|ATLAS F1 Volume 6, Issue 33||Email to Friend Printable Version|
|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:
Looking back at the month of June, Enzo Ferrari could only smile. It had taken the sting out of the month May where his cars made been defeated by Moss at Monte Carlo and then by the unlikely combination of Masten Gregory and Lloyd "Lucky" Casner in a CAMORADI-entered Maserati Birdcage at the Nurburgring 1000 Kilometers. But June was different. In a TR61, Olivier Gendebien and Phil Hill won the Le Mans 24 Hour race leading a Ferrari 1 - 2 - 3 finish. The next weekend saw Phil Hill lead three other Dino 156's across the line at Spa in the Belgian Grand Prix. And July was looking very, very good. With the Sports Car Championship now clinched, Ferrari now focused his efforts on the GP team. To say this was not good news for the British teams would be an understatement.
As the team transports - both great and meek - converged on Reims-Gueux circuit, the topic for many was who would capture fourth place and thus win the Best in Class points? The race at Spa-Francorchamps had convinced more than a few that it was not of question of Ferrari winning the Championship, but which driver - Hill or von Trips? Or even Ginther? Could even Moss the Maestro manage to challenge the Italian juggernaut?
The entry for the XLVII Grand Prix de l'Automobile Club de France looked like this:
2, 4 - Jack Brabham and Bruce McLaren: Cooper Car Company, Cooper 55 - Climax FPF
Unlike the previous three events in the Championship, the French club ran an open "y'all come" entry and so there was no frantic bashing about the circuit by the privateers to gain a spot on the grid. The only non-show turned out to the Brian Naylor JBW. When the Belgian ENB team ran into problems, its entry for Olivier Gendebien in the ugly and ineffective was scratched and the Wolfgang Seidel entry for the Swiss driver Michael (or Michel according to some sources...) May was inserted in its place.
The first practice session for the fourth race for the World Championship took place on Wednesday evening, as were all the subsequent practices as well. By evening, we are talking about 1830 (6:30pm) as the starting time for cars taking to the track. This allowed the teams to avoid the heat of the day while they practiced, but the race is to be run in the middle of the afternoon. When asking about this, one gets a smile, shrugged shoulders, and a gesture of hands opening and fumbling about. One soon drops this line of questioning and concludes that it is simply another Blue Whale (Note: Although the blue whale is the largest animal on the earth, it has a throat only about the size of an adult's fist. Why? Because that is how God wanted it...).
As the paddock fills with the support vehicles and the pits are prepared for the serious business at hand, there is time to wander about this sea of chaos and see what the latest gossip, fact, rumors, lies, and scandals are among the rings of the Circus.
The Cooper team is little changed from Spa and the six-speed gearbox is working quite well. However, still no sign of the new Climax vee-8, the FWMV. Black Jack Brabham is apparently spending more and more time on his new Formula Junior project, the MRD, which is named after his new work shop established for the FJ effort - Motor Racing Developments. This is not to be confused with the Brabham Racing Organisation which was established as the entrant for Black Jack when he is not in works cars for the Cooper family.
Team Lotus was looking for a better day, Ireland feeling better and some work on the cars seeming to bear fruit. Porsche was still using the old F2 cars and hoping for the best. The de Beaufort car was now getting better support from the factory and is essentially the third car for the German team.
The Ferrari team has that sense of confidence that was there back when the great Ascari was driving for the stable. Believe what you wish, but although the "official" story is that none of the drivers is being given the head nod and wink for the race, actions seem to speak louder than words: von Trips looked happy and "Feel Heel" seems more moody than usual if that is possible. As for Ginther, he is always beaming so who knows? And the rookie Baghetti is a surprise entry since the original deal with the factory was supposed to be for races in Italy only. Naturally, no explanation was given and no one would have cared anyway. Unlike the team cars, Baghetti still has the 60-degree engine, but the metal mesh over the Webers now sports a perspex bubble just like the others.
