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Backward glances at racing history

The Red Cars from Maranello
and Other Musings
by Don Capps, U.S.A.

I was sitting on an airplane recently and realized that a young man across the aisle was reading a motor racing journal. A British weekly, in fact. Later, after what only an airline would charitably refer to as "lunch," the young man and his traveling companion were talking and in their conversation the word "Ferrari" seemed to be in very frequent use. Being polite, I fought the urge to listen in on their discussion - well, not too obviously at any rate. The Young Man seemed to hold an opinion of Ferrari that obviously differed with that of The Young Lady, his traveling companion. I only caught snippets of their verbal jousting, but neither seemed to be making much progress in changing the opinion of the other. Somehow, that seemed to sum up Ferrari in a nutshell: there is not much of a middle ground when it comes to the Prancing Horse. Everyone falls into either the camp that loves Ferrari or in the other camp that loathes Ferrari.

That got me to thinking and musing about Ferrari. While not a big fan of the Scuderia, I am not a big basher of the Maranello firm either. The 2000 F1 season is the 51st that the Scuderia has competed for the World Championship. They alone are left from that first season: Alfa Romeo, Talbot, Maserati, ERA, Alta, Cooper, and Gordini (Simca) - along with Kurtis, Deidt, Moore, Lesovsky, Russo-Nichels, Marchese, Stevens, Langley, Ewing, Rae, Olson, Wetteroth, Snowberger, Adams, Watson and Offenhauser (with Weidel, Bromme, Bardazon, Gdula, Meyer, Scopa, Miller, and Rounds) are all long gone from the racing scene.

We'll toss BRM in there for good measure. And let's toss AFM, AJB, ATS - both versions, Arzani-Volpini, Aston-Butterworth, Aston Martin, BRP, Baird-Griffin, Behra, Bond, Brabham, Bugatti, Cegga, Cisitalia, Clairmonte, Clisby, Connaught, Coventry Climax, Cromard, CTA-Arsenal, DAMW, DB, Derrington-Francis, de Tomaso, Dommartin, ENB, Elios, Emeryson, Ferguson, Frazer Nash, Giaur, Gilby, Gleed, Guerin, HAR, HRG, HMW, JRW, Kharkov, Kurtis-Kraft, Lancia, Lola, Lotus, MBM, Milano, OSCA, Parnell, Porsche, RRA, Rover, Sacha, Sadler, Scarab, Sciroco, Speed, Stebro, Tatra, Turner, VM, Vanwall, Veritas, and Walker. And THAT only takes us to 1965! Just for starters we can add AGS, Amon, Andrea Moda, Bellasi, Coloni, Connew, Dallara, Eagle, Ensign, EuroBrun, Fittipaldi, Fomet, Fondmetal, Footwork, Forti, Hart, Hesketh, Hill, Ilmor, Judd, Kauhsen, Kojima, Lambo, Lamborghini, Larrouse, Leyton House, LEC, Life, Ligier, Lyncar, Maki, March, Martini, Matra, McGuire, Merzario, MGN, Motori Moderni, Neotech, Onyx, Osella, Pacific, Parnelli, Pearce, Penske, RAM, Rebaque, Renault, Rial, Shadow, Shannon, Simtek, Spirit, Subaru, Surtees, TAG, Tecno, Theodore, Token, Toleman, Trojan, Tyrrell, Venturi, Weslake, Wolf, Yamaha, and Zakspeed. And, I am sure I missed more than a few...

What is interesting is that F1 was not where Ferrari made its reputation. That was made in the rough and tumble world of sports car racing where Ferrari quickly rose to the top as the weapon of choice. In the Grand Prix world, the best that Ferrari could field on the grid was getting whumped soundly about the head and ears by a design already a decade old when the Scuderia fielded its first F1 cars in 1948. And it wasn't until 1951, three seasons later, that the older Alfa Romeo 158 was finally bested. It makes one pause if you think about that statement long enough. That the Scuderia had a gifted driver in the guise of Alberto Ascari and another in Froilan Gonzalez, makes their relative lack of success more obvious. In 1952 and 1953, F1 went away and F2 moved in to fill the void. A superb driver in a good car was the tune that played for those two seasons.

In 1954, the Maserati 250F and the Mercedes W196 mopped the floor with the cars that the Scuderia fielded. In 1954, Froilan Gonzalez drove a superb race at Silverstone and Mike Hawthorn salvaged a good - and lucky - win at Barcelona, but the season was a bust otherwise. In 1955, Maurice Trintignant keep his wits about him, drove a magnificent race and gave the Scuderia a victory it certainly didn't expect. The various models used in 1954 and 1955 - the 625, 553, 555 and the variants of these mixed together - simply fell short of the mark.

