1955 French Grand Prix
The 1955 French Grand Prix was the second race of the 1955 Alternate Formula One Season and was held at Reims-Gueux on May 22nd 1955. Desmond Titterington scored pole position in only his second Grand Prix, but a decision by the ACF to extend the race to over 600 kilometres in length led to massive amounts of attrition. Alberto Ascari won the race, just four days before his tragic death in a testing accident. David Hampshire scored his only podium in second place, and Dorino Serafini finished third, scoring his final podium.
Monaco had been a very entertaining race. A controversial fight for the lead early on, dramatic unreliability and general boneheadedness up and down the field, as well as the impressive sight of a car taking a plunge into the Harbour, luckily without injury for Paco Godia. Ultimately, Dries van der Lof took his third career win, putting himself and JAMR as prime candidates for another season at the very front. However, the Monaco Grand Prix had often proven to fail to represent the true champion. Only in 1950 did the winner in Monaco actually win the title, and never had the winner of the opening race ever won the championship. Would the Dutchman buck the trend in 1955?
The second round out of eleven was the French Grand Prix, held in Reims-Gueux once again. This time, a staggering 54 drivers had made the trip, breaking the record set at the same circuit the previous season (with 52 entrants).
Trod van Hoff Racing make their second appearance at a championship Grand Prix with Helmut Niedermayr behind the wheel. Can he prequalify?
After a couple of years on the sidelines, Roy Salvadori returns to Formula One, driving a second Bentley for David Hampshire.
Following Franco Rol's dismal performance in Monaco, his return to Formula One was aborted as Renzo promptly fired him in favour of the young hopeful Cesare Perdisa, who already drove for the team in Singapore.
After five long years of waiting, Roger Loyer finally returns to the paddock for the coincidentally named Loyer Racing alongside Alfonso de Portago.
Anglo Racing Engineering, after skipping Monaco, make the trip to Reims with their usual driver, Aldo Gordini.
The rather experimental and much-awaited Guidobaldi makes its first appearance at Reims in the hands of the extremely experienced Frenchman Philippe Etancelin. Eyes are peeled, but if non-championship performance is anything to go by, this will not be an easy season.
This time, Irish Racing Association field their second Lancia for motorcycle ace Reg Armstrong alongside Monaco hero Desmond Titterington. How will he compare?
After an embarrassing and much-reported logistics mistake saw their lorries blocked in Northern France by a strike, B.C.M.A. ended up closer to Reims than they would have been, partially making up for the precious track time that was lost. This time, the youngest team in Formula One (Maglioli is 26, Collins and Brooks 23) is here and ready to participate.
Despite a good performance in Monaco to make the grid, Reatherson walked away bitterly disappointed as Macklin wrecked the Bentley early on. The team still soldier on to Reims, bringing along their two spare Ferraris for Macklin and Ken Wharton to drive.
Following a double-DNPQ in Monaco, BRUNEL rightly decided to fast-forward all the way to Silverstone.
The Monaco weekend was entertaining for ENB, to say the least. Arthur Legat, temporary team boss, stepped down in favour of a Swaters-Claes tandem, with the latter giving a rather brilliant jazz performance at the Monaco Casino in a desperate bid to get some funding for the team, which is almost bankrupt.
Ambrosiana have dropped the third car for Reims, entering only Musso and Uria.
This time, the Lancia teams showed just how good the car could be, all three of them reaching the top six, with Titterington topping the time sheets with a stunning lap, almost two and a half seconds faster than Godia! Brooks and Armstrong also make the cut on début, Musso takes Ambrosiana into main qualifying, Poore barely misses his chance to repeat his Monaco performance, while the Loyers and Porsche again fail to make it through.
Stunning the crowd, Desmond Titterington took pole position ahead of B. Bira and Paco Godia. Monaco winner van der Lof only qualified in sixth place, and all three B.C.M.A. cars made the start at their first attempt. There were otherwise few surprises.
Before the start of the race, the main talking point was the race organisers' decision to lengthen it to over 600 kilometres, which was a worry for both teams and drivers. The cars weren't designed to last that long, making reliability an issue, and they had become notoriously hard to handle, causing multiple accidents in Monaco, luckily without consequence. Despite these concerns, the race would go ahead for the full distance.
