#99 1961 British Grand Prix

2021-08-27 00:00

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#1961, Fulvio Conti, Translated by Carola Buzio,

#99 1961 British Grand Prix

Tirelessly, every week motoring presents new episodes of those events - always the same and always different - that characterize this difficult sport.


Tirelessly, every week motor sport presents new races - always the same but always different at the same time - that characterize this difficult sport. There is still plenty to say about the amazing victory of Giancarlo Baghetti in the French Grand Prix, but now in view of the future, and about what the young Milanese driver will be able to achieve. Is he a champion? If he’s not one yet, will he become a champion? And meanwhile, the curiosity to see again Giancarlo Baghetti compete against the older drivers, who saw him racing in the midfield, brings a lot of enthusiasm. The opportunity won’t make us wait: on Saturday 15th July 1961, the Grand Prix of Great Britain will be held at Aintree, which is the fifth round of the World Championship, and Giancarlo Baghetti will be present, always with the Ferrari loaned by the manufacturer from Maranello. However, on Saturday 8th July 1961, the British Empire Trophy was held on the circuit in Silverstone: an event reserved for Intercontinental Formula cars. It’s a formula that provides engines with a maximum displacement between 2500cc and 3000 cc and that should save the cars of the old Formula 1 and, at the same time, lay the foundation for a rapprochement between the European and the Indianapolis regulation. The debut of the Ferguson Project 99, built by Ferguson Ltd which is a well-known tractor factory that has long dedicated itself to the design of revolutionary cars, catches a lot of attention. This new car shows some advanced ideas from Harry Ferguson and is equipped with a four-wheel transmission with a special differential that automatically compensates for the resistance offered by each wheel and the engine is the well-known Coventry-Climax. One of the first races to be held is the International Junior Race, with a slight rain that disturbs the drivers. During the race, a car spins and involves five other cars, including Costey’s, who is hospitalized in Northampton with many fractures, which luckily aren’t alarming. Later, a dog runs away from its owner and begins to wander around the track, forcing drivers to do abrupt and dangerous maneuvers to avoid it until a race official stops it. The podium was occupied entirely by Lotus, with Taylor winning ahead of Rees and Piggott. The most awaited race is dominated by Stirling Moss, who crosses the finish line before John Surtees and Graham Hill. 


No one could compete for the victory against him today, not even the other two drivers who are on the podium despite an honorable defense against him. There was great anticipation for the debut of the new Ferguson with four-wheel drive, driven by Jack Fairman, but expectations fade just after two laps for a withdrawal due to technical problems. Among the Italians, the race of Lorenzo Bandini on Cooper-Maserati and Gino Munaron on Cooper-Castellotti, respectively seventh and eleventh, should be noted. After the fast straights of the circuit in Reims, the Grand Prix scene shifts to the slow turns of the circuit in Aintree, and all regular competitors, and many others, register for the British Grand Prix scheduled for Saturday 15th July 1961 on the circuit of Aintree, near Liverpool, which is the fifth round of the World Championship. After the events and the unexpected outcome of the last race held in Reims for Formula 1 cars, the interest in motor sport has suddenly revived. Thanks to the young Giancarlo Baghetti, who quickly entered the Olympus of celebrity thanks to a short but brilliant series of resounding successes, culminating with the amazing victory of two weeks ago in France. Many critics didn’t hesitate to call him a true champion: perhaps, it’s premature to say so, even if his class is evident. But no motorsport champion, from Nazzaro to Bordino, from Nuvolari to Varzi, from Campari to Farina, from Fangio to Alberto Ascari, became a champion in just two months. The training is long, you have to know how to overcome great adversities, learn to suffer and fight, perhaps with a pinch of slyness. All things that Giancarlo Baghetti can’t have assimilated already. For this reason, the race is Aintree is awaited with particular interest and where many would like to have a bright confirmation, while many are concerned about the great pressure that the environment, the sportsmen passion and the press put on Baghetti. It should be said that this time the situation is more difficult than in the French Grand Prix for other reasons. The British drivers are very strong, regardless of the individual class and the efficiency of the cars, especially on their home circuit, where they compete with much more dedication than foreign racers in their respective countries. Moreover, the circuit in Aintree isn’t very fast, and in a way, it appears to be less favorable than others (such as Reims and Spa) to the powerful Italian cars. 


