This weekend will see the 2013 running of the British Grand Prix at Silverstone. Sixty years ago the British Grand Prix was also held at Silverstone and the winner was the reigning World Champion Alberto Ascari at the wheel of a works Ferrari 500. Here he is passing the old Silverstone pits which were then located after Woodcote corner on the straight leading toward Copse. Ascari was on his way to winning by a full minute over his closest rival Juan Manuel Fangio who drove a Maserati A6GCM.
Silverstone is quite different today although the overall layout, which uses parts of a Royal Air Force World War II airfield, generally follows the original Grand Prix circuit. The first British Grand Prix at Silverstone took place in 1948 and in 1950 the British Grand Prix was again at Silverstone and became the first race of the new Formula 1 World Championship. Silverstone is really the home of British motor racing with a number of the present day Formula 1 teams and a raft of specialist racing suppliers having their facilities in the Silverstone area.
Alberto Ascari was the son of Antonio Ascari, a famous Italian racing driver of the 1920s. Alberto Ascari drove a car built by Enzo Ferrari (although it was not called a Ferrari) in the 1940 Mille Miglia, but did not get into racing in a significant way until after the war. He drove for Ferrari in 1952 and 1953, winning the World Championship both years. He then moved to Lancia for their new F.1 program which was delayed until late in 1954. In 1955 Mercedes-Benz was generally more reliable than the technically interesting D50 Lancias. Nevertheless, Ascari was about to assume the race lead at the Monaco Grand Prix when he crashed at the Chicane sending him and his Lancia into the harbor, fortunately without injury. A few days later, wanting to get back in a racing car again, he borrowed a new Ferrari 750 Monza sports car which was being tested at Monza by his friend Eugenio Castellotti. Ascari lost control, flipped the car and was killed at the fast Vialone curve on the back of the circuit (now reprofiled as the Ascari Chicane). He was 36 years old and died on the 26th of the month, at the same age and on the same day of the month as his father who had been killed in a Grand Prix crash at Montlhéry outside of Paris 30 years before.
Photo by T. C. March ©The Klemantaski Collection