TeamsLuigi Piotti: 1956 Formula One Season By Jeremy McMullen
Even by the mid-1950s manufacturers still needed large amounts of funding to keep its Formula One interests alive and well, Maserati would be no exception. Therefore, there would still be a place for the well-financed gentleman racers within the sport, and as far as Maserati and Stirling Moss would be concerned Luigi Piotti's 'support' would be particularly helpful.
Luigi Piotti was born on October 27th, 1913 in Milan, Italy. It would be from Milan that Benito Mussolini would march on Rome with his Blackshirts. This would be just the beginning of a period of occupation that would ultimately result in Nazi Germany holding the northern region of Italy throughout World War II. This occupation wouldn't come to an end until the Po Valley Campaign came and demolished the German stronghold. However, before this campaign would take effect resistance forces would come and take control of the city and would end up executing Mussolini in the very city in which he had started his infamous march.
Milan's importance before and after the Second World War was certainly understandable given that just amongst the automotive industry Milan would serve as home to Alfa Romeo and Pirelli. Milan was and is a vibrant city and it would be amongst this backdrop that Piotti's family would make its fortune.
Being a man of means, Piotti had the ability to fund his growing motor racing interests and the influence to provide himself with some of the best equipment available. Of course the Second World War would put a hold on the plans of more than one individual, but Piotti wouldn't really show an interest in motor racing until a few years after the end of hostilities.
By 1950, Piotti was well into his mid-30s. In spite of the late start Piotti would quickly jump into sportscar racing and would use his well-funded name to procure an Alfa Romeo 6C 2500 for his use.
One of Piotti's first races would be the 1950 Mille Miglia. In that race Giannino Marzotto and Marco Crosara would go on to take the victory by more than seven and a half minutes over Dorino Serafini and Ettore Salani. Juan Manuel Fangio would be 3rd. In that same race, Piotti would finish well down in 44th place some two hours and 42 minutes behind the race winner.
Throughout 1950 to 1955 Piotti would take part in a number of sportscar races and would earn some very modest results. The highlights for Luigi would be a 6th place result in the Coppa d'Oro di Sicilia in 1952, a 3rd place finish in the 12 Hours of Pescara in 1952 and a victory in the 1954 Hyeres 12 Hours along with co-driver Maurice Trintignant. In the Hyeres 12 Hours, Piotti and Trintignant would be at the wheel of a Ferrari 250 Monza and would end up beating the Ferrari 500 Mondial of Francois Picard and Charles Pozzi.
In 1955 Piotti would also turn his attentions toward Formula One. Scuderia Volpini had adapted a Maserati 4CLT/48 to the new Formula One regulations and would enter what would become known as the Arzani-Volpini in the non-championship Pau Grand Prix. Mario Alborghetti would be behind the wheel of the car in the 110 lap race around the tight and twisty Pau city streets. Alborghetti would make an error in judgment heading into the tight right-hand hairpin turn one. He would end up crashing head-long into the hay bales to the outside of the circuit but the seemingly docile accident would be worse than it looked as Alborghetti would end up losing his life.
In spite of the loss, Scuderia Volpini would be intent on entering its first-ever World Championship event. Therefore, the small team would turn to Piotti for his skills and finances to help the team enter the 1955 Italian Grand Prix.
The team would still have its evolved Arzani-Volpini and would attempt to get it into the field for the race. However, the evolved Maserati 4CLT would just not be fast enough and Piotti would not start the race.
So while Piotti had attended his first Formula One World Championship event, he had not been able to take part in it. He knew that another car like the Arzani would not give him a chance either. Therefore, Piotti would put his finances to good use and would go call on Maserati.
While Maserati were turning out a number of 250Fs not all were going to the factory racing team. In fact, in an effort to overcome its financial woes experienced throughout the period of time when the Maserati brothers actually owned and operated the company, efforts would be taken to have a factory racing team but, also, to provide the same grand prix car to customers to help offset costs. There would be more than a couple that would line up for their own example of the 250F. And while the 250F was certainly a car available for customers, later evolutions were just as competitive as the factory team cars, but they weren't always the easiest to get.
A number of privateers would manage to secure older generations of the 250F. Not Piotti. Heading into the 1956 season the Maserati factory would receive the order from Piotti for a new 250F. However, the new car would not be completed in time for the start of the grand prix season. Therefore, the factory would loan Piotti one of its 250Fs it had actually built all the way back in 1954. And with chassis 2511, Piotti would head to his first grand prix.
Having missed out on the Italian Grand Prix mere months earlier, Piotti would use his considerable wealth and would make the trip across the south Atlantic to Argentine for the first round of the 1956 Formula One World Championship. The Argentine Grand Prix would take place on the 22nd of January and would be a 3 hour endurance race around the 2.42 mile Buenos Aires circuit.
Piotti would make the trip to Argentina to take part in his first World Championship race. This would be his focus. However, all around the circuit there would be nothing but uncertainty. About the same time Piotti failed to make the grid for the Italian Grand Prix, President Peron would be deposed. A time of great confusion and uncertainty would descend upon the country. Although the effects had yet to fully subside, the first round of the World Championship would go on as planned.
