Privateer grand prix teams in England were numerous, but, against the backdrop of such factory efforts as Scuderia Ferrari and Officine Alfieri Maserati, an Italian privateer would likely never even be remembered. However, there would be one that would make a name for itself and that would not be easily forgotten.
What do you name a racing team? There are many possibilities, the easiest being a person's own name like Scuderia Ferrari or Officine Alfieri Maserati. Then there are names birthed from supporting businesses like Vandervell Products or Gilby Engineering. However, when Guglielmo Dei determined to enter Formula One in 1956 he would choose perhaps one of the least inspiring names for a team yet.
Scuderia Centro-Sud, or the 'stable of central-south', would be Dei's first foray into single-seater grand prix racing and would be based in Dei's native Rome. It was there in Rome that Guglielmo had his Maserati dealership and it would be from this business that the initial capital would come to fund the new racing team's aspirations.
Dei was no stranger to danger and living on the edge. Born in 1909, Dei would go on to be an amateur pilot in the daring days of the 1930s and would even find driving opportunities in Bugattis. But, following the end of the Second World War, Dei was firmly attached to his Maserati dealership and thoughts of his own racing team.
Being a Maserati dealer Dei had an opportunity to approach the factory about purchasing one of its grand prix cars. But, because finances were still very tight, Scuderia Centro Sud would be somewhat beholding to drivers willing to pay or just wanted to help their cause by being entered under a larger team banner.
Despite being a Maserati dealer, Dei would still have to make do with hand-me-downs. While the factory was already working on the latest evolution of the 250F, Dei and his racing team would be forced to look at one of the much older 250Fs.
Originally, chassis 2502 would be completed in 1954 and would be driven by Sergio Mantovani as part of the Maserati factory team and renumbered ‘2511'. The car would then make its way across the South Atlantic and would actually take part in the first round of the 1956 Formula One World Championship with Luigi Piotti driving the car.
The car would then return to Europe and would be purchased by Dei for his Scuderia Centro Sud team. Prior to the team taking delivery of the new car Maserati would work out a deal with Dei and they would actually re-skin the car bringing it much more up to date. Still, the underlying chassis and other components would still be two years old.
Many individual privateers would have been blessed to have a Maserati 250F to use each and every race, and so, Dei would focus on the positive and would look forward to competing in Formula One for the first time.
Centro Sud had its car. It not needed a driver willing to come and drive for the team, and, help it to get off to a strong start. Seeing that there was a rather large gap in between rounds of the World Championship it was far more likely the team could acquire the talents of an experienced racer for one or two non-championship races. And as the first non-championship race of the season on the European continent rapidly approached, Centro Sud would manage to land a legendary figure.
Actually, the first Formula One race of the 1956 season on the European mainland would not be on the mainland at all but on an island in the middle of the Mediterranean. The 6th Grand Premio di Siracusa was set to take part on the 15th of April. The non-championship event would be an 80 lap race covering a total of 278 miles. In the case of Scuderia Centro Sud, it was an opportunity to hit the ground running. For its driver, it was a chance for a little redemption.
Despite being a legend in his own right and a friend and mentor to the now late Alberto Ascari, Luigi Villoresi had to take advantage of just about any opportunity presented him, and, Scuderia Centro Sud certainly represented an opportunity he really couldn't turn down if he wanted to remain driving.
Coming to Syracuse with Centro Sud, Villoresi would have a chance to recover from a lost opportunity. Mere months earlier Luigi Villoresi had been at the wheel of one of the factory Maseratis in the very same grand prix. It was expected to be a race in which Maserati walked the competition and finished the season with one more win. Villoresi was one of those the Sicilian fans believed had an opportunity of earning victory. But, most everybody, including Villoresi and the factory Maserati team overlooked the presence of Connaught Engineering and one Tony Brooks.
By the time the race had come to an end, everybody, including Villoresi and Maserati, had learned never to take anything for granted as Brooks ran away with the victory. The hapless Maserati drivers were left picking up the crumbs. Returning to Syracuse just six months following the bitterly disappointing race, therefore, presented a great opportunity for Villoresi. Unfortunately for Villoresi and Centro Sud, there would be a player in the 1956 edition of the race that was absent from the '55 race.
Scuderia Ferrari had come to earn the rights to most of the now defunct Lancia racing team's equipment, including its new D50. Ferrari would take the D50 and would work on it themselves in order to improve upon the design. Having Juan Manuel Fangio at the wheel, Ferrari would take the victory in the first round of the 1956 Formula One World Championship and four such Lancia-Ferraris would be dispatched to Syracuse to contest the grand prix.
Measuring 3.48 miles in length, the Syracuse circuit suited the Lancia-Ferraris well with their eight-cylinder engines. Boasting of just some slight undulations and only a couple of rather tight turns, the Syracuse circuit was certainly fast.
Featuring some tight street sections and some portions of circuit lined with stone walls, the track required bravery to be taken as fast as possible, but, Fangio would prove more than equal to the task turning the fastest lap in practice with a time of 1:58.0. Therefore, Fangio would be on the pole. He would be joined on the front row by Eugenio Castellotti in another Ferrari and Jean Behra in the only factory Maserati.
