"My health no longer allows me to continue in such a heavy commitment".
Vandervell’s cars, as you will remember, had raced last year, with Moss and Brooks, six of the ten Grand Prix valid for the Formula 1 World Championship, without however being able to prevent the conquest of the title by Hawthorn and Ferrari. Vanwall’s retirement had already been discussed after the Casablanca Grand Prix. In that race, the third driver, Stuart Lewis-Evans, had lost his life, and Vanderwell was deeply disturbed by it, so much so as to express precisely intentions of renunciation.
However, the small team of technicians and mechanics financed by the English manufacturer had continued to work around the machines, setting up those that were to take part in the races of 1959. Now, the defense of the British colors remains the responsibility of B.R.M. and Cooper, modest organizations that it seems can not fill the gap left by Vanwall. One wonders, however, whether such efficient material as Vanderwell’s Formula 1 should and can be scrapped. It would not be surprising if in England there were some groups willing to take over and continue the activity on the circuits. Meanwhile, what will Stirling Moss and Tony Brooks do? It is unlikely that they will remain on foot, but the available Formula 1 single-seaters are rarer than ever.
If in Europe racing car manufacturers are now reduced to only three names, it seems that a new initiative can come from the United States, where the 23-year-old son of Barbara Hutton, Lance Reventlow, after having made a decent sports car - The Scarab - is completing the construction of a Formula 1 car. It is not likely that the attempt has immediate success, but this is still to demonstrate how the interest in motoring tends to move from Europe to America. With Moss and Brooks out of work, the pilots' cadres are now defined. The new world champion Mike Hawthorn has retired from the competitive activity, but other names enter the increasingly restricted circle of Formula 1 car conductors. They are mostly British; no Italian, however, neither married nor as an isolated.
There are also young people in Italy who seem technically well equipped, but whose limits are unknown. And you can’t set limits unless you put them to the test. You have seen so many hopes collapse as soon as you climb a step. The real champions come out quickly, but they can only be recognized as such when their behaviour at the wheel of very powerful machines is positive. But if they themselves do not have the means necessary to procure and maintain an efficient sports car of large displacement (not talking about the unattainable single-seater, and the now very rare manufacturers do not feel able to meet certain risks)There’s no way forward. The fact is that you will not see this year Italian racers in the Grand Prix car. But a lot of good people are looking for remedies to overcome this crisis.
For example, the pilot schools in Rome and Modena, under the direction of Giuseppe Farina and Louis Chiron, respectively, have arisen. It’s likely that practical teaching can result in something useful for the training of new pilots; it’s less likely that samples will come out of it. The usefulness and function of these pilot schools has been much discussed. Giuseppe Farina, who understands racing problems and runners like few others, is unreservedly supporter of the initiative. The former World Champion claims that if it is true that pilots are born, the task of schools is to identify the best endowed elements, and then refine them through teaching. Limited to this task, we can certainly agree on the usefulness of schools. But will a full degree be enough to convince the teams to hire the newcomer? The difficulties will begin at this point. And how is it that in England every year some new class rider comes out? Is it not because, across the English Channel, motor sport is organised with simpler criteria, it is run with any car (that is, without excessive exposure of capital), and without other ambitions than to make sport?
Certainly not everything is so simple even in England, but if it is the facts that count, something good must be there, and this something consists precisely, say some, in the different conception of the races and the different organizational criteria. Maybe that’s the problem. But that it is easy to change the structure of motorsport in Italy, and especially the mentality of the practitioners, is another matter. We therefore trust pilot schools: if the approach is right, the results will not be lacking. I learned the decision of the retirement by Anthony Vandervell, Wednesday, January 21, 1959 Enzo Ferrari (who manages to anticipate Colin Chapman, since on January 20, 1959 offers Brooks to drive for Lotus) personally writes a letter to Tony Brooks to thank him for having accepted the invitation for a meeting in Maranello, invitation made by telephone by Romolo Tavoni on 18 January 1959.
A few days later, Tony Brooks, accompanied by his wife Pina, a beautiful girl from Pavia married the year before, arrives in Maranello. Ferrari escorted them on a visit to the factory and the racing department before inviting them to his office, which he kept carefully in half-light because it rose the large photograph of Dino hanging on the wall and illuminated by three lights in the colors of the Italian flag. Elegant in double-breasted grey - as Ferrari is slowly learning to dress with an unsuspected style just a few time before, when it was not uncommon to see him with his pants too short to show his socks or underwear that somehow sprouted from his pants - he illustrates to Brooks the programs of the 1959 season. There would not have been a first guide until the championship had taken a certain shape and, even then, those who would have received such status would not have had carte blanche, but always had to submit to its directives.
