3rd April 2013
GROTE PRIJS van NEDERLAND - Zandvoort
In one of the most exciting races for some time, following a slow start wherein he dropped down to sixth position, the veteran Ialian in his works Ferrari simply went faster and faster and faster the longer the race went on and as the previously dominant Alda duo of Fangio and Farina seemed to be struggling with their tyres, the silver-haired Milanese passed them both to notch up his secong Championship win of the season in magnificent style.
Although the Dutch Grand Prix was run in 1950 and 1951, it was not a World Championship event in either of those years. However, I have decided to include it in my Championship events so the entry for the race is very much a fictional one. As usual I have tried to keep to the correct entry from the real races - amalgamating the two years - but there are some exceptions and the cars are not necessarily correct.
The two Italian works team sent two cars each - Fangio and Farina in the Alfas (clear pre-race favourites) while Ascari and Villoresi arrived to drive the Ferraris. There were two more Ferraris in the entry this time; Peter Whitehead came with the green Thinwall Special Ferrari 375 while Rudi Fischer brought his hitherto unsuccessful 212 - which looks remarkably similar to a 375! There were six cars from Maserati - all of them in private hands. Gonzales looked the most likely of the half dozen to get in amongst the other Italian cars while Chiron and Bira would have high hopes for a good weekend. The other three cars were driven by Parnell and Murray from across the sea and a first appearance by Enrico Platé who is a Swiss-based Italian.
Somewhat surprisingly there were no Gordinis present, which was a pity given the huge improvement the little cars have made recently but to make up for their absence, no less than eight Talbot Lagos arrived. The drivers were the usual five Frenchmen - Rosier, Sommer, Etancelin, Giraud-Cabantous and Levegh with Claes and Pilette from Belgium and Duncan Hamilton from across the North Sea.
Finally, also from England came the two works H.W.M Altas for Stirling Moss and Lance Macklin. These hitherto unreliable F.2 machines had been modified - or at least, Moss' had - in an attempt to improve stability. This exercise proved to be most successful.
The first two practice sessions saw the two Ferrari drivers and a couple of the Maseratis actually getting very close to the Alfas, indeed, in the first of those sessions Ascari was actually fastest. Gonzales, Bira and Chiron had their Maseratis up in 5th, 6th and 7th, the first two being in close touch with Villoresi in 4th place. Of the rest, Rosier and Moss were farther down the list than might have been expected but Stirling was still getting the feel of the modified H.W.M.
The Alfas reasserted themselves in second practice but the major surprise was that Gonzales and Chiron both lapped fast enough to get ahead of both the Ferraris - which was a remarkable effort. The fastest of the non-Italian cars was Sommer in 10th with the Talbot with Rosier and Giraud next up. Moss had found a few seconds and was getting faster with every lap. Not so his team-mate Macklin who was last with three more Talbots ahead of him. Fischer had gone very well in the first session but found his Ferrari not so quick in the second.
As the end of final practice approached we had the exciting prospect of a shock front row of the grid. Gonzales, Villoresi, Bira and Ascari held the top four places on the grid, all four having lapped faster than either of the Alfas had managed up to that point. Then with just ten minutes of the session left the Alfa drivers got down to work. First Farina lapped almost a second quicker than Gonzales and then Fangio produced a lap to end all laps, a remarkable 2.5 seconds faster even than his own team-mate. It was a quite astonishing performance which left the entire pit road speechless. So it was that Froilan Gonzales found himself on the front row of the grid, ahead of the two works Ferraris, the second of which, Ascari, was also behind Bira's Maserati too. Rosier had found some speed and jumped up to 7th ahead of Chiron and Sommer. Fischer found a huge amount of time in the final session and leaped up to 10th - his best grid position this season by far. Moss improved a huge amount which lifted him up to 13th while Macklin popped ahead of Levegh.
Hopes that someone would seriously challenge the Alfa Romeos seemed to have been dashed after the last few minutes of practice but racing can be unpredictable.....
