29th August 2012

R.A.C.B BELGIAN GRAND PRIX - Spa Francorchamps

FANGIO IS FAR TOO GOOD FOR THEM

The old 8 mile circuit at Spa was the venue for the Belgian Grand Prix and the race was a relative stroll for Juan Fangio in his Alfa Romeo. Juan Manuel led almost all the way from pole position and it was only the supremely gifted Alberto Ascari who managed to wear down and eventually beat Nino Farina's Alfa to take second place.

ENTRY

The four factory Alfa Romeos headed the entry list with regular drivers Fangio, Farina, Fagioli and Sanesi in the cockpits. The team seemed to be confident that the tyre problems the suffered in Switzerland would not be repeated. Ferrari brought three cars for Ascari, Villoresi and Taruffi, knowing that it would once again be a struggle against the cars from Turin. Seven Talbots arrived, two of which were for Belgian drivers, Johnny Claes in his yellow one and the cream coloured Ecurie Francorchamps car usually driven by Swaters in the hands of Andre Pilette on this occasion. The five blue cars were handled by Rosier, Sommer, Etancelin, Giraud-Cabantous and Levegh. The Talbots would not have the speed of the Italian cars but they usually trundle along reliably.

Four Maseratis arrived, only one of them red, that of Louis Chiron. Bira brought his car now with a new engine following numerous problems in the last few races while the two Argentine cars were in the hands of Gonzales and Branca. Two green cars appeared from the U.K. Reg Parnell was in the Thinwall Special Ferrari which is very little different to the cars from the Maranello factory and Geoffrey Crossley exhibited a case of extreme optimism by arriving with the Alta, buoyed up by an encouraging second place at Gransden Lodge recently in the hands of Chas Mortimer.

1st PRACTICE

Fangio and Farina were so much quicker than the rest in the first practice session that the race looked like a foregone conclusion. Sanesi was third with no less than five Talbots ranged up behind the Alfas but with Gonzales' Maserati getting in amongst them in 5th. And what of Ferrari? The red cars had a terrible time with handling problems and engine woes. The three ended the session in 11th, 13th and 15th places. Bira was in trouble, his new engine hadn't arrived at that point leaving him slowest of all and Crossley finished the session with no less than four cars behind him.

2nd PRACTICE

The two quicker Alfa drivers failed to go quicker in second practice but still ended up with times that were faster than anyone else. Sanesi remained third but Gonzales was quicker than all of the Talbots this time while Ferrari got their act together, Ascari leaping up to 5th with Taruffi 8th although Villoresi was still down in 15th place. Fagioli's gearbox problems had been ironed out and he jumped from 18th to 6th while Bira had his new engine installed overnight and moved into midfield. This time, Crossley had only Levegh behind him. It was interesting to note that several of the Talbots could go no quicker than they had the day before and all begun to slip down the list, Etancelin being the quickest Talbot in the session but not as quick as Sommer had been in the first.

FINAL PRACTICE

Only Claes and Giraud-Cabantous failed to post a quicker time in the final, afternoon practice session. But at the front, Farina took a big chunk of time off his fastest lap to jump to 1st but Fangio was not to be denied and right at the end he went even quicker, beating his Italian team-mate by almost three and a half seconds; a stunning lap. Fagioli maintained his improvements and put himself up onto the front row but five seconds behind Fangio (it is a four and a half minute lap, remember). In the end Ferrari were reasonably happy with Ascar and Villoresi on row two and Taruffi in the middle of row three sanwiched by Sanesi and Gonzales. Sommer was the quickest of the Talbots on row four with Chiron's Maserati while the great start to the meeting by the Talbots just faded away and in the end five of them were in the final seven on the grid with only Branca in amongst them and only the inevitable Crossley behind.

Here is the full grid order the 36 lap race:

   1.
2
J. FANGIO ALFA ROMEO 158
4.22'10
   2.
4
N. FARINA ALFA ROMEO 158
4.25'41
   3.
6
L. FAGIOLI ALFA ROMEO 158
4.27'27
   4.
10
A. ASCARI FERRARI 375
4.29'01
   5.
12
L. VILLORESI FERRARI 375
4.29'21
   6.
8
C. SANESI ALFA ROMEO 158
4.29'55
   7.
14
P. TARUFFI FERRARI 375
4.32'63
   8.
38
F. GONZALES MASERATI 4.CLT
4.33'52
   9.
20
R. SOMMER TALBOT LAGO T.26C
4.33'78
   10.
34
L. CHIRON MASERATI 4.CLT
4.33'89
   11.
30
B. BIRA MASERATI 4.CLT
4.35'83
   12.
22
P. ETANCELIN TALBOT LAGO T.26C
4.36'17
   13.
32
R. PARNELL THINWALL Spl. FERRARI 375
4.36'23
   14.
18
J. CLAES TALBOT LAGO T.26C
4.37'95
   15.
16
L. ROSIER TALBOT LAGO T.26C
4.38'29
   16.
24
Y. GIRAUD-CABANTOUS TALBOT LAGO T.26C
4.40'66
   17.
40
A. BRANCA MASERATI 4.CLT
4.40'91
   18.
28
P. LEVEGH TALBOT LAGO T.26C
4.42'14
   19.
26
A. PILETTE TALBOT LAGO T.26C
4.42'40
   20.
36
G. CROSSLEY ALTA
4.43'31

