VII Gran Premio Siracusa

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Denis Jenkinson

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68

Syracuse, April 7th.

This year the race at Syracuse opened the European Formula 1 season with a flourish, and the entry was of a very high order. Works teams of Ferrari, Maserati, Vanwall and Connaught filled the list, with the addition of many private owners, and when practice started on the Friday before the race almost everyone was present. The weather was most unlike Sicily, with the rain only just stopping before practice got under way, leaving the track with patches of wet in the shaded places. With the course being exactly as in previous years, times were going to be comparable and any improvements in design and performance would soon make themselves felt. The existing lap record had been set by Fangio during the 1956 race with a lap in 1 min. 59.9 sec., though he had recorded 1 min. 58 sec. in practice that year, so it was the latter time that people were aiming at.

Maserati soon had their new V12-cylinder car running, driven by Behra, but it was not performing as expected and he changed to one of the 1957 Argentine six-cylinder cars, which was to have been driven by Schell. Ferrari had two cars, one a 1956-type Lancia/Ferrari and the other a brand new car, as described at the end of this report, and with Collins delayed by a train accident it was left to Musso to set the pace with the earlier car. Vanwall had three cars in the pits for drivers Moss and Brooks to choose from, and they were soon lapping close to 2 min., but were over-geared. Connaught had three cars and three drivers, and had a slight set-back when Bueb went straight on into the straw bales on his opening lap, fortunately with nothing more than a dented nosepiece. Fairman, in the fuel-injection car, and Leston were both feeling their way round steadily, while Peter Walker in Rob Walker’s Connaught did not get far before he ran into piston trouble. The rest of the Formula 1 field was made up by Piotti, Godia, Halford and Taruffi in private Maseratis, and in addition there were three Formula II Coopers, all with single cam sports engines, driven by Brabham, Wicken and Whitehouse. Originally a Formula II race had been planned but after lots of ballyhoo only these three were ready, so they were incorporated in the main race.

It was Musso who was the first to break the 2-min. mark, by a mere 0.3 sec., and then Brooks recorded a tenth of a second slower, and this urged Moss to try harder and he equalled Musso’s time, but there was no indication of anyone approaching Fangio’s 1 min. 58 sec. Towards the end of practice the road was beginning to dry out and it seemed likely that speeds would improve. However, as Leston was leaving the hairpin a Hardy-Spicer universal joint on the right-hand drive shaft broke and the flailing end went through the fuel tank, the whole lot going up in flames. Leston jumped out just before the car ran into a wall and escaped injury, but the Connaught was severely damaged by the fire and that part of the course became flooded by the enthusiastic fire brigade.

Before practice finished there were some more tries to beat Musso’s time of 1 min. 59.7 sec., during which Brooks caused the Vanwall team some anguish by spinning round in front of their eyes on the last corner before the pits, but he soon came motoring by as if nothing had happened. Behra was still going round in the light six-cylinder car and just us the circuit was closed he got in a lap at 1 min. 59-sec. exactly, which gave him the day.

Next day proved to be very hot, with a cloudless sky and a completely dry track and, with Collins ready to try the new Lancia/Ferrari and the Vanwalls now with the right gear ratio, prospects looked better. There was no mad rush to get things going, and it was not until Collins went out that very much happened; then, in quick succession he recorded 2 min. 1.59 sec., 1/58, 1/57.6, and then stopped, quite content with the handling of the new car and prepared to watch the others beat his fastest lap. The two Vanwalls, with Moss now in the spare car were soon doing regular laps under the 2-min. mark, but Connaughts had no drivers who could approach this figure, or even approach the times set up in 1955 by Brooks in a similar car. Behra and Schell both tried the 12-cylinder Maserati, but it obviously was not right, this being its first appearance, and it was given to Scarlatti to do some steady running and test it for reliability, which subsequently proved to be pretty good. Behra went back to the light-chassis six-cylinder model and got down to 1 min. 58,3 sec., but Schell with one of last year’s cars could not approach 2 min. Taruffi was going remarkably well in a Maserati from the Centro-Sud stable, being the fastest independent, and Godia was also faster than the Connaughts. Of the “Topolinos,” as the Italian called the Formula II cars, Brabham was easily the fastest, and not far behind Piotti’s Maserati.

