TeamsLuigi Piotti: 1957 Formula One Season By Jeremy McMullen
The name Luigi Piotti had been rather anonymous throughout the 1956 season, but then came the Italian Grand Prix and Stirling Moss' 'push' to victory at the hands of the Milanese attendant. Immediately, Piotti went from an ardent Maserati support to an unofficial member of the team. One year later, Luigi would be fighting so as not to slip back into anonymity.
In a way, Piotti was a part of the Maserati factory effort as his deep pockets would see the factory take one of their 1955 factory cars and re-body it for the 1956 for Piotti. Piotti had focused mainly on sportscars up until the 1956 season but he would come into the World Championship with a very good car. He would actually enter the first round of the World Championship under the Officine Alfieri Maserati team banner. However, his spell as part of the factory team would come to an end 'formally' until the Italian Grand Prix at the end of the year.
Stirling Moss had been leading the way and looked utterly dominate. Unfortunately, his pace was such that he would burning fuel at a higher rate than the team expected. The result is that he ran out of fuel in the late stages of the race. He faced the reality of losing the race after more than two hours of dominance. But then came Piotti. Suddenly, the privateer would come up behind Moss and would push him all the way back to the pits so that he could refuel and continue in the race.
The move would draw criticism from officials but the Maserati factory would convince the stewards that Piotti was a part of the team. The reality is that his connection to the factory was much more one-sided than mutual.
Piotti would finish the Italian Grand Prix in 1956 in 6th place. It would be a remarkable performance for the Milanese gentleman and was apt payment for his sacrifice to help Moss return to the race. But, even despite his sacrifice for the factory, Maserati would not come back to Luigi and offer him a factory drive for the following season.
Despite the 6th place in Italian Grand Prix, it would be more than obvious that sportscars was where he had the best chances of success. This would be the reason why, even in spite of his sacrifice for the works team, he would not be offered a ride in the upcoming season. Nonetheless, Piotti's deep pockets had purchased his own 250F and there was little chance of him not taking part in any World Championship races throughout 1957.
Being particularly well-off, Piotti would, for the second year in a row, set off across the Atlantic to South American for the first couple of races on the 1957 season. The first of these would take place in Buenoa Aires and would be the Argentine Grand Prix, the first round of the 1957 Formula One World Championship.
As with previous seasons, the Argentine Grand Prix would come very early in the season. In 1957, the date would be moved up even more. January 13th would be the date of the race and it would be still right in the middle of the summer months in the southern hemisphere. This meant the temperatures would be warm; the ideal place and weather to start a new season.
Piotti would still have his own 250F, chassis 2519. He would have some of the latest updates but it would not be like the factory 250Fs that would be for the factory drivers like Fangio, Behra, Moss, Schell and Menditeguy. In fact, he would end up being the only privately-entered car on the entire entry list.
Piotti would be alone against five factory Maseratis. The fleet from Ferrari would be even more impressive as a total of six cars would be entered for some eight drivers. Ferrari may have lost Fangio to Maserati but obviously believed that in greater numbers there was strength.
Still with Maserati for the time being, Moss would prove the fastest in practice around the 2.42 mile Autodromo Municipal Ciudad de Buenos Aires. His best lap of 1:42.6 would end up being a little more than a second faster than Fangio in another Maserati. Maserati's streak would continue when Behra claimed the 3rd spot on the front row. Then, finally, Ferrari would claim the final spot on the front row when Eugenio Castellotti qualified nearly two seconds slower than Moss.
Piotti, on the other hand, would prove himself to not be amongst the factory Maserati drivers as he would be well off the pace in practice. His best time around the circuit would be 1:58.2. Being more than 15 seconds slower than Moss, Piotti would deservedly start from the fourth, and final, row of the grid and in 14th, and last, place.
Given that Piotti was the only privateer entry in the race, the event really was a battle between Maserati and Ferrari. And, since he too was driving a Maserati, Piotti added to the battle to see which Italian marque would reign supreme.
A total of 100 laps would be the race distance. The weather on the day of the race would be nice and sunny with seasonable temperatures. Located just to the southwest of downtown Buenos Aires, the circuit would draw thousands of people longing to see their hero Fangio go after yet another World Championship.
Cars lined up on the grid and spectators in their places in the stands, the Argentine Grand Prix would be mere moments away. Suddenly, the flag would drop and the race would get underway with Moss being left out of the mix. Moss would be caught napping at the start and would end up doing damage to his Maserati as he tried to get away.
Moss' poor start left the door open to others and Behra would end up taking advantage of the situation jumping into the lead. Castellotti and Fangio would be not far behind. Moss' damaged Maserati would be able to make it around to the pits without Piotti's help but it would effectively end his race right then and there.
Being the slowest qualifier, it would have been absolutely surprising if Piotti had launched off the grid and made his way toward the front of the field. Of course, this wasn't beyond the realm of possibility, but the likelihood of him being able to maintain such a start certainly seemed impossible.
Piotti would not get away from the grid particularly fast and would actually end the first lap of the race right where everyone would have expected. However, because of Moss' problems he would not be last in the running order. Actually, it would be rather fitting the man he had helped to go on to victory at Monza would now be found running behind him in the leaderboard.
At the end of the first lap it would be Behra leading the way with Castellotti in 2nd place. Fangio looked to be settling in still in his Maserati but was still in a very comfortable 3rd place just ahead of Mike Hawthorn.
Over the course of the first 10 laps of the race Behra and Castellotti would battle it out for the lead of the race. Peter Collins would be a little slow to get started but would soon join the battle for the lead by the 12th lap. Fangio, meanwhile, looked to be biding his time running right around 3rd and 4th place. Piotti would be in the running still. He would be back in 13th place. Moss would still be behind him running in 14th.
Throughout the first quarter of the race Piotti seemed overmatched and remained stuck in 13th position. The performance was a little bit embarrassing considering Alessandro de Tomaso ran ahead of him on the circuit in a much older Ferrari 625. But, Piotti would finally begin to get his legs underneath himself and would start to challenge de Tomaso for 12th.
At the same time Piotti began to challenge de Tomaso for 12th place there would be a great deal of change at the front of the field that would result in the Argentinean crowd jumping to its feet in great excitement.
Collins had been holding onto the lead of the race when he was suddenly forced to pit as a result of clutch issues. At the same time Collins headed toward the pits, Fangio would make the pass on Behra. By the time he came around to cross the line one more time, he would be in the lead with Behra running in 2nd place and Hawthorn 3rd.
By the 40th lap of the race it would become exceedingly clear why Ferrari brought so many cars across the Atlantic. Three Lancia-Ferraris would be out of the race by the 40th lap of the race. Then, when Castellotti retired after 75 laps, it made four. What would be most interesting is that the only cars to have officially retired from the race would be the four Lancia-Ferraris.
The retirements meant good news for Piotti as each meant movement up the running order for the Milanese driver. Unfortunately, he was beginning to come under pressure of taking a step backward. Troubles well behind him, Moss would begin to lap at a pace that made it clear why he had started the race from the pole. At the same time Castellotti retired from the race, Moss would post what would be the fastest lap of the race. By that time the Brit was already well past Piotti and looking to do everything he could to end the race in the points.
