Teams1952 Formula One Season By Jeremy McMullen
Motor racing consists of a tight-knit community of individuals all working for different teams, but striving for the same goal. Up and down the pitlane there will be drivers of one team that were teammates of a driver in another. Often times, motor racing becomes a family affair. There have often been fathers and sons that race together, against each other or coach the other. There have been a number of brothers that have taken part, perhaps none so well known as the Maserati brothers. But there were a lesser-known set of brothers that would pass through the pages of World Championship history. They were the Marzotto brothers.
The Marzotto brothers would come to enter the loud and fast world of motor racing by one of the most docile creatures in the world—sheep. Count Gaetano Marzotto was the clear 'king of the Italian wool industry' and would fund his sons' endeavors in motor racing. That's right 'sons'. Marzotto had four sons: Giannino, Vittorio, Umberto and Paolo, and all four were involved in motor racing.
Mostly, the sons were involved in sports car racing. Giannino would end up defeating Ferrari's works drivers, Luigi Villoresi and Alberto Ascari, in the 1950 edition of the Mille Miglia. Marzotto would complete the race in style. He would race the entire 1,000 miles in a double-breasted suit.
Prior to the race, Enzo Ferrari was unable to pull the wool over Giannino's eyes as he had the engine in the 166 detuned in order to protect Marzotto. Giannino would protest. The car would be retuned and would go on to win. Ferrari would then let Giannino know he had ordered the car to be fitted with a more powerful engine, and then would demand half of the prize money as he was considered a Ferrari driver, whether Marzotto knew that or not.
The lesser-known Marzotto, Vittorio, would go on to score victory and set a new record at the 11th Giro di Sicilia in April of 1951. He would also go on to win the Monaco Grand Prix sports car race during the 1952 season. The sports car race would be held at Monaco instead of the openwheel grand prix cars. Although he would be handed the lead by a former driver, the dramatic Eugenio Castellotti; who would pull into the pits for a Coke because he needed to quench his thirst, Vittorio would battle with Castellotti throughout the closing stages of the race and would go on to take the victory, the last for the sports cars on the streets of Monaco.
Being involved in such colorful moments in early grand prix and sports car racing history, it would be little surprise Vittorio Marzotto would decide to enter the colorful world of World Championship grand prix racing.
Simply called Scuderia Marzotto, or the 'Stable Marzotto', the team would have two Ferrari 166s set up to Formula 2 specifications with 1.5-liter 125 V12 engines. Vittorio would mainly concentrate on sports car races and would hire other drivers to drive the grand prix cars in different races. The team would end up employing Franco Comotti, Sergio Sighinolfi and Piero Carini over the course of the season.
Vittorio had been used to doing battle with the likes of Robert Manzon, Stirling Moss, Andre Simon and Castellotti in the sports car ranks. When race organizers and the World Championship governing-body decided the 1952 and 53 seasons would be run according to Formula 2 regulations, Marzotto had a more efficient means by which to take part in the World Championship.
Even though the World Championship would become a possibility for Vittorio Marzotto in 1952, he would continue to take part in sports car races and other non-championship grand prix. While Vittorio would go on to take the win at Monaco in the early spring in the sports car race, the first of the non-championship grand prix races in which the team would take part would come midway through March.
On the 16th of March, Scuderia Marzotto would head on down to Syracuse, Sicily for the 2nd Gran Premio de Siracusa. This would be one race in which Vittorio would take part. He would drive a Ferrari 166C while Franco Comotti and Sergio Sighinolfi would drive the other two 166 F2s.
Located just a mile or so west of the port city Siracusa, the 2nd Gran Premio de Siracusa would use public roads that traversed the countryside to make up the 3.34 mile road course. The circuit was believed to be partially situated on a demolished auxiliary airfield built by the United States Army Air Force during World War II. The circuit's layout was similar to that of a kite and featured a couple of long straights. These were interrupted by some sweeping curves and a hairpin turn. In this configuration it was a familiar sight to see average speeds above 90 mph.
This would be the first race of the season in which the Ferrari 500 F2, and Scuderia Ferrari, would make an appearance. While Scuderia Marzotto would bring three cars to the race, Scuderia Ferrari would bring four, driven by Alberto Ascari, Luigi Villoresi, Giuseppe Farina and Piero Taruffi. Another Ferrari 500 would be entered by Rudolf Fischer driving for his own Ecurie Espadon team.
In practice, Ascari would end up turning the fastest lap time. Scuderia Ferrari would end up turning in the four-fastest lap times as Ascari would be joined on the front row by Villoresi and Farina. In the first position on the second row would be Piero Taruffi.
Franco Comotti would look impressive in one of the F2 166s. He would manage to start from the second row in 6th position. The unfortunate part was the fact his best time had been seven seconds slower than Ascari's best. Sighinolfi would qualify 7th for the race and would start in the first position on the third row. This was a good sign for the team against the might of Ferrari.
