Site logo

The View From Over Here - The History of F1 in the US (Part One)

FEATURE BY JIM CASEY
07/05/2012

The first time I ever heard the words "Formula One" or "Grand Prix" was in the sports section of the Washington Post, in the build up to the first "Race of Two Worlds" held at Monza in 1957. The Italians had finished rebuilding the Monza oval section after the damage from World War II in 1955, and they were looking for a special event to bring attention to the now complete track. An event was proposed that would see the finest Grand Prix cars and drivers battle the best cars and drivers contesting the Indianapolis 500 and the USAC oval series.

The cars were similar in size, and though the American cars were heavier, they also had more power from their supercharged NOVI engines and their turbocharged Offenhausers.In order to lure as many American cars as possible, the race would be contested only on the banked oval, and the cars would run in a counterclockwise direction, as the American cars were built to turn left only.

The American contingent consisted of Jimmy Bryan, Eddie Sachs, Pat O'Connor, Andy Linden, Troy Ruttman, Tony Bettenhausen, Johnnie Parsons, and Ray Crawford. The recently formed Grand Prix Drivers Association had some misgivings about the speeds that would be attained on the banking, and after a few test sessions, with the cars bouncing and rattling on the concrete, all of the Grand Prix teams abandoned the event, leaving the promoters with a race of one world, certainly not the first or last time a race failed to live up to the hype. The qualifying speeds being run by the American cars were spectacular, over 170 mph at a time when the pole at Indianapolis was won with a speed just over 140 mph.

With the departure of the Grand Prix teams, the Ecurie Ecosse Jaguar D-types, fresh from Le Mans, stepped into the void so the American Indy cars would not win in a walkover. The Jags were driven by Jack Fairman, John Lawrence, and Ninian Sanderson, and could not match the American roadsters in speed, but they were durable. The event was to run over a distance of 500 miles, divided into three separate heats, with an hour between each heat for rest and repairs. The American cars dominated, with Jimmy Bryan, the defending USAC champion, winning two of the three heats and the overall title. With an average speed of 160 mph, it was the fastest race run at that time, and Tony Bettenhausen set a single lap record of 176.818 mph. also a record.

There were numerous mechanical failures caused by the rough banking, but no crashes and no tire failures, so the event was scheduled to be run again in 1958.

After the embarrassment of 1957, with no Formula One cars competing, the Grand Prix teams were more prepared for the second go-round, building special cars or adapting older cars for the banking. 10 American drivers came to compete, Jimmy Bryan, Jim Rathmann, Rodger Ward, Bob Veith, Jimmy Reece, Don Freeland, Eddie Sachs, Ray Crawford, Johnny Thompson, and Troy Ruttman. A young American driver was brought along for possible relief work, a then unknown A. J. Foyt. Two extra cars were brought over by the American teams, to be driven by Juan-Manuel Fangio and Maurice Trintignant. Yes, the great Fangio did actually compete in a Dean Van Lines special, staple of American Oval racing through the 50's and 60's, and he was the only driver to venture onto the banking during a rainy practice session. Ferrari had three cars entered for Mike Hawthorn, Luigi Musso, and Harry Schell, with Phil Hill on hand as well. Maserati had a special car for Stirling Moss, and the Ecurie Ecosse Jags were back, driven by Jack Fairman, Masten Gregory, and Ivor Bueb.

RELATED ARTICLES

LATEST FEATURES

more features >

LATEST IMAGES

galleries >

  • Pitpass.com latest F1/Formula 1 images
  • Pitpass.com latest F1/Formula 1 images
  • Pitpass.com latest F1/Formula 1 images
  • Pitpass.com latest F1/Formula 1 images
  • Pitpass.com latest F1/Formula 1 images
  • Pitpass.com latest F1/Formula 1 images
  • Pitpass.com latest F1/Formula 1 images
  • Pitpass.com latest F1/Formula 1 images
  • Pitpass.com latest F1/Formula 1 images
  • Pitpass.com latest F1/Formula 1 images
  • Pitpass.com latest F1/Formula 1 images
  • Pitpass.com latest F1/Formula 1 images
  • Pitpass.com latest F1/Formula 1 images
  • Pitpass.com latest F1/Formula 1 images
  • Pitpass.com latest F1/Formula 1 images
  • Pitpass.com latest F1/Formula 1 images
  • Pitpass.com latest F1/Formula 1 images
  • Pitpass.com latest F1/Formula 1 images
  • Pitpass.com latest F1/Formula 1 images
  • Pitpass.com latest F1/Formula 1 images

POST A COMMENT

or Register for a Pitpass ID to have your say

Please note that all posts are reactively moderated and must adhere to the site's posting rules and etiquette.

Post your comment

READERS COMMENTS

 

No comments posted as yet, would you like to be the first to have your say?

Share this page

X

Copyright © Pitpass 2002 - 2021. All rights reserved.

about us  |  advertise  |  contact  |  privacy & security  |  rss  |  terms