Aston Martin’s Greatest Victory
Adenau, May 26th.
With a race of the nature of the 1,000-kilometres at Nurburgring the practice periods are more in the nature of proving and testing periods than practice as applied to a Grand Prix race. The Nurburgring, with its 22.81 kilometres of twists and turns, demands the utmost from drivers and cars, and a race over 1,000 kilometres requires careful attention to such things as suitability of car, pairing of drivers, tyre and fuel consumptions, pit work and general long-distance race tactics. In consequence there were two and a half days of training before the race, and though many people put great store on lap times recorded, they bore little or no relationship to the ultimate structure of the race. While a very fast lap showed the prowess of the driver and the performance of the car, it was continuous lap speeds that were of more interest to the team managers. With the race counting towards the Manufacturers’ Championship and all the big works teams competing, it was rather a waste of time following the detailed movements of any particular team, for what happened in practice, in many cases, bore no resemblance to the activities or arrangements for the actual race.
On paper the race looked to be a walk-over for Maserati, with Fangio and Moss teamed together in one of the fabulous 4.5-litre V8 cars, and though there was opposition from Ferrari, Aston Martin, Jaguar and Porsche, none seemed likely to be able to challenge the Scuderia Maserati. During training Fangio twice recorded laps in 9 mm. 43 sec., a bare two seconds off the Formula 1 lap record, while Moss was content to lap around 9 min. 50 sec. The real eye-opener was the new Aston Martin DBR1/300 which Brooks took round in an effortless 9 min. 48 sec., a seemingly impossible speed for any Aston Martin, even the new one. Apart from Brooks’ superb driving and uncanny natural ability, the new chassis seemed ideally suited to the Nurburgring and the 240 b.h.p. was just enough, so that it could be used all the time. In contrast, the big Maserati with its 400 b.h.p. meant that the drivers were being continually troubled with too much power for the circuit, especially on the twisty parts. The works Ferraris were also having this trouble, and it was found that most of their drivers were little slower in an experimental car fitted with a relatively woolly Gran Turismo engine.
It was interesting to note during training how the various teams tackled the problems of letting their drivers learn the difficult circuit, adjust their cars to conditions, sort out the best combinations of drivers and cars, and generally tackle the innumerable problems that must be solved before setting off to race for 1,000 kilometres. The Scuderia Maserati had two 4.5-litre cars, the ill-fated Moss car that did only 12 kilometres in the Mille Miglia, the original 1957 one that Behra crashed before the Mille Miglia, now completely rebuilt, the experimental V12-cylinder 3.5-litre that Herrmann drove in the Mille Miglia, the 300S 3-litre with brakes from a 4.5-litre car, that Scarlatti drove into fourth place in the Italian race, and a standard 3-litre belonging to the Spaniard Godia. The drivers for this assorted array of powerful machinery were Fangio, Moss, Schell, Herrmann, Bonnier, Scarlatti, Godia and Gould. The Scuderia Ferrari replied with two V12-cylinder Mille Miglia cars, one a 4½-litre and the other a 3.8-litre, the works 250 G.T. Europa that Gendebien has been driving so well just lately, and a new car. This latter was in the nature of an experiment, having a chassis based on a cross between the production Testa Rosa 2-litre and the works V12 cars, but fitted with an engine and gearbox unit from a Gran Turismo Europa 3-litre V12. The rear of this car was new in that it was de Dion following normal Ferrari design, but the gearbox was not in unit with the differential unit but mounted on the rear of the engine. The chassis frame was lighter than previous Ferrari models, and the whole car was small and compact for a 3-litre. Front suspension was the normal double-wishbones and coil-springs, as used on all Ferrari sports cars, while a transverse leaf-spring controlled the de Dion rear layout. Lined up to drive the Maranello cars were Hawthorn, Collins, von Trips, Trintignant, Gendebien, Gregory, and Morolli, the last named being from the Osca team. The Aston Martin team were fresh from their victorious outing at Spa and had the same two DBR1/300 models, these having a chassis