Marzotto wouldn't be able to match the pace of his other two drivers. His best time would be about ten seconds slower than Comotti's best, and therefore, would position Vittorio in the 12th spot on the fourth row of the grid.
The race would be the first test of the season as it would be 60 laps of the 3.34 mile circuit and totaled 200 miles in length. This would provide teams the opportunity to see what kind of speeds could be reached while maintaining endurance.
In the case of Sighinolfi, the endurance would definitely be lacking. While he would make it past the first couple of laps without trouble, he wouldn't make it much further. He would join three others already out of the race.
Marzotto would find his car didn't have the endurance either as he too would retire from the race. However, his race would end up lasting a good deal longer than what it had for Sergio in his 166.
In Franco Comotti's case, he would find he didn't have the pace. Alberto Ascari had the lead of the race and was pushing hard to gap the rest of the field. His average pace per lap was pushing above 88 mph. This sustained pace would end up being too much for many in the field, including Villoresi. In spite of recording the fastest lap early on in the race, Villoresi, and his car, would fade severely in the light of Ascari's pace.
The only ones that would manage to even come close to keeping with Ascari over the course of the 60 laps would be Piero Taruffi and the former World Champion Giuseppe Farina. However, Alberto was more than enough for the two of them and would go on to win the race.
Taruffi would be the first loser. He would end up fifty-nine seconds behind Ascari by the end. Farina would end up a minute and a half behind as he crossed the line to finish 3rd.
Franco Comotti would not be able to handle Ascari's pace and would end up down two laps by the end of the race. However, Comotti's race still fared much better than it had for Sighinolfi and Marzotto. He would finish in 6th place.
Although Comotti was unable to keep pace with any of the Ferrari 500s, the 6th place finish was a decent start to the grand prix season. Perhaps things would only get better for the team as the season progressed. It would be two months before the team would enter another race to find out whether or not the results would improve or get worse.
Remaining around the Italian homeland, Scuderia Marzotto would travel to Naples to take part in the 5th Gran Premio di Napoli on the 11th of May.
Situated on a steep rocky crag overlooking the Nisida harbor, Posillipo Park served as the site for the Gran Premio di Napoli. The circuit was comprised of mostly residential streets and featured severe drops off cliffs at many points around the circuit. Perhaps one of the most dramatic sites around the circuit, besides the circuit itself running the rim of the cliffs itself, would be the start/finish bridge that passed over the street that made its way down from the top of the peak. The circuit measured 2.54 miles of the tight streets, and therefore, lowered average speeds around the circuit to under 70 mph.
Scuderia Marzotto would come to the race with its two main Ferrari 166 chassis. One would be driven by Franco Comotti, while the other would again be driven by Sergio Sighinolfi. Once again, the team would face Scuderia Ferrari. However, they would not face a couple of important figures. Alberto Ascari was in the United States making preparations to take part in the Indianapolis 500 at the end of the month. In addition to Ascari's absence, Villoresi was also missing from the race. Instead, the team would enter three cars for Giuseppe Farina, Andre Simon and Piero Taruffi.
These three Ferrari drivers would end up doing just fine in practice. Farina would step in nicely for Ascari and would end up being the fastest. Piero Taruffi would start in 2nd place. Andre Simon would end up making it a one-two-three starting grid for Ferrari as he would turn in the third-fastest time and would join his two Ferrari teammates on the front row.
Sighinolfi would occupy a spot on the second row. He would end up being a little slower than Louis Rosier and would; therefore, start beside him in 6th position. Comotti, comparatively, would struggle. His best would only net him a 9th starting position which was on the fourth row of the grid.
Sixty laps around the Posillipo Park circuit would be no easy task. It was not like a lap at Monza. The streets were tight with threatening drop-offs just on the other side of the hay bails and concrete barriers. A lapse in concentration had serious consequences and a mistake got magnified very quickly.
Only thirteen would start the race. Farina would take advantage of his pole-position and would lead the field. Known for his free-flowing and easy style of driving, Farina quickly began to stretch out a margin over the rest of the field.
The circuit began to take its toll after about forty-five minutes into the race. A couple of cars had already fallen out of the race. Then, there would be two more that would drop out within six laps of each other due to mechanical problems. Thirty-four laps into the race Andre Simon would crash and would be out of the race.
Meanwhile, Farina would record the fastest lap of the race and would continue to stretch his lead over Taruffi in 2nd place. Although Farina's pace was too much for them to handle, both of the Scuderia Marzotto drivers were still running in the race and around the top five.
On what was Sighinolfi's 50th lap, he would crash his Ferrari 166 bringing his race to an end while running in the 5th position. It would end up not being that much of a big deal as he would end up being far enough behind Farina by the end that he would have been not classified anyway.
Farina's pace was torrential. His smooth style seemed to keep getting faster each and every lap. He would end up all alone as he crossed the finish line in the lead. Piero Taruffi would manage to finish the race in 2nd, but would cross the line a very distant one minute and fifty seconds behind.
