Teams1952 Formula One Season By Jeremy McMullen
Shakespeare asked his audience in Romeo and Juliet, 'What's in a name?' A name is meaningless proposed Juliet. According to the Royal Automobile Club de Belgique (R.A.C.B), it meant everything. As a result, Jacques Swaters, Charles de Tornaco, Andre Pilette and Roger Laurent could not use the name Ecurie Belgique. As far as Swaters was concerned it was of much less importance as what the name did in a race. Swaters adapted, and in 1952, the new Ecurie Francorchamps would adapt to its newest car to take on the World Championship.
Since the team was based right near the Spa-Francorchamps circuit it was a rather simple thing for the team to switch its name to Ecurie Francorchamps. In many ways due to Swaters, the Ecurie Francorchamps name would be seen at or near the front of grand prix and sports car races all of the way until the very early 1980s.
The previous season saw Ecurie Belgique run the World Championship races with a Talbot-Lago T26C. The aged chassis was no match for the speed of the Alfa Romeo 159 and the ever-impressive Ferrari 375. At season's end Alfa Romeo would pull out of grand prix racing. Swaters recognized the writing on the wall and also recognized he was fortunately strategically positioned for the upcoming year.
The departure of Alfa Romeo left Scuderis Ferrari as the sole and obvious favorites heading into the 1952 season. Ferrari's 375 had come on strong throughout the year and it was clear there wasn't another car that could truly match the car's pace over a grand prix race distance. This meant the incredible costs of racing would not be able to be offset by the lure of competition, for both team and spectator. A change needed to happen.
It was decided that as a provisional measure the next two seasons (1952-53) would be run according to Formula 2 regulations. This decision provided a number of advantages: the costs of operation per team were less, the competition in the Formula 2 class was rather fierce and, perhaps most-importantly, it would provide the series organizers time to figure out what technical specifications and regulations it wanted for Formula One.
Swaters' career as a Ferrari importer began virtually by accident—the accidental lose of a Ferrari shipped to Belgium. He was asked to find it by Enzo's right-hand man Girolamo Gardini. Upon finding the car a relationship with Ferrari began that would continue right on through the Swaters' death at the end of 2010. While his career as an importer began practically by an act of providence, his driving a chassis with the prancing horse in a race began a matter of determination.
Competing in the 1948 24 Hours of Spa, Swaters was passed quite a lot by the V12 Ferrari 166 Barchetta driven by Luigi Chinetti. Swaters declared then that he would drive a Ferrari before he died. In 1951 he would purchase a Ferrari 166. Then, in 1952, Swaters would have the opportunity to purchase the companies new Formula 2 car, the Ferrari 500 F2.
In spite of the decision to run the World Championship according to Formula 2 regulations there were still a number of races in 1952 that allowed Formula One spec cars to come and compete. The first race of Ecurie Francorchamps' season would be one of those.
Roger Laurent, and Ecurie Francorchamps, travelled to Helsinki, Finland in May to take part in what was the 14th Elaintarhajot held in Djurgards Park just north of downtown Helsinki. The race consisted of 25 laps around the 1.24 mile circuit comprised of the park roads. The history of the race extends to even before the outbreak of World War II and was the site of the Finnish Grand Prix.
Deriving its name from the meaning for 'zoo' Elaintarha was never a zoo but became a popular park near central Helsinki. The park is essentially divided by the railway. Portions of the park flows with the undulating terrain. Other portions, like the start/finish straight, was actually carved into part of the small hills dotting the park. Quite a natural setting, the whole of the course was virtually lined with trees. This made the circuit seem tight, like being in a tunnel. Portions of the circuit would be lost in the darkness due to the number of trees lining the circuit. This also made the circuit quite dangerous.
Laurent's main competition came from the Scandinavian countries. The vast majority of the field would be driving Ford Specials. Laurent, and four others, would be the only ones driving something other than Ford Specials.
In practice, Laurent would not end up being the fastest. That honor would go to Gunnar Carlsson. Carlsson would lap the mile and a quarter circuit in one minute and thirteen seconds. Erik Lundgren would start the race also on the front row after turning in a lap time just under a second slower than Carlsson. Things looked good for Ecurie Francorchamps when Laurent would turn in a lap of one minute, fourteen seconds and seven tenths. This was only a half of a second slower than Lundgren and good enough to start the race from the second row in 3rd.
