The Solitude Grand Prix

Stuttgart, July, 23rd.

Anyone who misses a race meeting at the A.D.A.C. Solitude circuit, between Stuttgart and the Autobahn, misses the chance of visiting one of the best circuits in Europe and of seeing the effects of motor racing being popular. The smooth and well-maintained circuit is 11.417 kilometres to the lap and contains every type of corner, climb, descent and straight that anyone could wish for, while the German accessory industries turn out in force, so that the paddock resembles an engineering exhibition and about the only repair job that could not be tackled would be to make a casting, but bring a rough casting and any one of the mobile workshops would drill, plane, mill, turn, tap, grind or do any other job on it in no time at all.

The meeting comprised motorcycle races, Formula Junior and Formula One, and such is the enthusiasm for racing in southern Germany that 60,000 people turned out for the practice on Saturday. Most of them camped the night and on race-day there were an estimated 300,000 people around the circuit, high banks and hillsides affording unsurpassed spectator amenities.

This was not the German Grand Prix, though it might well have been, and of the twenty cars entered for the Formula One race only two failed to appear. Unfortunately these were the two works Ferraris for Phil Hill and von Trips, the Scuderia deciding at the last minute that the cars were not really fit to stop off on the way back from Aintree and there were no spare ones at the factory. However, Porsche turned out in force with four works entries, Bonnier, Gurney and Herrmann having last year’s trailing-link type chassis 4-cylinder cars, while Barth had an experimental car. This was one of the new long-chassis cars, with wishbone front suspension, but still with the 4-cylinder engine, though this was cooled by a horizontally-mounted fan, as is used on the 8-cylinder, and also on the Chevrolet Corvair. This fan draws air from above and blows it straight down on to the cylinders and is driven by a belt to a short shaft and bevel gears to turn the drive through a right-angle, unlike the Corvair which bends its belt! This experimental car also had disc brakes fitted, of Porsche manufacture, using Dunlop patents in places, and the wheels, which are still of the bolt-on type, are held on to a spider made from a normal brake drum, the disc taking the place of the back plate. There was a fifth Porsche running, this being the private one of de Beaufort, looked after by factory mechanics. Against this strong team from Zuffenhausen there were three Team Lotus cars, Ireland and Clark having the very latest ones and Trevor Taylor having the earlier 1961 model. U.D.T.-Laystall had one of their rebodied 1960-type Lotus-Climax cars, with Stirling Moss as the driver, while Seidel’s Scuderia Colonia entered their two 1960 Lotus-Climax for himself and Michel May. The Cooper Climax contingent was surprisingly small, consisting of only two cars, but both very worthy representatives. Entered as works cars they were in fact Brabham with his own 1961 car, that does service as a Formula One or inter-Continental car, and McLaren with C. T. Atkins’ light-green 1961 car fitted with a Colotti gearbox, that also runs occasionally as an Inter-Continental car. To add some colour to the entry there were two cars from the Scuderia Serenissima, these being an old Cooper-Maserati for Trintignant, and a new Tomaso-Alfa, this latter being a chassis built by Alessandro de Tomaso, and fitted with a bored-out Giulietta engine and a Tomaso 5-speed gearbox; this was driven by Roberto Businello. Finally there was Michael Spence making his first outing in a Formula One race, using a brand new and shiny Emeryson-Climax, and Peter Monteverdi, a Swiss enthusiast, with a car built by himself on classic rear-engined spaceframe/double-wishbone lines, using a Porsche Carrera engine and gearbox, and called an M.B.M.

