TeamsElie Bayol: 1953 Formula One Season By Jeremy McMullen
Elie Bayol's racing career began rather late. Though born in 1914 Bayol would take part in his first race until 1950. Starting out in sportscars, Bayol was very respectable despite his little racing experience. This talent and skill would make him one of OSCA's main customers during the brief couple of years when the World Championship competed according to Formula 2 regulations.
Bayol had set a number of speed records at Montlhery in the 500cc and 750cc classes during the early 1950s. Though these would be short-lived they would set the stage for his coming to race Formula 2 and in the World Championship.
In order to be competitive, Bayol would need to have a powerful enough car to give himself a chance. Throughout the 1952 the Scuderia Ferrari team had proven to be absolutely dominant. However, toward the end of the season Maserati had come to pose a threat.
Another Maserati name would come to make a competitive car as well. Toward the later-part of the 1952 season OSCA unveiled its '20' single-seater grand prix car. OSCA had been started by the Maserati brothers when their contract with Orsi had come to an end. The Maserati brothers had been very successful throughout the 1930s but the presence of Auto Union and Mercedes-Benz caused their automotive production company to struggle and run into financial trouble. The answer would end up costing the brothers their name, but not their talent.
Bayol, and others, had come to experience the talent the Maserati brothers still possessed when OSCA revealed its MT4 sportscar. This light and nimble sportscar would be successful and very competitive. The '20' would basically be the MT4 design, just without fenders. Having raced the MT4 and being very much aware of the competitiveness of that car, Elie Bayol would be one of just a few customers interested in the single-seater grand prix car.
Showing its ability in its and Bayol's, first World Championship race, the OSCA 20 would power Bayol to a 10th place starting position for the Italian Grand Prix. While it would end unfortunately with gearbox-related problems it was clear Bayol had a competitive chassis at his disposal and it caused him to look forward to the 1953 season with confidence.
The performance of the '20' would attract another privateer. The veteran Louis Chiron would also purchase and race a '20' during the '53 season. Now familiar with the car, Bayol looked to really make an impact in the Formula 2 scene.
Bayol's impact wouldn't be felt in the first round of the World Championship. The first round would take place in mid-January in Argentina, South America. For the first time, the World Championship was truly a 'world' championship. Unfortunately, the cost of travelling the South Atlantic to take part in the first round of the World Championship and one non-championship race was not very economically viable for Bayol and many others. Therefore, like many other privateers and small teams, Bayol's season wouldn't begin until racing resumed on the European continent.
While one of the first non-championship races of the season would take place toward the end of March on Sicily, around two months after the first round of the World Championship, Bayol would wait until April before taking part in his first grand prix race of the season. On the 6th of April, Elie Bayol would be busy making final preparations to his OSCA 20 in order to take part in the 14th Grand Prix de Pau.
Alphonse de Lamartine commented, 'Pau has the world's most beautiful view of the earth…' Situated on the northern edge of the Pyrenees Mountains and along the banks of the Gave de Pau, Pau was once the seat of the viscounts of Bearn and the birthplace of the Henry IV of France.
Gouged by the fast-slowing waters of the Gave de Pau from the melted snow of the mountains, Pau rests of the steep banks overlooking the river, and therefore, features tight city streets with tight bends and hairpin turns. This would be the very nature of the 1.75 mile Pau street circuit.
Bayol would find another OSCA 20 in the field. Louis Chiron would be present at the race along with the full force of the Scuderia Ferrari and Equipe Gordini teams. Besides the competition from the other teams, Bayol would also have to face the reality of a 3 hour timed race.
The dominance of Ferrari would be plain to see after practice heading into the race. Alberto Ascari would take the pole completing a lap of the Pau circuit in one minute, thirty-nine and two-tenths seconds. Only one-tenth of a second would separate Ascari's pole from his teammate Giuseppe Farina's effort. Mike Hawthorn would set a time just one second slower than Ascari and would complete the front-row sweep for Ferrari.
The OSCA 20 had some power, but handling and acceleration was of a premium around the streets of Pau. Nonetheless, Bayol would put the power to good use and would turn his fastest lap of one minute, forty-four and two-tenths seconds. This would beat out Johnny Claes by just one-tenth of a second for the 7th place starting spot on the grid, or what was the middle of the third row.
The race would see the dominant Ferraris control the pace from the front. Behind them, the rest of the field would fight for position winding its way through the numerous hairpin turns.
Ascari, Farina and Hawthorn would be out front making their way around the tight and twisty circuit. Situated on the side of a hill the Pau circuit featured steep ascents and descents, and therefore, many blind entries into corners. Combined with the tight nature of the circuit, the blind corners would make every lap around the circuit a breathless adventure that would be easy to get wrong. Just 6 laps into the race, Jean Behra would get it wrong. He would crash his Gordini T16 and would be the first car out of the event. This helped Bayol to move up the order, even after having already made a good start.
About an hour into the event, the three Ferraris were still running up around the head of the field. Ascari had the lead over the whole, but the team would lose an important key to its attempt to sweep the podium. After 33 laps, Farina would make an uncharacteristic mistake and would crash out the race. This left just Ascari and Hawthorn still running for Ferrari at the front of the field.
Harry Schell was another of Equipe Gordini's teammates. He had started the race from the fifth row of the grid in the 11th position. In spite of the starting position, he would make a great start and would be fighting with Bayol for a position inside the top five. Bayol and Schell and both managed to get by Chiron and left him behind. Then, when Maurice Trintignant retired after 75 laps of running, the two men had only the two Ferraris left in front of them.
Although the two Ferraris were the next targets for Schell and Bayol, they would be too far up the road to be under any threat. Aided by a fastest lap time three-tenths of a second faster than his own qualifying effort, Ascari would enjoy more than three laps advantage on Bayol and Schell. In fact, Ascari enjoyed a sizable margin over everyone in the field.
At the end of three hours, Ascari would come across the line to complete his 106th lap of the race and take the victory. Averaging a little more than 60 mph en route, Ascari would enjoy a lap advantage over Hawthorn in 2nd place. About the only battle left out on the circuit would be the battle for 3rd place between Schell and Bayol.
Only Schell and Bayol remained on the same lap throughout the whole of the field. This would be about the extent of the closeness of the battle between the two men. Though four laps behind Ascari, Schell would come through to finish 3rd and provide Equipe Gordini at least some reason to be proud. Some time later, Elie Bayol would power his way across the line to finish in 4th. He too would be four laps behind Ascari.
Though more than a few laps down to Ascari, the 4th place earned by Bayol would certainly be a strong result against the competition assembled at the race. Despite his relative inexperience in grand prix cars, Bayol managed to put together a fantastic result that would get his season off to a good start.
Nearly a month would pass between races for Bayol in Formula 2. It wouldn't be until the 3rd of May that he would be back behind the wheel of the OSCA preparing to take part in another race. Born in Marseille, Bayol would mostly stay around his home country to take part in races. And on the 3rd of May he would be in world's wine capital preparing to take part in the 3rd Grand Prix de Bordeaux.
A center of civilization going back thousands of years before the birth of Christ, Bordeaux would become the center for wine production as a result of its usually warmer summers and winters despite its geographical location.
Besides wine production, Bordeaux has found itself in the middle of many conflicts and wars including sacking by the Vandals and Visigoths, the Battle of the River Garonne and of course World War II when the city would become a major base for German U-boats.
