TeamsAndre Testut: 1958 Formula One Season By Jeremy McMullen
When it comes to famous Monegasque racing drivers there are just a couple that comes to mind, and amongst those couple, the name of Louis Chiron obvious stands above the other. However, there was another, lesser-known, racing driver that made Monaco his home. And in 1958, he would attempt to make his own name in Formula One.
Andre Testut would be born in Lyon, France on the 13th of April in 1926. Of his life, very little is easy to recall. However, he would soon make his way around the Alps to the Mediterranean coast whereupon he would become a citizen of Monaco.
By the time Testut arrived in Monaco and become a citizen of the tiny principality, Louis Chiron was already a well-known individual. The Monegasque racing driver already had a colorful and controversial racing career. In fact, just a couple of years after Testut had been born into the world, Chiron would score victories in the German, Italian and Spanish grand prix. These major victories would be further bolstered by victories in the Rome, Marne and Belgian grand prix, so the experience and success of Chiron was vast.
Testut's own racing career would suffer an abortive start in 1948. At the age of just 22, Testut was to take part in Bol d'Or. Unfortunately, no information is known as to whether or not he actually took part in the race. In fact, it is believed the car did not arrive for the race.
His racing career would suffer yet another abortive start in the latter-part of 1956 when he was to drive an Osca in the Rheinland Nurburgring. However, Testut would not arrive for the race. Instead, his first race would come at the beginning of September 1956 at the Course de Cote de Vuillafans-Echevanne. Louis Chiron would be at the helm of an OSCA while Testut would also be driving an OSCA MT4 roadster. Chiron would go on to yet another victory while Testut would stun with a 2nd place result. This impressive performance would be followed up with a 3rd place finish driving a Porsche 356 at the Coupe d'Automne toward the end of September.
Recognizing his fellow Monacan's talent, Chiron would determine to partner with Testut for the 1957 season. The two would form a new team called ‘Monte Carlo Autosport'. These two would partner together behind the wheel of a Citroen DS19 in the Mille Miglia. The two would finish the race but well down in 103rd place overall.
Testut's anonymity would be surprising given his talent behind the wheel. Throughout 1957 Testut would experience a great deal of success in sportscars. This would include an overall victory at Vuillafans-Echevannes. Testut would complete the victory in style breaking Chiron's record and earning a congratulatory letter from the Maserati brothers, the brothers that formed OSCA after being forced out of their company bearing their name.
The success garnered by Testut over the course of the '57 season would lead him to look to Formula One for the following season. Encouraged by Louis Chiron, Testut would look to buy a car for the upcoming season. Knowing Maserati had withdrawn from Formula One, the likelihood of purchasing a Maserati 250F at a much cheaper price was greatly increased.
Chassis 2521 had been a factory Maserati throughout the '56 season. Then, late in '56, the car would be sold and would be entered under the team name of Ecurie du Puy and driven by Ken Wharton. However, the car would be driven quite sparingly and offered Testut a great opportunity. Therefore, Andre would purchase 2521 from Ecurie du Puy and would be sent back to the Maserati factory to be updated. The car would be received by the factory and would receive the new bodywork.
Andre would receive his car back from the factory and would look forward to his first opportunity to take part in a Formula One race. Of course, there was one race in particular in which Testut was looking forward to compete in.
Testut rarely missed an opportunity to take part in a sportscar race. This provided him a great deal of success and experience. However, Testut had only just started racing a couple of years before and needed a good deal more experience if he was to go up against the likes of Fangio, Moss and Hawthorn. Therefore, Testut looked forward to an opportunity to earn some experience behind the wheel of his Maserati. Thankfully, Testut would receive his car back from the factory in plenty of time to take part in one of the non-championship events leading up to the second round of the World Championship.
It was April, and the 8th Gran Premio di Siracusa was set to take place on the 13th. This provided Testut the perfect opportunity to take part in his first Formula One race. Held on 3.48 miles of public roads just to the west of Syracuse, the circuit provided Testut a great opportunity without having to travel very far from his home in Monaco.
