#72 1958 German Grand Prix

2021-04-16 00:00

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#1958, Fulvio Conti, Translated by Nicola Carriero, Simone Pietro Zazza,

#72 1958 German Grand Prix

In agreement with the other organisers, starting from the 1958 season the Automobile Club von Deutschland decided to reduce the distance of the German


In agreement with the other organisers, starting from the 1958 season, the Automobilclub von Deutschland (German Automobile Club) decided to reduce the distance of the German Grand Prix from 22 to 15 laps, also organising a Formula 2 event parallel to the Grand Prix. Scuderia Ferrari arrives at the circuit at 12:00 p.m. on Thursday, July 31, 1958, with three V6 Dino 246 Grand Prix cars, an experimental model and a Formula 2 car. Being early, the Maranello team decides to do unofficial tests in the afternoon, as this is the first time the Dino models are brought to the Nürburgring. Hawthorn, Trips and Phil Hill are already present at the circuit, while the fourth member of the team, Collins, will arrive only the next morning. The B.R.M. team, Vanwall team, Cooper, Lotus, and Porsche will arrive between Thursday and Friday, so there will be a lot of activity when free practice starts on Friday afternoon. Scuderia Ferrari brings three identical Dino 246 to Germany, all with Formula 1 chassis, one with the upper quadrilateral forged at the front, the others with the tubular quadrilateral welded at the top and bottom. All three use Houdaille shock absorbers and have tension adjusters on top of the front coil springs. The Formula 2 car, the Dino 156, is identical in layout, but has a lighter chassis with small diameter lower guides. The fifth car is an experimental car built for the 500-mile Monza, driven by Phil Hill. This one is basically a Dino 246 model, but it has front telescopic shock absorbers mounted inside helical springs and rear helical springs instead of the usual crossbow springs and these coils are spaced between the de Dion bridge and an extension to the upper limbs of the chassis. In this car, the oil tank is moved from the tail to a position on the left of the car, and as a result, the body is more bulbous, and the tail presents a different shape: the whole car looks more like a Super Squalo than the current Dino. The B.R.M. team makes its first appearance on the formidable Eifel circuit and would like to do some unofficial tests first, but the drivers are not available, so they will have to find out, even if both Behra and Schell know the circuit well. Formula 1 Ferraris, as the experimental car, are driven by Hawthorn, Collins, and Trips; Hawthorn, in particular, will be quite enthusiastic about its handling characteristics. 


The American driver Phil Hill competes on this occasion for his first Grand Prix with a Ferrari single-seater, after having waited a long time for it. In Germany, however, he was assigned the Formula 2 car, an exact replica of the Formula 1 car, apart from the cylinder capacity and the size of the tyres, although it had a lighter chassis with all the main bars of the same diameter. It should not be overlooked, of course, that the current Formula 1 Ferraris have been developed from last year’s Formula 2 prototype. The Vanwall team is much happier than the previous year, because they now know better the requirements for springs, shock absorbers, anti-roll bars, steering geometry, etc., after the debacle of 1957, but they are in a sad state for the engines, having destroyed one at Silverstone recently, and others on the test benches preparing for this race, forcing the team to bring only three cars instead of the usual four, as it is not possible to make new engines in a few days. As a result, only Moss and Brooks are present, with the third car as a backup. Lewis-Evans will therefore have to be a spectator. The Vanwalls feature both tyres spoke wheels on the front and alloy wheels on the rear, while the Brooks-driven car has a new de Dion bridge that keeps the wheels parallel to each other instead of the usual positive-chamber angle. Both cars that will be used in the race will have steering shock absorbers and reinforcement pins at the top of the articulation pins. The improvements in handling will be achieved by playing with a combination of springs, shock absorbers, tyre pressures and anti-roll bars. The Cooper team enrols Salvadori in its 2.2-litre car (it should have been Brabham’s turn, but the organizers insist that Salvadori drives the Cooper, implying that Brabham is not well known) and Trintignant, while Allison will go up aboard a 1958 Formula 1 Lotus, with the horizontal position of the engine by now completely abandoned, and with the gearbox-differential unit mounted at an angle to the centreline of the car, so that the transmission shaft runs through the floor of the cockpit to the engine which is inclined to the left by seventeen degrees from the vertical line. The exhaust pipes on this car enter a part of the body structure, being completely hidden from view, and open under the right side of the gas-emitting machine just in front of the rear wheel. 