Ferrari tells Brooks that, in addition to Formula 1, he wants him as a driver of his Sport cars. Brooks accepts, provided however that he does not compete in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, point on which, in reality, he expects some resistance from Ferrari, which is not manifested. In half an hour, driver and constructor reach the sporting and economic agreement, which Brooks considers generous compared to the standards he is used to: half of the starting and ranking prizes, bonuses for accessories such as gasoline and lubricants and a monthly advance of 250.000 lire. Perhaps as a kindness for the presence of a lady, during the meeting does not wear glasses with thick black frames and dark lenses that for a few years began to bring even in closed places and, outdoors, even when there is no sun. They had been prescribed to him as a precaution for weak eyes to which the light of the sun had caused trouble for a long time; but they also became, in the short time of a couple of years, a habit to disorient the interlocutor who, from behind the dark lenses, He can not feel squared even when he is not. The announcement of the engagement is announced however only Friday, February 20, 1959: it is the same British pilot to announce the agreement, from London.
Meanwhile, on Thursday, January 22, 1959, the world of Motorsport was deeply shaken when, near the Guildford Bypass, Mike Hawthorn lost control of his Jaguar Mk1 3.4 and left the road, losing his life. The disappearance of Mike Hawthorn at only twenty-nine years of age (and less than two months after his farewell to the glories and dangers of the automobile circuits) costs England. The newspapers dedicate their headlines to the mournful event and speak - as always in similar disasters - of deadly irony of fate: the champion survived countless races and numerous accidents - it is observed - perished on a quiet carriageable, while traveling at speeds that, although high, were far inferior to those he faced, and dominated, on international tracks. According to the press, this disaster should be a warning to all motorists. It has shown that driving a car always presents dangers, even for the most experienced of drivers. To fully understand the mood of the British, it should be remembered that five British riders have died in less than twelve months.
On 19 May 1958, during the Belgian Grand Prix, the Scottish driver Archie Scott-Brown died at the stake of his car in Spa. On August 3, 1958, Peter Collins died at the Nurburgring circuit. On September 21, 1958, Peter Whitehead went off the road during the Tour de France automobile and died on a mountain slope. On 25 October 1958, Stuart Lewis Evans died in a hospital in London, suffering burns at the Casablanca Grand Prix; and, in the same month, Peter Mitchell met his death on the British circuit of Brands Hatch. It is said that it was this rapid succession of tragedies that caused Mike Hawthorn to abandon the dangerous sport and today it is attributed an equal intention to the last English rider left on the scene, Stirling Moss. According to these reports, Moss was on the verge of withdrawing after the disappearance of Peter Collins: now, after the disappearance of Hawthorn, his friend, shocked and incited by his wife, the British pilot would not intend to postpone the decision any further.
All the newspapers try to reconstruct, through the account of the eyewitnesses, in detail, the disaster, to identify the possible causes. Although the diagnoses of these lightning misfortunes are never easy, the impression of most is that the fatal slip of Hawthorn’s machine was caused by a contest of several factors. First of all the speed. There seems to be no doubt that Hawthorn was advancing at quite remarkable speed, at 130 km/h. The best proof is the state of his car that, after the final impact against a slender tree along the edge of the road, is torn and crushed. There is also the testimony of Major Saint Clair, who was surpassed by the mighty Jaguar of the champion a few minutes before the disaster.
"Mike Hawthorn travelled really fast, maybe a hundred miles an hour".