It would be somewhat strange to watch Juan Manuel Fangio round the circuit in the Lancia-Ferrari posting the fastest lap time and taking the pole. The Perons had been a big investor in the World Champion's early career, and had actually been one of the ones that helped to send him to Europe to become the master everyone came to revere. Still, Fangio's job was racing and he would get on with it very well taking the pole by more than two seconds over Eugenio Castellotti in another Lancia-Ferrari. Luigi Musso would make it three Ferraris on the front row taking 3rd place while Jean Behra would be the one to assert Maserati onto the final spot of the front row.
Armed with a somewhat aged Maserati, Piotti was still a fair bit faster than he would have been had he been behind the wheel of something akin to the Arzani. Still, compared to Fangio, Piotti would be slow posting a fastest lap time that was more than 15 seconds slower than the Argentine. This meant Piotti would start his first Formula One grand prix from the fourth, and final, row of the grid in the 12th position.
The year before the weather had been incredibly hot and would lead to a number of driver changes over the course of the race. While the temperature would be warm, the 1956 edition would be nowhere near as hot. The temperatures would be kept lower as a result of the overcast skies that kept the sun from becoming overbearing.
A mere 13 cars would roll out onto the grid leading up to the start of the 3 hour race. The start would see Fangio make a terrible getaway from the grid. Jose Froilan Gonzalez, on the other hand, would sprint to the head of the field after starting in 5th place. Carlos Menditeguy would be another that would make a great start leaping many places up from his 6th place starting position. Piotti would not emulate the start of Gonzalez or Menditeguy. In fact, Luigi would lose out at the start of the race and would be at the tail-end of the field throughout the first lap.
At the end of the first lap it would be Gonzalez clearly in the lead with Musso barely holding onto 2nd place. Menditeguy would be 3rd. Piotti would not be able to overcome his poor start and would complete the first lap in 13th, last, place.
Gonzalez would lose out on the lead to Menditeguy who would look absolutely spectacular through the first third of the race. Fangio's race would be anything but spectacular as he would fall out of the running after 22 laps as a result of a failing fuel pump. A couple of laps later Gonzalez's race would come to an end as a result of engine troubles. Fangio would take over Musso's Lancia-Ferrari on what would be the 31st lap of the race. At the same time, Piotti would be involved in a battle for 10th place Alberto Uria. Piotti would have the position but Uria would not be far behind.
Moss would become the man on the charge and he would take over the lead of the race just prior to the halfway mark. Fangio would find himself in 2nd place after Menditeguy retired with half shaft failure.
While Moss was putting his foot down on it at the front of the field, Piotti would be at the tail-end but would be inside the top 10 as a result of the attrition. He had been running a careful and consistent race just like a good endurance sportscar racer. Do his best to avoid making any mistakes, Piotti would not be the fastest man on circuit. Unfortunately, even the smallest lapses in concentration have the potential of serious problems and Piotti would find this out just past halfway.
Piotti had been running well, well back, but still very steady and carefree. However, one little slip in focus would cause Piotti to slide off the circuit and crash the Maserati. He would be able to get the car back on track but it would soon be realized his fuel tanks had developed a crack and a leak. After more than half a race of careful and problem-free running, Piotti was out of his first World Championship event.
Thirty laps from the finish and Moss would also be out of the running. A souring engine would slow the Brit's pace and would allow Fangio to take over the lead of the race. Moss would do everything he could to make the car last to the end of the race but it would be all over by the 81st lap.
Fangio would be all alone in Musso's Ferrari. Behra would be in 2nd place but he would be 25 seconds behind heading into the final couple of laps. After nearly 3 hours of racing only 6 cars remained out on the circuit and only five within 10 laps of Fangio.
Crossing the line in three hours and 3 seconds, Fangio would take the first win of the season much to the delight of his country men and women gathered all around the circuit. With hand raised high in the air in celebration, Fangio's victory would go from non-existent to dominant as Behra would finish 25 seconds behind in 2nd place. Mike Hawthorn would complete the podium in 3rd place but would be 2 laps behind at the finish.
The unfortunate accident would ruin Piotti's first World Championship. It seemed clear that if he managed to keep his concentration throughout the whole of an event he had the potential of coming away with a strong result. He would prove this in the non-championship event to come just a couple of weeks later.
In the Buenos Aires City Grand Prix, interestingly held in Mendoza, Piotti would start his loaner Maserati in the 13th, and final, position on the grid. As with the Argentine Grand Prix, the front row would be exactly the same with Fangio, Castellotti and Musso in the top three. There would be only three cars on the front row for this race.
Similar to the Argentine Grand Prix the non-championship event would include a fair amount of drama amongst those at the front of the field. Yes, Alberto Uria would not start the race but both Luigi Musso and Eugenio Castellotti would not make it 15 of the 60 laps before trouble struck. This pretty much left Moss chasing Fangio over the course of the remainder of the race while Piotti held down 10th place.
