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#71 1958 British Grand Prix

2021-04-17 00:00

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#1958,

#71 1958 British Grand Prix

La tragica scomparsa di Musso non ha fermato l'attività dell'automobilismo sportivo. Così è sempre stato e così continua ad essere, anche se può sembr

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On Sunday 13 July 1958, in record time the German Wolfang von Trips, in a Porsche 1500 cc, won the uphill race between Trento and Monte Bondone. Only at the last moment there is the defection of Behra, for economic reasons, and that of von Stuck, who had irreparably damaged the car in the official practices. The absolute record (held by Edoardo Lualdi from Varese in a Ferrari 3000 with a time of 10'9"3) was clearly beaten, so much so that it is thought that the record time set by von Trips with 9'17"1, at an average of 83.345 km/h, it can hardly be beaten. Another German racer, Hans Hermann, on Borgward 1500, is in second place overall with a 6 seconds gap behind the winner, followed by Bonnier (Borgward), Barth (Porsche) and Giulio Cabianca, first of the Italians (Borgward 1500) which marked the time of 9'36"4. The following week, Saturday 19 July 1958, the seventh episode of the drivers' World Championship will take place at Silverstone - with the British Grand Prix: fight for the highest motor racing car title. which however almost always has relative importance compared to the comparison of brands. In particular, after the death of poor Musso, the only Italian driver of international stature, in Italy the question relating to the world championship ranking is of interest only by reflex, as meaning that the two drivers between whom it seems that the fight for the succession to Fangio, that is the English Moss and Hawthorn, should be resolved this year, the latter is at the wheel of a Ferrari, and if he were to win the title, automatically it would be the car Italian to at least share the merit and consideration. Stirling Moss is in turn the first driver of the Vanwall, the English Formula 1 car that since last year has managed to achieve the efficiency of the Italian single-seaters and, more than once, to defeat them. After the uncertain seasonal indications of the first Grands Prix, the situation seems to have stabilised precisely in the duel between the Ferraris and the Vanwalls, even if the other brand from across the Channel, the B.R.M., has not yet given up the ambitions that the great vehicles lavished in its realisation they seemed to legitimise.

 

The Silverstone circuit measures 4.710 meters, is laid out on an abandoned airport and is considered to be among the safest in existence for both the public and racers. On a lap you can reach average speeds of just over 165 km/h. It was right at Silverstone that Vanwall achieved its first victory over Italian cars two years earlier, and at Silverstone the same car did all the tuning tests in the past. It is not a negligible detail, that in a certain sense even racing bolides feel the influence of the environment. The deployment of forces is expected as follows: Hawthorn, Collins and Trips on Ferrari; Moss, Brooks and Lewis-Evans on Vanwall; Behra and Schell on B.R.M.; Trintignant, Salvadori, Brabham and Burgess on Cooper; Bonnier, Gerini and Shelby on Maserati; Allison, Hill and Stacey in Lotus; Fairman and Bueb on Connaught, owned by Bernie Ecclestone, who has been manager of Lewis-Evans since 1957. On the Silverstone circuit the world championship challenge continues between Ferrari and Vanwall, between Hawthorn and Moss, the two great protagonists of the season. Right after the last race, held in Reims, Hawthorn caught up with rival Moss in the Drivers' standings, with 23 points. Ferrari has just returned from two excellent performances at the Belgian and French Grand Prix; in these two events the Italian car responded strongly to the superiority of the English teams, showing an excellent level of competitiveness compared to the first races of the season. On the other hand, the English public welcomes the compatriots teams with sparkling enthusiasm, which have played a role of great protagonists so far: out of five Grands Prix disputed, the first two were won by Cooper, the third and fourth by Vanwall. In short, the competitiveness of the English teams is certainly not a coincidence, and 120.000 people fill the stands of the Silverstone circuit, ready to support English teams and drivers. Nonetheless, a few days before the Grand Prix, Mike Hawthorn talks to Peter Collins about the Formula 1 World Championship, which the former intends to win at any cost. And, in this regard, he asks his friend for help, telling him:

 

"We have to take the World Championship seriously, and if you are really my friend, you have to leave Louise in Monte Carlo when we race".

