Second Gran Premio Supercortemaggiore

Convincing win for new Ferraris

Monza, June 27th
In the past the June meeting at Monza has been the Grand Prix of the Autodromo, but this year the Italian petrol company Supercortemaggiore took over the date for their second sports-car event, the first being last year on a road circuit at Merano. Limited to Sports cars up to 3-litres capacity this year’s race was financially backed by the petrol company, which is a national organisation, and the prize money was enormous. Scheduled to cover 1,000 kilometres, the race was held over 160 laps of the Monza circuit, making a total of 1,008 kilometres in all, and starting at 4 p.m. meant that about 11 hours of darkness would have to be endured. The capacity limit of 3 litres ruled out many would-be competitors, including Lancias, but at the same time much publicity was given to the suggestion that all sports-car events should be limited to 3-litres, the Supercortemaggiore event paving the way for such an idea. Ferrari cars dominated the entry list and of the twenty entered three were new four-cylinder models of the Type 750S. These new cars were a development of the Mondial 500 using a chassis derived from the successful Formula II cars, with similar suspension by double-wishbones and leaf-spring at the front and de Dion rear end. The frame was of orthodox Ferrari layout, with two main tubular side-members, not a multi-tube affair as on the Mondial, while the new 3-litre engines were identical in design with the 1954 Formula I engines, which is to say that they had the new design of valve layout with a very wide angle between inlet and exhaust and with a pair of double-choke Weber carburetters. On the front of the crankcase are mounted two vertical magnetos, each supplying four sparking plugs with current, and in between them, also vertical and driven from the same train of gears, is the dynamo.

A short shaft drove from the engine to the gearbox, which was integral with the differential assembly. Although three cars were entered only two were completed in time and during the first practice period Farina had the misfortune to have the shaft between the engine and gearbox break while travelling at very high speed along the straight. By the time he had brought the car to rest the whirling shaft had cut through fuel lines and battery leads and a raging fire was in process which burnt Farina rather badly necessitating at least 20 days in hospital. This was hard indeed, for he had only just recovered from his Mille Miglia crash. The car was badly damaged, but the engine was all right, and back at the factory another car was nearly completed for a Swiss customer, even to the extent of the bodywork being painted in red and white. This car was “borrowed” and Farina’s engine put in and Hawthorn and Maglioli nominated to drive it, the other factory car being driven by the Le Mans winners, Trintignant and Gonzalez.

Although these two new four-cylinder cars were the only official factory entries, there were two other cars that were being watched over by the works mechanics and pit organisation. Both were identical chassis to the 750S models, but fitted with the latest pattern 3-litre V12-cylinder engines, with three four-choke down-draught Weber carburetters. One of these was the car that won the recent 12-hour race at Hyeres, owned by Piotti and co-driven for this race by Manzon, and the other one was owned by the Scuderia Guastalla and driven by Cornacchia and Gerini. This latter car had similar bodywork to the factory cars, with a headrest behind the driver, while the cars of Hawthorn/Maglioli and Piotti/Manzon were devoid of this extra. The Scuderia Guastalla also had four coupé Ferraris running, all on the 250 MM chassis, which is the 3-litre V12-cylinder engine with four-speed gearbox with normal rear end on a very low frame built of large-diameter tubes. These four cars were driven by Landi/Cassini, Piazero/Pinzero, with the latest Farina coupés, and Pezzoli/Musitelli and Moroni/Gaboardi with earlier Vignale-bodied coupés. A very rare Ferrari was that of Bonomi/Bucci, the Argentinian drivers, for it was one that Ferrari built for the Argentine races, consisting of a Mondial-type frame, with half-elliptic rear suspension, fitted with an early four-cylinder 3-litre engine coupled directly to a five-speed gearbox. This two-seater was painted black and yellow and looked distinctly the worse for wear. To complete the list of Ferraris was a 2 1/2-litre coupé, driven by Minzoni/Brinci, an open 3-litre 250 MM, driven by Biondetti/Nocentini, being the car with which the former finished fourth in the Mille Miglia, two 2-litre models fitted with 3-litre engines, one a coupé, driven by Florentis/Mucci, and the other an open one, driven by Wartenweiler/Baffaeli, and finally a Farina coupé 250 MM, driven by Luglio/Frignatti.