Fittingly, the 1.52 mile street circuit would follow a layout that would pass along the Garonne River and around the Place des Quiconces. The Place des Quiconces is a plaza upon which many sculptures dedicated to the memory of the many battles that have taken place throughout the borders of France can be found.
The previous season France had its own Formula 2 championship. Seeing that each of the rounds were 3 hour races they would attract some of the best teams in grand prix racing. During that year, Scuderia Ferrari would absolutely dominate. Again, in 1953, Ferrari would be back despite the fact France no longer had its own Formula 2 championship.
Coming into the race, however, it was believed Ferrari would have some stiff competition. Juan Manuel Fangio would be at the wheel of one of the new Maseratis that had been introduced late in the season the year before but that had looked rather good.
In practice, Bayol would also look surprisingly good. Though not as tight and twisty as Pau, the average speed around Bordeaux was certainly slow and this played to the power of the OSCA. And in practice, Bayol would set a best time of one minute, twenty-six and six-tenths second lap time. While this would be a very good lap for Bayol, it would only net him a 6th place starting position on the third row of the grid. This would be because the front row would be mostly occupied by Ferraris.
While it would be a Ferrari that would start from the pole, the person on the pole would be something of a surprise. Beating Ascari by one-tenth of a second, Luigi Villoresi would be the man on the point. To the other side of Ascari would be the Frenchman Maurice Trintignant in his Equipe Gordini T16. In all, sixteen cars would start the 120 lap race.
At the start of the race, Ascari would take over the lead from Villoresi and would have Trintignant following behind Villoresi. As with the race at Pau, Bayol would have Chiron in the other OSCA 20 to navigate. But he would also have Louis Rosier and Juan Manuel Fangio starting on the same row with him.
The racing would be tight throughout the first 20 laps or so. Despite starting 8th on the grid, Fangio would force his way up toward the front of the field leaving Bayol to battle it out with Rosier and Chiron.
The race would see its first wave of attrition hit the field after 26 laps. Peter Whitehead and Yves Giraud-Cabantous would both retire on the very same lap of the race. After that, there would be a large spell where the cars ran like clock-work.
Pushed by Farina's fastest lap of one minute and twenty-four seconds, the pace would remain relatively high. This caused the field to string itself out. Of course the pace of the front-runners was such that scoring became difficult as the leaders would come around so many times to put the remainder of the field more and more laps behind.
Ascari continued to run in the lead of the race. He still had Villoresi and Farina right there with him. However, just short of halfway, Farina would drop out with gear troubles. This left just he and Villoresi on the lead lap. Even Fangio, running in 3rd place after Trintignant's retirement after 62 laps, would be more than one lap behind.
When Chiron was disqualified for receiving a push start, Bayol would find himself again up around the top five trying to chase Harry Schell who had come all the way up from starting the race 15th. Johnny Claes had followed Schell's progress and was running behind Bayol but was a lap behind.
Just about every 17 laps Bayol would see Ascari and Villoresi come through to put him another lap down. Such was the dominance of the Ferraris on this day. Crossing the line in two hours, fifty-eight minutes and fifty-nine seconds, Alberto Ascari would earn yet another victory on the season. About fifty seconds later, Villoresi would come across the line to finish 2nd. Just before Villoresi came across the line to finish the race, Fangio came across to end his race. He had been passed by Ascari for the fourth time some laps prior but would still managed to come up from 8th place to end the race 3rd.
At an average of about every 17 laps, Bayol would be more than one lap behind Ascari by the end of the 120 lap race. In fact, Bayol would also be another one of those that would be passed by Ascari again just before the end of the race. He would end up the race some thirty seconds, and seven laps, behind Ascari. However, Bayol would manage to keep Claes behind himself and would finish yet another tough race in the 5th position.
Another tough race, another top five result. The season really couldn't have started much better for Bayol. In spite of the competition, Bayol had proven to be rather competitive and had managed to make the most of opportunities presented to him. Hopefully he could continue to do the same as yet another severely tough test awaited him.
About four weeks would pass between races. Then, at the end of May, Bayol would pack up his OSCA 20 and would head back toward the south of France. He would be on his way toward the city of Toulouse but would head to a city about an hour northeast of Toulouse. On the 31st of May, Albi, France prepared to host the 15th Grand Prix de l'Albigeois.
The Grand Prix de l'Albigeois was something of a different race. Not only was the race conducted according to heat races and a final, but one of those heats would include Formula One cars from the past and the future. This would make the race a very tough race given the horsepower shortage his Formula 2 car had compared to most all of the Formula One cars of the time. The circuit itself would offer yet another disadvantage to Bayol and the whole of the Formula 2 field.
First coming to be Albigeois with the Roman conquest of the Gauls, Albi would become a rather extensive Roman settlement. Then, in the late 11th and 12th centuries, the city would become prosperous but would still have its share of unrest throughout the next few centuries. However, despite the unrest and upheaval, Albi would become very prominent for its fantastic architecture which would include the Sainte Cecile cathedral and the Palais de la Berbie.
Despite its rather quaint and extensive architectural and artistic serenity, the street circuit layout for Albi was nothing short of a real beast. While the run from St. Antoine to St. Juery would feature some fast esses, the rest was nearly flat out. The only exception to this would be the tight hairpin at St. Juery and the couple of other slow corners on the circuit. Measuring 5.55 miles in length, the straights would surely outweigh the slow sections and would enable the big Formula One cars to reach speeds around 180 mph down its long straights.
The Formula 2 field would be absent of Scuderia Ferrari but there would still be a couple of Ferrari 500s in the field. Charles de Tornaco would be behind the wheel of one for Ecurie Francorchamps while Louis Rosier would be at the wheel of his own. The field would also include a couple of Equipe Gordini T16s driven by Harry Schell and Roberto Mieres.
The Formula One field would see one of the final performances for the amazing but extremely troublesome BRM P15 with its 16-cylinder engine. Joining BRM in the field would be Scuderia Ferrari with a couple of their 375s driven by Alberto Ascari and Giuseppe Farina. Louis Rosier would also take part in the Formula One heat with his own Ferrari 375.
The first to go would be the Formula 2 heat. Showing exactly what he could do in the OSCA 20, Bayol would go out and would turn a lap of the 5.55 mile circuit in three minutes and eight seconds. It was known this was a good lap, but it would only be at the end that just how good it was would come to be known. In his third race of the season, Bayol had earned the pole for the Formula 2 heat. His time would end up being two and a half seconds faster than Schell's time that would earn him 2nd place on the starting grid. It would also be a full three seconds faster than Rosier's 3rd place effort.
In the actual heat race, Bayol would come under fire from Rosier and Schell. He would even need to be careful to protect against Peter Whitehead in his Cooper-Alta. Thankfully for Bayol, Whitehead would have his own battle on his hands.
Rosier would be a little too tough in the Ferrari, and therefore, would take away the lead of the race from Bayol. Schell was also quite threatening for Bayol, but, after 8 laps, would come to nothing when Schell retired with misfire issues.
Over the last couple laps of the 10 lap heat race, Rosier would pull away from Bayol hand over fist. Averaging 98 mph, Rosier would go on to take the victory. He would go on to have twenty-five seconds in hand over Bayol by the end of the heat race. Bayol would have an advantage of about thirty seconds over Peter Whitehead who would come in 3rd place beating out Roberto Mieres by just a little more than a second.
