Italian heart, French dressing
Pebble Beach will reverberate to the sound of a multi-million pound competition car line-up August…
Although six previous Portuguese Grand Prix events have been held, starting in 1950 and fluctuating between the Porto circuit and the Lisbon circuit, they have all been for sports cars and, strictly speaking, not Grand Prix races at all. This year a full-scale Formula 1 event was organised and, in addition, it formed a round in the Drivers’ World Championship series, so the town of Porto and the Boavista circuit were really put on the map for the Grand Prix “circus” turned out in full.
Of course, the town of Porto has long been on the map for drinkers of Port wine, one bank of the river which dissects the town being covered in famous factories in the Port industry. The town also has another claim to fame, in being, like Venice or Florence, spelt differently by the English, we putting an “O” in front of the Portuguese spelling, calling it Oporto.
In spite of not having had a Grand Prix race on their circuit before, or in Portugal, the organisers and members of the Automobile Club Of Portugal were used to distinguished visitors from the motoring world, previous sports-car races being won by such drivers as Bonetto, Villoresi, Castellotti, Behra, Salvadori on the Porto circuit, and Fangio, Moss, Gonzalez and Gregory on the Lisbon circuit.
The circuit of Porto is a true road-circuit and one of the last of the real street races, containing all the normal hazards of a town, including tram-lines, kerbstones, cobbles, drains, trees, lampposts, pillar-boxes and so on. Those drivers who had not seen it before were slightly taken aback, for it was fast and long, while those who had driven in previous sports-car races wondered how much faster the Grand Prix cars would turn the lap.
Being a new circuit in the Grande Epreuve series, it justified an early arrival and the covering of a number of laps before any practice began, and was found to be most interesting. From the start the pits were on the right and the circuit entered a vast “roundabout” or open place, making a double-left turn across tram-lines in the opposite direction to normal traffic, and turned up the Avenida da Boavista. This is a long double-track road with the tramway down the centre, and the circuit ran up the left-hand carriageway, going uphill and dead straight.
After a little more than two kilometres it swung sharp left into another climbing main road, surfaced with cobbles and having tram-lines on the right-hand side. Just short of a kilometre the road levelled out and the circuit turned left again into a narrow side turning and between houses and shops, the two previous long straights being lined by large residences with sumptuous gardens.
After sweeping right and left the route joined a very smooth-surfaced, high-speed, winding descent that could only be described as “Fangio Country” and thin road ran back down to the sea front, where a double left sweep across more tram-lines and cobbles brought the road into the short finishing straight. It was not a difficult circuit to learn from the point of view of shape and direction but many of the corners left a number of different approaches available, whether to dodge the tram-lines or the bumps, or both, or ignore both, and so on.
First practice was Friday afternoon, under quite hot conditions, and it started with everyone feeling their way round as there was no standard time to aim at, this being the first appearance of GP cars at Porto. Sports cars had lapped at under 3min, which was a vague guide, but it was not until Moss did 2min 48sec, Hawthorn 2min 49sec, and Schell, with the BRM, 2min 46sec, that things got properly under way.
Brooks and Lewis-Evans were supporting Moss in the Vanwalls, and von Trips had the experimental Monza Ferrari with rear coil-springing. Behra was in the second BRM and there were three Cooper’s; Brabham and Salvadori in the works cars and Trintignant in the Walker-Cooper, while Allison and Hill had the 1958 works Lotus cars. Signorina de Filippis and Bonnier were out in their own Maseratis and Shelby was driving the 1958 works car which since Reims had been bought by Temple Buell.
“Some drivers looked to be completely out of control while others looked smooth and effortless”
The Centro-Sud Scuderia had one car at the pits but no driver, as the American Troy Ruttmann had not turned up. As most people were beginning to get below 3 min, Allison suddenly found himself going sideways up the Avenida at Boavista on some loose gravel and the nose of tho Lotus struck a straw bale, whereupon the car spun and demolished itself among the kerbs and walls. Allison luckily stepping out of the wreckage quite unhurt.