Therefore, it’s in other tracks that the drivers’ resources are more important than the superiority of the cars. It seems, in short, that this time the task of the Ferrari drivers (besides Baghetti), which is to finish the race ahead of Stirling Moss, Jo Bonnier, Dan Gurney, Jack Brabham, John Surtees, Graham Hill, Jim Clark, isn’t as easy as in the last two races of the World Championship. Finally, curiosity is aroused by the unexpected presentation of the new revolutionary car built by Ferguson, which made its disastrous debut last Saturday in Sllverstone, but the technicians assure it will become very fearsome. The Ferguson will be driven again by Jack Fairman in Aintree. Phll Hill is currently in the lead with 19 points, followed by Trips with 18, Moss and Ginther with 12, Baghetti and Gurney with 9. A new victory of a Ferrari driver could decide the 1961 world title. The opportunity won’t be long in coming as Scuderia Ferrari present their usual team with Phil Hill, Wolfgang von Trips and Richie Ginther, with V6 engines at 120 degrees rear; but, above all, at the last minute FISA signs Giancarlo Baghetti, to whom Ferrari lends the car with rear engine at V60 degrees and takes care of both the car and the driver. In view of the probability of rain in Aintree, cars are equipped with Perspex covers sealed over the air intakes of carburetors, instead of the mesh which is normally used. Porsche brings the same three cars they used in Reims to England, equipped with old oscillating arm suspension and 4-cylinder engines with Weber carburettors, since the new flat-8 isn’t ready yet, although it already underwent many test sessions. The cars are registered for Jo Bonnier, Dan Gurney and Carel Godin de Beaufort, who signs privately with the Ecurie Maarsbergen team, although the car is handled by the factory mechanics. Jack Brabham and Bruce McLaren will have the usual Cooper, while Innes Ireland and Jim Clark will have the two new Lotus, with 5-speed ZF gearbox. Graham Hill and Tony Brooks will race with the B.R.M. equipped with Climax engines. Stirling Moss is driving the Rob Walker’s Lotus-Climax used in Reims, while John Surtees and Roy Salvadori will drive the Yeoman Credit Team’s Cooper. The first driver has the Cooper special as a training car, now further modified to fit a Mark II Climax engine. U.D.T.-Laystall enroll their two Lotus remodeled for Henry Taylor while Lucien Bianchi manages to have one of the old Lotus as a training car, equipped with 5-speed Laystall gearbox, now modified internally, and subjected to a thorough test. 


Camoradi enrolled Masten Gregory and his Cooper, and Ian Burgess with his Lotus, while Stroud’s H.&L. enrolled Jack Lewis and their 1961 Cooper-Climax. Private registrations with old Lotus-Climax cars also come from the R.H.H. team with Tim Parnell, Gerry Ashmore, Wolfgang Seidel, and from the Louise Bryden-Brown team, that have the car which Dan Gurney has driven on several occasions, only this time they loan it to the South African driver from Formula Junior, Tony Maggs. Tony Marsh has his extensively modified Lotus-Climax, while Keith Greene will participate with the Gilby-Climax, a smart looking car built using orthodox lines from Lotus, Coope and Lola, by Gilby Engineering. The Scuderia Centro-Sud signed Lorenzo Bandini with his 1961 Cooper-Maserati and Massimo Natili with the first configuration model similar to the one driven by his teammate. All these cars were seen already in Formula 1 races, at some point, but an absolute innovation for racing and Formula 1 in particular is the presence of the Ferguson-Climax. This interesting car was built and handled by Ferguson Research Ltd. and registered by R.R.C. Walker Racing Team, being painted in dark blue with a white band around the nose. This car debuted the week before the British Grand Prix at Silverstone in the Intercontinental race, using a 2-and-a-half-liter Climax engine, but now it has a 1.5-liter Climax engine, and once again Jack Fairman is the designated driver despite Stirling Moss was very interested in the car, since he is registered as part of Walker. This interesting new car, which just arrived in the Grands Prix, tests a new ground, as it has a 4-wheel drive and an engine assembled on the front. The engine is tilted to the right so that the crankshaft line is to the left of the car’s center line and is driven with a normal clutch and a 5-speed gearbox built by Ferguson Research in collaboration with Colotti. From the rear of the gearbox, the transfer gears carry the transmission sideways to the center of the car and then the drive shafts bring the transmission back and forth to small chainring and pinion units. At the point where the drive shafts take motion from the transfer gears there is a system of freewheel and limited slip differential wheels that ensure that the front drive shaft cannot rotate faster than the rear one and vice versa, thus preventing the possibility of wheel slip. 


With the small amount of power produced by a Climax engine that is distributed among the four tires the result is that slippage, also due to the lifting when tackling a turn, is excluded. The two transmission shafts are offset from the centre line of the car, while the rear one runs alongside the driver’s seat. The tapered gears control the front and rear transmissions, placed at 90 degrees on two short shafts assembled in alloy supports of the frame width. At each end of these housings, both front and rear, there are Dunlop disc brakes and then short solid drive shafts with a universal platter type, which bring the transmission to the wheels. These shafts are of the same length as the lower quadrilateral of the double arm and coil spring suspension units, and these lower quadrilateral shafts are actually on the same horizontal level as the shafts, while the outer ends of the trees cross the apex of the quadrilateral. The high struts of the hub holder are joined to the upper quadrilateral, with helical spring units which provide suspension. All this mechanism is in a frame formed by small diameter tubes, while an extremely beautiful body covers everything. The molded and rounded back is very similar to the Connaught, which is not surprising given that Tony Rolt directs operations at Ferguson Research. The car uses 16-inch Dunlop alloy disc wheels and, of course, Dunlop tires and it’s a delightfully well-balanced, but surprisingly small looking car. However, the outstanding feature is that the weight was kept so well that it’s almost equal to Cooper, Ferrari and B.R.M., although it isn’t as light as Lotus, since the works of art designed by Colin Chapman are of a higher level. This car is full of interesting features and new ideas on the design of racing cars and, among them, is the use of the Dunlop Maxaret braking system. In short, this consists in the hydraulic pressure for the brakes which is a full power system, that is, a constant pressure provided by a pump driven by the engine, from which the driver takes the pressure he needs through a valve linked to the brake pedal. In this way, the Dunlop Maxaret unit, which prevents the brake from locking, can be assembled regardless of the strength with which the driver pushes the pedal. 