Titterington got the best start of the race leaders and led the first lap from Godia and Bira. Moss and Manzon got the best getaways, though, gaining three spots each. Desmond promptly fell behind Godia, Bira and Collins, the Spaniard taking the lead for the first time in his career. Bira then fell behind Collins and Titterington. On lap 5, towards the back, Mike Hawthorn attempted to pass Maria Teresa de Filippis into Calvaire. They misread each other's lines and their wheels locked. De Filippis was sent into the earth bank by the side of the track and flew up and over it. De Filippis promtply exited her car, and while she was conscious, she was in visible pain.
On lap 6, Dries van der Lof pulled into the pits with an oil leak. The resulting slick at Thillois caught out Luigi Musso, who span out of his maiden Grand Prix start. By this point, Consalvo Sanesi had risen from eighth place to second behind teammate Godia. On lap 8, Sanesi tried a move for the lead on the start-finish straight, but Godia blindly cut him off, sending him into the pit wall! This move, following his dive into the Monaco harbour, caused Amédée Gordini to lose his temper. At this point, he was only angrily listening to Sanesi's explanation. Meanwhile, Titterington and Bira, rigt behind Godia, were rightfully hesitant to make a move on the Spaniard. They tripped over themselves, allowing Moss through into second place while having started thirteenth!
On lap 10, the race took another turn, as the circuit announcers noticed that Philippe Etancelin had taken to the track in the Guidobaldi, despite having failed to prequalify for the race! Later on, the Frenchman admitted that he simply wanted his final race to actually be a race. In the meantime, he was running around in last place. On lap 12, Hampshire attempted to pass Ramos, but the Brazilian closed the door lazily and knocked himself out of the race. A few laps later, Jack Brabham crashed out at Calvaire, having just set the fastest lap of the race. That same lap, Lance Macklin wrecked yet another car for Reatherson, taking himself out in a big way using Umberto Maglioli to steer him into a ditch. The team boss would not be happy to see Lance walk back to the pits...
On lap 17, Swaters' gearbox failed from 20th position, one of the only mechanical failures so far this season. Indeed, driver incompetence hasn't left enough time for the cars to fail! Then, on lap 20, after such brilliant practice laps, Desmond Titterington span out at Muizon, ending his race. He was in second place. That same lap, Bib Stillwell's Vanwall engine expired on his (and his engine's) first start. At this point, Godia's lead was substantial over the battle for second between Bira, Moss and Collins for B.C.M.A. Bettenhausen then proceeded to blow a tyre on random debris and crash out when he lost control, reducing the field to 21 drivers, then 20 when Giannino Marzotto's engine failed. Then 19 when Harry Schell span out on the resulting oil. 25 laps had been run at this point.
On lap 27, Tony Brooks lost control of his car at Calvaire, collided and flew over the earth bank, much like de Filippis did. Miraculously, Brooks also walked away from the wreckage and, like the gentlemanly medecine student he is, offered to check de Filippis' injury after her accident. Meanwhile, the paddock was completely dumbfounded by Philippe Etancelin actually beating a few drivers at times in the Guidobaldi who had only shown really bad performance until then. Apart from the occasional overtake, nothing really happened until lap 34, when Stirling Moss retired from fourth place with a transmission failure, joining Titterington, who had stayed by the side of the track to enjoy the rest of the race.
On lap 35, Bira had an oil leak and retired from the race, leaving 16 drivers still running. Then, on the next lap, Giuseppe Farina had one of the scariest moments of the race when his brakes completely failed at Muizon. He bailed from the car as it clipped the stopped Lancia of Titterington and barrell-rolled into the wheat fields of Gueux. Farina promptly got up, brushed some dust off his shoulder and calmly walked to the incredulous Titterington and Moss, who had just witnessed the accident. All these scenes contributed to making this race one of the best-remebered of all time. On top of this, Peter Collins' B.C.M.A. engine expired out of a brilliant second place, causing Peter Whitehead (running third) to spin out on the oil. After 40 laps, Godia led from Tony Gaze, Robert Manzon, Maurice Trintignant, Alberto Ascari, David Hampshire, Stan Jones, Umberto Maglioli, José Froilan Gonzalez, Porfirio Rubirosa, Dorino Serafini, Philippe Etancelin and Mike Hawthorn.
