This evocative photograph was taken in the early morning of July 7, 1957 as the Ferrari team lined up to fill their cars with fuel before French Grand Prix which would be on the Rouen-Les-Essarts public road circuit. The four team cars are the Ferrari 801F1, the result of two years’ development of the Lancia D50s which had been turned over to Ferrari in mid-1955. The chassis was of new construction with redesigned suspension and the layout was typical conservative Ferrari although the engine continued to be Vittorio Jano’s Lancia design of a four camshaft V8. The car nearest the camera bearing the number 16 will be driven by Maurice Trintignant. The other Ferrari drivers would be Peter Collins, Mike Hawthorn and Luigi Musso.
The Rouen circuit in 1957 was just over four miles in length. It basically ran down one side of a steep valley and then climbed back up the other side through a series of blind fast bends. It was thought to be the most challenging Grand Prix course of the 1950s and 1960s, although after its creation in 1950 it hosted only five French Grands Prix. The challenge of Rouen lay in the high speed descent from the start/finish line to the very slow cobblestone surfaced Nouveau Monde hairpin on the floor of the valley. That descent involved three sweeping bends which with the non-aerodynamic cars of the time could only be taken flat by the best or the bravest. The photo at left, perhaps one of the most famous, shows how Fangio did it in a series of perfectly controlled drifts.
Although Ferrari was present with four of their powerful cars, in practice – as ultimately in the race – it would be all Maserati. Juan Fangio and Jean Behra had the first two places on the grid with Musso on the outside of the front row. Behra jumped the start and led for only part of the first lap until passed by Musso as Fangio watched the action for two laps having also passed Behra, but not before actually pushing him out of the way. Fangio then cruised past Musso and that was it.
Photos by Louis Klemantaski and Edward Eves ©The klemantaski Collection – http://www.klemcoll.com
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