Although Fangio would be in the lead, Behra would not allow him to escape off into the distance. Fangio would continue to build upon his advantage, but it wouldn't be hand over fist. It would be an impressive performance by the two Maserati teammates, but, of course, the attentions of more than 90 percent of everyone in attendance would be trained toward the person out front in the lead.
Heading into the final quarter of the race, Piotti and de Tomaso were still battling it out for position. Just when it seemed Piotti would finally have the position, de Tomaso would come back and take the position away. Then, with about 20 laps remaining in the race, de Tomaso would regain position and would draw away.
Over the course of the race Piotti would have plenty of opportunities to judge who was in the lead of the race. Passed a number of times before the end, Piotti would never find the kind of pace he needed to really compete and beat his best World Championship performance.
Nobody was going to beat Fangio, not on home soil. Despite a threat by Behra with 20 laps remaining that would see the two teammates trade the lead back and forth more than a couple of times, Fangio would cruise to victory completing the race in just under three hours and one minute. Jean Behra would complete the race in 2nd place trailing behind Fangio by some 18 seconds. Only Behra remained on the lead lap with Fangio. Carlos Menditeguy would benefit from the problems of the Lancia-Ferraris and would end the race a lap down in 3rd place giving Maserati a sweep of the podium.
Piotti knew Fangio was going to win the race. Finishing the race more than 10 laps behind, the Italian had plenty of time to see who was in the lead of the race toward the end of the race. Finishing more than 10 laps behind, Piotti would be the final running car and would complete the race well down in 10th place.
While the 10th result would look rather impressive in the official results, it was more than obvious Piotti was certainly not as good as the results would have suggested. Still, it was a race finish and this would be more than could be said for four Scuderia Ferrari drivers.
One year earlier, Argentina was still gripped in some unrest as a result of Peron being deposed. The Argentine Grand Prix would go on without incident. However, the non-championship race that usually followed the first round of the World Championship would be moved. Though called the Buenos Aires City Grand Prix the race itself would be held hours away in the city of Mendoza.
One year later, conditions within the country of Argentina had settled. The Argentine Grand Prix would carry on without a problem. Of course, Fangio's victory certainly had to help the political and social climate a little bit. And, with the situation a bit more settled, the non-championship Gran Premio Ciudad de Buenos Aires would go forth on the 27th of January, and, within the city for which the event was named.
The Buenos Aires City Grand Prix would take place at the same circuit as had hosted the Argentine Grand Prix. This meant a second chance for many. It was a second chance for Fangio to earn yet another victory in front of his home fans. It was also a second chance for all of the Ferrari drivers that suffered retirements in the World Championship round. As far as Piotti was concerned, it was a second chance and finishing in a better position then what he had the first time around.
Measuring 2.42 miles and having an average speed in 1957 of around 75mph, the Autodromo Municipal Ciudad de Buenos Aires was a circuit that required a good deal of technical skill. Circuits like Monza and Spa-Francorchamps were not necessarily technical but they demanded a great deal of bravery to be taken as fast as possible. The Buenos Aires autodromo was another thing. Yes, it needed to be taken as fast as possible but that demanded perfect entries, apexes and exits. Perfectly suited to either, Fangio could dominate at either circuit. For someone like Piotti, he needed to judge and take a very humble look at the situation.
Piotti realized that he was not one of the fastest drivers out there on the circuit. He understood that perhaps in a shared drive he could achieve a greater result. In the non-championship race, Scuderia Centro Sud would offer the drive in the older Ferrari 625 to Enrique Sticoni. This left Piotti's antagonist from the Argentine Grand Prix, Alessandro de Tomaso, without a drive; that is, until Piotti approached him. At the time, de Tomaso was more than 10 years the junior of Piotti and certainly appeared faster. This made de Tomaso a wise choice to partner with the much more sedate Piotti.
The non-championship race would be conducted differently than what it had been in the past. Instead of a race covering a certain number of laps, the race would consist of two heat races and final results being determined in the aggregate.
In practice, de Tomaso would prove to be the faster of the two drivers. His best time in practice would be more than 5 seconds slower than those starting on the front row but would be fast enough to place the Piotti/de Tomaso Maserati on the fourth row of the grid in the 13th position in between Harry Schell and Giorgio Scarlatti.
The front row would have many of the same players from the Argentine Grand Prix. The major difference is that Fangio would start from the pole and Moss would start in 2nd place. Mike Hawthorn would be starting in 3rd place while Jean Behra would complete the front row in 4th.
Each of the two heat races would be 30 laps in duration. The first heat race would see the Maserati contingent suffer over those from Scuderia Ferrari. Giorgio Scarlatti would be the first one out of the race. Harry Schell would then retire after 22 laps followed by Stirling Moss who was feeling not at all well in the heat and would retire after 24 laps due to exhaustion.
Fangio would be feeling just fine and would be out front of the field with Behra running right there with him just as he had in the first round of the World Championship. Over the course of the heat race neither Hawthorn nor Castellotti could keep up with the Maseratis and they would be left battling it out for the final spot on the podium in the first heat race.
De Tomaso and Piotti would be left fighting it out with Sticoni and Wolfgang von Trips and Peter Collins for a top ten result. The pace of de Tomaso and Piotti wouldn't be much better than what Piotti's had been during the Argentine Grand Prix. Over the course of the 30 lap heat race the changing of drivers would cost the two valuable time but they would already be well down in the running order anyway. Their greatest hope was that the heat would take its toll on the other drivers causing them to make mistakes. Meanwhile, their shared drive meant they would be fresher over the course of the race.
Fangio would obviously be accustomed to the conditions and would go on to beat Behra for the win in the first heat by a margin of nearly 26 seconds. Eugenio Castellotti would finish in 3rd some 40 seconds behind.
Piotti and de Tomaso would carry on and complete the first heat race having lost a total of three laps to the leaders. Still, the pair would manage to finish in 10th place around two laps behind von Trips and Collins.
Setting the grid for the second heat race it would be more of the same with Fangio starting on pole with Behra starting in 2nd place. Castellotti would be in the 3rd position while Hawthorn would complete the front row in 4th. Further down, de Tomaso would line up in the 10th position on the third row of the grid.
Aggregate scoring would determine the final results so Fangio didn't necessarily have to win to take the overall win. This would be good as Peter Collins would be on the charge in the second heat. Posting the fastest lap time of the race, Collins would be up at the front with Behra while Fangio hung right around them looking to be in a strong position for the win.
Compared to the first heat race it was obviously the pace had slowed somewhat. This was not at all surprising when Fangio had the lead firmly in hand despite not actually being the lead. This also helped de Tomaso and Piotti in the final heat race as they would push hard as well and would manage to remain closer to the rest of the field than what they had in the first heat. Unfortunately, they would still be at the back of the field fighting for a top ten result.
A battle between Behra and Fangio would enable Collins to escape with the lead. Armed with his fastest lap time, Collins would stretch out a margin that was unassailable over the last portion of the race. Well in control, Fangio remained locked in his battle with Behra for he remained his only true threat.
Completing the race distance in one hour, 11 minutes and nearly 11 seconds, Collins would take the win by almost 20 seconds over the battle for the second place. This battle would go right down to the wire with only a second separating the two. In the end, Behra would end up coming through to take the position ahead of Fangio. Further back, de Tomaso and Piotti would combine to finish the second heat race in 10th place just 2 laps back of the leader.
