A Dramatic Race Full of Incidents. Lola Takes Team Prize, Again Vanquishing Lotus
The 1959 R.A.C. Tourist Trophy Race, which ran for a period of six hours and the results of which decided the Sports Car Championship, can be considered either a fiasco or very successful, depending upon the point of view. The ragged start, the disastrous fire in the Aston Martin pit and the fact that Ferrari never put up any opposition to the British cars were unfortunate aspects, but on the other hand the British Aston Martin team won the race convincingly, in spite of their ordeal by flame, thus winning this year’s Sports Car Championship and this race, although as one observer said “run round a field” instead of over a circuit like pre-war Ards or post-war Dundrod, was as full of incidents as the earlier Ulster races and deserved a better crowd than that which assembled on this summer day.
The full field of thirty cars came to the starting grid at Goodwood on September 5th, consisting of three works Aston Martins, Whitehead’s and Dalton’s private Aston Martins, Ecurie Ecosse-entered Tojeiro-Jaguar and D-type Jaguar, a lone Lister-Jaguar and the three Ferrari Testa Rossa, these forming the over 2-litre and up to 3-litre class. The class for cars over 1,100 c.c. and up to 2,000 c.c. was made by three works Porsches, all with 1,587-c.c. engines, a single 2-litre Ferrari and 2-litre Lotus as works entries, three more 2-litre Lotus and a Cooper Monaco entered by John Coombs for Jack Brabham and McLaren. This last named car had been lent knock-on wire wheels, to assist tyre changes, by Rob Walker. The smallest class, for cars up to 1,100 c.c. comprised two Team Lotus cars, three works Lolas, three works Elvas and two privately entered Lotus, all Climax-engined.
During practice much of interest happened at Goodwood, not the least of which was the try-out of the Formula 2 Porsche by S. Moss (an augury for next season?) McLaren and Graham Hill. Moss also tried some modifications to his own Cooper Monaco which, again with 1960 in mind, had a cold air stream taken from forward of the cockpit to the engine and a better cooling system for the brakes. It was noticeable that many people were using quickly detachable wire wheels for this long race, including Piper and Hill (Lotus). Threlfall’s Elva had an electrical rev.-counter, this and another Elva had high set rear view mirrors, and small oil tins had been pressed into service as rear axle breather traps on the Lotus. Wilkie Wilkinson, who had recently become a grandfather, had a new engine for the Tojeiro, but it was not ready in time, so a power bulge had to be fabricated in the bonnet to cover the old engine. The practice Aston Martin had a Maserati gearbox, but the team cars all retained David Brown boxes.
In perfect weather the drivers formed up for a Le Mans start, but unfortunately the News of the World official, who richly deserved the job of starter because his newspaper was sponsoring the race, did not drop the flag swiftly enough for Stirling. Indeed, Moss who was in pole position, streaked away to his car as the flag was going up. This caused the rest of the field to fan out as driver after driver followed him, so that the start was one of the worst on record, with too many drivers jumping the flag for anyone to be penalised. Perhaps because he thought a penalty would be inflicted, or possibly because the big cars were expected to need four tyre changes, Moss drove as if in a sprint event and quickly established a lead for Aston Martins, followed by Shelby’s Aston Martin. The promised duel between Ferrari and Aston Martin failed to materialise and in fact Phil Hill went to the pits without completing a lap and retired car No 11 with valve trouble – could this have been the result of over-revving in the confusion of the ragged start? Brown’s Elva had to remain at the start while its mechanics finished fitting a new starter motor, which reminds us that the Threlfall Elva was having its jacking practice in the paddock near to starting time, while the spare wheel of Campbell Jones’ Lotus was being lashed down, also at the last moment. McKee’s Elva was seen at the pits with plug trouble, Ashdown had spun his Lola at Madgwick on the very first lap. Taylor had gone straight on at the chicane in his Lotus, and then Arundell carved up Ireland at the same place, pushing the latter through the escape gap and on the next lap Ireland did his best to play the same trick on Arundell. Before the officials could reach the black flags, however, these drivers fortunately became separated by other cars.
The Brabham Cooper was in trouble within a quarter of an hour of the start, Jack indicating that he was coming in from the middle of the chicane, and he stopped for three minutes for a front wheel bearing and an oil leak to be inspected. Eventually fuel pump trouble eliminated the Cooper as a challenger.