layout based on the experimental 2½-litre car that ran at Le Mans last year, using dry-sump 3-litre engines. The chassis frame was a small-diameter tube space-frame, front suspension by trailing arms and torsion bars, rear suspension by de Dion with a Watt-link location for the de Dion tube, and the five-speed gearbox in unit with the differential/rear axle assembly. There was also one of last year’s DB3S works cars fitted with an experimental front suspension utilising double-wishbones and coil-springs, a system tried out on a saloon last winter. As a spare and practice car there was a further 1956 works DB3S which was quite standard, and the team of drivers were Brooks, Salvadori, Leston, Cunningham-Reid and the Whiteheads, P. N. and A. G. With no official Jaguar team competing this year Coventry hopes were in the capable hands of the Ecurie Ecosse, using two of the long-nose 1956 works D-types and their own 1956 Le Mans-winning car. Their list of drivers read: Flockhart, Sanderson, Lawrence, Fairman, Bueb and Steed. Also with a D-type Jaguar were H. C. Taylor and Scott-Brown, these two being entered by Murkett Brothers, who own the car. To complete this imposing array of large-capacity sports cars were two privately-owned Ferraris, one a 3-litre Monza and the other a 2-litre Testa Rosa, but though this lot provided more than enough competitors to make an exciting race, there were many more smaller cars and a vast list of Gran Turismo cars, for the A.D.A.C. continue the dangerous practice of mixing relatively slow production G.T. saloons with works racing/sports cars. The 1,500-c.c. sports group contained two works Porsches, two Fitzwilliam alloy-bodied M.G.s, private Porsche Spyders and three Loti, as well as two Oscas and a Maserati. The big Gran Turismo group was dominated by a row of 300SL Mercedes-Benz, while the medium-sized class contained innumerable Porsche Carreras and two standard M.G. MGAs from the Fitzwilliam team, while the small group was dominated by Alfa-Romeo Giulietta Sprint Veloces.
Training on the Nurburgring at any time is guaranteed to find trouble in the best cars, so that it was not surprising that two and a half days’ training and some 70 competing cars saw drivers in the ditches, others bouncing off banks, gearboxes wrecked, engines blown up, chassis breakages, suspension troubles and continuous work going on in the well-equipped Paddock and trade workshops. The Ferrari team found that their Gran Turismo car was nearly one minute faster than the best of the 300SL cars and decided to let it run in the race, with von Trips and Gendebien as drivers. On Saturday morning von Trips set off to do some laps in the car and promptly went through the hedge, bending the front of the car and putting himself out of racing for some time with an injured spine. It appeared that the Gran Turismo car has a normal pedal layout, being in production, with the accelerator on the right, while the factory racing/sports cars all have the accelerator in the middle, and the young German got his feet muddled up when approaching Breidscheid Bridge. The Ecurie Ecosse Jaguars were running regularly but not fast, the fastest Jaguar lap being made by Scott-Brown with the private one. This was his first appearance on the Nurburgring and he made all the other Jaguar drivers, experienced and inexperienced, look rather amateurish, while his companion Taylor did the same, though not as fast as Scott-Brown. They unfortunately broke a half-shaft during training, but David Murray very sportingly lent them a spare from the Ecosse stock of spares. The whole Aston Martin team were put very severely in their place by the unbelievable Brooks, and no one was more embarrassed about it than Brooks himself, but he just cannot help being a superb driver and even when not trying he is faster than most, so that when he does “have a go” he shakes the very top of the tree, and it will not be long before some of the accepted stars will have to come tumbling down. All the Maserati cars proved to be remarkably reliable and there was very little anxiety in their team, but though they were ready to race by mid-afternoon on Saturday, there was still a lot of activity in their garages, which made the closed doors of the Aston Martin team all the more noticeable. The Feltham team were never more confident of putting up the best possible performance that they could, and even after the form shown in training it was difficult to imagine that any team could be so well prepared.
