1956 World Sportscar Championship

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1956 World Sportscar Championship
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The 1956 World Sportscar Championship was the fourth annual FIA World Sportscar Championship. It was a contested by sportscars over a series of five races from 29 January to 12 August 1956.

Following the major accident at the 1955 24 Hours of Le Mans that killed 80 spectators, 1955 champions Mercedes-Benz officially withdrew from motorsports and thus did not defend their title. Due to the fallout of the accident at Le Mans, the race was not included as part of the championship schedule pending safety upgrades; the Targa Florio was also cancelled due to safety concerns. This led to the shortest season in World Sportscar Championship history, as well as the fewest factory-backed competitors for many years.

The championship was won by Ferrari.

Championship summary[edit]

Ferrari won the championship with the 860 Monza and 290 MM (pictured)
Maserati placed second with the Maserati 300S (pictured)
Jaguar placed third with the D-Type

The 1956 World Sports Car Championship was contested over five races. While much of the controversy surrounding the tragedy at Le Mans had subsided by January 1956, those in the international racing community were still contending with the fallout; the 24 Heures du Mans had been removed from the championship, but would return in 1957 following track improvements. The Targa Florio and the RAC Tourist Trophy were also removed from the calendar amid safety concerns; the Targa Florio like Le Mans, would run as a non-championship race. As for the RAC Tourist Trophy, it would never return to the Dundrod Circuit. Returning to the championship was the 1000 km Nürburgring whilst a new race, the Sveriges Grand Prix was added to the championship calendar.[1][2]

The championship remained as a contest for manufacturers, with the factory teams of Scuderia Ferrari, Maserati, Aston Martin and Jaguar leading the way; as in previous seasons, the majority of the fields were made up of amateur or gentlemen drivers, often racing against professional racing drivers with experience in Formula One.

For Ferrari's assault on the 1956 championship, they settled on using virtually identical four- and twelve-cylinder-engined machines. Both cars shared exactly the same chassis and similarly styling. Carrozzeria Scaglietti built the aluminum bodies for both; the more successful of the two was the V12-engined 290 MM, which was driven to a debut victory in the Mille Miglia by Eugenio Castellotti. In the season finale, Phil Hill and Maurice Trintignant added a second win to the 290 MM's tally in only its third major race; the sister 860 Monza had an equally impressive first outing, with a one-two victory in the Florida International Grand Prix of Endurance. During the remainder of the season, the big fours supported Ferrari's chase for the championship with valuable podium finishes. With three very convincing wins in the five rounds, Ferrari were crowned World Champions at the end of the season. For the third time in four seasons, the title had gone to Maranello.[3][4]

Ferrari's chief rivals, Maserati hired Stirling Moss for the season, and prepared a works team for all the rounds of the championship. At the opening round, the 1000 km Buenos Aires, the factory efforts paid off, when all the large 4.0-litre Ferraris suffered mechanical problems, and Moss and local hero, Carlos Menditéguy took overall victory, in a 300S. For the next rounds at Sebring and the Mille Miglia, Maserati prepared the 350S; the cars were on pace but succumbed to the competition. The Internationales ADAC 1000 Kilometer Rennen auf dem Nürburgring changed this when Moss and Jean Behra took over a second car and drove it to victory; the championship ended at the Sveriges Grand Prix and Maserati had high hopes to gain enough points to win over Ferrari. Despite bringing five cars, all the Maseratis retired, leaving Ferrari to take all the top five places and the championship.[5][6]

Race schedule[edit]

Date Round Event Circuit or Location Winning driver Winning team Winning car Results
29/01 Rd. 1 Argentina 1000km of Buenos Aires Autódromo Municipal-Avenida Paz United Kingdom Stirling Moss
Argentina Carlos Menditéguy
Italy Officine Alfieri Maserati Italy Maserati 300S Results
24/03 Rd. 2 United States Florida International Grand Prix of Endurance Sebring International Raceway Argentina Juan Manuel Fangio
Italy Eugenio Castellotti
Italy Scuderia Ferrari Italy Ferrari 860 Monza Results
29/04 Rd. 3 Italy Mille Miglia Brescia-Rome Italy Eugenio Castellotti Italy Scuderia Ferrari Italy Ferrari 290 MM Results
27/05 Rd.4 West Germany Internationales ADAV 1000 Kilometre Rennen auf dem Nürburgring Nürburgring Italy Piero Taruffi
United States Harry Schell
France Jean Behra
United Kingdom Stirling Moss
Italy Officine Alfieri Maserati Italy Maserati 300S Results
12/8 Rd.5 Sweden Sveriges Grand Prix Rabelövsbanan United States Phil Hill
France Maurice Trintignant
Italy Scuderia Ferrari Italy Ferrari 290 MM Results

Points system[edit]

Championship points were awarded for the first six places in each race in the order of 8-6-4-3-2-1;[7] the best result per marque at each race counted.[7] Only the best 3 results out of the 5 races could be retained.[8]

Championship standings[edit]

Pos. [9] Make [9] R1 [10] R2 [10] R3 [10] R4 [10] R5 [10] Total [10]
1 Italy Ferrari (6) 8 8 (6) 8 24 (36)
2 Italy Maserati 8 2 8 18
3 United Kingdom Jaguar 4 3 7
4 United Kingdom Aston Martin 3 2 5
5 Germany Porsche 1 3 4
6 Germany Mercedes-Benz 1 1 2


  • Points earned for race results but not counted towards the championship totals are shown within brackets in the above table.
  • As the fourth and fifth placed cars at the Sveriges Grand Prix were ineligible for points, the sixth placed Jaguar was awarded points as if it had finished fourth.[8]

The cars[edit]

The following models contributed to the net championship point scores of their respective makes.[11]


Further reading[edit]

  • János L. Wimpffen, Time and Two Seats, 1999, pages 170–200
  • The Automobile Year Book of Sports Car Racing, 1982

External links[edit]