Walk-over for Ferrari
Siracusa, Sicily, April 13th.
Although the Italians may be trying to suppress real motor racing and confining it to tracks, the Sicilians think otherwise, and the Grand Prix of Syracuse ran to form as a pure Formula 1 road-race full of all the lovely noise, excitement and colour of true motor-racing. The circuit was completely unchanged from last year, though a little rougher as to surface and with a fair amount of loose gravel about in places, but nevertheless comparable with 1957 when Collins won with a Lancia/Ferrari at a speed of 164.797 k.p.h. and Moss set the lap record at 1 mm. 54.3 sec. (173.288 k.p.h.) with a Vanwall.
In passing, it is interesting to recall that the A.C. of Siracusa last year tried the experiment of running Formula II cars as well as Formula 1 but they proved slow and uninteresting on this high-speed (108-m.p.h. lap) Grand Prix circuit so were dropped for this year. It was left to the Pau G.P. organisers to find out this time, as reported elsewhere. Coming so soon after Goodwood and being 1,800 miles away it was not possible for the Siracusa organisers to attract any British teams or runners, but they did manage a vast horde of Maseratis and a lone works Ferrari. As Hawthorn and Collins were concentrating on the British events Musso upheld Ferrari honours in Sicily and he had a 1958 Type 246 Ferrari V6 with all the latest modifications, including wide transversely-finned brake drums on the front, double-bodied magneto on the rear of the near-side inlet camshaft, with a cooling-air scoop protruding through the scuttle. The engine was 2,417 c.c., of 85 by 71 mm, bore and stroke, and had a Perspex “bubble” over the three Type 46DCN double-choke downdraught Weber carburetters, this cover having an opening at the rear end. The chassis was of large-diameter tube bottom rails and cross-members with small-diameter tube superstructure, while the driving seat was offset slightly and there was a large fuel tank alongside the seat on the left as well as a tail tank. The de Dion tube was located by a forked extension below its centre running astride a ball fixed to the rear of the final-drive housing. The unequal-length wishbones of the front suspension were both of forged construction as distinct from the previous arrangement of the top one being of welded tubes.
Opposing this lone works Ferrari were ten Maseratis, all privately owned but many of them attended to by Bertucchi and the factory mechanics, while team manager Ugolini was in attendance on timekeeping and so on; the whole entry of Maserati cars seemed a very happy-family affair, a sort of “Maserati ‘Circus,” in fact. Since last year there has been a considerable buying and selling of 250F, Maseratis amongst private owners, while the factory put all their cars and spares into a workshop, built as many complete cars as they could and then sold the lot. Having done that and abandoned their own official team, anyway, it seemed that racing was ended in the Vide Ciro Menotti, but they then re-opened the workshops and all the cars went back in to be serviced and prepared for the customers, so that Maserati and racing continue as before, except that the drivers now pay instead of getting paid, and—somewhat naturally—the drivers have changed.
The best-buy in this grand clearance sale were the three lightweight-chassis cars used as last year’s works team, and these were bought by Kavanagh, Scarlatti and Godia, the last two having their cars after Fangio and Menditeguy had used them in the Argentine races at the beginning of the year. These three cars have the long low body with the fuel tank-cum-tail formed with a slight head fairing, and the three double-choke carburetters in an air-box with a long intake running forward along the nose. In order to buy his 1957 car. Godia sold his 1956 model to Bonnier, who in turn sold his early model to a new English driver, Digby. The factory took the old 12-cylinder prototype car and rebuilt it as a standard 250F six-cylinder, and the young Italian girl-driver Maria-Teresa de Filippis bought this one, while another six-cylinder was built up for Keith Campbell, the Australian motorcycle racer and last year’s 350-c.c. World Champion. A further car was built up as a six-cylinder, this being an experimental car used only once last year, with the engine set at an angle in the chassis, the prop.-shaft running to the left of the driving seat and a very low bodv similar to the 1956 Monza winning car. This special one-off model is as bought by the Spaniard Antonio Creus. The final change about was that Andre Testut„ a Monogasque driver, bought the 1956 car that John du Puy owned last year and was crashed at Casablanca by Lucas; and all this leaves the two English drivers Halford and Gould retaining their original cars, and Signor Dei, of the Scuderia Centro-Sud, with his two cars he had last year.
Entered for Siracusa were Kavanagh, Scarlatti, Godia, Bonnier, Creus, Testut, Gould, Miss de Filippis, and the two Centro-Sud cars driven by Masten Gregory and Wolfgang Seidel. To complete the field of 12 there was Cabianca with his very fast 1,500-c.c. sports Osca, stripped of all its frills.