Despite being behind the wheel of a 250F a couple of years old, the updates to the car would help Villoresi in practice as he would end up turning the 5th-fastest time in practice, and therefore, would start the race from the second row of the grid. Scuderia Centro Sud certainly wanted to get off to a good start and a second row starting position certainly had to offer some confidence.
Two Connaughts lined up on the grid in hopes of repeating as champions of the race. All of the rest of the 15 starters would be wheeled out to their grid positions. Then, one by one, the drivers would make their way to their cars. It was nearly time for the start of the race, nearly time for Scuderia Centro Sud to embark on its Formula One career.
The eight-cylinder engine in the Lancias had the torque and it would be put to good use as Fangio and the rest of the Ferraris would all get off to a good start. Villoresi would also get away from the line in good shape and would work hard at holding his position through the first lap.
The look of the race would begin to change after the very first lap. Yes, Fangio held onto the lead, and that was of no surprise, but Jean Behra would fall out of contention after problems with his Maserati. Horace Gould would also drop out with transmission failure. Both of these two Maserati drivers would be out of the race before the 3rd lap.
Things would finally settle down a little bit. Fangio held onto the lead and would be roaring around the circuit at average speeds approaching 98 mph. And then, he would turn it up even more completing the fastest lap of the race with a time of 1:59.8 at an average speed of 103 mph. This pace was tremendous, and yet, his Ferrari teammates held right onto him, at least until Castellotti dropped out of the race after the 40th lap of the race due to a crash.
Villoresi would be running strongly in the older Maserati. Though he would be unable to challenge the Ferraris, he would remain amongst the top five throughout the first half of the race. This was very good news for the Centro Sud team considering it was their very first grand prix. The old master was using his experience to provide the team with a solid footing.
One team on very shaky ground would be the defending champion Connaught Engineering team. By the time the race hit the 20 lap mark the attrition again began in earnest with two cars retiring on the 21st lap. Piero Scotti would be in one of the Connaughts and he would be forced out of the running one lap later. Then, on the 24th lap of the race, Connaught's assault would totally come to an end when Desmond Titterington ran into ignition troubles.
No such problems plagued Fangio, however. Averaging a little more than 97 mph, Fangio would be leading a trio of Ferraris at the head of the field with only a few laps remaining in the race.
As Fangio, Musso and Collins roared toward the finish line on the 80th lap of the race, it had been abundantly clear the Scuderia Ferrari team was again on the rise as it absolutely demolished every other car in the field. Crossing the line, Fangio would lead home the Ferrari trio, which was lined up in echelon formation. Fangio would take the victory by two-tenths of a second over Musso while just three-tenths would be the difference to Collins in 3rd.
The distance back to the remainder of the field would be no small distance. In fact, as the 4th place car appeared and roared across the line to finish the race a gap of more than three laps had been built up by the Ferraris over the course of the race. Still, for the team finishing in 4th place it was literally no different than had they finished on the podium. In the team's very first race, Scuderia Centro Sud would come away with a top five result as Villoresi would use his vast experience to bring home 4th place.
Though well back at the end, Villoresi's 4th place result in the Syracuse Grand Prix offered a great deal of encouragement and confidence to the team. In their very first race the team had come away with a top five result. It was certainly believed that if such results continued to come the team's way they would have the money to improve their equipment and their chances for even better results.
Following the team's successful debut in Syracuse, Scuderia Centro Sud would have reason to look forward to their next race of the season. And the team wouldn't have to wait too long before their next race. In fact, on the 6th of May, less than a month following the race in Sicily, the team would be busy preparing for its next race, the 9th Gran Premio di Napoli.
Just to the northwest of downtown Naples rests the residential quarter known as Posillipo. Meaning 'respite from worry' Posillipo features dramatic craggy cliffs and incredible views overlooking the Tyrrhenian Sea and Mount Vesuvius. Perched atop the cliffs, amongst the remarkable residential homes would be a 2.55 mile street circuit that would combine a touch of Monaco with Pau. Full of tight turns and streets, the average speed around the street circuit would be slow and would make for tight racing and difficult passing.
Given the relative success in the race at Syracuse, Centro Sud would determine it to be viable and in their best interest to enter two cars in the Naples Grand Prix. In the one car would be Luigi Villoresi. In the second car would be Francisco Godia-Sales. Godia-Sales would also be in a Maserati 250F.
Unfortunately for the Centro Sud team, Scuderia Ferrari would also make its presence known in Naples bringing two cars to the race. And, despite the fact the circuit was by no means a fast circuit, the exception torque of the Lancia would make sure Eugenio Castellotti turned the fastest lap around the 2.55 mile circuit. His pole time would be 2:07.7 and would be just one-tenth of a second faster than Luigi Musso in another Lancia. Taking the final front row starting spot would be something of a surprise. Given the tight, slow nature of the circuit the Gordini T16 was quite capable of some decent laps times despite being more than a couple of years old. In the hands of Robert Manzon, the Gordini would turn in a lap of 2:12.1 and would grab the third spot on the grid.
