Vanwall’s two-race ‘substitute’ of 1957 talks about a superb team and its car that was hard to like
Vanwall came a bit unstuck in the middle of 1957: Brooks hurt himself when he rolled his Aston in Tertre Rouge’s sandbank at Le Mans, and Moss caught sinusitis while indulging his passion for water-skiing. Their places in the French GP at Rouen and the following weekend’s non-championship Reims GP were taken by Stuart Lewis-Evans and Roy Salvadori…
MS: What was it like joining the Vanwall team?
RS: “I was well aware that I was only coming in because Tony and Stirling were out of action, and that the extent of my stay was going to be one or two races. But I had no problems settling in: I fitted the car and the team’s organisation was first class under David Yorke. The mechanics were super, too.”
MS: What was the Vanwall like to drive?
RS:”It had good power and torque. It had a higher maximum speed, I would have thought, than any of the other cars at that time – you could easily pass on the straights. But you could not throw it around; you had to be precise. I liked to have a car moving all the time and feel that I was in control of that movement; I didn’t get that same feeling with the Vanwall.”
MS: In the records you’re listed as retiring because of valve spring problems at Rouen…
RS: “No, it was oil spewing all over the circuit. There’s no doubt of that at all, because poor old Ron Flockhart had a big shunt in the BRM when he spun on my oil. It was breather trouble, my wheels were spinning like hell and I was covered in oil.”
MS: Lewis-Evans led the race at Reims, but you seemed to struggle…
RS: “I was quite happy with the car at Rouen, but Reims caught me out. I knew the circuit and felt that I’d go extremely well there. But the team put me on some larger wheels, and the car seemed to be using all the road in the corners and weaving on the straights. It could have been the tyres, or perhaps their pressures, I don’t know – it was still too new to me. Whatever it was, I was uncomfortable all the way through that race. And it was a bloody long race.”
MS: What were your thoughts upon leaving Vanwall?
RS: “I hadn’t got the buzz from it that you might think. When I was in the Coopers I was encouraged when racing against the Vanwalls because I was thinking, ‘They’re not easy to drive.’ Okay, they got away with it with Moss and Brooks because they were two of the best of the day – two of the most stylish you could ever find, in fact. In inferior hands, though, I don’t think it was that great a car”