TeamsEquipe Gordini: 1951 Formula One Season By Jeremy McMullen
Amedee Gordini was known as 'The Sorcerer'. What he was able to coax out of his small cars and engines was nothing short of miraculous. In an era of large engines and multiple staged superchargers, Gordini's lightweight Simca chassis posed a real challenge to the bigger teams and behemoth cars. On the shorter, twisty tracks, the tiny and lightweight Simca-Gordini T15 and T11 were magical.
Gordini's reputation soared after helping to rebuild French motor racing. The sorcery that baffled many was how he had been able to keep racing competitively while constantly dealing with a lack of funding. Of course the source of real sorcery came from what Amedee could do with an engine. While he was good at preparing cars, refining engines was where Gordini became famous. Though underpowered when compared to other cars out on the track, in the right hands, the Simca-Gordini T15 and T11, which only used an inline 4-cylinder engine, was a real threat. The team, however, would need the right hands, as well as, rely upon whatever powers it may have had to offer a fighting chance against the likes of Alfa Romeo and Ferrari in 1951.
Equipe Gordini started its 1951 campaign in its home country at the Grand Prix of Pau. Scuderia Ferrari brought three of their cars to the 110 lap race. Equipe Gordini matched Ferrari in that it too brought three cars to compete in the race. The pilots for Gordini's T15s were Robert Manzon, Andre Simon and Maurice Trintignant.
In qualifying, Alberto Ascari was the class of the field driving his Ferrari 375. He set a pole time of 1:40.8. He was a whole second faster than his teammate Villoresi, and was almost four seconds faster than his other teammate Dorino Serafini. The fastest of Gordini's cars was driven by Simon whose time was 6.7 seconds slower than Ascari's time. Andre's time placed him securely in the middle of the 3rd row in the 3-2-3 grid arrangement. Robert Manzon occupied the outside of the next row. He had set an identical qualifying time as Philippe Etancelin but was given the outside spot of the two-car row four. Right behind him, in the middle of the 5th row, was the other Simca-Gordini pilot Maurice Trintignant. Maurice set a qualifying time of 1:50.6.
When the race began, Ascari departed, leaving everyone in his wake. But it was to be short-lived. Fifteen cars started the race. Before halfway through the race, seven of those would be out of the race. Included among those out before 55 laps into the race were a couple of the favorites, Ascari and Serafini. Unfortunately, among them were all three of Equipe Gordini's cars.
The shortest-lived race for any of the T15 pilots was Trintignant. Maurice was out of the race by the 25th lap due to an engine failure with his inline 4-cylinder engine. Ten laps later, it was Simon's turn to have his race come to an end. A couple of laps prior, Andre's T15 started to have problems with its brakes. Then, on lap 35, Simon dropped out of the race altogether due to the worsening brake problems. Seven laps later, Manzon's race was over. Manzon's problem was that his car had developed gearbox problems and could no longer continue.
Villoresi took over the domination for Ferrari after Ascari and Serafini dropped out of the race. Luigi came home in 1st almost two minutes in front of Louis Rosier. Both Villoresi and Rosier dominated the rest of the field still running, which was only six cars. Giuseppe Farina finished the race 3rd, but was three laps down to Villoresi and Rosier.
Thankfully, for Equipe Gordini, there wasn't another race for almost a month. This gave the team time to find and fix whatever problems there were to be fixed. Even with a month off, the French team skipped the next race in which they could have participated, which was the Grand Prix of San Remo. Instead, the team gave themselves seven more days to prepare and get ready to compete in the 1st Grand Prix of Bordeaux.
Obviously named after where the race would take place, the street course utilized for the 123 lap race was a 1.52 mile street course. With the exception of one long straightaway, the rest of the Bordeaux circuit was tight and played into the hands of the small T15 chassis well. Qualifying would be telling.
