TeamsLouis Chiron: 1953 Formula One Season By Jeremy McMullen
Louis Chiron was born in 1899 in Monte Carlo. Holding dual citizenship, Chiron would enlist in the French Army and would serve in World War I. In spite of being the son of a wealthy French hotelier, Chiron was never that far from danger serving in the artillery during the war. However, he would soon put his driving skills to good use driving around Marshal Foch. In those days the roads weren't all that great. It would be here that Chiron would develop the silky smooth style he would become famous for.
Never lacking for money, Chiron would be one of the few great drivers from Europe to actually make his way to the United States to race. In 1929 he would take part in the Indianapolis 500 in a Delage and would finish the race in 7th place. Of course, he was already considered the top Bugatti driver by this time.
Chiron's career continued to climb throughout the 1930s despite a number of retirements. Unfortunately, he would join Mercedes toward the later-part of the 1930s and would suffer from a serious accident that would cause the famous driver to retire from grand prix racing and focus solely on sports car racing.
By the time World War II rolled through Europe, Chiron was already in his 40s and seemingly in the twilight of his career. However, after the war's end, Chiron would be back in grand prix racing and surprisingly quick. He would earn a number of victories throughout the later 1940s. Despite pushing his 50s, Chiron would be there for the inaugural Formula One World Championship race, the British Grand Prix.
Throughout the 1950 season, Chiron would drive for the factory Maserati team. The next year he would drive for a number of teams including Ecurie Rosier and Enrico Plate. In spite of his age, many teams came calling on Chiron because of his talent and experience. Unfortunately, Chiron's age was getting the better of his experience and he would be without a ride when the World Championship switched and competed according to Formula 2 regulations in 1952. However, racing and competition was in his blood; it was his addiction. And he wasn't going to be left out of it no matter what his age.
Heading into the 1953 season, the World Championship had one more year competing according to Formula 2 regulations. Since many of the factory teams were now looking beyond the now 53 year old, Chiron would decide to re-enter the World Championship driving under his own name. But he would need a competitive car in which to make the most of the opportunity.
Throughout his racing career Chiron had become quite familiar with the Maserati brothers and their ability to design and build competitive grand prix cars. Even though the brothers had lost the company which bore their name, they were not done producing racing cars. They would go on to form OSCA in 1947 and would end up making some incredibly competitive sports cars like the MT4. Then, towards the end of 1951, the Maserati brothers designed a car for grand prix racing. It was the OSCA 20. Elie Bayol had driven one during the end of the 1952 season and had some success with it. That was it. Chiron had his car.
Armed with a new car, Chiron looked to get back into grand prix racing in 1953. Never really lacking any money, Chiron prepared for a busy season of racing. However, it would not start with the first round of the World Championship.
1953 would be the first time in which the World Championship would actually extend outside of Europe. Yes, the Indianapolis 500 counted toward the World Championship but was never really considered part of the championship because the two existed almost exclusive of each other. But when Argentina would host the first round of the World Championship in 1953, the World Championship had truly come to fit its name.
In spite of money not being an issue, having the car in time and being ready to race would be. On top of it all, Chiron wasn't really interested in fighting it out for the title; he just wanted to race. Therefore, he would wait until racing in Europe would start up. He really wouldn't have to wait too long.
Despite pushing 54 years old, Chiron packed up his OSCA 20 and the rest of his equipment and would make his way to Syracuse, Sicily towards the end of March. He was on his way to what was the 3rd Gran Premio di Siracusa and the 80 lap race took place on the 22nd of March.
Chiron had learned his smooth driving skills during World War II. Syracuse would use its many millennia of warfare to host a much more peaceful form of combat. Located just a couple of miles to the west of the Syracuse's downtown, the wide open rolling countryside would come to host grand prix races in which the best drivers and cars would battle it out for a much more peaceful domination.
Believed to located on the site of a abandoned and dismantled United States Army Air Force airfield, the Syracuse circuit measured 3.34 miles of public roads passing through the Sicilian countryside through the Curva della Madonnina up the gentle grade by the war cemetery and down the sloping ground to the Curva Florida and back around to the start/finish line.
Seeing that the first round of the World Championship had taken place all the way back in January, many of the larger factory efforts had more than enough time to make it back to Europe in time to take part in the race. While the vast majority of the field would include privateer and small team entries the Gran Premio di Siracusa would include one important factory team in the field.
Scuderia Ferrari would come to the race with four cars driven by Alberto Ascari, Giuseppe Farina, Luigi Villoresi and the young Briton Mike Hawthorn. This presented a great challenge to the rest of the field preparing to take part in the 80 lap race.
Against such a great team as Ferrari there was little hope of a front row starting position. Chiron had actually driven under the Scuderia Ferrari name back when it was actually part of Alfa Romeo, and therefore, knew full well the talent of the team and the focus of its owner. Sure enough, the entire three-wide front row would be off-limits to anybody other than a Scuderia Ferrari member. Alberto Ascari would set the pace and would take the pole. Giuseppe Farina would start right beside Ascari in 2nd place. Luigi Villoresi completed the front row sweep for Ferrari. Baron de Graffenried used his Maserati A6GCM to good use breaking up the Ferrari stranglehold on the top when he would qualify on the second row of the grid in 4th.
Chiron would show his year off from grand prix racing did little to slow him. In practice, Chiron would put together an impressive lap with the OSCA 20 and would end up starting the race from the middle of the third row in the 7th place position.
In all, fourteen cars would take the green flag. Given the pace right at the very start by the Ferrari contingent at the front of the field it would have seemed the race was going to be a walk for the squad from Maranello. However, after just three laps, it seemed there was some rust that had eaten its way through the usually indestructible team. Luigi Villoresi would drop out of the running due to valve trouble. And this would be just the beginning of real problems for Scuderia Ferrari. The thing was, they didn't realize it.
Alberto Ascari seemed like a swimmer in the ocean unknowingly being followed by a shark looking for a meal. Ascari would power his way and would end up setting what would be the fastest lap of the race with a lap time of two minutes and five seconds.
Throughout the first thirty laps of the race it seemed Villoresi's problems were merely a fluke. However, after 37 laps, the shark would attack its unknowing victims. Ascari would be the first to get bitten. He too would suffer from valve troubles and would be forced to retire from the race despite being the fastest car on track. Even though his car was out of the running, Ascari just could not stand to be. Therefore, he would take over Mike Hawthorn's Ferrari for the remainder of the race, which would end up being just twenty more laps.
With just twenty-three laps remaining in the race, Ascari would again pull a Ferrari 500 to the side of the circuit. Valve troubles again ruined the race for the defending World Champion. This left just Giuseppe Farina holding the candle for the team.
The absence of three of the Ferraris meant many of the privateer entries still running would be promoted. The greatest beneficiary to all the troubles would be Baron de Graffenried. He would take his Maserati and would be inside the top three. And if trouble were to come to Farina he would be in position to take full advantage. Another that would benefit would be Chiron. Tom Cole's crash and the Ferrari self-destruction had all helped Chiron to come up the running order. The pace at the front of the field had been so incredible that Chiron found himself more than a couple of laps down with just about twenty laps still remaining in the race. However, his own pace had been such that he too enjoyed a comfortable margin over his competitors running behind him.
Baron de Graffenried was in the right position ready to take advantage of any misfortune to befall Farina. With just 19 laps remaining, mechanical troubles would come and strike the sole remaining Scuderia Ferrari running in the race. The destruction of the Maranello effort meant the driver riding in the Modena-base Maserati had taken the lead of the race.