In the Ferguson’s cockpit there is a simple control wheel to activate or deactivate the Maxaret units, that have a great advantage on the wet where normal braking systems, especially the powerful disc brakes, can easily lock a wheel. The Ferguson research team doesn’t intend to participate in the Grand Prix but wants to use motor sports to promote the development of the 4-wheel drive for road vehicles, along with many other design features. The B.A.R.C., which runs the British Grand Prix for the R.A.C., rents the Aintree Stadium from Mrs Topham for the occasion, and the smell of horses is replaced for some time by the smell of racing cars. Unlike Silverstone, which is always a place characterized by speed and fun from morning until night, the B.A.R.C. offers a decent program, more in line with the British Grand Prix where Formula 1 cars are the main attraction of the event. A short challenge for Gran Turismo cars is organized as a side race, where many of the presented models look more like 2-seater sports cars than GT cars. Rehearsals are divided into three sessions, separated between Thursday afternoon and Friday afternoon. From 1:00 to 2:00 p.m. the Formula 1 drivers will practice then there will be a break to reorganize the circuit, before giving space to the drivers driving the GT cars that will have the practice session from 2:30 to 3:30 p.m. Another short interval will follow, before Formula 1 cars return to the track again from 4:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. This organization gives the mechanics the time to make adjustments or change axle ratios or even change the engines, if necessary. In fact, many think that the turns and hairpin bends of the Aintree flat circuit allow the under-powered British cars to challenge Scuderia Ferrari’s cars and regain some confidence after the disappointments of Spa and Reims, where pure power mattered more than anything else, but it doesn’t take much time - during the first hour of testing - to see that power is important on any circuit. In addition, Ferrari’s roadholding is more than adequate to deal with a Cooper, a B.R.M. or a Lotus, and the possible problem regarding the fact that none of their drivers have ever been to Aintree before, doesn’t turn out to be a huge obstacle. Porsche enjoys a good condition, since he already raced in Aintree before, so he knows how well their cars should go; and, in fact, not surprisingly Jo Bonnier is the only one who manages to disturb the Ferraris, equalling the fastest time set by Richie Ginther and Phil Hill. All three drivers set a time of 2'00"8. 


A good start, keeping in mind that the lap record in Aintree of a car equipped with a 1½ liter engine is exactly 2 minutes. John Surtees tests his two Yeoman Credit Cooper, while Tim Parnell makes some adjustments and postpones the decision to the end of tests which car to use for the race. Innes Ireland with the new official Lotus is in good shape, despite having his right hand injured due to a collision he had on his airplane. Most of the drivers registered for the Grand Prix perform numerous tests in this first session, and the attached table shows how they performed in their best laps. During the first session a strong wind blows on the circuit, but the track remains dry, and the sun lift the spirits. In the second session the weather is the same, even if the wind drops a little before the end of the tests. As participants have an hour to examine the circuit and modify the cars, in this second session some drivers are very busy, and as a result the lap times are reduced considerably. It’s surprising that Jack Lewis sets a good lap in 2'01"0, as well as cars equipped with Climax engine that improve setting a time of almost 2 minutes or below, in the best case. As the latter manages to fall below the 2-minute limit, Scuderia Ferrari, except for Giancarlo Baghetti, falls well below the limit of 2 minutes and, surprisingly, Jo Bonnier manages to do the same with his Porsche. Jack Fairman managed to set a time of 2'03"4 with his Ferguson; later, also Stirling Moss tests the car equipped with 4WD and sets a sensational time of 2'00"6 after a few laps. If he had had as much practice with the 4-wheel-drive car as he did with his Lotus, there is no doubt that the British driver would have gone below the limit of 2 minutes, which shows that the Ferguson has great potential. From time to time the car makes strange movements, but it seems always very controllable. The 4-wheel drive requires the car to be positioned exactly in the right way to make a turn, and subsequently this must be kept on the planned line by using the steering wheel and the accelerator, which means it should be pushed by the power of the engine. Since cornering engine power control is a normal Grand Prix practice and isn’t unorthodox, but while with a normal rear-wheel drive oversteering car a driver can tackle the corners a little too fast and skid with the rear wheels, this can’t happen with the neutral all-wheel drive Ferguson; in fact, this is what causes the car to make convoluted movements when driven by Stirling Moss. 