Manzon's effort would just beat out Villoresi. Therefore, the Italian would be forced to start the 60 lap race from the second row of the grid in the 4th position. Starting right alongside Villoresi in the second row would be the second Centro Sud entry with Godia-Sales at the wheel. Despite being clearly beat in pace by the Lancias, there position on the second row had the potential of being very strong if they could get off the line well and gain positions heading into the tight, long left-hand bend. If they could get ahead, it would be very difficult for the Lancia-Ferraris to get by and take the position away.
Things would look better after 2 laps when Castellotti's race came to an end as a result of an oil pump failure. However, neither Villoresi nor Godia-Sales would gain the advantage and would be stuck behind Musso.
Musso would relish being out front. With clear road ahead of him he could push the pace just that little bit faster and really put the pressure on the rest of the field. He would keep increasing his pace and would eventually set what would be the fastest lap of the race with a lap time of 2:13.3 in the less than ideal conditions.
Musso would push as hard as the conditions would allow but this would end up coming back to haunt him as on the 38th lap of the race he would be out due to an engine failure. But who would be there to pick up the pieces left by Ferrari?
Unfortunately, it wouldn't be Centro Sud. After a wonderful debut in Syracuse, reality would come crashing down on the team in Naples. Villoresi would be the first to run into the wall of reality when his engine expired after 21 laps. Then, on the 37th lap of the race Godia-Sales would make a mistake, which was so easy to do around the Posillipo circuit, and would end up crashing out of the race.
So this left Manzon, in the aged and usually very fragile, Gordini T16 in the lead of the race. It would be a remarkable turn of events. Manzon had stunned just about everyone by capturing the final spot on the front row. But to be running in 1st place with the laps winding down would be absolutely beyond belief for many. And of course, Manzon wouldn't make the Italian crowd all that happy seeing that it was a French car leading the way.
Though in the lead, Manzon could not back down all that much over the remainder of the 60 lap race. Horace Gould certainly was not the talent of a Musso, Castellotti or a Villoresi but, armed with a Maserati 250F, he could still snatch the victory away from Manzon. Therefore, Manzon would be forced, somewhat, to do what he didn't necessarily like to do with the Gordini—which was push.
Manzon had left the Equipe Gordini years earlier because of the terrible reliability of the team's cars. It hadn't got any better, and yet here he was, needing to push to the very end.
Yet, on this day, the French car would be in the mood for a fight. After some two hours and nearly 21 minutes, the Gordini of Manzon would appear and would power down the straight to cross the line and take the victory. Gould had given it what he could but under the circumstances just did not have enough for the Frenchman as he would finish the race in 2nd place some 11 seconds behind. Gerino Gerini would complete the podium completing the race a little more than 3 laps behind.
It had been a difficult letdown for Centro Sud. Retirements were to be expected. However, coming off of the splendid result in Syracuse it would be a bitter pill to swallow, especially when the two cars were meant to increase the team's chances. Still, the team had to put the race behind them, gather what money they did have, and look forward to the next event on the calendar.
The Gran Premio di Napoli would take place on the 6th of May. Just two weeks later was to be held the 7th Gran Premio del Valentino. The race would take place in the city of Turin in the picturesque Valentino Park. There would be a little bit of a problem however.
The second round of the World Championship, the Monaco Grand Prix, would take place on the 13th of May, just one week prior to the non-championship event in Turin. The Scuderia Ferrari team would have a couple of its cars fall out of the Monaco Grand Prix and there would be a mighty shake-up to ensure their stars earned the best possible result. This would leave the Ferrari crew very little time to make repairs and get the cars ready. The factory Maserati team would not have the problems that Ferrari faced but would still have very little time to get ready.
Therefore, the three Ferrari entries would be withdrawn, as would the two factory Maserati entries. This left the organizers of the Valentino Grand Prix with just six cars entered for the 90 lap race, one of those being Scuderia Centro Sud. Based upon the small number of entrants left the decision would be taken to cancel the race. This meant Centro Sud would have even more time before its next race.
The first two races of Scuderia Centro Sud's existence could not have been any different. The circuit in Syracuse was fast and relatively open. The Posillipo circuit, on the other hand, would be tight and slow. On the faster circuit the power of the Maserati was used to good advantage and, despite having an older chassis, Luigi Villoresi would bring home a valuable result. In Naples…the race would pretty much be a disaster. Therefore, it seemed clear the types of circuits where the car and the team would perform better. And so, even though finances would be very tight, Centro Sud would depart from its native Italy and would head to the nation of Belgium to take part in the Belgian Grand Prix set for the 3rd of June.
The ultimate destination for the Centro-Sud team would be the fearsome Spa-Francorchamps circuit located in the heart of the Ardennes Forest near the small villages of Spa, Malmedy and Stavelot.
In fact, these three villages would help comprise the circuit, an 8.77 mile beast of a circuit that required great commitment on the part of the driver and an incredible comfort between he and the car to pull it off. Danger lurking around every rise and fall and around every single bend, Spa-Francorchamps was not for the faint of heart, especially when the very unpredictable weather came into play.
Still, the circuit was very much a beloved circuit for the fans and the drivers alike as the setting, the speed and the feel just made it the consummate road course. It was of little wonder the circuit would be on the Formula One calendar from its very beginning.
