TeamsScuderia Centro Sud: 1958 Formula One Season By Jeremy McMullen
Scuderia Centro Sud, or the 'Team South Central', would have its beginnings in 1956 as a small privateer team created by Guglielmo Dei. The outfit would be established close to the aerodrome in Modena and would serve as something of a driving school giving aspiring individuals, with the means, to go racing. This rent-a-drive team would expand in 1957, and in 1958, it would become a virtual revolving door providing just about anyone the opportunity to take part in a Formula One race.
Dei's desire would be for Centro Sud to become a successful customer team taking cars a bit older and challenging the factory teams when the occasionally tripped themselves up. Heading into 1958, this was certainly the intended desire and understanding as the team would field a number of Maserati 250Fs for any driver willing to pay for the opportunity. Maserati had withdrawn from Formula One after the 1957 season, and so, Dei's team was very much on its own, and every driver had to put their trust in Dei and their own god if they had any chance of supplanting the newer cars from the factory efforts.
Being a small privateer team, Scuderia Centro Sud would be prohibited by costs. This would prevent them from purchasing newer cars to use and it would also prevent the outfit from being able to head across the Atlantic in the very early part of the '58 season to take part in the first round of the Formula One World Championship. The team would not merely enter cars for Formula One races, but would also take part in sportscar races with older Ferrari and Maserati chassis. This meant the team would be very busy, but still prohibited. Therefore, the team would have to look toward special events and the start of the racing season in Europe.
One of the first races in Europe during the 1958 season would come in the middle of the Mediterranean. On the 13th of April, just outside of the ancient city of Syracuse, would be held the 8th Gran Premio di Siracusa. This would be a popular race for the Italian teams and drivers looking to start out the season with a strong contest on a circuit similar to those that would be encountered throughout the World Championship.
Throughout its long and noted history, Syracuse has been in the hands of a number of different nations and people groups. From the Roman republic to the Byzantine Empire to the ancient Teneans before them all, Syracuse has been an object of great desire for many millennia. However, throughout the 1950s the grand prix has remained firmly within the grasp of Italian teams. The only moment in which this rule came under threat was in 1955 when a dental student and a small British effort shocked everyone to take a surprise victory. But besides that small lapse in attention, the Italian efforts have dominated around the 3.48 mile Syracuse circuit.
The Maserati 250Fs would be plenty in number for the 60 lap race on the 13th of April. In fact, besides a lone Ferrari Dino 246 and an OSCA F2, the entire field would be comprised of 250Fs. Two of those Maseratis would be entered under the Centro Sud team name. One of those would be driven by an American, Masten Gregory. The other would be driven by a German, Wolfgang Seidel. Therefore, Centro Sud's reputation for providing aspiring drivers an opportunity to take part in single-seater grand prix racing would be firmly intact.
The Maserati had taken Fangio to his fifth World Championship in 1957, but there were some regulation changes that suddenly made the Maserati appear old and vulnerable. The switch from alcohol-based fuels had reduced the cooling properties of the fuel and made the 250F vulnerable to overheating. However, as the cars took to the Syracuse circuit for practice, it was clear the age of the Maserati had come to an abrupt end.
Luigi Musso would be the only Ferrari entrant in the rather small field. And yet, though the Ferrari was obviously in the minority, it dominated practice and certainly set its own demands. Musso would easily take the pole having set a lap time of 1:58.4. Giorgio Scarlatti and Jo Bonnier would complete the three-wide front row, all driving Maseratis. However, neither of these two men would manage to lap in less than two minutes and one second, such was the difference in pace between the 250F and the new Ferrari.
Gregory would be the fastest of the Centro Sud entries. His lap time would be more than five seconds slower than Musso but would still be good enough for a spot on the second row. Gregory would start the race from 5th place. Meanwhile, Seidel would find himself on the third row in the 7th position having lapped the fast Syracuse circuit more than seven seconds slower than Gregory.
Knowing that he had the pace, Musso would make sure to get away from the grid without a problem. In the lead, Musso only needed to push very slightly before he started to put some daylight between himself and the Maseratis in the field. Gregory would make a good start from the second row of the grid and would follow along behind Scarlatti and Bonnier during the early going of the race. Seidel was also away well in the other Maserati but he was a bit further back not having a pace equal to that of Gregory.
Gregory would be looking good early on. However, after about six laps of running the American would run a little wide and would end up brushing one of the many concrete walls that lined the circuit. The resulting tap of the wall would break one of his wheels and he would need to pit to have the wheel replaced. This would drop him well down in the field.
Seidel would also drop down the order when he found his engine to be struggling. It was not running smoothly and could not develop the power it was capable of producing. This caused the German to slip down the order until he was running dead-last.
Pulling away at nearer to five seconds a lap, Musso was beyond being in a league of his own. Even backing off to take care of the car he would be pulling clear of his pursuers by an incredible margin. Nearly everybody's attention would turn from the Ferrari at the front to any other battle on the track. Gregory would be battling with his own car and would end up retiring after 36 laps. The damage from hitting the wall would become worse and this would lead to him having to step out of the race. Seidel would have water leaking into his fuel tank and he would be already out of the running.
Heading into the final couple of laps, the race would already be a processional with each of the remaining drivers separated from each other by at least a lap each. All that was left was for the drivers to complete the last couple of laps.
Musso would be untouchable throughout the race and would end up taking a very easy win having more than a full lap in hand over Bonnier in second. Francesco Godia-Sales would finish in 3rd another lap further behind Bonnier.
Driving in older machines, Centro Sud could not afford such errors and such strange occurrences. They would need such strange things to happen to their competition if they were to come out on top at any time. Nonetheless, the privateer would pack up and would head off toward their next race undaunted.
The team would head back to its base and would set about correcting its issues before gathering everything up and heading to the north of the European continent. Once at the coast of the English Channel the team would cross over to British shores and would head further north to Silverstone. There at Silverstone, on the 3rd of May, would be held the popular non-championship BRDC International Trophy race. This would be the 10th edition of the race, but it would be even more popular in '58 as a result of the fact Silverstone would host the British round of the World Championship a few months later. Many privateers and factory efforts would be present at the race to get some important track time for the British Grand Prix coming up months later.
Centro Sud would bring its two cars to the race. Gregory would again be behind the wheel of one of the cars while Seidel would occupy the other. They would be coming to a circuit quite similar in nature to that of Syracuse. Measuring 2.92 miles, Silverstone would be slightly shorter, but the speeds would be even quicker. This meant concern of overheating would be justified, but it would be an important experience for what was to come.
The International Trophy race would be held for the first time in 1949 and would make use of the perimeter taxiway surrounding the triple runways of the old RAF Silverstone bomber training base. Ten years on, the circuit would be changed little. About the biggest change around the circuit would be the increase in average speed attained by the cars taking to the circuit. Gregory and Seidel would need every mile per hour their Maserati could give them as they would be up against another Ferrari Dino 246 piloted by Peter Collins and then a number of Coopers and BRMs.
The Maseratis certainly lacked pace and this would be demonstrated by the fact not a single 250F would occupy any of the four starting positions on the front row. In fact, the first 250F wasn't to be found until looking at the third row of the grid, and that 250F would belong to Gregory having lapped exactly four seconds slower than the pole-sitter Roy Salvadori in his Cooper. Seidel would be much further off the pace. His best effort of 1:53.8 would be nine seconds slower than Gregory and would lead to the German being positioned on the eighth row of the grid in the 27th position overall.
The weather would be absolutely beautiful as the drivers took to their cars for the start of the 50 lap race. A large crowd would gather all around the circuit to partake of the events and to witness some of the best cars and drivers duke it out around the Silverstone circuit. And, at the start of the race a good deal of drama would take place. Moss would stall his Cooper thereby allowing Peter Collins and Jean Behra to pull out at the head of the field. Collins and Behra would lead the way and would be involved in a fantastic duel for the lead. However, many would be taken back by the man running in 3rd place. Masten Gregory would make an unreal start from the third row of the grid and would be in 3rd place heading up a ground that included Jack Brabham and the pole-sitter Roy Salvadori. Seidel would be much further down in the order having been well off the pace in practice. He would focus on making it through to the final stages of the race and not suffering the same unfortunate fate he suffered in Syracuse.
Behra would take over the lead of the race and would remain in a strong position until a rock was kicked up into his face. The rock would strike his goggles shattering one of the eye pieces and causing the Frenchman to have to pit. Collins would take over the lead of the race and would really not look back from that point onwards.
