There is a drivers meeting before the start of every major race. The faces and attitudes tell one a lot about what may soon transpire. This group is going to hear about the start and clearly visible in the photograph is the starting flag, held by the official who will start the race, the infamous and often confusing Raymond “Toto” Roche.
The date is July 6, 1958 and the location is Reims, an ultra-fast somewhat triangular-shaped circuit of public roads not far from the city of the same name and scene of the French Grand Prix for many years. The tall driver on the left wearing his trademark polka dot bow tie and green jacket is Mike Hawthorn who will drive one of the four Ferrari 246/F1 cars entered by Scuderia Ferrari, the official factory team. Hawthorn has his right hand on the shoulder of the greatest driver of the 1950s, Juan Manuel Fangio, an Argentinean who won the World Championship five times. Fangio will drive a lightweight Maserati 250F supplied by the Maserati factory, but this will be the great champion’s last race. In the center with his hands clasped in front of him is Hawthorn’s great “mate” and Ferrari driver Peter Collins. On the right, looking even more contemplative than the others, is the French-American from Paris Harry Schell who will drive a BRM 25. Schell’s parents were both famous rally drivers in France before the War.
The driver wearing the white helmet and standing some distance behind Fangio is the American Indy driver Troy Ruttman who was trying his luck with a Grand Prix car, another but rather older Maserati 250F, one of three such entered by “Mimmo” Dei’s Italian private team Scuderia Centro Sud. Peeking out from behind and left of Collins’ helmet is the great British driver Stirling Moss who will lead the three-car Vanwall team. The other driver partially visible behind and to the left of Collins is probably Cliff Allison who will drive a Lotus 12, the slowest qualifier. The two drivers partially visible behind Schell are Roy Salvadori (in the white helmet) who will drive a Cooper 45 and Tony Brooks, one of Moss’ teammates on the Vanwall team.
For the race itself Hawthorn had pole position with Ferrari teammate Luigi Musso next to him and Schell on the outside. Schell led initially, but Hawthorn, followed closely by Musso, quickly took over. However, on the 10th lap disaster struck when Musso tried to follow Hawthorn flat out through the sweeper after the pits and lost control. The Ferrari somersaulted into a field killing the young Italian driver. Some said that Musso was under considerable financial pressure from a troublesome business deal in Rome to do well in this very rich race. He was also the subject of taunts from Hawthorn and Collins who had perhaps entered into a money-sharing agreement which had further isolated him. Enzo Ferari was known to put pressure on his drivers and if they did the job for him, so much the better. At the end Hawthorn was first, having led the whole way, followed by Moss and another Ferrari driven by Wolfgang von Trips. American Phil Hill, driving in his first Grand Prix with a Maserati 250F owned by Joakim Bonnier who also drove another 250F, came in seventh and just ahead of Bonnier. Hill would get a Ferrari F1 drive after Peter Collins was killed at the German Grand Prix on the Nürburgring less than a month later.
Juan Manuel Fangio finished fourth, his Maserati 250F no longer able to do battle with the new Ferraris. Hawthorn showed his deep respect for Fangio by backing off so as not to lap him before the finish.
Photo by Edward Eves ©The Klemantaski Collection
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