Atlas F1   Rear View Mirror

Backward glances at racing history

Where Upon Our Scribe, Sherman,
and 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: 1961 Finally Dawns...

When 1961 finally succeeded 1960 and the new Formula One went into effect, it dawned on a group of teams that they were not exactly eager to see the first light of 1961. Since the announcement of the new formula in late 1958 - at the victory celebration for both Mike Hawthorn and Tony Vandervell of Vanwall, winners of the World Driving and Manufacturers' Championships, a point not lost on many in the crowd that evening and later - the view of the British teams was to kill the new formula. Or to ignore it and create a formula more acceptable to those with significant vested interests in a continuation of something as close to the status quo as possible.

The idea for the Inter-Continental Formula was the major result of this effort. To be contested by racing machines with engines of up to a capacity of 3-litres - with a proviso to look at the use of "stock block" American engines for the 1962 and subsequent seasons being a late addition to the formula - which would in essence merely extend the 2.5-litre formula several more seasons, it was met with great support and enthusiasm in Britain when it was announced. Initially, it was met with nearly equal enthusiasm in Italy. For 1961, British and Italian organizers laid out a rival series to that of the CSI, the Commission Sportive Internationale, the World Driving Championship.

As we have seen, Ferrari's view of the scene altered significantly when it became clear that his Dino vee-6 engine coupled with an adequate chassis would do very nicely in the new Grand Prix formula. With that realization, enthusiasm in Italy for the proposed Inter-Continental Formula started to diminish. When the calendar for the new alternate series was finally published, there were only a few rounds scheduled, all in Britain. There were none in the United States or Italy as initially planned.

What happened?

Well, after much public banter in the motoring and sporting press launching daily assaults on the CSI and the FIA for forcing such a bone-headed scheme on the steadfast and successful British teams at the very moment of their greatest triumph, it began to dawn during the Summer of 1960 on Cooper, BRM, and Lotus (the major British teams), and the company which provided the steady supply of engines to place into the vast majority of their cars - Coventry Climax - that perhaps they might need to make contingency plans in case the new Grand Prix formula actually took hold.

As the teams looked towards the next season, it was becoming clear that the organizers on the Continent were not looking to stage races run to the Inter-Continental Formula, but Formula One. As first Italy and then the United States backed out on staging Inter-Continental races and made commitments to stage F1 events, it was now clear that perhaps being right was some times irrelevant.

By the time of the dust-up over the 1960 Italian Grand Prix had settled, the British teams were scrambling to get their 1961 F1 programs together. At both Coventry Climax and BRM, work began in earnest on new engine programs for the new F1. At Climax, what was to become the FWMV vee-8 was being developed from the basis of a highly successful series of four-cylinder marine engines. At BRM, the specifications for the P56 vee-8 were laid out by Peter Berthon. Unfortunately for the British teams, neither engine would be ready for use until the 1962 season. This meant that the by now venerable Climax FPF 4-cylinder would soldier on for at least another season in its "F2" version.

It was not a pleasant thought for the British team to ponder that the last appearance of the Ferrari Dino 156 cars - 0011, the front-engined machine, in the hands of Richie Ginther, and 0008, the rear-engined machine, driven by Wolfgang von Trips - were beaten in their last appearance at the Gran Premio di Modena on 2 October, but that they were beaten by Joakim Bonnier in a Porsche 718 (chassis 202). It was as if the Ferrari problem wasn't enough, there was also Porsche to worry about as well. 1961 was not looking very cheery for some on the western side of the English Channel.

For those of you reared on the idea that the 1961 F1 season started with the Grand Prix de Monaco on the streets of Monte Carlo in May; or, even those who assumed it was the Lombank Trophy run at Snetterton for a combined field of Inter-Continental and F1 cars on 26 March, do I have a bit of bad news: the first event run under the new F1 in 1961 was the Pat Fairfield Trophy on January 2nd, 1961. It was run on a venue most of you haven't the slightest idea that even existed: the Roy Hesketh circuit at Pietermaritzburg in South Africa. Roughly three kilometers in length (1.803 miles), the Pat Fairfield Trophy was the opening round of the 1961 South African F1 Championship.