The road is wet and therefore slippery. The wind is very strong. In addition, in some places the road surface is made even more slippery by the presence of large spots of naphtha left by agricultural tractors. It cannot be excluded that the wheels of the Jaguar have passed on one of these slippery pools and have continued to turn, unstoppable, on the surface wet by rain. The most complete description of the left (which took place in Guilford, near London) is still the one made by Bob Walker, a friend of Hawthorn, an amateur racer, whose Mercedes follows the champion’s Jaguar by a few meters:
"Mike’s car caught me at the entrance of the broad ring road in the open country. But, at a certain moment, his rear wheels seemed to no longer respond to the controls. I did not alarm myself. I thought: it takes more for Mike. One steering wheel blast and everything will be fine. But the rear wheels swayed more and more and then I realized that my friend had lost control of the vehicle. Then the Jaguar rotated on itself until its snout appeared in front of me; but, at the same time, it satiated, crazy, backwards. The car crossed the road, hit the rear fender of a truck, bumped into an obstacle, jumped on the grass, ran into a tree and stopped there. I slowed down, rushed to the wreckage, calling, Mike, Mike, Mike. I found my friend lying in the backseat. The Jaguar was unrecognizable. Mike must have died almost immediately. I couldn’t even tell if he was still breathing".
This chronicle of Rob Walker will give rise to an accusing voice. At the time of the disaster - it will change - the two friends would be engaged in a speed race, dangerous not only for them, but also for other vehicles. But Walker will refute such conjectures from the beginning:
"We found ourselves together on that stretch of road by pure combination. Mike was much stronger than me, but he had no intention of challenging me. He surprised me because he was in a hurry and I was traveling slowly. That’s all".
Mike Hawthorn was headed to London where he was expected to sign a major contract. His friend Noble, an automobile manufacturer, wanted him alongside as a technical consultant and the champion accepted the invitation. His salary would be £10,000 a year. The agreement had to be signed after breakfast. The tragedy happens at 11:55 am. Hawthorn’s tragic end puts another life in danger, that of his grandmother, an old lady of eighty-six years, very attached to her granddaughter. As soon as she was informed of the accident, she was seized by a serious heart attack and was taken to hospital.
"If he survives, it will be a miracle".
He admits a friend of the family. The old lady has already lost in the wreckage of a car another loved one, her son, Mike’s father. He died in 1951 at fifty-one years of age, driving his car, a few miles from the site of the accident involving Mike. Leslie Hawthorn had been among the first English racers and it was from him that Mike had learned the difficult and dangerous art of steering.
Also upset is the pretty Jean Howarth, the model that Hawthorn loved for a long time and that by this year would certainly marry. The 22-year-old young lady, the daughter of a wealthy industrialist, receives the news by phone at her home in Huddersfield in northern England. Soon after, the girl leaves the house and, alone, in a roaring rain, walks for two hours, weeping and sobbing, through a deserted moor. She is followed by the dog given to her by Hawthorn, to whom he had given the name Ferrari, for affectionate memory of Mike’s car.
"Mike would arrive on Saturday to spend the weekend with me and my parents. We had to make the final arrangements for our engagement. We wanted to announce it in May, the same day that Mike would celebrate his 30th birthday".
The tragic death of Hawthorn particularly affects Umberto Maglioli. The Biellese rider, still suffering from serious injuries suffered in August 1957 in Salzburg during the tests of an uphill race, admits:
"We were good friends and we entered the Scuderia Ferrari together. Mike had decided not to run anymore, but evidently his fate was marked".
John Michael Hawthorn was born on April 10, 1929 in Mexborough, Yorkshire. His father owned a motorcycle repair shop. Passionate about engines, when Mike was just two years old, he moved to Farnham, County Surrey, at the famous circuit of Brooklands, now disappeared, where he devoted himself to the development of motorcycles and sports cars. Mr Hawthorn Senior was reported missing in 1954 in a car accident, At Farnham as long as his father was alive, Mike had helped expand the workshop and carried out his business (he had become, among other things, a Ferrari dealer).
In a familiar environment so close to the engines, Mike grew up with some sort of predestination. Since he was a boy he had his first experiences riding old motorcycles and shaky cars. When at Brooklands there are races or record attempts, the young Hawthorn does not lose a beat, becomes friends with famous British pre-war drivers, such as the recordmam of the world John Cobb, Oliver Bertram, Lord Howe, Percy Maclure, and Dick Seaman. At the age of eighteen, his father gave him a 350 cross bike, on which he took part in his first off-road races, so popular in England, and won twice the Coppa del Novellino. But Hawthorn’s great passion is cars. He owns a Fiat Mickey Mouse, then a Riley and finally a Lancia Aprilia. He runs wild on the roads of Surrey, he learns, he seems to march stronger than anyone else. He wants to become a runner. The problem is mainly financial, but the young man manages to get around it. In England you run on Saturdays, wherever there is an abandoned airport or a private property with four roads; you run with cars of any type and age.