The tight nature of the circuit would keep the average speeds low and the competition tight. Right at the start, Laurent was right there in a battle for the lead. Gunnar Clarlsson' race would; however, come to an end. This left Laurent and Lundgren locked in a serious battle for the rest of the 25 lap race. Laurent would need every bit of his experience to earn the race victory.
Coming to the line on the last lap, the battle was still not quite decided. Laurent and Lundgren were still fighting it out to the very end. As they crossed the line, Roger earned the victory by only one tenth of a second over Lundgren! Carl Stausland would finish 3rd almost ten seconds back.
This was the way to start the season. Ecurie Francorchamps experienced a hard-fought first race of the season and emerged victorious. Things were looking good for the team as Swaters headed to Modena to pick up the team's brand-new Ferrari 500 in preparation for the team's next race.
The newly named Ecurie Francorchamps would put in its order for the Ferrari 500 in plenty of time for it to enter the Grand Prix des Frontieres at Chimay on the 1st of June. However, the Italians are never in a hurry and the car was finished on a Friday; the race was on Sunday and over 500 miles away. It was obvious the truck hired to carry the car to the race would not make it in time. These circumstances led to one of the more colorful moments in grand prix history.
Assembled for Ecurie Francorchamps, a Belgian team, the car was finished in a bright yellow color apparently matching the yellow of the Belgian flag. Because it was late, and because the transporter would not make it in time, Swaters would have the opportunity to take the new 500 for a spin…on the road. Without headlights, license plates or insurance, Swaters took off following his girlfriend all the way to Chimay. He would be greeted by cheers from the Italian pedestrians and was enthusiastically waved through customs by an Italian border agent. At Belgium, the border was closed, but the gate crossing the road was high enough that if he ducked down as far as possible he could slip right under the barrier. What an entrance for the brightly painted yellow Ferrari 500 for Ecurie Francorchamps. It would be more of an exciting and lively entrance than its exit from its first race.
Ecurie Francorchamps first race of the 1952 season was the 22nd Grand Prix des Frontieres held at Chimay in Belgium on the 1st of June. The race was 22 laps of the 6.68 mile circuit. Being comprised of public roads, the team's Ferrari 500 would be right at home after coming all the way from Modena.
The Chimay circuit was located to the northwest of downtown Chimay. The layout of the course would change slightly over the course of its life as a grand prix circuit, but in 1952, the start/finish line was located along the flowing straight between Vidal and the La Bouchere hairpin turn located near the heart of the town. Generally flat in nature, there were some blind corners and blindingly-fast bends. Chimay was particularly memorable for its incredibly long Ligne Droite de Salles straight between La Bouchere hairpin and the sweeping left-hander known as Spikins. The circuit also passed by a quaint chapel called Chapelle de l'Arbrisseau. This chapel was located just off the right edge of the track as it wound toward Mairesse.
The race took place at the same time as the Grand Prix of Albi. Therefore, the field was sparse for international talent, but it still featured a number of well-known and elite racers. Ecurie Francorchamps had its new car. Now it was time to see what it could do against such competition.
Although Swaters drove the car all the way from Modena he would not be the one to drive it in the race; that honor went to Roger Laurent. Immediately, Laurent was impressive in the new car. Without very much time at all to get used to the car, Laurent would go out in practice and was immediately quick. Johnny Claes, driving a Simca-Gordini T15 would turn in the fast lap time around Chimay in practice and would; therefore, take the pole for the race. Willi Heeks, driving an AFM, would also be quick in practice and would start the race also from the front row in 2nd. With almost no time to get used to the car, Laurent would still manage to fair rather well with the 500. He would end up turning in a lap time fast enough that he could start the race from the front row in 3rd.
Although Laurent would have the honor of driving the new Ferrari in its first race, it wasn't like the other Ecurie Francorchamps founders would just sit out the race. Charles de Tornaco was already otherwise employed for the race by HWM and would start the race 10th. Even Jacques would take part in the race. He would compete with a Veritas RS, but would start much further down in the field.
The entry the new Ferrari made to Chimay was dramatic. Its exit would end up being just as dramatic, but not what the team desired. When the green flag flew to start the race Laurent was in a strong position and looking to immediately move forward. Misled by the car he had underneath him, Laurent would not take it easy at the start. He and Johnny Claes would crash out of the race. Just like that, two of the three front row starters were out of the race. More importantly, Ecurie Francorchamps' new car wouldn't even have the opportunity to turn even a single lap in anger.