The Formula 2 heat race was over. It was time to let the big-engined cars out to strut their stuff. The speed difference would certainly be obvious right from the very start of practice. The BRMs would blow by the crowd. Juan Manuel Fangio, Jose Froilan Gonzalez and Ken Wharton were certainly putting the cars through their paces and nobody could touch Fangio.
Driving the massive 16-cylinder car on the very edge, Fangio would go on set a lap time with an average speed in excess of 112 mph. Fangio would end up taking the pole by three seconds over Ascari in his Ferrari 375. Jose Froilan Gonzalez would end up sandwiching the Ferrari setting the third-fastest time in practice and lining up on the last position of the front row.
The race would see Fangio lead from the very start. He would have his two BRM teammates running right up there near the front of the field. The Ferrari threat was being left behind by the sheer pace of the BRMs. But then, after 3 laps, the Ferrari driven by Alberto Ascari would be really left behind.
The BRMs of Fangio, Gonzalez and Wharton were all looking quite strong. On the 3rd lap of the race, the greatest strength of the Ferrari team would retire from the field. Gearbox problems would cause Ascari to have to retire his 375. Then, just two laps later, the entire Ferrari threat would come to naught when the engine in Farina's car totally let go.
Not all was strong with BRM either. Although Fangio ran up front and was quite formidable, Gonzalez would slip down the order. However, the depth of the team would overcome the problems as Wharton would take over 2nd place.
Averaging more than 112 mph, Fangio would absolutely pulverize the field, including his two teammates. Finishing in twenty-nine minutes and fifty-seven seconds, Fangio would take the win with an advantage of a minute and ten seconds over Wharton in 2nd place. Over two minutes would separate Fangio from Louis Rosier in 3rd place in the sole remaining Ferrari 375 in the field.
The grid positions for the 18 lap final would see the top four from the Formula One heat start 1st through 4th. The top four from the Formula 2 heat would then occupy 5th through 8th. In all, twelve would line up on the starting grid for the 18 lap final. Therefore, the field would alternate for remaining four spots. The 9th position would go to the 5th place Formula One finisher. The same would be true 5th place finisher in the Formula 2 heat. That car would line up 10th.
As a result of the arrangement, Fangio would line up on the pole with Ken Wharton, Fangio's teammate, lining up alongside in 2nd place. Louis Rosier was the only competitor to take part in both heats. He had come to earn a 3rd place result in the Formula One heat, and therefore, would take that starting position.
Rosier's decision would have a direct impact on Bayol. Maurice Trintignant would be the last of the top four for the Formula One heat and would start on the two-wide second row. Louis Rosier's performance in the Formula 2 heat would also have earned him the 5th place starting position right next to Trintignant on the second row of the grid. However, since Rosier took his Formula One result, Bayol would take his spot on the Formula 2 grid. Therefore, in essence, Bayol inherited the pole and would start 5th place from the second row of the grid.
The field would roar away with Fangio and Wharton leading the way. By the time the cars reached the hairpin at St. Juery for the first time, Fangio already had a bit of a lead over Wharton, but the two BRMs certainly had an advantage already beginning to grow over Rosier and the rest of the field. Having already broken the lap record and race record around the Albi circuit, it was of little surprise that Fangio and Wharton began to draw away from the rest of the field even on the very first lap of the race.
While Fangio and Wharton were just getting into top gear and opening up a gap over the rest of the field, Bayol was struggling to find his. Clutch problems would arise for Bayol after just the first lap of the race. The problem would get progressively worse and would lead to Bayol retiring after just two laps. This was truly disappointing after a good run in the Formula 2 heat and a great starting position for the final.
Fangio and Wharton's pace would cause problems, even with themselves. While way out in front of the field, Fangio's BRM would throw a tread and would bring his race to an end at the halfway mark.
Ken Wharton would inherit the lead. Wharton had proven to be more than capable in Fangio's absence as he would set the fastest lap of the race. However, the pace would get the best of him as he would crash after 11 laps. This meant Louis Rosier took over the lead of the race with his Ferrari 375.
Rosier would come under pressure from the third BRM, the one driven by Jose Froilan Gonzalez. There was little hope for Rosier going up against the might of the 16-cylinder BRM. However, providence would step into the picture. Gonzalez wouldn't just throw one, but two, tire treads. But while Fangio would retire from the race, Gonzalez would fight on with the car. He knew he had enough of a margin over the 3rd place car to make it to the end of the race.
With some help, Rosier could just hang on to take the victory. In fifty-six minutes and thirty-six seconds, Rosier would come across the line for the final time to take the victory. Thirty-one seconds behind would come Gonzalez fighting with his P15 to take 2nd. Nearly a minute and a half would pass before Maurice Trintignant would come through to take 3rd place overall.
Roberto Mieres would take his Gordini T16 and would earn the Formula 2 victory over Peter Whitehead and Johnny Claes.
Bayol had showed so much promise. And with the retirement of the Scuderia Ferrari team, Bayol would have been in a strong overall finish due to the power of the OSCA. Unfortunately, Bayol would leave Albi with unfulfilled promise and a bitter taste in his mouth. It would be nearly a month before he would have his chance at getting over the disappointment.
Although Bayol would not take part in many major grand prix races throughout the month of June, it would still be a busy month for Bayol. Firstly, he would partner with Andre Moynet driving a D.B. Panhard in Hyeres 12 Hours on the 7th of June. This would be a fruitful test as the two would end up finishing the race 7th overall.
One week later, Bayol would make his way to Le Mans to take part in the 24 hour classic. Partnering with Louis Rosier to drive a Talbot T26GS, the 24 Hours of Le Mans would be less fruitful. The pairing wouldn't end up making the entire race distance gearbox problems would cause the car to have to be retired from the race.
The drive with Rosier would be something of a last minute deal as Bayol had been originally slated to co-drive with Georges Trouis to drive a D.B. HBR Panhard in the race. However, the entry would not be accepted and Bayol would switch to drive with Rosier.
After the unfortunate result at Le Mans there would be a couple of weeks between races for Bayol. Then, toward the end of June, Bayol would push on past Paris and further to the northwest. Finally, he would arrive in Grand-Couronne. Situated to south of Rouen along Seine River, Grand-Couronne also rests in the midst Foret du Rouvray. Once also lying in the midst of the Foret du Rouvray was the Rouen-les-Essarts grand prix circuit. It would serve as host for the 3rd Grand Prix de Rouen-les-Essarts taking place on the 28th of June.
The previous season, Rouen-les-Essarts had served as host for the French round of the World Championship. Though it would not have the honor in 1953, it would still play an important role for the World Championship.
Like Albi, Rouen would serve as host for a grand prix that would feature a field of Formula 2 and Formula One cars. While Albi would do the same, Rouen would end up having the latest Formula One derivative from Ferrari take part in the race along with the new Formula One car produced for the Equipe Gordini team. Also included in the field would be a number of old Talbot-Lago T26Cs and Louis Rosier's victorious Ferrari 375 from Albi.
Rouen was the perfect place to test the new Formula One cars for the following season. The circuit had been used as the French round of the World Championship the year before, but the 3.16 mile layout also offered just about every possible straight, corner and bend imaginable. Beginning with a gradual descent into the valley, the circuit bends and weaves its way all the way to the tight Nouveau Monde hairpin. From there, the circuit begins a rather steep climb that only steepens as it goes on. The steepness comes into play around the sharp left-hand bend at Sanson. This portion of the circuit features blind spots that made it very easy to make a mistake and ruin a good lap. Given the setting, the nature of the circuit and the modern pits and facilities, Rouen-les-Essarts was a favorite with teams and spectators and the perfect setting to see Formula One and Formula 2 cars battle it out.
