The Solitude-Rennen

An excellant Formula 2 race

The race at Stuttgart, on the Solitude circuit, a few miles out of town, was particularly interesting for a number of reasons, it being one of the best circuits in Europe, now used for the first time for a big car race, the entry was excellent, with works Porsche, Ferrari and Lotus teams competing, as well as Brabham with a Cooper, the race itself was exciting, and altogether the meeting added up to a good foretaste of what Grand Prix racing will be like in 1961.

The Solitude circuit has been in existence for many years and takes its name from Schloss Solitude, an old German castle on top of one of the hills overlooking the valley in which the circuit lies. It has been in use regularly for motorcycle racing.and I first made its acquaintance in 1950, since when it has been widened considerably, resurfaced and brought up-to-date as the years have passed, but due to internal friction in the German automobile clubs it has never been used for a major motor race. National sports-car races have been held there, and last year an Inter­national Formula Junior race was run on the circuit. With an important F2 race being held this year the Solitude circuit has made a long overdue step forward into the limelight of Inter­national racing. It is such an interesting circuit that it justifies a lengthy description, and it is to be hoped that it will play a more important part in German motor sport in the future.

The starting area is wide and level and a short straight leads into a series of four left-hand bends, they can be taken in one complete arc, to form a very large-radius hairpin, “Glemseck,” turning the direction of the road through 180 degrees. Between the start and the first corner are the pits, intelligently placed at an angle to the main track, the first pit being some 20 feet from the edge of the track and the last one being about 10 feet from the edge, thus allowing everyone in the pits a fairly unobstructed view and making a very large wedge-shaped pit area. After turning through 180 degrees the road climbs steeply up the side of a hill, round a very tight hairpin to the right, “Hedersback,” and on up the hill on a gradient of nearly 1 in 61/2, levels out a bit on a left curve and then climbs up round a fast right-hand curve to the top of the hillside. Here it takes a long fast left-hand bend over the brow, “Frauenkreuz,” and down the other side, followed by another very fast downhill right-hand curve, and drops over a sharp brow to plunge down into a sharp left-hand corner (F), in thick woods. As the road levels out here this corner can be taken faster than imagined for the sudden cessation of losing height as you hit the corner means that the car gets a terrific downward thrust from its own weight, helping the cornering power of the tyres. From here the road is more or less level and to all intents and purposes is straight, although in actual fact there are two left-hand curves, but these are flat out. This ends in a very sharp right-hand hairpin (G) that drops downhill to a left­hand hairpin (H) that continues to drop downhill and is followed by a short straight rush down to a lake (J). Here the road turns sharp left round the edge of the lake and from here to the start the road runs along the bottom of a valley and is flat, but by no means straight. From the lake to the starting area there is a series of fast and slow corners, running through woods with a high bank on the right. This is the most difficult part of the course, for so many of the corners look alike and all are rather similar as regards surroundings, making them difficult to identify, and for 31/2 kilo­metres after leaving the lake, on this home stretch, there is no straight and the car has to be whipped from one lock to the other. The last of this long series of swerves is a left-hander (K) which brings you out of the woods and onto the short pits straight. The circuit measures 11.417 kilometres to the lap (approximately seven miles) and contains just about every situation one could wish for in a racing circuit, and the whole thing is on normal public roads, closed for the occasion of racing, and sports cars lapped it at 150 kph (approximately 93 mph).

