Ferraris Force the Pace and Vanquish Alfa-Romeo
THE Italian G.P. run over 80 laps of the 3.9 mile Monza track on September 16th saw Ferraris set the hottest pace yet, witnessed in postwar racing, and the result was an overwhelming victory for them.
Long before official practice began, the Ferraris had taken their 4 1/2-litres to Monza and satisfied themselves that they could lap comfortably in 1 min. 55 sec., a speed of 122 m.p.h., and if need be to keep up that pace for the full distance of the race. Alfa-Romeos thereby had a target to aim for, and some pretty steady lapping in 1 min. 57 sec. by Fangio, Farina and Sanesi on a spare car, indicated that they could stand the pace. While rehearsing refuelling-stops a fire started in which Sanesi was so badly burnt that it was impossible for him to take part in the race.
It was quite clear during practice that these teams were going to give no quarter. Ferrari had brand new 4 1/2 litres with redesigned bodywork and Alfas had new 159 models with detail modifications. Ferraris also tried out the new four-cylinder car in 2 1/2-litre form in a de Dion G.P. chassis of shorter than normal wheelbase, while Franco Rol appeared with a very new 4 1/2-litre Osca, new both in engine and chassis. Gordini had his new two o.h.c. engines in blown form and B.R.M.s were out with Parnell and Richardson driving, creating a very good impression on sheer sound alone as they screamed past the stands. The regular Talbot drivers were quietly circulating.
By the time the morning of the race arrived Ferraris were more than ready, having more cars than drivers, while Alfa-Romeo gave an outward air of quiet confidence, but had an uneasy feeling inwardly. The B.R.M. team on the other hand were in a state of utter dejection and appeared to have blinded themselves with their own science, the result being that, though von Stuck was prepared to take over from Richardson, who had rightly been refused permission to drive by the R.A.C., neither car was ready to race and B.R.M. ” guff ” was being handed out. Among the rest of the runners there was little point in being confident, it was merely a question of endeavouring not to get too involved in the “cut-throat ” Ferrari-Alfa duel that was about to take place.
It was pretty clear that pit-stops were not going to be a disadvantage as both teams were planning two stops for fuel and tyres and the practice times indicated little difference in speed. Fangio had actually recorded the fastest lap, covering the 6.3 kilos for the first time at over 200 k.p.h., a speed of 124.4 m.p.h. The starting grid showed twenty cars, with only the two B.R.M.’s missing. Alfa-Romeo had three new 159s with de Dion rear axles, remoulded tails, twin exhaust pipes, the top one exhausting cylinders 1,2, 7 and 8 and the lower one numbers 3, 4, 5 and 6. The manifolds were enshrouded in a duet as before, with an air intake from beside the radiator directing cold air into the duet. A further air intake on the near side directed cold air on to the fuel pump, driven front the front of the engine. While the engine lay-out remained unaltered, the air intake for the carburetter was altered from the usual ” tuba ” shaped affair to a duet running down from a scoop mounted on the scuttle. Bigger and better front brakes were being used on which much work had been expended during the initial trials. These new cars were being driven by Fangio, Farina and Bonetto and at the last moment de Graffenried had been nominated to a fourth car, an earlier 159. Ferrari had five 4 1/2 litre cars on the line from the factory and in addition Peter Whitehead’s blown 1 1/2 litre. Of the works cars, Ascari, Gonzales and Villoresi were in 24-plug 4 1/2 litres, brand new, and Tarulffi had a 24-plug engined earlier de Dion model. The fifth was Chico Candi, a 12-plug early de Dion car. The main attraction on the new cars was the new bodywork, with a windscreen neatly moulded into the scuttle and a tail incorporating a headrest, while all the cars had petrol pumps mounted under the seat, driven by belt from the propeller-shaft, supplementing the engine-driven fuel pump. They were also using a new Pirelli ribbed treaded tyre on the back. The 4 1/2 litre Osca, with V12 engine, tubular chassis, double wishbone and coil spring front suspension and