Only a few laps later Swaters would join Laurent out of the race. The race was wide open. Being as open as it was it was unclear who would take the victory. It was clear; however, that it could have been anybody.
Paul Frere was amazing on pavement and would prove so as he would come from his 10th place starting position to finish the race 1st. He would end up beating out 5th place starter Kenneth Downing by one second. Robin Montgomerie-Charrington would run out of fuel on his last lap but would still finish 3rd. He would end up two laps down.
While the team managed to win in its first race of the season in Finland, this failed result at home in Chimay was concerning. The team would have the car. They needed to smartly take advantage of the opportunities provided them. The next opportunity the team would have to put the Ferrari to good use would come one week later back in Italy.
Ecurie Francorchamps would arrive in Italy in a much more 'legal' fashion than what its Ferrari 500 had left back at the end of May. The team arrived at Monza in preparation for the 5th Gran Premio dell'Autodromo di Monza on the 8th of June.
The Gran Premio di Monza took place on the 3.91 mile road course portion of the purpose-built racing complex. In spite of not using the banked oval, the average speeds would remain high around the entire circuit. With the exception of four corners, most of the drivers would have their foot firmly pressed as far to the floor as possible.
Taking place at the famous Monza circuit, the race would draw a large number of competitive entrants. Ecurie Francorchamps would be only one of a number of teams present at the race running Ferrari 500 chassis. In addition to the large number of Ferrari chassis, Maserati returned to grand prix racing with its new chassis, the A6GCM. They would bring five of the new cars to the race.
The race was run differently than most events. The race consisted of two heat races that were 35 laps each. Instead of the field split between these heats, the entire field would take part. Starting position for the second heat would be based on the competitors finishing position in the first heat. The final results were determined by the aggregate time earned by the competitor over the course of the two heats.
In spite of having the same chassis as that of Scuderia Ferrari, it was obvious there was a performance gap between Ecurie Francorchamps and Ferrari. Three of the four starters on the front row were Scuderia Ferrari drivers. Alberto Ascari was the fastest of them all. He would start on the pole. Giuseppe Farina would start 2nd. Jose Froilan Gonzalez, in one of the new Maserati A6GCMs would start 3rd. To his side was Luigi Villoresi in the 4th, and last, position on the front row.
Charles de Tornaco would have the honor to drive the yellow Ferrari 500 in the race for Ecurie Francorchamps. Hopefully; for the team, the race would go better than practice. Charles would struggle drastically in practice and would only start the race from the 7th row of the grid in 26th. However, in a race like this one, starting position wasn't as important, especially if it was thought there was little chance at overall victory.
Starting from the back of the grid had its advantages. With all of the competitors in front, it was a given de Tornaco would move forward in the running order if another competitor retired from the race. Sure enough, there would be a great number that would fall out of the race. Six of the twenty-nine starters would be out of the race before 5 laps had been completed. Most notable of those six out of the race was current World Champion Juan Manuel Fangio. His accident was very severe and would cause him to have to sit out the rest of the season.
All of the drama was happening behind Ascari as he was out front and quickly pulling away. He was being chased, but not too closely, by Farina and Gonzalez. Charles de Tornaco was continuing to move forward as well.
Seventeen laps into the race it all came undone for Ecurie Francorchamps. Troubles would hit de Tornaco and he was forced to retire from the race. He would be left to watch the rest of the race from the sidelines.
Charles would watch Ascari dominate in the first heat race. Ascari would end up winning the heat by more than a minute over Farina. Andre Simon, who started the race 5th, would benefit from Gonzalez's magneto failure and Villoresi's falling off the pace to finish the heat in 3rd. Felice Bonetto would be the highest-placed Maserati A6GCM driver as he would finish the heat in 4th.
The finishing order of the first heat determined the starting grid for the second heat. This meant Ascari started from the pole once again. Farina would again start 2nd. The rest of the front row was Simon and Bonetto.
Speed means nothing if it isn't matched by endurance. Ascari pulled away again at the start of the second heat race. However, 14 laps into the race, the fastest car in the field would be out of the race with camshaft failure.
Ascari's failure handed the lead of the heat, and the whole race, to Farina. He would gladly accept the gift and would cruise home to the second heat victory by a minute and ahalf over Simon. Rudolf Fischer, in another Ferrari 500, would finish the race 3rd.