Franco Comotti was soundly beaten by Farina. But then again, so was everybody else. In spite of finishing the race five laps down to Farina, Comotti would still manage to bring his car home in 3rd place. This was a tremendous result and effort considering he started the race 9th.
The result at Naples showed Marzotto's team was more than capable of scoring top results if they would be able to keep their cars out of trouble over the course of a race. Of course, the majority of the competition the team had faced to this point was just Scuderia Ferrari. They had not really faced any other factory efforts plus Ferrari. That would come in the team's next race.
The team had made the decision to miss the first round of the World Championship, the Swiss Grand Prix. Instead, the team prepared to take part in the third round of the French F2 Championship, the 6th Grand Prix de Paris at Montlhery.
The team arrived at the Montlhery Autodrome with a single car for the 6th Grand Prix de Paris on the 25th of May. Comotti would drive the single car in the three hour event held on the 3.90 mile Troisiemi Circuit layout.
Montlhery, built in 1924, was a motorsports complex that boasted of a 1.58 mile banked oval and a road course that ran parallel to itself over the majority of its distance. This complex allowed for many different circuit arrangements to suit the type and class to be held at the venue. The entire grand prix circuit layout would utilize a little over half of the oval and the entire length of the road course to measure a little over 7.76 miles in total distance. The Troisiemi layout consisted of about half of the whole possible distance. It would include the banked oval, with some chicanes to slow down speeds, and about half of the road course.
Without the chicanes, the circuit is slowed by what amounted to three hairpin turns. One served as the turnaround point of the circuit, 'Couard', the other two were just before the circuit emptied back out onto the oval. Banked at fifty-one degrees, the oval definitely allowed the drivers to keep their foot hard on the gas before coming around and braking hard, just after the start/finish line, for the first of the chicanes.
The hard acceleration and braking would be hard on the cars over the course of the event, which was a timed three hour race compared to a distance oriented race with a specific number of laps to complete. The mindset would cause the drivers to push hard and push the cars to the absolute limit.
In practice, it would end up being Robert Manzon, in his Equipe Gordini T16, that would push the hardest. He would complete a lap of the circuit in two minutes and twenty-one seconds and would earn the pole as a result. Perhaps as a sign of just how hard Manzon was and needed to push his car, the next three positions on the starting grid would be the three Scuderia Ferrari drivers entered in the race. Piero Taruffi would be the fastest of the three and would start 2nd. Villoresi would be the third-fastest overall, and would complete the front row. Giuseppe Farina would then start from the second row in 4th.
Facing some of the other competitive factory efforts, Comotti would end up struggling to keep pace during practice. His fastest time around the circuit in practice would end up being almost seventeen seconds slower than that of Manzon. Therefore, Franco would start on the sixth row in the 15th position. Still, this wasn't that bad of a position considering the race would be as much about reliability as it would be about speed.
Although the race was to be three hours in length, troubles began visiting drivers within the first twenty-five minutes. Peter Collins would be out of the race after only completing 2 laps. Harry Schell would be out after only 12. Up front, it was the Ferraris chasing after Manzon.
Soon, Taruffi and Farina would get by Manzon and would begin to pull away. Another wave of attrition would decimate the field all the more. Four entries would be out of the race within a seven lap span. However, Comotti continued to run on without any troubles.
The race passed the halfway mark and still Comotti was in the running without any major problems. However, it would all come to naught a little past the two hour mark.
While Taruffi and Farina were running away from the rest of the field, Comotti would end up running out of engine. On what was his 46th lap, the engine expired in the car leaving Franco without any drive. His race was over.
A couple of laps later, Robert Manzon's race would come to an end with a differential problem. This left Louis Rosier as the main threat to Scuderia Ferrari pulling off a one-two-three finish. However, Villoresi was struggling to keep pace. Therefore, it was devised Farina would take over for Villoresi and Andre Simon, a reserve driver, would take over in Farina's car. The plan seemed as though it would work until Farina would be disqualified for receiving outside assistance.
Not bothered by all of the drama behind him Taruffi would sail on to the victory. Simon would take the gift from Farina and would finish in 2nd place, albeit three laps behind. Louis Rosier would end up holding on to finish in 3rd four laps down.
It would not be the competition that would necessarily defeat Scuderia Marzotto at the Grand Prix de Paris. This was good and bad news for the team. It meant they could run with the competition, but it also meant they had some work to do to ensure their cars would be reliable enough to take advantage of any opportunity given them.
After the failed single car effort at the third round of the French F2 Championship, Scuderia Marzotto and Franco Comotti would take on an even bigger challenge on the 1st of June.
In spite of the decision of many race organizers to run according to Formula 2 specifications, there were still a number of races that would allow the powerful Formula One machines to come out and play once more. The race on the 1st of June was one of those. It was the 14th Grand Prix de l'Albigeois and it was held on the fast 5.55 mile Albi road course.
