ATLAS F1   Volume 6, Issue 25 Email to Friend   Printable Version

Atlas F1   Rear View Mirror

Backward glances at racing history

Where Upon Our Scribe, Sherman,
& Mr. Peabody Once Again Crank Up
The Way-Back Machine for 1961...
by Don Capps, U.S.A.

Which is better known as...the Season of Low Expectations or Britain Sees Red

In this chapter: Monaco Madness or Moss does the Monte!

In most years, the International Trophy at Silverstone ranks as one of the premier non-championship Formula 1 events of the season. However, 1961 was not most seasons. The first weekend of May saw the International Trophy run as the third Inter-Continental Formula of the season. It was the first such race run with a decent grid, with all The Usual Suspects showing up plus a few surprises. Chuck Daigh was back with the Scarab and John Surtees was at the wheel of the latest (and last) Vanwall, VW14. Whereas the former was still sporting the engine in the front, the latter was a rear-engined effort.

The VW14 was based on experience gleaned from the examination of the Lotus 18 (chassis 901 which was known at the Acton shop as ‘VWL 12’) the Vandervell team obtained to plumb the mysteries of rear-engined racing machines. VW14 was fitted with a 2.6-litre version of the still-powerful Vanwall four-cylinder engine. With Surtees at the wheel, great things were expected.

The Scarab remained a curiosity, but it was a genuine US-made racing machine. The mechanics of the other teams in the paddock were impressed by the caliber of its craftsmanship and the use of high quality aircraft components throughout the machine. The thought surfaced again and again: "...if it had emerged in 1957 or even in 1958, no telling how successful it might have been..."

There were a total of 19 cars on the grid for the International Trophy (a 20th had come out second best – as well as second-hand – after hitting a part of a bank during practice: the Reg Parnell-entered Lotus 18 driven by Michael Parkes who was taking a holiday from his usual GT activities), a much better turnout than the two earlier events for the formula. The front row saw Bruce McLaren on the pole in a works Cooper 53. Next was the Rob Walker Cooper 53 entered for Stirling Moss with Jack Brabham lining up next to him in yet another Cooper 53 – however this was the machine originally intended by Reg Parnell for Surtees to drive. The last position on the front row was filled by Graham Hill in one of the BRM P48 machines. Surtees managed to get the Vanwall into the middle of the second row while Daigh was on the lead position for the fifth row of the grid.

The skies opened prior to the race and kept pouring, causing some areas of the track to begin to puddle. However, there was a schedule to be kept and the flag dropped on an already soaked grid. At the opening sprint it was Brabham, McLaren, Moss, and a surprisingly quick Surtees into Copse as the field splashed after them. The conditions were terrible and were quick to smack around those who ventured too close to the edge of the envelope: Massimo Natili rolled his Centro Sud Cooper 51 Maserati at Club without harm to himself but leaving "Mimo" (Guglielmo) Dei with a significant repair bill. At Abbey, there was a synchronized triple spin – Tony Brooks (BRM P48), Innes Ireland (Lotus 18), and Jim Clark (Lotus 18) all returning to the fray. In the confusion of dodging the cars trying to get back into the race, Graham Hill spinning at exactly the same place on the next lap, and all the mud that was thrown on the track, Surtees managed to sneak his Vanwall by Moss for a few minutes before being dropped back to fourth. Several laps later, McLaren spun at Woodcote and Brabham assumed the lead.

The conditions were continuing to deteriorate, but still the race plunged onward. After 23 laps, Moss passed Brabham for the lead and was...gone. Within another 30 laps Moss lapped the Australian who was flogging the Cooper for all she was worth. Moss was in a completely different universe from the rest of the field. At the end of 80 laps – when the race mercifully ended – Moss was on the verge of lapping Brabham yet again! It was a fabulous display of car control and wet weather mastery that has been almost completely forgotten. It was easily one of the best races in Moss’ career.

Surtees managed to get past Brabham and into second place for a brief time before he spun at Abbey (a popular place for spins in this race) and had to pit to have all the muck scooped out of the long radiator opening into addition to having the car looked over. He managed to get back in the race and salvage fifth. This was the last appearance of a Vanwall in a race. Only a few seasons before, the Vandervell team had captured the Constructors Championship and now it was gone, forever.