Certainly one of the tougher races on the calendar, the Belgian Grand Prix always had a rather small entry list and the 1956 event would only be slightly better. The numbers would be greater mostly because of the fact Ferrari would dispatch four of the Lancia-Ferraris. The factory Maserati team would match Ferrari by also sending four cars of its own. The only other team to enter more than one car in the race would be the Vandervell Products team. The rest, like Centro Sud, would be single car efforts.
Luigi Villoresi would remain at the wheel of the Maserati for the Belgian Grand Prix. However, in practice, both he and the car were showing their age a little bit as they would be well off the pace set by Fangio.
Fangio would go on to take the pole for the race with a lap time of 4:09.8. This would be achieved with an average speed of 126 mph. There would be a gap of nearly 5 seconds between he and the 2nd place start, his former Mercedes teammate Stirling Moss. The final spot on the three-wide front row would go to yet another Ferrari driver. The Brit Peter Collins would prove to be only a little more than a half a second slower than Moss and would take 3rd place on the grid.
Villoresi, on the other hand, would be well down in the field. His best lap in practice would be a lap at 4:37.7. Being nearly 28 seconds slower than Fangio, Villoresi would find himself in the later-half of the starting grid. In fact, his time would earn him a fifth row starting spot. Luigi would be in 11th place on the grid and would start alongside Piero Scotti and Mike Hawthorn.
Lining up for the start of the 36 lap Belgian Grand Prix the usual Ardennes weather would come into play with a little rain falling on the circuit. It was clear the early part of the race would be a treacherous one. Being well down in the field, and part of a team counting every penny, Villoresi would have to be careful at the start and think survival perhaps a little more than attack.
And, as the flag dropped to start the race, Villoresi would do just that. Breaking off the line relatively slowly in the wet conditions, Luigi would lose a couple of positions even before the first pass through the fast sweeping left-right-left of Eau Rouge. Stirling Moss, on the other hand, would attack the start of the race and would have more than a couple of car lengths lead going up through Eau Rouge. Fangio would be the biggest loser at the start of the race though. Despite starting on pole, Fangio would make a terrible getaway and would be in 5th place before heading up the hill.
Rounding Stavelot nearing the end of the first lap, it would still be Moss in the lead, but Fangio's movement up to 4th place meant all three Ferraris were right behind the Maserati and looking ready to devour. At the end of the first lap it would be Moss holding onto the lead well with Castellotti, Collins and Fangio providing the attack. Villoresi's poor start meant he would come around La Source in 13th place, just ahead of last place man Piero Scotti.
Though he had made a poor start, it wouldn't take Fangio long to show his superior pace. After Moss led the first four laps of the race, Fangio would come through to take the lead. Castellotti would falter as a result of transmission troubles with the Lancia-Ferrari. Villoresi would have issues of his own. He would visit the pits briefly but would quickly rejoin the fray after some checks were made of the car.
The first couple of laps would be relatively quiet for the exception of Godia-Sales suffering an accident and Horace Gould having to retire after 2 laps due to gearbox failure. However, the 11th lap of the race would see the greatest amount of drama as Piero Scotti was forced out of the race with a loss of oil pressure. At the same time Castellotti would be retiring due to his transmission problems, Moss would be seen running down the hill of Eau Rouge on foot as a result of his Maserati having lost a wheel right at that critical series of corners. This shake-up in the proceedings would allow Villoresi to move up the order despite having made a stop earlier on.
Fangio would remain in the lead of the race and, in the drying conditions, would go on to set a new lap record. Fangio, having lost Moss, would be followed by Peter Collins and Jean Behra. Belgian Paul Frere would be delighting the fans as he would find himself in 4th place. At the halfway mark, the order up front would be unchanged, but Moss would be in Cesare Perdisa's Maserati and would be on the charge to make up for lost time. He would be in 6th position, not all that far behind Harry Schell. In the standings, Villoresi wasn't all that far behind Schell and Moss, but in reality…that would be another thing entirely.
The race would seem a foregone conclusion, even with a little more than 10 laps still remaining. However, on the 24th lap, things would dramatically change. Powering his way into Stavelot, Fangio's Ferrari would suddenly lose drive and would slow to a halt. Transmission trouble had ruined his certain victory. As a result, Collins would take over the lead of the race and Paul Frere, after a spirited battle with Jean Behra, would take over 2nd place, much to the delight of the Belgian faithful. The sudden retirement of Fangio would also aid Villoresi, who would now find himself in 6th position and looking good for a championship point if just one more car ahead of him came a cropper.
Thanks to late problems with Jean Behra's Maserati, just such an opportunity would present itself to Villoresi, who had been driving a steady and mistake-free race from the very beginning.
There really was nothing more Frere could do to try and earn the victory. Collins was well out in front as the two men headed off on the final lap of the race. Moss had benefited from Behra's last-minute ailments as he would find himself up in 3rd place. Then there was Villoresi. Though he was more than one lap behind, if he could hold it together for just one more lap Scuderia Centro Sud would have their first championship point in their very first World Championship race.
Collins could have practically pushed his Ferrari around La Source and across the line and still taken the victory. Completing the race distance in two hours and 40 minutes exactly, Collins' margin of victory over Frere would be no less than a minute and 51 seconds. Still, the Belgian fans wouldn't care as one of its own would end up standing on the podium. Stirling Moss' never give up attitude would do him well as he would keep his championship hopes alive by finishing the race in 3rd place in Perdisa's Maserati.
