On 13th February 1961 Ferrari organize a press conference to present the cars with which they will race in the main world championships of the upcoming sporting season. Ferrari will be involved in three sectors: Formula 1 (with the new regulations becoming effective this year), Sportscars and the Intercontinental Formula. In total, ten all-new vehicles have been built in the Maranello-based workshop. The greatest surprise is the new rear-engine sportscar destined to the most twisty and challenging racing tracks (like Targa Florio and Sebring) thanks to the low weight (just 590 kilograms) and the remarkable manoeuvrability.
It is at the same time streamlined and bulky, in order to comply with the measurements required by the regulations. The engine is a 2417 cc six-cylinder. In parallel, the 12-cylinder 3-litre front-engine model destined to faster races has been redesigned and will aim at the overall win at the Le Mans 24 Hours, the most prestigious automobile race in the world. Formula 1 cars are also new, powered by a 1.5-litre six-cylinder engine. For the latter, two different types have been designed to obtain the best results based on the layout of the circuit on which the races of the Formula 1 World Championship will be held. So, Ferrari’s approach is quite clear and imitates the one that allowed Mercedes to dominate motor racing in the biennium 1954-55 by having vehicles with different designs to be perfectly suited for different operating conditions.
However, Ferrari will probably have a harder time in the Formula 1 World Championship rather than in the World Sportscar Championship because this year, in the Grand Prix, they will face not only British manufacturers such as Cooper, Lotus and B.R.M., but also Germany’s Porsche. Same situation as in the Intercontinental Formula, created both to prolong the life of the old 2.5-litre single seaters, and to allow the Americans to compete with European manufacturers. For the Intercontinental Formula Ferrari have built two 3-litre rear-engine cars (the biggest displacement allowed by the regulations) which will be seen by the public together with British and (probably) American cars also in Turin at the Gran Premio del Centenario, which will be held in September on the runways of the Caselle airport.
Ferrari have been facing British teams for a couple of years in the rounds of the World Championship. They are now producing a great effort to regain the long-lost primacy, changing to new construction schemes and new avant-garde technical concepts. However, a lot will depend on the human factor, i.e., the drivers. Since it was impossible to sign someone like Moss or Brabham, already tied to other interests, or Bonnier, who proved to be amongst the four or five strongest racing drivers in the world the previous season, Ferrari decides to put again their trust on their three drivers of the past three years: German Wolfgang von Trips and Americans Phil Hill and Richie Ginther, backed up by Belgians Olivier Gendebien and Willy Mairesse - but only for Sportscar races.
Unfortunately, Italy lacks world-level racing drivers, even though there are some promising young talents; it is understandable that in current conditions Ferrari are opting not to take the responsibility of putting one of them to the test. However, the Maranello-based manufacturer has appreciably decided to make one of their Formula 1 cars - identical to the factory-entered one - available to the Federazione Italiana Scuderie (Italian Teams Federation). Only for the rounds of the Italian championship (starting with the Siracusa Grand Prix in April), the car will be assigned to whoever Federscuderie considers adequate for each race among those young talents.
For the moment, the chosen one is Giancarlo Baghetti, a young Milanese who shone in the junior categories. The experiment is interesting and Enzo Ferrari himself seems to believe in its success. The new Ferrari rear-engine sportscar will be tested for the first time in the following days at Aerautodromo di Modena, driven by von Trips. If the test is successful, the car will be sent right away to the United States where the following month it will take part in the Sebring 12 Hours, first round of the World Sportscar Championship. There, it will be joined by a second front-engine sportscar. The new Formula 1 single seater will debut instead in May at the Monaco Grand Prix, or, at worst, eight days later in the Netherlands.
