The Grand Prix motor races we can never forget… 1958 German GP


A series taken from the 162-page Motor Sport special 100 Greatest Grands Prix (other specials are available here).

From the editor Damien Smith

Welcome to this special one-off magazine, dedicated to our love of Grand Prix racing and produced by the same team that brings you Motor Sport each month.

It seemed a good idea: whittle down 107 years of racing history to come up with 100 GPs that could be considered the ‘greatest’ – then rank them in meritocratic order. By week three, the old grey matter was beginning to ache…

Defining greatness was the first task. There were the obvious races – the wheel-to-wheel duels, the comeback classics. But there were also individual performances of supreme dominance, races that might not necessarily have been the most exciting to witness. Greatness goes way beyond thrill-a-minute, we decided.

Then there were those races of prominence, attached to a certain time or place that made them hugely significant. I’m thinking specifically of Belgrade, 1939. Only five entries took the start of a race that didn’t sound particularly scintillating. But as it happened to take place on the very day WWII broke out, we felt it worthy of inclusion. Meanwhile, Sebastian Vettel’s remarkable maiden GP win at Monza in 2008, for lowly Scuderia Toro Rosso, was left on the cutting room floor. Is that fair? You decide. We also opted to include a few races that weren’t Grands Prix, leastways in name, although the strength of entry was such that they might as well have been…

Choosing which races should make the list was hard enough; ranking the top 100 in some sort of order was even tougher, especially when it came to the crunch: which should be number one? We never did agree unanimously on the ‘greatest’, but if the magazine was to be finished a decision had to be taken. And that’s what I’m here for!

Will you agree with our choice and order? Probably not. But if steam begins to issue from your ears, take a deep breath. In any exercise such as this, there is no definitive list – because there can’t be. Our top 100 is based on opinion, nothing more, designed to be a bit of fun and to spark good-natured debate among fans of the world’s greatest sport.

So delve in – and whatever you do, don’t take it too seriously.

1958 German GP
August 3, Nürburgring

One of Tony Brooks’s finest days in a racing car, but also an occasion forever overshadowed by the loss of Peter Collins, who crashed fatally during a three-way battle for the lead – right in front of his Ferrari team-mate Mike Hawthorn.

This was Vanwall vs Ferrari, four British drivers dominating at the Nordschleife in a manner never seen before. Stirling Moss, almost inevitably, made the early running, stretching out a lead in his Vanwall before stopping at Schwalbenschwanz with magneto failure on lap four. At this stage it appeared the two Ferraris had the race under control, with Brooks 22sec in arrears. But then Tony began to reel in the red cars.

Brooks engaged the Ferraris in a memorable duel, taking the lead decisively as they started the 11th of 15 laps. Then disaster: Collins, running ahead of Hawthorn, went off the road at Pflanzgarten, suffering severe head injuries from which he later succumbed. Hawthorn raced on, but clutch failure forced him out one lap later.

Hawthorn later pipped Moss to the title in Casablanca’s season finale, but didn’t have much time to savour his success. He died in a road accident in January 1959.

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