On lap 43, Umberto Maglioli's suspension failed from ninth place, ending a promising race for B.C.M.A. and leaving twelve drivers in the race. On lap 47, it was Stan Jones' engine that failed out of seventh place. Maurice Trintignant passed Manzon and Gaze to take second place, with the Australian driver suffering from a gearbox failure on lap 54, leaving only ten drivers. Then, there were nine when Trintignant's clutch failed on the very next lap. On lap 58, Amédée Gordini had made his decision about Paco Godia and decided to fire the Spaniard who was dominating the race. Not wanting to wait for the end of the race, he sent the message to him via pitboard. Godia's reaction was to pull over into the pits on the next lap, pull his helmet off, put it down and walk away from the shouting Amédée towards the Phoenix garage, where he could speak Spanish. That same lap, Gonzalez, who would have taken third place, span off at Thillois, leaving just seven drivers. Robert Manzon now led from Ascari, David Hampshire in third, Serafini, Rubirosa, Mike Hawthorn in the Vanwall and Philippe Etancelin, still running in the Guidobaldi!
It wasn't to be, however. Once he'd started to fall behind, the Reims-Gueux track marshalls finally made the decision to show him the black flag, disqualifying him. Knowing that this would happen, he stopped in the pits, crossed the circuit to climb on the straw bales in front of the grandstands and take a bow for the roaring crowd, taking a well-deserved retirement from racing at the age of 58. And with 6 laps remaining, Robert Manzon's engine failed out of the race lead, leaving only five cars! Alberto Ascari now led from Hampshire, Serafini, Hawthorn and Rubirosa, while Manzon would still be classified and in the points by default. And in the end, it was an emotional end to a crazy, crazy race, as Alberto Ascari raised both arms in the air to finally win his first championship Grand Prix after over five years of trying. In similar fashion, David Hampshire finished the race in second, ahead of Dorino Serafini, Mike Hawthorn and Porfirio Rubirosa.
- First and only win, final podium, points, entry and start for Alberto Ascari.
- First pole position for Desmond Titterington.
- First fastest lap for Jack Brabham.
- First and only podium and last points for David Hampshire.
- Final podium for Dorino Serafini.
- First points for Mike Hawthorn.
- Final points for Porfirio Rubirosa.
- First start for Tony Brooks, Bib Stillwell and Luigi Musso.
- Final start for Philippe Étancelin.
- First entry for Reg Armstrong and Cesare Perdisa.
- Final entry for Aldo Gordini.
- First and only win and final podium and points for Phoenix.
- First win for the O.S.C.A. engine.
- First pole position for Lancia.
- First podium for Bentley.
- First start and points for Vanwall.
- First start for B.C.M.A..
- First entry for Guidobaldi.
- First and only win and final podium and points for Phoenix Racing Organisation.
- First pole position for Irish Racing Cars.
- First and only podium for Officine Renzo and Hampshire Racing Alliance.
- First start and points for Vanwall.
- Final points for Hampshire Racing Alliance.
- First start for British Commonwealth Motorsport Association and Tasman Racing Alliance.
- First entry for Guidobaldi.
- Final entry for Anglo Racing Engineering.
- Desmond Titterington: (1)
- Paco Godia: 57 laps (2-58)
- Robert Manzon: 9 laps (59-67)
- Alberto Ascari: 6 laps (68-73)
- Most career starts: B. Bira (42)
- Most career entries: Alberto Ascari and Maurice Trintignant (43)
- Oldest driver to enter and start a race: Philippe Étancelin (58 years, 4 months, 23 days)
|Dries van der Lof
|Phoenix Racing Organisation
|Jaguar-Aston Martin Racing
|/ Alexander Racing Team-Gordini
|Hampshire Racing Alliance
- Only the top five positions are listed.
| Previous race:
1955 Monaco Grand Prix
| Alternate Formula 1 World Championship
| Next race:
1955 Belgian Grand Prix
| Previous race:
1954 French Grand Prix
|French Grand Prix
| Next race:
1956 French Grand Prix