The factory Porsche team were anything but happy, for their new car, which is lower and lighter and has the oil cooler built into the top of the front lid of the body, had given trouble in training and they were relying on two works-prepared production 1,500 RS models. The Lotus boys were welding up bits that had broken, or trying to stop suspensions bottoming and wheels rubbing the bodies, and the general atmosphere of string-and-wire that surrounds Hornsey racing activities was rife. Poor Karl Kling, acting as Rennleiter for the 300SL drivers, was going even greyer for none of the private owners were going as fast as he did before he retired. The Giulietta contingent were having fun explaining their troubles to the service team from the factory, using every known language for the Sprint Veloce is raced by drivers from all over the world. So the atmosphere of the 1,000-kilometres built up over three days, culminating in the flow of spectators beginning in earnest on Saturday evening, and everyone connected with the race trying to get to bed early for the proceedings were due to start on Sunday at 7.45 a.m.
As with all big sports-car races, Press arrangements were chaotic, for as fast as official lists of pairs of drivers were printed, team managers altered their plans, and as the rules allowed any pair of nominated drivers to be changed to another car during the race, even if a driver said he was starting with a certain car you could almost guarantee that he would finish in an entirely different one. By 9 p.m. on Saturday the organisers were convinced that they had the pairings of drivers correct, but as the cars lined up for the Le Mans-type start on Sunday morning things had been altered again. The only safe bet was to identify the drivers personally as they ran across the road at flag-fall and to see which cars they got into. This sort of chaotic arrangement was heightened by lining the cars in echelon against the pit counters in order of practice times for the individual car: thus, No. 2 Maserati was at the head of the line, with Schell running for the wheel, when in fact Fangio had driven it in training when it made the fastest lap. The second car in the row was Maserati No. 1, also due to a time recorded by Fangio, while running for it was Moss, and third in line was No. 14 Aston Martin with Brooks on the run, though he had made second fastest training lap. So the chaos went on, the three Scottish Jaguars spread about in the line of cars even though all six drivers were convinced they had made the fastest lap of the team.
The start was given at 9 a.m., under clear skies and a cool breeze, and almost before the patter of feet had died away a green car shot off into the lead. It was Brooks “doing a Moss,”while the maestro of run-and-jump” was left prodding at the starter button. Altogether 66 cars left the line, and almost last was Hawthorn with the 3.8-litre Ferrari, it being very reluctant to get under way. On the opening lap Brooks left everyone behind and gave Aston Martin a commanding lead in this 44-lap race, which not only gave him a clear run for three laps but demoralised all his competitors. At the end of the opening lap the order of the “big boys” was Brooks, Schell (4.5-litre Maserati), Collins (4.1-litre Ferrari), Salvadori (Aston Martin DBR1/300), Moss (4.5-litre Maserati), Gregory (3-litre V12 Ferrari), Bonnier (3-litre Maserati), Godia (3-litre Maserati), Taylor (Jaguar), Bueb and Flockhart (Jaguars), with Hawthorn in mid-field thundering his way through the small-fry. By the end of the third lap Brooks was lapping the tail of the field and the positions had settled a bit, so that one could survey the categories as well as the open race. The first four were Brooks, Schell, Collins and Moss, with the rest already dropping back. Maglioli was leading the 1½-1itres and lying in ninth place, just behind Hawthorn, the first 300SL was in 19th place, Goetze was in 27th position leading the Porsche Carreras and Mahle was 32nd in the first of the Giuliettas. Already Mackay-Fraser had retired with Margulies’ 1,100 Lotus due to a broken de Dion tube, and the general pace of the race was obviously going to be fast, for not only was Brooks setting a high standard, but Moss was going all he knew how to make up for his poor start, as was Hawthorn. After five laps the order was still the same, with spaces of 23 sec., 29 sec. and 36 sec. between the leading quartet, after which came a dull pause of 2 min. 12 sec. before Gregory, Salvadori and Bonnier arrived in close formation, followed by Hawthorn and Maglioli, the last named in a works Porsche leading all the Jaguars. After heading the complete Ecosse team Taylor “lost” his yellow Jaguar and disappeared into the bushes, so that Scott-Brown did not get a drive, and the class leaders remained unchanged.
