1956 French Grand Prix (partially found footage of Formula One World Championship race; 1956)

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Peter Collins leading the field at the start.

Status: Partially Found

The 1956 French Grand Prix was the fifth race of the 1956 Formula One Season. Occurring on 1st July at the Circuit de Reims, the race was ultimately won by Peter Collins, after narrowly edging out Lancia-Ferrari teammate Eugenio Castellotti.

Background[edit | edit source]

The 1956 French Grand Prix was the sixth running of the event in the Formula One calendar,[1] with the race lasting 61 laps.[2] The 35th French Grand Prix overall,[1] the race has been held at a variety of circuits, with the last one held at Reims occurring in 1966.[3] After the race was dropped from the schedule in 2009, it returned in 2018, where it has consistently been held at Circuit Paul Ricard.[3][1]

Heading into the race, qualifying was primarily between the Ferraris and the Vanwalls.[4] Juan Manuel Fangio achieved pole position in a Lancia Ferrari with a time of 2:23.3.[4][2] Perhaps most famously, Fangio did not lift off the throttle as he approached the long right-hand curve of Reims.[4] This not only made him considerably faster, but drew praise from both the fans and fellow drivers.[4] In second and third were his teammates Castellotti and Collins.[4][2] Further down the grid, Bugatti made its debut in Formula One, although driver Maurice Trintignant could only muster a time worthy of 18th place.[5][4][2] With Trintignant now driving for Bugatti, Vanwall opted to replace him with Colin Chapman, the founder of Team Lotus.[6][4][5] His best time was around 2:36, although he would have started fifth because Harry Schell drove at one point with Chapman's starting number.[4][2] Chapman ultimately did not race because he rear-ended teammate Mike Hawthorn's car, before hitting a concrete pylon; his car was then used to repair Hawthorn's.[4][6][5][2] This was Chapman's only Formula One event as a driver.[6]

The Race[edit | edit source]

With the starting order decided, the 1956 French Grand Prix commenced on 1st July.[2] After the start was delayed due to Moss and fellow Maserati driver Luigi Villoresi being pushed back and forth within the grid to get their engines working, the race began with Collins taking the lead.[4][2] Castelloti and Fangio would pass Collins a lap later, with Fangio moving in front on lap 4.[4][2] The three Ferrari drivers were already five seconds ahead of the field after five laps, extending to 13 seconds by lap 10.[4] Moss meanwhile retired after 12 laps due to a broken gearbox, taking Cesare Perdisa's car from then on.[4][2] Meanwhile, Harry Schell, who originally retired after five laps following a failed engine, took over Hawthorn's car, and made rapid progress through the field to close a significant gap to Collins by lap 28.[4][5][2] Indeed, Ferrari had assumed Schell was a lap behind when he was originally just 28 seconds away, and in a panic, ordered the trio to "press-on".[4][5]

Despite Ferrari's tactics, including driving side-by-side to block Schell, the Vanwall was able to overtake Collins and Castellotti simultaneously, and began to close-in on Fangio.[4][5] Fangio was therefore forced to deliver, with him moving several lengths ahead.[4] Ultimately, the Ferraris won out, with Schell dropping back in fourth, and on lap 37, the car became stricken when an injection pump linkage lost a ball-joint.[4][5] While it was replaced, Schell was less competitive for the remaining laps.[4][5][2] On lap 40, Fangio pitted as a fuel line split, dropping behind his teammates and Maserati's Jean Behra.[4][5][2] Thus, the battle for the lead centred upon Collins and Castellotti, with the latter leading until lap 46.[4][5][2] Collins then led for two laps, before being passed again by his teammate.[4][2]

But on lap 50, Collins achieved the final lead change, with both drivers then receiving the "Stay as you are signal".[4][5][2] Collins therefore claimed victory by 0.3 seconds and earned seven points in the Drivers' Championship.[4][5][2] Castellotti made it a Ferrari 1-2, with Behra taking third.[2][4][5] Fangio finished fourth, having scored an additional point by setting the fastest lap and breaking the lap record in the process, while Moss and Perdisa shared a point each after finishing fifth.[2][5][4] Post-race, Collins expressed that he raced for fun, stating "My father gave me a motor business so I don't have to race... but I like it and I like the money. I don't think I'm as fast at Stirling [Moss] but my car today was. I always have a go."[5] Having also won the previous event at Monaco, Collins continued leading the Drivers' Championship, extending his lead to Behra by five points.[7][4]

Availability[edit | edit source]

The race reportedly received highlights from Belgian outlets BRT and RTBF.[8] However, the broadcasts have yet to publicly resurface, having originated from an era where telerecordings were rare until videotape was perfected in the late-1950s.[9] Nevertheless, some footage can be found in some newsreels and documentaries.

Gallery[edit | edit source]

Videos[edit | edit source]

Footage of the race.
Reuters newsreel of the race.
British Pathé newsreel of the race.
Chapman during qualifying.

Images[edit | edit source]

See Also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]