Lap speeds were increasing steadily among the fast works drivers, though it was interesting to see the variations in tackling the double left bend after the pits, where the cars had to cross the tram-lines once or twice depending on the line taken. Some drivers ignored the rails and humps and took a theoretical line through the bends, others made sure of crossing the rails at a large angle, some tried to avoid them as much as possible. One school of thought aimed at arriving in the open space of the roundabout at the highest possible speed and then leaving it slowly, another aimed at entering slowly, avoiding the lumps, and leaving as fast as possible. Some drivers, like Schell in the BRM, looked to be completely out of control while others, like Trintignant in the Cooper, looked smooth and effortless.
While all this was going on there was a moment of panic when de Filippis spun her Maserati and collected a lamp standard, both the concrete pole and the Maserati chassis being put very out of shape, but the Italian was quite unhurt. Hawthorn had fastest lap at this point, with 2min 43sec, while Beltra and Trintignant were at 2min 45sec, the last time being quite exceptional for a 2-litre car on this circuit.
Vanwalls were now ready to go and Moss did 2min 41sec, then began to try and did 2min 39sec, and by working hard knocked another second off, finishing up with 2min 37.65sec, the official timing being electrical to 1/100 of a second. Brooks soon joined in and got down to 2min 38sec, and then Hawthorn went out again in the normal Ferrari, having been turning some laps in the experimental one, and without too much effort made fastest lap in 2min 37.60sec.
Meanwhile both Behra and Schell were below 2min 40sec, which had now become a sort of standard minimum, and the “tiddlers” were still trying to get down to this figure. At long last Vanwall’s let Lewis-Evans have a go and he quickly got down to 2min 39sec, and then Moss went out again with an extra air Scoop on the oil radiator as the new separate cooler did not seem to be doing its stuff, lid put in a number of laps at just over 2min 37sec and then as he stopped Behra went off with the BRM and did 2min 36.17sec, a new fastest lap. This brought Moss out again and he did 2min 35.24sec, while Brooks went out as well and did 2mins 36.76 sec. So practice finished with things beginning to get on the boil and everyone learning the way round.
Next day there was another afternoon practice, under a hot sun and one or two changes had been made in the entry list. With the Lotus an unrepairable heap of bits, Allison contracted to drive the Centro-Sud Maserati as Ruttmann was obviously not going to turn up, and de Filippis borrowed Gerini’s Maserati, which he had brought along in the hope of getting a late entry.
Hawthorn and von Trips kept to the same Ferraris but they changed numbers, thus confusing the public, while Coopers more or less decided that Brabham should have the 2.2-litre car. Brooks, Behra, Schell and Lewis-Evans were soon out practising, but Moss and the two Ferrari drivers were biding their time.
While both Behra and Brooks seemed to stick at times around 2min 37sec, Lewis-Evans was going very fast and set up a new fastest time of just under 2min 35sec, which Hawthorn then went out and improved upon with an official 2min 34.26sec, while Moss also joined in but was content to tour round in 2min 38sec. Shelby was beginning to get the feel of the new Maserati and was down into the 2min 40sec bracket, and Allison was going round quietly in the Centro-Sud Maserati trying to get used to having so much motor car around him and such low-geared steering.
Both Schell and von Trips were almost down to 2min 37sec after trying very hard, and Brabham was bending the Cooper in all directions and doing 2min 38sec. Graham Hill in the lone Lotus was steadily improving his times and Vanwalls were sitting back for a bit of watching. Meanwhile, Salvadori had been steadily working away with the 2-litre Cooper and though he eventually almost broke 2min 43sec he could not approach Trintignant with the old Walker 2-litre Cooper.
The little Frenchman was really at home on this fast street circuit and his normal very correct and precise driving was paying off handsomely amidst the various hazards around the course, such as kerbs and walls. His driving was a perfect example of the “old school” of road racers compared with the present-day aerodrome-born driver, where space is unlimited. Trintignant’s best time of 2min 37.97sec with the 2-litre Cooper was not a single lucky lap, for he was turning consistent laps at 2min 38sec.
