#85 1960 Argentine Grand Prix

2021-10-15 00:00

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#1960, Fulvio Conti, Translated by Carola Buzio, Martina Marastoni,

#85 1960 Argentine Grand Prix

In the particularly short winter hibernation between the 1959 and 1960 seasons of motor sports, the only important event was at the end of December 19


In the particularly short winter hibernation between the 1959 and 1960 seasons of motor sports, the only important event was at the end of December 1959: the traditional gathering with the announcement of the program of technical and competitive activities for the season of 1960. Scuderia Ferrari was the first to announce their battle plans: therefore, we know that the Formula 1 cars that will defend their colors have been extensively modified in the rear suspension and in the weight distribution, while the engines will still be those of 1959; we then know that the official team will be formed by only three drivers: Phil Hill, Cliff Allison and Wolfgang von Trips. Wanting to make a summary of the teams that will meet in the world championship trials, the cars from Maranello in 1959 reported great difficulties in exploiting the huge power of their engines. The upgrading work carried out by the technicians from Modena aimed at improving the grip of the wheels on the ground, as well as the stability of the car on fast turns. Once this difficulty is faced, the 1960 Ferrari should be able to fight against the impressive British Formula 1. First of all, Cooper, which in the 1959 season amazed both the technicians and the fans with their exceptional - and partially not expected - performance. Needless to say, Jack Brabham won the World title driving a Cooper. No news about these amazing cars, built in a simple garage in Surbiton, is announced; the drivers of the official team will still be Brabham, McLaren and Schell. Stirling Moss, on the other hand, continues to compete, always driving a Cooper, for Rob Walker’s racing team, who’s the rich heir of a dynasty famous for their whiskey. Meanwhile, the B.R.M. has prepared a new car with rear engine (it was possible to see the prototype Monza, during the tests of the Italian Grand Prix of 1959), but it seems that their debut is postponed until spring. In the Argentine Grand Prix are racing two old car models, assigned to Bonnier and Dan Gurney, the North American who preferred the British pound of B.R.M to the Italian lira of Ferrari. Even the Aston Martin, after the uncertain appearances of 1959, will be in contention starting from Monaco Grand Prix. David Brown’s team won the world title for sports cars in 1959, and now decided to bet everything on Formula 1, with Roy Salvadori, Ron Flockhart and, probably, the French champion, Maurice Trintignant. Vanwall, which after a year off seems determined to join the competition again, remains if it is true that Tony Vandervell’s racing department, although reduced in number, never stopped studying and experimenting around the car that in 1958 worried Ferrari.


In 1960, the Scarab, the first American Formula 1 car, finally appeared on track. But it looks like the difficulties encountered in its development are higher than expected by the optimistic Lance Reventlow (necessarily: he has a fortune worth millions of dollars), promoter of the initiative. Finally, it should be noted that Maserati, although faithful to the program of officially abstaining from direct competitive activity, not only has prepared special engines for the cars (with Cooper chassis), but a new lightweight chassis as well. This is the situation on the eve of the resumption of hostilities, but everything will be clarified only at the beginning of the season, especially with regards to the accommodation of drivers not yet arrived. For example, the case of Tony Brooks: despite the proclaimed retirement from racing, they say that he can do something with Vandervell. After 1958, the car season began again with the Argentine Temporada, which as in the past was divided into three races. The 1000 kilometers race, valid for the world sport cars championship, was held in Buenos Aires on Sunday 31st January 1960. After a week, on Sunday 7th February 1960, the most important event: the Formula 1 Argentine Grand Prix, the first round of the world championship. Finally, the Buenos Aires Grand Prix (Formula libre) will be held in Córdoba on Sunday 14th February 1960, ending the Argentine Temporada. Not all teams taking part in the series of Argentine races are interested in the competition, but there are brands that in the 1959 season were the subjects of comparisons ended only in December, in Sebring, with the United States Grand Prix. The main interest is focused on the Argentine Grand Prix, where the Cooper World Champions - also thanks to Jack Brabham, fifth driver to arrive to the highest motor racing title after Farina, Ascari, Fangio and Hawthorn - must show that they are able to contain the attacks of a rejuvenated Ferrari. Scuderia Ferrari start with only three official drivers: Phil Hill, Allison and Trips; others can be added for sports racing. Tony Brooks said he wanted to retire from racing and did not renew the contract with the manufacturer from Maranello. However, there are rumors of a possible agreement between the friendly and elegant driver from London with a British team, which could be Vanwall. Mister Vandervell didn’t abandon the ambitious project of obtaining the World Championship with his cars, resoundingly going back on track after a year off.