The BRM team was another with not much to say about when its new engine would see the light of day - obviously not here. Rob Walker had both a Lotus 18 and a Cooper 53 for Moss to play with, the Cooper being the mount listed in the official program. However, Maestro Moss opted for the Lotus. The work chief wrench Alf Francis has put into the "18/21" has made it a very different car from earlier in the year. With Cliff Allison laid up after his horrendous accident at Spa, Lucien Bianchi joined Henry Taylor on the UDT-Laystall/ BRP team. It was thought that Juan Manuel Bordeu - after a promising test at Silverstone - would get the nod, but either he didn't pony enough shillings or they know something no else does.
Just to show that life is not all it would seem, the Serenissima team dragged to the track its painfully slow de Tomaso - OSCA (it was rumored to have been beaten by a Fiat Topolino during testing...) and its aging Cooper - Maserati with the new bodywork fitted at Spa still in place. The OSCA engine was a four-cylinder, double overhead cam design with two spark plugs per cylinder which may or may not say something significant about its abilities. The chassis is of the bog standard Cooper copycat variety with the gearbox being based on Citroen parts. Lucky Casner of CAMORADI fame entered his drivers in the race, each still using the Mark 1 version of the Climax FPF. Definitely a case of bringing ponies to a horse show in this case.
Reg Parnell finally entered Roy Salvadori in a Championship even this season. Surtees was in the streamliner first seen at Siracusa and sporting S.U. carburetors initially, but was soon back to using Webers. Jack Lewis showed up with a Mark 2 Climax FPF and Frenchman Collomb, well, showed up.
Wolfgang Seidel showed up with his two Lotus 18 machines with both May and ready to run. However, these tow (and de Beaufort) were not assigned race numbers at first and so it was a tad chaotic as to how to track them on the lap charts during practice with "TL" and "TL1" being the ones seen at scoring table most often, but then there was also the inverted "T" being used as well.
There were three practices sessions for the race and thus ample opportunity on each evening Wednesday through Friday for the organizers - led by the unique (for which one and were all thankful) Toto Roche - to see what they could screw up as well for the teams to see how scared the drivers could get negotiating the circuit.
Wednesday practice saw the Ferrari team heading the practice times with Hill, von Trips, and Ginther in that order. Hill set a time a second and a half faster than von Trips and nearly three seconds faster than Moss - leader of the rest of the pack. The main purpose of Baghetti - still learning the circuit on his first venture outside Italy in a pukka racing machine - seemed to be to provide a convenient towing vehicle for the British teams, Brabham especially benefiting from this arrangement. At the end of the session, it was noted that John Cooper was sorting through the lockers on the car transport muttering something about the fact that since only red cars seemed to be going fast, perhaps they needed to find some red paint...
The Thursday session saw neither Hill nor von Trips deign to practice, so the fun was trying to latch onto Ginther or Baghetti and dash off a fast lap. Graham Hill and McLaren used this technique to advantage and were just behind Ginther at the end of the session. One worrying problem was that Climax engines did not seem to enjoy these sort of excitement and several puked their innards in protest. One interesting incident during the session occurred when McLaren was tucked in behind Baghetti and they braked for Thillois and found a black Peugeot sedately heading at them! They both took to the escape road and the errant driver attended to by The Authorities. The Porsche team had skipped the first session and soon found some decent times. Although he had the best time during the session, it was still slightly over two seconds off the pole time of Hill from the previous evening.
On Friday evening, Hill and von Trips both appeared, but only to run a few laps to check out the various bits and see that all was in order for Sunday. They then disappeared into the paddock. Baghetti still continued to struggle, getting nowhere near the times of the works cars. Mairesse was the beneficiary of a deal that saw him in the third Team Lotus car and numbers finally appeared on all the cars.
Here is the grid as it finally lined up, with the recipient of the 100 bottles of champagne for the pole never being in doubt. As a matter of contract, in 1960 the pole was taken by Brabham with a time of 2min 16.8sec. In practice for the FJ race, Trevor Taylor sat on the pole with a time of 2min 46.4sec thus lending credence to the Topolino story... .