Gregory could not hold off Brabham and would eventually come under fire from Salvadori as well. Throughout the early going the American would have a hard time holding onto any position with his struggling mount. However, after Brabham suffered from a misfire and Flockhart was sent flying through the verge as a result of Bruce Halford spinning off the track, Gregory would be back up within reach of the podium. Gregory would be impressive. Though he was piloting a Maserati like many others, he would be the only one seemingly capable of turning back the hands of time and making it look as though the car still had life in it.
Attrition began to mount, but both of the Centro Sud Maseratis were still in the running, and Gregory was certainly doing more than that. While Seidel struggled just to get near the top fifteen, Gregory had a podium finish within his reach. Masten merely needed to keep Behra behind him and 3rd place would be his.
Collins would cruise to the victory. Once Behra departed the scene with his goggle problems, the Ferrari driver could settle-in and just drive to his victory and he would do just that defeating Roy Salvadori by 24 seconds. Masten Gregory would be absolutely impressive and would actually have the drive of the day. After making an incredible leap forward from the third row of the grid, he would keep his head about him and would look after the car all throughout the 50 lap race. He would be just quick enough and it would result in a 3rd place finish for the American. What would be impressive would be the fact he more than held his own against the faster BRM driven by Behra. Jean would finish the race in 4th place but would be more than 30 seconds behind.
In contrast, Seidel would have a disappointing day. He had been well off the pace all throughout the weekend and would only manage to finish in 17th position more than five laps behind Collins and Gregory. It appeared as if Centro Sud's drivers were using two entirely different cars in the same race.
Fresh from the success at Silverstone, Centro Sud would pack everything up and would head back over to the mainland. The team would head back to its factory before heading to the south of France for its next race. Ultimately, the team would make its way toward the French Riviera and the tiny principality of Monaco. The team would be on its way to attempt to make the field for the Monaco Grand Prix, the second round of the Formula One World Championship.
This would not be an easy task for the team. Not only would the field be limited to just 16 cars, but seeing that it was the second round of the World Championship, all of the factory efforts and top teams would be present. It would be even more difficult for the team seeing that Gregory would not be driving for the team. Despite being fresh from his great run in the International Trophy race, Gregory would not be in Monaco to attempt the Monaco Grand Prix. Instead, Centro Sud would enter two cars for Gerino Gerini and Horace Gould.
There would be just two Maseratis that would make it into the field. This would be remarkable given the fact Fangio had dominated behind the wheel of one just a year earlier. The slowest qualifier, Jo Bonnier, would set a time more than five seconds slower than the pole-sitter Tony Brooks in his Vanwall. Gerini's best effort would be more than four seconds slower than Bonnier, but it would be better than Gould's who would end up more than nine seconds slower. Both of the Centro Sud cars would fail to qualify for the race. The team would have to move on and look for other opportunities.
Bypassing the Monaco Grand Prix, Gregory would remain around English shores throughout the middle-part of May and would just cross over the Channel to Zandvoort the week after the second round of the World Championship. The American would be in Zandvoort for the Dutch Grand Prix and would serve as Centro Sud's sole entry for the race on the 26th of May.
Measuring 2.60 miles in length and offering average speeds right around 94mph, it was obvious Gregory's thinking. He had had success at Silverstone. Zandvoort would be a circuit that had similar traits. If he was to take part in a round of the World Championship, this circuit offered the best opportunity.
Zandvoort would have some serious differences from Silverstone however. The major differences would be that the circuit would not be a flat aerodrome circuit and the circuit would also be situated right along the North Sea coast. This meant blustery winds and blowing sand that made the circuit very challenging and slippery. In a Maserati that was meant to be drifted through the corners this wouldn't be all that bad, but it would leave very little margin for error.
The cooler temperatures certainly aided those most hit by the fuel regulation change. The Vanwalls would show the way in practice as the entire front row would be occupied by the three cars in British Racing Green. Stuart Lewis-Evans would be on pole joined by Moss in 2nd and Tony Brooks in 3rd.
Despite the cooler temperatures, Gregory would be a bit off the pace. He would again be the fastest Maserati in the field. However, his lap time of 1:42.0 meant he would be found all the way down in 14th position on the sixth row of the grid. Therefore, though Zandvoort was similar in nature to Silverstone, it was clear it was very unlikely there would be a case of déjà vu.
Held on a Monday because of a holiday, the Dutch Grand Prix would be well attended. The cars would line up on the grid and the winds only seemed to pick up speed. Still, the flag would drop without any delay and the 75 lap race would be underway with Moss leading the field through Tarzan for the first time. Behind Moss would be Lewis-Evans and a fast-starting Harry Schell. Gregory would not pull off the start he had at Silverstone. In fact, he would get away from the grid right around where he had started and would remain there through the opening lap of the race.
Moss would continue to show the way throughout the early going of the race. Lewis-Evans would slip behind Schell and Behra would be making slow progress forward after starting from 4th place on the grid. Gregory, on the other hand, would not be a slow starter. Though he would complete the first lap right around where he started on the grid, he would quickly climb up the running order. He would be just outside the top ten by the time the race was just 10 laps old. However, he would become stuck trying to track down Musso in the faster Ferrari Dino 246.
Masten would stay right there, just outside the top ten, throughout the first 15 laps of the race. But then, after 17 laps of good running, his engine would not be doing so well and he would end up out of the race before it had reached 20 laps.
It would be all Stirling Moss. Unlike in Argentina, Moss would need no slight of hand to get and hold onto the lead of the race. Though Mike Hawthorn would turn the fastest lap, Moss would be consistently fast enough to leave the two BRMs behind. Leading every single lap of the race, Moss would take a commanding victory defeating an overjoyed Harry Schell by nearly a minute. Jean behra would come close to going a lap down before the end, but the Frenchman would, nevertheless, finish in 3rd place.
Despite making a very early exit from the race, Gregory would be impressive during his short interval. He was behind the wheel of an older Maserati. And yet, he climbed up the running order as though he were driving something brand new. There was still some life in the old 250F. Sadly, it would appear the Dutch Grand Prix had finished off what, if anything, had been left after the impressive run at Silverstone. This would be evidenced by the team's next race.
Leaving the Dutch coastline, Centro Sud would head back home as there would be a couple of weeks before the next race on the schedule. While Juan Manuel Fangio would be in Indianapolis attempting to make it into the field for the 500 mile race, Centro Sud would be back in Modena hard at work preparing for the Belgian Grand Prix that would be coming up on the 15th of June. The team would need to work hard preparing their aged machines as they would be about to embark on a trip to what was to be the fastest circuit on the grand prix calendar in 1958.
The Belgian Grand Prix, like the Dutch round, would not be included on the World Championship calendar in 1957. However, the organizers of the Belgian race would not sit idly-by. Instead, hard work would take place to get the circuit ready for the following season. And, as the drivers arrived ahead of the teams, they would find a circuit that had undergone some major updates. On a whole, the layout of the circuit would be unchanged. It would still be 8.77 miles in length. There would be some revisions to the layout around 2 kilometers in, but the majority of the changes would come in the form of resurfacing.
The famous bumps near the top of Eau Rouge would be gone. This meant the cars would no longer go airborne slightly as they turned back to the left to complete the climb. After that, the only major difference would be the resurfacing, which indicated the speeds would pick up as the grip through the fast corners would only be greater.
Centro Sud would finally make its way to the Ardennes region of Belgium. The team would come to the circuit with no less than three cars. Masten Gregory would have one of the mounts. Seidel would be behind the wheel of another. The third car on the transporter would be made available to the winner of the Monaco Grand Prix—Maurice Trintignant.
Again, the Maseratis would be no match for the new Ferrari Dino 246s, the Vanwalls or the BRMs. Hawthorn would end up on pole with a time of 3:57.1. This would be just four-tenths of a second quicker than his Ferrari teammate Musso and just a half a second faster than Moss in one of the Vanwalls.
Amongst the Maseratis, again, Gregory would be the quickest. His best of 4:05.4 would be respectable given that it would be just about a second slower than Behra's effort in the BRM. As a result, Gregory would start the race from the 10th position overall, or what was the fourth row of the grid.
As for the other Centro Sud entrants, both could be found three rows further back. The fastest of these two would be Trintignant. Though he won on the streets of Monaco, the Frenchman would be slow around the Spa circuit and would end up 16th on the grid. As for Seidel, around the 8.77 mile circuit the German would be more than 15 seconds slower than Gregory. As a result, he would end up in the 17th position.
