27th Pescara Grand Prix
Ran to Sports Car Racing Rules
With no sports car race counting for the Manufacturers' Championship at Buenos Aires this year and the Tourist Trophy again limited to G.T. cars, the fifth and last event of the 1961 series saw a return to Italy and, happily, to open road racing over the Pescara circuit.
Pescara, located midway on the Italian Adriatic coast boasts not only a large fishing and tourist industry, but one of the finest and toughest road racing circuits in the world. It's unfortunate that in the last few years the local club has been financially unable to stage major events, the last important one being the 1957 Formula One race won by Moss with a Vanwall. This year's race, the 27th "Gran Premio Pescara" continued a series perhaps best remembered for its pre-war Mercedes-Alfa battles when it was called the Coppa Acerbo. Not forgotten too is the winner of the first Pescara race in 1924, Enzo Ferrari, who was driving for Alfa in those days.
The circuit, made up entirely of roads in daily use, is over 15 miles long and triangular in shape. From the starting line, located on the edge of Pescara, the course goes through the outskirts of town before turning sharply to the right to begin its twisty climb into the hills. It passes various farms and vineyards until, between the villages of Spoltore and Cappelle suI Tavo, through which it runs, it reaches the highest point on the route. On the descent past Cappelle, which is the second corner of the triangle, the curves decrease in radius becoming quite fast as they lead onto the first of the two maximum-speed straights. This first long straight is slightly downhill and, barring headwinds off the Adriatic, is the fastest part of the course. At Monte silvano there's a 90° right leading onto the second straight paralleling the sea front. Just before reaching the finish line there's a tight artificial curve or chicane which was introduced before the war so that cars wouldn't be going past the pits and approaching town at top speeds. Summed up, the circuit possesses all the ingredients for a good test of cars and drivers.
Ferrari, with three victories and a second place to its credit this season, had already won the 1961 title, so there weren't the usual number or variety of competitors in the large-capacity sports car and G.T. categories.
The three-liter sports car class was composed of six entrants: three Ferraris opposed by three Maseratis. Scuderia Ferrari was represented by Richie Ginther and Giancarlo Baghetti, co-driving a rear-engined 2.4 liter V6 car. Centro Sud had on loan from the factory a Testa Rossa V12 with independent rear suspension, driven by Lorenzo Bandini and Giorgio Scarlatti. The third Ferrari was an older V12 Testa Rossa owned and driven by Georges Gachnang, a Swiss who had in'stalled a "home-made" wishbone independent rear suspension and had modified the body.
The two Maseratis of Scuderia Serenissima and that of Camoradi were giver full factory support with chief engine J Alfieri and head mechanic Bertocchi was pervising. Both the Serenissima cars were rear engine Tipo 63 models, one a fom cylinder version and the other a V12 Assigned to the 2.9 liter four was Nino Vaccarella. The three liter V12 was driven by Bonnier and was the most sensational looking (and sounding) car present
With its various cooling slots, protruding filler caps and four megaphoned exhaust pipes, one almost expected to find a "Pignatelli" badge on the nose rather than a trident! After Le Mans this car had had its wishbone independent rear suspension changed to a system that Maserati calls a "de Dion flessibile," one feature of which is that the coil springs are mounted horizontally. Study of this system wasn't overly encouraged by the Maserati people and since it appears to have been unsuccessful, it's doubtful if it will be seen again. Bonnier, though unhappy with the car's handling, was impressed by its power. He said there was so much urge that the car gave a lurch on every upshift, including the one from fourth into top gear. The Camoradi Maserati was the Tipo 61, which had won at Nurburgring. Team chief Lucky Casner did the driving himself.
Five 250 GT Berlinettas backed up the sports Ferraris, those of Mairesse and Abate going especially fast in practice. In the two liter sports car class the best time in practice was put up by Scarfiotti in a new Osca 2000 powered by a two in cam four cylinder engine and having wishbone independent rear suspension. Second fastest practice time was that of Boffa's Tipo 60 MaseratL A second factory Osca, a 1600 with Lr.s., was driven by Colin Davis.
