It is July 1, 1956 at the super-fast triangular circuit on public roads outside of Reims which was used for many years for the French Grand Prix. The enthusiastic crowd sat above a barrier on the outside of the straight all the way from the Thillois hairpin, visible in the distant background in front of the Restaurant La Garenne, to the main grandstand opposite the pits.
Here are three of the four-car Ferrari team as they approach the start/finish area early in the race, these all being Ferrari-Lancia D50s as received from Lancia when it closed its racing efforts in July 1955. Leading in car n. 12 is Eugenio Castellotti with Juan Manuel Fangio to his right in car n. 10 as Peter Collins follows them closely in car n. 14.
In practice Fangio had stunned everyone with a lap over a second faster than anyone else, being the only driver to take the Calvaire sweeper after the pits with absolutely no lift at all – also while holding the car in gear with one hand at the same time! During the race, Fangio led from lap 4 through lap 38, closely followed by his two teammates. Meanwhile, Harry Schell, whose Vanwall had expired early on, had taken over the Vanwall which had been started by Mike Hawthorn and came right through to challenge Fangio for the lead for several laps. Fangio was then forced into the pits due to a fuel leak and the lead was taken over by Castellotti. He and Collins then swapped the lead back and forth with the decision finally going to Collins by just 3/10ths of a second. Jean Behra brought his Maserati 250F in third just ahead of Fangio but over a 1’30” down from the two leaders.
The high speeds at Reims challenged both the drivers and the engines with many a race being decided by a drag race from Thillois down to the pits, including the famous duel between Fangio and Hawthorn in 1953 – and that is another great photograph.
Photo by Yves Debraine ©The Klemantaski Collection – http://www.klemcoll.com