24th April 2010

GRAND PRIX de PAU

ASCARI WINS BUT PHI-PHI STARS

The Titans (well, some of them) are out again now for the classic Pau Grand Prix on the tight, twisty street circuit down in south-western France. Once again it is red versus blue as the 15 entries are made up of three Gordinis and five Talbots from France and four Ferraris and three Maseratis from Italy. The Gordinis, Ferraris and Maseratis are all being driven by their regular drivers but there is a change in the Talbot ranks as Henri Louveau is taking part and there is no entry for Raymond Sommer this time.

Following a very difficult first practice session, during which virtually all the cars had problems with a dirty, bumpy circuit, second practice saw times come crashing down and Alberto Ascari re-establish the fact that the combination of himself and the Ferrari 375 is going to be extremely hard to beat this season. As usual he was ably backed up by his mentor Luigi Villoresi and the pair comfortably annexed the front row of the 2 x 2 grid.

Rosier restored the status quo amongst the Talbot drivers by putting his blue car on the second row alongside Harry Schell's Maserati. Particularly impressive improvements from their first practice times were achieved by Farina, who found 6 seconds and the Gordini pair of Manzon and Simon who gained 8 and 6 seconds respectively. Even Ascari was able to lap 4 seconds quicker....

Every car went faster in the second session and for a time Maurice Trintignant was in the top four on the grid but once the quicker cars began to lap faster and faster, Petoulet slipped down to 8th. As expected, Rudi Fischer ended up further down than his 6th after the first session, ending up in 12th place with only the two slower Gordinis and Levegh's Talbot behind him.

Perhaps the most disappointed man on the grid is Toulo de Graffenried whose Maserati seems to be lacking in speed compared with the other two 4.CLTs in the race. The Swiss driver's mechanics will have some work to do before the race, I think.

This race is over a colossal 110 laps around the twisty circuit so it may well come down to survival of the fittest - and there are none fitter than the factory Ferraris.

THE RACE

Predictably it was Alberto Ascari all the way in this long and arduous race. Early on he was pressed fairly hard by Rosier in the Talbot, who was almost able to keep the Ferrari in sight, falling only 7 seconds behind after 30 laps. Sadly for the enjoyment of the race, the French car's engine began to go off and he slipped to 3rd, then 4th then into retirement, so Alberto was able to cruise around and win unchallenged. However, the Ferrari walk-over that we saw at Syracuse was spoiled by a certain Phi-Phi Etancelin, who was mighty and held off, and finally resoundingly beat, the best that Villoresi could do with his theoretically superior Ferrari. Early on, the pair were very close but then the flat-capped Frenchman drew away only to find Luigi coming back at him in the second half of the race. That he was fast enough to hold the Ferrari at bay was quite a surprise and his 2nd place was well deserved.

The rest were nowhere. Farina took 4th place in his Maserati but was two laps behind and not far ahead of Giraud-Cabantous' Talbot. Three others made it to the end, Louveau's Talbot which went quicker and quicker the longer the race went on and two of the Gordinis - Simon and Manzon - both of which were desperately difficult to drive but they too completed the race, albeit several laps behind.

The other two Ferraris both had engine problems, as did Levegh with the 5th of the Talbots, while both Schell and de Graffenried found their Maserati's performance falling away and gave up as a result. Trintignant suffered electrical trouble though he was the quicker of the Gordinis while he was running.

So another easy win for Ascari and this seems to be the way of it until the full might of Alfa Romeo join the circus. Roll on that day.

Here is the full result of the 110 lap race:


   1.   12 A. ASCARI FERRARI 375    3. 12. 06'51
   2.   16 P. ETANCELIN TALBOT LAGO T.26    3. 13. 19'42
   3.   10 L. VILLORESI FERRARI 375    3. 14. 02'00
   4.     2 G. FARINA MASERATI 4.CLT       108 laps
   5.   28 Y. GIRAUD-CABANTOUS TALBOT LAGO T.26       108 laps
   6.   20 H. LOUVEAU TALBOT LAGO T.26       107 laps
   7.     8 A. SIMON GORDINI 15       105 laps
   8.     6 R. MANZON GORDINI 15       104 laps
Fastest lap:   ROSIER,   TALBOT LAGO T.26,   on lap 9,   1.40'605

Retired:
  14 D. SERAFINI FERRARI 375       72 laps
  18 L. ROSIER TALBOT LAGO T.26       55 laps
    4 M. TRINTIGNANT GORDINI 15       54 laps
  24 H. SCHELL MASERATI 4.CLT       43 laps
  30 R. FISCHER FERRARI 212       40 laps
  26 E. de GRAFFENRIED MASERATI 4.CLT       36 laps
  22 P. LEVEGH TALBOT LAGO T.26         4 laps

RACE NOTES:

  • I sincerely hope that my Alfa Romeos are going to be very competitive or it's going to be a long and very boring season....
  • ...and then, of course, there is B.R.M.
  • There appears to be a fundamental flaw in the 4.CLT Maseratis. None of them seem to be able to maintain their practice form.
  • Farina's fastest lap, set on lap 15, was quicker than Ascaris best lap, but from half distance his pace fell away badly.
  • That two Gordinis made it to the end was nothing short of sensational. The little blue cars looking as though they would tip over on every hairpin.
  • Henri Louveau drove an excellent race but I don't know when we are likely to see him again; maybe in a smaller French event.
  • The next race for this set of cars is the Richmond Trophy at Goodwood. It will see the debut of B.R.M, H.W.M and the E-type E.R.A. Can't wait!

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