However, the incredible adaptability of the British driver to any type of car allows him to bring the Ferguson to be fast, proving that this car has no disadvantages compared to the classic Grand Prix cars in terms of power loss, weight or handling and, that after practicing a bit the technique required for tackling turns, it could prove to be a success. Meanwhile, the mechanics of Scuderia Ferrari are surprisingly happy, because all their drivers set times of 1'58"8. Then equaled by Jo Bonnier, despite a remarkable effort with what is in fact last year’s Porsche. In B.R.M. Tony Brooks begins to show his brilliant shape, that many thought he had lost forever, and equals Stirling Moss with a time of 1'59"0. From the timekeepers' sheets it seems that their watches were read only to the closer fifth of a second, which would explain why so many drivers managed to set identical times. In fact, Innes Ireland and Jim Clark both set a time of 1'59"2, while Jack Brabham set a time of 1'59"4 and John Surtees with 1'59"6. It was thought that a Grand Prix as important as that of Great Britain would justify the use of a timekeeping system that reads at least to the tenth of a second and preferably to the hundredth, as in Portugal. But unfortunately, it didn’t. On Friday 14th July 1961, the weather in the north of England is characterized by rain and wind that lash the circuit, while clouds are so low that they mix with the smoke of the factories. However, the tests begin just before the change in weather and, with the track being dry again, Stirling Moss does some laps with his Ferguson, running in 2'01"6, although the car is created in such a way that it exits some corners at 4.800 rpm, the engine could develop well over 7.000 rev/min. Just five minutes go by before the sky changes color: so that from this moment on, all the hopes of setting fast times vanish and, as a result, the times set on Thursday decide the starting grid of the British Grand Prix. The Belgian driver Lucien Bianchi goes on track with the U.D.T. reserve car, which was tested by Masten Gregory on Thursday, while Jack Fairman returns aboard the Ferguson. Innes Ireland isn’t happy with the behavior of his car, while Giancarlo Baghetti spins at the exit of the fast section of Melling Crossing, ending up on ground of Mrs Topham’s horse races. 


To make things worse, he drives around Tatts Corner on a racing line, on the grass and along the rails leaving two deep grooves, before returning to the pits to go back on track and start spinning again. Therefore, it isn’t surprising, at the end of the tests, to hear Tannoy calling Giancarlo Baghetti and Romolo Tavoni in the office of the Race Director. Along the circuit there are many puddles; therefore, if there are water drains they are presumably blocked. Along the pit straight, the puddles are so deep that the cars almost create waves, causing the rear wheels to slip. Jack Brabham’s car suffers from this problem to the point that the sound that comes from his car is similar to that of a sliding clutch. Despite these terrible conditions almost everyone goes on track to practice, and it soon becomes clear that the Ferguson is considerably stable on the wet. Its braking ability, even without the use of Maxarets, is clearly superior to rear-wheel drive cars. Jack Fairman is clearly competitive on track; therefore, after a few laps he is called back to the pits, in order to allow Stirling Moss to go on track. The British driver quickly catches Jo Bonnier’s Porsche, overtaking it while braking and turning in 2'11"0, a time way faster than what he can do with his Lotus in the wet. This encourages team Ferguson, which leaves the circuit at the end of the tests to change the gearboxes for the race, giving up taking part in the last test session. As it continues to rain and the track doesn’t dry well, the team doesn’t lose much but most of the other drivers continue to practice. Certainly, it isn’t possible to improve the time set on Thursday, therefore all the drivers prepare the set-up for a wet race and take the opportunity to do a lot of practice on the track testing the new Dunlop D12 rain tires. B.R.M. briefly tests the German Dunlop SP tires on Graham Hill’s car, which he tests with the rear anti-roll bar disconnected. Despite the weather, the Ferraris continue to be the fastest cars. In Italy, professional motorsport suddenly awakened interest, perhaps because of its fame, due to the unexpected appearance of a young driver, Giancarlo Baghetti, who won the French Grand Prix two Sundays ago on the difficult circuit in Reims, mostly thanks to his talent and to some favorable conditions. 


Baghetti was chosen at the beginning of the year among a small group of candidates, to drive the car provided by Scuderia Ferrari in order to find, among the many gifted youngsters who are dedicated to motor sport, someone able to ensure the continuity of an Italian tradition, given that over time there have been generations of great champions who have honored the sport. In recent years there have been Eugenio Castellotti and Luigi Musso, both died due to racing incidents: then there was nothing. Also because, for some, they couldn’t give the opportunity to a promising guy to race on modern cars, prepared by a manufacturer and with their assistance. Probably the theory was right, since the initiative of Enzo Ferrari was immediately matched by the rise of a driver like Giancarlo Baghetti, whose growth in sporting values was so fast that left everyone amazed. Especially in the race in Reims, the twenty-six-year-old Milanese driver – who, until last year, was a simple gentleman driver who drove grand touring cars and junior races - impressed for the way he won right on the finish line against a far more experienced and smarter foreign driver. Since that day, perhaps a little hastily, Giancarlo Baghetti has become a champion for motor sport fans and critics, the champion that Italy lacked. But is he really a champion? It’s difficult to say now if you want to think calmly, without letting yourself get carried away by what people say. The glorification of sports talent is right if limited; otherwise, it could be dangerous. It seems that Giancarlo Baghetti is a quiet guy, but resistant to the excesses of fame: this is a desirable armor to the inevitable disappointments that the career of a racing driver can save. If Baghetti is as talented as the great champions of the past, he will show it to us over time after gaining all the experience he doesn’t possess yet and learning it the hard way on the tracks. Meanwhile, all eyes are on the young man who will face the British Grand Prix today, which will be held at the circuit in Aintree, near Liverpool. Giancarlo Baghetti still has a Ferrari at his disposal, even if he isn’t part of the official team. The Italian car designed for the new formula that came into force this year has proved to be much superior, especially on those tracks where a large engine power is required. However, the circuit in Aintree doesn’t belong to this category, as it’s quite busy and interrupted by frequent turns, so the average lap speed doesn’t reach 150 km/h. It’s on this feature that British manufacturers and drivers are trying to subvert the prediction favorable to Italian cars.


