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The Complete History of Grand Prix Motor Racing by Adriano Cimarosti
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F. Gordon Crosby - Nazzaro wins the French GP at 42

   

The World Championship
"Nino" FarinaIn 1950 a World Championship for drivers was introduced. The championship would be decided based on the results of seven races: the British, Swiss, Monaco, Belgium, French and Italian Grand Prix and the Indianapolis 500. The latter was included in the hope that this would promote Grand Prix racing in the Americas but in reality the effects were minimal. Alfa Romeo returned to contest this new series with a team made up of pre-war drivers, Giuseppe Farina, Luigi Fagioli and Juan-Manuel Fangio. These drivers except for Fangio were beyond their peak years and depended on their vast experience against younger rivals. Their main opposition came from Ferrari but the cars from Maranello lacked reliability and the championship would be decided between the three Alfa drivers.The final round at Monza would crown the first World Champion. At the drop of the flag Fangio roared into the lead only to see his race end with a seized gear. Farina would go on to win the race and the title of the first World Champion. 1951 started where 1950 left off with Alfa still in charge. Ferrari strengthened his team with the addition of Froilan Gonzalez joining Ascari and Luigi Villoresi. Fangio scored a victory in the opening race in Switzerland. The German Grand Prix at Nurburgring was added to the calendar that year and saw the Ferrari of Ascari taking the checkered flag. The final race was held at Pedrables in Spain. Fangio led Ascari by 28 points to 25 going into the race. Alberto Ascari claimed pole position but the Ferrari's race was marred by tire trouble. Fangio would dominate the race and score his first World Championship. Though they had lost the championship, Ferrari was gaining strength and Alfa aware of this growing threat and unable to finance a proper defense of their title for next season chose to withdraw at the end of the year. Few knew then that this would mark the end of this proud manufacturer's involvement in Grand Prix racing except for some half-hearted attempts in the 80's.

Starting in 1952 The World Championship was run using Formula Two cars of 2 litres unsupercharged or 500 cc supercharged. Ferrari would dominate Grand Prix racing for the next two years winning 30 out of 33 major races. Fangio was not able to defend his title because of a broken neck suffered in a non-championship race at Monza. In his absence Ascari won every race that he entered, having to miss the season opening race the Swiss Grand Prix because of commitments to Indianapolis that year. The year was not totally devoid of interest owing to the debut of the English team Cooper-Bristol and its driver Mike Hawthorn. Ascari was crowned Word Champion. 1953 was again dominated by Ferrari and only the brilliance of Fangio in a Maserati stood in their way. Mike Hawthorn was signed by Ferrari and was very much the junior driver on a team dominated by two World Champions, Ascari and Farina, and veteran driver Villoresi, or so it was until Reims.
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Race of the Century
Hawthorn was the first Englishman to join a foreign team since Richard Seaman drove for Mercedes in 1937. Many questioned whether this young driver who had not raced a single seater until 15 months ago was up to the challenge. This question would be answered before the end of the day.

Reims, the site of the French Grand Prix in 1953 is roughly the shape of an inverted triangle. Two points of the 8.3 km triangle ended in hairpins and the third point was a flat-out bend. The long backstraight actually formed the main road to Soissons. Everyone who came to see the race that year was anticipating another duel in the season long fight between Fangio and Ascari for the title. In pole position was Ascari, Fangio and fellow Argentinean Gonzalez in Maseratis were on the second row followed by Hawthorn, in a Ferrari on the third row.

At the start Gonzalez had made a great start from the second row into the lead. Gonzalez known as the "Pampas Bull" was on half tanks and built a solid lead on the field. He was followed in order by Ascari, Villoresi, Fangio, Hawthorn, Bonetto, Marimon and Farina. At twenty laps or one third of the race distance, Gonzalez had built a twenty second lead. Since he had started the race on half tanks he would shortly have to pit for fuel. On the twenty-ninth lap he dove into the pits. Immediately his crew jumped to action but even their best efforts resulted in a twenty-seven second pitstop and a drop from first to sixth.

Race of the Century - Reims 1953Hawthorn now led Ascari and Fangio who would soon garner the lead. It was now Fangio in first followed by Hawthorn and Ascari. Soon Fangio and Hawthorn began to pull away from the rest of the field. They battled wheel to wheel lap after lap many times coming abreast just before having to slam on their breaks for one of the hairpins. The crowd of course was going wild and could actually observe Hawthorn grinning at the Argentinean driver as they raced abreast along one of the long straights. Fangio tried every trick he knew to shake this young pretender but to no avail. Behind these two leaders Gonzalaz was driving as he had never done before and soon passed Ascari into third place. Driving in that crouched down form of his he seemed to be willing his car ahead all the time closing the gap with the duo in front. Ascari too was giving his all.

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While the two leaders were engrossed in their race long duel they came upon a much slower car. Entering the right hand curve following the pits there would be room for only one car, but with a gesture unheard of in current Grand Prix racing Hawthorn pulled his car over as far as he dared. With two wheels actually on the grass both he and Fangio could pass together and continue their battle. The crowd upon hearing this let out a roar of approval.

Fangio using all of his experience forced his way pass Hawthorn and was leading the race as it entered its last laps. But Hawthorn was not done yet. He was observed pulling out several times looking to pass only to fall back. Time was running out as they entered the last lap with Fangio leading by one car length but upon entering the last corner Hawthorn had pulled up even. Hawthorn braked at the last possible instant and took a slightly different line which allowed him to out accelerate Fangio's Maserati upon exiting the corner.

Hawthorn was able to hold his car on the track and he crossed the line one second ahead of Fangio after 309 miles and 2 hr. 44 min. of racing. In the end 4.6 seconds spanned the first four cars for a Ferrari, Maserati, Ferrari, Maserati finish and so ended the greatest race of the century. Hawthorn on this day was able to beat one of the greatest drivers of all time in a straight fight. That evening, in the bar of the Hotel Welcome, glasses were raised in honor of the the brash young blond Englishman. In winning the race he became the first Englishman to win a Grand Prix since Richard Seaman won the German Grand Prix in 1938.





     
 
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