Testing, however, will not go as planned: von Trips suffers a scary accident in the morning of Wednesday 15th February 1961 at Modena circuit driving the new rear-engine Ferrari-Sport 2600. Being the first test of the new cars that were presented to the specialised press just a week before, technicians and onlookers swarm the circuit. After warming up the engine with the car stationary, Trips begins to drive around and progressively increasing his pace. The accident occurs on the fifth lap while the car is running through the S-corner, adjacent to the famous Via Emilia, that leads into the pits straight (it is a quite slow and difficult corner that cannot be taken at more than 120-130 km/h and which is protected all around by a very solid crash barrier).
As the car skids, the driver tries to keep it on track desperately operating the steering wheel, but the car goes out on the grass on the inside of the corner. There, after having jolted on the bumps and stuck its nose in a hole in the ground, it is thrown into the air as if launched from a catapult, then it falls down on the track, flipping twice before landing on the four wheels. The driver, curled up in the driver’s seat and wearing a steel helmet, is kept safe in the moment of the shunt. A cry of dread rises from the spectators’ chest as they follow the various phases of the accident just a few metres away, behind the crash barrier.
Before the emergency services, who are headed in a rush towards the car, can reach the place of the accident they see von Trips laboriously get off the car. The German driver touches his body in disbelief: he himself does not even know how he got away with that accident. From far away the mechanics watch the scary accident and see the driver painstakingly walk away towards the pits. Von Trips seems calm and finds the strength to smile to team principal Tavoni (even though later all the emotions will cause him a light shock from which he will recover almost right away).
"I’m very sorry for the car, I know that Ferrari cared so much about it".
Von Trips suffers only a mild back contusion and abrasion, which is dressed on place by Tavoni with a band aid, and a mild right-elbow abrasion. Only afterwards the driver will see a doctor, who will give him a few-day prognosis. The brand-new model, tested for the first time after being presented to the world sports press which gathered in Modena for the annual press conference, is completely destroyed. The causes of the accident are unknown. It may be due to the excessive speed and the fact that von Trips was driving the car for the first time. On the third lap the car had already skidded with its rear end, but the driver managed to keep it on the track.
Accidents aside, the world of motor racing is ready for the 1961 season to start. With the same routine and the same men, but with new cars. The changes in the Formula 1 regulations put a strain on the Italian, British and German manufacturers, who will compete in the Grand Prix for that seasonal supremacy which has been firmly held by the Brits for two years. The decrease in displacement (from 2.5 litres of 1950s formula to the current 1.5 litres) required all the manufacturers involved in this activity, which is so difficult, expensive and often disappointing, to build not only new engines but completely renewed cars.
Racecars become outdated quickly because competition urges the teams to make progress and research new solutions. But, in order to see the new 1.5-litre single seaters built by Ferrari, Cooper, Lotus, B.R.M., Porsche and the other manufacturers who announced their entrance in motor racing debut, the public will have to wait for the Siracusa Grand Prix, scheduled for 25th April 1961, or rather the Monaco Grand Prix, scheduled for 14th May 1961, which will open the series of races valid for the World Drivers’ Championship.
Instead, it is up to the Sportscars to open the racing season: these will compete on Saturday in the 12 Hours of Sebring, first round of the FIA World Championship for Sports Cars. The name Sebring as a racing venue appeared just a few years before but has rapidly become one of motor racing classics, despite its permanent organizational shortcomings.
Sebring, located in Florida, is a former American airbase: a circuit with mixed characteristics, not particularly fast and extremely difficult, was designed on its runways and partially on its service roads. On this course the 12 hours will be held on Saturday 25th March 1961, from 10:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. Teams and drivers are the same as in the previous year: among the main entrants, Ferrari, Maserati, Porsche; among the main drivers Moss, von Trips, Ginther, Phil Hill, Gendebien, Bonnier, Mairesse, Gurney, McLaren, Herrmann, and Trintignant. But big changes have been introduced among the cars: both Ferrari and Maserati have built new rear-engine cars that will debut in Sebring. Ferrari participates directly with three crews: von Trips-Ginther, Gendebien-Trintignant and Hill-Mairesse, the first at the wheel of the new car and the other two in the old 1960-spec 12-cylinder sportscar, even though radically modified.
