The Gran Premio Supercortemaggiore - Monza

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76

Collins on Form, Hawthorn in Luck

Monza, June 24th.

The annual 1,000 kilometre race on the Monza track, which is financed by the Agip-BP petrol company of Italy, and named after their big refinery at Supercortemaggiore, was this year limited to sports cars of a maximum of 2,000-cc with a sub-division of 1,500-cc. In the past it has been for 3-litre cars, and this new move was a sign of the times. Though the resultant speeds achieved by the 2-litre cars were beyond all expectations.

The full road-cum-track circuit was to be used, and during the mornings of the practice days everyone had to drive round the banked oval at a set speed in order to accustom themselves to joining and leaving the bankings before they were allowed to blind round at full speed. This was a sound move especially in view of the number of unknown drivers competing, though it was highly unpopular among some of the “prima donnas” who have raced Grand Prix cars round the banking. But quite rightly they were made to comply with the regulation just as Giovanni Sapone and the rest had to. For Friday and Saturday afternoon the full circuit was put into use and official practice took place to decide starting grid positions. Somehow, any race held at Monza has a happy air of uncontrolled pandemonium about it, but this year’s Supercortemaggiore was without doubt the biggest and best. Altogether 62 entries were accepted and of these only 41 were allowed to start divided up into 27 in the 2-litre class and 14 in the 11/2-litre class. As a result the practice periods saw some very fast and furious motoring taking place and the difficulty the timekeepers had in sorting out who was driving what car was enormous. A sound innovation was the positioning of a marshal with a “walkie-talkie” radio at the head of the pits where drivers joined the circuit, and as each car left he asked the driver his name and transmitted it, With the car number, to the timekeepers. This enabled times to be recorded for individual drivers of a pair, and not the car, as is usually done.

The entry consisted of 28 assorted Maseratis, 15 Ferraris and a variety of Oscas, private Porsche, Lotus, AWE and Gordini. The Maserati factory had entered nine factory cars as well as looking after all the private cars, while Ferrari was in a similar position with four factory cars and the rest private ones needing their attention. Throughout the two practice periods Maserati kept varying frorn more drivers than cars, to the reverse situation, never really knowing exactly where they stood. Their only star driver was Moss, for Behra was having, a slight operation on a knee to remove a plate inserted after his TT crash last year, and as they had to draw from Taruffi, Perdisa, Bellucci, and other national drivers, they searched around and roped in Fairman and Farina. As to cars, they were little better off, having one new 2-litre, one new 11/2-litre both four-cylinders, and an assortment of earlier four-cylinder and six-cylinder cars, though the numbers used in practice and who drove them bore little relationship to any eventual decisions. Just when Moss was getting the new 2-litre going as quick as the factory Ferraris, he lent it to Farina, just arrived back from his Indianapolis debacle, and in a matter of minutes the car was a complete write-off and the Doctor was in hospital with a broken collar-bone and cuts and bruises. He had lost control going into the road circuit corner that runs parallel with the banking and bounced off the straw bales and rolled the car over. The car was beyond repair and another one was hurriedly completed to take its place, but it was an earlier model and nothing like as fast. Another trouble Maserati were suffering from was the tyres appearing through the tops of the mudguards as the cars sped round the bumpy parts of the banked track, and each time a new car arrived and went out, it was back at the pits within two laps with all the paint burnt off the tops of the mudguards and mechanics set-to with big hammers and made the bulges bigger.

Ferrari was very little better off, for though he had scooped up nearly all the best drivers, his cars were breaking-up under the strain. Fangio was trying very hard and first a rear axle broke, he borrowed another car, and then this one had a piston collapse. Next day a third car was prepared for him, and on the way to the circuit the mechanic wrote it off against a lorry. The original Ferrari team was Fangio/Castellotti, Collins/Hill, Gendebien/Portago and the two Germans, von Trips/Herrmann. When Hawthorn and Hamilton became available, due to their Lotus-Climax breaking its gearbox as it entered the Monza Park, Ferrari was quick to gather them both into his team. However, the holocaust of practice left him short of cars, so Hill, Herrmann and Hamilton were thrown out, Hawthorn put with Collins, and Schell taken into the team aud put with von Trips.

The Osca factory were the complete opposite of the other factory teams, for they had two 1,500 cc cars for Maglioli/Villoresi, and Cabianca/Chiron, and they had no trouble whatsoever, both cars and drivers behaving impeccably and going very fast. The two AWF cars from Eisenach were also well under control, though that of Thiel/Binner was not being driven fast enough to qualify, while Gordini had only one 2-litre car running, driven by Manzon and da Silva Ramos. The Porsche Spyders were a varied collection, all privately owned, including the two Swiss drivers with their aircraft wing for increasing the load on the rear tyres. Unlike the Nurburgring authorities who at least let them practise with it, the Monza people turned it down flat, though one wonders whether they would have done so had it been on a factory Porsche and not a private one. On paper there appeared to be a strong Lotus entry to oppose the Italians but, in fact, it all fizzled out on the first day. As mentioned, the Hawthorn/Hamilton car dropped a tooth off its second gear before it reached the track, the Bristol-engined one of Anthony/Lund went quite well for a few laps and then seized solid, while the 1,100 cc Climax model of Piper/Margulies was outclassed, even though it ran well to form ; a further Bristol-engined car of Davis/Jopp failed to arrive.