The Ferrari team would not come with all of its elite drivers. Only Giuseppe Farina and Mike Hawthorn would represent the team at the race. However, the two men would occupy the top two spots on the starting grid with their Ferrari 625s. Farina would take the pole with a lap of two minutes and twelve seconds. Hawthorn's best lap would be two minutes, thirteen and three-tenths seconds. This would end up being two-tenths of a second faster than Maurice Trintignant driving a new Formula One derivative of the Gordini T16 for the Equipe Gordini team.
Once again, the OSCA 20 would look impressive. Proving to have the power to provide necessary acceleration, Bayol would take the OSCA and would earn a best lap of two minutes and eighteen seconds. This would be just six seconds slower than Farina in a Formula One car and would earn Bayol a 6th place position on the starting grid, which was the third row. The performance was quite impressive as he would be one of the top Formula 2 starters in the field.
Unfortunately, all of the promise would again go right out the window, or, in Bayol's case, right out the gearbox. Right at the start of the 60 lap, 190 mile, race the gearbox would break on Bayol leaving him stranded. This would make it two-straight races in which Bayol had a great starting position only to see it come to a very early, and bitterly disappointing, end.
Farina and Hawthorn would lead the way in their new Ferraris. Maurice Trintignant would take up the chase with his teammates Jean Behra and Harry Schell giving it their best. Another that would be giving it everything he had would be Philippe Etancelin. Driving an old Talbot-Lago T26C, Etancelin would remain up there toward the front of the field but could not keep pace with the Ferraris.
Hawthorn would do his best to make sure no other car could keep up with the Ferraris as he would set the fastest lap of the race with a time of two minutes and twelve seconds. His time would actually be six-tenths of a second slower than Farina's pole winning effort.
This pace would begin to break the back of some of the competitors. After just 19 laps, the steering on Jean Behra's T16 would fail thereby ending his day. Johnny Claes would follow half a dozen laps later. His Connaught would suffer from rear axle failure. Equipe Gordini's main threat, Maurice Trintignant, would suffer the same problem after just completing halfway. The Achilles Heal of the T16 had been its rear axle and Trintignant would found out the problem still hadn't been fixed.
Attrition had been effective at eliminating some of the strongest competitors in the field. However, those that attrition wouldn't come to take out, Farina and Hawthorn would more than take care of over the course of the race. Even by the halfway mark in the race the only thing left in doubt would be which of the two Ferrari drivers would take the win.
The only battle left out on the circuit would be the battle for the lead. Only a couple of car lengths would separate the two drivers each and every lap of the race. The battle was only around a second. Everyone else was either a lap down, a lap down to each other, or, separated by more than twenty seconds.
The battle between the two Ferraris would be intriguing. Both would have time in the lead. But as the two headed around on the final lap of the race, it was still very much in doubt as to who would take the victory. The two would slipstream off of each other heading down the long straight between L'Etoile and Paradis. Coming out of the hairpin and powering toward the start/finish line, Farina held onto a small margin. However, he would be able to ride that small margin all the way to victory. After two hours, fifteen minutes, five and eight-tenths seconds of racing, Farina would take the victory by barely more than a second over Hawthorn. Over a minute and forty seconds would pass before Phillipe Etancelin would come across the line in 3rd place. The thing about Etancelin would be that he wouldn't just be a minute and forty seconds behind. In fact, he would be three laps plus a minute and forty seconds behind. Such was the dominance of the Ferraris on this day.
No such dominance could Bayol find. Instead, all that Bayol would take away from Rouen is yet another squandered opportunity. In spite of the presence of stronger teams, Bayol had looked good going into the race. Unfortunately, providence wouldn't enable him to put together another remarkable result. This would be most disappointing heading into perhaps the most important grand prix race of the season for Bayol.
In the middle of June, Bayol had taken part, rather unsuccessfully, in one of the greatest events found throughout the world. As he returned to single-seater grand prix cars in early July, Bayol would find himself taking part in what many would consider to be one of the greatest races of all time.
On the 5th of July, Bayol would be in Reims, France to take part in a couple of races. Not only would he be there to take part in the 12 Hours of Reims, but he would also be present to take part in the 5th round of the World Championship, the French Grand Prix.
The traditional site for the crowning of the kings of France, Reims would be the site of France's crowning World Championship round since the very beginning of the championship. Though Rouen-les-Essarts would host the French Grand Prix in 1952, it would be back at Reims in 1953. The race, teams and drivers would return to a new circuit layout. Though it had changed in 1952, it would change again.
While the hairpin turn in the village of Gueux would remain off the design, a whole new portion would be added past the Bretelle Sud. The circuit would now feature a rather fast right-hand bend called Annie Bousquet. This would be followed by another fast left-hander known as Hovette. This would lead to the tightest turn on the circuit, a new hairpin turn called Muizon. This new layout would lead to the Route Nationale 31 to increase in length. Overall, the circuit would grow from 4.44 to 5.15 miles. The additional mileage would lead to the circuit increasing its average speed and potentially heightened the racing. It wouldn't be until the actual race that people, and even the drivers, would get an idea of just how close the racing would be.
This would be just Bayol's second World Championship race. As he unloaded his cars, Bayol would find himself amongst an intensifying rivalry between Scuderia Ferrari and the factory Maserati teams.
At the last World Championship race, the Belgian Grand Prix, the Maseratis had dominated the time sheets. Fangio had set a new record and blew everyone away in qualifying. However, in the race, the reliability wouldn't match the pace. As a result, Ascari would be handed the lead and the victory. So, while Maserati had proven to be increasing its pace, Scuderia Ferrari and Alberto Ascari still remained dominant. At the French Grand Prix, the rivalry would reach a feverish pitch.
The intensity would be evident as practice unfolded. To claw back some of the lost performance compared to the Maserati, Ferrari would make some design changes to the nose of their cars. The change would work. Coming from one ultra-fast circuit to another, the changes to the nose would be apparent right away as Ascari would turn the fastest lap with a time of two minute, forty-one and two-tenths seconds around the 5.15 mile circuit. Felice Bonetto would prove to be the fastest of the Maserati drivers. His best time would be just three-tenths of a second slower than Ascari and would earn him the 2nd starting position, or, the middle of the front row. Just seven-tenths of a second would be the gap between Ascari and the final starter on the front row, Luigi Villoresi. This meant that two Ferraris started on the front row with one Maserati sandwiched in between.
Being an privateer had its disadvantages. There would be more disadvantages given the fact so few OSCA 20s had been produced. This meant the car still required development and likely had more within it that couldn't be extracted out through heavy competition and modification by other teams. Nonetheless, Bayol would use the OSCA to good effect in practice. With the exception of three Coopers, the only other chassis to out-qualify Bayol's OSCA would be either Ferraris or Maseratis. Turning in a fastest lap of two minutes and fifty-six seconds, the fifteen second margin between Bayol and Ascari would mean the Frenchman would start his own grand prix from the sixth row of the grid in the 15th position overall. Amazingly, Bayol would be the second-highest starting Frenchman on the grid.
