TeamsAlberto Uria: 1955 Formula One Season By Jeremy McMullen
Many nations have failed to produce even a single Formula One driver throughout the history of the series. There would be many other nations that would just have one obscure participant. However, during the 1950s, the country of Uruguay would have more than a couple of drivers take part in World Championship events. And though they remain obscure figures in the history of Formula One, drivers, like Alberto Uria, would have the opportunity and the honor to represent their country in the World Championship.
Alberto's opportunity to take part in a World Championship race would actually begin to take place a little more than a year earlier when Maserati made its A6GCM Interim chassis, which had been used by the Maserati factory team, available for privateer entries. And since a good number of those that would drive for the factory team during the 1953 season would be South American drivers those chassis would make the move across the south Atlantic and would be entered in a number of events all throughout South America.
One of those to make the leap from national races to the World Championship would be Jorge Daponte. Daponte would take the opportunity to borrow an A6GCM, chassis number ‘2032', and would enter the Argentine Grand Prix for 1954. This particular A6GCM had been the property of Francisco Landi and the Escuderia Bandeirantes team. After a couple of races with this Formula 2 car, Daponte would come to secure a ride in chassis ‘2046', which had been updated to include the same 2.5-liter engine that powered the new 250F.
Daponte would campaign this car in a couple of races throughout Europe before it would make a return trip to South America. Being friends with Juan Manuel Fangio and Onofre Marimon, Daponte would have that proverbial ‘foot in the door' that would land him use of the chassis. And this would be the connection that would enable Alberto Uria to make his presence on the World Championship stage.
Chassis 2046 would make its way to South America to be use throughout the continent. Daponte would make his splash on the World Championship scene, and then, would practically disappear. However, with the chassis now in South America, another Latin driver would have the opportunity to come onto the scene and play his rather bit part.
Unfortunately, very little is known about Uria, either before or after, he makes his appearance on the World Championship scene for the first time on the 16th of January in 1955 as a privateer entry in the Argentine Grand Prix.
Throughout the 1950s, there would be a number of national drivers that would make their one appearance in the home World Championship grand prix, and then, would not be heard of again for the remainder of the season. This was very common in Britain with the numerous non-championship races. The British Grand Prix, then, would be the one time during the season in which a number of drivers would make their annual appearance in a World Championship race before disappearing back to the national events. This was certainly normal in those days. However, living in South America just made this reality all the more apparent. Latin drivers would come and would go without even the most basic information about the driver ever being known. While difficult to track down and terribly tough in order to provide a complete narrative, it is also one of the romantic aspects of the period. It seemed as though if someone had a dream to take part in a World Championship grand prix there was the opportunity to follow the dream, and such would be the case with Alberto Uria in January of 1955.
The inaugural Argentine Grand Prix in 1953 would be one of the most tragic events in grand prix history. An enthusiastic crowd, lack of control and spectators crossing the circuit at will would be a recipe for disaster. Unfortunately, the recipe would come together in one terrible moment. Giuseppe Farina, in a moment of great humanity, would swerve to miss a young boy having wandered onto the track. However, in his haste to miss the one wayward observer, Farina would lose control of his car and would plow head-long into a tightly-packed crowd right at circuit's edge. Officially, the deaths would number right around 10, but many would put that number much higher. This would put a black mark on the first World Championship event held in South America.
The reputation would be restored a great deal the following year when Juan Manuel Fangio would outlast his competitors and the conditions to come away with a fantastic victory that would send the passionate Argentinean crowd absolutely frantic.
One more year later, it seemed as though the Argentine Grand Prix had fully emerged from the dark clouds that swirled over the event after that first year. In fact, as teams arrived for the first round of the 1955 Formula One World Championship, set to take place on the 16th of January, they would not be greeted by dark storm clouds but of intense, killer heat.
Even by the 1950s, Buenos Aires would be one of the largest cities in the world and would one of the most important in South America. And, though a South American city, the European influence is unmistakable and makes it a popular destination for recreation, art and culture.