The French hero, Louis Rosier, took his own team Talbot-Lago T26C and set the fastest time during qualifying. However, right next to him was one of Equipe Gordini's drivers. Maurice Trintignant was on it during qualifying and was able to guide his T15 through to a 2nd place starting spot on the grid. Robert Manzon would further help Gordini to have two cars start inside the top-ten when he was able to set a time that was 6th fastest. While Trintignant would start from the middle of the front row, Manzon would start behind Rosier, only separated by the two-car second row. Simon would struggle a bit more than the others but would start the race 11th, or, behind Manzon, but in the 5th row.
The field was reduced dramatically before the race even began. Four drivers would not start the race, including Robert Manzon. His T15 was found to have gasket problems and was forced to retire before the race even began. Another favorite that was out before the race began was Giuseppe Farina. Farina was out of the race due to supercharger problems with his 4CLT/48. Another Maserati 4CLT/48 pilot was out before having completed a single lap. That driver was Enrico Plate's Emanuel de Graffenried.
The race got underway with the remaining qualifiers. On the 4th lap another was forced to abandon the race. American Harry Schell developed car troubles and was out of the race without having made it five laps. It seemed as though the fallout had subsided. And it had, that is, until lap 76. On lap 76, the second of the three Simca-Gordini chassis dropped out the race due to problems. This left the team's hopes squarely placed upon the shoulders of Trintignant.
Unfortunately, Maurice wasn't able to keep up with the torrid pace of Louis Rosier and Rudolf Fischer. However, Trintignant was able to drive consistently and with a pace good enough to bring himself home in 5th. Maurice had a lap advantage on Rosier's teammate Henri Louveau, but was two laps in arrears of Prince Bira. Therefore, Maurice took care of the car and actually retired from the race before the end. Though good for the team, the result was a little disappointing after Maurice had started the race from 2nd on the grid. Maurice was 6 laps down to Louis Rosier who took the victory over Fischer by over a minute. Peter Whitehead had just been passed by Rosier to go two laps down at the end of the race, but, was able to finish on the podium in 3rd. Rosier had set the fastest lap of the race and had maintained an average speed a little over 60mph.
Almost immediately after the Bordeaux Grand Prix the Equipe Gordini team packed up and headed to England. The team was preparing to take part in the 3rd BRDC International Trophy race. The team would have to cross the channel by boat, and could've used the boat during the race.
England in springtime is always an adventure. The weather could be wonderful. However, being England, and in the spring, the worse always needs to be expected. And the 3rd BRDC Trophy race would end up more like a boat race than a car race.
During the first couple of races of the season, Equipe Gordini had to face Scuderia Ferrari. Going to Silverstone, Ferrari stayed behind. However, Alfa Romeo showed up with four of its cars, driven by reigning world champion Farina and runner-up Juan Manuel Fangio. The third and fourth Alfas were driven by Felice Bonetto and Consalvo Sanesi. Simca-Gordini had only brought two cars to the race; driven by Robert Manzon and Maurice Trintignant.
The International Trophy race was comprised of two 15 lap heat races to help set the order of the grid for the final race. The final race was 35 laps of the 2.88 mile road course. In heat one, Manzon had to square off against two of the Alfas driven by Juan Manuel Fangio and Felice Bonetto. In qualifying for the heat race, Manzon showed he was not at all worried about the presence of the mighty Alfas as he would set the 2nd fastest time in qualifying for his heat and would start next to Bonetto in the 4-3-4 arranged grid. Fangio didn't even qualify 3rd. The best Fangio was able to do was 7th. This all changed during the actual heat race though.
Fangio set the fastest lap of the heat and would go on to win the 15 lap heat by three seconds over Reg Parnell. Bonetto finished 3rd and Manzon came in 4th, about 50 seconds behind Fangio.
In the second heat race, Trintignant would face the other two Alfa drivers, Farina and Sanesi. The qualifying times in the second heat race were at least five seconds better than in heat one. Sanesi took the pole with a lap of 1:52. Whitehead was five seconds slower but would start 2nd. Trintignant also proved to be not at all un-nerved as he would qualify 3rd with an identical time as Whitehead's. The best that Farina could do was set a lap that was 8th fastest. Farina would start on the inside of the third row.