While the times in practice had been close, the racing in the actual race would be even closer. It would all start with Jose Froilan Gonzalez zooming into the lead of the race with his Maserati due to his half-full fuel tanks. Behind him Ascari, Bonetto, Villoresi and Hawthorn would all give chase. Juan Manuel Fangio had started on the second row of the grid but had made a poor start, and so, would have to fight hard to regain lost positions.
Though Bayol started the race from the 15th position on the grid, he would be very quickly forgotten about, as would about two-thirds of the field. He and the rest of the field would be forgotten about as attention would be focused up front amongst the elite teams and drivers of the world. And there would be good reason for the distraction.
Gonzalez remained out front pulling away lap after lap. Behind him, Bonetto would be dropped and the three Ferraris of Ascari, Hawthorn and Villoresi would run virtually side-by-side at times down the long straights. Giving Enzo a certain heart-attack, the three men would be literally no more than a car length or two apart each and every lap and constantly changing order throughout. Behind the Ferraris, Fangio would get past Farina in the other Ferrari and would be running right there with the group of prancing horses. Soon, Onofre Marimon would join Farina and Fangio and it would become a group of seven trying to chase down Gonzalez.
The scene was truly remarkable and breathtaking to behold. The best drivers in the best cars put on a performance that would leave many witnesses truly speechless. These fierce competitors would complete lap after lap never more than a few feet apart. In spite of the speed, these men trusted and respected each other implicitly and it turned into one of the most fantastic performances ever witnessed, and it wasn't even half over.
The pace steadily increased. Many cars were already being stretched beyond their limits. As a result, attrition came to be the biggest competitor the remaining two-thirds of the field had to deal with.
Four cars would be out of the race before the race even reached 10 of its 60 scheduled laps. Included among those four would be two cars from the Equipe Gordini team. A third Equipe Gordini team car, one driven by Maurice Trintignant, would drop out of the race after just 14 laps.
Even those that remained in the race would find such a huge disparity of pace that it would be as if they were driving an ailing car. This would cause drivers to push too hard trying to do everything possible to make up the difference. Maurice Trintignant would retire from transmission failure. A clutch problem would force Lance Macklin out of the running. Problems would also force Elie Bayol out of the race as well. It was just as well since the majority of the crowd barely even realized he was missing as a result of the incredible performance being put together at the front of the field.
The first half of the race had been remarkable. But as the witnesses would find out, the later-half of the race would be beyond all description.
It would all start with Gonzalez making his stop for another half tank of fuel. This would drop him to 5th place, right in the midst of the raging battle between the Ferraris and the Maseratis. Fangio headed up the field with Hawthorn, Ascari, Farina, Marimon, Gonzalez, and Villoresi still right there with him. It truly had become a race between the seven cars as the rest of the field was pretty lapped by this point in time.
Fangio, Hawthorn and Ascari broke away slightly from the rest of the front-runners. While technically broken away, only a couple of seconds still covered the top seven. Lap after lap Fangio, Ascari and Hawthorn would race side-by-side and nose-to-tail. Positions would continue to change hands at an incredible rate. What's more, the pace of the race continued to quicken instead of holding steady or even decreasing.
With every lap, the appreciative crowd would get louder and louder. No one in the crowd could believe these elite drivers could keep battling so close for so long. The events would not be lost on the drivers either. Villoresi would gesture to his crew as if to ask his crew whether they recognized just how crazy things were out there on the circuit.
While looking terribly dangerous and chaotic, it was all very well controlled by these elite drivers. They were enjoying the battle. In the last 20 laps or so, a battle between Fangio and Hawthorn would develop that would be one of the best performances in grand prix history. However, each would give each other room, or, would slow to enable the battle to continue. The young Mike Hawthorn would be noted as going through the grass more than once to get around lapped traffic side-by-side with Fangio. They were putting on a show and enjoying the performance themselves.
All of the close racing kept the points-paying positions very much in doubt. Although Hawthorn and Fangio headed the field only a little more than a second separated themselves from a surging Gonzalez and Alberto Ascari.
Over the final few laps Fangio had been in the lead despite the fact they raced side-by-side down every straight and even through some of the corners. However, with two laps remaining, Hawthorn would make his move and would take over the lead merely by better positioning on the circuit. The result was still very much in doubt.
Heading around on the final lap of the race, the two remained locked together nose-to-tail or side-by-side. Gonzalez was just behind them. After flashing through the esses and making their way through the Muizon hairpin, Hawthorn and Fangio travelled down the Route Nationale 31 straight right beside each other. The race was to be decided by who would give in to the other first.
Neither would give into the other. They would brake at the same time. But because of Hawthorn's better positioning, Fangio would lose momentum. For the first time throughout the whole of the last half of the race the leader of the race was clear. What would be thrown into doubt would be who would end up 2nd. The lost momentum had brought Fangio back into the clutches of his Maserati teammate Gonzalez.
Powering down the long start/finish straight, Hawthorn would go on to take the victory. Gonzalez would continue to gain on Fangio but would run out of road. Gonzalez would be able to pull within a half a car length of 2nd but would have to settle for 3rd place. Alberto Ascari would finish the race in 4th place separated from Hawthorn by just one and four-tenths seconds.
Given all of the action and the tight racing at the very front of the field it would not be surprising the rest of the field would be forgotten about. Of course there would be even greater reason for this. The fact is, only the top six remained on the lead lap. Emmanuel de Graffenried would end the race in the 7th position but even he would be two laps down at the end of the race. It was so clear the rest of the field was outclassed. The drivers themselves knew it so well that they would actually be seen slowing at times to witness the action amongst the front-runners.
Bayol would have the opportunity to witness one of the greatest races of all time from the sidelines just like many of the spectators. It would have been better if he had just taken part in the 12 Hours of Reims sportscar race and then just watched the World Championship race. However, though he would likely be forgotten about, Bayol would have the honor of saying he took part in one of the greatest races in World Championship history. This would be about the consolation Bayol would leave Reims with besides his 10th place finish in the sportscar race.
Besides some minor races in which he make taken part in, there would be a period of about three weeks between races for Bayol. It wouldn't be until the 26th of July before he would be seen behind the wheel of his OSCA 20 once again. The race in which he would be seen preparing to take part in would be the 5th Circuit du Lac held on the streets of the small resort town of Aix-les-Bains in the Rhone-Alpes region of southeastern France.
Derived from the Latin Aquae, which literally means 'waters', Aix-les-Bains would become well known during the days of the Roman Empire for its bath situated along the banks of Lac du Bourget with the foothills of the Alps rising in the background. Heading into the 20th century, the hot sulfur springs would continue to be used for drinking water and for therapy. In much the same way, Aix-les-Bains would continue to be a popular destination for relaxation and recreation.
On the 26th of July in 1953 there wouldn't be too much relaxation to be found as the usually tranquil setting would be shattered by the roar of 2.0-liter grand prix Formula 2 engines preparing to take part in the Circuit du Lac.
At only 1.49 miles, the temporary street circuit played to the strengths of those cars that had goo acceleration and handling as the circuit featured a seemingly never-ending series of tight, twisty corners and short blasts.
The Circuit du Lac would be another race comprised of heat races, but the scoring would be performed somewhat differently. Instead of heat races and a final the race would consist of two 50 lap heat races. The final results would be determined by aggregate scoring. In other words, the finishing times of each competitor would be added together from each heat race and the final results would be determined by those times added together.