When the aggregate times were added together it was clear Giuseppe Farina was the winner. Over the course of the two heat races it was determined Farina averaged over 109 mph en route to the victory. Andre Simon would finish 2nd, down a lap. Fischer would come from 5th after the first heat race to finish 3rd in the overall race standings.
Over the course of its first two races for the team, the new Ferrari had clearly proven to cost more than what it had earned. Once again, the team would have a broken race car to repair in preparation for its next race. And the team's next race was of great importance.
After the failure at Monza, Ecurie Francorchamps would return to its garage right near the Spa-Francorchamps circuit and would begin to repair the car in preparation for its next race. As they arrived back at their garage, the Ardennes Forest was rather quiet. The team would need to do all that it could to repair the car because in only a couple of weeks the forests would be shattered by the sounds of high-revving grand prix cars.
On the 22nd of June, Ecurie Francorchamps was preparing for what was literally its home race, the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francochamps. Located only yards from part of the circuit, it was obvious the team, and its driver Charles de Tornaco, knew the course quite well. The circuit in which Ecurie Francorchamps called its home circuit was fierce-some. Ultra-fast, the circuit was 8.77 mile of pure speed. Located in the heart of the Ardennes Forest, the circuit rose and fell with the hilly terrain and exhibited a number of fast, blind corners. Of course, none of those blind sweeping corners was any more famous than at the top of the hill at Eau Rouge. The circuit didn't allow competitors to breathe. Features, such as the Masta Kink and Stavelot, would take the breath away and test a driver's bravery. In spite of all of the dangers and challenges, Spa was a favorite with most all of the drivers and the spectators.
During practice for the third round of the World Championship, Ascari would prove his bravery as he would routinely turn quick laps around the circuit. He would end up setting the fastest lap. He would navigate the circuit in four minutes and thirty-seven seconds and would earn the pole for the race. Scuderia Ferrari's other drivers would make sure the front row belonged to Ferrari. Farina would end up three seconds slower but would start 2nd. Ascari and Farina were joined on the front row by Piero Taruffi, the winner of the first round of the World Championship, in 3rd. Comparatively, de Tornaco, despite knowing the circuit quite well, was well off the pace. The best he could do in his Ferrari 500 was a lap time of five minutes and thirteen seconds. This lap time would position Charles down on the fifth row in 13th.
Spa's old circuit was a challenge in its own right. The day of the race would see the competitors thrown an extra dangerous prospect. Rain was falling all over the circuit. This would serve to neutralize some of the speed Ascari, and the Ferrari pilots, had been exhibiting during practice. Sure enough, the first couple of laps were tentative exercises. Jean Behra, who was used to racing on two wheels, would get a good jump at the start and would actually lead a lap. However, on the 2nd lap of the race Ascari would turn in what would turn out to be the fastest lap of the race and would take over the lead of the race. Ascari's fastest lap time was two and a half minutes slower than his best practice time. This was just how slippery the circuit was in the wet conditions.
Being used to the Ardennes weather, Charles was making his way steadily forward. His progress would end up being helped by the conditions. The high-speed nature of the course, and the wet conditions, were a recipe for missteps. Ken Wharton, who had started the race from the 7th position would spin off the course. Then, on the 13th lap of the race, the biggest incident would happen.
After being passed by Ascari for the lead of the race, Behra began to slip down the running order a bit. He and Taruffi would be running close together on the circuit when, on the 13th lap, Taruffi spun his Ferrari. Taruffi was out of control. And, in the wet conditions, Behra had just about as much control as Taruffi. Behra just could not react as fast as he may have in dry conditions. As a result, Taruffi would collide with Behra taking both cars out of the race.
All these happenings were of little consequence to Ascari out front of the field. His competition was the wet conditions and maintaining control. Ascari would hold onto the car. He would lead all but one of the 36 laps of the race and would take the victory by almost two minutes over Farina. In spite of the conditions, Ascari would average 103 mph in the wet en route to the victory. Robert Manzon had only begun his last lap of the race in 3rd when Ascari was on his way through Stavelot and on his way to the checkered flag.
Charles displayed his local knowledge of the circuit and would be one of the highest-placed Belgians in the race. Paul Frere would finish the race 5th for HWM. Charles would bring his Ferrari 500 to its first race finish. He would finish the race down three laps and in 7th place. Charles and Ecurie Francorchamps would miss out on the final points position by only two places. This wasn't too bad of a result considering the conditions and the fact the car had two prior failures. It was obvious the team was coming to grips with its new car.