After one hour’s racing Moss, Shelby and Graham Hill’s Lotus had covered 39 laps and Gurney was a lap behind, although a minute later he came to the pits for all wheels to be changed, allowing Trips’ Porsche to go into fourth place. Brooks now took over the Ferrari, but he did not in the least like the car, and after he had spun at Levant because a brake pad had fallen off and the pedal went onto the floor, and driven straight on through the chicane he came in to complain and later stopped while the front wheels were removed to see if the trouble could be discovered. Many of the smaller cars too made pit stops but all were able to continue except Threlfall’s Elva, which retired with valve trouble. After one hour the Aston Martins were first, second and third in their class, Hill’s Lotus led the 2-litre class, Ashdown’s Lola was just ahead of Ireland’s Lotus in the 1,100 class. It should be explained that Salvadori had been put to drive with Moss, Fairman with Shelby, Trintignant with Frere in the Aston Martin team, while Ferrari drivers were paired up as Gurney/Brooks, Cabianca/Gendebien, Allison/Phil Hill. Fairman took over from Shelby, to spin at Madgwick, Ireland’s Lotus ceased to challenge the class-leading Lola when it retired with axle trouble, and Brabham’s Cooper was finally wheeled away after 78 minutes with a broken stub-axle — the wheel-lending gambit hadn’t come off, though luckily neither had the wheel.
The first Aston Martin pit stop was one of great interest because each car carried a 17-lb. pneumatic jack which enabled all four wheels to be lifted clear off the ground by plugging an air line into the car. This is, of course, commonplace at Indianapolis. When Fairman took over from Shelby only 35 sec. were wasted in changing four wheels and refuelling. This is excellent, but the new jacks did not show up so advantageously when it is discovered that a Ferrari still with old fashioned jacks took only nine seconds longer and only four seconds longer than the pit stop when Salvadori took over from Moss. The pits were such a scene of activity all the afternoon that we can afford to ignore most of the stops but when Hill brought the Lotus in, which he had been driving so well, brake fluid was added as well as tyres and fuel. The Whitehead Aston Martin was now well back in the field because it had been left out in the country, after experiencing an electrical short circuit, which necessitated a new battery when it eventually reached the pits. At most of the pit stops all four tyres were being changed on the faster cars and it is perhaps significant that a burst tyre put Piper into hospital, having caused his Lotus to strike the bank at Madgwick.
The luckless Graham Hill lost seven minutes just after 1.30 p.m., because the ignition timing had slipped and this trouble was to dog him and eventually cause his retirement. Brooks was making no attempt to drive fast in No. 9 Ferrari, but when Gurney took it back he did not seem to find much wrong with it and there must be many drivers who are wondering when they are going to find themselves rated second to this astonishing American. Brooks had in fact been overtaken by Dickson’s Lotus and Piper had found before his accident that he could almost hold Cabianca’s car, so the Ferrari challenge did not amount to much. On the other hand, neither Trintignant nor Frere seemed to find the third Aston Martin amenable to fast cornering. Unlike many previous T.T. races this was a scratch event and therefore easy to follow, especially as a big new scoreboard had been erected to face the grandstand. This worked admirably except for a short time when it indicated that car No. 12 was in fourth place, whereas in fact there was no such car in the race. The chicane was sometimes a dicey place when faster cars overtook slower, although Bekaert held his line on one occasion to the discomfort of Moss, who was coming up on the near side. Sieff run on to the grass behind the chicane when engine trouble developed in his Lister-Jaguar. The Porsches were running splendidly, changing all four wheels at their scheduled pit stops, but it was debatable whether, even if they came in fewer times, they would make up for these longer stops on the Aston Martins, which needed to come in more frequently for fresh rubber. For instance, when Bonnier took over car No. 22 from Trips the stop occupied 106.1 sec., and when Barth handed over to Maglioli the stop occupied 135 sec. On the other hand, according to the official handout No. 3 Aston Martin had all four wheels changed and car refuelled in 27 sec. and even if this is taken as 37 sec. the superiority of both Aston Martin pneumatic jack and knock off hubs is clearly indicated. At 2.35 p.m. Salvadori drove swiftly back into the Aston Martin pit, the car a lap ahead of Fairman’s Aston Martin, to hand it back to Moss but it was then the drama occurred which associated this race with the similar occurrence at Goodwood and the Aston Martin pit during the Nine-Hour race, when car, driver and pits were enveloped in flame. The picture in our centre pages clearly shows that fuel started to gush out of the hose before it had been inserted or placed anywhere near the fuel filler. The hot exhaust pipes soon ignited the fuel and Salvadori jumped like a frog from the car and rolled himself over and over on the ground to put out his burning overalls. An attempt was made to turn off the main valve at the refuelling tank