Bayol would face a couple of Maseratis driven by Emmanuel de Graffenried and Onofre Marimon. Besides Louis Rosier's Ferrari 500, the rest of the field would consist, mostly, of HWMs and Equipe Gordini team cars.
In practice leading up to the first heat race, Harry Schell would set the fastest time in his Gordini. He would set a time of one minute and twenty seconds flat that would earn him the pole. Onofre Marimon would start 2nd after being just three-tenths of a second slower. Maurice Trintignant would join his Gordini teammate on the front row by starting 3rd. Bayol would again put the OSCA to goo use and would end up with the 5th starting spot. This meant he would start right behind Trintignant and Marimon from the second row of the grid.
At the start of the heat, Schell would look fast. Jean Behra, another Equipe Gordini team member, would make a great start from his 6th place starting position and would be up near the front of the field. Bayol would also look strong during the early going of the race but would have to be patient to see how things developed.
What would develop would be that Emmanuel de Graffenried would be out of the race after just 5 laps due to a failing oil pump. Less than ten laps later, both Maurice Trintignant and Onofre Marimon would be out of the race as well. Trintignant's car would catch on fire while Marimon would crash out of the event.
Opportunity was presenting itself once again to Bayol, but would providence help him to see it through in order to take advantage?
Things would only get better for Bayol. Schell would be fast right out of the box. He would set what would be the fastest lap of the heat but would soon quickly fade. This meant that everyone that had started in front of Bayol had retired or fallen down in the running order. Therefore, besides being concerned about his own car, all Bayol would have to concern himself would be those coming from behind him.
Unfortunately, Bayol would be unable to hold back Behra. Behra would come up from his 6th place starting position and would control the proceedings for a majority of the first heat. In one hour, eleven minutes and thirty-three seconds, Jean Behra would come across the line to take the victory in the first 50 lap heat race. Following behind Behra by some twenty-three seconds would come Bayol. About thirty-five seconds would be the difference between Bayol in 2nd place and Rosier that would finish the heat in 3rd.
It was time to set the grid for the second 50 lap heat race. Jean Behra would start from the pole. Elie Bayol's steady and consistent drive would net him a front row starting position. Louis Rosier would complete the front row starting 3rd. Despite not making it to the finish in the first heat race, Emmanuel de Graffenried would line up in the 9th and final starting spot for the second, and final, heat.
Emmanuel de Graffenried was hoping he could last a bit longer than what he had in the first heat. As would be seen in the second heat, he wouldn't even make it as long as he had in the first. After just 3 laps, de Graffenried's Maserati would develop ignition problems that would force him out of the race yet again. Out of the 100 laps that comprised the Circuit du Lac, Emmanuel de Graffenried would only go on to complete 8 of those laps.
Elie Bayol followed Behra at the start of the race. It was becoming evident right from the very start that he could maintain a gap on Louis Rosier in his Ferrari 500. He would just need some help with maintaining touch with Behra.
That wouldn't be easy to do as Behra would be immediately fast. He would go out and would set the fastest lap of the heat with a time that was equal to Harry Schell's practice effort prior to the start of the first heat. Things didn't look good for Bayol to take the victory, but he was certainly on path for a strong podium finish if his car could keep it together for the remainder of the race.
Surprisingly, it would be Behra that would need to be concerned with keeping it together. He was fast and out front. This, at times, can cause a driver to ease off and lose concentration. However, this would not be his problem. Perhaps thinking he had everything under control, it would all come undone when the rear axle would again fail on the T16. This would hand the lead over to Bayol.
Bayol didn't just find himself in the lead of the heat. Behra's retirement also meant he was at the head of the field for the overall race results. Pretty much all he would need to do would be to stay on track over the remainder of the race and the victory that seemed certain to go to Behra would be his.
With clean track ahead of him, Bayol would do anything but take it easy. He would carry on at a good pace, one that would edge out more and more of an advantage over Louis Rosier running in 2nd.
Carrying an average speed greater than Behra's victory in the first heat, Bayol would streak across the line to take his second heat victory of the season. More importantly, it was quite sure that he would also come across the line the overall race champion when the results were tallied.
Knowing the deficit was too great to overcome, Louis Rosier would settle into a steady pace during the second, and final, heat. He could do this since Lance Macklin, who was running in 3rd place, was more than two laps down.
The aggregate results would only confirm what everyone knew. Elie Bayol had taken his first victory of the season and of his Formula 2 career! Louis Rosier would finish 2nd over two minutes behind in the aggregate results. This wouldn't be as bad as Lance Macklin who would finish 3rd. Macklin would finish the race well out of the running some four laps down to Bayol.
Despite his relative inexperience, Bayol would be one of the fastest drivers all throughout the race. However, providence would see fit to reward Bayol's performance. Once left alone in the lead of the race, Bayol would dominate and would highlight his obvious talent.
Coming down from the elation of his victory at Aix-les-Bains, Bayol would skip the seventh round of the World Championship held at the Nurburgring in West Germany and would instead travel in the opposite direction toward the port city of Sables d'Olonne. On the 9th of August Sables d'Olonne would play host to the 3rd Grand Prix de Sables d'Olonne.
At Aix-les-Bains, Bayol had managed to steal victory from a very strong Equipe Gordini. Now, at the birthplace of the famous French pirate Francois l'Olonnais, Bayol would look to do more of the same against much of the same crowd that had been present at Aix-les-Bains.
The port of Sables d'Olonne pretty much had been rebuilt by the early 1950s after the Germans destroyed the port and mined the harbor upon the evacuation. During the 17th century the port city was known in France as the country's largest cod-fishing port. It would also become very important to the local economy as a major tourism destination by the early 19th century. This would be where the local government would be trying to take the city in the years after the Second World War, and it was believed that motor racing on the streets of the city would help to do that.
The 1.82 circuit, which would be lengthened for 1953, would be situated mostly around Lac Tanchet and along the coastline overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. Being right along the coast, the circuit would be at its lowest point while running right along the Boulevard de l'Atlantique. The circuit would then begin to climb as it approached the tight hairpin turn before heading down another long straight, the Avenue Rhin et Danube, which was the start/finish straight.
The Grand Prix de Sables d'Olonne would follow the same format as the Circuit du Lac event at Aix-les-Bains. The event would be two heats of 45 laps making up a total of 90 laps, or, 165 miles. Final results would again be determined by aggregate results for each competitor in each heat.
Practice made it appear the race would hold more of the same from Aix-les-Bains when Harry Schell would again start on pole. However, unlike Aix-les-Bains, Equipe Gordini would earn a clean-sweep of the front row for the race in Sables d'Olonne. Maurice Trintignant would start in the middle of the front row while Jean Behra would lie in the 3rd position. Elie Bayol would keep up the appearances as he would power his way to the fourth-fastest time in practice and would start from the inside of the second row. There would be another OSCA 20 entered in the race when Louis Chiron would be back. He would end up starting the race right behind Bayol in the third row.
One of the most exciting portions of the circuit would be right after the start/finish line. After making the right-hand bend at Route de Tour the circuit would descend and wind its way along Lac de Tanchet. The field would power away from the starting grid and would descend through the esses for the first time. The Equipe Gordini machines would be right there. Bayol would also be up near the front but would end up not staying there very long.
Once again, Schell would be fast but would begin to slowly slip backward. Louis Chiron would come from his third row starting position to be challenging up amongst the front-runners after not very long. His position would be strengthened when Maurice Trintignant would retire after 20 laps due to transmission failure.