Although Behra had managed to slip ahead of Fangio for 2nd place in the second heat race, he would not be able to escape the grasp of Fangio. Therefore, in the final results it would be Fangio that would take the victory by nearly 25 seconds over Behra. Luigi Musso and Peter Collins would end up sharing the 3rd place honors. Combining together to form a more potent challenge, Piotti and de Tomaso would end the non-championship race in 9th place overall and more than five laps behind the winner Fangio.
While on his own, Piotti may have faired worse, the partnership between himself and de Tomaso would not prove to be a stroke of genius. In retrospect, the decision was more of a way in which to combat the weather and to provide each person with a ride. Both had travelled a very long distance not to take part in a race. Therefore, it was decided that taking part together was the best solution. Of course ‘best' would be rather misleading.
The trip to South America had come to its end. The major grand prix and sportscar races had come to an end. It was time to head back across the Atlantic to prepare for the start of the racing season in Europe. Considering the last race, the non-championship Buenos Aires City Grand Prix, had taken place on the 27th of January teams and drivers would have a period of more than two months before the first race of the season in Europe. This would provide the major factory efforts time to finalize the latest updates for its works cars. In the case of such privateers as Piotti, it would be time to return to the day job and to tinker with the race cars to prepare them for the start of the season coming in early April.
In 1957, the grand prix season in Europe would kick off with a trip down the Italian peninsula and a short jaunt over to the island of Sicily. It would be just to the west of Syracuse that, on the 7th of April, the first race of the season would be held. The race would be the 7th Gran Premio di Siracusa.
Over the course of a couple of years the timing of the Syracuse Grand Prix would change. Alternating between an early and late start, the non-championship event on Sicilian soil had usually been dominated by Italian machinery. That is, until 1955.
Connaught Engineering had been contacted about coming to the race as a measure to keep from having the event cancelled. Scuderia Ferrari would not send a car. Factory Maseratis would be present in the race but they would find competition few and far between because of their presence. As a result of the starting and prize money, Connaught would take the organizers up on the challenge and would dispatch a couple of cars to the Mediterranean island.
Their presence at the event was not taken all that seriously. However, all that would change when Tony Brooks went on to a dominant win around the streets of the ancient city in the British Racing Green-livered Connaught. From then on, the Italian teams would come back to Syracuse fully-focused and intent of destroying all threats.
In many ways, because Piotti was a privateer, he too would be considered a threat and he would be shown very little quarter despite being the same nationality. Because of Connaught's success in 1955, the 1957 edition of the race would see more than one foreign entry on the entry list. Connaught would be back. However, Cooper and Vandervell Products would also come ready to compete.
Once again, Piotti would be about the only privateer entry in the field. He would face a very tall order with the large field of factory teams. But besides the presence of the factory teams, Piotti faced a great challenge via through the circuit itself.
Must faster than the circuit in Buenos Aires, the Syracuse circuit would be a temporary circuit comprised of public roads traversing the countryside just to the west of Syracuse's city center. Measuring 3.48 miles in length, the Syracuse circuit would start out flat with a run down a straight before bending around to the right and downhill slightly. Following a rather tight left-hand hairpin the circuit ran along another straight with a couple of kinks that would lead to a couple of final 90 degree left hand turns. This run from the hairpin, by the Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery would consist of a gradual climb offering about the only real noticeable elevation change. This gain in elevation would then be lost by the time the circuit returned to the start/finish straight.
Fast, with average speeds routinely exceeding 105mph, Piotti would have to be willing to push himself to the very edge and stay there over the course of the 80 lap race. What's more, the short duration of the race meant needing to push the equipment from the very start and never relenting. This would be a great challenge for the man who had cut his teeth mostly in sportscar racing.
Piotti was no stranger to speed. He had managed to finish 6th at Monza, a much faster circuit, the year before. But, being on the edge each and every lap was what separated the greats from the talented, and this willingness to flirt with the edge was something very few privateers would routinely exhibit.
This point would be obvious in practice. Piotti would prove faster than more than a few drivers. However, there would be a gap of more than 13 seconds between himself and the time posted in the Ferrari by Collins by Moss. As a result, Piotti would end up on the fifth row of the grid in the 13th starting spot; Collins would be on pole. Joining Collins on the front row would be Luigi Musso in 2nd place with Stirling Moss completing the front row in the 3rd position.
Conditions would be dry heading into the 80 lap race. The cars would take their positions on the grid and the drivers their position behind the wheel. The crowd looked on in excitement as the race was mere moments away from starting. Then the flag dropped and the race was on.
Right at the start the Ferraris driven by Collins and Musso would launch into the lead. Moss would get away well and would be right there with the Ferraris throughout the early stages of the first lap. Further back, Piotti would find himself nearly right in the middle of the field where the pack had a tendency to bunch up and make it difficult to settle into a rhythm.
The Ferraris would be there at the head of the field throughout the first few laps. Moss would stay right there with them in the Vanwall and would actually challenge for the lead many times early on. Harry Schell would be the first retiree from the race. The engine in his Maserati would run into trouble and he would be forced out of the race after just a single lap.
While Moss continued to challenge for the lead with the two Ferraris of Collins and Musso the Maserati team members were having an absolutely terrible time. Schell would already be out of the race. Then, after just 17 laps, Behra would find his race come to an end after concerns with the front brakes arose. Piotti was clinging on but was well back in the field.
The nature of the circuit meant a lot of wear and tear on the engine and gearbox. High average speeds and the need to accelerate quickly up through the gears put a lot of stress on these two very important components. Being back in the pack, fighting hard to keep in touch put even more potential stress on the driver and the equipment. Unfortunately, this reality would catch up to Piotti.
Approaching the quarter-distance mark, Piotti would be having trouble with his Maserati. A problem with the gearbox was beginning to exhibit itself. It was clear it was on its last legs. Unfortunately, Piotti's race would last just past the quarter mark. He would be forced to retire after just 20 laps.
While Piotti had to retire with his gearbox problems, Moss was still putting up a fight with the two Ferraris. However, that battle was about to come to an end as well. Moss had put up a tremendous fight but he soon recognized that his Vanwall was showing signs of having been run ragged. It was more than evident the car stood the chance of not being able to make it the entire race distance unless he backed off to preserve it. Moss would do exactly that and he would end up losing contact with Collins and Musso.
By the halfway mark of the race the only battle that really existed was between Collins and Musso. Moss was holding on to 3rd place ahead of Piero Taruffi but it was clear Taruffi would not be able to take the position away unless Moss experienced more problems. Everyone else left in the running, which was only nine cars by the 51st lap, would be spread out and not challenging each other.
Although Musso had been right there with Collins early on in the race, as it developed the Englishman began to draw away. And although Moss would be the one attributed with setting the fastest lap of the race, he would have to back off to such a degree that he would end up more than a couple of laps down before the end of the race.
Collins would be unto himself the only challenge heading into the final 20 laps of the race. Averaging a little more than 102mph, Collins would leave everyone else, including his teammate, well behind. Completing the race distance in a little more than two hours and 11 minutes, Collins would take an easy victory beating his teammate Musso by a margin of nearly a minute and 15 seconds. The gap back to Moss would be even larger. Moss would manage to nurse the Vanwall across the line to finish in 3rd place but he would end up more than three laps behind by the end.
