The white elephant that was Italy's answer to Indianapolis

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The Eldorado Special survives today as much as a monument to the Monza highspeed track as to Maserati’s own frustrated racing ambitions. The Pista de Alta Velocita was designed by civil engineers Antonino Berti and Aldo di Renzo. Their brief was to provide a course capable of accommodating the highest average speeds in cars running “under the most uniform driving conditions minimising gear changing and use of brakes”. They chose two 875m long parallel straights one the existing pit straight of the road circuit connected by two 180-degree curves, struck at a radius of 320m. Each curve was 1250m long, providing a lap distance of 4.25km or 2.641 miles.

Berti and di Renzo fought shy of attempting maximum 100% banking gradients (as tried at Montlhery) calculating that G-loadings at around 180mph would double a car’s dynamic weight there. Both Indianapolis and Daytona use flat, constant-slope banking, but the Italian engineers tackled the more complex theory of designing dished-profile banking. They chose an 80% gradient overall, then divided their 13.8m wide banking section into five lanes; a 1.75m-wide inner, then 1.95, 2.25, 2.7 and finally 3.35m wide for the outer lane as they climbed the banking. Slope varied from 12% on the narrow inner lane to 80% in the fifth, outer lane.

The Curva Sud (outside the Grand Prix circuit’s Curva Parabolica) was sunk three metres into the ground, while the Curva Nord towered full-height above ground level. The profile of each transition from flat straight into the curved banking was painstakingly calculated to provide progressive centrifugal-force build-up upon both car and driver. From flat surface to banked section occupied 265m to allow, in the designers’ words, “A period of at least four seconds for even the fastest cars to pass from normal gravity acceleration to… maximum centrifugal acceleration along the outer lane’. At 250km/h – 155mph peak loadings of 1.7g were calculated.

Construction ran from March to August 1955, and, combined with the road circuit, the Pista de Alta Velocita was used for that year’s Italian GP and for sportscars from the Supercortemaggiore race of the 1950s through to the 1000km as late as 1968. It was also used alone for myriad record attempts, and for the two Monzanapolis 500Miles races of 1957-58.

However almost from the first winter the track was in trouble bumpy and getting bumpier with each frosty night. It still stands, it has survived longer than its Monza speedway predecessor built in 1922 and abandoned before World War II but it’s now been an empty white elephant and static photographic set for long decades past.