Following the departure of the Maserati brothers from their own namesake it was undoubtedly believed the company bearing its name would certainly disappear from the ranks of grand prix elite. And then, when another Modena-based manufacturer achieved unparalleled success early on in the new Formula One World Championship it seemed the name Maserati would be lost to the pages of history. But, like a phoenix rising from the ashes, Maserati, producing what would essentially become a customer car, would challenge their Italian rivals and would provide many drivers their first real single-seater grand prix car. The 1955 season, then, was to be a continuation of Maserati's rise to power.
All throughout the history of Formula One there have only been a few manufacturers of anything that would be considered ‘customer'. There would be customer engines, parts and such things, but rarely a whole customer car. But then Maserati would build its 250F.
Maserati was in financial trouble even with the presence of the Maserati brothers. This would be the reason for their losing the company that bore their name. However, even after their departure it was clear Maserati was still suffering financial woes. It soon became quite obvious that if the company was going to focus on motor racing it would not only need to produce its own competitive car, but to make it pay off financially, the company would have to think about making their cars available to customers.
Of course, the 4CLT/48 and other such evolutions would be sold to customers unlike Ferrari, which rarely made any of its single-seaters available for sale. After disappearing for a couple of years, Maserati would return to the World Championship, this time with the A6GCM. Once again, this car too would be made available to customers. More competitive, the A6GCM would be improved upon throughout 1952-1953 until it ultimately led up to the introduction of a whole new chassis design—the 250F.
Just as Ferrari was beginning to wane in its dominant form, Maserati would be just rising to the fore. With Juan Manuel Fangio at the wheel, the factory Maserati team would go on to score a somewhat surprising victory at the Argentine Grand Prix in 1954 and then would follow that performance up with an impressive victory in the Belgian Grand Prix a few months later.
Had it not been for the emergence of Mercedes-Benz on the Formula One scene, Officine Alfieri Maserati likely would have retained the services of Fangio for the entire '54 season. However, with the departure of Fangio, Maserati would be forced to hire the services of a number of drivers throughout the remainder of the year. There would be some incredible performances, such as Stirling Moss' incredible effort at Monza toward the end of the year, but the top results would be hard to come by due to mechanical failures or inconsistency in driver performances.
However, after the troubling later-half of the season, Maserati would seem to find some consistency to help get themselves pointed in the right direction for the 1955 Formula One season. This consistency was to come in the form of Stirling Moss.
After having competed with entirely British equipment, Moss had finally made the jump to build upon his talents as a racing driver, and this almost necessitated him deciding to drive a foreign make of grand prix car. Since the Maserati 250F was about the only competitive customer grand prix car he could get, Moss would end up purchasing one of the cars from the factory and would compete under his own and the factory team name all throughout the 1954 season.
It would quickly become apparent that Moss presented the best option for the future for the company. Fast and adaptable, Moss would prove himself over and over and would lead to Maserati speaking to Moss about the option of driving for the factory team full time during the 1955 season. While nothing was agreed to, either in contract or even verbally, it was widely held within the factory team that Moss would be the team's number one driver.
This was not to be as Mercedes-Benz, the new dominant team on the scene, would come into the picture and would sweep the Brit up. Once again, the factory Maserati team would be forced to rise up to the challenge presented itself.
In order to give itself the best shot possible, the team needed competitive and reliable drivers. There was such a driver, and he would be more than happy to leave his situation in favor of a better one. Jean Behra had been driving for the Equipe Gordini team over the past few years. He had proven successful and patriotic. However, the unfavorable conditions at Gordini would lead to the Frenchman being more than willing to jump ship when presented the opportunity. Therefore, in Behra, Maserati would find a competitive and fast driver that had shown capable of winning races, even with inferior equipment. This certainly would be a plus going up against the mighty Silver Arrows of Mercedes.
Behra wouldn't be alone. Argentinean, Roberto Mieres, had proven to be a competent driver full of talent. Luigi Musso would also be another that certainly had a reputation for being fast and competitive, yet he was still quite young and would just need some opportunities to gain some confidence. Besides a number of other competent drivers that would come and go throughout the season, Maserati had all of the core pieces in place and looked about as ready as they would ever be to take on the German challenge.
The first challenge the team would face would be in packing all of the cars and equipment up to ship across the Atlantic for the first round of the 1955 Formula One World Championship, the Argentine Grand Prix.
The Argentine Grand Prix had been the site of the 250F's first Formula One World Championship victory. Juan Manuel Fangio found himself in an incredible duel with Giuseppe Farina and Mike Hawthorn, but it would be the native that would come away with the delightful victory that would send the fans assembled into an absolute frenzy.
One year later, Fangio would be back, but with another team. Therefore, Maserati would look to repeat as victors by playing the odds. The factory team would enter no less than seven 250Fs under the Officine Alfieri Maserati team name. Maserati was intending to win by sheer numbers alone. The intention was clear, break the Mercedes and there will still be enough Maseratis still in the race to take the victory. This would be a nice tactic… in theory.
The Argentine Grand Prix would be a very early race on the calendar. Held in the later-half of the summer months in the southern hemisphere, the January 16th date for the race meant the off-season would be quite short. This meant car reliability problems were always a factor to take into account. But, for the 1955 edition of the race there would be something more for teams to take into account that would affect the drivers, as well as, the cars—heat.
The whole area around Buenos Aires is nothing more than a flat plain situated right along the coast. This flat ground near sea-level meant the heat during the summer months could be absolutely unbearable. And as the teams prepared for the 96 lap race, that day, the 16th of January, would be a perfect example of just how hot the area could become during the summer months. Incredibly dry and excruciatingly hot, the Autodromo 17 de Octubre would be a veritable oven and this would pose an incredible challenge and danger to drivers and cars as they lined up on the grid in preparation for the start of the race.
The weather conditions would certainly be a factor to the Maserati drivers spread all throughout the grid. Those up near the front would really feel the strain of the heat if they were challenging for a victory. The pressure to remain in the car could prove to be very detrimental, even lethal. Jean Behra would be one of those that would need to be mindful of his condition all throughout the race, let alone what was happening with the car and out on the circuit. Behra would start from the front row in the 4th position along with Fangio in 3rd place, Alberto Ascari in 2nd and Jose Froilan Gonzalez on pole. Harry Schell would be another that would need to be mindful throughout the race. He would start from the second row of the grid in the 7th position.
Carlos Menditeguy would get a drive with the Maserati team and he would start down on the fourth row of the grid in the 13th position overall. The fifth row of the grid would see two Maserati drivers lined up, prepared for the start of the race. Roberto Mieres would start in 16th place while Luigi Musso would be 18th. The final two Maserati team drivers would be found in the 6th, and final, row of the grid. Sergio Mantovani would be starting in 19th place while Clemar Bucci would be 20th.
An incredible crowd would still be present, bearing the stifling heat, waiting to see if Fangio could repeat as victor. The flag would drop and the race would get underway. Almost immediately trouble would rear its ugly head. Fangio would lead the way into the first corner with Ascari following just ahead of Moss in 3rd place. As the field was snaking its way through the first lap contact would be made. Jean Behra and Carlos Menditeguy would be a couple of those that would make contact. Menditeguy would go no further and would retire without having completed a single lap. Behra would continue on to the 2nd lap of the race but would retire before completing it. And so, before even two laps were complete, the seven-car Maserati fleet would be down to five while all four of the Mercedes remained in the race.
Before the 10th lap of the race, six cars would be out of the running. Fangio would have the lead of the race and it would soon come to be apparent that the real racing was taking place in the pits, not out on the race track.
The heat would be absolutely terrible. While a number of drivers that had early exits would take over for those still in the race, there would be a number of changes at driver just because of the intense heat. Mantovani would come in to hand his car over to Behra just prior to the 30th lap of the race. However, around the 35th lap of the race, Behra would hand the car back to Mantovani. About 15 laps later, Schell would come into the pits and would hand his car over to Behra. Bucci had already come in to hand his car over to Menditeguy.
This revolving driver situation wouldn't just take place with the Maserati factory team. Scuderia Ferrari would also do the same thing, as would Mercedes-Benz. The heat would exact a terrible toll on drivers and cars. While 21 cars would start the race, there would be seven cars still running toward the last part of the event.
There would be a couple of drivers that would not get out of their cars the entire 96 laps. Fangio would be one of them. The other would be Roberto Mieres. As a result of this, Fangio would hold onto a commanding lead. Mieres too would be enjoying a rewarding drive.
Maserati would need all seven cars just to ensure they would have at least one finish the race. Where the original tactic may have been to get everyone into a war of attrition and come out on top because of sheer numbers, the intense heat would not allow the team to conduct the race on their terms. And, heading into the final stages of the race, there would be just three of the factory cars still in the race, and neither of them would anywhere near Fangio on the circuit, unless Fangio was coming by to put them another lap down.
It would be an incredible performance by Fangio. Despite burns to his leg, the Argentinean would delight the fans and would bring home back-to-back victories in the Argentine Grand Prix. Posting the fastest lap of the race, Fangio would come across the line with a clear advantage over the remainder of the field. The Ferrari driven by Jose Froilan Gonzalez, Giuseppe Farina and Maurice Trintignant would finish in 2nd place about a minute and a half behind. More than 2 laps further back would be the car driven by Farina, Trintignant and Umberto Maglioli. Roberto Mieres' perseverance would turn into a 5th place result earning him 2 points toward the championship. However, the fact he finished more than 5 laps behind denoted just how far off the pace he well and truly was. Harry Schell and Jean Behra would combine to earn a 6th place result for Maserati. Unfortunately, the partnership would end in them finishing the race more than 8 laps behind.