Sunny and warm weather would greet the thousands upon thousands of spectators who would make the trip into the heart of the Ardennes to come witness the fifth round of the World Championship. Despite the unpredictability of the weather throughout the area, there would be no sign of any rain as the drivers took their places behind the wheel after a great deal of ceremony that included a parade of historic racing automobiles and a drivers parade.
As the crowd looked on, the field would roar away toward Eau Rouge for the first time. Leading the way up the hill would be Moss in the Vanwall. Right behind him would be Brooks in another Vanwall followed by the rest of the field. The 24 lap Belgian Grand Prix was under way.
As the field roared up over the top of the hill, Gregory would find himself in immediate trouble. His Maserati would barely make it a couple of miles before he would be pulling off the side of the circuit out of the race. Seidel and Trintignant would still be in the running, but well back.
At the conclusion of the first lap even Moss would be nowhere to be found. Brooks would come through with Peter Collins right up the back of his Vanwall as they swept up the hill for the second time. Finally, as Gregory came trundling down the hill, Moss would come past the pits and would immediately pull into the car park just behind. His day too was over.
Collins would make his way by Brooks and would lead for the next couple of laps while Trintignant began a respectable march up the order. Sitting just outside the top ten at the completion of the first couple of laps, Trintignant would be on the move while Seidel would be stuck further down unable to make much in the way of an impression.
Four laps gone and Brooks would be back in the lead and pulling away from the Ferraris that were, amazingly, struggling with overheating. This was to be a problem the Vanwalls struggled with. Nevertheless, Hawthorn would keep up the pursuit as Collins began to fade. At the same time Collins departed the scene, Seidel race would be run. Overheating had come to ruin his effort as well leaving just Trintignant in the field for Centrol Sud.
At Monaco, Trintignant had been fast enough to keep touch and remain in position so that when it went wrong for everybody else he was there to pick up the pieces. It would be a similar story on the 15th of June. With each passing lap the Frenchman moved closer and closer to the front. Brooks would be pulling away with the lead and Hawthorn would be sitting content in 2nd place, but Maurice would be steadily making his way into the top ten and up the order. Chasing the Ferrari 246 of Olivier Gendebien, and the BRM of Harry Schell, in the late stages of the race, a championship point seemed quite distant, but still a possibility. Trintignant would certainly need some help though.
Averaging nearly 130mph over the course of the 24 laps, Brooks would need absolutely no help to go on to victory. Rushing across the finish line, the Englishman would beat the Ferrari of his fellow Englishman by 21 seconds. Following along behind Hawthorn in 2nd place would be another Vanwall driven by Stuart Lewis-Evans. He would finish more than two and a half minutes behind the Ferrari but would give Vandervell a one-three finish.
Looking back through the field, Centro Sud would be delighted by the effort of Trintignant. Though Gregory and Seidel would be early departures, Maurice would be steady behind the wheel of the 250F and would come through to finish the race a lap down in the 7th position. Though a point was in the offering, 5th place was just a bridge too far for the Frenchman to cross. Still, it would be a fantastic result and would help to soften the blow suffered by the team's other two drivers.
Leaving the forests of the Ardennes, Centro Sud had achieved mixed results. Masten had been fast in practice and was well placed on the grid. However, it would be Trintignant, who had started the race well down on the grid, that would come through to finish well inside the top ten. It would be a frustrating race. Had Gregory not suffered from engine trouble he too may have been right up there and within reach of the points. Heading into early July, the team would have the opportunity to do something of a reset as the next race on the calendar would produce similar speeds and would be of a similar nature to that of the Belgian Grand Prix. Perhaps then Centro Sud could really achieve their best.
The next race on the team's calendar would be the sixth round of the Formula One World Championship. Centro Sud would head home for a couple of weeks to prepare their cars but would then depart Modena for the northwest of France. Not far from the Belgian border is the important French city of Reims. It would be here, amidst the rolling countryside just to the west, that the French Grand Prix would be held on the 6th of July.
Early July meant the French Grand Prix. And while Rouen-les-Essarts would host the round a couple of times throughout the 1950s, the French round of the World Championship would be held at Reims in 1958. And, like Spa, Reims would be 5.15 miles of nothing but sheer speed. But while Reims would be similar to Spa in outright speed, the circuit itself would have little in common to the Belgian circuit. Basically a triangle in shape, the circuit would feature very little in the way of elevation change. Sitting in the grandstands along the start/finish straight, the crowd could look back down the circuit about a mile to see who was coming through the tight Thillois hairpin. Greatest change in elevation would come along the circuit's fastest section. On the fast, straight run from Muizon hairpin to Thillois the circuit would rise into the air and then would drop. This would make the hairpin even more tricky as the approaching speeds would be greater than many drivers would think and it would make the braking point rather difficult to judge. Fast and boasting of some very fast esses, the Reims circuit was not to be trifled with. It appeared easy and straight-forward, but danger lurked around ever corner.
Juan Manuel Fangio had made his first appearance in a grand prix at Reims back in 1948, and so, he would be back for one more race. However, Centro Sud would also come to Reims with Maseratis for a couple of drivers that were really just beginning their Formula One careers. Carroll Shelby had taken part in a couple of races for the team the seasons before, but Formula One was still rather new to the Texan. It was even newer for Troy Ruttman who would start in one of the other Maseratis. Ruttman had won the 1952 Indianapolis 500, and therefore, had earned points toward that year's World Championship. Now, however, he was in entirely new territory. Centro Sud would enter a third car. Gerino Gerini would take his place beside the two Americans and would look forward to taking part in just third Formula One race. Gerini had tried to qualify for the Monaco Grand Prix but had failed to make the field. No such troubles would he suffer this time.
As he had at Spa, Hawthorn would be quickest in practice. He would take the pole and would be joined on the front row by Luigi Musso and Harry Schell. Gerini would show the way for his American teammates. Gerini would be nine seconds slower than Hawthorn over the 5.15 mile circuit and would end up on the sixth row of the grid in the 15th position overall. One row behind is where Shelby and Ruttman would be found. Shelby's best had been just a little over a second slower than Gerini and led to a 17th starting position while Ruttman would be five seconds slower than Gerini and would end up 18th.
Brilliant sunshine shone down as the crowd would be enraptured by the sight of Fangio taking his place behind the wheel of a Maserati for what was to be the final time. At the drop of the flag, Hawthorn would overtake a fast-starting Schell for the lead. Musso would head up another group of cars trying to keep pace with Hawthorn. Ruttman would be a little slow throughout the first lap losing a couple of places. Meanwhile, Gerini and Shelby would be holding station waiting for things to settle down. It was a 50 lap race and there would be time to move forward, especially as attrition began to take its toll.
Hawthorn would be flying out front and this would put a tremendous amount of pressure on Musso. He badly needed a good result and was looking thoroughly outclassed by his fellow Ferrari teammate. Musso would pick up his pace and would take a number of risks each and every lap. Tragically, on the run toward the Muizon hairpin, Musso would try to go through one of the fast sweepers flat. Unfortunately, he would slide off the circuit and would hook a wheel in a ditch. The Ferrari would somersault a number of times. Having slid off the circuit at around 150mph, Musso would be vaulted out of the car and would suffer terrible head injuries that would end up taking his life by the time he reached the hospital.
At the same time the crowd would be hearing news of Musso's tragic end, Shelby would be pulling over out of the race with an expired engine. Gerini and Ruttman remained in the race, but they needed a good deal of help to move forward. Musso's death was not how they wanted to move up, but the race went on.
Hawthorn carried on in the lead and only lengthened his advantage over the rest of the field. Tony Brooks, Maurice Trintignant, Graham Hill, Harry Schell, Stuart Lewis-Evans and Jean Behra would all retire from the race before the end. This would help Gerini and Ruttman who continued to lap the circuit steadily.
Hawthorn would never be troubled at any point of the 50 lap race. Moss and Behra would battle it out for 2nd place until the Frenchman retired. Both Gerini and Ruttman would be in the top ten, but they would be the last two cars still running as the race neared its end.
Hawthorn would not only take the victory but would also turn the fastest lap of the race. About twenty-four seconds later, Moss would come through to finish in 2nd place. Wolfgang Von Trips would give Ferrari two drivers on the podium in the end. Gerini would run a steady race to come through and finish in 9th place in his Maserati. The Italian would finish more than three laps behind but at least he came through to make it to the checkered flag. This result certainly beat not even making it into the Monaco Grand Prix a little more than a month earlier. Ruttman's first foray behind the wheel of a single-seater grand prix car would be a relatively successful affair. Though he drove a car no longer the class of the field, the 1952 Indy 500 winner would run a smart race to finish in 10th place just a little more than five laps behind the winner. This wouldn't seem to be a very impressive performance, but, given the circumstances, it was certainly splendid.