The race would bring the Formula One cars out en masse. Scuderia Ferrari would dispatch Louis Rosier and Chico Landi with two of their dominant 375 chassis. Current World Champion, Juan Manuel Fangio, would come with fellow Argentinean Jose Froilan Gonzalez and two of the powerful, but troublesome, BRM P15s. There would also be a gaggle of about six aged Talbot-Lago T26Cs. Lost in this awesome field would be Comotti and about five other drivers driving Formula 2 class machines.
The fast Les Planques Circuit ran between Albi and Saint-Juery just to the east of Albi's city center. Ever since 1934, the hairpin turn in Albi had been cut-out of the circuit arrangement. Instead, the start/finish line was located along the road that ran perpendicular to Avenue de Saint-Juery and the Route de Millau. The run down from turn one to the hairpin turn in Saint-Juery was not straight but had a number of gentle sweeping curves that helped to slow speeds. However, the run down Route de Montplaisir was a high-speed straight shot once past Rue Leopold Vareil. This allowed the cars to reach maximum speed before having to brake hard for the 100 degree turn onto Route de Millau. Once again, the speeds would be high down this straight until braking and turning right onto the short start/finish straight. Overall, this was a dream for the Formula One cars, while the Formula 2 machines would be breathing heavy in an effort to keep up.
Sure enough, in practice, the Formula One cars dominated. Most dominant of the Formula One machines would be the Argentineans in the BRM P15s. Fangio would turn in an incredible lap in the P15. He would absolutely blow through a lap of the 5.55 mile circuit in two minutes and fifty-five seconds. He would average almost 110 mph over the course of the lap and would manage to be seven seconds faster than Gonzalez who would start 2nd in the other BRM.
The first of the Ferrari 375s would be Louis Rosier. His lap would be eleven seconds slower than Fangio, but still good enough to start on the front row in 3rd place.
The first of the Formula 2 cars on the starting grid would end up being the Prince Bira's Simca-Gordini T15, which would end up on the third row in 7th place. Compared to the times of the best Formula 2 cars, Comotti would be a little over twelve seconds slower. Overall, Franco's time would put him down on the sixth row in 14th position.
The race distance around the Les Planques Circuit would be 34 laps. Despite Fangio's incredible pace, BRM's competitors would breathe a little easier having knowledge of the incredible fragility of the P15. It was true the mighty sixteen-cylinder car could haul, but it often proved to haul so fast that its internals couldn't handle what it was supposed to be able to do.
In the race, the two BRMs would make it past the first couple of laps. Feeling confident of the car's ability and advantage, Gonzalez would push the car and would set what would end up being the fastest lap of the race within the first couple laps. The lap would only be two-tenths faster than Rosier's qualifying effort but that would prove to be too much for the high-strung car. A cylinder broke on the huge engine ending the race for Jose after only 5 laps. Two other competitors would end up either having transmission troubles or would crash out on the same lap as Jose.
Being at least a year old and not constantly improved as they had once been, the Formula One cars were dropping out of the race at a rate of over two-to-one to the Formula 2 cars. The ratio wouldn't be helped either when the fast Fangio would also retire from the race when his P15 broke a cylinder head stud.
As they had the season before, the Ferrari 375s proved to be too strong. Driving a steady pace, Rosier would be handed the lead from the failed BRM effort. He would gladly accept the gift and he and Landi would check-out from the rest of the field, which still included Franco Comotti in the Scuderia Marzotto Ferrari 166.
Rosier would average a little over 101 mph en route to the victory. He would be followed by the second Ferrari 375, driven by Chico Landi, eighteen seconds behind. A minute and ten seconds separated Rosier and the 3rd place finisher Yves Giraud-Cabantous in a Talbot-Lago T26C.
Comotti would be one of just a couple Formula 2 cars still running in the race. By the end, he would be four laps down to Rosier, but would manage to hold his own to finish the race in 7th place.
This was another rather good result against fierce competition. The team just needed the good fortune to remain with them throughout the remainder of the season. For if Comotti managed to finish well against the powerful Formula One cars, then the team would have a good shot against a field of fellow Formula 2 machines.
Only one week after the hard fought battle with the Formula One machines at Albi, Scuderia Marzotto would head east to Monza, Italy to take part in the 5th Grand Prix of Monza on the 8th of June.
Although the race was only one day after another Formula One race at Dundrod in Ireland, the field was full of Formula 2 cars and drivers. Twenty-nine cars would be entered in the race. Scuderia Marzotto would enter two Ferraris driven by Gianfranco Comotti and Piero Carini.
Built in 1925, Monza has always been at the heart of Italian grand prix racing since its very first race. Featuring a steeply banked oval and a road course positioned in the wooded Royal Villa Park, Monza has been anything but pastoral. Whether utilizing the oval or not, speeds around the circuit remained quite high as the drivers only barely take their foot off the gas all throughout a lap of the circuit. For the race in 1952, the oval would not be used. However, the 3.91 mile circuit would still boast of average speeds in excess of 100 mph.
The Grand Prix of Monza was run quite a bit differently than the Italian Grand Prix that would be held at the same venue later on in the year. In fact, the race was conducted quite differently than many of the race.
