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Reims 1956 - Peter Collins on pole?


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#1 Felix Muelas

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Posted 29 November 2001 - 00:24

I think it must have been at last 10 years since I last tried to solve -without much success- one of those minor items that do have the ability to annoy more when they become evident than one would reasonably expect.

Some of you would be familiar with the basic lines. Although Peter Collins obtained only the third time in practice he was mistakenly credited (David Hayhoe GPDB1 1989 page 165) with the best time and started the race from pole position.

At that moment (and I make this note because there is no sign of PP credited to Collins in GPDB 3rd ed) Hayhoe stated : Collins has been given the credit in this book.

So far so good.

Now, the other day an Argentinean aficionado asked me again about the subject. I took a fast look at three sources (Sheldon, Lang and Nixon´s Mon Ami Mate) and answered him accordingly. It must have been a misunderstanding, dear. No poles for Collins, I am afraid.

Not good enough, Mr Muelas, I was summoned immediately after. An email contained a list of sources that he had been handling where Collins pole was undoubted. The most confusing item was, of course, a picture taken at the start -and published in Roberto Carozzo´s Fangio biography where it is OBVIOUS that the man starting from the pole IS Collins. (It´s also obvious that the man in the middle is Castellotti -and not Musso, as quoted by the author- but regardless of the 8W ability of the editor, Collins is on the pole position).

Seven sources quoted by this aficionado (that include, and I don’t want to prejudge the validity of the other six by being in the same package as this one, Bruce Jones´ "Encyclopedia" of F1" -sorry, time for a cough, never thought I could end up calling that "a source" :blush: ) seem to imply that there was actually something happening that weekend in Reims.

As I was not there (but Headmaster Don Capps was, I think) and I have not found yet an explanation for the "mistake" my question now is not directed to know if Peter Collins made a time valid for PP -that I am taking for granted he did not- but to what happened?

He started from Pole - a fact that I don´t see Sheldon, Mike Lang or Chris Nixon even mention- but from there onwards somehow his performance was discussed, some authors taking a pragmatic view and some others just copying each other until completely disorientate several generations.

What really happened? How was it found to be a mistake? Who originated this mess?

And any other questions that, although not written, you might like to answer ;)

Thanks, as always

Un abrazo

Felix Muelas

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#2 Marcor

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Posted 29 November 2001 - 01:27

In a retrospective about the Ferrari-Lancia D50 written in 1979 and published in L'AUTOMOBILE, Christian Moity said: "All the Ferrari's drivers had a black armband in sign of mourning for the young Dino. During the practice, Fangio drove at more than 208 kph. Immediately after the start Fangio took the lead flanked by Collins and Castellotti..." and gave Fangio on pole with a time of 2' 23" 3, Castellotti (2' 24" 6) and Collins (2' 24" 9).

In 25 ANNI DI FORMULA 1 (Piero Casucci and Tommaso Tommasi, 1975) Collins was credited with a time of 2' 23" 3, Castellotti 2' 24" 6 and Fangio 2' 24" 9.

So I've also found two contradicting sources !!!!

#3 Barry Lake

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Posted 29 November 2001 - 04:26

From Autocourse, Volume VI, Number 5, August 1956.

"On the Wednesday preceding the race, Vanwall turned up for practice with three cars, their drivers being Hawthorn, Schell and Chapman, the latter making his first appearance at the wheel of a Formula 1 car.
First to lap at more than 200 km/h was Hawthorn, who duly carried off a prize of 100 bottles of champagne for doing so. But by the end of the day Collins (Ferrari) had recorded the best time in 2 mins 25.6 sees, next fastest being Schell in the leading Vanwall with 2 mins 26.8 sees against Hawthorn's 2 mins 27 secs.
Thursday's practice was enlivened by the appearance of Fangio, who showed the master's touch by setting a pace that no one else could match, recording 2 mins 23.3 secs. Bugatti sent two cars to this training session, but Trintignant could not persuade either to better 2 mins 42 sees. Before the end of the day British hopes were somewhat dimmed when Colin Chapman 'lost' his Vanwall through no fault of his own.
He was following Hawthorn at a respectful distance along the fast Route Nationale to the right-hand turn at Thillois, when a brake locked on at around 160 mph. Although Chapman did everything possible nothing would free the brake which naturally affected the stopping power of his car. All too soon he found himself right on the tail of Hawthorn who was on the left-hand side of the road preparing to take the Thillois turn, thus cutting Chapman off from the escape road. He did the only thing possible, gently shunting the tail of Hawthorn's Vanwall, but severely damaging his own as he slid off the road. Chapman's car was out of the race, but the other machine was easily repaired overnight.
It was noticeable that the Ferrari team which turned up for Friday's practice had all grown longer noses overnight, some-what reminiscent of the Vanwall. On this day Castellotti returned a best time with his Ferrari of 2 mins 24.6 secs against the fastest Maserati driven by Behra which went round in 2 mins 27.8 secs. Moss could do no better than 2 mins 29.9 secs.
Before the start of the Grand Prix on Sunday there was the usual last-minute switch of cars. Perdisa now had the injection Maserati whilst Taruffi was to drive a carburettor model in place of the injection car he had expected to drive. To confound the pit critics still more Fangio and Collins appeared to have swapped cars, although their numbers were as printed in the programme."