Seeing that it was July and the French Grand Prix had come and gone, it meant the British Grand Prix was next in line on the championship calendar. Scuderia Centro Sud would depart Reims and would head across the channel and on to Silverstone, the sight of its greatest success of the season. The team would arrive in Silverstone hoping the British Grand Prix on the 19th of July could offer the same kind of success as the team had enjoyed back on the 3rd of May.
A return trip to Silverstone offered hope, but didn't necessarily mean success, especially given the fact the field for the seventh round of the World Championship would be quite a bit different from that which had lined up for the International Trophy race. While there would be the Coopers and the BRMs, there would also be a full fleet of Ferraris, as well as, the Vanwalls. It was going to be a challenging affair for sure.
Centro Sud would be rather limited with its lineup. For one thing, Masten Gregory would be listed with the Owen Racing Organization. Therefore, the Italian team would turn to Gerino Gerini to head up its effort. Gerini's teammate would be the Texan Carroll Shelby. Shelby would be looking for a bit of retribution after the failed attempt in the French Grand Prix. Just two cars for Centro Sud, up against three BRMs, three Ferraris, three Vanwalls, three Coopers and three Lotuses.
Nearly all of the different makes of car would be represented along the front row of the grid. Stirling Moss would take the pole in the Vanwall. He would be joined on the front row by a BRM piloted by Harry Schell, a Cooper driven by Roy Salvadori and a Ferrari that had Mike Hawthorn at the helm.
Moss' best effort in practice would be a lap of 1:39.4. Carroll Shelby would be the quickest among the Centro Sud cars. His best would be around five seconds slower around the same 2.92 mile circuit and would result in a fifth row starting spot for the Texan. Shelby would line up 15th on the grid while Gerini would also find himself starting from the fifth row, but in the 18th position overall.
Amazingly, another brilliant day shone down upon the Silverstone circuit leading up to the start of the 13th RAC British Grand Prix. The warm weather and sunny conditions would bring the crowd out in the tens of thousands. They would be excited about the prospects of the first British World Champion and the strong showing of British manufacturing. It would be amazing but Centro Sud's lineup of Maseratis, a car that had come to be known as the benchmark in Formula One, was now considered well beyond its prime. Ferrari was still very competitive but three British makes of cars on the front row signaled that things were changing.
Engines would be brought to life and the crowd would watch on with great eagerness as the flag would be raised. Cars would inch forward, and then, the flag would drop and the race would be underway. For once, Moss would not stall on the grid and would lead the way through the first few corners. However, Peter Collins would get a masterful start from the second row of the grid and would actually take the lead of the race before the field reappeared around Woodcote for the first time. Trouble further back would see some cars get away from the grid very slowly. One of those would be Gerini. Shelby, on the other hand, would get away well, but would be stuck right where he started.
Collins would be flying at the front of the field. His intentions were more than obvious. His friend and teammate was challenging for the title, if Collins could force the issue with Moss following, there was the likelihood that the Vanwall could be broken and Hawthorn would be able to cruise home to a greater advantage in the championship standings. So Collins would do exactly that. He would push the pace with every single lap. Moss would be forced to respond.
Initially, Moss would have little in the way of trouble. He would remain close to Collins' Ferrari. However, other drivers would find the pace to be a little too much for their cars. A total of five cars would be out of the running by the 20th lap, mostly due to overheating. Shelby and Gerini, however, would not be among the five out. Though they would be near the back of the field, they would still be in the running, and moving up. By the 25th lap, Shelby would be up to just outside the top ten while Gerini would be sitting still at the back of the field but up inside the top fifteen.
The two Centro Sud drivers would move up even more when Collins' tactics would play out just as Ferrari would hope. After completing 25 laps, Moss' Vanwall would give up the fight leaving Collins in 1st and Hawthorn in 2nd.
Following Moss' retirement from the race the most interesting battle on the circuit would be for 3rd place between the small Cooper of Salvadori and the Vanwall of Lewis-Evans. These two would battle it out lap after lap and would never be more than a couple of seconds apart.
Past the halfway mark of the race, not all was well with one of Centro Sud's entries. Gerini would be showing signs of trouble. Then, after 43 laps, the Maserati's gearbox would give out leaving Gerini unable to carry on. Just Shelby would be left for Centro Sud. And though he was running well, a finish in the points certainly seemed beyond his reach.
It seemed obvious that Ferrari would have Hawthorn take over the lead and the win to further aid his chances in the World Championship. Mike would be hauling his friend in and it seemed just a matter of time before there would be a switch at the head of the field. However, with the laps winding down, Hawthorn would make a mad dash for the pits. He would come in waving and gesturing rather frantically. Calling out for oil, the crew would spring into action adding oil to the engine. The victory was now lost, and, if the stop took too long, even 2nd place would come under threat from Salvadori and Lewis-Evans. The crew would keep working while others within the team would look anxiously toward Woodcote. The engine would be re-fired, the oil clap slammed into place and Hawthorn would be back underway. Second place was still his.
Heading into the final couple of laps, all but 3rd place had become a processional affair. Shelby had made his way into the top ten but was more than a couple of laps behind the leader and unable to challenge Trintignant for 8th place. The laps would wind down. Collins would take a commanding and indomitable victory having led every single lap of the race. The Brit had come under some criticism for a lack of drive, and yet, he would come through to be unbeatable this day. Hawthorn would follow through in 2nd place trailing behind his friend by 24 seconds. The only remaining bit of drama, still, would be over who would finish in 3rd place. It had been a titanic duel between Salvadori and Lewis-Evans. And, despite the fact the Vanwall had the advantage in many areas, it would be Salvadori that would round Woodcote first to take 3rd place from Lewis-Evans by just two-tenths of a second.
It would be amazing to watch. Just one year earlier, Fangio had dominated the World Championship while at the wheel of a Maserati 250F. One year later, Shelby would bring home the only Maserati to finish the race. He would not set the pace. In fact, he would be well off of it finishing more than three laps behind in a very lowly 9th place. Times had changed and that fact was certainly very evident. The return to Silverstone had not been nearly as successful as when the team first competed at the circuit earlier in the year. Still, the 9th place finish would still be one of the better results for the team to that point in the season.
The rounds of the World Championship had come fast and furious from May onwards. However, after the British Grand Prix the Centro Sud team would head back across the Channel, but would make a stop at the French coastal city of Caen. There in Caen, on the 20th of July, the day after the British Grand Prix, would be held the 6th Grand Prix de Caen. It was a non-championship event, and one of very few opportunities for an aged man o'war, like the Maserati, could still have a shot at victory.
The city of Caen has a history stretching back to the days well before William the Conqueror. However, it would become best known for the historical buildings built by William, and then, during the Second World War, being a very important strategic object during the Normandy Invasion.
As a result of the war, much of Caen was in ruins and a good deal of time and effort would be put into returning the city to its former glory. A part of that revitalization would come in the form of sport. And one of those sports would be grand prix racing.
Held around the hippodrome situated right beside the Orne River, the Caen circuit would be comprised of city streets and would measure 2.18 miles in length. Sporting mostly ninety degree corners and just one hairpin, the circuit would be quick with average speeds reaching well over 90mph in 1958. Short, but quick, the Caen circuit was by no means a circuit that could be treated flippantly, especially if the conditions were not ideal.
Centro Sud would have just a single entry for the 86 lap race. Gerini's British Grand Prix had not lived up to expectations, and so, he would be behind the wheel of one of the Maseratis for the non-championship race.
The field of drivers and teams would show Gerini and Centro Sud the race was not going to be a push-over. Rob Walker's team would be present with a couple of cars, as would Owen Racing with their BRMs. The BRMs had come to life around the circuit the year before. Behra had absolutely dominated the race and it was clear the team was hoping for more.
Stirling Moss would be at the wheel of one of the Walker Coopers and he would end up being the fastest in practice taking the pole over reigning winner Behra. The rows would be just two cars wide and this meant Gerini would find himself well down in the field. When practice had come to an end, the Italian would find himself on the sixth, and final, row of the grid. However, he would not be starting last. Instead, Gerini would be lining up 11th.
All of the cars would get away from the grid without too much trouble. Moss would be in the lead chased by Behra. All would be going well until Les Leston's Lotus had its engine seize on him sending him careening off the course. At about the same time, Keith Ballisat would lose a wheel on his Cooper causing him to also crash out of the race. Everything would descend into chaos for a moment as the marshals, and seemingly everyone else, erupted into an attempt to try to bring order to the situation.
