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#91 1960 British Grand Prix

2021-10-09 01:00

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#1960, Fulvio Conti, Translated by Carola Buzio, Carlo Poddighe,

#91 1960 British Grand Prix

On Saturday 16th July 1960, Formula 1 cars and drivers prepare to take part in the British Grand Prix, which is held at the Silverstone circuit. The t

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On Saturday 16th July 1960, Formula 1 cars and drivers prepare to take part in the British Grand Prix, which is held at the Silverstone circuit. The track is characterized by the absence of long straights, making braking and the cars’ grip important rather than just the power of the engine. A situation seen already in 1959, when Brabham’s agile Cooper Climax won against rivals who lined up more powerful cars. The official track record is set by Innes Ireland who, in the International Trophy on 14th May 1960, completed a lap at an average speed of 180 km/h with his Lotus. The team had some reliability problems in the previous two years, with the Lotus 12 and Lotus 16 front engines. Therefore, Colin Chapman has decided to adopt the central rear engine on his cars. The 1960 Lotus 18 is extremely compact, with a height of about 67 centimeters and a weight of 440 kilos, using the same engine Climax FPF Cooper; apparently it doesn’t have the same handling in case of rain. During the first practice session on Thursday 14th July 1960, in the afternoon, it rains. Probably because most of the Grand Prix competitors know this circuit very well after racing in the International Trophy in May, the time available for practice isn’t very long, with the practice session on Thursday afternoon lasting only an hour. As it starts raining just before the first practice session, the drivers who didn’t prepare much have little hope of setting useful times. The Coopers quickly took the lead and set good times, only nine weeks have passed since the last time they were on this circuit, as most of the other competitors. The B.R.M. team brings Bonnier, Graham Hill and Gurney, as usual, all of them in rear-engine cars. Gurney’s car, being new, gets some last-minute changes from the team’s mechanics. Lotus see Ireland and Surtees in action with rear-engine cars. The cars have long air intakes ranging from the nose of the car to the carburetors. In addition to them, Lotus will provide Jim Clark with the latest tilted engine car that Flockhart drove in Reims. Rather surprisingly, Scuderia Ferrari registers only two cars, both are front-engine Dino 246, with Phil Hill and Trips driving. 

 

This is probably due to the fact that Silverstone is a friendly track for the locals, and with such a little time available there wouldn’t have been much hope that a new driver, arriving at the British circuit, would learn quickly. Both cars feature fanciful chrome exhaust extractors at the end of the exhaust manifolds, which appear to be purchased from the local minister of Modena. Tony Brooks ends his adventure with Vanwall, returning to Yeoman Credit; the British driver will race on a Cooper-Climax equipped with a five-speed Colotti gearbox. Gendebien has a similar gearbox on his car and has removable spoke wheels on the back. The third member of the team is Henry Taylor with a normal Cooper-Climax. Scuderia Centro-Sud brought two of their Cooper-Maserati for Gregory and Burgess, and Aston Martin registered two 1960 lightweight short-chassis cars for Salvadori and Trintignant. On Thursday afternoon there’s only one car, which is Salvadori’s. This last car is interesting, as it has been equipped with an experimental independent rear suspension, using the same torsion bar suspension and the same differential gear box; but a short upper oscillating arm was used in combination with the lower one with a wide base, while an anti-roll bar was fitted. Since the car appeared in Zandvoort, the engine has been replaced by Weber carburetors. The rest of the group of drivers is made of private owners, with Greene racing with Gilby Engineering team’s Cooper-Maserati, Fairman with CT Atkins’ Cooper-Climax, Bianchi with Fred Tuck’s Cooper-Climax and Piper with his Lotus Climax with front engine.  In this first short exit, Brabham set the best time with a lap completed in 1'36"4, two seconds slower than the official track record, while Graham Hill is the second fastest driver with a time of 1'37"4.  The only other driver to go below 1'40"0 is Bruce McLaren, with a time of 1'39"4. For the moment, the record set in May by Ireland of 1'34"2 is not endangered.

