7th December 2012

GRAND PRIX d'ALBIGEOIS

B.R.M IMPRESS BUT FERRARI WIN

B.R.M managed to persuade Fangio and Gonzales to drive their V.16 cars at this classic circuit and Juan Manuel actually put his car on pole position but come the race the green car could not maintain its practice pace so Ascari and Villoresi were able to race to an easy 1-2 finish with Fangio a good but distant third.

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ENTRY

As befits a French event, the entry list was headed by the three Talbot Lagos of Rosier, Etancelin and Sommer. Strangely, the other three Talbots were at the other end of the list with Claes, Levegh and Giraud-Cabantous as their drivers. Four Maseratis arrived for Dr. Farina, de Graffenried, Bira (of course) and also a car for motor-cycle racer Nello Pagani.

It was quite a coup by the B.R.M team to entice the two Argentine stars to handle the heretofore difficult V.16 cars - one wonders what incentives were offered.Ferrari took this race very seriously and sent along the two close friends Ascari and Villoresi to drive the 375s. Three Gordinis arrived as usual but instead of Simon it was 30 year-old Jean Behra who was to drive the third car alongside Trintignant and Manzon. Gordini are constantly endeavouring to improve the handling of their little cars and the latest tweak seems to be increasing the weight of the car but as low as possible in order to get the centre of gravity down as low as possible. Alongside the two dark green B.R.Ms was one other green car. H.W.M had brought just one car for Lance Macklin to drive.

PRACTICE

Fangio and the B.R.M were quite sensational in practice, taking fastest time in both sessions and hence, annexing pole position on the grid. In the first session the wailing British car was no less than five seconds quicker than the best Ferrari - Villoresi - over the three minute lap but that gap was reduced in the second session to just 0.6 seconds with Ascari a further 0.4 behind his team-mate. Gonzales' car was not working anywhere near as well as Fangio's and the burly Jose Froilan was down in 8th place, five seconds away from the sister car. This, however, was a big improvement for the first practice session where Gonzales was no less than a quarter of a minute slower than Fangio. Bira and Farina made up row 2 with their Maseratis, the Siamese driver being within a second of Ascari's Ferrari time, while Rosier and rather surprisingly, Giraud were on row 3 with Gonzales.

Two more Talbots made up row 4, Sommer and Etancelin, with de Graffenried, Claes and the excellent Macklin making up row 5. Behra is clearly very talented because he got his Gordini around this very fast circuit ahead, not only of his team-mates, who were at the back as usual, but also of Levegh's Talbot and Pagani's Maserati. The hopes of seeing someone actually beat the Ferraris were raised by Fangio's great performance in practice but over 100 minutes of racing the story could well be very different.

Here is the full list of practice times:

1.
10
J. M. FANGIO B.R.M V.16
2.55'11
2.
16
L. VILLORESI FERRARI 375
2.55'72
3.
18
A. ASCARI FERRARI 375
2.58'11
4.
24
B. BIRA MASERATI 4.CLT
2.58'87
5.
8
N. FARINA MASERATI 4.CLT
2.59'72
6.
2
L. ROSIER TALBOT LAGO T.26
3.00'14
7.
38
Y. GIRAUD-CABANTOUS TALBOT LAGO T.26
3.00'82
8.
12
F. GONZALES B.R.M V.16
3.00'84
9.
6
R. SOMMER TALBOT LAGO T.26
3.01'07
10.
4
P.ETANCELIN TALBOT LAGO T.26
3.01'31
11.
26
E. de GRAFFENRIED MASERATI 4.CLT
3.01'62
12.
32
J. CLAES TALBOT LAGO T.26
3.01'84
13.
30
L. MACKLIN H.W.M ALTA
3.03'99
14.
28
J. BEHRA SIMCA-GORDINI T.15
3.04'27
15.
34
P. LEVEGH TALBOT LAGO T.26
3.06'26
16.
14
N. PAGANI MASERATI 4.CLT
3.08'43
17.
20
R. MANZON SIMCA-GORDINI T.15
3.09'98
18.
22
M. TRINTIGNANT SIMCA-GORDINI T.15
3.14'80

