In the run-up to the French Grand Prix, the fourth round of the Formula 1 World Championship, the Nurburgring 1000 kilometre race, the third round of the world championship for sports cars, is held on Sunday, 7 June 1959. At the start, punctually given at 9:00 a.m., in front of more than 180.000 spectators, sixty-six crews divided into the various categories present themselves. Moss, at the wheel of the only Aston Martin, was the author of a lightning-fast start. The British driver got ahead of Gendebien and Brooks, and Trips and Maglioli, taking the first few corners with a clear advantage. From the various checkpoints along the circuit, the British driver steadily increased the gap to his pursuers, so much so that at the end of the first lap (i.e. after 22.810 kilometres of racing) he was more than a minute ahead of the Ferrari and Porsche representatives. In the following laps the advantage increased further and an easy triumph of the Aston Martin ace was looming until Moss gave up the wheel of his racing car to his team mate Fairman, who was not at his ease on the difficult circuit and in a few laps the advantage of the English car rapidly decreased. On lap 23 the Aston Martin's fate seemed to be sealed: in fact Fairman, in the attempt to overtake a lagging competitor, lost control of his car and went off the road, breaking through the protection barrier erected around the bend called Wippermann. In the frightening collision, the bodywork of Fairman's racing car was seriously damaged, but as the mechanical part was intact, the English racer managed to continue. In the meantime, the Ferraris of the Gendebien-Hill and Brooks-Behra pairs took the lead. On lap 25, Fairman was stopped in the pits to give way to Moss, who without missing a beat launched himself in pursuit of the Ferraris. And within four laps his car was again in first place. In the meantime, German driver Trips almost causes a serious accident: while his Porsche is launched at over 100 km/h, he loses a wheel. Luckily the driver manages to stop the racing car in time, and after a short stop at the edge of the track he can continue driving.
In another accident, however, the Swiss Fausto Mayrat (Auto Union) went off the track in a curve and was seriously injured. The 1000 kilometres of the Nurburgring ended with a resounding victory for the English couple Moss-Fairman (in an Aston Martin) ahead of the Ferrari crews of Gendebien-Hill and Brooks-Behra. First of all, it should be emphasised that the British company owes its success on the difficult Adenau track to a series of exciting feats by Stirling Moss, who, having established himself firmly at the head of the competition from the very first lap, then had to make up the delay accumulated by his team-mate Fairman on two occasions. The rules of the rainbow event for sports cars stipulate that the drivers must change after a certain number of hours in order not to overtire themselves. Whenever Moss was at the wheel of the green Aston Martin, the Ferraris lost considerable ground; in contrast, the British ace's companion, Fairman, was regularly caught by the Maranello team drivers. Thus Moss was forced to engage in gruelling pursuits every time he returned to the track. In spite of Aston Martin's victory, the Ferraris did not demerit; the six-cylinder engines of the Italian cars marched properly, and it can be said that without the exceptional feat of Stirling Moss (who reconfirmed himself as a driver of excellent class), it would have been difficult for the English manufacturer to win at the Nurburgring. Less brilliant than usual was the performance of the Porsches, which were never able to get into the Aston Martin-Ferrari duel. However, the positive performance of Italian Umberto Maglioli should be emphasised, who together with German Hermann took fourth place overall. A few days later, on Thursday, 11 June 1959, the widow of the Swiss racing driver Fausto Meyrat, who died as a result of injuries sustained in the 1000 kilometre race at the Nurburgring, demanded the indictment of Stirling Moss under the charge of manslaughter. The British driver is indicated by Mrs Meyrat as being responsible for the accident in which the Swiss driver died. It was he, says his widow Meyrat, who caused the collision that sent the Auto Union off the track by a careless overtaking attempt.
The news of the court action brought by Mrs Meyrat arouses a lot of emotion in sporting and motorsport circles throughout Europe. The Automobil Club of Germany - which organised the competition won by the British ace - comes to Moss's defence. The German sporting authorities note in this regard that an investigation was opened following Meyrat's accident, and if any irregularities had been found in Stirling Moss's behaviour, he would have been disqualified or at least admonished by the race management committee. The driver also says that he strictly adhered to the rules of racing. The testimonies that the organisers have collected so far exonerate the British racer. Meyrat - the testimonies so far established - drove into the middle of the road contrary to the rules governing sports car racing. He probably did not realise that the British champion's Aston Martin was coming up behind him. Moss, seeing the road blocked, brakes desperately, then, realising that this would not have been enough to avoid a collision, tries the only manoeuvre left to him: he swerves resolutely to the right, trying to overtake from this side. The Englishman thus avoids hitting the Auto Union head-on, but passing it touches the right rear wing. The Swiss driver's car veers towards the edge of the track, goes off the road and crashes. Meyrat, seriously injured by the wreckage, was transported to the hospital in Adenau where, forty-eight hours after his admission, he died. The State Prosecutor's Office of the City of Koblenz is now carefully examining the case. Only if Mrs Meyrat's accusations are found to be valid will formal charges be filed against Moss. In this case, the matter will be heard by a court. In an effort to make the documentation of the incident more complete, the police are inviting all those who witnessed the incident (or who otherwise have information to give) to go to the nearest gendarmerie station to give their statement. Meanwhile, Meyrat's widow returns to Zurich, and on Friday 12 June 1959, she will travel to Berne for her husband's funeral.
While the investigations continue, the world championship for sports cars continues and makes a stop at Le Mans. Between 4:00 p.m. on Saturday and 4:00 p.m. on Sunday, 21 June 1959, the 24 Hours of Le Mans will be run for the World Sports Car Championship, this famous race that evokes hallucinating memories of the terrible tragedy of 1955. But, it may be because of this sinister significance or for those other general reasons that have caused an undoubted crisis in motor sport, the 24 Hours has ceased to have the technical importance and lively interest it once had, when the French race constituted, together with the old-fashioned Mille Miglia, the most classic and eagerly awaited motor racing event in the world. Originally, the 24 Hours of Le Mans was created to compare the capabilities of fast cars actually on the market, i.e. prototypes destined to be put into production, in a long-distance test. This comparison had an indisputable value, a precise function, and its results constituted an almost absolute benchmark in the evaluation of this or that car. But there is now a profound difference between the cars that race on ordinary roads and the vehicles intended for competition, and this is why the Le Mans 24 Hours has lost its primitive significance, while retaining - on another level - its characteristic of lively technical and competitive confrontation, as well as its unparalleled spectacularity. This year's edition - the 27th in the long series - would have no particular reason for interest were it not for the situation brought about by the three previous championship races: 12 Hours of Sebring, won by Ferrari, Targa Florio (Porsche) and 1000 Kilometres of Nurburgring (Aston Martin). Scuderia Ferrari was badly beaten in Sicily, while at Adenau its surrender was more due to the great Stirling Moss than to the real superiority of the English car. The world ranking, therefore, sees Porsche in the lead with 15 points, followed by Ferrari with 14, and Aston Martin with 8. At Le Mans, Ferrari should regain competitiveness, as its three-litre cars, thanks to the superior power of the engines and the characteristics of the circuit, will be able to develop all their speed, and count on a grip at a distance that has almost always been proverbial for the Modenese cars.
The big danger, more than from the Porsches, may come from the Aston Martins, despite a significant difference in power and speed compared to the Italian cars equipped with twelve-cylinder engines. Apart from these two marques, it is hard to see who could enter the predictions, except for the interesting Lister-Jaguar and perhaps the new Lotus 2500 (entrusted to Graham Hill and Lovely) whose Coventry-Climax engine is the same as that mounted on the Formula 1 Cooper single-seaters. For the class classifications, in addition to the aforementioned Ferrari of Cabianca-Scarlatti, we point out the Cooper of Russel-McLaren and the two Porsches 1600 entered by the manufacturer (the drivers have not been designated) in the 2000; again the Porsche in the 1500; the Osca, the D.B. and the Stanguellini in the 750. The smaller cars will fight it out more for the performance index classification (which at Le Mans is considered of identical importance to the absolute classification), calculated on the basis of a theoretical formula that takes into account the kilometres covered in twenty-four hours in relation to the engine displacement. Meanwhile, at Silverstone, on Tuesday 16 June 1959, Moss tested the brand new Vanwall Formula 1 that industrialist Antony Vandervell had built in great secrecy, despite his declared intention of no longer being involved in racing. The outcome is very satisfactory: the English ace unofficially beats the track record by exactly one second and reserves the right to test the car further to see how well it holds up before deciding whether to take part in the French Grand Prix on 5 July 1959, at the wheel of the Vanwall or the B.R.M., as he had originally planned. Le Mans experiences its big days once in twelve months: on the occasion of the 24 Hours motor race. The big event transforms the small town into a cosmopolitan metropolis and the local economy derives - according to precise statistics - at least one billion French francs in revenue from it. The 24 Hours is a colossal sporting and popular festival, attended by all the great drivers of the moment and attended by 300.000 to 500.000 spectators. The presence of the greatest champions of driving is always assured at this race, even if they do not intimately love it. Stirling Moss, who succeeded the great Juan Manuel Fangio due to his technique and skill, says of this race:
"Nobody really likes racing at Le Mans. I will be at the start because my commitments with the factory require it, but if I could I would never race at Le Mans again because this race is too difficult".