torsion bar de Dion rear, looked and sounded very nice, while the three Simcas of Trintignant, Manzon and Simon were obviously on good form. The Talbots presented a motley collection of also-rans and merely made -up the number. From the fall of the flag Ascari and Fangio set the pace, and it was pretty obvious that it was a case of the Alfa trying to keep up with the Ferrari. Both teams lost a car within two laps, Landi and de Graffentiol retiring out on the course, while Farina stopped at the end of lap five. The tearing pace soon told and Fangio called at the pits and had his nearside front tyre burst as he slowed down. From that moment Ascari was unchallenged to the end of the race, but behind him the battle waxed furious. At the time of Fangio’s puncture Farina’s Alfa was wheeled into the dead car park and the Argentine, who set off in fifth position, drove hard to catch Bonetto and Villoresi and retrieve third place only to have the engine cut out for a moment. Between lap 26 and 30 the leading cars made their first refuelling stops with the exception of Ascari who carried on until lap 44. After his stop Fangio went as well as ever, but could not catch Gonzales who was lying second. When Bonetto stopped, in fourth place, Farina took over the car and from that moment on drove his finest race, the Alfa sounding wonderful and the driver doing all he knew. By 36 laps Fangio’s car was cutting out again and at 40 laps it was finished, but by this time Farina was in third place with Bonetto’s car and gaining rapidly on Gonzales. The field was now reduced to nine cars, four Ferraris, one Alfa, two Talbots, Rosier and Cabantous, Sutton’s Simca going extremely well, and the Osca going steadily. These nine lasted the remaining 40 laps and Farina reduced his retard by as much as five seconds a lap until he was 30 seconds behind Gonzales, but then had to come in for his second refuel and change of wheels which took rather a long time. Gonzales made a very quick stop in under 30 seconds and Farina had to start all over again to catch the plump Argentinian. This he did by a steady three seconds per lap until going into the South curve at the end of lap 70 the engine fluffed and shortly afterwards he coasted to his pit, out of fuel. In a short time he was refuelled and as he set off with no slackening of the pace fuel was pouring from the tail from a split in the tank and all hopes of gaining second place were gone. Ascari reeled off the remainder of the 80 laps with great regularity and finished 45 sec. in front of his team mate.
The XXII Italian G.P. was Ferrari’s finest victory and Alfa-Romeo’s greatest defeat, compensated in some measure by Farina’s magnificent effort which, but for the fuel leak, might have gained him second place. Ferrari, by no means perfect in their organisation and pit work, were by far the fastest on wheel changing and refuelling, while much of the polish of Alfa-Romeo’s pit work was gone, as has been evident in more than one race this season. For some years now the 159 has been nearing its limit, but always it has had that little bit in reserve; meanwhile Ferrari has been steadily improving until it has reached the position where Alfa-Romeos have nothing more in reserve, and the result of four Ferraris and one Alfa-Romeo in the first five places was one that has long been on the way. The 4 1/2-litre Ferrari, although running up to 7,000 r.p.m., showed no signs of being stressed, whereas the Alfa-Romeos with their 8,500-8,700 r.p.m. sound, and obviously are, very highly stressed. Of particular merit was Simon’s drive in the s/c Simca twin o.h.c., which finished sixth in very sound condition, while the new Osca did not do badly to be still running at the end, in a race in which over 50 per cent. of the starters retired.
Before the G.P. was ran a 30-lap 1100c.c. race was run in which 1100c.c. Coopers, driven by Wharton, Charrington, Aston and Schell, took part against a great number of Osca, Ermini, Stanguellini and Cisitalia. Racing on their home ground, the Italians completely vanquished the English cars, the speed and reliability Of the Osca cars being remarkable. Once the Coopers had fallen out, three 1100c.c. Oscas made it a fine race for first place, with Chiron driving in far better form than he does with a G.P. car.