By contrast, Maserati does not participate officially, being represented by the teams who buy its cars: American Camoradi Corp. and Serenissima, founded by Count Volpi di Misurata. However, only Camoradi takes part in the 12 Hours. Stirling Moss (for whom Maserati has always had a soft spot) and McLaren (or Gregory) are the drivers recruited to drive the new rear-engine car in its debut. The fight between the two Modenese manufacturers, traditionally rivals, constitutes a further element of interest for this Sebring race, without underestimating the winning chances of the 1.6-litre factory Porsches driven by Bonnier-Barth and Gurney-Herrmann, which are particularly dangerous on a track like this. The previous year, the 12 Hours was won by one of the Stuttgart-based cars, despite smaller displacement and power, thanks to better manoeuvrability and reliability, which are Porsche’s best qualities.
The endurance classic will be preceded by a race reserved to grand touring cars with a displacement up to 1000 cc on Friday 24th March 1961. Among the entrants there is also Fiat-Abarth. The record average of the 12 Hours was set in 1958 by the Ferrari duo of Peter Collins and Phil Hill, covering a distance of 1673 kilometres. The lap record (6372 metres) belongs instead to Ginther (Ferrari, 1960) with a time of 2’17’’2, corresponding to an average speed of 152.748 km/h.
The anticipation for the debut in the Sebring 12 Hours of the new Italian rear-engine cars built by Ferrari and Maserati grows significantly after Phil Hill’s exploit, who on Friday 24th March 1961 beats the current lap record during practice at the wheel of his Ferrari. It takes 2’15’’6 to Hill to complete a lap at an average speed of 165.603 km/h. The previous record belonged to Stirling Moss, who in 1960 drove a lap at an average of 152.087 km/h.
Ferrari cars seem destined to a sensational triumph at the 12 Hours currently taking place at Sebring circuit in Florida, first round of the World Sportscar Championship. The cars of the Italian manufacturer, who had already impressed during practice setting the new lap record, turn out to be the fastest and most reliable of the field in the race, better than the Maseratis and the Porsches.
Sixty-five cars line up at the start of the 12 Hours. And it is a very lively start indeed: the Rodríguez Brothers take the lead right away, while Moss (Maserati) is delayed by an unfortunate start. In the first hour of racing the Rodríguez brothers are in the lead but are subsequently overtaken by the Ferrari of the Ginther-Trips duo and by Moss’s Maserati, which completed an exceptional chase. Meanwhile, the first accident occurs: Lee Max’s Bristol rolls over after a skid, but the driver walks away miraculously unharmed. Right after that, Moss is forced to exchange cars with Gregory due to mechanical issues with his Maserati.
The very sustained pace is fatal also for Ginther and von Trips, who, after dominating the first stages of the race at an average speed of 150 km/h, are forced to abandon their car and replace teammates Baghetti and Mairesse, who are running in fifth position, while Moss is forced to retire definitively. So, the Rodríguez brothers (nineteen-year-old Pedro and twenty-one-year-old Ricardo) come back strongly and at half race appear in the lead again, while Ginther and von Trips lose ground now running in third place behind Hill and Gendebien’s Ferrari. During the seventh hour of racing, the new rear-engine Maserati driven by Hansgen and McLaren is also forced to retire after having run in fourth place for a long time.
Ferraris dominate by occupying the first five places at the end of the seventh hour of racing. After nine hours Rodríguez brothers’ Ferrari is still in the lead, running at an average speed of over 148 km/h. Subsequently, towards the tenth hour of racing, the leading duo is forced to briefly stop in the pits. Hill-Gendebien take advantage of this and take the lead with their Ferrari as the race is heading towards its end and darkness falls over the circuit.