Bayol's position would dramatically weaken as the race went on. He would not look anything like what he had in the Circuit du Lac race. Not before too long, Bayol wouldn't just be out of the top three or top five, he would be fighting to remain in the race, and was barely doing that as he was a number of laps behind.
As with Aix-les-Bains, Jean Behra came to control events. His formidable lap times would convince many that he was on his way to gaining vengeance for the failure a couple of weeks prior.
Jean Behra would need just one hour, five minutes and fifty-eight seconds to complete the 45 laps and take the victory. Twenty-eight seconds later, Louis Chiron would bring his OSCA 20 across the line in 2nd place just five seconds ahead of Louis Rosier. Elie Bayol would hold on to make it to the finish of the race but he was well out of the picture. He would finish in the 7th position but would be five laps down.
There was still a chance for Bayol to come away from Sables d'Olonne with a good result. He would just need those that finished ahead of him in the first heat to drop out of the second early on. Unfortunately, it would be the other way around.
Jean Behra would line up on pole. Where the first heat race was all Equipe Gordini on the front row, the second heat would have Behra joined on the front row by two different teams or privateers. Louis Chiron would start his own OSCA 20 from the 2nd place starting position. Louis Rosier would line up in 3rd place with his own Ferrari 500. Elie Bayol would line up on the third row of the grid in the 7th position.
Bayol would need a lot of things to go right for him to be able to pull out even a positive result. Unfortunately, everything would go bad. The beginning of the race would see him run into trouble right from the very start. He would do his best to carry on but he would end up retiring from the race very early on. Harry Schell would follow him out of the heat after just 6 laps when his Gordini lost a wheel.
Behra was certainly in the driving seat but he was under a lot of pressure at the same time. Maurice Trintignant had started the second heat despite falling out of the first. He would be on a charge from the very start. Louis Rosier and Louis Chiron would also be right there applying the pressure.
In spite of the pressure, Behra continued to look good. Trintignant would continue to be fast and would be right up there at the front of the field but he was not a factor in all reality. But reality and perception are two entirely different things. After 33 laps of racing, Behra would lose his concentration for just one moment and his bid for revenge would come up short yet again with him crashing out of the race.
This would leave Trintignant out front but Louis Rosier would do his best to stay with him. This put the pressure on Chiron. Unfortunately, the veteran Chiron would not be able to respond with a pace to match and would slowly slip backward.
The pace of the top three would be such that just them would remain on the lead lap by the end of the race. Maurice Trintignant would give the crowd an exhibition and an idea of what could have been as he crossed the line to take the victory. The French crowd would be more than pleased to see Louis Rosier come across the line just six seconds later in the 2nd position. As with Albi, Rosier looked to be set to inherit an overall victory. Louis Chiron would give the OSCA another good showing coming in 3rd place just thirty-eight seconds behind.
In the final tally, it would be Louis Rosier taking the overall victory. Chiron would give OSCA a 2nd place result as he finished up just twenty-seven seconds down in the aggregate scoring. Stirling Moss would earn a 3rd place overall finish but would be thoroughly dominated finishing three laps down to Rosier.
Bayol unfortunately could not back up his victory with another top result. Still, he had shown good pace in the OSCA and was quite competitive against his fellow racers. There was no doubting Bayol's skill or drive, but the reliability of his OSCA was certainly something to doubt and it would be something to think about heading into the off season. However, there were still a few more races on the calendar.
The season had been something of a roller coaster ride for Bayol. After starting out with a couple of solid performances to build up some momentum, much of that momentum had been lost over the course of next few races. However, there would be just enough left to crest one more big hill that would come with the victory at Aix-les-Bains. Bayol rode the wave of momentum from that victory into Sables-d'Olonne only to find much of that momentum had already begun to wane. This then would seemingly come into play just two weeks later.
On the weekend of the 23rd of August, Elie Bayol would be in Switzerland. He had left Sables-d'Olonne disappointed and would make his way back in the opposite direction toward the French and Swiss border. He would carry on through the border and on to Berne. He was attempting to take part in the eighth round of the World Championship, the Swiss Grand Prix.
Bayol would unload his OSCA 20 and would prepare to take part in practice. However, after practice Bayol would withdraw his car and would pack up and leave without even taking part in qualifying.
Bayol wouldn't be away from racing for very long. Though he would forego the Swiss Grand Prix complete with the dominant Scuderia Ferrari and resurgent Maserati teams, Bayol would not pack it in for the remainder of the season. In fact, the following week he would be back at the wheel of his OSCA preparing to take part in another grand prix.
After leaving Berne, Switzerland, Bayol would travel southwest, back by the road to his hometown of Marseille and on to the south of France. Just 20 miles to the northwest of Toulouse lay the small village of Cadours. Bayol was on his way there to take part in the 5th Circuit de Cadours on the 30th of August.
Part of the Haute-Garonne department, Cadours was a small village with only about 600 inhabitants before the start of World War II. However, the passion of the people of the village would get behind a local mechanic and repair shop owner by the name of Louis Arrivet. It was Arrivet's dream to host motor racing events around his native Cadours. Arrivet and a small committee would decide on the layout of the circuit to be used. Unfortunately, World War II would come to disrupt that vision. Finally, in 1948, Cadours would host its first race. In 1949, the event would receive Grand Prix status. This would lead to the 1950 event attracting such names as Aldo Gordini, Rene Bonnet, Raymond Sommer, Harry Schell and even Elie Bayol. Unfortunately, it would be in 1950 that Cadours would take the life of Raymond Sommer Les Sanglier des Ardennes (the Ardennes wild boar) and a hero in French motor racing.
While not internationally very popular, the Cadours circuit was very much a pure road racing circuit. Based upon public country roads around Cadours, the natural undulating terrain and the flow of the circuit made it technically challenging but still very nice. The many esses with their varying radiuses made it very difficult to take cleanly and very easy to get wrong. On top of the difficult cadence to the circuit, the layout of it also would have made it very difficult to find any kind of comfortable pace. Short, fast straights would be followed by sharp bends followed immediately by tight hairpin turns. This constant variance in pace made the circuit very demanding.
The Circuit de Cadours would follow most of the other French races of the season. It would consist of heat races, but it would also include a repechage and a final. Each of the heats would be 15 laps long. Those that failed their respective heat races had a second chance to make it into the final by taking part in a 10 lap repechage. After that was decided the field would be set for a 30 lap final.
The field would be split amongst the two heats. Two of the Equipe Gordini team members would be listed in the first heat. They would be Maurice Trintignant and Jean Behra. They would also have to deal with two HWM-Altas driven by Yves Giraud-Cabantous and Lance Macklin. Privateers listed in the first heat would include Emmanue de Graffenried and Rene Duval.
In practice leading up to the start of the first heat, Maurice Trintignant would turn a lap of the circuit in one minute and fifty-seven seconds. This would be more than enough for Trintignant to take the pole as de Graffenried would be second-fastest with a time of two minutes even. Charles de Tornaco would take Ecurie Francorchamps' Ferrari 500 and would put it 3rd in the field, the final position on the front row.
In the race, Trintignant would be strong. He would lead the way and would put the pressure on de Graffenried and de Tornaco. Both of them would not be able to withstand the pressure and would be forced out of the race. An oil pipe would drive de Tornaco from the race and rear axle failure would bring de Graffenried's attack to an end.
