Chassis No. 2528
Engine No. 2528
The first two cars of the famous trio of “lightweight” models were completed in time for the Argentinian season at the beginning of 1957 and Behra drove 2528 as he was the official number two driver to Fangio. In the two races in Buenos Aires he finished second behind the team Ieader. Back in Europe the works team went to the Siracuse GP and Behra should have driven 2528 but while it was being warmed up the water seized so he transferred to an older car and Harry Schell took over 2528. He only lasted two laps and retired with 2528 boiling like a kettle. However, two weeks later Behra used 2528 to record an easy win at the Pau GP, there being little opposition apart from privately owned Maseratis. The first European event in the World Championship series was the Monaco GP and for this event Schell was co-opted into the team and given 2528 as Behra was convalescing after a road accident. During practice Fangio compared his new car, 2529, with Schell’s car and decided he preferred the feel of 2528 so they changed over for the race. After much of the opposition had eliminated itself in a multiple accident Fangio went through to dominate the race and chalk up another victory for 2528.
At the French GP which was held at Rouen in 1957 Behra was once more back in 2528 but he could not match the performance of Fangio or the other top aces of the day. After a pit stop to change the left-rear tyre the Frenchman drove his heart out and caned the engine unmercifully so that it eventually went sick but was able to limp round to the finish, classified fifth even though he was seven laps behind the winner. The weekend after this everyone went to the Reims GP but Maserati were getting short of engines so the damaged 2528 went back to the factory and did not appear for the Reims race. By the British GP held at the Aintree circuit 2528 was back in good fettle, with Jean Behra once more on board. After the leaders had run into various troubles Behra took over the lead and held it until disaster struck. The official reason given was that the clutch had disintegrated, showering bits and pieces across the track, but later it transpired that it was the crankshaft that had broken. At the German GP on the Nürburgring Behra drove 2528 into a rather unimpressive sixth place and then at Pescara he retired when an oil pipe broke. For the Italian GP at Monza Behra elected to drive one of the new V12 Maseratis so Schell took over 2528 and was lying fifth near the end of the race when once more an oil pipe broke and he was forced out.
To round off the season 2528 really behaved itself and Behra recorded two victories. The first was round the Aero-Autodromo of Modena, on the car’s home ground, and the second was in the inaugural race at Casablanca in Morocco. With four Grand Prix victories to its credit 2528 can be said to have earned its keep as a works team car. The Maserati factory withdrew the official works team in 1958 and most of the cars were sold off, 2528 going to the Spaniard Francesco Godia-Sales. He was wealthy amateur sportsman who raced for the fun of the thing, but who was not really in the Grand Prix class as far as World Championship events were concerned. He started off well enough, with third place in the Siracuse GP in Sicily, but then failed to qualify for the grid at the Monaco GP. He just scraped onto the grid at Spa-Francorchamps for the Belgian GP but retired with piston trouble. In the French GP at Reims he spun off into retirement and then withdrew from the Grand Prix scene. 2528 went back to the factory in Modena and was not raced again in 1958. At the end of the season, after Fangio had announced his retirement the BP petrol company, with whom he had a long contract, made a film about him as a tribute. Part of this was taken by a camera mounted on the tail of a 250F Maserati as he did a quick lap of the Modena Aero-Autodromo. It was quite well done and gave a good idea of opposite-lock slides as the camera looked over his shoulder at the road ahead and the front wheels. The car used for this filming was 2528, borrowed from the customer department, where it had been sitting for a long time awaiting a new owner.
The days of the 250F Maserati were over as far as serious Grand Prix racing was concerned, so even one of the “lightweight” cars did not interest any potential Grand Prix drivers. Many years later Charles Lucas, who was racing Formula 3 cars, was approached in an Italian bar and asked if he wanted to buy an old racing car. It was 2528 which the vendor had for sale, and Lucas bought it as Historic racing was beginning to get under way. He drove it in various historic events with all the brio and panache of Fangio or Carlos Menditeguy, sliding it through Woodcote corner (before the chicane was built) at Silverstone with great armfuls of opposite-lock. It all looked most impressive and a lot of fun, but time had gone by and his lap times were barely equal to that of a well-driven, Mini-Cooper!
Eventually Neil Corner bought 2528 off Lucas, and retains it to this day, giving it the occasional airing in historic races. Of all the Maserati 250F cars built it is one of the most original, for it had a short, but successful, life at the front of the Grand Prix scene and then was fairly inactive, so that it did not become modified, improved, altered or crashed. 2528 is a truly Historic Grand Prix car, with four Grand Prix wins to its credit. — D.S.J.