From Maserati came a string of cars, all entered by the factory, but most of them being privately owned, the factory keeping its promise of supporting its racing customers. Two 2 1/2-litre cars were prepared, one being brand new for Fangio/Marimon and the other being a normal A6GCS with Formula I engine fitted, handled by Mantovani/Musso. The new car had a multi-tube chassis based on the 1954 Formula I car, with the same type of i.f.s. and de Dion rear suspension and rear-mounted gearbox, while the engine was pure Formula I, modified to run on pump-fuel, as required by the regulations. An innovation for Maserati was the fitting of a right-hand driving position on this car and it was interesting to note that the pedals were directly below the centre carburetter, with the rear of the engine protruding into the cockpit, but naturally covered over by the bulkhead. The all-enveloping body was similar to the normal production A6GCS, but slightly larger and covered the wheels a little more. The whole car was quite literally a Grand Prix machine with the chassis frame widened. The other 2 1/2-litre model was a normal A6GCS chassis with the Formula I engine fitted and with a vast headrest behind the driver, tapering off into a fin like the Le Mans Jaguars. The remaining Maseratis were normal 2-litre sports models, driven by a motley collection of private-owners who were being nursed by the factory mechanics; they were Cacciari/Searlatti, Bosisio/Della Favera, and Perdisa/Giovanardi. Opposing all these red cars were four Gordinis, two entered by Gordini himself and the other two by the Squadra Italiano Gordini, run by Franco Bordoni. The factory cars were the Le Mans 3-litre, with Messier disc brakes and a five-speed gearbox, driven by Behra/Frere and the 2 1/2-litre that went so well at Le Mans, driven by Guelfi/Pollet, also fitted with a five-speed gearbox, but with normal drum brakes. These new gearboxes were really four-speeds with a special starting gear, for once under way only the upper four ratios were used, top being direct. With the ever-increasing maximum speeds of fully-equipped sports cars the problem of getting away from a standstill, either from the start or a pit stop, is becoming more and more difficult, for if top gear is high enough to cope with maximum it means that bottom is awfully high if reasonable ratios are to be had. The Italian-entered Gordinis consisted of a 3-litre eight-cylinder driven by Bordoni/Della Beffa and a 2-litre with Ricci/Pagliai, these last two cars being painted maroon. Finally, to complete the 25 starters were two Aston Martins, both privately owned. The first was a DB3 entered by Sir Jeremy Boles and driven by Beauman/Riseley-Pritchard and was a perfectly standard production DB3, the second was entered by A. G. Whitehead, but was in fact the white and blue car of the American driver Shelby. Whitehead’s DB3S was still suffering from its crash at Hyeres so Shelby provided his car and himself as co-driver.

Two daytime practice periods were allowed and on Saturday evening a session was arranged in the dark, but surprisingly few people took advantage of it, only one works Ferrari, one Maserati, the American Aston Martin and two private Ferraris being out. However it was a good try-out for the illumination of the starting area, and this was done most effectively by floodlights so arranged as to be invisible to the approaching drivers, only the resultant twilight effect being seen, which did not make driving a strain. The only snag to this effect was that the pits were not well lit and working on the cars was not easy. With the start being at 4 o’clock in the afternoon everyone was well on time and as the cars lined up on the grid, in order of practice times, the clouds gathered ominously overhead. Lined up in rows of three, Gonzalez, Hawthorn and Behra were in the front row, they doing the first part of the race, while behind them were Marimon, Manzon and Bordoni, followed by Musso, Biondetti and Bonomi with the rest following on. Gonzalez had made fastest time in 2 min. 4.9 sec., which compared favourably with last year’s Formula II times, while Hawthorn and Behra were only fractionally slower in 2 min. 5.3 sec. and 2 min. 6.7 sec., respectively. Fangio had done 2 min. 7.3 sec with the 2 1/2-litre Maserati, but Marimon was doing the first session of driving. From lap times it was obvious that the 160 laps were going to take a little over six hours and some teams, such as Behra/Frere and Shelby/ Whitehead had arranged on three hours each, with only one pit stop. The works Ferraris were going to make two refuelling stops so the drivers tossed for two hours or four hours and Hawthorn and Gonzalez won, they doing the first two hours and the last two hours. Others were content to see how things went and as it turned out this was a wise policy for some teams. For no apparent reason a rolling start was organised, the whole field following Alfa-Romeo team chief Guidotti in the new Guiletta for a whole lap, while the XK120 Jaguar of 20th Century-Fox Films ran alongside getting “shots” for the forthcoming film “The Racers.” As the field came up the straight past the pits the two pace-cars drew to one side and from 60 m.p.h. the race was on with Hawthorn shooting ahead, followed by Gonzalez and Behra. Right from the word go these three ran away from the rest of the field and before a quarter of an hour had passed they were right out on their own, though still in close company, with Hawthorn leading all the time. This was an endurance race and most people settled down accordingly and apart from the leaders a procession started, with everyone driving carefully and biding their time. Thanks to Behra and the Gordini there was no procession for the first three places and lap after lap they went round together, most of the time with the Gordini in third place, but sometimes it split the two Ferraris and all the time was setting the pace. After 30 minutes this was still going on when rain began to fall and then there suddenly arrived everything that the heavens could muster, a cloudburst, thunder and lightning right overhead, wind and hail. The drivers of open cars were drenched in a matter of seconds, while those in coupés kept dry, but could not see, for wipers were useless against such rain and all the glass steamed up, while banners were torn off walls and hoardings blown down by the terrific wind. Normal people would have stopped but not the drivers, they went on as best they could, though visibility and spray brought speeds down to barely 80 m.p.h. on the long wide straights of the Monza track. This deluge continued without a break for a full 10 minutes during which time Marimon splashed his way from fourth place to second place by reason of some uncanny sixth sense, for conditions were worse than when the Silverstone race had to he abandoned when Parnell was leading all the Italians a few years ago. When the rain stopped the track soon dried and normality returned with the original three drivers battling for the lead again, Behra now getting by Hawthorn once or twice.

