We are at Monza during practice for the Italian Grand Prix which would be held there on September 11, 1955. Jean Behra sits in a new Maserati 250F with a special low drag body. Note that the tops of the tires are visible front and rear both for tire cooling and to assist in more accurate placement of the car when cornering. In edition to this Maserati, there were four Mercedes W196 F1 cars, two Lancia D50s and four Ferrari Squalos from Ferrari, six other Maserati 250Fs and three Gordinis, not counting the odd practice-only examples from all the entrants.
This would be the first year following the war when the newly re-constructed Monza oval would be used in a race. It was to be combined with the existing road circuit. The front straight was now separated into two halves by a row of removable pylons which ran down its centerline. When cars exited the Parabolica corner (formerly called the Porfido) at the end of the road circuit they would continue straight past the pits and enter the oval. When exiting the oval they would pass down the outside of the front straight and enter the road course leading to the Curva Grande. This combined circuit had a lap length of ten kilometers and once again gave Monza the title of the fastest Grand Prix track. One anomaly of the divided front straight, at least for the spectators, was that cars coming off the oval would be going at least 150 mph and easily passing those coming down the straight off the road circuit on other side of the dividing pylons. Thereby, it also gave some drivers the unusual pleasure of passing a Mercedes!
Here are the four Mercedes, two with open wheels and two with the older streamliner bodywork as had been used in 1954. They all are exiting the oval at maximum speed down onto the outer half of the front straight on which the dividing pylons can be seen.
Behra took his Maserati into sixth place in practice behind three Mercedes, one of the Lancia D50s which had recently been turned over to Ferrari and Eugenio Castellotti’s Ferrari Squalo 555. When Ferrari withdrew the Lancias as the result of possible tire failure, Behra moved up to fifth on the grid.
Once the race started, the Mercedes were essentially in their own race as seen above. Castellotti chased them hard and when the Mercs of Karl Kling and Stirling Moss retired, the young Italian inherited third place. Behra was now fourth with the streamlined Maserati but his engine expired on the last lap. However, he was able to crawl to the finish and maintain his place and staying on the lead lap although almost four minutes back.
Photos by Yves Debraine ©The Klemantaski Collection – http://www.klemcoll.com
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