TeamsEquipe Gordini: 1956 Formula One Season By Jeremy McMullen
When the World Championship switched to Formula 2 regulations at the beginning of the 1952 season Equipe Gordini would step up and would become one of the few challengers Ferrari would have over the course of the season. However, by the time the new Formula One regulations came into effect in 1954 Gordini's competitive past would be long forgotten. Heading into the 1956 season Gordini would be fighting for its life.
Throughout the Formula 2 era of the World Championship Equipe Gordini would show some potential with its Type 15. Then when the team debuted its Type 16 with its straight-six engine Gordinis would show their truest potential and would actually be quite competitive throughout 1952 and 1953.
But while the T16 would never be considered one of the fastest grand prix cars, not when going up against the Ferrari 500 and the newer Maserati A6GCM, speed would not be the weakest feature of the car. Robert Manzon had earned a number of top five performances for Gordini during the 1952 season but would quickly depart from the team in 1953. The reason for this was simple—poor reliability.
More than once Gordini would have one of its cars running up inside the top five or better only to have poor reliability snatch the result away. This would frustrate Manzon terribly and he would leave the team. Others would soldier on in hopes that a better drive with a better team was right around the corner.
By 1953 Equipe Gordini was a veritable revolving door for new drivers longing to get their first foray into Formula One. Unfortunately this would do little to help Gordini except to provide extra funds to keep in operation.
Amedee Gordini would earn a reputation for himself as a sorcerer with engines. And, considering the competition Gordini would manage to pull every last ounce of power and torque out of the T16. Unfortunately, to gain that kind of power meant compromising the integrity and reliability of the car. As a result, the cars would become extremely fragile and could never be truly relied upon from then on.
By the end of the 1955 season, Equipe Gordini was practically a forgotten about member of the Formula One grid. The team was hanging on by a thread. One of the main problems Gordini had was simply do to the fact the team continued to operate and rely upon a car that was more than four years old. Lancia and Maserati had come along with new cars. Ferrari had tried but their 553 Super Squalos were proving to be less effective than their 625s. Even still, Ferrari maintained a much stronger position than Gordini.
Gordini needed a new car. The problem was the team was surviving on gasps of air. They did not have the finances to properly develop a new car. Still, Gordini would forge ahead the best he could.
No doubt influenced by the designs of the Mercedes-Benz W196 and some of the other designs employed at the return of the Formula One regulations in 1954, Gordini and his team would set about creating a car much different than the previous designs. Sporting a much wider and lower body, the new T32 would look much more like a sportscar design with the bodywork protruding out to the inside limits of the wheels. This was intended to provide a car with a much lower center of gravity and having better handling. In addition to the body design, independent suspension and disc brakes would be employed to further help the car become a viable competitor. By adding an eight-cylinder, 2.5-liter engine producing upwards of 250hp, Gordini believed they had the combination of engine and car to help restore the French team to some place of importance in the Formula One paddock.
Of course, power and handling had never been the sole thing Gordini lacked in order to be competitive. In fact, just some reliability would go a long way for the team. But there would be one other inherent problem with the T32 compared to most other cars and that would be its weight. While the Mercedes-Benz W196 would be heavier, Gordini would not have the kind of results of the W196 to use as an excuse. Nevertheless, the team would put its hopes in its new car to help save the existence of the team.
Facing extinction, Gordini would have one driver in which it could rely to give them the very best. Although he had departed the team because of the lack of reliability, Robert Manzon would end up coming back to Gordini in 1955. Always fast, and an incredibly talent, Manzon offered the team a very capable driver. Unfortunately, the 1955 season would be perhaps one of the most cruel, and yet, Manzon would stay on for the following season.
Hermano da Silva Ramos would join Gordini late in 1955 and would also be back for the following season. Besides these two drivers, the team would again have something of a rotating schedule of drivers.
Heading into the 1956 season Gordini would be facing a very serious dilemma. The team and the company on a whole were in terrible financial straights. However, in order to pay to go racing a team had to go racing. This didn't necessarily appear to be a positive thing when the team would be forced to rely upon a car that had shown itself incapable of completing even 10 laps in some events during the 1955 season. Nonetheless, Gordini would put in a couple of entries for the Argentine Grand Prix on the 22nd of January.
Prior to the first round of the 1956 Formula One World Championship there had been a lot of upheaval in and around the capital and the nation of Argentina. Controversial President Juan Peron would be deposed and the political situation at the time would be much more uneasy and unsure. Yet, the first round of the World Championship would remain on the schedule and the teams would begin to make their way across the Atlantic to prepare.
Equipe Gordini would be experiencing enough upheaval of its own and would force Gordini to seriously look at the idea of making the trip across the Atlantic. While the starting field would likely be smaller than most races on European soil, the cost associated with the trip was beginning to out-weigh the possible benefits, especially if the new car didn't come through. Therefore, despite having a couple of entries, the Gordini team would not make the trip across the Atlantic to take part in the first round of the World Championship. The team would instead choose to stay near home and continue to work the T32.
By not heading across the Atlantic for the first couple of races of the season Equipe Gordini would have until April before they would need to be ready to take part in the first race of the season on the European mainland. This would give the team more time to do what they could with the older T16s and to overcome the teething problems associated with the new T32s. But then, on the 2nd of April, the team would be ready to take part in the first Formula One race of the season in Europe.
At the end of March the Equipe Gordini team would load their cars onto their transporter and would begin to make the journey toward the Channel and on to England. Ultimately, the destination would lay just a little more than 8 miles inland at a former auxiliary fighter base. The Easter holiday was fast approaching and that meant the famous Easter Monday Races held at the Goodwood Circuit.
Just one of the many races that comprised the Easter Monday Races on that 2nd of April would be the 4th Glover Trophy race. The race consisted of 32 laps of the 2.39 mile Goodwood Circuit and, therefore, would cover a total of 77 miles. Seeing that it was part of the Easter Monday Races at Goodwood, the entry list would be filled with a number of national drivers. However, the presence of Equipe Gordini and Ecurie Rosier would add a bit of international flavor to the proceedings.
Gordini would dispatch one T16 and one T32 to the event. Robert Manzon would be behind the wheel of the T32 while Elie Bayol would be in charge of driving the older T16. The rest of the field would consist of mostly small privateer teams and individuals. But one of those individuals on the list would be Stirling Moss driving his own Maserati 250F.
The Goodwood Circuit's 2.39 miles of perimeter road for a circuit would be quick. Pushing average speeds well over 90 mph at the time, the circuit certainly favored power and handling. Therefore, the circuit seemed perfectly suited to the 250F which was meant to be slid through the corners. Moss would demonstrate that beautifully as he would end up taking the pole with a time of 1:32.0. He would end up being joined on the front row by Archie Scott-Brown in a B-Type Connaught, Mike Hawthorn in a BRM 25 and Bob Gerard in another B-Type Connaught. Just a little more than 2 seconds would separate the entire front row.
Manzon would look impressive behind the wheel of the T32. Powering it through the corners, the weight of the car would still seem to be a terrible hindrance as the best Manzon would manage would be a lap nearly 7 seconds slower than Moss. As a result, Manzon would start the race from the third row in the 8th position. Not surprisingly, Bayol would prove to be slower yet in the T16. His best would be 4 seconds off of Manzon and would lead to Elie starting 10th, still on the same row as Manzon.
The cars and the drivers would take their places on the grid. It all seemed to promise to be a very exciting event with the fast Moss and the hard-charging Hawthorn on the front row. Of course, Manzon and Bayol would be more concerned with just making to the end in a top place.
Right from the start of the race the pace would be frantic with Moss and Hawthorn charging hard up at the front. Moss would be so fast he would go on to break the track record with a lap time of 1:30.2 at an average speed of nearly 96 mph. This lap time was nearly 2 seconds faster than his own pole time and posed a great challenge to the rest of the field.
Ken Wharton and Tony Brooks would succumb to the pace and would be out before the 10th lap. Then Scott-Brown would retire with engine troubles after 17 laps. It seemed Moss would run away with the race with Hawthorn following. However, even this was not to be as Hawthorn's BRM would lose a wheel and would end up crashing out of the race after 23 laps. Amazingly, all of this action left a door open for Gordini. Both cars were still in the race. Unfortuantely, neither had the pace to take advantage. Manzon would be the strongest of the two drivers, but even he would be more than a lap down heading into the final few laps of the race.
Averaging more than 94 mph, Moss would need a little less than 49 minutes to complete the 32 lap race distance and collect the win. Roy Salvadori would end up being the one that would benefit the most from the struggles of the others. But, even though he would finish in 2nd place, he would still come across the line a minute and 3 seconds behind.
If Salvadori thought he had it bad all he had to do was talk to the Gordini drivers. Both cars would make it to the end of the race, but only just. Robert Manzon would end up a little more than 2 laps behind in 6th place. Elie Bayol would end up the last car still running out on the circuit. His sedated approach would leave him more than a handful of laps behind in the 8th position.
