30 – 1961 German GP


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

Once Jack Brabham had deposited his leading Cooper in the bushes at Hatzenbach on the opening lap, it was left to the old, Rob Walker-run, four-cylinder Lotus of Stirling Moss to take the fight to the more powerful Ferraris.

It was Monaco all over again. Always keen to take a gamble as an underdog, Moss had decided to start (from third on the grid) on Dunlop’s high-hysteresis D12 rain tyre even though the circuit was merely damp. Dunlop’s Vic Barlow advised vehemently against this, warning of overheating, chunking and sudden failures, but Moss felt that he had no choice if he were to win, which is all this inveterate racer ever wanted to do. Plus Team Lotus’s Innes Ireland had won the recent non-championship Solitude GP in the dry on the same boots. The extra grip they afforded was worth the risk.

Having painted over the tyre’s indicating green spot to disguise his ploy, Moss was 10 seconds ahead after just three laps, at which point the ‘Sharknoses’ – Ferrari had heeded Barlow’s advice – began to circle as the track dried. Phil Hill and Wolfgang von Trips, though able to lap faster than Moss – both broke the nine-minute barrier – were, however, enduring a difficult ride on suspension that caused them to ground over bumps. (Hill reckoned his pole lap freakish.)

View this race on the Database and Archive

The Lotus they were chasing was more composed – as was its driver. 

Nobody could hold a candle to Moss at the Nordschleife, which was hosting its first GP since 1958. Yet the Ferraris’ extra oomph was beginning to cause him concern as Hill and von Trips wound each other up and towed each other down the long finishing straight. Though Moss’s car had been fitted with newer, smoother bodywork since his Monaco miracle, its top-end speed was still shy of the optimum.

Fortune favoured the brave. The rain began again, allowing Moss to stretch his lead to 21.4sec over the last three laps. His chasers, left to fight among themselves, were lucky to reach the finish so hectic was their internecine scrap. 

Moss’s final GP victory lacked the claustrophobia of Monaco – the most traffic he experienced that day in Germany was a 40-minute jam near Düsseldorf while on his way home – and so he did not rate it as highly. However, it undoubtedly reaffirmed his position as the world’s best driver – by a margin never bettered in any era before or since. PF

About 100 Greatest Grands Prix | From the editor Damien Smith
The Grand Prix motor races we can never forget…

This was a 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.

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.

You can download 100 Greatest Grands Prix in PDF form in the Motor Sport app.

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