1961 German Grand Prix race report: Moss takes no prisoners at the 'Ring
A dominant display by Stirling Moss leaves Hill and von Trips in his wake
AFTER wandering about for two years in 1959 to the Avus and 1960 to the South Circuit of the Nurburgring, the German Grand Prix this year returned to its traditional home on the 22.8 kilometre North Circuit of the Nurburgring and a vast entry was accepted in an attempt to put on the largest field of starters on the longest circuit. The AVD dug even deeper into the barrel than the BARC had for the British Grand Prix, and found 33 entries but luckily they did not all turn up, and this had not included UDT-Laystall, who were otherwise engaged.
Greatest interest was aroused by the first appearance of the new Coventry-Climax V8-cylinder engine, installed, one need hardly add, into a Cooper chassis for Jack Brabham to drive. This interesting new V8 engine of 1.5-litres has four overhead camshafts, two to each bank, and they are driven by intermediate gears and then a single-roller chain, the drive cover and camboxes on each bank being a single-piece casting, with the drive at the front of the engine. In the V are mounted four double-choke down-draught Weber IDF carburetters and the eight exhaust pipes run round the back of the block to join together in a left-right layout of tuned pipes before exhausting into two tail pipes with small megaphones.
Single sparking plugs to each cylinder are used, fed from a vertically mounted distributor rising from the crankcase at the rear of the vee, the drive being by skew gears. The ignition system was a new transistor mechanism made by Lucas in which segments on the flywheel provide the interruption to the flow of current in place of a make-and-break mechanism.
The Climax concern were reluctant to reveal the bore and stroke of this 1 1/2-litre engine, nor would they mention horsepower figures, but one can assume at least 170bhp and it revs to 8,600rpm, while the total weight of the car was 530 kilograms. Coopers had modified a standard F1 chassis frame to take this engine and had made the left-side top chassis tube between the bulkhead and the rear suspension detachable, with two-bolt flanges at each end.
Removal of this allowed the engine to be slid into the frame from the side, the chassis tube being bolted up afterwards, when it ran across the left-hand inlet cambox, everything being a very tight fit. Before receiving this first Coventry-Climax V8 engine Coopers had welded an extra cross-member in the middle of the engine bay to run under the engine, but when the engine arrived at Surbiton just one week before practice for the German Grand Prix was due to start, they found Climax had designed a new sump 2 inches deeper so this extra cross-member had to be cut out!
Another feature not in the original specification was the cross-over exhaust layout behind the engine, so the whole unit had to be moved forward an inch or two and a distance plate made up to fit between the engine and the F1 Cooper gearbox, while there was an external water pipe running along the outside of the body on the right, from the rear of the engine to the radiator. Undeterred, and singing their favourite song “Design as we go, and let the world go by,” Coopers worked day and night, got the car finished, gave it a brief run at Silverstone and got to Nurburgring in time for practice. Just in case anything went wrong they had their normal F1 car with 4-cylinder Climax engine with them, for Brabham to drive, as well as their second works 4-cylinder for McLaren. All the other British entries had to rely on the 4-cylinder Climax engines as the Cooper’s V8 was the only one so far to leave Coventry.
Stirling Moss had Walker’s dark blue Lotus-Climax with 5-speed Colotti gearbox, Clark and Ireland had the two Team Lotus cars, with the earlier 1961 car as spare, although the organisers had entered this car as a definite entry, hoping Colin Chapman would lend it to a German driver. Brooks and Graham Hill had the works BRM-Climax cars, and a spare one for training, the Bourne-designed V8 being on the test-bed and giving satisfactory power, but not yet ready to race.
Yeoman Credit had their three Cooper-Climax cars for Surtees and Salvadori, the special one with Colotti gearbox being an alternative for Surtees. Single entries came from H&L Motors with Jack Lewis in their 1961 Cooper-Climax, Marsh with his much modified Lotus-Climax, Mrs Bryden-Brown’s blue and white Lotus-Climax with Maggs as driver, Ashmore with his own Lotus-Climax and Burgess with the Camoradi Cooper-Climax as Masten Gregory withdrew from the entry. Then there was Seidel and May with the Scuderia Colonia’s Lotus-Climax cars, Trintignant with the Serenissima Cooper-Maserati, Bandini with Centro-Sud’s 1961 Cooper-Maserati and the Frenchman Collomb with his own 1961 Cooper-Climax.