The weather conditions would dictate the race in Argentina. And, as a result, Maseratis seven-car fleet was almost reduced to ruins while the other teams in the field managed to bring home a majority of its cars. The year before, Maserati had come out on top because it managed to out-last everyone else in the given conditions. One year later, the weather conditions would prove to get the better of the Maserati team and would leave the factory effort pleased to come away with the results it did manage to achieve.
After a Formula Libre race held a little later on in the month, Officine Alfieri Maserati would make its way back across the Atlantic to begin preparations for the European Formula One season. The second round of the Formula One World Championship would not be for a few months after the Argentine Grand Prix. However, there would be a number of non-championship races held throughout Europe. One of the first of these non-championship races would be held on the 27th of March at the temporary Valentino Park Circuit in Turin, Italy. The race was the 7th Gran Premio del Valentino.
Situated along the bank of the Po River, Turin had always been a center for business and culture in northern Italy. Filled with rich history, art, architecture and scenery, Turin has always been an important and influential city within Italy's history and politics. Home to the headquarters for Fiat, Lancia and Alfa Romeo, Turin would also play an integral part in Italy's motor racing scene.
Called the 'Automobile Capital of Italy', it would be of little surprise then that the city's most famous park would be the site for major motor racing in the post World War II years. Overlooking the Po, Valentino Park would surround the former Residences of the Royal House of Savoy, Castle of Valentino. The roads running around the park would serve as the ideal setting for a motor race. The circuit, however, would change over the years in which the venue would be used. And, in 1955, the circuit layout would change again. Instead of a portion of the circuit that wound back and forth upon itself, the updated layout would keep the same length but would abandon the tighter layout for a much faster, oval-shaped design.
At 90 laps in the length, the Gran Premio del Valentino would be a tough early test for the teams as they prepared for the European grand prix season to really get rolling. And, given that it was Italy and that it was the headquarters for Lancia, Scuderia Lancia would be present with three cars. Scuderia Ferrari would also bring three cars while the factory Maserati team would bring five.
In practice, things would go bad for Maserati. Sergio Mantovani would be powering along the 2.61 mile circuit when he would find himself off the circuit with a damaged race car. This would prevent him from being able to qualify for the race. Jean Behra, on the other hand, would find himself in a fight for the pole.
Going up against the Lancia D50 in its home grand prix, especially with Alberto Ascari behind the wheel, would not be an easy task for anyone, but Behra would end up giving it his best during practice. Alberto Ascari would post a best lap of 1:42.0. Behra would do his best to subdue the double world champion. He would put forth a valiant effort but would end up being just two-tenths of second short and would have to settle for 2nd on the grid. Luigi Musso, however, would make it so that two Maseratis started from the front row when he claimed the 3rd, and final, starting spot on the front row with a lap time just nine-tenths slower than Behra.
Roberto Mieres would find himself occupying the second row of the grid in the 5th position next to Giuseppe Farina. An up and coming young driver, Cesare Perdisa, would look strong in practice. His best effort would be just a little over 4 seconds slower than Ascari and it would lead him to starting the race from the 10th position on the fourth row.
The start of the race would see Jean Behra make a quick start. He would challenge Ascari for the lead of the race and would push his Maserati hard in order to do just that. This would lead to Behra setting what would be the fastest lap of the race within the first few laps of the race. Still, Ascari would remain right up there with the Frenchman reapplying pressure.
Maserati would look strong in the early going. Not only would Behra be applying heavy pressure at the front but Luigi Musso would be right in the mix along with Roberto Mieres in another of the 250Fs. Unfortunately, 90 laps is a long race and the attrition would begin in earnest.
The first to feel the sting of attrition would be Cesare Perdisa. The young man would suddenly have suspension failure and would be forced out of the race after just 12 laps. At the same time, another of the Maserati drivers would be pulling out of the race, also with suspension failure. To the shock and horror of the team it would be the number one driver Jean Behra.
The unfortunate events would keep coming for Maserati. After 21 laps, Musso would find himself losing oil due to a leak. The leak could not be repaired in a short amount of time, and therefore, would lead to his retirement. It seemed that none of the Maserati factory cars would make it to the finish when the race hadn't even reached the halfway mark in the race.
Maserati would be left with a single car to take on the might of Scuderia Lancia and Alberto Ascari. Roberto Mieres, however, would prove to be a willing soldier and would do his best to take the fight to the all-Italian team. Chased by Luigi Villoresi, Mieres would find himself in 2nd place toward the later-part of the race. He would do his absolute best to keep the car intact, and yet, take the fight to Ascari.
Mieres just would not have enough weapons in his arsenal to take on the double world champion. Averaging nearly 88 mph, it would take a little more than two hours and forty minutes for Ascari to come across the line and take the victory. The crowd would erupt. The hometown team had won on home ground! Mieres would put up a valiant fight. But, in the end, he would come across the line down some 27 seconds to Ascari. Luigi Villoresi would make it two Lancias on the podium as he finished in the 3rd position some 17 seconds behind Mieres.
It would be another tough outing for the factory Maserati team. Unreliability would reduce the fleet to just a single car when it had the opportunity to put together an impressive performance. As with Equipe Gordini, Jean Behra would continue to show his abilities and his speed behind the wheel of a race car, but reliability woes would continue to rob him. Even on Italian soil, the Italian car was showing to be weak. Maybe French soil would do the trick.
The race in Turin had proven to be something of a disappointment after the team arrived with five cars and ended up being reduced to one by the end of the race. Therefore, the 2nd place earned by Mieres, while welcome and greatly enjoyed by the team, would also be something of a let down. Still, the team needed to switch its focus toward the next race. The team would have two weeks before that race but they would need to make any adjustments, repairs and evolutions to the car in a rather short amount of time as the team needed to travel to Pau, France in order to take part in the Grand Prix de Pau on the 11th of April.
Situated near the Spanish border in the Pyrenees foothills, the tiny city of Pau is an elegant place beautifully blending into the truly magnificent scenery that abounds all around. Positioned on the steep bans overlooking the Gave de Pau, the city could certainly be described as an inland version of Monaco. And with such names as Henry IV, Napoleon, and King Charles XIV of Sweden all being associated with the city it is little wonder at why such a small city plays such a prominent role throughout the region. Therefore, this setting would prove the perfect place to host the first ever grand prix just a few years past the turn of the 20th century.
Situated on the steep banks along the Gave de Pau, the Pau Circuit, measuring 1.71 miles in length, is very similar in its makeup and feel to that of Monaco. Featuring tight, twisting lanes with numerous hairpin turns, the Pau street circuit is all about acceleration and stability.
Pau was where Behra claimed victory in a Gordini the year before. Despite driving an over-matched car, Behra was able to use the Pau circuit to his advantage and would narrowly hold off Maurice Trintignant for the victory. Therefore, the fastest car wasn't necessarily the best, but a reliable one was an absolute must. And, given the past couple of races for the factory Maserati team, this was certainly something of a concern coming into the race.
The Grand Prix de Pau would be something of a rematch and an opportunity for Jean Behra to settle the score. Officine Alfieri Maserati would only come with three cars but it would have the challenge from Scuderia Lanica to deal with once again. Led by Ascari and Villoresi, the Lancia challenge posed a serious threat to Behra being able to score back-to-back victories.
This point would never be more evident than in practice as Alberto Ascari would turn the fastest lap with a time of 1:34.5. Jean Behra would resume his role as 2nd place starter when he posted a time nine-tenths of a second slower. Roberto Mieres would miss out on the front row by a mere two-tenths of a second, but instead, would start from the second row of the grid in the 3rd position. Luigi Musso, driving the third Maserati, posted a time of 1:37.3. Nearly three seconds slower than Ascari, Musso would be relegated to the third row of the grid in the 6th starter's spot.
An incredible crowd would gather around the banks of the city in preparation of the start of the 110 lap race. A good reason for the large crowd, besides the draw of seeing if Behra could repeat, would be the presence of the Lancias. Other than the Spanish Grand Prix at the end of the 1954 season, this would be the first time in which the Lancias would be seen outside of their native Italy. Therefore, the hills would be packed as onlookers awaited the start of the race.
The starter would drop the flag to start the race and the field would begin to power its way around the long right-hand bend toward the tight first turn hairpin. Behra would make a great start from the outside of the grid and would be far enough ahead heading into the hairpin that he would manage to go around Ascari into the lead of the race. Powering up the uphill straight, it would be Behra leading over Ascari and Mieres. Musso would make a great start and would also be up inside the top five.
Within the first few laps of the race it would be a terrific battle between Behra and Ascari. This duel would enable the two front men to pull away from Mieres and the others. It would be a great battle between Ascari and Behra. Though the Lancia certainly seemed to be faster, the Pau circuit helped to keep Ascari in check as the heavier Lancia just could quite match the acceleration of Behra's Maserati. Castellotti would be on the move in the third Lancia. He would manage to overtake Musso to run in 4th place behind Mieres.
Ascari's constant pressure would lead to Behra increasing the pace and reducing the lap times with each passing circuit. This would create an even larger gap between themselves and the rest of the field. Castellotti would soon dispatch Musso to take over the 3rd position in the running order. Therefore, Behra would find himself all alone and under threat from a building Lancia attack.
