TeamsOSCA Automobili: 1951 Formula One Season By Jeremy McMullen
Ever since the death of Alfieri, almost everything the Maserati brothers put their hands to turned to gold, but for the sake of another. On their own, their genius would be overshadowed by external events that would cause the brothers great hardships.
After completing their contract with Adolfo Orsi, who had come in to bail out Maserati, the brothers left their name behind to start anew. The result was Officine Specializatte Costruzione Automobili (OSCA). The brothers focused mainly on building sports cars. However, they did produce a few grand prix cars during their existence. Their main focus for grand prix racing was building and supplying engines to race teams and private entrants. The customers were few. This was quite surprising given the fact their engine won its first time out with Prince Bira at the 3rd Richmond Trophy race held at the Goodwood circuit in Chichester, England.
In order to continue to exist and make cars, OSCA had to create its own team and go racing. Besides deciding to design and develop a car to take part in Formula One and non-championship grand prix events, the brothers had also been busy selling their MT4 sports car to quite a few customers. The MT4 had achieved some good results. It had been able to win some races. But also, it was able to score many wonderful top-three and top-ten finishes. However, the company could only sell so many cars. They would have to go racing to give them a chance at earning some more prize money. As a result, OSCA Automobili was born.
OSCA Automobili was founded merely for the purpose of participating in grand prix races. In fact, the team's first race of 1951 was the Mille Miglia, which took place at the end of April. There were numerous MT4s taking part in the 1,000 mile race. OSCA entered one MT4 in the race and it was driven by the pairing of Bordoni and Serbelloni. The pairing would end up coming in second in their class behind the pairing of Fagioli and Borghi, also driving an OSCA MT4. Bordoni and Serbelloni finished the 1,000 miles second in class and tenth overall.
While the car company was still preparing its grand prix car for competition, OSCA Automobili took part in another sports car race in August. The race was the sports car grand prix race at Senigallia, Italy and was held on a 5.77 mile road course made up of roads that made their way through the streets of Senigallia and the surrounding countryside. The route included three notable straights, none as long as the main straight that ran along the coast.
To race in the event, the team turned the wheel over to one of its drivers that had taken part in the Mille Miglia. Franco Bordoni took his place behind the wheel and would start the race third on the grid. Giulio Cabianca took the victory in an OSCA MT4 completing the fifteen lap race in just under one hour. Second place was OSCA's driver Bordoni. He trailed Giulio by twenty-one seconds. Four of the top-five finishers were driving OSCA MT4s.
OSCA Automobili had been able to achieve some great success in sports car events during the 1951 season. As the Formula One season turned toward Monza and the Italian Grand Prix, OSCA's 4500G was ready to take part in what was the seventh round of the championship that year. Having not taken part in any race to that point of the season, OSCA was going out to give their business a good name and to help themselves continue to do business.
The team arrived at Monza for the Italian Grand Prix, which took place toward the middle part of September. Truly untested in qualifying or race conditions, Franco Rol piloted the 4500G to an eighteenth starting spot. While he qualified down in the order, Franco would be helped before the race even began when both Reg Parnell and Ken Richardson were prohibited from starting the race. Both of BRM's drivers had qualified in front of Rol.
As the 80 lap event got underway, so too did the notorious attrition. Seven cars were out of the race before ten laps had been completed. Before the race was over, four more cars would drop out of the high-speed event, including Juan Manuel Fangio and Giuseppe Farina. With competitors dropping like flies all-around, Franco pulled back on the reigns of his V12 machine and nursed it to a ninth place finish. Franco was the last car running on the track and finished over 12 laps down to Alberto Ascari who beat Jose Froilan Gonzalez by almost twenty-five seconds. Farina, driving Bonetto's Alfa Romeo, ended up rounding out the podium finishing third.
Although the car was untested, the ninth place result was a good achievement by the team. How unfortunate the 4500G wasn't ready to take part in the entire season. Given the entire grand prix season, it is not too much to think the Maserati brothers could have had an even greater showing. The ninth place finish at the Italian Grand Prix would be the last event OSCA Automobili would take part, in either sports cars or grand prix in 1951.
OSCA Automobili would continue to take part in sports car and grand prix races for the next few years until the company was sold in 1957. Despite the fact it was their ability that put Maserati on the map as a car manufacturer, the interest and success didn't go with the brothers when they tried to go it on their own again. OSCA Automobili ran a limited race schedule due to rising costs associated with racing. Without the funding to mount a serious effort, OSCA Automobili is perhaps one of the more interesting stories in Formula One lore. Despite the Maserati name, of course in disguise, OSCA Automobili would never become what the brothers had left behind.