XVII Grand Prix of Naples
Circuit of Posillipo races
Naples, May 15th.
Since real Grand Prix racing disappeared from the small circuits of Europe, due to various reasons, the title of Grand Prix for many meetings has only been one of tradition, and the Naples races are such. However, while some circuits have closed down completely the circuit of Posillipo continues with unabated enthusiasm, even though it is a shadow of former days, when races were won by Nuvolari, Trossi, Farina, Villoresi and Ascari. In 1958, when the Italian Government turned nasty towards racing, the circuit of Posillipo was shortened, to cut out one loop of the figure-of-eight, and races restricted to a maximum of 2-litre sports cars, but in spite of this, the Grand Prix of Naples still remains a true street race. This year the meeting took place over two days and comprised five separate races, for G.T. cars, Formula Junior, and sports cars.
On Saturday, May 14th, two G.T. races were held, both over 25 laps of the twisty circuit, a distance of 62.5 kilometres, the first being for cars up to 1,300 c.c. and comprising eight Alfa Romeo Giuliettas of various types and four Abarth-Fiat twin-cam 750-c.c. coupés. Many of the Alfas had come directly from competing in the Targa Florio the previous Sunday, and a new Zagato driven by “Kim” outdistanced all the others, this Italian driver handling his car very smoothly and consistently, sliding the corners with great skill. It would have been nice to have seen a Lotus Elite mixing it with the Alfas for the prize of £70, but it would have taken more than a top-rate English club driver to deal with the winner, while the second and third men were not lacking in forceful driving.
Gran Turismo cars up to 1,300 c.c. – 25 laps – 62.5 Km – Very hot
1st: “Kim” (Alfa Romeo Giulietta Zagato) – 40 min. 24.2 sec. – 92.812 k.p.h.
2nd: D. Sepe (Alfa Romeo Giulietta Zagato) – 40 min. 40.2 sec.
3rd: “Riolo” (Alfa Romeo Giulietta S.S.) – 41 min. 19.5 sec.
Fastest lap: “Kim” (Alfa Romeo), in 1 min. 34 sec. – 95.742 k.p.h.
With the afternoon getting extremely warm as the sun shone down on the bay of Naples, the big G.T. cars lined up for their race, there being two categories combined: up to 2,500 c.c. and over 2,500 c.c. The outcome of the over-2,500-c.c. class was simple, as it comprised but four Ferrari 250GT coupés, but the smaller class had a varied assortment of cars old and new. Most interesting were two Lancia Flaminia G.T. coupés built by Zagato, being real racy lightweight cars, very low and compact, and much more business-like than the G.T. cars Lancia have been putting out recently. With the V6 Flaminia engine, coil and wishbone i.f.s, and de Dion rear axle, with the gearbox incorporated in the final drive, and disc brakes all round, those at the back being inboard, these cars looked most desirable. Opposing them was an early but very well-preserved Maserati A6G Zagato coupé, several Fiat 8V coupés and an assortment of Lancia Aurelias. Naturally the Ferraris dominated the scene and for 24 laps out of the 25 laps there was a splendid pushing-and-shoving match between Lualdi and Toselli, the two big 12-cylinder coupés making a fine sight as they howled their way round the twisty circuit, seldom more than inches apart. Toselli tried all he knew to carve his way by but Lualdi made sure there was no opening, and then, one lap before the end, they touched on a left-hand bend and Lualdi spun, leaving his opponent a clear road to victory. There was quite a shouting match after the race, but it soon died down.
So intense had been the Ferrari G.T. battle that the rest of the race was almost overlooked, but the old Maserati 2-litre coupé won the class after both Flaminias had retired. At the back of the field two local lads, one in a Spyder Aurelia and the other in a coupé, had a real wheel-to-wheel dice until on the last lap the coupé spun. Although the speeds were not outstanding, and many of the cars far from new, the intensity of the driving and the competitive spirit was first rate.
Gran Turismo cars up to 2,500 c.c. and over 2,500 c.c. – 25 laps – 62.5 Km – Very hot
1st: M. Toselli (Ferrari 250GT) – 40 min. 11.8 sec. – 93.287 k.p.h.