While suffering being put a lap down nearly every 8 laps, Piotti would soldier on and would eventually finish the race. While Fangio would win the race going away, Piotti would hang on to finish in 10th spot, albeit a little more than 8 laps down to Fangio.
Heading back to Europe, Piotti had reason to look forward. Not only had he finished the non-championship event and had a decent showing in the World Championship race, but, his new Maserati was to be delivered come April. Sure enough, Maserati would deliver chassis 2519 to Piotti and he would look forward to his first race in his new car. It would come on the 15th of April in the ancient city of Syracuse on the island of Sicily.
Syracuse had played host to a number of important historical moments including the Peloponnesian War and the siege of the Aghlabids. Due to the influence of Paul of Tarsus, Syracuse would become an important city in the spreading of Christianity to Europe and of course would play a role of strategic importance during the Second World War. Believed to have been the site of a United States Army Air Force base during the Second World War, the generally flat countryside to the west of the city's center would be the location of the 3.48 combined street and road circuit used for the Gran Premio di Siracusa.
Armed with the latest evolution of the 250F, Piotti would be a good deal faster in practice leading up to the 80 lap race. While Juan Manuel Fangio would take the pole with a lap time of 1:58.0, and would be joined on the front row by Castellotti in 2nd and Behra in 3rd, Piotti would be 9 seconds off the pace but would garner the 9th place starting position, which meant the first position on the fourth row. This would be a sizable leap up in starting position considering there would be 15 cars that would line up to start the race.
A good deal of action would take place through the first couple of laps of the race as Jean Behra and Horace Gould, two Maserati drivers, would drop out of the running. At 20 laps there would be more attrition. Giorgio Scarlatti, Berardo Taraschi and Piero Scotti would all fall by the wayside. Meanwhile, Luigi Piotti would be running inside the top ten and would be looking as strong as he ever had.
It would be hard to keep touch with Fangio when he would be averaging around 97mph each and every time around the Syracuse circuit. Therefore, Piotti would focus on staying out of trouble and bringing the car home to a good result, and it would be paying off.
By the halfway mark Castellotti would be out along with Desmond Titterington. A top 8 result was a given as long as Piotti could make it all the way to the finish. With the exception of the first three in the running order the race would be all about just making it to the finish.
The Lancia-Ferraris would be the class of the field as three of them would be running in echelon formation for nearly the entire race. It was as dominant a team performance as one could find. While Piotti was a single car effort fighting just to make it to the end Ferrari had its three cars laps ahead of the rest of the field locked in formation like a Le Mans finish.
Fangio would be given the honor of taking the victory for Ferrari as he would cross the line just two-tenths of a second ahead of Musso. Peter Collins would complete the podium sweep for Ferrari finishing just three-tenths of a second further behind Musso. The team's winning margin would be an incredible three laps!
Unconcerned about how far back he was, Piotti would make it to the end of the Syracuse Grand Prix and would finish in 7th place as a result of his steady, mistake-free driving over two hours and 45 minutes. Though he would finish the race more than 6 laps behind, it wouldn't be all that much worse than the efforts of Luigi Villoresi, Gerino Gerini and Robert Manzon.
Having had two decent finishes in a row and having a latest generation 250F at his disposal, Piotti would be taking his foray into Formula One very seriously. In fact, the Milanese driver would be looking ahead and would put in an entry for the 8th BRDC International Trophy race to be held on the 5th of May. This would certainly be a strategic maneuver given the British Grand Prix would switch back to Silverstone for the 1956 edition of the race. The International Trophy race, then, would provide a good tune-up before the World Championship kicked up in Europe and for the British Grand Prix coming up in a couple of months.
However, when the time came to head off across the Channel for the non-championship event Piotti would not make the trip. Instead, he would stay put and would look after his business and toward the rest of the season.
While Piotti had the finances to go racing, he would need to tend to it to be able to sustain his racing aspirations. Therefore, Piotti would have to face the reality of not being able to take part in every race he wanted. He would also need to think about using his new car to earn as much prize money as possible to help the financial cause as well. Therefore, Piotti would look to another much more seasoned driver for some of the upcoming events.
It would be the end of June and the fifth round of the World Championship would be right around the corner. Having the latest evolution of the Maserati 250F it seemed a trip to Reims for the French Grand Prix would be a perfect option for Piotti. However, Piotti would not make the trip as a driver. Instead, the Maserati would be dispatched to Reims, France for the veteran Luigi Villoresi.
The French Grand Prix would be set for the 1st of July and it would be the first time in two years the race would be run. The race had been on the calendar the year before but the terrible tragedy at Le Mans would greatly change things as the French Grand Prix would be one of many races that would be cancelled as a result.
In 1956, the race would be back and it would be back at the same 5.15 mile circuit that had become synonymous with speed and dramatic racing. An important site in French monarchical history, Reims would play an equally importantly role in motor racing history being a site for Formula One and sportscar races. Located in the Champagne-Ardenne region of France the countryside outside of the city would be the site of a public road course that boasted of fast sweeping curves and a couple of impressive straights that enabled some truly awesome top speeds.