So Mike Hawthorn managed, in 1950, to borrow a motorcycle-powered rig and made his debut in Brighton, winning his first race on four wheels: his racing career began. That same year he took part in eighteen races, winning fourteen; the technicians set their sights on this gigantic young man, blond, rosy, permanently smiling, and Cooper offers him the driving of a Formula 2 car, with a 2,000 cubic centimeter Bristol engine. On a rainy afternoon in April 1952, Mike Hawthorn, at Goodwood, finally made it: on the Cooper-Bristol he was fighting against the Ferraris and the Maseratis; the race was divided into three races and he, with a lower half, managed to win two, finishing second behind González in the last.
In the following September he was in Modena, in practice for the Grand Prix of the Aerautodromo. During the tests, who more than anyone had set to observe the behavior of the then twenty-three-year-old English young man was Enzo Ferrari, the manufacturer of Modena. A connoisseur of drivers like no other, Ferrari Hawthorn made such a good impression that he decided to offer him a guide in his stable, which at that time counted on men like Ascari, Farina and Villoresi. Hot Mike, on September 14, 1952, was in the mood to overdo, and ran off the road smashing green Cooper. A few hours later, at the hospital (he was injured, but not seriously), arrived Nello Ugolini, then sports director of Scuderia Ferrari, with so much contract to be submitted to the signature of the English rider. From that day on, Hawthorn no longer moved from Modena, and wrote to his father, that for having always lived in the world of engines he had passed on his passion:
"I did it. Mike Hawthorn’s name will be in the papers a lot".
He kept his promise, but his father did not have time to attend his greatest triumphs: he died in a car accident two years later, almost on the same roads on which Mike had to lose his life on January 22, 1959, united in a tragic family fate. When Ascari and Villoresi left Ferrari at the end of 1953, Enzo Ferrari called Hawthorn and said:
"In three years, you will be World Champion".
It took longer: Hawthorn himself reminded the builder of Modena, almost apologizing, in a letter of last October, immediately after the conquest of the world title, in which he communicated the decision to abandon the sport. It took him longer, but he came. In reality Hawthorn had a long period of eclipse, due to multiple causes: a serious accident in Syracuse, in the spring of 1954, from which he came out with painful burns; his recklessness of life to which carried the fatalism of those who know the terrible risks of racing, and the consequent need not to think about those who are waiting for him the following Sunday; finally, the two-year dictatorship of Mercedes, which did not allow, if not very rarely, the affirmation of Italian car drivers. And yet, one of the few who succeeded was Mike Hawthorn, in the unforgettable Spanish Grand Prix, in Barcelona, in October 1954. It was said for a long time, in the racing circles: when Mike is in the day, no one resists him, but if things do not go well immediately, he seems to lose interest in what happens in front of him.
In his last season, that of the World Championship, Hawthorn changed suddenly, he was disciplined, continuous, always combative, aware of the tremendous responsibility of having to defend, practically only, after the death, of Luigi Musso and Peter Collins - his brotherly friend, the latter - the colors of Ferrari. Stirling Moss and Vanwall’s men were running more aggressive and confident, but Hawthorn was able to administer to the hundredth the margin of advantage in the world ranking accumulated on Moss in the first practice of the season: he gave up attacking, Perhaps he gave up some new victory for fear of compromising everything. He did it lucidly, with a true spirit of sacrifice. And he was rewarded, giving himself and Ferrari the highest title in motoring.
Leaving the scene, he asked only Enzo Ferrari to keep in the salon of his garage in Farnham the victory car, a precious, romantic heirloom. He wanted to leave behind, far away, the risks, the fears, the terrible battles on the slopes. He wanted to be an ordinary bourgeois, with his memories and trophies and Ferrari in the exhibition hall. He wanted to show that he wasn’t that crazy, undisciplined pain in the ass that most people thought he was. And he said enough, with regret, perhaps, but firmly. Death seized him just when he had told him not to run anymore because he wanted to live. All this is very human, irremediably human. He had escaped numerous serious racing accidents; particularly serious was that of Syracuse, in 1954, when his Ferrari collided with that of González: the driver suffered severe burns, from which he recovered only several months later.