Lotus, Cooper and B.R.M. all have the same Coventry Climax engine, which is significantly lower than Ferrari in terms of power (the British company is preparing a new engine, which is not ready yet) but extremely efficient in terms of handling and stability. And it’s precisely on this, together with the great class of Moss, Brabham, Surtees and Clark that the British hope to win in Great Britain. The men of the German Porsche, who have the Swede Joachim Bonnier and who’s one of the best drivers in the world, have no lesser ambitions. Finally, there is the big, unexpected, unknown of the new revolutionary British car Ferguson (built by the well-known tractor manufacturer) that in the tests, held under a heavy rain, achieved a sensational performance. Yes, Stirling Moss was behind the wheel, but he created a gap of five seconds on the lap from Phil Hill, and this means that Ferguson’s car, whose most interesting technical solution is the four-wheel drive, goes really strong or at least stronger than the other cars on the wet. During the last day of training, Giancarlo Baghetti was somewhat concerned about the track being slippery, so much so that he set a time which was mediocre. After all, it’s better this way. Not asking too much of the guy seems to us the wisest decision, for his own good and his interest. The start of the British Grand Prix is scheduled at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday 15th July 1961, after a parade of cold and unsatisfied drivers. About half an hour from the start the weather seems very unstable and a few drops of rain threaten the circuit, so the drivers have to choose whether to start the race with wet or dry Dunlop tires, since unless there is a real lake on the track, the rate of wear of these high grip tires is impossible. Ferrari, B.R.M. and Ferguson, equipped with knock-off hubcaps, can afford to wait until 2:15 p.m. to make their decision, even on the grid, while cars with bolted wheels - and especially Lotus and Cooper, where bearings need to be disassembled to change a tire - as they need more time. The supply of these rain tires by Dunlop is a good but confusing solution, because everyone uses Dunlop tires, since there are no other manufacturers interested in Grand Prix races, they all have the same advantage, so the result is that the whole race can be sped up in the wet, along with a greater safety for everyone, which makes things much easier. 


Rain starts to fall heavily around 2:15 p.m., so no one has any more doubts about which tries to fit. Most teams opt for rain tires. The mechanics of Scuderia Ferrari close the vents on the sides, while John Surtees is ready to use the lighter and more elegant of his two Yeoman Credit Cooper. The impressive group of thirty cars aligns on the grid, and one minute from the start all engines are turned on, as the track is free from officials and mechanics. As the flag of the starter rises, the rear rows move slowly forward so that the thirty cars form a solid group; when this is lowered, the roar of thirty engines follows and the group explodes into one of the best starts seen over the past few years. The track is completely flooded with water and the rain continues to fall, so that at the start of the Grand Prix it’s impossible to even glimpse the cars; understanding who’s in the lead is impossible, not before the group appears on the Railway Straight. When the drivers appear on the Railway Straight, towards Melling Crossing, they line up in a row but the splashes of water raised from the wheels are impressive. The three official Ferrari are leading, with Phil Hill leading the group, followed by Trips and Ginther. In fourth place follows Stirling Moss, who precedes Jo Bonnier, Jim Clark, Tony Brooks, Graham Hill, Jack Brabham, Innes Ireland, Roy Salvadori, Dan Gurney and the rest of the group except for Massimo Natili, whose Cooper-Maserati has a gearbox issue. Apart from the two B.R.M. that swap positions, the order for the second lap is the same, even though the leaders begin to distance themselves. John Surtees’ car passes with the exhaust manifold dangling, clearly damaged by some other driver, and Innes Ireland slides towards the end of the group after leaving the track. In doing so not only did the English driver get scared, but he hurt his hand while trying to correct the trajectory. On the third lap there is a considerable gap after Jo Bonnier’s car, but it’s obvious that the Swedish driver doesn’t have the chance to stay with the leaders for a long time. As for Stirling Moss, the story is different, because in addition to not having lost contact with the drivers of Scuderia Ferrari, he even manages to gain ground on them, even though Phil Hill continues to lead the race alone.

On lap five Phil Hill is still comfortably ahead of his teammates, while Richie Ginther follows Wolfgang von Trips and Stirling Moss behind who doesn’t want to lose sight of them. These four drivers move away from Jo Bonnier, who doesn’t seem to be very competitive in the wet. The Swedish driver is followed by Graham Hill and Jack Brabham, the reigning World Champion, who is catching up after a very slow initial lap. Jim Clark and John Surtees follow closely, preceding Henry Taylor, Roy Salvadori, Tony Brooks, Giancarlo Baghetti and Dan Gurney. Finally, Bruce McLaren arrives with Jack Fairman on the Ferguson, who follows the New Zealand driver. Gerry Ashmore returns to the pits to change a wheel due to a puncture, while the rest of the group continues following the wake of the fastest drivers. When the race leaders arrive at Tatts Corner, at the end of the sixth lap, a round of applause raises because Stirling Moss manages to pass in third place; Richie Ginther made a mistake that allowed Stirling Moss to overtake. Meanwhile, John Surtees also manages to overtake Jim Clark, while Henry Taylor appears sideways at Melling Crossing, before spinning and crashing heavily against the billboards outside the track, getting injured with a wooden stake that hit the car sideways. Bruce McLaren and Jack Fairman approach Dan Gurney, while at the end of the group Innes Ireland is engaged in a battle that includes Masten Gregory and Lorenzo Bandini. One lap later, Phil Hill adjusts his mirrors, but in doing so he slows down slightly, not only allowing Trips and Moss to get closer but letting them challenge him as well. In fact, when the drivers get to the Tatts braking point, they manage to overtake the Gilby-Climax and in the battle that follows, Trips takes the lead, so that the order at the end of the seventh lap sees the German Ferrari driver in the lead, followed by Phil Hill and Stirling Moss, with Richie Ginther back again. Apart from these four, no one else manages to finish an overtake, despite there being many drivers battling with each other. And in fact, shortly after Graham Hill overtakes Jo Bonnier, while John Surtees loses two positions for a spin at the exit of the Tatts Corner. Gerry Ashmore came in and out of the pits, allowing Tim Parnell to join him, while on lap seven Jackie Lewis also returned to the pits, to retire due to a set-up issue on his car. 


