil—there was a light filin of liquid round the track which had resulted in the striped ” oil-warning ” flag being flown for a time—this some British drivers saluted, but Ascari just pressed unconcernedly on. After a rowdy pit-scene Gonzalez was allowed to continue—it is possible that, the back axle was venting slightly.

The order Ascari, Fangio, Villoresi, Gonzalez, held for lap after lap, but Alberto was a comfortable quarter mile, ahead of the Maserati, having averaged 92.72 m.p.h. to Fangio’s 92.19 m.p.h. By 25 laps Ascari had increased his lead by a few more seconds but the Ferrari, Maserati, Ferrari, Maserati, Ferrari, Maserati order dominated the leading six. Stewart had retired the Connaught, the trouble given laconically as plugs,” Wharton had needed oil and Whitehead further adjustment of his brakes; Schell’s Cordial never recovered its lost sparks and de Graffenried was troubled by misfiring, which had spoilt his start but which he dashingly tried to overcome.

Massacre was heavy, for Trintignant’s Gordini succumbed to the old complaint, axle failure, Bonetto’s Maserati had been delayed for a plug change, Hamilton’s H.W.M. was out with a clutch which wouldn’t, and then Bonetto stopped twice more as the carburetters were checked and a blocked jet changed. ‘rhe sole remaining Gordini of Jean Behra came in with a blocked fuel system and Macklin’s H.W.M. split its clutch housing, while to de Graffenried’s troubles were added a broken accelerator. Peter Whitehead took on fuel for his Alta engine in 38 seconds after 1 hr. 28 min, fast motoring. Collins also refuelled the H.W.M., in 60 seconds. The race position, so far as the rather widely-spaced duellists were concerned, remained the same lap after lap and if the heartstopping struggle which had been seen at Belittle was not renewed, certainly neither Ferrari nor Maserati had sufficient superiority over the other for any of their drivers to let up for a second. Indeed, was not this a driver’s rather than a marquis battle? For at five laps under half-distance Ascari had increased his lead to 28 sec. over Fangio and his speed to 93.46 m.p.h., Villoresi was 50 sec. in front of Gonzalez (who, however, had had to debate his black-flagging)

at 92.33 and Farina, in characteristic style, led new-boy Marimon by a mere second, at 90.37 m.p.h. The battle between the latter, holders of fifth and sixth places, was an interesting sub-feature of the race and, sure enough, at half-distance, Marimon’s blue and yellow Maserati, the only one in Argentine colours, had gone by, to lead the veteran Italian by 3 see.

Another clutch packed it in. when Fairman retired, and Collins soon afterwards left the road rather violently, at. Chapel Curve, walked to I3ecketts, ran back to his car, having summoned mechanics, only to discover the machinery unstartable. Gonzalez stopped for 41 sec. for fuel and oil after 55 laps, suggesting he may have atarted with a half-full tank, as at Reims.

Ascari was still piling on speed, his average up to 93.84 m.p.h. at two-thirds distance. The six-sliee FerrarilMaserati sandwich-spread was unchanged, although Fangio was now 41 sec. behind; Gonzalez’ pit-stop had enabled Farina to close up but not to pass. Wharton was going well again, although his yellow-nosed Cooper-Bristol called for 10 gallons of fuel, which his pit-staff got in in a splendid 20 sec. We now began to speculate on which British car would be first to finish. James Stewart was going great guns, in tartan shirt, in the Cooper-Bristol. Bira was driving a faultless race in the Connaught, bolt was going exceedingly well, although losing 60 sec. for refuelling on his 66th lap. As the leader completed the same number, the solid block of the first six was shattered. Villoresi’s Ferrari broke its back axle and at the same time Marimon’s Maserati stopped at Copse Corner.

Baron de Grafrenried, too, gave up an unequal struggle with his sick car. The order now altered to : Ascari, Fangio, Gonzalez, Farina, Hawthorn, who was steadily regaining the ground his spin had cost him, and Roles Connaught.

Brown’s Cooper-Bristol now retired with a broken fan belt, casting a hope that 13ristol will soon have ready a racing engine as good as their ” touring ” unit has proved to be, for the latter is able to lose a race by casting away a form of drive so often seen lying about on our main roads !

