Reflections – Hello Abu Dhabi, goodbye Donington… – Bridgestone will be missed more than Toyota…
This year the GP of the ACF, better known as the French Grand Prix, was given the title of GP d’Europe, for what it was worth, and attracted a very strong entry of works teams and small private teams, as well as a few independents. As in previous years, a F2 race was held as well, but this year it was run after the Grand Prix, and the annual 12-hour sports or GT race was scrubbed altogether. After the many accidents over the past few years it was felt that the Grand Prix drivers had an unfair handicap in having to race last of all in a weekend of motor racing on the Geux circuit.
In furtherance of this aim to provide a track as free of rubber and oil as possible for the GP of Europe, practice was held on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, and Saturday was kept clear of racing, giving time for conditions to return to the best possible, and the F2 race was kept until the end of Sunday.
On Wednesday afternoon, at 4pm, practice began for F2 cars and conditions were warm and dry, with a wind blowing downhill to Thillois hairpin, so that everything was set for some fast times, and it was not long before Moss improved on his last year’s record lap of 2min 36.7sec and got down to 2min 32.3sec, driving Rob Walker’s Cooper-Borgward.
There was not a great number of entries out, this being the first of three practice sessions, but Schell was ready to try hard with his brand new Cooper, only to find it had been built with a low axle ratio, so he could do nothing except sit and watch until there was time to fit a higher one. In accordance with plans, two of the Cooper factory team drivers were using private cars, Gregory and McLaren having Cooper-Climax models belonging to the Brown/Tyrell stable, while Brabham had a works car fitted with an all-enveloping streamlined body, with a chopped-off tail like a Cooper-Monaco.
“No one could approach the time set up by Moss”
Although fast on the straights the car was not satisfactory as the wind pressure was lifting the front of the body almost to the limit of the travel of the suspension. Lewis was slightly bothered by air-locks in the water system of his Cooper-Climax but these were soon cured, and the BRP team were awaiting the arrival of Bueb for the second of their Cooper-Borgwards, while Bristow was practising with the other one, having his first taste of a real Grand Prix circuit. Burgess was making his return to Continental racing after his Avus crash last year and was practising in Nixon’s 1959 Cooper, rebuilt after Summers had crashed it at Mallory Park, and Salvadori was out in Atkins’ Cooper-Climax. There were two Lotuses practising, Ireland running his car under Team Lotus colours and Halford with Fisher’s car, rebuilt after its Monte Carlo crash and now running-in a rebuilt engine.
No one could approach the time set up by Moss, and Salvadori, who was second fastest, was nearly 5sec slower; but as nearly half the entry had yet to appear this first practice was not too serious. At 6pm the small cars were put away, and the F1 cars began to practice, and straightaway the scene changed to one of intense seriousness. There were numerous objects in view, the main one being FTD, but on top of that was a desire on the part of all the fast drivers to improve on the existing record of 2min 24.9sec and then on last year’s fastest ever in practice of 2min 21.7sec, both having been put up by the late Mike Hawthorn with a V6 Ferrari.
As if this was not sufficient, the organisers offered 100 bottles of champagne to the first driver to average over 200kph (124.2mph), or a time of 2min 29.4sec. Schell was first out, in a BRM, and with no trouble at all recorded 2min 24.3sec, so either the BRM had found exceptional speed, or times were going to be lowered by everyone, and when he followed this with 2min 23.5sec it was clear that this year’s race was going to be run at very high speed. Not long after Schell the BRP-prepared BRM went out with Moss at the wheel and, after a look round, he did a lap in 2min 23.3sec and then followed this up with 2min 22.4sec, a fastest-ever lap for the Reims circuit.
“It seemed impossible that any of the other teams could go faster, but Brooks really stirred things up when he got his Ferrari sorted out”
It seemed impossible that any of the other teams could go faster, but Brooks really stirred things up when he got his Ferrari sorted out. Although they had five cars entered the Scuderia Ferrari turned out for first practice with only three, a F2 chassis with F1 engine for Behra, and normal F1 cars for Brooks and Phil Hill. After a preliminary try, Brooks returned to the pits and had some distance pieces removed from the rear spring mountings, and he then went out and recorded 2min 21.8sec; so the BRMs were not so fast after all, and Ferrari’s claims of nearly 295 bhp were not so wild, for the Reims circuit is essentially a driver-equaliser and sheer bhp is more important than anything.
Not content with his time, Brooks settled down and did 2min 19.7sec, followed by 2min 19.6sec, which made Moss and his BRM look as sick as its colour. This was an average speed of close on 133mph, so that down the hill to Thillois with the following wind the Ferrari must have been doing at least 180 mph. Everyone was truly staggered by the Ferrari time, especially Behra, whose short-chassis car was nothing like as fast, for though his best time of 2min 23.0sec improved on the old lap record it looked a bit thin beside Brooks’ time. Phil Hill was being thwarted by a misfiring magneto, and while Coopers and BRM were wondering if the Ferrari times were really true, Brooks went out again and did 2min 19.4sec, this time well over 133mph average.