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Since he was convinced that the presence of his wife was making the British ace lose concentration; a thought shared by many, including Enzo Ferrari. In any case, according to the forecasts of the experts, in this race Ferrari will not be able to keep up with its direct rivals; this estimate finds a concrete correspondence after the qualifications. Since he is convinced that he cannot do anything at Silverstone to counter the Vanwalls, before the expedition Enzo Ferrari talks to Tavoni, and indicates that the drivers will be free to race, given that the chances of winning are very low. Reason why Mike and Peter, on Sunday morning, when they ask the sporting director how they should behave, they will get the answer that Ferrari is not interested in the championship. Practice day on Thursday July 18, 1958, looks fine for Moss, he is easily fastest with the number one Vanwall, clocking 1'39"4, a fastest-ever lap of the Buckinghamshire circuit. To add weight, Brooks is next fastest, and altogether the Vanwall team seem to be in command of things. On Friday, the situation is the same, with Moss once more fastest, with 1'39"6, but surprise of the day is Schell, who records 1'39"8 with the B.R.M., using all the road and quite a lot of the grass, but having a real go nevertheless. Both Collins and Hawthorn with V6 Ferraris are trying hard but have to work a lot to even approach a time of 1'40"0, therefore to get below this time is quite out of the question. The noise and fury of the two Ferraris is such that they completely eclipse Salvadori with a 2.2-litre Cooper who is busily getting on with practice, and when the final results are announced it is seen that he has done 1'40"0, faster than either of the Maranello cars, while Allison, with a 1957 Lotus fitted with a 2.2-litre engine, is in amongst the red cars.

 

That the race will be a British benefit is almost a certainty from the practice times, with three different makes of green cars in the front row and only one red car. All three Vanwalls are using alloy rear wheels and wire-spoke front ones, and the car Moss has is his Reims, one with bracing struts to the tops of the king-pins. Schell and Behra both have 1958 B.R.M.s, now with modified oiling systems, having the oil tank in the cockpit on the left of the driving seat and a large oil-cooler on the left of the engine with a ducted air-flow through it; the heat-exchanger layout being discarded, as it has been found that the oil was making the water too hot. The three Ferraris are Dino 246 models, all using the F1 chassis with large-diameter bottom frame tubes, and Collins and von Trips both have large petrol tanks on the left of the driving seat. Hawthorn’s car has only a rear tank and he has discarded his wrap-round Perspex screen, retaining only a tiny rectangular aero-screen. The three Coopers are identical, with double rear wishbones and disc brakes, only Salvadori having the 2.2-litre engine, Brabham and Burgess having 1960 cc engines, while Trintignant is driving the Walker Argentine-winning car with leaf-spring front end. Allison has the old Lotus, Hill the 1958 with near-horizontal engine, and Stacey, on his first F1 drive, in the 1958 car with the more upright engine, both these new cars being of 1960 cc.. Of the rest, Bonnier is driving Scarlatti’s ex-works lightweight 1957 Maserati, Shelby the Centro-Sud car he drove at Reims, and Gerini his ex-Piotti car, and to complete the field are the two Ecclestone-owned Connaughts, Bueb in the Dart and Fairman in the normal Syracuse model. A third B.R.M., driven by Masten Gregory, should have made a field of 21 cars, but he unfortunately injured himself during practice when he crashed the Ecurie Ecosse Lister-Jaguar.