Half-way through the afternoon the Vanwalls began to try and Moss put in a lap at 1/57.5, which made Collins put away his comic-paper and take notice. Brooks was clocked unofficially by many people at under 1/57 but the timekeepers completely overlooked this and credited him with 1/58.1. This little burst of activity caused Behra to go out again and he really stirred things up by clocking 1/57.3 with the six-cylinder car. The last half-hour of practice then developed into a one-lap speed trial for f.t.d., and everyone pulled out all the stops and began to drive. Brooks went off again to convince the timekeepers of his earlier times, and soon settled for an official 1/56.8, but Collins then went off with a shattering roar in the new Lancia/Ferrari and did three laps, 1/56.1, 1/56.0 and 1/55.5, which left everyone rocking on their heels and the Lancia engine breathing heavily after having been taken up to 9,000 r.p.m. Moss could not make any improvement on his earlier time of 1/57.5 so he came in and borrowed Brooks’ car, which was rather a brave move bearing in mind that Brooks had recorded 1/56.8. However, Moss showed that he can motor really fast, given the right car, and recorded 1/56.3. He then tried the spare car but it was hopelessly slow. All this time Musso had been flogging round in the earlier Lancia/Ferrari, continually knocking fractions off his best lap until he got down to 1/55.9, which came as a surprise but put him in second position on the starting grid. Fairman and Bueb tried as hard as they could, but they had no hope of breaking 2 min., the Connaught team packed up and watched this end-of-practice blind as interested spectators.

Race day was overcast but warm and dry; in fact, perfect conditions for fast motoring, and after a parade of flags, cars, drivers and officials, the 17 starters lined up on the grid for the 80-lap race. Maserati were in a last-minute flap, having packed the 12-cylinder car away for another time, and finding that Behra’s six-cylinder would not stop boiling.They hurriedly did a swap between Behra and Schell, but did not notice that the chassis of the older car was broken by the rear left-hand shock-absorber. Brooks retained the same Vanwall he used in practice, while Moss had a combination of the other two. The Walker/Walker Connaught had been rebuilt and was running again, while Leston was a non-starter in the third works Connaught. The line-up saw Collins, Musso and Moss on the front row, followed by Brooks and Behra, then Schell and Taruffi in row three, Godia and Fairman in row four, Bueb, Halford and Herrmann in row five, Piotti with the cheeky Brabham alongside him in row six, and Wicken, Whitehouse and Walker bringing up the rear.

It was Musso who leapt into the lead when the flag fell, closely followed by Collins and Brooks, while Moss muffed his start and was passed by Behra before he got going. At the end of the first lap the crowds screamed with delight for Musso was still leading but he did so for only two laps and then Moss whistled past everyone and took the lead, the order being Moss, Musso, Brooks, Collins and Behra, then a long gap, and Godia leading the rest of the field. Schell was in the pits at the end of the second lap and retired with a very hot engine and a water pump that was not working. Collins was sitting back watching what was happening, but when Brooks went past Musso he began to sit up and look closer, and after six laps he began to push Musso along for Moss was getting too far ahead to be comfortable. The timekeepers got very excited at seeing two green cars heading the field and promptly credited Bueb with a new lap record of 1/58.5, while it was doubtful whether Moss was going as fast as that. Collins went past Musso and tried to make things look better for Ferrari, but the two pointed green cars were drawing away steadily. This incensed the timekeepers, who then gave a new lap record to Taruffi, after which they kept quiet about record laps for quite a long time. Behra pulled into the pits at the end of lap 10 with a strong smell of brake lining and had the front ones slackened off, and this left fifth place to be sorted out among the also-rans, and there was a nice little four-cornered dice going on between Godia and Taruffi in Maseratis and Fairman and Bueb in Connaughts, during which time Moss went by the lot of them to lap them for the first time. The Spanish driver’s run was interrupted by a sticking throttle and he stopped at his pits to report it, and then Fairrnan came in with misfiring, so that Taruffi was now fifth and Bueb sixth, followed by Herrmann and Halford, Behra, who had joined in again, and Brabham leading the remainder.

The timekeepers got their sums right and gave a new lap record to Brooks with 1 min. 56.9 sec., and then as the leaders lapped the slower cars, Collins slipped by into second place, being more adept at high-speed traffic driving than Brooks. Moss had a lead of 21 sec. on lap 19 and he just went on and on, gaining a second a lap and setting a new lap record with 1/56.3. Both Vanwalls were sounding perfect and it seemed that nothing could stop them, and certainly Collins was not capable of catching the flying Moss.

From lap 20 to lap 30 the race settled down into a procession and the Italian crowd sat miserable, resigned to another British victory at Syracuse. As Moss went by to start his 34th lap, with a lead of nearly 40 sec. over Collins, the Vanwall faltered and went on to three cylinders, at which sound a wild patriotic cheer went up from the crowd. Sure enough, next time round Moss drew into the pits and it was found that one of the pipes from the pump to an injection nozzle had split. A new one was fitted, but not before Collins, Brooks, Musso, Taruffi, Bueb and Halford had gone by, the leader passing as many as four times before the Vanwall burst into life again. Just as it got away another wild cheer from the crowd greeted Brooks as the second Vanwall came into the pits with a misfiring engine. It was found that a water pipe on the head had split and the leaking water was shorting the plugs, so the car was wheeled away and Brooks was out of the race. During this panic Herrmann retired with a very rough-sounding engine, Halford stopped out on the course with a damaged engine, Fairman gave up due to the injector pump having stuck on full stroke, and Behra and Piotti had fallen by the wayside long before, the former with a front brake seized solid and the latter with a broken gearbox.