The Cooper team were getting their cars going well, including a streamlined one using the top half of the bodyshell from the F2 car, but it was still lifting the front of the car, and when the gearbox gave trouble Brabham put it to one side and took the spare normal car. Both Gregory and McLaren improved on the fastest 1958 time, the American doing 2min 20.8sec and the New Zealander 2min 21.5sec, but somehow, after the times made by Brooks, anything over 2min 20.0sec could not be considered very special, even though the Coopers were averaging over 130mph and were not far short of 180mph down the hill.
Not satisfied with the pale green BRM, Moss took his personally-tailored driving seat out and had it fitted in the BRM’s spare car, and proceeded to practise in that, doing so many laps that BRM were forced to go and ask BRP for their car back before it was all used up. Back in the pale green one again, Moss tried all he knew and got in a lap at 2min 20.5sec; and then, pulling out that last little bit he always seems to be capable of, he recorded 2min 19.9sec, so that the pattern for the remainder of practice was now settled.
A driver just had to be under 2min 20.0sec to get on the front row of the starting grid, and times of just over 2min 21.0sec, such as Bonnier and Schell were doing in the factory BRMs and Trintignant was doing with Walker’s Cooper-Climax, were just not good enough to rank as fast. Salvadori was driving Atkins’ Cooper-Maserati but was not in the picture with 2min 28.2sec, and Graham Hill in a works Lotus-Climax was in trouble with carburation at 2min 30.0sec, a mere average of 124 mph, such was the tempo of the first evening’s practice under ideal conditions.
The next day, at the same time, the F2 cars took the track once more, and this time Moss had some opposition in the shape of Allison with a works Ferrari Dino 156, Bonnier with the works F2 Porsche, von Trips with a works RSK sports car suitably prepared for F2, and Colin Davis with Behra’s special monoposto Porsche, as well as more Cooper-Climax cars such as those of the Equipe National Belge, driven by de Changy and Bianchi, Wicken and Marsh. The Cooper-Borgwards were sounding well and truly wound up on the descent to Thillois and Bristow was cornering very fast, while Moss did a few laps in Bueb’s car as well as in the dark blue Walker car, in which he improved his time to 2min 31.0sec.
“Moss arrived sideways with wheels locked, and only his skill prevented the Cooper-Borgward following the other spinners”
Gregory and McLaren had a little private dice until the New Zealander went up the escape road at Thillois, and he did this again later on while experimenting with braking adjustments. Trintignant was trying extremely hard and also went up the Thillois escape road after finding the ultimate braking point, while Salvadori, Halford and Lewis all had trips up the same escape road, a sure sign that they were trying hard, and Moss arrived sideways with wheels locked, and only his skill prevented the Cooper-Borgward following the others. The works Ferrari was storming down the hill at 10,200rpm in top gear, and Allison had to do it more than once before the engineers would believe the rev.-counter tell-tale, whereupon they raised the gear ratio to give 9,600rpm and lap times immediately improved, the best being 2min 32.6sec, which had Moss keeping an eye open.
Schell now had the right gear ratio in his Cooper and got down to 2min 35.1sec, and though he waited for Moss on Thillois hairpin and tucked in behind, he could not hold the Borgward-engined car for the whole lap. Bonnier was beginning to challenge in the single-seater Porsche with a time of 2min 34.5sec, and Davis was feeling his way into the habits of the Behra-Porsche with 2min 35.4sec. While there was no split-second needle match going on amongst the faster F2 cars the pattern was becoming very interesting, with Borgward, Ferrari, Porsche and Climax engines battling on pretty even terms.
As previously, 6pm saw the F1 cars take over until 8pm, and though conditions were much the same there was a definite air of “sitting and waiting” amongst the fast drivers. Ferrari had five cars out, for Behra, Brooks, Hill, Gurney and Gendebien, the team leader still sticking to his Formula 2 chassis, Brooks sitting in the pits contentedly watching his car and also the lap times of others, Hill waiting to have his carburetters properly adjusted after having a new magneto fitted, and Gurney and Gendebien looking forward to their first F1 drives this season.
The BRP team did not bring their pale green BRM as it had reached its limit the day before, and Moss was satisfied to sit and time others, though Bourne had their three cars out, with Flockhart driving the spare car. The Lotus cars of Hill and Ireland were not in the picture and were still having their carburation sorted out, while Coopers, with identical engines, were going very fast and knocking on the door of the bogey-time of 2min 20.0sec. The two Americans, Hill and Gurney, were out at the same time in Ferraris, the new boy doing 2min 21.9sec with effortless ease and Phil Hill doing 2min 20.2sec by sweating his guts out.