Baron de Graffenried would take advantage of his huge lead over Chiron, who was now running in 2nd place. Averaging a little more than 91 mph over the course of the race, de Graffenried would settle in and would cruise to the victory. He would enjoy a three lap advantage over Chiron at the time he crossed the line to take the win. Rodney Nuckey would go on to finish the race three laps behind Chiron in 3rd place.
In spite of being 53 years of age, Chiron still showed he had incredible talent behind the wheel of a grand prix car. His smooth style kept him on the track, avoiding dangers and avoiding undue damage to his car. As a result, Chiron would come out on top even over the elder-statesmen at Scuderia Ferrari. Of course, it was their self-destruction that helped to make it all possible.
After what would be considered a surprising 2nd place result at Syracuse, Chiron packed up and headed back across to the European mainland and on to France. Two weeks later, Chiron was in the commune of Pau for the 14th Grand Prix de Pau.
Alphonse de Lamartine considered Pau as having, 'the world's most beautiful view of the earth…' Located on the side small hills along the Gave de Pau in the foothills of the Pyrenees mountains, Pau has always been a place considered to be of great importance. Besides being the birthplace for Henry the IV of France and a place of residence for Napolean III, Pau had long been considered a center for winter sports. However, on the tight and winding city streets, Pau would come to host one of the more popular grand prix races on the calendar.
Pau had been one of those races and circuits in which Chiron had never seemed to come to grips with. Pau was by no means an easy circuit in which to master. Consisting of numerous tight hairpin turns, the pace around the circuit was by no means fast. However, the quick left. Right flick through Foch and down around the left-hand Avenue du General Poeymiraud started out with a blind entry that had a tendency to catch out more than its share of drivers. However, how fitting was it that Chiron would have to negotiate a difficult section of the Pau circuit named for the very man he had to usher around difficult sections of battlefields and that gave him his skills behind the wheel.
The Grand Prix de Pau would be similar to the Gran Premio di Siracusa in that Scuderia Ferrari was present. However, the field would also include another large factory effort as well. Equipe Gordini would come to Pau and they would bring four cars of their own. Combined with three cars entered for Ferrari, the field was going to be filled with powerful factory efforts.
Qualifying for the three hour race would be tight. Ascari would prove to be too fast for the rest of the field, but only by a tenth of a second. Giuseppe Farina would just miss out on the pole and would have to settle for starting the race from the middle of the front row. Mike Hawthorn was just one second slower than Ascari and would round out the front row.
The second row would be taken by two of the Equipe Gordini entries. Chiron would find himself joined by Elie Bayol in the first OSCA 20. The two would run similar times around the tight 1.75 mile circuit. As a result, the two would start the race side-by-side on the third row of the grid. Louis Chiron's best lap of one minute and forty-two seconds would end up being almost two seconds faster than Bayol's best, and therefore, would earn Chiron the better starting position in 6th.
The three hour race would get underway with Ascari leading the way. He would be closely chased by his Ferrari teammates. The tight nature of the circuit would keep the action close amongst themselves. Behind them, the rest of the field would do its best to snake its way around the short street circuit.
All of the drivers would make it through the first lap without incident. However, it wouldn't be too long before the circuit started to claim its victims. The first to fall prey to the circuit would be Jean Behra. He would crash his Gordini T16 and would be out of the race after just 6 laps. After Behra's misstep it seemed the rest of the field would run free of any more problems as each competitor continued to complete lap after lap.
Although Chiron had scored the better starting position over Bayol, the Frenchman would return fire during the race. Bayol would be fast and would manage to leave Chiron behind fighting amongst Louis Rosier and Andre Simon.
Meanwhile, up at the front of the field, Ascari continued to lead the race and was actually beginning to systematically pull away from the rest of the competitors. His escape would be made a little easier when after 33 laps Giuseppe Farina would crash out of the race in his Ferrari. This left Hawthorn to pick up the fight with Ascari. The inexperienced Hawthorn wouldn't be able to match Ascari's pace around the twists and turns of Pau, and therefore, would lose ground.
Chiron was also losing ground. Just about every twenty-five minutes to a half-hour Chiron would lose another lap to Ascari. He would also lose ground to Louis Rosier and Andre Simon. Thankfully for Chiron, Simon would withdraw from the race as the result of being ill and unable to continue.
Intent on leaving everybody behind, Ascari would keep the pressure on using his pace as his swift judgement. He would help his case as he would turn what would end up being the fastest lap of the race. His lap time would actually be three-tenths of a second faster than his own qualifying effort, and more than enough to break free of any challenge.
Over the course of the three hour race Ascari would complete 106 laps and would take the victory averaging a little more than 60 mph. He would end up taking the win by a whole lap over Mike Hawthorn. Hawthorn was in little hurry though as he would come to enjoy a three lap margin over the 3rd place finisher Harry Schell.
After starting out his season with a rather surprising 2nd place result in Sicily, Chiron would follow it up with a splendid 6th place result in Pau. Although he would end up some seven laps behind Ascari at the finish, the 6th place would still mark one of the best results Chiron had ever managed to earn at the circuit.
In what was his return to grand prix racing Chiron was showing that he had lost very little, and that his age was playing an almost negligent role in his ability to earn top results. Over the course of two races he had earned a 2nd and a 6th. If he could keep this up throughout the whole of the season major teams would have to take another look at the aged racing star. While such thoughts would certainly be welcome Chiron wouldn't dwell on them. Instead, he would pack up everything and would head home. Almost a month would pass before he would take part in another race. He would need all the time he could get to make sure he kept the run going.
In early May, Chiron made his way to Bordeaux located in the southwestern part of France. He was on his way to take part in the 2nd Grand Prix de Bordeaux, which took place on the 3rd of May.
Bordeaux had a major part in the establishment of motor racing. Races like Paris to Bordeaux were examples of early motor races that would eventually lead to the formation of the World Championship. The last time the Grand Prix de Bordeaux had been run, the first edition of the race, it was 1951 and Louis Rosier would be the victor. Two years later, the landscape looked much different.
Rosier was back to defend his win. However, he would have to battle with Scuderia Ferrari and the factory Maserati team in order to repeat the victory. This was an almost impossible task given the presence of Alberto Ascari, Giuseppe Farina and Juan Manuel Fangio. Thankfully for Rosier, he would have probably the best car available to give him the best chance possible. He too would be driving a Ferrari 500. Chiron would find that he wasn't the only OSCA 20 entered in the race. As with Pau, Bayol would join Chiron in the Bordeaux field.
Although Bordeaux helped to establish motor racing it certainly finds its fame and wealth from its most famous export product. Straddling the Garonne River, Bordeaux is the world's wine capital. Wine has been synonymous with Bordeaux since the 8th century. However, it was an important commercial center even before that. The city fell under Roman rule in the first century B.C. and would later become the capital of Roman Aquitaine. The city would even briefly become the capital of France during World War II as German troops approached Paris.
As with many other cities throughout France, Bordeaux has had a history filled with warfare and blood shed. Right in the heart of the city the Place des Quinconces had been built on the site of Chateau Trompette which was intended to prevent rebellion against the city. The Place would boast of a number of beautifully crafted columns and fountains meant to commemorate the victims of the Reign of Terror during the French Revolution, as well as, a memorial to its more peaceful purpose—commerce. It was around this beautiful square dedicated to remembrance and purpose that the city's 1.52 mile circuit would be based.
