Lancia D50: Ferrari inherit a title-winning car

Goodwood Festival of Speed

Lancia’s first and last F1 car was a race-winner: only they never won a round of the championship with it.

The Italian manufacturer pulled out of Formula 1 shortly after the death of driver Alberto Ascari in 1955.

Ferrari purchased the cars – and won the world championship with them the following year.

Instantly competitive

Lancia D50 (1954-6), Goodwood Festival of Speed, 2011

Lancia D50 (1954-6), Goodwood Festival of Speed, 2011

Designer Vittorio Jano had begun work on the D50 in 1953. Time and again throughout 1954 Lancia promised to bring the car to the next round of the championship, only to withdraw. Speculation mounted that the car had some radical new technology that was proving difficult to perfect.

When the car finally made its appearance at Pedralbes in Spain for the final round of the 1954 season, Ascari put it on pole position by a full second from Juan Manuel Fangio’s Mercedes – the car which had qualified first for four of the previous five races.

The most distinctive feature of the D50 were its fuel tanks, mounted between the front and rear wheels. This allowed Jano to increase the proportion of the car’s weight within its wheelbase, improving the handling and reducing its total weight.

It was an aerodynamically effective solution, as the tall, thin tanks filled the turbulent space behind the front wheels.

At around 620kg, it was some 70kg lighter than Fangio’s W196. Its 2.5-litre V8 engine produced around 260hp and was mounted at an angle of 12 degrees in order to position the driver lower and reduce the frontal area of the car.

At Pedralbes, Ascari was leading and pulling away rapidly when the car failed just ten laps into its world championship debut, but the team had served notice of their competitiveness for 1955.

Lancia withdraw

Lancia D50 (1954-6), Goodwood Festival of Speed, 2011

Lancia D50 (1954-6), Goodwood Festival of Speed, 2011

Sadly, it was never realised. The first race of the year at Buenos Aires was run in fierce heat, temperatures reaching a staggering 50C, and a fatigued Ascari spun out while leading.

At Monaco he was running second by Stirling Moss when the Mercedes came to a halt in a cloud of smoke. Ascari was poised to inherit the lead.

But had been hotly pursued by Cesare Perdisa for several laps as the Maserati driver tried to unlap himself. On lap 81 Ascari braked too late for the chicane on the harbour front and the D50 plunged off the road and into the water.

Fortunately, Ascari surfaced with little more than cuts to his nose. But two weeks later, testing a Ferrari 750S sports car at Monza, he wasn’t so lucky: the car speared off the track at Vialone and Ascari was killed.

Vincenzo Lancia abandoned his F1 project soon afterwards, though not before Eugenio Castelloti (whose car Ascari had borrowed on that fateful day) had persuaded him to race to D50 one last time at Spa-Francorchamps. Castelloti put the car on pole position, but retired at half-distance while running third.

Lancia-Ferrari

Lancia D50 (1954-6), Goodwood Festival of Speed, 2011

Lancia D50 (1954-6), Goodwood Festival of Speed, 2011

Having won the championship with Ascari in 1952 and 1953, Ferrari had endured a largely barren couple of years. But Lancai’s downfall was Enzo Ferrari’s gain. He persuaded Fiat to put up the money for Ferrari to take over Lancia’s cars.

Lancia’s six D50s, plus drivers Castelloti and Mike Hawthorn, plus designer Jano, made their way to Maranello.

Ferrari hedged their bets initially. At the 1956 season opener in Argentina they brought a regular D50, an earlier 555 ‘Super Squalo’, a 555 fitted with a D50 engine and a D50 with revised rear suspension.

The result? A win for Fangio and Luigi Musso, sharing a D50.

Ferrari won five of that year’s eight races (and did not contest the Indianapolis 500) using the D50, now adorned with the Prancing Horse motif, but widely referred to as a ‘Lancia-Ferrari’.

Ferrari continued to tweak the design, faring in the distinctive sidepods with the rest of the car’s bodywork. But some of their revisions were less successful.

At the last race of the year in Monza, Fangio pitted with a broken steering arm – it had been drilled with holes to make it lighter.

The world championship threatened to slip away from him – until his team mate, and closest title rival, Peter Collins, came into the pits. Seeing Fangio out of the car he immediately surrendered his own, effectively handing the championship to his team mate.

