1952 French Grand Prix
The 1952 French Grand Prix was the fourth race of the 1952 Formula One World Championship and was held in Rouen-les-Essarts on July 6th 1952. Eventual world champion B. Bira won the race, his second race victory, ahead of Robert Manzon and Piero Taruffi.
It seemed like a repeat of the previous season thus far. Giuseppe Farina led the championship despite not winning a single race, two of the three race winners didn't have cars that were capable of conistently challenging the Alfa Romeo, and the one who did was already over ten points behind. It was high time one of them took advantage of a possible Alfa/Farina cock-up. 34 cars were present at Rouen for the first championship Grand Prix held at the new track. With 24 grid spots available, two cars would fail to pre-qualify.
Scuderia Commesso reverted to a single car for Chiron in order to keep an extra option for later in the season. Their next second entry would be in Germany with Ottorino Volonterio.
Toulo de Graffenried returned to Ferrari after his neck injury received at the English Grand Prix. Reg Parnell drove the third car.
Following the merger with British Racing Motors, Team Bentley had changed their name to British Bentley Racing Motors, also receiving much-needed funding while not changing any plans other than an increased presence that season.
Leader were absent this weekend after their failure in Belgium. They would make their final appearance of the season in the following race at Silverstone.
Despite a promising début in Spa, Erne would not be making an appearance at Rouen, delaying their other entries for the high-exposure British Grand Prix and the large grid size of the German Grand Prix, in order to increase their chances of a good result for Mières.
After a disappointing home race, Paul Frère returned to Officine Alfieri Maserati, where he hoped to make the grid again to finally finish for the first time that year, while Marimon would have to qualify, lest he lose his drive, as the rumours concerning his eventual departure from the team were rife.
Aldo Gordini made his second of two entries for ART that year, in order to keep old Amédée happy enough to keep ART as Gordini works team. Expectations were low, but perhaps Aldo would make a pleasant surprise at Rouen.
On the occasion of the French Grand Prix, Jacques Swaters decided to field all three of his Bugattis for Trintignant and Pilette, the usual drivers, as well as the team's resident Frenchman Eugène Chaboud. Motorcycle champion and recent winner of the Finnish Eläintarhanajot Roger Laurent would drive the Maserati.
Due to the small grid size, O.S.C.A. and Maria Teresa de Filippis did not appear and would not until Germany for O.S.C.A. and Italy for de Filippis.
Jean Behra and Mike Hawthorn were the two drivers who failed to prequalify for the race, while Fischer and Barth topped the session.
Farina took pole position from Manzon and Taruffi, while Fischer and Rubirosa again made the grid. Hampshire, Frère and Laurent weren't so lucky, and Barth and Kelly failed to make an impression despite their prequalifying success.
André Simon got the best start, rising to eleventh position, while the opposite happened to Rudi Fischer, who dropped to 22nd place right fron the beginning. At the front, Farina held the lead, thanks to Manzon getting a mediocre start and holding everyone else up, which allowed Bira to move up to third place, thanks to less-than-average getaways from Taruffi and de Graffenried. On lap two, he took second place from Manzon, who was still getting up to speed.
Manzon, Bira and Taruffi then decided teaming up was the better plan, and they starting driving in single file in order to make up the gap to Farina, which they did on lap 4, when Taruffi and Manzon found their way past him, with Bira getting held up behind the Alfa and de Graffenried, who flew past the Thai when he lost some speed, and just ahead of André Pilette in his Bugatti. Meanwhile, André Simon was the first to retire, skidding on the tricky cobbled hairpin and hitting the straw bales and stalling the car.
The trio of de Graffenried, Bira and Pilette passed Farina on lap five, nudging the championship leader to sixth place. Simon was joined on the sidelines by Aldo Gordini, whose gearbox let go early. In the meantime, Farina dropped to seventh when Dorino Serafini came past. Something had to be going wrong with the Italian's car, or maybe the Italian himself. Whatever the problem was, it disappeared quickly, and Giuseppe passed de Graffenried on lap seven, to gain the first of the places he would have to claw back. In fact, two laps later, he was fighting for fourth place!