Syracuse's road course provided Testut with a great experience. The start/finish straight would be situated out amongst the rolling countryside and would be rather flat and wide open providing drivers a great opportunity to push the limits of their car's top speed. This would be followed by a rather technical and difficult section in that the road descended, and then, broke off to the right before reaching a tight hairpin that still had a downward angle to its approach and apex. The exit of the hairpin would see the circuit begin a climb back up in altitude. Sweeping back and forth past the Commonwealth Graves Cemetery, the circuit continued to climb until it reached yet another straight. This straight would lead to a fast left-hand turn and another straight before heading back around to the start/finish line. A lap of the circuit boasted of fast average speeds and a baptism of fire, of sorts, for those, like Testut, that looked to make a career in Formula One.
A year ago, Vanwalls and Ferraris battled it out for the lead and the victory. A year later, events would cause a number of changes. The introduction of the new Constructors' Championship and the addition of more rounds of the championship meant factory teams were less likely to take part in non-championship events. Therefore, Vandervell Products would not be present for the 60 lap race. Scuderia Ferrari would be, but it would just a single car entry for Luigi Musso. Therefore, the vast majority of the field would be small privateers teams like that of Testut's.
In spite of the fact he was all alone at the race, Musso would prove himself fastest around the circuit. Posting a lap time of 1:58.4, Musso would earn pole for the Syracuse Grand Prix. Giorgio Scarlatti would take his Maserati 250F, the very same one in which Fangio earned his incomparable win at the Nurburgring the year before, and would earn a spot in the middle of the front row. The final spot on the front row would end up going to Jo Bonnier driving yet another Maserati 250F.
Sportscars and Formula One were quite different and Testut would find that out first hand. Though he would earn a good deal of success in sportscar racing and would prove quite fast in the process, his pace in practice for the grand prix would be less than stellar. When all of the practice sessions came to an end, Testut would be more than 24 seconds slower than Musso, and around the same circuit! Therefore, Andre would start his first grand prix from the fifth row of the grid in 12th place overall. Not surprisingly, this was dead-last on the grid.
Being that it was his first Formula One race, starting position mattered little. Gaining experience and bringing the car home was of much greater importance. He could learn very little if he pushed so hard that the car broke after just a couple of laps.
Testut wouldn't push hard enough to break the car in the first couple of laps. In fact, the only one really seeming to push in the early going of the race would be Musso. Though he was on his own, he would prove to be more than a match for the fleet of Maseratis. Armed with the latest Ferrari, the Dino 246, Musso would go on to set what would be the fastest lap of the race and would begin to leave everyone else behind.
OSCA would enter one of their Formula 2 cars in the race but it would last just a couple of laps before it would retire. This would be followed by a retirement of a Maserati at just about 8 lap increments. Wolfgang Seidel would start it off retiring after 18 laps. Antonio Creus would follow after 26 laps suffering a crash. Giorgio Scarlatti would then last 33 laps before magneto troubles ended his race.
As a result of the attrition, Testut moved up the order. He was still well back at the end of the field but he was gaining valuable experience and was moving up the order nonetheless. When Masten Gregory retired after 36 laps, he would move up yet another position. Andre seemed on course for a good result in his first Formula One. Furthermore, he looked set to garner some much needed experience before the second round of the Formula One World Championship about a month away.
Musso would be out front and untouchable. After posting the fastest lap of the race, Luigi would settle into a consistently fast pace that would enable him to pull away from the 2nd place car. In reality, all of those still running would pull away from each other. There would be no close battles heading into the final moments of the race. The only battle left was against that of attrition.
Unfortunately for Testut, this would be a battle he just could not win. He would do his absolute best and would come close. However, with nine laps remaining in the race the six-cylinder engine in his Maserati would give up the fight. Testut was out of his first grand prix, but it had been a good performance and it provided some much needed experience.
Musso's only battle would be against attrition and a lack of focus. However, he would not lose either battle and he would charge across the line to a very easy victory. Completing the race distance in just under two hours and three minutes, Musso would finish more than a lap ahead of Bonnier in 2nd place. Another lap would be the gap back to Francisco Godia-Sales finishing in 3rd place.
Testut's first race would be a bittersweet experience. He had garnered a good deal of experience and time behind the wheel of the Maserati. He had also come close to finish his first race. But that would be the bitter pill he would have to swallow. He had come within just a couple of laps of finishing. He had put in all the hard work to end up just short. Still, for as much as the race in Syracuse may have been frustrating for Testut, his focus had always been on the race following a month later down the line.