Although the fourth round of the World Championship was only a couple of weeks after the Belgian Grand Prix, Ecurie Francorchamps would not travel to Rouen for the French Grand Prix. In fact, it would be almost two months before the team would travel to take part in a grand prix.
At the very end of July, the team headed off to Nurburg, Germany for the sixth round of the World Championship. The sixth round of the World Championship was the German Grand Prix and it took place at the notorious Nordschleife.
Derisively called the 'Green Hell' by Jackie Stewart, the 14 mile long Nordschleife, or 'Northern Loop', is widely considered to be the toughest and most dangerous purpose-built circuits in the world. The Nordschleife is actually only a portion of the longer Gesamtstrecke, or 'Whole Course', but it was and is one of the most demanding circuits in the world. The circuit features a never-ending mixture of everything. Being fast at a circuit with so many climbs and descents, turns and straights was never an easy maneuver when it carried on for 14 miles. In addition, the circuit was built around the medieval castle and village of Nurburg and located deep in the Eifel mountains. This meant that it could be raining on portions of the track, whereas other parts may be completely dry. Trying to remember what comes next, mixed with the threat of weather was what made the circuit so incredibly dangerous.
Thankfully for the competitors, the weather would be dry. Coming from another long circuit like Spa, Ecurie Francorchamps knew what it took to be fast at long circuits. At a circuit such as the Nordschleife it would take a lot of bravery, but especially, concentration.
In practice, Ferrari's drivers would show the way. Ascari would again prove to be the fastest. He would cover the 14 miles with a time of ten minutes and four seconds. This would be three seconds faster than Farina's best time. Maurice Trintignant and Robert Manzon, of Equipe Gordini, would prevent Ferrari from sweeping the first three positions on the starting grid.
Roger Laurent would be given his second chance behind the wheel of the Ferrari 500. Despite being have the same Ferrari 500 chassis, the best Laurent could do during practice were lap times that firmly planted him in the middle of the field. At the end of practice, Laurent's best time would only be good enough to provide the Belgian a 17th place starting position, which was toward the middle of the fifth row.
Right from the start of the race, Ascari looked dominant. He would take the lead on the 1st lap of the race and began to pull out a margin over the rest of the field. Fourteen entries would not make it past lap 5 of the race.
At over ten minutes a lap, one trip around felt like it took forever. Racing 18 laps around the circuit would feel like a lifetime. All of this meant there would be plenty of opportunities to pass each lap. It also meant that failures out on the course would leave the drivers with either a long ride or walk back to the pits. Some would just sit out on the course until the end of the race; waiting to be picked up when the race was over.
Ascari continued to pull away in the lead. Laurent made it past the first couple of laps and was looking good. He would carefully move his way up the running order. Amazingly, considering how long it took to lap the circuit, Laurent would see Ascari fly on by him two times before the end of the race.
Ascari's pace, and lead, was such that he even had enough time to stop and take care of an oil issue with the Ferrari. This did allow Farina to take over the lead of the race going on to the last lap. However, Ascari rejoined and had plenty of time to overcome the margin.
The race was controlled by Ferraris. By the end, only eight drivers were considered classified as still running by the end. Out of those eight finishers, five of them were Ferrari 500 chassis for either Scuderia Ferrari, Ecurie Espadon, and yes, Ecurie Francorchamps.
Ascari would pass Farina for the lead with plenty of distance remaining. In fact, Ascari would cross the finish line with a fourteen second margin of victory. At the Nordschleife, margins of victory weren't just measured in seconds, but minutes also. Rudolf Fischer would beat out Piero Taruffi for 3rd place in his Ecurie Espadon Ferrari 500. He finished seven minutes down.
Ecurie Francorchamps would just miss out on the points once again. Despite being two laps down at the end of the race, Laurent would keep his footing over the course of the race on the dangerous circuit and would finish the race 6th. He had missed the points by only one position.
The result at Nurburg was rather bittersweet. The team had the car, but just couldn't quite manage the pace necessary to bring it home in the points. Laurent redeemed himself after the heart-breaking 1st lap accident at Chimay, but still was not fast enough to provide the team with the results believed possible. However, Laurent had managed to come from 17th all the way to 6th. It was a good, but not great, day for the team. Their next opportunity to take and turn a good result into a great one would come two weeks later.