In practice leading up to the 120 lap race, Luigi Villoresi would surprise almost everybody and would set the pace in his Ferrari. He would take the pole with a lap of one minute, twenty-three and six-tenths seconds. He would beat out Ascari by just a mere tenth of a second. Maurice Trintignant would manage to take his Gordini T16 and would just edge out Giuseppe Farina for the third, and final, spot on the front row.
Bordeaux was proving to be a place where the veterans showed their incredible form. Chiron would look incredible in practice and would end up posting a time that was just two seconds slower than Villoresi. As a result, Chiron would start the race from the 5th position on the second row of the grid.
The race would get underway with the cars tearing away leaving a cloud of tire smoke. Ascari would gain the upper hand and would have Juan Manuel Fangio and Villoresi following closely behind.
The short and twisting nature of the circuit was certainly going to be tough on the field over the course of 120 laps, or about three hours, of racing. While the majority of the field would make it through the first twenty laps without a problem, attrition was gaining ground quickly. The nature of the circuit made life tough on gearboxes. Sure enough, after 26 laps completed, two entries would end up falling out of the race with clutch-related problems. After 57 laps, it would be Giuseppe Farina's turn to run foul of trouble. He would have gear selector problems that would end up sidelining him for the rest of the race.
By this time, Ascari was still in the lead with Fangio following closely and Villoresi right there. Chiron was also running quite well helped out by Farina's failure. It was said that Chiron preferred shorter circuits in which his competitors would remain in sight. Bordeaux was just such a circuit and all throughout the race, despite his age and in spite of racing against stronger teams with stronger equipment, Chiron was showing just how much he enjoyed racing on such circuits.
Unfortunately, while everything was looking promising, Chiron would come to a stop and would end up getting help to get started once again. This was grounds for disqualification. And after 67 wonderful laps, Chiron was out of the race. Just a little less than half of the race remained.
Over the course of the race, Ascari would manage to use the pace of his Ferrari to wear down his competition. Soon Fangio would fade. Only Villoresi would remain giving Ascari any kind of hard time.
Coming down to the few remaining laps Ascari would put his final stamp of domination on the race. While enjoying a lead of almost a minute over Villoresi, Ascari would come up on Fangio and would end up lapping the Argentinean before the end.
Averaging a little more than 62 mph, Ascari would cruise to victory in just under two hours and fifty-nine minutes of driving time. Just about fifty seconds would separate Ascari and his good friend Villoresi at the finish. One lap down to Ascari, Fangio would cross the line to finish 3rd.
Although the final results wouldn't reflect it, Chiron's Bordeaux grand prix would be a strong showing. He had qualified well and had competed well in the race until his misfortunate mistake using outside help. Despite the disqualification, Chiron still had a good race and it set the stage for his next race just one week later.
Almost immediately after being disqualified from the Bordeaux Grand Prix, Chiron would pack up his car and his equipment and would head out of the city toward the north coast of France. He would make his way across the English Channel and on to Silverstone in Northamptonshire and Buckinghamshire. He was on his way to Silverstone for the 5th BRDC International Trophy race held on the 9th of May.
The International Trophy race was somewhat of a different race. It consisted of two heat 15 lap heat races and a 35 lap final. The entire field would be split into the two heats. The finishing times from each competitor in their respective heat would then determine the starting order for the final.
Never one to be interested in speed records, Chiron was never really familiar with Britain's first home for motor racing—Brooklands. However, he had been familiar with Silverstone almost from its very first moments as the new home for the British Grand Prix and the BRDC International Trophy race. He was well acquainted with its wide-open 2.88 mile layout on the perimeter road around the former Royal Air Force bomber airfield as he had been in the field for the very first World Championship race here back in 1950. Thus, he knew the circuit and knew where he was strong and weak.
Thankfully for Chiron, his greatest strength would be the fact he wasn't to face off against the full might of Scuderia Ferrari or Maserati. Instead, Ferrari would send just Mike Hawthorn to uphold the team's honors. While the field would lack the full strength of the Ferrari factory effort the field would still boast of more than enough capable race drivers from around the British Isles and Europe.
The first heat would consist of strong performers as Emmanuel de Graffenried, Stirling Moss, Louis Rosier and Tony Rolt. In practice before the heat, de Graffenried would set the pace. His lap time of one minute and fifty-one seconds would end up being nearly three seconds faster than the 2nd place qualifier Bob Gerard. Tony Rolt would also start from the front row in the 3rd place starting position after posting a time just tenths slower than Gerard. Kenneth McAlpine would also post a time of one minute and fifty-four seconds and would start in the final position on the front row.
When the heat race got underway an intense battle between de Graffenried and Moss would erupt. The two would battle back and forth almost every mile of the 15 lap heat. The battle would be so intense that they would even set the same fastest lap time around the 2.88 mile circuit.
Behind them, Prince Bira made a good start and would battle with Tony Rolt for position inside the top three. Kenneth McAlpine would do everything he could just to hold onto the top five. Although they would not be blown out by the duo up front, de Graffenried and Moss certainly held domination over the whole of the field.
In the battle between de Graffenried and Moss, the Swiss Baron would end up holding the advantage in his Maserati. Baron de Graffenried would take just under twenty-nine minutes to take the victory in the first heat. Just five seconds behind him, Moss would come across the line in 2nd. Seventeen seconds would end up separate Moss in 2nd place and the 3rd place finisher Prince Bira.
In preparation for the second heat, Chiron would climb in behind the wheel of his OSCA 20 and do what he could in practice. He would certainly seem right at home on the 2.88 mile circuit as he would manage to put his OSCA on the front row of the second heat. His time of one minute and fifty-three seconds would end up being good enough to start 3rd. Ken Wharton would have everybody's number in his Cooper-Bristol T23. His one minute and fifty-two second lap would be good enough to take the pole over Mike Hawthorn and his Ferrari. Maurice Trintignant would complete the front row in his Gordini T16.
As with the first heat, the second heat would come down to a battle between two drivers. From the very start of the race, a war would rage between Ken Wharton and Mike Hawthorn. Between the two, the pace would be incredible. Even though both of them qualified with times slower than de Graffenried's in the first heat, the pace of the two in the second heat would be much faster than de Graffenried's in his heat.
Although Wharton had started the race from the pole, Mike Hawthorn was gunning for him at the start of the race. Hawthorn was hard on the gas during the heat race and would even go on to set what would be the fastest lap of the heat. Such a pace was too tough for Wharton to fight, at least that is what everybody thought.
The pace would end up being too much for a number of other competitors including Chiron. In spite of starting the heat in 3rd, Chiron would soon find himself battling with Roy Salvadori and Peter Whitehead. Whitehead had made an incredible start and certainly seemed to be too much for Chiron considering he had started the race from 10th on the grid.
The fight between Hawthorn and Wharton would come right down to the line. Throughout the 15 laps, the two would never be separated by more than a few car lengths. At the line, it would be Mike Hawthorn by just a mere second. Nearly forty-five seconds later, Roy Salvadori would cross the line to take 3rd. Less than twenty seconds would separate 3rd through 5th. The racing would be close, but ultimately, Chiron would finish his heat in 5th.
With both heat races finished it was time for the 35 lap final. The starting grid would be set according to finishing times in each heat. The torrid pace of Hawthorn and Wharton meant they would line up 1st and 2nd for the final. The rest of the front row would include de Graffenried in 3rd and Stirling Moss in 4th.
