|ATLAS F1 Volume 6, Issue 35||Email to Friend Printable Version|
|Rear View Mirror|
Backward glances at racing history
Where Upon Our Scribe, Sherman,
& Mr. Peabody Once Again Crank Up
The Way-Back Machine for 1961...
|by Don Capps, U.S.A.|
Which is better known as...the Season of Low Expectations or Britain Sees Red
In this chapter:
After dodging the big bullet at Reims - thanks to Giancarlo Baghetti - the Ferrari team made the trek to the wastelands of Aintree with the firm intention of ensuring that there would be no repeat of the near-fiasco that nearly handed the race to the Germans. And the three main works entries made the journey in the transporters of the Yeoman Credit/Reg Parnell team. The car for Baghetti made the trip on the back of an open flat-bed truck.
Meanwhile, the British teams were delighted to have the red cars on their home turf and were rubbing their hands with glee at the prospect of waxing the Italian machines on track many of the British contingent knew so well. The idea that the red cars were vulnerable had many (British) heads doing the dunking-duck routine along with murmurs of, "...just wait 'til we get them on one of our circuits..." also being widely heard about the various garages and workshops.
The Ferrari team added Baghetti as more-or-less a fourth member of the team, but he still had only a 65-degree engine versus the 120-degree engines the other were using. Porsche showed up beaming after its near victory, but still using the former F2 machines and engines and not a new chassis or engine was in sight. There were few changes of any note-apart from the new paint jobs needed after the merciless pounding from the gravel at Reims - among the Cooper, Lotus or BRM teams.
The Ferguson was briefly described earlier in this series (Part 4, 24 May 2000), but after its race debut at Silverstone in Inter-Continental guise, this was its F1 debut. Tony Rolt was running the Ferguson part of the show, but the machine was run under the banner of the Rob Walker team. Needless to say, the car did attract attention. It was the only front-engined car entered and that alone made it a popular attraction among the Young Enthusiast set. The Walker team did not bring along its Cooper chassis since it had enough problems running the Lotus and the Ferguson.
Of the various and assorted privateers that requested the privilege of flogging their machinery about the circuit and getting a few bob (perhaps even a quid or so) for showing up, only the Belgian ENB team with driver Olivier Gendebien did not show up in the paddock. Their Emeryson was turning out to be a total dog and even Gendebien could not convince it to find its way around the track in a form other than that of a mobile chicane - and an ugly one at that.
Of note in the paddock were the Gilby making one of its rare appearances and the two Coopers of Mimo Dei, one driven by Natili sporting Centro Sud-made bodywork that even fooled the factory at first until it was realized that it was better than what the Surbiton company supplied to its customers...
The entry looked like this:
2, 4, 6 - Phil Hill, Wolfgang von Trips, Richie Ginther: SEFAC SpA Ferrari, Ferrari Dino 156
When practice started on Thursday afternoon, there was a stiff wind, but the weather was otherwise fine and the threat of rain remote at best. Interesting, the circuit was not familiar to the Ferrari drivers, but during the first Thursday session, Ginther was fastest around the course followed by Bonnier, Phil Hill, Surtees, and Ireland - the latter going quite well despite being whacked on the hand by an aircraft propeller earlier in the week! Fairman was finding that the Ferguson was cursed with so much understeer that just completing a lap was a minor miracle.
The second session on Thursday saw the RAC timekeepers still using egg-timers as chronometers to time the laps. Amazingly, the scoring crew were still calculating times to the nearest fifth of a second ("...actually just to the nearest even tenth of a second..."), just like in 1954 when seven - as in 7 - drivers shared the fastest lap. Despite being the first to actually record the time, when the timing sheets were handed out after the session Bonnier was listed as third behind (Phil) Hill and Ginther, but in front of von Trips. Moss did a few laps in the Ferguson and was only 1.6sec slower than his Lotus. The only real incident of the session was Baghetti losing it in a big way at Melling Crossing, but managing to not do any real harm to the car or himself.