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On Friday 15th July 1960, in the morning the competitors of the British Grand Prix are granted an hour and a half of additional practice, since the weather luckily is better than the previous day. In addition to the previously registered cars, on the track there is a second Aston Martin for Trintignant. The car is equipped with de Dion suspensions and Weber carburetors. Naylor, who had his four-cylinder Maserati engine repaired after it exploded in the Leinster Trophy Race, managed to go on track as well. Of the twenty-five cars registered, only the two Cooper-Ferrari of Scuderia Castelotti were unable to arrive in time to take part in this last practice session. Since the efforts to obtain the pole position produce very interesting times, the first fifteen cars are all below 1'40"0.  Interestingly, this year’s development of grand prix cars, which had such an amazing effect on every European circuit in the different races of the World Championship, was completely absent at this British Grand Prix. And this explains why Jack Brabham, despite setting the fastest lap in practice with 1'34'6, fails to break the record set in May. Therefore, it can be assumed that the development of the racing cars of 1960 is now established, since most of the increase in lap speed is produced by the 1960 Dunlop racing tire. The reason is understandable, but using the same circuit twice in a year obviously takes away the excitement of the second race. On the continental circuits that are only used once a year, there have been surprising lap speed increases this season; therefore, it’s for this reason that the British Grand Prix lacks in interest. At the end of practice, Graham Hill scored the second-best time, followed by Bruce McLaren, Jo Bonnier and Ireland, third, fourth and fifth respectively. Lotus are not able to repeat the speed reached in May, therefore Ireland can’t go below 1'36"2, beating the time of his teammate Clark which is 1'37"0. The two Ferrari don’t seem competitive, despite the drivers are trying to tackle some turns in an aggressive way: von Trips is seventh, Phil Hill tenth. Particularly outstanding are the times set by Gregory on a Cooper-Maserati, fourteenth place, and Fairman on a Cooper-Climax, fifteenth place, since they set a time of 1'39"8 and 1'39"9. Surtees, however, isn’t very happy with his Lotus Climax: a persistent ignition error leads the mechanics to suspect that the fuel pump may be defective, but later they discover that the problem is caused by the plug wires rubbing on the bulkhead. Reventlow fails to set good times with his Cooper, so he is given Daigh’s car and the American driver immediately manages to improve his time by four seconds. Given the results obtained, it was decided to give Reventlow’s car to Daigh. After a series of secondary races, demonstrations and side shows, on Saturday 16th July 1960 the preparations for the Grand Prix began. The cars are lined up in rows of four-three-four cars. B.R.M. are very confident, as in practice they managed to position two cars in the front row, along with two Cooper-Climax.  Although he didn’t practice due to the delay of the arrival of the cars, the Italian driver Gino Munaron is still allowed to take part in the Grand Prix starting from the last row. Brabham (Cooper-Climax), who set the best time in 1'34'6, is in front of everyone. Next to him will be Graham Hill (B.R.M.), McLaren (Cooper-Climax) and Bonnier (B.R.M.). It’s up to Stirling Moss to lower the flag that will kick off the British Grand Prix, finally out of the hospital for the first time after the accident of Spa-Francorchamps. The start of the British Grand Prix is at 2:40 p.m. The twenty-five drivers entered in the race will have to complete seventy-seven laps, equal to 362 kilometers. 