Prior to his second heat Chiron looked to be in good shape. By the end, Chiron would find himself further down in the final starting field than many thought he would be. His time of twenty-nine minutes and thirty-two minutes would mean that Chiron would start the final from the third row. He would start 9th overall and on a row that included Rolt, Bobbie Baird and Maurice Trintignant.
The final would be greeted with the same great weather than had marked the rest of the occasion. At the start of the 35 lap final, de Graffenried was intent on making the best start possible. He would get the jump and would be immediately fast. He would have company; however, Mike Hawthorn would make a good getaway and would also be immediately on the pace.
Moss and Wharton wouldn't get the best starts and would be fighting hard to stay up near the front throughout the early going of the race. Further back in the field, a number of intense battles for position would break out. Starting from the middle of the pack, Chiron would find himself in the middle of a fight while he too was looking to make his way forward.
A number of entries would be out of the race before 10 laps had been completed. Among those that would be out early, Trintignant certainly had the greatest promise. While Trintignant, and others, would find their races over early, Hawthorn and de Graffenried would be embroiled in an intense battle that seemed destined to rage throughout the whole of the race.
The leaders had completed 16 laps when, all of a sudden, a couple of important events would take place. The first piece of news would be Chiron's problems. Chiron had looked good starting the final from his 9th place position on the grid. Despite being right in the middle of the field, Chiron was picking his way carefully and had settled into a good pace. However, after 16 laps, he would find his race over with a ruptured fuel tank.
At the same time, de Graffenried would retire his Maserati from the race. He had managed to tie Hawthorn in setting the fastest lap of the race, but was now out of the race. This wouldn't let Hawthorn off the hook, however. He still had Roy Salvadori behind him and if he backed off too much Salvadori would be all over him.
Over the remaining half of the race Hawthorn would keep his foot on it, but Salvadori would also do his best to keep pace. By the end of the race only the top six would remain on the lead lap. Many of the twenty-one that would actually finish the race would end up more than one lap down.
Although he was Ferrari's only bullet in its gun, Hawthorn would prove to be more than enough. He would go on to win the race averaging a little more than 92 mph and would cross the line with a twelve seconds advantage over Roy Salvadori in 2nd place. Third place would go to Tony Rolt. Rolt had started the race in 8th place and would drive a tremendous race. Unfortunately, his best just wouldn't be enough to catch up to Hawthorn as he would end up forty-two seconds behind at the finish.
Chiron's fuel tank problem was certainly an unfortunate event for the veteran. He seemed poised to put together an impressive race. Chiron would end up traveling all the way to Silverstone after over a year and would end up leaving without so much as a race finish. For someone like Chiron, the failure would only make him focus all the more at his very next race. And it is often a good thing of the next race comes soon. In Chiron's case, his next race would come just one week later.
Chiron wouldn't have to travel all that far in a week to get to his next race. All he needed to do was to make his way to the west coast of England, cross the Irish Sea and make his way to the small village of Dundrod in Northern Ireland. His reason for heading to the Emerald Isle was to take part in the 7th Ulster Trophy race held on the 7.41 mile Dundrod circuit.
Located in County Antrim, the Dundrod circuit is a road circuit in the purist sense. Comprised totally of public roads meandering through the Northern Ireland countryside, the circuit features a number of long fast straights with undulating terrain that even made it possible for the cars to lose touch with the ground. The circuit also features a number of fast, sweeping S-bends that require courage and technical skill.
This wonderful circuit surrounded by fields of green and brown would be the setting for an Ulster Trophy race that was similarly formatted to the International Trophy race held just one week prior. The race would consist of two heat races and a final. Starting grid positions for the final; however, would be determined differently than what they had been for the race at Silverstone.
Chiron would end up drawing the second heat, and therefore, would have the opportunity to watch Stirling Moss and Duncan Hamilton duke it out for 10 laps.
In practice before the first heat, Stirling Moss would end up setting the fastest time with a lap of four minutes and fifty-nine seconds. This time would be eighteen seconds faster than John Lyons who would start in the 2nd place position. Duncan Hamilton would complete the front row turning in a best lap time of five minutes and nineteen seconds.
Over the course of the 10 lap heat, Moss and Hamilton would fight hard. Each and every lap they would run close together on the circuit. All it would take would be a little misstep by the other and the lead would change hands. Their battle wouldn't be joined by Lyons, however. Lyons would have to concede to the superior pace of both Jock Lawrence and Jimmy Somervail. Somervail was running quite well and would even mount a challenge on Moss and Hamilton.
Moss and Hamilton continued to push each other hard. Moss would go on to set what would be the fastest lap of the heat with a time even faster than his qualifying effort. The competition wouldn't just see Moss lower the time by a couple of tenths. Instead, the intense battle between himself and Hamilton would see Moss turn in a lap three seconds faster.
As the last couple of laps neared, the fact the finishing times wouldn't determine the starting order for the final would come into play. Moss would admit defeat and would slot in behind Hamilton. He was intent on just cruising to the finish.
Hamilton would take fifty-two minutes and thirty-two seconds to complete the heat. He would cross the line some nine seconds in front of Moss in 2nd place. Moss would end up six seconds in front of Somervail in 3rd.
With the first heat over, it was time to set the grid for the second heat. Chiron would have no easy task. He would be lumped into a grouping that included Mike Hawthorn, Ken Wharton, Peter Collins, Bobbie Baird and Baron de Graffenried. In spite of the presence of such talented drivers, Chiron would more than hold his own in practice.
Hawthorn would end up setting the pace with a lap of four minutes and fifty-one seconds. This was eight seconds faster than Moss' effort prior to the first heat. Wharton would match Moss' best time but would only manage to start the second heat from 2nd position. Baron de Graffenried would complete the front row with a time ten seconds slower than Hawthorn's.
In spite of the pace Hawthorn managed to coax out of his Ferrari, Chiron would manage to inspire a lap time of five minutes and five seconds. This enabled the Monacan to start the second heat from the second row in the 4th position.
As the second heat race got underway, Hawthorn led the pack and was closely chased by Wharton and Baird, even Peter Whitehead was right up there after a good start. Chiron had a great opportunity to fight for a better position when Baron de Graffenried retired after just one lap due to a rear axle failure. Just one lap later, pressure from behind would be lightened when both Lance Macklin and Peter Collins retired from the race due to problems.
The focus was to finish the heat in good shape. But merely finishing certainly didn't seem to be part of Hawthorn's vocabulary as he would go on to set the fastest lap time in the heat. His time would be just three seconds slower than his pole effort and would help him to pull out a little advantage over Wharton and Baird, who were locked in a serious duel.
At Hawthorn's pace, the 10 lap heat race would be over much quicker than what Hamilton had achieved in the first. In fact, when Hawthorn crossed the line to take the victory in the second heat he had finished more than two minutes faster than Hamilton in the first heat. However, Hawthorn wouldn't enjoy as big of an advantage. Wharton and Baird fought each other practically the whole way and it wouldn't be over until they crossed the line. Wharton would cross the line just seven seconds behind Hawthorn and would end up edging out Baird by only about a second.
Chiron was focusing on driving smoothly and carefully in order to make it to the finish of the second heat. He would end up slotting in behind Peter Whitehead and would follow him through to a 5th place finish.
Now that both heats were over, it was time for the starting grid for the final to be determined. Unlike the International Trophy race, the Ulster Trophy race would require cars that made it through their heats to go out and qualify for the final. The pace of the second heat was certainly a giveaway as to who would start on the front row.