The Scuderia Ferrari, on behalf of SEFAC, had three rear-engined V 120-degree cars for von Trips, Phil Hill and Ginther, and a V 60-degree car for the Belgian driver Mairesse, as Baghetti’s 60-degree car was not yet repaired after its Aintree crash. Porsche were in an unhappy state, having no new cars or engines, Bonnier, Gurney and Herrmann driving the 1960 trailing-link front suspension cars and Barth being without a car as the 1961 experimental car used at Solitude was not considered to be race-worthy. A fourth 1960 Porsche was in the hands of de Beaufort and was covered in orange distemper to signify its Dutch ownership. Of the factory cars Gurney’s was fitted with Porsche disc brakes, the others having drum brakes.
Official practice began on Friday morning in glorious sunshine and first disappointment came when the V8 Cooper-Climax was tow-started, gave one burst of sound and then went quiet, the drive to the distributor having broken! Leaving Wally Hassan and his men to repair things, Brabham went out to practise in the 4-cylinder works car, along with everyone else. The lap record for the Nurburgring stood at 9min 09.2sec, set up by Moss with a Vanwall during the 1958 Grand Prix, and as Phil Hill had done 9min 15.8sec with a sports Ferrari during the 1,000-kilometre race last May, it was obvious that a 9-min. lap was not out of the question once everyone had got into the swing of things.
Practice lasted for 1 1/2 hours, during which time most of the drivers acclimatised themselves to the long and difficult circuit and, not surprisingly, it was Bonnier with the Porsche who was fastest, for he had been testing on the circuit quite recently and had little to learn about where all the corners and blind brows went to. Brabham in the 4-cylinder Cooper-Climax, Moss and Phil Hill were all soon knocking on the old record, but von Trips was in trouble with a broken engine before he could settle down.
After a 2-hour break, during which time GT cars practised, the Grand Prix cars re-appeared and, with the sun not being too strong and conditions dry, some serious motoring took, place. The V8 Climax was still being repaired so Brabham started off in the old car, but after a while took the V8 out for its first try, only to find that the enlarged sump was scraping the ground in some of the abrupt dips; however, it sounded promising and he did one flying lap in 9min 15.6sec and then went away to see about raising the front of the engine.
Ferrari were busy changing the engine in von Trips’ car so he did not practise and Seidel had not gone far before a king-post broke and he subsided onto the grass, more surprised than damaged. The Ferraris were not handling too well on the bumpy Nurburgring, for both front and rear suspensions were reaching the limits of travel and this jarring was causing the cars to jump about in a rather unpredictable manner. In spite of this they were the fastest cars but Phil Hill was having to work very hard to get his times down below Bonnier, who had done 9min 04.8sec and was driving with great determination.
“Hill was leaping and bouncing about and getting round some corners more by luck than judgment”
Hill was lapping at around 9min 03.0sec, leaping and bouncing about and getting round some corners more by luck than judgment, when suddenly he got the car in step with the bumps and twists and went round in a shattering 8min 55.2sec. Next lap he was back above 9min and admitted freely that it had been a freak lap in which everything had gone right for once, but there was little hope of repeating it. For most people 9min 10sec appeared to be the barrier, but Clark was driving hard and got below this, though his team-mate Ireland was still learning the circuit, not having any real knowledge of the Nurburgring before this event.
Very early on Saturday morning Ferrari and Cooper were allowed to use the track for some unofficial practice as von Trips had missed one session and Brabham had not done much with the V8 Cooper-Climax. During this short spell the new V8 car was sorted out and Brabham got below 9 min. on hand-timing and Climax supporters were much happier. The last official practice was late on Saturday morning and the Nurburgring was on its best behaviour, bathed in bright sunshine, and everyone was out to make the most of it.
The V8 Coventry-Climax was now on full song and sounding very good, and obviously had enough power for Brabham to be kept working hard on the twisty bits. He put in five laps altogether, the raising of the front of the engine having cured the sump scraping, and his best was a rousing 9min 01.4sec, which proved to be the fastest of the day. Moss was trying really hard as usual, but was down on maximum speed and was also being troubled by the Colotti gearbox jumping out of 3rd gear, but even so he was making full use of his knowledge of the Nurburgring and put in a best lap of 9min 01.7sec, so it rather looked as though the extra 20bhp of the V8 Coventry-Climax was making up for the inferior handling of the heavy Cooper over the Lotus, and for Brabham’s comparatively meagre knowledge of the Nurburgring compared with that of Moss.
