This superb color photograph captures the start of what would be an exciting and surprising race, the Monaco Grand Prix of May 22, 1955. Here the still-accelerating field is about to brake hard for the very tight Gazometre hairpin at the end of the curving harborfront straight. On the inside as they approach the hairpin in Mercedes W196 n. 2 is World Champion Juan Manuel Fangio with Stirling Moss in a sister W196 on the outside. Between them we can see Alberto Ascari in his Lancia D50. Others also visible include Eugenio Castellotti in another Lancia D50 (n. 30), Roberto Mieres in a Maserati 250F (n. 36) and Jean Behra also in a 250F (n. 34). One can only imagine the excitement with Mercedes, Lancia, Ferrari and Maserati all in contention with three or fours cars for each of these teams, not to mention multiple entries by Vanwall and Gordini. Only 1/10th of a second separated the cars on the front row of the grid.
Fangio and Moss were quickly into the lead with Ascari in third. At half distance Fangio pulled off at the Station Hairpin with a broken transmission, leaving Moss well ahead of Ascari. Another surprise would come on the 81st lap for as Moss stopped at the finish line with a blown motor Ascari arrived at the Chicane and went straight on into the harbor. Ascari popped to the surface and was quickly pulled to safety. These two events left Maurice Trintignant in the lead with a year old Ferrari 625F1 which had been fitted with one of the wide valve angle motors developed for the newer “Squalo” Tipo 553 grand prix car. Castellotti was now in second place and that is the way they ran to the finish after 100 laps with Trintignant about 20 seconds in front. Behra had taken over the 250F started by his teammate Cesar Perdisa and came in third.
Ascari was fortunate to escape his harbor accident unscathed, but would be killed only four days later at Monza after borrowing a new Ferrari sports car being tested there by Castellotti. That crash has never been fully explained, as there were no witnesses, and caused some to recall the death of his father Antonio Ascari in the French Grand Prix at Montlhéry two months shy of exactly 30 years before.
Photos by Yves Debraine and Günther Molter ©The Klemantaski Collection – http://www.klemcoll.com
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