This bucolic setting was at the Dundrod circuit in Norther Ireland on Saturday, June 7, 1952. Cresting a rise and howling past some locals is Juan Manuel Fangio in one of two B.R.M. 15s entered in this non-championship formula libre race. With the change to Formula 2 for the World Championship, Fangio was without a car from Afla Romeo which had withdrawn from competition. So he had signed up with both Maserati and Raymond Mays’ B.R.M. team. The B.R.M.s with their very complex 1.5 liter V16 motor were exceedingly fast but equally unreliable. They were also very difficult to drive with an almost vertical power curve due to their centrifugal supercharger which added ever more boost as the revs increased.
The B.R.M. situation at Dundrod was straight out of the then typical B.R.M. playbook. Only one malfunctioning car was available for practice, due to a rushed return from a race at Albi in France, tried by both Fangio and the other B.R.M. driver Stirling Moss. Even on race morning the second car, a new motor installed overnight by the overworked mechanics, was being tested on a nearby airfield. This left the two B.R.M.’s to start from the back of the 13 car grid. Here they are with Raymond Mays looking down at Moss.
Their race performance gave no joy. Both cars stalled at the start. Moss’s clutch had burned out and he lasted but two laps before pitting with overheating, caused by an improperly-installed header tank relief valve, and did two further circuits before retiring. Fangio got going but had a spin approaching the Hairpin on his first lap, caused by avoiding Prince Bira’s OSCA which then overshot the corner and crashed through a hedge. Fangio was now running behind Piero Taruffi in Tony Vandervell’s 4.5 liter “Thinwall Special” Ferrari which had also stalled at the start before it got going. In the lead was Mike Hawthorn with his father’s 2 liter Cooper-Bristol.
Fangio was then in and out of the pits before finally retiring after 25 laps with fuel feed problems. This failure was emblematic of another B.R.M. problem, overtired and confused mechanics, who in this instance had forgotten to clean the fuel filter on the Fangio car which was blocked by cotton threads. Moss found the B.R.M. and its level of preparation to make for a frightening experience at Dundrod and he told Mays that would never drive one again. And he didn’t.
Here is Fangio passing the start finish line. After his retirement, the win went to Taruffi with Hawthorn an excellent second albeit some 3′ 34″ back.
But that was not the end of a difficult day for the committed Fangio. He was entered to drive an Argentinean Club Maserati A6GCM F2 car at Monza the next day and had been promised a ride by Prince Bira in his airplane. But Bira, having retired on lap one, departed early leaving Fangio behind. Fangio and Louis Rosier flew to London and on to Paris then drove to Lyon. There Fangio took Rosier’s car on over the mountains between Lyon and Milan and arrived at Monza just prior to the start. Deeply fatigued, he started at the back of the grid and crashed on the second lap in the second Lesmo bend, being thrown from the car as it somersaulted over the haybales at the exit. Seriously injured with broken vertebrae in his neck, he would be out of racing for the rest of the year. His accident led to a CSI regulation prohibiting grand prix drivers from racing at two different circuits on successive days.
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This posting reminds me of much happier outing for Fangio with BRM, a year later in Albi, France,
Both he and Gonzales drove the vee-16 on a very hot day showing tremendous speed, but had to pit when the tires could not take the pace.
That did not stop them from pressing on to the joy of the spectators
I believe they had no formal agreement with the British team, and merely took advantage of a free weekend from their Maserati commitment,
At Albi in 1953 Ken Wharton was also there driving a B.R.M. They all finished the heat but only González’ car made it to the finish of the final.
Louis Rosier était agent Renault à Clermont-Ferrand. Lui et Fangio ont-ils fait le voyage Paris-Milan en 4CV ou dans une Frégate, plus spacieuse? J’aime à imaginer que c’était une 4CV avec ces deux corpulents personnages dans une si petite automobile…
Merci pour votre concept. Leur voiture était une Renault et probablement une 4CV.