 

At the end of the official practices, Stirling Moss is the fastest, having recorded an average of 170.26 km/h on a lap, followed by the American from Paris Harry Schell, Roy Salvadori, Mike Hawthorn, Cliff Allison, Peter Collins , Jean Behra, Maurice Trintignant, Joakim Bonnier, Carroll Shelby, and Gerino Gerini. The averages obtained by the best are very high, in fact both Moss and Schell exceed the current lap record, but the new times are not approvable . Based on the results acquired in today's practices, Moss, Schell, Salvadori and Hawthorn will start the race from the front row. Three different British cars and two British drivers occupy the top three positions on the starting grid, giving immense joy to their fans in the stands. Mike Hawthorn, fourth, chases championship rival Moss within a second of driver Vanwall's time, while Collins brings his Ferrari to sixth, ahead of Lewis-Evans' Vanwall. The first seven positions are occupied by six English drivers and five different teams, of which four are British: such a statistic cannot fail to delight Her Majesty's people. Oddly, Bernie Ecclestone qualifies nineteenth, but will leave his car to Jack Fairman to take part in the race. At the same time, a result like this worries Scuderia Ferrari, aware that at the Silverstone circuit it will not only be difficult to fight against Vanwall, but the lap times set during qualifying seem to presage that it will be a daunting task to finish up front to all the other English teams. When the flag falls Hawthorn makes a rather hesitant start and, though Moss leads away, Collins shoots through from the second row and takes the lead on the opening lap.

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One has come to expect Collins not to bother to race too hard these days, but once out in front he really motor-races in a big way, and though Moss has the Vanwall in full-lock slides round many of the corners and is driving as hard as he knows how, he can make no impression on the leading Ferrari. Hawthorn is backing up his team-mate by lying third, so Moss is in a difficult position, trying to catch Collins and trying not to be caught by Hawthorn. It is very clear that the two Ferraris are handling fairly happily with a full load of fuel and both drivers are doing some pretty broad-sliding through the bends. After the excitement of the opening two or three laps Collins is setting a hot pace, Moss is trying to hang on and Hawthorn is a bit perturbed to see oil occasionally splashing out of the left side of his bonnet. Schell, who is in fourth place, is also worried, for his oil temperature rising high and at the same time the pressure is sinking, so it is not long before Lewis-Evans comes up into fourth place, but the third Vanwall, driven by Brooks, is getting nowhere. Just behind there is a cut-throat dice going on between Salvadori, von Trips, Hill, Brabham and Behra, and after a few laps the two Coopers, driving very nicely as a team, begin to get the upper hand. This battle goes on from lap 13 so furiously  that the whole bunch are closing rapidly on Brooks and Schell, so that on lap 12 Schell finds himself in the midst of it all, and the following lap they are all round Brooks. The two Coopers come out on top and for a while Brabham leads this gaggle with the 2-litre car, but on lap 16 Salvadori goes ahead and the very next lap Graham Hill drops out of the battle and retires. The Lotus gearbox is burning his backside and then the oil pressure begins to sink in the engine, so he calls it a day, wishing Chapman would leave a little more clearance around the driving seat. Meanwhile Collins is pressing on, with a frustrated Moss doing all he knows to catch him and Hawthorn sitting back in third place awaiting developments.

 

The tail end of the field is already well and truly lapped, Shelby, Burgess, Bueb and Gemini all having been passed by Collins, while Fairman has withdrawn a Connaught that has been sick ever since it arrived at Silverstone. Hill has barely retired when Behra comes in with a soggy tyre; incredulous though it may seem, this is caused by hitting a hare, one of its bones piercing the Dunlop. Behra has never really been in the hunt and loses interest in the race after that, the car being withdrawn. Shortly after this Allison retires with sinking oil pressure, he has shown none of the practice speed, and Stacey goes out with overheating, so that once again the Hornsey team do not exactly inspire anyone. Trintignant shoots smartly into his pit on three cylinders, but before the mechanics can do anything the engine fires on four cylinders again and the driver shoots off again. Hawthorn’s waiting game does not have long to pay off, on lap 26 Moss passes the pits amidst a big cloud of blue smoke and turns smartly into the paddock. There is no need to look under the bonnet, the Vanwall engine has burst in a big way and Ferraris are now in full command of the race. Almost at the same time as this happens, Salvadori overtakes Lewis-Evans and finds himself in third place, while Brabham is still leading von Trips, and then comes Brooks, seemingly completely off-colour. The race as such now develops into a high-speed procession dominated by Ferraris, the only anxious moment being when Hawthorn comes into the pits on lap 44 crying oil and in double-quick time oil is poured into the tail tank and he is off again before Salvadori heaves into view of the Cooper in the third-place . Collins laps Brooks but it has no effect on the Vanwall driver, and then he laps Schell’s B.R.M., but that was a different story. Having been going comparatively slowly for a time the B.R.M.’s oil temperature has dropped, so Schell now tucks in behind the Ferrari and tails Collins remorselessly. This has the desired effect of drawing him closer to Brabham and von Trips, who are not far ahead having their own private battle.