In spite of the chaos, Moss and Behra would be in a league of their own, easily pulling away from the rest of the field. Schell may have been able to join them had his BRM not been suffering with a sticking brake.
The race would feature Formula 2 cars running with Formula One machines. Trintignant would be in the lead of the Formula 2 field and he would be well ahead of Gerini. However, Lewis-Evans would find himself behind Gerini and would begin to suffer as a result of smoke pouring out of the Maserati. Gerino would manage to stay in the race, much to Lewis-Evans' dismay.
Schell would end up dropping out of the race, not because of his brake problems, but because of his gearbox developing an oil leak. However, Behra continued to challenge Moss at the head of the field. But, even this would be short-lived as Behra's engine would fail just past the halfway mark in the race.
Everyone knew where Gerini was on the track. The smoking engine just kept getting worse and worse and it seemed absolutely miraculous the Italian had not been forced out. The engine just kept going, and so, so too did Gerini. Lewis-Evans would make his way by the fumigating Gerini and would begin challenging George Wicken for his position. Gerini was the last runner on the track and seemed destined to finish behind even the Formula 2 cars still remaining in the race.
Everybody would finish behind Moss. Averaging nearly 94mph over the course of the 86 lap race, Stirling would destroy the field in the Walker Cooper. Crossing the line just after two hours of racing, he would have more than a lap in hand over Jo Bonnier finishing in 2nd place. It had been another dominant performance. The year before it had been Behra in the BRM. This time it was Moss in a Cooper. Bruce Halford would delight by bringing his Maserati home in 3rd place making it two 250Fs finishing in the top three.
Wicken would lose out and would end up dropping behind Gerini heading into the final lap of the race. It appeared Gerino would beat at least one Formula 2 car. However, coming around the final corner the engine would finally give up the fight and would lead to the Italian spinning right around, facing the opposite direction. He was yards from the finish, but had a car that was incapable of reaching the goal under its own power, and in a forward direction. Therefore, Gerini would hop out of the cockpit and would go on to push the car backward over the line to finish in 6th place, just ahead of Wicken.
It had been one of the most intense and drama-filled races for a 6th place result anyone had seen, but for Centro Sud and Gerini, the 6th place was akin to a victory. And though they would finish more than four laps behind Moss in the end, in some ways they would come out the victors as well.
Leaving Caen, the Centro Sud team would head on back home to Modena. There would be a couple of weeks before the next race on the calendar and the huge effort Gerini demonstrated to bring home 6th place in Caen would help the team's momentum as it prepared for the demanding circuit that was next up.
After a week or so of rebuilding and preparing their cars, Centro Sud would leave Italy and would head north. They would travel through the Alps and on through Switzerland. Finally, the team would find its way to the German district of Ahrweiler and the small village of Nurburg. There, amongst the Eifel Mountains and the imposing Nurburg Castle would be found the infamous Nurburgring. It was time for the German Grand Prix and the race, held in 1958 on the 3rd of August, had become a popular race as it would include both a Formula One and a Formula 2 race running concurrently.
The Nurburgring had been the site of the Maserati's greatest triumph when Fangio came from nearly a minute behind to beat Hawthorn and Collins for the victory the year before. It ensured the Argentinean his fifth World Championship and it seemingly ensured Centro Sud that there was something special between the two.
The field would be awash in different makes of cars. However, there would be very few Maseratis in the field. It had become clear the days of the 250F had come to an end. However, Centro Sud still believed and they would be the only team to enter Maseratis in the race. In fact, the team would enter no less than four 250Fs under its team banner. The interesting aspect to Centro Sud's lineup would be the fact that there would be only one driver to have driven for the team at any point earlier in the season. That one driver would be Troy Ruttman. The American would be back to take on what was considered the toughest circuit in the world. Joining him behind the wheel of Maseratis would be Francisco Godia-Sales, Jo Bonnier and Hans Herrmann.
Covering a distance of a little more than 14 miles, the Nurburgring was by no means a circuit in which a driver could lose his concentration. However, with more than 170 corners, it was certainly a circuit in which a driver could forget exactly where he, or she, was. This was very dangerous as the circuit was filled with blind crests and quick changes in direction. To lose concentration could be deadly, and more than a few had lost their lives around the circuit. Formula One had not lost a driver around the Nurburgring since Onofre Marimon's accident in 1954. Sadly, it was about to suffer another.
The circuit had been resurfaced the year before and Fangio had lowered the lap record seemingly at will, and in great chunks of time. One year removed, and Hawthorn would demonstrate the cars could still go faster when he lapped the circuit in 9:14.0. This would be a full second quicker than Brooks' effort in the Vanwall and more than five seconds quicker than Moss in another of the Vanwalls. Peter Collins would help to make it two Ferraris on the front row when he garnered the final spot helping to box-in the two Vanwalls.
Centro Sud's entries would be off the pace. Troy Ruttman would take part in practice but would suffer from engine troubles and would be unable to set a time, and therefore, take part in the race. Godia-Sales would also only take part in practice but would not set a time for the race. Therefore, the team would be down to just two entries for Herrmann and Bonnier. And, both would be down among the Formula 2 entries.
Both of the Maseratis were to be found toward the bottom of the timesheets. There would be a number of Formula 2 cars that would actually be faster around the 14 mile circuit. Nonetheless, both of Centro Sud's cars would make it into the field. Both would end up on the sixth row of the grid. Herrmann would start from the 20th position while Bonnier would line up in 21st.
A great crowd would find its way to the deep forests of the Eifel Mountains to witness the German Grand Prix. At the drop of the flag, Moss would lead the way into the south curve while his teammate Brooks sat in 2nd place right behind. Bonnier would get away well and would actually be looking to move up the order while Herrmann was already well on his way up the running order.
Moss would lead the way at the conclusion of the first circuit but Brooks would fall well behind having found his Vanwall's handling to be nothing like he had experienced in practice. This allowed Hawthorn and Collins to slot in behind Moss. Moss was falling behind in the fight for the championship so he would be pushing hard trying to set the fastest lap and take the win in order to maximize his chances in the championship. Herrmann would be approaching the top fifteen at the end of the first lap while Bonnier would be right around 20th at the conclusion of the first circuit.
Moss would push a little too hard at the beginning of the race. He would lead the first three laps of the race but would end up retiring on the fourth. This handed the lead, for a short time, to Hawthorn. However, Collins would soon take over the lead and would actually begin to stretch out a bit of an advantage over his friend and teammate. Collins had dominated at Silverstone and looked on course to do more of the same around the Nurburgring. Herrmann's race lasted about as long Moss'. He had managed to climb up to around 15th place in the running order before engine troubles brought his race to an end. This would bring about Centro Sud's day as well, as Bonnier would already be out of the picture.
Bonnier had completed the first lap of the race in rather careful fashion. However, as he headed out for his second circuit, he would make a slight error and would end up crashing out of the race. He would set-off a number of retirements that would see a total of ten cars out of the race before the 15 lap race had reached a third of its distance.
Centro Sud's day was over much too early. The team would begin to pack up its equipment and would look to the next race. Moss was running out of options. If Hawthorn came through to finish 2nd, or took victory, the fight for the championship would be nearly over. It seemed Vanwall could have begun packing up its hopes for a World Championship. However, as the fuel load burned down in Brook's Vanwall the handling would come back to life and the dental student would find he was able to charge. After having fallen well back, the Vanwall would come on a charge.
Brooks would pass Hawthorn and he would begin to set his sights on Collins and the lead. Collins had led more than a half a dozen laps. However, Brooks would come flying by the Ferrari driver catching him off guard. Peter would not be pleased with losing out on the lead and he would set off after Brooks. Sadly, Collins would push a little too hard at one of those places on the track where it was easy to forget what was coming next. And, as a result of a blind crest, there was no way of seeing what was coming until it was too late.
Collins would miss the apex for the corner that followed the crest. His Ferrari would slide off the circuit, catch a ditch and would be sent flying through the air. Collins would be thrown out of the car and up against some nearby trees. Hawthorn would see everything unfold before him. He would see his good friend thrown against the tree and he knew exactly what the result would be. Appearing along the start/finish straight, the British driver would be slowing his Ferrari and would bring it to a stop in the pits. Quickly getting out and walking away, Hawthorn's face would tell the story.
