Another chapter in the series for photographs taken by our readers. This month we visit Monza for the 1981 Italian GP, get excited by a grainy image from Aintree ’55 and drop in on packed Sicilian roads for the Targa Florio
“The highlight of my 1972 overseas holiday was meant to be the Monaco Grand Prix on May 14,” remembers David Pearson. “It turned out to be a very wet procession.” Instead a trip to Sicily in a Fiat 127 hire car with two Australian hitch-hikers would provide his best memories and some evocative photographs of the Targa Florio.
They booked a room in a small Palermo hotel and headed up the Caltavuturo Heights to check out the roads that would be used for the race. Huge crowds were gathering, and after surviving the climb amid the “crazy” local drivers, they wisely decided to park on a grassy slope, forget returning to Palermo and camp for the night to ensure a good spot to watch the race the following day. It proved well worth the cost of a hotel room never used.
“The Targa may have been in its twilight years, but nothing before, since or ever after will come close to the experience of being in the crowd as Arturo Merzario and Sandro Munari in the only Ferrari 312PB took on four Alfa 33 TT3s,” says Mr Pearson. “An abiding memory is of Helmut Marko on his last lap, when he set the quickest time of the race. He arrived at ‘our’ corner completely locked up and slid across the apex. The crowd sitting on the stone parapet keeled over backwards into space, in a Sicilian version of a Mexican wave.
Despite Marko’s efforts, Merzario and Munari claimed victory for Ferrari at a speed of 76.14mph, the fastest average that would ever be recorded on the island circuit. A year later the Targa Florio would run for the last time as a round of the sportscar world championship.
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Is this the photograph that proves Juan Manuel Fangio and Stirling Moss did collude to determine the result of the 1955 British Grand Prix? The pair are certainly communicating something, Moss raising his hand to his team leader as they run side by side. Is this the motor racing equivalent of a photograph of the Loch Ness Monster? Sadly, no.
We must admit that Brian Saville’s shot caught our attention in the Motor Sport office. But Mr Saville soon ended our excited speculation when we ‘phoned him. “I’m afraid it is taken after the race on the lap of honour,” he said.
The debate about whether Fangio had backed off to hand victory to Moss at his home Grand Prix is one that will never be concluded. At Aintree that day, opinion among the crowd was divided. “You had a pretty equal split of those who said Moss won fair and square, and those who said that Stirling was at his home race, had supported Fangio so well and deserved to be given this one,” says Mr Saville. What side did he come down on? “I thought at the time, and still do, that it was a case of the Old Master giving the young charger this one.” Well, his photo does seem to suggest Moss was thanking Fangio for something…
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John Shingleton was an employee of Leyland Australia in 1981 when he visited the UK on business. It was at the London head office that he was offered a golden opportunity to go to Monza for the Italian Grand Prix thanks to Leyland’s sponsorship of the Williams team.
“Someone from Leyland slipped me a pit pass and I spent the whole of Saturday roaming the pitlane,” says Mr Shingleton. “I had my Olympus OM1 and a few rolls of Kodachrome and found myself in motorsport heaven. Imagine that happening today. It’s like another world.”
On race day, he found his grandstand seats occupied by Italian fans: “Officials managed to evict them just in time for the race but they needn’t have bothered; both Ferraris were out very early (another thing that has changed), so half the crowd went home in sympathy.”
We need your photos
Do you have photographs from races or rallies gone by tucked away in a drawer at home? If the answer is yes and you feel you have some interesting anecdotes to go with them we’d love to hear from you (see postal address on page 10). We suggest that where possible you keep hold of the negatives and send prints to us — and we of course undertake to look after your treasured items and return them safely after use. Get rummaging
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