The Ferraris were still going thump on their suspensions and giving their drivers a rough time and none of the team could approach the times of Moss and Brabham. In the Lotus team there was a good deal of gloom for Clark had crashed heavily on his opening lap when part of the steering had broken, and though he had got away unhurt, the car was very badly damaged. Meanwhile the spare car had been lent to Seidel while his own car was being repaired, but when Clark got back to the pits the spare car was called in so that the works driver could go on with practice.
They were not the only ones in trouble for Bandini stopped with a mild fire in the carburetter of his Centro-Sud Cooper-Maserati and Michael May lost control of his white Lotus-Climax and turned it over, bending it very badly. Graham Hill did some laps in the practice BRM while his own was being worked on and then changed over and put in some good laps, while Brooks in the other BRM-Climax was going very well.
Phil Hill did a lap in Ginther’s car and Surtees tried the Yeoman Credit special Cooper for two laps. On such a long and difficult circuit there was little trouble with drivers making nearly equal times and the following table is more than revealing; on a simple circuit with a lap time of 1min 40sec most of the well-known names are usually bracketed in a space of one second, but at the Nurburgring it is a different story for the gain, or loss, of one-tenth of a second on each corner can soon add up to many seconds on a full lap.
Before the Grand Prix there was a race for Gran Turismo cars, which was dominated by Carlo Abate in the Scuderia Serenissima 250 G.T. Ferrari and a row of Porsche Carreras, and then an American Air Force stunt-squadron put on a flying display with jet-fighters, calculated to “deter any potential aggressor,” the hand-out said.
At 1pm the sky was clouded over and a shower of rain had fallen which sent everyone scurrying around the paddock fitting Dunlop D12 rain tyres, while Ferraris hurriedly removed the gauze covers over the carburetters of their cars and fitted Perspex ones. Surtees had settled to drive the Yeoman Credit standard Cooper-Climax, Clark was driving the early 1961 Team Lotus car, Seidel had a Lotus salvaged from the wreckage of the two Scuderia Colonia cars, Gurney was still using the Porsche with the disc brakes, and Brabham had the 4-cylinder works Cooper ready and standing by just in case anything went wrong with the V8 at the last minute.
After practice there had been a suspicion of overheating and the engine had been removed from the frame and dismantled for inspection but all was well, the only complaint being that Dunlop’s insisted that 6.50 x 15in rear tyres should be used and not the normal Cooper ones of 6.00 x 15 in. By 1:45pm the sun was shining and Dunlop’s were rushing round telling everyone to take off the rain-tyres and put back the normal ones. Certain people, such as Moss and Chapman, told Dunlop’s what to do, for Lotus had raced on these high-hysterisis tyres at Solitude on a dry track without any signs of the high wear-rate predicted. Ferraris unfortunately did what they were told, as did Porsche, and put the normal road-racing tyres back on.
By 2pm the twenty-six starters were lined up on the starting grid in rows of four-three-four, and they presented one of the most interesting sights seen for a long time, no one make of car having a monopoly. On the front row alone with Ferrari, Cooper, Lotus and Porsche there was enough diversity of design to keep the most bitter critic of Formula One quiet for a year. Wide angle V6, narrower angle V8, in-line four and flat-four, while a more varied collection of cars as regards shape’ would be difficult to find; admittedly they all had the engines behind the drivers but at one time they would have all been mounted in front. In the second row were Ferrari, and Cooper, while in the third row were Lotus, BRM, Cooper and Porsche, so that no-one could claim a monopoly. And the driver element was truly International, with American, Australian, British and Swedish in the front row, and German, British and American in the second row.
A few minutes after 2pm, with the weather showing signs of holding up, ex-World Champion Fangio dropped the flag to start the 15-lap race and away went the entire field, with the once-dominant Ferrari team surrounded by green and silver cars. Brabham snatched a brief lead from Moss and Bonnier and they went round the South Curve and then up the straight behind the pits. Approaching the North Curve Moss, Gurney and Brabham were side-by-side, and the V8 Cooper cut into the lead as the three cars went into the left-hand bend.