In spite of the fact it was the French Grand Prix the number of Italian machines being unloaded would be impressive. The factory Maserati team would bring no less than five cars to the race. Scuderia Ferrari would bring four of their Lancia-Ferraris. And, of course then there would be the number of privateer entries like Luigi Piotti.
Villoresi would be the pilot for Piotti's Maserati and would be a good choice for the fast Reims circuit. However, Villoresi would not be near the pace of Fangio in the D50. Villoresi would push hard in practice and would end up posting a best lap time of 2:33.3. This would give the Italian a 10th place starting spot, which would put him on the fourth row of the grid. Fangio, on the other hand, would be flying around the circuit and would end up posting a flyer lap of 2:23.3 around the circuit that would give him the pole. Eugenio Castellotti would be a little more than a second slower than Fangio and would end up grabbing the 2nd spot on the front row. Peter Collins would show the absolute strength of the Ferraris by garnering the 3rd, and final, front row spot posting a time a little more than two seconds slower than Fangio.
As with Argentina cloudy skies ruled the area around the Reims circuit, but the circuit would be dry. This had all the makings of a very fast race. All of thousands upon thousands of people gathered around the circuit would be looking on in great expectation of another outstanding race and it certainly seemed as though it was entirely possible.
As the flag dropped the fans would all be treated to the sheer advantages of the Lancia-Ferraris as Fangio, Castellotti and Collins powered their way clear of the rest of the field heading into the first right-hand sweeper. Not all would be well behind the leading trio of Ferraris however. Unfortunately, it would involve Villoresi and the Piotti Maserati. The car would not get away from the grid at the start of the race and would take more than a couple of moments to get underway. Not surprisingly, when the Maserati did get underway Villoresi would find himself at the back with a lot of work to do.
Villoresi would be only a couple of miles down the road when Collins led the trio of Ferraris around to complete the first lap. Castellotti would be in 2nd place followed by Fangio and Harry Schell. Villoresi would come around to complete the first lap and would seem none the worse for wear. This would not be true of Schell whose race would come to an end after just 5 laps with engine trouble.
Fangio would be in the lead with Castellotti and Collins in tow. Hawthorn would be in 4th place but would have de Portago's D50 all over him. By the 10th lap of the race Villoresi would recover from the early problems and would be up to 15th place while Taruffi and Simon would struggle to carry on.
By the 20th lap the order at the front would be relatively unchanged except that Schell had taken over for Hawthorn and was quickly coming up to challenge the four Ferraris at the front. Villoresi was seemingly suffering absolutely no problems after the failed start and would be up to 11th. But that would be as good as it got for Villoresi as he would come into the pits to retire after 23 laps as a result of brake failure.
The race had been a Ferrari walk throughout the first half of the 60 lap race. However, just past the halfway mark things would begin to change as Harry Schell would be absolutely flying in the Vanwall and would make a move to take over 2nd place from Castellotti and Collins. For four wonderful laps the three Ferraris and lone Vanwall did battle and the French fans would be begging for more and more every lap. Unfortunately, it was not to last as Schell would be forced to stop in the pits for more than a couple of minutes this would drop him well down in the order and he would eventually fall out of the race altogether after 56 laps.
The loss of Schell seemed to signal the end of the race and yet another Fangio victory. But with 20 laps remaining in the race one more twist of drama would strike as Fangio suddenly appeared in the pits. After a lengthy stop the Argentinean would rejoin the race but in 4th place behind Behra's Maserati.
Castellotti and Collins would battle for the lead of the race and the victory as Fangio would be pressing hard to get by Behra to keep his championship hopes on an upward trend. Whatever the problem had been with Fangio's car he would not have a bearing in the closing stages of the race as Fangio would click off fast lap after fast lap in an attempt to catch and pass Behra for the final spot on the podium.
Although there were mere tenths of a second between them, Peter Collins would have the lead over Castellotti and the two would hold station throughout the remainder of the race. It was clear the only battle left on track would be for 3rd.
Peter Collins would average 122 mph en route to his second World Championship victory in a row. Following along in 2nd place, just three-tenths back, would be Castellotti. More than a minute and a half would be the gap back to the fight for 3rd place. All eyes would be straining, peering down to the Thillois hairpin to see who arrived first. To the joy of the French crowd Behra would reach the hairpin with an advantage of more than 5 seconds and would cruise home to another 3rd place finish.
Most all of the drama surrounding the French Grand Prix would take place on or before the halfway mark. Unfortunately for Piotti his dramas would begin at the very start and would come to an end before the halfway point. Villoresi looked good behind the wheel. The unreliability just had to be dealt with.
Starting with the French Grand Prix, the World Championship would pick up the pace. On the 14th of July, just a mere two weeks after the race in Reims, the teams and drivers would be at Silverstone in England for the British Grand Prix.
