1958 Moroccan Grand Prix race report: Moss class of the field but Hawthorn takes F1 crown

Stirling Moss wins by nearly 90 seconds but runner-up Mike Hawthorn claims F1 world title; Vanwall takes constructor's title tainted by serious injury to driver Stuart Lewis-Evans

Stirling Moss driving a Vanwall VW5 leads Phil Hill in a Ferrari Dino 246 at the start of the race.

Stirling Moss driving a Vanwall VW5 leads Phil Hill in a Ferrari Dino 246 at the start of the race.

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To conclude the Formula 1 Grand Prix season, the “circus” travelled to Morocco to contest the Grand Prix of that country on the very fast road circuit just south of Casablanca on the Atlantic seaboard. A successful race was held last year and as a result this year’s event was put into the list of World Championship races and decided the ultimate destination of this year’s title. No changes were made to the circuit, though the road surface was improved as were the amenities, so that Fangio’s lap record of 2min 25.6sec set up last year stood as a target when practice began at 3:15pm on Friday afternoon.

Moss, Brooks and Lewis-Evans were on the Vanwalls, the team leader having new light front wheels on his car, and a spare car available, while Hawthorn, Phil Hill and Gendebien were upholding Ferrari honours. The three Maranello cars were an assorted collection, one being the Monza 500 Dino with coil spring rear suspension and now having Girling disc brakes, the second an F2 car with alloy front brake drums and Dino 246 engine and the third the normal Dino car fitted with Dunlop disc brakes that Hawthorn used at the Italian Grand Prix. BRM were making history with four 1958 cars running, driven by Behra, Schell, Bonnier, and Flockhart, the last-named making his first appearance since his Rouen accident and driving the very latest car. All four had modified oil coolers consisting of finned tubes behind the water radiator, with two air scoops on the top of the nose cowling.

The Scuderia Buell, in conjunction with the Maserati factory entered Gregory on the first of the 1958 lightweight Maseratis, and Centro-Sud entered Gerini with his high-tailed car and Shelby on their own car. As Bonnier was in the BRM team he entered Herrmann on his ex-Godia heavy chassis Maserati, and to complete the F1 field there were Salvadori and Fairman with works Coopers, Trintignant with the Rob Walker Cooper, and Allison and Hill with Lotus, the last-named with a 1958 car. Running in conjunction with the Grand Prix were six Coopers forming a F2 race on their own and Brabham and McLaren were driving works cars, Bridger the Moss/Gregory car, Picard with Rob Walker’s 1957 car and two Moroccan drivers, La Caze and Guelfi.

Qualifying

Sultan Mohammed V and the future King, Hassan II, officially open the circuit before the race.

Sultan Mohammed V and the future King, Hassan II, officially open the circuit before the race.

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Practice began in very hot sunshine and Behra was the first away, soon to be followed by Moss on the spare Vanwall and Hawthorn on the Dunlop-braked Ferrari. The works Maserati was standing idle as Gregory had not arrived and Seidel took Shelby’s place in the Centro-Sud team, as the Texan driver had not arrived either. Hawthorn and Moss began to set the pace lapping around 2min 32sec, while Phil Hill was only 2sec slower and Brooks and Schell were beginning to remember the way round.

With six F2 Coopers running and three F1 models, the circuit seemed to be covered in Surbiton cars and on this very fast circuit many of them were not only getting left behind but were getting in the way of the fast boys. Seidel was slow in the blue and white Centro-Sud Maserati and Gerini was blowing out a lot of smoke from an engine breather. Hawthorn was the first to break 2min 30sec, while Moss had stopped to take over his new Vanwall with the special lightweight wire wheels on the front.