Chuck Daigh and the Scarab were a real surprise. In the wretched conditions, the Scarab and Daigh came from deep in the field and was running in sixth late in the race when two spins in the closing laps dropped him to seventh place.

The final order was: Moss; Brabham; Roy Salvadori (Reg Parnell Cooper 53); Henry Taylor (UDT-Laystall/ British Racing Partnership Lotus 18); Surtees; Brooks; Daigh; and the rest of the mob either among the walking wounded or their machines being used as birdbaths at various points about the track.

On Thursday, 11 May, the first practice session for the Grand Prix de Monaco was held on the streets of Monte Carlo. It was finally Show Time for the quest for the World Championship. The new machines that the teams had been laboring on through the Winter and Spring were now parked in the pits on the Quai Albert Premier. While this might be the “first” race of the season for those not close to the sport, to many of the teams the repair bills were already high enough to make team managers wince when they totaled the costs…

As already apparent, life in the Grand Prix lane in 1961 is a far cry from that of recent years. The organizers of the races decided how many entrants would be invited or accepted, the number of starters on the grid, what the starting and prize moneys would be, plus various and sundry other minor items such as the classification of the final results, the numbers assigned to the cars, and the local "ground rules"...a far cry from the uniformity of today. The weight-in was very informal, the cars being placed on the weight-bridge and the teams being asked how much fuel was in the machines so it could be subtracted to provide the 'formula' weight. One only need a slight glimmer of what passed through Colin Chapman's mind when he realized the import of this... Needless to say, the Lotus cars were well within the weight limit.

At Monaco, the organizers had decided in 1956 to limit the grid to 16 starters. This year, the scheme was to accept two cars from the five works teams – Spa SEFAC Ferrari, Phil Hill and Wolfgang von Trips; Porsche System Engineering, Dan Gurney and Joakim Bonnier; Team Lotus, Innes Ireland and Jim Clark; Cooper Car Company, Jack Brabham and Bruce McLaren; and, Owen Racing Organisation, Graham Hill and Tony Brooks. In addition, former winners Maurice Trintignant (Scuderia Serenissima Cooper 51 Maserati) and Stirling Moss (Rob Walker Lotus 18 Climax or Cooper 53 Climax) were provided starting spots. That left four spots on the grid and nine cars to duke it out for the right to line up on the grid Sunday afternoon.

In the pits that Thursday afternoon, the entrants sorted out pretty much as follows:

2, 4, 6. Porsche Systems Engineering brought three entries and a spare for the race. The Bonnier machine was a new type, the 787 (01). It sported new bodywork designed by Butzi Porsche and generally favored the old design, Typ 718/2. In addition to the new bodywork, the car also had a revised front suspension. This new suspension was also used on the re-bodied 718/2 (05) to be used by Hans Herrmann. Hermann was one those who would have to qualify for the grid. Gurney was in a normal 718/2, which retained the older front suspension (which still used Volkswagen forgings…). The Bonnier machine had a four-speed gearbox while five-speed gearboxes were on the Gurney and Herrmann machines. All three machines sported fuel-injected engines. The system used was that of the Munich firm Kugelfischer rather than the expected Bosch system. The engine was still the familiar and sturdy Typ 547/3. The Kugelfischer system was a low pressure injection system and while it did not add much to the top end, it appeared to smooth out the transitions in the torque curve and greatly improved response in the lower rpm levels: it could even idle at 600rpm (!) without fouling the plugs, a miracle in the eyes of the hard-pressed Porsche mechanics...

8. Michael May, the young Swiss engineer who was the winner of the 1959 Formula Junior race, was all present and accounted for in a Lotus 18 Climax FPF entered by Scuderia Colonia, the team run by Wolfgang Seidel. May was one of those vying for a spot on the grid.

10, 12. Equipe Nationale Belge showed up with their ugly yellow Emeryson-Maserati machines with Lucien Bianchi and Olivier Gendebien doing the appropriately named driving chores for the race. Both drivers were going to have to qualify to make the grid.