With half an hour to run, rain fell in torrents, preceded by hail, and Silverstone became flooded. This had its effect on the British finishers. Just before the storm Rolt had driven off the course at Becketts and announced back-axle trouble. He was rushed to the Paddock on a police pillion (thoughtfully putting his crash-hat on before starting !) but the mechanics declared the car beyond repair. This brought Stewart into sixth place, rather more than 2 min. behind Hawthorn. Alas, the wet course was his undoing, for he crashed at Copse ten laps from the end, luckily escaping injury. Bira spun twice in the Connaught but avoided the grass and continued. Ascari merely adjusted his cornering limits to suit and in this he was followed by his Continental confreres. Bonetto had replaced Stewart in sixth place, Bira in the first British car some way behind him, followed by Wharton as leading British driver.

This order held to the finish, the sun out again but the course wet, so that Ascari’s average, up to 93.97 zn.ph. at 80 laps, fell to an overall of 92.97 m.p.h. The World Champion had never placed a wheel wrongly and he finished exactly a minute ahead of Fangio, a sufficiently close finish to give speculation as to what will happen at the Nurburg Ring. Farina and Gonzalez were two laps behind, Hawthorn a lap away again, while Bonetto had covered only 82 laps. as had Bira. The rain stopped all chance of further record laps, so Ascari and Fangio shared the record Formula II lap of 95.79 m.p.h., a fair reflection on the character of this British Grand Prix. Ascari proved his worth to Ferrari in brilliant manner-did he not lap team-mate Farina twice ?

So Ferrari had beaten Maserati again, but only just, and the final order, Ferrari first, Maserati second, Ferrari third, Maserati fourth, Ferrari fifth, Maserati sixth, shows the Maranelbo challenge to be no flash in the pan. Connaught did well to enrol !lira, for he came steadily, with the exception of his rain gyrations up to seventh place, the rest of the Connaughts suffering rather odd troubles and the II.W.M.s a recurrence of their clutch failures.

: …

Record lap Ascari (Ferrari) and Gonzalez (Maserati), in 1 min. 50 see… 95.79 m.p.h.

Retirements : McAlpine (Connaught). nil lops; Crook (Cooper-Alta), nil laps, hid feed; Schell (Gordini). S laps, magneto; Hamilton (11.W.M.), 14 laps, clutch; Triutignant (Gordini). 15 laps, axle: Stewart (Connaught), 27 laps, misfiring; Ilehra (Cordini), fuel starvation; Macklin (H.W.M.). clutch; Salvador’ (Connaught). cracked radius-arm; Fairman (11.W.M.). 54 laPo. dutch; Collins (H.W.M.), left road; Madmen (Maserati); Villorcsi (Ferrari), 63 laps, axle; Brown (Cooper-Bristol). broken fan belt:. Bolt (Connaught). axle; Stewart (Cooper-Bristol). crashed unhurt. There were three supporting events besides the Grand Prix, a 15-lap Formula III race, a 35-lap International Sports-Car race and a 17-lap Formule Libre dash. None produced any real tussles amongst the leaders. In the 500-c.c. event, Moss in the Cooper Car Company-entered Cooper-Norton ran away from the start, to win unchallenged at 84.74 m.p.h. He equalled the lap record of 86.37 m.p.h. and to did Lewis-Evans. For a lap Clarke in Gerard’s Cooper was second but he was replaced by Brandon’s Cooper and

fell right back after five laps. S. Lewis-Evans, fresh from his Crystal Palace victory, pressed Brandon hard, finishing in third place, 3 sec. behind him. Wood’s Arnott had plastic bodywork. During the race Headland (Martin-Cooper) skidded at Woodcote, was narrowly missed by following cars, and hit the pits, injuring two persons standing on the course. Parker, who had been as fast as Moss in practice, retired early.