 

Ferrari are rather embarrassed by having their third car lead by a 2-litre Cooper and urge on the German driver, but though he closes the gap he can not overtake Brabham , apart from losing oil, the Ferrari brakes are pulling badly to the right. On lap 59 the effort is finished and von Trips coasts into the pits, where mechanics restart the engine and then hastily switch off and wheel the car away; all the bearings have gone. All this time Schell has been drawing closer, sucked along by Collins, until the Ferrari driver gets tired of working for B.R.M. and slows right down and waves Schell by, whereupon Schell goes ahead and then catches and passes Brabham, having a last-minute fling with steadily rising oil temperature again. Just ahead of him Lewis-Evans is beginning to pile on steam in an attempt to catch Salvadori, who is suffering from a high cockpit temperature but driving hard nevertheless. The tail end of the field is getting very depleted, both Gerini and Bonnier going out-with gearbox troubles, though Shelby is still circulating on his own and enjoying himself immensely. As the race comes to a close, Lewis-Evans has the nose of his car sniffing at the tail of Salvadori’s Cooper but he has left his efforts too late and he just has not got the speed, nor is there sufficient straight for him to get by, and on the corners the Cooper is faster, especially leaving them. Collins and Hawthorn virtually tour home to win a most resounding and very unexpected win for the Scuderia Ferrari, while Salvadori scrapes in third with the Vanwall pressing hard right up to the chequered flag, while Schell arrives fifth after an erratic drive, followed by Brabham, who has done mighty things with the 2-litre engine. A distinctly unhappy Brooks, who has been off form the whole race, is a lap behind, and the only other two finishers are Trintignant and Shelby. Collins has led for the entire 75 laps and done a real job of work, driving with that spirited air of full-opposite-lock that he enjoys so much, and which recently.

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The British Grand Prix is ​​thus won by Peter Collins, at the wheel of a Ferrari, followed by his teammate Mike Hawthorn, who thus goes to the top of the world championship standings with 30 points. Stirling Moss, who was on par with him with 24 points at the start of the race, and who at the start of the season this year looked like the likely winner of the world championship, as mentioned had to abandon the race after having just completed a third of the seventy-five laps of the course, because his Vanwall was blowing clouds of smoke. The race, held in perfect weather conditions, attracted over 100.000 spectators to the Silverstone circuit. The enormous interest of this race is justified by various elements: mainly that of representing for the British the first direct confrontation between the Ferrari, now fully tuned and extraordinarily fast, and the other English brands, the Cooper, the Lotus and, above all, the Vanwalls, who at the beginning of the season had given the impression of being able to snatch a large number of victories this year. There were no accidents, but the the French driver, at the wheel of a B.R.M., runs over a hare trying to cross the road, and probably does not realise the speed that these cars can achieve. Along the straight that the hare would like to cross, the cars travel at about 250 km/h. However, a hare bone apparently gets stuck in one of Jean Behra's car tires and causes a barely noticeable decrease in tire pressure. This fact, shifting the weight of the car, makes the driver think that the car had a defect in the suspension.