The pole was captured by Syd van der Vyer in his Alfa Romeo-powered Lotus 18 (chassis 375). Filling out the front row of the grid were Bruce Johnstone in the Scuderia Alfa Cooper-Alfa Romeo (T45 chassis F2/22/57) and his teammate Doug Serrurier in the team's other Cooper-Alfa Romeo (the identity of which, alas, is not clear being lost in the mists of time). On the second row were John Love in the Scuderia Lupini Maserati-powered (from a Tipo 150S) Cooper T51 (chassis F2/16/60) and Wolfgang Seidel in the Scuderia Colonia Cooper T45 - Climax FPF (chassis F2/22/58).

At the start, van der Vyer led away from the pole, but encountered timing gear problems during the first lap and was then passed by Johnstone. Love caught and passed Johnstone for the lead on lap five, but spun off at a corner known as Beacon Hill. This allowed Johnstone back into the lead. Love managed to not hit anything solid and returned to the fray. As van der Vyer fall back through the field, Seidel was going in the opposite direction.

When the flag fell after the 45 laps, the order was Johnstone, Love, Seidel, Helmut Menzler (Ecurie Wolman Lotus-Borgward, chassis 911), Tony Maggs (in the other Scuderia Colonia machine, a Lotus 18-Climax FPF, chassis 373), and Serrurier. In eighth place as pole-sitter van der Vyer. Regrettably, who set the fastest lap is lost to history.

Prior to the first European round there were two more races in the South African series. On 4 March the Van Rierbeck Trophy race was run at Killarney. Another circuit just over three kilometers (2.020 miles), Killarney saw the entry reduced from the 28 at the Roy Hesketh circuit to a mere 14, two of which were entries in the formula libre category - one of which was scratched when it driver, A. Carswell, was called up for military service. Two other entries also scratched and so only 11 machines lined up on the grid.

The front row was composed of Love on the pole followed by Menzler and van der Vyer. Johnstone had problems and did not get any times recorded during practice and started at the rear of the grid. Although van der Vyer and Johnstone gave Love a great challenge, both had problems during the race - the former with a recurrence of the engine problems and the latter being disqualified for receiving outside assistance after a spin. Love was fortunate to win the race - setting the fastest lap by the way, but van der Vyer still wound up in fourth. In second was Menzler followed by Bill Jennings in a Jennings-Porsche in third. The latter was a tube-framed device which was equipped with the engine and gearbox from a Porsche RSK. It rather favored the Porsche 718 F2 cars in a way.

The next race in South Africa was the Rand Autumn Trophy held on the Grand Central circuit on 18 March. This was another circuit in the "about" three kilometers range (2.100 miles) and was situated between Johannesburg and Pretoria. The entry saw 17 cars appear, but one crashed during practice reducing the grid to 16, which included an entry in the formula libre class for Carswell - a Cooper powered by a Mercedes-Benz engine.

On the pole was van der Vyer with the rest of the front row being composed of Ernst Pieterse in the Scuderia Alfa Romeo-powered Heron (essentially a copy of the Formula Junior Gemini Mk 2 with a copy of the Mk 3 following later in the year) and Don Philip in his Cooper T43-Climax FPF (chassis F2/29/57). On the second row were Serrurier and Johnstone. Unfortunately many of the details of this race are lost, but Serrurier won after Johnstone dropped out and van der Vyer simply was not able to pass the Cooper-Alfa Romeo. So van der Vyer ended up second, Pieterse third, and Eugene Bosman (in a another Scuderia Alfa entry, an Alfa Romeo-engined Lotus 15, chassis 604) in fourth. Yes, that is a Lotus 15, one of those Lotus machines with fenders...

