22nd November 2012

GRAN PREMIO di BARI

VENI VIDI VICI FOR ALFA

There was never any doubt about this one. It was always going to be one of the Alfa Romeos that was going to win around the harbour-side circuit on the east coast of Italy and so it proved. Nino Farina was untouchable this time and on this occasion even Fangio had to settle for second.

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The anti-clockwise road circuit that skirted the Adriatic coast in the town of Bari was the venue for several single seater races in the 1950s. For this race I have amalgamated the entries from 1950 and 1951 to create a very high quality 23-car entry.

ENTRY

Alfa Romeo were clearly very serious about this race because their two cars were to be driven by their top drivers Nino Farina and Juan Fangio. Ferrari too were determined to give Alfa a real battle because they brought no less than four of their 375s, to be driven by Ascari, Villoresi, Taruffi and Gonzales. Two other Ferraris appeared in this race. Rudi Fisher brought his red and white car from Switzerland while Peter Whitehead drove the Thinwall Special 375. As usual there were several Maseratis on the entry with Schell, de Graffenried and Bira being joined on this occasion by two drivers who we do not see too often; Toni Branca from Switzerland and Chico Landi from Brazil both had 4.CLTs.

The French contingent did not include either Etancelin or Sommer this time but the Talbot ranks were swelled by Louis Chiron who exchanged his regular Maserati in favour of one of the French cars this time. Rosier, Levegh, Giraud-Cabantous and Johnny Claes completed the Talbot entry. The usual three Gordinis appeared in another vain attempt to be competitive. Finally, Stirling Moss and Lance Macklin arrived with the 2 litre H.W.Ms to compete on a circuit that may well suit the nimble little British cars.

PRACTICE

It came as no surprise to find Farina and Fangio at the top of the time sheets at the end of both practice sessions, with Farina looking very comfortable and able to lap quicker than Fangio every time Juan Manuel improved his time. Three Ferraris lined up behind the three cars from Turin but surprisingly, Ascari's 375 was not one of them. Alberto had several problems with his car with neither the handling nor the engine being up to scratch. He lined up in 8th place on row three with Chiron in the quickest Talbot and Bira, going very well in the blue Maserati.

Claes was going extremely well in the yellow Talbot and he lined up on row four alongside Moss who found the H.W.M running beautifully. In complete contrast, Louis Rosier was really struggling with the handling of his Talbot which seemed no better than it had been when he won at Dijon recently. The difference was, there were no Alfas and Ferraris at Dijon. The Frenchman could manage only the 14th best time. Whitehead's Ferrari and the Maseratis of de Graffenried and Schell were all quicker than Rosier. The occasional Maserati drivers were towards the back, sandwiching Macklin's H.W.M with the three Gordinis occupying their normal positions at the back of the grid.

Here is the full list of practice times:

1.
16
N. FARINA ALFA ROMEO 158
2.18'46
2.
4
J. M. FANGIO ALFA ROMEO 158
2.19'44
3.
8
L. VILLORESI FERRARI 375
2.20'63
4.
10
F. GONZALES FERRARI 375
2.20'71
5.
20
P. TARUFFI FERRARI 375
2.21'20
6.
18
L. CHIRON TALBOT LAGO T.26
2.24'50
7.
48
B. BIRA MASERATI 4.CLT
2.25'10
8.
2
A. ASCARI FERRARI 375
2.25'71
9.
42
J. CLAES TALBOT LAGO T.26
2.25'93
10.
44
S. MOSS H.W.M ALTA
2.26'26
11.
32
P. WHITEHEAD THINWALL Spl. FERRARI 375
2.26'30
12.
26
E. de GRAFFENRIED MASERATI 4.CLT
2.27'51
13.
24
H. SCHELL MASERATI 4.CLT
2.27'77
14.
6
L. ROSIER TALBOT LAGO T.26
2.28'16
15.
38
R. FISHER FERRARI 125
2.28'56
16.
22
P. LEVEGH TALBOT LAGO T.26
2.28'62
17.
36
Y. GIRAUD-CABANTOUS TALBOT LAGO T.26
2.32'06
18.
12
C. LANDI MASERATI 4.CLT
2.32'08
19.
46
L. MACKLIN H.W.M ALTA
2.32'37
20.
30
A. BRANCA MASERATI 4.CLT
2.33'30
21.
40
R. MANZON SIMCA-GORDINI T.15
2.33'48
22.
14
M. TRINTIGNANT SIMCA-GORDINI T.15
2.35'79
23.
28
A. SIMON SIMCA-GORDINI T.15
2.37'04