Similar to heat one, Farina didn't stay in the back for very long. Very soon, the reigning world champion set the fastest lap of the heat with a time faster than Fangio's fastest lap in heat one. Given Farina's pace, it is not too incredible that he would go on to win the heat over Sanesi by a margin close to 30 seconds. Prince Bira finished the race 3rd, almost another 30 seconds slower. Trintignant held on to finish the heat race 5th. Maurice was over a minute behind Farina.
Despite finishing worse than Manzon, it was the qualifying times of every driver that set the grid for the 35 lap final race. Because of this fact, Sanesi started on the pole with Bonetto alongside of him. Whitehead lined up beside Bonetto and Maurice completed the front row having had the 4th fastest time during qualifying. Manzon faired well too, as he would start the race from the middle of the three-car wide second row. Fangio would start the race from the middle of the fourth row in 13th. Farina would start just off of Fangio's right shoulder in 16th on the fifth row. However, the outcome of the race wouldn't be decided by the fastest effort, but by the weather and who was able to demonstrate the greatest car control.
Being English, it wouldn't have been too surprising that Reg Parnell was the most comfortable in the rain. But this rain was a whole different matter. Very soon after the race had started the rain began to pour down on the track. It became so heavy that many drivers would simply pull out of the race after only three or four laps. The weather had become too much for Manzon and, despite having started the race 6th, pulled out of the race after only 4 laps had been completed. Nobody could really blame Robert, or anyone, for that matter. The rain had become so heavy that the track actually started to flood in many areas. Reg Parnell struggled on in the lead. The customarily fast Argentinean, Juan Manuel Fangio, tip-toed around the 2.88 mile track and was actually lapped by Parnell. Fangio sat 4th. The top three places were all occupied by Brits. Soon, the flooding and the rain became too much and the race organizers decided the race would finish at the completion of the 6th lap. Parnell ended up winning the race by a margin of almost 20 seconds over Duncan Hamilton. Graham Whitehead finished on the podium in 3rd. Graham was one lap down to Parnell. Maurice ended up making it through the deluge and was able to hold on to finish 6th, also one lap down. The Equipe Gordini team had made a strong showing throughout the weekend, even overcoming the weather, to score a good result.
Equipe Gordini's next race of the year was back in France. The team entered en masse the Grand Prix of Paris, held in Boulogne. The Simca-Gordini team brought a total of five cars to the race, no doubt longing to impress the home crowd. The team had even been able to secure Juan Manuel Fangio to drive one of the extra cars for the non-championship race. Being a French race, it shouldn't have been too surprising that only one or two of the teams present for the race were not French teams.
The Grand Prix of Paris was also another race that played into the strengths of the Simca-Gordini T15. The course was 1.55 miles in length and laid out in the streets of Boulogne. It had one notable straight, but the rest of the circuit played into the strengths of a small, light car that handled well and had descent acceleration. The tight city streets neutralized the power of some of the bigger-engine cars.
All but one of Equipe Gordini's drivers were able to take advantage of this neutralization during qualifying. Emanuel de Graffenried took the pole with a time of 1:19.2. Farina and Etancelin finished off the front row. However, Simca-Gordini drivers made a strong showing from that point back in the grid. Andre Simon set the 4th fastest time and would start on the inside of the two-car second row. Starting beside him was his teammate Robert Manzon. On the inside of the third row, or 6th place on the grid, was Fangio in a T15. Then, on the outside of the same row was Trintignant. Four out of the five cars had been able to qualify in the top-ten. Aldo Gordini struggled to find the pace of the other teammates and would end up starting the race from 14th, the last starting spot on the grid. Despite Aldo's struggles, Equipe Gordini was making a strong showing. Unfortunately, all of that promise fizzled during the race.
Everything looked good from the start of the race. There seemed to be a lot of promise. This belief, this hope, was reinforced when Juan Manuel Fangio set the fastest lap of the race. However, things began to unravel after 20 laps.
