1953 Italian Grand Prix




Monza, September 13th. WITH the Ferrari factory stating that it was to be their last official race, the Grand Prix at Monza took on a distinctly interesting aspect, for, being near the end of the season, it was evident that both Ferrari and Maserati would throw all they had into the fray. Pre-race interest started long before practice days, for both Ferrari and Maserati were out trying ears during the week before the practice Week, Ferrari with a completely new car and Maserati with one of their normal cars fitted with a vast headrest on the tail. Early in race week Fangio and Marhnon appeared again with a normal but brand new A6 Maserati, the factory officially dropping the ” G ” from their data plate, and both the Argentinians proceeded to lap at speeds higher than the 1952 record, Fangio’s best being 2 mm. I see, and Marimon in 2 min. 2 sec. The following day Ferrari turned up with one brand new car, of entirely different conception, and one of the old faithful fourcylinders, and with Ascari, Villoresi and Maglioli as drivers. While Maglioli accustomed himself to driving the old car, Ascari tried the new one, but was soon in to complain about the handling and to check the oil temperature, which was unduly high. To try to lower the temperature some of the towlines were removed, and this afforded an excellent opportunity to study the construction of this new Ferrari. With a much shorter wheelbase than before, the car was built around a ” space-frame ” of about I-in, diameter tubing, of the sort of design in which all the tubes were doing work and the number was kept to a minimum. At the front a transverse structure of this tubing carried the suspension units at its ends and the layout followed previous Ferraris, being double wishbones with a transverse leaf spring mounted underneath, with rubber blocks between. the frame and the lower wishbone, but in detail the whole assembly was new. The top wishbones were very short and narrow and, instead of king-pins, ball-joints were used, as on the B.R.M. The steering-box was mounted on the centre of the transverse tubular structure, operated by a straight steering-column running back along the centre line of the car; and the steering-arm pointed rearwards, the two-piece track-rod being behind the wheel centre line, instead of in front as on all previous Ferraris. The brake:, followed the normal Formula 11 practice, with external pull-off springs and radial air outlets, but a much greater camber angle Was used on the wheels. At the rear of the frame was mounted the gearbox and differential. which had the gearbox in the same casting as the differential, with the prop.-shaft entering below axle level and a pair of step-up gears in a detachable easing on the hack of the main casting taking the drive to the crown-wheel and pinion. This complete unit Was bolted to a tubular sub-frame, which in turn was attached to the main frame at six points on Silentbloc bushes. The rear suspension was still de Pion, but with the de Dion tube running in front of the differential instead of behind it, located by a guide and double radius-arms on each side, these arms being very large diameter and made in alloy, with ball fitting ends. The springing medium was still transverse leaf spring, but m.ounted high above the wheel centre line and slightly to the rear, being connected to the hub carriers by short links. The spring itself was not clamped to the chassis but was kept in place by pairs of rollers • on each side, halfway between the centre and the ends, while the centre was attached to a Single pivot bolt. Looking at the entire rear end of this new car there was something reminiscent about it. and reference to the Nurburgring report in this issue will suggest Lancia, but whether Lancia copied Ferrari or Ferrari copied Laneia. or whether it was just a coincidence, is not known. Behind all this assembly was mounted a etibierd shaped oil tank, and behind that a small petrol tank, with a feed running forward to a filter in the cockpit. The main fuel tanks were slung pannier-wise on each side of the cockpit, the filler being on the right-hand side. The engine for this new car was still a four-eylinder, hut completely new in conception, for the valves were at a wider angle in the head and the construction was new. In the old four-cylinder engine the head and block were in one and the complete unit bolted down onto the crankcase, but with t he new engine, which was much smaller in overall height, the crankcase casting extended right up to meet the head, SP that the only joint in the engine was about where a normal head. gasket would be, the integral liners of this new bead/block unit presumably extending down into the crankcase. The special double Weber carburetters mounted on the chassis were fitted and the four-pipe exhaust system was unchanged, except that the low engine and side fuel tank necessitated bringing it up and over the bulging body side and past the driver at shoulder level. Twin

magnetos were retained for the eight plugs and were driven from the timing gears and mounted very low at the front, with a horizontally rotating water pump mounted above them. The body for this new car was very smooth and sleek, having a typical Ferrari nose, and the side tanks gave the car a short, stumpy appearance, but very purposeful when alongside the older model. Using the two cats, and going round until nearly dark, Ascari could not make the new one go as fast as the old one, his best times being 2 min. 3 sec. in the old car and 2 min. 5 see. in the new one, so that the team went away to think again. During the day all three drivers drove the old car and their best times were : Ascari, 2 min. 3 sec.; Villoresi, 2 min. 5 sec.; and Maglioli, 2 min. 7 sec.

