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1955 Belgian GP: Valenzano & Uhlenhaut


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#1 William Hunt

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Posted 30 May 2020 - 02:42

Found this amazing resumé footage on youtube of the Belgian GP of 1955, a highlight of the weekend of that race:

 

Now interesting is that it also showed images of the practice sessions and the day before the race it was raining and during this session Mercedes engineer + test and apparently also reserve driver for this race, Rudolf Uhlenhaut, participated in that practice sesssion in the Mercedes T car that Stirling Moss also drove.

 

One can wonder if Uhlenhaut shouldn't be on the official stats of that race since he drove in an official F1 practice session, although only with the T-car. We've seen other GP's where drivers who only did a practice session are still mentioned as having participated in that GP Weekend. Now off course Uhlenhaut wasn't on the official entry list and he didn't have a number (the car he drove didn't have a number but the letter 'T').

 

The term T-car, for the back-up / reserve car, was still used well in to the '90s and early 2000s, I always asumed that term originated from the 'training car' but I'm unsure whether that's true, can anyone confirm this?

 

However Harry Schell, who had practiced in Trintignant's Ferrari nr.4 is mentioned as a 'non starter but practiced' in several sources but he wasn't on the official entry list! He might have been Ferrari's reserve driver that weekend but if he is mentioned then why wasn't Uhlenhaut mentioned?

 

There have been examples of third / reserve drivers who were mentioned in race reports. Gianbattista Guidotti comes to mind but he did have a race number on the entry list on both occassions (the British GP of 1950 and the Swiss GP of 1951) but he would never enter a race. Guidotti was a mechanical engineer and test driver for Alfa Romeo and someone who won the Mille Miglia together with Tazio Nuvolari back in 1930.

 

Now there was a driver that race on the entry list who didn't show up but he never appeared on any other F1 entry list. His name was Piero Valenzano and he was entered by the official Lancia team. He didn't show up because Lancia withdrew their works team shortly before the race, they still allowed Eugenio Castellotti to enter the race but as a private entrant. A third Lancia was initially entered for Luigi Villoresi.

 

Now I don't know much about Valenzano, just that he had also entered Le Mans that year in an official Maserati car. Looking at his profile at the oldracingcarswebsite there isn't much info about him, nor any noticable results, there either and his Le Mans entry isn't even mentioned there: https://www.racingsp...alenzano-I.html

 

So who knows more about Valenzano? Was he any good? He must have been a decent driver since the works Lancia team had entered him.

 

23 cars were officially entered for the Belgian GP of 1955 but only 16 of practiced that weekend (17 if you include Uhlenhaut in the 'T' car Mercedes), only 14 are mentioned in qualification (Schell was not and neither was Piero Taruffi who I assume may not have showed up at Spa that weekend, he was entered for Ferrari) and just 13 started the race, home driver (and talented Jazz music artist) Johnny Claes missed out on it with a broken engine on his Maserati, entered by Stirling Moss Ltd...

 

The Gordini's of Elie Bayol & Robert Manzon, like the Lancia factory team, didn't show up at Spa. Neither did the Filipinetti Gordini of Jacques Swaters, the second Vanwall of Ken Wharton (or maybe he was still there as a reserve driver? Only Hawthorn seems to have driven the Vanwall that weekend. The Maserati of Bira and the Ecurie Nationale Belge Ferrari of Gendebien didn't show up either.

 

So my questions about this weekend: - who was this Piero Valenzano really?

                                                           - Why was Uhlenhaut, who drove the Mercedes T car in an official practice session, nowhere mentioned in reports of that weekend?

                                                           - what is the origin of the term 'T-Car'?  (does it come from 'training car' as I had always assumed?)

                                                          

In the end this was one of the F1 races with fewest cars on the grid but nevertheless the race was pretty entertaining and Castellotti was awesome, scoring a pole position and raw pace during the race. Karl Kling also drove a pretty good race until his car broke down but Fangio & Moss were in a class of their own.


Edited by William Hunt, 30 May 2020 - 13:42.


