1953 Belgian Grand Prix

SPA, Sunday, June 21st.

The circuit of Francorchamps, in the south-eastern corner of Belgium, is one of Europe's fastest as well as being one of the most picturesque; also, from a spectator's point of view, it is admirable, while to tour round it, let alone race, is a pleasure. For the Belgian Grand Prix, run over 36 laps of the 14 km. 120 m. circuit, the Ferrari-Maserati battle that started at Zandvoort was to be continued and, the circuit being one for very high speed, it seemed likely that the Maseratis would set the pace, as they had done at Monza at the end of last season. Villoresi, Farina and Hawthorn were driving the same cars as at the last Championship meeting, while Ascari was using the car that had been spare in Holland. This car had had the 4 1/2-litre-type front brakes replaced by normal Formula II brakes, but had a new system of carburation, as had Farina's car. This consisted of two Tipo 50 DCO 4 Weber double-choke instruments, replacing the normal four-cylinder layout of four separate carburetters. These new ones were rigidly mounted on a tall welded steel framework that was fixed to the chassis side-member and the intake pipes were joined to cylinder block-cum-head by rubber pipes, thereby allowing the engine to move on its rubber mountings without affecting the carburetters, other than this the cars were unaltered. Maseratis were out in force, with three works entries, driven by Fangio, Gonzalez and Claes, as a gesture to the Belgians, de Graffenried and Marimon with private entries. All five cars were the latest-type six-cylinders, Gonzalez driving his Zandvoort car, as was Fangio, Claes having one of the early models that ran at Naples, de Graffenried his usual car, and Marimon a brand new one and the latest in the series, this car, being painted blue with a yellow bonnet. being an Argentinian entry. The car Bonetto drove at Zandvoort was in the garage as a spare. The battle between these two teams started from the first lap of practice, and it was soon clear that Maseratis had the legs of the Ferraris on sheer speed, while the rest of the field were left way behind. Trintignant, Schell and Behra were on works Gordinis, Wacker on his personal car, Rosier with his Ferrari, Pilette was driving Clues' Connaught, Berger, a local man, had a Gordini, and the total of 19 runners was made up by three H.W.M.s driven by Maeklin. Collins and Frère. When the very high-speed practising had finished it was Fangio fastest, with 4 min. 30 sec., followed by Ascari with 4 min. 32 sec., closely followed by Gonzalez, Villoresi and Farina. Hawthorn could not get near the leaders and realises he still has much to learn when the "big boys" start trying, In the last practice session Claes changed his Maserati for the one that Bonetto had driven at Zandvoort and improved his time greatly, and to show it was a good car Fangio put in a lap very near the record with it. While Ferrari was trying out his new carburation system, the H.W.M. tried out some new Solex carburetters, double-choke affairs very similar in general appearance to Webers, but though they gave more power at the top end they did not accelerate cleanly, so they reverted to the 40 DCO Webers.

Under a very hot sun the cars lined up for the start, with Ascari in the uncomfortable position in the centre of the front row, with Fangio on his right and Gonzalez on his left. Behind were Villoresi and Farina, then Trintignant, Hawthorn and Marimon in row three, Claes and Graffenried in row four, followed by Rosier. Schell and Frère in row five. Wacker and Behra in row six. and Pilette, Macklin, Collins and Berger at the back. While the flag was up Graffenried was still being pushed up and down in an endeavour to start the engine, but it fired five seconds before the start and he was just able to join in the rush down to the ess-bend over the Eau Rouge. Ascari was rather worried at the start, with the Maserati drivers on each side, and made a very bad getaway, with the result that Gonzalez led Fangio up the hill towards Burneville. both of them having a good lead over the rest of the field. At the end of the first lap there was doubt about the issue: the two Maseratis were way ahead and Ascari came by in the unusual postion of third place, followed by Farina, Villoresi, Hawthorn, Marimon, Graffenried, Trintiguant, Claes and the rest. This was indeed an unusual sight, though not a surprise after the practice laps, and by the end of the second lap Ascari was 14 sec. behind Fangio and dropping back rapidly. Gonzalez went on at a terrific pace, putting in two laps at 4 min. 34 sec, and pulling away from his team-mate, who was in turn leaving the leading Ferrari by six seconds a lap and this pace went on for lap after lap. Clearly Ferraris could do nothing about the speed of the six-cylinder Maseratis and it was a question of whether they would stand the pace. By the tenth lap Gonzalez still led from Fangio and nearly a minute behind the leader came Ascari unable to make any impression at all. Farina was keeping him in sight and had outstripped the rest of the works cars, while Hawthorn. Marimon and Villoresi were battling for fifth place, the two new boys making veteran Villoresi really try, the result on the tenth lap being Hawthorn. Villoresi and Marimon. A fair way back came Trintignant, driving his usual brilliant race, followed closely by Graffenried and Claes, while Schell and Rosier were at grips farther bark. The rest of the cars were already lapped by the leaders, while many of them were in trouble. Frère had stopped to have a throttle arm repaired, Collins was out with a broken clutch, Berger had retired and Macklin's exhaust pipe had broken and he stopped to have the one from Collins' car fitted. Behra and Wacker were both in trouble with their engines and Pilette was not proving very fast with the Connaught.

Race Results


Circuit - Spa-Francorchamps




Francorchamps, Wallonia


Temporary road course


8.774 (Miles)


Juan Manuel Fangio (Mercedes-Benz W196), 4m20.6, 121.207 mph, GP, 1955