The seventh round of the World Championship took place a little over three hours to the north of Nurburg. The race was the Grand Prix of the Netherlands and it took place at Zandvoort, right along the North Sea coast.
1952 would be the first time the Dutch Grand Prix would be part of the official World Championship series. Zandvoort would have the honor of being the site for the race. Located amongst the dunes just north of the town of Zandvoort, the circuit was laid out in 1946 and inaugurated in 1948. The circuit used in 1948 was not the first circuit design planned near Zandvoort. There actually were plans for a circuit to be built before the beginning of World War II. The circuit used for the race in 1952 was 2.62 miles in length. The circuit was a popular venue, especially for the drivers due to its fast, sweeping corners.
The entry list for the race for the race was rather small; only eighteen would arrive for the race. The championship race was already over. Ascari ran away with the title, but was at Zandvoort and showing no signs of slowing down.
In practice, Ascari would again show the way. He would turn in a fast lap time of one minute and forty-six seconds. Only Farina, who would start 2nd, would be able to crack the one minute and fifty second barrier. The young Mike Hawthorn would continue to impress as he would start the race also from the front row in 3rd. His best time; however, was five seconds slower than Ascari's best.
Charles de Tornaco was back behind the wheel of the Ferrari at Zandvoort. During practice he was well off the pace of the front-runners. In spite of his best efforts, the best lap time he could turn in was two minutes and three seconds. This placed the Belgian all the way down to second-to-last, or, 17th. This placed him in the middle of the last row. The starting position wasn't too much of a bother for Charles as he had started in the middle of the field at Spa and managed to finish the race inside the top-ten.
The Grand Prix of the Netherlands got underway on the 17th of August and was due to run 90 laps of the 2.62 mile Zandvoort circuit. Right at the start Ascari took control and began lapping at a comfortable pace.
Very quickly, Ascari was turning fast laps. He began to pull away from just about everyone except his Ferrari teammates. As the race completed 10 laps, Jean Behra retired from the race with carburetor problems. Fellow-Belgian, Paul Frere, would fall out of the race 15 laps in due to gearbox problems. Unfortunately, the yellow Ferrari underneath the only other Belgian would decide it had enough. Only 19 laps into the race, de Tornaco's Ferrari engine developed problems with its valves and forced him out of the race. Charles would be forced to watch the remaining 70 laps from the pits.
What Charles, and the rest of the spectators, witnessed was a totally comfortable Ascari easily cruise to victory. Ascari would beat Farina by forty seconds. Ascari's good friend, Luigi Villoresi, would finish the race a minute and forty-five seconds down in 3rd. The rest of the field was at least two laps down to Ascari at the end.
In the case of Ecurie Francorchamps, it had the same car as that which had gone on to finish first through third, but the team just could not get the same performance. Of course, the team didn't have the funds or the means to thoroughly check its Ferrari chassis like that of Scuderia Ferrari. Obviously there was still a difference in performance between the larger 'factory' efforts and the smaller teams, even if they used the same equipment.
In spite of having the dominant Ferrari 500 chassis, Ecurie Francorchamps was running out of time to put it to good use. Only a few non-championship races and one World Championship round were left in which to put the investment to good use. Otherwise, the team would have to hope the car would still be competitive the following year.
Not wanting to waste too many of the few events remaining, Ecurie Francorchamps had entered its Ferrari 500, with Roger Laurent driving, in the 5th DMV Grenzlandringrennen on the 31st of August. However, the team would not arrive at the event. Instead, the team's next race would end up being the final round of the World Championship for 1952.
In early September, Ecurie Francorchamps headed back to Monza, Italy for the Italian Grand Prix, the final round of the World Championship. This would be the second time in the three years of the World Championship that the Italian Grand Prix would be the final round of the season.
Over the past three seasons, the Italian fans had had great reason to celebrate. In each of the previous two years an Italian team had earned the championship title for its driver. In 1952, the Italian fans had an even greater reason to celebrate. Ascari had already earned the championship in a Ferrari. An Italian winning the championship was already something special. But, by even as early as 1952, the Italian fans were looking to Ferrari as their car and team of choice. Alfa Romeo had left and Maserati had only just returned. The only steadfast mark was Ferrari. This led to many shouts of 'Forzi Ferrari'.