As no one seemed likely to get near his time Brooks did not bother to practise and Moss could not practise anyway as he had no car. Shortly before the end of practice Behra despaired of ever going fast in the short-chassis car and took Gendebien ‘s car and instantly did 2min 20.2sec, equalling Hill, and the American went out again. Meanwhile, almost unnoticed, Brabham was going quicker and quicker in the normal works Cooper, the streamlined one having been abandoned, and just before practice finished he stirred things up by doing 2min 19.7sec. The Ferrari pit gave Hill “the needle” by signalling him this information, and he responded splendidly with 2min 19.8sec just before 8pm, thus pushing Moss back on to the second row of the starting grid.
The final practice was on Friday afternoon and evening, and the main interest in Formula 2 was to see whether Allison could get the Ferrari round as quick as Moss in the Cooper-Borgward, for the Italian car had only just got into its stride the previous day and Allison was still learning his way round. On top of this there was every chance that the Porsches would improve, so that this last chance was important, but right from the start it became clear that times would not improve very much for the wind changed, to blow at right angles to the downhill straight, and the change brought an enormous rise in temperature, so that all hope of engines giving as much power as the first night were gone.
Allison was very happy in the Ferrari and working away hard, but conditions were obviously preventing that last little bit from coming and the best he could do was 2min 31.9sec, the fastest time of all for the practice period but not quite as fast as Moss had done previously. Bueb arrived at last and was soon going pretty fast in the Cooper-Borgward and Gregory was trying very hard to gain vital rpm by crouching down out of the wind in his Cooper.
The works Porsche was simply not fast enough, though it was able to “tow” the private Climax-engined Coopers along the straights, Henry Taylor tucking very close in behind on occasions. As Colin Davis was appearing to take a long time to settle down to the single-seater Porsche, Behra took it away from him and gave it to Herrmann, who has had years of experience with Porsches. The German driver justified the change by making third fastest time overall with 2min 33.8sec and beating the factory Porsches. In consequence of this Davis was demoted to the RSK entered by Behra, and the line-up of the front row for race day was Moss (Cooper-Borgward), Allison (Ferrari) and Herrmann (Porsche Special).
With the F2 cars proving that the evening conditions were definitely “slow” compared with the previous practice periods, all hopes of any change on the front row of the Grand Prix starting grid were gone, but nevertheless everyone was out and trying. The spare BRM had been accepted as a starter, with Flockhart driving, so it had been given a new engine and his practice times now counted, and Moss was about to make some pretty desperate attempts to get on the first line of the start. Waiting until the track was clear and the sun had begun to cool, he first went out on 15in wheels, hoping to gain a few extra revs and then on 16in wheels. On top of this he evolved a scheme whereby he could cross the timing line before the pits just a little faster than normal, hoping to gain the vital tenths of a second he needed. This involved going down the escape road at Thillois hairpin on the lap prior to his all-out bid, turning round and waiting until the road was clear, and then accelerating violently back on to the circuit via the small by-pass road. In this way he could get a flying start at the uphill straight towards the pits instead of starting from the comparatively slow hairpin bend, and it resulted in crossing the timing line 300rpm higher than before; however, it was of no avail as the rest of the circuit was too slow and he could not approach 2min 20.0sec, let alone break that time.
For the first time the Scuderia Centro-Sud arrived, with two new Cooper-Maseratis, using four-cylinder 2½-litre engines and driven by Davis and Burgess, and two old 250F Maseratis for two new South American drivers, d’Orey and Bayardo, but the cars were hopelessly outclassed. Scarlatti also had an old Maserati and de Beaufort had a go in the car Herrmann had been driving. With two cars on the front row, Ferrari were not keen to do too much practice and Gurney spent most of the time “scrubbing” new tyres for other members of the team.
Behra had definitely changed cars with Gendebien, leaving the Belgian to sort out the short-chassis one as best he could, and Hill wanted to go out and do more practice than Ferrari thought necessary. Lotus were still trying to finish their carburetter experiments and Graham Hill’s car was fitted with an air-box over the bell-mouths of the Weber carburetters, and this was fed by a flexible pipe from the nose of the car. Not having time to finish a second new intake system, for Ireland’s car, his had the air-box only, fitted with open end at the rear to avoid collecting stones off the front wheel; in spite of all this the cars were not in the picture and could not look at the Coopers.
With conditions preventing anyone approaching “bogey-time” the fastest laps of the evening did not seem impressive, even though they were only one second down and Phil Hill did 2min 20.5sec, but that was the absolute limit. Just before practice finished Brooks went out more or less to see if everything was still in order, and Moss was also out, so Brabham thought he had better be out there, too, “just to keep things stirred up”. The day finished with no major changes in the fastest cars, the issue lying between Ferrari and Cooper, with the Moss-driven BRM right behind them.
Saturday was a rest day for drivers but not for mechanics, and all over Reims there were racing cars in various stages of preparation; gearboxes being rebuilt by Coopers, axle ratios being changed by Ferrari, engines being checked by BRM, and so on.