Behra would do all that he could but as the cars burned more and more fuel the situation caused the advantage to swing Ascari's way and he would eventually take the lead coming down through the faster section of the circuit. Behra would fall in behind in 2nd place and would do his absolute best to maintain contact with Ascari from then on.
The laps would continue to fall. And then, on what was his 19th lap, Mario Alborghetti would crash his Volpini in the first turn hairpin. He would be fatally injured in the crash. This would put something of a dampener on the race. The situation would look all the more bleak for Maserati with Luigi Musso fell out of contention and the race with a blown engine after just 32 laps. This left just two Maseratis in the race, and as the race in Turin showed, those two cars were likely not enough.
Ascari continued to pad his lead. With each lap he would pull out just that little bit more on Behra in 2nd place. Though Castellotti was sitting in 3rd place, over the course of the event, he would trail off and would be unable to mount any kind of serious challenge of Behra. Roberto Mieres remained in the race, but unable to put together any kind of serious challenge of Castellotti.
Ascari seemed en route to victory. His lead was formidable, as was the Lancia. However, with about 20 laps remaining in the race there would be a great commotion all along the start/finish straight as Jean Behra streaked by. The noise was in celebration of the fact that Behra had taken over the lead of the race from Alberto Ascari, who was sitting in his pits having his right-rear brakes looked after. By the time the issue would be rectified, Ascari would be a little more than a lap behind Behra in the 5th position behind his old friend and mentor Villoresi
Behra would be in the lead, but unlike the previous year, he would be clearly in the lead having a comfortable margin in hand over Castellotti, who struggled at a couple of the turns repeatedly. This would ensure that Behra's lead was safe. Being a lap down, Ascari would push hard in hopes that Behra's car would fail. He had done it before, coming back to take victory after having to make a late pit stop.
But it wasn't to be his day. Instead, it was to be Jean Behra's. After taking over the lead of the race from Ascari, Behra would focus on the task at hand and would make absolutely no mistakes over the remainder of the race. As a result, a little more than three hours and two minutes after the start of the race, Behra would come through to take a very special victory. He had done it! He had repeated as the champion of the Grand Prix de Pau and he earned a little retribution for the failure at Valentino Park.
Despite the incredible pressure applied by the Lancias, Behra's Maserati would come through the 188 miles like a champ and would lead to Behra retaining his crown as the race's victor. Eugenio Castellotti would finish the race in 2nd place a minute and one second behind Behra. Roberto Mieres would help Maserati flip the script on Lancia after their 1st and 3rd finish in Turin as he would secure 3rd place being the last car on the lead lap with Behra.
It would be a very special day for Behra and for the Maserati team. Yes, they would lose a car during the process but it would be the first time all season long in which they would manage to bring home a majority of its cars. Of course, the victory is what made the whole trip worthwhile for Maserati. This was real results, real confidence, the team could build upon going forward.
Moving on from the exciting result at Pau, the Maserati team would have another couple of weeks in between races. However, the following race would again take place in France. Therefore, in time, the team would make the two to three hour trip north to the city of Bordeaux in preparation for the 4th Grand Prix de Bordeaux set to take place on the 24th of April.
Straddling the Garonne River that runs northwest before spilling into the Bay of Biscay, Bordeaux would be a very important city to France's economy. Besides its obvious place as the world's leader in wine production, the Garonne River enables Bordeaux to be a very important and influential port city for goods. In addition, during the Second World War both the Italian Royal Navy and the German Navy would use the city as a major submarine base. Even more than a decade after being founded as a base for submarines, Bordeaux would continue to show signs of its military past as the submarine pens, which were made of massive, reinforced concrete, would prove to costly to be demolished.
In 1954, the Grand Prix de Bordeaux would draw mostly French privateer teams. However, there would be other privateers in the field and a couple of major manufacturers, none more potent than Scuderia Ferrari. Driving for Equipe Gordini, Jean Behra had started the race from the front row of the grid, but as was usual with the French team, unreliability would make it impossible for him to finish the race.
A similar story had unfolded for Behra so far in 1955. But, at least he was now with a team that had a car that was more than capable of competing on a consistent basis. This would be good as Scuderia Ferrari would pull into Bordeaux preparing to add to its two-straight victories scored on the 1.53 mile street circuit.
Jean Behra would do his best to show the Ferrari team that there quest for a third-straight victory was going to be no easy affair. In practice, Behra would end up posting a lap time of 1:21.7. This would end up being the fastest time recorded in practice and would give the Frenchman the pole for the 123 lap, 188 mile, race. Joining him on the front row would be two other Maseratis. In 2nd would be Luigi Musso. Then, in 3rd, it would be Stirling Moss entering his own Maserati 250F. Roberto Mieres would be the third Maserati factory driver entered in the race. His best effort would lead to him starting from the third row of the grid in the 6th position.
Starting on the front row with Jean Behra was the man that Maserati believed would be their number one driver, Stirling Moss. It would be a very frustrating and upsetting moment when they would lose the Brit to Mercedes-Benz. They knew just how fast he could be behind the wheel of a race car, and, as the flag dropped to start the 123 lap race, it would become abundantly clear to everyone else.
Jean Behra would be quick off the line, but so too would Moss. Stirling would be quick throughout the early part of the race. In fact, he would be so quick that he would end up posting what would end up being the fastest lap of the race with a time of 1:20.9. This would put a tremendous amount of pressure on Behra, just as Ascari had during the race at Pau. Still, Behra would weather the storm and would look quite strong himself.
Behind Moss and Behra, the other two Maserati drivers were fairing quite well themselves. Upon Giuseppe Farina's retirement after 14 laps, and his retirement once again after 70 laps driving Maurice Trintignant's car, the door would be opened to Mieres to come up and join his Maserati teammates up at the front of the field.
Moss would be quick, as would Behra. However, Luigi Musso and Roberto Mieres would show their abilities at the wheel of a 250F as well. Both of the Maserati drivers would be within a second of each other and within another second of Behra and those at the front of the field.
In Pau, Behra held on and waited for either a problem to develop with his own car, or, the Lancia of Alberto Ascari. Just a couple of weeks later, he would apply the same tactic. And, two weeks later, it would prove successful once again as Moss would run into trouble and would end up falling down a lap to Behra.
But it would get a whole lot better than just Behra's promotion into the lead of the race. The loss of Moss from the top portion of the running order meant Musso and Mieres would move up. And, as the laps began to wind down, it would be a Maserati one-two-three.
Being a lap down, Moss would be unable to challenge Mieres and Musso to take over one of the podium positions. Therefore, the three Maseratis would run together on the circuit with just about a second separating the three. This would set up the best finish for the Maserati team to that point in the season.
Luigi Musso and Mieres would tighten up to Behra as they approached the line. In nearly line-abreast format, the three Maseratis would come through to take the sweep of the podium. Led by Jean Behra, Maserati would have Musso finish in 2nd while Mieres would complete the race less than a second behind in 3rd.
It would be an incredible result for a team that couldn't even get a majority of its cars to complete entire race distances. Jean Behra was on a roll. The victory, though a non-championship event, meant his second in a row. Mieres would, again, show that he too was on a roll. Since returning to Europe, Mieres would have the distinction, to that point in the season, to have not finished a race any further down than 5th. It certainly seemed Maserati was getting its unreliability problem under control. If true, the team could have high hopes heading into the busiest part of the season.
Another two weeks would pass in between races for Officine Alfieri Maserati. But, instead of heading across the English Channel to Silverstone for the International Trophy race the factory Maserati team would remain on home soil. Instead of heading north, the team would head south to Naples, Italy to take part in the 8th Gran Premio di Napoli.
In early May, the Maserati team would find its way to the northern portion of Naples, Italy for the Gran Premio di Napoli on the 8th of May. Meaning 'new city', Naples has the distinction of being one of the oldest continuously-inhabited cities in all the world. With a settlement established during the Bronze Age, the city would become an important site culturally and politically. Unfortunately, during the Second World War, the city would be the most heavily bombed city in all of Italy. Therefore, much of the city would have to be reconstructed in the years following the end of the war. Filled with incredibly old and new architecture, Naples offers its visitors a unique look at living history.
Sitting high on the cliffs overlooking the Tyrrhenian Sea, the side streets of Posillipo would serve as the setting for the Gran Premio di Napoli. Measuring 2.55 miles in length, and being positioned up on the cliffs overlooking the sea, the circuit would be anything but flat. Besides the long start/finish straight that would be quite flat, the remainder of the circuit would work its way back and forth along the side of the cliffs. Given the setting and the type of layout the circuit followed, the circuit would pose an intriguing challenge and would certainly be popular with the racing fan.
Despite the setting, the entry list for the race would be rather small. Just 10 cars would be listed for the 60 lap, 152 mile, race. The largest team in the field would be the factory Maserati team. They would bring three cars. Scuderia Lancia would also be present, but with just two entries this time.
Alberto Ascari would be fastest around the 2.55 mile circuit. His time of 2:08.1 would end up being nearly a second and a half faster than Luigi Musso, the fastest of the Maserati drivers. Jean Behra, however, would end up being a tenth of a second faster than Luigi Villoresi in the second Lancia, and therefore, would ensure that two Maseratis started from the front row alongside Ascari. Roberto Mieres, on the other hand, would start alongside Villoresi on the second row from the 5th position.
With the cars lined up on the grid, everyone prepared themselves for two hours of racing action. And, when the flag dropped to start the race, it would be Ascari laying down some rubber streaking away from the line. He would get off the line well and would have a slight edge on the Maseratis of Musso and Behra heading down the long straight.