The grid shows Collins on pole, with Fangio's time (and car?), Fangio on the opposite side of the front row with Collins' time (and car?).

From memory, the rule at that time was that the car started from its correct grid position, according to the best time it had achieved, regardless of the driver. Although that must have changed later because, when a number one driver tried to get a team-mate's car higher on the grid, he had to go out "in disguise". My memory is telling me there have been instances of this, but no specifics are coming to mind... can anyone remember?

#4 dbltop

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Posted 29 November 2001 - 05:58

According to my records obtained solely from Steve Small's Grand Prix Whos Who,Fangio was on pole with Castellotti and Collins,Schell and then Chapman ahead of his teammate Hawthorn. Imagine that!!

#5 David McKinney

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Posted 29 November 2001 - 06:42

That's got to be the explanation, Barry.
It must have been a local Rheims tradition. In 1958 Godia started much higher up the grid than he should have, his time having been set when Fangio was trying the car. And I seem to remember there were other examples as well.

#6 Milan Fistonic

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Posted 29 November 2001 - 07:52

The Motor Yearbook 1957 has this to say about the 1956 French GP practice.

..Hawthorn joined Schell in the second Vanwall and startled everyone with a practice lap on the first evening at 2 min 27 sec...... Schell did 2 min 26.8... In reply, Collins scored 2 min 25.6 sec for Ferrari.

...The quite quietly, Fangio used a Spa (expendable) Ferrari to register 2 min 23.3 sec - 129.62 mph - which none could approach.

#7 Milan Fistonic

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Posted 29 November 2001 - 08:21

From DSJ's report in Motor Sport.

The front row contained three Lancia/Ferraris in the order Fangio, Castellotti and Collins, all three cars having normal nose cowlings, all attempts at streamlining having being discarded. Behind these three was an encouraging sight for the many British spectators present, for the next three fastest practice times were made by Vanwalls in the order Schell, Chapman and Hawthorn. Actually, Chapman's time had been made by Schell using his starting number, he not getting below 2min 36sec, but nevertheless it was three different Vanwall cars that had recorded the times.

#8 Felix Muelas

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Posted 29 November 2001 - 11:39

According to my own understanding of the contributions posted by Barry, Milan and Marc I think that I am pretty satisfied with David's conclusion : so there was quite some car swapping during practice and under one of those Reims traditions the side effect was actually having Peter Collins standing on the right front spot on the grid as if he was the pole position man.

To be strict, he started from Pole Position. We use to take for granted that the man that starts from that spot (in modern times, where grid positions are determined by practice times) is actually the author of the fastest time in practice but obviously, as we have seen, there are some minor exceptions. How to deal with those in our increasingly standarized world is a matter open for discussion, but in the meantime I thank you all for giving me enough useful information to put the question forward to my Argentinean friend. I am sure he will be slightly confused, but will develop an increasing attraction to History as a result!

Un abrazo,

Felix Muelas

#9 byrkus

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Posted 29 November 2001 - 12:11

I believe there is still a rule in Indianapolis, which qualifies a car and not a driver , which made a qualifying time. Or at least it was a few years ago...

#10 alessandro silva

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Posted 29 November 2001 - 13:42

The rule byrkus is talking about was also in force in European racing, and here there could be an answer to Felix's question. That was true not only in official practice but in races with heats and a final (see Gonzalez at the 1954 International Trophy). I have quite a few examples from the 40s.
It is also possible that each race had its own qualifying rules (for instance in early WDC times there was no uniformity among organizers as how to invite or accept entries) since single organizers and not FIA had the real power. In some race only times recorded on Friday (or Saturday) were valid towards forming the grid. Later reports record the fastest time per driver but not the day that it was scored so grids appear strange.
I'll look into the Reims book tonight to see if there some other explanation can be found.

#11 cabianca

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Posted 30 November 2001 - 06:07

Byrcus,
The rule at Indianapolis is a bit more complicated. Each car has three opportunities to qualify, no matter who drives it. Once it is qualified, the driver who qualified it must make the start. If another driver takes over the qualified car, it goes to the back of the grid, no matter how fast it qualified. Back when there was serious F1 participation at Indy, "ringer" drivers sometimes were paid simply to qualify cars for F1 drivers. Back then, Monte Carlo sometimes clashed with Indy Qualifying and the F1 drivers obviously could not be at both places. The F1 drivers would then start at the back of the 500 grid in the cars the ringers qualified.

#12 Roger Clark

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Posted 30 November 2001 - 09:02

I'm not sure that we've fully resolved this. Thre can be little doubt that Fangio set fastest lap at 2min 23.3, but that Collins started from the right hand side of the front row, normaly the pole position. But exactly what happend and why, I don't know.