The considerations of the great British driver are dictated by reasons that have long sparked controversy among racers and organisers. And they originate from the too great difference in displacement - and consequently in speed - between the small cars and the bolides, which in practice touched, with Gurney-Behra in a Ferrari, the 200 km/h mark. The problem of overtaking, especially at night, and the difference in value between the drivers, are real reasons for concern and this is why the 24 Hour race is considered more difficult than a pure speed competition. One mustn't believe, with this, that things will go slowly at Le Mans: the preliminary tests, the last of which take place on Thursday 18 June, clearly indicate that even in the 1959 edition the records are likely to collapse. The Ferrari-Aston Martin-Jaguar triple encounter begins in practice. An out-and-out prologue, which is attended by thousands of spectators and which, with the strict checking and weighing of the qualified cars, constitutes an interesting and free spectacle. To better understand what has just been said, the more reserved Stirling Moss laps his Aston Martin at an average speed of just 191.616 km/h. These speeds allow one to predict what the interest will be in the struggle that will take place over the 24 hours and the approximately four thousand kilometres that the cars will have to cover after starting at 4:00 p.m. on Saturday, 20 June 1959. This year, in addition to the rankings on distance, performance index (the latter being very complicated, since it is established in relation to the engine capacity of the car and the kilometres it has covered), the organisers have instituted a third one: that of fuel consumption.
And it is a question that is on the agenda of the technical conversations on the eve of the race, since, in addition to establishing this additional ranking, the technical regulations provide for cars with fuel tanks with a limited capacity of 140 litres. It is an issue that does indeed lend itself to controversy, since while the Porsches and Ferraris have adhered to the regulatory recommendations for their cars, the Aston Martins and Jaguars, on the other hand, have been fitted with larger capacity tanks that at the first control measurement - another will be made at the start - were found to be 180 litres. The regulation only specifies that refuelling may only be carried out at the manufacturers' stands, and at an interval of thirty laps of the circuit one from the other, specifying that failure to comply with these provisions will result in the immediate exclusion of the competitor from the race, everything suggests that the British cars will be favoured by the nonchalance with which their technicians have interpreted the regulations. Returning to the race and the drivers, it should be noted that no changes have occurred in the last few hours and that the crews that will pilot the cars of the various manufacturers are those already known. The exact list of crews will not be known until Saturday, as substitutions and even withdrawals from the race may take place in the final hours. In addition to the Ferraris, the two Alfa Romeos (1290) of Turin-based Conrero, three Osca, two Stanguellini and a Fiat (Abarth 750) that will be piloted by Mario Poltronieri and Alfonso Papani will line up. To attend this fantastic motor festival, a host of personalities came to Le Mans - which had never seen so many at the same time - including the French ministers Jeanneney and Michelet, the head of Atlantic defence General Norstud, Prince Bertil of Sweden, Prince Alexander of Yugoslavia with Princess Maria Pia of Savoy, and Prince Pahlevi, brother of the Shah of Persia. On Saturday, 20 June 1959, the peaceful city of Le Mans, on the borders of Turenne and Brittany, quadrupled its 100.000 inhabitants for two days, thanks to the famous twenty-four-hour car race, in which the most powerful racing cars in the sports category, driven by the best drivers in the world, confront each other annually on a circuit of around thirteen and a half kilometres. Ridda infernal they call this race that demands a lot from the engines, the bodies and above all the men; or fair and circus; and it is all of these things at once, indeed.
That is why its fame has always grown and people go to Le Mans with friends or family not only to watch a spectacular race, but also to have a picnic and enjoy the fun fair. It rains, generally, for the twenty-four hours of Le Mans, and it is no coincidence that the grey skies lead the organisers to pessimism; but at 11:00 a.m., when the gates open to the 6.000 seats of the grandstands and the twelve kilometres of bleachers, the sun peeps out as the crowd, in a slow stream, takes its place in the space reserved for it. The drivers arrive at the circuit shortly before 4:00 p.m., wearing white overalls, raising a round of applause that is amplified, spreading out, and then dies down to a murmur. Calmly, after a brief talk with the men in their stands, the champions cross the track to each enter a circle in front of the cars. Suddenly a great silence falls. In the official stand, the Minister for Sport and Youth, the well-known mountaineer climber Maurice Herzog, at 4:00 p.m. sharp lowered the start flag, and the fifty-three drivers dashed off in the direction of the cars. The roar of the engines all of a sudden drowns out all other noises, while in the grandstands and stands the mechanics and experts anxiously follow the start of the racing cars, knowing full well that this is one of the most dangerous moments. In a corner, alone, the Mexican brunette Rodríguez, mother of the very young Ricardo and Pedro, nervously clutches a sacred image to her chest and her lips move in silent prayer. Like her, surrounded by friends, other women - wives, mothers and girlfriends of the pilots - tremble, striving to appear calm. The infernal juggernaut has begun. Stirling Moss, in an Aston Martin, immediately took the lead, followed by the Ferraris of Gendebien, Da Silva, Ramos, but Behra soon came out on top and was the first to exceed the fantastic 200 km/h average on the lap. On lap 10, the Frenchman managed to overtake Moss, covering the track in 4'01"9. At the end of the third hour Behra-Gurney lead the race, followed by Moss-Fairmann. The positions of the top five did not change by the fourth hour. In the course of the twenty-four hours of racing, there is not a moment's respite. The 300.000 spectators lined up in groups along the route of the famous agricultural centre will experience moments of intense emotion.
Camped out under tents, they will also take turns watching over the night, when the racing cars will run with their headlights on at a speed of almost 200 km/h. After three hours Behra (Ferrari) is still first, followed by Moss (Aston Martin), Gendebien (Ferrari) and Gregory (Jaguar). By 8:00 p.m. the roaring ring of cars parading around the tough track had already lost fourteen competitors. At 9:05 p.m. Moss's Aston Martin stopped for a valve failure: Fairman, who was driving Moss's car, Aston Martin number 4, stopped at his stall, but all intervention by the mechanics was useless; the car did not restart, it seemed for a valve failure. About half an hour later, the Stanguellini piloted by the Frenchman Faure hits a car that is stationary on the track, and is in turn hit by the Cooper of the Englishman Russell. The two cars catch fire and the drivers, picked up from inside the cars in serious condition, are transported to hospital. At 10:00 p.m., on lap 129, Behra had to retire from the race. His Ferrari had set the best lap time of 4'11"9, but the strain on the engine was perhaps too much. Another Ferrari, that of Hill-Gendebien, then took the lead and for around ten hours - from 2:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. - managed to fend off the attack from the rivals. The two drivers' race is perfect: lap after lap, even in the difficult hours after dawn when a dangerous mist rises, they gain ground until they have an advantage of around twelve minutes (almost three laps) over the Aston Martins of Salvadori-Shelby and Trintignant-Frère. But at the twentieth hour the twist unfolds: the Ferrari suffers radiator trouble and has to stop twice in the pits. The tinkering of the mechanics is frenetic and always the red car manages to restart, keeping ahead of the pursuers. By lap 287 Salvadori-Shelby were only more than three-quarters of a lap down. However, Gendebien had to stop again and at 11:45 a.m. Salvadori's Aston Martin took the lead. The Ferrari finally stopped: the fault was irreparable, the radiator grating having burst, apparently due to an anomalous rise in water temperature. From this moment on, the race for Aston Martins number 5 and 6 driven by Salvadori-Shelby and Trintignant-Frère respectively was no more than a monotonous march towards the finish line, while in third place came the Belgian pair Burlys-Elde. This placing, on a dramatic day, allows Ferrari to retain the lead in the Constructors' Championship.
The 24 Hours of Le Mans ended without drama, apart from the small but irreparable mechanical failure that deprived Ferrari of a success that everyone believed had been definitively awarded to the Modenese manufacturer. The three drivers - the American Taylor (Aston Martin), the Englishman Russel (Cooper) and the Frenchman Paure (Stanguellini), who on Saturday night were the victims of impressive racing accidents and were admitted to hospital, are in fact out of danger and their recovery is now only a matter of time. But it is not without a certain passion that Ferrari's engineers will search for the causes of the defeat, of that failure that was decisive on the outcome of the race. The 24 Hours of Le Mans, the most classic and demanding race in the world, ended with the surprise victory of the Englishman Salvadori and the American Shelby, at the wheel of an Aston Martin, after the forced abandonment of Gendebien-Hill, who were leading the race in the Ferrari with four hours to go. The carousel was gruelling: out of sixty-three cars only eighteen crossed the finish line. All the others had to surrender (40.000 litres of petrol were consumed). Among them were the four Jaguars, the six Porsches, three of the five Aston Martins, seven of the twelve Ferraris (of which, however, only three were official), the two Osca, two of the three Stanguellini, three of the five Panhard and three of the five Lotus. The world of motor racing is a hermetic world, which is very difficult to penetrate. It would therefore be in vain to seek clarification of the twist that occurred at the 20th hour with the retirement of Gendeblen-Hill. But if a lesson can be drawn, it is perhaps the one that a few drivers expressed to radio interviewers, and which 200.000 people were able to hear: Jean Behra, who with the Englishman Gurney had to retire during the night due to a broken head gasket, declared:
"I had set out to win, but like the Englishman Moss, the Le Mans circuit does not bring me luck. It is indisputable, however, that for a race as long and hard as the 24 Hours, special preparation is necessary. Indeed, I would say that without a car specially prepared for this race it is impossible to have any hopes of victory. Until today I thought so, but was not formally persuaded. After the unfavourable outcome of the test and the causes that led to it, I can only be convinced".