The field for the British Grand Prix was always one of the largest, but the race also usually had some of the highest rates of attrition, especially at Silverstone. Therefore, it would be little surprise Piotti would find his single car entry greatly outnumbered.
Villoresi would again be behind the wheel of the Maserati and he would have to face no less than five Ferrari D50s and no less than 11 Maserati 250Fs. And then there would be the growing list of British entries like Vandervell Products, Connaught Engineering and Owen Racing Organization. In total, some 28 cars would end up qualifying for the race. Combine this with the 101 lap race distance and Villoresi and Piotti would need the hand of providence to carry them through to the finish, let alone a finish in the top ten.
Unlike Reims, the Silverstone circuit brought the field closer together in performance. Still very fast, Silverstone blended fast corners into the mix, and therefore, required a car with good stable handling. And while the D50 certainly had stable handling, the 250F was meant to the slid through corners at high speeds, that is where it really came to life. And so, heading into the sixth round of the World Championship it seemed fairly evident a good race was in the offering.
The truth of this would never be more evident than in practice when Stirling Moss would clock the fastest time around the 2.9 mile circuit. Moss would earn the pole by mere hundredths of a second over Fangio but it was clear balance had returned. Mike Hawthorn would show well in the BRM collecting the 3rd starting spot on the front row while Peter Collins would make it two Ferraris on the front row starting in the 4th position. Altogether, just two seconds separated the front row.
Nine seconds would be the difference back to Villoresi in Piotti's Maserati. Posting a fastest time of 1:50.0, Villoresi would find himself way down on the sixth row of the grid in the 19th starting spot. A long day ahead awaited the great driver.
Overcast but dry, a great crowd of spectators would make the trip to Silverstone would witness the return of the World Championship to the circuit. And at the start of the race it would be Hawthorn that would get the best jump amongst those on the front row. But Hawthorn would not be the one that would make one of the best starts. That honor would go to his teammate Tony Brooks who would come from the third row of the grid to follow Hawthorn into the first turn at Copse. Jose Froilan Gonzalez would break right at the start of the race and would cause the field behind him to split apart in all directions. Moss would make a poor start and would be outside the top five heading through the first turn.
Villoresi would have to deal with the broken down Gonzalez through the first hundred yards but would make it through to get his British Grand Prix underway well in the back of the field.
Coming around to complete the first lap it would be Hawthorn and Brooks clearly in the lead with Fangio and Schell running 3rd and 4th. Small packs of cars would develop and break apart from each other. Villoresi would be in a small pack further back. Still, he would make a good start to the race coming across the line in 17th place and looking to move up.
Following along behind Horace Gould, Villoresi would continue to move up the order in the very early going of the race as a result of the retirement of Ron Flockhart and the trouble experienced by Harry Schell. Up at the front not all would be well with Fangio who would move in to challenge Brooks for 2nd place and would end up pressing the issue a little too hard. Fangio would spin and lose places while Brooks would also be upset and would drop down to 4th place. This allowed Moss to come back up and take over 2nd place while Roy Salvadori would be surprising just about everyone running in 3rd.
By the first quarter mark of the race Moss would be in the lead following problems with Hawthorn's BRM. Salvadori would also move up to 2nd place followed by Fangio who had recovered from falling all the way down to 6th place after the ill-conceived pass on Brooks. Villoresi would be performing brilliantly in the Piotti Maserati. Smooth and fluid, Villoresi would be quick and mistake-free and would find himself up to 11th place. Of course his upward movement would be helped more than little by attrition that had already claimed 9 cars. The most dramatic of these retirements would be Tony Brooks when his BRM overturned at Abbey Curve and caught fire. Brooks would be okay but would suffer some injuries.
Some 68 laps into the race and Moss would be under pressure from Fangio after having dominated the vast majority of the race. Fangio had moved into 2nd place when Salvadori's Ferrari ran intro troubles with a broken tank strap and ultimate failure. Peter Collins was coming on as the race developed but would suddenly fall as a result of falling oil pressure. This handed 3rd place to Alfonso de Portago in another of the D50s. Villoresi would still be in the running having been embroiled in a battle with Castellotti for more than 15 laps toward the middle of the race. By the 68th lap, however, Castellotti would be making his way back up the field slowly and Villoresi would again be following Gould. Still, Villoresi would be in 8th position and looking none the worse for wear.
Engine troubles would hinder Moss' effort and would hand the lead to Fangio after more than 50 laps leading the way. Moss would do the best he could to hold on to the finish as 2nd place would certainly be a good result. But it was not meant to be as just 7 laps from the end the gearbox in Moss' car would give up leaving Moss stranded. Peter Collins, having taken over de Portago's car with around 15 laps remaining would be then moved up to 2nd place while Behra would also benefit and would be up to 3rd. Unable to challenge Gould, Villoresi would continue to hold station but would be helped up to 7th place following Moss' retirement.