During the era of the Perons, Buenos Aires would become a hub of activity to present and promote President Peron's great societal ideals. Being the main industrial center for Argentina, Buenos Aires would serve as the base, the hub, for Peronism and the Autodromo 17 de Octubre would be one of the main theaters in which this play would be acted out.
Itself named for the demonstrations on the 17th of October, in 1945, that would eventually lead to President Peron coming to power, the Autodromo 17 de Octubre would be a somewhat new take on some of the older purpose-built circuits. Capable of adapting to a number of different layout options, the circuit could play host to a number of different forms of motor racing all throughout a given year. In the case of when the Formula One World Championship arrived, the 2.43 mile circuit number two would be used.
In this configuration, teams and drivers would have to prepare for a 96 lap contest that would take every bit of three hours to complete. This would be a difficult proposition for the teams and drivers as incredible heat poured down on the circuit come the day of the race.
Officially, the day of the race would see record temperatures of 104 degrees making the 1955 Argentine Grand Prix the hottest grand prix on record. It would only be tied a couple of times throughout the later decade, but never beaten.
As the teams rolled their cars to their grid positions in preparation for the 2pm start, the conditions would be absolutely unbearable down on the tarmac. Still, the cars would be lined up on the grid and final preparations for the 233 mile race made.
Even by 1955, the small privateers were beginning to disappear from the ranks of Formula One grids. In the case of the 1955 Argentine Grand Prix, Alberto Uria would be the only privateer in the field while Mercedes-Benz, Maserati and Scuderia Ferrari dominated the headlines and the field.
Being the only privateer in the field, Uria would not have the means to truly tweak his Maserati and gain that little bit extra to really help his lap times in practice. In addition, having a car a couple of years old also wouldn't help. Not surprisingly, Uria would post a lap time in practice that would be only goo enough for the dead-last in the field. Out of 21 cars to start the race, Uria would start 21st from the 6th row of the grid. Still, Uria would be in the race; he would make it while others throughout Formula One's history would fail in their only attempt to start. Starting from the sixth row of the grid in a 4-3-4 arrangement meant Alberto wouldn't seem all that far behind the front row, but his lap times would certainly rectify that mirage.
Though Mercedes-Benz would make the trip to Argentina with Juan Manuel Fangio as one of its drivers, it would be another Argentinean, Jose Froilan Gonzalez, that would take the pole for the race with a lap time of 1:43.1, a time eight seconds faster than Uria's. Fangio would even be beaten out for the 2nd place spot on the front row by Alberto Ascari in the Lancia D50. Then, on the other side of Fangio, in the final spot on the front row, would be Frenchman Jean Behra driving for Maserati.
As the start of the race loomed, the heat would only get worse, and that was before the engines even started. Therefore, attrition, both of car and driver, became a real concern as the engines roared to life and prepared for the start of the 96 lap race.
With tensions running as hot as the weather, the first couple of laps of the race would prove to be anything but uneventful. Fangio would get away from the line the best of the front row starters and would hold onto the lead over Ascari and Stirling Moss who leaped up from the third row right at the start. Further down the field, chaos would begin to erupt as Carlos Menditeguy and Pablo Birger would come together knocking each other out before the end of the first lap. Jean Behra would also be involved in an accident on the opening lap of the race but would do his best to continue. Uria would make it through the chaos at the beginning of the race and would actually make a rather large jump up in the running order as a result of the problems suffered by others.
Fangio would continue to be hounded by Ascari and Moss. Kling would also be right up there from the start but would suffer an accident on the 2nd lap of the race and would be forced out of the race. Behra would suffer the same fate, though it would be the damage suffered on the first lap that would do him in. Luigi Villoresi would be quite far down in the field right from the start of the race and it would only get worse in the race as he too would depart the running on the 2nd lap with a fuel leak.
