Continental Notes, October 1958



After a long and varied series of Grand Prix races the Drivers World Championship is still wide open as to the result and the final decision cannot be reached until after the Moroccan Grand Prix at Casablanca on October 19th. One thing is certain, and that is that the 1958 World Champion will be a British driver and it rests between Moss and Hawthorn, with the odds slightly in the favour of the latter. Over the past few years, with Fangio being World Champion for 1954, 1955, 1956 and 1957 in succession, there has usually been no shadow of doubt as to who is the best driver or driver/car combination by two-thirds of the way through the season, for the great Argentinian driver invariably trounced all opposition sufficiently well to procure the Championship by a fair margin. This year, however, the outcome between Moss and Hawthorn could rest on one single point. At the time of writing there have been 10 events counting for the Championship and Morocco will make the eleventh, and by the rules laid down by the F.I.A., a driver counts his best six results out, of 10 or 11 races held. Should there be a tie after adding up the points gained in the six best then a seventh is taken into account, and if there is still a tie then an eighth is added. Of the 10 races already held Moss has only finished in five so that whatever happens in Morocco is vital to his total; Hawthorn has finished in eight already, so he has two events to spare and Morocco will make a third. At the moment Moss has 32 points gained in five races and Hawthorn 40 gained in six races. Whatever points Moss gains in Morocco must he added to his total, to make six races, but Hawthorn only adds points if the result is better than one he is counting already, by replacing one of the six results with Morocco if it is better. Now, if Moss wins and makes record lap then he gains nine points, making his total 41, and if Hawthorn retires then Moss will be World Champion by a single point. However, if Moss wins but does not make fastest lap he gets eight points, and if Hawthorn retires then they are left equal with 40 points each, so a seventh result has to he taken into account, and Moss has no seventh result whereas Hawthorn has two points front the Dutch G.P. or one from Monaco to add, so he will be Champion. So the Championship is still there for Moss providing he can win and make fastest lap and Hawthorn retires. If Hawthorn makes fastest lap he will not add the point to his present total but it will prevent Moss having it, and, for that matter, if Brooks, Hill, Behra or Lewis-Evans makes fastest lap then Moss has lost the Championship. If Moss sweeps the board with nine points, as well he might, but Hawthorn finished second then Hawthorn will be Champion for second place gets six points and at the moment in his total of 49 he is counting a third place in the Argentine which annexed four points, so by swapping third for second it would make his six race total up to 42 points, one ahead of the maximum that Moss can possibly attain.

The World Championship is indeed wide open, and there is going to be an element of luck in the final outcome, which is interesting for in the past Fangio has shown an obvious superiority over everyone else and has been undisputed World Champion (on road racing, to appease certain American friends), but this year, whatever the outcome the result will be in strong dispute among the Moss fans or the Hawthorn fans and, of course, there are the Brooks fans who point out now that he has only scored points in three Championship events this season, but he has won all three.

The Moroccan Grand Prix is certainly going to be a “needle match” and a race that is going to be followed with enormous interest, while the outcome is going to have far-reaching results: Some people want Moss to win, others want Hawthorn to win, but personally I would like to see Behra win with the B.R.M. Bourne have been doing a lot of racing this season and trying hard, without any real success, and a win for the B.R.M. at Casablanca would do the whole team an ‘enormous amount of good and would also be of far more value to Grand Prix racing as a whole than the settling of a personal battle between two drivers, for, after all, Grand Prix racing is essentially a mechancial battle between makes of car and this season Vanwall and Ferrari have shared the spoils with Cooper, so it really is the turn of B.R.M. to have a win.

It is not unnatural that Grand Prix drivers, after racing the best pieces of automobile engineering there are. should be pretty discerning, about what they drive on the road as transport, and at one recent G.P. the drivers’ car park looked like the paddock for a very good Gran Turismo race. Shelby had a 3.5-litre G.T. Maserati, Gendebion a 250 G.T. Ferrari, Brooks a DB2/4 Aston Martin, Behra and Bonnier Porsche Carreras, von Trips a Porsche 1600S, Trintignant a Facel-Vega, and Gerini a 4.9-litre Super America Ferrari. As a small boy I often bicycled vast distances just to see the homes of the great British drivers, hoping and praying that I might see my idol come out of the house and drive off in an exciting car. At the recent Italian Grand Prix, outside the Hotel Auriga in the via Pirelli in Milan, there was a line of exciting vehicles being used by drivers and followers of the racing that must have made the hair stand on end of Italian small boys. There was almost every variation of Porsche. Alfa Sprint Veloce, Alfa 1900 Super Splint, Maserati, Ferrari, Triumph, Austin-Healey, DS19 and Facel-Vega. It really is most satisfying just liking good motor cars.

Down at Modena there is never it dull moment and you are continually on your toes to see all the interesting things passing by, without actually visiting Maserati, Ferrari or Stauguellini factories. Spending a day or two there at the Albergo Reale is like being in a race meeting paddock, with drivers coming and going, Hawthorn in one day, Masten Gregory another, sports-car drivers, Gran Turisino drivers. Rally drivers, a never-ending change of scene. At the Autodromo on the edge of town, one day Phil Hill was testing a sports Ferrari before it was being shipped to America, this being the chassis that Gendedien drove at Spa last May, now fitted with the 4.1-litre V12 four-o.h.c. engine from the Monza 500 car. Fangio was there, too, driving Godia”s 1957 ex-works Maserati while Cunningham-Reid was making a film for B.P. Next day Stanguellini was there testing a Formula Junior single-seater, Osca were out with a 1,500-c.c, sports car, and a 3.5-litre G.T. Maserati was being thrashed round. On the third day of this brief visit Ferrari was testing a Grand Prix car and a 250 G.T. coupe, Stanguellini was there with a record-breaking car fitted with a works 350-c.c. Guzzi single-cylinder engine, and a 2005 Maserati sports appeared for a quick test run. Returning into town and looking in at Seagliettes body-building works, there was the Le Mans-winning 3-litre V12 Ferrari, now painted blue and grey and awaiting shipment to America, along with another of the Le Mans cars, and then just as I arrived at the Maserati factory, Bertocchi, the head mechanic, drove out of the gate in the very latest 250F Grand Prix car, with a trade-plate tied on the tail, and roared off up the road in a glorious blast of sound. If you time the visit to Officine Maserati right you can see Italy’s high-speed streamlined electric train, the green-and-white “Sette Bello,” go over the level crossing and along behind the factory at 85 m.p.h. on its regular run between Milan and Rome. Yes. Modena is indeed an interesting town, and if you can find the time to relax a bit it is also full of historical and cultural interest.—D. S. J.