Pescara, August 15th
After booking a date for a 12-hour sports-car race and a Formula 1 event, the Automobile Club of Pescara cancelled the sports-car event and concentrated on racing cars, holding a 22-lap event over the magnificent circuit on the Adriatic coast of Italy. Having been organising events since 1924 it was not surprising that the meeting was exceedingly well run and caused no adverse criticism, unlike many events this season. Fourteen entries were accepted and of these three were from the Maserati factory, the drivers being Musso, on one of the Nurburgring cars with rear-mounted oil-tank, Moss on his own car, completely rebuilt since the Nurburgring and given a new coat of glistening red paint with a green band round the radiator air-intake, and the third one by X. This blank in the entry was hoped to be filled by Fangio, who was actually in Pescara, but he decided he’d rather have a holiday, so the third Maserati entry was not used. This left thirteen cars to turn out for practice at 9 a.m. on Saturday morning under a blazing sun and the sort of blue sky that only Italy can produce. The heat was almost too much and as a result no one got down to any very serious practising, and added to this the 25.579-kilometre course was going to need a great deal of learning and the three-hour session allowed would not have been sufficient even had all the cars behaved themselves. Ferraris only entered one car, this being one of the “stumpy” 1954 models, driven by Maglioli, the factory taking the opportunity to use this comparatively small meeting to experiment a bit more with the new car. They did not get very far, for after a quick change of rear axle ratio in the paddock Maglioli only completed half a lap before mechanical trouble stopped the car out on the far side of the course and the morning’s efforts were over for the Scuderia Ferrari. Manzon had had his car completely rebuilt since the Nurburgring, as well as having it, painted red with a blue noseband and undertray, while the yellow Ferrari of Swaters was fresh from the factory, having been fitted with one of the new 1953/54 engines with the 100-deg. valve layout. Rosier completed the four-cylinder Ferrari quartet and a fifth Ferrari was an early 2-litre twelve-cylinder in a long-chassis de Dion car, driven by Taraschi. Gordini entered his usual three cars, the second one now having a five-speed gearbox and the drivers were Behra, Bucci and Guelfi, the last-named having his first try in a single-seater, though he has put up some fine performances with sports Gordinis. Completing the field were Schell and Daponte with their private 1953/54 Maseratis and Bira with his de Dion car.
The factory-entered Maseratis were not at all happy, Musso’s car being difficult to start and Moss’ having a consistent misfire and a water leak. In spite of this the English driver managed to find enough power to put in a lap in 10 min. 23 sec., which was not only 21 seconds faster than the next man, Manzon, but was the fastest average ever achieved on the Pescara circuit, his speed being 147.808 k.p.h. The previous fastest was put up by the late Achille Varzi in an Auto-Union at 146.268 k.p.h. in 1936, but this included “chicanes” in both long straights, whereas the 1954 circuit had only one chicane; had his Maserati been really right Moss would no doubt have approached the 150-k.p.h. mark. Swaters was soon in trouble with his Ferrari and did hardly any practice, neither did Guelfi, who stopped out on the course, but Rosier and Schell both appeared quite happy. One of the troubles of such a long circuit is that a breakdown on the side away front the pits means the finish of practice for there are very few access roads, the circuit being on public roads. For the drivers the Pescara circuit is magnificent, being a 100 per cent. road circuit with two very long straights joined by a winding mountain road that climbs and descends with all manner of twists and turns as well as passing through six villages out on the hill section in the course of the 25.579 kilometres. Practice ended with Moss easily the fastest, followed by Manzon, Bucci, Behra, Musso, Maglioli and the rest, and after lunch the engine was taken out of the Moss car and a new one put in, as the water leak had developed internally in the original one. The Maglioli Ferrari was found to be too badly damaged to get ready for Sunday morning and was withdrawn, so that when the field lined up on the grid at 9 a.m. on race day there were only twelve runners. Just before the two-minute signal was given poor Manzon found brake fluid dripping from the master-cylinder