The 1957 Pescara GP: Dark Spots of Motorsport History

The Longest F1 Laps, Ever.

Circuit Pescara

Circuit Pescara. The longest F1 lap ever. It was 16 miles to the lap. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Until a few hours ago, if you asked me what the longest Formula 1 track was, I would have answered the Nürburgring.  I also would have been incorrect.  Earlier in the season, the Belgian and Dutch Grands Prix had been cancelled.  Short on races, the FIA included the Pescara GP into the official F1 calendar.  You see, in those days, there were certain Grandes Épreuves, which were the more prestigious events for which you could score points.  To limit the scope of the blog, and because there is little information on the other regional F1 races, I have omitted them from coverage.  It was a decision I had to make to make project GPevolved a doable project.  Anyway, typically, the Pescara GP was run every year for F1-spec cars; however, only in 1957 was the Pescara Grand Prix categorized as a points-scoring Grandes Épreuves.

Only the points-scoring races, as I understand it, were officially sanctioned by the FIA.  As such, the others were not technically official Formula 1 races.  Thus, by including the Pescara GP in the official 1957 championship calendar, it’s 16 miles took the record from the Nürburgring for the longest lap, an honor it holds to this day.

The 1957 Pescara Grand Prix.

First of all, Enzo Ferrari was being emotional…again.  He had just sent two drivers to their death’s in non-F1 races.  One of the deaths was Alfonso De Portago, who died in the (1957) Mille Miglia.  As a side note, honestly, I meant to create a seperate post for the Mille Miglia, but had to set it aside due to time constraints.  But, it’s a fascinating story covered in two books I have been reading: (1) Burning Rubber: The Extraordinary Story of Formula 1; and (2) The Limit: Life and Death on the 1961 Grand Prix Circuit.  (Next, I hope to find an essay on whether the colon is overused in F1 books).

As for Enzo Ferrari, he was protesting the public outrage for Scuderia’s Ferrari’s role in the tragedy at the 1957 Mille Miglia.  Also relevant, Fangio’s dominate win at the German GP gave him enough points to win the the ’57 F1 Championship.  So, between the moot-ness (or would it be mootiny?) of the race and his penchant for passive-aggressive media stunts, he refused to send any team cars to Pescara (he loaned one Lancia Ferrari 801 to Luigi Musso; however, only on a privateer basis without team support).

As a result, the race was a battle between Stirling Moss in the Vanwall VW 57 and Juan-Manuel Fangio in the Maserati 250F.  Off the line, Musso got out in front.  However, at the start, apparently Horace Gould, driving a private Maserati, hit a mechanic who was yet to scurry off the grid.  Fangio ran third and reportedly the heat was affecting several cars.  In lap 10, Musso’s engine blew up and sprayed oil all over the track.  Fangio hit the oil, spun, and damaged a wheel.  Changes, with damage, were not the orchestrated affair that they are today.  Rather, it was a clusterf?@&.  It took minutes, not seconds.

Moss was so far ahead, that he pitted, to rest.  Yes, he stopped for a break.  Sure, he needed to top up on oil, but from what I read, it was not exactly race-critical.  Even with the stop, Fangio finished four minutes back.  Around this time, he announced his retirement from racing.  He had a lot of reasons: he had been racing since before the second world war; his financial situation was shaky due to a new Argentinian Government; and perhaps, perhaps, he just had finally given it has all and had nothing left to give.  The fact that his greatest race was his last and the fact that he only raced two more times before retiring is absolutely magical from a story-telling point of view.  Forget Rush, let’s see a biopic about Juan-Manuel Fangio (but I’m still pretty pumped about Rush hitting theaters).  I just get the sense that the last race, the 1957 German Grand Prix, really was the old man’s last gasp.  I think he may have hung himself too far out there, seen he was over the edge, and become afraid.  I do not know this for certain.  However, I see something magical about the ’57 German Grand Prix being his opus, from which he had neither nothing else to prove, nor anything else to give.

[On a side note, I went to include the following clip of Cougar handing in his wings, due to losing the edge.  I’ve just been on a Top Gun kick lately.  But, I have a sneaking suspicion that I have used this clip in another post, but cannot for the life of me remember where.  So, at the risk of using the same schtick twice in one project, here goes (I apologize for the german subtitles)]:

Now, onto a completely separate topic.

The Fading History of Formula 1.

I do not know why, but the history of Formula 1 seems more poorly preserved than other sports.  Perhaps this is because I am not in Europe, where I would be more likely to encounter the trappings of vintage Formula 1.  On the other hand, I do not see evidence that F1 is being preserved like the history of soccer, baseball, and even Nascar.  As I think about it, Nascar makes a useful comparison.  Nascar has tended to make a concerted effort to not only preserve the past, but also publicize their efforts in doing so.  Self-promotion is never far from any Nascar endeavor.  However, this one is also a genuine attempt to re-engage old fans in a new way as well as to engage new fans, altogether.  The FIA, and Formula One Management (FIA) have utterly failed to do anything of the sort.  And this is completely editorial at this point, but perhaps this falls squarely in the lap of Bernie Ecclestone who seems more keen to make the next buck than to care about the integrity of the sport and its evolutionary history.

While Formula 1 management has not helped, perhaps us fans of F1 are also to blame.  For me, I see a failure of the internet generation to grab hold of this fascinating history and translate it into meaningful online content.  There are really no cool places to just go and take a look at where the sport has been in a variety of media.  And I guess that this is my goal – to change that.  I’ve a long, long way to go to get to that.  But, from a personal standpoint, it has been extremely satisfying to post the available media I can in a unique format.  So, I want to thank my readers, including friends and family, who have so graciously supported this strange endeavor.

As for the poll, the following question is central to my mission here at GP Evolved.  So, I am definitely appreciative of your vote, as I am genuinely interested what you think, even if you’re not a vintage racing or Formula 1 fan.  As usual, I encourage comments as I am at another “gathering feedback” stage of development with project GP Evolved.  So, any and all feedback is useful.