• Belgian Grand Prix 1952

Ascari keeps his head in the wet of Spa

Martin Williamson June 22, 1952
Alberto Ascari wins the 1952 Belgian Grand Prix © Getty Images
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After the second round of the championship at Indianapolis, the season resumed in Europe at Spa for the rotating European Grand Prix.

Juan Manuel Fangio, who had missed the opening round as he had not secured a drive following Alfa Romeo's withdrawal, was lined up for a return but he crashed and was injured a non-championship race. Another leading driver, Jose Froilan Gonzalez , was a no show despite being entered in his Maserati. However, there were plenty of British cars and a newcomer in a Cooper Bristol called Mike Hawthorn would show his World Championship potential.

Conditions were poor with heavy rain when Alberto Ascari, from pole position, took an early lead, and Piero Taruffi lost any chance of a second win of the season when he stalled on the line and was very slow away. Jean Behra had his moment of glory, leading for a few laps before the works Ferraris of Ascari and Nino Farina splashed by. Taruffi was making strong progress but he rammed Behra as he tried to take third place and put them both out.

It was left to the other factory Gordini of Robert Manzon to finish third behind the Ferraris. Best of the British was Hawthorn, a young blond racer with a spotted bow tie , who drove to a fine fourth place to score his first points. "The boy has a big future,"said a senior Ferrari official. "He has technique, he is brave, and he uses his head."

Belgian journalist/racer Paul Frere came home fifth while Briton Alan Brown was in the points again in his Cooper Bristol.

Ken Wharton had the lucky escape of the day when he aquaplaned while in the top six and skidded for 400 yards before crashing through a barbed-wire fence and ending up in some woods. "I ducked into the cockpit otherwise the wire would have had my head off," he told reporters. Stirling Moss also skidded for 100 yards on the opening lap - "15 cars were behind me," he said. "How I dodged them with my crazy antics I don't know." His car left the track into a ditch where it caught fire.

Martin Williamson is managing editor of digital media ESPN EMEA

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Martin Williamson is managing editor of digital media ESPN EMEA Martin Williamson, who grew up in the era of James Hunt, Niki Lauda and sideburns, became managing editor of ESPN EMEA Digital Group in 2007 after spells with Sky Sports, Sportal and Cricinfo