Ferrari Win Again in Sicily
Palermo, April 14th.
The unsettled spring weather all over the island of Sicily continued throughout the week before the Giro di Sicilia, the 1,080-kilometre Sicilian version of the Mille Miglia, one day being hot, the next cold. On the Saturday, when the final scrutineering took place, a blazing sun beat down on competitors as their cars were checked against the regulations. One of the squares in Palermo was divided into three lanes, for touring cars, Gran Turismo cars, and sports cars, to pass through and undergo a strict but fair scrutiny. The sports class had to conform to 1957 sports-car regulations in respect of full-width screens, two seats, two doors and soft tonneau covers, and while some screens were crudely made from a sheet of Perspex others had made neat and workmanlike jobs of proper windscreens, so that the cars looked like usable sports cars rather than out-and-out racing or record cars. The new Oscas, in the 750-c.c., 950-c.c. and 1,500-c.c. sizes, continued to carry on the traditions of that firm in being pure sports cars and not thinly-disguised racing cars, and their windscreens, complete with frames, were among the best interpretations of the 1957 F.I.A. regulations. Another Italian firm who are producing very reasonable sports cars, both 750-c.c. and 1,100-c.c., is Stanguellini from Modena, and the latest 1,100-c.c. model, with four-cylinder twin-overhead camshaft engine, is a very neat and tidy little car smaller than a Lotus. An encouraging sight was that of two cars from the Hornsey factory, both in private hands, that of Piper being a 1956 model, while Marguelies had a brand new 1957 Lotus with double wishbone and coil-spring i.f.s.; both cars were fitted with the tough little 1,100-c.c. Coventry-Climax engine.
Among those anticipated to provide the winner or be in the first half-dozen were Cabianca with a works Osca and Maglioli with a works Porsche, both in the 1,500-c.c. class, Gendebien with a spanking new competition version of the Ferrari Europa 3-litre V12, Carini with a 300SL Mercedes-Benz, Munaron and Scarlatti in 2-litre four-cylinder Ferrari and Maserati, respectively, the latter being a works car, and Taruffi with a works 3-litre Maserati 300S; also in the big-car class was last year’s Italian Gran Turismo champion, Zampiero, trying his hand with a Monza Ferrari.
After the hot sun of Saturday, the evening became cloudy and before midnight rain was pouring down. The first car, a standard Fiat 600, went off at one minute past midnight with wipers working and spray pouring out from the wheels. Its number was 001, numbers and starting times being the same, as in all Italian point-to-point open-road races, and it was not until the large Gran Turismo cars started leaving that the rain eased off a little, finally stopping in Palermo by the time the last car left at 3.49 a.m. on Sunday. Throughout the early hours of the morning the bad weather continued around the island, and dawn brought the additional hazard of fog. As always in this race, machinery mortality was high, and those that did not break engines, axles or gearboxes, suffered from the slippery roads and bounced off bridges, walls, trees, houses and kerbstones, many of them only continuing by luck, while a few drove with caution and got away unscathed. Taruffi set the pace as far as Trapani, but there lost many minutes having all the plugs changed, and this allowed Gendebien to take the lead in the comparative comfort of his Ferrari coupe, compared with Taruffi in the open Maserati. Maglioli was leading Cabianca among the 1,500s and Munaron led from Scarlatti in the 2-litre group after the Maserati had gone hedging-and-ditching in quite in big way. In the 1,100-c.c. class there was little to choose between Siracusa with a Stanguellini and Morolli with a works Osca, the two Lotus drivers being content to stay on the road at all costs and lie about half way down the field of runners.