Practice was divided up into two separate sessions on Friday and two more on Saturday, so that not only was there plenty of time available for practice, but there was plenty of time to make modifications between practices. The starting grid given later gives an appreciation of everyone’s practice efforts, though it does not recall that Taylor and Spence both had slight excursions off the road, which entailed a bit of rebuilding for the front ends of the Lotus and the Emeryson. Outwardly it looked as though the Porsches were going to dominate the scene, as do normally the Ferraris, and one felt that the British drivers were suffering from an inferiority complex, which was unjustified, especially as the Porsches were last year’s models. However, McLaren gave the green cars encouragement by tucking in behind Gurney’s Porsche for two whole laps, finding that he was only losing very slightly down the long straight and that everywhere else he could keep up easily. As McLaren was using a Mark I Climax engine, but a very well-tuned one, needless to say, and the Atkins’ Cooper being a well-prepared one, it just showed what a determined driver could do. Gurney had clocked 4 min. 01.5 sec. and McLaren got 4 min. 01.9 sec., Bonnier being the fastest with 4 min. 01.1 sec. Just before practice ended on Saturday evening, Innes Ireland was flogging round continuously, with Chapman making small adjustments between times, and the Lotus-Climax suddenly began to sound as if it were really going, and Ireland was looking very determined. Sure enough, he clocked 4 min. 02.7 sec. entirely on his own, with no slip-streaming from a Porsche or anything, which was really encouraging. Moss was not at all happy with the U.D.T.-Laystall car, and could not even hold McLaren down the straight, though he could pull back a lot on the twisty bits, but not enough. When the meeting had started the British were feeling very gloomy, but by the time the cars were lined up on the starting grid there was an entirely different feeling and certain drivers felt they could stir up the Porsches, even though they might not heat them.

The day had been got under way with motorcycle races and a Formula Junior event, the works Lotus-Fords and the Ken Tyrell team of Cooper-B.M.C.s completely dominating the Junior event, in which there was a vast entry of unreliable machines.

At the start of the Formula One race Ireland jumped into the lead from the second row and headed for the long left-hand bend of Glemseck, with Herrmann trying to go round the outside of him. Some idea of how this race was going to be run was seen on this first corner, for just as Ireland was going to dive to the inside of the bend McLaren went through, pushing Ireland out, who in turn pushed Herrmann out wide, and in the midst of all this was Brabham almost at 45 degrees to the direction of travel. Away went the 17 starters up the hills, starting off on the first of 25 laps of this most interesting and challenging circuit. Halfway round the Swiss driver May ran out of the road and damaged his chassis and retired on the spot, and the sixteen that came back to the end of the lap were in the order Ireland, McLaren, Herrmann, Gurney, Bonnier, Brabham, Moss, Barth, Clark, Taylor, Spence, Beaufort, Trintignant, Seidel, Businello and a long way back, already, came the Swiss M.B.M. That the Porsches were not leading on the opening lap was significant and the Team Lotus hopes that they might beat the Porsches now did not seem so unlikely. The only change on the next lap was that the Porsche team reshuffled itself, but still Ireland and McLaren were out in front, but on lap three Gurney got by into second place and the first six cars were nose-to-tail as they took the Glemseck curves. On lap four Bonnier got past McLaren, so the order was Ireland, Gurney, Bonnier, McLaren, Brabham, Herrmann, while the rest were already a fair way back, led by Moss in the U.D.T.-Laystall Lotus. The looks on the faces of the drivers following Ireland were very set and determined, and it was obvious that they did not think it funny that the green Lotus should still be out in front. It was every man for himself now, and Bonnier carved across in front of Gurney going into the bend after the pits, to take second place, but he only stayed there for two laps, for Gurney was then back in second place, while Brabham had passed McLaren. The pace was really hot, with all five leading cars lapping at 4 min. 03 sec., and Herrmann was beginning to fall back. There were seven other cars running, but they just were not in the picture, Moss leading Clark and Barth, and Taylor leading Spence and Beaufort, with the two Serenissima cars way back. The M.B.M. had retired and Seidel had given up when his Lotus steering wheel broke.

On lap seven Ireland was still leading, but only just, for he had Gurney right on his tail, and equally close were Bonnier, Brabham and McLaren, and round the slow corners these five were all side by side, pushing and shoving each other in a fine open fight, where nobody was being nice to anybody. As the far end of the circuit, on the tight downhill ess-bend at Schatten they were still all in a bunch and suddenly Bonnier slid wide and ended up on the grass. A gentle “nudge” on the back wheel by the nose of Brabham’s Cooper had disposed of one Porsche for a while, but not for long, for Bonnier was soon on the tail of them again, putting in a lap at under 4 min. 02 sec. Brabham was driving like the 1960 Brabham we all used to enjoy, sliding the bends, crouching over the wheel and having-a-go. On lap 10 he was right behind Ireland and on lap 11 actually led past the pits, but as the five cars dived for the left-hander anyone could have led, they were so close. All five were now lapping at under 4 min. 02 sec., and it was a real motor race, where the average speed was climbing, steadily lap after lap. Ireland was in terrific form and refused to accept defeat by Brabham, or anyone else, and next lap round he was back in the lead, but by so little that it was still anybody’s race. Bonnier had forced his way past McLaren, into fourth place, and on lap 13 he again carved-up his team-mate Gurney, to take third place and finished the lap alongside Brabham, being careful this time not to let himself get in a compromising position. Brabham was credited with a new lap record in 3 min. 59.6 sec., but all five were obviously lapping under 4 min., which just shows how “the boys” can go when they get worked up. The only sad thing was that Moss and Clark were not in there fighting with them; poor Moss was handicapped by a car that was not fast enough on the straight, and Clark was feeling “off colour,” though he did eventually catch Moss, but they were both so far behind that they were completely out of sight of the leading scrap. There were only two other runners by this time, these being Barth, whose experimental Porsche was proving heavy on the steering and was losing oil, and Taylor who was driving quietly round at the back. The rest had stopped, Spence with a broken transmission after going quite well in his first big motor race, and de Beaufort, Trintignant and Businello all with mechanical ailments. These retirements cleared the track of possible obstructions to the battle for the lead, for there was no-one likely to be lapped, so it was an open field for a very open battle.