14. Camoradi International was present with a Cooper 53 Climax FPF for Masten Gregory. The FPF was a Mark I and down on power at that. Gregory was one of those working to snare one of the four available spots on the grid.

16, 18. The Owen Racing Organisation showed up with the new P57 machines, but they were powered by the Climax FPF like the rest of the British entries. Tony Brooks had a FPF Mark I for the weekend while Graham got the only FPF Mark II available to the team. The machines now sported four-wheel Dunlop disc brakes rather than the gearbox-mounted brake of the previous Bourne cars, the P25 and P48.

20. The R.R.C. (Rob) Walker Racing Team showed up at Monaco with two cars for Stirling Moss to choose from: a Lotus 18 (‘912’) Climax FPF Mark II or a Cooper 53 (F1/7/61) Climax FPF. The Colotti gearbox had received great attention from Alf Francis since he was now a partner in the firm as well as the chief wrench for Rob Walker. Francis also placed Italian Tipo Mona fuel pumps on the cars in place of the usual Lucas equipment.

22. When the organizers sent out invitations for the race, the Yeoman Credit Racing Team/ Reg Parnell (Racing) only received one invite. Regardless of hard he looked into or shook the envelope, Parnell still found only one invitation. Unfortunately, he had two drivers. However, since there was another event the same day (more on this later), all was not lost and John Surtees was ready to do combat in his Cooper 53 Climax FPF. However, he would have to do without an FPF Mark II, since only a handful of the engines (eight) were ready for the teams at Monte Carlo. Surtees was looking for a spot on the grid, but would be forced to earn it on the strength of a good time during practice.

24, 26. The defending World Champions, the Cooper Car Company and its lead driver Jack Brabham, were having a crazy weekend. Brabham was also trying to qualify at the Indianapolis 500 that same weekend and was going to have to dash back and forth across the Atlantic between Thursday and Saturday evening. The Cooper 55 Climax FPF was an evolution of the very successful 53 of the previous season. It was a tidy package and looked very promising, especially since both cars had the FPF Mark II available for use in the race. Two items on the new Coopers escaped notice initially: first, the McLaren car used a Stewart Warner electric fuel pump and, second, the cars sported six-speed gearboxes.

28, 30. Team Lotus finally used its new machine, the 21, in a race despite its being tested by the drivers prior to the Aintree 200 in late April. The team brought two complete Lotus 21 chassis and a third chassis that could be assembled if necessary. Those who looked at the new Lotus often remarked how much like a Formula Junior it looked, due to its compact size and very sleek looks. The latter was a sharp contrast to the boxy bodywork on the Lotus 18. Team Lotus was another of the rare teams fortunate enough to have two FPF Mark II engines available. However, much of the interest that centered on the team focused on the new gearbox being used. The old Lotus "Queerbox" was a wonderful idea that seemed to defy being turned into a reliable product. The new gearbox was a collaboration between Lotus and the German firm ZF (Zahnradfabrik Friedrichschafen, AG). There were 10 of the gearboxes produced with six at the track – it was decided to simply switch gearboxes versus changing ratios since the team was still trying to become familiar with the new transmission.

32, 34. The United Dominion Trust (UDT) – Laystall Racing Team, as the British Racing Partnership was known to one and all in 1961, brought cars for former Ferrari driver Cliff Allison and Henry Taylor, the latter a dedicated driver who never seemed to be standing in the right line when luck was handed out. The two Lotus 18 Climax FPF machines were beautifully prepared by head mechanic Tony Robinson. The team was given one of the precious FPF Mark II engines and it was provided to Allison for the weekend. Even though neither driver had a guaranteed spot on the grid, the team felt confident of their chances to put both on the grid for Sunday’s race. The team also used a five-speed gearbox it developed in conjunction with Laystall since the Queerbox was not in great favor with the team…

36, 38, 40. The works Ferrari team finally made its first appearance of the season, on a course that was more than likely the one least suited for it on the Championship calendar. The third team driver, Richie Ginther, would have to qualify for the grid, but few expected that he would have any problems doing so. He was also given the only 120-degree engine used that weekend. Both Phil Hill and Wolfgang von Trips used the older 65-degree engines in their machines. The sleek new bodywork of the Dino 156 had made its debut at Siracusa, but this was its grand appearance. They were fabulous looking machines and very well turned out. Team Manager Romolo Tavoni exuded confidence as he watched over the activities in the pits.