The first Friday session saw intermittent rain showers before the start of practice which made the track surface damp, but not truly wet. However, it was probably just enough to make the times from Thursday afternoon difficult to beat. In the session Moss changed cars no less than five times! And he was only a second off from his time in the Ferguson the day before, but four seconds faster than the next person up, Roy Salvadori. It was just another one of those amazing Moss feats that people have trouble comprehending at times. That it was set in a session in which the rain came down heavily about five minutes after it started is more amazing still.
Although it did slack off a bit towards the end of the previous session, it was a heavy rain that greeted the drivers for the last practice session. In this session Moss concentrated on his Lotus, but the Ferrari boys were persuaded to get with it and ended up topping the session with Hill, von Trips, and Ginther in that order. Baghetti was still struggling to come to grips with Aintree and was far back of the other Ferrari drivers. The session was more like a test for hydroplane racing boats than racing cars.
When the puddles settled and the mud stopped flying, here is how the 3 x 2 grid looked, keeping in mind the egg-timers being used in the scoring booth:
With the race scheduled to start at 1430 (2:30pm), during the hours prior to that there was both spirited debate and business at the Dunlop truck. The clouds were thick, dark, and plentiful and rain was a matter of when and not if. The loudest clamor was for the D12 "Green Stripe" rain tires that Dunlop had developed, but the technicians were not optimistic about their life span on a dry track. When the heavens opened, those with the D12 tires smiled, those without winced and hoped for the best. Those without the new D12, fall back on the older D9 rain tires or as Seidel and Marsh did, even the German Dunlop SP road tires! Gregory was stuck using the R5 dry tires since the team was out of spare rims to mount the D12 tires.
When the flag was dropped, it was in the midst of a true deluge. The pack surged towards the aptly named Waterways Corner enveloped in a cloud of spray punctuated by rooster tails. It seemed more like the start of the Gold Cup at Seattle than a GP race. Those behind the few in the front switched over to autopilot and prayed for the best until the pack stretched out. Somehow, 29 cars survived the first lap: Natili coasted to a stop at the end of Railway with his transmission broken.
When the leaders went by, it was Phil Hill, von Trips, Ginther, Moss, Bonnier, and Clark. Surtees went past dragging his exhaust, the result of some contact during the first lap with someone. On the second lap, Ireland found a puddle at Bechers and had a huge spin, dropping 11 places. Ashmore pitted to change a tire that deflated after running over something on the circuit. Moss was on the move and when Ginther flicked sideways for an instant, Moss was into third place. Despite dragging his exhaust, Surtees was ripping through the pack improving his placing by about one position per lap.
Shadowing Salvadori going into Melling, Henry Taylor spun and smacked the trackside hoarding (for BP Super Plus, incidentally) a great blow and doing both himself and the car no good at all. Indeed, Taylor was trapped in the car for over ten minutes since the marshals lacked any tools to pry him from the wreckage. It took the ambulance 17 minutes to arrive after it was dispatched. Fortunately the injuries, while serious, were not life-threatening otherwise who knows? The injuries were severe enough to terminate Taylor's racing career though.
Phil Hill was soon passed by von Trips - eyes were averted all weekend when members of the team were asked about team orders - and Moss was just as quickly in second hounding the German. An attempt to pass von Trips at Tatts Corner failed and another attempt at Melling Crossing resulted in a rare Moss spin. Moss was soon pulling time back, but the rain was now beginning to slack off and the power of the Ferrari was now starting to tell.
Hill managed to get past Moss to recapture second, but then Moss pitted and retired with a fractured brake line having cost him any hope of a finish. The Ferrari team was now running first, second, and third with fourth place - Brabham - being a minute behind Ginther. Clark, while in fifth place and closing in on Brabham, had an oil pipe split and got a hot oil bath. Interestingly, Aintree was one of the tracks Clark genuinely liked and he was making the best of it on this occasion. Baghetti was never in a position to make it a Ferrari sweep since he spun at Waterways and smote Dino 0008 a mighty smack, fortunately not causing any harm to himself.