“Trintignant was really at home on this fast street circuit and his normal very correct and precise driving was paying off handsomely”
Moss went out again and now began to try everything and approached 2min 34sec, while Behra began to menace with laps at only a little over 2min 35sec, but Moss then finished his efforts with 2min 34.21sec, which just beat Hawthorn’s best. Having changed the rear springs and shock-absorbers, Brooks tried again, but only just managed to break 2min 36sec, and Shelby then tried the Centro-Sud Maserati to see if it was all right; it was, so Allison went out again to try a bit harder.
With twenty minutes to go to the end of practice there was a lull and everyone sat in the pits to see who was going to make a last-minute effort to beat the time set by Moss. It was Lewis-Evans who set off just before the end and in three quick laps he got down to 2min 34.60sec which put him on the front row of the grid with Moss and Hawthorn. This immediately stirred up Behra, who took the BRM out and just broke 2min 35sec, and though it was not good enough to get hint in the front row, it put him in the select four who got times of 2min 34-and-a-bit seconds, and, as could be expected, everyone improved on their times of the day before.
With Portugal basking in glorious sunshine at the end of practice, everything looked well for race day, for there had been little mechanical bother in spite of the high-speed circuit and the amount of practice everyone had been doing. However, overnight, the rains came and all Sunday morning saw Porto covered in a miserable drizzling rain, while the Atlantic pounded against the sea front. Luckily the start was due to be at 4pm and after lunch the rain stopped, though the skies were still very grey. As the cars and drivers assembled at the pits there did seem a chance of the roads drying out, and by the time everyone was in their place on the grid the weather was so promising that an enormous crowd had hurried out from the town by bus or tram, and every vantage point was packed.
As the fifteen cars left the line and headed across the open space of the roundabout, making for the bottle-neck of the Avenida da Boavista it was Moss who took the lead, and at the end of lap one he led Hawthorn, von Trips, Schell, Lewis-Evans, Behra, Brabham and Brooks, all following one another in quick succession and obviously treading cautiously on the still damp track.
The rest followed at intervals, with Allison bringing up the rear in the old blue-and-white Maserati, looking very unhappy. Going up the double-track road Hawthorn went by the leading Vanwall and finished the second lap with quite a lead on Moss, while Schell, von Trips and Lewis-Evans followed nose-to-tail, with Behra not far behind. Then came a very tight bunch, filling the road as they approached the pits and getting into line for the next corner in the order Brabham, Brooks, Shelby and Trintignant, and already there was a dull pause before the remainder arrived, consisting of Bonnier with Salvadori and Hill all round him, and then de Filippis and Allison.
The gap between Hawthorn and Moss was unchanged on the next lap, but von Trips had shaken off Schell and Lewis-Evans, and Behra had joined them, while Brooks had momentarily got away from the two Coopers. On lap five Moss closed visibly on Hawthorn, for the roads were drying fast and he had got the measure of the circuit, and Behra was now after von Trips, who was in third place 22sec behind Moss. For fifth place Schell and Lewis-Evans were getting in each other’s way, so that Shelby caught them up, and Trintignant was harrying Brooks, the Vanwall driver obviously not at his ease on this circuit.
“Bonnier then gave up from a disease that is becoming prevalent among drivers of the older Grand Prix machinery, that of ‘small-car boredom’”
On laps six and seven Moss was right behind Hawthorn, the two of them being way out on their own, and Behra was pressing hard on the tail of von Trips’ Ferrari, and on lap eight Moss went by Hawthorn and Behra passed von Trips, so that at one stroke Ferraris dropped front first and third to second and fourth. The tail-end of the field had already been well and truly lapped and Bonnier had Hill and Salvadori climbing all over him it seemed. De Filippis retired out on the circuit and Bonnier then gave up from a disease that is becoming prevalent among drivers of the older Grand Prix machinery, that of “small-car boredom.”
At 10 laps Moss was pulling away steadily from Hawthorn for the Ferrari’s brakes were showing signs of weakening and the Vanwall led by 6sec. Nearly half a minute later came Behra in a BRM comfortably leading von Trips, and then came Lewis-Evans with Shelby hanging on, the Texan having disposed of the American BRM driver, who was now following in seventh position ahead of Trintignant, Brabham and Brooks, the remainder of the runners having been lapped. Hawthorn now gave up all hope of battling with Moss and settled for second place, for the Ferrari brakes just were not up to those of the Vanwall, even though the car had plenty of steam.
