TeamsJorge Daponte: 1954 Formula One Season By Jeremy McMullen
Among the few great names throughout Formula One's history there would be the many that would make their appearance, and then, disappear just about as fast as they came in. Jorge Daponte's role in the Formula One narrative would include just two scenes, one of those faces that appeared for a moment and then was gone.
Daponte's place in Formula One history actually begins in 1953 when Formula 2 regulations were used for the World Championship. But while names like Fangio, Ascari, Farina and others would be over in Europe taking part in the World Championship there, Daponte would first try and get his name listed in the World Championship history books by attempting to take part in the other race that counted toward it.
In 1952, Alberto Ascari would be the first European to take part in the Indianapolis 500. Unfortunately, his race would last just 40 laps. But while the racing scene consisted of such monumental names as Ascari, Fangio and the others it would be Jorge Daponte that would attempt to take part in the race the following year.
Daponte would find this road difficult and he would end up not being listed in the World Championship record books in 1953 because he would fail to qualify for the race. But it would not deter him.
Born in Buenos Aires in June of 1923, Daponte would find he wouldn't have to leave home in order to take part in his first World Championship race. Actually, the World Championship had come to Argentina for the first time in 1953 but Daponte didn't have the car to take part in the event.
Heading into the 1954 season, Daponte would have an opportunity to get a car he could use in order to take part in his first World Championship race. The new Formula One regulations would come into effect for the start of the 1954 season. That meant there would be some 2.0-liter Formula 2 cars come available as a result of the factory teams making the move to 2.5-liter machinery. And while the Formula 2 cars would lack the overall power of the new 2.5-liter cars, some, like the Maserati A6GCM and A6SSG would still be quite competitive.
Great confusion abounds over the Maseratis made available to customers and Daponte's car would be no exception. Maserati would certainly focus on its factory team first and foremost but would try to do their best to offer its customers with the most competitive car possible. What this meant was Maserati would create another interim chassis/engine combination that would have the new 2.5-liter engine just placed inside the older bodywork. This makes in unclear what kind of combination Maserati's customers actually had. But given the fact the first round of the Formula One World Championship in 1954 would take place in the middle of January it wouldn't be unfair to assume that Daponte had chassis number ‘2048', which was in Formula 2 guise, meaning it had the 2.0-liter, 6-cylinder engine, and not, the 2.5-liter engine crammed inside of the old Formula 2 chassis.
Chassis ‘2048' would be a good one for Daponte to purchase. Going with his countrymen, Daponte would purchase the chassis after it had been used during the 1953 season by Juan Manuel Fangio and Onofre Marimon. The car had also been driven at different points by Felice Bonetto in the Swiss Grand Prix, and then, by Sergio Mantovani and Luigi Musso at the Italian Grand Prix later on in the year.
Daponte would need a great car heading into his first race of the '54 season. He would need a great car for the first race of the season for him would be the first round of the Formula One World Championship, the Argentine Grand Prix.
After failing to qualify for the Indianapolis 500, the 1954 season would start right out for Daponte with a World Championship event, and in his home country as well. But while the 1954 season would start out as something of a baptism of fire, Daponte wouldn't have to worry about having too much attention causing him to get nervous as the field would consist of more than just one Argentinean.
As the immense crowd began to flock to the Autodromo 17 de Octubre for the race on the 17th of January, the crowd would be keenly interested in three of its countrymen, Juan Manuel Fangio, Jose Froilan Gonzalez and Onofre Marimon. But the Argentinean faithful would have no less than six Argentineans preparing to take part in the 87 lap first lap of the Formula One World Championship.
Making its debut in the World Championship in 1953, the race organizers would be hoping for a much more safe and fun affair. The 1953 Argentine Grand Prix would be a tragic affair with scores of people getting injured and about ten that would perish as a result of Giuseppe Farina swerving to avoid hitting a boy that had wandered onto the track to get a better view because of the packed grandstands and areas along the edges of the circuit.
Using the 2.42 mile number two circuit, the cars would hit the track to start practice. In practice, Giuseppe Farina would prove to be the fastest, overcoming the bad memories of a year ago. Jose Froilan Gonzalez would delight the Argentinean crowd as he would start 2nd after setting a time just a tenth slower than his Ferrari teammate. Juan Manuel Fangio would keep the good feelings rolling by qualifying 3rd. His time would be less than a second slower than Farina's. Mike Hawthorn would make it three Scuderia Ferraris on the front row when he set a time nearly a second and a half slower than Fangio.
