The Lancia company had been set up by Fiat's pre-WW1 driving ace Vincenzo Lancia but he insisted that the company stay out of competition and concentrate on building and selling road cars. When his son Gianni took over the company after WW2 he took Lancia into sportscar racing with some success and when a new formula was announced for Grand Prix racing in 1954, he decided it was a good opportunity to enter Formula 1.
The result was the Lancia D50, powered by a 2.5-liter V8 engine. This was very late in appearing but three of the cars were ready in October 1954 and Ascari put one on pole position for the Spanish GP at Pedralbes with Villoresi fifth. Both cars retired early in the race.
In preparation for the 1955 season Lancia hired Italy's rising racing star Eugenio Castellotti to partner Ascari and Villoresi and all three appeared in D50s at the Argentine GP in January 1955. All three cars crashed.
In March the three appeared for the Valentino GP in Turin and Ascari won, beating the Ferrari and Maserati teams. They raced again at Pau where all three cars finished in the top six with Castellotti second, Villoresi fourth and Ascari fifth having been forced out of the lead with a mechanical problem. Ascari would win again in Naples at the start of May.
A fourth car was entered for Monaco, this being driven by local hero Louis Chiron, but as usual it was Ascari who led the way. He was about to take the lead when he crashed into the harbor. A few days later Ascari was killed testing a Ferrari sportscar at Monza.
Ascari's death left the Lancia team shocked and led Villoresi to talk openly of retirement. There were also serious financial problems. Lancia was not selling enough road cars to fund the F1 program and so Gianni Lancia took the difficult decision to cancel the F1 project. Castellotti managed to persuade his boss to let him have a car for the Belgian GP at Spa. He took pole position but retired with a gearbox problem while running third.
The following week came the Le Mans disaster and within a few days the entire Lancia company had been taken over. It would later be sold to Fiat. The D50s were sold to Enzo Ferrari and Jano joined him as consultant engineer. They appeared for the first time at the Italian GP in September in the hands of Giuseppe Farina and Villoresi.
The Ferrari-run Lancias won five of the seven World Championship races in 1956. Juan-Manuel Fangio won the World Championship after his team-mate Peter Collins handed over his D50 in the Italian GP. Collins finished third in the title race as a result.