Here is a Lancia D50 which will be driven by Eugenio Castellotti in the 1955 Belgian Grand Prix which took place at the famous Spa-Francorchamps road circuit on June 5, 1955. Perhaps the most difficult and often dangerous aspect of racing at Spa-Francorchamps, made all the more so by the very high speed and elevation changes of the circuit, was the unpredictable weather of the Ardennes region where rain could arrive at any time and at different times on the far apart regions of this 14km-long course.
The Grand Prix featured teams from Mercedes-Benz, Ferrari and Maserati, and a single Vanwall with two private Maseratis as well. In addition, Castellotti had convinced Gianni Lancia to send two of his D50 Lancias for his young and aggressive Italian driver to choose which one he preferred. The Lancia family was nearing the final decision to close down its racing program after the tragic death of team leader Alberto Ascari while testing a Ferrari sports car at Monza amid Lancia’s now pressing financial difficulties.
By the end of the second practice session on late Friday afternoon, Castellotti who had not been to Spa-Francorchamps before was at his brave best and had recorded the quickest practice time, ahead of both Juan-Manuel Fangio and Stirling Moss in the two fastest W196 Mercedes. The next morning’s weather now moved from sunshine to rain but Castellotti proved equal to the increased challenge and recorded a time only three tenths slower than Fangio with Moss now two seconds back. With the slower wet weather lap times, Castellotti’s Friday performance would give him pole position on Sunday. Here is the cockpit of one of the Lancia D50s, with “N. 7” painted on the inside of its body panel.
Once the race started, again under sunny skies, Fangio took the lead and was three seconds ahead of Moss at the end of the first lap with Castellotti now third. The leading pair continued for the entire race. At halfway distance Castellotti stopped his Lancia out on the circuit with transmission problems. Giuseppe “Nino” Farina with a 555 “Squalo” Ferrari inherited third place which he held to the finish.
This was the last grand prix appearance for the Lancia D50. By the end of July Lancia had withdrawn from racing and had turned over the assets of its D50 program, cars, spares and everything to Ferrari which also received a significant financial benefit engineered by the Agnelli family at Fiat, a well as the services of Castellotti. Enzo Ferrari accepted this magnificent gift with ill grace, but that’s another story.
Photos by Louis Klemantaski ©The Klemantaski Collection – http://www.klemcoll.com
To see more of our photographs please go to: http://www.klemcoll.com/TheGallery.aspx