On this car, all three pedals are hung from a central pin, and the clutch and brake pedals diverge laterally from the pin on each side of the hood. On the 1500 cc car, the gearbox-differential unit is mounted on the centreline of the chassis so that the transmission shaft line, set to the left by the gearbox layout, runs parallel to the chassis, alongside the driver’s left leg. Where it leaves the gearbox selector housing, it then rotates inwards through the floor of the cockpit to the rear of the engine; this unit is also tilted to the left by seventeen degrees from the vertical. In this car, the exhaust pipes are external and only the brake pedal was hanging, while the clutch pedal is mounted at the bottom near the hood. Trintignant will drive the 2.2-litre 1958 model with which Moss won at Caen last month, while Seidel will drive the old 1957 model with which Trintignant won at Clermont-Ferrand the week before. There is only one Maserati in this early afternoon, Bonnier’s 1957 light car that he had got from Scarlatti. There would also be two more Maserati, those from the Centre-South, one for Troy Ruttman and one for Hans Herrmann, but neither of them is ready for the first practice session. There is no trace of the ultra-light official Maserati of 1958, nor is there any trace of Fangio, who has retired from European races, even if at the time of the race he is still in Italy. Before the start of Friday’s practice, keeping in mind that, sincethe impressive time set by Fangio in 9’17”4 in 1957, the circuit has been resurfaced in some points and some corners have been lightened and slightly inclined, it could be assumed that his time will be easily approached and perhaps beaten, most likely by a Ferrari, because the small Dinos would seem very handle in the corners of the Eifel circuit. Having seen Moss drive 9’25”0 in the 1958 Maserati in June, during some unofficial tests, there would be every reason to assume that this year’s cars would be close to the lap record. Last year, Hawthorn did9'24"0 with the old cumbersome Lancia/Ferrari V8, so it is no surprise when he turns 9'21"9 with this year’s car, and both Collins and von Trips get below 9'30"0 quite easily. When Moss does likewise with the Vanwal, it is clear that they have profited from last year’s experience, but B.R.M. are in a badstate, the cars being off the ground more than they are on it. 


After some juggling with anti-roll bars, shock-absorbers and tyre pressures, and the cars being fitted with steering dampers and bracing struts to the tops of the king-pins, the Vanwalls are really finding their feet on the Nürburgring, and towards the end of the afternoon Moss stirs things up with a lap in 9'19"9, to beat all three Ferraris. It is interesting that Bonnier is driving Maserati number 2529, the actual car in which Fangio set up his record lap last year, even though, of course, the engine is no longer the same, last year’s car being on alcohol, and the Swedish driver put in a lap this year in 9'42"7, a creditable time until one remembers last year’s race. Allison does 9'44"3, in the 1958 Lotus, which is indeed a worthy effort, it being the first visit to the Nürburgring of both driver and car. In the Formula 2 category, Brabham is worrying everybody by lapping in 9'43"4 with the works Cooper, this being the Formula 1 chassis that Salvadori has driven so well at Silverstone, now fits with a 1500cc Climax engine. The next best is Phil Hill with 9'59"0 in the little Ferrari, and after that no one can approach 10min. Porsche are very worried because they cannot find a driver for their fast single-seater RSK that won at Reims, Behra being in the Formula 1 race and Barth not being too sure about passing a medical examination after his crash at the Freiburg hill climb. As Lewis-Evans is standing around doing nothing, he is loaned a sports Porsche to get in some practice, with a view to taking over the Formula 2 car if Barth cannot drive. A single works Lotus is entered, this being a 1958 car with the engine in a near-vertical position, but a lot of the practice time is spent fitting Graham Hill into the driving seat and finding room for his feet around the clutch housing. Burgess is driving the Atkins Cooper, McLaren a works-supported one, Seidel is in Rob Walker’s 1957 Cooper, and Naylor, Gibson and Goethals have their own Surbiton-built cars, while Bueb has his 1957-type single-seater Lotus. The Ferrari drivers are trying quite hard but cannot make any impression on the Vanwall time that Moss has set up, even though they are all ahead of Brooks, his car still having some further modifications to be done. Poor Behra is the most unhappy as he loses control of his B.R.M. and spins off into the undergrowth, bending the chassis slightly, and all in an endeavour to go as fast as Allison with the Lotus F1 and Brabham with the Cooper F2. 


Although the weather has been fair for the Grand Prix practice, apart from a very brief shower of rain, as soon as it is all over, a veritable tornado sweeps across the Eifel mountains, tearing down trees and flags and advertising, flooding everywhere around the paddock, so that the day’s activities finish on a rather depressing note. On Saturday, at midday, conditions are first class, with the track dry and clouds obscuring the sun occasionally to prevent things getting too hot. Behra is given the spare B.R.M. and Brooks has his car fitted with a de Dion tube giving vertical wheel-positions instead of the usual positive-camber set-up, while Ferraris are trying some different shock-absorbers on their small car. Hawthorn is going immensely fast, no matter where he is watched around the circuit, and he records an unbelievably quick lap in 9'14"0, while Collins gets down to 9'21"9, taking most of his corners in full-opposite lock slides, seemingly just for the sheer fun of it, for he is obviously wasting some time. In complete contrast to last year, Moss and Brooks are looking very comfortable and smooth, and although the former does not improve on the day before’s time, the latter gets within 1 sec of Hawthorn’s remarkable lap, and, watching the Vanwall go down the steep Fuchsröhre and through the following bends, the lap time is not surprising. The two Centro-Sud Maseratis are in trouble right from the start, for Ruttman’s car burns a hole in a piston almost before he has started to practise and Herrman’s car broke a half-shaft, while Bonnier is also in trouble with a broken valve. Both Salvadori and Trintignant are now going very well, and are approaching times of 9'35"0 and are faster than the B.R.M.s but unable to approach the really fast cars, even though Brabham is going round in a spare 2-litre car and lapping under 9'30"0. In Formula 2, the works Lotus is out but has not gone far before the engine tightens up as Graham Hill is going into a corner and he spins onto the bank. After taking the engine to bits, it is found that the Climax water-pump drive has sheared. As Hill has not done any serious practice, he borrows Allison’s Formula car and sets off, but comes back cap in hand having spun it and crumpled the front, so the Lotus team has to get busy with welding plant and hammer, while Allison is mostly philosophical about it and grins, saying: yes. 


