TeamsScuderia Milano: 1953 Formula One Season By Jeremy McMullen
The story of Scuderia Milano stretched back before the start of the World Championship. By 1948, the team had already won a couple of races and had drivers like Luigi Villoresi and 'Nello' Pagani behind the wheel. Consider somewhat of a factory Maserati team early on, the team would quickly go into decline by the time the World Championship had been forged in 1950. By 1951, the team had competed in what seemed to be its last World Championship grand prix. But in 1953, the team would make one last farewell.
Throughout the 1950 and 1951 seasons, the team started by the Ruggieri brothers had sunk a lot of money in an aging Maserati 4CLT/48 and /50 chassis. Another one of these would become known as the 'Milano' as it would undergo enough modification to be considered a home-built car. The 'Milano' would also have a different engine under the hood as well. Instead of the normal 1.5-liter supercharged Maserati engine, the car would have 4-cylinder 1.5-liter supercharged Speluzzi engine. It would matter little as the car would not start its single race in which it would be entered in 1950. On a whole, the team would only score a 5th place as its best result. And in what seemed to be its final season of competition, the team would only manage a 10th place result by Paco Godia in the Spanish Grand Prix.
The money lost by mass consumption via the old Maserati chassis put the team's future in jeopardy. Then, with the governing-body's decision to have the World Championship conform to Formula 2 regulations put further strain on the team.
The team had cars in which there was very little opportunity for them to compete. And in those races in which the team could compete the chances of a good result were all but nil. The switch to Formula 2 made for some more difficulties. The regulations made it very difficult and expensive to turn the Maserati 4CLTs into Formula 2-legal machines. Therefore, in order to compete in the World Championship yet again, the team would need to get their hands on a couple of Formula 2 cars. All of this would cost money; money the team did not have.
There was yet another way in which Scuderia Milano could find its way back into the World Championship without having to absorb all of the costs associated with getting new cars and equipment in order to be competitive. That other way would be to join another already existing team. This is exactly what the team would do.
In the later part of the 1952 season the Escuderia Bandierantes team would arrive at the Dutch Grand Prix with a couple of new Maserati A6GCMs. The cars would be driven by the team's founder Francisco 'Chico' Landi. The other one would be driven by Dutch racer Jan Flinterman. While one of the team's cars would retire very early on, a shared drive between Landi and Flinterman would result in a 9th place finish in the race.
The team would later take part in the final round of the World Championship that year with the same cars and would finish the Italian Grand Prix with 8th and 11th place results. These were all good results, but still, the costs of racing were such that it threatened to bring to an end the Escuderia Bandierantes team as well. The following year, Landi would end up giving use of one of the Maseratis to Prince Bira who would go on to use the car in a number of races under different team names throughout the year.
In August on 1953, Landi would compete under his own name in the eighth round of the World Championship, the Swiss Grand Prix. Unfortunately, after the 54th lap of the race, the gearbox would fail in his car bringing his race to an end.
Money was sparse, and with year old chassis, it was likely that there wouldn't be a huge infusion heading into the ninth, and final, round. In order to continue racing costs needed to be shared. Therefore, Scuderia Milano would return to the World Championship using Landi's two Maserati A6GCM chassis.
The team's one and only World Championship event would be the season's last. On the 13th of September, Scuderia Milano and its two cars and drivers would be busy doing final preparations for the Italian Grand Prix held at the famous Autodromo Nazionale di Monza on the 13th of September.
Scuderia Milano would enter two cars for two different drivers. Of course Chico Landi would be behind the wheel of one. The other chassis would be the one in which Prince Bira had been using throughout the season. To be able to have the car under the Scuderia Milano name Prince Bira needed to be behind the wheel of the second car. It was a truly international team in that it had a Brazilian and a Siamese driver, an Italian car and an Italian team sponsor. What was more interesting was the driver lineup. Landi was certainly something of a celebrity in Brazil as he would be the country's first driver ever to compete in a World Championship race. However, Prince Birabongse Bhanudej Bhanubandh was actual royalty in the old nation known as Siam (now Thailand).