THere were three practice sessions at Reims that year, on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. All counted for grid position. On Wednesday, Fangio did not practice, although there were five Lancia/Ferraris in the paddock. THere may be nothing significant in this, as Moss didn't practice either. On Thursday Fangio set fastest lap amazing observers by taking the corner after the pits without lifting and then revealing that he had done it one-handed because the car was jumping out of gear. I mention this because the contemporary reports all mention it, sugesting that they knew exactly which lap he had set fastest time. On Friday, the wind direction had changed and only Castellotti of the front runners improved his time.

Motor Sport reported all the above but didn't mention a change of cars, nor Collins starting from pole. THey didn't print a starting grid. Autosport did print a starting grid, with Collins given Fangio's time. A footnote said that positions appeared to have been changed, despite Fangio's time having been officially issued on Thursday evening. Motor Racing said that Collins and CAstellotti changed cars, following an arguement, the first of many in the Ferrairi team. WE should remember that most of the modern English language books and websites are likely to have used Motor Sport and Autosport as their primary source, except where they used other books and websites.

It is clear that there was car swapping going on, but not clear when it happened. I suggest that when Fangio set fastest lap he was wearing his own racing number, but that at some time between Thursday and Sunday the cars and numbers were changed. I think that this was a slightly different situation from that at Vanwall, where the drivers appeared to have been swapping cars during practice itself, althouggh whether the numbers weer changed, I don't know. It also suggests that Ferrari must have reported the change to the organisers, as it presumably happend in the garage in Reims.

#13 fines

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Posted 30 November 2001 - 12:36

Originally posted by cabianca
Byrcus,
The rule at Indianapolis is a bit more complicated. Each car has three opportunities to qualify, no matter who drives it. Once it is qualified, the driver who qualified it must make the start. If another driver takes over the qualified car, it goes to the back of the grid, no matter how fast it qualified. Back when there was serious F1 participation at Indy, "ringer" drivers sometimes were paid simply to qualify cars for F1 drivers. Back then, Monte Carlo sometimes clashed with Indy Qualifying and the F1 drivers obviously could not be at both places. The F1 drivers would then start at the back of the 500 grid in the cars the ringers qualified.

That is the modern version of this conundrum. Up until the fifties, a car qualified by a different driver still started from its original starting position. IIRC, 1960 was the first year a car went to the back of the field because of a driver change.

#14 Don Capps

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Posted 30 November 2001 - 16:39

Yes, I was there. However, I haven't a clue outside the suggestions already mentioned as to how the grid got the way it was. That year we were sitting out in the countryside rather than in the grandstands where we sat for the GP's from 1958 thru 1960 (in 1957 I was back in America for most of the Summer therefore missing many of the races that year). So, I didn't see the start, but I clearly remember the racing between the Lancias and the Vanwall of Schell.

As already mentioned, in addition to the regs that the CSI had concerning race procedures, each ACN or circuit had their own set of ground rules to make life baffling for future historians.... Besides, with Toto Roche on the case, only Inspector Closeau could make it more "interesting"....

#15 fines

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Posted 30 November 2001 - 19:11

Originally posted by Don Capps
Besides, with Toto Roche on the case, only Inspector Closeau could make it more "interesting"....

:lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol:

#16 Roger Clark

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Posted 30 November 2001 - 19:14

Was toto Roche running Reims at that time? The start was given by Charles Faroux. Drivers were asked to be careful at the start as he was getting on a bit and couldn't gey out of the was very quickly.

#17 Wolf

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Posted 30 November 2001 - 20:42

A bit far fetched assumption, but could it be the case that Fangio indeed was the pole sitter, but for some reason opted for starting on the left side of the track? Similar situations occured with Prost and Senna, when the latter punted off the former in a brattish fit when FIA ruled against their agreement... But, I guess, it does not explain Chapmans starting position.

#18 Felix Muelas

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Posted 30 November 2001 - 21:13

Originally posted by Roger Clark
I'm not sure that we've fully resolved this. Thre can be little doubt that Fangio set fastest lap at 2min 23.3, but that Collins started from the right hand side of the front row, normaly the pole position. But exactly what happend and why, I don't know.


It´s difficult for me to express my sensation better than how you did it, Roger. That´s exactly how I feel. And, besides the explanation, that we are seeking actively, there is that point, that I find very curious, of none of the usual reporters "sur place" actually mentioning the fact !

Any chance of having access, as Hans normally suggests, to original French reports?

Thanks

Felix

#19 Milan Fistonic

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Posted 01 December 2001 - 02:19

Gregor Grant (Editor of Autosport) in his 1959 book World Championship also seems to be confused about the issue. He writes:

Fangio did not turn out for the first training period, Ferraris arriving late. However, during the second session he did a fantastic 2m 23.3s (208.557 kph), which somehow or other, was credited to Collins.