Among the Formula 2 drivers, McLaren is outstanding to watch on certain parts of the circuit and he is showing all the press on characteristics of Jack Brabham, and he gets down to a time of 9'56"0. Last year, none of the Formula 2 cars can get below 10 min, although earlier this year, on the improved circuit, Behra does 9'53"9 with a 1500cc sports Porsche during the 1000-kilometre race, so that he has some form of yardstick to go by. Phil Hill improves his time to 9’48’’9, but still cannot look at Brabham’s remarkable time, and Collins has a go in the little Ferrari, but the Cooper is still fastest. Lewis-Evans goes home as Barth turns up and takes the F2 Porsche from him, and de Beaufort decides to run his 1500RS as a F2 as well as a sports car. Marsh is going splendidly in his own Cooper, being noticeably fast up the climbing bit through the Karussel to Hohe Acht, which is real hill-climb stuff, and his time of 9'57"5 is only three-tenths of a second behind Barth’s best with the works Porsche. Bueb just fails to break the 10-minutes threshold with his Lotus and the rest of the runners vary from slow to pathetic. Saturday afternoon sees an immense amount of activity in the paddock, the Ferrari mechanics taking the engine from the experimental car and fitting it into Collins’ car, and changing the ribbed alloy brake drums on the front of the Formula 2car for normal cast-iron ones. Lotus mechanics are straightening out the Formula 1car with the aid of the wonderfully-equipped service vans provided by the various petrol companies, which are a feature of German races, and B.R.M. are trying to sort out their suspension problems. Vanwalls are fairly happy, doing routine maintenance and checking everything, and, in complete contrast, all three Maseratis are spread all over the floor. The Coopers are all free from any serious bothers, even though Porsches are taking gearboxes apart and altering gears. Before the Grand Prix begins, a 6-lap sports-car race takes place, and mixed in with it is a Gran Turismo race for 1600-cc and 1300-cc cars, the former group being composed entirely of Porsche Carrera and 1600 Super and the latter of Alfa-Romeo Sprint Veloce Giulietta. The sportscar race itself is an interesting open battle between Borgward and Porsche, with Herrmann, Bonnier and Juttner driving the 1500RS from the Bremen factory and Behra and Barth driving for Stuttgart.


In addition to these two German teams there is a factory Lotus Fifteen driven by Allison, a private Lotus Fifteen of Berchem, Piper’s 1100cc car, and the promising American driver Dan Gurney with an Osca from the Scuderia Centro-Sud. There is a certain amount of umbrage among some of the Porsche Gran Turismo drivers for the A.v.D. decides not to allow any competition exhaust systems on the Carreras, even though they are accepted everywhere else, so, as a result, many of the Carreras are transferred to the sports category. From a spectator viewpoint, this one-make GT racing is not exactly a technical exercise but it is a good proving ground to weigh up driver-ability. The five fastest times among the sports cars in practice have been set by Behra, Herrmann, Barth, Bonnier and Allison, the first five all being under 10 min. Behra is credited with 9'39"0, faster than Brabham’s Formula 2 time, but although given officially it is very suspicious. This suspicion is justified during the race, for Behra is credited with 9'34"2 yet Bonnier has lost only a few yards on the Porsche and Allison only 2 sec, and the Borgward and Lotus are lapping a little above 9'50"0. Later, Behra’s time is amended to 9'48"9 for the race lap record, which makes sense, and nevertheless is very creditable, so one can assume that his practice time is 9'49"0 and not 9'39"0. Although Behra leads for the whole six laps, Bonnier hangs on grimly, showing that the Borgward (described in the July issue of Motor Sport) is more than an equal for the RSK Porsche. Although Barth is in third place on the opening lap, Cliff Allison is driving brilliantly and sweeps the Lotus Fifteen round, catches the Porsche and holds third place for four and a half laps, at last breaking up the German monopoly of the 1500cc class on the Nürburgring. However, it is too good to last and, halfway round the sixth lap, a rear radius-arm mounting brakes away from the chassis and Allison comes to rest, losing an honourable third place, so that the German monopoly takes hold again. However, the Porsche monopoly is sadly disrupted, with Borgward second (Bonnier), fourth (Herrmann) and sixth (Juttner). Among the Gran Turismo cars, everything goes according to form, Schulze winning the Giulietta group from the Swiss driver Stern, who has been showing excellent promise this season, while among the Carreras the fastest is Walter, who makes a habit of going well in a Porsche, and the first 1600 Super is driven by Mahle, who made himself known last year by driving a Giulietta. Sunday, August 3, 1958, during the morning, Mike Hawthorn joins Peter Collins and his wife Louise in their hotel room, where he finds his teammate still sleeping in his bed.