Eventually the shouting and yelling died down on Saturday night and there was comparative order out of chaos on Sunday morning when the race was due to start. A Le Mans run-and-jump start was used, with the cars arranged in order of practice times, the fastest time in each pair counting for the grid position. Moss had been paired with Bellucci and before the start he put his foot down very firmly and demanded someone better, so they gave him Taruffi. Among those who did not qualify was an AWE, while the other car split its oil filter just before the start, which called for some feverish work to make a repair. As the majority of the cars roared off on the first, of the 100 laps they left behind Fangio (Ferrari), Chiron (Osca), Rosier (Maserati) and the two women drivers, Peduzzi (Ferrari); and de Filippis (Maserati), and it was more than half a minute before they all managed to get going. Collins, Moss and Carini had all got away at the head of the field, and before the end of the first lap Moss was out, when his propeller-shaft broke and went through the reserve fuel tank occupying the passenger’s seat. He was lucky to be able to stop unhurt, but this left Collins way out in the lead ahead of Gendebien, Carini, Gerini and Villoresi with the 1,500 cc Osca. Fangio was galloping his way through the field, but was making very little on Collins, so the race as such fizzled out on the opening lap, and it was obvious that Collins was going to be uncatchable. Bearing in mind that his co-driver was Hawthorn, these two could not fail to win providing the car held together and they made no mistakes. With the situation being such, attention was turned to the rest of the runners, and outstanding was the speed of the 1,500 cc Osca, for Villoresi was comfortably holding fifth place, while Barth was running eighth with the lone AWE, and first private owner in the 1,500 cc group was Bonnier with his Maserati, the long straights enabling it to show its true form. Schell retired on the second lap with a broken gearbox, so von Trips did not get, a chance to drive. After seven laps Perdisa began to try hard with the 2-litre Maserati he was to share with Taruffi, and moved up into second place, ahead of Gendebien, but no danger to Collins, while Fangio had settled into sixth place, lapping at a slower speed than the leader. The AWE was having a wheel-to-wheel battle with a 2-litre Maserati driven by de Graffenried and Bonnier was matching his 11/2-litre against Landes 2-litre Maserati. As the race went on the only real interest lay in seeing whether the co-drivers would be able to keep up the pace set by the number one drivers and after some 20 laps some of these changes began to take place. Hawthorn did not take over until 50 laps and was naturally well able to continue the pace set by Collins, while the Maserati in second position was given new life at the same time when Moss took over from Perdisa in place of Bellucci, but a stop-watch soon showed that even he could not gain on the leading Ferrari. Fangio had now worked his way past the cheeky little Osca, and also the Ferraris of Gerini, who was driving very well, and Gendebien. who had slowed little, so that when Castellotti took over he was in third place. Villoresi handed over to Maglioli, refuelling at the same time, and did not lose their fifth position and led the 1,500 cc class, and Maglioli had no trouble in continuing the fantastic pace of the Osca. The other one had been making up for its bad start and Cabianca continued to gain places as the day went on. The AWE was refuelled and Rosenhammer took over, but was soon back in the pits with a carburetter fire, fortunately not serious ; then he returned again because the bonnet had sprung open and later he ran into gearbox trouble and the car was withdrawn. Bonnier made his routine pit stop, and Mackay-Frazer took over, carrying on at exactly the same speed, so that the car was now third in the 1.500 cc class and not only first private owner, but first 11/2-litre Maserati, much to the chagrin of those driving factory cars. Fairman took over from Signorina de Filippis, and later handed this works car to Sgorbati, whose car had been taken over by Taruffi.

So the race went on, the Collins/Hawthorn Ferrari in the lead the whole time, with Moss unable to gain anything, while Castellotti, having taken over from Fangio, could not gain on either of them, in fourth place, but losing ground all the time, was the remaining works Ferrari, now with de Portago at the wheel, and behind him, running like a clock, was Maglioli with the Osca, followed by the Simon/Taruffi Maserati. The difference in speed of these two factory 11/2-litres was such that the Osca lapped the Maserati twice, and on the second occasion did so along the straight by the grandstand at such a speed that it could have easily been mistaken for a 2-litre. All the time the weaker cars were falling by the wayside, the excellent run of Bonnier/Mackay-Frazer coming to an end when one of the carburetters fell off due to the mounting studs shearing (not the first time on a 1,500 cc Maserati), while Gerini had to retire with ignition trouble, after driving well in fourth and fifth positions. Frere and Milhoux, with the Equipe Belge Ferrari, went out with engine trouble, it being a borrowed factory engine, as their own had blown-up in practice. Rosier/Piottis Maserati 2-litre went out with a broken piston. and Tomas/de Tomaso’s Maserati 11/2-litre stopped out on the circuit with a burst tyre. The only Lotus to run in the race. the 1,100 cc driven by Piper and Lund, who replaced Margulies, who was unwell, was having brake troubles, and finally came to rest when a complete caliper assembly of the disc brake broke off and took the steering with it.

Round and round the leaders went, at an incredible speed for 2-litre cars, while the noise of these sports cars was wonderful, in spite of regulation silencers. Collins had made the fastest lap at over 201 kph (approximately 125 mph), while the general run of cars had been lapping at anywhere between 115 mph and 120 mph, so that this whole event had been one of truly high-speed motoring. Just before the end the leading Ferrari stopped for a quick refuel, having some time in hand, and Hawthorn was taken out and Collins put in to finish the race, and without ever losing the lead the new 2-litre Ferrari completed the 100 laps and received the chequered flag. Moss followed home in second place, and Castellotti third, these three still being on the same lap, the remainder of the finishers being a long way back, though for a 1,301 cc car the distance of 4 laps in 100 for Villoresi/Maglioli was nothing to be ashamed of.

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