On April 18th the Grand Prix circus moved on to the three-mile circuit built round the Grand National course at Aintree, where a very fine entry list had been obtained for the International “200” Race. This race has suffered in the past from poor entries, which has hardly classified it as “International,” but the programme for this year’s event was almost of Grande Epreuve status.
Enzo Ferrari sent over two Dino 256 Formula 1 cars for Tony Brooks and Jean Behra to drive. Externally they resembled last year’s Dino 246 models but the V6 engine used by Behra now has a capacity of 2,474 c.c. and a rumoured 300 b.h.p. Dunlop disc brakes, tyres and wheels are standardised, as are Koni dampers, and the Perspex bubble over the three Weber carburettera is now open at the front. Another rumour circulating among members of the motoring Press was that both Behra and Brooks were changing gear more than other drivers, indicating that a five-speed gearbox was being used. Brooks had a last season’s Dino 246 engine fitted to his car, which meant he was giving away about 15 b.h.p. to Behra and, taking into account his unfamiliarity with the Ferrari, this probably represents the 5-1/2 sec. difference between their practice times, Behra recording 2 min. dead and Brooks 2 min. 5.4 sec.
The two red cars arrived on the backs of hired lorries, with four mechanics, two team managers, some spare wheels, a couple of toolboxes and an electric starter.
B.R.M. arrived with two cars for Schell and Bonnier to drive, and Studeria Centro Sud brought along two Maseratis for da Silva Ramos and an unknown driver (in this country at least), Dale Duncan. Stirling Moss had returned to England apparently well satisfied with the Cooper-B.R.M., saying that it was faster than the Ferraris on the Modena circuit. Maurice Trintignant was down to drive Rob Walker’s 2-1/2-litre Cooper-Climax but in the race he drove the Cooper-Borgward in the Formula 2 section of the race. In the Cooper works camp Masten Gregory now had a 2-1/2-litre engine as well as Jack Brabham, while Team Lotus still had only the one car for Graham Hill to drive, Innes Ireland and Alan Stacey once again failing to get a drive. The Formula 1 entry list was made up by Roy Salvadori in Tommy Atkins’ Cooper-Maserati and Bruce McLaren in a works 2.2-litre Cooper.
The Formula 2 section of the race looked to be a repeat of the Oulton Park race, the main contestants being Jim Russell, Michael Taylor, Tony Marsh, Bruce Halford, Ivor Bueb and Maurice Trintignant. Peter Ashdown had his first single-seater drive in one of Alan Brown’s Coopers.
Practice took place on a track which was drying out from a shower of rain and towards the end of practice the circuit was fairly dry. Big sensation of the practice session was Masten Gregory, who was the only driver to get under 2 min., achieving a lap time of 1 min. 59.6 see. Behra and Schell did 2 min. dead and Bonnier in the other B.R.M. was only 0.4 sec. behind them. The Cooper-B.R.M. appears to need a dry track to give its best as Moss couldn’t do better than 2 min. 1.6 sec. Jim Russell returned fastest F.2 time. in 2 min. 5.8 sec.
Race day dawned cloudy but with enough blue patches to suggest that the rain might be kept at bay for a few hours; a fairly strong wind blew the familiar Aintree odours across the circuit, which may explain the small crowd which assembled in the stands and enclosures to watch the first full-distance G.P. race of the season.
Two sports-car races and a saloon-car race preceded the main event which was scheduled to start at 3 p.m., and, since the B.A.R.C. were organising the racing, it did! With only one electric starter, the Ferrari mechanics had to work quickly in starting-up both cars via the transmission, but they were off the grid in time for the start, in which everyone got away safely except John Campbell-Jones, who had been unable to cure an oil leak in his Cooper in time for the start. On their first time round Masten Gregory was in the lead, followed by Bonnier, Moss, Schell, Brabham, Salvadori, Behra, McLaren and Brooks. Bonnier’s moment of glory lasted for only one lap for on lap two he drew off the circuit at Country Corner, saying that the engine “had just cut out.”
Gregory was setting up a surprisingly scorching pace and was drawing away from Moss with apparent ease, and Moss was drawing away from Harry Schell, who was gritting his teeth and fairly hurling the B.R.M. round. After ten laps of this 67-lap race the order amongst the leaders had not changed, and Gregory had equalled his practice time and was now 3 sec. up on Moss and 22 sec. ahead of Behra’s Ferrari, which seemed to be completely outclassed on the winding Aintree circuit. The Ferrari sounded magnificent, going down Railway Straight visibly faster than the remainder of the field, with a high-pitched scream which was a delight — albeit a rather painful one — to the enthusiast’s ear. On lap 11 Salvadori retired with gearbox trouble, to be followed by Jack Brabham on lap 18 with a reputed blown cylinder-head gasket. This let Behra into fourth place, which quickly turned into third place when Gregory coasted to a stop at Anchor Crossing with a broken clutch, a not entirely unexpected happening. Nevertheless, Gregory showed that given the right car he can compete with the best.