It is entirely possible that had Fiat not donated Scuderia Lancia, with all the D.50 chassis produced to that point, along with the entire racing shop - lock, stock, and barrel, it is very possible that "Ferrari" would be among group listed in the paragraph at the start of this little muse. Now that is something to think about. Perhaps in an alternate universe out there somewhere, Maserati and Vanwall are still on the grid with Brabham, Eagle, BRM, Cooper, Talbot, Lancia, Gordini, Scarab, Shadow, Surtees, Tyrrell, Parnelli, Penske, Kurtis, Watson, Alfa Romeo, and Lotus. Wow! Now that would be fascinating to even ponder, much less see...

Musings from Our Scribe

Recently, I finally got around to picking up a copy of the 1999 edition of Autocourse. It is, well, Autocourse. It is big, colorful, informative, and the current copy on the shelf is the 49th edition. Well, sort of. From 1951 through 1960, Gregor Grant - who also gave the world Autosport - published Autocourse as a quarterly. In 1961, the current format was adopted, an annual dedicated primarily to Formula One and the World Championship, with attention given to other major forms of motor racing.

I am looking at my copy of the 1961 edition, the 11th, and comparing it with that of 1999. Ah, what a different age it was back then. The first section of the book is on "Leading Drivers of 1961." Here is the list:

  • Giancarlo Baghetti
  • Lorenzo Bandini
  • Carel Godin de Beaufort
  • Lucien Bianchi
  • Joakim Bonnier
  • Jack Brabham
  • Tony Brooks
  • Ian Burgess
  • Jim Clark
  • Olivier Gendebien
  • Masten Gregory
  • Richie Ginther
  • Dan Gurney
  • Hans Herrmann
  • Graham Hill
  • Phil Hill
  • Innes Ireland
  • Jack Lewis
  • Bruce McLaren
  • Tony Maggs
  • Willy Mairesse
  • Tony Marsh
  • Michael May
  • Stirling Moss
  • Massimo Natili
  • Ricardo Rodriguez
  • Tim Parnell
  • Roy Salvadori
  • Wolfgang Seidel
  • John Surtees
  • Henry Taylor
  • Trevor Taylor, and
  • Maurice Trintignant

    WOW! In some cases, these are the ONLY pictures (or only good ones at any rate) I have of a few of those mentioned.

    Then we have an article on the "Tester to the Prancing Horse." Any guesses? Why Richie ("Ritchie") Ginther, of course. There is a great shot of Ginther in the rear-engined Dino at the 1960 Grand Prix of Monaco.

    It is followed by an interesting article, "P99, the Ultimate Test of the Ferguson Formula," by the director of Harry Ferguson Research, N. F. Newsome. The "Ferguson Formula?" Why all-wheel drive, naturally. It is a great article and have two shots of Moss in the Ferguson P99, one at Aintree in the British GP, and another at Oulton Park where he won the Gold Cup.

    Then we get into the meat of the book which has barely changed since the beginning, the race reports. Unlike the current edition, there is no chassis logbook. The recording of chassis numbers didn't make Autocourse until either the 1967 or 1968 edition. Perhaps it was 1966, but it wasn't until somewhere along in there. I can vouch that by 1969, the chassis numbers were there to help some of us have a meaning in life. One thing that I really liked about Autocourse was up until about 1970, as in the 1961 edition, you got the lap time for each and every lap of each and every competitor in each and every race. Really! It makes for some fascinating reading. At times, it is great stuff. At Reims, on lap 37, car # 16 had a lap time of 2min 33.6sec, but on lap 38 had a lap time of 8min 04.1sec! This was enough to drop Phil Hill from the lead and cost him the championship had not fate intervened. Oh, he spun on the loose tar and gravel at Thillois, stalled and managed to get it started again - the French adopted a very Nelsonian attitude and turned a blind eye to the gallant American's finally successful efforts to push start the Ferrari - and lost two laps in the process. Oh, he was helped into the loose tar and gravel by a certain S. C. Moss who nudged Hill into the marbles.

    Next is a report on the race at Indianapolis where A. J. Foyt won that year.

    That is followed by a look at the major F1 cars of 1961:

  • Ferrari Dino 156
  • Posche 718/2 and 787
  • Lotus 18 and 21 (XXI)
  • Cooper T55 and others - although most people never knew that Coopers HAD type numbers for most of the time they were raced!
  • BRM P48, powered by the Climax FPF (!)

    Then there is an article on racing oils, followed by the rounds of the Sports Car Championship, the European Touring Championship - the rally championship, and then a wrap up of results in various classes.

    Needless to say, I could drone on forever, but I get the feeling that in a time far, far away someone out there will open their 1999 edition of Autocourse and have the same experience I do whenever I pull out my old editions of Autocourse and start looking at the driver rankings (which started in 1966) and the team reviews...

  • Don Capps© 2000 Kaizar.Com, Incorporated.
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