and very courageously took part in the start, fully conscious that one of the depressions of the brake pedal would eventually lose the last drop of fluid! Although Manzon led away Moss got by before they were halfway round the first lap and past the pits he had 4 seconds lead over the Frenchman, who was followed by Bira, who had made an excellent start from the third row. Behra and Taraschi both stopped on this opening lap but restarted, completing the 25 kilometres long after everyone else, the former spinning off after hitting Manzon’s tail. Not long after starting lap two the brake fluid reservoir on Manzon’s Ferrari became empty and he eventually finished the lap at low speed to retire at the pits. This left Moss quite unchallenged, some 30 seconds ahead of Bira, and he made no effort to hurry, Bira maintaining his distance behind. Following came Bucci, driving very well, then Musso going along steadily on one of his rare Grand Prix drives, followed by Schell whose Maserati was behaving itself for a change. At widely spaced intervals came Rosier, Swaters and Daponte, who had stopped at the pits at the end of lap one in a most dangerous manner to have his plugs changed. Guelfi had got no farther than lap one before the Gordini engine made a horrid noise and Behra was right at the back due to his stop, but new going well. The only change at the end of lap three was that Musso got past Bucci, to take third place, and Maseratis were now 1-2-3 with Moss looking to be a certain winner. Halfway round lap four the Moss bad-luck bogy intervened and he saw oil spraying up the tail of the car from a broken pipe on the gearbox oil circulation system. Before he could complete the lap the gearbox showed signs of seizing so he stopped out in the wilds and had to watch a certain victory taken out of his hands. Bira now led, much to the delight of a large proportion of the -crowd, the little Siamese Prince being very popular, and after putting up a fastest lap he drew away from Musso by more than six seconds a lap, while Bucci kept in sight of the Italian-driven Maserati. After these three there was a gap of more than two minutes before Schell appeared and an even longer one before Rosier came along. Swaters stopped on lap three with gearbox trouble, Taraschi gave up after four terribly slow laps and on lap seven it was Musso who appeared first past the pits. Bira had had his exhaust tail pipes break off their mounting, stopped to collect the two lengths of pipe and delivered them back to his pit before continuing with just the two manifolds blowing heat and fumes all over him. This let Schell into third place for a short time, before Bira caught him, and by now the seven cars that remained were so spread out that there was no hope of anyone catching anyone else and the remainder of the race became one of endurance. Fortunately some thin clouds protected the drivers and spectators from the full force of the sun, but the atmosphere was very heavy and sultry.
Although Bira lapped much faster than Musso at all times he was too far back to have any hope of regaining the lead and steadily the remainder of the 22 laps were completed. Rosier came in for a vast quantity of oil and the next lap stopped for good with a broken engine, while Bucci stopped with a split fuel tank, leaving the car by the finishing line so that he could qualify by pushing it home at the end of the race. Behra had a peculiar stiffness occur in the Gordini steering, and after examining everything someone thought of greasing the king-pins and then it was all right. Just before mid-day Musso finished the 409 kilometres to win his first Grand Prix event and his second victory in two weeks, he was followed by Bira, Schell, Daponte, Behra and Bucci, these being the only survivors in this rather arduous and difficult event from the point of view of human and mechanical endurance rather than open battle. The mid-day heat in southern Italy forces the organisers to run the event in the morning, for after mid-day it would he almost impossible to drive a racing car, but apart from this the arrangement is greatly appreciated by all concerned for the over-worked racing mechanics get the afternoon off, the drivers can go swimming or lie on the Pescara beach and the Italian populace can have a good lunch and enjoy their afternoon siesta: The XXIII Circuit of Pescara ended with everyone content, except those unfortunate drivers who had broken their cars, and the town of Pescara settled down again to await their next Manifestazione Automobilistica, which will In the passage of the 1955 Mille Miglia next spring.