Simanaitis Says

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I STILL HAVEN’T UNEARTHED my oldest rattle-taggle issues, but did uncover facsimiles of the magazine re-issued by Brooklands Books in celebrating its 40th anniversary in 1987. These are December 1949 through April 1950, Vol. 1, Nos. 6–10 of Road and Track. (You’ll recall, the “&” didn’t arrive until March 1954.)

Here, in Parts 1 and 2 today and tomorrow, are motor sports tidbits gleaned from 72 years ago.

On the Masthead. Oliver F. Billingsley was Editor. John R. Bond was one of five Associate Editors. Two Foreign Correspondents were listed: Alice Caracciola and Spike Rhiando. Each deserves special mention.

Spike Rhiando. As described at the 500 Owners Association website, “Whether by design or not, Alvin ‘Spike’ Rhiando is something of an enigma. Much of his life was surrounded in doubt and confusion, but he was certainly a well-liked character in the early days of the 500 era.”

Spike’s article “Introducing… 500cc Race Cars” opened with “The rooks hovering low over the Malvern hills suddenly changed from their melancholy cawing to raucous screeching.” 

He described 500-cc racers as “All wheels and driver, only the merest suggestion of a body, and a loud but small ‘one-lunger’ engine located at the rear.”

Above, “Spike Rhiando takes a fast downhill corner in the Isle of Man road circuit.” Below, “Sterling Moss in Cooper No. 5 leads Spike Rhiando (No. 11) and P.W.K. Page (No. 32) thru turn.” These and following images from Brooklands Books Road and Track December 1949.

Young Mister Moss was to lead a great many other people in the years ahead. And the magazine would get his name right too. 

Alice Caracciola. Alice was the second wife of famed Mercedes-Benz driver Rudolf Caracciola (his first, Charlotte, perished in a skiing avalanche). Wikipedia notes that Alice “worked as a timekeeper for Mercedes-Benz. He had met her in 1932, when she was having an affair with Chiron.” French-Monegasque driver Louis Charon was a close friend of Caracciola’s throughout their driving careers.

Rudolf and Alice were married in Lugano, Switzerland, and spent most of the war there. He drove in the 1946 Indy 500, but was seriously injured crashing into the south wall, believed to have been hit on the head by a bird. Wikipedia notes, “Tony Hulman, owner of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, invited Caracciola and his wife to stay at his lodge near Terre Haute to let him fully recover.” 

Caracciola Report. Alice’s report in Road and Track, Vol. 1 No. 6 is certainly an insider’s view: “Due to insufficient competition, the present Grand Prix formula of 1500 cc blown and 4500 cc unblown is not proving satisfactory…. Cisitalia’s new rear-engine 1 1/2 litre Porsche designed car is not yet ready and the only other cars capable of challenging the Alfettes are the 1 1/2 litre Mercedes. Despite all of our efforts, they have still not been freed.”

Indeed, Wikipedia writes, “He [Caracciola] spent much of the last part of the war—from 1941 onwards—attempting to gain possession of the two W165s used at the 1939 Tripoli Grand Prix, with a view to maintaining them for the duration of the hostilities. When they finally arrived in Switzerland in early 1945, they were confiscated as German property by the Swiss authorities.”

“In South America,” Alice continued in her report, “where the seasons are the reverse of ours, racing is like the temperament, very intent. International formula rules do not apply and many 3 litre blown cars are run. Some of he leading European drivers spend the early months of each year on the exciting Latin American circuits.”

“Luigi ‘Gigi’ Villoresi, Champion of Italy, lowers his goggles as he awaits the start. His mount is a new two-stage blown low-chassis 1 1/2 litre Maserati.” 

Alice discussed results for seven events, including the Grand Prix of President Peron in Buenos Aires (Ascari, Maserati, 1st; Villoresi, Maserati, 2nd; Galvez, Alfa Romeo, 3rd; Fangio, Maserati, 4th; and Bira, Simca, 5th.) There was also  Grand Prix Eva Duarte Person, with Fangio finishing second to Galvez, with Bira again 5th.

As with Stirling Moss’s career, Juan Manual Fangio’s was on an upward arc.

In Part 2, an R&T editor-to-be pilots a Bonneville special designed jointly with a fellow hot-rodder. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2022

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