Piotti wouldn't have minded being just three laps behind Collins. Compared to his previous races, that would have counted the same as a podium result. Instead, Piotti would be left with loading up his broken Maserati and heading home without any kind of positive result at all. Unfortunately for him, the next race on the calendar was also known to destroy engines and gearboxes.
About 70 miles inland from the Atlantic Ocean, and nestled along the Gave de Pau with the Pyrenees Mountains looming in the distance, is the small city of Pau. The capital of the Bearn Region of southern France, Pau's history would only come to be recognized around the 11h century. However, it wouldn't be long before the fortified settlement would become a place of great prominence within the area. Becoming the seat of the viscounts of Bearn, Pau would become a haunt of royalty and would be the future birthplace of Henry IV of France.
Known for being home to a number of artists and itself being a placed filled with unique and ornate architecture, the area would be considered a refuge from the worries of life, a place where the affluent could enjoy the finer things of life.
Interestingly, it would be amidst such finery and picturesque settings that the first grand prix would ever be held. Originating in Pau, the city would become an early unofficial home for motor racing history. And, it would be amidst this backdrop of wealth, artistry and motor racing history that they city would prepare to host the 17th Grand Prix de Pau on the 22nd of April in 1957.
The more modern rendition of the Grand Prix de Pau would be vastly different than the first grand prix that would originate from the city back in 1900. Instead of a circuit traveling up hill and down dale toward the Atlantic coast and back, the Pau circuit would never leave the confines of the city's streets and would be filled with numerous tight hairpin turns, blind apexes and very short straights. Therefore, the Pau circuit emphasized handling, braking and acceleration over out-right speed. One other element of the circuit that was readily apparent with each and every lap would be the elevation change. Starting out down along the Gave de Pau, the circuit would climb continuously until reaching its maximum round the long right-hand Courbe du Parc Beaumont. From then on, the circuit would fall rather sharply back down to the start/finish straight.
The grand prix would not be held in 1956 in response to the tragedy at Le Mans. Pau had actually run its race prior to Le Mans in 1955 but the organizers would determine to cancel the next grand prix at the circuit, though it happened to be nearly a year after the terrible events at Le Mans had occurred. Therefore, the 1957 edition of the grand prix would be the first race in more than a year. Jean Behra's winning streak was still well intact.
Being so successful at the circuit, Behra would be back in Pau along with the whole factory Maserati team. Luigi Piotti had actually garnered his first opportunity to take part in a World Championship race as a result of events that took place the last time Behra had proven victorious at Pau.
While Behra would be challenging with Alberto Ascari for the lead and the victory in the 1955 Pau Grand Prix, Mario Alborghetti would be circulating the track with the Scuderia Volpini Maserati. The car was an updated and revised edition of the much older 4CLT/48. Having completed the 19th lap of the race, Alborghetti headed into the tight right-hand hairpin at the end of the start/finish straight. He would fail to negotiate the turn and would end up crashing head-long into the hay bails lining the outside of the circuit. The crash would result in Alborghetti losing his life in the accident. Alborghetti's was Volpini's driver for the season. However, his death meant there was a vacant racing seat. The small team would repair the car and would intend to enter it in the Italian Grand Prix later on that year. Their new driver would be Luigi Piotti. Piotti would never get his chance to take part in the race with the team. They would never arrive and Piotti would have to wait until Argentina early on in 1956 to make his Formula One World Championship debut.
Piotti would be in Pau to take part in his first grand prix and with his own car that he had managed to get repaired following its gearbox failure in Syracuse. Piotti would find the factory Maserati team present with a couple of cars. Another factory effort present would be Equipe Gordini. They would bring three of their cars to compete in the 110 lap (3 hour) race.
The last time Behra had been to the circuit he had managed to steal victory away from Ascari while driving a Maserati 250F. Two years later, Behra would be back with another Maserati ready to defend his streak of victories. He would certainly look capable of doing it when he managed to set the fastest lap time in practice. Taking the pole with a lap time of 1:35.7, Behra would be more than 2 seconds faster than his Maserati teammate Harry Schell. The final starter on the three-wide front row would be Masten Gregory. He would be three and a half seconds slower than Behra.
Although the Grand Prix de Pau would take place two weeks after the Syracuse Grand Prix, time would be rather short to make the necessary repairs and to make sure everything was running properly. After a journey of more than 1,000 miles and needing to repair a broken car, Piotti would arrive in Pau with a car still not ready to race. Piotti would, therefore, not set a time in practice and would be forced to start from the sixth row all by himself.
Starting from 14th place on the grid, Piotti would have a difficult race ahead of him. Overtaking would not be easy around the circuit and the condition of his car did not offer a lot of confidence. Therefore, it was highly unlikely Piotti would come away with a top five result, not unless something truly dramatic took place over the course of the race.
The race for Piotti would get rather interesting very early on. As the cars roared away into the distance at the start, Behra would be in the lead with Schell and Gregory not far behind. Ivor Bueb would also impress getting off the line rather well and fighting amongst the leaders during the first couple of laps of the race. Piotti, meanwhile, would be at the back just looking to follow everyone through and settle into a rhythm.
Behra would be immediately into his old rhythm around the circuit. He would be out front and pulling away right from the very beginning. The pace in practice demonstrated the clear advantage he had around the circuit compared to the others in the field. Piotti would be at the back but would not end the race that way. Francesco Godia-Sales would have the unfortunate title of being the first out when he crashed after 4 laps. This presented an interesting dynamic. Piotti was not officially a member of the Maserati works team. However, Godia-Sales would certainly be faster around the circuit than he and Godia-Sales was already out of the race. Therefore, the decision seemed relatively easy. Piotti would complete a few more laps then would come into the pits and would hand his Maserati over to Godia-Sales.
It really wouldn't matter if Piotti handed his car over to Godia-Sales or not. It wasn't as if he, or anyone else for that matter, was going to be battling for the lead and the victory. Behra would be out front and flying around the tight city streets. Posting the fastest lap time of the race that would be just two-tenths slower than his best in practice, it was little wonder why he was leaving the rest of the field in his dust. The only hope any of the rest of the competitors had against Behra was for providence to step in and cause some kind of problem with his Maserati.
It didn't seem out of the realm of possibilities. By the 36th lap of the race there would be five cars out of the running and Godia-Sales would now be well inside the top ten in Piotti's Maserati.
But while Schell and the others may have been praying for trouble with Behra's Maserati it would be Piotti's Maserati that would run into trouble. Piston problems would develop and it would become quite clear the engine was unhealthy. Therefore, Godia-Sales would bring the car into the pits and it would be forced to retire. This would be most unfortunate for Piotti as he was already facing a tough battle being one of the few privateer entries still trying to do battle with the factory teams.
The Frenchman would absolutely delight the French crowd. The race would be his so long as he didn't put a wheel wrong around the very tight circuit. Power-sliding it around tight hairpin turns and carrying on his way, Behra's lead would only increase as the day wore on. Schell would distance himself from the rest of the field as well but it was more than obvious he didn't have the pace around the circuit to battle his teammate. By the halfway mark of the race Behra would be a little more than a lap ahead of Schell and it seemed to become academic by that point. Only attrition could change the outcome by that point.