While mechanical problems would be terrible, the heat would be so bad that the majority of the action would take place in the pits as drivers exchanged cars just because they would not be able to carry on throughout the whole of the race. In fact, there would be only two drivers that would remain in their own cars and would never get out all during the race. One of those would be Juan Manuel Fangio.
Heat exhaustion and other engine-related problems were of great concern. But in the incredible heat, fuel vaporization and loss would also be a big problem and it would end up costing Uria dearly.
Six cars would be out of the race before the 10th lap. Kling, Behra and Villoresi would be just a few of the favorites that would make early exits. After a brief period of time with Gonzalez in the lead, Alberto Ascari would take over control of the race and would seemingly be in control until he would make a mistake on the 22nd lap of the race and would crash out of the event leaving Gonzalez to retake the lead with Fangio and Moss trailing along in 2nd and 3rd. Uria, by the way, had made his way up to the top 15 but would slowly and steadily begin to lose ground to his competitors as the craziness of the first few laps settled down and the race really got into a flow. Still, the Uruguayan was looking strong in his World Championship debut.
Uria looked strong until he pulled off the circuit on the 23rd lap of the race. Strangely, the Maserati would be out of fuel. Either the fuel had vaporized and left the tank or he had a leak and it all drained out of the tank, but only about a quarter of the way through the race, Uria would jump out of the Maserati with it having run out of fuel.
The 1955 Argentine Grand Prix would be strange. Not only would Uria's empty fuel tank be an interesting problem, but the incredible heat would cause an absolute nightmare for timing and scoring as a number of cars would have no less than three different drivers over the course of the race. Gonzalez would last 60 laps before handing his car off to Giuseppe Farina and Maurice Trintignant. Farina's car would also be driven by Umberto Maglioli and Maurice Trintignant before the race would be over. Hans Herrmann would hand his Mercedes over to Karl Kling and Stirling Moss. Luigi Musso would also share his car as would Clemar Bucci and Eugenio Castellotti.
It would be an absolutely crazy and uncomfortable affair. And even though Fangio seemed unaffected by the incredible weather conditions, he was not entirely happy inside the cockpit of his Mercedes. The exhaust would heat up the side of the chassis and the Argentinean would keep bracing his leg right up against that portion of the car. By the end of the race, Fangio would suffer a terrible burn on that part of his leg, but the Argentinean would not let that stop him from taking the first victory of the season.
If the incredible heat and the burning sensation on his leg wasn't enough to get Fangio to lose concentration and pull out of the race, then there was absolutely no chance he wasn't going to win the race, as long as the car held together. While the rest of the drivers in the field would be looking as though to be playing some evolution of the hot potato game, Fangio would cruise right along having taken the lead back before the halfway point in the race. From then on, Fangio would be in complete control.
With all of the car swapping, just the car of Gonzalez, Farina and Trintignant would remain on the lead lap by the end. And, in the end, it would be Fangio giving the home crowd reason (not as if they needed one) to celebrate as he would cross the line in a little under three hours and one minute to take the first victory of the 1955 Formula One season. The number 12 Ferrari would eventually come across the line about a minute and thirty seconds behind in 2nd place. The 3rd place car of Farina, Trintignant and Maglioli would end up a little more than two laps down by the end of the race.
In spite of the strange ending to Uria's race, the event had actually been a very solid performance for him until that moment. He had gotten away well at the start and managed to hold onto positions despite having been out-qualified by everyone else in the field. And so, though the circumstances of his departure would be confusing and disappointing, Uria would represent himself and his country proudly. He would have reason to return, if he so desired.
After making his Formula One debut, Uria would remain in Argentina to take part in a Formula Libre race also held at the same venue. Competing against a number of good international drivers, Uria would come away with a good result. But unlike Daponte, Uria would not leave his native continent in order to take part in grand prix races. After the Formula Libre race, Uria would not be heard of in the Formula One World Championship until the following year when he would make one final appearance in a shared drive with Oscar Gonzalez.