Eventually, Olivier Gendebien from Belgium and Phil Hill from the U.S. win the 12 Hours of Sebring at the wheel of their Ferrari. For both, it is the third victory at the famous race. The American round ends with a crushing victory for Scuderia Ferrari, which secures the first four places. Mexican brothers Ricardo and Pedro Rodríguez fall victim to bad luck after running a magnificent race in the first nine hours, finishing third behind the German-American duo of Wolfgang von Trips and Richard Ginther and preceding the Americans Sharp and Hisson, all in a Ferrari. The victorious Ferrari covers a distance of 1757.300 kilometres in twelve hours, completing 210 laps of the 6.3-kilometre circuit at an average speed of 146.940 km/h. All these figures are new records. The previous record was held by Hill and Peter Collins who had driven at an average speed of 139.460 km/h in 1958.
The outcome of the race is never doubted, as the Ferraris take the lead from the start, scheduled for Saturday at 10:00 a.m. under the hot Florida sun and in front of 30.000 spectators. The only one who had a chance to be a serious threat to Ferrari’s dominance is Englishman Stirling Moss. However, the Maserati driver lost six minutes at the start/in the beginning due to a battery failure. Moss has performed many feats trying to chase the Ferraris led, in the initial laps, by the new rear-engine model driven by von Trips and Ginther.
With the 12 Hours of Sebring now in the history books and with it all the comments regarding the sensational victory of Ferrari’s sportscars, the racing calendar proceeds with two events on Easter Monday (3rd April 1961) in Pau and Goodwood where the new Formula 1 single seaters will be used for the first time. This is not a fancy debut, because many new cars will not be present, including Ferrari and Porsche (the first race of the Formula 1 World Championship will be held only on 14th May 1961 in Monaco), but it is a very interesting race anyway, dedicated to providing manufacturers with precious information on the efficiency of their vehicles, among others, defending World Champion Jack Brabham and Maurice Trintignant with their Cooper-Climax, Jim Clark and Trevor Taylor in two Lotus-Climax, Gregory and Burgess in the Coopers of Scuderia Camoradi and maybe the new British cars built by Emeryson (and powered by a Maserati engine) assigned to Gendebien and Lucien Bianchi will participate in the Pau Grand Prix. The organizers also hope for the presence of Wolfgang von Trips (driving a Cooper entered by Scuderia Colonia) as the Ferrari driver is free from any commitment with Ferrari. Scuderia Centro-Sud enters two Cooper-Maseratis with youngster Lorenzo Bandini and Portuguese driver Mário de Aráujo Cabral.
But in Pau pundits are particularly interested in the debut of the new Formula 1 car built by Turin engineer Virgilio Conrero, who used a modified Cooper chassis on which he mounted the engine of an Alfa Romeo Giulietta brought to ca. 1.5 litres and with twin-spark technology (152 horsepower at 7400 rpm), and a bodywork designed by Carrozzeria Michelotti. It will be driven by Gino Munaron, who, before leaving Turin headed to France, expressed his enthusiasm for the capabilities of this car. The program in Pau will be completed by races reserved to Junior cars, sportscars and Grand Touring cars, as well as motorcycles.
In Goodwood, near London, there will be a race for Formula 1 cars for the International 100 Miles Trophy, one for Intercontinental Formula (with 3000 cc displacement), one for Junior cars and one for Sportscar, in a program that fills the entire day. Among the F1 entrants the presence of Stirling Moss (Lotus-Climax), Ireland, Allison, Brooks and Graham Hill (B.R.M.) and probably John Surtees (Lotus) should be enough to bring some prestige to the competition. The Intercontinental Formula race should instead witness the participation of Reventlow’s Scarab and the new 2.7-litre rear-engine Vanwall-Lotus driven by Surtees, who will eventually be the winner of the Goodwood Glover Trophy, while Jim Clark and his Lotus-Climax will be victorious in Pau.
