A series taken from the 162-page Motor Sport special 100 Greatest Grands Prix (other specials are available here).
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From the editor Damien Smith
The Grand Prix motor races we can never forget…
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 turn the page, delve in – and whatever you do, don’t take it too seriously.
1956 British GP
July 14, Silverstone
It was another mid-Fifties victory for Juan Manuel Fangio, but this wasn’t the Argentine at his most dominant – he even lost time with an early spin at Becketts.
For much of the afternoon, indeed, it was an uplifting race for the home crowd.
By the end of lap 14, Jenks noted, “The situation was unique, for the first four places were occupied by British drivers and a British car was in the lead. Back in the field, more British cars and drivers were really sorting out the Continentals.” One was Archie Scott Brown, making his only world championship F1 start and running well until his Connaught suffered stub-axle failure.
That leading quartet? Mike Hawthorn (BRM), Stirling Moss, Roy Salvadori and Brooks, but the balance of power soon changed. Moss’s Maserati passed Hawthorn at Copse on lap 16, as Fangio demoted Brooks, and Moss then pulled away. Brooks’s BRM later somersaulted, but he was thrown clear and suffered relatively mild injuries.
A failed universal joint forced Hawthorn out and Salvadori lost time after stopping to fix a broken retaining strap (before eventually retiring with low fuel pressure). That promoted Fangio to a distant second – although the gap closed when the leader pitted for oil. Moss then lost power, but was still able to keep Fangio at bay until further loss of revs prompted another stop.
Fangio thus inherited the lead, while Moss continued at reduced pace until his gears went AWOL. That left second to the shared Lancia- Ferrari of Peter Collins and Fon de Portago – the first time a Spaniard had appeared on the F1 world championship podium… and also the last prior to the invention of Fernando Alonso. SA