Fangio brought the car home in second place and won the title along with it.

Lancia D50 at the 2011 Goodwood Festival of Speed

Goodwood Festival of Speed

Browse all Goodwood Festival of Speed articles

Images ?é?® F1 Fanatic. If you wish to use these images please contact F1 Fanatic to request permission

Advert | Go Ad-free

25 comments on Lancia D50: Ferrari inherit a title-winning car

  1. The New Pope said on 1st July 2011, 18:08

    What a cool car!

  2. DeadManWoking said on 1st July 2011, 18:28

    At around 620kg, it was some 70kg lighter than Fangio’s W196. Its 2.5-litre V8 engine produced around 260hp and was mounted at an angle of 12 degrees in order to position the driver lower and reduce the frontal area of the car.

    More importantly the strong V8 block in an era of inline engines allowed Jano to use the engine as a part of the chassis. This was the first use of the engine as a fully stressed member of the chassis in Formula 1, in 1955! He even channelled all torque and braking loads through the engine, unlike the cars of the 60′s and early 70′s which used long radius arms to transfer these loads from the suspension uprights directly to the chassis.

  3. VXR said on 1st July 2011, 18:38

    Not a cat to get T-Boned in.

  4. colinf (@colinf) said on 1st July 2011, 19:55

    Nice article. =)

  5. Fixy (@fixy) said on 1st July 2011, 20:47

    Did the D50 have the Lancia logo on when racing in 1956 or did it have the Ferrari logo?

  6. Hairs (@hairs) said on 1st July 2011, 21:38

    Fantastic article.

    Ferrari the lazy, money grubbing garagistes buying their way into the championship with no useful machinery of their own, and trading on the efforts of their elders and betters.

    Can’t wait for the Horse Whisperer’s coverup on this one. :)

  7. hey (@hey) said on 1st July 2011, 22:22

    What are the (un)official stats on brands having won stuff without their name on it? Apparently we’ve got Lancia ’56, Honda ’09… Any more for any more?

  8. TFLB said on 1st July 2011, 22:37

    You say ‘Vincenzo Lancia abandoned his F1 project soon afterwards’. However, Vincenzo Lancia died in 1937. Do you mean Gianni Lancia, his son, who was in charge from 1946 to 1955?

  9. Atticus said on 1st July 2011, 22:58

    Fantastic story.

    It’s a pity the sun has set for Ascari during it. Spinning out of the lead in Argentina (albeit in ‘Malaysian’ conditions), error in the braking zone at the Chicane in Monaco, and finishing it off in the wall at the Vialone… He was pretty error-prone in the dying stages of an otherwise immaculate career.

    Collins deserves the all time fair play award.

    The Lancia D50

    • Atticus (@atticus-2) said on 1st July 2011, 23:02

      …I accidentaly hit Enter, I’m sorry.

      So as for the Lancia D50 – I’m stunned. I didn’t know it before, or seen any pictures of it, and now that I did, I think it’s well ahead of his age.

  10. SennaNmbr1 (@sennanmbr1) said on 1st July 2011, 23:12

    I love the way it has sidepods and a bulge behind the driver’s head like today’s airbox/roll hoops. And possibly a vent for th eF-Duct on the nose cone ;)

    Such a beautiful car.

  11. ob1kenobi.23 (@ob1kenobi23) said on 2nd July 2011, 0:01

    Keith, if you wnt to see “advanced” for 1955, check out the Bugatti Type 251. Rear engined, straight 8 across the chassis. I know it never won anything, but beautiful.

  12. Daniel Martinez (@danielito) said on 2nd July 2011, 0:54

    Seeing Fangio out of the car he immediately surrendered his own, effectively handing the championship to his team mate.

    What a gentleman!

  13. carldec said on 2nd July 2011, 1:06

    My father loved this car and made models of it in the early 60′s. I still have his slot car version of the car that he made in the mid 60′s.

  14. Cc said on 2nd July 2011, 5:16

    Good car

  15. Hatebreeder (@hatebreeder) said on 2nd July 2011, 8:13

    So a ferrari is actually a Lancia? :-?

Add your comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

All comments must abide by the comment policy. Comments may be moderated.
Want to post off-topic? Head to the forum.
See the FAQ for more information.