It was a hot week in France and even in the evenings it was very warm. When the starting time for the race rolled around at 1430 (2:30pm), it was worst than ever. Plus, the FJ support race heats had laid down oil here and there and generally prepped the circuit by tossing all the gravel on the verges onto the road surface. With the tar soft - if not melting - in many places on the circuit, work crews indiscriminately tossed shovels of gravel here and there as well as adding new globs of tar on the track. Team Lotus removed side panels for better cooling of the drivers and the engines while the Cooper cars showed up with holes butchering the bodywork.
When the "30 SEC" board was hoisted for all the see, our dear Toto Roche was standing in front of the grid and waited perhaps five seconds - with the "15 SEC" board still in the hands of one the clerks who was getting to step in front of the grid beside Roche - and then abruptly lifted and dropped the flag. Having experienced such antics from Fat Toto before, only Henry Taylor got caught napping. As Fat Toto went scampering for the pits for dear life - one team manager was overheard to express his regret that they missed him again.. - "Feel Heel" rocketed off the line with his teammates right there with him, Ginther taking advantage of Hill having to avoid getting Fat Toto as a hood ornament.
At the end of the first lap, Hill was moving out smartly ahead of von Trips and Ginther with Moss in pursuit. Then it was Surtees, the Lotus twins, the BRM twins, McLaren, Baghetti, and the Porsche twins. The Ferrari team left the pack in their mirrors. But, the treacherous conditions caught Ginther napping and he spun at Miuzon letting Moss into third with Surtees pranging his rear suspension as he tried to avoid t-boning the American driver. Ginther got pointed in the right direction and zipped past Moss as if the latter had "left the hand-brake on" as someone put it.
Left without a tow, Moss was soon in the clutches of a howling mob composed of "Ines" (as the program listed him) Ireland, Clark, Brooks, Graham Hill, and McLaren - in not usually that order. Soon Brooks dropped out when a head gasket served as an excuse for the Climax to register its displeasure at being flogged that way. The gravel and stones - "boulders" as Clark later called them - were pelting everyone as the cars battered the already chewed up track.
Soon Brabham pitted and mechanic Mike Grohman tinkered with it, but the autopsy was inclusive except it was apparently a "special" banger brewed up for the Champ and which never seemed to find its mark. At least Black Jack got get cool. Even so, it hurt to have de Beaufort effortless steam by him before the engine croaked.
Hill - as in Phil - was circulating in the lead with von Trips in his slipstream for a dozen laps and then - obviously obeying team orders but leaving absolutely no doubt who was the faster of the two - let Count Taffy by and into the lead. Meanwhile, Moss was finally gobbled up by the snarling mob behind him. Interestingly, the group now was led by rookie Baghetti and Bonnier stuck to his exhaust pipes with the Lotus twins right behind. Then Moss was in the pits, a stone having smashed a brake line leaving a front brake caliper useless. Tavoni, he Ferrari team manager, was waving the "PIANO" sign at his drivers as if he intended to bash them in the head with - when he wished he had.
The von Trips Dino rolled into the pits with clouds of steam roiling from the engine. Taking a look-see up the exhaust pipe, one of the mechanics - Marchetti - almost got a boiled eyeball for his efforts when a burp of steam and boiling water erupted from the pipe. Either a stone had gone through the radiator or the accumulation of tar and gravel had blocked off enough of the opening to drive the engine to suicide to end its misery.
With von Trips now out, "Feel Heel" was left way out in front with Ginther similarly ahead of the survivors, the latter having new boy Baghetti at the head of that mob. Clark had a stone smash his goggles - which already were taking a beating with the elastic frayed from the stone chips - and dropped back until he got a fresh pair in place. Ireland then found his engine making funny noises - and was out of the pack and therefore the tow. He, too, fell back and sorted out things.
It was looking like a boring 1 - 2 - 3 result for Ferrari when Ginther dashed past the pits making some sort of cabalistic hand signals to the pits when it dawned on everyone that there was not sign of the Hill in the red machine! At Thillois, Hill tried to put a move on Moss and suddenly found himself sliding on marbles that weren't there the last lap. The Dino spun and slid right into the path of Moss - who despite his best efforts on the hot tar and gravel smacked the Dino a mighty think amidships. The Dino stalled before Hill could catch the clutch - his foot knocked off of it as a result of the collision - and keep it running. Hill jumped out and tried to push-start the engine. However, the hot engine refused to fire and Hill was near exhaustion when it suddenly fired up. He was almost too beat to hang on and drag himself into the cockpit, by now several laps down.