By full daylight the general run of the entry were in the middle of the island, either approaching or leaving Enna, the town with the highest altitude in Sicily and here Maglioli retired, leaving Cabianca an easy leader of the class, while Turuffi was making up the minutes lost at Trapani, though not as fast as he would have liked, for Gendebien, aided and directed by his passenger of long standing, Jacques Wascher, was motoring at a very rapid pace and was still leading the General Classification. For the run southwards, to Gela, conditions improved, but along the south coast of the island the road was in a very poor state and shock-absorbers, springs, tyres and wheels all suffered a terrible pounding. Through Syracuse the issue for the outright win of the race lay between Gendebien in the coupe Ferrari and Taruffi in the open Maserati, both 3-litres, one a 12-cylinder and the other a six-cylinder, and by the time Catania was reached Taruffi was in the lead by 13 sec. and beginning to put on speed. The Ferrari driver was in the difficult situation of leading on the road, with Taruffi some 33 min. behind on starting time, so that he could not hope to have any information at the Controls of the menace of the Maserati, whereas Taruffi had the Ferrari in his long-distance sights so to speak. By Messina the wily old Taruffi had built up a lead of 61 sec., but Gendebien continued to drive as hard as possible along the 160 miles of the northern coast of the island. He had the advantage of sitting relaxed and fresh in a closed car now that the weather had cleared up, whereas Taruffi was beginning to suffer from the rigours of the night in an open two-seater. With barely 100 miles to the finish the strain of fatigue told on Taruffi and he went of the road and crashed into a house, bending the front of the Maserati, but it says much for the man who is old enough to be father to most other top racing drivers, that he spent 10 minutes straightening out the steering and continued after the flying Belgian pair. On this sort of open-road dicing Gendebien is not one for making mistakes of a serious nature, and he swept into Palermo, first on the road, first in his class and first in General Classification, after a very smooth and brilliant piece of driving. Poor Taruffi, with his car in tatters, limped in a worthy second and some while later the other works Maserati, in the hands of Scarlatti, came in third, the whole of the near side completely written-off, the driver having shown remarkable endurance and skill to get to the finish at all, let alone third overall and winner of the 2-litre class.
One by one cars came into Palermo during Sunday afternoon, most of them bearing signs of sharp contact with immovable objects, and the fatigued condition of some of the drivers bore witness to what had been one of the toughest “Round Sicily” races for some years. In spite of the conditions the winner was only just over 5½ minutes slower than the record set up by Peter Collins and Klementaski last year, while the Ferrari sounded as perfect as when it left, more than 10 hours before. Unluckiest man of all was Cabianca, whose engine blew up only a few miles before the finish, when he was a certain winner of his class and a probable third overall, while many of the drivers of the touring cars indulged in hair-raising spins and slides on the last corner of all, a mere 300 yards from the finishing line and were lucky to sort things out in time to receive the chequered flag. Of the two Lotus drivers, both did well to cover three-quarters of the course before retiring for the Sicilian roads call for the toughest kind of racing car.
As with all these long-distance town-to-town races in Italy, each competitor’s experiences would fill a whole book, so that a report can only deal with a selection of the highlights, but the fact that only 67 finished out of 131 starters, and of those little more than a dozen arrived without dents or bumps, gives a good indication that real open-road motor racing is a strenuous game.—D.S.J.
Giro Di Sicilia — 1,080 Kilometres — Bad Weather
*1st: O.Gendebien/J.Wascher (Ferrari Europa 3-litre), 10 hr. 05 min. 31.4 sec. — 107.014 k.p.h.
*2nd: P. Taruffi (Maserati 300S), 10 hr. 20 min. 54.4 sec. — 104.363 k.p.h.
*3rd: G. Scarlatti (Maserati 200S), 10 hr. 45 min. 55.4 sec. — 100.321 k.p.h.
4th: G. Munaron (Ferrari 500/TRC), 10 hr. 46 min. 37.0 sec.
5th: C. Luglio (Ferrari Europa), 10 hr. 55 min. 17.8 sec.
6th: Lena (Ferrari Europa), 11 hr. 12 min. 35.4 sec.
7th: Rivolo (Maserati A6G), 11 hr. 19 min. 10.4 sec.
8th: Ribaldi (Maserati A6G), 11 hr. 22 min. 52.6 sec.
*9th: Taormina/Tacci (Alfa-Romeo S.V.), 11 hr. 27 min. 59.4 sec.
10th: Gorza (Alfa-Romeo S.V.), 11 hr. 33 min. 27.8 sec.
* Class winners.