2nd: E. Lualdi (Ferrari 250GT) – 40 min. 34.8 sec.
3rd: G. Fioccadori (Ferrari 250GT) – 40 min. 39.6 sec.
Fastest lap: M. Toselli (Ferrari), in 1 min.34.2 sec. – 95.540 k.p.h.
Sunday dawned even brighter and hotter, so that it was fortunate that the first race was planned for a 9.30 a.m. start. This was for Formula Junior and, with a big Junior race taking place at Monza the same day, the entry was very poor, there being only seven cars on the starting grid, and of these only four could be considered seriously. These were a De Sanctis-Fiat driven by a young driver named Maglione. a Cooper-D.K.W. driven by “Jean Blanc,” a brand-new Taraschi-Fiat and a new Stanguellini-Fiat. The De Sanctis is a promising design, with a rear-mounted Fiat 1,100-c.c, engine coupled directly to a Fiat 600 gearbox/rear axle casing, with i.f.s. by coils and wishbones and a low-pivot swing-axle rear suspension. The Cooper-D.K.W. was a new one belonging to Lex Beels and driven by a young Belgian driver who races under the pseudonym of “Jean Blanc.” The D.K.W. engine is prepared by Beels, having a very modified cylinder head and porting, three Amal carburetters and a standard exhaust manifold with a critically short stub pipe. The engine is bolted to the Cooper gearbox by an adaptor plate and is overhanging forwards, the gearbox/final drive unit being mounted at the rear onto a chassis cross-member. Due to business commitments the driver of the Cooper arrived late, so had to start the race without doing any practice, and Sbordone took the lead at the start in his Stanguellini from Maglione, but the De Sanctis driver soon got by, while the Cooper driver followed them and learnt his way round. Maglione showed that he is an up-and-coming Formula Junior driver and forged ahead, cornering very cleanly and consistently, as well as fast, and though “Jean Blanc” eventually took second place and closed up a little on the leader he was no match for the De Sanctis.
Formula Junior – 20 laps – 50 Km. – Very hot
1st: A. Maglione (De Sanctis-Fiat) – 30 min. 05.8 sec. – 99.675 k.p.h.
2nd: “Jean Blanc” (Cooper-D.K.W.) – 30 min. 18.4 sec.
3rd: A. Sbordone (Stanguellini-Fiat) – 31 min. 00.5 sec.
Fastest lap: “Jean Blanc” (Cooper), in 1 min. 28.4 sec. – 101.807 k.p.h.
After lots of marching bands and an interminable parade of publicity vans the 1,600-c.c. sports cars lined up, the chief contenders being Starrabba with a red Porsche RSK, and “Wal-Ever” and Siracusa each with a 1,500-c.c. OSCA. These three put on a splendid show of cut-and-thrust motor racing, cornering really fiercely, and the two OSCAs sharing the lead with the Porsche always right behind them, until after 12 laps “Wal-Ever” dropped out with overheating troubles and Siracusa then went on ahead. However, he was in trouble with locking brakes and very nearly came to grief on one corner and later really did have an accident and hit a tree, wrecking the front of the car completely and being lucky to escape with a leg injury This, of course, left the race to Starrabba, who toured round to win. Such was the fury of this battle while it lasted that the fastest lap was only just equalled by the 2-litre cars which followed.
Sports cars up to 1,600 c.c. – 40 laps – 100 Kilometres – Very hot
1st: G. Starrabba (Porsche RSK) – 1 hr. 02 min. 26.9 sec. – 96.081 k.p.h.
2nd: P. Fiordelisi (Alfa Romeo Spec.) – 2 laps behind.
3rd: G. Brighetti (OSCA 1500 c.c.) – 2 laps behind.
Fastest lap: “Wal-Ever” (OSCA), in 1 min. 29 sec. – 101.122 k.p.h.