42. And, last, the Scuderia Serenissima entry for 1955 and 1958 winner Maurice Trintignant. The Cooper 51 Maserati sported the original 1959 suspension system and a Colotti gearbox.

At 1400, Louis Chiron signaled the start of the first practice session. The Ferrari drivers were quickly down into the low 1min 41sec range. Then, out of nowhere, Clark was soon into the 40sec range and then racked up a time of 1min 39.6sec with the nearest time at only 1min 41.0sec, set by Phil Hill. Then Clark clipped a curb at Saint Devote and had a Big One: a front tire burst, the Lotus spun, hit a barrier a mighty smack, and was reduced to a collection of random parts. Amazingly enough, Clark emerged unscathed from the crash. As a note, this was the first year that the ARMCO barriers pretty much replaced the usual hay bales and telephones poles, although some of the hay bales were still found here and there on the circuit. Brabham, just back from the USA, put in a few quick laps ending up with a best time of 1min 44.0sec and then set out to return to the USA and to qualify at Indianapolis. The Porsche team set this one out fiddling with the new cars and their new fuel-injection systems. Best of the first session: Clark, P. Hill, Ginther, Moss, Ireland, von Trips, and G. Hill.

On Friday, things got Serious and Ginther got Going... Ginther was fast from the git-go and tossing the Dino around the tight circuit at such a rapid pace, the hopes of the British teams sank deeper and deeper as Ginther picked up the pace. Phil Hill and von Trips were also quick, but just off the pace set by Ginther. The session saw some surprises emerge. May was wringing more from his Lotus than most thought was there and got down to 1min 42.0sec, which if it held up would be enough to get him into the race Sunday. Graham Hill got his BRM motivating smartly and was up among the red cars at the end of the session. Moss used the Cooper during this session and was not very pleased with it. Best of the second session: Ginther, P. Hill, G. Hill, von Trips, Ireland, Surtees, and McLaren.

On Saturday, the pressure was on for both better grid times and making the grid. The Dino of von Trips was the first to go quick, but was soon matched by McLaren who really got the Cooper honking. Taylor was trying to make the grid and the tires on his car soon looked like whitewalls he was using so much of the track. Then Moss emerged in the Lotus and set a time that beat the best of Ginther on Friday by 0.2sec and was going even faster when the lap was interrupted by Ireland selecting the wrong gear as the Lotus was in the tunnel. The Lotus 21 objected to being asked to use second versus fourth gear at this point and promptly wrecked itself in protest. The car was comprehensively written-off and Ireland was fortunate to emerge alive from the wreckage. As it was he suffered a broken kneecap and leg, severe cuts and bruises, and wound up in the Princess Grace Hospital for a short stay. As luck would have it, the accident was almost literally in the path of Moss as he was on a flyer. With one of the guaranteed starters out, the organizers originally announced that only 15 would start. As the dust settled, however, they decided to admit one more of the qualifiers, Allison being the lucky fellow to bring the grid up to is allotted 16 places.

The starting grid looked like this:

  • Clark, 1min 39.6sec
  • Ginther, 1min 39.3sec
  • Moss, 1min 39.1sec
  • P. Hill, 1min 39.8sec
  • G. Hill, 1min 39.6sec
  • Brooks, 1min 40.1sec
  • McLaren, 1min 39.8sec
  • von Trips, 1min 39.8sec
  • Gurney, 1min 40.6sec
  • Bonnier, 1min 40.3sec
  • May, 1min 42.0sec
  • Herrmann, 1min 41.1sec
  • Surtees, 1min 41.1sec
  • Trintignant, 1min 42.4sec
  • Allison, 1min 42.3sec
  • Brabham, 1min 44.0sec

    Left on the sidelines: Taylor, 1min 42.6sec; Gregory, 1min 42.7sec (a part of the reason the engine was down on power was that the magneto points had closed up – it was already late in the last session before it was found as the fault and too late to fix it); Bianchi, 1min 42.9sec; Gendebien, 1min 43.7sec; and, Ireland, 1min 40.5sec – out due to injuries. The Emeryson cars were just slow….

