An Unexpected Victory: Maurice Trintignant in Monaco
This is the French driver Maurice Trintignant taking a well deserved drink immediately after the finish of the May 22, 1955 Monaco Grand Prix, surrounded by his mechanics and other team members. He had just won this important race with his Scuderia Ferrari 625F1 in a totally unexpected outcome. The 625F1 was for all intentions the prior year's Ferrari Grand Prix car, pressed into service when Aurelio Lampredi's latest design, the Supersqualo 555, showed poor reliability and limited performance. Nevertheless, Lampredi is there with Trintignant, standing at the left with his hand on the car's windshield. 1955 was becoming a difficult year for him so he must have been delighted with this turn of events.
Trintignant, whose family had a vineyard in the Rhone valley, had raced first before the War in Bugattis which is how he received his affectionate nickname of "Le Petoulet" which means a rat dropping. At the Coupe de La Libération run in the Bois de Boulogne in Paris in September 1945, his Bugatti, which had been secretly laid up during the War, retired due fuel starvation caused by such droppings in its fuel tank. Trintignant would win the Le Mans 24 Hours in 1954 in a works Ferrari and again at Monaco in 1958 in a Rob Walker Cooper.
Ferrari brought four cars to Monaco, two of each type with Trintignant and former F1 Champion Giuseppe "Nino" Farina in the 625s while Harry Schell and Piero Taruffi had the 555s. Nevertheless, Ferrari could not have expected much success at Monaco against three of the Mercedes-Bens W196 machines driven by Juan Manuel,Fangio, Stirling Moss (each had a new special short-chassis version for this race) plus French journeyman André Simon who had been drafted in to replace Hans Herrmann, injured in a practice crash. Then there were four of the new fast Lancia D50s for Alberto Ascari, Luigi Villoresi, Eugenio Castellotti and Monégasque Louis Chiron, who at 55 years of age was the oldest man ever to contest a Grand Prix, and seven Maserati 250Fs which could also be effective though not as quick as the Mercedes or the Lancias. On Ferrari's side were the excellent torque characteristics and good engine braking of Lampredi's 2.5 liter four cylinder long stroke motors, really important advantages at Monaco. Versions of this motor were in all the Ferraris, the 555s having a much wider valve angle and a shorter stroke in their motors which had not resulted in any real additional benefit.
Fangio and Ascari had equal qualifying times and shared the front row with Moss who was only 1/10th of a second slower. After the initial laps it looked to be a Mercedes runaway with Fangio and Moss circulating in convoy with Fangio setting fastest lap. Things then began to come apart for Mercedes as Fangio retired with a broken transmission, leaving Moss to lead from Ascari. Ascari then made a mistake at the Chicane and went into the harbor, from which he was quickly rescued, while immediately thereafter Moss experienced engine failure and retired. These events left Trintignant in the lead, having worked his way up from his fourth row starting position, with Castellotti's Lancia behind the Ferrari which is how they finished with Trintignant winning by 20.3 seconds.
For sure Lampredi was happy at Monaco as 1955 was shaping up to be un ano orribile for Ferrari's designer with uncompetitive and unreliable cars in both F1 and sports car racing, combined with the design disaster of his experimental two-cylinder F1 motor, the vibrations of which, it is claimed, caused it to vibrate itself off the test bench. He would be shown the door at mid-year.
Photo by Yves Debraine ©The Klemantaski Collection – http://www.klemcoll.com
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