Except for two individuals, that was the race.
One was, naturally, Moss. Fairman had struggled with the Ferguson and after a stop on Railway to investigate why the engine was not working, received a push start (from a bevy of photographers on hand for the antics as the cars tried to negotiate Melling Crossing) which under the new regulations now expressly forbidden. Fairman pitted the engine was attended to and it set aside for the moment. After he retired, in popped Moss, and off went Moss. And quite rapidly as well. In the rain, he was easily faster than anyone else and providing great entertainment to one and all. However, Charles Cooper pointed out the officials that the Ferguson had been disqualified and should it not be in the pits and not on the track? Alas, the Ferguson was ordered into its pit and told to cease and desist forthwith. Moss was quite put out at this since he was enjoying himself immensely. When told that Father Charles had been the culprit, Moss took a moment to chat with the Elder Cooper about his thoughts on the subject. Father Charles did not approve of Ferguson using the race as a test and development session. Moss walked away in amazement muttering about how things do change.
The other person, was showing that he still had It. Delayed by an electrical problem caused by one of the plug leads getting soaked after he almost sank going through a puddle. After finally stopping and having all the plug wires replaced, Tony Brooks started to fly through the field, his BRM lapping at or better than the leaders. On his next to last lap of the race, he stole the fastest lap from the Ferrari team! It was a grand performance and one that caused several to contemplate what could have been had he not been forced to pit.
The Championship standings after four rounds:
A week following the race at Aintree, there was the race at Solitude, the fire circuit just outside Stuttgart. Needless to say, with the race in its backyard, Porsche wanted to win this race. It showed up with four entries, one being the newer 787 for Edy Barth. The other entries were for Bonnier, Gurney, and Hans Herrmann. Ferrari scratched its entry for von Trips and Phil Hill, so the possibilities were there for not only Porsche, but Cooper and Lotus - both being the Usual Suspects plus Trevor Taylor at Lotus - as well. Moss was in a UDT-Laystall/BRP Lotus.
It was a dilly of a race. At the start, they were four wide going into the first corner - and with Brabham going through sideways as he was wont to do when re reverted to his midget days. On the first lap Ireland came past with Herrmann, Gurney, Bonnier, and Brabham all on his heels. The order switched around behind Ireland over the next several laps with Bonnier and Gurney sometimes exchanging places several times a lap. Meanwhile, they crept up on Ireland. On the penultimate lap, Bonnier went past in the lead and the huge crowd went wild. But, our former Para was made of sterner stuff. Ireland darted one way then another - getting The Chop at the hairpin for his efforts - but saw the tiniest opening and used the grass to put a pass on Bonnier just before the finish line and pipped the Swede by 0.1sec with Gurney only 0.2sec behind Bonnier. Great stuff and the Germans fans still cheered at the top of their lungs even if a silver car didn't take the checkered flag.
On the same day that Solitude saw its wonderful race, some of the South African F1 contingent made their way to Mozambique for the annual race at Lourenco Marques. The F1 race was part of the sports car race due to only five monoposto racers (and one a formula libre entry at that) making the journey. The race was won by Bruce Johnstone in his Cooper - Alfa Romeo with Ernie Pieterse following in the Scuderia Alfa Heron - Alfa Romeo, and Syd van der Vyver third in his Lotus - Alfa Romeo. Sadly, Jo Eckhoff in his libre Cooper - Climax, crashed while trying to overtake van der Vyver and died when the car burst into the flames and no marshals were available to pull him from the wreckage in time.
The following week saw a race that is still a mystery to me despite looking under more than a few rocks. About all I know is that at Belvedere, Ernie Pieterse won in the Heron with Doug Serrurier second in his first LDS - Alfa Romeo while driving for Scuderia Alfa. Fanie Viljoen was third in his Cooper - Climax and Sam Tingle fourth in a type A Connaught.
|Don Capps||© 2000 Kaizar.Com, Incorporated.|
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