After one hour of racing the Gordini was still worrying the Ferraris while Marimon was a sure fourth, followed by Musso, Manzon and Biondetti, but already some people were in trouble for Bordoni had broken a rocker on his eight-cylinder Gordini and was busy replacing it, while Bonomi had retired his four-cylinder Ferrari with a very rough-sounding engine, so that Bucci did not get a chance to drive in his first European event. For a time the race settled down and it was not until the end of the second hour approached that very much happened. Then Musso stopped for fuel and a vast quantity of oil and Mantovani took over, while Biondetti refuelled his 3-litre Ferrari and continued to drive. The sun was now out and conditions were good and as the time for the first refuelling for the Ferraris approached Gonzalez began to pile on steam and set a new lap record on three occasions, finally leaving it at 2 min. 08.5 sec. — 176.498 k.p.h. These put him well ahead of the other two and in the meantime Manzon had handed over to Piotti, Marimon to Fangio, a long stop this of 1 min. 28 sec., for lots of oil had to be poured in. Two hours twenty minutes after starting Gonzalez came in and handed over to Trintignant, but the stop was a long one while the bonnet was removed though nothing was done to the engine, and two laps later Hawthorn came in and was stationary for only 47 sec. while the fuel tank was filled and Maglioli took over. The Gordini had not yet stopped and was now nearly a minute ahead of Maglioli and 1 1/2 minutes ahead of Trintignant with Fangio only a little way behind. Maglioli began to gain a little on Behra, but it was going to be some time before the effect could really be seen, while Trintignant was not making any ground at all and Mantovani was in trouble with the 2 1/2-litre Maserati returning to his pit and letting Musso have another go, but he soon returned and the car was withdrawn before it finally broke.

At half-distance the order was still Behra, Maglioli/Hawthorn, Gonzalez/Trintignant, Fangio/Marimon and then Biondetti, with the Gordini due to refuel and change drivers. The American Aston Martin was lying a steady seventh and made its routine stop and also had all four wheels changed and Whitehead took over; at the same time the other Aston Martin also made its half-way stop, and the two of them continued to circulate regularly, the DBS being that much faster than the DB3. After all the stops and driver changes it so happened that Fangio was placed just behind Maglioli, on the road, though a lap in arrears, and it was interesting to see that Fangio was comfortably holding the 3-litre Ferrari, lapping steadily a consistent 50 yards behind. At 3 hr. 20 min, after the start Behra drew into the Gordini pit for a refuel and to hand over to Frere. The pit-work was not good and altogether 3 min. 45 sec. were spent at the pit. For everyone who was running on Supercortemaggiore fuel there was provided a pressure refuelling system, but Gordini was contracted to Shell and had to refuel from churns, which wasted much time, and as the nearside rear wheel was changed the mechanics were stumbling over one another. Eventually Frere got the car back into the race, but it had dropped back to third place a lap behind the leader, which was still Maglioli. At the end of the field the private Maseratis were still circulating, though how some of them stood up to the over-revving indulged in by the drivers was a miracle, while Piotti was making repeated stops with the new 12-cylinder Ferrari with a misfire. The other new 12-cylinder Ferrari was now being driven by Gerini and he was showing great form, tucking in behind Maglioli and lapping in company with him around 2 min. 11 sec., while Fangio still had the 2 1/2-litre Maserati just behind them. The Pollet/Guelfi Gordini caused a stir when it suddenly locked solid as it was about to pass the pits, spun round and stopped very abruptly, while one of the private Maseratis now succumbed to the strain. After 3 2/4 hours Biondetti handed over to his co-driver, Nocentini, but 10 minutes later he took it back again as it looked as though the boy was going to lose the hard-fought fifth place; and the elderly Clemente carried on right to the end of the race. Gerini gave the 12-cylinder Ferrari back to Cornacchia and Fangio then caught and passed Maglioli and drew away from him, though still one lap to the bad.

