It is raining at Silverstone on May 15, 1954 before the start of the first heat of the International Daily Express Trophy race, a non-championship event for F1 cars. This popular race always attracted a large early season entry of both factory cars and privateers. Sitting in his Ferrari 553 “Squalo” is the well-known Argentinean driver Froilán González, in a somewhat reflective mood. This model Ferrari, an entirely new creation for 1954 and first raced at the Italian Grand Prix as an F2 car in 1953, was referred to as Squalo because of its shark-like shape. The engine of the Squalo was a derivation of the well-tested 2.5 liter four cylinder motor designed by Aurelio Lampredi, now having a much wider cylinder head angle between the camshafts. The fuel tanks were positioned on the sides within the wheelbase, a design tactic also used by Jano for the Lancia D50.
González knew his way around Silverstone. He had first come to Europe several years earlier with Juan Manuel Fangio and had won the 1951 British Grand Prix there for Ferrari giving them an important victory over the Alfa Romeo team. In practice for the International Trophy González had put his marker down, qualifying three full seconds ahead of the next fastest car, Jean Behra’s Gordini. He duly went off and hid from the field, winning easily from Prince Bira’s older Maserati A6GCM.
The second heat was run in dry conditions with pole man Maurice Trintignant winning with his factory Ferrari 625F1, the older version of Ferrari’s Grand Prix car. Given the better weather, Trintignant’s best lap was some six seconds quicker than that of González in the first heat.
One of Ferrari’s weaker points in the 1950s and 1960s was that they were doing so many things with both F1 and sports cars that their development efforts for their newer creations were sometimes found lacking. This certainly applied to the 553 Squalo and its later variant the 555, both of which had good potential, but never fully realized. Part of the problem was the motor which was not the great and hoped for improvement over its older version in the 625F1. This showed up again at Silverstone when the engine of González’s 553 Squalo was found to be seized up and inoperable after the first heat, leading to González being given Trintignant’s 625F1 for the final with the Frenchman taking over the third factory car, a 625F1 which had been assigned to sports car expert Umberto Maglioli. González was no stranger to that car either and easily won the final from Behra’s Gordini.
Photo by Alan R. Smith ©The Klemantaski Collection – http://www.klemcoll.com