In the Argentine Grand Prix, in addition to Ferrari, the Cooper and the B.R.M. will certainly be able to compete. The new World Champion Jack Brabham - supported by Trintignant and McLaren - is entitled to be Cooper’s first driver, while Stirling Moss - who for several years vainly pursues the title - will continue to compete driving the Cooper-Walker, which is the same car of Surbiton redesigned by the team of the British millionaire Robert Walker, son of the king of whiskey. However, Moss’ participation in the Temporada is not certain, who is used to making the most out of the cars assigned to him (and therefore often doesn’t finish the races), complains of not being able to count on a reliable car. Schell and Gregory will be driving Cooper, while Menditéguy and Bonomi will drive Cooper-Maserati. The B.R.M. have prepared a new model with rear engine, whose first official release seems however postponed by a few months. For the race in Buenos Aires, the registered B.R.M. Type '59 are two, with the drivers Bonnier and Gurney, who in the previous season was part of Ferrari. These are the forces that will be faced in the Argentine Grand Prix, to which must be added the unforgettable Froilán González (to whom Ferrari will assign one of their cars for the occasion), Gino Munaron and Giorgio Scarlatti on Maserati. On Sunday 31st January 1960, as mentioned, the Argentine Temporada begins with sports cars in the 1000 Kilometers, race that will be held, as in previous years, on a circuit of 9476 meters which partially includes one of the various tracks of the city circuits of the Argentine capital and the streets adjacent to it: a quite fast track which requires a considerable effort, that will have to be repeated eighty times for a total of 1004.489 kilometers. Ferrari also takes part to the first race of the Temporada, the only official team registered with cars at the limit of displacement (which for motor sports, as we know, is three liters). The other is the German Porsche with its 1500 normal engine or increased up to a maximum of 1700 cm³. The registered remaining cars are all privately owned or belong to European or American teams: mostly Ferrari, old-fashioned Maserati, Porsche and Osca 1500. Then there is a group of Ferrari Gran Turismo mainly driven by young Italian drivers, invited to take part to this great adventure that, for more than one of them, could be the chance of a definitive international launch. It is believed that Ludovico Scarfiotti will also be racing, who seems to have been asked to participate even in the 1000 Kilometers with one of the three official Ferrari. 


For the absolute victory, as mentioned, the cars from Maranello should have nothing to fear, even if the agile Porsche are not to be underestimated. It will be interesting to follow the test of the special Maserati four-cylinder assigned to Masten Gregory and an Argentine driver that still needs to be chosen from the many members of the 1000 Kilometers. At first, this car should have been driven by Stirling Moss, who instead decided to participate to the next two Formula 1 races, driving a Cooper. The pairings driving the 12-cylinder Testa Rossa will be Phil Hill-Ginther, Allison-González and Trips joined by another driver hired on site. For the occasion Froilàn González, the unforgettable Argentine champion who had been Fangio’s great rival, is part of the team from Maranello. González will be taking part, always on a Ferrari, also in the two Grand Prix that will complete the Temporada. Another well-known Argentine driver who gets back to the limelight on this occasion is Carlos Menditéguy (and polo champion): he will race on a Maserati 3000 paired with Roberto Bonomi. Among the official Porsche team are Bonnier, Graham Hill, Barth, Herrmann, Seidel, Gendebien and Shelby; a fierce lineup. However, it is Masten Gregory (on Maserati) who sets the best time in practice in Buenos Aires. Many drivers will improve - during the day on Friday - their lap times, during the tests ahead of the 1000 Kilometers of Buenos Aires. The American driver completes an entire lap in 3 '24", with an average speed of 166.802 km/h. After Gregory, the best times were obtained by the German Trips (on Ferrari) in 3 '26’’, the American Paul Ginther (on Ferrari) in 3' 26"9 and the British Allison (still on Ferrari) in 3 '28"8. But on Sunday 31st January 1969, as expected, Phil Hill and Cliff Allison won the 1000 kilometers in Buenos Aires on a Ferrari 3000. Another Ferrari, driven by the American Paul Ginther, paired with the German Trips, finished second. The start at the Municipal Circuit is given at 5:30 p.m. in front of a huge crowd, despite the high summer temperatures. The former World Champion, Juan Manuel Fangio, lowered the flag, letting the 22 cars start the race. Dan Gurney’s Maserati 2800 (four-cylinder) took the lead, followed by Ferrari 3000 driven by Phil Hill and González (who had taken the place of the British Cliff Allison, who got sick before the start). The drivers have to travel along the circuit that winds partially on the track of the circuit, and along the Avenida General Paz, which goes up to the districts of Florida and Rivadavia, on the Rio de La Plata. 