The circuit was closed all day Friday, Saturday and Sunday, for in addition to the F2 race, there was a Formula Junior race and also a series of big motorcycle races, and on the Friday the F2 cars had practice for two sessions of an hour each, with an hour’s break in between. With racing cars not having appeared at Solitude before there were no known standards of what sort of lap times to expect and unfortunately heavy rain fell most of Friday afternoon, which rather upset things. Porsche fielded five cars altogether, determined to win on their own proving ground, and Bonnier, Hill and Herrmann were driving the regular three factory cars. The Rob Walker car had been retrieved, a standard Porsche racing gear-change put back on it, and it was loaned to Surtees, while a brand new car was finished the night before practice and was driven by Gurney, so the whole BRM team were being used. This latest car was mechanically unchanged but the body was considerably altered, having a less bulbous nose and a hump on the tail with an opening in it, just behind the engine, rather the shape of the rear window on a New Ford Anglia. Team Lotus entered three works rear­-engined cars, driven by Ireland, Clark and Trevor Taylor, the last two also driving in the Formula Junior race with Lotus cars. The Scuderia Ferrari sent two entries, one a normal front-engined car, with Dino 156 engine and driven by Phil Hill, and the other a new version of the F2/60 rear-engined experimental car, driven by von Trips. This car was basically the rear-engined model that appeared at Monaco and Zandvoort, but had undergone a lot of modifications. The construction of the wishbones had been altered and also their size and positioning on the chassis, so that although there were still double-wishbones and coil-spring to each wheel they were of a new pattern. The 11/2-litre V6 Dino 156 engine was coupled to the gearbox/final drive unit used on the car at Zandvoort, still with inboard disc brakes, but instead of the clutch-operating mechanism being mounted on the last chassis cross-member it was now on an alloy casting bolted to the rear of the gearbox casing and curving round the left side of the clutch body, which was still exposed. Consequently the chassis tube extensions beyond the gearbox were cut off and the space frame finished under the gearbox. There was no water header tank over the engine and the vertical distributor had been replaced by a horizontal one on the front of the engine, so the high head faring could be done away with and the rear decking was made flat, like a Lotus, with a perspex bubble open at the front, over the three downdraught Weber carburetters. The tail of the car ended in an aperture fitted with a grille that would have made a nice radiator cowling for a front-engined car, and two long thin megaphone exhaust pipes stuck out the back, protruding well beyond the extremity of the body. The short stumpy nose of the car was much as before, with the radiator fed from a typical 1960 Ferrari cowling and the cockpit having a wrap-round screen.

Unusual in a Formula 2 race, the Cooper opposition was not very strong, Brabham representing the Cooper factory with a 1959 car built up from bits and pieces and looked after by his own mechanic, while the rest of the Coopers were private entries. There was Trintignant with his ex-Walker car, with Colotti gearbox, entered by Centro-Sud, and Gregory had their second entry with a Cooper-Maserati, using a four-cylinder 11/2-litre Maserati engine and Cooper gearbox with Maserati-made internals. The Equipe National Belge entered their two Cooper-Climax cars for Gendebien and Bianchi, the former having a brand new Colotti gearbox of the same pattern as the Walker Cooper. Lewis had his own Cooper-Climax, with five-speed gearbox of 1959 Cooper pattern, as had Brabham on his car, and Seidel had the F2 Cooper-Climax used by Brabham earlier this season, but with standard four-speed gearbox, having sold his ex-Atkins car to von Trips for his private Scuderia in Cologne. As Barth did not have a drive with the Porsche factory team, due to a slight mix-up in the entries, von Trips lent him this old Cooper. Four more Cooper-Climax completed the list of runners, these being de Beaufort with the long wheelbase car made specially for him, Schlesser and Laureau with standard cars, and a late entry by Centro-Sud of a new standard car for the Portuguese driver Cabral.

With rain pouring down during the first session of practice there was little hope of judging how things would go, except that von Trips was outstandingly fast in the rear-engined Ferrari, at one time being 30 sec faster than anyone else and passing the factory Porsches on the winding leg of the circuit and leaving them. Although the car was sliding and slithering about in the wet von Trips seemed quite unconcerned, feeling perfectly safe in the car. Brabham did not practise, being still busy finishing off the building of his car, and others were using the first period just to try and memorise where all the corners went. The rain was so heavy that nobody even got near the 5 min for a lap and there was general relief when the practice period came to an end.