Having a 2.0-liter Formula 2 car to use in the race, and being inexperienced himself, it would not be at all surprising if Daponte struggled to find a pace close to that of the front-runners. Sure enough, his best effort of 1:56.7 would be nearly twelve seconds slower than Farina's time and would cause Daponte to start on the fifth row of the grid in the 17th position, dead-last.
The immense crowd awaited the start of the race. The teams and the drivers would have one eye peering into the sky wondering and waiting for the first hint of rain. Luigi Musso would not be able to take part in the race as an engine problem would force him to withdraw before the start. Nevertheless, sixteen cars would be positioned on the grid preparing to start the race.
And as the field roared away to start the three hour race, it would be Farina leading the way ahead of Fangio. Gonzalez would make a poor start but would be fast once he got going. Daponte would be at the tail end and wouldn't be so concerned with speed, as much as, getting through the first few laps without incident and getting into a comfortable and lasting pace.
Gonzalez would certainly be in a fast pace as he would take the on the 15th lap and would only push out further once he had clear track ahead of him. Farina would stay put in 2nd place while Hawthorn and Fangio would be in 3rd and 4th.
Just a few laps after Gonzalez took over the lead of the race, Daponte's first World Championship experience would come to an end. While he had looked good through the first 18 laps of the race, a leak in the car's lubrication would cause him to have to retire after the 19th lap. But Daponte wouldn't be alone. Even some of the front-runners like Jean Behra, Onofre Marimon and Louis Rosier would all be out of the race.
There would be more to come too. About 30 laps into the race the rains came. Heavy shower pelted the circuit and made driving very difficult. Gonzalez would spin out of the lead while Farina would pit to get a visor for his helmet. This handed the lead to Hawthorn, but even would promptly spin handing the lead over to Fangio. The rain-soaked fans would be totally exuberant. While the crowd loved the fact Gonzalez was in the lead, it would be ecstatic to see the old mechanic and World Champion in the lead.
Fangio's lead would remain safe as long as the rain kept the track soaked, but it would begin to dry out and Gonzalez would retake the lead. Even Farina would get back by his former Alfa teammate. However, the rain would pick back up allowing Fangio to retake the lead. Hawthorn would spin again and would be disqualified after receiving outside assistance.
In all of the chaos that ensued when the rains came, it would be the calm and gentlemanly Fangio that would appear undaunted by the conditions. Of course, he would be helped by some special hand-cut tires.
It would be enough. To the delight of tens of thousands, Fangio would roar down the start/finish straight for the time to cross the line and take the first victory of the 1954 Formula One World Championship season. A minute and nineteen seconds later, Giuseppe Farina would follow to finish in 2nd place while Gonzalez would make it two Argentineans on the podium finishing in 3rd.
Unfortunately for Daponte, he didn't make it to when the rains came. Had been still in the running the rains could have helped him. Of course, they could have hurt him as well. But after starting dead-last and retiring after just 19 laps, the rains couldn't have hurt all that much. Nonetheless, Daponte would have his first World Championship experience, but his season wouldn't be over yet.
Daponte wouldn't have to go far to take part in his next race either. In fact, Jorge's next race would take place at the same place as the first. Daponte's next race would come on the 31st of January and would be a Formula Libre race. Known as the 10th Gran Premio Ciudad de Buenos Aires, the race would see a lot of the same competitors take place in the race as had the first round of the World Championship. And though it was a Formula Libre race it was only classified as such to allow more ‘local' drivers to take part. Therefore, Daponte would again be facing the likes of Scuderia Ferrari, Officine Alfieri Maserati, Equipe Gordini, as well as a host of other privateers.
Instead of 87 laps, the Formula Libre race would be 65, but it would be no less competitive as the front row of the grid would look quite similar to that of the Argentine Grand Prix.
Giuseppe Farina would again be on pole with Gonzalez starting 2nd. The big changes would come in 3rd and 4th places on the front row. Mike Hawthorn would make it a sweep of the top three places on the grid by Scuderia Ferrari while Maurice Trintignant would put together an impressive performance driving for Ecurie Rosier and would start 4th. The remainder of the starting grid is something of a mystery but it is likely that Daponte started toward the back end of the grid given many of the same competitors would be in this race as in the Argentine Grand Prix.
