LLoyd Casner

LLoyd Casner

30/8/1928 - 10/4/1965

'Lucky' Casner was a very colorful character. Best know for his Scuderia Camoradi operation and for driving a Maserati Birdcage, Casner was killed in practice for le Mans in 1965.

<font face="Tahoma" size="2">Lloyd Perry Casner was born in Miami, Florida, USA. He graduated from the University of Miami and became an airline pilot.

He formed Scuderia Camoradi with Fred Gamble with the aim of tackling some of Europe's famous sports car races with a Maserati Birdcage and a Corvette.

Maserati withdrew from Grand Prix racing in 1958 and when designer Valerio Colotti left the company he took with him plans of a 2.5-liter version of the Maserati 250F on which the engineers had been working. He set up his own design bureau called Studio Tecnica Meccanica and found some funding for the project from Lucky Casner's Scuderia Camoradi. He built the car, handed it over to the team and it was run for Fritz d'Orey at the 1959 United States GP at Sebring. It was not very quick and lasted only six laps.

Lucky Casner and his Camoradi team were one of Maserati's best customers. He met with Omer Orsi, managing director of Maserati, with a view to securing two Tipo 61s to campaign in the 1960 World Sportscar Championship.

Casner particularly wanted to enter the Nassau Trophy race in December, so the prototype Tipo 60 was modified to Tipo 61 three-litre specification and dispatched to Casner in Miami.

During practice Casner got Gurney, Shelby and Bonnier to try the car. Gurney was fastest, a mere half second slower than Moss's Aston DBR2 which had an engine 50% greater in capacity. Shelby drove in the race, but a burst tyre and various minor problems slowed him until an off-course excursion put him out for good.

The omens were good for Maserati and Camoradi for the 1960 world sports car championship. Aston Martin, having won in 1959, had pulled out. Ferrari, with their 'Testa Rossa', had been outrun by the 'Birdcage' at Nassau, and Porsche was unlikely to be a contender for overall honors with their small displacement engines.

The first round of the World Sportscar Championship at Buenos Aires saw Gurney and Gregory race away from the field, only to have a shock absorber mounting bolt fail, which eventually caused it to retire.

The second Camoradi, Tipo 61 was delivered in time for the non-championship race in Cuba, which Moss won at a canter. Sebring proved a total disaster. Moss and Gurney were leading after 8 hours when they had a crown wheel and pinion let go. Of the five Tipo 61's entered (3 by Camoradi and 2 others) four started and four retired.

Next came the Targa Florio, in Sicily. In the aftermath of Sebring, Casner sent just one car for Targa specialists Maglioli and Vaccarella. Leading by five minutes at the three quarter distance mark, a rock punctured the petrol tank and Vaccarella crashed.

At the Nürburgring Camoradi fielded a two car team, with Moss and Gurney in one car and Gregory and Munaron in the other. Piero Taruffi had joined as team manager. For once things held together and in the treacherous weather conditions Moss and Gurney drove a superlative race to win by 3 minutes, with the other team car in fifth place.

After the Nurburgring triumph, hopes were high for Le Mans, the last event on the championship calendar. Chassis number 2451 had been repaired after its Targa shunt, and completely re-bodied with the very distinctive long screen, long tail coachwork. (The former being an ingenious attempt to get around the minimum screen height regulations, designed to restrict maximum speeds. By starting the screen at the front axle line and sloping it back to driver's chin level, a very low frontal area was achieved). Two other Camoradi Tipo 61's were entered, with the long tail feature, but without the 'Streamliner's' incredible screen.

Driver pairings became a bit of a problem for the race. Moss was dropped for asking too high a fee, Gurney had signed for Briggs Cunningham, and Shelby had a disagreement with Casner over sponsorship. Thus the American pairing of Masten Gregory and Chuck Daigh came to drive the 'Streamliner', with the Italians Scarlatti/Munaron and Casner/Jefflords in the other team cars.

In practice the 'streamliner' was 10 mph faster down the Mulsanne straight than anyone else, at 170 mph. At the start Gregory had problems getting 2451 to fire, and left the line in 24th position, coincidentally carrying the race number 24. In possibly the all time record for catching up, Gregory was in the lead by the time the field had reached Mulsanne corner, having overtaken no less than 18 cars on the straight. After 2 hours, he was an almost 4 minutes in the lead. Gregory came in to hand over to Daigh. After the stop, Daigh hit the starter button, with no result. One hour was lost changing the starter motor, and all the confident optimism of the opening laps evaporated. Shortly afterward Munaron had his starter motor burn out, too, but out on the circuit where he was left stranded. The third car was brought in, to change its starter motor as a precaution. Casner took this car back into the fray, but came across an errant sandbank at Mulsanne, and jammed the gear linkage. This left the streamliner as the only Camoradi runner, running as fast as ever, and gaining two laps over the leader in the four hours since it retook the stage. Just before midnight it retired, according to Joel Finn, due to Daigh exceeding the rev limit and blowing the motor, whereas other references refer to electrical failure.

Casner, ever the entrepreneur, had done a deal prior to Le Mans with J. Frank Harrison, a wealthy American entrant, who had agreed that he would take his pick of any of the three Camoradi Tipo 61's after the race. Seeing that the streamliner was by far the quickest of the three, albeit the oldest, this was the one he chose, to be driven by Jim Jeffords in domestic events in the States.

After dabbling with Maserati and Corvette sports cars the pair got their hands on an ex-Teresa de Filippis F2 Behra-Porsche, Jean Behra's dream design that tragically killed the French legend in a support race of the 1959 German GP at the dangerous banked Avus track in Berlin - a mere month after being shown the door at Ferrari by a livid team manager Tavoni. Casner and Gamble entered the Behra-Porsche in several F2 races like Chimay - where they got Hans Herrmann to drive it, who put it on pole! - and Solitude, where Casner himself took the wheel and duly failed to qualify.

At the beginning of the 1961 season, Masten Gregory raced the car in Argentina. He returned with the team's newly-acquired Cooper in 1961, while Casner entered several non-championship races in his new Lotus. Although both Casner and Gamble raced strictly for fun, the latter was definitely the better driver. Still he was surprised to be let in by the organizers of the Italian GP, who were desperate to attract entrants for their race. The Camoradi team were even offered $ 1000 to join!

Sharing a Maserati Tipo 61 Birdcage with Stirling Moss, Casner won the 1961 Nürburgring 1000 Kms for team Camoradi, while later in the year he was injured when his Maserati overturned and caught fire when he was leading the Pescara G.P.

Casner jokingly predicted his demise 2 years before his fatal accident. In 1963, his co-driver Simon heard him saying "This car is lethal, it will kill me". He refused to race it the following year but in 1965, he was tempted back by Col. Simone, an ex-US pilot who became the Maserati agent in France. The much modified T151/3 was to be driven by Cassner and Gregory. Although sanctioned by Maserati, they even sent Bertocchi to oversee it, the car started the race untested, and crashed on the second lap of the April testing weekend. Casner crashed the 5-litre Maserati at over 270 km/h at the end of the Hunaudières straight near Mulsanne, for unknown reasons, although brake failure was immediately suspected.

Leave a comment

Comments