During the eighth lap the two Ferrari of Trips and Hill and Moss’ blue Lotus are somewhat close to each other, and on lap nine the British driver pressures Phil Hill. Meanwhile, Jo Bonnier loses another position, while Jack Brabham approaches Graham Hill, and John Surtees stops at the pits to remove the broken exhaust manifold. On the tenth lap another big applause rises from the stands when Stirling Moss overtakes Phil Hill and takes the second place, while in the middle of the group Giancarlo Baghetti reacts by passing Tony Brooks. Therefore, the order now sees Trips in the lead, followed by Stirling Moss, Phil Hill, Richie Ginther, while more detached follow Graham Hill, strongly pursued by Jack Brabham, and Jo Bonnier, who pulls back again and is threatened by Roy Salvadori. Further away, Jim Clark, then Giancarlo Baghetti, Tony Brooks, Dan Gurney, Tony Marsh, Bruce McLaren and Jack Fairman also reached the finish line. Tony Maggs, John Surtees and Lorenzo Bandini follow. The rest of the contestants was lapped, while Gerry Ashmore and Jackie Lewis joined the group of drivers who retired. For the next three laps there wasn’t any change in the order of the standings, but Stirling Moss was getting closer and closer to Trips and during the fourteenth lap he began to fight to get the lead of the race. To the delight of the very wet crowd that encouraged him, during the fifteenth lap Moss tries to overtake Trips: the two leading drivers now are ten seconds ahead of Phil Hill, who has an equal advantage over Richie Ginther. For two laps Tony Brooks passes in front of the pits with his engine emitting a strange sound, since the British driver crossed one of the puddles on the circuit with some slower cars, compromising the use of the engine spark plugs. During the fifteenth lap Brooks stops at the pits to fit other candles as well as Tony Marsh who, with his Lotus, returns to the race with a gap of one lap, while the B.R.M. driver returns to the track with a gap of two laps. Jack Fairman’s car also had problems with the ignition system, but after stopping on the circuit in the pouring rain the British driver managed to restart and returned to the pits. Despite him insisting that his stop is caused by an electrical short circuit, the mechanics change the candles and send Fairman back on track. 


The British driver returns to the pits after a few laps and this time it turns out that an electric wire short-circuited and touches the chassis: a problem which is probably caused by the car running over parts of Henry Taylor’s Lotus, since Jack Fairman went back on track right after the accident. Meanwhile, Stirling Moss decides not to overtake Trips, while following the Ferrari closely. From lap 16 to lap 24, the British driver remains within walking distance from the German driver’s Ferrari, while it continues to rain steadily. Trips and Moss lead with a gap of 12 seconds from Phil Hill, while Richie Ginther has a delay of almost 12 seconds, in fourth place. Instead, 45 seconds go by before Jack Brabham crosses the finish line in fifth position, having overtaken Graham Hill who is now in sixth place. Roy Salvadori does a wonderful race, giving the idea of being very comfortable in the wet, and faces Jim Clark and Jo Bonnier very convincingly, while Dan Gurney regains speed and makes Giancarlo Baghetti drop a position. The young Italian driver does a convincing race, but on lap 22 he is overtaken by John Surtees, who is catching up. However, two laps later John Surtees is forced to retire due to a broken crown and pinion, so Baghetti returns in eleventh place. During lap 24, Trips appears from behind the trees at Melling Crossing, followed by Moss' Lotus, but just as the rear of the British driver’s blue car slides to the left due to aquaplaning. In an instant, Stirling Moss corrects the trajectory of the car and slides sideways along the track. For a moment it seems that Moss' car is about to spin, but luckily the Lotus-Climax goes straight and crosses the track in the other direction. Still completely mastering the situation, Stirling Moss continues to slide the car along the track sideways, with the tail of the car pointing towards the inside of the track. Then, just as quickly the Lotus tail slips again and this time it turns to the right. Moss, in a wonderful display of control, leaves the steering wheel, allowing the car to complete a 360-degree turn, retakes the steering wheel at the end of it, selects a lower gear and retakes the route at the Tatts Corner as if nothing happened. The stands crowded with people show their appreciation for seeing a true champion at work. During the 28th lap Trips, who’s ten seconds ahead of Moss due to the spin, laps Giancarlo Baghetti. 