    For the race on Sunday the pits were moved to the inland side opposite from their position on the Quai Albert Premier. The start, however, remained on the Quai Albert Premier, with the usual run down into the Gasometer Hairpin. The weather for the 1445 start was wonderful compared with the threatening skies of the previous year. When the grid lined up for the start, the Moss Lotus showed up with the bottom body panels removed. Team patron Rob Walker explained that this was due to the heat. Perhaps that is true, but the removal of the panels was also necessitated by the late discovery of a fractured tube in the chassis that required repair just prior to the start of the race. Alf Francis, apparently oblivious of the fuel tank adjacent to the damaged tube, calmly welded the tube, checked the repairs, and rolled the car to the grid without the panels. Moss looked at Francis, hopped in, and got ready to race.

    When the flag fell, Ginther rocketed into the lead followed by Clark, Moss, and Brooks. Ginther pulled away in the early laps, and the Porsches of Bonnier and Gurney stormed through the pack into third and fourth places. After his great start, Clark was in the pits with a problem that was traced to a lose lead to the fuel pump, all of which cost him four laps. It quickly became that Ferrari was using Ginther as the rabbit and that his mission was to draw Moss and the others into a duel and wear them down, while Phil Hill and von Trips played a waiting game standing by to elbow their way in to assist Ginther when necessary. While Ginther and Moss were at the front, it was Bonnier and Gurney followed by what was soon a snarling pack composed of McLaren, the two Hills, Brooks, Surtees, von Trips, Brabham, and Herrmann in somewhat that order.

    On the 14th lap, Moss slipped by Ginther to take the lead. Bonnier, who had come up to trail Moss, also got by Ginther who suddenly was in third place! Once Moss was in the lead, off he went. He was in control and steadily pulling away from Bonnier and Ginther. Phil Hill soon closed on and passed both Ginther and Bonnier. However, he was still adrift of Moss by over 11 seconds and not making much of a dent in Moss’ lead. After puling out all the stops, Hill managed to pull exactly one of the seconds off the lead Moss had built up. In the meanwhile, Ginther closed on Bonnier and passed him on the way up the hill past St. Devote to the Casino.

    At the half-distance mark, the lead Moss enjoyed was now only a bit less than eight seconds due to the superb efforts of Phil Hill, but Moss simply seemed unconcerned and appeared to have much in reserve. Then at the 74th lap, Ginther went on the attack. He closed on teammate Hill, and then passed him on the inside at St. Devote. Immediately, he started to press Moss, taking the lead down from nearly eight seconds to barely over three seconds. Then it seemed to stabilize for several laps.

    Ginther turned up the wick and on lap 84 set the fastest lap of 1min 36.3sec – which was only 0.1sec outside the fastest lap set the previous year in a car with one more litre of engine! On the very next lap, Moss responded with an identical time! For the final 15 laps, it was a dog fight with Moss always seeming to have just that small bit left to thwart an attack, but not enough to draw away. Even though it seemed hopeless, Ginther pounded away at Moss and slowed only when the checkered flag wavered… It was a superb race for Moss, one of his best and an equally superb race for Ginther, whose performance opened many eyes.

    As for the rest, the carnage was severe even if officially only three (!) cars were officially listed as "unclassified or retired." The Monaco rules allowed any car getting past the halfway mark to be listed as a "finisher." Phil Hill managed third, and von Trips fourth, even though the latter ran out of luck on the 99th lap going into Mirabeau when his engine suddenly gave up the ghost and he slithered into the barriers. Anywhere else he would have been place at the end of the queue after those still running, which was meant 11th not fourth place….

    Results: Moss; Ginther; P. Hill; von Trips (crash); Gurney; McLaren; Trintignant; Allison; Herrmann; Clark; Surtees (engine); Bonnier (fuel injection); Brooks (engine); May (oil line); Brabham (engine); and, G. Hill (fuel pump).

    In our next episode: From the Streets of Napoli to the Sands of Zandvoort to the Moss of Brands Hatch...

    Previous Parts in this Series: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5

  • Don Capps© 2000 Kaizar.Com, Incorporated.
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