The Frenchman's statements have polemical overtones that cannot be missed, but they coincide, at least in part, with those of the winners, who differ only on one point: they emphasise, that is, that one of the factors for victory is, in an endurance race, prudence. Here, on the other hand, are the statements of Salvadori and Shelby:
"Our house had carefully prepared for this great race, which had never before managed to inscribe its name on the roll of honour. We are particularly pleased to have achieved this achievement for Aston Martin in a race that in the unanimous opinion was the toughest in recent years. Ours is a bit of a victory for prudence, since we never took part in the deadly struggle, which for so many hours pitted the other competitors against each other in a violent tussle, and patiently waited our time. The 24 Hours is, first and foremost, a competition of regularity and endurance, and to win it, it is indispensable to neutralise the instinct that every driver has - like a poison - in his or her blood: that of speed".
Once the roar of the engines is over, in Le Mane the town resumes the provincial, somewhat peasant aspect given to it by its character as an important agricultural centre. On the track where for 24 hours the world's most beautiful and powerful sports cars competed, on the bleachers and grandstands from which tens of thousands of spectators followed the race, teams of workers sweep and wash. In the village, the special post office is closed, in the flying restaurants and in the canteens the waiters fold the chairs and collect the still full bottles, the salami and hams that have not been sold. But Saturday and Sunday were good days: some 80.000 litres of wine, beer, soda and cider were drunk by the 300.000 people who attended the Le Mans motor race. More than the cars, which consumed a total of less than 40.000 litres of petrol. Proportionate is the amount of stuffed sandwiches, sliced meats, sweets, ice cream, meat, rillettes, local specialities, and more that spectators ate. Even the owners of the rides, who have started dismantling them to move elsewhere, are satisfied. The famous race had not attracted such a large crowd for several years. The fine weather favoured the success of the event. On the meadows, in the groves where for 24 hours people have eaten, drunk, slept, strolled, the spectacle is that of a vast camp, when the soldiers have left: canned goods, paper and newspapers soiled with oil and sauces, pieces of bread, sometimes women's clothing and above all empty bottles. The 24 Hours of Le Mans, in fact, is not only a hellish jumble of cars on the difficult thirteen-and-a-half-kilometre circuit, but also a party to which the French traditionally go as a group or with the family. The race - except if accidents occur - is only of interest to the majority at the beginning, when the drivers take off at the start signal to run to their cars, and at the end, when the race draws to a close and everyone waits for the official announcement of the winner and the indication of the average achieved. Meanwhile, more than on the track, the spectacle is in the meadows and groves, in the restaurants and on the rides. The crowd participates in it and considers the race to be above all a pretext. In the meantime, on Monday 22 June 1959, in Italy, Enzo Ferrari was handed heavy charges for the Guidizzolo accident. The prosecution lawyers, but above all the members of the Board of Experts who conducted a technical investigation, managed to convince the examining magistrate more than he did with the deposition of 6 April 1959.
"Enzo Ferrari, in his capacity as owner of the current Ferrari firm in Modena, which specializes in the construction of sports racing cars both on the road and on the track, is charged with the guilt, consisting in having adopted in the XXIV edition of the Mille Miglia on the cars of his Scuderia and in particular on the car bearing race number 531 piloted by Alfonso Cabeza De Vaca Marchese De Portago, license plate BO 81825, tires made by the firm Englebert current in Liege (Belgium), which, given their construction and tuning characteristics (tread with a thickness of mm. 8 approx. and inflation pressure of 2.5) were unsuitable for the performance of the cars, which at full throttle developed maximum running speeds of as much as approx. 280 km, instead allowing them tires at a maximum speed of km. 220 per hour, and causing overheating resulting from the excessive tread thickness and overinflation to cause the central part of the tread to detach and the subsequent bursting of the entire tire, which caused the car to skid, resulting in the death...of the eleven victims-including the driver and co-pilot-and four injured".
While in Modena they consider how to proceed in defence of Scuderia Ferrari's work, an unusual interest holds the European Grand Prix, the fourth round of the World Championship to be run on Sunday 5 July 1959 at the Reims circuit. An interest that concerns above all Ferrari's delicate moment. The stakes are high, because either Scuderia Ferrari manages to erase the unfavourable recent impressions, or it will have to bid farewell to the 1959 world title. In the Ferrari factory, while absorbed by the production needs of the grand touring cars in demand all over the world, the technicians are hard at work preparing the cars for Reims, at least two of which will be fitted with new, more powerful engines, which have undergone exhaustive endurance tests in recent days. They are convinced, at Maranello, that if the endurance of the engines does not betray them, on the very fast Champagne circuit the true qualities of their single-seaters will fully emerge. In the tests, in fact, the Maranello cars were the fastest, exceeding 214 km/h with Tony Brooks. Behra, Brooks, Phil Hill, Allison and Gurney will be at the wheel of the Ferraris. Their opponents will be Moss, Bonnier and Schell in B.R.M., Brabham (current leader of the world championship), Gregory, McLaren, Trintignant, Walker in Cooper-Climax, Graham Hill and Ireland in Lotus, Salvadori, Fairman, Davis and Burgees in Cooper-Maserati (a recent technical combination about which much good is said), and Scarlatti, D'Orey and Herrmann in Maserati. Big battle, then, between the Ferraris and the B.R.M.'s, without neglecting the Coopers at all. Opponent number one, as always, Stirling Moss (the beginning of July traditionally coincides with the French Grand Prix so there have been few transfers for the racers in the last period; indeed, the aces of the wheel, including Stirling Moss, can allow themselves a few days' rest at the Côte d'Azur resorts before returning to the north of the country), this time at the wheel of the B.R.M., an enigmatic car, whose prices, however, after its success in the Dutch Grand Prix with the not-so-excellent Bonnier, have suddenly risen considerably. And it is to be believed that if Moss chose the B.R.M. (as he could not yet dispose of the Vanwall, but gave up the safe Cooper), he must have had his good reasons for doing it.
The Reims circuit is among the fastest in the world. It lacks Vanwalls and Aston Martins, but there is enough to guarantee a technical and competitive confrontation of the highest level. The Reims circuit is currently, among the road-type circuits, the fastest in the world. It is a kind of triangle of 8302 metres that winds its way between the towns of Gueux, La Garenne-Colombes and Thillois, with long, undulating straights where speeds exceed 240 km/h. Suffice it to say that last year's winner, Mike Hawthorn, in a Ferrari, maintained an overall average of almost 202 km/h, with the best lap at 206.254 hm/h. These exceptional speeds in relation to the characteristics of the circuit were much talked about a year ago, when poor Luigi Musso lost his life there, in one of the most impressive car accidents of the post-war period. It is to be hoped that the observations made on that occasion, especially those concerning the concrete kerbing surrounding the roadway, have led the organisers of the Automobile Club of Champagne to make the appropriate changes. At over 200 km/h, even the most insignificant details can assume enormous importance. In addition, the scorching heat, which is common at this time of year, is a further challenge for the drivers in the cockpit. Conditions that make the circuit unsafe. To confirm this thesis, unfortunately in the last three years five riders have disappeared at Reims. The last one, in chronological order, Luigi Musso in a Ferrari. Among the causes of the fatal accident for the Roman driver were the asphalt made slippery by tyre residues and the oil left on the roads by the cars that took part in the side races. For the 1959 edition, the Automobile Club of France took corrective action by making a series of improvements to be able to host an event of this calibre. It decided to replace several pieces of protective equipment on the track, to resurface the road surface, to suppress the minor races and to limit the practice sessions, thus trying to maintain a high level of safety. The days on which practice sessions will be held will be the Wednesday and Friday before the race, while the race is scheduled for Sunday, 5 July 1959; this is because Thursday and Saturday will be used to rest the bitumen recently poured on the roadway.
With F1 and F2 races being held a number of factories have cars of both categories at Reims and mechanics are kept working overtime servicing and preparing the many machines. The Scuderia Ferrari has six cars all told, five F1 cars and a F2 car, all being basically the same in having double wishbone and coil spring front suspension, de Dion rear axle layout on coil springs with integral shock-absorbers, Dunlop disc brakes and using 2½-litre and 1½-litre versions of the well-tried Dino V6 engine. The Formula 1 team comprises the three regular cars, one of them having a 1959 modified engine, giving more power but with less reliability and the others having the normal Type 246 engines. The fourth car is the special one uses at Zandvoort by Behra, being a F2 chassis fits with a Type 246 engine, this chassis being identical to the fifth car which is a pure F2 car. The wheelbase on the F2 chassis is slightly shorter than its big brother and is also a lot lighter, though at a casual glance there appears to be little difference in the cars. The two types of engine used, the 2½-litre Dino 246 and the 1½-litre Dino 156 are of identical layout, being six-cylinders in vee formation, with two overhead camshafts to each bank and using twin sparking plugs in each cylinder, fired from a double magneto mounted on the rear of the left-hand inlet camshaft. Carburation on both engines is by three double-choke Weber downdraught carburetters, these naturally being different sizes on the two engine capacities. The Dino 246 engines are geared to give a maximum of 8.800rpm if conditions are very favourable, which gives a speed of close on 180mph, while the Dino 156 engine is running frequently as high as 10.200rpm, though peak power is at 9.800rpm. Until the Reims meeting the de Dion layout at the rear of all the Dino Ferraris has been such that the location of the de Dion tube in a lateral plane has been effected by a steel ball mounted on the rear of the gearbox/final drive unit engaging in a forked guide projecting below the de Dion tube from its centre.