To receive the same kind of adulation and praise Ecurie Francorchamps would have its work cut out for itself. A large field of entries arrived for the race. Unlike the last event at Zandvoort and others, practice would actually mean something. Nobody would get into the race without posting one of the fastest laps. In all, there were thirty-five entries. Unfortunately, there would only be twenty-four starting positions. This meant eleven entries would be heading home.
There would have been a large-scale massacre if any one of the Ferraris failed to qualify for the race. Unfortunately for their competitors, Ferrari would bring five cars to the race. Perhaps driven by the weight of national pride, Ascari would take the pole with a lap around the 3.91 mile road course in two minutes and five seconds. Villoresi would start 2nd with a lap time nine-tenths slower than Alberto's. Farina would make it two World Champions and three Ferraris on the front row as he qualified 3rd. Neither Piero Taruffi nor Andre Simon were able to make it a Ferrari sweep of the front row as Maurice Trintignant managed to start on the front row in 4th position. Both of the other Scuderia Ferrari entries would make it into the race and would start the race from the second row. With the five Ferraris in the field, it meant there were only eighteen spots left for thirty entries to battle over.
The final row of the grid was filling up. Three of the four positions were occupied by drivers who turned in fast lap time of two minutes and fifteen seconds. This was turning out to be too fast for Charles de Tornaco. However, Gino Bianco was sitting in the very last position on the grid with a lap time of two minutes and seventeen seconds. Charles had been able to turn laps around that time. Charles would push hard trying to garner that last spot on the grid. His best lap would be two minutes and seventeen seconds as well. Bianco had turned a lap of two minutes, seventeen seconds and one-tenth. De Tornaco's best would be two minutes, seventeen seconds and…five-tenths. He, and Ecurie Francorchamps, would leave the final round of the World Championship having failed to qualify despite having the very same car that occupied the first three spots of the starting grid.
In the race, Jose Froilan Gonzalez, driving a Maserati A6GCM, tried a different strategy. He started the race light on fuel. He had hoped to race out to such a lead that when he stopped to refuel he would be able to rejoin the race still in the lead, or, near enough to perhaps break up Ascari's dominant hold.
The strategy worked at the beginning. Gonzalez pulled out a lead right from the start and began to pull away more and more each lap. Unfortunately, Ascari's fuel level dropped with time and he began to run lap times similar to Gonzalez. So by the time Jose stopped for fuel, he only had about a thirty second advantage.
Ascari would overcome the advantage Gonzalez had managed to pull out early on, and, in fact, began to pull out an advantage of his own. Jose rejoined the race in 5th place and began to push in earnest to try and clip Ascari for the win.
Sensing it was time to put his best foot forward, Ascari would turn the fastest lap of the race on lap 56 of 80. Jose would match this time the very next lap and again on lap 60. This pace helped Jose come back up through the field, but Ascari was in the lead. Once he had the lead, Ascari was difficult to catch.
Sure enough, Ascari would make it six-straight victories in a row as he would cross the line with a minute in hand over Gonzalez. Another minute would pass before Villoresi would finish the race in 3rd. In the final race of the season, and at the Italian Grand Prix, Scuderia Ferrari occupied two places on the podium, including the most important one.
In contrast, while Ascari was standing on the top step of the podium collecting the adulation of the adoring Italian faithful, the Ecurie Francorchamps team had already packed up their car and quietly left.
Although the World Championship season had ended without too much in the way of success, the grand prix season was still a few races away from being over. There were still a number of non-championship grand prix that would be run before the end of the year. In spite of this fact, Ecurie Francorchamps would take part in only one more race in 1952.
On the 14th of September, Charles de Tornaco was making final preparations before taking part in the 4th Circuit de Cadours.
Located actually nearer to the small village of Lareole, the Cadours circuit utilized 3.44 miles of public roads in the south of France. The circuit itself ran amongst numerous smaller farms in the rolling plain just north of the Pyrenees only a mile or two to the west of Cadours. The circuit featured a couple of notable straights and a few other short-straights. Top speeds were lessened by the circuits tight sweeping curves and sharp hairpin turn that led toward the main start/finish straight.
The Circuit de Cadours race was another grand prix consisting of heat races and a final. There were two heat races that last 15 laps. However, before the 30 lap final race there was a 10 lap 'repechage'. This provided those who didn't make it into the final from either of the two heat races one last chance to get into the final.
