The 25th February 1957 saw Stirling drive two different Maserati sports cars in the same race, as was the case the month before in the Buenos Aires 1000km, at the inaugaral Cuban Grand Prix, held on the Malecon sea front street circuit in Havana.
With Fidel Castros insurgents acitve in the Cuban countryside, life for Batistas’ in the city of Havana went on. Keen to attract wealthy American tourists to the country to pump much needed funds into their moribund economy, what was to become an annual sports car race, was part of a plan to raise Cuba’s profile and provide an international event to attract tourism.
Stirling flew into Havana via New York and Miami only to discover that due to a dock strike in New York, a large number of cars destined for this race had not arrived. The organisers had to scrabble around to get a makeshift field of cars and drivers together, delaying the race by a day.
He was given the #28 Maserati 200S to drive, owned by Ettore Chimeri, and found that the car did not handle very well. Stirling found the circuit awful to drive, particularily when it was wet in practice, and went onto qualify the car in 3rd place on the grid, with Juan Manuel Fangio qualifying first in the 2# Maserati 300S.
Despite making a bad start, he recovered the lost ground, and by the time they entered the first corner, was up to second place, which he held for 12 laps of the 3.5 mile cirucit until he was overtaken by Fangio.
On lap 17, and still in third place, an oil leak caused the Maserati's engine to seize forcing Stirling to retire the car. He then found himself in Harry Schell's private Yellow #6 Maserati 300S, which had inherited 3rd place following his Maserati's earlier retirement. Stirling's race did last much longer, a valve broke in the 300S's engine and he found himself retiring for the second and final time in the race.
Alfonso de Portago, in the #12 Ferrari 860 Monza, fought a race long battle with Fangio's 300S and Carroll Shelby in the #18 Ferrari 410 Sport. Fangio would go on to win the race ahead of Shelby and de Portago in front of some 100, 000 spectators.
Image © Tom Burnside