It is exactly on this great avenue that a very serious accident takes place. Just before the end of the first lap, the American driver Harry Blanchard, driving a Porsche 1600, loses control of the car which, after a few turns, bumps against a protection barrier and overturns. The driver falls on the tarmac, while the car, which bounced back on the track, gets run over by the Porsche 1500 of the Swiss Henry Walter. As the race continues, an ambulance takes the American driver to the Salaberry hospital; but as soon as the nurses leave the stretcher in the rescue room, the driver loses his life because of a skull fracture. Shortly after, in the same hospital, was also treated the Swiss Walter: doctors diagnosed a chest injury, but without serious consequences. Meanwhile, during the twenty-second lap, Dan Gurney is always in the lead and continues to proceed at very high speed, beating for the second time the track record at an average speed of 167.900 km/h. Then comes Hill’s Ferrari, which on lap 37 stops at the pit: Gonzalez gets out of the car and Cliff Allison, who recovered from his sickness, takes his place. His condition is now perfect and the British quickly manages to recover the gap and overcome Gurney. The two Ferrari drivers carry on leading the race, and halfway through it they have behind them the other Ferrari 3000 driven by the pair Trips-Ginther, the Maserati 2800 of Gregory-Gurney, the Porsche 1500 of Gendebien-Barth (who will retire after four laps) and the other Porsche 1500 of Hermann-Trintignant. At the fifty-seventh lap the pair Gurney-Gregory is forced to abandon the race due to some mechanical failures. At this point Munaron from Turin and Todaro from Veneto are at the top of the Grand Touring class, starting on a Ferrari 3000. The American Phill Hill and the British Cliff Allison continue in their fast race, having no other opponent until the finish line, as well as the other Italian car. The Argentine Temporada car had its first episode with the 1000 kilometers of Buenos Aires for the sport cars World Championship and continued on Sunday 7th February 1960 with the most important and awaited race of the beginning of the season: the Formula 1 Argentine Grand Prix, first round of world championship. The engines and drivers - are the same as last year, while the debut of new or renewed cars made in Great Britain (B.R.M. with rear engine, Aston Martin, Vanwall) and the United States is postponed to spring. We will see the Ferrari, the Cooper and the B.R.M. seen in the 1959 season, until the final round of Sebring in December. 


Will Cooper’s overall dominance, which allowed Jack Brabham to win the title, exist also in 1960? It is not possible to answer yet. However Ferrari, not considering it convenient to prepare a completely new car, has made significant changes to its '59 cars, trying to fix the difficulty of using all the engine power, which is higher than that of the British cars. That is, improving the ground grip of the wheels. For this reason, the technicians from Maranello created a new rear suspension and a different weight distribution. However, the engine, which in the four-shaft version and double ignition provides an output of 280 horsepower, remains unchanged. The attack begins to distance the new champion Jack Brabham from the title. A lot of people will try, starting with Stirling Moss, who is the strongest of all but who has never been able to reach the top. At first closed by the great Manuel Fangio, then conditioned by mechanical means which are too sensitive for the heavy foot of the British champion. The car of the British driver has suspension modified by Moss himself. But the Ferrari drivers, led by Phil Hill who has now entered the narrow circle of champions, will try as well. Ferrari shows up with four models, among which the most recent (with rear engine, side tanks and independent wheels with Dino engine) will be assigned to Phil Hill. Gonzalez will drive a 1959 modified model instead, with a rear fuel tank. The two B.R.M., which have modifications to the cooling system and engine power, are registered as well with Bonnier and Graham Hill. Gurney is the reserve driver. Lotus lined up three cars, two traditional cars assigned to Stacey and the Argentine Larreta and a brand new one that will debut this season, assigned to Innes Ireland. Lotus also follows Cooper’s path, putting the engine behind the driver. The engine adopted is the Climax. The official Cooper-Climax are two, assigned to Brabham and McLaren. Trintignant will be Stirling Moss’ partner, while Harry Schell drives the fifth Cooper 2200 cc engine. On this occasion, the team is also present with two Cooper-Maseratis assigned to Menditeguy and Bonomi. Five more Maseratis and Masten Gregory’s Porsche-Colotti complete the line up. It should be noted, for the purpose of the world ranking score, the amendment to the regulation made in 1960: the point for the fastest lap will no longer be awarded, while a point will be awarded to the first six drivers. 