Ascari would use the power from the V8 engine to pull out an advantage before even reaching the first turn. Therefore, Musso and Behra would fall in line behind Ascari giving chase. The rest of the field would fall in line as well preparing to make the downhill run around the Via-Tito Lucrezio Caro.
Ascari would continue to hold onto the lead but Jean Behra, fresh off of two-straight victories over Ascari, would be pushing hard believing that he could cause the fragile D50 to have more troubles, and therefore, hand Behra yet another victory. In an effort to help the cause, Behra would turn what would end up being the fastest lap of the race with a time of 2:09.4. This would certainly keep the pressure on Ascari, but it would also leave Behra with very little room for error. And Posillipo wasn't exactly the place to make an error, not with the high walls bordering a good portion of the circuit.
Sure enough, Behra would push a little too hard. In the run down around the Via-Tito Lucrezio Caro, Behra would enter a little too fast and would end up losing control of the car and would crash into the wall. Behra would not be out of the race, but his challenge for his third-straight victory would be over with. He would spend a serious amount of time in the pits while the crew worked at repairing the damaged car. This would allow Ascari to well and truly disappear into the distance. The young Musso would still be giving chase but would be unable to match the pace of the world champion.
Each and every lap Ascari would add to his lead over Musso and the remainder of the field. Just a couple of cars would actually be out of the race. Unfortunately, one of those would be Roberto Mieres. His Maserati would suffer an oil leak, and thus, would also bring his streak of solid finishes to an end. Behra would lose his victory streak but would remain in the race. Unfortunately, he would find himself more than a few laps back.
Ascari would be cruising around the circuit. Averaging a little more than 69mph, it would take just two hours and 13 minutes before Ascari would come across the line to take the victory. Luigi Musso would conduct an intelligent race in order to hold position for the Maserati factory effort after Mieres retired and Behra suffered his off. Driving like an experienced professional, Musso would come through to finish in 2nd place but would be no less than a minute and 17 seconds back of Ascari. Luigi Villoresi would make it two Lancias in the top three when he crossed the line a little more than a lap down to his friend Ascari. After suffering his accident, Behra would settle things down a bit and would concentrate on bringing home his Maserati. Despite being a little more than 5 laps down, Behra would complete the race in 4th place.
Despite Mieres' problems, Maserati certainly appeared to be on the attack. Eliminating Behra's mistake meant the team possibly could have come away with yet another victory. Therefore, the 2nd place scored by Musso would be a little disappointing, and yet, encouraging at the same time. It seemed as though the reliability issues had been largely tackled and that the drivers felt comfortable going on the attack. This would be very important given where the team was heading next.
It was now May, and that signaled the beginning of the Formula One World Championship in Europe. And, in 1955, that beginning would take place at a site that would forever be linked with Formula One but that hadn't been seen on the calendar since the inaugural season in 1950.
On the 22nd of May all of the major teams and privateer entries would be busy preparing for what had to be considered the crown jewel Formula One race, even during the 1950s—the Monaco Grand Prix.
In 1950, Juan Manuel Fangio would end up taking the victory around the tiny principality. In that particular race the factory Maserati team would enter a couple of 4CLT/48 for Franco Rol and Louis Chiron. The race would see a terrible pile-up on the first lap of the race that would take out more than a majority of the field. Rol would not make it through the carnage but the veteran Chiron would. Chasing Fangio and Ascari, Chiron would go on to finish the race in 3rd place. The 4 points he would earn in the race would be the only points he would score in a Formula One World Championship race despite competing up into 1953.
Interestingly, Chiron would be back, but not with Maserati. Instead, Chiron would be welcomed to the Scuderia Lancia team. Officine Alfieri Maserati, on the other hand, would arrive with four cars prepared for Jean Behra, Roberto Mieres, Luigi Musso and Cesare Perdisa.
The team would arrive to find an entry list filled with top manufacturers and drivers. Besides a four car effort for Scuderia Lancia, Scuderia Ferrari, Daimler-Benz, Equipe Gordini and even Vandervell Products would all be present en masse.
The circuit layout would be familiar with a number of drivers in the field as there would be a handful of those behind the wheel in 1955 that had actually been at the circuit when it was last part of the World Championship back in 1950. Measuring 1.95 miles in length, the Monaco circuit would be a never-ending array of hairpin turns and short blasts in between.
The quickest around the circuit would be Juan Manuel Fangio in the Mercedes. His time of 1:41.1 would be literally nothing more than mere hundredths of a second quicker than Alberto Ascari's time in the Lancia D50. Still, it would be enough for the Argentinean to grab the pole. The 3rd, and final, spot on the front row would go to Fangio's Mercedes teammate Stirling Moss.
Jean Behra would look rather impressive around the circuit. His best effort would be merely a second and a half slower than Fangio's and would lead to the Frenchman starting from the second row of the grid in the 5th position. Roberto Mieres would also be rather impressive around the city streets of Monaco. His best would be just over a second slower than Behra's time and would lead to Mieres starting from 6th place on the grid, the inside of the third row. Luigi Musso would end up occupying the outside of the third row in the 8th position while Perdisa would find himself in the fifth row in the 11th starting spot.
The cars would take their places on the grid in absolutely beautiful weather. The tensions were beginning to mount as the field of 20 cars prepared to funnel into the tight Gazometre hairpin. Engines roaring, straining to get underway, the cars would leap forward as the race began. The balance of the front row would all get away from line rather equally but it would be Moss that would try and move up by going around the outside. The two Mercedes would make it around the first corner side-by-side but Moss would lose out later on during the first lap and would actually be sitting in 3rd place. Behra would make a clean start and would find himself somewhat unchallenged in 5th position. Mieres would make a strong start and would end up behind his teammate Behra in 6th position. Perdisa would also move up over the course of the first lap and would find himself in 9th place heading around on the 2nd lap. Musso would lose out at the beginning of the race. He would drop down the running order and would complete the first lap in 11th position.
Behra and Mieres would hold station in 5th and 6th. Moss would make his way around Castellotti to retake 2nd place behind Fangio. Perdisa would look quite good this day and would run as high as 7th throughout the first 35 of 100 laps. Not all would be well for all of the Maserati drivers, however. Musso would lose out at the beginning of the race for a reason. It was clear his car was suffering from some kind of problem and it would only get worse. By the 8th lap of the race he would be out. Transmission failure would be the cause.
Fangio and Moss would link up and would leave everyone else behind throughout the first half of the race. Jean Behra, however, would show that he wasn't about to let the Mercedes just disappear into the distance. After having taken victories at similar circuits, he would get by Ascari and Castellotti to take over 3rd place. Meanwhile, Mieres would be holding steady right around the 6th and 7th place positions. Perdisa would be running right behind his fellow Maserati teammate well inside the top ten.
Attrition from the numerous gear changes and the hard acceleration and braking was beginning to reduce the field. Louis Rosier, Mike Hawthorn, Andre Simon and Robert Manzon would all be out of the race by the halfway mark of the race. The Maseratis on the other hand, continued to operate like clockwork, of course with the exception of Musso.
Behra would continue to run strongly in 3rd place. However, just as he was looking very strong and en route to a fine performance there would be a problem with the car's clutch that would cost him some very valuable time. As a result of the problem Behra would drop down outside of the top ten. The team management would then make the decision to switch cars. Perdisa would be called into the pits and he would hand his car over to Behra while he would take over Jean's car for the remainder of the race. At the time of his handing his car over to Behra, Perdisa had made his way up to about 5th place with all of the retirements.
Perhaps the biggest retirement, at least to that point in the race, would come at exactly halfway. Fangio would set off on another lap but would not appear again except on foot. The transmission on his Mercedes would fail him leaving him stranded and Moss in the lead of the race. Moss would have little to worry about though as he too enjoyed a sizable lead over the remainder of the field.
With 40 laps still to go there was still a lot of racing to do and a lot could happen during that time. Out of the four Maseratis entered in the race, three would still be in the hunt and looking rather good. Mieres would be up inside the top five while Behra would be running inside the top ten in Perdisa's car. Perdisa, however, would be making due in Behra's car. He would be inside the top fifteen and driving steadily considering his lack of experience.
Unfortunately, there was still too much time left and this would come to haunt Mieres. Mieres would be involved in a battle on the track with Maurice Trintignant. Following along behind the Frenchman, Mieres would be pushing hard in an effort to take over the 3rd spot in the running order. Finally, he would gain the upper hand and would take over the spot. Unfortunately, in his haste to take over the spot he would overstress the Maserati and would suffer for it. Immediately after taking the position away from Trintignant, Mieres would be out of the race with rear axle problems. This would leave just two Maseratis still in the race. Unfortunately, neither of the two Maseratis would be in the hunt.
But just when it seemed as though Behra and Perdisa were out of the hunt events would transpire that would help bring them up in the order. Just 20 laps remaining in the race, Moss would suddenly pull into the pits with smoke pouring from under his Mercedes. The engine was lost, so too was the lead. This should have handed the lead of the race to Ascari. However, as Ascari approached the chicane along the harbor front he would clip the curb and would plow through the bollards lining the circuit and would plunge into the harbor.
A bit of chaos would ensue as a result of the events. However, it would be Trintignant that would come through to take over the lead of the race, much to the surprise of just about everyone present. Ferrari seemed to be out of the hunt all day long, and now, was heading up the field with less than 20 laps remaining.