The death of the reigning World Champion also costs the world of Motorsport, which was certainly prepared for its retirement but not for its disappearance. The environment was shaken again on March 5, 1959, when it was learned from London that a Russian pilot will compete this year in East Germany and Italy: announced by Radio Moscow, also stating that the host will be Vladimir Nikitin, official champion of the Soviet Union. He holds four world records and twenty Russian records. Nikitin is one of the best known drivers in the USSR. He builds his own cars, which for the body resemble the aerodynamic and wavy shape of the Renault Star streamer. In Russia there are no races reserved exclusively for Grand Prix with 2500 cubic centimeters engines as in other European nations. We pay attention mainly to the primates and with motor also of small displacement, 350, 500 cubic centimeters, are reached speeds around the 200 km/h: lately, the competitive motoring has taken also remarkable diffusion. At the end of 1958 there were also sports competitions in which the Ferraris of a Finnish team have achieved brilliant successes.
In 1958 Russian drivers were also expected at Silverstone, but at the last moment they postponed their debut on the western slopes. A Russian delegation made a tour of France, England and Italy, visiting, among other things, the Monza track. The Moscow radio gave no details about the car that Nikitin intended to drive in Germany and Italy: it is supposed to be a car with a 2000 cubic centimeters engine, capable of exceeding 250 km/ h, which have spoken a lot in the newspapers of Moscow. Previously the same conductor on a Karkov 6 has passed in test the 300 km/h. The news of the participation of a Russian in European formula races must be taken with reservations, because as has already been said in the past the event had been announced, but it had not occurred. It would certainly be of the greatest interest to see Vladimir Nikitin next to the strongest riders, and Monza could offer a magnificent field of competitions in this regard.
Waiting for any developments by the Soviet motorsport, Sunday, March 22, 1959, in Florida, will run the 12 Hours of Sebring, first round of the World Championship for sports cars. Violent hurricanes flooded wide sections of the circuit (obtained on the runways of the abandoned Hendrick air base and on the adjacent roads), preventing the smooth conduct of the official tests and making the dispute of the race problematic. But with the return of the sun the track began to dry out, so that in the late afternoon of Friday, March 20, 1959 almost all drivers can start to try on the circuit in almost normal conditions. Otherwise, a postponement of the race would have been inevitable. What matters is that the races can always take place in the most complete regularity. Great favourites are the three new Ferrari 3000, entrusted to the crews Behra-Allison, Gendebien-Hill and Gurney-Daigh (the latter is an American who will race in place of Tony Brooks, who at first it was thought should start in Sebring his new relationship with Ferrari). These cars still fit the well-known 12-cylinder three-litre engine, but upgraded (300 horsepower), while they have a new lighter chassis and disc brakes, this year adopted on all racing Ferraris.
The only opponents with some chance to engage the Italian cars are the Aston Martin of the pair composed by Salvadori-Shelby and the new Lister-Jaguar of which it is said very well, especially the one driven by Stirling Moss and Ivor Buch. However they have grounded reasons to doubt the estate to the distance of these cars. The evidence, unfortunately, is marred by a serious accident involving the American Ed Lawrence, aboard a Maserati sport. The driver, out of the track at a turn, loses control and the car overturns on fire. Lawrence’s charred body will be recovered by the fire department after a firefight, lasting a quarter of an hour. At 10:00 on Sunday 22 March 1959 the cars of the various categories shoot when the red flag of the starter lowers. Roy Salvadori, at the wheel of an Aston Martin, immediately takes the lead and gains a slight advantage. During the fourth lap, however, the Ferrari of the French Behra has a sprint and takes the lead, followed by the Ferrari of the American Dan Gurney. After half an hour of racing the Ferrari brings three cars in the leading positions, with Jean Behra in command.
After the first hour of racing the Ferraris are always in charge even if Dan Gurney has passed to the first place followed by Behra and Gendebien. The Lisler-Jaguar of Moss and Bueb is in fourth position. At the second hour Behra returns in the lead followed by Gendebien and Dan Gurney. In the meantime, an accident occurred at an Alfa Romeo driven by the Mexican Fred Van Beuren. The car flips out of the S-turn, but the driver gets away with a few nicks. After fifty-one laps, equal to three hours of running, Gendebien leads, followed by Gurney and Behra. Behind the Ferraris Moss struggles desperately with his Jaguar. At the end of the fourth hour fifty-nine of the sixty-five starters are still in the race. The positions for a while do not change. Then the three Ferraris slightly slowed down the pace, while at the same time Moss launched his offensive, and pushing deeply managed to take the lead at the end of the fifth hour of the race.
