Ferraris back in form
By our Continental Correspondent
Pau, Easter Monday. As last year the Pau G.P. was for Formula ll cars and of the sixteen entries only two failed to appear for practice. They were the H.W.M.s of Macklin and Giraud-Cabantous, both being posted as non-starters. The first practice period was preceded by rainfall with the result that the circuit was very slippery and speeds were comparatively slow. After the debacle at Syracuse the Ferrari team were out to recover their prestige and Ascari, Farina and Hawthorn were on 2-litre, 4-cylinders; Villoresi was not present as he was engaged in practising for the Tour of Sicily. The Ferraris were outwardly unchanged from last season, having the twin-magnetos mounted forward, four Weber carburetters and dual exhaust manifolds running into a vast drainpipe-like tail-pipe of 3 in. diameter. To suit a personal fad Hawthorn’s car was fitted with a four-spoke steering-wheel, in place of the normal three-spoke, while his nationality was acknowledged by a green edging round the nose of the bonnet, the car itself being red like the others. Gordini was out in force with four cars, also little changed from last year, those of Behra and Trintignant have double-acting piston-type shock-absorbers, while Simon and Schell had the more normal vane-type. It was interesting to note that the first two cars had the rear shockers mounted on the frame while the last two had them mounted on the axle-casing itself. No official Maseratis were present, but Pagani had a 1953 A6G, with the large fuel tank, “spiked” front brake-drums and stabilising “A” bracket mounted under the differential housing. It had the dual-ignition engine with three 40 DCO3 Weber carburetters. Fresh from his second place at Syracuse was Chiron with the second and latest Formula ll Osca, with large outboard rear brakes, while Bayol had his last year’s car, also modified to outboard brakes, but of smaller diameter. To complete the field there were the privately-owned four-cylinder Ferraris of Rosier and Laurent, both modified to latest-pattern brakes, front suspension, nose cowlings and exhaust systems, while the former had twin-forward magnetos and the latter retained last year’s engine with the scuttle-mounted magnetos, although the bulkhead had been modified, as on all the 1953 cars, to insulate the cockpit from the engine more than before. Claes had his new and beautifully-finished yellow Connaught and Eugene Martin his Veritas-engined Jicey.
During the slippery practice period the Ferraris were comfortably the fastest, but Hawthorn blotted his copybook by hitting the straw bales and bending the nose of his car. Shortly afterwards his chagrin was alleviated a little when il maestro himself appeared with his car dented both in nose and tail, having spun on the wet, and it was left to Farina to make fastest lap and remain unscarred. Of the others only the Gordinis could make any challenge, while Laurent sportingly lent his Ferrari to Hawthorn to get in some further lappery. The second period was a different story for conditions were perfect, dry, warm and not too sunny, with the result that the lap record, held by Ascari with a 4-1/2-litre was broken many times by himself and Farina, with Hawthorn only 0.5 sec. slower. Running one at a time, the Ferrari team played havoc with the fastest time of the day, the team-chief finally calling a halt when Ascari had beaten Farina’s best by one tenth of a second. Very few people were experiencing trouble and the practising ended with a minimum of work needed to bring the whole entry to the starting line. The grid position was as follows:
Farina (Ferrari) 1 min. 39.3 sec. Ascari (Ferrari) 1 min. 39.2 sec.
Trintignant (Gordini) 1 min. 41.4 sec. Behra (Gordini) 1 min. 41.4 sec. Hawthorn (Ferrari) 1 min. 40.4 sec.
Bayol (Osca) 1 min. 44.2 sec. Chiron (Osca) 1 min. 42.8 sec.
Rosier (Ferrari) 1 min. 44.7 sec Schell (Gordini) 1 min. 44.3 sec. Claes (Connaught) 1 min. 44.3 sec.
Laurent (Ferrari) 1 min. 49.2 sec. Simon (Gordini) 1 min. 46.1 sec.
Martin (Jicey) 1 min. 51.4 sec. Pagani (Maserati) 1 min. 51.1 sec.
The two Oscas were promising, while Claes had quickly become used to his new Connaught, which was a credit to the English firm in the manner of its finish and appearance. Schell and Simon had changed cars at the last minute, the former having the one with the “porcupine” finned brakes.