On the Formula 1 cars for Reims this mounting is modified and, in effect, reversed for a plate with a ball attachment mounted on it is bolted to the fork below the de Dion tube and a hardened guide is bolted to the rear of the final drive unit. In addition to this modified location the rear wheels are given a small amount of negative camber and toe-in, instead of the normal Ferrari practice of mounting the wheels vertically. These modifications to the rear suspension give vastly improved handling on very high speed corners and they are not done to the F.2 car as its lower speed has not caused any qualms on handling on fast bends. The Cooper works team are equally as busy as Ferrari, having four F1 cars, a F2 car and assisting the Alan Brown/Ken Tyrell team with their two F2 cars as well as Schell with his private F2 car. The works team has three normal Coopers with 2½-litre Climax engines, double-wishbone rear suspension and still retaining the drip-feed oil tank to the gearboxes. The fourth F1 car is fitted with an all-enveloping streamlined body built in two pieces, split along a line approximately at hub level, and the F2 cars are also fitted with the lower half of a similar streamlined body, the top half fitting either car. On each side of the radiator are ducts deflecting air on to the front brakes. As there has not been time to test the streamlined body very thoroughly a set of panels are carried to convert the F2 to normal road-racing specification. With the present four-speed gearbox reaching the limit of its reliability and the new five-speed one not yet ready, some experiments are carried out in practice on different bearing materials, but these prove unsatisfactory and the old type are replaced for the race. The present gearbox has no oil pump, relying on splash for lubrication, which is one of its drawbacks, but the new gearbox has been designed with an integral oil pump and large sump. The RRC Walker Equipe has three cars with them, all fitted with their five-speed Colotti gearboxes and two are for F2 and one for F1.
The ill-fated Cooper-B.R.M. has been dismantled and the chassis fits with a 1½-litre Climax engine, the modified chassis rails allowing the engine to be mounted vertically instead of leaning to the right as on a normal Cooper. This is effected by re-drilling the bell-housing which couples the Climax engine to the Tec-Mec gearbox and remaking all the engine mounts and this result in a lower line to the tail of the car. In addition to this work the chassis is fitted with normal Cooper double-wishbone rear suspension in place of the wishbone and radius rod layout. The other F2 car for this Equipe is the old and trusty 1958 Cooper chassis that Moss uses at Monaco and Zandvoort, this time fits with a 1½-litre fuel-injection Borgward engine. The third car is the F1 chassis prepared for Trintignant which previously has been fitted with radius rods to the rear hubs, knock-off hub caps and wire wheels. After Zandvoort Trintignant drives the Moss chassis with its double wishbones at the rear and Cooper alloy wheels and afterwards expresses a preference for the handling. For Reims the chassis is modified accordingly, using standard Cooper rear suspension and alloy wheels, retaining the 2½-litre Climax engine and Tec-Mec gearbox. Team Lotus are not so busy as some, having two Formula 1 cars, both with 2½-litre Climax engines, now fit with 58mm. Weber carburetters and two Formula 2 cars with 1½-litre Climax engines using double-choke SU carburetters. Although both F2 cars are entered by Team Lotus only one car is factory prepared, the other one being prepared and maintained by Innes Ireland. One thing that Lotus do have well under control is their compact five-speed gearbox and final-drive assembly, this now appearing to be completely foolproof on the factory cars. Time has prevented them getting the carburation sorted out on the 2½-litre engines and much adjusting go on in practice and experiments with a sealed air box feed by a flexible pipe from beside the radiator in the nose cowling.
Another team involves in F1 and F2 is the British Racing Partnership of Alfred Moss and Ken Gregory who are making their first appearance with the BRM loaned to them by Alfred Owen, somewhat contrary to the wishes of the BRM team proper. The car has been scrupulously assembled and is painted light green with white wheels, the only modification from standard Bourne specification being the fitting of a reverse catch to the gearlever which operates without a visible gate. The engine has been built by Bourne and one of the works mechanics looks after its adjustments during the meeting, the chassis and running of the car being in the hands of the BRP organisation. They also have their two Cooper-Borgwards running in F2 and the engines have undergone some breathing modifications as have that of RRC Walker, the air-intake being extended forward along the left side of the car and down the nose in a similar manner to the 1959 B.R.M. intake. The exhaust pipe is fitted with quite a sizeable megaphone. The official BRM team consists of two cars and a spare one, this being a brand new one and chassis number 11, chassis number 10 being the one loaned to BRP. Although the third car is originally intended as a training car, and, in fact, it covers well over 50 fast laps during practice, it is fitted with a new engine and enters in the race to make up a full works B.R.M. team. With highly satisfactory handling already sorts out at the beginning of the season the Bourne people have little to do except perfect the mechanical details and try and extract more horse-power from the four-cylinder engine. Since extensive testing at Zandvoort the Dunlop disc brakes on the BRM appear satisfactory and it is interesting to note that they machine a vee on the periphery of the disc to remove a small amount of weight and to provide a greater cooling area, whereas Ferrari is content to leave his Dunlop disc with squared periphery. The Scuderia Centro-Sud is out in force, with a number of ex-Maserati mechanics working for them, a large Maserati transporter repaints blue and yellow and an array of racing cars.
There are two Coopers, naturally painted red, fit with four-cylinder twin-camshaft Maserati engines and using Cooper gearboxes, the general mechanical layout of these cars being similar to the one built by CT Atkins, which is also at Reims being driven by Salvadori. In addition to the two new Cooper-Maseratis Centro-Sud have two old 250F Maseratis, being driven by two South American newcomers to GP racing, Bayardo and d’Orey. To complete the F1 field there are two more old Maseratis driven by Scarlatti and Herrmann. The F2 is made up by the usual galaxy of Cooper-Climax cars, amongst the private owners being Lewis, Marsh and Wicken, two cars from the Equipe National Belge, Nixon’s car driven by Burgess, Atkins’ car driven by Salvadori, and Fisher’s rebuilt Lotus driven by Halford; in opposition are a strong force of Porsches, from works cars to private owners. The works car crashes at Monaco has been completely rebuilt with a new chassis and suspension, but, following the same design and this is supported by a works RSK sports chassis, with the latest double-wishbone and coil spring independent rear-end and fits with a central seat all-enveloping Spyder body. Mechanically both cars are identical, having the latest four camshaft engines and six-speed gearboxes, now with an open gate around the gearlever, and in view of the heat the streamlined car is fitted with an oil radiator on the left of the body, feeds by an external air scoop. The pure F2 car has its oil radiator in the nose behind a small slot in the front of the car. The Jean Behra Porsche Special with Tec-Mec chassis builds in Modena is running, the only alterations since Pau being a slightly sleeker nose to the bodywork, and in addition Behra enters a normal production RSK sports car with central driving position. For practice Seidel and de Beaufol turns out with their production RSK models and an Italian running under the pseudonym of Wallever has an Osca 1500 sports car with the front of the body altered to expose the wheels.
On Wednesday afternoon, at 4:00 p.m., practice begins for F2 cars and conditions are warm and dry, with a wind blowing downhill to Thillois hairpin, so that everything is set for some fast times, and it is not long before Moss improves on his last year’s record lap of 2'36"7 and gets down to 2'32"3, driving Rob Walker’s Cooper-Borgward. There is not a great number of entries out, this being the first of three practice sessions, but Schell is ready to try hard with his brand new Cooper, only to find it is been built with a low axle ratio, so he can do nothing except sit and watch until there is time to fit a higher one. In accordance with plans, two of the Cooper factory team drivers are using private cars, Gregory and McLaren having Cooper-Climax models belonging to the Brown/Tyrell stable, while Brabham has a works car fitted with an all-enveloping streamlined body, with a chopped-off tail like a Cooper-Monaco. Although fast on the straights the car is not satisfactory as the wind pressure is lifting the front of the body almost to the limit of the travel of the suspension. Lewis is slightly bothered by air-locks in the water system of his Cooper-Climax but these are soon cured, and the BRP team are awaiting the arrival of Bueb for the second of their Cooper-Borgwards, while Bristow is practising with the other one, having his first taste of a real Grand Prix circuit. Burgess is making his return to Continental racing after his Avus crash last year and is practising in Nixon’s 1959 Cooper, rebuild after Summers has crashed it at Mallory Park, and Salvadori is out in Atkins’ Cooper-Climax. There are two Lotuses practising, Ireland running his car under Team Lotus colours and Halford with Fisher’s car, rebuild after its Monte Carlo crash and now running-in a rebuild engine. No one can approach the time set up by Moss, and Salvadori, who is second fastest, is nearly 5sec slower; but as nearly half the entry has yet to appear this first practice is not too serious. At 6:00 p.m. the small cars are put away, and the F1 cars begin to practice, and straightaway the scene changes to one of intense seriousness.