The Gordini cars would be thoroughly outrun in their first race of the season. Nowhere near the top of the leaderboard in a race boasting of a rather small field was not necessarily a good sign for the team. But, they would still have both cars make it to the finish, and that would be no small achievement. It was something the team could build upon.
Leaving English shores following the Glover Trophy race, Equipe Gordini would have a little less than two weeks before their next race of the season. Therefore, the team would head back across the Channel, would continue to refine their cars and would then head off again. This time the destination would be to the south. On the island of Sicily, on the 15th of April, would be found the next race of the season for the team—the 6th Gran Premio di Siracusa.
Founded by the Greek Corinthians and once allied to powerful Sparta, Syracuse's history extends back thousands of years. This ancient city, filled with remnants of its colorful and dramatic past would serve as the backdrop for the non-championship Formula One grand prix bearing its name.
It would be most fitting the circuit used for the race would be 3.48 miles consisting of roads traversing the ancient countryside and city streets. Lined with reminders of days gone by, the circuit would enable the best of the period to race around at average speeds approaching 100 mph.
Seeing that the Italian mainland was nearly in sight from the city it was certainly no surprise to see the likes of Scuderia Ferrari and a number of other privateer Italian teams unloading and getting ready for the race ahead.
As with the race on English soil, Gordini would bring two cars to the race in Syracuse. Robert Manzon would be behind the wheel of a T16 while Hermanos da Silva Ramos would also be behind the wheel of a T16.
Back in late-October of the previous year, Connaught Engineering stunned just about everyone when their driver Tony Brooks took a demonstrative victory. Just about 6 months later, there would be no such Connaught dominance. Juan Manuel Fangio would go on to take the pole in the powerful Lancia-Ferrari. His lap of 1:58.0 would end up being nine-tenths of a second faster than another D50 piloted by Castellotti. Jean Behra would complete the front row claiming 3rd place in the lone factory Maserati in the field.
Manzon would take the T16 and would wring the neck of the thing to get it to perform to its absolute max. When it was all said and done, the best he could do would be a lap 7 seconds off of Fangio's pace. Still, Manzon would end up on the third row of the grid in the 7th position. Hermanos would find himself a bit further down having been nearly 7 seconds slower than Manzon. As a result, da Silva Ramos would start the race from the fifth row of the grid in the 12th position.
The race would be 80 laps covering a total of 278 miles. This would be a supreme test for the reliability of the T16 very early in the season. As the race would get underway, it would prove to be a test to just about everyone else as well.
The first to falter would be Jean Behra. Lubrication issues with the lone factory Maserati would end his race after just a single lap. Horace Gould would make it 2 laps before he too was done. Meanwhile, Fangio would be up at the front leading a quartet of Ferraris in a formation march around the ancient landscape. Destroying all challengers, the Ferrari group would run away into the distance leaving the rest of the field to struggle to survive.
Another wave of attrition would come and knock out a number of competitors just past the 20 lap mark. Giorgio Scarlatti, Piero Scotti, Berardo Taraschi and Desmond Titterington would all be out of the race before the 25th lap. The retirements of Scotti and Titterington meant there would not be a repeat victory for Connaught. But, it would be hard for just about anyone to fight for the victory when Ferrari had the front of the running order so well locked up.
Fangio would go on to post what would be the fastest lap of the race and would still have Luigi Musso, Castellotii and Peter Collins in tow. As far as Gordini was concerned, Ferrari could hold onto the lead. The French squad would be more interested in making sure both of their cars finished the race and in the best position possible.
Manzon would be holding up his end of the deal as he continued to soldier on around the circuit well inside the top ten. Hermanos, on the other hand, would find his race consist of two halves. The first half would be relatively strong. But then, on the 42nd lap of the race he would find his T16 suffering from some kind of mechanical problem. It would soon become apparent the problem would prohibit him from making it to the end of the race. This left Manzon all alone in a car with a known ability to give up the ghost.
Averaging more than 97 mph over the course of the 80 laps, Fangio would lead home a Ferrari freight-train that would utterly destroy all comers. Crossing the line in just under two hours and 49 minutes, Fangio would take the victory. Musso and Collins would complete the sweep of the podium for Ferrari crossing the line within a half a second of the Argentinean.
Such was the pace of the Ferraris the 4th place finisher, Luigi Villoresi, would find himself down more than 3 laps. Robert Manzon would carry on to the finish of the race asking the T16 to give him everything it had over the course of the race. While certainly not able to stay on the lead lap with the Ferraris, Manzon would still have a strong finish coming across the line 4 laps behind in the 6th position.
The Grand Prix of Syracuse would end up a bittersweet experience for the Gordini team. Certainly the retirement of da Silva Ramos soured the mood, but Manzon's performance over the course of the long 80 lap race had to warm the team's heart. This would be a good result for the team especially given the challenge they had coming ahead.
After the Gran Premio di Siracusa there would be just one more Formula One race in April and it would be a non-championship event held at Aintree. However, once the calendar turned to May, the Gordini team would find it had some interesting challenges ahead. And so, the break would be a welcome one. The team would go to work preparing all its cars for the task ahead. The team would need to work hard as they would have a weekend of racing coming up that first weekend in May.
Heading into May, there would be a couple of non-championship Formula One races on the calendar. Two of them would be on the same weekend. This posed a tremendous challenge to the financially-strapped team like Gordini. Still, they would do it. Two cars would be dispatched to head back across the Channel to Silverstone for the 8th BRDC International Trophy race. Then, a single-car effort would be sent to Naples to take part in the 9th Gran Premio di Napoli. The BRDC International Trophy race would be held on the 5th of May. The Gran Premio di Napoli would be the very next day, the 6th.
Gransden Lodge would host the first motor race on English soil following the end of the Second World War. That would be in 1946. Two years later, the British Grand Prix would return to the scene and would find a home in a former Royal Air Force bomber training base known as RAF Silverstone.
Named after a small village neighboring the base, RAF Silverstone would come to host the No. 17 Operational Training Unit in 1943 at which time training of bomber crews would commence using Vickers Wellington bombers. The base would remain in use until 1947. The following year, the Royal Automobile Club would purchase a lease on the airfield and Silverstone would be born.
First held in 1949, the BRDC International Trophy race would be the first to feature the 2.9 mile perimeter circuit that would become so iconic. Once the Formula One World Championship began the following year, the non-championship International Trophy would continue to be a big draw for the big teams and best drivers. The 1956 edition would be no different.
While Scuderia Ferrari would send just a couple of cars to the race the number of British manufacturers were well and truly beginning to grow. Vandervell Products would have two of their new Vanwalls present. Connaught Engineering would send no less than five cars. Then there would be the large numbers of British privateers. The Gordini pair of Hermanos da Silva Ramos and Andre Pilette would certainly have their work cut out for themselves.
Despite the presence of Fangio in the D50, Stirling Moss and the Vanwalls would set the pace in practice. Moss would be quickest posting a best lap of 1:42. This would be mere hundredths of a second faster than his teammate Harry Schell. Fangio would end up third-fastest while Mike Hawthorn would complete the front row in the 4th position.
The differences in pace would be obvious in practice. While Moss would be pushing the low 1:40s, Hermanos and Andre would be doing their best to push the low 1:50s. Both would set times of 1:54. However, da Silva Ramos would prove to be hundredths of a second faster than Pilette and would take the 12th position on the grid while Pilette would end p 13th. Both would start from the fourth row of the grid however.
The stands around the 2.9 mile circuit would be packed with spectators looking to watch the very latest in grand prix machinery. At the start of the race, Hawthorn would take advantage of his front row position and would streak into the lead ahead of Moss and his teammate Fangio. Further back, a large portion of the mid-field would try and swing left, or the outside, this would force a number of competitors onto the grass. Both the T32 of Pilette and the T16 of Hermanos would be further back at the time and heading into the right-hand Copse running well back in the field.
Coming around at the conclusion of the first lap it would be Hawthorn with a couple of seconds advantage over Moss who, in turn, had Schell all over his backside. Pilette and da Silva Ramos would remain further back in the field making rather uninspiring gains.
Hawthorn would continue to delight the fans as he led the way in the BRM. However, after 13 glorious laps in the lead it would all come to an end when magneto problems ended the day for the former grand prix winner. This handed the lead to Moss, who had finally broken free from his teammate Schell and actually had Fangio now running in 2nd.
Moss would continue charging around the circuit at an average speed of more than 100 mph. The combination of the speed and the Silverstone circuit would wreak havoc on the field as Schell would retire after 19 laps with fuel issues. Jack Fairman would also retire on the same lap as Schell. One lap later and Fangio would also succumb to the pace of Moss. The Argentinean would then go and take over Peter Collins' Ferrari for what should have been the remainder of the race. However, just 7 laps after having retired with clutch problems, clutch issues would again end Fangio's day. Ferrari was truly out of the running. This left Moss all alone at the front with the Connaught of Archie Scott-Brown giving chase but well behind.