Similar to the International Trophy race at Silverstone, the Grand Prix of Monza was a race featuring two heat races. However, there would not be a final. Each of the competitors would take part in the each of the 35 lap heat races. The aggregate time of each driver over the course of the two races would then determine the official results.
Practice times before the first heat determined starting positions. Perhaps frustrated from his retirement from Indianapolis, or, just wanting to make sure he would be in the best position to earn the best time over the first heat, Alberto Ascari would set the fastest time in practice before the first heat.
The front row was four wide. Ascari was on the pole. Ferrari teammate, Giuseppe Farina, would join him at the front starting in the 2nd position. Jose Froilan Gonzalez, driving for the official works Maserati team, would start in 3rd position, while Luigi Villoresi would complete the front row in another of the Ferraris.
Carini would prove to be the best starter amongst the Scuderia Marzotto team. His best lap, amidst the large field of competitors, would be good enough to start from the fourth row in 13th position. Comotti would end up starting on the same row as Carini but in the last position, which was 16th.
In the first heat race, Ascari was absolutely dominant. Very quickly he began to pull away from the rest of the field. This was helped by the fact that he would go on to set the fastest lap time for the first heat race.
A number of cars would end up out of the race. Quite a few of them wouldn't even make it a third of the way through the first 35 lap heat. Of course none of the retirements would be as attention-getting and serious as Juan Manuel Fangio's large impact in a Maserati A6GCM. The current World Champion crashed heavily and was actually finding his life to be threatened. However, he would pull through. But he was done racing for the year.
About a third of the field was out of the first heat before a third of the race. Unfortunately for Scuderia Marzotto, Comotti would end up being one of the third. Only 6 laps into the race the engine would let go in the 166 F2, thus ending the heat and the race for Comotti. Half of the Maseratis entered in the race would also be out before the end of the first heat.
Scuderia Ferrari, with its powerful lineup of drivers and car, would continue on without too much issue. The second Ferrari for Marzotto, driven by Carini, was also one of those still running.
Of course nobody would end up running anywhere near as good as Ascari. He would end up averaging about 109 mph and would take the win by one minute and four seconds over Farina in 2nd place. Andre Simon would keep it Ferrari one-two-three after the first heat when he would manage to finish 3rd one lap down.
Carini would take it rather easy, but would cruise to the finish of the first heat. He would end up three laps down, but still would finish in the 11th position.
Starting grid positions for the second, and final, heat were determined by the finishing times of the first heat. Therefore, with little surprise, Ascari would again start from the pole. Farina would again be second. However, Andre Simon and Felice Bonetto would join the two on the front row.
Since there would only be sixteen cars that would start the last heat, Carini would be positioned somewhat in the middle of the field due to his 11th place finish in the first heat. He would start on the third row. He would have Peter Whitehead and Andre Simon directly in front of him on the starting grid.
While it went rather wrong for Maserati in the first heat, it would be Ferrari that would take a huge hit in the second. Ascari pulled away with the lead at the start of the second heat. Things were starting to look as they had with the first heat. But it would not last.
While Ascari seemed to have everything going right for him at the start of the second heat, things were going badly wrong for Carini. Only a few laps into the second heat trouble visited the second Marzotto Ferrari. This would end the team's day.
While things went bad for Marzotto, Scuderia Ferrari wouldn't have everything go their way either. Only 14 laps into the last heat race, a camshaft failure would end up costing Ascari a chance at the victory.
Ascari's retirement would hand Farina the lead, which he would gladly take. Taking advantage of his opportunity, Farina would set the fastest lap of the second heat and would stretch his margin over Simon in 2nd. Everybody else was just holding on to finish the incredibly tough race.
Farina would cruise to victory in the second heat. He would defeat his Ferrari teammate, Andre Simon, by a margin of a minute and a half. Farina would end up with a two lap margin over Rudolf Fischer who would finish in 3rd.
The aggregate results would prove the results of the second heat. Farina would end up earning the victory by a whole lap over Simon in 2nd place. Fischer would driver a steady, trouble-free run to claim 3rd, in spite of being four laps down in the final results.
While not having the pace as some of the other Formula 2 teams, particularly Ferrari and Maserati, the biggest problem the Marzotto was having had mostly to do with reliability. The cars couldn't be pushed too hard for fear of failure. Were the team to remedy this situation, they would have better chances at good results.
The team would skip the third round of the World Championship in favor of preparing their cars; making them more reliable over the course of a race. For if they were successful in doing that, they would have better results. To test whether they had found more reliability, the team would enter a race one week after the third round of the World Championship. On the 29th of June, Scuderia Marzotto would be in Reims, France preparing for what was the fourth round of the French F2 Championship, and an important test before the fourth round of the World Championship.
The fourth round of the World Championship in 1952 was the French Grand Prix. This counted toward, and was run according to, French F2 regulations. Therefore, the 20th running of the Grand Prix de la Marne would be an important test.
