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Monza Circuit - The Banking

Antonio Beri and Aldo Di Renzo, designers of the high speed track of Autodromo di Monza, which was realized in 1955, had a target in mind. As a matter of fact they wanted to allow very high average speed at uniform gear condition, so to avoid gear changes and the use of breaks. It was then decided to realize an high-speed which was intended to be similar to the one built in 1922 but with a modern conception. A track made up by two semi-circular bends with circa 320 m radius which was connected by two straights measuring 875 m each for a total circuit length of 4,250 m. the first great problem in designing was the bends inclination, which was then necessary to allow cars to reach very high speed.

The maximum inclination corresponded to 80% and this would allow drivers to keep an average speed of 300km/h during all track length. The works to build the new track started in March 1955 but the building company went bankrupt before concluding. The head-office of the circuit decide to continue the words and they were partly concluded in August 1955, just in time for the classical Italian F1 GP.
That edition, the first one to be race on the 10km track, was somehow considered a real jeopardy since some weeks before more than 80 people died during the tragic incident at Le Mans and therefore the high-speed track was considered very dangerous for drivers and spectators. Anyhow the race took place and the event was very crowded: more than 150,000 spectators went to the circuit to witness the event.
Juan Manuel Fangio won the race ahead of Taruffi and Castellotti, who was undoubtedly favoured by the English teams which boycotted the race. The following year there were a higher number of entries: 25 pilots. Also the English teams participated in the event after very cautious tests to ensure that cars could support the high speed.

The 1956 Italian GP was a success for Stirling Moss who won at the wheel of his Maserati ahead of Juan Manuel Fangio on board of his Lancia-Ferrari. In 1957 for the first time the high-speed track hosted also the American cars from Indianapolis in occasion of the first 500 Miles of Monza. This race was especially reserved to the American cars and the F1 European cars and the riders had to drive anti-clockwise on the high speed track. The race was then dubbed "Monzanapolis - Race of two world".
The thing started to take shape when Engineer Bacciagaluppi, chairmain of Autodromo Nazionale Monza, invited Duane Carter, an American race manager, at Monza. Bacciagaluppi had been dreaming for long of a challenge between the powerful American cars and the best of the European car industry. The banked circuit was the perfect place for the challenge.
Carter was enthusiastic with the idea and he organised the event in June 1957. In April Pat O'Connor, an American ace, went to Monza for a tyre test. He did not found any particular problem and raced for 226 miles at an average speed of 163,4 mph. Next month O'Connor conquered the pole position at Indianapolis driving at only 144mph. This meant that Monza was going to become the fastest circuit in the world. Unfortunately the first event of the 500 Miles of Monza was mostly deserted by Eruopean drivers.
On the other hand there were a lot of American famous pilots, among them there were Jimmy Bryan, O'Connor, Eddie Sachs, Troy Ruttman, Johnnie Parsons, Bob Veith and Tony Bettenhausen. The latter gained the pole position at an incredible average speed for those times: 177 mph! At the first edition of the race there were only 20,000 spectators, mainly because of the lack of the European stars. The race was really thrilling, with tyre-to-tyre duels which were then unknown to the European spectators. Jimmy Brian won two of the three races of the day.

The 1958 race edition was something completely different, mainly because there were a lot of European drivers and cars: Ferrari and Maserati presented cars especially designed for the event and pilots such as Stirling Moss, Mike Hawthorn, Luigi Musso and Phil Hill decided to take part in the event a lot of months before the start. Also Juan Manuel Fangio partecipated in the event and arrived third at the wheel of this roadster Dean Van Lines. This time there were tenths of thousand spectators, especially interested in the challenge between Musso and Jimmy Bryan, between Stirling Moss and Jim Rathmann. Luigi Musso granted himself the pole position at the wheel of his Ferrari with a 4.1 l engine at an average speed of 174mph. Musso leaded the race for the first laps and fought hard with Jim Rathmann, Bryan and Ruttman, but then his Ferrari started having problems. The second edition of Monzanapolis was a huge success, both for the high number of spectators and the high technical contents of the race. Unfortunately, some internal problems at ACM cause this one to be the last edition of the race, with great disapproval of the American pilots, who were anxious to come back racing at Monza.

In 1959 the track was used only for minor events but in 1960 the Italian GP turned back on the complete 10km track. It was a triumph for Ferrari, which realized a wonderful one-two-three and was advantaged by the lack of some English teams. Phil Hill conquered the race ahead of Ginther and Mairesse. In 1961 the race was hosted again on the complete track and in this occasion the starting grid was really full, with 32 cars taking part in the event. All English teams made a lot of tests for the race and they were really competitive. Unfortunately this was a GP which was destined to enter the history: in the first phases of the event Jim Clarck bumped into Von Trips some meters before the Banking. The German's car became airborne and crashed into the crowd, causing 13 deaths. Von Trips himself was thrown off his car and died immediately. It was really a terrible experience for the world of races, six years after La Mans. Anyhow the race was not cancelled and after a suspension the race was restarted. Phil Hill at the wheel of Ferrari gained the first spot of the podium and became world champion the very same year. This tragedy marked the end of the use of the baking for F1 cars. Although no other serious incident happened on the high speed track, the new regulations of Formula One disapproved the use of the banking for F1. So, for some years the banking was used only in minor races and record settings. Nevertheless in 1965 it was decided to include the high speed ring again for the 100km of Monza.