In short: 8 points for the first driver, 6 for the second, 4 for the third, 3 for the fourth, 2 for the fifth and 1 for the sixth. It’s a small variation, but it has a certain weight on the general economy of the World Championship. We have to remember that in 1958 the late Mike Hawthorn secured the title also thanks to the 5 points won achieved with fast laps, against the 3 obtained by Stirling Moss (in the final standings, only one point divided the two British drivers). During the tests, thirteen out of twenty-two drivers managed to beat the previous record scored by Fangio. Moss, who while training lowers the record by 5.4 seconds and in official practice by 4.9 seconds, is the fastest. Ireland surprises with the new Lotus rear engine; the British driver registers the second time. Lotus is favored by the rear engine and by their light weight of only 400 kilos. The tests were extended to give the two official Cooper and the two Lotus with front engine, driven by Stacey and Larreta, the chance to do some laps. In fact, the ship which was carrying the cars was severely delayed due to an engine failure and arrived the night before the race. The first row is completed by Hill’s and Bonnier’s  B.R.M. Three Ferrari in the second row. As usual, on Sunday 7th February 1960 the Argentine Grand Prix takes place at the Autódromo de Buenos Aires on the second circuit, which is 3.912 meters long, with eighty laps to do. On the circuit stands, on a very hot day in the middle of the summer, are crowded more than fifty thousand spectators. The track, which is all turns, doesn’t allow high speeds; the most important factors for each car are therefore management and recovery. Just before the starter lowers the flag and while the cars are already lined up, a black cat crosses the track. Mechanics and policemen rush after him and make him quickly leave the circuit, but many, superstitious, look around concerned. A few minutes later, the start is given. The British Ireland (on Lotus) takes the lead, followed by Bonnier and Hill, both on B.R.M., and the two Ferrari driven by Phil Hill and González. Brabham is sixth. Stirling Moss, who proved to be the fastest in training, is in sixth position. Bonnier then takes the lead, as Ireland spins, but Moss, with a furious chase, overtakes him on lap 15. Even Bonnier, at ease with the new Lotus, attacks and on the twenty-first lap takes the lead again. During the thirty-sixth lap, Moss overtakes Bonnier once again and takes the lead, while Graham Hill, who’s fourth, is forced to retire due to a burping valve spring. 


Stirling Moss retires on lap 41: the rear suspension on his Cooper Climax broke. Shortly after he is followed by the Australian Jack Brabham, defending World Champion: his Cooper Climax has an irreparable oil pressure loss. Phil Hill is also forced to pit, due to a broken radiator sleeve; but the American driver, by fixing the car, starts again. On lap fifty-six Moss goes back on track driving the Cooper Climax of the French Trintignant (who gives his place to the British because of a sudden and strong toothache) and begins his furious chase. Bruce McLaren takes the lead on lap 71, as Bonnier has to pit due to a broken spring return valve and keeps the lead until the finish line. Meanwhile, Ireland begins to have some steering problems. Stirling Moss managed to recover and finishing ahead of Cliff Allison, third, but didn’t collect points, as required by the new sports regulations. During the race, the Italian driver Giorgio Scarlatti, on Maserati, is forced to retire due to mechanical failure, engine overheating, during the eleventh lap. Three other drivers - the Spaniard Antonio Creus, on Maserati, the British Allan Stacy, on Lotus, and the Italian Ettore Chimeri, also on Maserati - are instead forced to retire because they had a sunstroke. The Argentine Grand Prix, the first round of the world championship, has kept faith with its traditions, this means it is often characterized by an unexpected result. In fact, the young New Zealander Bruce McLaren won while driving a Cooper. Neither the tests, nor the development of the first three quarters of the race suggested that he could be such a talented driver. It should be noted, however, that McLaren won the United States Grand Prix in December 1959, held in Sebring, the final race of the world title of the previous year, revealing a considerable class. Both in Sebring and in Buenos Aires, the 23-year-old driver saw his way to the victory as the cars of the opponents had initially dominated: starting with the unlucky Stirling Moss (who had to change a mechanical component to finish third on Trintignant’s car, but according to the new rules his placement doesn’t count even partially in the score for the world title), to the Swedish Bonnier (B.R.M.), brilliant in the fight with Moss and – with twenty laps to go - first with great advantage, up to the World Champion Brabham (Cooper Climax), who also couldn’t count on fate. However, the British cars, both the older models such as the Cooper and the B.R.M., and the recent rear-engined Lotus, have shown a high level of efficiency. The renewed Ferrari, despite Allison’s second place, did not convince, confirming to be unsuitable on curvy tracks. As for the Italian drivers, we can remember Munaron’s tests. 