Not long after the halfway point of the race the teething issues with the T32 would rear their head. Running inside the top ten as a result of the attrition and the performance of the T32, Pilette would find his day come to a disappointing end when the rear axle broke on the car ending the day for one of the two Gordinis.
The other Gordini, that of Hermanos, would be running quite well in the later-part of the race. Because of the trouble suffered by many of the other competitors, the T16 of da Silva Ramos would be running inside the top five and looking quite strong.
Nobody would be as strong as Moss on this day. Having at least a lap in hand over every one else still running, Moss would be seen powering his way around the circuit for the final time with his hand raised in the air in triumph. Average just over 100 mph, Stirling would take the victory by more than a lap over Scott-Brown. More than 3 laps would be the gap back to 3rd place finisher Desmond Titterington.
Five laps would be the difference between Moss and Hermanos at the end of the race. Each lap would mean one position as the T16 would make it the entire 60 laps and would cross the line in 5th place; a splendid result for the aged piece of machinery.
As with the race in Syracuse, the International Trophy race would be both positive and negative. The one good thing out of the failure of the T32 would be the fact it had made it longer than it had in any previous race. But while the team would be busy debriefing and measuring the successes and failures of the trip across the Channel, on the other side of the Alps the other half of the team would be making final preparations for the race the next day.
Hermanos da Silva Ramos would provide the team with a splendid result in England. On the 6th of May, Robert Manzon would wake and would begin mental preparations to do battle against a field consisting of all Italian machinery, except for his lone T16. If da Silva Ramos and Pilette had their work cut out for them heading into the International Trophy race then Manzon would be descending into a hell in which there would be very little hope of survival.
Gordini would arrive in Posillipo, a small residential quarter of Naples, with just a single car entered for Robert Manzon. The field would include two entries for Scuderia Ferrari and the remainder for small Italian privateer teams. Therefore, Gordini would certainly be in the minority as it prepared for the 60 lap race around the top of the cliff outcropping of Posillipo.
In spite of the presence of all the Italian pieces of mechanical art, Manzon would use the 2.55 mile Posillipo street circuit to his advantage and would end up on the front row with the Lancia D50s of Eugenio Castellotti and Luigi Musso. As far as all the Italian were concerned the old T16 certainly looked out of place on the front row, but, the tight and slow circuit helped neutralize the extra power the D50s and the Maserati 250Fs had in hand. Still, Manzon's best lap would still be some 5 seconds slower than the two Ferraris who happened to lap the circuit within a tenth of a second of each other. At 2:07.7 for the pole, it seemed abundantly clear Manzon would be fighting for best of the rest honors.
Boasting of views of Mount Vesuvius and the bay, Posillipo was certainly the place for a bit of a respite. And, having architecture, feel and location in common with Monaco, it seemed the perfect place to host a grand prix. Considered the possible residence of Virgil, the 1956 edition of the Gran Premio di Napoli would have its own elements of drama and adventure.
Right from the very start of the race the Ferraris would look strong despite the tight winding streets. The two cars would quickly begin to edge out a clear lead on Manzon and the rest of the field. Of course, this seemed of little surprise to just about everyone gathered around the circuit.
However, what would happen next would be just the beginning of just a day full of surprises. Eugenio Castellotti would not be well after the first lap. By the end of the 2nd lap he would be in the pits and out of the race as a result of an oil pump failure. Still, Ferrari was only mildly concerned having Musso clearly in the lead and pushing hard.
In practice the two Ferraris had been pushing laps times down under 2:08. In the race it would be more than apparent the two Lancia-Ferrari drivers didn't need to push so hard against a field incapable of coming within a second or two of their practice efforts. Therefore, Musso would settle in at the head of the field and would be easily turning laps in the 2:13 lap range. Manzon was holding down a strong position near the front of the field but his best single lap only got into the 12s. So, Musso would look and feel very comfortable in the lead building upon his advantage at just about every turn.
The pressure would become less and less on Musso as Villoresi and Francisco Godia-Sales would retire by around the halfway mark. Manzon would still be running strongly, but he could do absolutely nothing with the superior pace of the Ferrari. Despite giving it everything he had, the Frenchman just could not approach a consistent pace that even bothered Musso. But Musso and Ferrari overlooked providence.
Just when it looked as though Musso would run away with the victory another twist would take place in the plot of the Gran Premio di Napoli. Engine failure would lead to Musso being forced out of the race after 37 laps. Up until this time Manzon had pretty much been running a blocking maneuver to keep potentially faster cars behind him. And, as Musso pulled over to the side it would become apparent why such a tactic would be so very important.
To the shock and amazement of everyone gathered around the circuit, the lone French blue Gordini T16 would be in the lead of the race with a rather comfortable lead in hand over Horace Gould in another 250F.
It just couldn't be. And yet, there it was. Manzon had the fragile, aged Gordini out front with a lead in hand over the rest of the field. It would be Gordini's moment to shine on Italian soil. It would be clear Manzon had an advantage over everyone else still running. Putting laps on the rest of the field and more than holding Horace Gould at bay, Manzon would look in his element.
The anticipation would grow in the pits with every passing lap. Gordini had been in this position before only to have the car fail to hold together. Every Italian assembled around the circuit that day would hope the lone foreign entry would do just that.
Lap after lap the usually fragile T16 would just keep motoring. Treating the car gently, Manzon would continue to hold onto a comfortable lead as well. Then, to the amazement of all, the Frenchman would do it. After two hours and nearly 21 minutes the T16 would cross the line for the final time giving the Gordini one more victory. Manzon's performance would be remarkable given the pressure and the seeming impossibility given the single car entry. But, in the end, he would take the victory by 9 seconds over Horace Gould and would have more than 3 laps in hand over 3rd place finisher Gerino Gerini.
While the 5th of May would be something of a mixed bag for Equipe Gordini, the very next day would be clearly a day of celebration. The surprise victory in Naples would give the struggling team some hope for the future, even though it would be a very slim hope.
The timing of the victory in Naples really could not have been any better for the struggling Equipe Gordini team. In 1955 the team would finish the season not having scored a single World Championship point. However, coming off a victory in Naples, even though it may have been a surprise one at that, meant the team would have a bit more confidence heading into the second round of the World Championship on the 13th of May. And that would be important given that the race was the Monaco Grand Prix, the crown jewel of Formula One.
Located in the French Riviera, bordered by beautiful mountains and overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, Monaco would earn its exotic reputation partly just because of the setting. But, combine such a picturesque setting with some absolutely gaudy wealth and this Principality becomes the stuff of dreams.
Even before being a part of the Formula One inaugural season in 1950, the Monaco Grand Prix had already been one of those special races in which every driver, car manufacturer, and even every nation wanted to win. Some of the most iconic moments around the circuit would be the pre-World War II years as the mighty Silver Arrows of Mercedes-Benz and Auto Union ruled the tight and twisty streets. Of course, perhaps none of the races during that period would be any more famous than the 1936 race when wet weather and oil on the track led to the retirements of nearly all of the Silver Arrows, save one, the Auto Union of Rudolf Caracciola.
The 1955 edition of the race would be the first time since 1950 that the Monaco Grand Prix had been part of the Formula One World Championship. It would turn out to be a memorable return and would leave people looking forward to next year's installment.
Equipe Gordini needed to take advantage of the Monaco Circuit. As a result of the tight and twisty nature of the 1.95 mile street course the average speeds would be quite low and this helped to level the field slightly, just as it had at Posillipo.
Considering the importance of the race in terms of reputation and in opportunity presented, Gordini would bring no less than three cars to the race. A total of five different drivers would be listed as possible pilots and each would take part in practice to determine which ones would be the better choice around such an unforgiving circuit. Scuderia Ferrari would bring four cars of their own while the factory Maserati team would bring three Maserati 250Fs. British manufacturers Vandervell and Owen Racing would bring two of their cars. It would be a full and talented field and presented quite the challenge for the team adorned in blue.
Things would look up for the Gordini team immediately following practice. Brakes problems would loom large with the BRM 25s entered by Owen Racing. Therefore, the two cars would be withdrawn from the event. Still, this would provide only a little help.
The fastest around the streets of the Principality would be Juan Manuel Fangio in one of the Lancia-Ferraris. His best effort of 1:44.0 would end up being six-tenths of a second faster than that of Stirling Moss and would give the Argentinean yet another pole. Eugenio Castellotti would make sure Moss would be surrounded on the front row when he took the third, and final, front row starting spot.