All this depleted the field to a handful of runners, with Collins and Musso touring round in the lead, followed by Taruffi, Bueb, Moss, Brabham, Walker, Wicken and Godia. Moss was going very fast, with little hope of making up the four laps lost to Collins, but every possibility of getting third place, for Taruffi was slowing due to a broken rear shock-absorber. First Bueb caught the Italian but then had a rear brake pipe split and stopped at his pit, and Moss made up a whole lap on Taruffi. The Connaught rejoined the race with front brakes only, and Bueb promptly made his fastest lap of the race, while Godia’s disappearance depleted the field still further. Collins was lapping at just on 2 min, and on lap 53 he was given the slow-down signal and both he and Musso allowed Moss to flash by, still three laps to the bad. Providing nothing went wrong it was a certain first and second for Ferrari and just a matter of time before Moss took third place from Taruffi, for the Roman could not go any faster. When Moss got on to the same lap as Taruffi his pit signalled him to speed up and he gave the Vanwall all it had got, lapping in 1/55.0, then 1/54.5, and finally in a shattering 1 min. 54.3 sec., to set an all-time lap record for the circuit. With seven laps to go Moss took third place, but there was no hope of him catching the leading pair of Ferraris and Collins toured in to win another Grand Prix for the Maranello stable, followed by his team-mate. Musso, who took second place for the third year in succession.

Results:

Syracuse Grand Prix — Formula 1 — 80 Laps — 440 Kilometres — Warm and Dry

1st: P. Collins (Lancia/Ferrari) 2hr. 40 min 11.9 sec. 164.797 k.p.h.

2nd: L. Musso (Lancia/Ferrari) 2 hr. 41 min. 26.7 sec.

3rd: S. Moss (Vanwall) 3 laps behind.

4th: P. Taruffi (Maserati 250F) 3 laps behind.

5th: I. Bueb (Connaught) 5 laps behind.

6th: J. Brabham (Cooper F.2) 10 laps behind.

7th: G. Wicken (Cooper F.2) 19 laps behind.

Fastest lap: S. Moss (Vanwall), 66th lap in 1 min. 54.3 sec. — 173.228 k.p.h.

Retired: H. Schell (Maserati), broken water pump; J. Behra (Maserati), locked front brake; I. Piotti (Maserati), gearbox; J. Fairman (Connaught), injection pump; H. Herrmann (Maserati), engine; W. Whitehouse (Cooper-Climax), engine; B. Halford (Maserati), engine; F. Godia (Maserati), engine; C. A. S. Brooks (Vanwall), water leak; P. D. Walker (Connaught), spun and stalled.

Non-starters: L. Leston (Connaught), car burnt-out in practice; G. Scarlatt (Maserati, V12), car not right.

Syracuse Shorts

Moss certainly showed the Vanwall to be the fastest Grand Prix car of today, though it is far from right, for he finished with his gearbox showing signs of breaking up.

British drivers and British cars dominated the entry list and the results list  — pity a British car could not have won.

Maserati without Fangio would seem to spell chaos. The World Champion does not anticipate racing in Europe before Monaco.

Even with better roadholding and power, Connaught drivers are unable to approach the fantastic times set up by Brooks two years ago. Once more the team was let down by failure of components they did not manufacture or design themselves.

Wicken drove most of the race with a misfire later traced to a shorting ignition switch.

Brabham’s speed in the little single-cam 1,500-c.c. Cooper was quite remarkable and augurs well for the time when a twin-cam engine becomes available.

Ferrari became very scientific and heated the oil with an electric immersion heater run off the mains.

Notes on the Cars at Syracuse

The Scuderia Ferrari sent two cars by train, and both were of Lancia origin, using the D50 engine converted back to the normal induction system of vertical carburetters as used last year, and not the experimental angled Solex as tried in the Argentine. The car Musso drove was identical to those raced last year by the Scuderia, though it had the tidied-up chassis frame designed by Ferrari. The car used by Collins was a new departure having larger diameter tubing in the chassis frame beneath the engine, so that once more the stiffness in bending relied solely on the engine being bolted between the bulkhead and the front suspension, there being no bracing tubes over the top of the power unit. The front end of the chassis frame had been revised and was narrowed at the bottom to take longer wishbones, top and bottom now being of unequal length, while the transverse leaf-spring had been replaced by coil-springs. These long bottom wishbones were fabricated from the outer ends of the old ones welded to I-section members. The bodywork reverted to the original Lancia layout of fitting closely in the chassis frame and the side panniers and tanks were removed completely, making the car look like a shorn sheep. On each side of the car four exhaust pipes with megaphone ends ran on outriggers in the same position as last year.