In practice before the final, Hawthorn would set the pace and would start from the pole. While Wharton hung on to finish the heat in 2nd, he would not start the final from that position. Bobbie Baird would manage to set a faster time in practice, and therefore, would start from the middle of the front row. Wharton would complete the order at the front with a 3rd place starting position.
Chiron's pace in practice and during the race meant he would be mixed up with a number of other competitors as pace had been quite similar for many. This meant Chiron would have to fight hard for a really good starting position. He would fight hard and would manage to get a starting position in the first half of the field. However, the competition was so tight that the best he would manage to do was start from the middle of the third row in 7th place.
Prior to the 14 lap final, Chiron and others would get a little bit of a boost. Gearbox-related problems would force Moss to withdraw from the final. This meant Chiron technically started the race 6th overall.
Unless there was to be a great wave of attrition to sweep through the field, Chiron could fully expect a tight battle throughout the course of the race. He liked tight battles, but the circuit wasn't one of those that he liked. The circuit was long and wide open. On such a circuit a tight battle could consist of a number of cars being a couple of seconds apart compared to feet apart on a tight, winding course like Pau.
Attrition during the race would be light. With the exception of two retirements after the first lap of the race, the field would run for a number of laps without issue. This meant a long train of cars snaking its way around the 7.41 mile circuit looking and waiting for others to make a mistake.
Out in front of the field was Hawthorn. His superior pace in the Ferrari was becoming very evident as he began to pull out an advantage over the rest of the field. The rest of the field seemed to pair up into little pockets fighting it out for position.
In spite of starting from the third row, Chiron had made a good start and was using his smooth driving style to move his way forward and battle again with Peter Whitehead and Duncan Hamilton. Ken Wharton and Bobbie Baird renewed their battle from the second heat race, but over the course of the race that too would break up.
Hawthorn was untouchable over the course of the whole event. He would set the fastest lap of the race and would just settle into a comfortable pace that was too much for any other competitor to handle. Lap after lap Hawthorn would fly over the crest of Deer's Leap at Lough Neagh and would disappear down the long Leathamstown road. Chiron would have a close battle with Hamilton that would be truly something to behold as the two would sweep through the Quarry Bends.
Hawthorn dominated the entire race. It would take him just twenty-two more minutes to complete the extra four laps. He would cruise to victory by more than a minute over Ken Wharton. Wharton managed to finally break away from Baird and would end up crossing the line some thirty-three seconds ahead of Baird.
Chiron would battle hard throughout the race despite the circuit not being one of those that he liked. He would do his best to try and chase down Peter Whitehead for the 4th place but would have to settle for 5th. In the battle with Hamilton, Chiron would use his smooth driving style to open up an advantage of more than ten seconds at the finish.
It was obvious from the very start of the second heat that the race would be Hawthorn's to lose. Therefore, Chiron knew very well he would be battling for a place either near the top three or the top five. Chiron battled hard and would achieve a very good result. His 5th place was certainly a nice turnaround after the disappointment experienced at the International Trophy race. Therefore, the trip across the English Channel would end up being a fruitful one.
Chiron left Northern Ireland and would have a little more than a month off before he would take part in another race.
Chiron's next race would be an important one. 1951 had been the last time in which Monaco had been included in the World Championship. Incidentally, 1951 was also the last time in which Chiron was included in the World Championship. Therefore, in 1953, the French Grand Prix would be the closest thing to a home race for Chiron.
While it was the French Grand Prix, Reims was anything but close to Monaco. In fact Bremgarten, in Switzerland, or, Monza in Italy were actually geographically closer to Monaco than what Reims was. But being a dual citizen of Monaco and France meant that Reims would be of greater importance.
1951 had been the last time in which Reims hosted the French Grand Prix. The Reims circuit layout had changed in 1952 and the organizers decided Rouen-les-Essarts was better suited to host the race. However, heading into the 1953 season, Reims had again changed its layout but would again come to host the French round of the World Championship.
The new layout of the Reims circuit was made longer than the 1952 iteration. The hairpin turn in the village of Gueux was not to make a comeback. However, the Bretelle Sud would extend further and would feed into a series of S-bends known as Annie Bousquet and Hovette. What these changes meant was that the new layout would come to a new hairpin turn called Muizon. However, from Muizon, the run down Route Nationale 31 was a fair bit longer, which meant higher speeds down the straight and more slipstream passing. All in all, it was believed the longer 5.19 mile long circuit would lead to the competition being tighter throughout the field.
In practice, it was clear the field had been tightened up even without being on the track slipstreaming off of each other. At the previous round of the World Championship, the Belgian Grand Prix, Scuderia Ferrari would end up winning the race but they had been thoroughly dominated in top-end speed. Coming into the fifth round of the championship Ferrari made some changes to the car and the result would be felt immediately as Ascari would take the pole. He would end up three-tenths of a second faster than Felice Bonetto in his Maserati A6SSG. Luigi Villoresi would show some good speed as he would end up just seven-tenths of a second slower and would start from the 3rd, and final, position on the front row.
Against a field of four Scuderia Ferraris and at least five Maseratis, there was little Chiron really could do to earn a top spot on the starting grid. However, the OSCA 20 wasn't without some power of its own as Elie Bayol would demonstrate when he managed to be one of the best non-Ferrari or Maserati entries on the starting grid. Unfortunately, Chiron would struggle with his car. He could not get it up to speed at all and would end up having to settle for 25th overall, which was dead-last in the field.
The day of the race was absolutely beautiful, but rather hot. As the field roared away at the start of the 60 lap race, it was apparent the action on the track would be even hotter.
Jose Froilan Gonzalez pulled away in his Maserati. He was on half-filled tanks and was using the lighter weight to his advantage. Behind him, The Ferraris of Ascari, Villoresi and Hawthorn would quickly come together and would even begin to run line-abreast down the two long straights. Right behind the Ferraris the rest of the Maserati entries, including Fangio and Bonetto would run tightly together with Farina in his Ferrari. Throughout the first few laps of the race, spectators would witness the best drivers and cars in the world driving wheel-to-wheel, even with wheels interlocked, down the long straights and even through some of the faster sweeping turns. The action at the front of the field was incredible to behold as it was amazingly tight.
Behind the front of the field, the rest of the competitors were desperately trying to do everything they could just to hold on. For Chiron, starting from the very tail-end of the field was something of a curse. The pace was already furious at the front. Chiron was struggling and was amongst others that couldn't match the pace up at the front either. This meant Chiron and many others were constant victims of being lapped by the leaders.
For a few entries, like Salvadori and Harry Schell, their races wouldn't last long enough to see Gonzalez come around and put them a lap down. But in Chiron's case, he would have plenty of opportunities to behold the awe-inspiring action at the front of the field.
The pace, like Gonzalez lead, continued to increase, but the competitors remained locked together. The French spectators would be wowed as the best in the world continued to fight it out tooth and nail every single lap as though it were the last.
While the pace and the competition at the front of the field was beyond description to watch, it was absolute murder for a number of competitors struggling behind the front-runners. By the time the race reached the halfway mark, eight of the twenty-five starters were out of the race. Chiron was still in the race but was so far behind it was as if he was out of the race. Even by the halfway point of the race, Chiron was so far behind that the advantage was better measured in miles than in seconds.
After Gonzalez made a fuel stop and was shuffled down in the order, the already phenomenal race would only get better. As the race headed into the last half, Hawthorn was driving beyond his years and was locked in a battle with Fangio. These two would be seen powering their way down the long straights side-by-side peering at each other looking for each other's weakness. Often times Chiron would find the pair fast approaching him and he would move over just far enough to allow the two to flash by still side-by-side. Hawthorn would even go through the grass at times just to enable Fangio to stay alongside while passing a slower car.