Heading around on the final lap of the race, Fangio would be all alone at the front having a full lap in hand over Collins in 2nd place. Such was the pace of Moss while he had been at the front of the field. Completing the 101 laps in just under three hours, Fangio would take an easy victory and would get his championship hopes back on track after two-straight victories by Collins. Speaking of Collins, he would benefit from de Portago's D50 and would end the race in 2nd place. Jean Behra would continue his consistent streak and would again end up on the podium in 3rd.
Piotti would have reason to smile at the end of the race as well. Choosing to turn to the experience of Villoresi, Piotti would be rewarded with a 7th place result despite being nearly 6 laps behind.
It would be the best performance by a team on the day. Although Piotti's car didn't end up with a victory or even end up in the points, Villoresi's steady performance would help the team go from starting out 19th on the grid to finishing 7th. It would be a great day for Piotti and would offer hope he could end a race in the points at some point in time.
Nearly coming away with a couple of championship points in the British Grand Prix offered Piotti a real boost of confidence going forward. It would also make Piotti a little jealous as it had been Villoresi that had brought the car home. However, Piotti was not seemingly under any false allusions and that is why he would make the decision to turn to the veteran. He would wisely make the decision to keep the veteran around heading into the next round of the World Championship.
It was now the end of July and the German Grand Prix loomed off in the distance on the 5th of August. While certainly just the seventh round of the World Championship, the circuit at which the race would take place would be anything but just another circuit. Crouching in the heavily-wooded Eifel Mountains lay the monster known as the Nordschleife. Many had tried to brave her, very few succeeded in slaying the fierce 14 mile long dragon.
Following days of soaking rains, race day would dawn with the sun shining and brilliant blue skies. With the famous Nurburg Castle looming over the village bearing its name thousands upon thousands would flock to the immense circuit to witness the best the world had to offer.
The wet conditions in practice did little to dramatically alter the scenery on the grid however as the cars began to be rolled out to their places at the start. Scuderia Ferrari would absolutely dominate in practice having come to the circuit with no less than five of the Lancia-Ferraris. Among the five, Fangio would be the fastest recording a best lap time of 9:51.2 and taking the pole from Peter Collins by a mere three-tenths of a second. Eugenio Castellotti would make it three Ferraris on the front row when he recorded a time a little more than 3 seconds slower than Fangio. Stirling Moss would at least give Maserati some hope taking the 4th, and final, front row starting spot. But in the rain, the gap between Fangio and Moss would not be insignificant as more than 12 seconds would be the difference.
Given the conditions and the circuit Piotti would decide to turn his Maserati over to Villoresi despite having both names listed on the entry form. Troubles, however, would severely hinder Villoresi and he would end up not setting a time in practice and, therefore, would be forced to start the 22 lap race from the sixth, and final, row of the grid in the 20th position overall.
All cars assembled on the grid, the excitement all around the circuit would build to a fever pitch until the flag dropped and the field roared away to start the 308 mile race. The cars would quickly stretch out as they raced toward the left-hand first turn. Being at the back, Villoresi would be just past the start/finish line by the time the lead cars headed into the first turn. At the first turn it would be Collins ahead of Fangio and Moss. Headed out of the complex, Fangio would already be making a bid for the lead while Villoresi picked off a number of cars around him to move up in the order.
After 10 minutes and 14 miles, the leaders would reappear and would flash across the line with Fangio leading the way ahead of Collins and Moss. A minute or so later Villoresi would appear. Having gotten around a number of cars at the start and over the course of the first lap, Luigi would complete the first lap in 13th position. Unfortunately, not all was well with Villoresi's Maserati and, after just one lap, the pit crew would go to work changing the plugs in the car. Still, as a result of the problems suffered by others over the course of the first lap Villoresi would return to the race still in 13th and in pursuit of Louis Rosier in 12th.
Fangio would be in the lead of the race and only increasing his lead with every passing mile. Throughout the first couple of laps Fangio would have a mere couple of car lengths advantage over Collins. The advantages of the Lancia-Ferrari meant Moss would lose ground during the early stages of the race and would be forced to pick up his pace as the race wore on. Still, Fangio and Collins would increase their gap over the Maserati of Moss.
One hundred miles into the race and Fangio still held onto the lead but had certainly picked up the pace. Responding to the pressure thrown down by Fangio, Collins would push harder until lap times were reaching the low 9:42 range. Moss would pick up his pace in an effort to keep touch and would end up pushing the times down even lower. Toward the back, Villoresi would look strong as he managed to reel in Rosier and the two of them would become involved in quite a little duel. In a battle of their own that would see to the two veterans trading 10th back and forth for more than a couple of laps, Villoresi would get the upper hand and would take over the position from Rosier.
After following along behind Fangio for the first 8 laps, Collins would find himself out of the race due to a fuel line issue. This would move Moss up into 2nd place, but well back of Fangio who just kept adding to his lead.
