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.
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