“Away went the entire field, with the once-dominant Ferrari team surrounded by green and silver cars”
Down the hill through Hatzenbach Brabham was holding a precarious lead, but then he hit a damp patch of road and slid straight off the road and into the bushes, landing up on a bank while the rest of the 25 runners went by, some smiling happily to themselves as they saw Brabham climb out of the V8 Cooper-Climax. With a clear road in front Moss now put to use all his vast knowledge of motor racing and the Nurburgring and really started to drive as only he can.
Out of the jostling pack behind him Phil Hill shook himself free, as did Herrmann with one of the works Porsches, and the end of the first 22.8-kilometre lap saw Moss leading Phil Hill, not comfortably, but leading nevertheless. Then came Herrmann with Gurney, Graham Hill and von Trips very close behind. Going into the South Curve there was a little gefuffle in which Gurney got a big dent in the side of the body, Graham Hill flew over the bank and into the long grass, and von Trips appeared up the back straight in third place, ahead of Herrmann.
In midfield Ireland went by behind Ginther with the tail of his Lotus missing, it having come off early in the opening lap, and after a time it was obvious that some runners were missing. The orange Porsche of de Beaufort was in the pits having its wheels changed for some others fitted with Continental tyres and Bonnier came limping in very late with a punctured right-hand rear tyre. Brabham was not going to rejoin the race and stayed on the grass bank where he had landed, sitting deep in thought, while further round the circuit Marsh was stationary trying to trace a shortage of sparks in his coil ignition system, and Trintignant was motoring slowly along with suspension trouble.
On the second lap Moss drew away from Phil Hill, setting a fastest lap in 9min 13.8sec while still fully loaded with fuel, on new tyres and with the track still damp in places. Now that von Trips had got clear of the pack he was closing on Hill, and Clark was about to move up into fourth place ahead of Herrmann. They were followed by Ginther, Gurney, McLaren, Surtees and Mairesse, all in close company, and Ireland was missing. The Lotus had set itself on fire leaving Schwalbenswanz corner and Ireland pulled up hurriedly with the rear of the car well alight, signalling to Jack Lewis who was just behind, as to where he was aiming the blazing Lotus.
He leapt out, suffering a slight burn on his arm and had to stand and watch the car burn out completely as there were no worthwhile fire extinguishers at hand. After the leaders had gone by to start their third lap Marsh arrived at the pits to make a proper repair to broken ignition wire, and Trintignant arrived even later, both of them rejoining the race after a while. Bonnier was now going all right, having had a wheel changed, but was too far behind to have much hope of getting anywhere, and Graham Hill walked back to the pits to sit and watch the race.
Moss was really hurrying now, waiting for nobody, and it looked like Monaco all over again, with his sheer brilliance at cornering making up for a lot of horsepower, and at the end of lap three he had pulled out a 10sec lead over Hill, but von Trips was now only 7.5sec, further back. Clark was now firmly in fourth place, followed by Herrmann still going remarkably well, but Surtees had got away from the pack, leaving Ginther, Mairesse, Gurney and McLaren to fight it out, then came Lewis, easily the fastest private owner, leading Salvadori and Brooks.
After quite a long pause the rest of the runners straggled by and Seidel arrived with broken steering, to retire, with Ireland balanced on the tail of his white Lotus. On the fourth lap Moss maintained his lead with a lap in 9min 13.5sec, but von Trips was now speeding up considerably and on lap five when Moss turned 9min 13.0sec, von Trips capped it with 9min 12.2sec, now being only 5sec behind Phil Hill who was still holding second place. Porsche were having a had day, for Gurney was in eighth place while Herrmann arrived late and went into the pits to have a repair to the clutch control made, and while he was there Bonnier arrived with ominous white smoke coming out of the exhaust, a sure sign that all was not well with valves or pistons, and the car was retired.
On lap six von Trips lapped in 9min 08.1sec, to set a new overall lap record, and close right up on Phil Hill, and the following lap he turned 9min 04.3sec to set another record. Drier conditions, partly worn tyres and lighter fuel load were allowing this improvement in lap times, but as fast as von Trips speeded up so did Moss and Hill.
