1957 Syracuse Grand Prix
- Sunday, April 7, 1957
- Gran Premio di Siracusa
This year the race at Syracuse opened the European Formula 1 season with a flourish, and the entry was of a very high order. Works teams of Ferrari, Maserati, Vanwall and Connaught filled the list, with the addition of many private owners, and when practice started on the Friday before the race almost everyone was present. The weather was most unlike Sicily, with the rain only just stopping before practice got under way, leaving the track with patches of wet in the shaded places. With the course being exactly as in previous years, times were going to be comparable and any improvements in design and performance would soon make themselves felt. The existing lap record had been set by Fangio during the 1956 race with a lap in 1 min. 59.9 sec., though he had recorded 1 min. 58 sec. in practice that year, so it was the latter time that people were aiming at.
Maserati soon had their new V12-cylinder car running, driven by Behra, but it was not performing as expected and he changed to one of the 1957 Argentine six-cylinder cars, which was to have been driven by Schell. Ferrari had two cars, one a 1956-type Lancia/Ferrari and the other a brand new car, as described at the end of this report, and with Collins delayed by a train accident it was left to Musso to set the pace with the earlier car. Vanwall had three cars in the pits for drivers Moss and Brooks to choose from, and they were soon lapping close to 2 min., but were over-geared. Connaught had three cars and three drivers, and had a slight set-back when Bueb went straight on into the straw bales on his opening lap, fortunately with nothing more than a dented nosepiece. Fairman, in the fuel-injection car, and Leston were both feeling their way round steadily, while Peter Walker in Rob Walker's Connaught did not get far before he ran into piston trouble. The rest of the Formula 1 field was made up by Piotti, Godia, Halford and Taruffi in private Maseratis, and in addition there were three Formula II Coopers, all with single cam sports engines, driven by Brabham, Wicken and Whitehouse. Originally a Formula II race had been planned but after lots of ballyhoo only these three were ready, so they were incorporated in the main race.
It was Musso who was the first to break the 2-min. mark, by a mere 0.3 sec., and then Brooks recorded a tenth of a second slower, and this urged Moss to try harder and he equalled Musso's time, but there was no indication of anyone approaching Fangio's 1 min. 58 sec. Towards the end of practice the road was beginning to dry out and it seemed likely that speeds would improve. However, as Leston was leaving the hairpin a Hardy-Spicer universal joint on the right-hand drive shaft broke and the flailing end went through the fuel tank, the whole lot going up in flames. Leston jumped out just before the car ran into a wall and escaped injury, but the Connaught was severely damaged by the fire and that part of the course became flooded by the enthusiastic fire brigade.