The field would be large for the 65 lap race. The race itself would be full of drama. Those on the front row would be fast, but not immune to attrition. Attrition would be no respecter of persons and even the heavily-favored would run into trouble during the race.
Louis Rosier would retire early on with his 2.0-liter Ferrari 500, but even Giuseppe Farina driving a Ferrari 625 would retire due to problems. The fallout would continue. Juan Manuel Fangio, the winner of the Argentine Grand Prix, and Onofre Marimon would both retire from the race after problems arose with their Maserati 250Fs.
All of the trouble would leave Mike Hawthorn running still running for Ferrari along with Umberto Maglioli. Giuseppe Farina would get back into the race, much to the chagrin of the Argentinean fans, as he would take over Gonzalez's car. The switch of drivers would cause Farina to lose a lot of ground and he would have to push hard to try and fight for the lead once again.
Daponte wouldn't be in the running for a top result despite all of the drama. This was because he too was already out of the race. Daponte would suffer a crash in his A6GCM and the damage would be more than enough to bring his race to an end.
The one that would benefit the most from all of the troubles would be Maurice Trintignant driving for Ecurie Rosier in a Ferrari 625. And when Mike Hawthorn's engine failed on the last lap of the race, Trintignant was clear and away the favorite to take the victory.
In two hours, thirty-eight minutes and thirty-six seconds, Trintignant would come across the line to take the victory. Roberto Mieres, another Argentinean driver, would finish in 2nd place driving a 2.0-liter Maserati A6GCM Formula 2 car. He would finish nearly thirty seconds behind. But still, it would be a better result than Farina driving Gonzalez's car. In spite of starting on the pole and being up amongst the front-runners throughout the early going, he would finish the race in 3rd place close to forty seconds behind Trintignant.
The season was certainly not starting the way Daponte would have wanted. Two straight early retirements would not help to build the drivers confidence, especially as a long trip across the Atlantic to Europe loomed on the horizon. His only hope is that Europe would offer better results than his own home country. Surprisingly, Daponte would find the continent quite welcoming.
Daponte wouldn't be prepared to take part in his first grand prix on the European continent until early July. Once on the continent, Daponte would travel to France, where grand prix racing all started. He would make his way to Rouen in order to take part in the 4th Grand Prix de Rouen-les-Essarts. The race would take place on the 11th of July.
Rouen would be a good place for Daponte to take part in his first grand prix on the European continent. While the race would feature a rather large field with some of the best teams and drivers of the day, the race would be held on the 3.17 mile Rouen-les-Essarts circuit. The circuit had been a part of the World Championship back in 1952, and therefore, would offer Daponte good experience. Besides that, Rouen wasn't the ultra-fast circuit like that of Reims. Therefore, Rouen would give Daponte a shot while driving his Formula 2 Maserati.
Situated along the Seine River valley, the Rouen-les-Essarts circuit would be a good circuit for the Formula 2 cars as it would feature a lot of medium speed corners, a tight hairpin and some steep elevation changes. Instead of outright speed, acceleration would be of greatest importance and the Formula 2 cars still managed to get along quite well. Still, Daponte would have to face Scuderia Ferrari, Equipe Gordini and Ecurie Rosier, along with a number of other privateers. It was not going to be an easy task, not by any stretch of the imagination.
Once again, Daponte would be at the back of the starting grid overlooking a sea of competitors having set faster lap times in practice than he. His best time of 2:25.1 would end up over fifteen and a half seconds off the pace of the pole-sitter. This would cause Daponte to start the race from the sixth, and final, row of the grid in the 14th position. The 14th position would be dead-last on the grid.
At the head of the field would be Maurice Trintignant. Now driving for Scuderia Ferrari, Maurice would set the standard with a time of 2:09.4 around the 3.17 mile circuit. This would end up being eight-tenths of a second faster than Jean Behra in his Gordini T16. Mike Hawthorn would make it two Scuderia Ferraris starting on the front row when he recorded a lap time of 2:10.9.
Alan Brown would be present at the circuit and would try to take part in the event. However, he would suffer problems with his Cooper-Bristol T23 and would not be able to start the race. Therefore, fourteen cars would be rolled out onto their grid placements with the newcomer and foreigner Daponte bringing up the tail-end. This would be a very lonely place for a foreigner to be, but the starting position meant absolutely nothing. The end of the race was of greatest importance. Unfortunately, Daponte hadn't been blessed to make it there either.