Amazingly the pace only continued to increase as the race wore on. The pitched battle between Hawthorn and Fangio was truly something special to behold. Neither one would give the other an inch but they would race each other with utmost respect and safety. For around thirty laps the same battle would rage. The crowd was in awe of what it was witnessing and the noise rose in appreciation of what it was beholding.
As the neared its end, many of the lapped traffic would just slow down when the leaders came by. They too wanted to witness what every one of the spectators had been witnessing for more than two and a half hours. Luigi Villoresi was even seen making a gesture to his pits as if to say, 'Hey, do you see what has been going on out here?' The thing was, Villoresi had been right in the middle of it almost throughout the race's entirety. But with just a couple of laps remaining, even he was able to back off and enjoy the sight.
Heading into the last lap of the race, all eyes were focusing intently on the battle between Hawthorn and Fangio. It had never let up at any moment. While the focus was on those two, they knew full well that Gonzalez was sitting right there behind them in 3rd place just waiting for an opportunity. As Hawthorn and Fangio disappeared around the Courbe de Gueux first turn side-by-side it would be the Briton that would pull ahead ever so slightly. The two would run nose-to-tail through the S-bends and would be nearly side-by-side once again when heading through the hairpin turn at Muizon.
Powering down the long Route Nationale 31 for the last time, Hawthorn held the inside while Fangio pulled alongside on the outside. Fangio knew his last and only hope would be to outbreak Hawthorn into the final Thillois hairpin, and then, out-drag Hawthorn to the finish line. In essence it was a game of chicken, and Hawthorn knew it.
Eyes along the start/finish straight strained to see down the undulating straight to the Thillois hairpin which was visible in the distance. All eyes were straining to see who would come through that final corner first.
In the game of chicken, both would break at about the same time. Fangio would try just a little later but being on the outside would end up costing him. Hawthorn would appear around the hairpin clearly in the lead with Fangio now having to battle his Maserati teammate. Cheers from the crowd erupted as Hawthorn powered his way along the straight and up the rise to the finish line. He would end up taking the victory by just one second over Fangio. Fangio would end up holding off Gonzalez for 2nd place by only about half a car length. It was truly an incredible race that never had a moment of rest at any point in time.
Chiron would end up finishing the race although he would end up not classified. He would end up not classified because he would be dead-last and some 17 laps behind. He was thoroughly outclassed from beginning to end. This was surprising given the fact the OSCA 20 had decent power and top end speed. To put the domination into perspective, Chiron would end up at least an hour behind, or, about 100 miles.
The French Grand Prix would turn out to be radically different than most every other race in which Chiron had taken part up to that point during the 1953 season. He was known not to like the long and fast circuits, but certainly his talent seemed more than capable of staying closer than 17 laps behind. However, it was what it was and there was nothing Chiron could do about it in the end. All he could do was to look forward to his next race to try and right the wrongs.
Chiron intended to take part in the sixth round of the World Championship, which was the British Grand Prix. He had an entry in the race. However, he knew full well the pace he had run during the International Trophy race back in May and he knew that it would not help him keep pace with the likes of Ascari, Fangio and the others. Therefore, Chiron would not fulfill his entry and would remain on the European continent.
Another race, one in which suited his taste almost to a tee was coming up at the end of July. That race was the Circuit du Lac which took place on the streets of Aix-les-Bains. At only 1.49 miles, the circuit was short and it was certainly twisty. It seemed the perfect way for Chiron to find some momentum. However, he would end up passing on that race as well.
It would be a month before Chiron would take part in another race. The race in which he would decide to take part would be one that did suit him though.
In early August, Chiron travelled to the west of France. His destination was the small port city of Sables d'Olonne situated along the coast of the Bay of Biscay. He was on his way to take part in the 3rd Grand Prix de Sables d'Olonne, which would take place on the 9th of August.
The Grand Prix de Sables d'Olonne was another one of those races that was comprised of heats, but it still followed a different format. Instead of heat races and a final, the race was just a 90 lap event broken into two heats. Therefore, every single one of the competitors would take part in each of the heats.
The Sables d'Olonne grand prix took place around a 1.82 mile road course made up of public streets to the southeast of the center of the city. The start/finish straight for the circuit ran along the Avenue Rhin et Danube and then turned along the Avenue du Lac. The circuit would wind its way toward the shoreline. The circuit would continue along the Boulevard de l'Atlantique before negotiating the final hairpin turn that led back to the start/finish line. Since a portion of the circuit ran right along the beach, there was a rather decent slope toward the shore from the start/finish straight. This provided spectators along Lac de Tanche an impressive view as the cars wound their way down toward the shoreline.
Neither Scuderia Ferrari nor the factory Maserati team would be present at the race. This gave drivers like Chiron a great opportunity for a great result. However, it would not be easy for Chiron as the Equipe Gordini would still be present at the race with three cars of its own.
In practice, Equipe Gordini's drivers would sweep the entire front row of the starting grid. The American-Parisian Harry Schell would be fastest. This kind of circuit suited his style of throwing the car into and out of corners quite well, and as a result, he would start from the pole. Maurice Trintignant would end up just a little slower than Schell and would start in 2nd. Jean Behra completed the front row sweep starting in 3rd.
In spite of being the type of circuit in which Chiron liked he would still struggle in practice. Elie Bayol would end up being the fastest OSCA 20 in the field in 4th. Chiron; however, would end up starting the first 45 lap heat in the 7th place starting position, which was on the middle of the third row.
Although Chiron would start from the third row, he certainly was intent on not finishing there. He would get a great jump at the start of the race and would be up amongst the leaders right from the drop of the green flag.
Very quickly, Chiron was locked in a battle with a wide range of drivers and chassis types. Equipe Gordini certainly didn't have a lock on the front of the field as Stirling Moss, Louis Rosier and Louis Chiron would all be up at the front battling with Jean Behra and Maurice Trintignant.
In spite of starting the race from the pole, Schell would end up fading as the race wore on. Chiron's pace was quite remarkable. Just one month ago he was embarrassed finishing 17 laps behind Hawthorn, Fangio and the others. However, on the 9th of August, he was one of those putting other competitors laps down.
Just prior to halfway, Trintignant would also fall out of contention when his transmission would fail on his T16. This left Behra up at the front for Equipe Gordini. Chiron remained right up there and he was looking quite impressive in his battle with Louis Rosier.
Behra would prove too strong for the rest of the field as he would go on to take the victory in the first 45 lap heat. He would finish his race in just under one hour and six minutes. Louis Chiron battled with Rosier throughout the closing stages of the race and would come out four seconds ahead in 2nd place. Such was the pace of Behra, Chiron and Rosier that 4th place on down was at least a lap behind. Elie Bayol, driving the other OSCA 20, would end up in 7th place but some six laps down.
Finishing position determined the starting order for the final 45 lap heat. Therefore, Chiron would start next to Behra in the 2nd position. Chiron would have Behra flanking to his right. To his left flank would be Rosier in his Ferrari 500. This was setting up to be an interesting final heat.
One interesting addition to the final heat would be Maurice Trintignant. In spite of falling out of the running in the first heat after 20 laps, he would be back to take part in the final. And he would be flying.
Trintignant had absolutely nothing to lose in the final heat. Therefore, he was on the fly. Even though he would start from dead-last in the ten-car field he would make a great start and would be very quickly up with Chiron and the other front runners fighting for the lead.