Just before dark, after four hours of racing, Trintignant handed over to Gonzalez, and the-car was refuelled without losing its second position, and the next lap Maglioli came in, the tank was filled and Hawthorn was away in 28 sec. as smooth a pit stop as one could wish to see, the car being in perfect condition and all set for the final two hours. Frere was not keeping up with the Ferraris and a Modena 1-2 seemed certain, but then Gonzalez arrived with what sounded like a stuck throttle. It was fixed and off he went, only to return once more as the repair was not effective, but this time it was all right and he rejoined the race now one lap behind Hawthorn. Almost at the same time and when about to move up into second place, Frere arrived at the pits with the Gordini making a funny noise and it was found that a rocker was broken, the Gordini 2-o.h.c. valve gear operating the valves through very short rockers. This put paid to the French opposition, though they set about replacing the broken part, and with the stops of Gonzalez it meant that Fangio moved up into second place, just before he came in for refuelling, and more oil in great quantities, to hand over to Marimon. With darkness rapidly falling and headlamps being switched on Hawthorn was now well in the lead, lapping at 2 mm. 20 sec., and Marimon was keeping up, though a lap behind, while Gonzalez was now gaining ground rapidly and lapping 5 sec. faster. The two Aston Martins were still going round like trains and Gerini, back in the new 12-cylinder Ferrari and lapping at 2 min. 17 sec., was now in fifth place behind Biondetti. The Gordini was now right out of the picture even though it got going again after 25 minutes at the pits, but it did not last long and Frere returned to the pits for good when a rocker mounting broke. Whitehead was now lying sixth and behind him was a 3-litre coupé Ferrari, driven by Luglio/Frignani that was being extremely well driven and lapping most consistently. At 5 1/4 hours and 20 laps before the end, Gonzalez caught Marimon and moved up into second place, running in company with Hawthorn but a whole lap behind, and for the remainder of the race they stayed together. With barely a half-hour of motoring remaining a wave of trouble suddenly spread, for first of all the Ferrari coupé of Landi/Cassini blew up, then Pritchard with the DB3 went by making a horrid noise, as of slipped timing, and came to rest on the far side of the course with nothing more serious than the end having fallen off the rotor arm, but sufficient to stop him completing the race, and almost immediately afterwards Marimon arrived at his pit with a grinding noise coming from the rear of the Maserati. He was rather foolishly urged to go on and only got about 200 yards farther when the grinding ceased, and so did the car. He had already crossed the timing line, so should have completed that lap, but the Maserati mechanics wheeled it back to the pit and waited while Hawthorn completed the remaining few laps, with Gonzalez in close company, to record a resounding victory for the new 3-litre four-cylinder Ferraris. Marimon then endeavoured to drive the Maserati the 10 yards from the pit to the finishing line, but the transmission gears had stripped completely and it would not do it. This was fortunate for they had violated regulations by wheeling the car back to the pit, and a complicated protest would have arisen had they been able to cross the line. This meant that Gerini was third, after doing most of the driving of the new 12-cylinder 3-litre Ferrari, while Biondetti was an incredible fourth, having driven for all but 10 minutes of the race. The American Aston Martin was fifth, both drivers, Shelby Graham and Whitehead, having driven a Sensible and steady race for private owners, and altogether only 13 of the 25 starters were running at the end of the 1,000 kilometres. The two Ferrari “boys,” Hawthorn and Maglioli, thoroughly deserved their win, which was immensely popular with the Italians, and the Englishman certainly deserved the success after the raw deals he had throughout the season at the hands of fate. To produce two new cars and finish first and second in a 1,000-kilometre race shows that Ferrari and Lampredi are still a powerful force in motor-racing, in spite of all the rising opposition; furthermore, the winning car did not have the bonnet lifted throughout the entire race, it only had fuel added, not even wearing out a tyre, in spite of the high average speed of 162.937 k.p.h.