It would be a remarkably dominant performance. Never putting a wheel wrong over the course of the 110 laps around the 1.71 mile circuit, Behra would be unassailable. Completing the race distance with an average speed just under 63mph, Behra would destroy the competition finishing the race with a victory and a margin of more than two laps over Harry Schell. Ivor Bueb would be rather impressive in his own right but even he would finish three laps behind Behra in 3rd place.
While the French would be absolutely delighted and joyous over Behra's incredible achievement, Piotti would be a little down-trodden having experienced a second early retirement. In his first two races he had managed to finish but was many laps behind in both. But after these two early retirements he would certainly take being laps behind if it meant he still finished a race. The really unfortunate thing is that the next race on the calendar would be quite similar to Pau and that didn't really offer Piotti a whole lot of hope.
Although the race in Pau wouldn't go quite as Piotti would hope he would still have nearly a month to get the engine repaired and the car fully back in shape before the next race on the calendar. A couple of weeks into the month of May, Piotti would load his Maserati onto his transporter and would head back toward France. He would not be headed toward the Pyrenees but the French Riviera. The final destination would be the principality of Monaco for it would be there, on the 19th of May, that the 15th Grand Prix de Monaco would be held.
Like the rest of the French Riviera, Monaco would be the destination of the rich and famous. Overlooking the Mediterranean and boxed in by the slopes of Mont Agel, Monaco provides its visitors with that sense of exclusivity known in very few places the world over. Filled with numerous hotels and shops, the streets around the principality are tight and twisty and almost entirely alien to the ethos of Formula One. Nonetheless, Monaco provides the World Championship the jewel in its crown and it remains the race every driver longs to win.
Piotti would arrive in Monaco with his Maserati not necessarily looking for a win, but at least a race finish. As practice would get underway it would become clear that Piotti would hope and pray for something even less remarkable.
The weather would be beautiful each of the days for practice. Times around the circuit would be falling and there were only the 16 starting positions on the grid up for grabs. The presence of Scuderia Ferrari, Officine Alfieri Maserati, Vandervell Products and others meant very few positions on the grid were actually left to fight over. This was not good for Piotti who would find his times in practice to be well off the pace the first day.
Stirling Moss had set the mark early, but then Fangio would take over the pole-position with a lap time of 1:42.7. Piotti's best would only be in the 1:54 range. Ivor Bueb would have the final spot on the grid. Piotti and a number of others would all be fighting for that last position. Unfortunately, Piotti's best of 1:54.3 wouldn't prove to be enough. After travelling all the way to Monaco from his home in Italy, Luigi would fail to qualify for the Monaco Grand Prix. His season had reached the lowest possible point short of just giving up.
Piotti's opportunities would grow fewer and fewer as the season wore on. His cause wouldn't be helped by contract problems between World Championship organizers and those with the Belgian and Dutch Grand Prix. Both of these events were intended to be on the calendar during the month of June. However, disputes would lead to them both being dropped from the calendar. The entire month of June would be void of grand prix, either championship or not. So instead of taking to a track with his Maserati 250F, Piotti would enter a sportscar race in Monsanto in an Osca S1500.
Piotti had shown his skills in sportscar racing earning victory in the Trofeo Vigorelli Monza with a Maserati 300S back in early May. But now he would be driving an Osca S1500. After starting the race from 15th on the grid he would climb his way up through the order to finish the race in 8th place. It must be said that the 8th place result likely would have far outweighed any possible outcome in a Formula One event, whether a championship round or not.
No matter what he was doing within the sportscar scene, the simple fact of the matter is that the season was carrying on and there were fewer and fewer opportunities for Piotti to turn his season around and enjoy some momentum. Things were already difficult enough being a privateer entry going up against major factory works teams. So, he needed all the momentum he could get. This meant needing to take part in more races; as long as he could afford it.
The next race on the season would be the French Grand Prix held on the 7th of July. This provided Piotti a good opportunity but the race would be held at a different race track. Not since the 1952 season had the French Grand Prix been a part of the Formula One World Championship and held someplace other than Reims. That year, the race would be held at the Rouen-Les-Essarts circuit situated just to the south of Rouen.
The Rouen circuit was popular with drivers and teams as he enjoyed modern facilities and a circuit with some very distinct character. Rouen was also not like either Pau or Monaco. Though consisting of public roads, the circuit would feature some fast straights, fast sweeping esses and really only one notable hairpin.
Therefore, Rouen-les-Essarts seemed like a good place for Piotti to come and try and get his season back on track. However, Piotti would not make the journey to Rouen and would end up missing the fourth round of the World Championship.
Instead of taking part in the French Grand Prix, Piotti would look at taking part in a race at the more usual home for the French round of the World Championship—Reims. Instead of hosting the French Grand Prix, Reims would host a non-championship event the week following called the Grand Prix de Reims.
Reims had hosted a grand prix known as the Grand Prix de la Marne. The race on the 14th of July would be the same event just with its name being changed very simply to the Grand Prix de Reims.
The race would take part around the same 5.15 mile circuit that served as the host for Formula One and the 12 Hours of Reims sportscar race. Unlike Rouen, Reims would be all about speed having mostly long straightaways interrupted by hairpin turns. Besides a portion of rising terrain along the Route Nationale 31 highway, the Reims circuit would also be much more flat than Rouen given its location in the Champagne-Ardenne region of northern France.
Reims has consistently played an important role in world history. Evidence suggest the first settlements would be established in what is now Reims around 80BC. Meetings would take place between Charlemagne and Pope Stephen II and Pope Leo III. The city would also host the first aviation meet that would include such names as Glenn Curtiss and Louis Bleriot. Then, at the end of World War II, terms of surrender would be agreed upon by General Alfred Jodl and General Eisenhower within the city.
Sandwiched in between the French and British Grand Prix, the race in Reims would be well attended by the major works teams. A total of 19 cars would appear for the race. The vast majority of those 19 that would attend the race would be works and customer Maserati 250Fs.
Fangio had taken the win in Rouen the week before. In practice for the 61 lap race in Reims, the Argentinean would look to be in dominant form posting the fastest lap time in practice with a time of 2:23.3. This would give Fangio the pole by just two-tenths of a second over Stuart Lewis-Evans in one of the Vanwalls. Jean Behra would complete the front row taking the 3rd position with a time just under two seconds slower than Fangio.
Piotti would look much stronger on the ultra-fast Reims circuit. Not a very technical circuit, Piotti just needed to be willing to put his foot as firmly to the floor as he dared. The result would be a lap time that would place him on the sixth row of the grid in the 14th position. Considering the size of the field, this was one of Piotti's best starting efforts all season long.
The year before, during the French Grand Prix, the Lancia-Ferraris showed the way and were untouchable by the Maseratis. Fangio was on pole in a Maserati but he had to be concerned with the strides made by Ferrari with its Lancia-Ferrari. Then there were the Vanwalls. One year ago, Schell and put up the biggest fight against the Ferraris and had even managed to split the leading threesome for a period of time before succumbing to car troubles.
At the start of the race it seemed as though it would be the Lancia-Ferraris that would struggle over the course of the race. Peter Collins would be the first to suffer as his race would come to an early end as a result of an engine problem. He would be out of the race after just 2 laps.
Jo Bonnier and Chico Godia-Sales would all retire from the race before it had even reached 20 laps in length. The pace would be quick as Behra would post the fastest lap of the race with a time of 2:27.8 at an average speed of more than 125mph. Piotti would not be able to match the kind of pace that the front-runners were be able to routinely post each and every time around the circuit. Still, he would be in the race and suffer no troubles. This would be a miracle in its own right. What the front-runners did matter little to Piotti after the struggles he had been experiencing.
