Monday 5 September 2011

Lost Track: Circuits of Yore IV - Pescara, Italian Grand Prix

Italy is known for its fanatic fan following for football and motorsports. In motorsports, you have stronghold German car manufacturers and English constructors in today’s game. But life in Italy is different and the passion for motorsports is something very different from the rest of Europe.
The story goes back in time when Fascists ruled Italy and under the Mussolini regime, Italy was establishing as a power house of Europe. In 1920’s when football had already created an impact among fanatics of Italy, motorsports was finding its way slowly and steadily across Italy, most notably at Monza.
Pescara, a small province on the Adriatic coast of Italy was no different and it hosted the first automobile race in the year 1924. It was known as the ‘Coppa Acerbo’, named after Tito Acerbo, the brother of Giacomo Acerbo, a prominent fascist politician. The inaugural race was won by the then unknown driver ‘Enzo Ferrari’, who later rose to fame with the launch of his ‘Ferrari’ in the late 1920’s.
In the European race circuits of that era, Coppa Acerbo was considered to be a very prestigious event. The home grown cars were among the winners most notably the Alfa Romeos who dominated the racing scene winning the seven out of the first nine races. Due to the changing regulations, the winners varied from Alfa Romeos and German Silver Arrows of Mercedes until World War II.
The race returned after a re-building process in 1947 with an alteration to the name of the circuit. Since the Fascists no longer ruled Italy, the circuit name was aptly changed to ‘Circuito di Pescara’.
When Formula One World Championships began in 1950, Pescara was not part of the official calendar but that didn’t stop it from being one of the most prestigious races in the racing circles. Well, strange thing do happen in Formula 1 and with the cancellation of Belgium and Dutch GP in 1957 it paved the way to Pescara, and it hosted the longest ever grand prix (26 km circuit length). The race of 1957 till date remains the longest race ever being hosted in the history of Formula One.
Juan Manuel Fangio in his Maserati took the pole position, while the race was won by the English man, Stirling Moss in his Vanwall. In spite of a successful race, the 1957 edition was the only race Pescara ever hosted as a Formula One event.
With Belgium and Dutch GP returning to the calendar and coupled with ever-increasing speeds and the fragile build-quality of most cars of the time, the race was discontinued after the 1961 event. It is also worth noting that, Italy already had a regular circuit in Monza, which hosted Italian GP since the inception of Formula 1 Championships and continues to do so.
With time, Pescara was long forgotten and the only recent connection to Formula One is that, Pescara also happens to be the birth place of the Italian driver, Jarno Trulli.

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