Behra continued to look good up at the front of the field. It seemed he had the best chance at victory for the French Equipe Gordini team. However, all it would take would be a failure or a mistake on his part and the race would go to somebody else.
Schell would be out of the running after 6 laps when his car lost a wheel. Stirling Moss and Peter Collins just couldn't match the pace at the front and would end up fade and would be a number of laps down by the end.
Chiron was looking like a totally different person than the defeated man at Reims just a month prior. He was locked in a tight battle of his own with Rosier. But there was one major difference from the first heat and the second—Chiron kept Rosier behind him.
Chiron knew how to control things on shorter and tight circuits. He would use his vast experience to great lengths during the first heat as he held Rosier behind him all the way to the finish. Unfortunately, in the second heat, Rosier had gotten by Chiron. Chiron needed to go with him, or else, Rosier could pull out enough of an advantage that when the aggregate times were compiled Chiron would lose to Rosier. Sure enough, when by Chiron, Rosier began to pull away and pulled out a lead too great.
With only about twelve laps remaining in the race, Chiron and Rosier would be given a present by Behra. Behra would end up crashing his T16 and would withdraw from the race. While Trintignant took over the lead of the race, the battle for the overall victory would come down to the battle between Rosier and Chiron. Chiron needed to step on it.
Trintignant would go on to take the victory. He had come from 10th on the grid to take the victory. He was of little concern. Rosier was concerned about Chiron. However, coming to the line, Rosier knew he had done it. He would cross the line with a thirty-two second lead over Chiron.
When the aggregate times were compiled, Louis Rosier would go on to take the victory by twenty-seven seconds over Chiron. Stirling Moss would end up the 3rd place finisher but he would be three laps down.
Rosier had shaken loose. Once that happened, Chiron knew there was very little he could do. The Ferrari 500 Rosier was piloting was superior and posed too much for Chiron's OSCA to overcome. Nonetheless, a 2nd place result was certainly a welcome result for the Monacan after the French Grand Prix.
The good result at Sables d'Olonne offered Chiron confidence. The Swiss Grand Prix was fast approaching. Chiron would put in for an entry for the race. However, he would think about things again. As a result, Chiron would not arrive at Bremgarten to take part in the race. He would decide to wait.
Another month would pass between races. Then, around mid-September, Chiron would leave and would head to the east. He would skirt along the Mediterranean and would continue on into Italy. His ultimate destination was Monza and the Italian Grand Prix; the ninth, and final, round of the 1953 World Championship.
The last time he had been at Monza for the World Championship he had come away with a retirement. The year before that he had also suffered from a retirement. Going all the way back into the 1930s, Chiron had struggled at the Autodromo Nazionale di Monza. Over that span of time, he had only managed to finish a race there once and that was for 6th place. Chiron, then, would face his struggles and would look to do his best to see history change.
Chiron started racing almost the same time the Autodromo Nazionale di Monza began to host races. Built amidst the heavily-wooded Royal Villa of Monza, the circuit opened in September of 1922. The circuit was similar to Brooklands in England. It boasted of a road circuit and a steeply banked oval. The two elements could then be put together to create one 6.2 mile long circuit. When Chiron drove for Scuderia Ferrari when it was part of Alfa Romeo, he had the opportunity to take part in the Italian Grand Prix when it was still using the combined circuit. Incidentally, that race in 1933 would be the last time in which the entire combined circuit would be used until 1955.
Monza was all about one thing—speed. Although only the 3.91 mile road course would be used during the 1953 Italian Grand Prix, the layout of the circuit was such that even a lap of the road course was taken nearly flat-out for more than three-quarters of a lap.
In practice the speeds around the circuit would be more than evident. Alberto Ascari, the World Championship's first repeat champion, would end up averaging more than 114 mph en route to the pole. Juan Manuel Fangio would make it two World Champions on the front row after he recorded a time just half a second slower than Ascari's best. Giuseppe Farina would make it an all World Champion's front row when he would qualify 3rd.
The OSCA 20 was known to have some power. However, Chiron was the kind of driver that liked tight circuits. His masterful driving style suited those kids of circuits perfectly. It was obvious in practice Monza was not in Chiron's classification of circuits he was in tune with. He would end up posting a time about twelve seconds slower than Ascari and, as a result, would start the race from the ninth row, which was the second-to-last row on the grid. Overall, he started the race 25th.
Fangio would make a poor start to the race. Ascari would be out front with Onofre Marimon and Giuseppe Farina right there with him. Quickly, Fangio would recover and would be working hard to make his way back toward the front after slipping down outside of the top five at the start.
Chiron looked to take things carefully at the start of the race. The whole field powering down the long front straight and around the Curva Grande meant everyone behind the front row had to take things carefully. The field would come through Vedano and across the line without a problem. Now the real race could begin.
A train of four cars would lead the way at the front of the field. The train included Ascari, Farina, Marimon and Fangio. These four would go around the circuit lap after lap hooked up together almost the same as what had been witnessed as Reims just a couple of months prior. These four would slipstream off of each other and would each take turns leading the race at different moments over the course of a lap. Officially, Alberto Ascari continued to lead the race as he would continuously cross the start/finish line in the lead. But over the course of a lap, the leader wouldn't be so clear.
The race distance was 80 laps, and like France, this group of four would spend just about every single one of the 80 laps making it look like it was the very last. This was great fun to watch from the spectator point of view. The professionalism and care of the four drivers toward each other was inspiring to behold.
While not quite as fast as Reims, Monza still had great similarities to the French Grand Prix. That meant Chiron would be in the fight of his life to keep his effort looking respectable. From the very beginning of the Italian Grand Prix, he was doing just that. He was using his vast experience to remain calm and poised at the back of the pack, but he was also aggressively moving forward and keeping a respectable pace. Since he started toward the back of the grid, it was almost certain that any retirement would help move him forward. By the time the race was half over, he would end up benefiting from the retirement of four out of the seven out of the race. In addition to the retirements, there would be a number of other competitors that would have as rough an Italian Grand Prix as what Chiron had at the French Grand Prix. His pace, and their struggles, would only move him even further forward.
The train of four would end up losing one of its cars. Onofre Marimon would run into trouble right around the halfway mark of the race. Cooling problems would force him to spend a number of laps in the pits. However, when the crew managed to rectify the problem and sent Marimon back out onto the circuit, he would rejoin the race right behind the same three he had been connected with throughout the first half of the race. Therefore, the train of four was back together and still moving with incredible force.
As the laps continued to be rattled off a number of other competitors would fall out of the running. Many others would still be running but would be so far behind that they obviously wouldn't be classified in the results at the end. Chiron; however, was still running well and was enjoying putting many of his fellow competitors laps down behind himself.
Coming around to the last couple of laps of the race, the trio of Ascari, Farina and Fangio would come upon the last couple of cars that were still on the lead lap. The two remaining on the lead lap were the Ferraris of Hawthorn and Luigi Villoresi. Both of the Ferrari pilots would put up as little fight as possible and would graciously go a lap down. However, unlike Hawthorn, Villoresi wasn't content to back off the pace. He would do his best to create the fifth car in the train and remain with the rest of the four throughout the rest of the race.
Over the last few laps of the race, Farina was holding onto the lead with a very slim advantage. The group was on the last lap of the race. A great throng of Italian fans waited to celebrate the victor of what was certain to be an Italian mark. The only unknown was whether the driver would be Italian or not. Ascari had earned the World Championship title for the second year in a row and certainly wanted to end the season with a victory at the Italian Grand Prix. Giuseppe Farina, the inaugural World Champion, wanted to experience such a celebration himself. This was to make for a very interesting last couple of corners.