Moss now had a good lead over Schell and, it later transpired, had shattered his own Vanwall record lap of 1 min. 59.2 sec. by 0.4 sec., a speed of 90.91 m.p.h. Behra was now speeding up and, no doubt goaded on by the sight of his former B.R.M. team-mate disappearing round corners in front of him, began to catch up with Schell. He succeeded in doing this on lap 25, although Schell hung on to him and even attempted to re-pass once or twice. The strain of this encounter did the B.R.M. engine no good and on lap 28 the B.R.M. stopped at Melling Crossing with engine trouble, although a surreptitious look under the bonnet revealed no holes in the crankcase.
For two laps Moss held an enormous lead over Behra but it was too good to last, and on lap 30 Moss pulled into the pits with no drive left in the Italian-designed five-speed gearbox. The box was dismantled and one tiny nut was found to have dislodged itself, a similar occurrence to that which happened to Moss in the Cooper-Alta at the Nürburgring some years ago. So once again reliability paid dividends and Ferraris were in first and second places, although Brooks was nearly 50 sec. behind. A remarkably consistent performance was being set up by Bruce McLaren, who was still on the same lap as the leaders in the 2.2-litre Cooper. The only other Formula I cars left in the race were da Silva Ramos’ Maserati, in fifth place, and Graham Hill’s Lotus, which had been making a series of pit stops for fixing his exhaust pipe, topping-up the brake fluid and putting a gallon of oil into the sump. In spite of all this and certain deficiencies in handling, he kept the car reasonably near the leaders until he decided to slow down and keep station rather than risk breaking something.
In the-Formula 2 section of the race, Ivor Bueb led for many laps in the Cooper-Borgward, but on his 51st lap he retired with clutch slip, passing the lead to Brian Naylor, who promptly amused the crowd with a series of comic pit stops during which he tried to tell his mechanics that he wanted refuelling. Unfortunately, a mechanic undid a bonnet clip during the first stop which was not replaced, and next time round Naylor was dragging the bonnet (or should it be tail on a Cooper ?) behind him in a sadly mutilated fashion. While this was being removed, Michael Taylor went into the lead of the F.2 section with Alan Brown’s Cooper, a lead which he held to the finish.
Behra reeled off the remaining laps at an ever-decreasing speed so that Brooks could get near enough to make a respectably close finish, and they crossed the line with only ten seconds between them. Behra completed the 67 laps at an average speed of 88.76 m.p.h. Although there was jubilation in the Ferrari camp, the cars were not yet perfect, Behra’s car showing streaks of oil down the bodysides. Although disc brakes have apparently cured their troubles in that department, Moss and Gregory were much faster round Aintree’s slow corners. Moss would appear to have made it wise choice in the Cooper-B.R.M. for Monaco.
AINTREE “INTERNATIONAL 200”
67 Laps — 201 Miles
Ist: J. Behra (Ferrari) — 2 hr. 15 min. 52.0 sec. — 88.76 m.p.h
2nd: C.A.S. Brooks (Ferrari) — 2 hr. 16 min. 02.4 sec.
3rd: M. McLaren (Cooper) — 2 hr. 17 min. 47.8 sec.
4th: R. da Silva Ramos (Maserati) — 63 laps.
Fastest lap: S. Moss (Cooper-B.R.M.) — 1 min. 58.8 sec. — 90.91 m.p.h (new record)
Formula 2 Section
1st: M.J.C. Taylor (Cooper) — 2hr. 17 min. 55.2 sec. — 83.53 m.p.h
2nd: K.A. Greene (Cooper) — 63 laps
3rd: J.R. Lewis (Cooper) — 63 laps.
Of the supporting races Peter Ashdown led a 1,2,3 win for Lolas, although Alan Stacey led the race in a Lotus Seventeen after starting from the back of the grid, but he was forced to retire with gearbox trouble. Ivor Bueb once again beat Roy Saladori in a saloon car race, both drivers using 3.4 Jaguars, and in the big sports-car race Salvadori won in the John Coombs 2-1/2-litre Copper-Maserati from Graham Hill in a works 2-litre Lotus.
Sports Cars under 1,100 c.c.: P. Ashdown (Lola) — 82.01 m.p.h.
Sports cars over 1,100c.c.: R. Salvadori (Cooper) — 85.22 m.p.h.
Saloon-Car Race: I. Bueb (Jaguar 3.4) — 74.99 m.p.h.