On the first day of official practice everyone was out early except Maseratis, who did not arrive until quite late in the day. Ascari, Farina, Vilioresi and Hawthorn were on the old four cylinder cars, while Maglioli and Carini were driving the new ears, there being two of the ” space-frente ” cars present to qualify for the 7,000,000 lire offered to any Italian constructor who started two new cars in the race. In addition to these six cars, the spare early four-cylinder car was there, being driven by the whole team as a training car. Rosier’s private car made a total of seven Ferraris in the entry list. Naturally, the.main opposition was to come from the works Maseratis and for the first day’s practice they arrived with one brand new car, differing from the earlier models of this season by having two radiusrods on each side of the rear axle as well as the i-elliptic springs and a smoother and sleeker body. This was driven by Fangio, while one of the earlier ears was shared by Marimon, Bonetto, Mantovani and Mosso, the last two being tried out for their first Grand Prix. At the end of the day Aseari led the whole field with a time of 2 udn. 2.9 sec., a whole second faster than Farina, who was next. The remainder of the entry was full of interest and particularly MOW Cooper-Alta, which was fitted with direct fuel-injection by S.U., in which the injection pump and timing device was driven from the rear of the exhaust camshaft, this being correctly tinted and metered injection us distinct from the Hilborn-Travers system of a constant flow of fuel into the manifold. That the Alta engine, aided by S.11., was giving enormous power was proved by Moss’ time of 2 min. 6.6 sec. and the fact that the car had now reached a speed where the roadholding was inadequate and the brakes nonexistent, but in .spite of this his time was easily the fastest by an English car. The Gordini trio of Trintignaut, Schell and Mieres, the last-named replacing 13ehra, who was on the Tour of France, all went round in under 2 min. 10 sec., as did Satvadori in the ex-Lyons long-chassis Connaught with Amal carburetters, now being used in the works team. MacAlpine had the latest long-chassis Connaught with injection and Fairman was driving the original number one car. Wharton and Brown had their Cooper-Bristols, and the latter soon finished practice with a blown head-gasket. The Seuderia Milan produced two very tatty A6G Maseratis, one being last year’s model, and the other the car that was modified by I he factory during the winter and preceded the present form of A6 with the oval radiator grille. These were driven by Bira and Landi, the latter’s car having Maserati-Milan brakes of enormous dimensions. To. complete the first practice day list there Came Macklin, Fitch and Cabantous iii H.W.M.s, the last named having the H.W.M. engine and Jaguar gearbox in a 1951 chassis, as the 1953 one had been written off in a crash at Cadours a short while before, Stuck with his Bristol-engined A.F.M., Claes in his Weber-carburetted Connaught. and Chiron with his Ogee. For the second day of practice it was Maseratis who were first on the scene with factory ears for Fangio, Bonetto and l+olantovani, the blue-and-yellow Argentine car for Maritnon, Plate’s red-and-white one for de Graffenried. mid a spare factory car for everyone in general. All the other drivers were out as well, some being content with a few laps and letting the previous day’s good times stand, others thrashing round and round trying to improve on them. Towards the end of the day some ” lending ” was indulged in, Salvadori trying the Moss Cooper-Alta, and the spare Maserati being lent to Fitch, tiiletti and ole Bin. Aseuri’s fastest lap still stood, thotieh Fangio got down to 2 min. 3.2 sec., but to make sure Ascari reduced his to 2 min. 2.7 see., and Marimon, Farina, Bonetto, Villoresi, Hawthorn and Trintignant all got under 2 min. 6 sec. The new Maserati bey, Mantovani, showed promise with a lap in 2 min: 7.5 see. Jost before practice finished Fangio went out in Bonetto’s car and while travelling very fait round a long right-hand curve a rear tyre came off, and though he stopped without damage to himself or the car he was rather shaken for a time, as Was the

whole Maserati equips, for to have had their number one driver put out of the race by an accident a few minutes before the end of practice would have been a disaster.

After the Sunday morning had been occupied by a national sports. car race, for production sports cars, with an exclamation mark after the word production, the serious business of the Grand Prix began to get under way, and the cars were brought out to the starting line. Maserati had done a plight shuffle, giving 13onetto the lastest car aid Fangio and Mantovani the earlier ones, while neither the practice Muserati nor the practice Ferrari were used. With 80 laps to cover, most cars were going through non-stop, but Connaughts and the Cooper-Alta were prepared to refuel, the latter even having to contemplate a tyre change.

