Besides Scuderia Ferrari, S.P.A. Alfa Romeo would dispatch a couple of their 6Cs to take part in the race. There would be more than a handful of Jaguar C-Types entered in the race by numerous privateer teams. The entry list would also include a number of Panhards, D.B. HBRs and Peugeots. And, of course, with the German border not far away, there would be a good number of Porsches populating the field.
As with the 24 Hours of Le Mans, age and experience would be partnered with youth and speed. And so, Giuseppe Farina would find himself partnering with Mike Hawthorn in the very same car in which they would be disqualified at Le Mans a month earlier.
The similarities between the two 24 hour venues would be numerous. Spa would host its first 24 hour race just one year after Le Mans. Both would take place on ultra-fast circuits that would test a car's performance and reliability. And, both had the unique ability of fostering up some truly unpredictable weather. Of course, being located in the Ardennes, the Spa circuit certainly had more of a reputation for unpredictability. The final similarity would be in the length of the circuits. Le Mans measured around 8.4 miles while Spa measured 8.77 miles.
Two 24 hour races in two months would not be an easy maneuver. But, Spa was one of the favorite circuits for drivers and teams, and therefore, would be a popular event that was not to be missed by the top teams and drivers.
Hawthorn impressed Enzo Ferrari with his mature performances and out-right speed in his rookie season in the World Championship in 1952. Therefore, the British driver would be offered a contract to drive for Ferrari for the 1953 season. This would prove to be the signing Farina would need as he would be able to partner his experience with the raw speed of Hawthorn. And, during practice, this speed would come in handy as the pairing of Farina and Hawthorn would end up taking the pole for the race.
The two men had proven they had the speed. Now they would need to partner that speed with endurance and reliability. If it could be done, and they didn't get disqualified, then they would be in a good position to challenge for the victory come the following day, the 26th of July.
The day of the start of the race would be warm and dry, but that would mean very little as the cars and drivers prepared for the start of the race at 4pm. And as the field took off on the start of the long 24 hour race, it wouldn't be long before the circuit itself would prove to be the greater threat, and even to the best teams and drivers in the field.
A number of privateer entries would fall out of contention early on, but then, some of the bigger privateer teams and factory efforts began to run into trouble. Roger Laurent and Jacques Swaters would retire with a blown engine, Juan Manuel Fangio and Consalvo Sanesi would be out of the running in their Alfa Romeo 6C as a result of an accident and Umberto Maglioli and Piero Carini would also be among those that would be casualties. But it would not get an easier for the top teams and drivers as even the pairing of Alberto Ascari and Luigi Villoresi would retire from the race due to clutch failure.
Really, the only major factory car that would remain in the hunt throughout the whole of the 24 hour race would be Ferrari with the car driven by Farina and Hawthorn. Those two would remain up at the front of the field from the very beginning and would remain strong throughout the whole of the race, even when rain came and visited later on in the event.
It would be a dominant performance by the two Ferrari drivers and would be a testament to the change that had happened with Farina. The two men would be fast, and consistent, from beginning to end. And in the end, the only thing that would possible touch them would be attrition for there wasn't another car on the circuit capable of catching the two.
The inaugural Formula One World Champion, and the World Champion to be, would forge an incredible path. And after 24 hours of powering their way around the Spa circuit, the two men would come home to victory with a margin of victory more appropriately measured in hours than in minutes or laps. In the end, Farina and Hawthorn would come home to finish 1st by a margin of 18 laps, or, what amounted to about an advantage of close to 90 minutes over Ecurie Ecosse's Jaguar C-Type driven by James Scott-Douglas and Guy Gale. Third place would end up going to Herman Roosdorp and Toni Ulmen, also driving a Jaguar C-Type.
The victory would be one incredibly dominant performance by Hawthorn and Farina. But for Farina, the victory would be very telling. Not only had he finally reached the pinnacle in a sportscar race, but he had done so in the ultimate form overcoming a 24 hour race filled with attrition and concerns about reliability. He had proven his shift in mentality. No longer would he beat a car expecting everything out of it and caring not whether or not if it made it to the end. The fact he came out on top in a 24 hour race was proof that he was now using his vast intelligence and experience to win a race for him. And therefore, the victory in the Spa 24 Hours would be a great testament to the man and his ability to change. Not surprisingly, it would also come just before his final victory in World Championship grand prix racing.
For the majority of his career, Farina had been known as a brutal driver. And because he could not, or would not, add patience and intelligence to the equation, he would often come up just short. But on the 25th and 26th of July, in 1953, Farina would come to understand. He would finally add to the brawn the brain and would emerge to take his place as the bride. And many of those he had played to bridesmaid to…well, it was their turn to catch the bouquet.
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