Witnesses to greatness
In the lead-up to this race, I’d had a big accident at Le Mans which caused me to miss the French GP, and then, at Aintree, I’d had to hand over my Vanwall to Stirling. Going quickly for a lap was not a problem, but keeping that pace up was another matter.
“At the ‘Ring, we didn’t have the right suspension set-up and the Vanwall had no road-holding at all. We were well off the pace, and though l outqualified Stirling, he beat me in the race. l was sick in the car from the battering I got. l was in dreadful trouble.
“I don’t really recall much talk of what Fangio had just done in that race, but it was obviously an incredible achievement on his part.
“Ask me to compare what I did when beating the Ferraris the following year to what Fangio did, it’s just impossible. I guess it is reasonable to suppose that since l beat Mike and Peter in their Ferraris in 1958, with a correct set-up on my Vanwall in ’57, I could have done the same. But beat Fangio? I don’t think so. Had I been ahead of the Ferraris, I suspect Fangio would have kept up his pace and passed me, too.”
“I remember watching Fangio take Peter on one side and Mike on the other at the North Curve. Tremendous.
“I don’t think at the time many people comprehended what an achievement it was. In the Maserati pits I’m sure they appreciated it was a great drive, but the full ramifications of what it meant have sunk in over the last 45 years.
“And yes, we are right to stand in awe of Fangio’s performance that day. In my time of racing, that was as good as it got.
“What you needed at the ‘Ring was a friendly car, one you could throw around. And the 250F came into that category. I certainly think Mike and Pete were caught off guard, too. They did not realise what Fangio, with that car, could do that day.”
It sounds ridiculous to say this considering the many 1000km races I did there, but I never felt I knew the circuit. It was so easy to muddle the corners up. What I’m saying is that there are a lot of other tracks I would have chosen to stick my neck out on!
“My Cooper broke about halfway into the race while leading the F2 category. On my walk back to the pits I could see it all happening, though I did not quite grasp the circumstances.
“I had the impression that Peter and Michael were content. I didn’t have a stopwatch with me, but! could see that Fangio was gaining great chunks on them and assumed they would just go quicker as and when they had to. But then I realised they were going flat out and the gap was still coming down.
“250F was a good all-round car. If you were going to do anything stupid like Fangio did that day, which was unbelievably hair-raising, he had the best car.
“People did appreciate Fangio’s performance. To their credit, even Peter and Michael thought he was marvellous. He got the reception he deserved.”
“I remember sporadically keeping out of their way! My Cooper-Climax only had 140bhp, so I accepted my lot and made the best of it.
“Even before that, I was aware of what Fangio could do. Not many weeks before, I was at Reims and a lot of the top dogs – Moss, Hawthom and Collins – went traipsing to the first comer. The big attraction was Fangio. They’d been lifting momentarily to make this corner; Fangio came along, gave the wheel a big tweak, set it up – and never lifted. Quite illuminating!
“I think people did appreciate what they had seen at the Nürburgring that day. There weren’t the specialist press you’d expect these days, but the joumos did make a lot of it. Fangio was fantastic.” David Malsher