Lined up in rows of three the thirty cars made an impressive array, and when the flag fell 28 of them roared off to a tremendous start with Mean forging ahead. Fangio and Bonetto both made hesitant starts and Mantovani stalled, while Bayol was at, the pits having arrived late and unprepared to start. Mantovani was pushed off and screamed away after the rest of the field, and Bayol joined in some time later. From the grandstand the ears can be seen travelling down the back leg of the circuit, and as they did so the blue-andyellow car of Marimon went past the entire bunch of leading cars with ease. At the end of the first lap the leaders came by in a close bunch, with Ascari and Marittion side by side, followed by Farina, Fangio, Moss, de Graffenried, Villoresi, Hawthorn, Trintignant, Landi, Schell and Salvation, the Connaught holding the tail end of the Continental cars. Down the back leg again and the order was more or less the same, and Moss was Still fifth and comfortably holding the Italian cars for maximum speed, but as Ascari led Marimon into the third lap the Cooper-Alta pulled into the pits; some excess oil was blowing out of the breather and Moss had got the impression there was a leak somewhere. After a quick look round he was off again, but with the furious pace of the race he was now right at the back of the field. A race for the lead now settled ‘down between Ascari, Fangio, Farina and Marimou, two Ferraris and two Maseratis, and lap after lap the first and fourth were less than 2 see. apart, while Marimon took the lead nearly every lap on the fast back leg of the circuit. This was obviously motor-racing with no holds barred, and these four soon outstripped the rest of the field, while the score sheet read something like this : ” . . . Ascari leads for six laps, Fangio for two, Ascari for one, Farina one, Fangio one, Farina two, Ascari nine, Fangio one, Farina one, Fangio two, Ascari five, Fangio two . . .” and so on, lap after lap after lap. This was Reims all over again and it seemed quite impossible that the pace could last, for surely one of them must make a mistake or one of the straining engines fail. So regular was this battle that time. after time as they passed the pits the two Ferrari drivers would change into top at exactly the same moment, while the two Maserati drivers did the same a few yards farther on, as though the two gear-levers were coupled together. If this was not enough to keep the spectators on their toes and screaming, there was plenty happening farther down the field. Villoresi was alone in fifth place, but not far behind Hawthorn and Trintignant were having a terrific duel, changing position at regular intervals, and both drivers crouching low over the steering wheels to try to gain a few more r.p.m. and all the while closing up on the unsuspecting Villoresi. The tail end of the field had been lapped by the leading battle in only five laps, and one by one the remainder were being caught and passed, sometimes on the right, sometimes on the left, and, more often than not, on both sides. Bonetto made up ground fast after his bad start, and after his pit stop Moss joined the race as the Maserati went by. Although a lap behind, he gave a most convincing demonstration of the speed of the Cooper-Alta by staying with Bonetto for more than twenty laps, and during ten of those he was never more than a length away front the Maserati, even giving it a tow in his slipstream on one lap. Salvador; was running a very steady 10th until a throttle cable broke and he had to wait at his pit while it was soldered, and Fairman had already been in and out of the pits with an obscure oiling trouble. The war for first place was still raging, and on the 39th lap, one before half. distance, the order was Ascari, Farina, Fangio rand Marimon, so close together that each car was overlapping the one in front, and still the furious pace persisted. For the next ten laps Fangio led for two, Ascari for six and Farina for two, but in the middle of this, at the end of the 46th lap, Marimon came into the pits with a damaged oil radiator. This cost him six minutes while it was repaired, and put him way back, but it did nothing to stop the fight between the other three. Just before this incident Hawthorn and Trintignant caught Villoresi and the three of them had a scrap, but after a time the combined teamwork of the two Ferraris drew them away from the Gordini, though Trintignant bad the pleasure of passing both