Then twist: the Ferrari of the pair composed by Gendbien and Hill is forced to retire due to rear axle failure. Immediately after, Moss retired, whose car, equipped with a new engine, does not stand the infernal pace. The two Ferraris of Daigh and Behra are thus again in the lead. Now, as Ferrari decides to put Gendebien and Hill behind the wheel of Ferrari so far driven by Gurney and Daigh, the Lister-Jaguar mechanics manage to get Moss’s car back on track, but this is disqualified because Moss has reached the pits on a motorcycle and not on foot as prescribed by the regulations. This brings us to the tenth hour. Gendebien’s car seems to be unleashed in the lead; the Belgian and his teammate Hill continue to push progressively increasing the lead over Behra. The bottom of the road is wet, but the Belgian and American car seems to run on dry land so sure is their driving. The victory of Phil Hill and Olivier Gendebien reached the end of the eighty-eighth lap.
It’s no surprise that the Ferraris made a splendid statement in the 12 Hours of Sebring. In this beginning of season only the company of Modena presents itself to the races in full efficiency, with renewed cars and a team of first-rate drivers. The brands traditionally rival to Ferrari have either left the stage (like the Maserati) or are still far from having reached a just satisfactory preparation. There were therefore no doubts about the very wide chances of victory of Italian cars in this first round of world sports championship. However, the behaviour of Modena cars in Sebring has gone even beyond the forecasts. Not so much, we repeat, for the first two places won in the overall standings, but for the constant, even monotonous superiority shown by the first to the last minute of the race. Nor can he prove otherwise the ephemeral appearance, at the command of the Lister-Jaguar of Stirling Moss and Ivor Bueb, towards mid-race. We can reasonably attribute this meteoric exploit more to the great class and indomitable combativeness of Moss than to the efficiency of a machine of undoubted quality but still summarily fine-tuned. So much so that immediately he paid the effort sustained with a mechanical failure.
Of the couple who alternated at the wheel of the victorious Ferrari - Oliver Gendebien and Phil Hill -there is nothing new to discover: the Belgian is a specialist in the races and showed it again; the American, already winner at Sebring last year with the late Collins, He is a very strong pilot, whose experts predict the possibility of arriving at the world title very soon. To the joys on the track, Enzo Ferrari is called to contrast the sorrows related to the process opened at his expense in Italy: So, on April 6, 1959 Enzo Ferrari goes to Mantua to appear as a witness before the examining judge Luciano Bonafini in the seat of the Public Prosecutor’s Office, at the city court. Ferrari was summoned to report on the incident that, twenty-three months earlier, had caused the disappearance of nine spectators and its two drivers during the Mille Miglia. Ferrari is tight, but extremely precise in his statement.
"In my opinion, the explosion of De Portago’s car occurred as a result of a collision in fast derapata on the front, at the junction about Volta Mantovana and immediately after the town of Goito, against one of the cat eyes that delimit the center of the road. It is possible that due to the high speed, the thin tread against the small obstacle, even if blunted, caused an initial crushing in cross of the carcass, which, expanding in the subsequent rectilinear by gyroscopic effect, I was able to pinch the inner tube. Whence, the sag of the wheel".
The reconstruction of what Ferrari thinks may have happened is supported by its technicians and those of Englebert, the tire manufacturer that equipped that day its cars, including of course that of De Portago.
"The explosion of the rubber, therefore, originated from the impact that I think I have so identified".
The process will continue for months and, in the meantime, on 18 April 1959 the Ferraris of Jean Behra and Tony Brooks respond to the challenge launched by Stirling Moss, finishing in first and second place respectively, at the Aintree circuit. The great British driver had stated in the previous days that his B.R.M. would beat the Italian cars without uncertainties. Moss was right only for the second part, having scored the record time of the test turning to 146.300 km/h. But he pays hard for the exploit, retiring in the thirtieth lap for mechanical troubles. The 200 miles of Aintree is the first big competition of the year reserved for Formula 1 cars. It should have given a first feedback on the new modified Ferraris (in the structure of the chassis, in the suspensions, in the disc brakes) and should also have ascertained whether Stirling Moss' statements were valid. In part, Moss kept his word: his Cooper B.R.M. proved to be handy and very fast. But she also blamed a certain fragility that was fatal to her.