However, entering the Waterway Corner in a cloud of water together with Trips and some cars that both drivers lapped, the Italian driver loses control of the car as it continues in the opposite direction of traffic on the track, crashing his Ferrari but leaving it undamaged. The weather conditions cause chaos, since Lucien Bianchi spins at the Melling corner, ending up on the surrounding grass, and then spins again as he tries to start again on the wet grass. Phil Hill also makes a mistake approaching Melling Crossing, as the car goes sideways and points towards the gate uncontrollably. The American driver, frightened, slows down considerably, allowing Richie Ginther to close the gap on him, then losing the position on the thirty-fifth lap. Meanwhile Jack Brabham continues his race with steady pace and now he’s only eleven seconds behind Phil Hill, while Graham Hill is joined by Jim Clark. Starting from lap 30, the rain stopped falling on the circuit, and during the next fifteen minutes some parts of the track started to dry visibly, improving the driving conditions. This is good for Jim Clark, who manages to reach Graham Hill, and for Tony Brooks who now starts to go as fast as the leaders, but unfortunately, he’s still two laps behind because of his long pit stop, while Bruce McLaren closes the gap on Dan Gurney. The only driver who isn’t happy with the rain stopping is Jack Brabham, because when he starts to accelerate while the track dries he notices that the water temperature is quite high, then drives following the temperature indicator rather than its rev counter. Richie Ginther moves away from Phil Hill and starts to close the gap on Stirling Moss and on lap 40 he overtakes the blue Lotus, taking the second position. The fact that Stirling Moss can’t stay close to Ferrari and that during the next four laps he is joined by Phil Hill, indicates that something isn’t working on Team Walker’s car. Shortly after, in fact, during the forty-fifth lap Stirling Moss enters the pits, without being able to use the brakes; the balancing tube through the caliper on the left rear brake is broken and quickly loses pressure and oily fluid. This is quite important because the same thing happened to the rear brake on the other side of the car in Reims, just two weeks earlier. Moss struggled bravely with less and less brakes until he was forced to quit: the only man who challenged the Ferraris got out of the race. Now the sun is shining and the track dries quite quickly. 


During the thirty-fifth lap Wolfgang von Trips laps Bruce McLaren; shortly after, while the German Ferrari driver laps Dan Gurney’s Porsche, Bruce McLaren takes the opportunity to overtake the American driver. A little further on, Graham Hill begins to lose ground: his B.R.M. is constantly out of control and on lap 39 he passes in front of the pits making strange noises. The British driver continues until the forty-third lap, when the situation becomes too serious and he is forced to stop at the pits for consultations, and after doing another lap he retires with what seems to be broken valve springs. After Stirling Moss’ retirement, Ferrari are in the lead and the three V6 engines sound wonderful. Richie Ginther slows down and allows Phil Hill to gain his rightful second place and the three cars continue their race and complete the seventy-five laps that make up the total length of the race. Trips now has a 20-second lead, and Romolo Tavoni, from the box, is now happy to give his drivers signals that simply indicate how many laps still remain to finish the race. Jack Brabham is still fourth, but almost a whole minute behind the three Ferrari drivers, and the only others on the same lap of the leader are Jim Clark, Roy Salvadori and Jo Bonnier. Bruce McLaren and Dan Gurney are one lap behind, while Tony Brooks, Innes Ireland, Lorenzo Bandini and Masten Gregory are two laps behind. With a gap of three laps follow Burgess, Maggs, Greene and de Beaufort, with the first two drivers close enough to compete for the 14th position. Many laps behind there’s also Jack Fairman on the Ferguson, and even further behind follows Wolfgang Seidel, who has spent a lot of time in and out of the pits. Ferguson had technical problems because after a pit stop the mechanics pushed the car without thinking about it, which is obviously against the rules, and the Sports Commissioners had no choice but to disqualify Fairman. The stewards point out to the team that the car wouldn’t appear in the results standings, which means that it can continue racing if the team wishes to do so. As Ferguson took part in their first Grand Prix, and the more races you can do the better, the car continues to race with Jack Fairman driving it. With Stirling Moss in the pits, the Ferguson/Walker team has the bright idea to put the British driver in the car for the remaining twenty-five laps because, while Fairman gives the car a good and constant endurance training, Moss probably goes fast enough to find something useful and to give the team some data to compare with other racing cars. Therefore, Fairman was called to the pits and Moss climbed in the car, quickly running at a pace of just over 2 minutes per lap, which is very impressive, bearing in mind that the track isn’t totally dry in all of its parts. It isn’t long before Romolo Tavoni shows a sign to his drivers, which says: 


"Attention, Moss is in car 26".


In case they thought it was still Jack Fairman who was driving and underestimated his speed if he happened to run into them in a turn. There is some excitement in the pits over the fact that Stirling Moss is driving the Ferguson and in a short time the team principals point out to the organizers that, since the car has been disqualified, it shouldn’t be allowed to continue. This, of course, is perfectly true and under such pressure there is no other option than to call the car back and withdraw. If Fairman had stayed in the car, there would have been no objections, and it’s also pretty obvious that there are some teams that don’t want Ferguson to succeed, because if it turns out to be a serious challenger it goes without saying that Walker will sponsor it and Stirling Moss will be the driver, and he is already causing enough problems to his rivals, using an obsolete Lotus. Returning to the race, Lucien Bianchi retired during the forty-fifth lap with gearbox problems, while the Ferrari continue their triumphal journey, with Trips clearly in the lead and Hill and Ginther in close succession, obeying the orders of the team like good guys do. Meanwhile, Jim Clark begins to approach Jack Brabham, but never gets close enough because a particularly annoying oil leak puts him out of the race during the sixty-second lap. With the track well dried, Jo Bonnier joins and overtakes Roy Salvadori. The Yeoman Credit driver is unable to fend off his attacks now that the track is drying. Similarly, Dan Gurney is committed to reaching Bruce McLaren, which he does on lap 63. Even Tony Brooks starts to be incredibly fast and, during the final stages of the race, he does some extraordinarily fast laps, finally setting a new lap record with 1.5 litre engines in 1'57"8, which is very close to the absolute lap record that is 1'57"0.