Unfortunately for Testut, he had to repair and rebuild his Maserati's engine before he could really think about the next race on his calendar. And, inching closer and closer to the event, Andre would need his Maserati working perfectly if he was just to make it into the field.
A couple of non-championship events followed the race in Syracuse. Both of those would come on English shores. The BARC ‘200' and the BRDC International Trophy race offered Testut even more experience. However, he would forego both in order to fully prepare for the second round of the Formula One World Championship—the Monaco Grand Prix.
The Formula One World Championship had only just returned to the streets of the tiny principality before Andre started his racing career fully. But even with its hiatus from the World Championship, Monaco would always be the crown jewel in the series and would be the reason for a great deal of excitement in 1955. Three years later, it was Testut's time to share in the excitement as he prepared for his home race for the first time.
Andre had earned a good deal of experience in long-distance sportscar events. He had taken part in races like the Mille Miglia which required great concentration around tight city streets. There were many sections of the Mille Miglia that paid drivers dearly for mistakes. The tight street circuit around the streets of Monte Carlo was no different. If anything, it was more difficult precisely because there was no break from it. The Monaco Grand Prix would be nothing but a couple of hours of being on edge. This is where the experience was very important and often made the difference between just making it into the race, or, being left on the sidelines.
The grand prix's organizers only allowed 16 places on the grid. This meant there would be an epic battle in qualifying just to make it into the race. The Vanwalls would be quick, right along with the BRMs from Owen Racing and the mid-engined Coopers. Suddenly, the British marques were setting the pace around the 1.95 mile circuit. This was not good news for those driving the much older Maserati 250Fs, like Testut.
Monaco couldn't have been any more different than the public road course used outside of Syracuse. Whereas the circuit outside of Syracuse was relatively wide-open and fast, the Monaco street circuit was tight, twisty and much slower. On top of that, the circuit didn't allow for any mistakes. Testut was used to endurance races. Therefore, practice alone would be a new adventure and a race for Testut. Unfortunately, as the first couple of practice sessions drew to a close, Andre wasn't any closer to 16th on the grid as he was to pole.
Jo Bonnier would be on the bubble having set a lap time of 1:45.0. Ron Flockhart would be close to the time in one of the Climax-powered Coopers. He would be just nine-tenths of a second off the time, but not fast enough to challenge Bonnier for the final spot on the grid. This was not a good sign for Testut. Andre would set out in the final practice session and would push as hard as he dared. The Maserati, adorned in an overall white livery with two red stripes running the length of the car would be in stark contrast to most cars out on the circuit. Unfortunately, the livery made it easier to judge the pace of Testut compared to others. And, unfortunately, it would be obvious a spot on the grid was likely going to be out of the question. Testut would give it his all but would only manage to set a time of 1:51.4. A spot in the Monaco Grand Prix was not for Andre.
Andre would realize he had no chance to make it into the race. However, that would not prevent his Maserati from being seen out on the circuit making a few laps. What would be surprising would be the person behind the wheel. Louis Chiron had won the Monaco Grand Prix back in 1931. He was also never far from other Formula One events always ready to offer animated advice and ‘expertise'. So when Testut came to the realization he wouldn't be able to make it into the race, the famous Monegasque resident would take to the wheel to do a few laps of his own and to see where he stacked-up some thirties years after he first took part in a motor race.
Chiron and Testut had partnered together in the Mille Miglia and at other times, and had proven to be successful at more than one race. However, not even the great Chiron behind the wheel could get the Maserati into the race. Instead, Chiron and Testut provided their fellow Monacans a great sight and one more memory around the streets of the principality.
Although Testut would fail to qualify for the Monaco Grand Prix he would not put the car aside and not take part in another race. In fact, he would use the Maserati to great effect scoring a 2nd place result at La Faucille in the early part of September. Unfortunately though, the fewer number of non-championship races would be rather prohibitive to Andre garnering more and more experience behind the wheel of a single-seater. Instead, Testut would return to sportscar races for the remainder of the season.
Testut's appearance in Formula One would be very brief and would be as much about Chiron having one last hurrah as anything else. It seemed as though Andre would depart the scene as soon as he appeared. However, Formula One had not see the last of the Monegasque.