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#20 Wolf

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Posted 01 December 2001 - 02:54

I just remembered another instance, which at the moment I don't have the time to look up (although I promise I'll post when/where tomorrow ;))- requires leafing through Lang's vol. 2. IIRC, JYS once qualified in two cars (different chassis, but might be different models as well) and since he used the chassis with slower qual time in the race, his best time (in other chassis) was disallowed and he had to start few places down the grid.

#21 Roger Clark

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Posted 01 December 2001 - 07:15

Originally posted by Wolf
A bit far fetched assumption, but could it be the case that Fangio indeed was the pole sitter, but for some reason opted for starting on the left side of the track? Similar situations occured with Prost and Senna, when the latter punted off the former in a brattish fit when FIA ruled against their agreement... But, I guess, it does not explain Chapmans starting position.


I wondered about that but (1) pole at Reims was always on the right and (2) published grids all seem to give Fangios 2min 23.3 to collins

#22 fines

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Posted 01 December 2001 - 13:20

Originally posted by Wolf
I just remembered another instance, which at the moment I don't have the time to look up (although I promise I'll post when/where tomorrow ;))- requires leafing through Lang's vol. 2. IIRC, JYS once qualified in two cars (different chassis, but might be different models as well) and since he used the chassis with slower qual time in the race, his best time (in other chassis) was disallowed and he had to start few places down the grid.

You might be thinking of Monza '70.;) Yes, until the end of '73 qualifying times were always firmly connected to the chassis in which they were achieved, but usually also to the driver. To me it seems that in the instance of Reims '56 (and very probably others, too) the car/chassis was more important than the driver.

#23 Roger Clark

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Posted 01 December 2001 - 18:06

To add a little spice, or possibly irrelevance, to this debate, Paul Sheldon says that Fangio and collins had a T-car at Reims, chassis number 0006. Don Capps says the same in his 8W special on the Lancia D50. Both say that this chassis was not used in the race. Yet motor Sport, which unfortunately does not mention chassis numbers, clearly says that there were five Lancia/Ferraris in the paddock, implying no spare car as there were five entries.

0006 is also given by Don and by Sheldon as the car crashed by Ascari at Monaco in 1955. Was that chassis rescued or was it just the chassis plate? 0006 appeared rarely in 1956, but the number (at least) was used extensively in 1957.

Lastly, Ferrai had a streamlined car at Reims. Apparantly the bodywork was detachable, leaving a normal Lancia/Ferrari underneath. But which car was it?

#24 oldtimer

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Posted 02 December 2001 - 22:48

Denis Jenkinson's Racing Car Review for the 1956 season reports that 5 cars were taken to Rheims. He shows a picture of one of the cars fitted with the detachable streamlining pieces and a T designation on the nose piece. The detachable pieces were a full width nose-piece and covers over each rear wheel. Jenks reports that the extra body pieces caused the car to be unstable in cross winds. First the rear wheel covers were removed, and then the nose-piece to leave a standard body and a return to square one. In another practice session, Ferrari tried the extended nose cowls, but did not use them in the race.

Collins car had number 14, Castelloti's number 12 (despite the demotion to no.3 driver after Collins win at Spa) and Fangio no.10.

In Jenks report, he constructed a graphic sentence which inferred that Fangio was taking the corner after the pit straight flat with one hand on the steering wheel, but without saying so as such. IIRC, he then followed the sentence with the query: World Champion? Pure DSJ

#25 Felix Muelas

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Posted 03 December 2001 - 08:48

Although I have to agree that some progress has been made since I last tried to find a reasonable answer to this question (ten years ago) thanks to bits and pieces of information provided by all of you, the basic query remains unanswered.

One would have assumed that, mistakenly or not, the fact that Peter Collins started from pole position would have generated some kind of comments either in his biographers, either in Fangio’s, either in any of the chronics of the time, and that those comments would have pointed out the reason for it.

Whilst not in a position to challenge any of the “accepted” facts about the practice (number of cars available, timing of the successive fast laps etc) I am increasingly inclined to believe that the “legendary” Fangio lap HAD to be taken by someone as being a lap to be credited to Collins. Maybe he was wearing number 14 at the time, maybe he was simply driving Collins’ car –with whatever number- or maybe it was simply a mistake.

Any of the three, though, leave unanswered the question of why nobody did comment on it. Fangio specially, aware of his pole time must have felt a bit weird being moved to the left side of the first row. But there’s not a single comment that I could find in any of his recollections.

All this, of course, taking for granted that the episode related by Jenks about the extraordinary Fangio lap doesn’t mix reality with fiction, and actually Peter Collins was the man that, at some point during the weekend, was able, with his own car, to lap the track in 2 23” 3…

Will we ever know?