Trouble would continue to find Ferrari. Olivier Gendebien and Mike Hawthorn would all fall out of contention within a lap of each other and well before the halfway mark in the race. This mean Piotti continued to move up the running order and was looking on course for a top ten result as long as the car held together or the remainder of the race.
The fight up at the front would be impressive with Musso, Fangio, Behra and Lewis-Evans all maintaining contact for a majority of the race. Heading into the final half of the race the front-runners would string out, but only slightly. The mere hint of a mistake meant a loss of position, let alone the lead of the race.
Pushing so hard and having no room for error meant that mistakes could have dire consequences. American Herbert MacKay-Fraser had already been lost in a Formula 2 race and cast a bit of a shadow over the event. Pushing hard to the very end, Fangio would end up suffering a crash and would end up out of the race after 56 laps. This left the fight for the victory clearly between Musso and Behra. Lewis-Evans was doing his best to hang on but had lost out quite a bit heading into the final 15 laps.
Piotti would be impressive following his heartbreaking previous couple of months. Seemingly unable to complete even half of a race distance, he would now be within a few laps of the leader and in a strong top ten result. Taking Horace Gould out of the picture, the only drivers ahead of Piotti heading into the final few laps of the race would all be factory drivers with the latest evolutions of their respective chassis.
In spite of Luigi's improved performance over the course of the race, it would pale in comparison to Musso's performance in his Lancia-Ferrari. Behra would turn the fastest lap of the race but even he would lose ground to Lusso over the last portion of the race.
Musso would go on to take the victory completing the race distance with an average speed of a little more than 123mph. Behra would finish the race in 2nd place coming across the line around 27 seconds behind Musso. Lewis-Evans would be impressive in the Vanwall. Basically a substitute driver for Vandervell, he would finish the race a minute and 16 second down in 3rd place.
Piotti would practically finish the race on the podium, at least as far as he had to be concerned. He had hit his lowest point by not qualifying for the Monaco Grand Prix back in the middle of May. But here he was completing the race distance 5 laps behind Musso in 9th place.
Although Piotti would finish the race more than 5 laps behind, the result in Reims would be important as it would help to stem the tide. Piotti had just reached his lowest point a little more than a month earlier. Therefore, the top ten result would go a long way to helping him restore his season and his hopes for his season.
Reims would be a very important result for Piotti. The season had spiraled downward to its lowest point after failing to qualify for the Monaco Grand Prix. Nevertheless, Luigi would recover and would manage to come home in a strong 9th place position going up against mighty factory teams with the latest evolutions of their chassis. But while the result would be very important for Piotti and his season it would also lead to a more careful selection of races.
Piotti would forego the French Grand Prix despite there being a rather nominally-sized field. Reims would be a hard test for Piotti as there would be many of the factory teams present for that race as well. In some respects, he would have to be considered blessed that he managed to come through with such a good result.
It is very clear the privateer no longer had much of a chance, especially in the World Championship events. Piotti was much more successful in sportscar racing than in grand prix as it was. Therefore, he would need to choose events in which he stood the best chance. As a result, it would not be all that surprising that he bypassed the fifth round of the World Championship, the British Grand Prix.
Except for traveling all the way to South America, Piotti rarely left the European mainland during the grand prix season. Thus, it wasn't all that strange not to see him at Aintree for the British Grand Prix. But he wouldn't head back home either.
The week following the race in Reims was the British Grand Prix. The week after that there would be another non-championship Formula One race in the city of Caen in France. Recognizing his strengths and weaknesses, Piotti would forget travelling all the way to Aintree, but, he would make the three hour trip from Reims to Caen for the 5th Grand Prix de Caen held on the 28th of July.
Situated near the coast of the English Channel, and the capital of the Basse-Normandie region, Caen would be a very important strategic target during the Allied invasion of France in 1944. But this would be just one of a number of moments throughout history in which the coastal city would be a very important objective.
During the invasion in 1944 Caen would suffer terribly as a result of bombing raids and heavy fighting in and around the city. Back in the 14th century the city endured another terrible moment of death and destruction when Edward III of England took the city captive in less than a day killing thousands of its inhabitants. Because of its complex history, Caen is one of a few cities along the coast where French and English influences merge together and define its social climate. It would be fitting then that the mixture of English and French would come together as part of the 1957 Caen Grand Prix.
Luigi Piotti made his way to Caen following the race in Reims. Preparing for the return of the other competitors and the start of the non-championship event, he would happen upon an interesting sight as Jean Behra would arrive with the Owen Racing team and their usually troublesome BRM 25.
Piotti had been struggling, but at least he had the Maserati 250F. It wasn't as if he didn't have a capable car. He just needed it all to come together and race finishes were almost certain to be good. But, as far as Behra was concerned, the move to drive for Owen Racing was certainly strange. Still, he had little choice with the factory Maserati team packed up and heading back to Modena. So, here came this Anglo-French pairing that certainly had to raise some eyebrows.
Piotti, however, certainly could have cared less who came with what. In fact, the only hope and concern he certainly would have had would have been if his competitors all showed up with Formula 3 cars. But, even then, there was no guarantee that he would win. Piotti would need to focus on himself and practice would bear this out.
The interesting partnership of Behra and the BRM would come alive. The BRM hadn't proven itself capable of anything over the course of the season, but, with Behra behind the wheel and involved in fine-tuning the car, the BRM would respond. The pairing would prove fastest in practice and Behra would take the pole with a lap time of 1:21.1 Tony Brooks would be impressive in the Formula 2 Cooper-Climax T43 as he would earn the 2nd place starting position.
A total of 11 cars would arrive to take part in the 86 lap race. The arrangement of the grid would be 2 by 2. Therefore, Piotti's best effort of 1:30.8 meant he would be all the way down on the fifth row of the grid in the 9th position. This wasn't a terrible starting spot but the fact he had been more than 9 seconds slower around the 2.18 mile circuit than Behra didn't offer a lot of confidence the Italian could challenge for a podium or a victory.
The conditions on the 28th of July would be good. The circuit would be dry and this meant the crowd could expect an absolute stormer of a race. This would be bolstered by the sight early on as Behra and Schell would be involved in an absolutely torrid battle.
The race would take place around La Prairie, a park and hippodrome, located just blocks from the city's center. The circuit would be part park circuit and street circuit. Starting along the Boulevard Yves Guillou and then making a 90 degree turn down Cours General de Gaule, this entire portion of the circuit would consist of city streets. Turning right again along L'Orne, this part of the circuit was comprised more of park road than streets. Feeding around to the tight hairpin leading back onto Yves Guillou, this would be the slowest portion of the circuit. Therefore, even though the circuit was as much a street course as any other, the average speeds would remain high and this seemed to benefit Piotti.
Piotti would be away well and would be running steadily toward the back of the pack. Out front, Behra and Schell would be mixing it up in two of the BRMs. It would be a fantastic performance by these two men. Swapping the lead back and forth a number of times, and, usually, each lap, the crowd would be greatly entertained and enthralled by what they were witnessing.