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#2 Tim Murray

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Posted 30 May 2020 - 03:45

Here’s an earlier thread with info on both the Valenzano brothers:

Gino Valenzano

I don’t understand why it was Piero, not Gino, who was apparently entered by Lancia for the 1955 Belgian GP. Gino was much more experienced and better known. He was (according to Chris Nixon) a close friend of Gianni Lancia and had driven for the Lancia works team for some years.

https://www.racingsp...alenzano-I.html

Their entries on Motorsport Memorial provide more info on both brothers:

http://www.motorspor...F&db2=ms&n=1429

http://www.motorspor...hp?db=ct&n=1510

So why Piero and not Gino at Spa?

#3 Red Socks

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Posted 30 May 2020 - 07:06

Both Spa and Le Mans were events held on closed public roads. 

In order to regularise the closure it may be that the organisers /authorities have to state that in effect the road is now a racetrack. 

However it may be that the event, in terms of the competition element , does not begin until later. So the formal road closure can be 24 hours before the formal race meeting begins

Hence it is possible for driver/drivers to take to the track outside the competitive event , but on closed roads, with the consequence that they are recorded as having driven but only outside/not having taken part in the official race meeting.

In effect untimed free practice before the event ,


Edited by Red Socks, 30 May 2020 - 07:08.


#4 Roger Clark

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Posted 30 May 2020 - 08:33

I think it is a mistake to ascribe the formality of today to the more relaxed world of 65 years ago. It was not unusual for a driver to try a car from another team, for example Moss in a Cooper at Monaco 1958 or a Scarab two years later. I don’t think many people would seriously say that he participated in those cars. 
 

Uhlenhaut would often try a Mercedes during practice, partly to see whether the drivers were telling him the truth about the car, but also because the team had a policy that one car should cover a complete race distance during practice. I think the policy was introduced after the failures at Monaco, so Spa would have been the first. 
 

a more creative use of reserve drivers was practiced by Maserati. At Monaco 1955 they nominated the chief mechanic, Gino Bertocchi, as reserve driver.  The rules said that no more than two mechanics could work on a car during the race. When challenged that Maserati had three, Bertocchi said: “I’m not a mechanic, I’m a driver”. Source Continental Notes, July 1955. 



#5 Michael Ferner

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Posted 30 May 2020 - 11:01

Roger is quite right, modern statistics don't fit past times (or is it the other way round?   ;)). There were also always lots of chief mechanics testing cars during official practice at Indy, because most of those mechanics were former drivers anyway, but I don't see Harry Stephens, Frank McGurk or Danny Oakes listed as non-qualifiers. Nothing to do with road closed orders, or the official time table!


Edited by Michael Ferner, 30 May 2020 - 11:03.


#6 Sterzo

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Posted 30 May 2020 - 12:54

The term T-car, for the back-up / reserve car, was still used well in to the '90s and early 2000s, I always asumed that term originated from the 'training car' but I'm unsure whether that's true, can anyone confirm this?

Can't quote a source (other than dodgy memory), but it was T for Test, as in le test. International rules at the time being in French, of course. Even though the French are more likely to use the word essais.



#7 Doug Nye

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Posted 30 May 2020 - 13:00

I think it is a mistake to ascribe the formality of today to the more relaxed world of 65 years ago. It was not unusual for a driver to try a car from another team, for example Moss in a Cooper at Monaco 1958 or a Scarab two years later. I don’t think many people would seriously say that he participated in those cars. 
 

Uhlenhaut would often try a Mercedes during practice, partly to see whether the drivers were telling him the truth about the car, but also because the team had a policy that one car should cover a complete race distance during practice. I think the policy was introduced after the failures at Monaco, so Spa would have been the first. 
 

a more creative use of reserve drivers was practiced by Maserati. At Monaco 1955 they nominated the chief mechanic, Gino Bertocchi, as reserve driver.  The rules said that no more than two mechanics could work on a car during the race. When challenged that Maserati had three, Bertocchi said: “I’m not a mechanic, I’m a driver”. Source Continental Notes, July 1955. 