The only Porsches entered were two 1.7 liter RS61s, both privately owned and driven, one by Spychiger, the other by Orthuber and Barth.
The race was held August 15, Italy's biggest summer holiday and a huge crowd turned up for four hours of racing and sunshine. The cars were lined up according to class rather than lap times. At the starter's "Via!" Casner was first away, followed by Ginther in the 246 Sport Ferrari. The Maserati led through the hills but as the road straightened out, Ginther went by. Tucking in behind, Casner tried to stay with the Ferrari by slipstreaming. He was soon forced "to give up this tactic and drop back as the differential in speed was such that the Ferrari tow was causing the Maser engine to over-rev. With the gap between them widening, the two Americans finished the first lap followed by the Berlinettas of Mairesse and Abate. At the end of this lap Bandini stopped his Ferrari at the pits to find the source of some leaking oil. Apparently the oil tank had been overfilled or had not been secured correctly.
Soon others began having troubles. On the approach to Spoltore, Bonnier had stopped with a broken half-shaft on the second lap. Nearby, on the following lap, Mairesse spun on a right hander, leaving the road and the race with a damaged front suspension. Ginther, who had been experiencing strange handling characteristics with the usually stable Ferrari, made a pit stop at the end of his third lap to see if all was well with the rear suspension. Satisfied that it was and that a full fuel load and unscrubbed tires had caused the unusual behavior, he rejoined the race 30 seconds later in third place behind Casner and Vaccarella.
Vaccarella, having made a slow start, was beginning to charge. Ginther wasted no time in passing Vaccarella and soon had the blue and white Camoradi car in sight, completing his fifth lap less than seven seconds behind Casner. As they went through the hills, the pointed prow of the Ferrari was almost touching the Maserati's tail before Ginther regained first position. Soon Vaccarella passed Casner too, but three laps later, the ninth, saw him forced out with a broken transmission. On this lap Ginther, who was finding the rugged circuit very much to his liking got around in 9: 55.5, a time which remained the fastest time of the day. At the end of lap 10 Ginther stopped for fuel, handing the car over to Baghetti. This was done quickly and the young Italian left the pits with the Ferrari still in the lead. At the end of his first and only lap, Baghetti came slowly into the pits with the left front wheel running out of line, probably the result of an encounter he had had with some haybales on the first day of practice.
Casner thus found himself in first with a commanding lead of over five minutes. Half a lap behind him was the V12 Ferrari now being driven by Scarlatti. Before stopping for fuel and being relieved, Bandini had patiently passed all the tailenders and then finally Boffa's Maserati, the Serenissima 250 GT of Abate and Orthuber's RS. There seemed, however, little this pair could do about the tremendous advantage Casner had at the end of two hours of racing. Having made a quick stop for benzina the Maserati was still ahead by almost four minutes and almost another minute was added to its lead when Scarlatti stopped and Bandini took over again.
Casner was on his 15th lap when once again the complexion of the race changed completely. He was attempting to get by a small slow-moving sports car which had been blocking his way as he approached and drove through Spoltore.
After repeatedly flashing his lights and blowing his horn, the small car moved over and Casner, thinking he had finally been noticed, started past. As he did, the other car again got in front of him. Taking avoiding action, the Maserati ran off the road and turned over. Trapped underneath, Casner received severe leg burns from spilling oil and water before he was extricated.
Bandini was now virtually assured of a victory which before had looked so remote and he wisely eased up. A hard-driving Abate was now in second place, after passing and pulling away from the Orthuber Porsche which was now being driven by Barth who, in turn, was well ahead of Boffa's Maserati.
1961 Manufacturers Championship Ferrari 34, Maserati 16, Porsche 14 and Osca 1.
Ferrari 250 GT