Meanwhile, a little further back in the pack, Piott would be making his way up the running order more as a result of the retirement of others than by his own efforts. Jack Brabham would retire from the race after just 2 laps helping him to move up. Then, after 29 laps, Tony Brooks would retire helping Piotti to move up even further. But, despite the fact he was moving up the order, his pace was such that he would be paid a visit by Behra and Schell more than once, even before the halfway mark of the race. Just about every 11 laps Piotti would get an up-close and personal look at the battle for the lead.
And, the battle for the lead would be a good one as neither Behra nor Schell would relent. Behra would turn in the fastest lap of the race with a time of 1:20.7, four-tenths of a second faster than his own qualifying effort. This put tremendous pressure on Schell but Harry wasn't about to back down. Fighting with his BRM at every corner of every lap, Schell would remain right there with Behra. The two were fighting so hard the matter came down to which one of the two it was believed would break first.
The answer would come after the 58th lap of the race. Behra and Schell remained in lock-step. However, one of them was on the verge of their breaking point. Behra continued to look in control. Schell, on the other hand, would find the engine in his BRM to have finally given up the fight. After 58 laps, Schell would retire. Behra would be on his own, well out in front of the rest of the field.
The retirement of Schell would be a further aid to Piotti. He was well behind Behra but he was now up to 6th place. While he would not beat any of those that started the race ahead of him on the grid, the simple fact was that he was still running while others had fallen out of the race altogether. It doesn't matter how fast one drives, it's that one finishes that makes all the difference.
At the time Schell retired from the race, Behra could have backed right off to run at the same pace as Piotti and he still would have maintained his lead. Heading into the final couple of laps, Roy Salvadori, who was running in 2nd place, would be just ahead of him on the circuit. Behra, therefore, knew he just needed to take care of the car and the victory would be his.
Behra's performance would be impressive. Powering his way over the line to take the victory, his margin of victory over Salvadori would be nearly 2 laps. Bruce Halford would end up in 3rd and he would come across to finish about 15 seconds behind Salvadori.
Averaging nearly 93mph over the course of the race, Behra would lap Piotti a total of 8 times before the end of the race. But, Piotti would make it all the way to the end of the race. Finishing in 6th place, it would be the best result for Luigi all season long and it would make for two race finishes in a row.
Two race finishes in a row. Suddenly, Piotti would find his season climbing out of its dark hole that it had found itself following Monaco. While Piotti would enjoy the two race finishes, unfortunately, the pace would be lacking and he would be utterly dependant upon the trouble of others to help his cause. So, while he was enjoying the turn around, there was still little reason for there to be excitement about his prospects moving forward.
Not since the failed attempt to qualify for the Monaco Grand Prix had Piotti attempted to take part in a round of the Formula One World Championship. Following the race in Caen he would avoid the German Grand Prix held at the infamous Nurburgring. However, the next two rounds of the World Championship would take place on Italian soil. This meant he didn't need to leave the country. So, if not for any other of reason other than for patriotism, he needed to take part in one or both of them.
Piotti would bypass the German Grand Prix and the Nurburgring. Instead, he would determine to take part in the Pescara Grand Prix, an event that took place on the longest grand prix circuit in Formula One history, and that was every bit as dangerous.
Although separated by about 5 hours of driving, Milan and Pescara would be similar. Milan would be located on a flat plain just miles south of the Alps. Pescara would be situated right on the coast of the Adriatic. Therefore, the immediate area around Pescara would be a flat coastal plain. However, off in the distance to the west would be the Maiella and Gran Sasso mountains. Fingers from these mountains would extend toward the coast and would provide some very steep mountain roads that would switch-back up and down the fingers of the mountains. These mountain roads would combine with long, flat stretches of streets near the coast to comprise the 15.9 mile long Pescara circuit.
If it were not for the tight, twisty mountain roads, the average speed of the Pescara circuit would be incredibly fast. Both aspects would make for a dangerous road course however and that is why the Italian government would be on a crusade at the time to end all motor races on public roads. As a result of the potential ban, Scuderia Ferrari would not make the trip to the Pescara Grand Prix out of protest. They likely would not have done this had the World Championship not already been decided with Fangio's victory in the German Grand Prix. But, since the championship had already been decided, Ferrari would decide to make his political statement.
Even without Ferrari's presence, the field would be filled with competitive factory teams like Maserati and Vandervell. What's more, the circuit favored the Vanwall and its ability to reach some remarkable top-end speeds. Piotti not only had a tough assignment with the presence of the Vandervell and Maserati. The circuit itself was enough of a challenge, especially without the resources of a major factory as support. The incredibly long straights would strain the engines reaching their top speeds. The mountainous portion of the circuit would then strain gearboxes, brakes and clutches. For sure, just a finish in the Pescara Grand Prix would be a victory for even the best competitor.
Piotti had experience on his side heading into the event. Back in 1952 he had taken part in the 12 hour Pescara. Racing for twelve hours around Pescara would certainly be a good way to come to know the circuit and what it would take to make it to the end. Finishing the sportscar race in 3rd place suggested Piotti had the potential for surprising a good many of his countrymen if things worked out his way.
Even the experience of racing around Pescara for 12 hours could do little to help Piotti if he didn't have the pace. His best time over the course of practice would be 11:10.6. Even within sportscars this time wouldn't be anything remarkable. Compared to Moss and Fangio in a single-seater grand prix car, this time would be even worse.
It was known the out-right speed of the Vanwall was impressive. However, over the course of practice, none of them would be able to approach the lap time posted by Fangio in his Maserati. Lapping the circuit in 9:44.6, Fangio would be on pole by a margin of more than 10 seconds over Moss in the Vanwall. In the case of Luigi Musso in the Lancia-Ferrari, the gap to the 3rd place starter would be nearer 15 seconds.
Some 15 seconds compared to Piotti's best would seem like mere hundredths of a second. Being basically a minute and a half slower than Fangio, Luigi would, once again, find himself well down in the starting order. When it was all said and done, he would be on the fifth row of the grid in the 13th position. However, once the race got underway, his position to the outside of the pits would prove to be much less tragic.
The cars would be lined up on the grid and the street serving as the start/finish straight would be packed with mechanics and others. The engines would come to life; the race was nearly ready to go. Eighteen laps waited. Then the flag waved and the race would be underway. Immediately, Musso would shoot into the lead with Masten Gregory and Stirling Moss giving chase. Back where Piotti was starting a tragedy would take place.
Piotti would be on the outside of the fifth row. To the inside of the row would be Horace Gould. Piotti would get away without incident. The same could not be said of Gould who would end up hitting a mechanic as he roared away from the grid. The tight nature of the street meant the mechanics had very little room to escape to either side of the grid and one would not be fast enough clearing the circuit. The damage would result in Gould's race coming to an end right then and there.
Gould would join Brooks out of the race. Brooks had started the race from the third row of the grid but his engine would not find the circuit to its liking. As a result, he manage to complete the first lap but no more.
The early retirements would be a sign of things to come. Meanwhile, Musso would be up front leading the way. The long straights would end up helping Moss who would end up in 2nd place by the end of the first lap. The Pescara Circuit was by no means an easy circuit and the troubles would come early and often. Unfortunately for Piotti, he would be one of those that would run into trouble. His race wouldn't even reach a second lap as engine and transmission problems brought his race to an end after just one trip around the countryside.