of them on one corner before they shook him off. After his bad start Mantovani worked his way up to 11th position and soon after halfway he came in and handed over to Mums°. The two new Ferraris were not at all impressive, Maglioli circulating steadily in the middle of the field and Carini having frequent pit steps until he retired on lap 42, Rosier caused a stir by coming into his pit for a repair, a thing normally unheard of for him, and Muss was running into trouble, first with stripped lyre. treads, as much aS 2 ft. of rubber coming off, and later one of his fuel tanks split, 30 that he dropped farther and farther back down the field. The only consolation was that when he did motor he went fantastically fast, and the way he overtook Wharton and Brown in their Cooper-Bristols along the straight was justification for painting the car red. On one, occasion he even went past Hawthorn, right in front of the pit area, sitting back at ease, while the Ferrari driver was crouching low over his steering wheel. The two Bristol-engined Coopers were frequently at the pits, Brown to pour in oil, water and fuel in unending quantities and Wharton to tighten bits that kept falling off due to the vibration caused by a loose crankshaft damper. The II.W.M. team were in no better state, Macklin and Fitch both being out with seized engines and Cabantous going round, but slowly. A real surprise was being caused by the Gordini team, for Trintiguant was still in sixth position, Mieres ninth and Schell 13th, and none of them had been near the pits and looked set to complete the race. With twenty laps still to go the leading trio were still as close as ever, though Ascari was beginning to be persistent about leading as they finished each lap, and at this stage they lapped Villoresi and Hawthorn, and Marimon had rejoined the race at the same position on the track but three laps behind. The result was that for five laps these six cars went round in a tight bunch that was so devastating to drivers of slower cars who were overtaken that the tail-enders were going up the straight keeping one eye cocked over their shoulder for the approaching storm. Hawthorn dropped back out of this maelstrom and the last ten laps saw Ascari, Farina and Fangio still ‘fighting hard with Marimon and Villoresi mixed up in it, though a lap and three laps behind, respectively. Normally a driver would tend to ease up and let the loaders go on ahead, but while Marimon was about the place to help Fangio in any little way he could; Villoresi must have felt he should stay to help Ascari, Farina no doubt having to look after himself. Round and round they went, still with no quarter given, and as they started the last lap the three leaders were still within touching distance. Down the back straight they passed 13onetto, who was going slowly, and then the five cars disappeared behind the trees as they went into the last two corners of the race. From the finishing area these corners are obscured, so what actually happened can only be conjecture, but the result was that while everyone craned to see a ” photo-finish ” there was a big shunting match :on the very last corner-and Ascari and Marimon finished up on the grass Farina motored off the road hut kept going, and Fangio nipped by the lot and won by 200 yards, which so surprised everyone that even the man with the chequered flag forgot to drop it, so that Fangio and Farina did another lap just to make sure. Villoresi stopped very quickly having crossed the line, left his car and hurried back to the Ferrari pit to report what had happened, and some while. later Ascari and Marimon arrived in a marshal’s car. Alberto looking furious and Marimon with a look of innocence and a cut cheek. The official

statement was that Aseari was leading in the last Corner, spun round on some oil, Farina had to dodge the spinning car and Marimon hit it, the resulting melee allowing Fangio a free path to victory. The whole incident li:ippened so quickly that even pee* on the spot were not give id the details, but the tail of Aseari’s car had been well and truly smashed by a direct, hit and the nose of Marimon’s car was pushed back nearly two feet. %chile the nose of Farina’s car had made very bard contort with someone’s rear wheel,. so hard that the bonnet was crumpled. It seems likely that it was Marimon who hit Ascari in the tail and Farina hit Marimon’s rear wheel, but whateverhappened there was no doubt that Fangio was not mixed up in it and he had a clear run to Victory, one that Maserati have been working -for since this time last year and, while popular, it is a pity it could not have been achieved in a straight-forward finish.

At the end of the race Ferrari were still claiming that it was to be their last official race, but it will be very surprising if they sit back and let Maserati get away with the last Victory; and a dubious one at that.

Of the remainder of the runners, poor Musette lost Seventh place by running out of fuel as he rounded the lest corner on the last lap, being in sight of the finisItlint with not enough time left to push -it home. Whartores vibrating Bristol engine eventually stopped With a bump and he pushed it home to the finish, but too late 10 be classed, while Fairman and MaeAlpine were still circulating when the race was stopped. SalVadori had gone out with a broken drive-shaft to the reductiongears, and de Graffenried had blown-tip his Maserati IQ laps front the end after holding eighth place for most of the race. All three Gordinis finished anti not one of them made a pit stop, while Cabantous kept the sole surviving II.W.M. going until the finish.


The Monza race woo as exciting as the Reinis race, and on both occasions the difference between the Maseratis and Ferraris was negligible. Both circuits call for a minimum of driving skill, with resultant extremely close racing. All the other Grand Prix events on road circuits, as distinct, from tracks, have been dull processions in comparison. Could it be that road racing is not what the public needs ?

For a long time now the British have been crying out that they have Formula II chassis but no Formula II engines for competing against the Italians. In the Alta engine with S.U. injection we have the Formula IT engine for power, as Moss showed along the straights, all we need now is a Formula II chassis. A power output of 186 b.h.p. is claimed for this unit, and by the way the car overtook Hawthorn’s Ferrari and led Bonettn’s Maserati it must have been giving all of that.

Attention to detail seems to be the British team’s trouble, most English cars need patching up during a Grand Prix, even though running at the end of the field. The Italians deem to be able to screw their ears together to do the complete race non-stop and in the lead.

in the lead. Results ITALIAN

Retire.: : Maeklin ()11.W.M.), 7th hip; Claes (Connaught). 8th np; Fitch (11.W.1114. 15th lap; Rayol (Oxen), 16th lap; Lund) (Maseral1), 19th lap; Salvadwi (cerinsught). 34th lap; Carini (Ferrari), 41st lap; de Craffenried (Maserati). 71st lap; Mariraon (Maserati), 76,11 lap; Bonetto (Maserati). 78th lap; Ascari (Ferrari). 80th hip.