On 26 March 1961, the new F1 finally made its debut in Europe, but not on the Continent, but on the very soil of those who so adamantly opposed it: Britain. The Lombank Trophy at Snetterton was an event for both F1 and Inter-Continental machines. Although it was surely tempting fate, the race was held under sunny if very cool conditions. The entry list was reduced from 19 to only 14 lining up on the grid with five of the entries being withdrawn. Of those on the grid, only five were Inter-Continental machines.

On the pole of the 5 x 4 (!) grid was Innes Ireland in a Team Lotus entry for the Inter-Continental class (Lotus 18 - Climax FPF, chassis 374) a whopping 1.4 seconds clear of Jack Brabham running a Cooper T53 - Climax (chassis F2/8/60) for C. T. "Tommy" Atkins also running in the Inter-Continental class. Cliff Allison was in another entry for this class and driving a Lotus 18 - Climax (chassis 915) for the United Dominion Trust (UDT) - Laystall Racing Team (the British Racing Partnership).

Fastest of the F1 cars and filling the front row were John Surtees and Roy Salvadori in the Yeoman Credit Racing Team (actually the Reg Parnell (Racing) entries) in their new Cooper T53 - Climax FPF machines (chassis F1/2/61 and F1/1/61 respectively), 3.8 and 5.4 seconds back from the pole time for Ireland.

In his F1 Lotus specification Lotus 18 - Climax FPF (chassis 371), Ireland's teammate at Team Lotus, Jim Clark, was all of 7.8 seconds slower to lead off the second row. It was that sort of a grid. The other Inter-Continental Formula entries were Brian Naylor in the JBW - Maserati and Bernard Collomb in his Cooper T45 - Climax FPF. Both were outqualified by F1 machines so draw your own conclusions about their competitiveness.

As matter of perhaps more than passing interest, the other F1 entries were a mixed lot, but mentioned here in part since some will fade from memory otherwise:

  • Henry Taylor, Lotus 18 (chassis 916) - Climax FPF, entered by the UDT-Laystall Racing Team

  • George Morgan, Cooper T51 (chassis F2/5/59) - Climax FPF, entered by C. T "Tommy" Atkins

  • Shane Summers, Cooper T53 (chassis F1/8/61) - Climax FPF, entered by Terry Bartram

  • Tim Parnell, Lotus 18 (chassis 904) - Climax FPF, entered by R. H. H. "Tim" Parnell

  • John Langston, Cooper 39 (Hume-Cooper) - Climax FPF, entered by Ronald Wrenn

  • Graham Eden, Cooper T51 - Climax FPF, entered by Graham Eden

    At the start, the Inter-Continental cars rocketed off the grid and into their own fight leaving the F1 cars to sort things out amongst themselves, which Surtees was proceeding to do. Allison led on the first lap and was displaced by Brabham and Ireland who had a great tussle until the gearbox in the Lotus refused to select any gear - much less the one Ireland desired. Brabham then cruised home in front of Allison. At least Ireland had the consolation of setting the fastest lap.

    On the F1 side of the race, it was Surtees from start to finish. The only sparkle was an early scrap between Taylor and Clark until the latter ran into an assortment of difficulties - including his fuel consumption, and was forced to back off and an outstanding performance by Salvadori. Salvadori was forced to pit twice in the early going for various ills, but then pressed the envelope to make up as much time as possible. On the very last lap, Salvadori managed to get pass a frustrated Clark and claim fifth place. On his way to the front, Salvadori set the fastest lap for the F1 cars.

    Finally, the new F1 had finally arrived in Europe, but with something of a faint thud. However, the following races saw some pattern begin to emerge on the way to the first Championship round of the season at Monte Carlo. Amazingly enough, there are seven non-championship races between now and then!

    In our next episode: now that the above fact is just settling in, Your Scribe - with the usual assistance of Mr. Peabody and Sherman - will take a look at the teams and machines competing during the season.

    Previous Parts in this Series: Part 1 | Part 2

  • Don Capps© 2000 Kaizar.Com, Incorporated.
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