The Aintree "200"
An exciting race
After the Pau G.P. the points position in the F.2 Manufacturers’ Cup gave Cooper 22 points for their wins at Brussels and Pau and second place at Syracase, Ferrari had eight for their win at Syracuse, Porsche gained 10 for their second place at Brussels and third at Pau, and for their fourth place at Syracuse Lotus earned three points. As in the F.1 Manufacturers’ Championship, only the leading car of each marque gains Championship points. Therefore, assuming that only two events counting for the Championship remain on the calendar, Cooper should have been home and dry, but it is now rumoured that a sixth event, to be held in Britain, may be added to the Championship. There is still a possibility that Porsche can snatch the Championship from Cooper, although they will have to displace them from leading places in the remaining events.
For the Aintree “200,” now reduced in length from 200 miles to 200 kilometres, Porsche sent two works cars for Graham Hill and Joakim Bonnier, supported by the private entries of Stirling Moss and Masten Gregory. Team Lotus entered three works cars for Ireland, Stacey and Clark with David Piper’s front-engined car as a make weight, while the only non-Cooper car from the rest of the field was Henry Taylor’s Laystall.
Of the many variations on the Cooper theme Brabham had the five-speed gearbox and a pair of 42 DCOE Webers fitted to the engine, although most drivers were using S.U. carburetters. The only Coopers to use the double rear wishbone layout were the Yeoman Credit car driven by Schell and Trintignant’s ex-Rob Walker car which won the Aintree “200” in 1958 when it was a F.1 race. The car is now looked after and entered by Scuderia Centro Sud as was Masten Gregory’s ex-Jean Behra Porsche special. Both of them were painted in a sickly shade of blue and look rather scruffy, possibly because the Italian mechanics were more interested in studying the parade of pretty girls in the paddock. The only foreign entries apart from works cars were the two Coopers of Equipe National Belge for Gendebien and Bianchi and the privately-owned cars of Schlesser and CoIlomb. The remainder of the Cooper entries consisted of the usual circus with the addition of John Surtees who was driving his own car fitted with lower rear wishbones only, low mounted exhaust and S.U. carburetters.
During the Friday practice, by dint of much hard work, Moss made fastest practice lap in 2 min. exactly, but the six-speed gearbox of the Porsche appeared to be more of a hindrance than a help on the twisting Aintree circuit. Brabham was next fastest in 2 min. 00.2 sec., followed by Graham Hill and Alan Stacey in 2 min. 00.4 sec. Stacey showed that he can go as quickly as anyone when he has the right vehicle, but he had to hand his car over to lnnes Ireland for practice as the latter’s machine was suffering from clutch slip. Ireland recorded 2 min. 00.1 sec. in Stacey’s car, just .6 sec. better than in his own car. Chris Bristow and Roy Salvadori made identical times of 2 min. 00.8 sec. Of the other leading drivers Surtees lapped in 2 min. 01.4 sec., Jim Clark made a best lap of 2 min. 03.2 sec. and Maurice Trintignant managed only a few slow laps in Bernard Collomb’s car as his own was not ready.
Race day dawned fine and sunny but even this failed to attract the crowds and the stands were very thinly populated for the supporting races in the morning, although a few more trickled in after lunch. This was a great pity as many people missed one of the most interesting and exciting races seen for a long time at Aintree or anywhere else for that matter. This is not surprising as the first three rows of the grid contained three Porsches, five Coopers and two Lotuses, all of which were fairly evenly matched.
Graham Hill was put into the front row as he had made his best lap before Stacey and the same applied to Bristow and Salvadori. Only a few minutes before the start John Surtees was working feverishly on his car to replace an oil pipe and in fact he had been doing much of the mechanical work during practice together with his father, emphasising that this was indeed a private entry. A Colotti five-speed gearbox is scheduled for this car in the near future.
The starting grid looked most impressive with thirteen rows of cars on the narrow Aintree straight and when the flag fell a lot of people were baulked. Moss made a poor start and Salvadori flashed past him to follow Brabham who had taken the lead, while the two Lotuses were well placed. Past the pits first time round Brabham and Salvadori had a clear lead, but a terrific tussle was already going on for third place, and as they flashed past the pits in a bunch the order was Ireland, Hill, Stacey, Bonnier, Surtees and Moss, with Bristow, McKee, Gendebien and Hulme further back. On lap two Ireland had narrowed the gap to less than twenty yards and on lap three he was past Salvadori and right up with Brabham. Unfortunately, on the next lap he gave the Grandstand crowd a thrill by passing, Brabham at Tatts on braking, but he sailed straight on to the grass and dropped to ninth place as he got the car facing the right way.