"I watched him sleeping and for some reason I don’t know I felt happy. Peter was someone who didn’t want to die, I thought".


Then Collins opens his eyes and meets Mike’s gaze.


"Come on, it’s a beautiful morning, and it’s time to wake up".


After a short brunch, which would have had the function of lunch, since both drivers would not have eaten until the end of the race, Peter, still in his dressing gown, devotes himself to the wooden puzzle bought in Germany, while Mike reads a book by Wodehouse. Other drivers, such as Bonnier and Philip Hill, join Peter to complete the puzzle. When it is an hour before the start, and the drivers head to their rooms to get ready, Collins exclaims:


"I did it, I did it".


Having completed the puzzle. A few moments later, Louise asks if she can disassemble it and put it back together, but Peter grumpily replies:


"Don’t touch it. I did it and it must remain as it is so that I can show it to everyone".


Peter Collins is nervous, very nervous. Finally, it is time for serious business at the German Grand Prix and, although the starting grid is as shown below, there is a certain amount of nonsense because Brabham, Herrmann, Bonnier, Ruttman, Graham Hill, Allison and Goethals do not complete the required minimum of six training laps, either due to not reading the regulations carefully or blowing up their engines, while Naylor fails to get his paperwork scrutinised properly and is also on the blacklist. It is finally allowed that these eight should start, but from the back of the grid, irrespective of practice times, which accounts for Brabham’s poor grid position, as well as Allison’s and Bonnier’s.  All 25 cars are assembled on the grid, Ruttman being a non-starter as his engine is irreparable, although Bonnier’s car has only five good cylinders. A few minutes later, in front of an audience of 80,000 spectators who came to Adenau from all parts of Germany and also from neighbouring Holland, crammed along the circuit, which, with its numerous corners, is one of the most insidious in the world, the German Grand Prix kicks off at 2:15 p.m. precisely. When the flag is lowered, the two Vanwalls start well, as Harry Schell, who arrives outside from the third row and joins the leaders as they descend towards the Südkurve. At the back of the field there is a certain amount of jostling going on for the fast people like Bonnier, Brabham and Allison are trying to make up for their bad grid positioning. During this melee, Brabham rams Bonnier in the tail and the Cooper is badly bent, while the Maserati goes on with a big crease in the back. Moss does his standing lap in 9'26"6 and was 6 sec ahead of Hawthorn, who is closely followed by Collins, Brooks, von Trips, Schell and Behra, Allison and Salvadori in nose-to-tail formation. Allison’s opening lap with the sleek Lotus and only 1960-cc engine is quite something, coming as he does from the last row on the starting grid, and he has caught and passed Salvadori’s 2.2-litre Cooper, which proves something or other. Phil Hill is leading the Formula 2 cars by a great distance, and is, in fact, hanging on to the tail of the main group of Formula I cars; and behind him come McLaren, Burgess, de Beaufort, Barth and Bueb, as quick as that. Naylor stops at his pit with a defective fuel pump and poor Brabham limps in long after everyone is well round their second lap, the Cooper too bent to continue in the race. 


Moss is really in form, and so is the Vanwall, so that his second lap is a new lap record with a time of 9'16"6, and he is now so far ahead of Hawthorn that, as the Vanwall disappears round the Nordkurve behind the pits, to set off on its third lap, the Ferrari is just rounding the Südkurve, and Collins is right behind Hawthorn. The field is already strung out, Brooks being on his own in fourth place, and then come Schell, Behra and Allison scrapping for fifth, followed by Salvadori and von Trips, the Ferrari pulling into its pits suffering from no brakes; nothing can be done, so von Trips rejoins the race, to continue to drive without using the brakes and stopping the car on the gearbox. There is no change among the Formula 2 cars, eventhough both Trintignant and Herrmann are mixed up with them and having difficulty in getting out of the ruck and joining in with the Formula 1 event. Bonnier fails to appear, his engine - which has been bodged-up - failing on the descent down to Adenau. Having got clear of the pack, Moss is out to build up a substantial lead in the early laps, and on his third time round he pulls out all the stops and records a truly fantastic lap record with a time of 9'09"2. Regardless of all circuit changes and progress in the Vanwall development, this is a truly meritorious effort and it puts him 17 sec ahead of the Ferrari pair, who come by this time with Collins leading and with Brooks still within striking distance. These four have left the rest of the runners way behind, and then comes Behra, who is in a thoroughly bad temper at not being able to shake off the fairground racers of Allison and Salvadori. On this lap Gibson drops out, de Beaufort stops to change a front wheel on his sports Porsche, and Seidel stops to see if there is anything wrong with the Rob Walker Cooper as he keeps spinning round: there is nothing wrong, apart from the driver being hopelessly cramped in a cockpit designed around Moss and Trintignant, so he goes on. On the fourth lap, there is a big dropout of cars, and the race is barely begun, for Moss coasts to rest at the Schwalbenschwanz with his magneto refusing to emit any more sparks, and with a truly remarkable lead over everyone else he has to stand by the roadside and watch Hawthorn, Collins, Brooks and the rest go by. 