The Italian raced with an old Maserati, managing to reach the finish line within the first thirteen drivers. The exact position was known only a few days later, following a new rectification of the arrival order. In this regard, the Argentine newspapers strongly criticized the organization of the race made by the Argentine Automobile Club and, in particular, the confusion and delay in communicating the drivers’ positions to the press. Bruce McLaren, the unexpected winner of the Argentine Grand Prix, is a young and unathletic man who always smiles; he was born in 1937 in New Zealand, where he began his career as a driver, like most of the great drivers of motor sports. Good luck helped him by taking away his more experienced and talented opponents, but it would be unfair to say that McLaren won only thanks to his luck. The truth is that the New Zealander is an astute and intelligent driver, who knows how to manage the mechanical components until the appropriate time to give the final effort (that’s why it’s also important to be a good mechanic). Far from being flashy, McLaren has many things in common with the new World Champion. The great favorite was Stirling Moss who, as usual, amazed everyone in the tests before Christmas and, after a difficult start, had definitely taken the lead, until his car betrayed him. Something that happens to the British champion quite frequently: bad luck or even a too heavy hand (and foot)? Meanwhile, Moss didn’t collect any point for the world ranking. Despite having finished the race in third position, after Trintignant’s car, in these cases the regulations don’t assign any point to either driver. However, Joakim Bonnier’s misfortune was even more sensational. The Swede, after a long duel with Moss and after he retires, led the race on his own with a very wide advantage (and there were about eighty kilometers to the end of the race) when his B.R.M. broke down and forced him to stop at the pits, losing almost two minutes. These two twists paved the way to victory for the careful McLaren. Allison’s Ferrari came in second place, Trip’s in fifth, but the Italian cars showed more consistency and tightness on the long run than brilliance of behavior. These are qualities that count, but they are not enough to face the opponents who have already shown great progress since last year. If, on one hand, Cooper won another race, the B.R.M. seems definitely grown (and a new car with rear engine is ready). 


Even the modest Lotus have created a new vehicle which with Ireland remained among the first drivers for a long time. It will therefore be a very hard season for Scuderia Ferrari. At the end of the Argentine temporada, on Sunday 14th February 1960, the French driver Maurice Trintignant, on Cooper-Climax, won the Buenos Aires Grand Prix held in Córdoba, 700 kilometers away from the Argentine capital. Fourteen cars lined up at the start of the last race; this is because Scuderia Ferrari doesn’t take part to the Grand Prix. In this regard, the President of the Sports Committee of the Argentine Automobile Club, Raúl Ferminovi Oguirre, asks the FIA to suspend the Italian team from the rest of the 1960 sporting events. But in teams close to Ferrari the withdrawal is justified by the fact that the Italian team only have the cars that raced in Argentina on the first Sunday of February and that must be prepared for the next activity. But it will be noted that with the agreement signed in December 1959 Ferrari committed to participate only in the two Argentine races valid for the world title. The temperature in the shade is about 38 degrees; the track temperature is 55 degrees. The track presents many difficulties: many turns without protection, with continuous ups and downs, put a strain on the competitors along its 2117 kilometers. World Champion Jack Brabham (on Cooper) starts on pole and at the end of the first lap is clearly leading the race. Behind him, respectively, with different gaps are the New Zealander McLaren, the American Dan Gurney, the French Trintignant, the Argentine Menditéguy and the Swedish Bonnier. The Italian Gino Munaron, on a Maserati, starts with a delay, but immediately is in hot pursuit. The British Ireland (on Lotus) retires on the first lap due to mechanical issues, but returns to the race on the twenty-second lap, driving the British Allan Stacey’s car. On lap 13 the Argentine Menditéguy left the race, while Brabham set the best time in 1'29"1. Trintignant then takes the lead, taking advantage of the World Champion’s pit stop, which later will have to retire, together with McLaren.


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