Jean Behra would again prove to be quite fast as he would make his way from 6th place on the starting grid to find himself in 2nd place behind Trintignant. Behra would manage to leap-frog Giraud-Cabantous and Macklin.
Behra would not be able to leap-frog Trintignant, however. Anchored by setting the fastest lap of the race with a lap time equal to his qualifying effort, Trintignant would remain in the lead of the race and just out of touch for Behra.
Nonetheless, Gordini would earn a one, two finish in the first heat. In just thirty minutes and fifty-five seconds, Trintignant would come through the take the victory. Eight seconds later, Behra would make his way across the line in 2nd place. More than a minute and ten seconds would pass before Yves Giraud-Cabantous would come across to finish 3rd.
With the first heat done with, it was time to set the stage for the second heat. Bayol would be up against Harry Schell in another Gordini T16. However, Bayol would also have to face Louis Rosier, Ken Wharton and a gaggle of BMW Specials driven by French privateers.
Bayol would again look impressive in practice as he would turn a lap of the circuit in two minutes and one second. This would be mere tenths faster than Schell but would be only good enough to start 2nd on the front row of the grid. The pole would go to Louis Rosier. His best lap time would be only a second faster than Bayol.
The 15 lap heat race would turn into a battle between Rosier, Bayol and Schell, three men that had battled each other all season long. The battle amongst the three would be rather tight and intense nearly throughout. The intensity would cause Schell to wrestle a fastest lap of one minute and fifty-eight seconds out of his T16 and would help him take control of the race. Bayol just couldn't find a way past Rosier and would stay right there behind the two throughout most of the race.
Ken Wharton had started the race from dead-last on the grid but was rocketing up through the field during the race. Nearing the end of the race, Wharton would find himself in 4th place behind Bayol and was looking for more. Bayol had somewhat given up the fight with Rosier, and now, needed to be concerned with Wharton coming up fast from behind.
Schell's pace would enable him to be rather free of concern throughout the later stages of the heat race. With an average speed 2 mph faster than Trintignant in the first heat, it would take Schell just thirty minutes and five seconds, fifty seconds less time than Trintignant, to finish the race and take the victory. Following along twelve seconds behind would come Rosier. Nearly thirty seconds would be the difference between Rosier and 3rd place. Despite Wharton's charge up through the field there was very little he could do to challenge Bayol who had settled into a rather comfortable pace. Bayol would come across to finish in 3rd place some thirty seconds ahead of Wharton.
The repechage would see Charles de Tornaco and John Heath go up against a few other French privateers looking to fight there way into the race through the backdoor. In the short 10 lap race, de Tornaco would set the pace. John Heath would be in 2nd place but would not really manage a challenge of de Tornaco. But challenging for the win the repechage was not as important as being one of the top two finishers in the race. That honor would go to de Tornaco and Heath. They would make it back into the final despite their earlier troubles.
Finishing times from each respective heat would determine the starting grid for the 30 lap final. Since the top three from the second heat each had a finishing time faster than Trintignant in the first the entire front row would be comprised of second heat starters.
Harry Schell would have the pole after his incredible pace in the second heat race. Starting alongside would be Louis Rosier in his Ferrari 500. The final position on the front row would go to Elie Bayol. Once again Bayol found himself with a good starting position. He had hoped it would turn into another blessed result.
It wouldn't. As the field roared away and the front-runners jockeyed for position, misfortune would again find Bayol. After just one lap, the transmission on his OSCA would fail leaving him without sufficient drive to remain competitive. As a result, Bayol would retire from the race with even more unfulfilled promise.
Trintignant would not appreciate being demoted to the second row after taking the victory in the first heat. He would make a great start, and with Bayol's retirement, would be right up there at the front of the field with Schell. Jean Behra would also do the same. Very quickly, the race would become a one, two, three sweep for Equipe Gordini over the rest of the field.
Not only would Rosier get shoved out of the way and thrown back to 4th place overall, he would be left behind afterward. The three Gordini cars would lock up and would begin hauling around the circuit leaving everybody else in their wake.
In what seemed to be a French reenactment of the French Grand Prix, the three Gordini cars would be within feet of each other lap after lap of the race. They would pull away from Rosier and the rest of the field until the only real battle left would be amongst themselves.
Trintignant was intent on taking the victory. In an effort to exert his dominance over his teammates he would turn the fastest lap of the race with a time that was a second faster than his best effort in the first heat. This would open up something of a gap for himself over his teammates who were locked in a battle themselves.
After so many frustrating races where the team had come so close only to falter, Trintignant, averaging a little more than 75 mph, would storm to victory in a Gordini 1st, 2nd and 3rd. The only question would be, 'Who would finish 2nd?' Behra and Schell had battled it out lap after lap. However, as he had proven in the second heat, Schell had the pace to keep Behra at bay. And as they headed toward the line, it was Schell by about a car length over Behra.
All of the potential and resulting bitter disappointment had certainly taken its toll on Bayol over the course of the season. After starting the final at Cadours from the front row, only to have it end after just one lap, was becoming too much for Bayol. It was especially becoming tough given the fact Bayol was leaving race after race without any money to offset the cost of entering. Despite the promised showed, Bayol had still suffered enough retirements. It would be a good time to bring the season to a close from his perspective.
The season would come to a close for Bayol, but only as a privateer in grand prix racing. He would actually enter one more race before the end of the season. It would be the Italian Grand Prix on the 13th of September.
Being that the race took place in Italy, the home nation of the Maserati brothers and their new OSCA car company, OSCA would foot the bill for Bayol to enter the race under the factory name. The car had proven to be quite strong performance-wise over the course of the season. Unfortunately, reliability wasn't proving to be as strong. Nonetheless, the Maserati brothers would have liked to have their cars take part in Italy's biggest race.
After the Italian Grand Prix, however, the season would draw to a close for Bayol when it came to grand prix racing. He would still take part in one more sportscar race but that wouldn't be until December in Casablanca, Morocco.
Co-driving an OSCA MT4 with Jean-Louis Armengaud, Bayol would enter the 12 Hours of Casablanca on the 20th of December. Facing Ferrari 250MM and 375MMs, as well as Aston Martins, Jaguars and Gordinis, Christmas would come early for Bayol as he and Armengaud would drive their way to a 6th place overall finish. This would provide Bayol at least something positive upon which he could end his season.
More positive news would come during the off-season leading up to the 1954 Formula One World Championship. By the time the 1954 season rolled around Bayol was already pushing 40 years of age. He knew his racing years were slowly drawing to a close. He also knew that he was much more suited to sportscar racing than in grand prix, especially given the reality that the extremely competitive nature of the series was quickly rooting privateers out of its ranks. Therefore, Bayol's opportunities in Formula One would be less and less. Therefore, he would have to take full advantage of them when they presented themselves. And heading into the 1954 season, the biggest opportunity Bayol would ever have in Formula One would present itself. This opportunity would include a move to Equipe Gordini. And it would end up paying off.
Bayol recognized that driving sportscars was surely where his giftings were the strongest. Therefore, the 1954 season would also see him ramp up the number of his sportscar races as he would begin to draw away from grand prix racing.
Although he started racing late in his life, Bayol had proven during the 1953 season that talent, no matter what the age, can make up all the difference. And in many ways, the rather obscure position of Elie Bayol in World Championship history is still very much an inspirational story of a man with talent and a dream, and fulfilling that dream.