Although not valid for the World Championship conductors, which will start on 10 May 1959 with the Monaco Grand Prix, the race offers many interesting ideas. First of all for the first official release of the new Ferrari, with three cars entrusted to Jean Behra, Phil Hill and Tony Brooks. As is well known, the single-seater of the firm of Modena has been deeply renewed, especially in the chassis (suspensions, weight distribution, disc brakes), compared to the model with which the late Mike Hawthorn had won the world title 1958. The tests carried out in recent times on the tracks of Modena and Monza have given so positive results to consider the new car almost unbeatable, especially as the news from the opposing field - That is, across the Channel - they talk more about disarmament than about the will to fight. The withdrawal of Vanwall had strongly contributed to such optimism, which from the technical point of view and above all of the competitive interest is also completely out of place, as Enzo Ferrari himself very realistically acknowledges. But the situation now seems to be changing.
Stirling Moss, who has just stated that for Ferrari he will never run, had a special car set up, with Cooper chassis and B.R.M.engine, which, tested in England and subsequently at the aircircuit of Modena, It would have satisfied Moss enough to make him say that he had never driven another car so fast. Generally, hybrid machines are unsuccessful, not resulting in homogeneity of setting between the different elements put together. It may however be that the initiative of Moss is an exception and is successful, made every reservation on the perhaps excessive lightness of the car (which does not exceed 400 kilos, that is about 150 kilos less than Ferrari) in relation to the power delivered by the four-cylinder B.R.M., and the tightness of this, as powerful as it is fragile, at least judging by the results of the previous year.
However, Moss and his Cooper-B.R.M. will be competing in Aintree, and some precise indication will surely come out. Meanwhile, Vanderwell has partially returned to the decisions made in January, declaring himself ready to set up a car - only one - as long as Moss agreed to fly it. And since it seems that the technicians of Vanwall have continued to work in secret around the car that for two years has been the pride of the English sportsmen, it is to be believed that even in the championship tests of this season will renew the duel Ferrari-Vanwall. For his part, Stirling Moss has made it known that on the Vanwall would compete in very fast races, while for the sinuous, slow circuits (such as Monte Carlo and, in fact, Aintree) his preferences go to the Cooper-B.R.M. At Aintree will also be in the race, among others, Schell and Bonnier on B.R.M., which the former provides surprisingly improved, and Brabham and Trintignant on Cooper.
The circuit does not allow strong speeds; it measures 4828 meters, it has seven curves, of which five with a small radius. In 1957 it was the scene of the Grand Prix of Europe, won by Moss on Maserati, who got average general and fast lap in record time. The previous year, with Cooper, Moss established himself in the 200 Miglia at an average of 137,830 km/h, while Brabham, still on Cooper, set the fastest lap at 143.140 km/h. Masten Gregory’s Cooper-Climax takes the lead at the start. Stirling Moss is behind him, followed in turn by Behra and Tony Brooks. Gregory held the lead of the competition until the nineteenth lap. Then, due to a failure, he went off track. The accident, fortunately, did not have serious consequences. Masten Gregory, however, is inexorably forced to abandon.
After the race, the American driver is Moss, but his dominance is relatively short. The Briton, as said, lowers the track record, running in 1'58"8, but in the thirtieth pass he is forced to stop at the pits. The Ferraris of Jean Behra and Brooks pass to lead the race. Their action, always regular and without the slightest hitch, contains at the end of the race a desperate counterattack carried by two Cooper-Climax, driven respectively by New Zealand Bruce McLaren and English Mike Taylor. When Behra takes the head, the head is ahead of Tony Brooks by about a minute. In the last ten laps, however, the British force and manages to reduce the gap. On the finish line the two competitors are separated by about ten seconds. The Aintree competition is attended by 70.000 spectators, who long applaud the clear success of the two Italian cars and their drivers.
The car season has therefore entered into full activity, and now every holiday day is engaged, by one or more races, and between Saturday 25 and Sunday, April 26, 1959 are scheduled three events: the Grand Prix of Syracuse and the circuit of Cesenatico, while Sunday will run the Serravalle San Marino. Of the three races, the most important is the Sicilian one, where the racing cars of Formula 2 will be engaged, that is, having the engine of maximum displacement 1.500 cubic centimeters. As you know, this will be the new limit of the future Formula 1, which will enter into force on 1 January 1961, and therefore the current litre and a half can be considered as experimental means for the now imminent change in international regulation in the most important field of motorsport. Moreover, the technical situation between Formula 1 and Formula 2 is almost identical. As among the most powerful 2500 grand prix, Ferrari’s opponents are essentially some British brands, Cooper and Lotus in the foreground, with the addition of the German Porsche.