In the next few laps Lewis-Evans began to close on von Trips, for the German driver had made a brief stop to have his bonnet refastened, and Shelby, who was getting the hang of the new Maserati, went along with the Vanwall. Brooks got past Brabham again and this time shook hint off, and as Schell lost ground, falling behind Trintignant, the Vanwall also passed the BRM.
Having got past von Trips, Lewis-Evans drew away from him but could make no impression on Behra, and Shelby having lost his free tow was now stuck with the German Ferrari driver, the two of them having a good battle, with Moss now closing up to lap them. Allison had already given up, feeling that he was only wearing out the car and getting in the way of the fast boys, and Salvadori and Hill were locked in mortal combat, though two laps behind the leader.
At 20 laps, with Moss some 38sec ahead of Hawthorn, a slight shower of rain fell and for a while it looked as though it might develop, but luckily it held off. Behra was firmly in third place, nearly three-quarters of a minute ahead of Lewis-Evans, and von Trips was still only just ahead of Shelby, and then came Brooks, having been lapped by his team-leader!
Moss was lapping comfortably and easily faster than anyone else, very much the master of the whole race and by half-distance, 25 laps, he had almost a minute lead. By letting his engine run up to 8,000rpm on the long straight, Shelby managed to get by von Trips and keep ahead of him, and Moss lapped the two of them.
By the halfway mark Hill was winning the Hornsey vs Surbiton battle for last place, but then overdid things past the pits and after one of the longest and slowest front-wheel slides ever seen the Lotus mounted the straw bales and settled down like a broody duck, with a bent chassis and an embarrassed driver, who then proceeded to help lift the car back onto the road, but it could not go on.
The roads were now pretty dry and Moss set up a new fastest lap on numerous occasions and his steadily increasing lead over Hawthorn became almost monotonous and people began to look elsewhere for interest, but around lap 30 there was little to be had, except that Shelby was not happy about revving so high and let von Trips get in front again, and a little while later eased up to remove an oily visor, only to have Brooks go by.
After this brief dull-pause everything happened at once for Moss lapped Lewis-Evans, who promptly tucked in behind and let his leader show him the way round, while Brooks moved up into fifth place ahead of von Trips. Almost at the same time Hawthorn decided his lack of brakes was beginning to get dodgy, so he pulled into the pits on lap 35 to have the front ones screwed up.
This stop let Behra go by and gain a 20sec lead, and though Hawthorn rejoined the race and set up a new lap record he had little hope of catching the BRM for the Ferrari brakes soon disappeared again. For no apparent reason, other than over-doing it, Brooks spun at the far end of the Avenida da Boavista on lap 37 and stalled his engine, and though he tried hard he could not restart it on his own, eventually getting the help of officials and thus disqualifying himself, so that he motored quietly back to the pits and retired.
After being overtaken by nearly everyone, Schell began to regain places, when first Trintignant slowed up with his shock-absorbers no longer working, and then Brabham eased up, feeling he was stretching the Cooper a bit. At 40 laps, with 10 to go, Moss was moving in to lap Hawthorn, who was still in third place behind Behra, and Lewis-Evans was still in Moss’ slipstream.
The leader had more than two minutes over the BRM and on lap 41 the Bourne car suddenly lost power and sounded woolly, for the Corundite centre portion of one of the 10mm KLG plugs had broken its gas seal and all the compression of that cylinder was leaking out. Naturally, Behra did not find this out until after the race, and at the time assumed a valve had stretched, or a spring broken, and struggled on with only three cylinders working, so that Hawthorn caught him on lap 42 and took second place. Quietly on his own in last place, Salvadori clouted a kerb and bent the Cooper’s suspension, but limped on for the end was in sight.
“When Hawthorn broke the lap record the Vanwall pit displayed a sign saying ‘HAWT REC’ which Moss promptly misread and did nothing about”
When Hawthorn broke the lap record the Vanwall pit displayed a sign saying “HAWT REC” which Moss promptly misread and did nothing about, so the pit assumed the car or the driver was not up to any new records and left him to tour round comfortably in the lead. On lap 45 Moss was right behind Behra and, of course, right behind Moss was Lewis-Evans, only a few feet behind in distance, but in fact a whole lap and a few feet, so that when Moss lapped Behra on lap 46, Lewis-Evans went by with him and into third place.