Like the Ferrari cars, the Scuderia Maserati cars also made the journey to Sicily by train, there being three official works cars. Of main interest was the 250F chassis fitted with the new V12-cylinder engine, and the latest very wide brakes as used in the Argentine. The 12-cylinder engine was originally designed as a horizontally opposed unit but the overall width was found to be unpractical so it was redesigned as a 60-degree V12. With its double overhead camshafts on each bank this left little room for carburetters, so a further modification was made in the design and the inlet ports were made to enter the head between the valves, a system used by B.M.W., Lancia Aurelia, Mercedes-Benz and H.R.G. The four camshafts of the Maserati engine are driven from the front of the crankshaft, and from this train of gears are driven two water pumps, three oil pumps and two multi-lobe contact breakers. Behind the engine, mounted under the scuttle, are 24 motor-cycle coils, there being one for each of the 10-mm. sparking plugs, and the resultant wiring system was something of a nightmare. With two plugs and two valves per cylinder the 68.7-mm. bore is very crowded; however, with a stroke of only 56 mm., this engine is very compact and there are no cylinder blocks as such, the two heads bolting straight on to the very rigid crankcase, which contains the short liners. Six double-choke Weber 35 IDM downdraught carburetters are used and in the chassis the engine runs to 9,300 r.p.m. This particular chassis, which was not a new one but one of the 1956 works cars, was fitted with the new front brakes used in the Argentine, having very wide and stiff drums. To take the 12-cylinder engine a new steering-box had been mounted on to tubular outrigger behind the radiator and the steering-column ran down the centre of the vee of the engine. The second works Maserati was one or those used in the Argentine, having a chassis frame made from much smaller diameter tubing, the new brakes, and a collector-box and long air scoop for the three double-choke Welter carburetters of the six-cylinder engine. This car had a sleeker body than previous Maseratis and a very large fuel tank forming the tail with a slight headrest. The idea of offset engines and propeller-shafts alongside the driver’s seat seems to have been dropped completely; the two ultra-low Monza cars having been abandoned. The third car from the factory was a 1956 model with long nose fairing, ducted radiator exuding air out of the top of the bonnet and high cockpit sides, while mechanically it was very much 1956. In addition to these three the factory mechanics were looking after the two private cars of Piotti and Godia, both unchanged from last year.

The British teams travelled the whole way to Syracuse by road, the distance being a round 2,000 miles from London. Vanwall had three cars, virtually identical, and the only major modifications from 1956 were coil-spring rear suspension to the de Dion system, slightly neater-looking tails and fibreglass collector boxes around the air intakes for the fuel-injection system. Most of the winter’s work had been spent on the power output for the four-cylinder Vanwall-built engines were giving not far short of 300 b.h.p. but with no apparent increase in engine r.p.rn.

Connaught Engineering also had three cars, all B-type Syracuse models, using Dunlop disc brakes and Dunlop tyres now that Pirelli have given up making racing tyres. One car was fitted with an S.U. fuel-injection system working at 70 lb./sq. in. and feeding into the inlet tracts, which had long ram intakes with wire mesh bags over the ends. No radical changes had been made to these cars, the accent during the winter being on having them ready to race rather than modifying them.

With this galaxy of works machinery there was not much room for private owners, but it did allow Halford with his same Maserati as last year, fresh from a complete overhaul, R. R. C. Walker with his B-type Connaught, and the Scuderia Centro-Sud with two ex-works Maseratis, their last year’s car painted white after a rebuild and loaned to Herrmann, and a 1956 works car for Taruffi to drive. Originally a Formula II race was planned, with anticipated entries from Lotus, Cooper, Gordini and Ferrari factories, but none of these materialised and three private Coopers were all that could be mustered, so they ran with the big boys. Of these three Wicken had a new 1957 Cooper, but fitted with a single-cam sports engine, Brabham drove R. R. C. Walker’s car, and Whitehouse had the 1956 car raced by the late Ken Wharton, both of course having sports engines.

Bearing in mind that the Syracuse race is early in the season, the preparedness of the Formula 1 teams was gratifying, while 1957 design trends were very prevalent, amounting briefly to a change from leaf-springs to coil-springs on both Ferrari and Vanwall cars, the 12-cylinder Maserati engine, fuel injection once more for the Connaught, and a lighter and better-braked six-cylinder Maserati. That improvements in power output and handling had been effected was shown by the reduction of 3.7 sec. on the lap record by Moss with the Vanwall. — D. S. J.

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