Two Friends Go Racing

Ascari, Villoresi. Maserati, klemcoll French Grand Prix

Here we are in the pits during the French Grand Prix which was held on a public road circuit at Lyon on September 21, 1947. On the left behind the two mechanics who are trying to discover a fatal engine problem is the then 29 year old Alberto Ascari who is being advised by his mentor Luigi Villoresi. Both Ascari and Villoresi were driving Maserati 4CLs, a prewar design with a single stage supercharged 1.5 liter four cylinder motor. However, in the immediate postwar years the Maserati 4CL was often a privateer’s car of choice.

The two Maseratis for Ascari and Villoresi were entered by Scuderia Ambrosiana of Milan, named for the patron saint of that city, which was a joint association involving Franco Cortese, Count Giovanni Lurani, Eugenio Minetti and Villoresi with close ties to Maserati in 1947-48. This organization allowed its owners to share expenses and in subsequent years provided certain British drivers with a “home” in Italy from which they could take their Italian cars to England for races while avoiding customs duties.

The Milan-based Maseratis arrived late at Lyon and missed practice, so Ascari and Villoresi had to start from the back row of the 18 car grid.
Maserati, Ascari, klemcollVilloresi made quick progress through the field and got up to third then into the lead on the third lap, but he was forced to retire on the fourth lap with a blown motor. Ascari continued, as seen here with the Scuderia Ambrosiana emblem on his Maserati,  but eventually also retired on the 63rd of the 70 lap race with piston failure.

The race was marred by an unfortunate accident to the Maserati 4CL driven by “Levegh” (Pierre Bouillin) which crashed into the crowd killing two spectators. He would gain fame for almost winning at Le Mans in 1952 and then for driving the Mercedes 300SLR which crashed into the crowd there in 1955 through no fault of his own.

Photos by Louis Klemantaski ©The Klemantaski Collection –

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