Moss was using all of the Maserati’s 400 b.h.p. and in one lap got past Collins and Schell, gaining 12 sec. a lap on Brooks, so that the end of lap eight saw the big Maserati in the lead. By now Frankenberg in the second works Porsche had got into his stride, and passed all the Jaguars, and Hawthorn was in fifth place. Brooks was not to be disturbed at being overtaken by Moss and continued to go round in his smooth, steady style, content to hold on to a very firm second place, ahead of Schell and Collins. Piper went off the road in his 1,100 Lotus, but managed to struggle back to the pits, and Anthony, driving Frost’s 1,500 Lotus, was being badly baulked by a group of 300SLs. On the 10th lap Moss was still building up a commanding lead, for Maserati were a bit worried about the appetite for tyres of their “four-five,” but the end of that lap saw Brooks come by the pits in the lead once more, and there was no sign of Moss. The Maserati had broken a rear hub-shaft and hub, wheel and brake-drum had parted company from the car, leaving Moss spinning helplessly out of control. More by luck than judgment, the car did not make contact with anything and slid to rest just near the Schwalbenschwanz bridge, and Moss thumbed a lift back to the pits. Lap 11 saw the beginning of routine pit stops for fuel and driver changes, and first Schell brought his 4.5-litre Maserati in, but instead of handing over to Herrmann, his team mate, Fangio took over the car, and though the stop was short Collins and Hawthorn went by while the Maserati was stationary. Peter Whitehead handed over the wishbone-suspended Aston Martin DB3S to Graham, and Anthony came into the pits, having fought his way past three Mercedes-Benz.
By lap 14 Brooks had lapped all the Jaguars and neither Collins, nor Hawthorn, could make any impression on the Aston Martin, while Fangio was clearly losing ground to the green car. Bonnier handed the works 3-litre Maserati over to Scarlatti after it had been refuelled and this let Maglioli into seventh position, behind Gregory and Salvadori but the next lap saw the Porsche stopping for fuel and the ex-A.W.E. driver Edgar Barth take over. Pit work was now going on fast and furiously, Flockhart changed with Fairman, Godia handed to Gould, and Collins to Gendebien. Then Bueb to Lawrence, and at the end of lap 16 Brooks and Hawthorn stopped, they being first and second at the time, due to the others having already stopped. In 1 min. 27 sec. Brooks handed over to Cunningham-Reid, and in 1 min. 16 sec. Hawthorn handed over to Trintignant, but the Aston Martin had over two minutes’ lead, so that it could afford a few seconds difference at the pits. Now the order was Brooks/Cunningham-Reid (Aston Martin), Hawthorn/Trintignant (Ferrari), Schell/Fangio (Maserati), Collins/Gendebien (Ferrari), but no sooner had the pits stops and driver changes been sorted out than Fangio stopped with the second “four-five” Maserati for the oil tank had come adrift. It took two whole laps to effect a repair, and then Moss got into the car and set off in 17th position. Meanwhile Cunningham-Reid was setting about the difficult task of taking over the leading car with remarkable calm, and instead of Trintignant and Gendebien in the two Ferraris closing the gap, the reverse happened and the green Aston Martin increased its lead to nearly 4 min. by lap 22, or half-distance. This was almost more than anyone could stand, and the opposition became completely demoralised: first of all Brooks ran away from all the number-one drivers and now a real “new boy” was running away from all the number-two drivers. With the second big Maserati delayed and the inexperienced Morelli taking over from Gregory, when the Ferrari was in fourth place, Leston galloped the Salvadori Aston Martin DBR1/300 past the Italian. No sooner had he done this than he was moved back a place as Barth went by in the little 1,500-c.c. Porsche, thus taking fourth place overall, behind Cunningham-Reid, Trintignant and Gendebien. It was not a Maserati day, for while the second “four-five” was having its lengthy pit stop Scarlatti brought the 3-litre into the pits with a broken rear shock-absorber, and after it had been removed completely Bonnier set off again. Moss did only one lap with the Schell/Fangio 4.5-litre car and was back in the pits, the oil-tank trouble being irreparable, and the car was withdrawn. Surveying the situation, Maserati found that the only car left in serviceable condition was Godia’s 3-litre, now being held in 10th place by Gould, so the burly Bristolian was promptly called in and Moss set off for his third try.