Brooks was really on form and soon got down to 2min 28.5sec, a time Behra very nearly equalled with the BRM, but the Vanwall driver then turned 2min 26.7sec, just to show that the pace was now well and truly under way. Hawthorn joined in at this point but before he could get in any very quick laps Brooks had done 2min 25.6sec, which equalled last year’s fastest lap. However, Hawthorn was only one-tenth of a second slower, though Moss was nowhere near their times as yet. Lewis Evans was allowed a few laps but could not break 2min 30sec and Gendebein only just managed it.

About 4:30pm there was a bit of a lull, except for a few Coopers circulating, Brabham being easily the fastest of the F2 cars, while Trintignant was going very fast in the Walker car with 2.2-litre engine, his best time of 2min 28.4sec putting him just behind people like Schell, Phil Hill and Bonnier. At 5pm there was a sudden spate of high-speed activity, Brooks, Behra, Moss, Hawthorn, Phil Hill and Schell all being out together and Behra sorted them all out by taking the BRM round in 2min 25.2sec.

Phil Hill in his Ferrari Dino 246

Phil Hill in his Ferrari Dino 246

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Moss was about to have a proper go when he caught up with Schell and the BRM driver tried to stay with the Vanwall with the result that he got in the way and Moss was prevented from getting in a good lap, for it is not possible, even for Moss, to make a really searing lap when another fast car is alongside. After this end-of-afternoon flurry all except Moss settled for leaving Behra with FTD the Vanwall driver going out again just as practice was finishing but the best he could do was 2min 26sec before the circuit was closed.

“It was obvious that yesterday’s split-second battle was going to continue”

Next day, again in the afternoon, practice recommenced but the blazing sunshine had given way to ten-tenths cloud and a heavy sea-mist coming in from the Atlantic, as if in sympathy with the large number of English people present. Ferraris started off quietly by scrubbing some new tyres ready for the race, but Lewis-Evans went out and began to set the pace at around 2min. 27sec, while Moss soon joined in only to have his engine burst.

As Brooks had not yet arrived Moss took the No. 2 car and in no time at all was down to 2min 25.7sec, so it was obvious that yesterday’s split-second battle was going to continue. Moss pulled into the pits and the Vanwall team did a big shuffle with their “Speedwell” plastic numbers, so that Brooks took Lewis-Evans car and he took the spare car, Moss keeping the No 2 car.

Stuart Lewis-Evans at the wheel of his Vanwall VW4

Stuart Lewis-Evans at the wheel of his Vanwall VW4

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While this was happening Hawthorn and Behra had begun to pile on steam, doing 2min 25.3sec and 2min 25.0sec, respectively, and then Bonnier shook everyone by equally Behra’s time, so that BRM were really elated. However, Moss soon put a stop to that with a lap in 2min 23.4sec and followed it with 2min 23.2sec, while Brooks backed him up with 2min 24.9sec, though he was not too happy with the steering on his car. Gendebien then joined in with some laps at under 2min 25sec, his best being 2min 24.3sec, while Lewis-Evans pulled out a 2min 24.2sec and then 2min 23.7sec and this sudden spate of very fast laps was probably helped by a wave of damp mist that enveloped the circuit, assisting carburation, though not being thick enough to hamper vision.

By 4:45pm the pace was really getting hot and the misty conditions were still perfect for the engines and Behra put his BRM up near the front with 2min 23.8sec, whereupon Hawthorn fixed the lot of them with 2min 23.1sec. Moss was content to leave Hawthorn with FTD, for it meant he had his Vanwall in the centre of the front row of the start, providing nobody improved on Hawthorn’s time, so he kept an eye on the opposition just in case. Brooks was not very happy at having his car taken from him and tried his new one without the steering damper, but could not do better than 2min 24.4sec, a time nearly equalled by Bonnier, who was making a real effort, while Phil Hill went out right at the end of practice and got down to 2min 24.1sec, in spite of having drum brakes as against his team-mates’ discs, though on this high-speed circuit breaking power was not a vital item.