Ireland was still holding on to his slender lead, but Bonnier had lost second place to Brabham once more and on lap 17 Gurney moved up to third and raced past the pits alongside Brabham, but the Australian shut the corner on him and held on to his position. On lap 19 both Porsches attacked Brabham, but he was fighting hard, and when Brabham fights it takes a good driver to get past. Jost in front of them, but by less than a car’s length, Ireland was looking very determined and, in fact, none of the five were grinning or waving, they were all far too busy going motor racing. On lap 20 Brabham’s engine coughed once or twice, and immediately Bonnier and Gurney were past, and then it spluttered again, as if getting low on fuel, or suffering from fuel feed trouble, and McLaren was by. This let the two Porsches attack Ireland and on lap 21 the order was Ireland, Gurney and Bonnier, all in a tight bunch and one felt that the Lotus could not cope with a concerted attack by the two silver cars, especially as Brabham and McLaren had dropped back out of the slip-stream, and could not help any more. It seemed impossible that a Lotus could beat the Porsche team on their own doorstep, and the crowd were obviously very partisan and urging on the two silver cars. Fortunately for Ireland the two Porsche drivers were too engrossed in their own personal battle to think of “ganging-up” on the Lotus, so Ireland still led on lap 22, and again on lap 23, but on the penultimate lap Bonnier got by, and one thought “that’s it, Ireland’s had it now” for the three cars disappeared up the hill with the green Lotus in the middle of a Porsche sandwich to start their last lap.

Down through the fast swerves Ireland could do nothing to get by and down the long straight he tried to pull out of the slipstream and get by but it was no good, and as they approached the hairpin at the end of the straight the forceful Ireland thought “now or never,” but somehow Bonnier’s Porsche was using all the road and there just wasn’t room for the Lotus to try and get by. A lesser driver would have settled for an honourable second place, played the gentleman and satisfied the crowd by letting the Porsche win, but not Ireland, for his fighting spirit was really up, and gritting his teeth and hoping Chapman wouldn’t mind if he crashed, he took to the grass, went by Bonnier on braking, and then standing on everything scrabbled round the corner in the lead. From this point back to the finish was all corners and curves, and it did not need much imagination to keep the two Porsches at bay, but there was still the short straight from the last left-hand curve over the finishing line. There was a cry of dismay from the crowd as the Lotus appeared in the lead, but a shout of joy from the Lotus pit, and Ireland crossed the line a matter of three feet in front of Bonnier, with Gurney an equal amount behind. Had the chequered flag been at the other end of the pits Ireland would never have made it. It was a glorious victory for Team Lotus, and Ireland had surpassed himself. McLaren and Brabham finished fourth and fifth, and nobody had a lap of honour, they were all much too puffed: It had been one of the best motor races for many years, even more exciting than Reims, for the three cars had been more evenly matched, and so had the drivers. So good had been this dice that one hardly noticed the disappearance of Moss when the U.D.T.-Lotus broke its final drive, and Herrmann, Clark, Barth and Taylor had all seemed to be touring in comparison. This had been a true race to the finish, with the average speed going up continually, the fastest lap time descending continually, and the issue in doubt until the flag fell. What had started with an air of “no hope” on the part of the Climax-engined cars finished in a glorious triumph by reason of sheer determination and the sort of fighting spirit that will once again beat the Ferraris, providing “the boys” keep at it.