Hawthorn beats The Maestro
Still it was anyone’s race and by lap 33 Mike Hawthorn and Juan Manuel Fangio began to share the lead consistently. After another half-dozen laps a gap began to appear between these two and the remainder, which was a turmoil of González, Ascari, Farina and Marimon, Villoresi having tired and dropped well back. The young English boy was driving all he knew.
Fifty laps went by and still no quarter was given. It did not seem possible that this hectic pace could go on, but Hawthorn, in his green windcheater, continued to do battle with Fangio in his blue-and-yellow jersey.
As they began the last lap Hawthorn had a slight lead over Fangio, while González and Ascari were still in a dead heat. Everyone was on their toes, this was going to be the finest finish of all time.
Hawthorn, leading at Garenne, was still leading down the hill to Thillois; round the hairpin for the last time, four cars in a tight bunch. The tension was terrific. Faroux raised the chequered flag and ‘whoosh’, a blur of cars passed: Hawthorn, Fangio, González and Ascari, as quick as that The cheering reached fever pitch, the crowds surged on to the course and the also-rans, who had all driven hard and fast for over two-and-a-half hours, came in one by one.
The race had finished with an Englishman on top; that he was not driving an English car matters little. Reims is not a difficult circuit, so that finesse of driving skill was not vitally important, but endurance and judgement were — and, as everyone began on the same footing at a new layout never raced on before, Mike can feel justifiably proud at having beaten the world’s finest drivers. Let us hope that every Englishman is equally proud of his effort. — DSJ