It happened today – 6 November

It happened today – 6 November

6th November 1931

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

On 6th November 1931, Peter John Collins was born in Kidderminster, England. Having started in the 500cc category, which then became Formula 3 in 1950, Collins made his Formula 1 debut for HWM in 1952, the year in which he also raced sports cars for Aston Martin, winning the Goodwood 9 Hours and the following year, the Tourist Trophy. Collins raced with the English team until 1954 before going to Maserati. In 1956, the next move was a closer one geographically as there were only a few kilometres separating Modena and Maranello. In his first year with the Scuderia, Collins played a key role in taking the title: in Monza in the final and decisive race of the season, he handed over his car to Fangio, who finished second which saw him take the crown ahead of Moss. That year, Collins had won the Belgian and French Grands Prix, finishing second a further three times. The next year he was joined by fellow countryman Mike Hawthorn and they became inseparable friends both on and off the track. In 1957, the 801 F1 was not competitive against the Mercedes and Vanwalls, but the 1958 car, the 246 F1, was back at the top level. That year, the Englishman also did very well in sports cars, winning among others, the Buenos Aires 1000 Kilometres and the Sebring 12 Hours, teamed with the American Phil Hill, at the wheel of a 250 Testa Rossa. In Formula 1, Collins, Hawthorn and Musso seemed able to beat Moss and Brooks in the Vanwall, but fate dealt a blow. In the French Grand Prix at Reims on 6 July, Musso lost his life while trying to pass team-mate Hawthorn. On 19th at Silverstone, Collins took his third and final Grand Prix win before being the victim of a very serious accident while duelling with Brooks at the Nurburgring two weeks later. Collins lost control of his Ferrari and ended up in a ditch after hitting a tree: despite first aid and efforts at the hospital, he died from his injuries. “His passion for racing was equal to his passion and ability on the mechanical side. Peter was a man who could get in a car and on the first lap knew how to identify where the engine put out the most torque, at what revs to best exploit it and when to change gear to get the best performance and off he’d go. He was a driver who in a word, became one with the car, felt it instinctively and could give the engineers a good evaluation, usually with absolute precision. It was a valuable tool for setting up the car and for its development. In the races he was consistently quick and above all, invincible.” That was Enzo Ferrari’s verdict on Collins the driver, without further flattery. However, the Commendatore had a few doubts when it came to Collins the man as can be seen in this description, as usual in “Piloti, che gente…” after his marriage to the American actress, Louise King. “This lady, Luisa was one of those creatures in the pits that I fleetingly remember… (after the wedding, Editor’s note) continued to dazzle but his happy character cracked; he became nervous and his friends believed that America had robbed him of his dream. And my last memory is this: shaking his hand before he left for the Nurburgring, I looked at him and felt myself seized with a feeling of deep sadness. Going back to my office I wondered, is it a premonition?”

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