Elie Bayol would be rather impressive around the streets of Monaco in the heavy T32. His best lap would be exactly 6 seconds slower and would lead to him earning a place on the fourth row of the grid following Hawthorn's withdrawal. Lining up 10th, Bayol would have an opportunity at a good start being closer to the front. Robert Manzon would be nearly as impressive in an older T16. His best in practice would be just three-tenths slower than Bayol and would lead to him slotting in 11th place on the 5th row of the grid. Hermanos da Silva Ramos would also be within striking distance of his teammates being just three-tenths slower than Manzon. Because of Tony Brooks withdrawal in the other BRM 25, Hermanos would move up to the 5th row of the grid and the 13th starting spot.
As fans and teams arose the day of the race a dark overcast sky clouded the area around the principality. However, by the time the teams and drivers made their way to the circuit the skies would be sunny and the circuit dry. Another beautiful day would greet the Monaco Grand Prix.
The cars would be lined up on the grid with the thousands upon thousands of spectators looking down from every possible vantage point. Engines roaring to start the race, the flag would drop and would unleash a cacophony of sound echoing off the palatial buildings. Heading into the tight hairpin first turn it would be Stirling Moss on the outside while Castellotti holding tight to the inside. Just behind these two would be Harry Schell and Fangio fighting it out for 3rd. Cesare Perdisa would have a terrible getaway from the grid. This would allow Bayol and Manzon to go around on the outside. Following along right behind his teammates would be da Silva Ramos in the third Gordini.
Passing through Sainte Devote, Moss would gain a clear lead while Fangio would out-maneuver both Schell and Castellotti for 2nd. By the end of the first lap, Moss would be enjoying a lead of more than a couple of seconds over Fangio and Peter Collins. Schell's fast start would quickly come to naught as he would cross the line at the end of the first lap in 7th. The Gordini trio, on the other hand, would enjoy a strong start to the race. Manzon would have the upper-hand on his teammates and would come through the first lap in 9th while Bayol and da Silva Ramos would be 10th and 11th respectively.
Two laps into the race and the greatest shake-up to the order would take place when Fangio would make a rare mistake and would end up spinning in his Lancia-Ferrari. The spin wouldn't be an isolated incident however as Schell and Musso would end up coming together and would end up dropping out of the race as a result of the damage sustained while trying to avoid Fangio. This spin would end up dropping the Argentinean down to 5th place and would set him on a path of destruction. Jean Behra would be a man on the move and would capitalize on all the chaos around him to move up to 3rd place.
Over the course of the next 10 laps not a whole lot would change. Castellotti would be on a downward trend until eventually retiring after 14 laps with clutch failure. This would be one lap after the previous year's winner, Maurice Trintignant, had to retire as a result of engine failure. Fangio would be up to 4th place and would be bouncing off the walls in an attempt to gain lost time.
Twenty-five laps, quarter distance, Moss would still be comfortably in the lead and actually building upon his advantage. Peter Collins would be in 2nd place while Fangio would continue to beat the bodywork of his Lancia-Ferrari in an attempt to gain ground in 3rd place. Amazingly, the three Gordinis remained in the race and were still running in order out on the circuit. Manzon would be up to 6th place followed by Bayol in 7th and da Silva Ramos in 8th. If the team could just hold on to the finish they were in for a great pay day.
By the halfway mark in the race Eugenio Castellotti would have taken over the badly damaged Fangio D50. Fangio had originally come into the pits as a result of the damage sustained by the car banging itself off the walls all around the circuit. Fangio would be left waiting for another ride.
Having scored the victory at the Argentine Grand Prix it would be only natural Fangio would be given Peter Collins D50 since he was running in 2nd place at the time. Fangio would take over the car and would set off, driving just like he had prior to coming into the pits. He would rejoin the race in 3rd place behind Moss and Behra. Not far behind Fangio and Castellotti would be Manzon in 5th place. Bayol would also move up to 6th place in just a few laps after the halfway mark. By the 67th lap, da Silva Ramos would be past Perdisa in 7th place.
Moss was out front and absolutely flying. However, as the laps dwindled down it would be Fangio that would be the fastest around the circuit. Moving past Behra for 2nd place, Fangio would be pushing hard to try and erase the huge gap Moss enjoyed before the end. This would be a tall order but Fangio would show he was equal to the task. Meanwhile, the three Gordinis continued to run out on the circuit without any kind of problems. Da Silva Ramos and Elie Bayol would end up trading 6th place when Bayol came into the pits to hand the car over to Andre Pilette for the remainder of the race.
Manzon was driving just as he had to win the Naples Grand Prix. Given the similar nature of the circuits the Frenchman looked to be in a strong position to earn 2 championship points for a 5th place finish. However, there would be one major difference between the two races. The Naples Grand Prix was only 60 laps, some 40 laps shorter than the Monaco Grand Prix. This meant more wear and tear on the T16. Sure enough, with just 10 laps remaining in the race, Manzon's 5th place would go right out the window. The extra number of laps would end up causing a terrible amount of wear to the brakes on the T16. As a result of the brake failure Manzon would crash the T16 and would be unable to finish the race. This would be an absolutely bitter disappointment for Manzon given he was only just a handful of laps away from the end.
Manzon's failure meant da Silva Ramos would be up to 5th place while Pilette would be now in 6th. It was still shaping up to be a great day for Gordini. The other two cars just had to complete the last couple of laps.
Fangio would really turn up the heat in the last couple of laps. Moss once had an insurmountable lead. This was not the case heading into the last couple of laps. However, the Briton knew exactly just how many laps remained in the race and the kind of pace he would need to ensure he safely made it to the checkered flag in the first position.
Heading through Tabac for the final time with his hand raised high in the air in celebration, Moss would flash across the line to take his second World Championship victory. Fangio wasn't about to look as if he didn't give it his best. Posting what would end up being the fastest lap of the race on the final lap, Fangio would cross the line just 6 seconds back of Moss for 2nd place. Jean Behra would complete the race distance in 3rd place having driven a very quiet and solid race.
Some of the best celebrations would end up going up from the Gordini camp as da Silva Ramos would hold on to finish in 5th place in a T16. He would complete the race distance 7 laps behind Moss. Right behind him in the order but another 5 laps further behind would be the T32 of Bayol and Pilette. This would be an incredible result for Gordini as they would nearly have two of their cars finish in the points.
The Monaco Grand Prix would be an absolutely amazing moment for Equipe Gordini. Throughout the previous season, and even through the early part of the 1956 season, the team struggled to have two cars that looked capable of finishing a race of any kind of distance. And yet, on the 13th of May, in one of the biggest races of the season, the Gordini team would look as reliable as any of the other factory teams. Perhaps Gordini had finally, when its back was against the wall, turned a corner.
After the surprising result in Monaco, Gordini would quickly turn its attentions toward a non-championship Formula One race set to take place in the city of Turin, Italy. This race was to take place on the 20th of May, just one week following the Monaco Grand Prix, and therefore, would cause the Gordini team to have to pack quickly.
But there wouldn't be too much of a rush. The 7th Gran Premio del Valentino would be a 90 lap event around the 2.61 mile Valentino Park Circuit in downtown Turin. This would be another tough test immediately following the tough test in Monaco.
On the entry form were Scuderia Ferrari and the factory Maserati teams. Ferrari had a fleet of battered race cars following Monaco. Maserati was in better shape, but not much better. Ferrari's battered and bruised cars would lead to the management making the decision to withdraw from the race. Maserati would follow suit as the Belgian Grand Prix was just a couple of weeks away. This left just five entries for the race. As a result of the duration of the race, and the few number of cars entered, the organizers would make the decision to cancel the event.
In spite of the fact the T32 was a new car, its weight and other issues made it anything but the fast grand prix car Gordini was hoping for. This would cause some problems heading into the next few rounds of the World Championship.
The fourth round of the World Championship would be the Belgian Grand Prix and it took place at the fast 8.77 mile Spa-Francorchamps circuit situated in the heart of the Ardennes Forest. This circuit certainly didn't play to any strengths, if there were any, of the T16 or the T32. As a result, Gordini would skip the Belgian Grand Prix.
Equipe Gordini faced a similar, but even more uncomfortable situation, looking forward to the fifth round of the World Championship. The circuit for the fifth round of the World Championship in 1956 would be as fast as Spa. Measuring 5.15 miles in length this circuit featured only a couple of hairpin turns to help slow the average speeds down. However, since this circuit was comprised of public roads heading through the countryside there would be long straights that would more than overcome the slower pace caused by the hairpin turns. The nature of this circuit certainly didn't play to whatever strengths the Gordini cars had.
But there would be a problem for the French squad. The fifth round of the World Championship would be the French Grand Prix held at Reims. It would not reflect well upon the French team if it did not at least attend the race held on the 1st of July.