“Sunday dawned even hotter than ever and by midday the heat was almost unbearable, and anything metallic left in the sun for long became untouchable”
Sunday dawned even hotter than ever and by midday the heat was almost unbearable, and anything metallic left in the sun for long became untouchable, while cold water was the most sought after commodity with which to stock up the pits. At 1:30pm the circuit was opened for a few minutes’ free-practice to enable drivers to have a look round and see how the tarmac was standing up at Muizon hairpin and how the road at Thillois was breaking up badly.
When the starting grid had been drawn up it was seen that the second row contained car number 30, which was down to be driven by Gendebien, for that was the number that had been on the car with which Behra made his fast time. The Frenchman’s number was 22 and the car with that number was way back, and quite a fuss ensued between the Ferrari team manager and the organisers. A change was refused, so Ferraris put Behra in car number 30 and Gendebien in car number 22, and this involved changing the cars as well so that Behra retained the F1 chassis and Gendebien the F2 chassis — all very confusing for the public! As 2pm approached some semblance of order took place and the cars were lined up as follows, with Davis and Burgess also swapping cars and numbers contrary to the programme, just to confuse things even more, while Bayardo was not allowed to start. being too slow in practice.
See table representing grid formation
It is interesting to note that the first four rows improved on the best practice lap of last year and the first six rows improved on the existing lap record. The temperature before the start was truly fantastic and drivers were soaking themselves in water, cockpits were being watered, sponges and drinking bottles were fitted, and everyone was prepared for a gruelling race over 50 laps of the very fast circuit.
For years now the start at Reims, given by Raymond Roche, has been noted for its vagueness, and this year was no exception, the rotund Director of the race flapping the flag and scampering away before he got run over. With no trouble at all Brooks shot into the lead, and as the smoke and dust cleared it was seen that Behra had been left sitting on the line with a stalled engine. Mechanics push-started him and he made a leisurely get away until the Ferrari engine got up on to the power peak, and then he stormed off after the tail of the field, which was disappearing round the fast right-hand bend beyond the pits.
It was not long before the stream of cars appeared on the horizon screaming down to Thillois hairpin, with Brooks still leading, followed by Coopers and BRMs, and as they all braked for the corner Moss went from fifth place to second place and rounded the bend right behind the leading Ferrari. Usually at Reims each lap is finished with two or more cars side by side, or cars arriving in tight bunches, but this time it was more of a procession, with Moss only just able to sit in the Ferrari slipstream, then came Gregory, Brabham, Phil Hill, Schell, Bonnier, Trintignant, McLaren and the rest.
On lap two Moss was still holding Brooks, but Phil Hill had passed the two Coopers, and behind them Trintignant had passed the two BRMs. On the next lap Gregory not only passed his fellow countryman’s Ferrari, but left him behind and was right up behind Brooks and Moss, the three of them nose to tail. Halfway down the field there was a furious battle developing between McLaren, Gurney, Gendebien, Graham Hill and Flockhart, while already Behra had caught all the Maseratis and the Centro-Sud Coopers and was moving up fast.
Next time down the hill to Thillois Gregory took his Cooper past the light green BRM so fast that Moss could not get into his slipstream, but already Brooks had drawn away a little. Gregory had made a new lap record in 2min 23.8sec and then Behra put one in at 2min 23.7sec, and the pace was as hot as the weather. In no time at all the surface at Thillois corner had begun to break up and the solid lumps of tar were flying off the rear wheels as the cars accelerated away. Having just got over the surprise of being passed on the straight by Gregory’s Cooper, Moss really suffered on the next lap when both Trintignant and Brabham went by, having already disposed of Phil Hill. The speed of the Climax-engined Coopers was surprising everyone, especially BRM and Ferrari drivers.
“The furious pace was leaving a trail of havoc behind”
At five laps the order was Brooks, Gregory, Trintignant, Brabham, Moss, Phil Hill, then a gap, and Bonnier and Schell running close together; some way behind Gurney was leading a tight group of Lotus, Ferrari and Cooper, and Behra was about to move in amongst them, going splendidly after his bad start. The pressure was still on, and on the following lap Trintignant took second place from Gregory and a lap later Brabham had pushed the American down to fourth place. Moss now took the lap record at 2min 23.6sec, but it did him no good as everyone else was travelling at a very similar speed.
The furious pace was leaving a trail of havoc behind, for already Scarlatti had stopped to cure a fuel leak, Salvadori was in the pits, and Ireland had stopped for new goggles as flying stones had broken his original ones. Then Graham Hill came in with a stone through his radiator, and many of the drivers had cut faces from the stones and tar flying about at Thillois. Bonnier stopped on the way down to Thillois with his water temperature off the clock at one end and his oil pressure off the clock at the other end. In spite of the heat he began to push the car back to the pits in the hope that the trouble was something simple, like a split water hose, but it was much more serious.
Colin Davis came in and retired his Centro-Sud Cooper-Maserati with a broken oil pipe, and then, on lap eight, Gregory drew into the pits with a badly-cut face and overcome by the heat; attempts were made to revive him but it was no use and the Cooper was withdrawn. Brooks was now well away and driving a beautifully steady race, so that by 10 laps he was 4sec ahead of Trintignant, and at a 130mph average that short space of time represented a long distance. Brabham was hanging on to the dark blue Cooper and in fourth place Moss was being pressed by Phil Hill, who was going faster now, while not too far behind came Behra now in sixth place, having caught Gurney, Gendebien, Schell, McLaren and Flockhart.