The two Coopers now had a 100-yard lead over Hill who was being pressed by Stacey and Moss, while Surtees and Bonnier were scrapping behind them, these six being virtually nose to tail. During this short scrap Stacey apparently forgot that Moss was the best driver in the world and kept in front for five laps, while Surtees harried Bonnier, and even passed him on one lap. By lap 10 Ireland had motored the Lotus very quickly to bring it back into the bunch and he swept past Bonnier and Moss with ease, but just as he was preparing to take Hill for third place one of his rear tyres punctured and he drew into the pits, grabbed a signal board and brought Jimmy Clark in, who was bundled out and replaced by Ireland, re-starting in 21st place. Almost at the same time Stacey slowed down and came into the pits with gear-selection trouble, so a wheel was taken from his car, fitted to Ireland’s and Stacey went back into the race many laps down.
Now that some of the opposition was out of the way Moss whipped past Hill and set about reducing the gap between himself and Salvadori, which by now was quite considerable, while Bonnier followed suit to take up fourth place. Even by lap 20 this group were circulating in close company and the usual fidgeting among the crowd was not as apparent as at some other big races. They were witnessing a close-fought race for a change and most people appreciated the fact. Surtees was driving an impeccable race, holding himself just close enough to the Porsches to take advantage of any slip. An excellent commentary on his relaxed cornering technique was provided by the Motor Sport photographer who almost failed to take any pictures of him “because his smooth, unhurried driving gave one the impression that he was travelling comparatively slowly.” His artistic character was better catered for by the tail-wagging technique of certain other drivers!
On lap 26 the race took a dramatic turn as Brabham and Salvadori accelerated round Tatts in normal fashion and hundreds of pencils scribbled the numbers 18 and 17 in programmes and notebooks, when Brabham suddenly lifted his foot, held up his arm and headed for his pit, to be followed by Salvadori who had been right on his tail. Brabham climbed out, told his pit staff the fuel pump drive had sheared and roared with laughter when he saw that Salvadori was also in trouble. The latter’s trouble was in the valve department, although he did a hesitant lap with a new set of plugs to confirm this. Meanwhile Moss, Bonnier and Hill thundered by into an unexpected lead, still followed by Surtees who was by now well in front of Bristow, Trintignant (who had quietly worked his way through the field), Gendebien, Schell, Hulme and Ireland. Although a lap behind, Ireland and Hulme were mixing it with Bonnier and Hill.
The race looked all set for a quiet finish when it became apparent that Surtees was visibly speeding up, a fact later confirmed by the timekeepers who credited him with the fastest lap in 2 min. (90 m.p.h.). He quickly chopped down the gap between himself and Hill, but Porsche Team Manager von Hanstein saw the danger and speeded up his two cars. As Moss reeled off his 50th lap he made it in 2 min. 00.6 sec. just to show that the Porsche had plenty of life in it, while Bonnier and Hill crossed the line within 1 .sec. of each other and only 6 sec. in front of Surtees. Trintignant took fifth place from Bristow who toured slowly round on his last two laps, only just beating Gendebien for sixth spot.
The results of this race give Cooper 25 points, Porsche 18, Ferrari 8 and Lotus 3. It is interesting to note that the regulations for the Manufacturers’ F.2 Cup state that each race must run for 200 kilometres and 100 minutes. Stirling Moss took just 101 min. 47.6 sec. to cover the 50 laps at Aintree!
This enthralling race showed that motor racing can be an exciting spectacle, as just when the race seemed settled into a definite pattern some new development renewed the interest of the crowd. It also indicated to this reporter that the 1961 1-1/2-litre Formula may not be so dull after all. Close racing is what most people want not a very high-speed procession. – M.L.T.
Aintree “200” – Formula 2 – 50 laps – 150 Miles
1st: S. Moss (Porsche) – 1 hr. 41 min. 47.6 sec. – 88.41 m.p.h.
2nd: J. Bonnier (Porsche) – 1 hr. 42 min. 26 sec.
3rd: G. Hill (Porsche) – 1 hr. 42 min. 27 sec.
4th: J. Surtees (Cooper-Climax) – 1 hr. 42 min. 33 sec.
5th: M. Trintignant (Cooper-Climax) – 1 hr. 43 min. 13.8 sec.
6th: C. Bristow (Cooper-Climax) – 1 hr. 43 min. 41.1 sec.
7th: O. Gendebien (Cooper-Climax) – 50 laps.
8th: H. Schell (Cooper-Climax) – 49 laps.
9th: J. Clark/I. Ireland (Lotus-Climax) – 49 laps.
10th: D. Hulme (Cooper-Climax) – 49 laps.
11th: R. Flockhart (Cooper-Climax) – 49 laps.
12th: J. Lewis (Cooper-Climax) – 49 laps.
13th: L. Bianchi (Cooper-Climax) – 49 laps.
Fastest lap: J. Surtees (Cooper-Climax), 2 min. (90 m.p.h.): New F.2 lap record.