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To everyone’s surprise, Graham Hill, Tony Brooks and Henry Taylor get stuck on the starting line in front of the pits with the engines stalled: all three of them start when the group leaders are almost at Becketts. Meanwhile, the two official Coopers jump in the lead, with Brabham ahead, but Bonnier and Ireland accelerate and, on the third lap, manage to pass Bruce McLaren, who was second in the standings until that moment. After this unusual start, Jack Brabham leads the Grand Prix, followed by Bonnier, Ireland, McLaren and Surtees. Since this is a short track, it will take a long time for some of the competitors to really establish any kind of advantage over any other rival, so much so that, on the fourth lap, Brabham, Bonnier, Ireland, McLaren, Surtees, Clark, Phil Hill, Gurney, Trips and Gregory, are all paired up. Salvadori, who leads the rest of the group consisting of Graham Hill and Brooks who are busy gaining ground quickly after their bad starts, follows with a slight detachment. After five laps the current World Champion was always leading the race, while behind him Ireland managed to overtake Bonnier. In the sixth lap, smaller groups began to form, the first of which consisted of Brabham, Bonnier, McLaren and Surtees, although the latter struggled to overtake the New Zealander, but succeeded in the next lap. A second group follows, consisting of Clark, Gurney, Phil Hill, Trips, and Gregory with Graham Hill at their heels, who climbed up to 11th place. Greene goes back to the pits because of the overheating engine, but starts again after a short stop. Clark isn’t satisfied with his sixth place and decides to increase the pace to reach McLaren, while Bonnier can’t contain Ireland; Lotus’ driver can’t even pressure Brabham, therefore the two drivers begin to move away from the Australian. During the eighth lap Bonnier is followed by Surtees, McLaren, Clark, Gurney, and the Ferrari drivers who are now close to each other but who, instead, have Graham Hill behind who’s about to overtake them. In just one lap Graham Hill overtook both drivers, despite Phil Hill almost reaching Gurney, when the American had problems with the gear lever and dropped immediately to 11th place, allowing Graham Hill to climb to seventh place. Bonnier was unable to contain Surtees' attacks and, on lap 11, Lotus’ driver moved up to third place. 

 

McLaren, who joined Surtees in the overtaking phase, managed to do the same to Bonnier, who dropped to fifth place, after being second. Inspired by Surtees’ example, Clark overtakes the B.R.M. first and then also McLaren, so much so that on the third lap Lotus have their cars in second, third and fourth place, while the unassailable Jack Brabham leads the race. Graham Hill leaves the two Ferrari behind and chases Bonnier. Therefore, it’s quite obvious that his unlucky start has annoyed him and at the same time loaded emotionally, now willing to catch all the drivers in front of him, driving very vigorously but, at the same, remaining completely imperturbable. Back in tenth place, Gregory leads his race with a very energetic drive, launching his Cooper Maserati through Woodcote with a glorious, controlled slide and keeping up with Ferrari. During the twelfth lap Gurney stops to fix the gear lever and Keith Greene retires before the overheating of the Maserati engine can cause more serious problems. Brooks slowly makes progress, having overtaken Gendebien and Salvadori, and being eleventh. Fairman continues his race keeping up with Gendebien, while at the back of the group Burgess leads ahead Daigh, Bianchi, Taylor, Piper, Trintignant, Brabham and Ireland who lapped the last driver in the race, which is Munaron. On the nineteenth lap Graham Hill is now close to Bonnier, and one lap later he is behind McLaren, while Clark manages to overtake Surtees, so that Lotus are now in numerical order also on track (#7, #8 and #9). The only obstacle for the British team is Jack Brabham, who is still in the lead and seems impossible to overtake. After getting rid of Bonnier easily, Graham Hill attacks McLaren and overtakes him in two laps. After that, the British driver goes and chase Surtees. From the pits it seems that Brabham’s advantage is no longer so secure. Brooks catches Gregory, but the American driver’s car sliding in the turns makes the cautious British driver even more careful. That explains why Brooks takes several laps to overtake him. During the 28th lap Graham Hill is now behind Jim Clark and John Surtees and, during the next lap, all three drivers return to the pits, inevitably reshuffling the positions. 