There are numerous objects in view, the main one being FTD, but on top of that is a desire on the part of all the fast drivers to improve on the existing record of 2'24"9 and then on last year’s fastest ever in practice of 2'21"7, both having been put up by the late Mike Hawthorn with a V6 Ferrari. As if this is not sufficient, the organizers offer 100 bottles of champagne to the first driver to average over 124.2mph, or a time of 2'29"4. Schell is first out, in a B.R.M., and with no trouble at all records 2'24"3, so either the B.R.M. has find exceptional speed, or times are going to be lowered by everyone, and when he follows this with 2'23"5 it is clear that this year’s race is going to be run at very high speed. Not long after Schell the BRP-prepared B.R.M. goes out with Moss at the wheel and, after a look round, he do a lap in 2min 23.3sec and then follows this up with 2'22"4, a fastest-ever lap for the Reims circuit. It seems impossible that any of the other teams can go faster, but Brooks really stirs things up when he get his Ferrari sorts out. Although they have five cars enteres the Scuderia Ferrari turns out for first practice with only three, a F2 chassis with F1 engine for Behra, and normal F1 cars for Brooks and Phil Hill. After a preliminary try, Brooks returns to the pits and has some distance pieces remove from the rear spring mountings, and he then goes out and records 2'21"8; so the B.R.M.s are not so fast after all, and Ferrari’s claims of nearly 295 bhp are not so wild, for the Reims circuit is essentially a driver-equaliser and sheer bhp is more important than anything. Not content with his time, Brooks settles down and do 2'19"7, follow by 2'19"6, which make Moss and his B.R.M. look as sick as its colour. This is an average speed of close on 133mph, so that down the hill to Thillois with the following wind the Ferrari must have been doing at least 180 mph. Everyone are truly staggered by the Ferrari time, especially Behra, whose short-chassis car is nothing like as fast, for though his best time of 2'23"0 improves on the old lap record it looked a bit thin beside Brooks’ time.
Phil Hill is being thwarted by a misfiring magneto, and while Coopers and B.R.M. are wondering if the Ferrari times are really true, Brooks goes out again and do 2'19"4, this time well over 133mph average. The Cooper team are getting their cars going well, including a streamlined one using the top half of the bodyshell from the F2 car, but it is still lifting the front of the car, and when the gearbox gives trouble Brabham put it to one side and take the spare normal car. Both Gregory and McLaren improve on the fastest 1958 time, the American doing 2'20"8 and the New Zealander 2'21"5, but somehow, after the times make by Brooks, anything over 2'20"0 can not be considered very special, even though the Coopers are averaging over 130mph and are not far short of 180mph down the hill. Not satisfied with the pale green B.R.M., Moss take his personally-tailored driving seat out and has it fit in the B.R.M.’s spare car, and proceeds to practise in that, doing so many laps that B.R.M. are forced to go and ask BRP for their car back before it is all used up. Back in the pale green one again, Moss tries all he knows and get in a lap at 2'20"5; and then, pulling out that last little bit he always seems to be capable of, he records 2'19"9, so that the pattern for the remainder of practice is now settled. A driver just has to be under 2'20"0 to get on the front row of the starting grid, and times of just over 2'21"0, such as Bonnier and Schell are doing in the factory B.R.M.s and Trintignant is doing with Walker’s Cooper-Climax, are just not good enough to rank as fast. Salvadori is driving Atkins’ Cooper-Maserati but is not in the picture with 2'28"2, and Graham Hill in a works Lotus-Climax is in trouble with carburation at 2'30"0, a mere average of 124 mph, such is the tempo of the first evening’s practice under ideal conditions. The next day, at the same time, the F2 cars take the track once more, and this time Moss has some opposition in the shape of Allison with a works Ferrari Dino 156, Bonnier with the works F2 Porsche, von Trips with a works RSK sports car suitably prepared for F2, and Colin Davis with Behra’s special monoposto Porsche, as well as more Cooper-Climax cars such as those of the Equipe National Belge, driven by de Changy and Bianchi, Wicken and Marsh.
The Cooper-Borgwards are sounding well and truly wound up on the descent to Thillois and Bristow is cornering very fast, while Moss does a few laps in Bueb’s car as well as in the dark blue Walker car, in which he improves his time to 2'31"0. Gregory and McLaren have a little private dice until the New Zealander goes up the escape road at Thillois, and he does this again later on while experimenting with braking adjustments. Trintignant is trying extremely hard and also goes up the Thillois escape road after finding the ultimate braking point, while Salvadori, Halford and Lewis all have trips up the same escape road, a sure sign that they are trying hard, and Moss arrives sideways with wheels locked, and only his skill prevents the Cooper-Borgward following the others. The works Ferrari is storming down the hill at 10.200rpm in top gear, and Allison has to do it more than once before the engineers want believe the rev.-counter tell-tale, whereupon they raise the gear ratio to give 9.600rpm and lap times immediately improve, the best being 2'32"6, which has Moss keeping an eye open. Schell now has the right gear ratio in his Cooper and gets down to 2'35"1, and though he waits for Moss on Thillois hairpin and tucks in behind, he can not hold the Borgward-engined car for the whole lap. Bonnier is beginning to challenge in the single-seater Porsche with a time of 2'34"5, and Davis is feeling his way into the habits of the Behra-Porsche with 2'35"4. While there is no split-second needle match going on amongst the faster F2 cars the pattern is becoming very interesting, with Borgward, Ferrari, Porsche and Climax engines battling on pretty even terms. As previously, 6:00 p.m. see the F1 cars take over until 8:00 p.m., and though conditions are much the same there is a definite air of sitting and waiting amongst the fast drivers. Ferrari has five cars out, for Behra, Brooks, Hill, Gurney and Gendebien, the team leader still sticking to his Formula 2 chassis, Brooks sitting in the pits contentedly watching his car and also the lap times of others, Hill waiting to have his carburetters properly adjusted after having a new magneto fitted, and Gurney and Gendebien looking forward to their first F1 drives this season.
The BRP team does not bring their pale green B.R.M. as it has reached its limit the day before, and Moss is satisfied to sit and time others, though Bourne has their three cars out, with Flockhart driving the spare car. The Lotus cars of Hill and Ireland are not in the picture and are still having their carburation sorted out, while Coopers, with identical engines, are going very fast and knocking on the door of the bogey-time of 2'20"0. The two Americans, Hill and Gurney, are out at the same time in Ferraris, the new boy doing 2'21"9 with effortless ease and Phil Hill doing 2'20"2 by sweating his guts out. As no one seems likely to get near his time Brooks does not bother to practice and Moss can not practise anyway as he has no car. Shortly before the end of practice Behra despairs of ever going fast in the short-chassis car and take Gendebien ‘s car and instantly does 2'20"2, equalling Hill, and the American goes out again. Meanwhile, almost unnoticed, Brabham is going quicker and quicker in the normal works Cooper, the streamlined one having been abandoned, and just before practice finish he stirs things up by doing 2'19"7. The Ferrari pit gives Hill the needle by signaling him this information, and he responds splendidly with 2'19"8 just before 8:00 p.m., thus pushing Moss back on to the second row of the starting grid. The final practice is on Friday afternoon and evening, and the main interest in Formula 2 is to see whether Allison can get the Ferrari round as quick as Moss in the Cooper-Borgward, for the Italian car has only just got into its stride the previous day and Allison is still learning his way round. On top of this there is every chance that the Porsches wants improve, so that this last chance is important, but right from the start it become clear that times want not improve very much for the wind changed, to blow at right angles to the downhill straight, and the change brought an enormous rise in temperature, so that all hope of engines giving as much power as the first night were gone.
Allison is very happy in the Ferrari and working away hard, but conditions are obviously preventing that last little bit from coming and the best he can do is 2'31"9, the fastest time of all for the practice period but not quite as fast as Moss has done previously. Bueb arrives at last and is soon going pretty fast in the Cooper-Borgward and Gregory is trying very hard to gain vital rpm by crouching down out of the wind in his Cooper. The works Porsche is simply not fast enough, though it is able to tow the private Climax-engined Coopers along the straights, Henry Taylor tucking very close in behind on occasions. As Colin Davis is appearing to take a long time to settle down to the single-seater Porsche, Behra took it away from him and give it to Herrmann, who has years of experience with Porsches. The German driver justifies the change by making third fastest time overall with 2'33"8 and beating the factory Porsches. In consequence of this Davis is demoted to the RSK enters by Behra, and the line-up of the front row for race day was Moss (Cooper-Borgward), Allison (Ferrari) and Herrmann (Porsche Special). With the F2 cars proving that the evening conditions are definitely slow compared with the previous practice periods, all hopes of any change on the front row of the Grand Prix starting grid are gone, but nevertheless everyone is out and trying. The spare BRM has been accepted as a starter, with Flockhart driving, so it has been given a new engine and his practice times now count, and Moss is about to make some pretty desperate attempts to get on the first line of the start. Waiting until the track is clear and the sun begins to cool, he first goes out on 15in wheels, hoping to gain a few extra revs and then on 16in wheels. On top of this he evolves a scheme whereby he can cross the timing line before the pits just a little faster than normal, hoping to gain the vital tenths of a second he needs. This involves going down the escape road at Thillois hairpin on the lap prior to his all-out bid, turning round and waiting until the road was clear, and then accelerating violently back on to the circuit via the small by-pass road.
