Editorial, May 2003

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Paul Fearnley, Editor

Tony Vandervell would be pleased: three times already Ron Dennis’s McLaren has beaten those ‘bloody red cars’ in 2003. The founder of the Vanwall team was, in fact, a fan of Enzo and his Scuderia. In many ways the two men were alike — which is why their rivalry was so intense.

British success in Formula One is today taken for granted (the same can’t be said for our grand prix, it seems) but in the early 1950s a GP win for a dark green car seemed as likely as a Blackpool Beach donkey trotting down the coast to Aintree and winning the Grand National.

Yet it was at this very same venue that Stirling Moss ended Britain’s world championship GP victory drought in a Vanwall in 1957. It was a memorable occasion, but had not the clutch in Jean Behra’s Maserati 250F exploded a ‘bloody red car’ would have won that race, too.

No, Vanwall truly became a world force later that year in Italy. There were two grands prix, at Pescara and Monza, and Moss won both of them. Best of all, however, was the team’s qualifying domination in the latter race. The faithful had come to see Juan Fangio cap a stellar season with another victory for Maserati. Instead a late change from a 3-2-3 grid to a 4-3-4 arrangement had to be made so that he could line up on the front row alongside Moss, Tony Brooks and Stuart Lewis-Evans. A splash of red in a sea of green.

Fangio did a fantastic job in the race and was able to see off the challenges of Brooks and Lewis-Evans, but Moss proved to be a Vanwall too far on that day of days. Thanks to Stirling’s association with Maserati he got a warm reception upon his victory, but no doubt the crowd filed out of the park and into the streets of Monza muttering about ‘bloody green cars’.

Tony Vandervell was pleased.

Britain’s `Enzo’ had a very different background to the subsequent kingpins of our domination of the sport — John Cooper, Ken Tyrrell, Ron Dennis, and Frank Williams and Patrick Head — being the boss of a large and influential engineering company, but his bullish determination and unswerving commitment provided a blueprint for his successors to follow.

In 1958 Vanwall scored six GP victories to secure the first-ever constructors’ championship. Since then, barring Ferrari’s 11 titles, this accolade has only ever gone to British teams. Sure, there was a very, very, very strong Australian influence at Brabham in 1967, but the team was based at New Haw, Surrey. And yes, Matra provided Ken Tyrrell with a superb monocoque — and Jean-Pierre Beltoise — in 1969, but it was Ford DFV power that supplied all 69 of its constructors points that year, of which 66 were secured by a Scotsman called Jackie Stewart. Sounds British to me.

The green has gone, but the appetite for victory has remained.