Robert Manzon was forced to retire from the race when he suffered clutch problems in his T15. Twenty-nine laps later, despite having set the fastest lap of the race, Fangio's race came to an end due to valve problems. Four laps later, Trintignant's race came to an end in a fashion similar to Manzon. Clutch problems on Maurice's number 14 T15 forced him to have to retire from the race. Exactly twenty laps later, the fourth Simca-Gordini of Aldo Gordini was out of the race also due to valve problems. This left only Simon running. Simon's race lasted exactly twenty laps more than Gordini's. On the 93rd lap of the race, Andre was forced out with valve and brake problems. After all of the promise before the start of the race, it all came to naught. The really terrible aspect of the whole picture was that only one other car, besides the five Simca-Gordini machines, failed to finish the race.
Giuseppe Farina ended up going on to win the race with Jose Froilan Gonzalez coming in 2nd. Farina's winning margin was some 40 seconds. Louis Rosier finished on the podium in 3rd, one lap down to Farina and Gonzalez.
The failures at the Paris Grand Prix set the team back. Whether it was the plan all-along, or the result of the dismal failures at Boulogne, one thing that was certain was that not one Equipe-Gordini car made the trip to either Bremgarten, Switzerland for the Swiss Grand Prix, or, Spa-Francorchamps for the Belgian Grand Prix. The Swiss Grand Prix was the first round of the Formula One world championship that year and Spa was, not counting Indianapolis, the second round. Of course, neither of the two public road courses favored the small inline 4 cylinder engine of the T15. This most likely weighed heavily into the fact the team was not present. This theory only seems to be supported by the team's performance at the next grand prix race in which the team did compete.
In the meantime, instead of competing in one of the first couple of rounds of the Formula One championship season, the Equipe Gordini team entered four cars to take on the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the 22nd and 23rd of June. The car the team utilized was the Simca-Gordini T15S. The difference between the T15 and the T15S were vast. For one thing, the S was a two-seat coupe with fenders. It did retain the same inline 4-cylinder engine. However, on the T15S the engine was supercharged. This is because the chassis had the room for the supercharger.
Equipe Gordini had the 37th through the 40th slots on the entrants list. The 37th entry was to be driven by Pierre Veyron and Georges Monneret. The 38th entrant was driven by Manzon and Simon. The 39th entrant was driven by Behra and Trintignant. And, the 40th entrant was driven by Jose Scaron and Aldo Gordini.
Despite the presence of four cars, the same result, as which took place at the Paris Grand Prix, happened at Le Mans. Only 26 laps, or about two hours, into the race Manzon and Simon's T15S retired from the race due to problems with its distributor. About four hours into the race, the camshaft on Behra's and Trintignant's T15s broke, forcing them out of the race. After about 77 laps into the race, another of the Simca-Gordini T15Ss, this one driven by Scaron and Gordini, dropped out of the race with fuel pump problems. The fourth and final Gordini machine, driven by Pierre Veyron and Georges Monneret, was able to make it to about the 12th hour before it fell out of the race with distribution problems as well.
The Peter duo of Walker and Whitehead went on to win the race in their Jaguar XK120C. They had managed to complete 267 laps. Second place pairing of Meyrat and Mairesse were able to cover 258 laps. And, Macklin and Thompson came in 3rd, having completed 257 laps.
After the 24 Hours of Le Mans, Equipe Gordini packed up their grand prix cars and travelled to Reims, France to take part in the 3rd round of the Formula One world championship. Being a French team, it was not going to be absent for the French round of the championship. However, the team probably wished the event was held someplace other than Reims.
The 4.85 mile road course at Reims was made up entirely of public roads that ran between Reims and Gueux. The road course was fast. Basically a large 5 mile triangle, the course was made up mostly of long, flat-out straights that would test the stamina of the tiny 4 cylinder engines of the Simca-Gordini machines.
