Like baseball, the international sport of motor racing has its hot stove league—and this week facts, reports and rumors were buzzing on all kinds of subjects from Stirling Moss, the top-ranking British driver, to the sports car plans of Harlow Curtice, president of General Motors.
When Moss, after streaking to second place in the world driver standings, hopped from the cockpit of his Mercedes this fall for the last time, he immediately began sorting out offers for the coming season. There were plenty of them, and he took his time. Last week he announced at last that he would be the No. 1 driver for the Italian Maserati team in 1956.
The decision did not come easily. It was inevitably complicated by the patriotic exuberance which Moss's racing successes, even though they were achieved in silver German cars, aroused in his countrymen. British sports cars had made a postwar splash, but the Grand Prix racers still lagged disappointingly behind continental models. A driver of Moss's stature would add immeasurably to Britain's hopes for its home-built cars. Now that Mercedes-Benz had withdrawn indefinitely from racing, next year could be wide open.
Moss, with characteristic flair, invited leading automotive writers to a dinner in London's West End. He put his problem squarely up to his guests. He had, he said, been offered Maserati's No. 1 position, and he thought Maserati had the best chance to win world honors. "Gentlemen," he asked, "what would you do?"
December 12, 1955
The journalists voted 9-7 for Maserati. Moss pocketed the verdict and, still uncommitted but with a handy buffer against possible public criticism of a declaration for Italy, took a plane to New York. "I weighed it all up," Moss told me last week, "and it tipped to Maserati. First of all, there should be 19 Grands Prix next year. I think Maserati has the greatest opportunity of being at all of them. They also have sports cars, and there should be 18 really big sports car races. But I've kept open a certain number of dates for sports car races in which I hope to drive British cars."
His decision made, Moss headed for Nassau, where he will drive a British Austin-Healey in the international races this weekend. After that he will take his own Maserati to the New Zealand Grand Prix. His first factory drive of the new season will come in mid-January in Argentina.
Italy has tossed a challenge to Indianapolis for a hell-for-leather speed derby of fascinating implications next September on the famed Monza course, site of the Italian Grand Prix. Come to us, says dapper Giuseppe Bacciagaluppi, Monza's racing director, and we'll try to beat you at your own game. Have the first five finishers in your Memorial Day "500" next May bring their Offenhausers to Italy, and we'll pay all the expenses—three men for each car. We'll have some crack European drivers in Grand Prix racers on hand to make it interesting for you. Race counterclockwise, in your own fashion. Don't worry about the road course; we'll use the 2½-mile track.
The answers from Indy aren't in yet, and of course they could be no. Most fans, though, will hope the answer is yes, and at long last there will be a comparative test of U.S. and European cars—and drivers. "Frankly," said Alec Ulmann, director of the Sebring sports car race, who relayed the Italian invitation to Indianapolis, "the Europeans would like to see if the American cars really can reach the incredible speeds we claim for them."
Ever since Ford's Thunderbird took the play away from the Chevrolet Corvette, Detroit has been waiting expectantly for the slow burn of Harlow Curtice, GM's president, to produce fireworks. It has, and the display is about ready for public view. Curtice put his engineers to work on a model that would steal the Thunderbird's noise right down to the crank-up windows, and a restyled and hot new Corvette is now a reality. It will be the showpiece of the GM Motorama at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York, January 19-24 and it is a good bet to turn up in important races like the 12-hour endurance grind at Sebring.
An election scrap in the Sports Car Club of America will be forthcoming at the annual meeting next month in Detroit. A ticket headed by Jim Kimberly and Bill Lloyd, who are among the top SCCA drivers, will contest the slate which has been recommended by Charles Moran Jr., outgoing president. The Kimberly group contends that officers who are active competitive drivers will best serve the club, and that Moran's principal nominees—headed by David W. Dangler of Chicago—rarely drive in SCCA races.