Ascari versus Fangio chapter excerpt

Ferrari sent his four drivers on the 36-hour journey to South America for the start of the season, which consisted of the Argentine Grand Prix and the non-championship Buenos Aires GP, as well as the 1,000 km sports car race. They were joined by Olivier Gendebien, the Belgian heir to an industrial fortune, whose rally success had caught the eye of Ferrari, who then took him on to race sports car events and selected Grands Prix, the South American leg of the season being his debut GP races.

Before starting preparations for the Grand Prix, Fangio had invited his team-mates to his Buenos Aires apartment. He was accustomed to share his thoughts and expectations for the upcoming racing season with his team-mates. And for his endeavours with Ferrari, he knew it was of utmost importance that he won over his team-mates to support him, should he need them to. Already history had proven to him that every once in a while, any world champion driver needed his colleagues’ assistance, and with the spirited Ascari as team-mate, Fangio might need it during 1956.

– “You’ve done quite well with Lancia and Ferrari, last year, Eugenio. How do you perceive your chances for this year?” asked Fangio.
– “I hope to build on my results from last season”, answered Castellotti, who had been the youngest driver to take pole position, in Belgium, the previous year, “But above all I would like to learn from you, Maestro, and I hope to assist you wherever possible.” Quickly adding, after crossing eyes with Ascari: “And Alberto, too, of course.”
– “It won’t be long before you are a Grand Prix winner, you know.” Fangio then turned his attention to Collins: “What about you, Peter? You won the International Trophy last season.”
– “Well, first of all, I would like to improve on my qualifying”, answered Collins, whose highest grid position in a world championship grand prix was sixth, on his 1952 debut. “So I hope to learn some tricks of the trade regarding qualifying from you and Ascari. And be of assistance whenever possible.” Collins, returning the question to Fangio, asked: “And you, Maestro?”
– “Well, gentlemen, I hope to build on my own experience and that of the team to fight for the world championship again”, said Fangio. “With the absence of Mercedes, we stand a very good chance to take top honours, I believe. All us could finish on the podium in any of the grands prix, while the regular drivers, Ascari, first and foremost, Castellotti, Collins, and hopefully I, too, have a shot at the title.”
– “What do you think, Alberto?” asked Fangio, curious for the thoughts of his fiercest in-team competitor, yet — and, as a matter of fact, a driver with whom he had been quite competitive off the racetracks, as well, albeit all in good manners.
– “As you know, Juan, I was very much in doubt whether I would return to racing at all, after my two crashes in May of last year,” Ascari replied. “But by the time I had almost fully healed and Mr Ferrari invited me to race the Lancia at Monza in September, I could not resist temptation. I wanted to make sure I still had what it takes to fight for race wins and perhaps another world championship, too.”

The Italian then added, seeking eye contact with all at the table, one by one: “To achieve the best for Ferrari, we will need to work together in a professional manner. Of course we should fight for our own chances, but when circumstances ask us to do so, we should sacrifice our own results for the greater good of the Scuderia.”

Castellotti, Collins and Gendebien nodded in agreement.

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