The field would tear away to start the 95 lap, 301 mile, race. And while Trintignant would be immediately up to speed looking quite racy, it would be important for Daponte to settle into a comfortable pace and focus on nursing his car around so that it would last the 300 miles.
Trintignant would be fast at the head of the field. He would go on to set the fastest lap of the race with a time just a half a second off of his qualifying effort. However, his advantage over the rest of the field would only increase when Jean Behra and Mike Hawthorn spun off the circuit and would be disqualified when both would receive a push start.
Jose Froilan Gonzalez would then exit the race after just 16 laps when his engine blew in the Ferrari 553. All of a sudden, many of the favorites were finding themselves out of the running. Incredibly, this would help the steady and focused Daponte to climb up the running order, despite his rather sedated pace.
With three out of the top four starters now out of the race, Trintignant would be able to escape with the lead. On top of this, Daponte would find himself running inside the top ten with the retirements of Harry Schell and Andre Pilette along with the others. Other competitors like Louis Rosier and Robert Manzon would all fade as the race wore on. Amazingly, Daponte would be able to get by these men and would continue his upward movement through the running order.
But it wasn't as though Daponte kept a similar pace to that of Trintignant. In fact, Jorge would be visited by Trintignant more than a handful of times before the end. Nonetheless, he was still running, and running well.
Bolstered by his fastest lap, the struggles of his fellow competitors, and an average speed of over 82 mph Trintignant would leave everyone behind and would absolutely cruise to victory. After a long day of racing, Maurice would take the victory having a full lap in hand over Prince Bira in 2nd place. The gap to the 3rd place finisher would be even bigger. Roy Salvadori would end up coming from his 9th place starting spot to finish in 3rd place. However, by the end of the race, Salvadori would be a remarkable five laps being Trintignant.
It would be a truly remarkable race for Daponte. Not only would he start from dead-last on the grid, but his race pace would be amongst the slowest. However, he would survive the chaos and the attrition, and by Providence, would find himself running well inside the top ten. In fact, at the end of the race Daponte would be running a remarkable 5th. And though he would end the race down some ten laps to Trintignant, he would still have his first race finish of the season, and it would be a top five on top of that.
The trip across the Atlantic would immediately reward Daponte. In spite of his lacking pace, his confidence would be bolstered by the 5th place earned in the incredibly tough and demanding Rouen-les-Essarts Grand Prix. He had survived his greatest test to that point in the season. He could have confidence moving forward. The new-found confidence would be very important heading into Daponte's next race.
Perhaps one of the biggest mysteries surrounding Daponte's life has to do with the gap between races during the 1954 season. After taking part in the Grand Prix de Rouen-les-Essarts on the 11th of July there would be a gap of a month between races for the Argentinean. Then, in mid-August, he would make his way to Italy. He would carry on toward the Adriatic Coast and the city of Pescara. For on the 15th of August he would take part in the 23rd Circuito di Pescara.
Not only would the Circuito di Pescara be another long race covering a total of 255 miles, but the circuit itself was the longest grand prix circuit used in Formula One. Measuring just under 16 miles, the Pescara would beat the Nurburgring's Nordschleife by nearly two miles!
Situated along the Adriatic coast in the Abruzzo region of Italy, Pescara is one of most important port cities along the Adriatic. Generally a flat plain, the city spreads out all along the coast but is hemmed in by the Maiella mountains. It origins, not surprisingly, surround it being an important port for trade. A lot of trade with the Eastern provinces would take place in Pescara in the days predating the Roman Empire.
A wealthy city well into the years after Christ's birth, Pescara would become the object of many sieges, revolts and battles. And besides its history of constant warfare, the area would also become subject to the wrath of nature at times including a major flood in the 19th century that would cause a large amount of destruction and devastation.
The mixture of flat coastline and mountainous inland territory would lead to a circuit layout that featured just about everything one could think of. Of course, being nearly 16 miles in length, the circuit would be long enough to offer up incredible elevation changes; tight, twisting mountain roads; long, flat straights and an incredible view to top it all off.
The field would include more than a dozen cars. A couple of others had intended to be a part of the race but would not arrive. Running down through the field, Daponte would be one of just two that would field a Formula 2 car for the race. But the outlook could have looked a whole lot worse had Scuderia Ferrari arrived to take part in the race.
