TeamsEscuderia Bandeirantes: 1953 Formula One Season By Jeremy McMullen
When Francisco 'Chico' Landi first appeared in Europe he would receive strong support from Scuderia Ferrari. However, when he decided to establish his own team, his own flag to follow he would soon seem to lose his way.
The stable of the 'followers of the banner' arrived late on the scene in 1952. The team, adorned in its yellow paint scheme with dark green wheels, would first make its appearance with the new Maserati A6GCM at the Dutch Grand Prix with a Dutch driver in one of the cars alongside Francisco 'Chico' Landi, the team's founder. After a shared 9th place effort in Zandvoort and an 8th place at the Italian Grand Prix a couple of weeks later. After these couple of appearances the team would promptly disappear once again.
As the calendar flipped and the clock led the way into 1953, most of the major World Championship teams would be in South America preparing for the first round of the series, the Argentine Grand Prix. Surprisingly, neither the man from Brazil, nor his team, would be present.
As the season grand prix season headed back to Europe, Escuderia Bandeirantes still would not be listed in any entry form. About the only thing ever really seen or heard about the team would come via the Prince of Siam. No, he had not been taken prisoner by Siamese officials. No, Landi had parted with one of the new Maserati A6GCM he had gained toward the end of the previous season. Prince Bira would instead be seen driving the car painted in his colors of sky blue and yellow.
Then, all of a sudden, there would be a blip on the radar screen. Chico Landi would enter his sole remaining Maserati in his name for the ADAC Eifelrennen set to take place on the 31st of May. Although it appeared quite clear that at least Landi had an entry in the Eifelrennen he would not fulfill the entry as he would not appear for the race. Well and truly, nothing more would be heard of Escuderia Bandeirantes.
Then, just as memory of the team began to fade into the background, Escuderia Bandierantes would have an entry in not just some small, insignificant non-championship race. No, the team would return to one of the 'big' and important races on the calendar. All of a sudden, toward the end of August, Escuderia Bandeirantes would follow their banner and would make their way to the Swiss Grand Prix.
Somehow, some way, the team would find their way into the region of the 'Bear' where the Wohlensee and Aar flow amidst the Swiss plateau and the Bernese Alps. A municipality just a couple of miles to the northwest of Berne, Bremgarten bei Bern is a noted area for heavy woodlands and productive agricultural land. And in 1953, the heavily-wooded area just south of the Wohlensee River was the site of the 4.51 mile Bremgarten Circuit and the Swiss Grand Prix.
One of Europe's true road courses, Bremgarten took place on entirely public roads in the region. Filled with cobblestone roads and potentially damp surfaces, the circuit was a constant moving and demanding circuit that had its share of dangerous secrets. Overhung by trees throughout, it was very possible to have portions of the track wet or damp. When combined with the cobblestoned corners, Bremgarten became incredibly treacherous. Even in the dry the cobblestones had a way of breaking a car loose. No doubt about it, the serene and seemingly peaceful setting was what made Bremgarten so challenging and dangerous.
Coming into the race, the championship had already been decided. Ascari was the first double World Champion, as well as, the first back-to-back champion. But that didn't mean he was any less hungry for victory. But after one of the most frustrating seasons he could probably remember, Juan Manuel Fangio would be fastest in practice. He would take the pole with a lap of two minutes and forty-one seconds. This time beat out Ascari by just six-tenths of a second. It would end up being an all-champions front row as Giuseppe Farina would be 3rd fastest in practice.
Driving the older Maserati A6GCM, and not really taking part in major races all season long, Landi would struggle to find pace during practice. Despite having a good car Landi would end up starting 20th on the grid, dead-last.
The day of the race, the majority of the crowd and the teams would be busy seeking shelter, but not from rain or some other kind of precipitation. The skies over the Bremgarten circuit were beautifully clear. However, this meant the sun burned hot beating down on the circuit. Cars were hot to the touch and teams and drivers moved slowly, taking their time under such oppressive conditions.
The cars were finally lined up on the grid. The green flag would wave to start the race and 20 cars would roar away to start the race. Fangio would make a great start but would have Ascari rapidly closing in. Farina would make a terrible start and would be dropped down towards the middle of the field by the time he got up to speed. Louis Rosier and Jacques Swaters and qualified quite close and were right beside each other the grid. This would end up being dangerous as the two would fight for position on the first lap and would end up crashing into each other thereby ending each other's race.
Ascari would prove to be the fastest around the first lap and would lead over Fangio, Onofre Marimon, Luigi Villoresi and Felice Bonetto. Farina was finally up to speed and was actually beginning to reel in the front-runners. Starting dead-last, Landi would take it easy through the first few laps of the race in order to settle into some kind of pace. Unfortunately, the pace still wasn't helping him move forward all that much, but, in the heat and at such a circuit as Bremgarten, having a steady pace often was more important than outright speed.