With ten laps completed, 22 cars were still in the race, with Taruffi leading the spirited battle for the lead with Robert Manzon. Then came the even more spirited fight for third between André Pilette in the Bugatti, Serafini and de Graffenried in the Ferraris and Farina in the Alfa. Then came Bira, Ruttman, Moss, Bracco, Parnell, Ascari, Schell, Sanesi, Fischer, Pagani, Fangio, Claes, Trintignant, Rubirosa, Gonzalez and Chiron.
Farina lost a bit of time on lap 11 and was now being bullied by Bira, the two eventually not only catching up to the battle for third, but also dragging Troy Ruttman along with them, making it a 6-way combat. Further back, the Nouveau Monde cobbles caught out another unsuspecting driver when Stirling Moss skidded and went into the straw in the same way as Simon, although happily the Talbot was already at a safe distance.
Farina set the provisional fastest lap on lap 13, which got him up to third and relatively close to Taruffi, who was second. But it appeared that the earlier troubles that plagued Giuseppe were mechanical, as he started to lose speed again. Ascari then retired with a blown engine. The oil was off the racing line, but when Bracco and Sanesi came up to it, there wasn't a way out, and Bracco skidded into the straw bales at 110 km/h, ending his race.
By now, Taruffi and Manzon were under threat from de Graffenried, Ruttman and Serafini. Indeed, on lap 15, Troy Ruttman was in second position behind Manzon, setting the fastest lap in the process. Nello Pagani retired, meanwhile, from an anonymous twelfth place.
And now, the battle was for the lead and included, in that order: Manzon, Ruttman, Taruffi, Serafini and de Graffenried. This battle lasted for a couple of laps before Taruffi and Ruttman blocked each other, allowing Manzon to extend his lead. Immediately afterwards, cheers were heard in garages when Farina's Alfa arrived in the pitlane at snail's pace with smoke billowing from the engine. Race over.
Now, just 20 laps in, 17 cars remained, with Manzon still leading from de Graffenried, Taruffi, Ruttman and Serafini rounding out the points. Next came Bira, Sanesi, Pilette, Parnell, Schell, Fischer, Fangio, Claes, Trintignant, Gonzalez, Chiron and Rubirosa. Ruttman passed Taruffi on the next lap, but Manzon was too far away for Toulo or Troy to be a reasonable threat. In fact, on lap 24, Ruttman was passed by Taruffi and almost by Bira, who was now on a charge. Bira took fourth place on the next lap.
At that same moment, de Graffenried was coming up to lap André Pilette's Bugatti when the Belgian's engine exploded, blinding the Swiss baron, who ended up in an escape road too narrow to reverse in, ending his race. This left Taruffi second, Bira third and Ruttman fourth with a healthy gap over Sanesi and Serafini. But for second, the battle was still very much active, and they changed positions as often as Garage Francorchamps changed drivers. In fact, Serafini was catching up and joining the fight, making it four drivers fighting for second place.
Louis Chiron was the next retirement, when his car stopped at the start of the back straight. He was minding his own business in last place out of 15 when he was forced to stop. More importantly, Troy Ruttman's Ferrari suffered an unexpected oil pump failure just two laps later while the young American was in second position, leaving Dorino Serafini in second place ahead of Bira and Taruffi. This let Consalvo Sanesi into the points, although he was now quite far back.
This left 13 cars in the race at the halfway mark, with Manzon in a comfortable but not unassailable lead, ahead of Serafini, Bira and Taruffi, still hanging on in the Aston-Jaguar, while Sanesi rounds out the points. Then it's Schell, Parnell, Fangio, Gonzalez, Claes, Trintignant, Fischer and Rubirosa.