At the fall of the flag, the Ferraris leapt into the lead in team order, closely followed by Behra anti Trintignon, then the Oscas and the rest. Within a few laps it was obvious that Behra was going to produce the only real opposition to the Ferrari team and for seven laps he stayed with them, getting so close at times that he bent one of Hawthorn’s splash-gnards with his hubcap. On the seventh lap, while rounding the long right-hand bend past the lake he overdid it and spun off the road, damaging himself and the car rather badly. This left the Ferraris in complete command and they proceeded to play “after you,” cornering as if tied together and it was good to see the Englishman ably holding his own with past and present World Champions. They all took it in turns to lead, on one occasion Ascari running wide at the station hairpin to let the other two through. This continued until nearly one hour of the race had passed the duration being three hours, but was by no means a gentle affair, for Farina, whilst leading, suddenly lost it and spun round stalling his engine. Although he buckled a wheel the car was quite sound but he could not restart unaided and had to retire. Meanwhile the rest of the field had been falling back, though Claes disposed of Pagani and Martin, looking down to check his preselection on the lever the while. Laurent was running steadily, but slowly, and Chiron was keeping in front of Schell and Bayol who were battling together. The Gordinis were most unsteady under braking and snaked about alarmingly, while Schell waved his arms as soon as anyone came remotely near. Claes lapped Laurent and left him far behind and Schell caught and passed Bayol, but was then thoroughly swamped by the Ferrari team as they lapped him.
It was obvious that Ferraris were on top of form, but it remained to be seen whether they had got over their spell of unreliability experienced in the previous race. After one hour Ascari and Hawthorn were still running in close company, with Trintignant, Chiron, Schell, Bayol and Simon a long way back, and further back still Rosier, Claes, Pagani and Laurent, while Martin was making occasional calls at his pit. By half-distance the position was only altered by Simon dropping out and then Chiron came in for fuel, amid a certain amount of flap, he being keen to take the funnel out before the mechanics had finished putting the fuel in. This lost him two places and at the same time it became noticeable that Ascari was crouching lower in the cockpit and looking more tense as he took the curve past the grandstand. This was no illusion, for the gap between him and Hawthorn began to widen by two seconds a lap, until it had reached 30 seconds, 40 seconds, 50 seconds, one minute, then Alberto eased off again. There was no point in Hawthorn risking overdoing it and he was content to hold a certain second place, for to attempt to hold the young Italian maestro when he is trying is to court danger, and wisely the English lad kept his position. Claes was still travelling very consistently, the Connaught sounding beautifully crisp, and he lapped his fellow Belgian Laurent, who was not really trying. With one hour still to go, the Connaught’s run came to an end when a brake locked momentarily and spun Claes into the straw bales, with no damage, but with a stalled motor on an uphill gradient, so that for the second time in one race a healthy car had to be withdrawn because of the no-assistance rule. Pagani came in for fuel with no fuss or bother, making a model pit stop and at the same time Trintignant’s excellent drive in third place came to an end when his ignition packed up on him out on the circuit.
Martin was now driving to finish, Chiron was trying unsuccessfully to make up for his pit-stop, Schell had moved up into third place and Ascari had not only set up a new lap record of 1 min. 38.9 sec., at 100.792 k.p.h., but had also raised the race record to 97.447 k.p.h. with more than half-an-hour yet to go. As the three hours ran out there was only Hawthorn on the same lap as the leader, the third man, Schell being three laps behind. Everyone prepared to welcome the winner, the army lining up in front of the pits to control the crowds, when Chiron arrived at his pit, scattering the soldiers in all directions. He changed all six plugs and went off again just as a spectator set fire to the straw bales with his cigarette. Amidst all this confusion Ascari completed his three hours, Chiron stopped once more for another plug and the race came to an end.
Ascari had once more clearly demonstrated his superiority, Ferrari had atoned for their Syracuse debacle, Hawthorn had more than justified his place in the Ferrari team and British cars were conspicuous by their absence. The new Oscas showed promise, the Gordinis were not too happy, but Harry Schell showed surprisingly good form.
As soon as he had received his bouquet of flowers Ascari went to the Gordini pit to inquire after the state of Jean Behra, whom he had seen crash, meanwhile the public were clamouring for him to speak over the public address system. Hawthorn, unable to cope with public speaking in French, preferred to retire to his pit, while everyone else tried to combat the crowds that flooded the finishing area. The Ferraris had remained remarkably clean in the cockpits, as had Schell’s Gordini, while Ascari’s 5.25 in. and 6.50 in. by 16 in. tyres were noticeably less worn than Hawthorn’s. The Gordini’s 5.00 and 6.00 in. by 15 in. tyres looked as new, though Pagani’s 5.00 in by 16 in. front tyres were bald.
Results (top five) — Grand Prix of Pau (April 6th)
Three hours duration — Warm and dry
1st. A. Ascari (Ferrari 4-cyl) — 292.595 kms. — 97.531 k.p.h (record)
2nd. J. M. Hawthorn (Ferrari 4-cyl) — (290.716 kms. — 96.905 k.p.h.
3rd. H. Schell (Gordini 6-cyl) — 282.147 kms. — 94.049 k.p.h.
4th. E. Bayol (Osca 6-cyl) — 281.229 kms. — 93.743 k.p.h.
5th. L. Rosier (Ferrari 4-cyl) — 278.952 kms. — 92.984 k.p.h.
Fastest lap: A. Ascari (Ferrari) 1 min. 38.9 sec.– 100.792 k.p.h.
14 starters, 9 finishers.