The order of times among the fast-boys at the end of the day was Hawthorn, Moss, Lewis-Evans, Behra, Phil Hill, Gendebien, Brooks and Bonnier, all of them improving on last year’s fastest lap. The pace had been so shadowed, but Trintignant was still fastest of the “tiddlers”, while Gregory had been going well in the Buell Maserati, this being his first practice, and none of the F2 cars had approached Brabham’s time. The Australian driver left his F2 car in the garage for this second practice and contented himself with a few fast laps in Fairman’s 2-litre works Cooper. Allison might have improved on this had he not hit a patch of oil and spun off into the sand, bending the rear suspension in the process. Of the 25 runners all but Schell and McLaren improved on their best times on the second practice day.

Race

Phil Hill leads Mike Hawthorn in Ferrari Dino 246's.

Phil Hill leads Mike Hawthorn in Ferrari Dino 246’s.

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The only change of cars from practice, apart from engine changes, was that Brooks had the Vanwall with the lightweight front wheels. At 2:50pm the start was given with the 25 cars straining to go and a cool breeze keeping conditions not too hot under the blue skies. Moss and Lewis-Evans went off together and Hill came through from the second row and Behra tried to get by on the inside.

As the pack went down to the first corner Moss was leading but Hill was pressing hard and the end of the searing opening lap saw Moss and Hill side by side as they came past the pits with Hawthorn and Bonnier right behind followed by Brooks, Lewis-Evans and Behra. On the next lap there was still nothing in it and it was pretty clear that there were going to be no tactics in this race, it was every man for himself in a wonderful free-for-all.

“With a clear road ahead he gave all Moss had got and the Vanwall was really “growling” as it came down the finishing straight”

On lap three, while trying to out-brake the Vanwall, Hill found that drum-brakes were not as good as Goodyear discs and went up an escape road, so that Hawthorn and Bonnier got by and this gave Moss his chance. With a clear road ahead he gave all he had got and the Vanwall was really “growling” as it came down the finishing straight.

Second by second Moss drew away from Hawthorn and meanwhile Phil Hill was passing first Bonnier and then Hawthorn, getting back into second place on lap eight, by which time Moss was lapping the tail end of the F2 runners and in and out the traffic Hill could not hope to gain any ground. Moss was drawing away relentlessly from Phil Hill, Hawthorn and Bonnier, while Brooks was beginning to close on the BRM. The Swedish BRM driver was doing a fine job of driving and Brooks was having no easy time, while just behind, Behra, Lewis-Evans and Gendebien were swapping hard ahead of Trintignant and Schell.

Harry Schell driving his BRM P25 to 5th place.

Harry Schell driving his BRM P25 to 5th place.

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At the end of the Serious F2 runners Gregory was comfortably ahead of Graham Hill who was battling with Floekhart and Salvadori. Moss had already set up a new lap record with 2min 24.0sec but then Phil Hill improved on this with 2min 23.3sec and meanwhile Trintignant was the first to fall by the wayside from this absurdly hot pace, for the leaders were all pressing-on at a terrific rate.

On lap 13 Moss had 10sec lead over Hill and Brooks had at last got past Bonnier and set out to catch Hawthorn, and four laps later the Vanwall was alongside the Ferrari. Moss had lapped more than half the field by his 16th lap and on his 18th lap he was lapping Seidel’s Maserati for the second time when they collided, the Vanwall suffering a tweaked nose and the Maserati being bent at both ends and retiring.

The Vanwall pit signalled their No. 1 to “WATCH TEMP,” but all was well and Moss continued his fantastic pace, setting up two record laps, first at 2min 22.9sec and then 2min 22.5sec. He was driving at his masterful best and no-one bad any hope of catching him, the gap between him and Hill now being 14sec. Brooks was now doing a fine supporting job, leading Hawthorn and holding third place while Lewis-Evans had passed Behra and was tailing Gendebien.