The order after seven laps was still Moss, Hill, von Trips, Clark and Surtees, but Mairesse had now come up and Ginther had dropped back behind Gurney and McLaren, while Salvadori had passed Lewis; however, shortly after this the Yeoman Credit drive spun in the Karussel and spent a long time restarting, so that Lewis went back into 10th place. Brooks retired out on the circuit with engine trouble and Marsh, de Beaufort, Herrmann, Collomb and Trintignant were all a lap or more behind the leaders but still motoring. On lap eight Moss was still holding his lead and set up a new lap record with 9min 02.8sec, but von Trips had overtaken Phil Hill and completed this lap in 9min 01.6sec, to set another new record.
On the next lap the German set the record at 9min 01. 1sec and this brought him within 10sec of the flying Moss, but it also roused Hill, who decided not to be left behind and when von Trips completed lap 10 in 8min 59.9sec, to be the first driver to break 9min officially in a race, he had the American right on his tail, and barely had von Trips’ time come through from the timekeepers than they announced Hill’s time of 8min 57.8 sec, and the Lotus now had a precarious 9sec lead.
By these standards of motoring anyone else’s effort seemed futile, but nevertheless Clark was still going well in the Lotus, followed by Surtees and Mairesse, but they were all well over one minute behind the incredible Moss. Von Trips did another lap in 8min 59.9sec and this brought him within 7sec of the blue Lotus, but seeing Moss is one thing and catching him is something quite different.
Lap 13 was an unlucky one for the Ferrari team for a gentle rain began to fall and without rain tyres there was no hope at all of closing up any more, for Moss, in defiance of Dunlop, had started on rain tyres and in spite of gloomy prognostications they had not worn out on the dry track, so “Golden Boy” was now sitting pretty. All the excitement was now over for it was obvious that the Walker mechanics had screwed the Lotus together properly and on the damp track Moss drew away from the Ferraris to win as he pleased. With all hope of victory gone von Trips and Hill began to race each other, and though Hill led as he started the last lap it was von Trips who led across the finishing line to get second place, but to Hill went the lap record.
“Von Trips said: ‘On some laps I’d get as many as fifteen corners really right, but Moss, he gets them all right on every lap’”
One lap before the end Mairesse spun out of a certain sixth place, to land up on the grass with a badly damaged Ferrari, so Surtees was followed home by McLaren and Gurney. A long way back came Ginther, who had given up trying, and he was nearly caught by Lewis as they crossed the line in a rainstorm that practically obliterated the cars as they finished the race. Salvadori just missed being lapped by Moss and as he crossed the line to start his fifteenth lap he could see the chequered flag being got ready to welcome Moss, and after he had done his final circuit in pouring rain he got back to find everyone packing up and trying to hide from the torrential rain. The Frenchman Collomb stopped by the line on his twelth lap and when Moss got the chequered flag he pushed his broken Cooper across, but under the new rules this is not permitted so he could not count as a finisher.
Moss certainly got the welcome he richly deserved and the 300,000 strong crowd were most appreciative at having seen an artist at work, and so strong is the Moss popularity at the Nurburgring that he was even forgiven for beating the German champion on his home ground. Von Trips paid a fine tribute to Moss after the race when he said: “On some laps I’d get as many as fifteen corners really right, but Moss, he gets them all right on every lap,” and that is so true of Moss when he surpasses even himself.
- A new noise everyone enjoyed hearing was the song of the V8 Coventry-Climax engine, but one cannot help wondering what lap times Moss would have done with 170bhp instead of 152bhp.
- There were some pretty short and not too sweet races run – Brabham, Graham Hill and Bonnier, for example. By 7pm that evening Brabham had still not removed his crash helmet since going off the road on the opening lap; a sure sign that the Australian was upset with someone.
- Porsches seem to be going from bad to worse. At Solitude they lost with honour, at Nurburgring they just lost. The new chassis and the flat-8-cylinder engine are not working out as planned.
- It seems there may be some BRM-Climax cars going cheap soon, for by all accounts the Bourne V8 is showing good promise.
- I never did like monopolies, and it seems that if Avon were to make a car racing tyre as good as the motorcycle racing tyres they make then there would be a lot of excited customers at Avon’s door, some of them even willing to pay money!
- Engineer Chiti, of Ferrari, was so right when he said at Monaco, “Moss is Moss.” Without “Golden Boy” Maranello would have an easy time.