Brooks would have no idea of what had happened. All he would know is that he was all alone and under no threat. He would carry on to complete the last handful of laps and would take the victory in what was easily the best drive of his career. Still, in spite of the achievement, all celebrations would be muted as a result of the death of Collins. And, while the struggles of the team would not come close to the tragedy that befell Collins, Centro Sud certainly would be in a stupor of its own after its poor weekend performance. The team would need to find some way to turn things around.
Leaving behind the poor performance in the Eifel Mountains, the Centro Sud team would have a couple of weeks to prepare before the next race on the calendar. The team would then pack up their blue and yellow transporter and would head to the west. Ultimately, the team would make its way through Spain and would come to a stop in the Portuguese city of Oporto. The World Championship would have a new addition to its calendar. It would be the Portuguese Grand Prix and it would take place on the 24th of August in the coastal city of Oporto.
The second largest city in Portugal, Oporto would become a principal city within the country as a result of its production and export of its wine known by the city's name. The export of port wine would help to make Oporto one of Portugal's principal cities.
The city's importance in history would not just come with the production of port wine. An important commercial port, there are numerous ruins around the city that belong to Roman and Celtic occupation. The city would even come under the control of the Moors during the 8th and 9th centuries.
Given the city's affluence and ideal surroundings, Oporto would become a popular city for tourism as well and its roads just to the west of the city center would become the site of the Boavista circuit. Measuring 4.60 miles, the Boavista circuit offered competitors just about every kind of challenge. There would be long straights that enabled cars to reach their top speeds. However, the circuit would feature technically-challenging corners that switch back and forth. Then there would be the little extras like the tramlines and the cobblestone streets that added to the circuit's intrigue.
The field for the Portuguese Grand Prix would be relatively small, especially when compared to the size of the field for the German round before it. Centro Sud would still make the trip to the circuit, but would enter just one car. There was a question as to who would actually take to the wheel of the car. However, Cliff Allison would move over from Team Lotus to drive for the Italian outfit.
The Vanwalls would have some updates to help with cooling issues and, as a result of the changes, would be quick during practice. Moss would be the quickest in practice and he would take the pole with a lap time of 2:34.21. This would beat out Mike Hawthorn by a mere five-hundredths of a second. Stuart Lewis-Evans would make it one of the tightest front rows when he finished up practice with a best lap time just three-tenths of a second slower than Moss.
The gap to Allison's best in the Maserati wouldn't be so narrow. Around the 4.60 mile circuit the Maserati would just not have the pace and the handling to keep pace with those further up on the grid. Allison's inexperience in the car would result in a best lap of 2:46.27. This would be a gap of more than 12 seconds off of Moss' effort and would result in Cliff lining up on the grid in the fifth row of the grid in the 13th position overall.
There would be some concern heading into the race as heavy rain had fallen over the circuit during the night and continued to fall during the hours leading up to the start of the race. The wet cobblestones and tramlines would be cause for some concern and promised to affect the championship if it didn't stop soon.
As the cars headed to the grid, the rain would come to a stop. However, the circuit would still be wet, and therefore, would still be quite slick. Nonetheless, the cars would set off at the start of the 50 lap race. In front of around 50,000 people, Moss would take the lead and would look quite confident with the updated Vanwall. Hawthorn would be sitting in 2nd place and would be under little pressure to challenge Moss for the lead when the championship was within his grasp. Allison would struggle off the line and would end the first lap of the race dead-last.
Allison would remain right there at the tail-end of the grid. While Hawthorn would pick up the fight with Moss for the lead, Allison would find it impossible to move up and challenge others ahead of him in the running order. Instead, the Centro Sud driver would be left at the back of the field hoping for attrition to help out his forward movement.
Allison would receive very little help. In fact, attrition would target the Maserati driver. In an effort to rid the race of the weakest performers, Cliff's race would come to an end after 15 laps. Mechanical ailments would bring the race to a very early end, another early exit for the Centro Sud team.
Allison's fight would be coming to an end when the struggle between Hawthorn and Moss was just warming up. As the circuit continued to slowly dry, Hawthorn would end up slipping behind Moss. Suddenly, not all would appear right with the Ferrari. Moss took the lead back from his rival and would begin to pull away. Hawthorn would do his best to keep pace. However, he would end up appearing in the pits needing to have his brakes checked. Moss would be the clear leader while Jean Behra would take over 2nd place.
Moss continued to press his advantage and Behra could do little to respond. Hawthorn followed along behind the Frenchman en route to a 3rd place finish. However, misfire conditions with Behra's engine would cause Hawthorn to move back into 2nd place. This would appear to be a tenuous thing as Hawthorn would end up making a mistake and go spinning off the circuit. The Ferrari driver would recover from his error, but not before causing some controversy as to how he had performed the action.
Moss would cruise to an easy victory taking the victory by nearly a lap over Hawthorn. Mike's place in the finishing order would be under threat when the race officials threatened to disqualify him for driving against the flow of traffic. However, Moss would intervene, having seen the action, and the disqualification would be overturned. Hawthorn would keep his 2nd place and his 7 points toward the championship.
The sporting gesture would keep the championship fight alive and well and would endear Moss to the heart of the public. This would be of little consequence to Centro Sud as it would do little to provide race results for them. In spite of their best efforts, the Maserati was no longer endearing itself to the hearts of the Italian team. The car was slow and it was showing terrible unreliability. The season was running down for both Centro Sud and the Maserati 250F.
The summer months had proved rather disappointing for Centro Sud. The team had managed a couple of strong results, but they had come as a result of some very poor ones as well. Leaving Portugal, the team would be heading home. The team, though, would not be just heading home. They would be heading toward a difficult situation.
The calendar was about to turn to September and that meant the Italian Grand Prix was right around the corner. This was both a blessing and a curse. Racing on home soil had the potential of spurring the team onto great success. However, racing before the home crowd, and on home soil, also had the means of being a great embarrassment. If ever there was a time for everything to come together it would be the 7th of September at Monza.
The Italian Grand Prix had a way of serving up surprises. There would be many examples throughout its history since 1922 when the circuit came into being. However, recent memory would trend back to 1953 when either Alberto Ascari or Giuseppe Farina could have won the race. But then, on the very last lap, and heading into the final couple of corners, the two Ferrari pilots would end up getting in each other's way enabling Fangio to come through to take victory in a Maserati. Such a strange episode would have to take place for a Maserati to come through one more time to take victory, but Centro Sud would try and help their cause having Masten Gregory, Carroll Shelby and Gerino Gerini driving for them in the race.
The Monza circuit would be just like the others on the calendar in 1958. The circuit would be fast. At 3.91 miles in length, the circuit would be flat and boasting of mostly high-speed corners. Boasting of long straights, the Monza circuit would appear a straight-forward circuit. However, the ninety degree corners at Lesmo and then the challenging Parabolica added a challenge that required a car to handle as well as be fast.
The Vanwalls had turned a corner with its updated design. Stirling Moss would set the fastest lap around the circuit. His fastest lap would end up being nearly a second faster than Tony Brooks in another Vanwall. Mike Hawthorn would manage to break up the Vanwall dominance by preventing Lewis-Evans from capturing 3rd place on the grid.
Among the Centro Sud drivers, Gregory would again show his worth by being the fastest around the circuit. His best lap of 1:44.9 would be just a little more than four seconds slower than Moss' best effort. This would result in Gregory starting the race from the third row of the grid in the 11th position. This would be a very respectable position for the Masten considering he was driving a Maserati. Not surprising, he would be the quickest Maserati in the field.
Three seconds slower than Gregory would be Shelby in another of the Maseratis. His lap would result in a 17th place starting spot, which put the American on the fifth row of the grid. Gerini would be found just a row further back. His best would be in the 1:50 range and would provide a 19th starting spot on the grid. This would not be the best, but it wasn't terrible given the circumstances.
As usual, sunshine and warm temperatures would engulf Monza as the crowd descended upon the circuit for the Italian Grand Prix. There would be a great deal of excitement as Hawthorn was well within reach of the World Championship in his Ferrari. What he needed was a victory over Moss and it would be all over. And, as the flag dropped to start the 70 lap race, no one was more aware of the situation than Moss. He would streak out into the lead, but he would be chased by Phil Hill in one of the Ferraris. As these two raced each other into the fast Curva Grande, there would be a coming together that would cause many to hold their breath.
Wolfgang Von Trips and Harry Schell would be battling side-by-side heading into the first corner. Unfortunately, the two would touch and the Ferrari would be sent flying into the air and crashing off the side of the circuit. Ferrari had already lost two drivers on the season and many were concerned they had just lost another. Schell would step out of his car without a scratch. Thankfully, Von Trips would be relatively unharmed. Despite the dramatic accident in which Von Trips would be thrown out of his car, he would be checked out and found to just have a broken leg.