Situated in the Champagne-Ardenne region of France, Reims would be literally just about 150 miles to the southeast of the Spa-Francorchamps circuit. But while it too would be located in the Ardenne region of Europe, the landscape and backdrop between the two locations could not be much more different.
While the Spa-Francorchamps circuit would be filled with elevation changes and some beautiful high points in which the whole area can be viewed, the area to the west of Reims where the circuit would be found would be mostly flat. The only elevation change of note would be a rather large mound over which the long Route Nationale 31 straight would run. Other than that, the area would be flat and great for farming. This meant the circuit would be wide-open in almost all points. Spa would be heavily-wooded in a majority of spots along the circuit and would give the circuit a much more confined feel.
All about speed, the four Lancia-Ferraris that would be unloaded from the transporter would be the odds on favorites even before the start of practice. Then, when practice did get underway, the Vanwalls would be rather impressive. In the hands of Harry Schell and Mike Hawthorn the Vanwalls seemed capable of keeping touch with the Ferraris at times unlike the Maseratis who seemed to be found wanting more often than they would have liked.
However, if the Maseratis were left being found wanting then the Gordinis must have been using Formula 2 cars. Juan Manuel Fangio would end up being the fastest in practice. This would be little surprise. His pole time of 2:23.3 would end up being a little more than a second quicker than his teammate's, Castellotti, time. No one would be surprised when Peter Collins made it a clean sweep of the front row for Ferrari. Still, there would be more than 2 seconds separating Fangio and Collins.
It was of no use for Gordini. The first half of the field would be as unlikely as the pole. Still, da Silva Ramos and Manzon would do their best. This time da Silva Ramos would end up getting the better of Manzon by a single tenth. Unfortunately, this would only be good enough for a sixth row starting position for the two of them. Da Silva Ramos would line up 14th while Manzon would be 15th.
Gordini would end up entering three cars for this most important race. The third car would be driven by the Belgian Andre Pilette. He would be well off the pace in the T16. While the T32s of da Silva Ramos and Manzon managed to get into the 2:36 range, Pilette would be left in the 2:46 range. In fact, there would be a difference of about 10 seconds just between Manzon and Pilette. This would result in the Belgian starting the race from the 8th, and final, row of the grid in the 19th position.
The crowds would swell around the circuit despite the overcast skies and the threatening conditions. The cars would be lined up on the grid and the drivers would take their places in preparation of the start of the 61 lap race. When the flag dropped to start the race the front row of Ferraris would streak out into the lead leaving Moss and Hawthorn to lead the chase against them. Both da Silva Ramos and Manzon would get away well and would be looking to improve their position before the first lap was even completed. Pilette would be the best starter of the Gordini camp as he would jump a couple of positions over the course of the first lap.
At the end of the first lap it would be Peter Collins leading a Ferrari echelon that had Castellotti running 2nd and Fangio in 3rd. A couple of seconds further back would come Hawthorn and Moss. Even further back in the field, da Silva Ramos would cross the line just ahead of Manzon in 13th spot. Pilette would complete the first lap having jumped up from 19th to 17th.
Fangio would not be held down in 3rd place, and, by the 4th lap would be leading the Ferrari charge while Castellotti took over 2nd place from Collins. Moss would spin heading into the hairpin at Muizon and would end up falling down to 8th place in the order. Meanwhile, Maurice Trintignant would be flying and would end up splitting da Silva Ramos and Manzon. Hermanos would be in 12th place by the 6th lap while Manzon would be in 14th. Pilette would still be stuck further down in 16th.
The Ferrari trio would continue to lap the circuit in lock-step while Hawthorn would retire from the race due to illness. Harry Schell would take over for Hawthorn after his own race had come to an end after just 5 laps.
By the 25th lap it would still be the three Ferraris of Fangio, Castellotti and Collins leading the way, but, Schell would make quick work of some of his fellow competitors and would be gaining ground on the Maranello trio. Luigi Villoresi's race would come to an end due to brake failure and this would allow the Gordini trio to come together in the running order. Just like Monaco, the Gordini machines were not the fastest but they were showing unusual longevity. Da Silva Ramos would be in 10th, Manzon would be 11th and Pilette would be 12th.
Schell was not to be stopped. In time the Vanwall driver would split up the Ferraris and would eventually run as high as 2nd. This would delight the French crowd longing to see a dramatic race given that this was the return of the French Grand Prix to the World Championship after the cancellation the year before because of the tragedy at Le Mans. Schell would be lapping faster and faster. Unfortunately this would have detrimental results as he would be forced to come in for a lengthy pitstop. This would hand the lead clearly back to Ferrari.
It would seem the race was all but over, but that would not be the case at all. On the 40th lap of the race there would be a great eruption of intrigue as Fangio would pull into the pits with some kind of problem. He would return to the race after a lengthy period of time but would go from the lead down to 4th. Castellotti and Collins would now battle it out for the lead. Towards the back of the field, the three Gordinis would continue to lap the circuit but their slower pace would make them the tail end of what field there was that remained.
Pilette would be in the worse condition being behind the wheel of the T16. Not having the speed of even the heavy T32, the Belgian would be well back heading into the final 15 laps of the race. Da Silva Ramos and Manzon would only be a couple of laps further up the road. In fact, da Silva Ramos would have a lap advantage of Manzon heading into the final few laps of the race. Still, Gordini had all three cars running and either inside the top ten or close to it.
While never one to really show frustration or anger, it would be very clear Fangio was upset by the lengthy pitstop he had to take. Although he was down in the order he would still look to maximize his points total. While the podium may have gone out the window, some valuable points for a finish and one more for setting the fastest lap would certainly motivate the Argentinean and he would do as he had at Monaco just a couple of months earlier. Lap after lap, Fangio would increase the pace and shatter the lap record. Often he would break his own lap record that he held for mere minutes.
Heading into the final couple of laps, Fangio had a target. It was the Frenchman Jean Behra in one of the factory Maseratis. He was just seconds up the road but that distance would certainly be a challenge for Fangio to erase before the end of the race. Another Frenchman, Manzon, would have a challenge before him as well. Schell's Vanwall was struggling and was coming within striking distance of Manzon's T32. It seemed clear Manzon could take the position, but nothing with Gordini was for certain.
Only the top four remained on the lead lap. Heading around the Thillois hairpin for the final time it would be Collins in the lead ahead of Castellotti. The two Ferraris would come powering their way over the line with just three-tenths of a second between them. It would be Collins' second win in a row and would vault him up toward the top of the Drivers' Championship standings.
A lot of attention would be directed toward the two Ferraris but there would certainly be a number of French onlookers that would be interested in the battle for 3rd place. Fangio was pulling out all the stops. He would only go faster and faster in his pursuit of Behra. Heading around on the last lap of the race there would only be a matter of a few seconds between the two. Behra would have to be strong and perfect over the final lap. Coming around Thillois hairpin the crowd would begin to celebrate as Behra would come into view clearly ahead of Fangio. The Frenchman would take 3rd place, but it wouldn't be an easy final lap as Fangio would shatter his own lap record one more time on the final lap.
The French crowd would get warmed up for the fight between Behra and Fangio as the Gordini of Robert Manzon would come across the line to complete the race some 5 laps behind in 9th place. He would take the position away from Schell by the end. Moments later, da Silva Ramos would come through having nearly caught Manzon one more time. Da Silva Ramos would complete the race in 8th place and would be 4 laps down to Collins in the end. Though neither of the team's cars were destined to finish in the points, the team could claim a rather impressive victory if all three cars managed to finish the race. And, trailing along a few seconds behind Manzon, but one lap further behind, Pilette would provide just such a victory to the struggling team as he would finish the race 11th.
The races were proving not to be like during the Formula 2 era when Gordini had the potential of ending races in the points much more often, but, the team would go two-straight World Championship races having had at least two cars finish, and finish well. The 8th and 9th place results by da Silva Ramos and Manzon would also mark the best results ever achieved by the T32. It seemed the team was actually improving. But would it be a little too late?
The Equipe Gordini team had enjoyed two strong World Championship appearances in a row, but now, the races were beginning to come with greater frequency. On the 14th of July, just two weeks after the French Grand Prix, Silverstone would be set for the return of the British Grand Prix. This meant the team would have less time in between races to thoroughly prepare their overachieving cars for yet another difficult race.
Beginning in 1955, the British Grand Prix would alternate locations between Aintree and Silverstone. Therefore, in 1956, the English round of the World Championship would be returning to the site where the very first round of the World Championship had been held in 1950.
The Silverstone circuit, though not nearly as fast as Reims, Spa-Francorchamps or Monza, would still be a terrible venue for teams. While the facilities wouldn't be bad, the 2.9 mile circuit had a way of wreaking havoc. A car-breaker in just about every way, the British Grand Prix at Silverstone would be a challenge for even the best teams and drivers. In 1954 Fangio would ruin his chances at victory barreling over oil cans lining the circuit. Engine problems, oil leaks, brake problems or suspension issues, Silverstone had it all. This was not good for a team like Gordini, who was already defying the odds with their old T16 and terribly fragile T32. Still, there would be one advantage to Silverstone the team would be able to take advantage of and that would be the fact the circuit wasn't as fast as some of the others. Therefore, the circuit demanded a good handling car as much, or more, than sheer horsepower.