So the race ends with a completely clear sky and the three Ferrari, with their shark-shaped faces almost scraping the ground, win the British Grand Prix obtaining Ferrari’s fourth victory in a row. The German Wolfgang von Trips, driving a Ferrari, won in front of 100.000 spectators the fourteenth British Grand Prix, completing 75 laps on the circuit in Aintree (which are equivalent to 322 km) in 2 hours 40'53"6, at an average speed of 135.04 km/h. The young Italian driver Giancarlo Baghetti who, after the victories in Syracuse, Naples and Reims, was very much awaited, retired on the twenty-seventh lap when his Ferrari, due to a slide while tackling a turn and crashed against the edge of the track. Stirling Moss, who maintained the second position for a long time, was also forced to abandon the race on lap 44 due to brake issues. The success of Ferrari was completed by the second and third place obtained respectively by Phil Hill and Ritchie Ginther, who preceded on the finish line the world champion Brabham on Cooper, the Swede Bonnier (Porsche), the British Roy Salvadori, the American Dan Gurney and the New Zealander Bruce McLaren, all on Cooper. The British Tony Brooks, on B.R.M., finished in ninth position and towards the end of the race established the new lap record with a time of 1'57"8 at an average speed of 117.54 km/h. At the end of the race, we learn that the British driver Henry Taylor was hospitalized because he had an accident, which luckily wasn’t serious. It was a race full of accidents and it brought to mind the 1955 British Grand Prix in Aintree, when Mercedes-Benz dominated the Grand Prix, but at the bottom of the field there was a glimpse of hope for England, as Vanwall went very fast for a short time. Two years later, in 1957, Vanwall won the British Grand Prix in Aintree, and the following year Vanwall won the Constructors' World Championship, starting the supremacy of Great Britain in the Grands Prix that Cooper ran in 1959 and 1960. 


Can we say that the glimpse of hope this year is represented by Ferguson? Now the ranking sees Wolfgang von Trips leading the World Championship with 27 points, ahead of Phil Hill and Richie Ginther, respectively with 25 and 16 points. Fourth is Stirling Moss with 12 points, while Giancarlo Baghetti is still at 9 after obtaining zero points today. In the Constructors' World Championship, Ferrari consolidated their lead by gaining more points on Lotus, bringing the gap to 22 points. The great, almost obsessive wait for Giancarlo Baghetti at the British Grand Prix was disappointed. The Milanese driver arrived at the great test in Aintree followed by the fame and passion, bewildered (although he has a quiet, reflective and measured temperament) by a certainly pleasant but equally harmful reputation. By constantly being told “you are a champion”, even the person who’s most aware of their limits ends up believing it. Now we don’t know if this was the Baghetti’s case; but we know that with all the noise made after the resounding victory in Reims, the Milanese was blamed for a responsibility probably greater than him. The most prudent ones had warned: Baghetti certainly has what it takes to be a champion, but before becoming one he will have to learn many more things, absorb race by race the experience he inevitably lacks today. So let’s not ask him to do miracles; let him race the British Grand Prix with complete peace of mind, without him worrying about the ranking. But despite everything, who wasn’t hoping that the young driver could wipe away all doubts left with a spectacular race in Aintree? And, instead, his race wasn’t lucky. The rain that made the circuit slippery doesn’t seem to be too pleasant for Baghetti who, with much greater consideration compared to some of his recent predecessors, had declared on the eve of the race:


"If it rains, I won’t risk it".


Very well, this means that he has a good head on his shoulders. In fact, for the first third of the race Baghetti remained half-hidden in the mid field, then a skid that damaged his Ferrari forced him to retire. But this experience was certainly useful for him, and it doesn’t matter if luck hasn’t been his friend. This too is useful for a young man at the beginning of his career. The rest will come later. The British Grand Prix, however, marked a triumphant victory for the official team Ferrari, reaching the top three places after overcoming the resistance of Stirling Moss who, in a generous attempt to stand his ground against the Italian cars’ drivers, complained of a bad roadholding, luckily without consequences. The track in Aintree seemed to be less favorable than others to the qualities of Ferrari and, for this reason, there can no longer be any doubt about the absolute superiority of the Italian car in front of the British and German Formula 1 cars. There are still four races left to the end of the World Championship, but it’s practically impossible that a driver of the team from Maranello doesn’t secure the 1961 title. It remains to be seen which of the three will succeed Jack Brabham. With the victory in Aintree, Trips passed Phil Hill in the ranking, but since it looks like Enzo Ferrari hasn’t decided to stabilize the positions yet, the outcome is uncertain. This has a marginal importance, after all, while it will be very interesting if the three drivers of the Italian cars will lead the world standings up to the end of the championship. Which is far from being impossible.


©​ 2024 Osservatore Sportivo


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