Monday 28th August 1922
The famous Autodromo motor racing track, was completed in Monza, north of Milan, Italy. Set in a busy industrial centre along the Lambro River, this track, with its elliptical shape and concrete banked curves, was said to be the fastest in the world.
The initial form was a 3.4 square kilometres (1.31 sq mi) site with 10 kilometres (6.2 mi) of macadamised road – comprising a 4.5 kilometres (2.80 mi) loop track, and a 5.5 kilometres (3.42 mi) road track. The track was officially opened on 3 September 1922, with the maiden race the second Italian Grand Prix held on 10 September 1922.
In 1928, the most serious Italian racing accident to date ended in the death of driver Emilio Materassi and 27 spectators at that year’s Grand Prix. The accident led to further Grand Prix races confinement to the high-speed loop until 1932. The 1933 race was marked by the deaths of three drivers and the Grand Prix layout was changed, with two chicanes added and the longer straights removed.
There was major rebuilding in 1938–39, constructing new stands and entrances, resurfacing the track, moving portions of the track and adding two new bends. The resulting layout gave a Grand Prix lap of 6.300 kilometres (3.91 mi), in use until 1954. The outbreak of World War II meant racing at the track was suspended until 1948 and parts of the circuit degraded due to the lack of maintenance. Monza was renovated over a period of two months at the beginning of 1948 and a Grand Prix was held on 17 October 1948.
In 1954, work began to entirely revamp the circuit, resulting in a 5.750 kilometres (3.573 mi) course, and a new 4.250 kilometres (2.641 mi) high-speed oval with banked sopraelevata curves. The two circuits could be combined to re-create the former 10 kilometres (6.214 mi) long circuit, with cars running parallel on the main straight. The track infrastructure was also updated and improved to better accommodate the teams and spectators.
The Automobile Club of Italy held 500-mile (805 km) Race of Two Worlds exhibition competitions, intended to pit United States Auto Club IndyCars against European Formula One and sports cars. The races were held on the oval at the end of June in 1957 and 1958, with three 63 lap 267.67 kilometres (166.32 mi) heat races each year, races which colloquially became known as the Monzanapolis series. Concerns were raised among the European drivers that flat-out racing on the banking would be too dangerous, so ultimately only Ecurie Ecosse and Maserati represented European racing at the first running. The American teams had brought special Firestone tyres with them, reinforced to withstand high-speed running on the bumpy Monza surface, but the Maseratis’ steering was badly affected by the larger-than-usual tyre size, leading to the Modena-based team withdrawal.
Ecurie Ecosse’s three Jaguar D-type sports cars used their Le Mans-specification tyres with no ill-effects, but were completely out paced. Two heats in 1957 were won by Jimmy Bryan in his Kuzma-Offenhauser Dean Van Lines Special, and the last by Troy Ruttman in the Watson-Offenhauser John Zink Special. In 1958, works Jaguar, Ferrari and Maserati teams appeared alongside the Indy roadsters, but once again the American cars dominated the event and Jim Rathmann won the three races in a Watson-Offenhauser car.
Formula One used the 10 kilometres (6.214 mi) high speed track in the 1955, 1956, 1960 and 1961 Grands Prix. Stirling Moss and Phil Hill both won twice in this period, with Hill’s win at Monza making him the first American to win a Formula One race. The 1961 race saw the death of Wolfgang von Trips and fifteen spectators when a collision with Jim Clark’s Lotus sent von Trips’ car airborne and into the barriers on Parabolica.
Although the accident did not occur on the oval section of the track, the high speeds were deemed unsafe and F1 use of the oval was ended; future Grands Prix were held on the shorter road circuit, with the banking appearing one last time in the film Grand Prix. New safety walls, rails and fences were added before the next race and the refuelling area was moved further from the track. Chicanes were added before both bankings in 1966, and another fatality in the 1968 1000 km Monza race led to run-off areas added to the curves, with the track layout changing the next year to incorporate permanent chicanes before the banked curves – extending the track length by 100 metres (328 ft).
The banking held the last race in 1969 with the 1000 km of Monza, the event moving to the road circuit the next year. The banking still exists, albeit in a decayed state in the years since the last race, escaping demolition in the 1990s. It is used once a year for the Monza Rally. The banked oval was used several times for record breaking up till the late 1960s, although the severe bumping was a major suspension and tyre test for the production cars attempting the records, .e.g. Ford Corsair GT 1964 which captured 13 record