Shelby and Gregory would make it through the first lap chaos. Gregory would be running inside the top ten at the end of the first lap while Shelby would be quickly finding his race coming to and end.
Shelby had made it through the first lap troubles. However, mechanical troubles would end his race after just one lap. The race had barely completed four miles of total distance and there would be already four cars out of the picture. Monza was notorious for attrition and it had already made its presence felt.
Phil Hill would take the lead and would actually lead the first lap of the race over Moss. The American would continue to show the way in his Ferrari until he would run into tire trouble. This would allow Hawthorn to take over the lead, and it would also allow Moss and Lewis-Evans to come up in the running order. Hawthorn was right where he needed, and wanted, to be. However, Moss knew he needed to push hard. He couldn't afford his competitor to gain too much of an advantage. Therefore, Moss and Hawthorn would duel for the next eight or nine laps for the lead. It would be a thrilling episode until Moss' day would come to an end after just 17 laps. It was clearly in Hawthorn's hands at this point.
What many people would miss, amid all of the fighting up at the front of the field, would be an impressive performance by Gregory in the Centro Sud Maserati. At the International Trophy race earlier in the year, Masten seemed to be the only one capable of proving the 250F wasn't quite dead. And here he was, months later, demonstrating that fact once again. As a result of Moss' misfortune, and throughout sheer effort of his own, the American would have his Maserati in the points before even the first third of the race had been completed. And even though his countryman and teammate had suffered a terrible end by retiring after just one lap, the fact Gregory was already in the points would have seemed to be reason enough not to mess around.
Brooks wouldn't mess around; Moss would need him. Brooks had to make an early stop as there were some concerns over his oil. The Vanwall would be checked and cleared. Brooks was back in the race, but not entirely happy. However, when Stirling's race came a cropper, he was needed whether he felt comfortable or not. And he would respond. By the halfway mark of the race he would be up to 4th place in the race. To the amazement of just about everyone else around the circuit, there would be a Maserati on the road ahead of him. Gregory was not merely in the points. He was in 3rd place and about to take over 2nd place following more tire problems suffered by Phil Hill. Gregory was running an incredible race. He was even challenging Hawthorn for the lead at one point. But not all was well.
Gregory had suffered an accident in a race at Silverstone and was still suffering from the effects. Though he was all over Hawthorn in the aged Maserati he was barely holding on as he was completely exhausted from his bruising. Though he wasn't showing it, Masten was about to come undone if he had to continue. So he would make a stop for tires and fuel. And, at the same time, Shelby would take over behind the wheel intent on finishing what Gregory had started. New regulations for '58 had prohibited drivers from sharing cars. However, Centro Sud and Shelby believed there would not be a problem here as Shelby would also be listed as a driver for Temple Buell. So Shelby would get behind the wheel and would storm back into the race.
Gregory's stop and Hill's struggles with tires enabled Brooks to find his way up behind Hawthorn in the running order. Now Brooks would begin to stalk the Ferrari. Closing in mile after mile, lap after lap; it was clear it was a matter of time before the Vanwall would be challenging for the lead. But would the Vanwall last the distance?
Brooks would gain the upper-hand. He would move by Hawthorn for the lead of the race. The championship battle could continue, but the Vanwall needed to make it to the end of the race. Meanwhile, Shelby continued to perform well in the Maserati. He would not be as quick as Gregory, but the hard work had been already done. Phil Hill would come storming back and would end up taking away 3rd place from Shelby, but still, the old 250F was on course for a 4th place finish, or at least that it what they thought.
Brooks would hold it together for the remaining nine laps of the race. His Vanwall would perform flawlessly and he would help to keep Vanwall's, and Moss', title hopes alive. The championship would go down to the final race of the season as Hawthorn crossed the line around 30 seconds behind Brooks. Phil Hill would come along another four seconds further back to claim 3rd place in his Ferrari. A two-three finish would delight the Italian crowd, but it would also be frustrating as well having had the championship within Hawthorn's grasp.
Coming along a little more than a lap behind would be Shelby at the wheel of the Centro Sud Maserati. It would be a tremendous result that would delight the team and the crowd. However, there was some controversy. Shelby had started the race in a Centro Sud car. Therefore, he had already driven a car from the same team. It was an unauthorized substitution. The incredible performance would be disqualified from the results.
The fight wasn't over. Despite the fact the race organizers had disqualified the team, Buell would actually go to bat for Centro Sud and Shelby. According to MotorSport, about a week after the conclusion of the race, Buell would go to the organizers and would argue the case that Shelby had originally been entered under his team name and only later drove for Centro Sud. Upon hearing the argument, and certainly helped by the fact Centro Sud was an Italian team, the 4th place would be reinstated. However, World Championship regulations were regulations. Therefore, the substitution meant Gregory and Shelby would not share the points for the result, but Centro Sud would be more interested in the prize money anyway.
After the confusion at Monza, Centro Sud would have just one more race to look forward to for the remainder of the '58 season. In spite of the controversy surrounding the results of the Italian Grand Prix, Centro Sud was riding a huge wave of momentum and it would be hard for the team to take a break just when it seemed to find its way.
Unfortunately, the team would have little choice in the manner. Following the Italian round of the World Championship there would be a gap of more than a month before the final round. While this was certainly not ideal for the team, they would depart Monza and would make the short two hour trip to the southeast to Modena.
The trip back to Modena would be a good opportunity for the team to make final preparations before the final round of the championship. Of all the Maseratis entered under the Centro Sud school name throughout the season, perhaps only 2522 was actually 'new' in a sense. All of the others had been re-bodied forms of older 250F chassis styles. Only 2522 was one of the lightweight cars, and even then it was not one of the T2 or T3 examples. This meant all of the school's cars had a number of miles on them and had seen there fair share of wear and tear. So this break would also be a great time for the team to make some good preparations.
The team would find itself facing another setback as it prepared for the final round of the championship. Masten Gregory would not be available to drive for the team. He had proven the fastest and most consistent driver behind the wheel of the Centro Sud Maseratis and he would be listed as a driver for the Temple Buell team for the final race. Centro Sud would prepare two cars and would load them onto the transporter for shipment. One was to be driven by Wolfgang Seidel. The other would be piloted by Gerino Gerini. Therefore, as the Centro Sud team made its way out of Modena in early October, after having secured a 4th place finish in its home grand prix, it would be doing so knowing it was very likely their race would not go very well indeed.
The Centro Sud transporter would make its way from Modena to the coast where it would then board a ferry. The team would not be on its way to Sicily. No, it would be a longer trip across the Mediterranean. The team would be on its way to the north of Africa and to a new venue for a World Championship race. The ultimate destination would be a circuit made up of public roads just outside the Moroccan city of Casablanca. It was the Moroccan Grand Prix and it would be the first, and last, time the race would be part of the Formula One World Championship.
The Moroccan Grand Prix had actually been 'tested' the year before. At the conclusion of the '57 World Championship season many of the top teams and drivers made their way to Morocco for the Moroccan Grand Prix. It would be a non-championship race used for testing and promotional purposes as it was known the race would be a part of the World Championship calendar the following year. In that race, a Maserati 250F, piloted by Jean Behra, would come through to take the victory. One year on, and the 250F was likely to be fighting for honors at the tail-end of the field with the presence of the Vanwalls and the new Ferrari 246s.
Though it was new to the Formula One World Championship, the Moroccan Grand Prix was by no means something new, nor unfamiliar to most of the drivers. The first time a grand prix would be organized in Morocco would be around 1925. Not surprising, that first race would be held near Casablanca, and it would be known then as the Casablanca Grand Prix.
Casablanca was the ideal place to start grand prix racing in Morocco. Having been an object of conquest and occupation throughout its history, Casablanca reveals influences from many different cultures.
Originally founded and settled by the Berbers, the city would actually come to prominence as a port used by the Phoenicians and the Romans. Casablanca would actually be referred to in ancient texts as 'Anfa'. Interestingly, a district around the city would be called Anfa and it would be within this district of the city that the Anfa Grand Prix would be birthed during the 1930s.
Throughout the early part of the 1930s the Anfa circuit would place host to what many considered the Moroccan Grand Prix and it would be an event for touring cars. However, after the Second World War, the site for the race would change dramatically. Not only would the race change from a race from touring cars to sportscars, but the location for the race would also change. Instead of Anfa and Casablanca, the Moroccan Grand Prix would move to another coastal city, Agadir.