Felix Muelas

#26 leegle

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Posted 03 December 2001 - 10:51

It seams to me that with such a long run to the first corner the pole position side would barely make a difference to anyone. : So possibly Fangio didn't care but it does seam that the weight of opinion favours the car setting the time as being the pole winner. :|

#27 Hans Etzrodt

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Posted 03 December 2001 - 12:53

Originally posted by Felix Muelas
.....The most confusing item was, of course, a picture taken at the start -and published in Roberto Carozzo´s Fangio biography where it is OBVIOUS that the man starting from the pole IS Collins. (It´s also obvious that the man in the middle is Castellotti -and not Musso, as quoted by the author- but regardless of the 8W ability of the editor, Collins is on the pole position)......

Felix,
After I looked at the picture in Carozzo's book on page 195, I cannot quite agree with the statement above and don't understand why it should be confusing. I also disagree that it is obvious that Collins started from pole. The picture obviously has been taken some seconds after the start, showing the three front row Ferraris in different positions than they had been at the grid.

For a moment, let's go back to the start and look at the cars standing in the first row on the Grid. We now stand behind the cars. Fangio (10) is at the left front, Castellotti (12) in the center and Collins (14) at the right front, the place usually reserved for pole position. (Note: this is not how the grid is shown in most books!)

Now, let's look at the 'Carozzo' picture, a long lens telephoto shot: Castellotti (12) with white helmet leads and is at the left, Fangio (10) follows immediately behind his rear wheel and about 1 meter to the right and Collins (14) about another car length behind between both these cars. When the cars accelerated from the grid, Fangio must have moved in front of Collins from the left side to the right. These observations should be very clear to anybody looking at the picture. Therefore my question of why this should be confusing?

About Fangio trading place with Collins: Could it be that Fangio took over Collins' car and therefore had to accept Collins' qualification time for this car? He then also had to change the numbers because No. 10 car was placed at the left of the front row.

#28 Milan Fistonic

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Posted 03 December 2001 - 19:02

Originally posted by Felix Muelas
... The most confusing item was, of course, a picture taken at the start -and published in Roberto Carozzo´s Fangio biography where it is OBVIOUS that the man starting from the pole IS Collins. (It´s also obvious that the man in the middle is Castellotti -and not Musso, as quoted by the author- but regardless of the 8W ability of the editor, Collins is on the pole position).


I don't understand why you say the photo in Carozzo's book is taken at the start. There are no other cars visible unlike the photo I have in Road and Track which shows (looking at the front of the cars) Collins on the left in No 14, slightly ahead of Castellotti in the centre of the track and Fangio an equal distance behind on the right of the track.

Perhaps your copy of the book has a different photo as the drivers are correctly identified in mine.

#29 Roger Clark

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Posted 03 December 2001 - 19:08

Hans/Felix,

I'm sure that the picture you refer to was not taken immediately after the start but at some time into the race. If it was the start, the tribunes would be visible. The three Ferraris spent some time running abreast, particularly when Schell was trying to find a way past. I have another picture which was definitely taken after the start. It was probably taken from the Dunlop bridge and shows the entire field. The leaders are just about level with the end of the pits. It shows Collins in the lead, slightly to the right of the centre of the road, as viewed by the driver. Castellotti is a car's length back to the left of the road centre, Fangio is two lengths further back close to the right hand edge. All consistent with Collins being on pole.

Another picture, taken from the tribune shows the cars on the grid before the start. It's less clear, but I'm fairly sure that Fangio is on the left.

Fangio's fastest practice lap, and his taking the Virage du Calvaire flat was also mentioned by Gregor Grant in his Autosport report.

#30 Hans Etzrodt

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Posted 03 December 2001 - 20:38

The book REIMS, VITESSE CHAMPAGNE ET PASSION byDominique Dameron-Derauw, Cyrille Mélin and Jean-Pierre Mélin, 1998 has a tiny picture displayed on page 146, showing the front row of the starting grid, as seen from the right front just before the cars take off. Fangio (10) is at the left, Castellotti (12) in the center and Collins (14) at the right on PP, closest to the camera.

....and to Felix's dismay, this book (!!!) of all our sources, does not make any reference as to why Collins is on PP with Fangio's qualifying time.

#31 Felix Muelas

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Posted 03 December 2001 - 22:43

Milan, Roger, Hans :kiss:

Before you start wondering if I have suddenly lost my mind completely, :cat: let me post the picture I am talking about. I do not know :confused: what picture is included in your Carozzo´s book -obviously a different one, if only because I am referring to the original book in Spanish and because it´s not on page 195- but this is the one I was talking about...

Posted Image

Do you agree that this is probably the start, with not that much room -in time or space- for changing positions between the first three?

Should I plan to retry this question in year 2011? :(

Un abrazo

Felix

#32 Felix Muelas

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Posted 03 December 2001 - 22:48

Originally posted by Hans Etzrodt

About Fangio trading place with Collins: Could it be that Fangio took over Collins' car and therefore had to accept Collins' qualification time for this car? He then also had to change the numbers because No. 10 car was placed at the left of the front row.


If I could only find one source confirming your theory, I will be very tempted to take it as a very reasonable explanation :love:

Alas...

Felix

#33 oldtimer

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Posted 04 December 2001 - 00:50

Originally posted by Milan Fistonic
From DSJ's report in Motor Sport.