Finally there came the most important race of the meeting, that for sports cars up to 2,000 c.c., and this, like the smaller sports-car race, was held over 40 laps in truly unbearable heat, with the tar on the road melting in many places. There is an interesting little history to this race, for last year an American driver, Tony Settember, won it with a one-off “special” known as the W.R.E., standing for World Racing Enterprises, a project this American had begun. The car was built by one John Wadsworth, who used to be connected with Willment, and had a typical modern racing/sports car frame of small-gauge tubing, coil and wishbone front suspension and independent rear suspension by double wishbones and coil springs. A Maserati four-cylinder, 2-litre engine and gearbox were fitted, and Italian alloy wheels. Although started in England the project was completed at Modena and Naples last year was its first race, which it won with ease from the two local drivers Bellucci and Boffa, who were driving 200SI Maseratis. So incensed at being beaten on their own ground were these two Neapolitans that they bought the W.R.E. almost on the spot, and as Settember was giving up his “World Enterprise” and going home, Wadsworth stayed in Italy and carried on with the project, agreeing to build two new cars for the Italian drivers, and they had a fair measure of success in national events with the prototype. During the winter they completed the second and third cars and also built their own gearbox to couple up with the Maserati engines, so that when this year’s International race at Naples was planned Bellucci and Boffa were raring to go with the W.R.E.-Maseratis, it being a point of honour that a Neapolitan should win the race, and each driver knew who it should be. The main opposition came from Govoni, with a Tipo 60 Maserati, while Tedeschi had a similar car, these being the latest 2-litre “bird-cage” cars, prepared by the factory, while Vaccarella, fresh trom his excellent performance in the Targa Florio, was driving an old 200SI Maserati four-cylinder. There were also two old A6G Maseratis but they hardly counted.
Bellucci had the second W.R.E. with their own gearbox, while Boffa had the third car with a normal Maserati gearbox, but his car had come directly from the Targa Florio. It was Bellucci who led away, but only just, and he, Govoni, Vaccarella and Boffa were in a tight bunch on the first lap, while Tedeschi stopped out on the course. On lap two Boffa overdid things and bent the front of the car, but was able to continue, and on lap three Bellucci had the pipe to the oil-pressure gauge break and went by in a cloud of smoke. When he stopped, Govoni took the lead and it looked like being an easy walkover for the latest type of Maserati, for Vaccarella was dropping back, even though he was cornering right on the limit and driving extremely well, the new Maserati having more power and better acceleration and brakes. At 10 laps Boffa began to recover from his slight accident and started motoring very effectively, first catching Vaccarella and then gaining on Govoni, the W.R.E. obviously having far superior road-holding. As Boffa drew close to the leader the crowd grew wilder and urged their local star on with shouts and cries of “Forza, forza, Boffa,” and handkerchiefs and newspaper waved all round the circuit from the very large crowd. Govoni was obviously tiring and having to change gear without the clutch, it having packed up, and though the race average was not very high, the tempo was enormous and the crowd really enjoyed every minute. Boffa was driving the race of his life and the crowd let him know it, and when he passed Govoni just before the end everyone was cheering and waving whether they came from Naples or not.
Although this was not an important event from an International standpoint it was everything that was good in motor racing and contained more atmosphere and excitement than a whole season of first-line Grand Prix racing. With only one race a year the Neapolitans make the most of it and this victory by their local star was more than they had hoped for, so that when the chequered flag fell the organisers and the police just disappeared under the storming mass of spectators, who could contain themselves no longer. Boffa was carried shoulder high up and down the road and everyone had a terrific time- – one they won’t forget in a hurry. It is all very well racing nearly every weekend on a circuit as we do in England, but we miss the real enjoyment of a motor race for we become blasé. In Naples they must be still talking about the second victory of the W.R.E. and Bolfa’s great drive. – D.S.J.
Sports cars up to 2,000 c.c – 40 laps – 100 Kilometres – Really hot
1st: M. Boffa (W.R.E.-Maserati) – 1 hr. 02 min. 16.9 sec. – 96.339 k.p.h.
2nd: O. Govoni (Maserati Tipo 60) – 1 hr. 02 min. 39.6 sec.
3rd: N. Vaccarella (Maserati 200SI) – 1 hr. 03 min. 35.4 sec.
Fastest lap: M. Boffa (W.R.E.-Maserati), in 1 min. 29 sec. – 101.122 k.p.h.