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While Brabham is four seconds ahead of Ireland, they both start to worry about Graham Hill’s progress in the standings. During the thirtieth lap, Ireland sees Surtees ahead of Hill and Clark, but during the next lap Hill overtakes Surtees. With the B.R.M. of the British driver now in third position and approaching Ireland, the three drivers approach the Lotus driver. Meanwhile, Brooks overtakes Gregory and is now chasing the two Ferrari, who are still very close, exchanging places from time to time, always remaining in eighth and ninth position. Hill’s chase is truly spectacular: after thirty-seven laps, about halfway through the race, the B.R.M. driver is already in second position, not too far from Jack Brabham. But while this happens, Brabham takes advantage of the traffic to increase his gap over the British rival. As Brooks tries to overtake the two Ferrari, Brabham laps all three cars between lap 42 and lap 46. Meanwhile, Roy Salvadori stops at the pit to complain about his car: after a short consultation, his mechanics disassemble and examine the steering and the suspension, but obviously there is nothing wrong so the British driver returns on track, but retires on lap 47, as well as Fairman, who retired because the persistent ignition error wasn’t allowing him to continue the race. When the leader completes the lapping, Brabham has a seven-second lead over Graham Hill, who instead moves away from the group of Ireland, Surtees and Clark, while Bonnier is in sixth place and McLaren comes back in seventh. In the general excitement, Brooks manages to overtake the two Ferrari, while Gregory stops temporarily, being forced to return to the pits to check his car. During the following laps, Graham Hill did an amazing job, and from having a seven-second gap from Brabham he recovered to only a gap of a second and a half at the end of the fifty-first lap. During the fifty-second lap the British driver managed to bring his B.R.M. behind Brabham’s car, and on the fifty-third lap he caught his rival. During the fifty-fourth lap Brabham did everything to avoid being overtaken and keep the B.R.M. behind him, but on the fifty-fifth lap Graham Hill was leading the race. Meanwhile, Ireland begins to hear strange noises coming from his car: first from the front hub, then from the rear. Therefore, the British driver is overtaken by Surtees and Clark, falling to the fifth place. 

 

In the last positions, Piper is doing a wonderful race, paired with Trintignant, and not far behind, Taylor and Daigh are also engaged in some full contact duel, with Gendebien and Bianchi trying to keep up, but without success. On lap 58, Lotus called Jim Clark to the pits, because the front suspension on his car broke: but although they fixed it, the Scottish driver managed to continue only at a reduced speed. Shortly after, during the sixtieth lap, Bonnier slowly approached the pits with the rear touching the ground, as one of the rear coil springs broke. Although Graham Hill reached and overtook Brabham quite easily, distancing the Australian driver is far from easy, because the Cooper driver - in a brown outfit - is not going to give up so easily, holding on to the rear of the B.R.M. On each lap, Brabham follows Hill taking advantage of the moments when his rival’s car is slower, keeping the pressure high and creating a greater distance from the rest of the group. In third place follows John Surtees, who did a consistent race, followed by Ireland, who lost time after his mechanics checked the left rear hub of his car, and McLaren, in fifth position. Although it’s over half the distance, still a surprisingly large number of cars is still on the track. For exampleboth Munaron with the Cooper-Ferrari of Scuderia Castellotti and Naylor with his J.B.W. Maserati continued regularly, although with a delay, while Gurney gained some positions after doing his pistop. In addition to the drivers already mentioned, only Ian Burgess and Chuck Daigh have retired, leaving Taylor just ahead of his teammate Gendebien, as well as Bianchi, who has stopped since the sixty-second lap due to a sheared magnet drive. On lap 68, Hill and Brabham overtook McLaren and, on lap 70, the British driver led a second and a half ahead of the Australian. The two drivers are about to lap some of the slower cars for the third or fourth time. Brabham continues to follow Hill’s B.R.M., never wasting time when overtaking a slower car. By now the rhythm maintained by Hill leads us to think that the British driver can win, despite the fact that he hasn’t been driving for a long time with both physical and mental fatigue, due to the effort and to the pressure put by Jack Brabham that pushes him to drive to the limit. But there’s also the thrill of knowing that the possible victory of the British Grand Prix is favorable to him. For all these reasons, it’s not surprising when at Abbey, while overtaking some slower cars, Graham Hill goes off track due to a spin and is forced to retire. 