Qualifying revealed how the T15s were racing against cars and engines in a whole different league on such a course as Reims. Fangio went out in his Alfa Romeo 159 and set the fastest time in qualifying completing a lap of the 4.85 mile course in 2:25.7, doing so with an average speed near 120 mph. Farina, one of the other Alfa Romeo drivers, set the second fastest time and started next to Fangio. Then came the first of the Scuderia Ferrari cars driven by Alberto Ascari. The best placed Simca-Gordini on the grid after qualifying was that driven by Aldo Gordini. He would start the race from 17th. Maurice Trintignant would start next to Gordini in 18th on the grid. There were only twenty-three cars qualified for the 77 lap race. The two other Equipe Gordini cars could be found at the tail-end of the grid. Andre Simon set a time that was only good enough to start the race from 21st on the grid. Robert Manzon had it the worse than either of his teammates as he would start the race from last place on the grid.
From the very beginning of the race it was obvious the small inline 4-cylinder engine in the Simca-Gordini T15s and T11 was struggling to keep up. The big question was whether the strain would be too much. In very short-order this question would be answered. Similar to their last race, Simca-Gordini cars began to drop out in almost a successive order. The day of the race was hot and sunny, and so, the Gordini cars weren't alone. One of the Equipe Gordini cars, driven by Manzon, was out of the running by the 3rd lap when his engine expired. Then, only four laps later, Andre's T15 came to a halt, also with engine troubles. Three laps after Simon's engine failed, Trintignant's engine died on his T15. Sixteen laps later, the remaining Simca-Gordini T11, driven by Aldo, dropped out of the race with engine problems. Once again, all of Equipe Gordini's cars failed to finish a race.
Luigi Fagioli's Alfa Romeo, driven by Fangio, went on the win the race, beating Jose Froilan Gonzalez's Ferrari, driven by Alberto Ascari, by almost one minute. Ferrari teammate Luigi Villoresi finished the race 3rd, three laps down.
The problems the Equipe Gordini had experienced its last two races hurt the team and hampered its ability to continue on. The failures suffered at Reims most likely caused the team to fail to travel back to Silverstone two weeks later in order to take part in the British Grand Prix. Although the team would have had to face both Alfa Romeo and Ferrari, the 2.88 mile circuit at Silverstone, would have suited the T15 and T11 better than had Reims.
Almost a month after it last race, Equipe Gordini travelled to Nurburg, Germany to take part in the German Grand Prix. The German Grand Prix, in 1951, took place on the long 14 mile Nordschleife. This track would test the Simca machines as there were some high-speed sections. However, for a good amount of the track it was much more important to have a car that could handle. The compact T15 and T11 would be able to handle the twisty sections of the track better, and this possibly would keep the team in the running for a strong result.
To keep from embarrassing themselves too much, the team only brought three cars to the German Grand Prix. Manzon, Trintignant and Simon would be the drivers of the three cars. Scuderia Ferrari and Alfa Romeo SpA took the first-seven spots on the grid in qualifying. The dominance of the two teams was going to make it difficult for any other team to have a solid qualifying performance. However, this didn't bother Manzon any. Robert went out and set the 9th fastest time in qualifying. The only other non Ferrari or Alfa Romeo to qualify higher than Manzon was Rudolf Fischer for Ecurie Espadon in a Ferrari 212. Andre Simon's effort wasn't all that bad either. Andre was able to set a time fast enough for him to start 12th on the grid. Maurice was the only other Simca-Gordini driver for the team at that race and even he didn't put in too poor of a performance during qualifying. Maurice would start the race 14th. In all, there were 23 cars that qualified for the race.
David Murray was unable to start the race due to an accident prior to the start. So, 22 cars prepared to take the start of the race on the 29th of July. Gonzalez would end up leading a lap of the 20 lap race, but mostly it was a battle between the top-two title contenders, Fangio and Ascari. While Ascari and Fangio disappeared into the distance, Manzon became embroiled in a battle of his own. Robert and Rudolf Fischer ran close together on the track. Duncan Hamilton qualified behind Robert and was pressing him until Duncan ran into oil pressure problems. Andre Simon and Maurice Trintignant were also in fights of their own until troublesome engine struck again. On the 11th lap, Simon's race came to an end due to an expired engine. Then, two laps later, the same problem struck the Equipe Gordini teammate Trintignant. All of the team's hopes rested upon Manzon to stem the tide of failure the team had been suffering. Manzon struggled to stay in touch with Fischer. Then, toward the later part of the race, Robert had to fend off a challenge from Louis Rosier, who had been on a terror, coming up through the field from starting 15th on the grid.
