• French Grand Prix 1956

Collins wins again to take championship lead

Martin Williamson July 1, 1956
The start of the 1956 French Grand Prix © Getty Images
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Peter Collins showed his win at Spa was no fluke with a thrilling victory over Ferrari team-mate Eugenio Castellotti at the French Grand Prix, a result which gave him a four-and-a-half point lead in the drivers' championship.

The self-effacing 24-year-old admitted afterwards he only raced for the fun of it. "My father gave me a motor business so I don't have to race … but I like it and I like the money. I don't think I'm as fast at Stirling [Moss] but my car today was. I always have a go."

There was a lot of local interest at Reims in the return of the famous Bugatti name but Maurice Trintignant had to withdraw with throttle problems after 18 laps. And the man who went on to mastermind Lotus, Colin Chapman, was entered in a third Vanwall but a practice crash saw him on the sidelines for the race. It turned out to be an all Ferrari front row with Collins, on the crest of a wave, on pole position ahead of team-mates Juan Manuel Fangio and Castellotti.

The three Ferraris swapped the lead early on, but they were duly caught by Harry Schell, in the Vanwall started by Mike Hawthorn who had withdrawn as he had been taking part in an all-night race earlier. A mechanical problem on the 38th lap ended the team's challenge if not its race and it finished down the field with a misfiring engine.

Fangio, who had struggled since his win in Argentina, also had to pit, leaving Castellotti in the lead, but he was soon overhauled by Collins, and the pair crossed the finish line with 0.3 seconds separating them.

Fangio came home fourth, narrowly failing to hunt down Jean Behra despite setting a lap record on the final circuit.

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