The front row contained three Lancia/Ferraris in the order Fangio, Castellotti and Collins, all three cars having normal nose cowlings, all attempts at streamlining having being discarded. Behind these three was an encouraging sight for the many British spectators present, for the next three fastest practice times were made by Vanwalls in the order Schell, Chapman and Hawthorn. Actually, Chapman's time had been made by Schell using his starting number, he not getting below 2min 36sec, but nevertheless it was three different Vanwall cars that had recorded the times.


But in his Racing Car Review and his Vanwall book, Jenks reports Chapman as a non-starter!

Thank you for the picture, Felix. I would say it is more than probable that it shows the start! You can pick out Moss, Schell and Hawthorn, and the slightly later, long distance shot shows all three well back from the Lancia-Ferrari trio, having been thoroughly out-accelerated. None of which explains why Collins was allowed to start from pole position.

Incidently, what a viewing point for the spectators!

#34 Barry Lake

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Posted 04 December 2001 - 01:39

Originally posted by Felix Muelas


If I could only find one source confirming your theory, I will be very tempted to take it as a very reasonable explanation :love:

Alas...

Felix


Felix

Isn't that just what Jerry Ames says in the Autocourse story I posted at the top of this thread? (Only in a slightly different way).

It is the way I had accepted that it happened.

#35 Milan Fistonic

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Posted 04 December 2001 - 02:26

Originally posted by oldtimer


But in his Racing Car Review and his Vanwall book, Jenks reports Chapman as a non-starter!


The Motor Sport report went on to say that Chapman was a non-starter and that Schell had the seond row to himself. I was just pointing out that he would have started fifth despite not setting the time himself.


That photo is not in my Carozzo book.

#36 Hans Etzrodt

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Posted 04 December 2001 - 04:28

My English version of the book FANGIO My Racing Life by Roberto Carozzo, was published 1990 by Patrick Stephens Limited, England.

The picture on page 195 is indeed a different one than that displayed by Felix here at TNF. I shall mail this plus the grid picture out of the Reims book to the unfailing Felix for his research file.;)

#37 Roger Clark

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Posted 04 December 2001 - 13:19

I think there can be no doubt that Collins started from pole, nor that Fangio set fastest practice time. The only reasonable explanation is that there was a change of cars. The question is when did that happen? did Fangio set his fastest lap in a car bearing Collins' number or did they change afterwards? I think that if the former was the case, one of our contemporary sources would have mentioned it, particularly aas they seem to have been aware of the lap on which Fangio set his fastest time. There is also Autosport's assertion that practice times were published in Thursday evening giving Fangio 2min 23.3; it was only when the final grid was published that this was given to Collins.

I would therefore conclude that the swop took place on Friday or SAturday. This is consistent with Motor Sport, Autosport and Autocourse, if not fuly confirmed by any of them. Interestingly, the Autosport grid shows Collins on pole with 2min 23.3 and Fangio on the outside of the front row with 2min 24.9. The text says that Fangio set this time in Friday practice, suggesting that the change had ocurred by then.

I'm still interested in the possibilty of a spare car (0006). It could be involved in this. Can Don remember his source for that information.

Regarding Ferrari nose, they had two special designs at Reims. One was a full width sports car-like nose fitted to the streamlined car, the other was an extension to the noses of all the cars, tried in practice on Thursday.

#38 Tony Kaye

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Posted 04 December 2001 - 21:43

I wonder if Roger hit upon the reason for the change way back in this thread.

1956 was to be Charles Faroux' last French Grand Prix as he was a trifle beyond his sell-buy date by then. His starting procedure involved standing very close to the track, dropping the flag and then stepping back as fast as his old legs would permit. As Roger states, at the pre-race meeting the drivers were specifically warned to be careful about him. Maybe, as team leader, Fangio simply arranged with Collins to change places on the grid so that he would not be baulked at the start by one elderly Frenchman. From his conduct throughout the 1956 season we can be sure that Collins would have willingly agreed to such a request.

#39 Felix Muelas

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Posted 04 December 2001 - 22:49

Originally posted by Tony Kaye
...maybe, as team leader, Fangio simply arranged with Collins to change places on the grid so that he would not be baulked at the start by one elderly Frenchman. From his conduct throughout the 1956 season we can be sure that Collins would have willingly agreed to such a request.


:eek: :clap: :clap: :clap: :eek:

What can I say? Sounds feasible, makes sense and will fit perfectly within the legend definition, as I posted the other day on the March thread :

Originally posted by Felix Muelas
Time for the non-English speakers like myself to look up the dictionary :

Main Entry: leg·end .....
1 a : a story coming down from the past; especially : one popularly regarded as historical although not verifiable :lol: :lol: :lol:
Felix


The question remains, Tony that, should things have happened as your "wondering" one would have expected to read a comment about it from somebody, be this Collins, Fangio or any of the -surely perplexed- witness when, without previous knowledge of such an agreement, they would see and notice that there had been a swap on the grid...Well, at last that´s what I am looking for.