However, expectations are much higher for the Bruxelles Grand Prix, which is won by Jack Brabham driving a Cooper on Sunday 9th April 1961. Brabham wins two of the three heats into which the competition is divided and deservedly claims victory, which, according to the regulations, is assigned to the driver who has totalized the fastest time. The Belgian race is a sort of preview of what is coming in the 1961 season, as it is not valid for the Formula 1 World Championship but marks the debut for Porsche’s Formula 1 cars. Their performance is only partially good: Sweden’s Jo Bonnier, Porsche’s main driver, wins the first heat in 45’40"6 (at an average speed of 131.647 km/h), but is not even classified in the following two events. Evidently, the German car suffers some imperfections and has to be retired.
In the second and third heat Brabham practically has no rivals, after finishing third in the opening race. In race 2, the Aussie sets a slightly slower time than Bonnier with 46’04"2 at an average speed of 130.423 km/h. In this second heat former motorcycle world champion John Surtees also gives a good performance, setting the fastest lap at an average speed of 133.663 km/h. Stirling Moss finishes instead only in seventh place. Among the toughest rivals of the winner there are Roy Salvadori (Cooper), who is classified second behind Bonnier in the first heat, and New Zealand’s Bruce McLaren (also driving a Cooper). In the third and last heat, Brabham is forced to defend against the attacks of a challenging Stirling Moss, who has long threatened his first position.
Two weeks later, the Siracusa Automobile Grand Prix inaugurates the Italian Formula 1 racing season on Tuesday 25th April 1961. Ahead of the races valid for the world championship, the new cars already competed on the circuits of Pau, Goodwood, Bruxelles, Vienna and Aintree (the latter race being held on Saturday 23rd April 1961 and witnessing Jack Brabham’s win at the wheel of his Cooper). But Siracusa is particularly interesting because it will mark the debut of the new Ferrari, although unofficially, because there will only be the car with which the Maranello-based manufacturer has provided the Federazione Italiana Scuderie to be assigned - only in the races of the national championship - to the fastest young Italian driver deemed worthiest of support. The chosen one is Giancarlo Baghetti from Milan, who is the fastest of the field in the first official practice at Siracusa circuit, proving right who had trusted him.
Although the British drivers who take part in the Aintree Grand Prix (Brabham, Moss, Surtees, and Brooks) did not hit the track, despite being the last practice session, Baghetti’s achievement is quite remarkable, having preceded drivers like Porsche’s Gurney and Bonnier and Emeryson-Maserati’s Gendebien in the classification and having equalled the circuit record for 1.5-litre cars, held by Moss, who set it in a Porsche at an average speed of 166.666 km/h (the all-time lap record also belongs to Moss driving a 2.5-litre Vanwall at an average speed of 173.288 km/h).
Another element that adds value to the Siracusa Grand Prix is the presence of twelve Italian drivers, mostly youngsters (both in age and career-wise) and coming from Formula Junior. And credit must be given to the new formula, whose cars are cheaper in order to allow a higher number of competitors. A lot of foreign drivers also participate in the Sicilian race: among them Brabham, Surtees, and Salvadori for Cooper-Climax; Moss, Ireland, and Clark for Lotus-Climax; Bonnier and Gurney for Porsche; Brooks and Graham Hill for B.R.M.; Gendebien and Mairesse for Emeryson-Maserati.
Practically, everyone is present except the drivers of Scuderia Ferrari: Richie Ginther was originally entered, but then Ferrari withdraws from the race due to the car not being completely ready. Despite Baghetti’s great achievement, British and Porsche drivers are still the favourite on the following day, but for the moment all that matters is that the young driver becomes accustomed to the Grand Prix atmosphere and that the new Ferrari can complete its preparation in a race ahead of the challenging rounds of the world championship.
On Tuesday 25th April 1961, after over three years of foreign victories, an Italian driver, nineteen-year-old Giancarlo Baghetti, wins a Grand Prix again, easily defeating the massive foreign coalition in the eleventh edition of the Siracusa Grand Prix; by winning in Siracusa Baghetti sets an enviable personal record, being able to take victory in his debut race among the aces of motorsport.