Fangio followed the two Ferraris with a couple of car lengths in between. Farina held onto the lead. Ascari wanted it. Ascari would chose to try to become the hero and would attempt to go around Farina on the outside of the final corner. Ascari's bold move would end up being beyond the edge of the possible limits. His car would break loose. Ascari would thrash wildly at the wheel trying to save it. In his efforts to save the car, Ascari would come across in front of Farina. Farina would quickly try and avoid hitting his teammate. In his haste, Farina would take to the grass and would lose ground.
The distance Fangio had between himself and the Ferraris would end up being a blessing. He would see the event transpire in front of himself but would have enough time to react. He would end up avoiding the two cars and would find himself in the lead of the race with less than half a mile left to go. Marimon would find himself in the wrong place at the wrong time. He would have no place to go. Therefore, he would plow into Ascari thereby taking both cars out of the race.
Just like that, what seemed to be yet another Ferrari victory would turn and would be Maserati's first-ever World Championship victory. Farina would manage to keep his car under control and would recover to finish two seconds behind in 2nd. Villoresi's move to try and hang with the train of four would end up being a brilliant move. Ascari's retirement from the race opened the door for Villoresi to come across the line and finish 3rd.
Another that would benefit from doing his best to keep pace would be Chiron. A number of competitors would fall out of the race in the last ten laps of the race. Another couple, including Marimon and Ascari, would fall out on the very last lap. As a result, Chiron would go from starting the race 25th to finishing 10th. On paper, Monza seemed like it was to be a repeat of the French Grand Prix, but it would be anything but. Though he would end up eight laps down, compared to the rest of the field, Chiron would look like one of the fastest cars on the track. He had received restitution for the reaming he received at Reims.
Chiron would hang around Italy after the conclusion of the Italian Grand Prix. The reason for this was his final race of the season would take place about two hours to the southeast of Monza. Chiron packed up his OSCA and would head off to the city in which the Maserati name was very famous. He was on his way to Modena, which was the home of Maserati, and, had even been the headquarters for Ferrari before Enzo moved operations to Maranello. The race Louis was on his way to take part in was the 4th Gran Premio di Modena.
The seat of an archbishop, the ancient city of Modena would become more well known for one of the more incredible tenor voices to be born in the city and a car manufacturer that could make such beautiful cars with engines that could also hit some incredible pitches. Both Luciano Pavarotti and Enzo Ferrari would be born in Modena and would make the city absolutely famous.
Constantly besieged throughout its early history, Modena would, in modern times, become besieged by some of the most famous exotic car manufacturers in the world. Ferrari would start out in Modena before moving to Maranello. Another well known car manufacturer, Maserati, would also have its headquarters in the city. In fact, Maserati would remain just blocks from the city's center. Over time, even more exotic car manufacturers would come to call Modena home at one time or another. And as a result of the presence of so much horse and trident power, the local aerodrome located just to the northwest of the city's downtown, would come to host races utilizing its perimeter roads and runway.
Coming into the Modena Grand Prix, issues arose with Ferrari that would have the stable boycott the race. Therefore, the field would be filled with Maseratis from both its factory effort and privateer small teams. Chiron's OSCA would be yet another entry in the field that would be directly linked to the Maserati brothers. All of the entries would be preparing for the 100 lap race around the temporary 1.46 mile aerodrome circuit.
Practice would be marred by tragedy. The only Ferrari entered in the field would be the 500 Tipo entered by Jacques Swaters' Ecurie Francorchamps team. During practice, Charles de Tornaco would go off the circuit, would roll the car a number of times and by the time the car came to a rest and help arrived, would be declared dead.
This event certainly caused a dark cloud to hover over the rest of the proceedings. However, the race would go on. In that same practice session, Juan Manuel Fangio would turn a lap of one minute and six seconds and would take the pole. His time would be just two-tenths of a second faster that Onofre Marimon. Baron de Graffenried, a privateer Maserati entry, would end up turning in a time just four-tenths of a second slower than Fangio, and therefore, would round out the front row by starting 3rd.
The times throughout the field were incredibly close. When tallied, 1st through 10th would be separated by only about four seconds. This meant even a good time could end up causing a driver to start further down in the field than he may have expected. Chiron would be just such an unlucky person. He would set a decent time around the circuit but would only end up starting the race in 10th, which was on the inside of the fourth row.
The start of the race would use a rather different procedure. Instead of a standing start, a rolling start would be used. This would suit Fangio just fine. He had made a poor start at Monza and had a lot of ground to make up. But at Modena, he would control the pace right from the very start. Of course, Fangio's pace, with his smooth driving style and ability to make very few mistakes, was bad news for everybody else in the field. He and Marimon would literally check out.
The two Maserati works drivers would be chased by de Graffenried, but the Swiss driver was losing ground to them each and every lap. Jean Behra had started at the back and would fall apart after just one lap because of piston failure. Maurice Trintignant would end up doing his best just to keep touch with de Graffenried. And Chiron was working hard to come up from his 10th place starting spot. He was certainly making headway as he would pass Kenneth McAlpine, Emilio Giletti, Felice Bonetto and others. But tracking down the other at the front seemed to be a very tall order.
Roy Salvadori would have the race from hell. His Connaught would fail with an expired engine after just ten laps. He would take over John Coombs' Connaught in the hopes that it would fair better for him. Salvadori would find out just 25 laps later that the other Connaught didn't hold the key either as that car would also fail.
Salvadori may have thought he was in purgatory, Fangio may have thought he was cruising along with the angels. He would settle into a comfortable, and an untouchable, pace. He would go on to set the fastest lap of the race with a time nearly a second faster than his qualifying effort and would appear to be riding one of the horses of the apocalypse. Chiron, like many others, would have many opportunities to tip their caps to the Argentinean as he would lap the entire field, with the exception of 2nd place, at least once.
Fangio would ride his dominant performance all the way to the victory. He would complete the 100 lap distance in just one hour and fifty-two minutes and would enjoy a forty second lead over Marimon at the end. Emmanuel de Graffenried would fight for his life just to remain in touch. He would end up in 3rd place but would be two laps down. At least this was better than what Chiron was able to achieve.
Chiron would make it to the end of his last race of the season. While he would end up crossing the line in 5th place, he would officially not be classified in the results because he was too far behind at the finish. When he crossed the line for the final time he was some twelve laps behind Fangio.
Although he would end his season not officially classified, he was at least still running at the end. That would be more than could be said for about half of the field. Now at the age of 54, Chiron would still manage to give himself some dignity.
The season was over for Chiron. It was obvious the factory rides were not readily coming his way. Therefore, he would have to spend his own money to find rides that would enable him to continue to be competitive. If he could still afford the best available he still had the talent and the touch to rise to the top. 1954 presented changes. The new Formula One regulations were coming into effect. This meant needing a car capable of meeting the regulations and being competitive. However, the competitive blood ran thick in the Monacan. And while pushing 55 years of age, he would be back the next season.
During his years driving for the Mercedes-Benz team Chiron would come to be known as the 'Wily Fox'. To many others, Chiron would be the original 'Professor'. Whatever his nickname, or what people personally thought about the man, the smooth and perfect driving style Chiron possessed truly made him one of the most talented drivers in grand prix history. Those skills would also make it possible for him to race for decades and allow a number of generations to witness one of grand prix racing's best.