 

I believe that chief mechanic Bertocchi was actually named Guarino - not Gino - but he was such a little bruiser as a kid that his mum had nicknamed him 'Guerrino' - in effect 'little warrior'...and it stuck.  

 

A brother (or cousin?) Gino was an engine tester working for Maserati at the same period, but he was not capo meccanico/collaudatore (test driver).  

 

Guerrino Bertocchi was very fond of asking the rhetorical question "Who held the lap record testing at Modena?  Fangio? Moss? Behra?  Nah!..." - and he would thump his big, muscular, work-hardened right thumb against his chest and bark "Io!" - "me".  

 

I once interviewed him in Modena after he had been fired by Citroen-Maserati and had moved to De Tomaso, for whom his son Ing. Aurelio was working.  Just days after our meeting poor Bertocchi Sr was killed riding in an RHD demonstrator De Tomaso Deauville (?), being driven by a Dutch would-be customer. Aurelio Bertocchi would also lose his life in an accident on the public road.  Very sad...

 

DCN



#8 William Hunt

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Posted 30 May 2020 - 14:03

if you look at the Le Mans 1955 entry list you will see that Maserati had initially entered 5 cars for it. Two cars in the 3 liter category, one in the 2 liter class and two with 1.5 liter engine. The 1.5 ones never materialised and never had any drivers confirmed for it so they arrived in France with 3 cars.

Those were the nr. 15 for Roberto Mieres and Cesare Perdisa, the nr 16 for Luigi Valenzano (Gino) & Luigi Musso and the 2 liter car with nr. 31 driven by the half Italian half Argentine Carlo Tomasi & Francesco Giardini. Two of those entries had an official reserve driver (who didn't end up driving the car in the race, Jean Behra on the nr 16 and 'Valenzano' on the nr 31. 

 

I believe that the reserve driver on the nr 31 car was Piero Valenzano but according to the database website racingsportscars that reserve driver was Luigi Valenzano who drove the nr. 16, I think that's a mistake on their website because I've seen a source somewhere else that claims that it was Piero (and not Luigi) on the entry list as reserve driver for the nr 31 Maserati.

https://www.racingsp...1955-06-12.html

 

Here's Luigi (Gino) his page on that site, it mentiones he was entered on two cars, one as a reserve

https://www.racingsp...alenzano-I.html

 

And here's Piero's page claiming that he never entered Le Mans '55, I believe he was that reserve driver on the nr. 31 and that he was there in that capacity (I've seen it mentioned somewhere else)

https://www.racingsp...alenzano-I.html

 

Gino (Luigi) was clearly the more well known of the Valenzano brothers. I hadn't really heard much (if at all) of his brother Piero until I saw his name on that Spa entry list. It just seemed really odd to me that a driver with such an insignificant racing CV as Piero would be entered as a works Lancia driver at Spa in F1, had they chosen his better known brother Gino that would make more sense to me.

Apparently Piero was killed on July 10 of 1955, driving a Maserati on a road race in Italy where his brother also entered, that was just one month after the Belgian GP, Maserati immediately withdrew their cars from that race after the accident (the race was won by Olivier Gendebien in a Mercedes 300SL ahead of Castellotti & Cabianca):

https://www.racingsp...1955-07-10.html


Edited by William Hunt, 30 May 2020 - 14:22.


#9 Eric Dunsdon

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Posted 30 May 2020 - 16:33

Gino Valenzano was something of a household name in our house when I were a lad, or at least in my part of it!. An ace Italian driver for Lancia and Maserati. What's not to like?.



#10 JoBo

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Posted 30 May 2020 - 23:50

I believe that chief mechanic Bertocchi was actually named Guarino - not Gino - but he was such a little bruiser as a kid that his mum had nicknamed him 'Guerrino' - in effect 'little warrior'...and it stuck.  

 

A brother (or cousin?) Gino was an engine tester working for Maserati at the same period, but he was not capo meccanico/collaudatore (test driver).  