Baghetti’s opening lap is quite unfortunate: maybe too excited, the driver sets off for a slow start, losing precious seconds that allow Gurney, Surtees, Bonnier, Trintignant, and Salvadori to be ahead of him in the first laps. On the third lap, however, the Milanese is already on the tail of the group formed by Surtees, Bonnier and Gurney; on the fourth lap he overtakes Bonnier and on the fifth starts leading the race to the end, except for 15-20 seconds on lap 25.
In the final stages, Gurney tries to attack but Baghetti manages to hold off the American thanks to a very efficient vehicle. This duel practically lasts the entire race, and none of the other drivers can ever get in the fight between the two: Bonnier tries timidly to keep up with the leading duo up until the fortieth lap, when he starts losing power, allowing Baghetti and Gurney to lap him. Defending world champion Brabham finishes fourth and his skills are useless against his unchained rivals. Even Moss disappoints, as he is lapped four times; his Lotus is inferior both to Ferrari and Porsche, which have dominated the race. Excellent result also for the other Italian, Lorenzo Bandini, who follows Baghetti in the standings of the Italian Drivers’ Championship. The fastest lap is set by Gurney on lap 53 with a time of 1’54"9 at an average speed of 172.323 km/h.
The Targa Florio, which will be race on Sunday 30th April 1961 for the 45th time, is the oldest motor race in the world, whose foundation dates back to 1906. In over half a century of its long history, it has summed up all the technical progress and the evolution that has characterized the car industry. This year the race is once again valid for the World Sportscar Championship - second round of the season after the 12 Hours of Sebring - and for some classes of the sports and grand touring categories it is also valid for the Italian championship. As always, the race will be held on the Madonie street circuit: an extremely tortuous course which provides a very severe test ground both for drivers and vehicles.
Ferrari, Porsche, and Maserati (entering their cars with Scuderia Serenissima) will fight for overall victory with modern cars and world-class crews. Ferrari, which dominated in Sebring in the first round of the world championship, fields its full team: Phil Hill-Gendebien and Trips-Ginther driving the new six-cylinder rear-engine sportscar, and Mairesse-Ricardo Rodríguez (on this occasion the young Mexican driver becomes an official driver of the Modenese team). Of the two cars entered by the Maranello-based manufacturer, the old 12-cylinder sportscars means playing it safe for Ferrari: the new one, protagonist of an excellent as well as unlucky race in Sebring, seems particularly suitable for the racing course of the Targa thanks to its better manoeuvrability.
Maserati lines up two six-cylinder 3-litre rear-engine sportscars, vehicles capable of outstanding performance, provided they overcome the stability issues encountered in Sebring. They will be driven by the duos Vaccarella-Trintignant (the driver from Palermo gave a demonstration of his class refined by his experience the previous year) and Maglioli-Scarlatti. The driver from Biella comes back to racing after a year of absence at that Targa Florio that saw him victorious already in other two editions: he is obviously one of the favourites for the win.
To what concerns Porsche, the German manufacturer brings to Sicily its light and agile cars that seem to be specifically built for the Madonie circuit, despite the handicap of a smaller displacement (1.7 litres). Not to mention the drivers available to the Stuttgart-based manufacturer: Moss-Graham Hill, Bonnier-Gurney and Hermann-Barth: a formidable team. In other words, it will be a great, very uncertain battle, that will be decided on the last lap, as it usually happens in the almost uninterrupted tradition of the Targa Florio. Besides, it is possible that some outsiders manage to make their way to the top.
