Spa-Francorchamps is still one of the most exciting and challenging of all Grand Prix circuits. This image was taken from the old pits which were located in a slight widening of the road itself along the downhill section after the La Source hairpin and where the start/finish was then located. In the distance you can see the famous sweeping ascent to Raidillon from Eau Rouge. Picturesque, challenging and incredibly dangerous was certainly the descriptive of Spa in its classic superfast layout of 15 km of public roads bordered by trees, stone walls and farmhouses.
This is an afternoon practice session before the Belgian Grand Prix which would take place on June 20, 1954. Car n. 6 is a Ferrari 553 “Squalo” to be driven by Froilán González while in front of it is n. 8, a somewhat older design, a Ferrari 625/F1 to be piloted by Maurice Trintignant. The mechanics are looking back up the road toward La Source, perhaps waiting for one of the other team cars which were driven by Giuseppe “Nino” Farina and Mike Hawthorn.
Coming off their two Championship years with Alberto Ascari and the very successful 500/F2, Ferrari was less well prepared for the new 2.5-liter F1 which began in 1954. Head designer Aurelio Lampredi had created a new “wide-head” four cylinder engine for the new “Squalo,” so-called because of its shark-like body shape, but the car was not any faster than the 625 which was basically the prior year’s car with a larger displacement Lampredi four cylinder motor, otherwise quite similar to the 1953 engine. Both these cars still used transverse leaf front suspension and it was not until the Spanish Grand Prix at the end of the season that Ferrari tried coil spring front suspension on a Squalo for Hawthorn which proved to be a big step forward.
For the race Juan Manuel Fangio, on loan from Mercedes, took pole at an average speed of just under 119 mph with a new Maserati 250F, González being next to him with the Ferrari Squalo, 1.5 seconds slower. To give some idea of how scary and demanding of courage Spa could be, the variation in qualifying times for the first three rows of the grid was 20 seconds! Fangio won, having led most of the race, but Trintignant almost caught the Argentinean’s ailing Maserati, finishing just 14 seconds back.
By 1973, on essentially the same circuit, the lap record stood at 164 mph!
Photo by Louis Klemantaski ©The Klemantaski Collection.