Fangio had led 8 laps. Then, Ascari took over the lead and dominated the remaining 11. In the end, Ascari beat Fangio by some 30+ seconds. Another four minutes and thirty-nine seconds passed before Gonzalez crossed the line in 3rd. Though one lap down to Ascari, Manzon managed to hold off Rosier to finish the race 7th. After starting the race from 9th on the grid, Manzon just missed scoring two points toward the championship by just two places. This was the kind of result the team had needed badly after two very unfortunate races.
After two embarrassing races at Paris and Reims, Manzon's result was what the team desperately needed. Though small, the wave of momentum would continue to the team's next race, only one week later.
During the first week of August, Equipe Gordini, made their way to back to France, and Albi, for the 13th Grand Prix of Albi. Four cars were brought to Albi by the team. Manzon, Trintignant and Simon were again behind the wheel of the team's T15s. However, instead of Gordini, Jean Behra took over driving the fourth car. Neither Ferrari or Alfa Romeo attended the 34 lap race on the 5.56 mile road course. This was to be a great opportunity for the team, and they would take advantage of it.
Without the presence of Ferrari or Alfa Romeo, the overall average speed of the race would be slower, but, this would play into the hands of Simca-Gordini. Though similar in make-up to Reims, the Grand Prix of Albi was to be Gordini's race.
Trintignant took his T15 out on the course and set the fastest time in qualifying, covering the 5.56 mile course in 3:08.8. Louis Rosier qualified 2nd. Rosier's time was only .7 of a second slower. Rosier could not have felt too comfortable when Andre Simon was able to qualify 3rd. This meant two Equipe Gordini cars occupied the front row on the 3-2-3 arranged grid. Manzon kept things rolling for the team when he was able to set the 6th fastest time during qualifying. Behra was able to make it all four cars in the top-ten when he was able to qualify 10th for the race that would take place on August 5th.
Early on in the race, Robert Manzon ran into troubles and was forced to retire on the 4th lap due to suspension problems. However, this would be the only low-point the team would endure. Despite starting the race in 10th, Behra was able to make his way up through the field and would finish the race 6th. Jean finished the race two laps down to the race winner. Simon was having an equally good race. Simon was a lap down to Chiron, who would finish the race 3rd. Since Andre was unable to battle Chiron for 3rd, and was a good distance up on Johnny Claes, Simon retired from the race right at the end. Despite retiring, he had such an advantage on Claes, who sat in 5th, to ensure he would finish the race 4th. Simon also finished two laps down to the race winner. And the race winner was in a class by himself. Maurice Trintignant dominated the race right from the very start. Maurice would end up setting the fastest lap of the race with a time only about three seconds slower than his own qualifying time. By the end, Trintignant had won the race, and by a margin of almost one minute and forty-five seconds. Maurice had been able to win the race with an average speed in excess of 101 mph.
Despite proving to be greatly successful at Albi, the team missed the next race, which was a non-championship race, the Circuito di Pescara. Instead, the team prepared and, then, entered the non-championship race, the Grand Prix of Bari. The race took place on the 3.44 mile road course around the streets of coastal Bari, Italy. This was another track that seemed to play to the strengths of the compact Simca-Gordini T15. However, since it was only a couple of weeks before the Italian Grand Prix, both Ferrari and Alfa Romeo attended the race and would make any good result difficult to achieve.