The events would also lead to the two Maserati drivers left in the race being able to move up in the running order as well. Jean Behra, driving Cesare Perdisa's Maserati, would find himself up in 3rd place while Perdisa would be carrying on inside the top ten.
Trintignant would be in the lead and would enjoy a comfortable margin over the remainder of the field. All he would need to do was hold on and a surprise victory in the Monaco Grand Prix would be his.
Trintignant would not be denied. To great applause and abundant cheers, Trintignant would come across the line to take the victory. About 20 seconds later, Castellotti would come across to finish in 2nd place. More than a lap would be the difference back to the 3rd place finisher, which would be Jean Behra in Perdisa's Maserati.
Cesare Perdisa would be on his way to finishing the Monaco Grand Prix despite having to struggle on in Behra's car. Still, Perdisa would be putting together an impressive performance, until, with about 13 laps remaining, the clutch issues would help propagate a spin that Perdisa could not recover from. He would be forced to retire right then and there almost within sight of the finish.
It would be a hard-fought race, filled with many surprises and pitfalls. The effort put forth by Behra and Perdisa would be impressive but the necessity for their incredible efforts would be rather frustrating for the team. Still, Maserati would have the pleasure of having one of its cars finish in the points while none of the Mercedes would even finish. Therefore, there was good reason to celebrate afterward.
Over the past couple of months the races for the Maserati factory team had been coming along just about every two weeks. Well, following the Monaco Grand Prix, the team would have another couple of weeks before its next race of the season. This next race wouldn't just be some non-championship race, however. It would be the fourth round of the Formula One World Championship—the Belgian Grand Prix.
The second and fourth rounds of the Formula One World Championship (excluding the Indianapolis 500) couldn't have been much further apart on the spectrum. Monaco would be nothing more than hairpin turns and short straights leading to a low overall average speed. The Belgian Grand Prix, however, would be held on the public roads around Francorchamps, Belgium. At 8.77 miles, the Spa-Francorchamps circuit would be all about speed with only one hairpin turn on the whole of the circuit. The rest was about as flat-out as one could find. This made the circuit hard on cars for slightly different reasons. And, because of the dramatic elevation changes, fast straights and fast turns the circuit would be every bit as popular as Monaco.
The intrigue of Monaco, the draw, is the blend of speed and thrills with the exotic and affluent setting. Situated deep in the Ardennes Forest, the draw of the Spa-Francorchamps circuit would be its pure nature as a road course. It represented everything that road course racing should be, and therefore, would be hugely popular.
The mood around the circuit would be rather dark as the loss of Alberto Ascari only about a week earlier would still be fresh in the hearts and minds of many. As a result, the Scuderia Lancia team would only arrive with a single car driven by Eugenio Castellotti. Luigi Villoresi, Ascari's friend and mentor, would obviously withdraw from the race as would Piero Valenzano; the man set the replace Ascari.
Besides the Lancia team, Equipe Gordini would also not appear at the race citing that their cars were not ready for the event. This would leave the entry list for the race rather small. Of the major manufacturers, Mercedes-Benz would bring three cars. Scuderia Ferrari would bring four. Officine Alfieri Maserati would arrive to the Spa circuit with four cars. The same driver lineup that would start at Monaco would also be used at Spa.
The cars would make their way to the circuit from local garages. Arriving at the circuit, it was time for the start of practice and qualifying. Castellotti would do his best to honor his former mentor and he would do so by setting the fastest lap time in practice, and therefore, taking the pole for the 36th lap race to start the following day, Sunday, June 5th.
Lining up beside Castellotti on the front row would be a couple of Mercedes. Fangio would be in the 2nd position while Moss would be in 3rd. Jean Behra would end up being the fastest of the Maserati pilots. His best effort of 4:23.6 would be five and a half seconds slower than Castellotti and would lead to the Frenchman lining up on the second row of the grid in the 5th position. Luigi Musso would be the next-fastest Maserati driver. His best effort would end up with him starting from the middle of the third row in the 7th position. Perdisa would continue to improve and he would start from the fifth, and last, row in the 11th spot while Roberto Mieres would struggle in practice and would end up starting 13th, dead-last.
Rain had flooded the circuit the first day of practice. However, as the crowds and the teams arrived preparing for the start of the race on that Sunday, the weather would be dry and with very little chance of rain. The cars, then, would be lined up on the grid awaiting the start of what was certain to be a very fast race.
The flag would drop and the field would power its way toward the uphill bend at Eau Rouge. Fangio would get the better start off the line and would lead Castellotti going up the hill. Moss would be tucked right in behind the Italian in the 3rd position. The entire second row of the grid would make a poor getaway but it would be Behra that would get the better of Farina heading to the uphill portion. Musso would also have a terrible getaway as a result of the slow start from the second row. This would lead to Musso being dropped down the running order. And the rest of the balance of the field would file its way up the hill on the beginning of the very first lap of the race.
The end of the first lap would see Behra in 6th place with the other Maserati drivers running nose-to-tail further back. Musso would be dropped to 10th while Mieres would come up to 11th and Perdisa would falter back to 12th. At the front of the field it would be Fangio leading the way with Moss following along close behind.
Just starting the 3rd lap of the race, Behra would make a mistake and would end up crashing his Maserati. Behra would be powering his way through Blanchimont and Clubhouse when he would lose control around a corner and would crash the car off the side of the circuit. Incidentally, Behra's spin and subsequent retirement would happen in about the same place that Dick Seaman would lose control of his Mercedes and would crash and die.
With the rest of the Maserati team being found at the back of the field, the Maserati team managers needed to pray and discern a way to get up toward the front of the field. The obvious choice the managers would have would be to hand over a car to Behra and let him fight his way toward the front of the field. And so, after 10 laps, Mieres would pull into the pits and would hand his car over to Behra for the remainder of the race.
Fangio, followed along by Moss, would dominate the race leading from the very start. Lap after lap the two Mercedes would lead the way, pulling out more and more of a margin over the rest of the field. Behra would be in Mieres' car and would be pushing hard to make a good show of things. Coming up from 8th place, Behra would also be impressive around the circuit and would steadily improve upon his position in the running order while Perdisa struggled and Musso was up and down in the order of things.
Musso, for a while, would be the strongest of the Maserati competitors. He would make his way up to 4th place at one point as he battled with Karl Kling in one of the Mercedes. However, after reaching the high point, Musso would begin to slip down the order until even Behra would come by on his way back up.
It would be Fangio's day. Leading every single one of the 36 laps, Fangio would come through to take his second victory of the season with Moss following along about 8 seconds later to make it a Mercedes one-two. In 3rd place would be the 1950 Formula One World Champion Giuseppe Farina. Though he would finish the race a minute and 40 seconds behind, it would be one of the best performances by the former world champion in some time. Paul Frere would delight the Belgian crowd finishing in 4th place nearly three minutes and 30 seconds back.
As for the Maserati team, Behra would prove the most competitive. He would take over Mieres' car and would be very quick from then on. He would manage to bring Mieres' car up from about 8th place to finish the race in 5th a little more than a lap behind. Luigi Musso would hold on to finish the race a little more than a couple of laps down. He would finish in 7th place. Cesare Perdisa would be humbled by the Spa circuit but would still manage to bring the car home. He would finish a little more than three laps behind in 8th place.
In spite of Behra's performance, the Belgian Grand Prix would be quite disappointing for the Maserati team. A driver mistake would take Behra out of contention early on and the struggles of Musso and the others would only exacerbate the frustrations of having been, well and truly, a one-car team that day.
Moving on from the disappointing result at Spa, Maserati would switch its focus toward sportscar racing with the upcoming 24 Hours of Le Mans on the 11th and 12th of June. The factory Maserati team would enter three of their cars in the 5.0-liter class. The 300S sportscars would be prepared to do battle with the likes of the Ferrari 750 Monza, the Jaguar D-Type and the Mercedes-Benz 300SLR.
Though none of the Maseratis would finish the race, this fact would be lost by the incredible loss of life that would tragically strike the event about two and a half hours into the race when Pierre Levegh left the circuit in his Mercedes-Benz sportscar. Considering a death toll that many actually believed to rise above 90 it would be entirely understandable and justified when race organizers throughout Europe began to cancel races as a result of the terrible event. This would come to affect the Formula One season, but it surprisingly would not affect the very next round.
A lot of work and preparation had already gone into the fifth round of the Formula One World Championship. Therefore, on the 19th of June, just one week after the terrible events at Le Mans, the Grote Prijs van Nederland would be set to take place.
It would be fitting, given the dark events that took place at Le Mans just a week earlier, that when the teams arrived at Zandvoort to prepare for the Dutch Grand Prix the weather would be dreary and dull. It was to stay this way all throughout the weekend and there was even a threat of rain the day of the race.
This was not at all surprising given that Zandvoort rested within an easy walking distance of the North Sea coast. Blustery winds, blowing sand and miserable weather seemed a normal sight along the North Sea. And yet, amongst all this would be a 2.64 mile circuit that would be known to be very fast and hair-raising.
In spite of the tragic events that transpired just the week before, the entry list for the Dutch Grand Prix would be of good size with a total of 16 cars eventually qualifying for the race. The biggest news of the race would be the absence of Scuderia Lancia. This was not all that surprising given the financial troubles the company was facing and the death of its greatest hope for success on the track, Alberto Ascari.