As with the previous French F2 Championship round in which the team competed, the race would be run according to time, instead of distance. This would hold true when the World Championship would run in conjunction with the French F2 Championship at Rouen-Les-Essarts the following week.
Reims would also be a good place to test the reliability of the team's cars. Laid out similar to Albi, albeit a little shorter, Reims boasted of public roads that made a couple of long, long straights that would allow the car to reach top-end speeds before having to break hard for tight hairpin turns. Changed; however, for 1952 was the run down into the small village of Gueux. The hairpin turn there would be replaced by a sweeping right-hand corner. The circuit then wound through the countryside before turning on the long, straight run down to the Thillois hairpin turn that led down the long front stretch. Reims was always known for its speed. But it was also always known for its high attrition. Man and machine were also pushed to the limits at the circuit.
One thing Alberto Ascari had no trouble with was going fast. In practice before the race, he would be the fastest and would start from the pole. Almost as always, Farina would be second-fastest and would also start on the front row. Robert Manzon, of Equipe Gordini, would end up being just two seconds slower than Ascari and would start 3rd.
Scuderia Marzotto would enter its two cars in the race. Once again they would be driven by Franco Comotti and Piero Carini. In practice, Carini would prove impressive as he would turn in a best lap time that was just eleven seconds slower than Ascari. This would place him on the third row of the grid in 8th position. Comparatively, Comotti would come nowhere near Carini's pace. Comotti's best time would end up being a little over five seconds slower than Carini. As a result, Comotti would start the race on the seventh row of the grid in 17th.
Starting position in a three hour race wouldn't be anywhere near as important as finishing position. That is, of course, unless the finishing position would end up not being any better than the starting position. This would be the case for both of the Marzotto entries.
The trouble started early. Four entries would be out of the race within the first thirteen minutes of the race. Included among those making early exits would be Luigi Villoresi in one of the Ferraris. His engine would let go on him only 4 laps into the race. This left his good friend, Alberto Ascari, with a big decision. He would end up doing the sporting thing and would actually give his car to Villoresi for the remainder of the race. However, if the best team down the pitlane was having to make such decisions within the first twenty minutes of the race, what was the remainder going to be like for the other entries? Marzotto would find out that it meant something not good.
Only 11 laps into the race, or thirty minutes, Comotti's race would come to an end. His Ferrari would not be able to carry him any further. Most unfortunate for the team though would be the fact Comotti wouldn't be alone for very long. Carini's race would come to an end amidst another wave of retirements within the first hour.
Reims, as usual, was striking the field hard. Everybody ran the risk of running into trouble. However, those with a smooth driving style, like Farina, seemed to have the best chance at staying in the running order.
Although Farina, and his smooth style, would enable him to run fast at the front of the field, over the course of the three hour race, nobody would end up being faster than Jean Behra. Averaging a little over 105 mph, Behra would complete 71 laps over the course of the three hour race and would defeat Farina by a whole lap. Luigi Villoresi, in Alberto Ascari's Ferrari 500, would end up enjoying his second chance and would finish 3rd, also one lap behind Behra.
While the first round of the World Championship in which Scuderia Marzotto would take part in 1952 would not be on a course like Reims, the team had struggled mightily with reliability over the previous couple of races. Seeing as the French Grand Prix would be another timed event, Marzotto needed to find reliability, or else, its first World Championship race would end up being a short foray in Formula One history.
A week after the disaster at Reims, Scuderia Marzotto were in Rouen, merely a hundred miles to the west, for the 39th Grand Prix de l'A.C.F. Throughout the previous two seasons, the first two of Formula One, the French Grand Prix had been held at Reims. In 1952; however, it would be moved to the more modern Rouen-Les-Essarts road course.
The 3.16 mile road course was similar to Reims in that it too was comprised of public roads. Whereas Reims was located on what was generally flat countryside, the Rouen Les Essarts circuit was located in a small valley that is part of the Normandy region of France. Boasting of more modern pit facilities and a wider circuit layout, the road course wasn't without its idiosyncrasies. Of course no portion of the circuit would be more famous, or as well known, as the Nouveau Monde hairpin turn with its cobblestone pavement. The circuit would quickly become a favorite.
In practice it would quickly become a favorite venue for Ascari as well. He would take his Ferrari 500 and would lap the circuit with a time of two minutes and fourteen seconds. This would be the fastest time by a second and a half over Farina who would start from the front row in 2nd.
The front row was only three wide. Piero Taruffi would end up doing his best to ensure that it would be Ferrari that would occupy the entire front row. His best time would be only two and a half seconds slower than Ascari and two seconds faster than Jean Behra. This meant Taruffi would in fact ensure a Ferrari sweep of the front row.
Scuderia Marzotto could only pray to be so fortunate. As it would turn out, the team would be fighting for the front of the field, but the wrong end. Comotti would be the better starter this time, although it wasn't much of a badge of honor. His best time would end up being over twenty-one seconds slower than Ascari. As a result, Comotti would start from the seventh row in 16th position. Piero Carini would end up locked in a battle with Johnny Claes for the final spot on the grid. In a very, very small morale boost to the team, Claes would end up beating out Carini for the final spot. In all, twenty cars would start the race.