On lap 12 Schell made an excursion into a field and lost a lot of time getting back on the road, dropping way back, more than a lap behind the leader, and meanwhile Bonnier was still pushing his BRM back to the pit area so that the mechanics might work on it. Moss was now down to fifth place, his car just not fast enough for this high-speed circuit, and the race now looked as though it had settled down, with Brooks holding a 5-sec. lead from Trintignant and Brabham, who were in turn well ahead of Phil Hill and Moss, though Behra was still gaining ground slowly; barely had this sign of settling been noticed when changes happened all through the field.
On lap 17 Ireland came into the pits to retire with a seized front-wheel bearing, on lap 18 Gurney went by indicating signs of mechanical distress, and the next lap he came in and retired with overheating due to a stone through the radiator, and on lap 20 Trintignant spun on the loose gravel and melted tar at Thillois and stalled his engine. In a flash all the rest of the fast runners had gone past him, and from a brilliant second place the little Frenchman was now down to 12th place and a lap behind the leader by the time he had push-started the Cooper on his own, for outside assistance was forbidden.
The heat was now unbelievable, being over 110°F in the sun, and all the way round the lap the drivers were exposed to the heat for there were no trees near the edges to provide any shade. With Trintignant out of the running, Brooks now had 20sec lead over Brabham and Behra had caught Phil Hill and Moss and was pushing them along, so that all three were gaining on the Cooper. Trintignant stopped at his pit to have water poured over his back and was clearly suffering from intense fatigue, and still the sun beat down mercilessly on the poor suffering drivers, while the conditions of engines, brakes and tyres hardly bore thinking about.
“Trintignant stopped at his pit to have water poured over his back and was clearly suffering from intense fatigue”
At the start of the 24th lap Behra took third place from Hill, having passed Moss with ease, and for a lap Brabham, Behra and Hill were in a close bunch. Just as they were finishing lap 25, which was half distance, Behra made a bid for second place by out-braking the others into Thillois, but overcooked it and had to go round the outside of the grass triangle, and dropped back to fourth place. Brooks was now quite uncatchable and had a 28sec lead over Brabham, but next lap Hill ousted Brabham from second place, so the order was Brooks, Hill, Brabham, Behra, Moss, in Ferrari, Ferrari, Cooper, Ferrari and BRM, so that there was no disputing the fact that the Maranello cars were superior on a high-speed circuit.
The only remaining cars on the same lap as the leader were Gendebien (Ferrari), McLaren (Cooper) and Flockhart (BRM), these three being in a tight bunch and having a terrific scrap. The remainder of the runners, comprising Schell, Scarlatti, d’Orey, Trintignant and de Beaufort, were way behind and could only hope to keep going and finish, while Salvadori had disappeared after numerous pit stops with the Cooper-Maserati. The timekeepers now had time to check their sums and they discovered that Trintignant had set up a lap record on his third lap with 2min 23.5sec, and barely had this been revealed before Behra equalled it on his 28th lap.
On the very next lap the Ferrari engine had had enough and the Frenchman went by with bluey-white smoke coming from his left-hand exhaust pipe and he slowed visibly, so that Moss quickly went by into fourth place. In order to be classified a finisher it was necessary to complete 35 laps, so Behra struggled round with the sick Ferrari to try and complete three more laps and wait by the finishing line until Brooks had finished his 50 laps, for it was obvious now that, barring accidents, he was going to win, but the Ferrari gave up completely as a piston collapsed.
Of all the drivers, Brooks was looking the most comfortable, not straining himself, and avoiding flying stones by awaiting his opportunity to pass slower cars, whereas the others, who were still racing against each other, were all getting badly cut about the face. Flockhart had his goggles broken and took them off, only to collect another stone in the eye, and he raced on in a bloody state, while McLaren was also badly cut. On the straights Brooks tried to get fresh air by leaning his head over the side of the cockpit, Phil Hill was virtually standing up in the cockpit, and Brabham had his elbows over the cockpit sides trying to deflect air on to himself. The air temperature outside was so hot that these antics made little difference, the only advantage being that it was different hot air from that in the cockpit.
With 14 laps to go Moss began to speed up, having been driving steadily and not wearing himself out in a fruitless attempt to keep up with faster cars, so that as Hill and Brabham got played-out Moss closed on them. The American was in a terrible state, his judgment for braking having gone completely, and he overshot, spun and went sideways on the hairpins nearly every lap, driving in a wild daze. Brabham was almost beyond going any faster, so that when Moss took third place from him on lap 38 he put up no fight at all. On lap 40 Moss set up a new lap record in 2min 22.8sec, and was gaining rapidly on Hill, who was in no state to receive such a challenge, and meanwhile Brooks was safely out in front, being about the only driver not to get into difficulties on the loose road surface at Thillois.
