Imola sports-car race

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Castellotti wins for Osca

Imola Sept 30th.

Postponed from the beginning of June, the Imola race was eventually held at the end of September and limited to sports cars between 1,300 and 1,500 cc. Held over 50 laps of the 5-kilometre hilly road-circuit on the edge of the town of Imola, the race attracted factory entries from Osca, Maserati, Lotus and Cooper, so that though they were all running sports cars the race could be viewed as a forerunner of future Formula II events.

Practice saw Osca out with four cars, three of the normal 1,500 models used this season and one brand new one, this having all the same mechanical components but with a much improved location to the rigid rear axle and a sleeker and more aerodynamic bodywork, very much on the lines of the 750-cc Osca. The four drivers were Castellotti, Musso, both on loan from Ferrari. Cabianca and Scgorbati, and during practice all of them tried the new car. Maserati did not enter officially and apart from numerous private owners with 150S models the only one showing any hope of going fast was that driven by Bonnier. After the first practice it was clear he could not challenge the Osca team so the factory lent him their latest 150S, actually the one Moss drove at Nurburgring last August; as it was not an official works entry it was painted the Swedish colours of blue and yellow. Causing some considerable consternation amongst the Italians was Team Lotus, with Allison and Chapman in normal 1,500-cc models and Mackay-Fraser with the car they had recently been using for record-breaking, now fitted with a 1,500 engine and a normal racing windscreen. Allison was going like the wind and was only two-tenths of a second slower than Musso and equal to Castellotti, while Chapman equalled Bonnier with the factory Maserati. Not only were the green cars from Hornsey worrying Osca and Maserati, but the Cooper team were there also and Salvadori equalled Chapman’s time, and just behind came Naylor, with his Maserati-engined Lotus, Mackay-Fraser, Brabham and Leston. Of the first ten cars when practice concluded only three were Italian, the rest being British, so that here, on their home ground, the Italians were being made to think.

Race day was very hot and conditions were good as the cars lined up in rows of three-two-three, with Musso and Castellotti in the old Oscas alongside Allison, and Cabianca with the new car in the fourth row. Burgess was a non-starter with his Osca-engined Special, as his mechanic had bent it badly the day before while trying it out and it was beyond repair. At the fall of the flag Allison shot off into the lead, leaving the two Oscas still trying to combat wheelspin, and Salvadori came out of row three in his usual meteoric style and tucked in behind the Lotus. For three laps Allison was way out on his own, followed by Salvadori with Castellotti and Musso hot on his heels, followed by Bonnier, Brabham, Cabianca, Naylor and Mackay-Fraser, while Chapman was engaged in a battle with da Silva Ramos in the works Gordini. The two Oscas gathered around the little Cooper and tried to crowd their way past, but Salvadori gave as good as he got and the three of them stayed in a bunch and gradually made up on the leading Lotus. By lap seven Salvadori had been elbowed behind and Allison was then dealt with by Castellotti, Musso not being able to get past, and on lap twelve the Lotus disappeared for the left-hand rear hub-shaft broke and Allison spun to a standstill and out of the race. This left Castellotti comfortably in the lead but Musso was not having an easy time and Salvadori got by once more. Leston, in the Willment-owned Cooper-Climax, was dicing with Mackay-Fraser in the works Lotus until the American spun on a corner, and Brabham was in close company with Bonnier in the factory Maserati. Chapman lost his battle with the Gordini when he spun round, but managed to get going again, and by lap 20 things had settled down.

Castellotti was comfortably in front by 12 sec, and Salvadori could do nothing about it, while Musso was dropping back suffering from overheated oil. After a gap came Bonnier, only just leading from Brabham, while Cabianca was tailing them, and then came the rest. The ordinary 150S Maaeratis in private hands were completely out of the picture, as were Oscas in the hands of new drivers, and though Castellotti in the works car was dominating the race, factory Coopers and Lotus were scratching away valiantly behind him. Naylor was unhappy about his brakes and eventually went up an escape road and ripped an oil pipe off, and then Salvadori disappeared from the race when the distributor drive of the Climax engine sheared. Bonnier and Brabham were still engaged in a furious battle and they gradually caught up with Musso and passed him, while Leston stopped to repair a broken throttle cable and then later stopped very suddenly when a big hole appeared in the crankcase due to a violent breakage inside. Just before the end, while Castellotti was preparing to receive the chequered flag, Brabham was leading Bonnier and lapping a slower car when the Maserati spun and crashed into a tree, the driver getting away with a shaking but the car being badly smashed. This left Brabham a certain second, followed by Musso and Cabianca, while Mackay-Fraser followed up.

Although the British cars had stirred things up at Imola they all suffered from inexperience of the more serious type of road-racing, bits falling off, shock-absorbers failing, engines proving fragile or gearboxes not being meant for racing. Admittedly one of the private Maseratis blew its engine sky-high, but none of the Italian cars suffered from petty faults in design or construction or lack of attention to minute detail. Now that the works Cooper and Lotus cars are beginning to tackle the Italians on their home ground there is every opportunity of sweeping the field, but more care and attention will have to be given to the job. The British contingent at Imola did not disgrace itself by any means; in fact it created an excellent impression for a change, but preparation and know-how is far from perfect.

 

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