Here is the full grid order the 90 lap race:
|1.||J. FANGIO||ALFA ROMEO 158|
|2.||N. FARINA||ALFA ROMEO 158|
|3.||F. GONZALES||MASERATI 4.CLT|
|4.||L. VILLORESI||FERRARI 375|
|5.||B. BIRA||MASERATI 4.CLT|
|6.||A. ASCARI||FERRARI 375|
|7.||L. ROSIER||TALBOT LAGO T.26C|
|8.||L. CHIRON||MASERATI 4.CLT|
|9.||R. SOMMER||TALBOT LAGO T.26C|
|10.||R. FISCHER||FERRARI 212|
|11.||P. WHITEHEAD||THINWALL Spl. FERRARI 375|
|12.||R. PARNELL||MASERATI 4.CLT|
|13.||S. MOSS||H.W.M ALTA|
|14.||A. PILETTE||TALBOT LAGO T.26C|
|15.||D. HAMILTON||TALBOT LAGO T.26C|
|16.||Y. GIRAUD-CABANTOUS||TALBOT LAGO T.26C|
|17.||J. CLAES||TALBOT LAGO T.26C|
|18.||D. MURRAY||MASERATI 4.CLT|
|19.||P. ETANCELIN||TALBOT LAGO T.26C|
|20.||E. PLATÉ||MASERATI 4.CLT|
|21.||L. MACKLIN||H.W.M ALTA|
|22.||P. LEVEGH||TALBOT LAGO T.26C|
Nino Farina made the best start and led his Alfa partner away around Tarzan on the first lap. Conversely, Gonzales made a very poor start and was engulfed by the two rows of cars behind him. His tardy getaway hampered Villoresi somewhat and hence once everything settled down, these two found themselves running in 7th and 5th places respectively, with Bira's Maserati between them. Ascari had made a very good start and was up to 3rd by the time the first 10 laps were completed. Farina's lead over Fangio was a mere 2.5 seconds but Ascari, still in 3rd place was 20 seconds behind Fangio. The worst start of all was that of Reg Parnell who spun at the first corner and got going again long after the last car had disappeared towards the Hunze Rug hairpin behind the pits. Fangio had enough of following Farina and by lap 12 he had taken the lead, extending it rapidly to 15 seconds by lap 20. Gonzales had got over his bad start and rocketed through to 4th behind Ascari while Chiron went the other way, falling behind Villoresi and Bira. It was at this point that Villoresi suddenly found his Ferrari starting to go really well and he quickly moved past Gonzales and then Ascari to take up 3rd position behind the Alfas. He was lapping quicker than the two leaders but that was thought to be simply because the Alfa pair were well established out front and were cruising. Not so; at half distance, 45 laps, although Fangio was still a comfortable 17 seconds ahead of Farina, Villoresi had reduced the Good Doctor's advantage to just 12 seconds and was closing. Over the next dozen laps that advantage disappeared and with the Alfa appearing to be suffering a degree of tyre problems, Villoresi passed Farina and quickly pulled away.
Ascari was maintaining a steady pace but was simply not quick enough to stay with the three ahead of him although he was able to remain just out of the reach of Gonzales, which he did for the entire race. Poor old Bira had yet another disappointment following his best practice effort for some time. The light blue Maserati stopped on lap 32 with engine failure. It was clear that Fangio was having the same problems as Farina because both Alfas were sliding badly through the tighter corners and not getting away from those corners anywhere near as cleanly as they had in practice. Thus Villoresi was able to reel them in and by three quarter distance - 68 laps - he was only 9 seconds behind Fangio with Farina hanging on manfully just 5 seconds behind. Nino made a supreme effort as the 80 lap mark approached and actually repassed Villoresi for a lap or two with both of them closing in on Fangio's lead. On lap 81 Luigi repassed the second Alfa and homed in on the first. Fangio simply could not resist the Ferrari, which was going so much better than the two cars from Turin and with just 4 laps left, Villoresi finally took the lead and to wild celebrations in the Ferrari area of the pits, he eased away to win by just over 4 seconds, with Farina just under 5 seconds behind Fangio, in third place. It had been a tremendously exciting race with a popular and worthy winner.
Behind the leading five cars Chiron had run steadily all day, into 6th place with Stirling Moss recording H.W.M's best ever Grand Prix finish in 7th, revelling in the handling of the modified car. During the race he actually passed both the private Ferraris who finished with Whitehead ahead of Fischer. Poor Rosier had a race to forget, ending up 4 laps behind the winner. From 7th on the grid he fell back right from the start, dropping to 13th by lap 20 and only moving up due to other's retirement. He finally finished down in 11th place. Sommer had been by far the fastest of the Talbots but he stopped with electrical problems around half distance. The race also saw the retirements of Hamilton's, Pilette's, Levegh's and Etancelin's Talbots, leaving Johnny Claes to finish as the best of the French cars in 10th place. Reg Parnell got going really well after his first lap disaster and eventually passed Pilette, Giraud and Platé and was not far from catching Rosier by the finish.
When Luigi Villoresi beat the Alfas at Berne earlier in the season, it was a certain fact that the Alfas were hamstrung by their tyres. To a degree, that was true in Holland too but not to such a great extent. It was a simply stunning drive by the veteran Italian that will long be remembered by those privileged to have witnessed it.
Here is the full result of the 90 lap race:
|1.||L. VILLORESI||FERRARI 375|
|2.||J. FANGIO||ALFA ROMEO 158|
|3.||G. FARINA||ALFA ROMEO 158|
|4.||A. ASCARI||FERRARI 375|
|5.||F. GONZALES||MASERATI 4.CLT|
|6.||L. CHIRON||MASERATI 4.CLT|
|7.||S. MOSS||H.W.M ALTA|
|8.||P. WHITEHEAD||FERRARI 375|
|9.||R. FISCHER||FERRARI 212|
|10.||J. CLAES||TALBOT LAGO T.26C|
|11.||L. ROSIER||TALBOT LAGO T.26C|
|12.||R. PARNELL||MASERATI 4.CLT|
|13.||E. PLATÉ||MASERATI 4.CLT|
|14.||Y. GIRAUD-CABANTOUS||TALBOT LAGO T.26|
|Fastest lap: G. FARINA, ALFA ROMEO 158, on lap 8, 1.51'39|
|A. PILETTE||TALBOT LAGO T.26C|
|R. SOMMER||TALBOT LAGO T.26C|
|D. MURRAY||MASERATI 4.CLT|
|B. BIRA||MASERATI 4.CLT|
|P. LEVEGH||TALBOT LAGO T.26C|
|L. MACKLIN||H.W.M ALTA|
|P. ETANCELIN||TALBOT LAGO T.26C|
|D. HAMILTON||TALBOT LAGO T.26C|
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