In 1956 Maserati, having managed to engage Stirling Moss, entered the Sports Car Championship as well as Formula One. Fangio moved to Ferrari, which had received a technical boost when Lancia withdrew from racing after the death of Alberto Ascari at Monza in 1955 and designer Vittorio Jano, together with Eugenio Castellotti, moved to Maranello. The Le Mans tragedy that year forced the Brescia organizers to renew their focus on safety and drivers now had to undergo a selection process.
After last years race saw more than 500 entrants the number of starters was reduced to 365 and the only works team other than Ferrari was Maserati, which entered three cars driven by Stirling Moss, Piero Taruffi and Cesare Perdisa. There was a significant contingent of Mercedes Benz cars – no less than fourteen semi-works 300 SL’s were entered with the clear aim of winning the Grand Touring category over the Ferrari 250GT Berlinettas.
The women of Italy called him Il Bello (The Beautiful One), the heir to a substantial family fortune and they crowded around him as he sat nonchalantly smoking on the tail of his 12-cylinder, 3.5 liter Ferrari at the starting line in Brescia. On this first half of the race Castellotti and Fangio, in the faster cars, would push hard; Musso and Collins, the second half of the Ferrari team, would save their strength, aiming to reach Rome still fresh and able to go all out over the rough and winding mountain passes of Radicofani, Futa and Raticosa. Piero Taruffi took the lead between Ravenna and Forlì but wet brakes from heavy rain forced him to stop at Savignano on the Rubicon. Wolfgang von Trips took the lead ahead of Castellotti and the Mercedes of Reiss. But he left the road in Pescara as did Moss in Antrodoco. By Rome, the only threat to Ferrari was Reiss’s Mercedes but he too was forced to slow down, eventually finishing tenth overall. Castellotti, a protege of Ascari, went on to win without coming close to beating Moss’s record of the previous year over the same route.
In spite of the attempt to make the race safer there were still a number of accidents including one that resulted in the death of Englishman John Heath, a partner in Hersham and Walton Motors (H.W.M.). Another fatality happened in the small town of Montemarciano (AN), when the Mercedes-Benz 300SL driven by German team Helmut Busch-Wolfgang Piwco crashed against a wall. Piwco, who at the moment was at the wheel of the car, was killed instantly, while Busch suffering minor injuries and also one spectator being injured.