There were only seven qualifying rounds in 1955 following the cancellation of the French, Swiss, German and Spanish Grands Prix, an aftermath of that year's terrible Le Mans catastrophe. By now Juan Manuel Fangio
was supreme, taking the title from 1954-57. Adding to his 1951 success, this made a record number of five world championship victories, one unlikely to be broken for several years, if at all. Following Fangio's retirement Britain's Stirling Moss was acknowledged as the world's No 1 driver, yet despite four seconds and three thirds, he was never world champion, before a serious accident curtailed his racing career early in 1962.
Chassis design was beginning to have as important an effect on the speed of a racing car round a circuit as engine power. In these exciting mid-nineteen-fifties years of Fangio/Moss domination, the modern art of 'setting-up' a racing car, and tuning its suspension characteristics to suit a given circuit, had not emerged. The reliability of the racing engine was much improved and it is a startling thought, or was to all those who had been in charge of the temperamental racing power units of the pre-war decades, that although sparking plugs could still oil-up, or cut-out from other causes, in the W 196 Mercedes-Benz, with its deeply canted-over engine, it was necessary to remove one of the front wheels before a plug could be changed on the eight-cylinder unit.
The aforesaid effect of chassis design and layout on lap speeds was portrayed when Mercedes-Benz, whose substantial financial resources enabled them to field a large number of variants of the W 196, found that appreciable advantage was derived from having three different lengths of wheelbase; although these differed by only 2½
inches in the case of the short and medium-length chassis, the lap speeds set by Moss and Fangio at the Nurburgring
improved by 5½
seconds when they drove the 7 ft 1 in wheelbase Mercedes. However, there was a difficulty! The short-wheelbase car was so difficult to drive that it was the medium-length Mercedes that was used for road racing - which is a nice illustration of the sophisticated state of the game at that period
But the established makes did not have it all their own way. At Syracuse the Connaught of Tony Brooks won, from the Maserati of Musso, a car that the Connaught was capable of out-accelerating, although possibly not of out-braking, even with disc brakes. The Alta engine had had the fuel-injection system by SU removed from it and it was now getting its fuel via two twin-choke Webers. The Connaught may not have been delivering more than a mediocre 240 bhp but it had been deliberately planned to give power over a wide range of engine speed and good torque from low speeds, achieved by the timing of its valves and the shape of its inlet and exhaust piping. It would run to 7000rpm but was not usually extended beyond 6soorpm, whereas both of the current Ferrari racing engines would peak at 7500 rpm.