A Miserable Formula 2 race
Adenau, July 31st.
There have been some very good German Grand Prix events in the past, and there have also been some bad ones, but the 1960 event reached a new bottom, through no fault of the AvD who run the race, for bad weather was the main cause. Determined that the 1961 Formula for Grand Prix racing should come into force, the Germans changed the status of their Grand Prix to Formula 2 from Formula 1, in order to give some advance impetus to the new 11/2-litre Formula, and also, no doubt, to provide the possibility of a win by a German car. Coming as it did just one week after the magnificent Solitude race, the German Grand Prix would have been lucky if it had maintained the high standard of the race organised by the ADAC at Stuttgart. ·.
The first set-back came when the Scuderia Ferrari withdrew their two entries, which should have been driven by Phil Hill and von Trips, and while the American went to Brands Hatch, the German driver rushed around to look for an alternative car for the race to be held on his own doorstep. The Porsche factory had entered Bonnier, Graham Hill and Barth with the three factory F2 cars with the conventional bulbous bodywork, used at Solitude. Hans Herrmann was entered by Camoradi to drive the old blue Behra-Porsche, as the factory did not want to enter more than three cars. When von Trips arrived looking for a car, he was given the latest car that Gurney had driven at Solitude. This caused a bit of a flutter in the Porsche factory, especially after Herrmann had driven so well at Solitude, and several people were rightly incensed that the Ferrari driver should step in and take the new car while Herrmann only had the old Behra-Porsche. Things were smoothed over by bringing out the Walker dark blue Porsche and letting Herrmann drive this, still under the Camoradi entry and painting that name on the side of the car.
The AvD had divided the entry into two parts, the first consisting of works drivers and others whom they considered worthy to start in the race, these being guaranteed a start. The second part of the list consisted of 16 other drivers and the fastest 10 in practice were to be allowed to start. In the first group were the four works Porsches, driven by Bonnier, Hill, Barth and von Trips; Brabham and McLaren as representing the works Cooper Team, even though they were both using non-works cars; Trintignant with his Cooper-Climax entered by Centro-Sud; Gendebien with one of the Equipe National Belge cars; and Ireland with a lone works Lotus-Climax. The Lotus team wanted to enter Jim Clark, but the AvD were not interested in him, unless he liked to join the list of possible qualifiers, so in protest Colin Chapman left him to practise at Brands Hatch. Brabham was driving the same car he had used at Solitude and McLaren borrowed a perfectly standard F2 Cooper-Climax from the New Zealand Racing Team.
In the second group were Herrmann (Porsche), Gregory with the Centro-Sud Cooper-Maserati, Seidel with his ex-Brabham Cooper-Climax, Gurney with a brand-new blue-and-white rear-engined Lotus-Climax entered by Mrs Bryden-Brown, de Beaufort with his long Cooper with the Climax engine borrowed from the old car that Barth had driven at Solitude, Bianchi with the second ENB Cooper-Climax, Henry Taylor with the Laystall-Climax, now looking very nice indeed with a new body that was a miniature 1958 Vanwall, Marsh with his own Cooper-Climax, Laureau and Schlesser with the Coopers they had at Solitude, Lawton with the second of the New Zealand Team CooperClimax cars, and Lewis with his Cooper fitted with an engine built from the remains of his own Climax engine and that of de Beaufort’s, which was “cooked” at Solitude. There should have been four more Cooper entries from private owners, but for various reasons these did not materialise; the Alan Brown entry for Flockhart was not told they were accepted by the AvD until it was too late to prepare the car. Reg Parnell decided to keep his cars in England, having entered his son Tim Parnell and Geoff Duke, as Tim was still recovering from an accident at Snetterton and Duke raced at Aintree, while Surtees decided to give Nurburgring a miss and concentrate on his works Lotus drive at Brands Hatch. As a result of these non-starters there were only 21 runners in all, so it was announced that 20 cars would start in the race.
Instead of the usual Nurburgring circuit being used for the race the AvD decided to use the shorter 7.747-kilometre South Circuit, a wiggly, twisty, uphill and downhill course that is normally used for the Eifelrennen races. This uses the same Start and Finish area, and the same pits but where the normal Nurburgring circuit leaves the start and goes round the circular bend known as the Sudkerve, this short circuit goes off at a tangent from this corner and plunges downhill through some woods on a series of left and right-hand bends. Some fast open bends follow, and a short straight brings the course to Mullenbach corner, where a sharp dropping right-hander heads the route back towards the Start area. From Mullenbach the road climbs upwards, very fast, and into more woods in which there are a number of swerves and a very tight right-hand bend, followed by a fast left-hand curve which arrives back at the Sudkerve on another tangent. From here the course uses the back straight of the main circuit which runs behind the pits to the North Curve, which turns sharp left. Immediately, instead of going over the bridge, the short circuit swoops right onto a slightly banked concrete hairpin which brings the road back onto the main circuit where it appears over the rise of Tiergarten, and from there the main Start and Finish straight is used past the timing box, pits and grandstands.
