“Stirling Moss has said that if he’d been a team manager and wanted the perfect driver line-up, he’d have had Brooks as his No1 and Jim Clark as his No2. Praise doesn’t come higher than that.”
And Brooks was superb in 1958. It is often noted that his Vanwall team-mate Moss missed out on the title to Ferrari’s Mike Hawthorn that year, with four wins to Hawthorn’s one. Yet Brooks also won three. All were brilliant, plus he qualified on pole at Monaco by a second and there was rarely much between him and Moss that season.
Plus, as Nigel Roebuck noted for Motor Sport, “it says much for the kind of driver Brooks was that his victories came at the classic circuits: Spa, the Nürburgring and Monza.”
Brooks considers his Nürburgring drive perhaps his greatest race. For various reasons, Brooks at Vanwall often didn’t get as many practice laps as he’d like, and the German round was one such. He started the race with no prior running on full tanks, and early on he found the car’s handling “diabolical”.
Moss cleared off in first, though didn’t last long. “On the fourth lap Moss coasted to rest at the Schwalbenschwanz with his magneto refusing to emit any more sparks,” Denis Jenkinson outlined in his Motor Sport report, “and with a truly remarkable lead over everyone else he had to stand by the roadside.”
Brooks’ Vanwall’s handling improved as its fuel load lightened, but “by the time it began to handle properly again, after four laps or so, the Ferraris were half a minute ahead,” he told Nigel Roebuck in Roebuck’s book Chasing the Title.
“After another five laps, I was right with them.”
This should not be underestimated. Nordschleife laps are long of course, yet it amounted to recovering 32sec in 70 miles.
Once with the Ferraris though, Brooks had a problem. He was, Jenks explained, “passing on the twisty bits but being overtaken on the fast bits, the Maranello cars having more steam than the Vanwall.