The remaining four laps saw Moss closing up rapidly to lap Hawthorn, and taking Lewis-Evans with him, and seeing that Hawthorn might not realise what was happening his pit warned him that Lewis-Evans was only 5sec away, but of course they could not tell him that Moss lay between the Ferrari and the third-place Vanwall as far as positions on the road were. There seemed every possibility that Moss might be able to tow his team-mate into second place, but as they all started Moss’ 50th lap it could be seen to be too late, unless Hawthorn made a mistake.
The Ferrari brakes were still hopeless and Hawthorn, seeing a Vanwall in his mirror after getting a sign reading “+4sec Evans” as he passed the pits, thought it was Evans immediately behind him. Leaving the main road on the back of the circuit to go into the narrow side-turning the Ferrari slid sideways and that allowed Moss to go by.
Thinking his mistake had let Evans by into second place, Hawthorn was looking very unhappy as Moss went by the Vanwall leader thought, “Poor old Mike, he looks really upset at being lapped by me” whereupon he slowed down and waved Hawthorn in front again. Realising the situation regarding the two Vanwalls which had been behind him. Hawthorn was quick to take advantage of the courteous act by Moss and charged off down the hill to the sea-front. Back at the pits the three cars appeared in unchanged order from the previous lap and Hawthorn crossed the line to start his 50th lap, still in second place, but almost a whole lap behind the leader. Then Moss received the chequered flag, and Lewis-Evans was flagged-off, in third place, one lap and some yards behind Moss. Naturally all three cars went on, Hawthorn to complete his 50th lap and the two Vanwalls to do a lap of honour.
At precisely the same corner as on the previous lap Hawthorn really spun this time and stalled the Ferrari engine. The two Vanwalls, having finished their race, were coming along slowly to find Hawthorn busily pushing his Ferrari trying to restart it. Moss stopped, and sat with his engine running, to see how Hawthorn was going to get on, while Lewis-Evans went by and toured round to the pits on his own, much to the consternation of everyone who was waiting for Hawthorn to be flagged in second and for Moss to complete his lap of honour.
Back at “drama corner” many officials wanted to help Hawthorn, but he and Moss both waved them away. Having spun up the escape road Hawthorn was pushing the Ferrari back towards the course, and was naturally so busy pushing and cursing his stupidity that he did not really look where he was going. Having got up enough speed be jumped in and jammed it into gear, and at that point the car mounted the footpath going in the opposite direction of the circuit. After a few hiccoughs and splutters the engine fired, so Moss drove on and Hawthorn swung round in the wide main road and carried on to complete his 50th lap and receive the chequered flag.
“Officials had received a report from their observers that Hawthorn had restarted his car in the wrong direction of the circuit, and by the rules that meant disqualification!”
Meanwhile, of course, all the other cars had finished and everyone was waiting for the Ferrari. While the excitement of the last laps had been going on Shelby had a front brake lock which spun him off the road on his 48th lap when lying sixth. When all the shouting had died down there was an embarrassing pause, for the officials had received a report from their observers that Hawthorn had restarted his car in the wrong direction of the circuit, and by the rules that meant disqualification!
It was not until 11pm that night that a decision was made and Hawthorn was given second place. The Stewards agreed that being on the footpath did not constitute “the wrong way of the circuit”, and they accepted confirmation from Moss, who was an eye witness, that there had been no danger to any other competitor, for, as he so rightly pointed out, Hawthorn had been the only one in front of him when he got the chequered flag, all the other runners having stopped racing when Hawthorn spun. By midnight a lot of frustrated daily paper reporters were able to complete their stories.
The above fastest laps recorded by each driver during the race were given out with the official results, a practice other organisers might copy, for they make interesting reading. With the exception of Trintignant and the last three drivers, all others improved on their best practice times even though conditions were not so good, which indicates that improved knowledge and experience of the circuit was assisting as the race wore on, also supported by the fact that most drivers made their best laps quite late in the race.