But not all was not lost for Ferrari since Ginther was still in the lead. Until he pitted pointing at the engine and yelling "Oilo! Oilo! Presto!" Under the new regulations adding oil is expressly forbidden, so the mechanics could only shrug and send him back into the fray, still in the lead. After a lap, he parked the car, the engine shut off after the oil pressure went to zero and it was making very ugly signs of an impending detonation.
Suddenly, it was realized that Baghetti and the Porsche twins were now the lead pack with Clark not far behind, but far enough behind, and only a few laps left. The Gurney and Bonnier duo were taking advantage of being teammates and giving the rookie lessons in the fire art of boxing and blocking, all the while being fair about it. Back and forth the three cars roared around the circuit, cunning and experience up against bravery and horsepower.
Just as it looked as if the Porsche teammates were getting the upper hand, Bonnier peeled off with his engine smoking and crying in protest. On the last lap, they went into Thillois almost on top of each other, Gurney getting the edge on the young Italian, and streaking for the line with the rookie on his heels. Just literally a few hundred meters from the finish line, Baghetti managed to take advantage of the more grunt in his engine and pipped the maxed-out Porsche just at the line! It was pure pandemonium in the stands and in the pits: it was the first win by an Italian in an Italian car since the late and still mourned Alberto Ascari did it seven years before...
Overlooked in all this was the battle between Graham Hill and Bruce McLaren that raged until the very last meters - the latter barely nipping the BRM by 0.1sec.
The Championship standings after four rounds:
The Saturday following the torrid race in France, the Formula Inter-Continental crowd assembles for its fourth event of the year. The British Empire Trophy is the second race at Silverstone for the formula and not really very much different from the previous event on May. Chuck Daigh managed to crash the Scarab during practice and was a non-starter. The Vanwall was used in practice by Jack Brabham, but he stuck with using the BRO Cooper since it was three seconds quicker in practice. The Rob Walker team brought along a car for Jack Fairman that definitely raised a few eyebrows: the Ferguson P99 4-wheel drive machine. It was troublesome during practice and was five seconds off the pole time. There was also Lex Davison in the Aston Martin DBR4/250 which was well back on the grid.
When the flag dropped, it was drizzling and Moss tried to outdrag the polesitter John Surtees, but followed the GP Bike Champion until mid-distance where he got past and vanished into the rain. End of race. Surtees managed second with Graham Hill third in a BRM P48. The Ferguson lasted one lap and then the transmission packed up. Back in the pack, the Aston Martin of Davison was flying through the backmarkers and making steady progress until the gearbox finally cried enough. Oh, Moss drove almost the entire race without a clutch...
The "Border 100" was held at the East London circuit and was not without its off track problems. The leading lights of South African motor racing had recently formed an organization much along the lines of the Grand Prix Drivers' Association (formed at Monaco in May) with the intent of seeing some more starting monies paid out to the participants. This was the first race since they had met and voted to form the association. While most supported the association and did not enter the race at East London when the organizers said they couldn't afford to raise the ante, Syd van der Vyver changed his mind and entered the race in his Lotus - Alfa Romeo.
With many of the Championship runners not on the grid, John Hanning set on the outside of the front row in his Formula Libre Austin-Jaguar while Dave Wright snatched the pole from van der Vyver by 0.1 seconds in his Cooper. At the start, despite a new clutch installed after practice, van der Vyver took the lead and lead it for the entire 85.25 miles (...and, no, I have no idea why it was called the "100"...). Bob van Niekerk was second in a Lotus-Ford entered by Equipe Judette after the Jennings-Porsche of Bill Jennings dumped its oil late in the race. Third was the was Fanie Viljoen in a Cooper, which gives you an idea about the race.
|Don Capps||© 2000 Kaizar.Com, Incorporated.|
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