Organizers for the race would be expecting the largest field of cars of any of the World Championship rounds to that point in the season, and they wouldn't be wrong. Scuderia Ferrari would arrive at the circuit with no less than five of their Lancia-Ferraris. The factory Maserati team would bring four cars. Among the British manufacturers, Connaught Engineering would be the biggest entry having four of their B-Types. Owen Racing and Vandervell Products would each bring three cars. While usually one of the bigger entries at a grand prix, financial woes were causing Gordini to have to limit the number of cars it would enter. Considering the reputation of Silverstone the team would arrive with just two cars. Both of the cars would be the new T32s and one would be entered for da Silva Ramos and the other for Manzon.
Usual Silverstone weather would pervade the area during the grand prix weekend. However, dry conditions would persist and would allow Stirling Moss to set the fastest lap at 1:41 in practice. This would give the Brit the pole and a clear opportunity at repeating as British Grand Prix champion, this time on a different circuit. Such an achievement wouldn't be an easy maneuver given the presence of Juan Manuel Fangio in the 2nd place starting position. Mike Hawthorn would be 3rd on the grid in one of the BRM 25s and Peter Collins would further delight the home crowd by making it three Brits on the front row as he garnered the final front row starting spot.
In practice Manzon would be rather impressive in the T32. Though handicapped by the deficiencies of the car, he would still manage to put in a lap of 1:49. He would be one of four that would set a lap in the 1:49 range. Unfortunately, he would be the slowest of the four and would end up on the fifth row of the grid in the 18th position. Manzon's best would be 8 seconds slower than Moss. In turn, da Silva Ramos would be 7 seconds slower than Manzon and would end up on the eighth, and final, row of the grid and starting in the 26th position overall.
As usual, a tremendous crowd would gather at the Silverstone circuit despite the generally overcast conditions. The cars would be rolled out to their grid positions in a parade before the fans. It would be am exciting sight to see 28 cars and their drivers and crews pouring out onto the circuit in preparation for the start of the 101 lap, 295 mile, race.
Tensions would tighten in expectation of the drop of the flag. Then, with the drop of the flag, 27 of the 28 cars would roar off into the distance to start the race. Jose Froilan Gonzalez would be the lone car left on the grid when his half shaft broke right at the start. Moss would miss-time the start and would end up dropping down a number of positions in the order. Hawthorn would not make a misstep and would actually take the lead heading into the first turn. Following along behind Hawthorn would be his Owen Racing teammate Tony Brooks. Gonzalez's ill-fortune at the start would help to bottleneck the middle of the grid which would allow Manzon to try and go around the outside while da Silva Ramos would be squeezed down to the inside heading into the first turn.
At the end of the first lap Hawthorn and Brooks would be leading the way by a few seconds over Fangio and Schell. Further back, Manzon would end up holding steady through the first lap to come by in 18th while the same would be true of da Silva Ramos, despite Gonzalez's retirement. He would come through still in 26th place. It would be a mad start and first lap and each one of the drivers would be doing their best to try and settle in to their pace.
Hawthorn would be flying at the head of the field. Soon he would begin to open up an advantage over his teammate Brooks who, in turn, was beginning to find Fangio creeping up on him. Schell's race would last for just a couple of laps before trouble would cause him to slip down the running order. This would allow Collins to come up to 4th place while Moss and Roy Salvadori began a duel for 5th. Manzon would be benefited by Ron Flockhart's early departure from the race and would be up to 17th by the 3rd lap of the race. Da Silva Ramos would begin a steady climb up the order and would be in 21st place by the 5th lap.
Hawthorn would begin to disappear into the distance while Brooks would come under attack from Fangio. Fangio would end up gaining the position but would find that Brooks was keen on taking the spot back. The two would push each other and it would be Fangio that would make an uncharacteristic mistake by spinning. This would allow Brooks to carry on in 2nd place and would drop the Argentinean down to 6th. Moss and Salvadori would be on an absolute charge through the field and the concentration lost by Brooks due to his battle with Fangio would help the two come up and take over 2nd and 3rd. At the same time, da Silva Ramos would be up to 20th while Manzon maintained his spot in 16th position.
The craziness would still rage on as 9 cars would retire by the 25th lap of the race. And so, Gordini would find their two drivers running in 12th and 13th, with Manzon the higher ranked of the two. Amazingly, the day again was shaping up to be a good one for the Gordini camp. Up front, however, what had been a good day for Hawthorn would turn sour as engine troubles and an oil leak would cause him to lose pace and had the lead over to Moss. Salvadori would be delighting the fans running in 2nd place. And then there would be Fangio in 3rd, ever lurking, just waiting for an opportunity.
Once in the lead, Moss would begin an absolutely indomitable performance that would see him hold onto the lead for more than 50 laps. Salvadori would be equally impressive in the Gilby Engineering Maserati. He would retain 2nd place for 30 laps and despite growing pressure from Fangio. Further back, the two Gordinis would be putting together equally impressive performances considering their pace and position in the running order. Francisco Godia-Sales would be at the wheel of a much more powerful Maserati 250F but even he would find himself entrenched in a battle with the two Gordini pilots that would take a period of nearly 25 laps before he would find himself clear of the two Gordinis and back on an upward trend. Still, by the 50th lap, Manzon would be running 12th while da Silva Ramos would be 13th. It was shaping up to be a good day for the team.
Fangio would find his way past Salvadori after the later suffered from a broken tank strap. This mean the former Mercedes teammates were running one-two. However, considering Moss' clear advantage over Fangio and the rest of the field the race seemed all but over. But, just like the French Grand Prix, when everyone thought Fangio would cruise to an easy victory, the British Grand Prix would serve up another surprise as it would become noticeable that Moss' pace was slowing. Engine misfire problems had come to the Maserati and would allow Fangio to catch Moss and take over the lead after Moss had led an impressive 53 laps.
It would seem entirely alien that trouble would come calling on Moss while the two Gordinis continued on their merry way. But of course not all was merry. The best the two Gordinis could do, pace wise, would only be good enough to help them run 10th and 11th. Then, on the 69th lap, trouble would come calling on the Gordini team as da Silva Ramos would lose a couple of places and would end up retiring after 71 laps due to a rear axle failure. This left just Manzon in another fragile T32.
Just 7 laps remaining in the race and Fangio would be in the lead. However, behind him there would be one last piece of drama that would have the British crowd absolutely devastated. After dominating the race for so many laps, Moss would coast to a halt. Gearbox problems would force him out of the race and, given that de Portago took over for Collins, there would not be a Brit inside the top five any longer. Manzon, of course, would not be so concerned about the number of British drivers still left in the race with the exception of whether or not they prevented him from cracking the top ten. Manzon had been running in the 10th position until there were 10 laps remaining in the race. Godia-Sales would be pushing hard in the later stages of the race and would end up taking away 10th place from Manzon and this would leave the Frenchman trying desperately to gain the position back before the end.
Fangio's early spin would not come back to haunt him this day. Enjoying a whole lap advantage over the rest of the field, the Argentinean would cruise around on the final lap and would come through to take the victory over the shared drive of Peter Collins and Alfonso de Portago. The ever-consistent Jean Behra would complete the podium in 3rd place having finished 2 laps behind Fangio.
The gearbox woes suffered by Moss with 7 laps to go would be like an arrow to the heart of the British fans that so believed he would cruise to victory. However, the failure would help Manzon who would use the failure of the Brit to climb back up to the 10th place spot in the finishing order. Manzon would end up 7 laps, or some 20 miles, behind Fangio by the end of the race.
The Gordini team would certainly be pleased with the result achieved in a very difficult race. The T32 was showing great reliability overall. Its only problem was a lack of speed and handling. This, unfortunately, did not spell good news for the already struggling team. They needed a car capable of points-paying finishes and despite finishing the races, which was a small victory in its own right for the team, they were not proving good enough to really help. The situation with the team, really, was not changing all that much.
In spite of the financial outlook of the team, the starting and the prize money was proving to be just enough to keep the team competing in the World Championship rounds. Unfortunately, because there was little to no money left over otherwise the team could do little else to help its cause. They needed a miracle really. However, the next race on the team's calendar would be the German Grand Prix held on the 5th of August, and the venue for the race was not known to be a place for milk runs.
