For 45 years from 1921-1966 races were held on a 16.4 km. public road circuit in and around the town of Salò which is on the southern end of Lake Garda, not far north of Brescia where the start and finish of the famous Mille Miglia was located. One can still drive all the way around the Circuito del Garda and the roads are little changed from July 10, 1949 when this photograph was taken. It was a classic open road layout with both high speed sections and tortuous downhill hairpin turns with an elevation change over the lap of some 670 feet. The event was run in two 8-lap heats and a 10-lap final which had 17 starters, leaving an additional 20 heat runners as non-qualifiers.
The driver above with one leg poised to get into his Ferrari 166C, a two-liter F2 car, is Count Bruno Sterzi who was one of the important initial patrons of Scuderia Ferrari. Sterzi had finished second at Garda with his 166C in 1948 and won his heat in 1949. In the final he went off the road in the downhill section, destroying his car and was taken to the hospital with a broken leg.
Behind Sterzi’s Ferrari can be seen a tiny one-liter Cooper-JAP which will be driven by a 19 year old Stirling Moss. Moss was entered by his father Alfred with his mother as timekeeper. He was third in his heat and repeated that result in the final which surprised the Italians. All the more so, as the field for these races included a selection of famous and soon-to-be-famous drivers including Luigi Villoresi, Mario Tadini, Dorino Serafini, Umberto Maglioli, Hans Stuck, Piero Taruffi and Felice Bonetto, among others. Moss was told that his little car looked like a jukebox. But, he quipped, “I managed to show them it was a fast one.”
Photo by Alberto Sorlini ©The Klemantaski Collection – http://www.klemcoll.com