Halfway through and Fangio enjoyed an even bigger lead over Moss and Jean Behra. Peter Collins would be back in the race having taken over de Portago's Ferrari. A little further back, Villoresi continued to look strong after the early problems. He would be in 9th place behind Godia-Sales and would look content allowing providence to bring the race his way. Unfortunately, providence would deem fit to take the race away from Villoresi just a couple of laps later as the engine all of sudden took a turn for the worse and would end up giving up altogether after 13 laps. With the Nurburg Castle looking down, there would be no Cinderella story for Piotti and Villoresi this day.
Determined to put away all challengers, Fangio's pace would quicken despite having a more than comfortable lead. On the 14th lap of the race he would record what would be the fastest lap of the race. His time of 9:41.6 absolutely shattered the previous lap record and further opened the gap back to Moss still holding on to 2nd place. Behra would also remain on the lead lap in 3rd place but the gap back to the Frenchman would make it hard to believe so.
Though still with about 8 laps remaining in the race, Fangio would finally back it off just slightly and would maintain his gap to Moss for the remainder of the race. Heading into the final laps attrition was more the competitor than Moss or Behra. And so, Fangio would look after his car and would focus on not making any mistakes over the last bit of the race.
It would be a dominant performance by Fangio having led all 22 laps. Flying through the Hohenrain and flashing down the straight to take the victory, Fangio had been in control all throughout and never really once looked at all bothered. He had set and controlled the race over the entire race distance and would be rewarded with a well-earned victory. Some 46 seconds after Fangio streaked across the line to take the victory Moss would appear and take a well-deserved 2nd place. Ever the picture of consistency, Jean Behra would show up nearly 7 minutes and 40 seconds later to earn 3rd.
It would be terribly disappointing for Piotti and Villoresi after having looked so good throughout the first half of the race. The team had faced issues right at the start and seemed to have gotten over them in good shape. Nonetheless, it was what it was and Piotti had to deal with that, especially since there was just one World Championship race left on the calendar.
Besides the German Grand Prix, the month of August would be rather sparse for Formula One races, at least on the European mainland. This allowed the wealthy Milanese the opportunity to focus on the all-important final race of 1956, the Italian Grand Prix. And while Piotti himself, or just his car, may have taken part in the Argentine, French, British and German grand prix, the Italian Grand Prix would certainly be the one that was of utmost importance. At home in front of fanatical racing fans, Piotti would have the opportunity to race for glory and honor, and he certainly wasn't about to this one out.
Set to take place on the 2nd of September, Piotti would not be pressured to leave too early to get to the Autodromo Nazionale Monza as the circuit was just a mere 13 miles up the road in the Royal Villa Monza park.
Though by no means the only circuit in all of Italy the circuit at Monza would certainly become the center of motor racing within the country, and some would even suggest the world. Originally built in the 1920s, Monza used to measure 6.2 miles and featured a combined circuit. This layout would be abandoned in the 1930s as a result of safety concerns. After using the 3.91 mile road circuit arrangement throughout the years following, the 1955 Formula One season would see a change. The road circuit would remain but the oval section of the original design would be back, but with a new steeply-banked oval. While never slow before as a mere road course layout, the combined circuit arrangement would help to push the average speeds up even higher until averages of more than 135 mph would be clocked by the cars.
Given its place of importance in Italian motor racing and proud Italian racing driver and team would not miss the Italian Grand Prix on the 2nd of September and Luigi Piotti would be no exception. Luigi Villoresi would have a drive with the Maserati factory team for the race, and so, Piotti would be left with the honor of taking part in the race.
The number of Italian pieces of machinery would be thoroughly impressive given that there would be 13 Maserati 250Fs and six Lancia-Ferrari D50s on the entry list. The presence of three Vanwalls, three Equipe Gordinis and four Connaught B-Types meant a starting field bigger than every other race with the exception of the British Grand Prix and Indianapolis 500.
Being that the Monza circuit was all about speed it seemed certain the Lancia-Ferraris would dominate practice and qualifying and this certainly would be true as Fangio would take the pole with a lap time of 2:42.6. Castellotti would start in 2nd place. Luigi Musso would earn the 3rd place starting position making sure that Ferrari swept the entire front row of the grid.
Not having driven the car for a while it would have been normal if Piotti would have been a little rusty. However, as the practice times began to roll in it would become clear that he wasn't as rusty as many would have believed. Earning a best lap time of 2:58.4, Piotti would end up qualifying on the fifth row of the grid in the 14th position. While for Piotti this would be a good time given his time away from the car the fact of the matter remained he was 16 seconds slower than Fangio's best. It certainly seemed as though, if Piotti made it all the way to the end of the race, he would be a forgotten about participant. To Maserati and Stirling Moss, Piotti's performance would prove to be anything but non-memorable.
Heading into the race, amongst the many Italian racers and race teams, Piotti was certainly a name most Italians had heard of but likely couldn't recall when or where. However, by the end of the 1956 Italian Grand Prix, Luigi Piotti would carve a niche out for himself in Formula One lore as he would do anything possible for the Maserati brand.
Filled to the brim with excited Italian race fans, the start of the race would be delayed just slightly when the official clock failed to work. However, all would be righted and the flag would drop to start the 50 lap race.