The second session was a lot better, and although wet at the start the rain stopped and the parts of the circuit that were not under the trees dried out quickly, so that lap times began to improve. The rear-engined Ferrari was still going well and was soon down below the old sports-car record of 4 min 34.4 sec, and went on to get below 4 min 30 sec. The only driver to challenge von Trips was Jimmy Clark, who was benefiting from double practice, being out with the Formula Junior cars as well as the Formula 2 cars, and as the afternoon wore on he went faster and faster. The only other driver to get below 4 min 30 sec was Hans Herrmann and he was down to 4 min 28.3 sec, but von Trips had done 4 min 24.1 sec, while just as practice finished and the track was at its driest for the day, Clark did 4 min 23.6 sec. All this was not as significant as it seemed for both Herrmann and von Trips had driven at Solitude before, knowing the circuit well, and Clark had had double the practice of anyone else. The afternoon was not without its troubles, Seidel burning all his plug leads on the low-level exhaust pipes of his Cooper, then suffering a fuel leak and finally stopping out on the circuit, having run out of fuel. Schlesser’s Climax engine was having big-end bearing trouble and de Beaufort went on running without water until his Climax engine was nearly translucent.

Practice took place again for 11/2 hours on Saturday afternoon, but once again rain completely washed things out and everyone’s times were nearer 5 min than 41/2 min. Gendebien and Bianchi were still without cars as the two Coopers of the Equipe National Belge had been to Modena to have Colotti gearboxes made for them and they did not arrive at Stuttgart until practice was over, and even then only one car had a new gearbox. As a result the only practice the two drivers could do was with a Cooper-BMC Junior car borrowed from another Belgian driver. The Portuguese driver Cabral practised in this last session but as his late entry was not yet accepted he was given no times.

Sunday was happily fine and sunny and a crowd of 250,000 lined the circuit to watch first of all the motorcycle races, then a vast procession of publicity vehicles, and finally, the Formula Junior and Formula 2 car races. In the 250-cc motorcycle race the outstanding thing was the Japanese Honda machine which finished third, this having a four-cylinder twin-overhead camshaft engine with four valves per cylinder and developing its peak power at 13,500 rpm, while it would safely run up to 16-17,000 rpm. The technical variety of engine development in the motorcycle-­racing world was something which made the Formula 2 racing world realise that we are stagnating for want of new engine designs. The 250-cc motorcycles had vertical twins, transverse fours, single cylinders, and two-strokes both air- and water-cooled, and there seemed to be no accepted layout which everyone was following. The 500-cc class saw the usual easy win for John Surtees on the MV Agusta four-cylinder machine, and then we passed to Formula Junior. Here there was no lack of variety and being Germany there was just about every variation on the DKW theme imaginable, from Mitter’s Lotus Junior with his own-tuned three-cylinder DKW engine to East German Wartburg based machines with three-cylinder Wartburg engines and chain drive to the rear wheels. The race was a complete sweep for Lotus-Ford cars, the works car of Jimmy Clark having an unchallenged win after Henry Taylor in Tyrell’s Cooper­-BMC had blown up his engine. Trevor Taylor was confidently following Cbrk in second place and they forgot the opposition so much that they overlooked Ouveroff in another Lotus-Ford, who suddenly closed on them two laps before the end and split their confidence, finishing in second place. Of the first six cars, five were Lotus-Fords, odd man out being Ballisat with Tyrell’s second Cooper-BMC.