Anyway, I have to reckon that your theory surely sounds pretty original, and I :love: that!

Un abrazo,

Felix

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#40 Wolf

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Posted 04 December 2001 - 23:34

But, Felix, that would, as I've mentioned before, leave us with Chapman mystery... We should be looking for the explanation for both things. I think Milan's DSJ qoute (esp. the bold bit) hints the craved solution. Since Schell made the time attributed to Chapmans car, yet started behind him- the very same thing as with Fangio and Collins, the theory of qualifying time being attributed to a car seems to explain both occurences.

#41 oldtimer

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Posted 05 December 2001 - 00:51

With respect, I'm not too sure Fangio would have been greatly interested in getting an immediate advantage at the start. It wasn't his style, and team orders were obviously in play when Harry Schell interrupted the trio's demonstration run, so he didn't need any immediate advantage.

Would the assignment of practice times to cars rather than drivers been a quirk of the organisers?

#42 Tony Kaye

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Posted 05 December 2001 - 02:39

Not convinced by the startline snafu theory? Well, try this.............

The following year the French Grand Prix was transferred to Rouen, but a full-blown Formula 1 race was still held at Reims. This is what happened.

Fangio, as was his custom, set fastest lap in practice, 2'23.3", exactly the same time as he had recorded in the Lancia-Ferrari in 1956. This of course placed him in pole position on the pits side of the track. I checked Sheldon's black book just to make sure. Again, as in 1956, one of his team mates, Behra, made third fastest time, which put him on the left side next to the grandstands. Again I confirmed with Sheldon. What happened next was pure farce, which was well described in Denis Jenkinson's eyewitness report.

While the (starting) flag was up some of the back row were being push-started and Brabham arrived in the Cooper minus his crash hat, but with the engine running, and he joined on the back of the grid. The starter was reaching the last few seconds when the rotund Monsieur Roche, the chief organizer, realised the cars at the back were being push-started and having a yellow flag in his hand he waved to them to desist. Unfortunately he was standing in the middle of the track about ten yards ahead of row 1, and seeing a flag twitch everyone let in the clutch and roared away. Monsieur Roche ran for his life, BEING MISSED NARROWLY BY BEHRA'S MASERATI and the bewildered starter dropped the flag long after the front row had passed him.


Behra had to back off and was passed by several cars before he could get away. In fact he was lucky not to have been hit from the rear.

Now, why was Behra the victim of this coq 'up, as the French would say. Surely the most likely candidates would have been Fangio on the right or Lewis-Evans in the middle of the front row. Not so, because this was exactly the kind of catastrophe that Fangio had feared in 1956 and it was the same premonition that led him to change places on the grid with Behra in 1957. Yes, he did it two years running, first with Collins, then with Behra. Sheldon's grid is wrong. Once again, Fangio the pole man, started from the left and Behra from the right. How can I be sure? Well I have a fine videotape of the race (thanks Speedvision) and there is absolutely no doubt that Behra was on the pits side and Fangio by the grandstands. The video shows the shambles at the start and the commentary even mentions Behra's problems. It couldn't be clearer.

We are dealing here with facts. Two years running Fangio should have been on pole, but in both years he exchanged positions with a team mate who happened to have third best practice time. That's too much to be a co-incidence. And Behra's predicament just proved the wisdom of Fangio, who wasn't just fast, he was race-savvy. He had probably seen the possibility of such a situation in his earlier races at Reims and was just lucky that he had team mates who made third best time. Incidentally this also may explain why in 1956 he exchanged places with Collins, well out of the way on the far side, rather than with Castellotti in the middle.

Felix, I rest my case.

#43 Barry Lake

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Posted 05 December 2001 - 03:54

A good theory - and very Fangio-like.

In later times it was decided the pole man could have his choice of starting position (left or right of the front row. (Does anyone remember the first recorded instance of this? It's trying to climb out of my log-jammed memory, but is having a struggle).

Perhaps back in 1956-1957 there was no rule to allow pole man to make a choice, so the easy way out was to "confess"to the organisers that the pole man had actually set the time in his team mate's car... therefore, they will have to swap places...

#44 Roger Clark

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Posted 05 December 2001 - 13:48

THe book REIMS, VITESSE CHAMPAGNE ET PASSION byDominique Dameron-Derauw, Cyrille Mélin and Jean-Pierre Mélin is also wrong in its grid, although the time it gives to Fangio is different from Sheldon.

THere was a lot of swapping of Maseratis in 1957, so that explanation is also feasible.

#45 David J Jones

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Posted 05 December 2001 - 16:37

This is an interesting topic.

For my couple of pennys worth I would happily go along with any of the suggestions made so far by all the contributors.

I do think that JMF was a wily old bird though and I feel that he would have wanted to be as far away from Toto as he could possibly get. Maybe also the track was faster at that point which would also aid the start.

Just a thought.