The two Ferraris roar by the pits to start their fifth lap with a very good lead over Brooks in third place and next comes a close trio consisting of Schell sandwiches between Allison and Salvadori. Phil Hill is now seventh overall, and leading the Formula 2 class by an immense distance, and then comes von Trips coasting into all the corners, followed by Trintignant who has at last gotaway from all the small cars. Herrmann fails to appear, his Maserati engine having blown up, and de Beaufort does not come round, while Behra comes into the pits long after all the Formula 2 cars have gone by and retire with driver boredom as a change from the usual mechanical issues. Goethals also gives up on this lap, Seidel is now last. The situation looks like Silverstone all over again, with the two Ferraris in full command of the situation and as Collins leads Hawthorn by a length at the end of the fifth lap, they have over 22-seconds lead on Brooks in the lone Vanwall, and their pace is such that the rest of the runners might have been in a different event. The Formula 2 Ferrari is going splendidly, apart from having inadequate brakes for its speed, or so it seems to the driver, and behind it comes Trintignant and von Trips, the German driver knowing very well that his brakes are inadequate. The Cooper vs Lotus Formula 1 battle is still in favour of Hornsey, while Surbiton has the advantage in Formula 2, in both cases behind Ferrari cars, one should add. Graham Hill goes out with an oil pipe leak on the 1500-cc Lotus car and, on the next lap, Phil Hill finds himself spinning downhill towards Adenau on a hidden oil patch, although, whether from the Lotus or not, it is difficult to say. The F2 Ferrari takes in some grass banks and finishes up going the right way so Hill goes on racing, still in the lead of the small car class, but now behind Trintignant and in eighth place overall. Meanwhile, up in front, the two Ferraris are playing games together, Collins leading across the line at the end of lap six and Hawthorn then taking the lead as they go past the pits. 


It is now obvious that Brooks is no longer 22 sec behind, he is definitely closer and he does his seventh lap in 9'16"7, which brings him visibly closer to the two Ferraris and on the next lap he is with them, passing on the twisty bits but being overtaken on the fast bits, the Maranello cars having more steam than the Vanwall. The fight continues and Brooks, in order to take the lead, forces overtaking Hawthorn to take second place at the entrance of the Nordkurve, pushing the Ferrari of the blond British driver out. He then overtakes Collins but is passed again on the straight. However, unlike the earlier lap, Brooks is now alongside Hawthorn at the end of lap ten, so that with his Vanwall he can easily reach the Ferrari at the entrance of the Südkurve, passing then Collins at the entrance of the Nordkurve. Brooks closes his tenth lap in 9’10"6, not as fast as Moss, but an excellent time, and now - having gained the lead at the beginning of the winding parts - he can lengthen his pace on the pair of Ferrari drivers. Meanwhile, on lap nine, Allison and Salvadori managed to get rid of the second B.R.M., as Schell was forced to retire due to a lack of front brakes. On the eleventh lap, the disaster for the Ferrari team is accomplished, because turning the double right-handed corner, after Pflanzgarten, which is located at the seventeenth kilometre and which is faced at more than 145 km/h , Collins makes his usual drift with the opposite block, but then the car goes off the road, in front of his teammate who sees the whole scene petrified. The furious chase ends tragically: Collins, who is driving on the straight at about 170 km/h, only reduces his speed by a few kilometres to take the aforementioned turn. Too little for him to stay on track. The left wheels go off the road and spin around on the grass, while Collins tries in vain to get the car back on the track. But now it is too late: the car rears up, breaks through the protective barrier, flips over three times and finally crashes into a tree, remaining completely demolished. Collins is thrown twenty metres away, ending up on a bush at the edge of a wood. In the following fall, the British driver hits his head against a tree. The first who rushed to the scene of the accident, including a race marshal, hear Collins, before passing out, murmurs:


"Like Musso".