but this collapsed and shot some 50 gallons of fuel on to the ground which ignited Avon’s spare stock of tyres and set the pits well alight. Timekeepers were not only unable to see the cars for dense black clouds of smoke but were in considerable danger. For a time it seemed that the whole pits would he gutted and that the race might have to be abandoned. It is to the credit of the Goodwood fire brigade and other helpers that the fire was quickly got under control. Moss, who had shown great presence of mind throughout was into Fairman’s car in a flash when it came in to refuel and continued the race in No. 2 Aston Martin. It is of the greatest credit that although only about four minutes had elapsed since the alarming fire episode, this Aston Martin left the pits with four new wheels and Moss driving in a matter of 57 sec. However, the Bonnier/Trips Porsche was now in the lead and Moss second. Moss now proved his worth to the Aston Martin team by quickly reversing this position and at 3.30 p.m. he led the race from Bonnier, these two drivers being a lap ahead of Allison’s Ferrari, with No. 3 Aston Martin in fourth place. At this stage of the race all three Porsches dominated the 2-litre class, the 2-litre Ferrari having been pushed away from a scheduled pit stop with collapsed rear suspension and the Lolas of Ashdown and Prior were first and second in the 1,100 c.c. class. That Moss had no trouble in maintaining the Aston Martin lead was indicated when he came in just before 4 p.m., had all four wheels changed in 38 sec. and continued without letting Fairman resume the driving seat. This stop momentarily put Bonnier’s Porsche in the lead but at 4:30 p.m. the position was: Moss (Aston Martin) 168 laps, Gendebien (Ferrari) 167 laps, Trips (Porsche) 167 laps, Trips being 39.8 sec. behind the Ferrari, while behind him on the same lap came No. 3 Aston Martin. At 4:44 p.m. Masten Gregory had a very narrow escape when his Tojeiro-Jaguar went straight into the bank at Woodcote. The driver was catapulted out of the car high into the air to fall out of sight beyond the bank. This must have made many spectators in the Stand feel distinctly queezy but they raised a handclap for the driver as he waved to them before being carried into the ambulance. The car cocked its tail up and caught fire, Gregory being extremely lucky not to have been trapped in the cockpit. His injuries were not serious. It is significant that at its previous pit-stop the steering was inspected. But if the steering failed Ecurie Ecosse must be slipping, because their pre-race preparation has always been 100 per cent.
Porsche had made a great impression by their steady running but when Bonnier handed over to Trips oil had to be added to the engine and all wheels changed, which halted the car for 146.4 sec. Alas, Bristow, after playing about unnecessarily in the slipstream of No. 10 Ferrari, contrived to spin off, hitting Stacey’s Lotus in the process and eliminating both cars. Later Barth’s Porsche began to emit horrid noises and he drove it slowly to a place opposite the finishing line in a position where he could push the car in and qualify as a finisher. Trips, however, was still going splendidly in his Porsche but was a lap behind Moss’ Aston Martin.
It was clear as this eventful race ran to a close, with not very many cars left in the field, that barring last minute trouble Moss would win for Aston Martin. If Ferrari could finish second they would have the same number of points in the Sports Car Championship as Aston Martin (but they still could not have taken the Championship from the British Company because the number of victories is taken into account). Brooks therefore was put into Ferrari No. 10 and set off to try and pass the Porsche. Apparently this Ferrari was satisfactory to Tony and he began to drive fast but far from fast enough. He gradually closed the gap between himself and Trips, but only in the last two laps did he pull out all he had got. It was then too late and he finished two sec. behind the German car. Brooks blamed this on misleading pit signals, which the illustration in our centre pages shows but this is difficult to understand as surely by now he must know the Ferrari system? So ended a very eventful T.T. with Aston Martin deservedly triumphant, a sure case of triumphing over adversity. Bonnier/Trips proved an ideal pair who had done magnificently in a Porsche having only just over half the capacity of the winning Aston Martin and yet again Lola demonstrated their convincing superiority in the 1,100 c.c. class in which all three of them finished, but only two Elvas and one Lotus came in – and the Lotus had to be pushed over the finishing line. Another last minute drama was when Gurney had a tyre burst on No. 9 Ferrari, the bodywork above it being torn away. This irrepressible American drove fast towards the finishing line, his face showing an enormous grin, parked, to push it over when the appropriate time came. — W.B.
1st: S. Moss/C. Shelby/J. Fairman (Aston Martin) 224 laps 6hr. 46.8 sec. 89.41 m.p.h.
2nd: W. von Trips/J. Bonnier (Porsche) 223 laps 6 hr. 44.4. sec.
3rd: C. Brooks/O. Gendebien/G. Cabianca/C. Allison (Ferrari) 223 laps 6 hr. 16.4 sec.
4th: M. Trintignant/P. Frere (Aston Martin) 221 laps
5th: C. Brooks/D. Gurney (Ferrari) 220 laps
6th: P. Ashdown/A. Ross (Lola-Climax) 210 laps
Fastest lap (new sports-car record): C. A. S. Brooks (Ferrari) 1 min. 31.8 sec. 94.12 m.p.h.