At 25 laps Moss led Hill by 20sec and 42sec later Brooks came by, still holding a slender lead over Hawthorn, who in turn was 17sec, ahead of Bonnier who was still best BRM and going strongly. Gendebein, Lewis-Evans and Behra followed and then came Gregory and Schell side by side down the straight past the pits, battling for ninth place and the rest of the field were a lap or more behind in the order: Salvadori, Fairman, Allison, Herrmann and then Brabham leading the F2 category from Picard and Bridger, as McLaren had made a brief pit stop. Graham Hill’s Lotus was overheating and a stop had put him down to last place, which was 22nd as Flockhart had stopped with a broken engine.

Hawthorn refused to succumb to Brooks and got back into third place on lap 26, while Heine retired with what appeared to be “cockpit trouble” as Boulder was still well ahead of him in fifth position. On lap 28 Brooks got ahead of Hawthorn by a matter of inches and as they screamed past the pits they lapped Salvadori and Gerini. The Cooper driver seeing them coming in his mirror pulled smartly over to the right and waved them through unhindered, whereas Gerini just stuck on the left and probably didn’t see them even after they had passed him on the wrong side.

Phil Hill in his BRM 25 leads Tony Brooks in a a Vanwall VW10.

Hill leads Brooks’ Vanwall VW10.

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On lap 30 Brooks’ valiant efforts to prevent Hawthorn getting at Moss came to an end when the Vanwall engine blew up when on full song and the ensuing slide was more than frightening, Brooks holding it and stopping on the edge of the road. This left Hawthorn unhampered in third place quite a long way behind Phil Hill, who was in turn 27sec behind the flying Moss and losing ground steadily. Gendebien went off the road on some oil and at the same time Bridger crashed heavily, as did Picard, the first two being slightly hurt and the Frenchman being more seriously injured.

Now that Phil Hill had no hope of catching Moss or even worrying him into blowing up the Ferrari pit signalled the American driver to ease up and let Hawthorn take second place for the result of the ‘World Championship crown depended on this race. In spite of Moss winning and making fastest lap in this race, a second place by Hawthorn would give the Ferrari driver the Championship, so instead of touring round in the order Hill, Hawthorn, taking second and third places, Hill eased right up and let Hawthorn by. Hill had got such a lead over his team-mate that it took some four laps for Hawthorn to catch him, which he did on lap 39. As he took second place he automatically took the World Championship providing he finished in that position, no matter what Moss did.

“In spite of Moss winning and making fastest lap in this race, a second place by Hawthorn would give the Ferrari driver the Championship”

At 40 laps the order was Moss, Hawthorn, Hill, Bonnier (still driving splendidly) Schell, Gregory, Salvadori, Fairman, Allison, Herrmann and then the F2 boys in the order Brabham, McLaren, Guelfi and La Gaze, with Gerini in amongst them and Graham Hill way at the back still boiling. Schell was lapped by Moss, who had now slowed considerably, having a 71sec lead, and instead of getting out of the way like any intelligent driver would, he proceeded to tail Moss and even pull alongside on some of the corners which was stupid and unnecessary in view of how slowly he’d been going before he was lapped. Lewis-Evans was comfortably holding fifth place when his engine broke on a bend and sent him sliding off the road into the sand, and the car then caught fire and burnt right out, the driver sustaining serious burns as he scrambled out.

With only five laps to go Moss tired of having Schell continually in his way so he slowed and let the BRM go ahead and still holding a commanding lead over the two Ferraris the Vanwall won the Grand Prix of Morocco, Moss having driven a superb race, showing for the third time this year that he is a perfectionist while all goes well and he made absolutely certain of the Manufacturers Championship for Vanwall, an achievement never before equalled by a British Grand Prix team. Hawthorn’s second place gave him the title of World Champion, the first time it has been won by a British driver, and though he beat Moss on points rather than a “knock-out” win, he has worked and driven with the quality worthy of a World Champion throughout the entire season, right from the Argentine Grand Prix across the length and breadth of Europe to the Moroccan Grand Prix.