Right at the start of the race, Ascari would take the lead over Farina and Taruffi. From that point on, the Scuderia Ferrari teammates began to pull away from the field using the superior pace and handling of the Ferrari 500 chassis.
Carini's race wouldn't even get really started. By the time he had pulled away from hist starting position and his brakes had come up to temperature his engine would die. Carini's race would end up lasting a little more than five minutes, or two laps. This was another bitter disappointment for the Marzotto team. However, they still did have another car out there on the track fortunately still running.
The stress and strain, compared to Reims, was a bit less at Rouen. But all this did was foster confidence in Ascari and the rest of the Ferrari teammates. A little less than halfway through the race Ascari would turn what would end up being the fastest lap of the race. His time would have been good enough to start from the front row. Besides being good enough to have started from the front row, it also went to extend his advantage over Farina and the rest of the field.
Approaching the end of the race, Comotti was still running but with a much more protective pace. Unfortunately, Ascari was driving anything but conservatively. This meant Comotti would end up having plenty of opportunities to wave to Ascari as he went by.
As the race entered the final lap, Scuderia Ferrari was staggered beautifully, at least as far as the team was concerned. A lap separated each of the Ferrari runners. Ascari then had at least three laps in hand over the rest of the competitors.
Over the course of three hours, Ascari would complete 77 laps. Farina would finish one lap down in 2nd. Taruffi would help to make it a clean sweep of the podium, as well as the front row, as he would come in another lap down to Ascari in 3rd place.
Although he was still running out on the circuit at the end, Comotti would officially be recorded as 'not classified'. By the time the end of the race rolled around, Comotti had seen Ascari pass by him fourteen times. But at least the team had one of its cars make it an entire race.
Scuderia Marzotto's debut in the World Championship was a bitterly disappointing experience. But considering what the team had been going through, they could leave Rouen with at least a little bit of encouragement. They had had one of the cars actually make it a race distance. The team hoped they could build upon this small step and see some more impressive results come their way.
The next location in which the team would enter a race looking for good results would be at one of the most dangerous and difficult locations in all the world.
Scuderia Marzotto, and the rest of the World Championship competitors, would make the trip to western Germany for the German Grand Prix on the 3rd of August. The site of the race was the notorious Nurburgring and the 14 mile long Nordschleife.
The undulating, twisty purpose-built circuit located in the Eifel mountains would quickly earn a reputation amongst drivers and teams. And it wouldn't be a positive one. Demanding focus and courage all fourteen miles, the necessary faculties needed to go fast on the circuit make it all but clear what kind of exclusive club the 'Ringmeisters', which included Tazio Nuvolari, Rudolf Carracciola and others, must have been.
Coming into the sixth round of the World Championship, Ascari had a great desire to add his name among those considered 'Ringmeisters', but his desire was motivated by more than one reason. Were Ascari to win the race, the World Championship for 1952 would be his. He had just missed out on it the year before in his battle with Fangio and the Alfa 159. In 1952, the title was within his grasp, and he wanted it badly.
Throughout the majority of the season Scuderia Marzotto couldn't even say they had a handle on their car, let alone any points or championship. However, their previous race, almost a month prior, had seen one of their cars finish, albeit not classified. This was important as the team would hope this meant their reliability issues had been solved. This would be a big prayer and step of faith at the Nordschleife and it would only be more severely tested as the team would come to the race with just one car driven by Piero Carini.
Ascari's desire for the championship couldn't be denied in practice. After losing the pole position at the British Grand Prix to Farina, Ascari wasn't about to let that happen, Nordschleife or no Nordschleife. Alberto would go out and turn the fastest lap during practice. His time around the circuit would be ten minutes and four seconds. Farina would be the 2nd place starter after recording a time three seconds slower. After Farina there was a rather large gap. Of course, considering a lap around the circuit took over ten minutes it is hard to believe fifteen seconds would be considered a long time, but that was the gap separating Ascari and Maurice Trintignant who would start 3rd. Beside Trintignant would be another Equipe Gordini driver, Robert Manzon. He would complete the front row having established a time of ten minutes and twenty-five seconds.
Carini would have loved to be so close as twenty seconds behind. As it were, Felice Bonetto, who would start in 10th place already set a time that was pushing a minute slower than Ascari. Considering where Carini would start the race, his struggles in practice became obvious. Carini would start the race on the eighth row in 27th.
The notorious 'North Loop' has always had the ability to strike fear in the hearts of drivers and teams. This would reputation and fear would not be unfounded, especially at the 18 lap race on the 3rd of August.
Right from the start, the track would begin to claim its victims. Gino Bianco wouldn't even make it through a single lap. Six wouldn't make it through a 2nd lap. Among those that wouldn't make it through a 2nd lap would be Carini. The constant twisting, turning, acceleration and braking all exact a price. In the case of Carini, it would be the brakes that would not be able to handle what the course demanded. In what would end up being a three hour race, Carini would see his car last about twenty minutes. Obviously the team hadn't been able to locate its reliability.