Hidden in the heavily-wooded forests of the Eifel Mountains, there rests a terrifying monster of a circuit. Instantly recognized when someone mentions Flugplatz, Adenauer, Karussell and others, the 14 mile long Nordschleife was certainly a mixture of the modern and the old. Long and arduous just like the old grand prix races at the turn of the 20th century, and yet, purpose-built like some of the more modern circuits, the Nurburgring was a bit of an enigma for more than a handful of racers. It would be a pure joy for even less. Overlooked by the mysterious Nurburg Castle, the whole setting would work perfectly for hosting a grand prix.
As the teams arrived in Nurburg for practice for the German Grand Prix nearly the whole of the Eifel Mountains would be covered by a thick overcast layer and steadily-falling rain. This would make the more then 170 corners and over a thousand feet of elevation change especially testing for the cars and drivers. Recognizing the location and the reputation of the circuit, Scuderia Ferrari would pull into the paddock with a fleet of five cars. Officine Alfieri Maserati would also arrive with five entries. By contrast, the financial picture at Gordini would limit the team to entering just two cars for three possible drivers. One T32 would almost certainly be fielded for Robert Manzon. The second T32, however, would see Andre Pilette and Andre Milhoux both take a turn behind the wheel.
The terribly wet conditions would make it abundantly clear who enjoyed the circuit and who didn't. Fangio loved the circuit since the first time he laid eyes on it back during the late 1940s and early 1950s, and in practice it would show as he would take the pole beating out Peter Collins with a lap of 9:51.2, just three-tenths faster over the 14 miles. Castellotti would line up 3rd after posting a time 3 seconds off the pace. Stirling Moss would take the final spot on the front row but would certainly look 'off the pace' as his best would be more than 12 seconds slower.
Such a time would have been a dream for either of the Gordini pilots. Pilette's time in the wet would be nearly no better than had he just gone around in a production car at normal traveling speeds. His best would be somewhere in the 13 minute range. Unfortunately, Pilette would suffer an accident in the wet conditions as well and would be unable to start the race. This would also cause the team to scramble to get the T32 ready for the race and for Milhoux, who would take over driving the car. Though Pilette would have qualified on the fifth row of the grid, the no time set by Milhoux in practice as a result of the damage sustained to the car meant the number 11 T32 would be down on the sixth row of the grid in the 21st, and last, position. Manzon would fair little better. His best trip around the Nurburgring in the other T32 would offer a time of just 11:55.8. This was more than 2 minutes off of the pace of Fangio and would lead to the Frenchman starting from the fifth row of the grid in the 15th position overall.
Having struggled so mightily in practice in the rain, the bright sunny conditions on race day could have been misconstrued as a sign of great blessing. However, not long after the flag dropped to start the race, reality would come crashing back down on Gordini. While Peter Collins would lead the way through the first couple of corners ahead of Fangio and Moss, Manzon would get away reasonably well but would quickly find his race come to an end as a result of suspension failure. Milhoux would get away from the grid fine but would be well back having started last.
At the end of the first lap it would be Fangio in the lead having gotten around Collins over the course of the 14 miles. Collins wouldn't be too far back in 2nd place. Moss would be in 3rd place but would already have some distance to make up if he were to challenge ether Collins or Fangio. Manzon would be out of the race leaving just Milhoux to carry the French team's honor in his first World Championship race. This would be a tall order, but the Belgian would get on with his duties.
Fangio would continue to hold onto the lead a couple of seconds ahead of Collins. Moss would continue to slip back until he would find himself holding a 12 to 15 second deficit. A number of cars would make visits to the pits after just a couple of laps due to problems experienced over the first couple of laps. There would be other drivers, however, that would just end up dropping out of the race altogether. In fact, there would be 6 cars out by the 5th lap of the race.
Eight laps into the 22 lap race and Fangio would still be in the lead. Collins would find himself pulling into the pits after a fuel line ruptured and the Brit inhaled the fumes over the course of the 14 mile lap. Feeling ill from the fumes, Collins would sit out a couple of laps before taking over Alfonso de Portago's Ferrari on the 11th lap. Meanwhile, Milhoux had already made a trip to the pits. He would come in after just a couple of laps as a result of misfire issues. The crew would quickly go to work replacing the spark plugs and sending him back on his way. Though certainly not one of the fastest cars out on the circuit, the change in plugs would seem to help Milhoux stay in the race. And, as a result of the increasing attrition, the Belgian would be up to 12th place by the 8th lap.
Though not able to really challenge Fangio and the Lancia-Ferrari, Moss would do his best to remind the Argentinean he was there, just waiting for him to make a mistake. The Brit would increase his pace in an effort to try and pressure Fangio. Fangio, however, would only respond with a quicker lap time. Then, on the 14th lap of the race, Fangio would crack off a lap time that would absolutely shatter the lap record and would put his former Mercedes teammate firmly in his place.
At the same time that Fangio would be setting what would end up being the fastest lap of the race, Peter Collins would be pushing as hard as he could to make up for the illness and the trouble he experienced earlier on. It could be argued that he was still suffering from the effects of inhaling the fumes of the potent gasoline, but nonetheless, in his efforts he would lose concentration for one moment and would end up crashing de Portago's Lancia-Ferrari. His race, for a second time, was done.
Milhoux, however, was still charging around the circuit. By the 15th lap he would be all the way up to 7th place. This, of course, would be helped by the retirements of Peter Collins, Castellotti and Musso, Harry Schell and Peter Collins again. Unfortunately, just when it seemed like he would be able to use the retirements to his own advantage, Milhoux would find himself facing retirement himself. Having been within sight of a points-paying position, Milhoux would pull back into the pits. The misfire condition had returned and would be worse than before. Ultimately, this trouble would lead to Milhoux having to retire just when he had an opportunity at possible World Championship points in his first race.
Checked at every turn, Moss could do little to challenge Fangio over the last few laps of the race. In fact, he would even drop further behind the Argentinean content with 2nd place and the realization of the superiority of the World Champion.
And so, after three hours and nearly 39 minutes, the race would come to an end with Fangio taking a demonstrative victory having 46 seconds in hand over Moss. Jean Behra would again finish in 3rd place some seven minutes and 38 seconds behind.
Reality would bite the Gordini team hard as they would fail to have even a single car make it to the finish. It had been an incredible few months for the team, but it certainly seemed evident the fairy tale was coming to an end if it hadn't already.
After the double-failure at the German Grand Prix there would be a couple of weeks in between races. This would be a blessing for the struggling team as it would allow them the opportunity to repair their cars and to prepare for the next race. Another minor blessing would be the fact the next race on the calendar would be a non-championship event, the 4th Grand Prix de Caen. Not far from home, the non-championship event also offered the team an opportunity to regain some lost confidence and momentum as the field would likely be smaller and filled with very few, if any, other factory teams.
Taking place at La Prairie situated just southwest from the center of the city, the Caen Grand Prix would not be an easy task as the race distance would cover 153 miles, or 70 laps of the 2.19 mile street and road course.
Flat, wide-open and running along the Orne River for part of the lap, the 2.19 mile circuit around La Prairie would be a tranquil setting turned on its head. Besides a hairpin turn leading onto the start/finish straight and a couple of other medium speed corners, the circuit would actually boast of a rather high average speed. Unfortunately, the speeds were just high enough that the T16 and T32s entered for the race would likely suffer going up against the Maseratis in the field, but it would still be one of the better opportunities the team would have.
Sure enough, the Maserati 250Fs in the field would show the way in practice with Roy Salvadori proving to be the fastest. He would take pole and would have Louis Rosier starting right beside him in another 250F. The second row of the grid would see Bruce Halford in 3rd. Right beside him would be the T32 of Robert Manzon. The fifth row of the grid would see the other two Gordinis lined up in 9th and 10th. Georges Burgraff would take the 9th spot on the grid while Hermanos da Silva Ramos would be 10th.
When the flag dropped and the field filed through the right-left combination before the 90 degree right-hander, it would be Salvadori up at the front pushing the pace. The other front-runners would be right there as well, including Manzon.
Throughout the early going it would be Salvadori pushing hardest setting what would be the fastest lap of the race at an average speed of a little more than 91 mph. The downward spiral at Gordini would seem to be continuing when da Silva Ramos would find his race come to an end after just one lap due to clutch failure. Manzon, however, looked strong. So too would Burgraff, despite his inexperience.
But then the conditions would change. Then, just like that, chaos would break out all over the circuit. Paul Emery would retire after 6 laps with engine trouble and that seemed normal enough. But then, on the 11th lap, Horace Gould would lose control of his Maserati and would crash out of the race. Exactly 10 laps later, Halford would lose control and would be out. Crashing out of a race was not all that uncommon. However, when a third driver does it, and exactly 10 more laps later, then a person really begins to ask questions. Unfortunately for Gordini, the third driver to crash out would be Manzon. This would be most unfortunate given his strong start. This left just Burgraff and, given his inexperience, and the way things had been going to that point in the race, there seemed little hope for the team.