It seemed that nothing would stop the new Aston Martin, and Cunningham-Reid was lapping regularly and safely, all the time keeping nearly 4 min. ahead of the Ferrari, even though Gendebien had passed Trintignant and taken second. place. After 28 laps the order was Cunningham-Reid, Gendebien, Trintignant, Barth, these all being on the same lap, then came Salvadori having taken back from Leston, Gregory having taken back from Morolli, the Porsche of Frankenberg now in the hands of a promising newcomer, Schulze, then Moss in the 3-litre Maserati, followed by Lawrence, Whitehead, Fairman, Herrmann in the sick 3-litre Maserati, and Steed co-driving with Sanderson. So complex were the movements of the sports cars that the Gran Turismo cars faded into the distant background, while the two works Porsches made it appear that there were no other 1,500-c.c. cars running. At the end of lap 29 the leading Aston Martin stopped for a mere 38 sec. while it was refuelled and Brooks took over, whereas the next lap saw Gendebien hand back to Collins, but the Ferrari was stationary for 1 min. 15 sec. as it needed the rear tyres replacing. For a brief moment this let Trintignant into second place but after lap 32 it was his turn to stop and hand over to Hawthorn. As this second Ferrari pit stop took 1 min. 10 sec., during which time the brakes were adjusted, the situation was put back to where it was before the changes, namely, Brooks (Aston Martin) 3 min. 47 sec. ahead of Collins (Ferrari) and Hawthorn (Ferrari), these three being the only ones on the same lap. In fourth place came Maglioli, back in the leading works Porsche, 1 min. 18 sec. ahead of Salvadori in the second of the new Aston Martins, followed by Moss still galloping hard in the 3-litre Maserati. Then came Gregory (Ferrari), Frankenberg taking the last spell in the second works Porsche, Whitehead (Aston Martin), and Flockhart, Bueb and Sanderson in the Scottish Jaguars. As Salvadori and Moss started their 35th lap the gap between them was 58 sec., and by the end of it Moss had passed the Aston Martin, thus getting into fifth place, but he then had to stop for fuel and tyres and hand over to Fangio, so that the World Champion restarted in sixth place, but it was only a matter of time before he regained the position that Moss had fought for. There was one more change in the Maserati team, when Herrmann brought the works 3-litre in for fuel and Schell took over, running at a very reduced speed due to having no rear shock-absorber on one side.
Of the 66 starters there were still 42 of them running, which was a remarkably high number in view of the pace of the leaders and the severity of the circuit, so that those people who had been lapping quietly and consistently, hoping to move up a place every time one of the fast cars fell out, were sadly disappointed. The complete teams of Aston Martin, Ferrari, Porsche and Jaguar were still racing, and the imperturbable Brooks swept remorselessly on making “the great” look rather small. As if it was not enough that the giants of sports-car racing should be thoroughly beaten by the new Aston Martin, the little 1,500RS Porsche driven by Maglioli/ Barth was firmly in fourth place and showed no signs of easing up. The last four laps were reeled off with great regularity, the Aston Martin sounding just as crisp as it did at the start, and Brooks looking as calm and relaxed as ever. This victory by Aston Martin with a new car was as convincing and praiseworthy as one could wish for and it was not a hollow victory, nor was it handed to them on a plate. It had been achieved against full teams from all the big sports-car factories, driven by the best drivers in the world, so that David Brown could feel justifiably proud of the Aston Martin team that he has backed all these years. Any victory on the Nurburgring can be considered a victory well deserved, but one fought against the opposition that was running in the 1,000-kilometre race must rank as outstanding. — D. S. J.