While the driver lineup was interesting it certainly wasn't novice. Landi had competed in a number of races and Prince Bira had the reputation of being in just about any motor race happening on any given day. Going to school at Eton and Cambridge, Prince Bira would be seen at a number of British motor races throughout the racing season, and had even managed to win a few over the years.
These two veterans had come together at one of the oldest purpose-built road courses in all the world. Built in the Royal Villa of Monza, the circuit complex would be completed and opened in September of 1922. Just one week later the circuit would hold its first motor race, the 2nd Italian Grand Prix.
After abandoning the combination of the 3.91 mile road course and the 2.64 mile steeply-banked oval, the Italian Grand Prix, and other motor races, would just be carried out on the suitably fast 3.91 mile road course. Even without the oval the average speeds around the road course were more than fast enough. The design of the road course would make it that nearly two-thirds of a lap are spent with the foot pressed firmly on the gas pedal. But more than the speed, it would be the atmosphere that would make the Italian Grand Prix special.
Never perhaps at any other circuit does national pride become so important. There are the Ferrari Tifosi that are always very vocal and appreciative of their favorite team adorned in red with the yellow badge sporting a properly reared-up stallion. But in 1953, there was another Italian favorite that somewhat split the ticket. Maserati was strong and the defenders of the Trident would assemble at the race en masse.
Although the World Championship had been long decided, with all of the national pride on the line, there was still everything to play for. And, as a result, Alberto Ascari, the new double-World Champion, would take the pole with his Ferrari having set a time of two minutes, two and seven-tenths seconds lap. Juan Manuel Fangio would bring the Maserati faithful to their feat starting the 80 lap race from the middle of the front row having set a time just half a second slower. The 3rd, and final, spot on the front row would go to another Ferrari driver, and 1950 World Champion, Giuseppe Farina.
Although the Scuderia Milano drivers were behind the wheel of Maseratis they were year old designs that didn't quite have the horsepower of the A6SSGs that Fangio and the other factory drivers had to use. Nonetheless, the two drivers would still go out there in practice and put together some decent times. Of the two, Landi would be the fastest qualifier. His time of two minutes and twelve and eight-tenths seconds would be just ten seconds slower than Ascari's time and would earn Landi 21st place on the grid, which was the outside of the seventh row. Prince Bira would post a fastest lap time of two minutes and thirteen and six-tenths seconds. Less than a second behind Landi, Bira would start 23rd and in the middle of the eighth row.
The day of the race was beautiful. It was sunny and the temperature rather mild; perfect conditions for a race. In fact, as the race would get underway, the racing would end up being hotter than the weather.
Fangio would make a poor start. Ascari, on the other hand, made an almost perfect start and roared away. However, Ascari's start would be matched by Giuseppe Farina and another Argentinean in the field, Onofre Marimon. Slipstreaming off of each other over the course of the first lap, Marimon would have a time in the lead but it wouldn't last before crossing the line to complete the first lap.
Behind the lead group, the rest of the field would make it through the first lap of the race without too much drama and everyone settled into their pace as the 80 lap race would not be a short affair.
Once Fangio recovered and hooked up with Ascari, Farina and Marimon at the front the pace would pick up dramatically. And for those that weren't willing to try and match the pace of the four cars at the front the other option would be to go a number of laps down.
The four cars continued to circulated unabated and never more than a car length away from each other at just about any time throughout the first half of the race. A number of other cars wouldn't even have to worry about making it halfway nor about being lapped numerous times as engine failures and other mechanical woes would knock out three before 15 laps would be complete.
Elie Bayol would end up being the next to fall prey to mechanical problems. He would fall out of the running after just 17 laps. Just one lap later, Scuderia Milano would lose one of its competitors. Chico Landi had already seen the leaders come by at least once. But then, after 18 laps, his engine would just pour smoke that would trail almost all the way from the last corners at Vedano to the pits. Thankfully for Landi, the engine would expire at the right moment to enable him to pull into the pits and simply step out of his car. This left just Bira in the field, perhaps a little concerned. The four-ship formation at the front just continued to power its way around the circuit seemingly without a care in the world.
Halfway through the race Marimon would come to care. A radiator cooling problem would force him to come into the pits for lengthy repairs. While in the pits he would lose valuable laps. However, he would return to the race, and with the same group he had departed just a few laps before.
