1957 Pau Grand Prix

  • Monday, April 22, 1957
  • Grand Prix de Pau

Last year was the first occasion since 1935, apart from the war years, that the Pau Grand Prix did not take place, and the reason was that the French Inspectorate of Circuits, who flapped around after the Le Mans accident, deemed the circuit unsafe. In spite of a full-length Grand Prix having been held every year without any modifications being made to the circuit, the Automobile Club Basco-Bearnais suddenly found themselves refused a permit. To the onlooker it seemed to be the end, for the Pau circuit had always been essentially a street race, and it appeared that real Grand Prix racing on the public roads was going to die for ever. Undaunted, the people of Pau raised an enormous sum of money and attacked the circuit with energy and intelligence, and the result was that a permit was allowed for 1957. The main quibble about safety was in the interests of the public, not the drivers, and all grandstands that had been in dodgy positions were removed, the enclosures of the banks of the park through which part of the circuit runs were well fenced and opposite the pits an enormous ferro-concrete stand to hold 4,000 people was built, together with concrete retaining walls along parts of the circuit. The road itself was completely re-surfaced, widened very slightly at one or two suitable points, and all the sharp kerbstones were replaced by bevelled kerbs. This work left the trace of the circuit unchanged, apart from a difference of radius on the bend by the start and the pits being positioned before the bend instead of on the apex, but it left the Pau circuit as a pure street race, with all the hazards of kerbs, lamp-posts, railings, walls, front gardens and so on. In fact, the circuit was not ruined as was feared; it was actually improved from the motor-racing point of view.

It was unfortunate that Easter came late this year for it affected the entry for the race, Ferrari being too busy with experimental work for the Naples race which was to be run only six days after Pau, and Maserati giving everything a miss and concentrating on World Championship races, apart from a single car for the French Champion Behra. Connaught would have run three cars but for the unfortunate burn-out they suffered in Sicily, and the rest of the British Grand Prix cars were busy with a sprint race at Goodwood. However, none of this had any effect on the enthusiasm for the re-institution of the traditional Pau Grand Prix on Easter Monday and most of the entry turned out for the Saturday practice. Behra was obviously in a class of his own as regards driving ability, but, typical of the tough little Frenchman, he was not content to tour quietly round but thrashed the Maserati hard, for Pau was going to prove a useful test before Monte Carlo, where the circuit has very similar characteristics. So hard did Behra try that he went too fast into the bend by the pits and had no hope of stopping for the Station hairpin, so went straight on into the straw bales, fortunately with no more damage than a dented nose to the car. The two Connaughts, driven by Bueb and Leston, were feeling their way round on their first visit to the circuit, as were many of the private owners, while Gould was having trouble with a dirty fuel system. The two Centro-Sud cars were ready, as were drivers Schell and Gregory, the latter eager to try his hand on a Grand Prix Maserati for the first time, but the "gaffer" of the Scuderia, Signor Dei, had not arrived so the head mechanic was reluctant to let the cars go out. However, Schell persuaded them to let him "see if they were all right," and he did two quick laps in each one and smartly recorded third fastest practice time of the day! The Gordini team were in full strength, with da Silva Ramos and Simon in the six-cylinder cars and Guelfi and Burgraff in the eight-cylinder cars. Trintignant was driving the very old ex-Rosier Ferrari, for its new owner Rozier (spelt with a "z"), and was going at an absurd pace, the like of which that car had not known for many years, and the end of the day saw him in second position, much to the chagrin of lots of people with much newer cars.

On the Sunday the sun was very hot and the humidity was not so favourable for carburation us the previous day, so that Behra had to try really hard before he could approach his previous best time. Bueb was beginning to show signs of getting the hang of Grand Prix racing and got below 1 min. 40 sec., best time being 1 min. 35.7 sec. by Behra, while Leston was delayed with a defective fuel pump, but eventually got going and almost equalled Bueb's times. Interesting times were being put up by Gregory in his first European Grand Prix and he eventually recorded 1 min. 39.2 sec., behind Behra and Schell, who made 35.7 and 35.9, respectively. Schell also tried Piotti's car, which is a very well-prepared Maserati and nearly as good as a works car, and the result was that the time-keepers were taken aback at the final count by finding No. 6, Luigi Piotti, had made third fastest time and was therefore on the front row of the grid. After finding out that Schell had made the time, Piotti was promptly placed in the back row of the start. Of the private owners, Godia and Halford were showing remarkable similarity of ability, both being in Maseratis and both on their first visit, while Gould did hardly any practice at all as he was running out of tyres and was trying to conserve his car for the race. Da Silva Ramos tried Guelfi's eight-cylinder Gordini and found it faster than the six-cylinder, so they changed cars for the race, and of the very-new drivers present Barthe excelled himself by spinning round on almost every corner.

Race Results

Qualifying

Circuit - Pau

Country

France

Location

Pau, Aquitaine

Type

Temporary street circuit

Length

1.715 (Miles)

Record

Emanuele Naspetti (Reynard 92D-Cosworth), 1m09.82, 88.428 mph, F3000, 1992

First Race

1933 Pau Grand Prix

3,420

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19,439

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14,566

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