Luigi Villoresi would hang on through that final lap. And, though he was more than two laps behind at the end, Villoresi would still manage to finish the race in a splendid 5th place giving Centro Sud some sorely needed prize money and its first World Championship point.
The decision to take part in the Belgian Grand Prix had certainly been a correct one as the team came away with a valuable 5th place result in its very first World Championship event. Still, finances, being what they were, still prohibited the team from really taking an active role in the championship. It would only be until they garnered enough money would they really look forward to a next race. And, in the case of the 1956 season, by the time the team had the money to prepare their car and make travel arrangements, the team would have to think about August. There would only be two Formula One races in the month of August and one of those would be another round of the World Championship. Therefore, having been successful in the Belgian Grand Prix, Scuderia Centro Sud would look just to the east for its next race, which was the German Grand Prix.
Held on the 5th of August, the 18th German Grand Prix would take place at a very familiar and infamous site—the Nurburgring. If Spa-Francorchamps could be seen as a dangerous gauntlet, then the 14 mile long Nordschleife would have to be considered hell itself.
The circuit was either loved or hated by drivers. There were very few that were undecided about the circuit. And, given its length, more than 170 corners and endless elevation changes, it would not be at all difficult why there could not be any indifference about the circuit. Circumnavigating the small village of Nurburg, in the 1950s, the circuit was a veritable 'Green Hell' as blind entries, apexes and very little to no runoff were all a part of its challenge.
The circuit itself would be a mixture of everything. There would be slow tight corners like the Karussell and Sudkehre. But then there would be opportunities, like on the run from Dottiner Hohe to Tiergarten where cars could easily reach their top speeds. Given this nature of the circuit, favor still had to swing in the favor of the Lancia-Ferraris over the Maseratis as the Ferraris proved time and time again they had the greater power and top speed.
Scuderia Centro Sud would actually have two cars entered for the race. The team would also have two different drivers. Luigi Villoresi had departed to go and drive for Scuderia Guastalla. This left the seat in the Maserati open. The American Harry Schell would agree to fill it. The second car entered under the Centro Sud banner would actually be an old Ferrari 500 entered by Giorgio Scarlatti. This car was his own, but an agreement would be made so as to allow him to draw on the resources of Centro Sud for the race.
As with the Belgian Grand Prix, Fangio set the pace in practice, but only just slightly. His pole-winning lap of 9:59.2 seconds in the wet conditions would be just three-tenths of a second faster than Peter Collins. Obviously, the Brit felt comfortable in the extremely wet conditions that blanketed the area all through practice. Eugenio Castellotti would make it three Ferraris in the first three positions on the grid, but Stirling Moss would prevent a Ferrari sweep of the front row by posting a time quite a bit quicker than Luigi Musso in a fourth Ferrari.
The Nordschleife wasn't a place for inexperience, especially in the wet. Thankfully for Centro Sud, Schell was quite experienced and he would actually turn a respectable lap in practice. In fact, Schell would end up on the fourth row of the grid in the 12th position. The lack of experience and pace for Scarlatti and his Ferrari would come to show itself during practice. In the wet conditions Scarlatti would struggle and would only manage a lap of 13:05.2. This would cause Giorgio to end up on the fifth row of the grid in the 17th position.
While the area had been suffering from days upon days of rain, the day of the race would break with bright skies and dry conditions. This was very good news for the incredible throng of German fans assembled to watch the action.
With the cars lined up on the grid, it would be but a moment before the cars would roar off into the distance at the start of the 22 lap, 311 mile, race. Heading into the first series of corners it would be Collins in the lead ahead of Fangio and Moss. Schell would make a great start off the line and would actually be in 8th place through the South Curve. Scarlatti, however, would be much further back hoping to make it through the first lap with the inferior Ferrari 500.
Over the course of the first lap, Collins would be unable to hold back Fangio and the Argentinean would end up leading the way at the end of the first lap. Collins would hold onto 2nd place and Moss would be in 3rd place. Schell would still be in 9th place at the end of the first lap and would be looking quite strong. Scarlatti, on the other hand, would find his race come to an end without having even completed a single lap. Mechanical trouble would bring his race to an end.
Just about every lap would produce some heavy drama. Robert Manzon would join Scarlatti out of the race without having completed a single lap. Then it would be Roy Salvadori's turn after 2 laps. His rear suspension would give him trouble. But that wouldn't be the end of the trouble. Horace Gould would drop out with oil pressure problems while Umberto Maglioli, Eugenio Castellotti and Peter Collins would all fall out of contention before even 10 laps had been completed.
Fangio, however, would still be in the lead of the race with Moss in 2nd place following Collins' retirement with a fuel leak. Not long after Moss took over in 2nd place Castellotti would suffer an accident and would be out of the race as well. This helped Schell move up to 6th place in the running order and looking to be en route to yet another top five result for the Centro Sud team.