Ascari continued to carry on in the lead of the race. The nature of the circuit, and the heat, already began to break up the field into one long string of cars circulating the circuit. Then, after 8 laps, Fangio's car began to run into trouble. Over the course of a lap or so he continued to struggle shifting the car into certain gears. Fangio would then come into the pits, but he was not to retire from the race. Felice Bonetto would end up coming into the pits and would hand his car over to Fangio for the rest of the 65 lap race.
Fangio had lost a lot of time to Ascari, Farina and Marimon. In order to make up the loss Fangio would go on an absolute tear. Fangio was fast and was quickly making up positions. This was to put some pressure on Ascari and the other drivers running at the front of the field.
Things had settled down after the first lap catastrophes that claimed a couple of competitors. Then, twenty-nine laps into the race, Lance Macklin would end up retiring from the race. Smoke from bad valves streamed out of the car as he parked it. But then, another would join him. Smoke was seen streaming out from the number 30 Maserati. All of a sudden it was clear. That was Fangio! His pace had finally gotten the better of the engine and the engine decided it had had enough.
But not all was well at Ferrari either. Just ten laps after Fangio retired from the race, Ascari's car, the leading Ferrari, developed a misfire. Ascari was forced to stop in the pits. Although he had built up quite a comfortable lead it would all vanish in the blink of an eye. By the time the problem was found and rectified, Ascari would rejoin the race in 4th place behind Marimon, Mike Hawthorn and Giuseppe Farina.
Only a few laps later, Ferrari would be left occupying the first three positions in the running order. This would result from mechanical ailments ending Onofre Marimon's race after 46 laps. As a result of Marimon's departure, and Fangio being out of the running altogether, orders were given to the Ferrari drivers to hold station and bring their cars home 1-2-3.
After Emmanuel de Graffenried fell foul of engine-related problems on the 48th lap of the race, Chico Landi was busy just trying to nurse his Maserati around to reach the finish. By this point in the race there were only 10 cars still running in the race, and Landi wasn't last. He had achieved a fast enough pace that he was actually able to make his way forward in the order on his own. He could take it easy as he had a comfortable margin behind and was a little too far behind to move forward anymore without the help of attrition. Therefore, if he could just nurse the car around for a dozen more laps he would be on course for a very surprising good result. However, with less than a dozen laps remaining in the race Landi would find it impossible to make it to the finish. Gearbox failure had brought his race to a halt almost in sight of the finish.
Team orders had brought the battle between the Ferrari pilots to a halt as well. At least that was what everybody thought. Ascari wasn't about to follow such orders. Almost from the moment of having his car repaired he had been on a tear. He had set the fastest lap of the race on lap 50 with a time just a little more than a half second slower than his qualifying effort.
As Hawthorn and Farina approached the last few laps of the race they would be caught off guard as Ascari powered his way by to take their positions. Undoubtedly they were upset and disturbed by his actions, but the double-World Champion wasn't about to just sit back and finish 3rd.
Nothing could be done. Ascari had made his move and certainly wasn't about to give the positions back. Therefore, all that Farina and Hawthorn could do was follow Ascari home. Helped by the incredible pace over the course of the remaining 15 laps, Ascari would average nearly 97 mph en route to taking the victory in the Swiss Grand Prix. His pace would enable him to pull out a margin of a little more than a minute and ten seconds over Farina in 2nd. Hawthorn would follow, crossing the line another twenty seconds or so behind Farina.
The Swiss Grand Prix would be disappointing for Landi and Escuderia Bandeirantes. He had been on course for a good result before the gearbox problems had to come along and ruin the effort. Unfortunately, all of the effort wouldn't be rewarded that handsomely. In fact, it would spell the end of the team in the World Championship.
Landi would reunite with Prince Bira and his old Maserati for the Italian Grand Prix the following month. However, because of the financial situation, the two would not compete under the Escuderia Bandeirantes name. Instead, the two would join with the old Scuderia Milano team and would race underneath their banner. Yet, despite Bira's 11th place result, both teams would be gone from the World Championship forever.
Landi wouldn't take part in a World Championship race for a couple of years. Then, in 1956, Landi would take part in the Argentine Grand Prix. However, the team in which he helped found would not be resurrected. Instead, he would race as part of the official Maserati factory effort. Escuderia Bandeirantes would forever be done.
The team would truly cease to exist when in June of 1989 Fracisco 'Chico' Landi passed away. However, the greatest tribute that could be paid to the 'Followers of the Banner' would be, quite simply, the door Landi opened for Brazilian drivers in the World Championship. The long and illustrious list of great Brazilian drivers in the World Championship then is the team's greatest contribution to Formula One. Escuderia Bandeirantes