Undoubtedly, the tragic news coming from Le Mans had much more far-reaching effects. Cesare Perdisa was one of the bright, up and coming, stars in grand prix and sportscar racing. Perdisa would take part in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. However, after the tragic events he would experience a great deal of family pressure and would end up walking away from motor racing. This would end up being an issue the team would have to deal with throughout the remainder of the season, but it would not be a huge situation when the team arrived in Zandvoort with just three cars for Behra, Mieres and Musso.
The absence of the Lancias made it not all that surprising when Mercedes managed to sweep the entire front row of the grid. Juan Manuel Fangio would take the pole with Stirling Moss lining up 2nd and Karl Kling in 3rd. Luigi Musso would find the Zandvoort circuit to his liking and would end up 4th-fastest in practice with a time just over a second slower than Fangio's best. Jean Behra would end up on the third row of the grid with a time just three-tenths of a second slower than Musso. Therefore, Behra would start the race 6th. Right beside Behra in 7th place would be the third Maserati driven by Roberto Mieres. He would be about six-tenths of a second slower than Behra but would still be in a strong position starting from the middle of the third row. It would be incredibly tight throughout the first half of the field with the average speeds much higher than in the past.
100 laps of race awaited as the cars stormed toward the first turn at the start of the race. Fangio would get away well while Moss would be slow off the line. This, combined with a fantastic start by Musso from the second row of the grid, would enable the Maserati driver to split Fangio and Moss heading into the first corner. At the end of the first lap, Musso would actually be challenging Fangio for the lead of the race while Behra would be in 5th place. Mieres would lose a position over the course of the first lap and would cross the line in 8th place behind Trintignant and in front or Peter Walker.
Despite challenging Fangio for the lead, Musso would end up losing out on 2nd place to Moss. And, once the two Mercedes drivers were linked together, they would begin to slowly draw away from Musso and the rest of the field.
Mieres would be absolutely flying in his Maserati. Posting what would end up being the fastest lap of the race on the 3rd lap, Mieres would quickly ascend up the running order. By the 6th lap of the race, Mieres would be in 6th place and still looking for more. Soon, Mieres would be battling with Kling for 5th place. Kling would come under attack from Mieres after Behra managed to slip by on just the 2nd lap of the race.
The order would remain relatively unchanged throughout the first 20 laps of the race. Fangio and Moss would lead the way with Musso in 3rd place a few seconds behind. Behra would be running quite strong in 4th place while Mieres continued to harass Kling for 5th. The harassment would work as Kling would eventually spin and would slide off the side of the circuit out of the race. This would promote Mieres up to 5th place. And so, by the conclusion of the first quarter of the race it would be Maserati running 3rd, 4th and 5th.
Mieres would be incredibly quick, as would Musso in 3rd place. Just prior to the halfway mark of the race, Mieres would make his move getting by Behra to take over 4th place. This move would signal something much worse for Behra as he would just continue to fall down the running order from then on. Behra would eventually stop in the pits and would request to have the backend of the car looked over by the crew as something just didn't feel right. Without having really done anything to the car the crew would signal Behra to head back out and to make do.
Fangio would be without fault as he continued to lead the way ahead of Moss. Still, Musso would keep the pair honest as he would not allow the two Mercedes to extend their lead beyond a few seconds. Mieres would continue his charge up the order as he would find himself up in 4th place pushing ever-closer to Musso while Behra would get his race under control and would settle in just outside of the top five.
Heading into the final third of the race, Musso maintained his gap to the two Mercedes at or around 15 seconds. He would keep pushing hard when the rains began to blanket the circuit making the conditions rather treacherous.
Despite the worsening conditions Musso would continue to push in a vain attempt to keep in touch with the Silver Arrows. This, unfortunately, would end up catching the young man out and he would spin in the wet conditions. This would enable the pair of Fangio and Moss to stretch out their advantage. However, with a lap in hand over teammate Mieres, Musso would manage to retain his 3rd place in the running order.
Enjoying a gap of more than 50 seconds over Musso and a teammate willing to sit still, Fangio would lead the way home to yet another victory. Three-tenths of a second would be the difference as Moss came over the line right in Fangio's wheel tracks. Despite the late spin, Musso would drive one incredible race. His performance would be rewarded with a 3rd place finish. Musso would eventually cross the line about 57 seconds behind the pair of Fangio and Moss.
Mieres would keep the good news coming for Maserati. Despite finishing a little more than a lap down, he would turn the fastest lap of the race and would come away with a 4th place finish. Behra's mysterious concerns would end up costing Maserati from having all three of their cars finish in the points. Three laps down and chasing Castellotti, Behra would be close to capturing the 5th, and final, points-paying position. However, in the end he would have to settle with 6th and no points.
In spite of Behra's mysterious problems, the day would be a good one for the Maserati factory team. For the first time all season long all three of the team's cars would manage to finish a race. What's more, all three of the cars would manage to finish well inside the top ten. At the end of it all, Musso and Mieres would come away with four World Championship points apiece and, just like that, the two men would shoot up to the top ten in the drivers standings. Mieres' consistent effort and fast work at Zandvoort would see him 7th in the standings with 7 points while Mieres was right there in 8th with 4. Jean Behra was just outside the top ten having scored 3 points on the season.
The season would begin for Officine Alfieri Maserati all the way across the Atlantic Ocean in South America. However, it wouldn't be until the middle of July before the team would finally make its way across the much more narrow English Channel and on to England for a motor race. Nonetheless, the team would make its way to England and on to Liverpool in order to take part in the British Grand Prix.
The British Grand Prix would be held at a number of different sites throughout its history. Donington would be one of the more famous locations given the pre-war rivalry between the Silver Arrows of Mercedes-Benz and Auto Union. However, with the end of the Second World War and the eventual beginnings of the new Formula One World Championship in 1950, Silverstone, a former bomber training base during the war, would serve as the sight for the race. This, however, would change for 1955 as the venue for the race would change from Silverstone to the Aintree Racecourse situated just outside downtown Liverpool.
Known as a shipping hub, Liverpool would also become well-known for one of the greatest horse racing events in all the world—the Grand National. Taking place over a 4.5 mile course, the Grand National steeplechase would be one of the toughest, most arduous, tests in all of horse racing. It would be, therefore, rather fitting that the toughest test for grand prix cars in all of Britain would also come to be held at the same place.
The race would bring a good deal of excitement to the area as it would be the first time for many an Englander to be able to witness, in person the mighty Mercedes team. But those that would come to the race would be pleasantly surprised at just how many major manufacturers would make the trip to the north. Even with Lancia, Mercedes, Ferrari, Maserati and even Gordini would all be present at the race. Topping it all off would be the growing British effort led by Vandervell Products and Connaught and the race was certain to be entertaining.
The excitement would build all the more when Stirling Moss managed to capture the pole for the 90 lap race after setting a lap time around the 3.0 mile circuit of 2:00.4. Juan Manuel Fangio would start alongside in 2nd place having posted a time just two-tenths slower. Mercedes had four cars in the field and it seemed entirely likely that the four cars could have swept the first four positions on the grid. But, Jean Behra would have something to say about that as he would end up posting a time that was fast enough to capture the 3rd, and final, starting spot on the front row.
Roberto Mieres continued to impress as he would eventually start from the third row of the grid in the 6th position. His best effort was just two seconds slower than that of his teammate firmly ensconced on the front row. The resignation, if you will, of Perdisa would leave Maserati in need of a fourth driver. Reliable Andre Simon would be available and he would take to the wheel of one of the Maseratis. The transition would appear seamless too as he would end up posting a time in practice that would be quick enough to enable him to also start from the third row of the grid in the 8th position overall. Luigi Musso would be at the wheel of the other factory Maserati in the field. Posting a time just two-tenths of a second short of Simon, Musso would start from the fourth row of the grid in the 9th position.
An incredible crowd would descend upon the circuit for the start of the race on the 16th of July. So too would the heat. Though not nearly as hot as the conditions in Argentina, the hot weather was certain to play a role in the events of the day.
The engines would come to life and the 25 cars would strain awaiting the start of the race. Powering off the line and into the first turn at Waterway, it would be Fangio that would lead the way over Moss. Behind them would come the other two Mercedes. Therefore, right at the start of the race, it would be Mercedes one-two-three-four. Mercedes would be aided by Behra who would be practically left behind at the start. Dropping down to about 5th place, Behra would have to work hard just to get back to where he started. Mieres would make a good start and would find himself right there with Behra making life very difficult for both Kling and Taruffi. Musso would also be inside the top ten while Simon would start out well, but would quickly come into trouble.
Fangio would complete the first lap in the lead ahead of Moss. Behind Moss would come Behra who would put together one incredible performance to charge back up to where he started the race. Right behind Behra would be Mieres in 4th place while Musso would be holding station in 7th. Coming around Tatts, Simon would quickly pull over into the pits with a gearbox problem. Simon's car would be looked after and he would be encouraged to return to the race and make a go of it as long as he possible could. Unfortunately, this would last just 15 laps before he would retire for sure.
Amazingly, Simon would last longer in the race than Jean Behra. After his impressive fight to regain lost ground at the start, oil pipe problems would lead to him retiring from the race after just 9 laps completed.
The attrition would just keep coming as Harry Schell, Simon, Castellotti, Leslie Marr and three others would all fall out of the race prior to the 25 lap mark. All of this attrition would end up wreaking havoc on the running order, except up at the front, which would still have Fangio and Moss leading the way.