It wouldn't have mattered if Carini started ten miles in front of Ascari, and had the reliability to boot, as Alberto was absolutely on the raged edge right from the waving of the green flag. He and Giuseppe Farina were the only ones to be running together, especially after both Trintignant and Manzon would see their cars fail on them.
A little over halfway into the race, Ascari would turn a lap of the circuit just one second slower than his pole-winning time. This was indicative of how hard he was pushing to earn the World Championship title. It would seem it was well in hand, until, the last couple of laps.
Just before the white flag lap, Alberto was having trouble with his Ferrari. It was having oil-related troubles and threatened to end his race, in spite of dominating. The only opportunity he had to salvage the possible victory would mean coming into the pits for a lengthy pitstop. He would elect to do just that, thereby taking a chance and believing he had the ability, and the time, to haul Farina in before the end.
Ascari would elect to stop. While waiting, Farina would go through into the lead of the race, and on the final lap! The crew finished the work and sent Ascari back out on track with less than ten minutes, effectively, to draw in and pass Farina. Farina, a former World Champion himself would not be easy to catch. But he would be for Ascari. Sure enough, Alberto would end up catching and passing Farina like he was standing still. Alberto would even manage to race on to the victory, and the championship, with a fourteen second margin by the end. The small team privateer, Rudolf Fischer, would end up finishing a fine 3rd place, albeit almost seven minutes behind.
Scuderia Marzotto had now entered two World Championship races, and the second was worst than the first. In light of the dominance displayed by Ferrari and other 'works' efforts, the team would not contest another World Championship round the rest of the season. However, that didn't mean the team was through competing in non-championship races in 1952.
In fact, Scuderia Marzotto would end up taking part in one other non-championship grand prix race in 1952. The team had entered its cars, to be driven by Piero Carini and Riccardo Vignolo, in the ultra-fast 5th DMV Grenzlandringrennen on the 31st of August. However, the team would not appear for the race. But then, on the 28th of September, the team prepared for its final race of the season, the 8th Internationales Avusrennen.
Piero Carini had moved on to take part in a couple of races with HWM-Alta. Gianfranco Comotti had also departed to drive a Maserati A6GCM. Therefore, in its last race of the season, Marzotto would enter two cars to be driven by Riccardo Vignolo and Guido Mancini.
The Avusrennen took place on the old AVUS circuit located in western Berlin. Basically two incredibly long straights separated by teardrop corners, the circuit boasted of some incredible speeds. While the speeds reached down the long straights, which were comprised of a dual highways, were incredible, the most dangerous and feared portion of the circuit would be the banked North Curve. Called the 'Wall of Death', drivers had to focus each and every time they entered the banked curve for the top of the curve featured no barriers. This meant one lapse in concentration could lead to a driver heading right over the top of the banking and dropping off on the other side.
AVUS was part of the West German Championship, and therefore, featured only a small handful of foreign drivers in the race lineup. Throughout the entire event nobody would be faster than one of those foreign competitors.
The privateer, small team owner, Rudolf Fischer would come to the race with his Ferrari 500 and would be quite impressive throughout the entire proceedings. The race would be 25 laps, and nobody could touch Fischer's pace over the course of the race.
In contrast, neither one of the Marzotto cars could touch the pace Fischer was able to put together over the course of the 25 laps. In fact, neither one of the Marzotto cars would make it the entire distance. In two races in a row, one of Marzotto's cars wouldn't make it past 1 lap of the 5.13 mile circuit. Mancini, driving the GP2-49 model Ferrari 166 would have his race end after the 1st lap. Riccardo Vignolo's race would last a while longer.
Meanwhile, Fischer would turn in a fastest lap time around the circuit of two minutes and thirty-six seconds, which meant he averaged nearly 126 mph over the course of the single lap.
Just as Fischer was finding his stride in the Ferrari 500, Vignolo's stride would come to a complete stop. Only 11 laps away from the end of the race, the race would come to an end for Vignolo in the second of Marzotto's Ferraris.
Fischer would go on to take the victory. Over the course of the 25 laps, he would average a little over 115 mph en route to the victory. His pace was such that he would end the race with at least a full lap lead over the rest of the field. Hans Klenk would finish 2nd down a lap. Seven-tenths of second would separate Klenk and the 3rd place finisher Fritz Riess.
The 1952 season, at least in grand prix racing, would end up being a disappointing season for Scuderia Marzotto. Practically all of the highlights in which the team would have on the season would come courtesy of Marzotto in sports cars. Marzotto would find out the level of commitment that was necessary to compete and be successful, even in Formula 2, was perhaps more than he was willing to invest. As a result, 1952 would be the only season in which Scuderia Marzotto would be seen in the World Championship. Instead, Marzotto would focus on achieving a rather decent record in sports car racing. Scuderia Marzotto