77 – 1956 Monaco GP


A series taken from the 162-page Motor Sport special 100 Greatest Grands Prix (other specials are available here).

From the editor Damien Smith

The Grand Prix motor races we can never forget…

Welcome to this special one-off magazine, dedicated to our love of Grand Prix racing and produced by the same team that brings you Motor Sport each month.

It seemed a good idea: whittle down 107 years of racing history to come up with 100 GPs that could be considered the ‘greatest’ – then rank them in meritocratic order. By week three, the old grey matter was beginning to ache…

Defining greatness was the first task. There were the obvious races – the wheel-to-wheel duels, the comeback classics. But there were also individual performances of supreme dominance, races that might not necessarily have been the most exciting to witness. Greatness goes way beyond thrill-a-minute, we decided.

Then there were those races of prominence, attached to a certain time or place that made them hugely significant. I’m thinking specifically of Belgrade, 1939. Only five entries took the start of a race that didn’t sound particularly scintillating. But as it happened to take place on the very day WWII broke out, we felt it worthy of inclusion. Meanwhile, Sebastian Vettel’s remarkable maiden GP win at Monza in 2008, for lowly Scuderia Toro Rosso, was left on the cutting room floor. Is that fair? You decide. We also opted to include a few races that weren’t Grands Prix, leastways in name, although the strength of entry was such that they might as well have been…

Choosing which races should make the list was hard enough; ranking the top 100 in some sort of order was even tougher, especially when it came to the crunch: which should be number one? We never did agree unanimously on the ‘greatest’, but if the magazine was to be finished a decision had to be taken. And that’s what I’m here for!

Will you agree with our choice and order? Probably not. But if steam begins to issue from your ears, take a deep breath. In any exercise such as this, there is no definitive list – because there can’t be. Our top 100 is based on opinion, nothing more, designed to be a bit of fun and to spark good-natured debate among fans of the world’s greatest sport.

So turn the page, delve in – and whatever you do, don’t take it too seriously.

1956 Monaco GP
May 13, Monte Carlo

The maestro had been brilliant in practice, comfortably claiming the £100 for pole position around the Principality. But come the race Juan Manuel Fangio would put in one of the most uncharacteristically ragged drives of his career.

Ahead of him, his former pupil from their year together at Mercedes truly came of age. Stirling Moss’s first victory in Monaco, driving his beloved Maserati 250F, is less celebrated than his glorious defeat of Ferrari five years later, but it was a consummate performance nonetheless.

Moss took the lead from the start, seeing off Eugenio Castellotti and Fangio at the Gasworks hairpin, and was never headed thereafter. As for Fangio, he was soon in the wars. He spun at Ste Devote, then in his recovery caused Luigi Musso to ram the straw bales, breaking the Lancia-Ferrari’s steering. It also forced Harry Schell’s Vanwall into a wall, which bent its front suspension. Red-faced Fangio continued – but there was more to come.

On lap 32 he clobbered the harbour wall and damaged a wheel, which forced him to pit. Castellotti, who’d already retired his Lancia-Ferrari, took the helm while Fangio caught a much-needed breather. Meanwhile, young Peter Collins was running an impressive second, but he’d pit and hand his car over to Fangio – it wouldn’t be the last time – and the Argentine set off once more after Moss.

With 10 laps to go, Stirling led by 28sec, but the gap began to come down as Fangio pushed. On the 100th and final lap the champion set the fastest time of the race, but Moss was unruffled and won by six seconds. His only scare had been nosing into Cesare Perdisa as he lapped the Maserati, causing his bonnet to lift a little. Other than that, ‘The Boy’ had out-mastered the master.

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