Castellotti's Smile: Ferrari & the Italian Grand Prix, 1955
Eugenio Castellotti, striding along next to his Ferrari 555F1 "Supersqualo" on the way to the start of the 1955 Italian Grand Prix on September 11, was Ferrari's Italian hope for the future. There was no question that he combined talent and bravery. The man to Castellotti's right, festooned with cameras, is the famous photojournalist Bernard Cahier. Practice for the Grand Prix was a rather up and down affair. Ferrari had arrived with two types of cars and that contributed to some hairy moments on the new Monza banked oval circuit.
At the end of July Lancia had withdrawn from racing due to financial pressures and their D50 F1 cars, together with spares, transporters and a substantial amount of money (contributed by Fiat) had been turned over to Ferrari. At that moment Ferrari was at a kind of technical dead end in terms of both chassis and engine design, especially the latter which was based on Aurelio Lampredi's four cylinder creation which was reaching the end of its useful life, a least for F1. Lancia, not to mention Mercedes-Benz, which had announced that Monza would be its last Grand Prix, had far more sophisticated chassis and engine designs, so the gift of the Lancia cars would turn out to be a great boon to Ferrari. This notwithstanding, Enzo Ferrari was almost insulted by this cornucopia of advantage for in his eyes it demonstrated that Ferrari on its own was not competitive.
Nevertheless, for Monza Ferrari entered four of its 555F1 machines plus two Lancia D50s, with one more D50 which would be used only for practice. The Lancias did not take well to the oval with blowouts in practice for both Nino Farina and Luigi Villoresi resulting in the withdrawal of the two Lancias from the race, showing the press that perhaps the Commendatore's Ferraris were not so bad after all. This left six drivers and four cars, so Farina and Villoresi had to stand down. Castellotti was the fastest Ferrari in practice, but on the 10 km lap of the combined oval and road circuit he was 3 seconds down on the Mercedes W196s of Juan Manuel Fangio and Stirling Moss. The other Ferrari drivers, Umberto Maglioli, Maurice Trintignant and Mike Hawthorn, qualified around 10 seconds behind the Mercedes.
The race ran out as it had been in practice with Fangio and Moss first and second with Castellotti third. Even so, Ferrari would subsequently make good use of the Lancia D50s with various modifications in both 1956 and 1957 and would use design aspects of the Lancia V8 motor in its very fast 1957 sports cars.
Photo by Louis Klemantaski ©The Klemantaski Collection – http://www.klemcoll.com
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