Ferrari, reigning team in the Sport-Prototypes category and Ford, which intended to undermine Ferrari's leading position. Henry Ford, president of the Detroit industries, entered history by contesting Ferrari in the following sentence: "Every morning Ferrari is on the pages of all world's most famous newspapers thanks to their wins." Ferrari raced at Monza with their fast 330 P2 and 275 P2, while Fords were present with their GT40. just few minutes before 2 PM on 25 April the 34 cars present were ready on the starting grid. The pilots were driving on the complete track, with the road track and the high-speed ring, which was slowed down by a chicane. Ferraris were the absolute leaders of the day and their advantage from their rivals increased lap after lap with an enthusiastic crowd which was comparable only to the one of a modern GP. Mike Parkes and Jean Guichet crossed the line in the first position after almost 5 hours of race (with an average speed higher than 202 km/h) at the wheel of their 275 P2 ahead of John Surtees' and Lodovico Scarfiotti's 330 P2. Bruce McLaren and Ken Milles, at the wheel of their Ford GT40 conquered only the third position. The second edition of the 1000 km of Monza started under bad omens. As a matter of fact the day began under heavy rain which was unusual for the season. Ferrari obtained another great result in these conditions and was celebrated by the more than 25,000 spectators, who, despite cold and rain, remained at their places for all the duration of the race. The main theme of the 1000km was once again the fight between the "small" Ferraris and the huge Ford industries who tried to win with their GT40. Ferrari experienced strange failures at engines and windscreen wipers of their cars, and this forced the drivers to race in difficult visibility conditions. Despite this, the 330 P3 of the English duo formed by John Surtees (who was affectionately nicknamed "son of the wind" by his Italian supporters) and the tall Mike Parkes, who worked as test engineer at Maranello, lapped all other rivals. As a matter of fact Ferrari lapped also the Ford GT driven by Masten Gregory and the English "sir " John Whitmore at the long stand straight while the crowd was gone literally crazy with enthusiasm. Much was expected from Dino Ferrari's small car with a 2 litre engine which was in the hands of the all-Italian duo formed by Lorenzo Bandini and Lodovico Scarfiotti, but the wipers problems limited its race and the car ended the race in the tenth position. The race at Monza revealed itself to be very selective and this was a characteristic which marked also the subsequent editions. As a matter of fact 40 cars were on the starting grid and only 19 managed to finish the race. In 1967 the banking is still a main element of the 1000km race. This year's edition involved the challenge between the Ferrari 330 P4 and the futuristic Chapparal, the Texan car which was characterised by the high rear spoiler. After an hour during which the challenge between Ferrari and Chapparel was neverending the new American car was forced to retire from the race and the Italian car continued. The Italian cars also afford themselves the extraordinary luxury of challenging themselves. Unfortunately Scarfiotti and Parkes were at some point forced to reduce their speed due to a minor failure at their car. After 5 hours and 7 minutes from the beginning, the Ferrari 330 P4 of Bandini and Amon (the "unlucky champion") crossed the line in the first position, ahead of Scarfiotti-Parkes. Third, but first of the prototypes class "within 2000cc." was the Porsche 910 with Gerhard Mitter and Jochen Rindt, the rising star of the world motor sports. Without Ferrari, the main theme of the 1000km of Monza disputed in 1968 was the fight between Ford GT 40 (with drivers Ickx-Redman and Hobbs-Hawkins) and Porsche 907 (with drivers Stommelen-Neerpasch, Siffert-Hernwnn e Mitter-Scarfiotti). In reality it was an unequal challenge since the American 5 litre cars proved to be best suited to the very fast circuit as demonstrated by the fact that when Jacky Ickx and Brian Redman were forced to retire, their teammates Paul Hawkins and David Hobbs had no problems in conquering and keeping the lead of the race. Porsches were forced to pit more than once for various problems and only in the final steps, when Hawkins and Hobbs pitted to fuel, were Stommelen and Neerpasch able to gain a few second gap and conquered an advantage when the Ford reduced its speed in the last half hour. What resulted not possible with Ferrari was eventually possible for Ford with Porsche and the Amrican team conquered their first and only endurance race. In 1967 Ferrari expectancy of win was really high. The main fault of the "defaillance" of the Italian team was to use tyres which were not proper for the high-speed ring. That is why the cars of the prancing horse, which started the race in the first positions, were then forced to retire in front of more than 500,000 spectators, one during the lap 39 (Amon-Andretti) and the other during lap 67. Porsche then avenged themselves and won the race. Siffert was mainly responsible for the German car's win since he conducted a very cautious race. As a matter of fact he let his rivals go very fast in the early stages of the race and then overpassed them where they had troubles. Because of the change in cars, which were more and more powerful and with larger tyres, from 1970 the 1000km was hosted uniquely on the street track. The complete circuit started being used less and less and was used only for minor events and rare record settings.

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