At the end of lap 42 McLaren came by on his own for the first time since the start of the race, for Gendebien had overdone things and dropped a long way back, and then at the end of lap 43 Moss failed to appear. Since before half-distance the clutch had failed to operate on his BRM, the drive being solid, and now he had overdone things on Thillois hairpin and was going sideways at about 60mph in the middle of the road.
“The more imaginative journalists to rushed to telephones and pour out the gory details of how Moss escaped death”
Normally this would not have worried him, for he would have let the car spin, freed the clutch and kept the engine going, and, having stopped spinning, motored off again. Without his clutch working he could do nothing to stop the engine stalling as he revolved, and he came to rest in a horrid silence, realising he had thrown away second place by his own mistake. Although he tried hard to restart the car in gear, it was quite impossible, and rather than sit by the roadside in the heat he suffered disqualification by enlisting outside help, and drove quietly back to the pits, very hot and very clapped-out, the car quite undamaged. Just before this happened the straw bales on the corner had ignited themselves and while the Moss episode was in progress pale blue smoke could be seen rising, causing the more imaginative journalists to rush to telephones and pour out the gory details of how Moss escaped death!
While Brooks completed the race, to Ferraris’ obvious joy, Hill slowed down in a secure second place and Brabham settled for third. Gendebien was back in his stride again and had caught and passed McLaren, but the New Zealander was in the Ferrari slipstream again, and Flockhart was fighting gamely in sixth place, the rest of the runners being many laps behind. Trintignant’s Cooper had broken down but he had managed to push it to the finishing line to await the victorious Brooks, who had led from start to finish and proved himself Master of Reims from the very beginning of practice. The scene at the pits when the race was over was indescribable, with prostrate drivers everywhere, many of them cut and bleeding from flying stones and lumps of molten tar; some lucky enough to be able to relax, others having to recover sufficient energy to start in the F2 race which was due to follow.
Many people felt they had had enough after the gruelling two hours of the Grand Prix d’Europe, but for those that stayed the F2 cars lined up on the grid, with Moss, Allison, Herrmann the front row in Cooper-Borgward, Ferrari and Porsche, respectively. The temperature was still very high but the real fierceness had gone out of the sun, though the heat was more than enough for many of the English drivers.
The start was not given by Raymond Roche this time and the result was a huge improvement over that of the Grand Prix, and Moss went away into the lead, with Herrmann on one side and Bonnier in the works Porsche on the other side; Allison made a faltering start in the Ferrari and was instantly surrounded by Coopers. The order at the end of lap one of this 25-lap race was Moss, Herrmann, Gregory, Bueb, Bonnier, Schell, Bristow, Salvadori, Taylor and Allison, with the rest in groups or singly.
On the second lap Gregory sailed into the lead but not for long, and the original order took place again, while in mid-field Allison was passing Cooper after Cooper. On lap four Herrmann and Moss were side by side, where they stayed for the next eight laps in a typical Reims circuit dice, Moss being quicker round the back part of the circuit but the Porsche gaining on maximum speed and braking, in spite of its old-fashioned drum brakes.
While this battle went on for the lead Allison had caught Bonnier and Schell and all three were scrapping for third place, and behind them cars were dropping out like flies, either with engines overheating or drivers overheating, and Wicken, Gregory, Burgess, Bueb, Graham Hill, McLaren, Brabham, Bristow and Halford had all gone by half-distance.
The battle for the lead finished when Herrmann took the escape road at Thillois, which left Moss unchallenged in first place, the Porsche Special some way behind, and both of them a long way in front of Bonnier and Allison, who were still close together for third place, with Schell dropping back overcome by the heat, and by three-quarters distance only 13 of the original 24 starters were left running.
The last five laps were very calm, Allison having shaken Bonnier off, the works single-seater Porsche going nothing like so well as the private one of Behra, driven by Herrmann, and the only serious race was between von Trips with the works sports Porsche and Taylor with his Cooper. Schell finally succumbed to the heat and with two laps to go Allison had the Ferrari engine blow up at Muizon, and while Moss sailed over the line to a comfortable win in Rob Walker’s Cooper-Borgward, followed by Herrmann, Bonnier and Trintignant, the last-named in a Walker Equipe Cooper-Climax, von Trips just beat Henry Taylor, and Ireland finished the only Lotus.
At long last the sun had relented and the noise of racing cars left the Reims circuit, which had not only witnessed one of the toughest motor races for some time but also one of the fastest.
At one time English drivers monopolised racing; times have changed for after Brooks in F1 there came American, Australian, Belgian, New Zealander, Scotsman, Franco-American, Italian, Dutchman, Brazilian and a Frenchman, while in F2 after Moss there came German, Swedish, French and German before the next Englishman. One thing is almost universal and that is the English language.
The pace of the Grand Prix was such that the first five finishers were all faster than last year’s race record time, The official results gave Moss as being in eighth position even though he voluntarily retired by disqualification having been push-started out on the circuit.