Moss would take the lead from Fangio after a couple of laps but would end up surrendering it again on the 18th lap. At that same time, Mieres would be up into 3rd place while Musso would be looking strong in 5th. The pair of Mieres and Musso would continue their battle with the other two Mercedes of Kling and Taruffi and would provide the crowd with some enthralling racing.
Moss would retake the lead from Fangio on the 26th lap of the race and would begin a serious charge toward his first-ever Formula One World Championship victory. Behind Moss and Fangio, Mieres would settle into position behind Kling in the 4th position. Once ahead of Mieres, Kling would do his best to stretch out a margin, but Mieres would fight back keeping things close. Musso and Taruffi would be embroiled in a duel that would see the two trade positions back and forth for the majority of the race.
Halfway through the race it would still be Moss leading the way over Fangio. Mieres would also remain inside the top five and would keep looking strong with each passing lap. However, after 47 laps something would be amiss with Mieres' car. The engine would begin to belch a lot of smoke. Able to make it back to the pits, oil would absolutely pour from underneath the car. It was clear the problem was terminal and Mieres would be out of the race after a splendid performance.
Moss would continue to lead the way with 10 laps remaining in the race. Fangio would be a little distance behind in 2nd place. With Mieres out of the race and Taruffi able to get by Musso, it would be Mercedes-Benz occupying the first four positions in the running order. Musso would be in 5th place, the only remaining factory Maserati in the field after the start of the race looked so promising.
Moss would dominate the majority of the race. And, even though his victory would come under some doubt when Fangio pulled alongside trying to pass before crossing the line, it would be a British driver that would score the victory in the British Grand Prix. And what a victory it would be too as it would prove to be Moss' first World Championship victory; certainly a very special moment in all of his vast experiences. Kling and Taruffi would hold on to give Mercedes a clean sweep of the top four places in the running order. Luigi Musso would settle in after all of the trouble his teammates suffered and would bring home a solid 5th place performance giving himself another 2 points in the championship. Despite finishing a little more than a lap behind, Musso would leave Aintree having earned more championship points. His 6 points would now put him just behind Mieres in the standings.
It would be another tough outing for the team, especially Behra. As he would with Gordini, the Frenchman would prove to be fast, but too fast for his equipment. Those string of victories certainly seemed like distant memories at this point.
In the world of motor sport, where danger is always a part of the equation, the events of Le Mans would be beginning to fade from the immediate memory of some of the drivers. However, the effects of the tragic affair would be easily recognized throughout the 1955 season. Not only would the French Grand Prix be cancelled, but also, the German, Swiss and Spanish Grand Prix. That meant a serious break in between rounds of the World Championship after the conclusion of the British Grand Prix. And, instead of taking part in some of the non-championship races held throughout the continent, the factory Maserati team would return home to make updates to their 250Fs to prepare them for the final few races of the season.
Just one round of the Formula One World Championship remained after the British Grand Prix. It would take place on the 11th of September, and therefore, could only mean one race—the Italian Grand Prix.
With the exception of the Belgian Grand Prix held at Spa, the only other race held in 1955 that would remain on the calendar throughout every previous season of the World Championship would be the Italian Grand Prix held at the Autodromo Nazionale Monza. While Monaco may be considered the crown jewel of Formula One, an Italian Grand Prix not held at Monza would be, potentially, a kind of unheard of sacrilege that nobody has the courage to even think about.
Coming into the 26th Gran Premio d'Italia, the Italian fans would remain deeply committed to their red-livered machines. However, the clear favorites coming into the race had to be the team from Stuttgart, Germany. Arriving with four cars, Mercedes would dispatch a fleet of cars clearly intended to give the Silver Arrows team one last victory before it disappeared from Formula One. Therefore, the team would unload to open-wheeled versions of the W196, but also, two of the streamlined W196s as well.
To combat the German invasion, the Italian teams would each dispatch a gaggle of nimble fighters to help defend the homeland. Scuderia Ferrari would come to the race with six cars, two of which would be Lancia D50s purchased from the Lancia company. Officine Alfieri Maserati would do the same as they would unload six cars in preparation for the 50 lap, 310 mile, race. Jean Behra, Roberto Mieres and Luigi Musso would be joined on the team by Peter Collins, Carlos Menditeguy and Horace Gould.
Upon unloading, the drivers would take their cars and would head out onto an unknown new, and yet, old circuit. In the offseason the Monza circuit would be updated. The oval-shaped circuit that would originally be designed in conjunction with the road course would be updated. The banking would be made steeper while the final corner of the actual road course would also be changed into a much more gradual corner. Measuring 6.2 miles just like the original circuit, the updated design promised to be even faster than the already quick road course.
These changes, unfortunately, would suit the Mercedes almost perfectly and Juan Manuel Fangio would take advantage of the circuit to take what would be his final pole position with the German factory team. Joining him on the front row would be two of his fellow teammates. Moss would be in the 2nd place on the grid while Kling would complete the front row in 3rd.
The fastest of the Maseratis would be, as usual, Jean Behra. Behra would end up starting the race from the third row of the grid in the 6th position. Right beside Behra in the 7th position would be Mieres. Behra and Mieres would be the only two in the three-wide third row since the D50s driven by Giuseppe Farina and Luigi Villoresi would be withdrawn after Farina suffered a terrible accident on the banking due to tire problems. Luigi Musso would be found in the fourth row in the 10th position. The remaining balance of the Maserati squad would include Peter Collins in the 11th position on the fifth row of the grid. Menditeguy would be found on the seventh row of the grid in the 16th starting position and Horace Gould would be found on the ninth, and final, row of the grid in the 21st position. In all, 22 cars would qualify for the race, but after the troubles with the Lancia-Ferraris, there would be 20 cars that would line up on the grid for the start of the race.
Moss would get the better jump off the line and would actually lead the field through the first part of the first lap. However, by the time the field reappeared to complete the first lap it would be Fangio in the lead with Moss following along closely behind as he had much of the season. The other two Mercedes would fill positions 3rd and 4th in the running order. And so, on Italian soil it would be the German team rolling along uncontested.
Behra would lose out at the start of the race. By the end of the first lap he would be all the way down in 10th place. Mieres would hold station rather well and would actually be in 7th place at the completion of the first lap. Horace Gould would make an incredible start and would find himself up into 12th place while Menditeguy would be 13th. Collins would be 9th at the completion of the first lap while Musso would be the worse factory Maserati in the field running in the 16th position.
Musso would recover from a terrible start and would quickly on the fly up through the field. By the 7th lap of the race he would be ahead of Mieres in the 6th position while Behra would be working hard to dispatch Mike Hawthorn for 8th. Gould would be right there as well running right around the top ten. Menditeguy would be on a downward trend and would running right around 15th by the 5th lap of the race. Peter Collins would be hardest hit of the Maserati team cars. Gearbox issues would severely limit his ability to challenge and would eventually lead to him running dead-last.
Three cars would be out of the race within the first 10 laps of the race while Fangio led the way from the front. All of the Maseratis, with the exception of Collins, would be running strongly, but would be clearly over-matched by the German contingent.
But not all would be well for Mercedes either. Stirling Moss would lead a lap and would even set what would be the fastest lap of the race. However, by the 28th lap of the race this would mean very little as he would be out of the race with a blown engine. This would help to promote the Maserati drivers at least spot in the running order.
A few laps after Moss' failure, the Maserati factory team would take another hit by attrition. Gould would be the first of the next wave to be forced to retire. Horace would put together an impressive performance until sump ailments would bring an end to his role in the Italian Grand Prix. Just a couple of laps later, Musso would join Gould. Musso had charged hard and had managed to recover from a poor start to make his way up to 4th place before he would be forced to retire with gearbox failure.
Jean Behra had been suffering early retirements in the latest races. Starting out a bit more controlled and patient, he would find his way providentially supported and would soon be in 4th with only about 15 laps remaining in the race. Mieres would also be aided by the misfortune of others, including his teammates, and would find himself in 8th place with just about 15 laps remaining. Right behind him in 9th place would be Menditeguy.
Just outside of 10 laps remaining, Menditeguy would be on the move. He would eventually haul in and pass Mieres for 6th place and would be rapidly catching Umberto Maglioli for 5th place. Jean Behra would be doing everything he could to remain on the lead lap but would be in a solid 4th place with just about 10 laps remaining. It certainly seemed apparent Maserati would score a couple of points-scoring results. Unfortunately, there would still be three others that would not make it to the end of the race for the team.
Piero Taruffi would close up on Fangio throughout the remainder of the race with Moss and Kling out of the running. These two Mercedes drivers would remain hooked up and would leave everyone else behind. It would be impressive just how much the Italian makes would left in the wake of the German machinery, and on home soil as well.
Averaging a little more than 128mph, Fangio would lead Taruffi across the line by seven-tenths of a second to take one last victory for Mercedes-Benz. In many ways it would be fitting that it was Fangio that would take the final victory for the team seeing that it was the pair of Mercedes-Benz and Fangio that had won both the 1954 and 1955 Formula One World Championships. Eugenio Castellotti would help the Italians save face as he finished the race in 3rd place, but only a mere 46 seconds behind.
Jean Behra's intelligent and mature performance in the Maserati would be rewarded. While he would not win the race, or, stand on the podium, he would still manage a 4th place finish. Though he would be nearly 4 minutes back, Behra would remain on the lead lap and would leave Monza with 3 more points toward the final championship standings. A little more than a lap down, Menditeguy would be impressive in his short time behind the wheel of the Maserati. He would finish the race in 5th place, the final points-paying position. Roberto Mieres would end up struggling toward the later-part of the race. As a result, he would complete the race distance a little more than two laps down in 7th.