Peter Collins would take over Alfonso de Portago's Lancia-Ferrari and would be charging hard up through the field. Chasing Fangio, Moss and Behra; Collins would be pushing hard and would be turning some truly fast laps around the circuit. Each of the top four would set the fastest lap around the circuit. However, on the 14th lap Fangio would end up turning the fastest lap of the race and new lap record. The pressure amongst the front-runners would be such that even the slightest error would have terrible consequences. This would be a reality Collins would unfortunate experience at the same time Fangio turned the fastest lap of the race. The accident suffered by Collins would finally take him out of contention.
Collins' unfortunate accident should have been a golden opportunity for Schell to move up into the 5th, and final, points-paying position. But, it would be Godia-Sales that would be in position to take advantage. Schell had made an animated and unscheduled stop just a couple of laps earlier as a result of overheating problems with the Maserati. The engine would be cooled and Schell would go on his way. However, just a lap before Collins' retired Schell would show back up in the pits with steam absolutely pouring from the nose of the Maserati. It was clear the race was over for Schell and Centro Sud.
Heading into the final 5 laps of the race, the order would be relatively static as Fangio would be well out front with Moss clearly free of his Maserati teammate Jean Behra. Therefore, the final few laps would come down to team managers praying and hoping for their driver or drivers to come through in the best possible position.
Fangio would have absolutely no troubles over the course of the long three hours and nearly 39 minutes of racing. Averging a little more than 85 mph en route to the victory, the Argentinean would enjoy a margin of 46.4 seconds over his nearest rival Stirling Moss. Some seven minutes and 38 seconds would be the difference between Fangio and Behra in 3rd place.
Once again, the Centro Sud team had shown great promise despite entering an older car. Schell's performance was certainly very commendable and the team nearly had come away with championship points in its first two races. Still, the lost opportunity would be disappointing to some degree, especially financially. Nonetheless, the team had to switch focus and prepare for its next race in order to regain some lost momentum and prize money.
Following the German Grand Prix, Centro Sud would return home to make repairs and to thoroughly prepare their next race. However, there would be no shortage of other privateers that would be thankful to have Centro Sud's services for a grand prix. One of those that would approach the team about supporting his entry would be Aldo Pedini.
Pedini had come to gain use of Scarlatti's Ferrari 500 and would look to enter the 4th Grand Prix de Caen on the 26th of August. Though the Ferrari 500 was from the Formula 2 era in the World Championship, the Grand Prix de Caen would be one of the few non-championship Formula One races to take place on the European mainland. The race would be held on the 26th around La Prairie situated just to the west of downtown.
Caen had been an important strategic target for the invasion of Normandy during the Second World War. However, its history stretches well beyond Nazi occupation. In fact, there would be some buildings, such as the Chateau de Caen, that date all the way back to the time of William the Conqueror. But while the city is picturesque with rivers and its view over the English Channel, the location of the 2.19 mile circuit would be relatively flat and featureless.
With the exception of the Equipe Gordini team, the entire field for the grand prix would consist of privateer teams and entries of just a single car. The fastest of the entire field in practice would be the privateer entry Gilby Engineering with Roy Salvadori at the wheel. He would take the pole over Frenchman Louis Rosier.
Although the Caen circuit was actually a pretty fast circuit, the inexperience of Pedini and the age of the Ferrari 500 would combine for a relatively poor performance. When it was all said and done, Pedini would find himself on the seventh row of the grid all by himself. He would start 13th—dead-last.
The scheduled race distance would be 153 miles, or, 70 laps. And while the field would not list any of the big factory teams (except for the lone factory Maserati entry for Harry Schell), the race would still serve up plenty of action and drama.
The action would start right from the very beginning when Schell would get a great start and would be challenging for the lead of the race. But, while Pedini would be at the back of the field trying to get comfortable, Hermanos da Silva Ramos would find his race come to an end after just a single lap when the clutch failed on his Gordini T32. Paul Emery would join him just a few laps later.
Then the conditions would change and the drama would really tick up a degree. It would start with Horace Gould falling out of the race due to a crash on the 12th lap of the race. Ten laps later, Bruce Halford fell out of contention, also because of a crash. Another ten laps later, and yet another crash. This time it would be Robert Manzon, the surprise winner of the race in Naples. Attrition wasn't done, however. Just four laps after Manzon retired from the race the 2nd place starter of Louis Rosier would also experience a crash.
Roy Salvadori had tried his best to take advantage of the situation by turning the fastest lap of the race but he would fade as the race wore on. The man that would rise to the top would be Harry Schell. Chased by Andre Simon, Schell's last minute negotiations with Maserati would look to have been very prophetic. Pedini also remained in the race but was well behind. But, because of all the crashes, Pedini was well inside the top ten, even if he was the last car still running on the circuit.
Simon had absolutely nothing for Schell. After one hour and 54 minutes, Schell would come through to take the victory. A minute and 10 seconds later, Simon would come across the line to finish 2nd. Roy Salvadori's earlier pace would come to a screeching halt as the race wore on. Still, he would hold on to finish a lap down in 3rd place.
Aldo Pedini would also make it all the way to the finish although where he would finish would be well back of Schell and the rest of the finishers. Pedini would be the final car still running in the race and would finish in 7th place. However, he would finish the race 15 laps, or nearly 33 miles, behind.