Although there was only one new car among the entry, it was a truly international field, with drivers from Italy, Britain, Australia, America, Spain, Germany and France, and everyone was very keen. The first practice on Friday was poorly supported, only four cars being ready, but on Saturday afternoon, in dull but warm conditions, everyone was out and a big battle commenced to prove who was the fastest Maserati owner, and there was keen interest to see how the newcomers to Grand Prix racing would fare, for de Filippis, Seidel, Testut and Creus were trying their cars for the first time and Kavanagh was having his first serious practice. Needless to say Musso in the works Ferrari made fastest practice time but no-one was very interested in that, especially as it was nowhere near to the lap record, but everyone was following the progress of all the Maseratis and rivalry was strong. Since last year, of course, all the engines had been converted to run on 130 octane aviation spirit, and while the Ferrari was a new engine designed especially for non-alcoholic fuels, the 250F Maseratis seemed to have had little done to them other than new pistons to lower the compression-ratio and different carburetter jets. That Maserati have made the well-tried six-cylinder twin-cam engine work so well on straight petrol is not so surprising bearing in mind the development done on the engine in 3-litre form for sports-car racing over the past few years. On twisty circuits the difference between alcohol motors and petrol motors has not been outstanding, but at Syracuse, with its very fast legs, there was an obvious difference.
For a time Musso could not get below 2 min. for the lap, while the best of the Maseratis was around 2 min. 10 sec.; however, after sorting out the rear shock-absorbers Musso got around in 1 min. 59.4 sec. and then improved this to 1 min. 58.4 sec., and , as the fastest Maseratis were still no better than 2 min. 07 sec. the Scuderia Ferrari were content and packed up. Then there started some really keen rivalry between the Maserati drivers and Godia, Bonnier, Scarlatti and Gregory started a keen competition for second-best time of the day. As soon as one set up a fastest Maserati lap another would go out and beat it, and all the time interest was kept at a high pitch by the loudspeaker announcer, who gave out each time almost as soon as it was recorded, and everyone forgot that this battle was only for second place on the starting grid. It did not matter for, apart from Musso, the others were very evenly matched and after the first group came the also-rans, who were driving just as keenly, their aim being to beat the Italian girl. She was really having a go and using all the power the Maserati had got, her best time being 2 min. 13.5 sec., and she beat all the newcomers, though Seidel received a time recorded by Gregory, while Gould really made himself perspire in setting up 2 min. 07.6 sec, in order to keep away from the newcomers’ battle. Rather overshadowed by all the fun and noise of the howling Maseratis was a time of 2 min. 14.5 sec. by Cabianca with his sports 1,500-c.c. Osca, but after that the ignition timing slipped and it popped and banged to a standstill. In trying to beat Maria-Teresa the Spaniard Creus spun his car and bent a rear wheel on one of the concrete walls that line the circuit.
In the Maserati battle Bonnier got down to 2 min. 03.7 sec., but then Godia improved this to 2 min. 03.2 sec: and Scarlatti fixed them both with a lap in 2 min. 02.5 sec. Not to be outdone, Godia had another go and got down to 2 min. 02.4 sec., perspiring freely, and Bonnier then showed them who was tops with 2 min. 01.9 sec. Meanwhile Gregory had withdrawn from the fray with 2 min. 04.8 sec. and contented himself with trying Seidel’s car. Practice was nearly finished when Scarlatti went off again and, doing a typical Fangio act of a last-minute record, got in a lap at 2 min. 01.7 sec, the fastest Maserati, but, of course, a lot slower than Musso. It is interesting that last year Behra in a similar car to Scarlatti’s, but running on alcohol, got well below a 2 min. lap, and as he must surely be the better driver, by four or five seconds, it means he could have challenged Musso this year with ease, so that aviation petrol seems to have made little difference to the 250F engine and it is possibly a bit faster than last year. The final order on the starting grid was: ––
Musso (Ferrari) 1 min. 58.4 sec.
Scarlatti (Maserati) 2 min. 01.7 sec.
Bonnier (Maserati) 2 min. 01.9 sec.
Godia (Maserati) 2 min. 02.4 sec.
Gregory (Maserati) 2 min. 04.8 sec.
Gould (Maserati) 2 min. 07.6 sec.
Seidel (Maserati) 2 min. 12.9 sec.
de Fillipis (Maserati) 2 min. 13.5 sec.
Kavanagh (Maserati) 2 min. 13.7 sec.
Creus (Maserati) 2 min. 13.7 sec.
Cabianca (Osca) 2 min. 14.5 sec.
Testut (Maserati) 2 min. 22.9 sec.
By 3.30 p.m. on Sunday afternoon the cars were all on the grid, a huge crowd packed the grandstands, and each nationality of driver, accompanied by his flag and a most imposing soldier, had paraded before the pits, and it was a change to see only one English driver but four Italians, Musso, Scarlatti, Cabianca and Signorina de Filippis. As was to be expected, Musso had no opposition and built up a lead of some 5 sec. per lap, but for second place Bonnier and Scarlatti were having a great scrap, the Italian really trying hard and keeping the Swede at bay. Gregory was running fourth in the blue-and-white Centro-Sud car, followed by Godia, Gould, de Filippis, Kavanagh and the rest, and on the sixth lap Gregory struck a wall and bent his off-side front wheel, stopping at the pits to have it changed. This let Godia and Gould by, but once the American was back in the race he soon caught the English driver and then set off after Godia. On lap 16 Bonnier passed Scarlatti and took second place behind the lone Ferrari, which was now over 40 sec. ahead and taking things easily. The Italian girl was driving really well in her first Grand Prix, leading Kavanagh, Creus, Cabianca, Testut and Seidel, and she was making Gould hurry along—being only a few seconds behind him. The race was being run over 60 laps and by a third distance she was lapping consistently at 2 min. 9 sec. and was obviously settled into her first race with the Formula 1 car, and was by no means getting left behind.