Battling the Formula One cars, Daponte was sure to lose the battle for outright speed and practice would confirm this with Stirling Moss taking the pole with a lap time of 10:23.0. Over a course the length of Pescara close lap times would be measured in seconds not tenths or hundredths. And as Robert Manzon crossed the line to post a best lap time of 10:44.3 it was clear that twenty-one seconds was the gap between Moss and Manzon, and yet, Manzon's lap would be good enough for 2nd on the starting grid. Clemar Bucci, driving for Equipe Gordini, would be much closer to Manzon. His best lap around the circuit would be a little less than two seconds slower and would give him 3rd place on the starting grid, the final position on the front row.
Daponte's best effort around the nearly 16 mile long circuit would be something of a mystery. However, his starting position would be all too clear and it would also make it well known that his best effort wasn't all that fast compared to Moss and the rest of the front row starters. However, it would be good enough to keep him from starting dead-last in the field, just next to last. Daponte would start the race from the fifth row of the grid in the 12th position.
As he had proven at Rouen a little more than a month earlier where one started mattered very little. Where one finished was the most important thing. And, in many ways, starting from the back of the grid made the tactics very simple for the Argentinean. It was fruitless, and near impossible, to try and battle for the lead of the race. Therefore, as he rolled his car out to the grid in preparation of the start of the race, he knew he just needed to focus on finding a comfortable pace that didn't tax the car too much. Then, he would have to let the rest of the race come to him and trust in Providence to carry him through to a strong result.
Another three hours of racing lay ahead of Daponte as he brought the revs of his engine up to full song waiting to leap forward into the race. And then the field roared into life; the race was on.
Moss would be fast right out of the gate. Manzon would also be right there. But just one lap of the circuit would feel like an eternity and would be about the same as five or more at other circuits. Therefore, trouble could arise after just a single lap around the public roads surrounding Pescara.
The circuit would begin to claim its victims. Manzon's race would last just one lap before his engine would fail dropping him from the running. Equipe Gordini would lose one of its cars also after just a single lap due to an engine fire. Even Moss would run into trouble with a broken oil pipe. His race would come to an end after just 3 laps.
Moss' departure from the race would throw open the door of opportunity to many other competitors, even Daponte. Daponte continued to circulate the epic-scaled track and would soon find himself near the top five. The 16 lap race continued to reduce the numbers and this would only promote Daponte further up the running order in spite of the fact he wasn't one of the faster cars out on the circuit.
While many would either fall prey to attrition, or, would end up fading due to the weariness of the race, there would be others that would see the problems as an opportunity and would only go faster. Luigi Musso would take over the lead of the race, but he wouldn't be the fastest car out on the circuit. That honor would go to Prince Bira.
Starting the race 9th, Bira would realize the trouble his fellow competitors were facing and would only push his Maserati 250F all that much harder. Soon, he would complete the fastest lap of the race with a time that would have placed him in 4th place on the starting grid. His fastest lap time would actually be around a half a minute faster than his own qualifying effort.
Daponte would be another that would take advantage of the situation, but mostly by default. He would be steady behind the wheel of his Maserati A6GCM and would keep himself from trouble. And by the final couple of laps of the race he would be running better than Jean Behra and Clemar Bucci. In fact, he would be one of just six still running as the race started its final lap.
In spite of Bira's incredible increase in pace, Musso would have more than enough of an advantage of him and the rest of the field. Maintaining a consistently fast pace for each of the 16 laps, Musso would coast across the finish line nearly three minutes clear of Bira in 2nd place. Harry Schell would also survive the gauntlet and would come through in 3rd place trailing behind Musso close to seven minutes in arrears.
Daponte's performance in the race, in the face of stiff attrition and a truly demanding circuit, would be something he could be proud of. He would gradually make his way up through the field and would find himself crossing the finish line for the second race in a row. What was truly incredible was the fact that he was able to improve upon his result at Rouen. At Rouen he had finished ten laps behind in 5th place. But this time, at Pescara, Daponte would finish just a lap behind in 4th!
Jorge had overcome his poor start to the season, at home, and had managed to put together two-straight top five performances at races all the way across the Atlantic. Daponte was putting together an impressive season. In an unknown environment far from home, he was managing to focus on the task at hand and he was producing some truly incredible performances given his lack of experience and lack of horsepower. He was proving that slow and steady still can beat fast and impulsive.
Although he had put together two-straight noteworthy performances the season was drawing closer and closer to a close. And though it was just the early part of September, Daponte was facing the prospect of taking part in his final race of the season.