Finally we came to the race of the day, with weather conditions perfect and twenty cars lined up on the grid as follows, the only non-starter being de Beaufort, whose Climax engine was beyond repair, and due to the bad weather in practice there were a lot of drivers in unusual places. The race was to be run over 20 laps, a distance of 228.340 kilo­metres and the start was perfect, with Bonnier just leading the field towards the first corner. At the end of the opening lap the first nine cars were so close that it was relatively unimportant who was leading, though in fact it was Graham Hill in front of Bonnier, with Herrmann, von Trips, Gurney, Ireland, Surtees, Brabham and Clark following. With the track nice and dry for the first time this little lot were really motor racing, the standing lap being in 4 min 24 sec, and the first flying lap in 4 min 15.1 sec (virtually 100 m.p.h. average). Bonnier led on lap two, von Trips on lap three and Clark on lap four, while the others were nose-to­-tail in varying orders, there being no signs of a procession begin­ning as yet. With the exception of Clark and Taylor, who had just driven in the Junior race, none of the others knew anything about the circuit in the dry, so we were witnessing, in effect, the first really serious practice session, and it was really serious. While Trevor Taylor was a bit out of his depth in this race, only his second with an F2 car, Clark was really profiting from his Junior race and his progress on the first few laps was 9th, 6th, 3rd and 1st, and having got the lead he drew away steadily, driving most beautifully, setting a new lap record at 4 min 08.0 sec. Meanwhile the rest of the runners were learning the circuit in the dry, and Herrmann led von Trips, Bonnier, Gurney, Graham Hill, Brabham and Ireland, while Surtees was having gear-change trouble and dropping back a bit, to be caught by Phil Hill in the front-engined Ferrari. Then came Lewis all on his own, having outstripped the rest of the private owners, but not quite fast enough to keep up with the works drivers, and already Schlesser had fallen out with crankshaft trouble. On lap six von Trips passed Herrmann once more and Graham Hill passed Gurney, but on the next lap Gurney was in front again, and at the end of the field Bianchi retired with a broken oil pipe and Seidel gave up as he thought his shock-absorbers were not working. On lap eight Clark had 121/2 sec lead but Herrmann was back in second place and Phil Hill had moved up a place into ninth position ahead of Surtees, and still the first ten cars were all pressing on at unabated speed. On lap nine Clark began to get worried about rising water temperature, for there had been signs of a head gasket leak on the starting line, while Herrmann and von Trips were now getting into their stride and the Ferrari brought the lap record down to 4 min 07.5 sec, and for the first lap since the start of the race there was no change in the order anywhere through the field. Halfway round lap 10 the leading Porsche and the rear-engined Ferrari were gaining rapidly on the Lotus and as Clark finished his tenth lap he drew into the pits, just as Herrmann and von Trips went by. In a flash the next eight cars were past, while water was poured into the Lotus and Clark restarted in tenth place, for Lewis also drew into the pits to retire with two broken main-bearing caps and a ruined crankcase. Behind the leading bunch came Trintignant, Taylor, Gregory, Gendebien, Laureau, Barth and Cabral in that order but spaced out.

Having got the lead Herrmann really flew and lapped in 4 min 07.0 sec, but von Trips was not giving in and two laps later recorded 4 min 06.4 sec and closed on Herrmann, and the two of them were now leaving Bonnier behind, who was being followed by Graham Hill and Gurney, who were changing positions continuously, and behind them came Phil Hill and Ireland, also chopping and changing places, while some way back Trevor Taylor had got in front of Trintignant. On lap 11 Brab­ham gave up with a split head gasket, never having been in the picture, and Surtees was slowing visibly, his continual gear-­selection trouble having caused missed gears and subsequent bent valves. On lap 13 von Trips was only a few lengths behind Herrmann’s Porsche, on the next lap he was right on his tail and he stayed like that for two more laps, while the two of them drew 16 sec ahead of Bonnier, but Graham Hill and Gurney were urging each other along and were catching Bonnier. On lap 16 Herrmann did 4 min 06.0 sec, but on lap 17 von Trips replied with 4 min 04.7 sec and sailed by into the lead, and the Ferrari really showed its possibilities by pulling out a 11/2-sec lead over the Porsche. Graham Hill and Gurney were still passing and re-passing and were now up with Bonnier, while Ireland and Phil Hill had not yet settled their battle.

On lap 15 Trevor Taylor had retired at the pits when a cam-­follower had broken and on lap 16 Surtees had run wide on a corner trying to take it in a high gear to save the trouble of sorting the selectors out, and had spun on some loose gravel and stalled. Clark was still running, but a long way back from the leaders, and most of the tail-enders had been lapped. The rear-engined Ferrari was now safely in front and von Trips was making no mistake and he finished the 20 laps nicely ahead of Herrmann, having thoroughly trounced the Porsche team on their own door­step. On lap 19 Graham Hill got into third place, but on the last lap Bonnier got by him down the straight and led him over the line with Gurney right behind them, and a little way back Phil Hill led Ireland on the penultimate lap only to be re-passed yet again on the last lap.

For once this had been real motor racing, with the first seven cars all going as hard as they knew how for the whole race, and if this was a foretaste of 1961 Grand Prix racing then no-one is going to be disappointed. Dan Gurney summed up this excellent race very nicely when he said : “I’ve never had to drive so hard in my life just for fifth place”. DSJ.