In this way he can get a flying start at the uphill straight towards the pits instead of starting from the comparatively slow hairpin bend, and it results in crossing the timing line 300rpm higher than before; however, it is of no avail as the rest of the circuit is too slow and he can not approach 2'20"0, let alone break that time. For the first time the Scuderia Centro-Sud arrives, with two new Cooper-Maseratis, using four-cylinder 2½-litre engines and driven by Davis and Burgess, and two old 250F Maseratis for two new South American drivers, d’Orey and Bayardo, but the cars are hopelessly outclassed. Scarlatti also has an old Maserati and de Beaufort has a go in the car Herrmann has been driving. With two cars on the front row, Ferrari are not keen to do too much practice and Gurney spend most of the time scrubbing new tyres for other members of the team. Behra has definitely changed cars with Gendebien, leaving the Belgian to sort out the short-chassis one as best he can, and Hill wants to go out and do more practice than Ferrari thought necessary. Lotus are still trying to finish their carburetter experiments and Graham Hill’s car is fitted with an air-box over the bell-mouths of the Weber carburetters, and this is fed by a flexible pipe from the nose of the car. Not having time to finish a second new intake system, for Ireland’s car, his has the air-box only, fits with open end at the rear to avoid collecting stones off the front wheel; in spite of all this the cars are not in the picture and can not look at the Coopers. With conditions preventing anyone approaching bogey-time the fastest laps of the evening do not seem impressive, even though they are only one second down and Phil Hill does 2'20"5, but that is the absolute limit. Just before practice finishes Brooks goes out more or less to see if everything is still in order, and Moss is also out, so Brabham thinks he has better be out there, too, just to keep things stirred up. The day finishes with no major changes in the fastest cars, the issue lying between Ferrari and Cooper, with the Moss-driven B.R.M. right behind them.
Saturday is a rest day for drivers but not for mechanics, and all over Reims there are racing cars in various stages of preparation; gearboxes being rebuilt by Coopers, axle ratios being changed by Ferrari, engines being checked by B.R.M., and so on. Sunday dawns even hotter than ever and by midday the heat is almost unbearable, and anything metallic left in the sun for long become untouchable, while cold water is the most sought after commodity with which to stock up the pits. At 1:30 p.m. the circuit is opened for a few minutes’ free-practice to enable drivers to have a look round and see how the tarmac is standing up at Muizon hairpin and how the road at Thillois is breaking up badly. When the starting grid has been drawn up it is seen that the second row contains car number 30, which is down to be driven by Gendebien, for that is the number that has been on the car with which Behra make his fast time. The Frenchman’s number is 22 and the car with that number is way back, and quite a fuss ensued between the Ferrari team manager and the organisers. A change is refused, so Ferraris puts Behra in car number 30 and Gendebien in car number 22, and this involves changing the cars as well so that Behra retains the F1 chassis and Gendebien the F2 chassis - all very confusing for the public! As 2:00 p.m. approaches some semblance of order take place and the cars are lined up as follows, with Davis and Burgess also swapping cars and numbers contrary to the programme, just to confuse things even more, while Bayardo is not allowed to start being too slow in practice. At the end of the first practice sessions, however, the question arises as to whether in the race it will only be a confrontation between Ferrari and B.R.M., or will the Cooper also manage to insert itself into the duel. Originally, as mentioned, the engineers ruled out that the small British cars, irresistible on mixed circuits thanks to their lightness and maneuverability, could be just as fearsome in ultra-fast use such as that of Reims, where they now largely exceed 200 km/h on the lap. Instead, official tests have shown that the Coopers have also grown in pure speed, and that a Jack Brabham, current leader of the world standings may well defend their chances in Reims as well.
Thus, the forecasts of for this fourth world test underwent some variants, which resulted in new difficulties for the Ferraris, caught in the English grip. However, the Italian single-seaters, again judging on the simple impressions of the official tests, reconfirmed their exceptional velocistlche skills. The Scuderia Ferrari drivers, Behra, Brooks, Phll Hill, Gurney and Alllson, were satisfied with the changes made to the cars after the disappointing Monte Carlo and Zandvoort tests. Jean Behra, the very popular French ace, will have a brand new car, with a shorter wheelbase and significantly lighter than those of his teammates. Racers and technicians of the Maranello team know very well that Reims will be a decisive test: either you win, and then the question of the world title remains unresolved, or you suffer British superiority. The same speech, but referring to himself and not to the car, makes Stirling Moss. The great English ace is still at zero in the championship standings: if he manages to collect at least six points in the race, he will remain in the running for the title, otherwise, he will again this year find it very difficult to fulfill the dream he has been chasing for so many years. Much will depend on the tightness of his B.R.M., which, despite its victory in the Dutch Grand Prix, continues to create not a few perplexities on this point In the predictions of most, the European Grand Prix will be run at no less than 208 km/h average speed, a frightening speed, which for two hours will keep drivers and spectators tense as violin strings. The distance to be covered is fifty laps of the circuit, equal to 415.100 kilometers. Immediately following will be a race for Formula 2 cars (1600 cc), in which many of the racers participating in the Grand Prix are entered, including Moss (Cooper-Borgward), Alllson (Ferrari), Brabham, Salvadori, Schell and Gregory (Cooper-Climax). A totally unnecessary appendix after the big thrills of the European Grand Prix; but in Reims they are fond of their meetings, and it is already a lot that the 12 Hours for grand touring cars was suppressed this year.
It is interesting to note that the first four rows improves on the best practice lap of last year and the first six rows improves on the existing lap record. The temperature before the start is truly fantastic and drivers are soaking themselves in water, cockpits are being watered, sponges and drinking bottles are fitted, and everyone is prepared for a gruelling race over 50 laps of the very fast circuit. For years now the start at Reims, gives by Raymond Roche, has been noted for its vagueness, and this year is no exception, the rotund Director of the race flapping the flag and scampering away before he gets run over. With no trouble at all Brooks shots into the lead, and as the smoke and dust cleared it is seen that Behra has been left sitting on the line with a stalled engine. Mechanics push-starts him and he make a leisurely get away until the Ferrari engine gets up on to the power peak, and then he stormed off after the tail of the field, which is disappearing round the fast right-hand bend beyond the pits. It is not long before the stream of cars appears on the horizon screaming down to Thillois hairpin, with Brooks still leading, follows by Coopers and B.R.M.s, and as they all brakes for the corner Moss goes from fifth place to second place and rounds the bend right behind the leading Ferrari. Usually at Reims each lap is finished with two or more cars side by side, or cars arriving in tight bunches, but this time it is more of a procession, with Moss only just able to sit in the Ferrari slipstream, then come Gregory, Brabham, Phil Hill, Schell, Bonnier, Trintignant, McLaren and the rest. On lap two Moss is still holding Brooks, but Phil Hill has passed the two Coopers, and behind them Trintignant has passed the two B.R.M.s. On the next lap Gregory not only passes his fellow countryman’s Ferrari, but leaves him behind and is right up behind Brooks and Moss, the three of them nose to tail. Halfway down the field there is a furious battle developing between McLaren, Gurney, Gendebien, Graham Hill and Flockhart, while already Behra has caught all the Maseratis and the Centro-Sud Coopers and is moving up fast.
Next time down the hill to Thillois Gregory takes his Cooper past the light green B.R.M. so fast that Moss can not get into his slipstream, but already Brooks has drawn away a little. Gregory has made a new lap record in 2'23"8 and then Behra puts one in at 2'23"7, and the pace is as hot as the weather. In no time at all the surface at Thillois corner has begun to break up and the solid lumps of tar are flying off the rear wheels as the cars accelerate away. Having just get over the surprise of being passed on the straight by Gregory’s Cooper, Moss really suffers on the next lap when both Trintignant and Brabham go by, having already dispose of Phil Hill. The speed of the Climax-engined Coopers is surprising everyone, especially B.R.M. and Ferrari drivers. At five laps the order is Brooks, Gregory, Trintignant, Brabham, Moss, Phil Hill, then a gap, and Bonnier and Schell running close together; some way behind Gurney is leading a tight group of Lotus, Ferrari and Cooper, and Behra is about to move in amongst them, going splendidly after his bad start. The pressure is still on, and on the following lap Trintignant takes second place from Gregory and a lap later Brabham has pushed the American down to fourth place. Moss now takes the lap record at 2'23"6, but it does him no good as everyone else is travelling at a very similar speed. The furious pace is leaving a trail of havoc behind, for already Scarlatti has stopped to cure a fuel leak, Salvadori is in the pits, and Ireland has stopped for new goggles as flying stones has broken his original ones. Then Graham Hill comes in with a stone through his radiator, and many of the drivers have cut faces from the stones and tar flying about at Thillois. Bonnier stops on the way down to Thillois with his water temperature off the clock at one end and his oil pressure off the clock at the other end. In spite of the heat he begins to push the car back to the pits in the hope that the trouble is something simple, like a split water hose, but it is much more serious.
Colin Davis comes in and retires his Centro-Sud Cooper-Maserati with a broken oil pipe, and then, on lap eight, Gregory draws into the pits with a badly-cut face and overcome by the heat; attempts are made to revive him but it is no use and the Cooper is withdrawn. Brooks is now well away and driving a beautifully steady race, so that by 10 laps he is 4sec ahead of Trintignant, and at a 130mph average that short space of time represented a long distance. Brabham is hanging on to the dark blue Cooper and in fourth place Moss is being pressed by Phil Hill, who is going faster now, while not too far behind comes Behra now in sixth place, having caught Gurney, Gendebien, Schell, McLaren and Flockhart. On lap 12 Schell makes an excursion into a field and lost a lot of time getting back on the road, dropping way back, more than a lap behind the leader, and meanwhile Bonnier is still pushing his BRM back to the pit area so that the mechanics might work on it. Moss is now down to fifth place, his car just not fast enough for this high-speed circuit, and the race now looks as though it has settled down, with Brooks holding a 5-sec. lead from Trintignant and Brabham, who are in turn well ahead of Phil Hill and Moss, though Behra is still gaining ground slowly; barely has this sign of settling been noticed when changes happens all through the field. On lap 17 Ireland comes into the pits to retire with a seized front-wheel bearing, on lap 18 Gurney goes by indicating signs of mechanical distress, and the next lap he comes in and retires with overheating due to a stone through the radiator, and on lap 20 Trintignant spins on the loose gravel and melts tar at Thillois and stalls his engine. In a flash all the rest of the fast runners has gone past him, and from a brilliant second place the little Frenchman is now down to 12th place and a lap behind the leader by the time he has push-started the Cooper on his own, for outside assistance is forbidden. The heat is now unbelievable, being over 110°F in the sun, and all the way round the lap the drivers are exposed to the heat for there are no trees near the edges to provide any shade.