In the meantime, Hawthorn continues his pursuit of Brooks, but at the end of the eleventh lap his clutch starts to show signs of failure: while his Ferrari climbs the road back behind the pits, Hawthorn suddenly slows down. After crossing the finish line, the British driver tries to keep going but does not finish the twelfth lap. He stops, rather than due to the breakdown for emotional reasons, and asks a steward how Peter is doing. The steward walks away, phones the race director, and then comes back and tells Mike that Peter is fine. Twenty minutes after the end of the race, Mike will ask a local German for a ride, to return to the pits. On the way, the British stops at the scene of the accident, where he finds the police but no trace of blood. But he will pick up his helmet, a glove and a shoe from the ground. Meanwhile, at the end of lap eleven, Allison returns to the pits with the radiator broken, and after a long attempt to stop the loss, he tries to continue, even though he returns to the track in last place. At the end of lap thirteen, Brooks is more than three minutes ahead of Salvadori. Next are Trintignant third, Trips fourth, although still driving his Ferrari brakeless, and McLaren. Two laps later, the race comes to an end, with Brooks simply called to finish the two remaining laps to win his second Grand Prix of the season, followed by Salvadori, Trintignant, Trips and McLaren, who does not take the two points expected for the fifth place as he is part of the group of drivers registered with a Formula 2 car. Moss, who set the fastest lap at the beginning of the race, conquers the additional point. During the last four laps of the race, in order not to impress the audience and the same drivers still in action, the loudspeakers broadcast the news that Peter Collins came out unscathed from the accident. Only later, at the end of the race, rumours spread that the British driver was injured, but not seriously. At the same time, however, the clinical direction in Bonn eludes the questions of the journalists and of the Ferrari managers and technicians themselves about the real conditions of the injured, even when it is now certain that the young driver would hardly have escaped death.

Speaking about what happened, Mike Hawthorn will say:


"Although his win at Silverstone had narrowed the gap between him and Stirling, Peter still wanted to help me win the Championship. He would have done anything to help me. And with his help, I was very confident in the race, and I thought I could win. Peter and I did exactly the same as last year. We were going side by side when Peter signalled that I would have finished first and he would have been second. The important thing was not to make the mistake of 1957".


The British driver witnesses the accident as a spectator and sees the moment when Peter overtakes Brooks in the descent to Adenau, he will say:


"It seemed to me that they should even touch each other, they were so close. Peter wanted to do something better than wait for the straight. Logically, he didn’t like the chance to repeat 1957. At Brünnchen, Peter must have been in the wrong gear because I found myself next to him, my front wheels at the height of his cockpit. We accelerated together. I wondered if I should pass him or not. He gave me no signal, so I went back".




"He entered the valley in the right way, but as he accelerated it seemed to me to be too fast. I had made the same mistake the day before, in practice, I had given too much gas at the same point: I went off the track, but I was lucky not to hit the embankment".


Then, he sees the accident and asks himself:


"What was I supposed to do? Should I stop or should I go? The thought was running fast in my head. I simply didn’t know what I was doing. I was burnt with doubt. Should I stop at the pits? No, I shouldn’t have to do that because Louise was there, and she would be terribly worried. I moved on. The race was lost. I was driving independently. After the finish straight, at the exit of the Nordkurve I put my foot down and the rev counter went up to the sky. I tried to get the car to where Peter had come out, but it was too far".


Mike, unaware of everything, after returning to the pits, talks to Tavoni, and confesses to him:


"Excuse me, my hands were shaking, I couldn’t go any further. I saw the car two metres above the ground attached to the pine tree. With a wave of my hand, I told Peter there was nothing more he could do. But he wanted to try anyway. I saw the nose of his car in the corner, I widened and let him pass: three kilometres later, he went off the track. If I hadn’t let him through, maybe he wouldn’t have died. I don’t want to race anymore".


Thus Tavoni, in the company of a mechanic, leaves Amorotti and Cavalier Bazzi at the circuit and goes to the hospital. While Mike, since reassured, does not worry too much anymore and therefore looks for a way to calm down. So, he goes back to his room at the Sporthotel, right under the stands in front of the pits. Then, he changes his clothes, has a cup of tea and packs his suitcase. Only at this moment, someone knocks on his door telling him that his friend’s condition is serious. Distraught, Mike searches for a car and finds Harry Schell willing to give him a ride. Mike will arrive at the hospital at 10:30 p.m., due to heavy traffic. In the parking lot he meets Wolfgang Seidel, who asks how his friend is doing:


"Peter is dead".


What happened in the meantime? Immediately after the accident, through an ambulance, Peter Collins was transported to a hospital in Adenau, where his condition is judged to be serious: the driver suffered a fractured skull base, brain injuries and wounds to an arm. But in this facility, there is no means suitable for difficult cranial surgery. The doctors, therefore, decide to transfer the unfortunate driver, after having given him a blood transfusion, to the University Clinic in Bonn and the transport is conducted by a German army helicopter; however, Collins died in flight without regaining consciousness. Meanwhile, Louise Cordier, Mrs Collins, experiences moments of distress when, in a Ferrari car, she reaches Bonn at high speed, where she knows that they would take Collins. At 5:00 p.m. Collins arrives in Bonn where the doctors, until the last moment, continue to refuse to supply details of the driver’s condition. Arriving at the hospital, Louise is told that Peter is in the operating room, before a doctor asked her to answer the phone, where her father was on the other side calling her from the United States. It is therefore her father who informs her of Peter’s disappearance, since he had a United Nations envoy who followed his races and kept him constantly informed. The reason for the secrecy of the doctors will then be explained: Peter Collins had married a year earlier the American prose actress Louise Cordier King, daughter of the assistant of Dr Andrew Cordier, Secretary General of the United Nations, Hammarskjold. It is only around midnight that a spokesperson for the German Automobile Club announces to friends and journalists waiting in the hospital lobby that Peter died with a medical report: the British racer had already died while being transported by helicopter from Adenau to Bonn, and the blood transfusions carried out first in the hospital in Adenau and then during the flight were useless. During the afternoon, the doctors will ask Romolo Tavoni for the proxy to enter the room where, on a table, Collins is lying, completely naked. Louise, at the sight of her husband, faints, and only a snap of Romulus prevents the lady from falling to the ground.