Charles de Tornaco was listed in the first heat race. Starting positions, as with a normal race, was determined by the fastest lap times turned in practice. The first heat, though few in number, featured a couple of strong competitors. Louis Rosier, driving his own Ferrari 500 was in the first heat, as well as, Peter Collins in the HWM-Alta.
In practice, Rosier would prove to be the fastest around the 3.44 mile circuit. Although he was born much further north in Chapdes-Beaufort, Rosier seemed at home on the Cadours circuit. Rosier would circulate the circuit at over 74 mph average speed and would complete the lap in one minute and fifty-eight seconds. Peter Collins would be the second-fastest but with a time over five seconds slower. The starting grid was arranged 2-1-2. Charles would start the race from the sole position on the second row in 3rd after recording a lap time nine seconds slower than Rosier.
The heat race ran like an exhibition. The only changes to the running order happened as a result of a failure with one of the competitors. There was enough attrition; however, to shake things up a bit.
Rosier would go wire-to-wire and win the heat. He would win by eleven seconds over Collins. Charles would finish 3rd, but a further 50 seconds behind Collins. In all, only four cars would finish the heat.
Nine cars would take part in the second heat race. The American-Parisian, Harry Schell, would start the heat from the pole. Yves Giraud-Cabantous would start alongside in 2nd. The Baron, Emanuel de Graffenried, would start 3rd. By comparison, neither of the two starters on the front row broke two minutes in practice.
The second heat race would see a number of things take place over the course of the 15 lap heat race. The 4th place starter, Tony Gaze, would retire due to a failure. This enabled Alberto Crespo to move forward in the old Maserati 4CLT/48 for Enrico Plate. In addition, troubles struck Giraud-Cabantous. He would continue on to the end but could not match the pace of the others.
At the end, Harry Schell would win the race. He would win the race by thirty seconds over Emanuel de Graffenried in the other old Maserati 4CLT/48 for Enrico Plate. Enrico Plate would be celebrating after the second heat as Alberto Crespo would come from 5th to finish 3rd.
In the repechage, Tony Gaze would take advantage of the second chance presented and would win. This meant he would be able to race in the 30 lap final. Others that would take advantage of the second chance were Marcel Balsa and Armand Philippe.
The starting grid for the 30 lap final was based upon the competitors finishing time in their respective heat race. This meant Louis Rosier would start the final from the pole after he completed the 15 laps in thirty minutes and fifty-five seconds. Peter Collins would start 2nd with a time of thirty-one minutes and six seconds. Harry Schell had completed his 15 laps in the second heat in thirty-one minutes and seventeen seconds and would; therefore, start the final in 3rd. Charles de Tornaco completed his heat in thirty-one minutes and fifty-six seconds. This would be good enough for the Belgian to start the race from the 5th place starting position, which was on the third row.
The car had performed well in its heat race. The team hoped it would carry on strongly just one more time so the season would end positively. Even before the start of the race, de Tornaco was given a gift. Peter Collins' HWM-Alta had troubles with its cylinder head and would prohibit him from taking part in the final. Therefore, de Tornaco would, in reality, be starting the race 4th.
The 30 lap final got underway. The final 30 laps of the season for Ecurie Francorchamps would not go all that smoothly. Almost immediately, it was obvious the engine was struggling to produce power. In short order, the problem became worse. Charles would have to stop. It was found the engine had suffered from valve troubles once again. Just like that, the season was abruptly over for Ecurie Francorchamps.
Unaffected by de Tornaco's troubles, the race continued. Rosier looked formidable throughout. Schell wouldn't go down without a fight. Schell would turn in the fastest lap of the race with a time that was faster than his best time in practice before his heat. However, it wasn't enough to deny Rosier.
Louis would average a little over 72 mph en route to the victory. Rosier's advantage was almost forty seconds over Schell by the end. Another thirty seconds behind Schell, de Graffenried finished 3rd for Enrico Plate.
In spite of the troubles the team faced throughout its rather brief 1952 season, Ecurie Francorchamps still managed a couple of top-ten results at a couple of the World Championship events. The team; unfortunately, didn't score any points or lead any laps, but it had the same car that provided Ascari his World Championship title. Knowing the 1953 season was also going to be run according to Formula 2 regulations, the team had some time to get its car ready for an all-out assault on the championship the following year.