With Trintignant out of the running, Brooks now has 20sec lead over Brabham and Behra has caught Phil Hill and Moss and is pushing them along, so that all three are gaining on the Cooper. Trintignant stops at his pit to have water poured over his back and is clearly suffering from intense fatigue, and still the sun beat down mercilessly on the poor suffering drivers, while the conditions of engines, brakes and tyres hardly bore thinking about. At the start of the 24th lap Behra takes third place from Hill, having passes Moss with ease, and for a lap Brabham, Behra and Hill are in a close bunch. Just as they are finishing lap 25, which is half distance, Behra makes a bid for second place by out-braking the others into Thillois, but overcooks it and has to go round the outside of the grass triangle, and drops back to fourth place. Brooks is now quite uncatchable and has a 28sec lead over Brabham, but next lap Hill ousts Brabham from second place, so the order is Brooks, Hill, Brabham, Behra, Moss, in Ferrari, Ferrari, Cooper, Ferrari and B.R.M., so that there is no disputing the fact that the Maranello cars were superior on a high-speed circuit. The only remaining cars on the same lap as the leader are Gendebien (Ferrari), McLaren (Cooper) and Flockhart (B.R.M.), these three being in a tight bunch and having a terrific scrap. The remainder of the runners, comprising Schell, Scarlatti, d’Orey, Trintignant and de Beaufort, are way behind and can only hope to keep going and finish, while Salvadori has disappeared after numerous pit stops with the Cooper-Maserati. The timekeepers now has time to check their sums and they discovers that Trintignant has set up a lap record on his third lap with 2min 23.5sec, and barely has this been revealed before Behra equals it on his 28th lap. On the very next lap the Ferrari engine has had enough and the Frenchman goes by with bluey-white smoke coming from his left-hand exhaust pipe and he slows visibly, so that Moss quickly goes by into fourth place. In order to be classified a finisher it is necessary to complete 35 laps, so Behra struggles round with the sick Ferrari to try and complete three more laps and wait by the finishing line until Brooks has finished his 50 laps, for it is obvious now that, barring accidents, he is going to win, but the Ferrari gives up completely as a piston collapsed.
Of all the drivers, Brooks is looking the most comfortable, not straining himself, and avoiding flying stones by awaiting his opportunity to pass slower cars, whereas the others, who are still racing against each other, are all getting badly cut about the face. Flockhart has his goggles broken and took them off, only to collect another stone in the eye, and he races on in a bloody state, while McLaren is also badly cut. On the straights Brooks tries to get fresh air by leaning his head over the side of the cockpit, Phil Hill is virtually standing up in the cockpit, and Brabham has his elbows over the cockpit sides trying to deflect air on to himself. The air temperature outside is so hot that these antics made little difference, the only advantage being that it is different hot air from that in the cockpit. With 14 laps to go Moss begins to speed up, having been driving steadily and not wearing himself out in a fruitless attempt to keep up with faster cars, so that as Hill and Brabham get played-out Moss closes on them. The American is in a terrible state, his judgment for braking having gone completely, and he overshots, spins and goes sideways on the hairpins nearly every lap, driving in a wild daze. Brabham is almost beyond going any faster, so that when Moss takes third place from him on lap 38 he puts up no fight at all. On lap 40 Moss sets up a new lap record in 2'22"8, and is gaining rapidly on Hill, who is in no state to receive such a challenge, and meanwhile Brooks is safely out in front, being about the only driver not to get into difficulties on the loose road surface at Thillois. At the end of lap 42 McLaren comes by on his own for the first time since the start of the race, for Gendebien has overdone things and drops a long way back, and then at the end of lap 43 Moss fails to appear. Since before half-distance the clutch has failed to operate on his BRM, the drive being solid, and now he has overdone things on Thillois hairpin and is going sideways at about 60mph in the middle of the road. Normally this would not have worried him, for he would have let the car spin, frees the clutch and keeps the engine going, and, having stop spinning, motors off again. Without his clutch working he can do nothing to stop the engine stalling as he revolves, and he comes to rest in a horrid silence, realizing he has thrown away second place by his own mistake.
Although he tries hard to restart the car in gear, it is quite impossible, and rather than sit by the roadside in the heat he suffered disqualification by enlisting outside help, and drives quietly back to the pits, very hot and very clapped-out, the car quite undamaged. Just before this happens the straw bales on the corner has ignited themselves and while the Moss episode is in progress pale blue smoke can be seen rising, causing the more imaginative journalists to rush to telephones and pour out the gory details of how Moss escapes death. While Brooks completes the race, to Ferraris’ obvious joy, Hill slows down in a secure second place and Brabham settles for third. Gendebien is back in his stride again and has caught and passes McLaren, but the New Zealander is in the Ferrari slipstream again, and Flockhart is fighting gamely in sixth place, the rest of the runners being many laps behind. Trintignant’s Cooper has broken down but he has managed to push it to the finishing line to await the victorious Brooks, who has led from start to finish and proves himself Master of Reims from the very beginning of practice. The scene at the pits when the race is over is indescribable, with prostrate drivers everywhere, many of them cut and bleeding from flying stones and lumps of molten tar; some lucky enough to be able to relax, others having to recover sufficient energy to start in the F2 race which is due to follow. Many people feel they has had enough after the gruelling two hours of the Grand Prix d’Europe, but for those that stay the F2 cars line up on the grid, with Moss, Allison, Herrmann the front row in Cooper-Borgward, Ferrari and Porsche, respectively. The temperature is still very high but the real fierceness has gone out of the sun, though the heat is more than enough for many of the English drivers. The start is not given by Raymond Roche this time and the result is a huge improvement over that of the Grand Prix, and Moss goes away into the lead, with Herrmann on one side and Bonnier in the works Porsche on the other side; Allison makes a faltering start in the Ferrari and is instantly surrounded by Coopers.
The order at the end of lap one of this 25-lap race is Moss, Herrmann, Gregory, Bueb, Bonnier, Schell, Bristow, Salvadori, Taylor and Allison, with the rest in groups or singly. On the second lap Gregory sails into the lead but not for long, and the original order takes place again, while in mid-field Allison is passing Cooper after Cooper. On lap four Herrmann and Moss are side by side, where they stay for the next eight laps in a typical Reims circuit dice, Moss being quicker round the back part of the circuit but the Porsche gaining on maximum speed and braking, in spite of its old-fashioned drum brakes. While this battle goes on for the lead Allison has caught Bonnier and Schell and all three are scrapping for third place, and behind them cars are dropping out like flies, either with engines overheating or drivers overheating, and Wicken, Gregory, Burgess, Bueb, Graham Hill, McLaren, Brabham, Bristow and Halford have all gone by half-distance. The battle for the lead finishes when Herrmann takes the escape road at Thillois, which leaves Moss unchallenges in first place, the Porsche Special some way behind, and both of them a long way in front of Bonnier and Allison, who are still close together for third place, with Schell dropping back overcome by the heat, and by three-quarters distance only 13 of the original 24 starters are left running. The last five laps are very calm, Allison having shaken Bonnier off, the works single-seater Porsche going nothing like so well as the private one of Behra, driven by Herrmann, and the only serious race is between von Trips with the works sports Porsche and Taylor with his Cooper. Schell finally succumbs to the heat and with two laps to go Allison has the Ferrari engine blow up at Muizon, and while Moss sails over the line to a comfortable win in Rob Walker’s Cooper-Borgward, followed by Herrmann, Bonnier and Trintignant, the last-named in a Walker Equipe Cooper-Climax, von Trips just beat Henry Taylor, and Ireland finishes the only Lotus. At long last the sun has relented and the noise of racing cars leaves the Reims circuit, which has not only witnessed one of the toughest motor races for some time but also one of the fastest.
Tony Brooks, by now by right Ferrari's first driver, splendidly won the European Grand Prix, the fourth round of the world championship. The likeable, fair-minded English driver drove an exemplary race, dominating from the very first kilometre. Starting in the lead, he progressively crumbled the resistance of his rivals until he had built up such a consistent margin of advantage as to dampen any residual will of those who had tried to oppose his action. With this victory Brooks reconfirmed himself as one of the strongest European drivers and put a serious mortgage on the 1959 world title. Ferrari's great achievement was completed by Phil Hill's second place and Olivier Gendebien's fourth. Any reservations about the efficiency of Ferrari's Formula 1 single-seaters no longer have any reason to exist, so clear, so peremptory was the superiority of these machines. And perhaps even more complete would have been Ferrari's victory without the retirement of Behra, who, having started late, had made a spectacular pursuit until reaching second position for a moment, but paying for his excessive impetuosity with an engine failure. Jack Brabham arrived third at the finishing line in the Cooper-Climax, while Bruce McLaren gained the fifth place, at the end of a heated sprint battle with Gendebien. The last driver to complete full laps was Flockhart, while Schell was lapped three times. The drivers in the Maseratis suffered a gap of more than ten laps, too far back to be protagonists of the chronicle. Last, with only thirty-six laps run, was Trintignant. But the big loser was Stirling Moss, less brilliant than usual except in the second half of the Grand Prix, which he disputed in clear recovery, so much so that he won the lap record, but protagonist of a pirouette in a curve that put him out of the race.