Peter Collins was twenty-seven years old and had a brilliant career to his credit; he was lately racing for Ferrari and was considered Britain’s number two driver, after Stirling Moss. At the start of the German Grand Prix, he was third in the World Drivers’ Championship standings. Eyewitnesses to the accident agree that the young driver not only did not change gears and slow down his speed but did not even start the corner by heading straight towards the protective barrier. Collins’ demise arouses deep grief among all the drivers who came to the hospital. Brooks, the winner of the race, confesses that he will lay the crown of victory on the grave of his deceased companion as a sign of mourning. Trips, when he is told the sad news, bursts into tears silently:


"I find it hard to believe that such a skilled driver died in a corner that he had faced hundreds of times in his racing career".


For three years, Peter Collins had been defending the colours of Ferrari, for which he had won numerous laurels. Born in Kidderminster, a small town in Wales, Peter devoted himself to motor racing at a noticeably early age. Not yet twenty, he was already driving a 2000 cc car. In 1956, he joined the official Ferrari team revealing himself to be one of the best drivers in the world; for some time, he seemed a bit on the decline, but suddenly he recovered, as evidenced by his splendid achievement of two weeks before, in the British Grand Prix, and perhaps he would have won in Germany too if the Pflanzgarten corner, one of the most insidious of the Adenau circuit, had not been fatal to him. The death of the young Ferrari ace throws consternation in international automotive circles. On Sunday evening, despite Collins' condition having appeared very serious from the first moment, it was hoped that he could survive. His tragic end followed four weeks after the death of Luigi Musso at the circuit of Reims. Thus, in the space of a month, world motorsport - and Ferrari in particular - lost two of the best and most esteemed champions. As often happened in other circumstances recently, on Monday morning news began circulating in the entourage of the Maranello team that Enzo Ferrari had decided to retire from the races as a sign of mourning. These rumours are fuelled by the fact that initially, the Ferrari executives refuse to make any statements about this (and in fact, Ferrari, speaking with Tavoni, confesses that he would like to stop racing with Grand Prix cars).It is learned, however, that during the night they had very long telephone conversations with the men of their entourage present in Germany, and with Hawthorn, who, when he hears Ferrari talking about the withdrawal of the Grand Prix cars, having recovered from the first shock, exclaims:


"I'm the one who’s taking the risk. If I won’t have a Ferrari, I’ll race with another car".


Ferrari, this time, does not release any statement to journalists, merely saying:


"Right now, we don’t want to mortgage the future".


For this reason, on Sunday evening, the rumour spread that Enzo Ferrari had decided to retire himself form racing, and many believe it; such a reaction seems entirely justified on a human level, as well as on a technical level. But Ferrari will deny the news the following day: he will continue to race with the means and the men that are left, even if with the death of Peter Collins, the Ferrari House registers the sixth mourning in two years. The tragic series began with Sergio Sighinolfi, during a training session on the Modena track, at the beginning of 1957. Then, Eugenio Castellotti tragically perished in the spring of 1957, during a training session on the same track in Modena. Also in Modena, shortly after, still in training, Andrea Fraschetti. In the Mille Miglia of 1957, Alfonso De Portago died following an accident and Luigi Musso died recently in Reims. Now a tragic fate has befallen Collins. 


The accident suffered by the British driver has disconcerting analogies with the one that caused the disappearance of Luigi Musso. Both went off the track at the end of a corner, while they were in second position in the race. The only difference is this: if Musso was running behind his team-mate Hawthorn, Peter Collins was chasing a driver from an opposing team, Tony Brooks, of Vanwall, who, after Moss’s retirement, had taken the lead in the bitter conflict. Ferrari, however, is destroyed: after Dino’s death, Peter had become like an adopted son for him, to the point that he even thought of leaving him a part of the company, the day he would have finished his career.


"Peter, are you going to the cinema tonight?"


Dino asked.


"No, I’m staying here with you. Why?"


And Dino replied:


"Because, if you go to the cinema, tomorrow you can tell me what you saw. I can’t get out of bed, I’m a little bird in a cage".


So, Peter would go to the cinema, and then tell Dino the whole movie. For these reasons, after Dino’s death in June 1956, Ferrari and his wife saw Peter as a substitute for their son. At the beginning of 1957, on their return from Argentina, Peter and Louise lived in Ferrari’s country villa, given to them to celebrate their first wedding anniversary. Here Collins loved to build wooden boat models:


"Peter loved to build complicated wooden boat models on the dining room table. That keeps him pretty busy. Where did this year of living together go? I don’t know. It’s been a wonderful year...".