In Syracuse we will have the first comparison of these four manufacturers, and it is first of all to note the fact that Ferrari also participates, in derogation from the decisions taken at the time by the manufacturer Modena to refrain from carrying out direct activity in Italy. Jean Behra will be in the Sicilian race the driver of the only Ferrari registered: the six cylinders last year improved and lightened, with an available power of over 190 horsepower, which for engines of one and a half liters without a compressor is a record value. The Italian single-seater is therefore the most powerful among those present in Syracuse, but neither this fact nor the value of its driver, recent winner of the 200 Miles of Aintree with Formula 1, are sufficient elements to put Ferrari safe from surprises, that the adversaries appear very fearful.
First of all, Stirling Moss is registered - whose presence is not, however, safe - at the wheel of a Cooper with Borgward engine: a combination of which is said to be a great good. Other Coopers, still driven by the German four-cylinder injection engine, will be driven by Bueb and Wicken. The same, but with the usual Coventry-Climax engine, will have as drivers Brabham, Bonnier, Gregory, Campbell. Then, on the interesting Lotus, Ireland, Halford, Zimmermann and Maria Teresa De Filippis, Seidel and the very young Christian Bino Heins on Porsche, and finally Gino Munaron on an Osca 1500 sport assimilated, for displacement, to the Formula 2, but under obvious conditions of inferiority. A nice race, in essence, that will be held on fifty-five laps of the fast circuit of Syracuse, for a total of 302,500 meters. Through avenues and roads of Cesenatico has been traced a path typically stracittadino on which will run the cars Junior and the 750 sports, preceding of a day the motorbike championship test. The Juniors offered during the previous Sunday, in Monza, an extraordinary demonstration of speed possibilities; on the circuit of Cesenatico will compete in very different but no less interesting conditions of use. All the best to go.
On Sunday, finally, the San Marino Cup will be held, on 8350 meters from Serravalle to Mount Titano. At the test, valid for the Mountain Trophy, there are almost one hundred and forty drivers of the categories tourism and great tourism. The recordman of the race, Curzio Quadrio, will defend his record (93.755 km/h average) at the wheel of the powerful Ferrari 250 GT On the same type of car will run the Turin Carlo Mario Abate and Miro Toselli. As anticipated, the most important race is held in Syracuse: Sunday, April 25, 1959 Stirling Moss, on Cooper-Boryward, to win the ninth edition of the Grand Prix car of Syracuse, international speed event reserved for Formula 2 cars. The race was held on a circuit of 5,500 kilometers in length, for fifty-five laps, equal to 302.500 kilometers away.
Fifteen riders, the best in the world at the moment, take off in front of more than 100,000 spectators, including many Maltese porters, who came from the great British island of the Mediterranean to encourage the British steering wheel axles. At the start the American Gregory takes the lead, but at the end of the first lap the French Behra is already in the lead, followed by Moss and Gregory. Brabham, Wicken, Campbell and Bueb follow in the order. On the third lap Moss attacks and Behra has to let him go. From this moment, between the French and the English begins a close duel that sees them alternating in the head every two or three laps. On the 33rd passage, Behra’s misfortune lingers. The Frenchman, in the Floridia curve, makes two laps on himself (a spin), but the driver, thanks to his extraordinary ability, manages to put the car back in line. The small incident favors Moss, who leads again to the lead, then taking advantage of more and more. At this point the race still turns on: while Moss tries to keep the advantage by forcing to the maximum, Behra, recovering beautifully, presses on the accelerator of his Ferrari and tries to reach the English.
The action of Behra is spectacular: on the fortieth lap the transalpine demolishes the record of Moss, then improved during the forty-second lap. The crowd sprints up and enthusiastically applauds at the address of this daring ace of the wheel, who struggles strenuously in the exciting final to catch the rival that precedes him. Behra did not finish his series of feats, however, and set a new record during the forty-sixth lap. For his part, Moss, approaching the end of the race, accelerates to keep the advantage within a safety limit. On lap forty-nine the last exploit of Behra, which still lowers the track record by turning in 1'59"0: nothing, however, can take away the victory to Moss.