Overheard before the start of the Grand Prix, “I wouldn’t like to be a racing driver today.” Reply, “I wouldn’t like to be a racing tyre today!”
We thought Cardew in the Daily Express was bad enough calling Phil Hill a Texan in his report, but the bottom of Fleet Street was revealed by Mr. Jack Gee, the Paris correspondent to the Daily Mirror who described the Moss spin as a “miracle escape” and then went on to give details of a mythical crash into a barrier at more than 100 m.p.h. Journalists — we hate them!
With F1 and F2 races being held a number of factories had cars of both categories at Reims and mechanics were kept working overtime servicing and preparing the many machines. The Scuderia Ferrari had six cars all told, five F1 cars and a F2 car, all being basically the same in having double wishbone and coil spring front suspension, de Dion rear axle layout on coil springs with integral shock-absorbers, Dunlop disc brakes and using 2½-litre and 1½-litre versions of the well-tried Dino V6 engine.
The Formula 1 team comprised the three regular cars, one of them having a 1959 modified engine, giving more power but with less reliability and the others having the normal Type 246 engines. The fourth car was the special one used at Zandvoort by Behra, being a F2 chassis fitted with a Type 246 engine, this chassis being identical to the fifth car which was a pure F2 car. The wheelbase on the F2 chassis is slightly shorter than its big brother and is also a lot lighter, though at a casual glance there appears to be little difference in the cars.
The two types of engine used, the 2½-litre Dino 246 and the 1½-litre Dino 156 are of identical layout, being six-cylinders in vee formation, with two overhead camshafts to each bank and using twin sparking plugs in each cylinder, fired from a double magneto mounted on the rear of the left-hand inlet camshaft. Carburation on both engines is by three double-choke Weber downdraught carburetters, these naturally being different sizes on the two engine capacities. The Dino 246 engines were geared to give a maximum of 8,800rpm if conditions were very favourable, which gave a speed of close on 180mph, while the Dino 156 engine was running frequently as high as 10,200rpm, though peak power was at 9,800rpm.
Until the Reims meeting the de Dion layout at the rear of all the Dino Ferraris has been such that the location of the de Dion tube in a lateral plane has been effected by a steel ball mounted on the rear of the gearbox/final drive unit engaging in a forked guide projecting below the de Dion tube from its centre. On the Formula 1 cars for Reims this mounting was modified and, in effect, reversed for a plate with a ball attachment mounted on it was bolted to the fork below the de Dion tube and a hardened guide was bolted to the rear of the final drive unit. In addition to this modified location the rear wheels were given a small amount of negative camber and toe-in, instead of the normal Ferrari practice of mounting the wheels vertically. These modifications to the rear suspension gave vastly improved handling on very high speed corners and they were not done to the F.2 car as its lower speed had not caused any qualms on handling on fast bends.
The Cooper works team were equally as busy as Ferrari, having four F1 cars, a F2 car and assisting the Alan Brown/Ken Tyrell team with their two F2 cars as well as Schell with his private F2 car. The works team had three normal Coopers with 2½-litre Climax engines, double-wishbone rear suspension and still retaining the drip-feed oil tank to the gearboxes. The fourth F1 car was fitted with an all-enveloping streamlined body built in two pieces, split along a line approximately at hub level, and the F2 cars were also fitted with the lower half of a similar streamlined body, the top half fitting either car.
On each side of the radiator were ducts deflecting air on to the front brakes. As there had not been time to test the streamlined body very thoroughly a set of panels were carried to convert the F2 to normal road-racing specification. With the present four-speed gearbox reaching the limit of its reliability and the new five-speed one not yet ready, some experiments were carried out in practice on different bearing materials, but these proved unsatisfactory and the old type were replaced for the race. The present gearbox has no oil pump, relying on splash for lubrication, which is one of its drawbacks, but the new gearbox has been designed with an integral oil pump and large sump.
The RRC Walker Equipe had three cars with them, all fitted with their five-speed Colotti gearboxes and two were for F2 and one for F1. The ill-fated Cooper-BRM had been dismantled and the chassis fitted with a 1½-litre Climax engine, the modified chassis rails allowing the engine to be mounted vertically instead of leaning to the right as on a normal Cooper. This was effected by re-drilling the bell-housing which couples the Climax engine to the Tec-Mec gearbox and remaking all the engine mounts and this resulted in a lower line to the tail of the car. In addition to this work the chassis was fitted with normal Cooper double-wishbone rear suspension in place of the wishbone and radius rod layout. The other F2 car for this Equipe was the old and trusty 1958 Cooper chassis that Moss used at Monaco and Zandvoort, this time fitted with a 1½-litre fuel-injection Borgward engine.
The third car was the F1 chassis prepared for Trintignant which previously had been fitted with radius rods to the rear hubs, knock-off hub caps and wire wheels. After Zandvoort Trintignant drove the Moss chassis with its double wishbones at the rear and Cooper alloy wheels and afterwards expressed a preference for the handling. For Reims the chassis was modified accordingly, using standard Cooper rear suspension and alloy wheels, retaining the 2½-litre Climax engine and Tec-Mec gearbox.