THE RACE

This race showed exactly why there is no-one better than Juan Fangio driving racing cars at the moment. From pole position, the Argentine led the field away on the 8 mile Spa circuit and apart from a few laps around one third distance when he allowed the Alfa team's third car driven by Fagioli through into the lead, he retook the top spot when Fagioli crashed, probably due to trying to prove he is as quick as Fangio, which he isn't. One would have expected that Farina would follow Fangio home in 2nd place but that would not have allowed for the superlative efforts of Alberto Ascari who gave a great display of car control as he chased the Alfas. He passed Farina on lap 13, inherited 2nd when Fagioli retired and chased Fangio hard right to the end.

All three works Ferraris finished with Taruffi in the points in 4th place although Villoresi seemed to be struggling with his 375 and he was never higher than 6th during the race but lost that place to Gonzales in the Argentine Maserati, finishing 7th. Ahead of Gonzales, a brilliant drive was put in by Louis Chiron whose Maserati beat both a works Alfa and a works Ferrari. Although as high as 5th early on, Sanesi's pace seem to fall away and he slipped down to 8th ahead of Reg Parnell in the Thinwall Ferrari. Best of the French cars was, somewhat surprisingly, Johnny Claes who led home five Talbots in positions ten to fourteen. Geoffrey Crossley managed to keep his Alta going and completed the list of finishers, two laps behind.

The race was remarkable in that there were only five retirements and such was the dominance shown by Fangio and his Alfa Romeo, coupled with the fact that everyone seemed to run just about where their practice times had indicated that they would, the race could hardly be described as a classic.

Here is the full result of the 36 lap race:


   1.
2
J. FANGIO ALFA ROMEO 158
2.46.04'49
   2.
10
A. ASCARI FERRARI 375
2.46.24'19
   3.
4
G. FARINA ALFA ROMEO 158
2.46.40'47
   4.
14
P. TARUFFI FERRARI 375
2.47.29'29
   5.
34
L. CHIRON MASERATI 4.CLT
2.48.40'97
   6.
38
F. GONZALES MASERATI 4.CLT
2.48.55'81
   7.
12
L. VILLORESI FERRARI 375
2.49.00'95
   8.
8
C. SANESI ALFA ROMEO 158
2.49.35'22
   9.
32
R. PARNELL THINWALL Spl. FERRARI 375
2.51.06'02
 10.
18
J. CLAES TALBOT LAGO T.26
35 laps
 11.
16
L. ROSIER TALBOT LAGO T.26
35 laps
 12.
26
A. PILETTE TALBOT LAGO T.26
35 laps
 13.
26
Y. GIRAUD-CABANTOUS TALBOT LAGO T.26
35 laps
 14.
28
P. LEVEGH TALBOT LAGO T.26
82 laps
 15.
36
G. CROSSLEY ALTA GP-3
34 laps
Fastest lap:   L. FAGIOLI, ALFA ROMEO 158,   on lap 5,   4.27'84

Retired:
 
22
P. ETANCELIN TALBOT LAGO T.26C
20 laps
 
6
L. FAGIOLI ALFA ROMEO 158
15 laps
 
30
B. BIRA MASERATI 4.CLT
14 laps
 
20
R. SOMMER TALBOT LAGO T.26C
14 laps
 
40
A. BRANCA MASERATI 4.CLT
1 lap

FRANCORCHAMPS THOUGHTS:

  • Ascari did a fantastic job getting the Ferrari into second place but he had to throw the car around to achieve it.
  • Fagioli was very quick but went off the track while leading Fangio. Trying too hard perhaps?
  • Chiron drove his best race of the season and beat both a Ferrari and an Alfa Romeo.
  • Gonzales has been promised a factory Ferrari at Reims.
  • Parnell went very well with the Thinwall Ferrari, cruising in two minutes behind Villoresi in the works car.
  • Reliability was very good at Spa. Only three cars retired with mechanical problems.
  • The Belgian fans were delighted that both their drivers finished and indeed, Claes was the best Talbot finisher.
  • Crossley started last and finished last but at least he finished.
  • The cars go straight from this Championship race to another, the French Grand Prix at Reims.

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