Daponte's final race of the season wouldn't be all that far away from Pescara. After the Circuito di Pescara on the 15th of August there was three weeks before the eighth round of the Formula One World Championship, the Italian Grand Prix.
Located over 350 miles to the northwest of Pescara, Monza was very much the heart of motor racing in Italy. Situated in the Po valley, the sub-Mediterranean climate would make Monza nearly the perfect place to host motor races. However, before it became the home of Italian motor racing, Monza would be settled by a gallo-celtic tribe until it would become subdued by the Romans during the 3rd century BC. After the Lombard invasion, Monza would have periods of time where it would be an independent commune. Dripping with ecclesiastical history and influence, the city would become famous for its ornately designed and appointed churches. During the 18th century the vast and luxurious Royal Villa would be built. This would be finished and appointed with generous amounts of gold and silver. Large amounts of the gold and silver would be taken from the Duomo of Monza and would end up being turned into coins. Napoleon Bonaparte would end up taking the Kingdom of Italy and would end up taking vast amounts of treasured items like books from the library and other such things and has them sent to Paris. Bonaparte would end up giving Monza the title of Imperial City.
Long after Bonaparte's departure from this life, Monza would begin building a motor racing jewel in a portion of the vast grounds of the Royal Villa of Monza. The original circuit would be built in 1922 and would host the 2nd Italian Grand Prix on the site in September of that year. Filled with speed, fear and delight, the Autodromo Nazionale Monza would continue to hold regular races all the way up to the outbreak of World War II.
The 1954 season would see the circuit receive some important updates. The entire circuit, including the banked oval would receive some work. When the work was completed the two circuits, the 3.91 mile road course and the 2.6 mile banked oval, could again be combined. It was obvious the circuit's organizers wanted to bring back the original 6.2 mile circuit that had been used up into the 1930s.
The 1953 edition of the Italian Grand Prix had turned out to be one dramatic episode with it seeming as though Ferrari would carry home yet another victory. However, a last minute move by Ascari would throw two Ferraris right out of the picture for the victory with just one corner remaining. And instead, Juan Manuel Fangio would streak to victory.
One year removed, Fangio was the one looking to finalize his second World Championship. He already had more than enough points he just needed a good result at Monza to make sure no one else could come through and snatch the championship away from him.
Alberto Ascari, after having a falling out with Enzo Ferrari and leaving for Lancia, would be back for the squad from Modena. Luigi Villoresi, however, would part ways with his friend, Ascari, for this race and would drive for the Maserati factory team. Therefore, the field would be full of fast drivers and fast cars and the 3.91 mile circuit certainly catered to the 2.5-liter Formula One cars.
Again, these teams and drivers would be of little concern for Daponte as he knew full well he didn't have the car with the power to keep up. And at 80 laps and 312 miles, lasting would remain his main concern just as it had been in the last couple of races. But of course, the steady and consistent approach had paid off.
As it had since its debut at the French Grand Prix back in July, the Silver Arrows W196 from Mercedes-Benz would prove to have an advantage in outright pace. Fangio would set the fastest lap in practice and would garner the pole with a time of 1:59.0. Doing exactly what he had been loaned to Ferrari to do, Alberto Ascari would be second-fastest in practice with a time just two-tenths of a second off of Fangio's best. This would place Ascari in the middle of the front row. The final position on the front row would go to a future teammate for Fangio, Stirling Moss driving a Maserati 250F. Moss' best effort would be just a tenth slower than Ascari.
No different than any other race of the season, Daponte would be found at the other end of the starting grid. His best time around the 3.91 mile circuit would be a respectable 2:09.5. Had it been 1953, Jorge would have started the race from the sixth row around 18th place overall. Unfortunately, it was now 1954. Thankfully for Daponte, he wouldn't start dead-last for the second race in a row. But for the second race in a row, he would be close to it. His best effort would cause him to start on the 7th row of the grid in the 19th starting position, next-to-last.
The weather would be beautiful as the race prepared to get underway. At the drop of the flag it would be Karl Kling that would get the best jump from the second row of the grid. He would lead into the lead ahead of Fangio, Ascari and Gonzalez, who would also make a great start.
The pace at the front of the field would be fierce and would leave very little room for error. Kling would find this out in very short order. After leading the first 3 laps of the race, Kling would push a little too hard and would make a mistake. He would end up spinning the car but would remain in the race. However, he would lose a lot of positions and would end up nearly dropping out of the top five. Ascari had overtaken Fangio and would lead the race after Kling's mistake. Moss would duel with Gonzalez and would continually struggle to get by the fast Argentinean driver.