Practice began on the Friday morning, with an hour in which contact could be made with the circuit, gear ratios and tyres sorted out and so on, and the Porsche team were well away, having already been to the circuit some time before. Everyone who was going to race was out for this first session, in fine weather and it was Bonnier who set the pace, with 3 min 09.8 sec, his nearest rival being von Trips with 3 min 12.7 sec. As Bonnier had already learnt the circuit in private training this superiority was not surprising. Graham Hill was still not happy with the gear-change on his car, having complained about it at Solitude, but seemingly nothing had been done during the intervening week. Herrmann was trying both the Behra-Porsche and the Walker car and Henry Taylor was having trouble with the fuel pump on the Laystall car. In the afternoon there was a 11/2-hour practice period and in this things became more serious, as everyone was now getting tuned-in to this new circuit and the new conditions. The weather was still fine and dry, and almost warm, so that times were improved upon by most people. Bonnier was still fastest, with 3 min 08.0 sec, and was driving splendidly, being much faster than everyone else through some of the corners. Brabham was making his usual fast and steady progress and was down to 3 min 10.0 sec, while Hill was down to 3 min 10.2 sec. Herrmann was more than justifying his supporters at the factory, by doing 3 min 10.2 sec in the Walker car, and Gendebien .was given a try in the Behra-Porsche. The Centro-Sud had modified their Cooper-Maserati by lowering the engine and the suspension, and it was handling very much to Gregory’s liking, so that he was throwing it round the circuit in a most spirited style and had recorded 3 min 11.7 sec. Gurney was also going well on his first try with a Lotus, and was amazing himself by the speed and ease with which it went round corners and was timed at a best lap of 3 min 13.9 sec, which was faster than Ireland with the works Lotus, which had unnerved its driver by locking a front brake going into corners. McLaren was going surprisingly fast in his borrowed Cooper, not seeming to worry unduly about the way it was leaping from bump to bump, and was down to 3 min 14.0 sec, while von Trips was still second fastest overall with 3 min 09.6 sec. The New Zealand Team driver George Lawton was going well, but not quite as quick as Jack Lewis, and Gendebien was going round in company with Bianchi to see how his Colotti five-speed car compared with the normal Cooper-Climax.
With a number of drivers beginning to challenge Bonnier’s best times, the Saturday morning practice looked promising and it was anticipated that everyone would make further improvements. Unfortunately a slight shower of rain fell just before practice started and not only wet the track but continued to drip from the trees after the rain had stopped, and made the circuit very slippery, so all hope of improved times disappeared. The whole Porsche team turned out on Dunlop SP tyres, the latest German Dunlop road tyre with qualities like those of Michelin “X” and being very good in the wet. This gave them an enormous advantage, but it was not long before Brabham disappeared into the Dunlop pit and came out with four SP tyres for his Cooper, and very soon a queue was beginning to form for these wet-weather tyres. While excellent in the wet they do not compare with a racing tyre in the dry, and Graham Hill summed up their characteristics on a racing car on a dry road by saying it was like driving on marshmallows. The only drivers who made improvements to their times on Saturday morning were Gendebien, de Beaufort and Taylor, all of whom had been havmg bothers during the previous practice periods. The weather was quite fine during the 11/2 hours of this practice but the road was slippery under the trees, and Gregory forgot this and dashed off on another lap, only to go sliding off into the woods in a most spectacular fashion, bending the Cooper-Maserati and luckily getting out unhurt. This meant that the car could not be raced and reduced the entry list to 20, so that everyone was able to start in the race, irrespective of what times they had done. This was very lucky for Taylor with the Laystall-Climax, as he had been 21st on the list of practice times.
Sunday morning was almost unbelievable, with fog and rain covering the whole area of the Eifel mountains in which the Nurburgring is situated, and, without a breath of wind, the heavy clouds and fog were obviously there to stay. The whole Porsche team naturally fitted their SP tyres, as there was no likelihood of the track drying even if the rain stopped. Brabham also fitted them on his Cooper-Climax, having to also raise the rear-axle ratio slightly, as these SP tyres were of much smaller section than the normal Dunlop racing tyres. Chapman was also quickly round to the Dunlop man and had Ireland’s Lotus fitted with these tyres, so that the race was going to develop into two classes, those with SP tyres and those with racing tyres. Had the sun suddenly shone strongly there would have been a minor panic, but the clouds were still pressing on the ground and the rain was still pouring down, and gloom was descending all around. Before the Grand Prix there was a small GT race in which the benefits of SP tyres were clearly indicated when Foitek in a saloon Alfa Romeo Ti ran away from all the Lotus Elites and Giuliettas which were using normal racing tyres.