Though it would come at a cost of three others, Maserati would come away from the final round of the season with two points-scoring results. This would be a rather good way to finish the season, especially given the fact Mercedes-Benz would not be a part of the equation the following year. What's more, Behra's result would enable Maserati to have three drivers finish the season inside the top ten in the World Championship standings. Mieres would remain the highest-placed Maserati driver finishing the season in 8th. Behra would wrap up the season in 9th while Musso would complete the season finishing 10th in the standings.
Although the Formula One World Championship season had come to an end, there were still a couple of non-championship races left on the schedule. The first of these would come back across the English Channel on the 24th of September. The race would be something of a foreshadow and what could have been. It was the 2nd International Gold Cup race held at Oulton Park.
The race would feature two factory Maseratis. One would be entered for Luigi Musso. The second would be entered for a man the factory originally believed would be behind the wheel all season long—Stirling Moss. Though he would be lost to Mercedes-Benz for the season, the departure of the German team from all motor racing meant Moss would be able to race for the team that had originally planned to have him and would give something of a foretaste of the upcoming 1956 season.
Despite being located further to the north than most of the other circuits in England, Oulton Park would end up drawing a number of top teams for the second installment of the International Gold Cup race. Scuderia Ferrari would bring a couple of cars, Lancias on top of that, and, Vandervell Products would be present with a couple of its updated new chassis as well. Therefore, the field for the race would be filled from top to bottom with talent.
The year before, Stirling Moss had started the race from dead-last in his Maserati having not practiced. Yet, during the race, he would mount an incredible drive and would come through to win in convincing fashion. One year later, Moss would have plenty of time to practice and would find himself starting from the front of the field in the 2nd position. Mike Hawthorn would have the pole with one of the D50s. Luigi Musso would put the second Maserati on the front row in the 3rd position while Eugenio Castellotti completed the front row in another of the D50 Lancia-Ferraris.
The 2nd place starting position wouldn't quite give the clearest of impressions of the improvements that had gone on with Moss' Maserati. By the time he arrived to take part in the International Gold Cup race his car would be adapted to Dunlop disc brakes and fuel injection, something that the works Maseratis were still slowly bringing into use on their own cars.
This development work would enable Moss to battle with Hawthorn right from the very start of the race. These two men would lead the way while Musso and the rest of the field would battle it out for the title of ‘also-rans'.
A number of those that entered the race would certainly be ‘also-rans'. Though only 54 laps, the 2.76 mile circuit would prove too tough for more than a few competitors and their cars. Six cars, including those driven by Peter Collins, Horace Gould and Harry Schell, would be all out of the race before the race reached the 20 lap mark. Musso would look strong early on but he would fall down the order when his Maserati developed gearbox issues.
The gearbox issues on Musso's car meant Moss would be left by himself to do battle with Hawthorn in one of the D50s. Moss would prove more than capable of handling the challenge. Posting the fastest lap of the race with a time just six-tenths slower than his own qualifying effort, Moss would be in the lead of the race and would be pulling away from Hawthorn. And, given the pace of Moss around the circuit, it certainly seemed as though Moss owned the circuit and knew every square inch of it.
By the time Moss headed around on the last lap, all but Hawthorn would be lapped. The gearbox troubles on Musso's car meant he was laps down struggling just to make it to the finish. Pushing an average of nearly 86mph, Moss would streak to his second-straight victory at Oulton Park in the International Gold Cup. Hawthorn would finish the race in 2nd place but would be a minute and 6 seconds behind! Desmond Titterington would complete the top three bringing home 3rd place for Vandervell Products. Though a solid performance by Titterington, he would finish the race more than a lap behind Moss. Musso would finish his race. Five laps down, the gearbox problems would slow him down greatly. In the end, Musso would finish the race in 8th.
It would be an absolutely dominate performance by Moss from start to finish. The evolutions made to his Maserati would put him in a class almost unto himself. In fact, the D50 represented one of the newest and best grand prix cars in the world and Moss would leave it behind over the course of the race. It seemed certain Maserati was going to be in a strong position heading into the upcoming World Championship season.
While the team undoubtedly began to look toward the future, there would still be one more non-championship race in which the team would contend. It would require the team to leave the northern regions of England, cross the English Channel and head all the south to the island nation of Sicily. The destination was Syracuse and the 5th Gran Premio di Siracusa held on the 23rd of October.
The ancient city of Syracuse had been a prominent player in the world's history for centuries, even millenniums. Even into the 20th century Syracuse would be a very important tactical objective. During the Second World War, the city would be a very important city to the allied advance into Italy. As such, the city would commission a cemetery that would serve as the final resting place for hundreds of fallen soldiers from the Second World War. Fittingly, the battleground for some of the best manufacturers in the world would pass right by the memorial cemetery.
Given that Mercedes was not out of the picture and that Scuderia Ferrari wasn't present, everyone, including the team itself, considered Officine Alfieri Maserati a lock to take the victory in the final Formula One race of the European season. And so, when the small British team, Connaught arrived late, just in time for the second day of practice, most everyone at Maserati considered the British team to be nothing more than filler in a race with few entrants.
Nobody could really blame Maserati for having this view coming into the race. All season long the Maserati team had been battling the like of Mercedes-Benz and Ferrari and always seemed to be just short in some of the bigger races. And, with those major threats gone, or perceived to be gone, the team was full of confidence that it was now its time of dominance. The fact Stirling Moss left all comers in his wake at Oulton Park would only solidify this belief. Additionally, Maserati would finally turn its focus back to chassis development and would bring a couple of streamlined 250Fs to the race. This was Maserati's attempt to prepare for a future hopefully as bright as when Mercedes appeared on the scene with their own streamlined chassis.
Things would be further reinforced when, after the conclusion of the first practice, the Maseratis driven by Luigi Musso and Luigi Villoresi would be so much quicker than any other competitor. However, their dominance would be suddenly challenge by a dental student by the name of Tony Brooks. Despite his limited experience, Brooks would take the new Connaught and would be quite quick in practice. This would force a response from the top two Maserati drivers. Musso would go out and would lap the 3.48 mile circuit with a time of 2:03.6. This would be fast enough for him to garner the pole. Villoresi would be just a little over a second slower but would be fast enough to grab 2nd place on the front row. Tony Brooks would manage to gain the 3rd, and final, spot on the front row but was believed to be shown his place by the two Maserati drivers.
In total, Maserati would enter five cars in the race. Two of the three would be driven by Americans, Carroll Shelby and Harry Schell. Shelby would end up starting from the second row of the grid in the 4th position while Schell would be right alongside in 5th place. The third driver entered in the race would be Luigi Piotti. Piotti would struggle comparatively. His best lap in practice would end up only being good enough for a fifth row starting spot. He would start 12th overall.
Tens of thousands would line the circuit awaiting the start of the 70 lap race. And, when the flag dropped to start the race, all would seem right as Musso would lead the way with Villoresi following along in 2nd place. Harry Schell would even make a great start from the second row of the grid and would be in front of Brooks in 3rd place.
Musso would continue to lead over Villoresi in 2nd place. However, after a few laps, Schell would lose his position to Brooks who would immediately set his sights on Villoresi's 2nd place position. Then, after 10 laps, Brooks would force his way past Villoresi and would be in 2nd place behind Musso.
Attrition would get the better of some of the drivers. Jacques Pollet would be out after just 9 laps with rear axle failure. Then, after 15 laps, Roy Salvadori would fall out of contention. At the same time, Brooks would continue to gain ground on Musso in the lead. In time, Brooks would be all over the back of Musso's Maserati. This would begin an epic battle that would rage for a number of laps and that would raise the average speed to more than 100mph.
It would turn into quite a battle and it would expose the lack of development Maserati had put into its 250F, except in its engine. Aided by disc brakes, Brooks would dive deeper into the corners and would also out-accelerate Musso coming out. The conventional drum brakes would end up being the 250F's Achilles heal and would show Maserati's greatest weakness. And, like a boxer going back to the area of his opponent's body he just bloodied, it would become more than apparent that Brooks was taking it easy while Musso was working as hard as he possibly could just to keep things close.
Brooks would take over the lead of the race and would promptly disappear into the distance. By the halfway mark of the race, Brooks would be well off in the distance having a 40 second advantage over Musso. It would only get worse from there. While it was clear Musso had been pushing as hard as possible just to keep the fight with Brooks going, Brooks would only turn up the pace as the race wore on until he would eventually set the fastest lap of the race with a time more than three seconds faster than Musso's qualifying time.
Less than 10 laps remaining in the race, Brooks would be defying all the odds and would be well out in front. However, while it would the British Connaught leading the way, behind him would come the Maserati fleet headed up by Musso and Villoresi.
Brooks would cruise to an easy victory. Humbling the Maserati team, Brooks would cross the line to take the victory by no less than 51 seconds over Luigi Musso. The 3rd place finisher would be Villoresi. He would come through an amazing two laps down.
Had it not been for the presence of Brooks and the Connaught team, Maserati would have swept the top six spots in the finishing order. Nonetheless, Maserati would end its season on what could not be described as anything other than a high point. Though they would not take the victory, they would have all six of their cars finish the race, and in order—2nd through 7th. Musso would finish in 2nd followed by Villoresi, Gould, Schell, Shelby and Piotti. It would really be an incredible day for the team to have all six of its cars come through 243 miles unscathed.
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