Some would have to fear there wouldn't be any cars finishing the race when Louis Rosier would lose control of his Maserati just 4 laps after Manzon. The regularity of the crashes had increased, but would then continue?
Amazingly, they would not. The last half of the race would carry on without an incident or even a retirement due to mechanical problems. However, there would still be a large shake-up all throughout the field. Harry Schell would take advantage of the troubles and would be in the lead ahead of Andre Simon. Simon had started the race all the way down in 7th spot. Salvadori was still in the race but was off the pace and out of the running for the victory. Most amazing would be the fellow running one lap behind Salvadori—it would be Burgraff.
Averaging just about 80 mph, Schell would end up taking the surprise victory. A minute and 10 seconds later, Simon would come through to take 2nd. Salvadori would hold on to finish the race a rather disappointing 3rd. After starting 9th, there would be no such disappointment with Burgraff. He had handled the changing conditions and his inexperience and would come through to finish the race 2 laps down in 4th place, and in the older T16 as well.
While Burgraff's finish would lift the spirits at Gordini, it would lift them only just slightly. The financial picture at the end of the race was looking all the more dire having two cars needing repair. One needed a new clutch. The other needed to be almost entire rebuilt. What made matters worse would be the fact that both cars that needed work were the T32s. The season may have been drawing to a close, but the presence of Gordini in grand prix racing was drawing to a close as well.
Even before the start of the 1956 season it was plainly evident Gordini was only just surviving. None of the top drivers were willing to take on a ride with the team. Yes, they had Manzon, but he could not do what the team really needed. Following the Grand Prix de Caen there would be just a week before the final round of the World Championship for 1956—the Italian Grand Prix. It would be the final race for more than just the World Championship in 1956. It was to be the final grand prix for the Gordini team as well. At the end of the 50 lap race on the 2nd of September, Equipe Gordini would no longer be a part of Formula One history.
It was to be the final week of Equipe Gordini's existence in Formula One. Therefore, the team would decide to pull out all the stops and would work hard in order to enter three cars for the final race of the World Championship. Over the last couple of seasons the Gordini team had suffered on high speed circuits. Fitting to the reputation of Amedee Gordini, the Sorcerer, the team would face perhaps its toughest test of the season as the Italian Grand Prix would take place, for the second year in a row, around the 6.2 mile combined circuit of the Autodromo Nazionale Monza. This meant average speeds higher than 130 mph for nearly two and a half hours. This would be a tall order for the team, but a worthy final test.
When founded and built during the 1920s, the Autodromo Nazionale Monza would be all about one thing—speed. Certainly speed had to be the ultimate test. Then, when the location's organizers rehabbed the oval making it a steeply-banked oval for the 1955 edition of the grand prix, it was clear speed was not far away from the thinking.
Speed certainly favored the Lancia-Ferraris in 1956. Not surprisingly, Ferrari would sweep the front row with Fangio taking the pole. Just under a second would be the difference to Castellotti in 2nd place. Luigi Musso would complete the front row in 3rd.
Three Gordinis would be entered in the race. A T32 would be entered for Robert Manzon. Unfortunately, over the bumpy concrete banking Manzon would struggle with the car. Then there would be the lack of straight-line speed he would have to contend with. As a result, Manzon would end up on the last row of the grid in the 22nd position. The other T32 would be entered for da Silva Ramos. His best lap around the circuit would be a time of 3:04.8 and would end up nearly 2 seconds faster than Manzon. As a result, Hermanos would start the race from the seventh row of the grid in the 20th starting spot. Andre Simon would step in to drive for Gordini one last time. He would be given a T16 and would be well off the pace posting a best lap of 3:13.3. Therefore, Simon would start last on the grid, 24th.
Sunny skies would greet the field on the grid but there would be some threatening clouds off in the distance. It seemed evident there would be some rain at some point during the race. Still, this would not dampen the spirits of the thousands upon thousands of Italian racing fans assembled around the circuit anticipating an Italian victory.
The flag would drop on the race and immediately the two Ferraris of Castellotti and Musso would streak into the lead. Fangio would look much more cautious at the start but would start in behind in 3rd. Manzon would struggle to get going at the start of the race and would be last once he finally got rolling. It was clear his race was probably not going to last very long. Both da Silva Ramos and Simon would get away well and would be looking to settle into a rhythm very quickly.
At the end of the first lap it would be Castellotti and Musso running away from the rest of the field. Manzon would still be well behind in last place. Da Silva Ramos would be up a position in 19th while Simon would be up three in 21st. Schell would take away 3rd from Fangio and it seemed evident the Argentinean was thinking about protecting his possible fourth World Championship title.
Castellotti and Musso would end up throwing tire treads after just a few laps and this would hand the lead to Moss who would manage to jump all the way up to the lead from 6th place. Schell ran 2nd and Fangio 3rd. Despite Manzon's early problems it would be da Silva Ramos who would suffer first. His race would come to an end after just 3 laps as a result of engine failure. Manzon would still be last and making up very little ground with what was certainly a gearbox-related problem. Simon remained in the race but certainly hampered by the lack the pace in the older T16.
The Ferraris would continue to run into trouble with tire problems as de Portago would throw a tread after 6 laps would be forced to retire. Fangio and Collins would also suffer tire problems but would not lose as much time as the others. Meanwhile, Schell would battle with Moss for the lead while Simon did his best to uphold Gordini honor in its last race. By the 10th lap he would be up to 16th and looking steady behind the wheel.
The championship race would take a turn when Fangio's steering arm broke and he was forced into the pits for a lengthy period of time while the issue was resolved. His car would end up being taken over by Castellotti since he too had retired after 9 laps.
Just past halfway, the battle between Moss and Schell would be coming to an end as the Vanwall would finally begin to suffer transmission troubles. The other two Vanwalls would already be out of the race with suspension failure. Musso would then be in 2nd place and Peter Collins would be in 3rd. Fangio would still be looking for a ride to save his championship hopes after Musso denied him the right to use his car for the remainder of the race. Castellotti would be in Fangio's car and would actually be running behind Simon in the running order. The T16 of Simon would still be soldiering on in its last race and would have the Frenchman up to 11th.
Moss seemed utterly in control, but this was a scene people had seen before. Musso was still in 2nd place but was applying some pressure by increasing his pace. Fangio would be handed Collins' car in a splendid demonstration of sportsmanship and would be pushing hard to catch up to Musso. Castellotti would actually manage to catch Simon and the two would begin a battle for 10th following Schell's retirement. Castellotti would finally get the better of Simon. Even though the Lancia-Ferrari had its problems it was still by far faster than the T16. Therefore, Simon would turn his attentions toward finishing the race.
Finishing the race would prove a little more precarious for Moss than what he may have thought. His pace around the 6.2 mile circuit had been faster than what his team expected, even with the short rain shower that dampened the circuit. As a result, with just 5 laps remaining in the race, Moss' Maserati would run out of fuel. Thankfully for Moss, Luigi Piotti would be in a generous mood and would actually push Moss back to his pits so he could be filled up with enough fuel to make it to the finish.
It seemed over however. Musso was well out in front with just 4 laps remaining in the race. It seemed Moss had another victory snatched away from him. But it wasn't the end of the race, at least not yet. Just three laps from the checkered flag, Musso's Lancia-Ferrari would throw yet another tread. The Italian would be so disgusted he would just pull into the pits and would retire right then and there instead of carrying on to the end. Moss' lead had been such that when he returned to the circuit he was still in 2nd place. But with Musso's late problems he would re-inherit the lead that well and truly belonged to him.
And so, the race would run out with Moss having earned a providential victory. Fangio would be secure with his 2nd place as it would give him his fourth World Drivers' Championship title. Ron Flockhart would show the future of British dominance as he would cross the line a lap down in 3rd place. Some 31 miles, or 5 laps, behind the leader would come Andre Simon in the lone Gordini left in the race. With the help of Musso's last minute puncture he would end the race in 9th place.
While certainly not what Gordini wanted for the final race of the team's existence, there would still be some smiles as the team would have at least one of its cars make it to the end. Interesting would be the fact the car that would make it to the end would be the T16 and not the T32. The T16 had been a much maligned car but here it would be upholding Gordini honor. Unfortunately the T32 would not have the time to develop into the car could use to uphold its honor.
The 1956 season would be a rather fitting end to Equipe Gordini's foray into Formula One. The team's cars had proven on more than one occasion to last longer than anybody expected, and this was impressive considering the terrible reliability the team had been suffering the previous couple of years. It was as if everyone and everything knew it was the final year for the team. Therefore, the car and the team would perform beyond expectation. All would fight so hard that those couple of championship points earned at the most important race, the Monaco Grand Prix, would be all the more sweet. Parting is never joyous, but considering the season the team had, the number of times they exceeded even their own expectations, it certainly seemed the right time. Their fight was done. Equipe Simca-Gordini