In 1952 Ferrari went to Indianapolis and...........they were rubbish!

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This adventure began in 1951, when the Grant Piston Ring company enquired of the possibility of acquiring a couple of second-hand Grand Prix cars for use in the following year’s Indy 500.

This adventure began in 1951, when the Grant Piston Ring company enquired of the possibility of acquiring a couple of second-hand Grand Prix cars for use in the following year’s Indy 500.

Ferrari were so excited by the idea, that they offered to design a car specially for the job. Grant’s were impressed and ordered three. The Italians were now so pleased with themselves that they decided to build and enter a fourth car in their own name.

The ensuing 4.5 Litre, V/12 engined device was tested in some minor European events, and declared to be just the thing. Unfortunately though, just-the-thing on a European Grand Prix circuit proved to be not-at-all-the-thing for Indianapolis. And when qualifying began, the Ferraris were soon in trouble. All three of the Grant’s cars failed to qualify, even though they had the 1950 winner Johnnie Parsons on the driving strength, and the works entered car would just scrape in by the skin of its teeth.

The driver of the factory car looks suspiciously like Chevy Chase, which may have gone someway towards explaining the lack of performance. But it was in fact, Ferrari’s legendary star-turn, Alberto Ascari. World Champion of 1952 and 1953 (the last time to date, that an Italian ever won the World Championship), and a fully paid-up member of the All-Time-Greats Club.

On race day, Alberto was immediately up against it. He was the only driver in the race who found it necessary to use his gearbox in order to keep the thing on the road through the corners, and within a few laps, he, one of the finest drivers of his generation, found himself struggling to keep a grip on last place!

On the bright side though, the nastiness would eventually play itself out. After forty laps, one of the rear wheels collapsed. Alberto gratefully parked the monster at the side of the track, and they all went home.

Ferrari have been connected with a number of other Indy 500 projects over the years, and have always supported their intentions with a great deal of old chat. But so far, none of these schemes have ever come to fruition. And in fifty-nine years, Ferrari have never been back.


Well…They were rubbish!

Comments/ 2

  • ava
    Mr E Dunsdon
    2020-06-10 11:41:49.0-

    A little harsh perhaps?. This was a totally new venture for Ferrari and I recall that many 'Indy' people were impressed at Alberto's performance. How many American teams tried their hands at European Grand Prix racing?.

  • ava
    Valentin Raducan
    2020-06-12 14:12:16.0-

    Ascari qualified for the race after many hard efforts, but for the race itself prospects were better. A number of cars had qualified using fuel injection on their Offy engines since this gave more power at the expense of higher fuel consumption. No problem for qualifying but for the race it was a different matter. Several teams replaced the fuel injection for carburettors to be used in the race. Another power-enhancing trick used by many teams was doping the fuel with 'pop', or nitromethane. Even though this enhanced the power output, the technique was unsuitable for the race since it also raised fuel consumption figures. None of those tricks had been carried out on the Ferrari #12. It was qualified in a trim that came much closer to its race specification than that of its opposition. Ascari's race strategy was to keep the revs below 6400rpm, resulting in laps averaging 128mph. Two pit stops for fuel and tyres were planned. In contemporary race reports Ascari and the Ferrari were rated as fearsome competitors in the actual race, despite the fact that the Ferrari was acknowledged to lack torque. This would give the Offy-powered opposition an opportunity to overtake Ascari out of the turns, purely on acceleration. However, Ascari proved to be a quick student and on his 22nd lap he performed a high-speed pass on several cars in a single move that was noted by many and earned him tons of respect with the onlooking railbirds. Eventually Ascari ran as high as 8th but after 40 laps, while in 12th place, it all went wrong. Ascari spun off in Turn Three, didn't hit anything but came to a standstill. Then the Ferrari was carried off the track by wrecker crew. Ascari tried to prevent this and make it back to the pits but his inability to speak English made it impossible for him to explain his intentions to the track workers.

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