Cabianca retired out on the circuit with a broken magneto, Seidel came into the pits with a loss of power and then, on lap 27, Creus had a terrific spin and bent his Maserati against a wall. On the next lap Scarlatti managed to scratch past Bonnier but on the next corner he spun and dropped back to third place. At the same time Gregory got past Godia and took fourth place, while Maria-Teresa was still pressing Gould.
At half-distance Musso was 1 min. 15 sec, ahead of Bonnier, who was in turn 22 sec. ahead of Scarlatti, but a few laps later the Italian Maserati driver came into the pits with overheating, caused by a magneto packing up. A quick look at the plugs was sufficient to tell the mechanics that the engine was cooked and Scarlatti was out after a very good try.
There was now little chance of any change of position, apart from retirements, but interest centred on the young Italian girl to see if she was going to get tired, but there were no signs of it and she continued to press Gould and lead Kavanagh, lapping continually well below 2 min. 10 sec. Gregory seemed quite sure of third place until a con.-rod broke and came out through the crankcase, and a little later Kavanagh slid on some oil and bounced the nose of his car on the straw bales on the hairpin, stopping next lap to see if the steering had been damaged. The Monogasque driver Testut had been trailing along at the rear until his engine suddenly went woolly and then blew up in a cloud of smoke, and just before the finish Godia, now back in third place thanks to Gregory’s retirement, shot into the pits for water and was off again without losing his position, and on the last lap Musso caught de Filippis for the third time and just failed to catch Gould, who was driving hard to maintain his 30-sec. lead over the spirited girl from Naples.
Although Musso had a walk-over it was a very popular win and the crowd enjoyed every minute of the race, while it was an excellent try-out for the 1958 Ferrari.
VIII Gran Premio Siracusa—Formula 1-60 Laps-330 Kilometres. Overcast and Warm.
1st: L. Musso (Ferrari V6) … 2 hr. 2 min. 44.5 sec. – 161.314 k.p.h.
2nd: J. Bonnier (Maserati 250F) … 1 lap behind
3rd: F. Godia (Maserati 250F) … 2 laps behind
4th: H. Gould (Maserati 250F) … 3 laps behind
5th: Miss de Filippis (Maserati 250F) … 4 laps behind
6th: K. Kavanagh (Maserati 250F) … 6 laps behind
Fastest lap: L. Musso (Ferrari), on lap 33, in 1 min. 59.1 sec,–166.247 k.p.h.
Retired: G. Cabianca (Osca), lap 3, magneto; W. Seidel (Maserati), lap 19, water in fuel; A. Creus (Maserati), lap 27, crashed; G. Scarlatti (Maserati), lap 34, magneto; M. Gregory (Maserati,. lap 37, con.-rod; A. Testut (Maserati). lap 52, engine. –– D.S.J.
An Austin Motor Company press hand-out informs us that an Austin A95 and Austin A35 were driven from Birmingham, up to John o’ Groats, down to Land’s End and back to Birmingham, crewed mostly by ex-Austin apprentices, coinciding with the showing in Birmingham of the film “Gulliver’s Travels”—we confess we cannot grasp the connection. The distance of 1,768 miles was covered in 48 hours, leaving “little time for any stops except for refuelling.” The cars had to be driven hard, the crews eating and sleeping whilst on the move. We are told that the cars showed “very little ill effect of their feat.” The Austin A95 had automatic transmission which, alas, the crew, being members of the Shmoes skiffle-group, referred to as enabling them to skiffle at both Land’s End and John o’ Groats because not having to change gear –could they have had experience of normal Austin gearboxes?—they were “relieved of a considerable amount of the strain.”
In Italy a Lancia Appia recently covered 100,000 miles in 117 days at an average speed of 44 m.p.h., driven by six test drivers. It suffered two minor accidents, a broken windscreen, and a few breakdowns, including a burnt-out piston, but cost only 26s. per 1,000 miles for repairs at retail price and subsequently went into service as a demonstrator at the Turin Show.
So far this year Playcraft have released two new Corgi miniatures a month. Those for May will be an English Electric “Thunderbird” surface-to-air guided missile, mounted on an assembly trolley with detachable tow-bar and four-wheel linked steering, finished in R.A.F. blue (No. 351); 5-3/8 in. long, this will appeal strongly to members of the R.A.F. and the modern child. It sells for 5s. 9d. The other new Corgi miniature is a long-wheelbase R.A.F. Land Rover, which costs 3s. 10d, and is 3-7/8 in. long.—W. B.