Team Lotus were not so busy as some, having two Formula 1 cars, both with 2½-litre Climax engines, now fitted with 58mm. Weber carburetters and two Formula 2 cars with 1½-litre Climax engines using double-choke SU carburetters. Although both F2 cars were entered by Team Lotus only one car was factory prepared, the other one being prepared and maintained by Innes Ireland. One thing that Lotus do have well under control is their compact five-speed gearbox and final-drive assembly, this now appearing to be completely foolproof on the factory cars. Time had prevented them getting the carburation sorted out on the 2½-litre engines and much adjusting went on in practice and experiments with a sealed air box fed by a flexible pipe from beside the radiator in the nose cowling.
Another team involved in F1 and F2 was the British Racing Partnership of Alfred Moss and Ken Gregory who were making their first appearance with the BRM loaned to them by Alfred Owen, somewhat contrary to the wishes of the BRM team proper. The car had been scrupulously assembled and was painted light green with white wheels, the only modification from standard Bourne specification being the fitting of a reverse catch to the gearlever which operates without a visible gate. The engine had been built by Bourne and one of the works mechanics looked after its adjustments during the meeting, the chassis and running of the car being in the hands of the BRP organisation. They also had their two Cooper-Borgwards running in F2 and the engines had undergone some breathing modifications as had that of RRC Walker, the air-intake being extended forward along the left side of the car and down the nose in a similar manner to the 1959 BRM intake. The exhaust pipe was fitted with quite a sizeable megaphone.
The official BRM. team consisted of two cars and a spare one, this being a brand new one and chassis number 11, chassis number 10 being the one loaned to BRP. Although the third car was originally intended as a training car, and, in fact, it covered well over 50 fast laps during practice, it was fitted with a new engine and entered in the race to make up a full works BRM team. With highly satisfactory handling already sorted out at the beginning of the season the Bourne people have little to do except perfect the mechanical details and try and extract more horse-power from the four-cylinder engine. Since extensive testing at Zandvoort the Dunlop disc brakes on the BRM appear satisfactory and it is interesting to note that they machine a vee on the periphery of the disc to remove a small amount of weight and to provide a greater cooling area, whereas Ferrari is content to leave his Dunlop disc with squared periphery.
The Scuderia Centro-Sud were out in force, with a number of ex-Maserati mechanics working for them, a large Maserati transporter repainted blue and yellow and an array of racing cars. There were two Coopers, naturally painted red, fitted with four-cylinder twin-camshaft Maserati engines and using Cooper gearboxes, the general mechanical layout of these cars being similar to the one built by CT Atkins, which was also at Reims being driven by Salvadori. In addition to the two new Cooper-Maseratis Centro-Sud had two old 250F Maseratis, being driven by two South American newcomers to GP racing, Bayardo and d’Orey. To complete the F1 field there were two more old Maseratis driven by Scarlatti and Herrmann.
The F2 was made up by the usual galaxy of Cooper-Climax cars, amongst the private owners being Lewis, Marsh and Wicken, two cars from the Equipe National Belge, Nixon’s car driven by Burgess, Atkins’ car driven by Salvadori, and Fisher’s rebuilt Lotus driven by Halford; in opposition were a strong force of Porsches, from works cars to private owners. The works car crashed at Monaco had been completely rebuilt with a new chassis and suspension, but, following the same design and this was supported by a works RSK sports chassis, with the latest double-wishbone and coil spring independent rear-end and fitted with a central seat all-enveloping Spyder body. Mechanically both cars were identical, having the latest four camshaft engines and six-speed gearboxes, now with an open gate around the gearlever, and in view of the heat the streamlined car was fitted with an oil radiator on the left of the body, fed by an external air scoop. The pure F2 car had its oil radiator in the nose behind a small slot in the front of the car.
The Jean Behra Porsche Special with Tec-Mec chassis built in Modena was running, the only alterations since Pau being a slightly sleeker nose to the bodywork, and in addition Behra entered a normal production RSK sports car with central driving position. For practice Seidel and de Beaufol turned out with their production RSK models and an Italian running under the pseudonym of “Wallever” had an Osca 1500 sports car with the front of the body altered to expose the wheels.
Reflections – Hello Abu Dhabi, goodbye Donington… – Bridgestone will be missed more than Toyota…
This year's Monte Carlo Rally was hardly a credit to Britain. She started by far…
Racing Car Manufacturers When Bernie Ecclestone took over Motor Racing Developments, or Brabham as it was…
Days before the Malaysian Grand Prix Michael Schumacher, having vowed he wouldn't race until next…
From "The Rainbow Picnic", Daphne Fielding's portrait of Iris Tree (Eyre Methuen, 1974), I learn…
Sir, I have recently acquired a 1962 Gilbern GT; to my knowledge the only one…