 

Jean Behra retires during the nineteenth lap and the mechanics will take a long time to realise that the car is actually in perfect mechanical condition. Hawthorn got off to a mediocre start, allowing Moss to take the lead of the twenty cars. But suddenly, from the second row, Collins, in a Ferrari, took off with fury and in the space of a few hundred meters he had already passed Moss. It was thought that Ferraris could not take full advantage of their speed resources and would likely suffer some wear on the brakes. Instead these predictions turned out to be completely false, and Collins had no difficulty in maintaining, at least during the first part of the race, when he was desperately chased by Moss, that advantage of two, three and then ten seconds that he had already secured in the first four laps.Collins drove on the circuit, which he holds the record, with absolute precision, almost constantly in record time, keeping his opponents at a respectful distance. This victory brings Collins to third place in the world championship standings with 14 points, and it is now certain that this year the championship will be won by an Englishman. However, despite today's disadvantage, Moss could still catch up with his colleague Hawthorn during the next four Grands Prix that remain. As for the brands, after the first six Grand Prix of the year Ferrari, Vanwall and Cooper find themselves with exactly two victories each. Before the start of the race, Peter Collins had asked Romoli Tavoni what the arrangements for the race were:

 

"After Musso's death, there are no plans: everyone does its own race".

 

Therefore Hawthorn and Collins agreed on how to proceed:

 

"Peter, as his usual and generous way of life, told me he would do whatever he could do to help me win the World Championship. Our idea was that he would sprint forward trying to cause the breaking of the Vanwalls".

 

But things, as witnessed, went differently: now Collins also thinks he can get back in the running to win the title. After the race, Mike Hawthorn talks to Romolo Tavoni.

 

"Romolo, did I lose three points today?"

 

Tavoni replies:

 

"Of course you lost them".

 

But Mike insists:

 

"No, I was referring to the talk made this morning... at the championship".

 

Then, Ferrari's sporting director retorts:

 

"We can't do it now that the race is over".

 

Then the English pilot concludes by saying:

 

"You are right".

 

As for the constructors' championship, after the first six Grands Prix of the year, Ferrari, Vanwall and Cooper find themselves with exactly two victories each. After the race, Peter and his family return home accompanied by Tony Brooks and his Italian girlfriend, Pina Resegotti. And it is in this circumstance that Peter tries to convince Tony to move to Maranello, at the court of Enzo Ferrari. But Brooks says he couldn't have left Tony Vandervell, as it wouldn't have been fair. The following day, the Heins-Strahle couple on a Porsche 1500 brilliantly won the sixth edition of the 10 Hours at night of Messina, which coincides with the inauguration of the new Circuit of the Ganzirri Lakes, 6,020 kilometers long. The winning couple covered 1384 kilometres in ten hours against the 1202 kilometres achieved in 1955 by the late Castellotti. In the race entrusted to the direction of Piero Tarulli, there is only one frightening accident. The protagonist is the courageous Neapolitan driver Maria Teresa Defilippis, who participates in the race with a Maserati 2000. At the stroke of the first hour the Defilippis car goes off the road near the pits and spins as a result of which the young Neapolitan is thrown out of the driver's seat. This fact proves to be providential as soon after the car flips over. Fortunately, the Defilippis does not report any damage and at dawn, celebrated by her admirers, she witnesses the conclusion of the race. The victory of the foreign couple takes on the characteristics of triumph when Porsche manages to lap its direct rivals De Tommaso and Davis, who after the withdrawal of Defilippis and Cabianca, had alternated with the two Americans in command of the race. The German Beaiufort, who had recorded the best time with his Porsche in the tests, was forced to abandon the fight due to the breaking of the gearbox. However, he set the lap record in 2'22"0, corresponding to the average of 152.620 km/h. Monti, who lined up at the start with an Osca, was eliminated 15 minutes from the end due to a skidding which led to a wheel damaged. In essence, the fight has narrowed between the Porsches and the Osca, because the 2000 never had the opportunity to be threatening given the characteristics of the course that was too rugged.

 

Simone Pietro Zazza

 

Translated by Maria Vitiello

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