While Centro Sud would be represented, mostly in name, in the Grand Prix de Caen, the remainder of the team would be finalizing preparations to its Maserati for the final round of the World Championship. Armed with the veteran Swiss driver, the Baron de Graffenried, Scuderia Centro Sud would head off over 300 miles to the north of its home in Rome. The destination was the famed and fast Autodromo Nazionale Monza. The race, of course, would be the Italian Grand Prix.
By the time the Italian Grand Prix had come to be a part of Formula One's inaugural season in 1950 almost everyone would have associated it with the famous circuit located in the Royal Villa of Monza park. While this is not true; it certainly might as well be. First hosting the Italian Grand Prix the very same year the circuit had been completed, the Autodromo Nazionale Monza would become the image of the Italian round of the World Championship.
As with its first year as the home of the Italian Grand Prix, the 1956 edition of the home Italian race would take place around a 6.2 mile circuit that combined a road circuit with a looped track. However, there would be one dramatic change from when the circuit debuted to when the whole 6.2 mile circuit would be reintroduced in 1955. That significant change would be the addition of steep banking to the loop track. This meant the already high average speeds around the Monza circuit would only remain. However, the new banked oval portion would be completed with concrete and would provide both car and driver with one incredibly bumpy ride.
Even in spite of the dangers associated with the high average speeds, or the uncomfortable feeling in the backside, there was really no way an Italian racing team was going to miss its home grand prix. Scuderia Centro Sud certainly wasn't going to miss the race despite the costs and the single car entry, and of course neither were teams like Scuderia Ferrari and Officine Alfieri Maserati. No less than six entries would be on the list for the factory Maserati team. Scuderia Ferrari would be right there having five entries of its own. But, besides the Italian teams there would also be a number of English teams present for this important race. Connaught Engineering and Vandervell Products would all have more than one entry in the race.
In spite of all the foreign entries no one would be faster around the 6.2 mile circuit than the Ferrari team. The fastest in practice, not surprisingly, would be Juan Manuel Fangio having turned a lap of 2:42.6. Eight-tenths of a second would separate Fangio from Castellotti in the 2nd place position on the grid. A mere three-tenths of a second then separated Castellotti from Musso in the final spot on the front row. Therefore, Ferrari had a sweep of the front row and certainly looked the dominant force heading into the race.
Emmanuel de Graffenried had been out of Formula One racing since 1954, and in practice it would show. Powering his way around the circuit, de Graffenried would be a fair bit off the pace. His fastest lap would end up being a lap of 3:03.3. And though it would be some 20 seconds off of Fangio's best it would still be good enough to position the Baron on the sixth row of the grid in the 18th spot.
The day of the race would see some sunlight and dry conditions early on, but the clouds would begin to gather and the threat of rain became very real. Still, the cars would be rolled out to their grid positions with thousands upon thousands of frenzied Italian race fans looking on. As the flag dropped to start the race, Castellotti and Musso would get the better jump off the line and would lead the way the first time the field took off around the banking. Passing the start/finish line for the first time before heading off around the road course it would be Castellotti and Musso with a decent lead over Schell leading Fangio and the rest.
At the end of the first lap, it would be Castellotti and Musso still in the lead of the race. Fangio and Schell would continue to battle but it would be Fangio in 3rd after the first lap. Emmanuel de Graffenried would be relatively lazy off the line, and, by the end of the first lap would be running in 20th place.
Castellotti and Musso would be running a torrid pace early on while Fangio and Schell continued to fight it out for 3rd. Through the first few laps de Graffenried would hold steady in 20th but would come up a spot when da Silva Ramos departed the race due to a blown engine.
The torrid pace up front would quickly take its toll on Castellotti and Musso as both would lose treads on their tires. However, the concerns with the Ferraris would allow Stirling Moss to take over the lead while Schell and Fangio continued to battle.
Tire problems would continue to plague the Ferrari team as de Portago would be forced to retire from the race. Fangio, after a brief moment in the lead of the race, would also have to pit because of tire problems. But the Ferraris wouldn't be the only team struggling. While Schell continued to fight it out at the front without problems, his Vandervell Products teammates would not be so fortunate. Meanwhile, de Graffenried's slow and steady pace would end up paying off as the troubles of others enabled him to move up the running order. In fact, by the 15th lap of the race de Graffenried was up to 12th place.
Just a few laps later the championship battle would take an interesting turn as Fangio's Ferrari would suffer a bent steering arm and would force the Argentinean into the pits for a lengthy period of time. Meanwhile, Moss continued in the lead with Schell still running a splendid 2nd. While Castellotti's race had come to an end, Musso had managed to recover from his early tire problems to be running in 3rd place just ahead of Peter Collins. By the 25th lap de Graffenried had come to benefit from all of the troubles and would be up to 11th place after starting the race in 18th. Slow and steady wasn't going to win the race, but it certainly could lead to some valuable points if things went right.
Things continued to go right for Moss as he held onto the lead by a rather comfortable margin over Musso following Schell's retirement with transmission troubles. Some 14 laps from the end of the race, however, the championship battle would take yet another turn as Peter Collins would make an incredible grand gesture and would give up his championship aspirations so that Fangio could rejoin the race and go after his third-straight World Championship title. Fangio would re-enter the race in 3rd place while de Graffenried would continue to motor along in 9th.