Mr Vandervell should be well pleased with his three drivers for their equality, all being within a half a second. Significant is the fact that Brooks made his best lap on lap 36 and spun on lap 37, retiring at the pits on the next lap having been push-started by officials. Hill made his best time on lap 24 and at the end of the next lap lost control and hit the straw bales.
Shelby made his best time on lap 46 and one lap and a bit later had a front brake-lock on which spun him off the road, suggesting that his fastest lap strained the brakes a bit too much. Hawthorn made his fastest lap just after his Pit stop to have the front brakes adjusted and while he was trying in vain to catch Behra, while the BRM driver made his best lap.
At the same time, trying not to be caught Waltham overtook Schell’s BRM and while doing so recorded his best time, and Schell made his best four laps later when he regained his lead over the Cooper. Moss made his best lap on the one on which he lapped Lewis-Evans, and the junior member of the VenwaII team made his best while following his leader. Trintignant and Salvadori had no apparent stimulus for making their best laps.
Though Vanwalls have been winning GP races they have never been really happy about the temperature at which the engine oil has been running, so before going to Portugal, where intense heat is normal, the cooling system of the four cars taken was modified. Until now the radiator core had been in three separate compartments, divided horizontally, top and bottom units being used for oil, one for the engine and the other for the gearbox, and the larger central portion being the engine water cooling element. For the Portuguese race the whole of the main radiator was used for water and a separate cooling element mounted on a tubular structure above the main radiator was used for oil, engine and gearbox systems now being in one unit. This additional radiator protruded above the nose of the car and had a ducted entry and exit forming a large bulge on the once smooth profile of the Vanwall. In putting the two cooling elements separate the degree of heat-exchange in the old system was lost and no real improvement in overall cooling was gained.
It would now seem to be standard that the Vanwall uses wire-spoke front wheels and alloy rear ones, While the front suspension has bracing struts to the top wishbones and steering dampers are used, and all ears have vertical rear wheels now.
Provision was made for three Scuderia Ferrari entries but, in fact, only two cars were present, a normal Formula 1 Dino 246 for Hawthorn to drive and the experimental “Monza” car with coil rear springing and side-mounted oil tank, which was used in practice at Nurburgring, and was driven by von Trips, though the English driver tried it during practice.
After Nurburgring BRM found some flaws in the chassis frame so some stiffening was added, notably to the front suspension supporting members and the lower rear radius-arm attachments which are outrigged from the main frame. Both cars were fitted with the intermediate oil cooling system as tried at Reims, in which the oil tank remains mounted beneath the exhaust manifold, suitably insulated from the heat of the pipes, and a cylindrical oil-cooler with horizontal air tubes running through it is mounted on the right of the engine beneath the Weber carburetters.
Cooper Cars had their usual pair of works cars, the 2.2-litre for Brabham and the 2-litre for Salvadori, more 2.2-litre engines being impossible to come by RRC Walker sent his old 1957 Cooper, with 2-litre engine and 1958 gearbox, it being taken on a trailer behind the works Cooper van.
The two 1958 Lotus single-seaters were basically those used at the Nurburgring, the one damaged in practice having a new nose cowling of slightly modified shape, this being the car with the gearbox unit mounted “on the honk” as they say in Hornsey, or in other words set at an angle to the centreline of the car. This car, with 2-litre engine and “inside” exhaust system was driven and crashed by Allison in practice, being a virtual ” write-off.” The second car with in-line gearbox had the 2.2-litre engine, outside exhaust pipes and was driven by Hill, both cars having the engine set over to the left. some 17 degrees.
To complete the entry of sixteen cars there was a motley selection of Maseratis, Bonnier with his 1957 lightweight ex-works car, Maria-Theresa de Filippis with her “built-up” 250F, one of the Centro-Sod cars and the new 1958 car that is shorter and lighter and which Fangio drove at Reims in July. This last car, the latest Maserati product, was purchased by the large and genial American sportsman Temple Buell and was driven by Carroll Shelby. Since Reims the only changes made to the car have been the fitting of Houdaille vane-type shock-absorbers all round in place of the telescopics.
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