All of this was of little consequence to Daponte at the other end of the field. The only way the pace of the front-runners became of any importance was the simple fact the hard those at the front pushed the more likely those at the back of the field would reap the rewards because attrition would break their cars. While this was really the only strategy Daponte could employ, it really wasn't a bad one. And it would begin to pay dividends almost right away.
Jean Behra would exit the race after just 2 laps. Behra's Gordini teammate, Clemar Bucci, would also retire after completing just 13 of the scheduled 80 laps. Then, 3 laps later, two huge retirements would help Jorge move up the order. Jose Froilan Gonzalez would push his car hard being threatened by the presence of Moss. This would take too much of a toll on the gearbox and Gonzalez would be forced out after 16 laps. Robert Manzon would be another that would fall out after 16 laps. One by one, Jorge continued to pick up places precisely because he wasn't pushing his Maserati to break-neck speeds.
Once Gonzalez was out, Moss would slingshot up toward the front. By the halfway mark of the race he and Ascari would be battling it out for the lead of the race while Fangio and Villoresi would do their best to put in bids for the outright lead.
Moss and Ascari would have a close battle for a number of laps. Then, finally, after 48 laps, the engine in Ascari's car would expire handing the lead to Moss. While he inherited the lead, Moss' performance was certainly one brave effort and it was causing people to take notice. The fact he would lead the next 18 laps would also help.
Ultimately, the consistently fast pace Moss was putting together would cause his car irreparable harm. He would have to pit to add oil and would continue to fight until the engine totally expired just 9 laps away from the finish. While this was bitterly disappointing for Moss, it could have been another welcome bit of news for Jorge. But there was a problem.
Heading into the final few laps of the race, Daponte was too far back to have Moss' retirement promote him further up the running order. So while he was still out there running in the race, he would be too far behind to complete more distance than Moss' car now parked in the pits.
When Moss retired, the race was over. The lead had been handed to Fangio and he had a large advantage over those still running in the race. As a result, Fangio would take it easy throughout the remaining laps of the race nursing the car to the finish line. And after two hours, forty-seven minutes and forty-seven seconds, Fangio would cross the line to take his sixth victory of the season. The championship fight was certainly over. Mike Hawthorn would finish a very quiet 2nd. He would be a lap behind at the end. Gonzalez would end up finishing in 3rd after taking over Umberto Maglioli's car for the remainder of the race. However, Gonzalez would be two laps behind.
Unfortunately for Daponte, he would end the race not being classified in the results because he would be too far behind. At the time of the end of the race he was still running in the 11th position, but he would end up ten laps behind.
In spite of the fact he would not be classified at the end, the strategy had worked for the man. Unfortunately, he just could not match the pace the Formula One cars were achieving around the circuit. Nonetheless, Jorge would at least have the benefit of not only continuing on his successive finishes in races, but he would also have the joy of at least finishing his last race of the season.
As it were, the non classification in the Italian Grand Prix would be the last result Daponte would earn in the Formula One World Championship as he would not take part in another round for the remainder of his career. Amazingly, after having made the leap across the Atlantic to Europe for the first time, and having scored two top five finishes in some rather arduous non-championship races, Daponte would not be seen the following season.
The real bitter and disappointing aspect for Daponte's season would come after its conclusion when the Maserati factory would take the chassis back and would place a 2.5-liter Formula One engine in the chassis making it an interim 250. Had Daponte had that during the season he may have even managed to score better results than the 5th at Rouen and the 4th at Pescara.
Daponte would disappear from motor racing and would eventually only end up living a few more years. He would eventually die at the very young age of just 39. He would pass away on March 1st in 1963.
In spite of the fact Daponte would only take part in two World Championship races and would come away with no points in either, the story of the Argentinean's career is actually much more successful than it seems. Unfortunately, he would disappear after a season where he managed to earn two top five results. But one thing about his departure is certain, he would have those couple of top five results as some very fond memories and badges of honor.
The mystique of the World Championship ignites dreams and fantasies throughout the generations. And while there would be those few that would go on to great fame, set records and be recalled amongst the greatest, there would be those many other interesting individuals that would merely be happy with making an appearance. And Jorge Daponte would be one of those drivers that would come onto the scene and disappear about as quickly. But he would nonetheless have the honor of being part of Formula One history.