Eight laps from the end of the race de Graffenried would again be promoted in the running order when the Maserati driven by Jean Behra suffered from steering issues of its own. This meant de Graffenried was now in 8th place. Unfortunately, it seemed that is where he would end the race. But, the race wasn't over, at least not just yet.
Moss had led more than 40 laps, but with only a few laps remaining in the race, Luigi Musso would power his way past Moss for the lead. This would be terribly heart-breaking for the Brit after having shown so well in the Italian Grand Prix yet again.
It all seemed a cruel joke for Moss watching Musso pull away with the lead. However, with just three laps left in the race Musso's plaguing tire problems would rear its ugly head again and would drop him out of the race handing the lead back to Moss. Collins' gesture would also allow Fangio to now be in 2nd place and have the championship firmly within his grasp. Musso's retirement also meant de Graffenried moved up to 7th place. He just needed to hold on to the checkered flag.
After dominating most of the race, the natural order of things, at least for this race, would be restored as Moss roared across the line to take his first Italian Grand Prix win. A little under 6 seconds later, Fangio would come across the line to secure his fourth World Championship title. Surprising most everybody else, Ron Flockhart would complete the podium finishing the race a little more than a lap down in 3rd place.
SourcesCapps, Don. 'Classic Red Redux: A Case History of the Maserati 250F', (http://8w.forix.com/250f-redux.html). 8W: The Stories Behind Motor Racing Facts and Fiction. http://8w.forix.com/250f-redux.html. Retrieved 4 April 2013.
'Central and South', (http://www.motorvalley.it/personaggi/centro-sud.html). Motor Valley. http://www.motorvalley.it/personaggi/centro-sud.html. Retrieved 4 April 2013.
Muelas, Felix & Diepraam, Mattijs. 'Italy's Maserati Privateer', (http://8w.forix.com/centrosud.html). 8W: The Stories Behind Motor Racing Facts and Fiction. http://8w.forix.com/centrosud.html. Retrieved 4 April 2013.
'The Team South Central', (http://www.forum-auto.com/sport-auto/histoire-du-sport-auto/sujet378941.htm). Caradisiac.com. http://www.forum-auto.com/sport-auto/histoire-du-sport-auto/sujet378941.htm. Retrieved 4 April 2013.
'1956 Non-World Championship Grands Prix', (http://www.silhouet.com/motorsport/archive/f1/nc/1956/1956.html). 1956 Non-World Championship Grands Prix. http://www.silhouet.com/motorsport/archive/f1/nc/1956/1956.html. Retrieved 4 April 2013.
'1956 World Drivers Championship', (http://www.silhouet.com/motorsport/archive/f1/1956/f156.html). 1956 World Drivers Championship. http://www.silhouet.com/motorsport/archive/f1/1956/f156.html. Retrieved 4 April 2013.
'Seasons: 1956', (http://www.statsf1.com/en/1956.aspx). StatsF1. http://www.statsf1.com/en/1956.aspx. Retrieved 4 April 2013.
'1956 Season', (http://www.manipef1.com/seasons/1956/). ManipeF1. http://www.manipef1.com/seasons/1956/. Retrieved 4 April 2013.
F1 Italian GP 1956. Video. (1956). Retrieved 4 April 2013 from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9T216nY-FbY
1956 Formula One Season Review Part 1. Video. (1956). Retrieved 4 April 2013 from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CtKOW-M_flM
1956 Formula One Season Review Part 3. Video. (1956). Retrieved 4 April 2013 from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fISqRJpRL0c&list=UUnVE0pkqqRoInmOiaojvoKw
1956 Formula One Season Review Part 2. Video. (1956). Retrieved 4 April 2013 from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eSOoJq2S0WA&list=UUnVE0pkqqRoInmOiaojvoKw
'Grand Prix Results: Belgian GP, 1956', (http://www.grandprix.com/gpe/rr052.html). GrandPrix.com. http://www.grandprix.com/gpe/rr052.html. Retrieved 4 April 2013.
'Grand Prix Results: German GP, 1956', (http://www.grandprix.com/gpe/rr055.html). GrandPrix.com. http://www.grandprix.com/gpe/rr055.html. Retrieved 4 April 2013.
'Grand Prix Results: Italian GP, 1956', (http://www.grandprix.com/gpe/rr056.html). GrandPrix.com. http://www.grandprix.com/gpe/rr056.html. Retrieved 4 April 2013.
Wikipedia contributors, 'Posillipo', Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 15 March 2013, 02:41 UTC, http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Posillipo&oldid=544258873 accessed 5 April 2013
Wikipedia contributors, 'Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps', Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 3 April 2013, 23:40 UTC, http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Circuit_de_Spa-Francorchamps&oldid=548572701 accessed 5 April 2013
Wikipedia contributors, 'Caen', Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 13 March 2013, 12:05 UTC, http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Caen&oldid=543825273 accessed 5 April 2013
Wikipedia contributors, 'Autodromo Nazionale Monza', Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 30 March 2013, 11:52 UTC, http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Autodromo_Nazionale_Monza&oldid=547800362 accessed 5 April 2013
MoreScuderia Centro Sud Formula 1 ArticlesFormula 1 Articles From The 1956 Season.