Qualifying would end up being a good representation of the fight the other teams had on their hands. The top-five spots would end up being occupied by either Alfa Romeos or Ferraris. Fangio took the pole with a time of 2:20.2. The gap between first and fifth was only 2.6 seconds. Andre Simon was the best qualified Equipe Gordini driver in the field. His time was only fast enough to start the race from 9th. Manzon qualified 12th. This placed him in the middle of the 5th row. Arranged 3-2-3, Trintignant qualified 14th, and therefore, would start on the inside of the two-car wide 6th row.
The 65 lap race was difficult on many of the teams. Fangio and Gonzalez set off on a high-speed duel throughout the streets. And while these two battled it out, many teams struggled just to make it to the end of the race. Many teams would be hit hard. Once again, Equipe Gordini would be embarrassed.
Nineteen cars would start the race. Out of those 19, 10 would fail to finish. Of those 10, 3 of them would be the team cars of Equipe Gordini. On the 8th lap of the race, Simon's race came to an end when his inline 4-cylinder engine suffered from a problem with its pistons. Then, just past the halfway mark of the race, Trintignant's race came to an end when he too suffered from piston problems. On the 39th lap of the race, the other Simca-Gordini, driven by Robert Manzon, fell out of the running when his car suffered from an oil system problem.
Fangio would go on to win the race. Throughout the course of going on to victory, Juan also set the fastest lap of the race with a time that was only .4 seconds slower than his qualifying time. Gonzalez would come in 2nd. The fellow Argentinean was over one minute slower than Juan. Piero Taruffi, one lap down to Fangio and Gonzalez, finished the race 3rd.
Only two races remained on Equipe Gordini's calendar for 1951. The first of those two took place exactly two weeks after the Bari Grand Prix. That race was the Italian Grand Prix and it took place at the Autodromo Nazionale di Monza. This race was the 6th round of the Formula One world championship. The layout of the course that year was 3.91 miles in length and did not use any portion of the banked track.
Juan Manuel Fangio took his Alfa Romeo 159 and put it on pole with a time of 1:53.2. Second on the grid went to Fangio's teammate Giuseppe Farina. Alfa Romeo took the first two spots. Ferrari then took 3rd through 6th. Alfa Romeo then was able to have its other drivers qualify 7th and 9th. The Equipe Gordini cars stayed close together in qualifying. Simon was able to set the 11th fastest time. Robert Manzon set the 12th fastest time. Keeping in order, Trintignant was able to qualify 13th for the 80 lap race. Each of these qualifying efforts were considerably good given the strong presence of Alfa Romeo and Ferrari. Had either of the two teams not shown up for the race, each of the Simca-Gordini cars would have started the 313 miles from inside the top-ten.
As usual, Fangio, Ascari and Gonzalez left the rest of the field behind and assumed a battle amongst themselves. The battle for the championship became an even tighter affair after Fangio's engine failed on his 159. Once Juan was out of the race, Ascari and Gonzalez didn't slow down. However, both Trintignant's and Manzon's races didn't just slow down, they came to an end. Ten laps before Fangio's engine let go, the two Gordini drivers suffered from engine failures of their own, and on the very same lap. Undaunted by the troubles that struck his teammates, Simon carried on. The failure of eleven other cars helped Simon move up from his 11th starting spot on the grid. He could not keep up with the pace of Ascari and Gonzalez, but Andre kept pushing. Simon would end up six laps down by the end of the race, but, he would end up driving a consistent and careful race to finish 6th. Andre had a lap advantage over Rosier, and, was four laps behind 5th place finisher Piero Taruffi. All that Andre had to do then was to not make a mistake and 6th place was his. He did exactly that. Andre missed out on two points in the championship by only one place. Ascari would go on to win the race, defeating his teammate Gonzalez by a margin of 24+ seconds. Giuseppe Farina would end up coming in 3rd with Felice Bonetto's car.