Near the Atlas Mountains and on the Atlantic coast, Agadir offered the Moroccan Grand Prix an incredible backdrop. However, it was not the location to which most associated the Moroccan Grand Prix. That was Casablanca. It needed to move back to where it originated. And, in 1957, it would.
Throughout its early career the Moroccan Grand Prix would be dominated by French cars and drivers. Given that Morocco had only just gained its independence from France two years earlier, it was entirely understandable how the French could dominate so. However, the mid-1950s would see a rule of a different kind come to Morocco and its grand prix. While French drivers continued to fair quite well, Italian automobiles had come to be the dominant make to have when it came to the race. From 1954 through 1956, when the Moroccan Grand Prix was a sportscar race held in Agadir, no other make than a Ferrari had won. When Formula One came in 1957, it would be a Maserati that won the non-championship race. Scuderia Ferrari was hopeful the strong showing of Italian cars meant a World Championship was headed its way. Centro Sud would be hopeful that given the fact the last car to win the race had been a 250F, they would be in a strong position as well.
While Mike Hawthorn and Ferrari were firmly in control of the destiny of the Drivers' Championship, Centro Sud would need all the help from providence they could afford. One year on and the Maserati was no longer very competitive. To make matters worse, the circuit was not exactly a nice walk in the park.
Utilizing a small portion of the original Anfa circuit, the Ain-Diab circuit presented a great challenge. Covering a total of 4.72 miles, the circuit constantly twists back and forth; ready to catch-out a driver who loses concentration for even the briefest of periods. To make matters worse, the public roads are within easy walking distance of the shore. And, like Zandvoort, when the winds kick up the sand blows across the circuit making it devilishly slippery. Add to it an average speed very similar to Zandvoort and things were quickly not stacking up in Centro Sud's favor.
The struggles would be evident from the moment practice began. Compared to Hawthorn, who would end up taking pole with a time of 2:23.1, it was clear Gerini was off the pace. His best effort of 2:35.1 would be 12 seconds slower than Hawthorn and would place Gerini firmly within the Formula 2 field that would also take part in the race. In fact, Gerini would end up well down on the seventh row of the grid in the 17th position overall. Still, Gerini's starting spot would be better than that of Seidel's. His best lap in practice would be three seconds further adrift and would lead to a starting spot on the eighth rank, 20th overall. Things were not looking good for Centro Sud before the race. They wouldn't get much better during it either.
A great deal of pomp and circumstance would lead up to the start of the race on the 19th of October. The King would make his appearance along with tens of thousands of others. They would be on hand to witness one of the best fights for the championship Formula One has had since it was formed in 1950. Moss needing to do everything just to have a shot. Hawthorn needed to stay in touch.
At the drop of the flag it was clear Moss was going to let it all hang out and see what happened. He would streak into the lead with Lewis-Evans alongside in 2nd place. Lewis-Evans' place would be short-lived as Phil Hill would make another fantastic start to be in 2nd place and hurrying Moss around on the first circuit. And while Hawthorn settled in in the 3rd spot, Gerini would be getting his race started in a good way. Seidel, on the other hand, likely realized very early his day was going to be short-lived.
At the completion of the first lap it would be Moss. He would be under a lot of pressure though as Hill was out to try the tactic Peter Collins had pulled off at Silverstone and the Nurburgring. Gerini would complete the first circuit just inside the top fifteen while Seidel would be running dead last. It was clear his car was suffering from some kind of problem and they would manifest themselves after 18 laps.
Hill chased Moss hard through the first couple of laps until the Ferrari driver took it a little too deep and spun his car around dropping him, momentarily, out of the picture. Still, it would be to Hawthorn's gain as he would slot into 2nd place totally in control of the championship picture from that position.
Moss would be doing all he could. He needed the extra point for setting the fastest lap. And, with each passing lap, Moss would lower the lap record. He was a man on the mission and either the car was going to go with him or blow up. He was not going to leave anything on the table. He was taking his chances and looking, once again, to his teammates, and providence, for some help. Brooks would do his best to help out the cause. He would be down in the running order early on but would come charging through the field to take away 3rd place from Hawthorn around the 20 lap mark. At that point in time Phil Hill had recovered to renew his charge of Moss and Hawthorn sat content in 3rd place. However, Brooks' move to take the position woke Hawthorn up. He could not lose the championship when it was so close.
Seidel's race had already come to a conclusion. It was clear no special prize was waiting him. He had completed 18 laps and then would be caught out by the tricky conditions. Sliding off the track, the Maserati would be damaged too much to carry on in the race. Centro Sud was entirely reliant upon Gerini to bring home one last positive result.
It would be difficult for Gerini to climb up the order. He was not quite of the caliber of Gregory and he wouldn't have a car that could make up a lot of the difference. As it were, only the help of attrition could really propel the Centro Sud driver forward. And there would be some unreliability, but not as much as perhaps had been expected. Heading into the final ten laps of the race, Gerino would still be outside the top ten with very little help to move forward. Sadly, he would receive some more help, but it would come at a cost that even he would not want paid.
Brooks had fought back brilliantly to offer Moss a glimmer of hope. While Stirling continued to lap the circuit faster and faster, Brooks would be challenging Hawthorn for 3rd place. Both drivers would spend time in 3rd and it was becoming a real concern to Hawthorn as the race headed into its final stages. But just when things were looking good for Moss, Brooks would suffer an engine problem that would take him right out of the race. Hawthorn was solidly back in 3rd. He needed to be in 2nd, but the man occupying that place was his Ferrari teammate. The championship was almost assuredly Hawthorn's.
There would be one last hope, besides attrition. Lewis-Evans had started the race from the front row of the grid but had slipped back during the first half of the race. Brooks' departure meant Stuart really needed to find some pace. The third Vanwall driver would set off in pursuit of the front. He had fallen down outside the top five at one point so he would need to push hard just to catch up to Hawthorn, who was also about to pass Hill for 2nd place.
Lewis-Evans would not have an easy time. Not only did he need to catch up to the front, but Ferrari had signaled to Hill to let Hawthorn past into 2nd place. Most assuredly, Hill was going to serve as a blocker to Lewis-Evans if and when he got close enough. There was nothing for it. Lewis-Evans had to try. Tragically, after 41 laps, his engine would be pushed too far.
The engine would blow up and the spilling oil would end up catching on fire. Spinning off the circuit, Lewis-Evans would manage to extract himself from the Vanwall but he would be alight from the burning oil. He would have to extinguish the flames by himself, and would suffer terrible burns to the hands and face as a result. The Vanwall driver would be rushed away from the circuit and would die in London about a week later.
Even though Lewis-Evans was still alive at the time he was taken away from the circuit, those within the team, and all around the paddock, knew the true severity of the situation. Suddenly a championship didn't matter. Besides, with his tragic end, the championship fight would come to an end as well.
Lewis-Evans' fatal accident would be one last propellant up the order for Gerini. Those concerned with nostalgia would have wanted such tragic help to make a huge difference, but for Gerini, it would matter little.
Unaware of everything going on behind him, Moss would power his way to an absolutely dominant victory finishing nearly a minute and a half ahead of the 2nd place man. But it was Hawthorn in 2nd place, and that is all that would matter. The championship would go to Hawthorn when everyone picked Stirling to take the title at the beginning of the year.
Gerini would finish his race. However, just about every 11th lap of the race he would be visited by Moss putting him another lap down. Gerini would cross the line five laps down in the 12th position overall. He would manage to beat all but one of the Formula 2 entries, but he would be so far behind Moss at the end that he would end up not classified. So Centro Sud's last race of the '58 season would leave the team wanting. They had finished, but yet, had not. They had gone from challenging for the lead at one point in the Italian Grand Prix to not being classified in the Moroccan race. It would be disappointingly anti-climatic. The season would draw to an end with Centro Sud feeling as though they still had something more to give.
By the end of the '58 season, Maserati were long gone as a factory effort within Formula One. The 250F was no longer a truly competitive car, and yet, Centro Sud would have more than a couple still in their possession. And, while many smaller teams and privateers would start to make the switch to either the Cooper or the Lotus, Centro Sud just could not part with its Maseratis. It was, undoubtedly, a matter of national pride. British drivers behind the wheel of Italian cars were one thing. It signaled dominance in Italian car-making. The other way around signaled nothing but trouble. And so, while many would be selling and abandoning their 250Fs, Centro Sud would try to make it work for one more year.