THE RACE - 34 laps

If there was anyone capable of putting the enigmatic B.R.M amongst the top Italian cars, surely Juan Manuel Fangio is that man and he made a mighty fine effort to do just that, actually getting into second place ahead of Villoresi for a time but as has been the case several times this season, the B.R.M seemed to lose pace the longer it ran and Fangio was unable to stay with the red cars. In the end, Fangio was a long way behind Ascari and Villoresi in first and second places but he did manage to stay ahead of Rosier's Talbot, but not by much. Two of the expected front runners in Maseratis were not around very long, which was a pity. Doctor Farina's car had his steering break as he began only his second lap while Bira crashed his car on lap 8 - probably simply pushing too hard too early.

Thus the best of the Maserati runners proved to be de Graffenried, who finished in 5th place, twenty seconds ahead of a rather subdued Raymond Sommer. The second B.R.M did not fare anything like as well as the first; Gonzales struggled all race but was somewhat mortified when he was passed by Trintignant with a couple of laps to go. Trintignant drove his modified car very well and was much happier with the car - happy for the first time this season. Jean Behra did a solid job in his rare appearance for Gordini, staying fairly close to Trintignant for much of the race. Levegh made it to the end but was behind Behra's Gordini. Three of the Talbots failed to finish, as did Macklin, who had a sizeable accident when his throttle stuck open.

Here is the full result of the 65 lap race:

1.
18
A. ASCARI FERRARI 375
1.44.33'18
2.
16
L. VILLORESI FERRARI 375
1.45.15'05
3.
10
J. M. FANGIO B.R.M V.16
1.47.03'35
4.
2
L. ROSIER TALBOT LAGO T.26
1.47.11'60
5.
26
E. de GRAFFENRIED MASERATI 4.CLT
1.47.27'67
6.
6
R. SOMMER TALBOT LAGO T.26
1.47.47'55
7.
22
M. TRINTIGNANT SIMCA-GORDINI T.15
33 laps
8.
12
F. GONZALES B.R.M V.16
33 laps
9.
28
J. BEHRA SIMCA-GORDINI T.15
32 laps
10.
34
P. LEVEGH TALBOT LAGO T.26
32 laps
Fastest lap:   BIRA,   MASERATI 4.CLT,   on lap 3,   2.56'53

Retired:
 
14
N. PAGANI MASERATI 4.CLT
24 laps
 
20
R. MANZON SIMCA-GORDINI T.15
18 laps
 
30
L. MACKLIN H.W.M ALTA
17 laps
 
38
Y. GIRAUD-CABANTOUS TALBOT LAGO T.26
14 laps
 
32
J. CLAES TALBOT LAGO T.26
10 laps
 
24
B. BIRA MASERATI 4.CLT
7 laps
 
4
P.ETANCELIN TALBOT LAGO T.26
4 laps
 
8
N. FARINA MASERATI 4.CLT
1 lap

ALBI   ATTESTATIONS:

  • Mixed feelings for B.R.M. To have finished 3rd behind two Ferraris sounds like a good result but......
  • ....Fangio's pole position promised so much more. Juan Manuel's best race lap was 6 seconds slower than his pole time.
  • Once again Rosier was best of the rest - Fangio apart, that is.
  • Farina has very little luck whenever he drives a Maserati. This time his steering failed as he started his second lap.
  • Macklin was superb in practice, getting the little H.W.M up in 13th place on the grid. A stuck throttle gave him a fright and caused his retirement.
  • Trintignant was amazing. Petoulet lopped 7 seconds off his best practice lap and passed Gonzales' B.R.M for 7th place with two laps to go.
  • The European merry-go-round will re-assemble on the Cote d'Azure for the Grand Prix de Nice next, followed by the German Grand Prix.

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