 

Guerrino Bertocchi was very fond of asking the rhetorical question "Who held the lap record testing at Modena?  Fangio? Moss? Behra?  Nah!..." - and he would thump his big, muscular, work-hardened right thumb against his chest and bark "Io!" - "me".  

 

I once interviewed him in Modena after he had been fired by Citroen-Maserati and had moved to De Tomaso, for whom his son Ing. Aurelio was working.  Just days after our meeting poor Bertocchi Sr was killed riding in an RHD demonstrator De Tomaso Deauville (?), being driven by a Dutch would-be customer. Aurelio Bertocchi would also lose his life in an accident on the public road.  Very sad...

 

DCN

Doug, Bertocchi`s son Aurelio was also working for Maserati. When his father had been fired by the Citroen-Maserati management (they had their reasons to fire the old man..! Manyyears later, when I asked Cozza about contact details of the Bertocchi family I got "...ohhhh...molto delicato!!!"), Aurelio went with him to De Tomaso.

Aurelio later died on the same road as his father only some km apart.

 

JoBo


Edited by JoBo, 30 May 2020 - 23:51.


#11 Ray Bell

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Posted 31 May 2020 - 05:28

Originally posted by Roger Clark
I think it is a mistake to ascribe the formality of today to the more relaxed world of 65 years ago...

...Uhlenhaut would often try a Mercedes during practice... because the team had a policy that one car should cover a complete race distance during practice. I think the policy was introduced after the failures at Monaco, so Spa would have been the first. 


That's very interesting, Roger...

Today that would seem most unseemly, I guess. And even in the sixties we were told that Ford were running their Le Mans engines through lap cycles on the dyno for 24 hours in preparation for their assaults.

Just what would they be doing today?

And by the way, I feel sure I spotted Jenks in a pit during this clip talking to someone.

#12 Henk Vasmel

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Posted 31 May 2020 - 14:53

Another thing that is interesting, is the use of different starting numbers in practice. Although all numbers in the race are even numbers, odd numbers are used in practice. I have read before that this was intended to stop pirate programs to be sold on race day. 

The Mercedes-Benz team seems to be an exception to this, because on Saturday a number (12) is seen, while most other cars seem to begin their Sunday morning still with odd numbers and the even ones only appear when they are in the pit lane.

Ferrari's are spotted with (3), (5) and (7) for presumably (4), (2) and (6).

Maserati is seen with (9) for (28)

Vanwall is seen with (41) for (40)

Lancia is seen with (35) and (37) for (30) in the race. which of the two became (30)? I have D50-0003 for the race and D50-0002 for practice.

 

Anyone know any more ?



#13 RCH

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Posted 31 May 2020 - 15:28

Jenks appeared twice. 



#14 Doug Nye

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Posted 02 June 2020 - 18:10

Yes Henk - it was quite common amongst some Continental race organisers to apply different car IDs for practice and race.  Usually this took the form of different numbers on the cars but at Spa for the just-postwar Belgian GP - for example - they applied ID letters - as in A B C D etc - for practice but then numbers for the race itself.  I was always told this was indeed to prevent publication of pirate race cards or programmes - so diminishing the organisers' take of spectators' money.

 

I have just seen a photo of Caracciola - hmmm, or perhaps actually Rudi Uhlenhaut (?) - driving a Mercedes-Benz W154 at Donington in October 1938. The car is marked with no numbers but a big red 'P' instead.  Could stand for 'Prufung' - 'test' in German - or it might just have been a left-over from the preceding Italian GP where it could have indicated 'Prova' - 'test' in Italian.  I would, however, be surprised if D-B had left the Italian mark on the car so long - the Italian race at Monza having been run on September 11 while the Munich Crisis had then seen the Donington GP postponed from October 1 to October 22.

 

DCN


Edited by Doug Nye, 02 June 2020 - 18:11.


#15 PayasYouRace

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Posted 02 June 2020 - 18:27

Found this amazing resumé footage on youtube of the Belgian GP of 1955, a highlight of the weekend of that race:

 

 

I love this. It's what Drive to Survive would have been in the 1950s.