Here is Alberto Ascari, a two-time World Champion, sitting in a Lancia D50 about to go out for practice prior to the Monaco Grand Prix which was held on May 22, 1955. The new Lancia Grand Prix car, introduced at the end of the 1954 season, featured several new design features created for Lancia by the famous prewar Alfa Romeo designer Vittorio Jano. The Lancia when in Ascari’s hands had already showed that it would be competitive with the new Mercedes W196 in the season-ending Spanish Grand Prix in October 1954.
The field at Monaco in 1955 had all the ingredients for an outstanding race. Lancia had brought four of its D50s, Mercedes had four of its W196s in short chassis form, Maserati was fielding four of their new 250Fs plus two more from private entrants, while Ferrari had five entries, three of the new “Squalo” type 555 and two of the older 625F1. Rounding out the entry were two Vanwalls, three Gordini T16s and an HWM-Alta. Several entries failed to qualify or were withdrawn which left a total of 20 to take the flag. Juan Fangio was on pole because Ascari, who had posted an equal time, did so later in practice and was in the middle of the front row with the Mercedes of Stirling Moss on the outside. Eugenio Castellotti’s Lancia was in the next row, fourth fastest.
At the start Castellotti led for a bit but was soon overtaken by Fangio who then led Moss with Ascari in third position. Ascari is here seen during practice at the Tabac corner leading onto the pit straight. Fangio then retired with a blown gearbox, leaving Moss in the lead. Moss then had an engine failure which left Ascari leading the race with his Lancia. But before Ascari could complete that lap he made an error at the Chicane, approached from the tunnel at high speed, crashed into the outside barriers and hurtled into the harbor. He was soon on the surface and swimming to a rescue boat. The race at would be won by Maurice Trintignant with one of the older Ferraris. Tragically, this great Italian racing talent would be killed in a testing accident at Monza four days later in a new Ferrari sports car under circumstances which have never been fully explained.
Photos by Ami Guichard ©The Klemantaski collection – http://www.klemcoll.com
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