: … Sec. … Fastest lap : Moss and Lewis-Evans (Coopers), in 2 min. 2 sec.-86.37

Retirements included Headlund (Martin-Cooper), crashed; Wicken (Cooper). engine; Parker (Kieft); Greenall (Cooper), fuel feed; Lestou (Loaton); Clarke (Cooper), scavenge pump; Moor (Wasp); Longs (Tiger Kitten), con.-rod. The Sports-Car Race, over approximately 102 miles with Ls Mans start, was deemed important to British prestige, perhaps because many Americans were present, although we imagine the Jaguar victories at Le Mans and Reims have put them well ahead of all others for the time being. At all events, they did not enter officially, but were represented by seven privately-owned, drum-braked Type Cs. In spite of this the Sunday Express motoring correspondent wrote of the race as “a great contest-between two millionaire industrialists” ! It is interesting that the XK120 is now completely outmoded for sports-car racing and none ran. David Brown had a team of three 2.9-litre D.B.3(S) Aston Martins, drivers Parnell, Salvadori and Collins, supported by the older D.B.3s of Graham Whitehead and Dickson, and Peter Clark’s D.B.2. Downing’s D.B.3 non-started. Cunningham brought all his elaborate organisation and the vast Fageol Twin Coach mobile workshop to run two of the older two-seaters with i.f.s., that driven by Briggs himself having, it was said, the engine from the new car written off at Reims. Spear drove his 4.1 Ferrari ” America” in American colours, but Ruesch’s Ferrari was absent. Four Ecurie Ecosse Jaguars were present, as well as the” Cs “of Swift, Tony Bolt, driving for Duncan Hamilton who was a bit spent after his recent accident and the G.P., E. k. Holt and Ninian Sanderson. The appearance of Bolt and Holt in identical-shape cars confused the Sunday Express reporter. Oscar Moore’s H.W.M. did not appear but Abecassis drove the new Jaguar-powered all-enveloping H.W.M., which is reminiscent of the old H.W.-Altas. Hazlehurst had a Bristol-Kieft, Barber non-started in a Cooper carrying an English idea of what a disco volante should be, and Frazer-Nash was represented by a rather motley collection of Le Mans Replicas. Watkins had extensively damaged his Allard in a practice crash and did not run.•

For three laps after the Le Mans start Parnell led from Bolt, followed at first by Collins and Abecassis, until the H.W.M. was passed by Walters’ Cunningham and Spear’s big Ferrari. Then Tony went ahead, lapping at 90.84 m.p.h. To this Reg. replied with a new sports-car lap record of 91.63 m.p.h., regaining the lead on his ninth lap. On the seventh lap Walters’ Cunningham had broken its gearbox. Now Salvadori set about improving his position, equalling Rolt’s speed on his I 1 th lap. After 14 laps Collins and Salvadori had their Aston Martins up in third and fourth places. followed by Spear, driving the Ferrari without fireworks, Parnell comfortably in the lead. Sir James Scott-Douglas lost oil pressure and retired his Jaguar, Abecassis was in trouble at Abbey Curve, but Ian Stewart had his Jaguar in sixth place. Both Collins and Salvadori now made 90.84-m.p.h. laps and Parnell was pulling up his speed, from 88.94 m.p.h. to 89.19 m.p.h. average at 20 laps. Bolt seemed unable to reply and, sure enough, the well-used Jaguar retired after 21 laps with a broken piston. Salvador; went past Collins and these two ran in close company, no doubt under team orders, to a 1, 2, 3 Aston Martin finish.

Dickson’s older A.M. boiled, Swift’s Jaguar also retired, and C1112ningh am set up an all-time record in smoke screens before pulling off at Becketts’. Flames were coming from the off-side exhaust pipe and Moss called to the driver to jump out. He did so, calmly extinguishing the oil fire with his own extinguisher, smiling broadly and accepting a lift to the Paddock with the remark, “They’ll tow her in, I guess.” The engine had been pumping oil down the exhaust system and went on ” simmering ” for some time. The neatly turned out and driven Aston Martins, using K.L.G. plugs, Shell fuel, Lucas ignition, Weber carburetters, Mintex brake linings and Avon tyres, deserved their convincing victory. It was nice to see Parnell so successful, as this may be his last season.

The Fortintle Libre race was no doubt intended as a B.R.m. benefit and it seemed that it could well be, for in practice Fangio set up a lap speed of 99.41 m.p.h. (I min. 46 sec.), a new if unofficial lap record, and Wharton did 1 min. 48 see., a second slower than Farina in the Thinwall Ferrari. However, after his ” record ” laps Fangio’s engine collapsed and it took all night to restore it. Ferrari had put in Hawthorn, in a four-cylinder 21-litre Ferrari built with the I oFt-1 Formula in mind (although now it seems that Ferrari may

use ” next year). This car was paintal green, a nice gesture if a feeble shade, and Hawthorn had done 1 min. 49 BM and beaten Farina by Pace, in the wet. Ile obviously east his eyes to the sky as starting time drew near, but the course remained dry. In fact. Farina led all the way from lap one, aided by the Goodrich. style disc, brakes; although Hawthorn had led at the start he was passed on lap two by Fangio, who equalled the existing race lap record