Despite the frightening speeds, there were fortunately no serious accidents. However, there were a few unsuccessful exits, particularly at the famous Thillois sharp corner, which precedes the undulating grandstands straight. The most spectacular exit, as mentioned, was that of Stirling Moss on lap 43, when the British driver, having overtaken Brabham, was hard on his heels in pursuit of Hill. The suffocating heat put the drivers' physical endurance to the test. Gregory, for example, suffered heatstroke after not even a quarter of an hour of racing and Brabham, when the race was over, had to go to a doctor because he had fallen ill. The European Grand Prix powerfully re-launches Ferrari, which after a very heavy year savours again the knowledge of victory, the twenty-eighth in Formula 1, which also conquers its hundredth podium at Reims. Four Grands Prix, four different winners on different single-seaters make the race for the title exciting. In the drivers' championship, the alert Brabham retains the lead with 19 points, but sees its advantage over its pursuers considerably reduced with Tony Brooks second, five points behind. Phil Hill is third on nine, so the title race looks like a two-man affair between Brabham and Brooks. Undoubtedly, Stirling Moss remains cut out of the title fight, last in the standings with only two points scored. The Cooper and Ferrari duel is also renewed in the constructors' title, with the British team on 18 points, only two points ahead of Ferrari. B.R.M. and Lotus remain eight and three points behind. The next race will be held at Aintree, Great Britain, on 18 July 1959, the fifth round of the Formula One World Championship out of nine. The turning point in a championship that is becoming increasingly uncertain and exciting.
At the end of the race, Jean Behra complains to a journalist from L'Equipe, claiming that Enzo Ferrari gave him a faulty engine and a crooked chassis from Gurney's test at Modena. Therefore, the - French - technical commissioners demand from Ferrari to check the measurements of the chassis, to see if Behra's words matched the truth. The Ferrari mechanics disassemble the car, and place the chassis on the test bench, but it turns out to be perfectly straight. Following the analysis, Ferrari's sporting director, Romolo Tavoni, goes to the editor-in-chief of L'Equipe with the drafted document, and asks him to publicly deny Behra:
"Can't deny a driver like Behra".
The editor-in-chief replied, so Enzo Ferrari himself contacted the journalist who had collected Behra's testimony by telephone, asking to meet him at the first opportunity he had in Modena. This happened a few days later. On this occasion, Ferrari explains the reasons for requesting the revision of the article, and the journalist who had written the article replies:
"Do you want my editor-in-chief's head?"
Asks the journalist.
"No, but I would like the words of my co-workers to be taken into account next time".
As already mentioned, this is not the only meeting that takes place in Ferrari's office after the race: Behra is also summoned by the Modena manufacturer on Tuesday 21 July 1959, at 10:00 a.m., for clarification regarding what happened at Reims.
"Behra, I'm sorry the car wasn't satisfactory. I gave it the best I had. Rather, that conversation they put in your mouth, you understand, Ferrari cannot accept that: I would never have sent you racing with a crooked chassis. So I called a press conference for 12 noon so that you could tell everyone that the car was to your liking. You agree, don't you?"
But Behra replies:
"Actually, Commendatore, what I said I would not like to contradict".
Then Ferrari, in a crescendo of shrieks and mutual accusations that, due to the windows wide open because of the heat, also spread to the courtyards of neighbouring houses, in which he shouts in Behra's face that his insinuations are false and that the car he was assigned in France had a new chassis and new suspension, and orders him to explain the real situation with a new interview with a journalist from Modena, seeing his order refused, exclaims:
"Very well, remember, Behra, that any offence done to my co-workers is as if done to me".
Before calling the administrative manager to order him to fire Jean Behra. The news was then given by Behra himself on Monday 20 July 1959, while Ferrari, for its part, merely confirmed it, without making any comment. The reason for the decision is obviously the Incompatlbllity, manifested in recent months, between Behra and the Scuderia Ferrari's Sports Director, Romolo Tavoni. Behra expresses his regret for what has happened, and speaking to friends confirms his esteem and admiration for the Modenese constructor, even saying that he would be willing to buy a Ferrari Formula 1 car straight away, the car in which he has the greatest confidence, to continue racing as a customer and to be able to compete in the final rounds of the World Championship. Behra's, however, is not the only dismissal. However peculiar, there was also that of Romolo Tavoni, who was then quickly re-hired by Ferrari. On Sunday, 5 July 1959, after the race Romolo Tavoni was invited, together with engineer Amorotti, to a dinner organised by Mr. Ritz, the hotel owner, Mr. Godet of the Equipe sports newspaper, and Mr. Pierre Louis Dreyfuss, Ferrari's illustrious clients. During the course of the dinner, the frontmen tell Tavoni:
"Dear Mr Tavoni, you who are so close to Ferrari and who know how to interpret him, and who we know how you appreciate him, you must tell Ferrari, however, that nowadays he should not keep claiming that he is a small craftsman: nowadays he is an industrialist. And he no longer uses the methods of the small craftsman, who makes himself wait, who gives you the car when he wants it, in the colour he wants; because these are a bit of a nudge in the stomach for a refined customer who also gives Ferrari a certain notoriety. Tell him. Because even a friend of ours came and had to stay two days in Modena and then come back another two days later... He's happy with the car, but...".
Tavoni takes the testimony, but tells Amorotti:
"I'll talk to him about it".
But Amorotti replies:
"No, because then he gets angry, to be told these things in front of me. And then she takes it out on you. Talk to him about it when you are alone, explaining that it is for his interest. For the way, when and the form...use the head you have".
Back from Reims, Romolo Tavoni talks to Ferrari, reporting on the race.
"What else is there?"
"Well, it seems to me nothing else, I think I have told you everything".
Ferrari, however, counters:
But you went to an important dinner, I'm told".
"And this is unimportant to you?"
So Tavoni replies:
"No no, it is important, but I was not thinking about dinner in this business talk".
Ferrari then gets angry:
"Ah well. Listen, where are you going now?"
"I'm going home".
But Ferrari countered:
"No, come in the car with me".
After which he urges him:
"Tell me about the dinner".
Tavoni, not knowing what he had been told, starts to tell about the dinner:
"It was a nice dinner, they were very nice. We were quite tired, we didn't feel like it but refusing seemed bad. It was a fabulous dinner, in a private room at the Ritz. By the way, Amorotti gave her...".
Referring to two Magnum bottles, given to Ferrari, who replied in the affirmative.
"But...what did you say, in that meeting?"
Tavoni, put on the spot, replies:
"They said that you, Commendatore, are no longer an artisan. Today you are an established automobile industrialist, with an organisation of men who identify with Ferrari, and that therefore Ferrari today also has an identity in terms of image and refinement".
"Why, am I not a gentleman?"
"But no, the fact is that sometimes they can interpret that we give a few clumsy nudges...".
Ferrari, unnerved, asks:
"There you go: who told you that?"
Tavoni closes the conversation by saying:
"I don't remember".
As Tavoni replies, Ferrari is not far away at the traffic lights at the entrance to Casinalbo, so he stops:
"Get out, don't come any more. Because if you don't say the things I need to know, you must not come to Ferrari any more".
This is the second time that Tavoni has been fired. The former sports director returns home and tells his mother that he is on holiday from work. For two days he receives no news from Maranello or Modena, so this time he believes he has really been fired by Ferrari. Then, at around 8:00 a.m., a phone call arrives:
"The commander said that you must be here at 9:00 a.m.".
Tavoni dresses and races to Modena in his Fiat 600.
"Good thing she is here. We have to go to Bologna, to Weber. Get those papers, come on, quick. You weren't here yesterday. I had to bring them down from Maranello".
Says Ferrari to Tavoni, who picks up all the documents. After the visit to Weber in Bologna, on the way back, when Ferrari and Tavoni are close to Modena, the constructor exclaims:
"About that dinner in Reims, did you then remember who it was who said those things?"
Tavoni is torn: he does not know how to tell Ferrari the truth.
"Commendatore, I believe I have identified myself with Ferrari's interests and I know that by defending Ferrari's interests I am also defending the interests of Mr Enzo Ferrari. Because if I only defended those of Mr Enzo Ferrari, it is not certain that I would also defend those of Ferrari".
"Why, do Mr Enzo Ferrari's inputs not match Ferrari's?"
"Of course they do. However, one thing is Ferrari with all that it represents and another is Mr Enzo Ferrari. Because if you think of that gentleman and write a letter to him like you do to Canestrini...".
"I write an ugly letter? I defend the name... ".
"Yes, but for the recipient it's a bad letter. We lose a customer: Mr Enzo Ferrari loses him but Ferrari loses him too. So, Commendatore, I continue to defend Ferrari's interests and I ask you to judge whether I was wrong or not".
Ferrari, perhaps now positively surprised by his sports director's behaviour, exclaims:
"And did it have to happen to me to have someone who came from Catholic Action...?"