On the next lap, prospects changed massively, as Serafini and Fangio simultaneously retired, leaving Bira second just ahead of Taruffi, with Sanesi and Schell in fourth and fifth, with Reg Parnell in sixth. It was at this point that Bira started to make up ground. At the halfway mark, Manzon's lead was roughly one minute. Three laps later, it was 45 seconds. On the next lap, already 30 seconds. By lap 51, it was five seconds. On the next lap, Manzon got a slow getaway from the Nouveau Monde, and lost time for the rest of the climb up the hill. Bira easily breezed by and into the lead. Meanwhile, Parnell had long gotten past Schell and was now just behind Sanesi for fourth position, desperate to salvage some points for Ferrari. On lap 53, the deed was done and Parnell was on his way to three good points.
Manzon tried to keep the pace as best he could, but by lap 59, he was well and truly too far back. The attention then turned to Reg Parnell, who was blitzing the timing sheets and figuratively burning up the gap between him and Taruffi for third place! He eventually got through on lap 63, appropriately setting the fastest lap in the process. But it seemed that the Englishman had demanded too much from his machinery. All we know is, the Ferrari stopped at the Six Frères on lap 68 with suspension failure.
Therefore, with ten laps to go, ten cars remained, with Bira almost certain of victory with an enormous lead, followed by Robert Manzon, happy to score yet another podium for Gordini, then Taruffi still third in the Aston-Jaguar, looking to do what Gonzalez should have done in Monaco had the car not let go, although under threat from Consalvo Sanesi, who was still keeping a good pace. Harry Schell was in a comfortable fifth position in his Talbot, with Claes too far back to do anything about it and having to settle for yet another enraging sixth position.
As it turned out, Taruffi resisted well to keep his podium, in fact coming quite close to passing Manzon for second, which he might had done given two or three more laps. Bira took Motorsport Bleu's third win and second of the season, and also his own second career victory, with Harry Schell completing a nice 1-5 for the team. Manzon's second place got him to within two points of Farina in the championship. Piero Taruffi took his maiden podium and finally a second for Aston-Jaguar, who had been looking for points ever since Trintignant's podium at Silverstone in 1951. With this win, Motorsport Bleu led the entrants' championship and Talbot-Lago-Talbot led the constructor's championship.
|2||38||Edgar Barth||Ultimate-BMW||2:09.9||+ 0.3|
|3||50||Roger Laurent||Maserati||2:10.0||+ 0.4|
|4||2||Joe Kelly||ERA-Maserati||2:10.9||+ 1.3|
|5||44||Aldo Gordini||Gordini||2:11.0||+ 1.4|
|6||42||Onofre Marimón||Maserati||2:11.0||+ 1.4|
|7||48||Eugène Chaboud||Bugatti||2:11.3||+ 1.7|
|8||40||Paul Frère||Maserati||2:11.4||+ 1.8|
|9||36||Jean Behra||Cooper-Bristol||2:12.1||+ 2.5|
|10||18||Mike Hawthorn||Bentley||2:12.3||+ 2.7|
- Giuseppe Farina: 3 laps (1-3)
- Piero Taruffi: 8 laps (4-11)
- Robert Manzon: 40 laps (12-51)
- B. Bira: 28 laps (52-79)
- Most career pole positions: Giuseppe Farina (4)
- Most career starts: Giuseppe Farina, Dorino Serafini and Juan Manuel Fangio (17)
- Most career entries: 7 drivers (18)
- Most total pole positions: Alfa Romeo (9)
|2||Alfa Romeo SpA||18.5|
|3||/ Alexander Racing Team||17.5|
|5||Jaguar - Aston Martin Racing||4|
- Only the top five positions are listed.
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1952 Belgian Grand Prix
| Alternate Formula 1 World Championship
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1952 British Grand Prix
| Previous race:
1951 French Grand Prix
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1953 French Grand Prix