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SNAPSHOT 59: Maserati 250F at Monaco 1956

On the 13th of May, 60 years ago, a young Englishman aged 26, driving a Maserati 250F, won the Monaco Formula One Grand Prix. His name was Stirling Moss.

He led the 100-lap race that was run over the streets of Monte Carlo from start to finish, spending just over 3 hours at the wheel. Reporting the event for Motor Sport magazine, Denis Jenkinson who had navigated for Moss when they won the Mille Miglia the previous year, noted that he drove “with relaxed precision that was a joy to watch”.

The 250F had initially appeared at the beginning of 1954 and 33 were made over the next three years, with cars being sold to private owners in addition to those of the factory team. The very first of the 2½-litre formula Grand Prix races, the Argentine event held in January 1954, was won by Fangio at the wheel of a 250F, thus it joined an exclusive group of cars that were race-winners on their first appearance.

The cars had a straight-six twin-overhead cam engine that was fitted at the front of the tubular space-frame chassis which had independent front suspension, that at the rear being of the De Dion pattern. An unusual feature was the combined back axle and gearbox arrangement that placed more weight over the driving wheels. The overall design of the cars did not change although there were regular up-dates and modifications, and three V12-engined examples were built in 1957, but they were somewhat fragile.

As one of the leading Formula One cars of its day, 250Fs attained numerous successes throughout the duration of the formula in both Championship and other significant events, and it was the 1957 ‘lightweight’ versions, raced by the works team, which gained that year’s Manufacturers’ Award for Maserati. Financial constraints then saw the firm withdraw from Grand Prix racing although private owners continued to compete with the cars until the formula’s end in 1960.

Moss had been one of those who obtained a 250F in 1954 and his results with it led to him joining the Mercedes-Benz team that dominated the 1955 season. When the German team ceased racing at the year’s end he then became a Maserati team member. In addition to the Monaco success he also won the Italian GP at Monza in September.

It is to be hoped that on 29th of May when the 2016 Monaco Grand Prix takes place, that the achievement of Stirling Moss six decades earlier will be remembered.

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