Moss would take over the lead of the race from Musso. Fangio, who had made a poor start, recovered and finished the first lap in 3rd place. He would stay right there throughout the first half of the race. This would be surprising given the fact he had shown to be much faster than anyone else during practice.
It was clear Fangio was in no hurry having clinched the title. Moss, on the other hand, would be pulling away in the lead. At the halfway mark the Englishman would turn the fastest lap of the race and would enjoy a lead that would mysteriously grow in monumental fashion in a moment.
Musso continued to run ahead of Fangio on the circuit. However, the Ferrari would end up suffering from a split oil tank and would cause Musso to retire from the race. The leaking oil would also cause Fangio to lose control of his Maserati and crash into the barriers lining the circuit. Moss would appear and flash by the start/finish line. The stopwatches would start. How big would his lead be this time by? The expected time for Musso and Fangio would come and go. Nobody knew what had happened. Then, finally, Fangio would appear. Pulling into the pits with a broken wheel it would become obvious he had suffered a crash and likely the result of some problem with Musso.
Moss' pace throughout the first half of the race would be impressive. Therefore, when Fangio ran into his troubles, his already impressive lead would only grow to the absurd. By the time repairs would be made and Fangio returned to the circuit, Moss' lead would be nearly a lap. This meant a gap of nearly 10 minutes.
Unless Moss ran into trouble, the race was already over. Realizing the advantage he enjoyed, Moss would back off the pace slightly and would continue to lap the circuit looking after the car to make it to the finish.
Moss' lead would be so big that, prior to heading around on the final laps, he would stop into the pits leisurely climb from the cockpit and enjoy a drink while the tires were changed and fuel added. The team would even have enough time to top off the oil just to ensure there would be no problems over the final moments of the race. Moss would rejoin the race still in the lead by about three minutes.
Moss only needed to take care over the last moments, which he would do. Completing the race with an average speed of a little more than 95mph, Moss would enjoy a margin of victory of three minutes and nearly 14 seconds over Fangio. Another three and a half minutes would separate Fangio from the third place finisher Harry Schell.
The effort in Pescara would be disappointing for Piotti. He had enjoyed success at the circuit before, and in a race that lasted and tested the driver and car much longer. Still, the reality was that he had another broken car needing repair. He had three weeks to do the work too, if he wanted to take part in the final round of the World Championship for 1957.
On the 8th of September, the Italian Grand Prix was scheduled. Taking place, as usual, at Monza, Piotti would have the opportunity to return to the circuit and the event that had, to that point in his Formula One career, provided him with his greatest moment of glory.
Early on in his sportscar career, Piotti would purchase Ferrari chassis to use. In time, the Milanese businessman would come to have an affinity for Maserati. This would lead him to purchasing a 250F for Formula One events. It would be this ‘loose' relationship with the factory that would lead him to saunter up behind Moss and give him a push back to the pits so that he could be refueled and carry on to win the 1956 Italian Grand Prix.
Piotti would come under some fire for his move of graciousness. He had witnessed Moss' dominance. It was clear he believed his race shouldn't end like that. In that moment, Piotti would prove himself to be the very definition of a gentleman racer.
Luigi would make the necessary repairs to his Maserati and would travel the short 10 miles or so to the Autodromo Nazionale Monza for the final round of the World Championship for 1957.
While certainly aware of the changes, Piotti would arrive at Monza to find the '57 edition of the race set to take part on a different layout. The steep banking had been reintroduced with the regular road course back in 1955. The grand prix would use the full circuit layout for two seasons. Heading into the '57 running of the grand prix the format of the circuit would revert back to just the 3.91 mile road course. To the drivers, and the cars, this was likely a highly popular move as the bumpy concrete punished car and driver terribly. The race didn't really need the banking given the fact the road course had an average speed nearly as high as if just the banked-oval was all that was used.
The weather would be beautiful, but hot. In practice, the Vanwalls would show just how much the banked oval wasn't needed. By the end of the two practice sessions it would be Vanwalls starting in the first three positions on the grid with Stuart Lewis-Evans on pole. Moss and Brooks would be 2nd and 3rd. The final starter on the front row would be none other than Fangio. Only he managed to be within a second of the slowest of the Vanwalls.
Piotti, on the other hand, would only manage to come within 10 seconds of the slowest Vanwall driven by Brooks. As a result, Piotti would start the race from the fifth, and final, row of the grid in the 17th position. But, while this may not have seemed like the best position in which to start a race, Piotti would have to find some solace in the fact that back in May he wasn't even able to make it into the Monaco Grand Prix. Though starting from the last row, he had at least qualified for what was certainly his home grand prix.
The day of the race would be just as bright and sunny as those preceding. The temperatures would be just as warm as well. The large crowd of passionate Italian racing fans would fill up the grandstands ready for 87 laps of hard racing. The cars would be lined up on the grid and a large gaggle of reporters and individuals would surround Fangio. Further back, Piotti would find himself practically left all alone except for friends and mechanics.
The engines came to life. The drivers were ready for the final race. Then, finally, the flag would drop and the race would be underway with Moss catapulting into the lead ahead of Lewis-Evans and Brooks. There would be a rather large gap already between the rest of the field and the last row. Piotti would get away well and would be side-by-side with Andre Simon on the drag down to Curva Grande. But although he would get away well, Piotti would soon find himself unable to match the pace of even those that started on the last row with him and he would complete the first lap in last place.
Up at the front of the field, the fight amongst the top fight would be incredible to watch. Moss would lead the first few laps of the race but Jean Behra would soon take to the lead pushing Moss down to 2nd place. Fangio, Brooks and Lewis-Evans would all remain in contact and each of the top five would spend at least some at the head of the field. It would be a splendid battle that would entertain the fans.
The battle at the front of the field would distract so much that hardly anybody realized Piotti retired from the race after just 3 laps. He had been running in last place until his engine again failed leaving him unable to go on.
He wouldn't be alone. The entertaining battle at the front would soon begin to die out as Brooks, and then Lewis-Evans, began to run into trouble. Lewis-Evans would try to carry on but would only make it 49 laps into the race before his race would finally come to an end. One lap later, Jean Behra would retire from the race with a failed engine.
Having had to deal with a stuck throttle earlier in the race, Brooks would be well back in the running order but would still be flying. He would end up posting the fastest lap of the race with a little more than 10 laps remaining in the race. Brooks' teammate, Moss, would take over the lead of the race when Lewis-Evans ran into his problems and would begin to build up a lead over the rest of the field. The speed of the Vanwall would be too much, even for Fangio in the Maserati.
Ten laps remaining in the race, Moss would pit for fresh tires and would return to the race still in the lead. Clipping off laps at an average speed of more than 125mph, Moss would take his second championship victory in a row by beating Fangio by a margin of 41 seconds. Wolfgang von Trips would finish in 3rd place more than 2 laps behind.
Being on home soil would do little to bolster Piotti's confidence. In fact, French soil seemed to be more of a home than Italian. Although he had a special place in his heart for the Maserati, it was clear, without factory backing, there was very little hope of consistent running. It was also rather clear his Formula One days were rapidly coming to an end.
Piotti would face some very important decisions at the end of the season. It was certainly evident that sportscars was much more his element. Added to this would be the fact Maserati would withdraw from Formula One as a factory effort. This meant privateers like him would be in a real tight spot. Considering he would make the trip to South America it seemed the question had been answered.