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Eugenio Castellotti at Speed in Ferrari-Lancia, 1956

Here we see the upcoming Italian driver Eugenio Castellotti with his Ferrari-Lancia in the very fast Abbey Curve at Silverstone during the British Grand Prix on July 14, 1956. It was hoped that Castellotti would be capable of taking the place of Alberto Ascari, killed in a mysterious testing crash at Monza in May 1955 after borrowing Castellotti's car. From practice it looked as if the young Italian might not have much of a race here at Silverstone, starting from the third row and some three seconds down on poleman Stirling Moss in his works Maserati 250F. Mike Hawthorn had pushed a new BRM P25 very hard and was also in the front row along with Juan Manuel Fangio and Peter Collins, both with their Ferrari-Lancias. There were two more Ferrari-Lancias for Alfonso de Portage and Olivier Gendebien, but only Portago got to take the start.

Castellotti ran in eighth place in the early laps (of the 101 total for this race) and soldiered on, running last of the four Ferrari-Lancias until after various troubles he turned his car over to Portago who in turn had given his to Collins. Moss had been leading for many laps, but then retired with driveline problems, letting Fangio, whose car was certainly suffering from terrible understeer, into the lead which he maintained to the finish. Collins was second with the car started by Portago, albeit a lap down, while the Spaniard was credited with tenth place as he pushed his ex-Castellotti car across the finish line, as seen here.

Castellotti had begun what might have been a great year in 1956, had his Grand Prix drives gone better. He posted a superb win the Mille Miglia, driving alone, under very wet conditions where many competitors left the slick roads, some with fatal results. He then shared a victory at Sebring and a second place at the Nürburgring 1000km. sports car races, both co-driving with Fangio. After a crash in the non-championship Grand Prix at Syracuse and a shared fourth place at Monaco, he had retired with a mechanical failure in Belgium. He had then put up a good drive to finish second right behind Peter Collins in the French Grand Prix at Reims two weeks before this race at Silverstone. Then there were then two more retirements at the Nürburgring and Monza for an otherwise unsuccessful F1 season with a team that had won the World Championship.

Castellotti began 1957 with a sports car win at the Buenos Aires 1000km. race. His future career would be cut short when called upon by Enzo Ferrari to set a new lap record at the Modena Aerautodromo on March 14, 1957. His Ferrari-Lancia slid into a curb in the little Modena chicane and cartwheeled up into a small grandstand, throwing Castellotti out with fatal injuries.

Photos by Louis Klemantaski ©The Klemantaski Collection –

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