#46 Barry Lake

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Posted 06 December 2001 - 09:06

I suspect the left hand side of the grid MIGHT have been better than the right side at Reims for the same reason it is so at many modern GP circuits.

The first corner is a right hander. Cars would tend to run on the left hand side of the road in preparation for starting the corner from as far left as possible.

Therefore, that side of the road should have less dust and be less slippery, allowing a better start.

As well, the driver on the left at the start is already lined up for the fastest line through the first corner.

I am doing this from the top of my head, without seeing the photos referred to above. The descriptions of those pics sound like they might disprove this theory - at least to a degree, with the cars sitting more towards the centre of the road.

Can those with easy acces to these photos tell me what they suggest, in terms of where the cars ran at this particular point on the straight?

#47 oldtimer

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Posted 06 December 2001 - 19:37

Collins made the best start, and all three Ferraris left everyone else in the dust so to speak. Accustomed as we now are to grip factors being critical in take-off from starting grids, even with the dreaded LC, I don't think they were a factor in those days. Likewise, to some extent, the entry line to the next corner. I suspect that Fangio knew that he could deal with anyone, anytime, on the high speed sweeper.

#48 Roger Clark

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Posted 06 December 2001 - 20:24

We seem to have three theories:

1) that Fangio chose to start on the left because he thought he could make a faster start from there, either bacause the road was less slippery or because he would be ligned up better for the first corner.

2) that he chose to start on the left to avoid the starter (Faroux in 56, roche in 57)

3) that his fastest lap time was disallowed in both 56 and 57 because of a change of cars.

Regrarding theories 1) and 2), I cannoit understand why nobody else chose to do the same in later years. Fangio's racing knowledge may have been enough to give him the idea, but other drivers and team managers would surely have realised what was going on. Why did nobody do the same in later years?

The start at Reims was well back from the corner, before the start of the pit area, so it is unlikely that the line for the first corner would be relevant.

Regarding theory 3) we already have some information on 1956. In 1957, Fangio set fastest lap in all three practice sessions. On Wednesday and Thursday he drove one of the cars raced at rouen, probably Menditeguy's. On Friday, three more Maseratis arrived at Reims, one of the 1956 Monza offset cars, and two V12s. Fangio drove the Monza car in Friday practice and in the race. Friday was his slowest day of the three, slower than Lewis-Evans best time. The difficulty with this threory is that Behra would appear to have started from pole, yet as far as I can see, Lewis Evans was faster than him in every practice session. The theory is only plausible if Berhra raced the car Fangio drove on Wednesday and Thursday and if the Argentinians practice time gave Behra pole.

However, we do know of other instances where practice times at Reims related to the car, not the driver.

It seems to me that we might as well put this to the vote...

#49 Tony Kaye

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Posted 07 December 2001 - 03:57

"I cannot understand why nobody else chose to do the same in later years (i.e. to start on the left to avoid the starter). Fangio's racing knowledge may have been enough to give him the idea, but other drivers and team managers would surely have realised what was going on. Why did nobody do the same in later years?"

The simple answer is that in 1958 they couldn't. Hawthorn in a Ferrari was on pole, but Schell in a rival BRM took the vital third spot on the left. In 1960 Brooks was fastest in practice and his team mate Phil Hill was third. By this time I don't think there had been any further startline incidents, so there was no reason to change. Brooks kept the right-hand spot allotted to the pole winner and led into the first corner.

But how about a FOURTH explanation, which I think has a lot going for it. The Reims race usually took place as the climax of a racing fest. There was the 12-hour sports car race, a Formula 2 event and finally the Grand Prix. Plus, of course, all the practice sessions for the many, many cars involved. The pits side of the track would have been on the normal racing line, so when it was time for the Grand Prix to start that part of the track would have been dirty with "rubber dust and a thin coating of oil" as Gregor Grant put it. Not exactly the ideal surface for a rapid standing start.

In 1958 Autosport stated that "as the drivers congregated for the final instructions" one of the drivers "passed the gen that the corner past the pits was more slippery than usual, and that it was not flat-out as in practice."

That driver happened to be a veteran Argentinian taking part in his last race at Reims, so it didn't really matter if he at last gave away his little secret!

#50 Roger Clark

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Posted 07 December 2001 - 08:53

The pits side of the track would have been on the normal racing line



Would it? If they were lining up for the corner they would have been on the other side. We seem to have one theory that Fangio wanted to be on the racing line, another that he wanted to be off it!

In 1958 Autosport stated that "as the drivers congregated for the final instructions" one of the drivers "passed the gen that the corner past the pits was more slippery than usual, and that it was not flat-out as in practice."



And it was trying to take the corner flat that caused the death of poor Luigi Musso.

Incidentally in 1957, the organisers awarded a special prize to any driver who broke the lap record on Thursday practice. Fangio won 300 bottles of champagne. He gave 100 bottles to his Maserati mechanics, and, according to Autosport, 50 bottles to the Ferrari mechanics who had prepared his car the year before. Who else would do that?