Louise and Peter had met each other, curiously, thanks to Stirling Moss: the British driver had arrived in Miami with Masten Gregory from Buenos Aires, headed to Kansas by Gregory’s family for a few days of vacation. It was Moss who suggested that he stops in Miami, where he could meet a genuinely nice and likeable actress, as well as a car enthusiast, whom he had met in Nassau in December. Peter phoned her to see her that evening, at the end of the play in which she was acting. Two days later, sitting by the pool of the hotel where Peter and Gregory were staying, he asks her to marry him. It was the evening of February 11, 1957. The disappearance of the British driver causes new demands for motor racing to be made safer and even to be abolished. The Neue Rhein Zeitung of West Germany comments:


"Now it’s too much. Let’s stop with these deadly car and motorcycle racing. Who will be the next corpse to be pulled out of the wreckage of his car? If the victims of the tracks are to be ignored, the idea of sport is being ridiculed. It’s no longer about sport, but a challenge to death".


There are, of course, voices against the abolition of motor racing. Of this opinion is the leading French sports newspaper L’Equipe, which argues that Collins' disappearance should not be a reason for another campaign against motor racing. But L’Equipe shares the opinion of World Champion Fangio, who argues that new provisions are needed to impose a minimum weight on the cars.


"The tracks need to be safer, and, above all, racing cars need to be heavier and therefore more stable. Currently, they are too light and too fast".


L’Equipe argues that, once the spectators have been adequately protected and everything possible has been done for the safety of the drivers, motor racing will have to continue, because this is necessary for the continuous technical improvement of the cars. Meanwhile, Tony Vandervell, owner of Vanwall, which won the tragic German Grand Prix, pronounces himself against the restrictions to impose certain limits on racing cars.


"It is not the cars that are too light, but what is needed is to establish the right proportion between the weight of the car body and the mechanical parts, including the wheels".


Alan Brinton, of the News Chronicle newspaper, argues that even with a heavier car, the same accident would probably have happened, given the circumstances in which Collins disappeared. Mike Hawthorn, Collins' teammate, was very shaken by his friend’s disappearance, but declares:


"If Ferrari wants me to continue, I will continue. My next race will be the Portuguese Grand Prix in two weeks. Personally, I’m not very interested".


Meanwhile, on Monday, August 4, 1958, the public prosecutor of the Republic of Koblenz, who conducted the investigation into the tragic Nürburgring accident, declared:


"No one is responsible for Collins' disappearance".


If the twenty-seven-year-old English rider has disappeared, this is entirely due to his mistake. It should also be excluded that the accident was caused by a technical defect in his car. All the cars taking part in the German Grand Prix were in fact in the best condition. Even the people who transported Collins to the hospital and who, according to some, would have wasted precious time in the driver’s life are not responsible. For the German authorities, the investigation is therefore closed, so much so that the public prosecutor of the Republic of Bonn, in the meantime, authorises the transport of the body to Great Britain. The body of the English athlete lies in the mortuary of the University Clinic in Bonn, where in the meantime crowns and bouquets of flowers arrive from friends and admirers. During Monday morning, Collins' widow returns to visit the body again. Mrs Collins, who is accompanied by Hawthorn, is already wearing a black dress, bought in Bonn, and a long veil of the same colour falls over her face. The body is expected to be transported to Great Britain on Wednesday. The wife of the deceased, meanwhile, leaves for London by plane on Tuesday afternoon. Her marriage to the British champion lasted only eight months, having married in December 1957. In a subsequent conversation between Moss and Hawthorn, after Collins' death, the former says:


"What makes this sport sublime is the eternal and ever-present danger of death. If this threat, constantly hanging over our heads like a Damocles sword, didn't exist, we probably wouldn't race anymore. The beauty of competition is that at the Nürburgring, there are a whopping 172 corners to navigate on each lap".


Hawthorn responds:


"Absolutely right. At Silverstone, if a driver makes a mistake, there's always an escape route, a way out, and that takes away any pleasure from the competition. For us drivers, it's like that, even though I know that what I'm saying risks sounding sadistic".


Then Moss counters:


"That's why true acrobats never use a safety net during their daring and dangerous maneuvers".


And Hawthorn adds:


"If a driver doesn't have the courage, daring, and coolness to tackle a circuit like the Nürburgring, it's better for them to bid farewell to this sport. Peter Collins, whom we all remember with particular affection and regret, knew all this, understood the challenges of the German circuit, and wouldn't have attempted it if he didn't feel up to it. Racing is about having confidence in oneself. You'll recall the Hawthorn of 1956: the press and sports pundits claimed I was finished, and even I had embraced that idea. Last year, though, at great effort, I began to regain confidence in myself and my abilities. I know when my form takes a nosedive, and if I don't feel like pushing the pedal to the metal, I refrain from doing so".


Then he concludes by saying:


"Whether I become World Champion or not, I'll disappear from the sports scene, definitively, within two years. I must confess that immediately after Collins' death, I had thought about retiring. But the pressures exerted on me by Peter's widow, Louise, convinced me to continue. On the other hand, reflecting on it today, I don't see why I should have abandoned motorsport".


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