1,000-Kilometre Race — Nurburgring — 44 Laps — Warm and Dry
1st: C. A. S. Brooks/N. Cunningham-Reid (Aston Martin DBR1/300) 7 hr. 33 min. 38.2 sec. — 132.6 k.p.h. (new race record)
2nd: P. Collins/O. Gendebien (Ferrari 4.1-litre) 7 hr. 37 min. 51.9 sec.
3rd: J. M. Hawthorn/M. Trintignant (Ferrari 3.8-litre) 7 hr. 39 min. 27.2 sec.
4th: C. Maglioli/E. Barth (Porsche 1.5-litre) 7 hr. 47 loin. 17.2 sec.
5th: F. Godia/H. Gould/S. Moss/J. M. Fangio (Maserati 300S) 1 lap behind.
6th: R. Salvadori/L. Leston (Aston Martin DBR1/300), 1 lap behind.
7th: R. von Frankenberg/F. Schulze (Porsche 1.5-litre).
8th: R. Flockhart/J. E. G. Fairman (Jaguar D-type).
9th: P. N. Whitehead/A. G. Whitehead (Aston Martin DB3S).
10th: M. Gregory/C. Morolli (Ferrari 3-litre V12).
11th: I. Bueb/J. Lawrence (Jaguar D-Type).
12th: H. Schiller/A. Heuberger (Porsche Spyder).
13th: G. Koechert/H. Bauer (Ferrari 500TRC).
14th: G. de Beaufort/S. Liebl (Porsche Spyder).
15th: J. Bonnier/G. Scarlatti/H. Schell/H. Herrmann (Maserati 300S).
Fastest lap: S. Moss (Maserati 4.5-litre), 9 min. 49.9 sec. — 139.1 k.p.h.
Total number of finishers: 42.
First 300SL, F. Riess/W. Shock, placed 16th overall; first Porsche Carrera, P. Strahle/P. Denk, placed 21st overall; first Alfa-Ronmo Giulietta S.V. E. Mahle/ E. Graf, placed 31st overall; first M.G., R. Fitzwilliam/P. Simpson, placed 35th overall.
Manufacturers’ Team Prize: Aston Martin in 1st, 6th and 9th places.
Private Team Prize: Ecurie Ecosse in 8th, 11th and 20th places.
Of the four Fitzwilliam M.G.s only two finished. Miss Bloxham in the standard car had a broken oil-pump drive, and Carnegie/Hogg dropped a valve in the alloy-bodied disc-brake car.
Anthony went off the road in the 1,500 Lotus and bent the de Dion tube, while Hicks (1,100 Lotus) was delayed by fuel-feed troubles, and though still running at the end did not qualify as a finisher.
Sanderson became ill towards the end of the race and went off the road into a field, losing a whole lap while he extricated the Scottish Jaguar.
Sergio Mantovani, who lost a leg in the Turin Grand Prix 1955, was driving a 1,500-c.c. Osca, but it blew up just after the start. His ability to work the pedals with his wooden leg was more than proven in the training period. Likewise, Scott-Brown proved to the Continental world his ability, which is a by-word in Great Britain. Though he did not drive in the actual race, due to Taylor crashing their Jaguar, his practice lap in 10 min. 23 sec. was only four seconds slower than Hawthorn’s best lap in 1956 with a works Jaguar.
Having made a corner in drivers at the beginning of the season, the Scuderia Ferrari is now getting extremely short-handed.
Menditeguy was entered on a works Maserati, but instead he drove a Giulietta S.V. with Isabelle Haskell; she hooked bumpers with another car and looped-the-loop, fortunately without personal damage.
Goetze and Vogel were driving the specially prepared Porsche Speedster Carrera that recently took long-distance records at Monza.
Mahle, a comparative newcomer with a Giulietta, knocked some seven seconds off the Sprint Veloce record for the Nurburgring, held by Bonnier.
During practice training was allowed with a private car, carrying a team number followed by the letter T. Among the touring-car traffic seen during training were Lancia Aurelia, Lancia Spyder, Porsche coupe, M.G. Magnette saloon, 2.4 Jaguar, Sprint Veloce Alfa-Romeo, Peugeot 403, Simca Aronde and Maserati A6G coupe.