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The brake wasn’t working well and for a long time the British driver had braked two or three times to control its functioning. This, together with the general effort, leads him to make a perhaps trivial mistake. But given the circumstances, and with Brabham on his heels, this small mistake becomes crucial, and his race ends prematurely, luckily without any serious consequence. His B.R.M. stops, and Graham Hill, very unhappy, is forced to walk back to the pits, while a smiling Brabham wins his fourth Grand Prix in a row. John Surtees finishes almost unnoticed in second place, because he did a consistent race and therefore not spectacular, but with such precision as to shame many colleagues who are much more experienced. Ireland, third, is the only driver together with Surtees to complete the seventy-seven laps. Bruce McLaren follows in fourth position who precedes Tony Brooks and Wolfgang von Trips, who won the duel with his teammate. The only Italian driver in the race, Gino Munaron, finished 15th. The Australian driver is now leading the standings of the drivers' championship and seems prepared to a brilliant confirmation of the title. Three were the protagonists of today’s race: the winner Jack Brabham, always in the lead for the first fifty-seven laps and returned to the lead towards the end of the race. The British Graham Hill, who overtook the world leader on lap 58 after a good chase and was then forced to stop because he went off track, and the other British John Surtees, who got a brilliant second place. John Surtees has always been in the top positions and his performance has been particularly appreciated, considering that he was better known to sportsmen as a rider. In the world of two wheels, Surtees won many world titles and established himself as one of the best riders in the world. Following the footsteps of Nuvolari and Varzi, the British rider switched from motorcycling to car racing with some success in the first race. The second place, in a race like the one held at Silverstone is very respectable, confirms the attitude of the motorcycling World Champion in this category. Next season we will know if Surtees is a champion even on four wheels,  when he will have the time to prepare, since this season is coming to an end already. The winner is congratulated by Stirling Moss, the unlucky driver who is still recovering after a serious accident during the Belgian Grand Prix. Moss, warmly applauded, also made a lap of honor in an open car before the start. Jack Brabham is getting closer to the second world champion title. 

 

At Silverstone the Australian scored another important success and, after this race, leads the standings five points ahead of the teammate Bruce McLaren, the only one who theoretically still has a chance to pass him. But the class difference between the two drivers is so clear that, if everything proceeds regularly in the last three races of the season which are the Grand Prix of Portugal, Italy and the United States, there could be no doubt about who will win the 1960 World Championship. Apart from Stirling Moss, in 1960 Jack Brabham is the most brilliant and consistent driver, supported by a car with an uncommon functional balance. We should keep in mind that Brabham is also a test driver and, therefore, knows the cars perfectly, creating with it a kind of man-car duo in which it’s difficult to find weaknesses. In short, the Australian certainly is about to confirm himself as World Champion, a title that, apart from Fangio who won it five times, was won only by the late Alberto Ascari. Going back to the British Grand Prix, Brabham didn’t have an easy time on the familiar circuit of Silverstone. This time it was Graham Hill who worried him and overtook him after a beautiful chase. It’s hard to say how the race would have ended without the unlucky British driver going off track. However, now there is an understandable lack of technical interest from Scuderia Ferrari, which have peacefully accepted the superiority of the British manufacturers this season. The decline of the team from Maranello should, in other words, be only apparent. With the next Formula 1 regulations, starting from the 1961 season, which will equip the cars with engines of 1500 displacement and set the minimum limit of 450 pounds of weight for the car, it will be possible to witness the Italian team succeed again. Therefore, the standings updated after six races, as mentioned earlier, sees Brabham first with 32 points, McLaren second with 27, Moss and Ireland tied with 11, and finally Gendebien fifth with 10 points. Instead, the standings of the Constructors’ World Championship sees Cooper-Climax in the lead with 46 points, followed by Lotus with 25, Ferrari stops at 16, B.R.M. 6, and finally Cooper-Maserati with only 3 points. After a short break of about a month, the World Championship will continue on Sunday 14th August 1960 on the Boavista circuit, in Oporto, with the Portuguese Grand Prix.


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