The Grand Prix was due to start at 1.30 pm, to be run over 32 laps of the 7.747-kilometre circuit, making a total of 250.2 kilometres, but as the cars were lined up on the grid the rain came down so heavily that it was decided to postpone things for a time. The minutes ticked by and the rain contained to pour down, and every now and then the announcer would say that the start would be in ten minutes. As the ten minutes went by, followed by another ten minutes, the crowd began to whistle and shout, and the drivers remained hidden under any shelter they could find, while the cars sat out in the rain on the starting grid. It was not until 2.30 p.m. that the conditions improved slightly and it was agreed to start the race, but still the whole area was covered in clouds and fog and the rain was still coming down. Twenty cars were on the grid, with Gregory’s position left vacant, as the Cooper-Maserati was a non-starter.
While the flag was up Lewis’s car was still being pushed up and down, being reluctant to start after its soaking, and it was surprising that this was the only one to suffer, so heavy had the rain been. In flying spray 19 cars took off to start this very damp German Grand Prix, and visibility was so bad that it was difficult to recognise the cars and drivers. By the time the leaders were at Mullenbach Lewis managed to get his engine running and set off after them, with little hope of making up much ground in the conditions. As the cars appeared along the straight behind the pits it was Bonnier leading from von Trips, with Brabham tailing them, but already the rest of the field had been left behind and there was a long gap before Herrmann arrived, leading Gurney, Hill, Barth, McLaren, Trintignant and Ireland, while another long gap had already developed between this group and the rest of the runners. At the end of the lap Lewis was black-flagged off the course and disqualified for being pushed across the starting line. Lawton was running on three cylinders, and after four laps like this he drew into his pit and retired, as a cam-follower had broken and come out through the side of the cambox. Already it was clear that there was not going to be much racing going on, for it was as much as the drivers could do to stay on the road without trying to compete against each other. Bonnier, von Trips and Brabham were 48 sec. ahead of the next group after only four laps, and Brabham was only just managing to keep up with the leading Porsches, being unable to do anything about their lead. Although Bonnier was leading, von Trips was sitting on his tail and making it very obvious that he was having no trouble in so doing. As if to prove his point he took the lead on laps eight and nine and then settled back in second place, the two silver cars running close together all the time. On lap five there were two more retirements, when Trintignant went out with engine trouble and Gendebien retired with clutch trouble.
While von Trips was in the lead there were brief signs of the weather changing and parts of the track actually began to dry, but two laps later the low flying clouds were back again and visibility was down to 50 yards, with everything becoming soggy and damp. The situation amongst the second group of runners had settled itself on the second lap, when Graham Hill got ahead of Herrmann and Barth, and they ran that way throughout the race. Gurney found he could not keep up on racing tyres, though McLaren was leading Ireland, they being in seventh and eighth places, followed by Gurney and Marsh, who was going well on the slippery surface. It was not until lap 11 that Ireland at last got by McLaren and already this group were in danger of being lapped by the leaders. During the brief respite in the weather Bonnier recorded the fastest lap in 3 min 29.9 sec and the two leading Porsches had left Brabham some 15 sec behind. The Cooper driver was not at all happy for if he wanted to keep up he had to use 7,500 rpm but then his water temperature rose uncomfortably, so he had to keep to 7,000 rpm and this was not enough to stay with the Porsches. However, he was having no trouble in staying ahead of Hill, Herrmann and Barth. On lap 14 Bonnier and von Trips lapped Ireland, and Gurney and Marsh were having the semblance of a motor race, as were Bianchi and de Beaufort down at the end of the field. Schlesser had stopped at his pit and lost four laps while adjustments were made, so he was now way back at the end of the race.
As the leaders ticked off the laps the fog came in thicker and thicker and everyone went slower and slower, Bonnier lapping at around 3 min 40 sec, with the ever present von Trips just behind him, while Brabham was now 11/2 min in arrears but still safely in third place. The other three Porsches had not changed positions at all, though Hill had drawn a little ahead of his team-mates. Ireland was running a lonely and miserable race on his own, followed by McLaren and Gurney, the American beginning to close on the New Zealander. Then came Marsh, Seidel, Laureau, Taylor, de Beaufort and Schlesser, all groping their way along in the fog. Bianchi had retired when a main-bearing cap had broken. On the last few laps Brabham eased right off, to nurse his over-heating engine, and Porsche thought that Graham Hill should catch the Cooper and urged him on, but Brabham knew full well what was happening and there was no fear of him being caught. On lap 29 Gurney got past McLaren, the young New Zealander being so damp and miserable that he was almost past caring who overtook him, and with the five works Porsches and Brabham’s Cooper-Climax being the only ones on the same lap the most miserable and wet German Grand Prix ran to a close.- DSJ.