THE RACE - 65 laps

The story of the race is a very simple one. Farina made a perfect start and although his team-mate was comfortably quicker than the Ferraris, Fangio could not live with Dr. Nino who pulled steadily away, set fastest lap and won the 360 kilometer race by almost a minute and a half. The Ferrari challenge hit trouble early on because Gonzales had to stop on lap 15 with a loose rear wheel, dropping down to 8th and requiring Jose Froilan to spend the rest of the race playing catch up. Taruffi did not even get that far, the #20 Ferrari losing its engine on lap 10. In fact, the quickest Ferrari in the race was the car that was slowest of the four in practice - Ascari. Gonzales made it back to 5th behind Ascari and Villoresi but was given the sign to hold position about 20 laps from the end as there was no point infighting with his team-mates as all three were lapped by Farina.

Sixth place was in dispute early on between Claes and Rosier in their Talbots. Rosier found his car working somewhat better than in practice and eventually got the better of the Belgian and did very well to finish on the same lap as the Ferraris, as indeed, did Claes. Whitehead Schell and Fisher filled the next three places although for a time Levegh was ahead of the latter two but slipped back behind all three by the end. De Graffenried had a very poor first few laps before the engine of the Maserati began to run properly but the Swiss was never able to make up the lost ground and finished ahead only of Giraud and Simon.

Trintignant's Gordini retired quite early but both Manzon and Simon lapped much quicker than they managed in practice and Manzon was particularly impressive before retiring very late in the race. Sadly, Stirling Moss' race was very short, the H.W.M breaking down after only 5 laps while Macklin's car lasted but 4 laps longer. Poor old Bira made it around just one lap before stopping with electrical trouble and both the 'lesser' Maseratis failed to finish. The other notable retirement was Chiron who was going very nicely for 20 laps but who saw a front wheel roll away from his Talbot, stranding him out on the circuit.

Here is the full result of the 65 lap race:

1.
16
N. FARINA ALFA ROMEO 158
2.33.31'89
2.
4
J. M. FANGIO ALFA ROMEO 158
2.34.57'48
3.
2
A. ASCARI FERRARI 375
64 laps
4.
8
L. VILLORESI FERRARI 375
64 laps
5.
10
F. GONZALES FERRARI 375
64 laps
6.
6
L. ROSIER TALBOT LAGO T.26
64 laps
7.
42
J. CLAES TALBOT LAGO T.26
64 laps
8.
32
P. WHITEHEAD THINWALL Spl. FERRARI 375
63 laps
9.
24
H. SCHELL MASERATI 4.CLT
63 laps
10.
38
R. FISHER FERRARI 125
63 laps
11.
22
P. LEVEGH TALBOT LAGO T.26
63 laps
12.
26
E. de GRAFFENRIED MASERATI 4.CLT
62 laps
13.
36
Y. GIRAUD-CABANTOUS TALBOT LAGO T.26
62 laps
14.
28
A. SIMON SIMCA-GORDINI T.15
59 laps
Fastest lap:   FARINA,   ALFA ROMEO 158,   on lap 27,   2.15'31

Retired:
 
40
R. MANZON SIMCA-GORDINI T.15
50 laps
 
30
A. BRANCA MASERATI 4.CLT
49 laps
 
14
M. TRINTIGNANT SIMCA-GORDINI T.15
37 laps
 
18
L. CHIRON TALBOT LAGO T.26
21 laps
 
12
C. LANDI MASERATI 4.CLT
16 laps
 
46
L. MACKLIN H.W.M ALTA
9 laps
 
20
P. TARUFFI FERRARI 375
9 laps
 
44
S. MOSS H.W.M ALTA
5 laps
 
48
B. BIRA MASERATI 4.CLT
1 lap

BARI BURBLES:

  • Musical chairs in the Alfa camp saw Farina driving the car that Fagioli won with at Reims. Fangio will have the ex-Farina car at the Nurburgring.
  • But for his loose wheel pit stop, Gonzales would almost certainly have been the best of the Ferraris. His race time after his stop was faster than Ascari's.
  • Rosier still found the Talbot hard to drive but he adapted to it very well.
  • It was a very poor race for the Maseratis; partly due to the fact that Chiron wasn't driving his car at Bari.
  • Stirling Mos was extremely disappointed to retire so early. He really felt that he would be able to give the Ferraris a hard time on this rather twisty circuit.
  • Gordini seem to be making some progress but still cannot get amongst the Talbots and Maseratis. We hear they may be experimenting with a heavier chassis soon.
  • Rudi Fisher had his best race of the season but the Swiss Ferrari is still terribly slow in a straight line. It could go very well at the Nurbrurgring, though.

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