Although Fangio would get away well from the line Castellotti and Musso would slingshot their way to the head of the field and would be burning up the track during the very early going of the race. Piotti would get held up at the start because of others on the grid ahead of him stalling somewhat on the grid. As a result, Piotti would drop a few positions right at the very start before even getting to the banking for the first time.
At the completion of the first lap it would be Castellotti and Musso pulling away from the field while Fangio crossed in 3rd followed by Schell and Collins. Piotti would recover over the course of the first lap and would end up completing the first lap in 18th following along behind Roy Salvadori.
Fangio would not be turning in the time he had during practice and would actually lose position to Schell. Castellotti and Musso would then run into trouble after just 4 laps as both would throw tire treads. Reminiscent of the 1951 World Championship, the Ferraris would be struggling with tire problems while the rest of the field carried on.
Moss would take over the lead of the race and would be followed by Schell. Fangio would be in 3rd place but would be very quiet as he looked after the car and his championship hopes. Piotti would remain in 18th trying to keep pace with Salvadori. Suddenly, on the 7th lap of the race there would be a great battle between Salvadori, Piotti and Emmanuel de Graffenried. The three would be battling each other hard and Piotti would be the beneficiary jumping from 18th to 15th in one lap. This jump would be helped a bit by Les Leston's retirement from the race.
While all of the rest of the Vanwall drivers struggled over the bumpy concrete banking, Schell seemed right at home and continued to challenge Moss for the lead throughout the first 20 laps of the race. However, by half distance Moss was beginning to open up an advantage and Schell would find himself coming under pressure from Musso who had recovered from having to have his tires replaced.
Fangio's championship hopes would take a serious hit after 17 laps when the steering would become bent on his D50. He would pit the car and would sit rather dejected while the team went to work trying to repair the damage. By this point in time, Castellotti's race had come to an end when his tires shredded and badly damaged his car. At this time a brief rain shower blanketed the circuit, but did little to slow the pace.
Halfway Moss' lead was ever-growing over Schell. Musso ran in 3rd place but was quickly catching up the Vanwall and was to take over the position by the 28th lap. Piotti, meanwhile, would still be ahead of de Graffenried and in 9th place showing tremendous pace for having been away for months.
Collins was making up for lost ground when he too threw a tire tread. He stood an outside shot at the title and was soon in 3rd place when Schell retired with transmission failure. However, he recognized who really had the chance at the championship and would come into the pits on the 36th lap and would surprisingly hand Fangio his car for the remainder of the race. His championship hopes revived, Fangio would set off and would promptly break the lap record twice. But he would not be the fastest by the end of the race.
Ten laps from the finish, it seemed the race was over, but anyone who truly believed that soon find the whole of the circuit in an uproar. Moss' pace throughout the race would be faster than many expected, even his own Maserati team. As a result, he would run out of fuel. This is where Piotti would take his place in Formula One history. Driving a fellow Maserati, Piotti would show incredibly sportsmanship of his own as he would pull up behind Moss and would push him all the way around to the pits so he could take on fuel. Moss' race would get new life as well, but a lot of damage had been done.
Moss had nearly a lap in hand over Musso before his fuel problems. By the time he got back up to speed, Musso would take over the lead. It seemed as though victory would again be snatched away from him. Piotti, meanwhile, would be rewarded for his kind gesture and would find himself in 7th place.
Musso seemed to be gifted a victory in his home grand prix. However, with just 3 laps remaining in the race Musso would again throw a tread and would retire from the race as a result. Suddenly, Moss would be back in the lead of the race in what had been perhaps 10 of the wildest laps in Formula One history.
Fueled and having posted the fastest lap of the race, Moss would fly toward his second victory of the season. Crossing the line to take the victory, Moss wouldn't have to wait too long to see where Fangio finished. Pushing throughout the last few laps of the race in Collins' Ferrari, Fangio would finish just about 6 seconds behind Moss in 2nd place. This would secure Fangio's third World Championship title in a row and would leave Moss in 2nd for the second time. Ron Flockhart would be an absolute delightful surprise finishing the race in 3rd place for Connaught.
One year ago, Piotti had failed to qualify for the Italian Grand Prix. One year later and he would be an integral part in the whole proceedings. On top of his gentlemanly nudging of Moss, Piotti would complete the race just 3 laps down and would finish in a very strong 7th. However, as a result of Musso's puncture, he would actually be rewarded with 6th, just one position out on the points.
Missing out on his first Italian Grand Prix would prove to be less memorable than his second attempt. Not only would Moss be forever grateful for his presence in the race, but the 7th place would certainly taste much sweeter than what prospects he faced the previous year. Often those that start in the middle or the back of a grand prix grid are seen as nothing more than a supporting cast to the main show up at the front of the field. However, on the 2nd of September, 1956, Luigi Piotti would demonstrate just how 'supportive' the supporting cast can be. As a result of his 6th place and helping hand, Piotti would go into the offseason confident and a bit of a hero to man and a factory.