In between the Italian Grand Prix and the Spanish Grand Prix, the Equipe Gordini team entered two cars in the Coupes du Salon race, which took place at Montlhery, France. The race was 30 laps of the 7.76 mile closed and public road course. Andre Simon entered the race driving a Simca-Gordini T15S. Robert Manzon also entered the race, but he would be driving a Simca-Gordini T18C. This was the team's second foray into sports car racing in 1951. The first attempt, the 24 Hours of Le Mans had proved to be unsuccessful. Its second attempt would prove to be more of the same. After the halfway mark of the race, both Manzon's and Simon's race came to an end due to problems with each of their cars. Guy Mairesse would go on to win, just barely, over Georges Grignard. Lucien Vincent took 3rd.
Over one month would pass before Equipe Gordini's final race of the season. The team's final race was the last round of the Formula One world championship. On October 28th, the Spanish Grand Prix took place at Pedralbes, near Barcelona, Spain. Equipe Gordini once again brought three cars to battle it out. But what the teams would end up battling most would be the incredibly hot weather. The championship fight was separated by only two points, but it would be the weather that would decide who would come out on top.
Scuderia Ferrari driver Ascari would set the fastest time during qualifying, and therefore, would start from the pole. Alberto covered the 3.92 mile circuit in 2:10.59. Alfa Romeo and Ferrari would stagger perfectly up through the 8th starting spot. Ascari, for Ferrari, was on the pole. Fangio was 2nd fastest in his Alfa Romeo 159. As it had gone for 1st and 2nd, the Ferraris qualified 1st, 3rd, 5th and 7th. Alfa Romeo qualified 2nd, 4th, 6th and 8th. This left only two spots left in the top-ten, and, two of Equipe Gordini's drivers were able to take those two spots. Robert Manzon wielded his T15 around to qualify 9th. Simon was able to follow Manzon and put his T15 10th on the grid. Trintignant didn't have a bad qualifying performance either. Trintignant's time was good enough to ensure that after Ferrari and Alfa Romeo, the next three cars on the grid, would be Simca-Gordini machines.
Twenty drivers got set to battle it out with each other, and the incredible heat, for 70 laps. However, out of the twenty who would start the race, half of them would not finish. Keeping the engines cool in the intolerable heat was not going to be easy and, in fact, seven of the ten that would not finish the race would do so because of some kind of engine-related problem. Unfortunately, these engine-related problems included two of Simca-Gordini's cars. Twenty-five laps into the race, Maurice's race came to an end due to an engine failure. Then, twenty-three laps later, Simon's race came to an end for an engine problem as well. Manzon, although seven laps down by the end of the race, was able to soldier on. Robert had a three lap advantage over his closest competitor, and so, he took it easy and ensured his car would make it to the end. Manzon would end up finishing the race in 9th place, the same position in which he had started the race. The incredible heat hurt the Ferrari drivers. They had started the race with smaller tires. The smaller tires weren't able to eradicate the heat all that well and ended up leading to problems with the tread separating from the rest of the tire. With the Ferrari threat neutralized, Fangio cruised to victory and the championship. Fangio finished 1st with a gap of almost one minute over Jose Froilan. Although almost two minutes further down, the, reigning world champion Farina was able to finish 3rd.
Equipe Gordini had entered four world championship rounds and was able to have at least one car finish in three of the four rounds. In each of the three rounds in which the team had a car finish, that car finished in the top-ten. The team's best result came with Andre Simon's 6th place at Monza and the Italian Grand Prix. The team did not score any points, despite these performances.
The team had also entered at least one car in at least six non-championship races throughout 1951. The best result the team achieved at either of the non-championship races was a 1st place victory with Maurice Trintignant driving a T15 at the Grand Prix of Albi on August 5th of that year.
Amedee Gordini proved one didn't need the most powerful car out on the track to be competitive and successful. One thing Amedee did prove, it could be argued, was that the need to marry power and compact, and lightweight, together was paramount for any lasting success. It could be further argued that he had proven that it was almost as, if not more, important to be light than powerful. Today, the marriage between the two desires is being realized. In fact, no team is really having any success without the two ideas working together. This is Gordini's grand legacy. And yet, it was the result of a rather tiny car with a small inline 4-cylinder engine. That is true sorcery. Equipe Simca-Gordini