Unfortunately for Bira, just about every ten laps he would have the leaders come through and put him another lap down. But at least he was still running in the race. A number of others would still be running in the race as it neared its completion too, but they would be so far behind they would end up 'Not Classified'.
Amazingly, the four-ship formation continued to lap the circuit as tight as they had very early in the race. It had been a truly incredible sight to behold. The professionalism and respect they paid each other each and every lap was truly remarkable and inspiring. They put on a demonstration as to what elite driving looked and sounded like.
But as these three cars, plus Marimon further down in the running order, approached the final lap of the race, it was certain all respect would fly right out the window. Team orders had been given a few weeks prior at the Swiss Grand Prix and Ascari totally ignored them to take the victory. And this was the Italian Grand Prix.
Thankfully for Bira, though he was still running heading into the final lap, he was out of the way enough so as to avoid any possibly maelstrom. And a truly bewildering one was on its way.
Heading into the final lap of the race, Farina held onto the lead as he had over the last few laps or so. Before that, Juan Manuel Fangio had a spell in the lead, but at this point in time, was following Farina and Ascari by a few car lengths. Farina and Ascari, the Ferrari teammates, would be seen side-by-side on a couple of occasions over the course of the final lap. However, Farina held onto the strategic position which prevented Ascari from going by into the lead. Ascari knew that to win the race he would need to make a bold move for Farina wasn't known to make mistakes. Instead of settling in behind and helping the team take an incredible one-two finish, Ascari would make his bold move.
Heading through Vedano Ascari would try and go around Farina on the outside. The car would hold for a while, but then, would suddenly break loose. The car would swerve in front of Farina while Ascari fought to regain control. With just a short straight left to go before the finish line, Farina was running wide and through the grass, Ascari was weaving, fighting to regain control and Fangio would just slip right on by to take the lead. To finish off the bad scenario, Marimon was caught with nowhere to go. He would hit Ascari ending the race for the both of them. After leading 62 laps in the race, Ascari was out. His bold move had a wicked backfire.
Fangio would make it through the melee unscathed and would take the first-ever World Championship victory for Maserati. Farina would manage to hold on to come across the line a very bitterly disappointed 2nd. Luigi Villoresi, a former Scuderia Milano pilot, would be rewarded with a 3rd place finish after he managed to complete the distance despite being a lap down.
Carnage would liter the field literally in the last few laps of the race. Four entries would drop out either on the last lap of the race or during the last couple of laps. All of this would help Bira who continued just to click off laps without much fuss or issue. And although he would be passed by Emmanuel de Graffenried in one of the newer A6SSGs, revenge would ultimately come when de Graffenried's engine let go with just ten laps remaining.
A number of cars, like Kenneth McAlpine's Connaught, would finish the race but would be more than twenty laps. Comparatively, Bira would fare quite well. Most all of the cars that finished ahead of him would be newer chassis with professional drivers at the wheel. And although Bira would finish 8 laps down he would finish the race 11th overall. This would be better than Ascari, Felice Bonetto, Onofre Marimon, de Graffenried, Stirling Moss, Piero Carini and some other very talented racers. All-in-all, this was a very good result for the once defunct team.
Although Bira would manage to salvage the race for Scuderia Milano he wouldn't be able to save the team from the inevitable. With the regulations due to change yet again the following year it was obvious the team didn't have the capital to field a proper team. Therefore, and yet again, Scuderia Milano would cease existence, at least in name.
The Ruggieri brothers' team still had a couple of old Maserati 'Milanos' on its hands. One of those original cars would be taken and would be heavily modified in order to be able to take part in the 1955 non-champoinship grand prix season.
Known under the team name Arzani-Volpini the car wouldn't make its first scheduled appearance at the Turin Grand Prix. However, the car would arrive in Pau, France in order to take part in the Pau Grand Prix.
During that race, Mario Alborghetti would crash headlong into some hay bales at Station Corner. It seemed certain he had made no attempt to try and make the corner. When he crashed into the bales he would strike a number of spectators as well. He would be killed while nearly a dozen spectators would be injured. With Alborghetti's death, the final chapter of Scuderia Milano would be written and the book shut. The name, and any reference to it, was to be no more. Scuderia Milano