It happened today

Knife-edge victory for Giancarlo Baghetti

2 Jul 1961

On 2nd July 1961, the French Grand Prix was run on the 8.302 kilometre long Reims circuit. Ferrari entered four cars. Apart from those for Germany’s Wolfgang Von Trips and the Americans Phil Hill and Richie Ginther, there was a fourth 156 entered by Scuderia FISA (Federazione Italiana Scuderie Automobilistiche) for 27 year old Giancarlo Baghetti.

In this car, the Italian had won both non-championship races he had competed in, Naples and Syracuse and that had earned him the chance of making his Formula 1 World Championship debut.

In qualifying, Hill, Von Trips and Ginther monopolised the front row, while Baghetti had a difficult time of it on his debut and could do no better than twelfth. At the start, Hill kept the lead ahead of his two team-mates. Behind Ginther came Moss, who briefly got ahead of the American, but from fifth down to twelfth there was one big battle with the seven cars constantly changing position, playing the slipstreaming game. Baghetti was in this mix. At the front, Von Trips went into the lead but stopped with engine failure on lap 18. Hill spun and stalled the engine, losing a lap until it fired up again, while on lap 41, Ginther also stopped with an engine problem. All this meant the duel between Dan Gurney in the Porsche and Baghetti became a fight for the lead.

The two men repeatedly traded places and in the end, Baghetti came out on top, dashing past the German car almost at the line. Giancarlo won by just a tenth of a second: his maiden F1 outing would also be his only Grand Prix victory.