The beginning of official practice brings into the mood of the 45th Targa Florio as the Porsches give a taste of their adaptability to the course by setting the fastest times. The classification at the end of the first day of practice (Friday 28th April 1961) states: first position for Bonnier (Porsche) running at an average speed of 102.694 km/h, followed by Stirling Moss also driving a car of the German manufacturer (average of 100.252 km/h). In third and fourth place we find the Ferraris of von Trips and Gendebien, with Vaccarella’s Maserati in fifth, all running at an average speed of around 98 km/h. So, Bonnier beats the lap record, that he himself held from the previous year with an average speed of 101 km/h. During practice an accident also occurs, but fortunately for Ferrari driver Willy Mairesse from Belgium there are no consequences: after his car skids down the hill of Collesano, the car ends up out of the road, damaging the right side, but the driver walks away unharmed.
In the evening of Saturday 29th April 1961, over fifty cars regularly undergo hallmarking procedures and will line up at the start of the 45th edition of Targa Florio on Sunday. The first car to hit the track of this challenging competition will be the Alfa Romeo Giulietta driven by Busso and Pernice marked by number #2. Thirty seconds later it will be the turn of Grand Touring cars up to a displacement of 1.3 litres. After the win in the 12 Hours of Sebring, Ferrari currently holds the lead in the world standings with 8 points, while Porsche is fifth with 2 points. The cars of the Stuttgart-based manufacturer will be driven by aces like Stirling Moss, Phil Hill, Bonnier, Hermann, Barth and Gurney. Besides, it should not be forgotten that the new rear-engine Maserati Type 63s will be part of the game: these are experimental cars, and technicians are anxiously waiting for them to be tested on the arduous Madonie circuit.
And it is another great victory for Ferrari, who consolidate their leadership in the World Sportscar Championship. After a riveting fight against Stirling Moss and Graham Hill’s Porsche, von Trips and Gendebien truly deserve the triumphal laurel, even though they took advantage of an accident occurred to their strong rivals. So, another surprising turn of events at the Targa Florio: the number #136 Porsche driven by Moss and Hill was leading the race with an over-one-minute advantage and was probably heading towards victory, despite von Trips’s furious and magnificent chase, when it had to stop for a problem with the differential. This left the field open to the Italian car, which ends the race triumphantly setting two new records (fastest lap and fastest average speed over the race distance).
Another commendable performance was provided by Vaccarella and Trintignant at the wheel of the new Maserati, which finished in fourth place overall, while the Osca disappeared from the battle. Vaccarella is also the first among the Italian drivers. Also, Maglioli and Scarlatti put up a remarkable performance, finishing fifth in a Maserati. The fifty-seven cars previously hallmarked start regularly according to racing schedule. Already after a lap the positions are delineated, especially because of the furious pace imposed by Stirling Moss’s reckless driving, who takes the lead in his number #136 Porsche. On the opening lap the number #164 rear-engine Ferrari driven by American Phil Hill crashes off the road, luckily with no further consequences for the driver, who, however, is forced to abandon the race. This leads to the formation of a new duo. In fact, Gendebien, now without a car, joins von Trips, while Ginther is excluded from the race.
Stirling Moss keeps leading the race when on the fourth lap realizes his first masterpiece, improving the lap record that he had previously set in 1958: it takes 40’58"2 to the British champion to cover the 72 kilometres of the Madonie circuit at an average speed of 105.442 km/h. At the end of this lap Moss leaves his car to Graham Hill, as Ferrari begin their comeback, despite being represented in the race by the sole rear-engine model driven by Gendebien and von Trips, since the 3-litre front-engine car driven by Rodríguez stopped in the pits due to an issue with the fuel tank on the third lap. With a very quick change at the end of the fourth lap, Gendebien takes over from von Trips and starts chasing the leading Porsche now driven by Graham Hill.
Gendebien keeps gaining ground second after second until he reduces his gap from the leader to only six seconds on lap five (half race). The Porsche driven by Bonnier and Ginther is third, 45 seconds away. Gendebien’s chase ends on lap six: as he drives past the grandstands, the Belgian Ferrari driver has a 35.2-second advantage on the number #136 Porsche. Then, Moss retakes the wheel of the German car, but Gendebien keeps extending his advantage, which reaches one minute on lap seven. Except for the lap times, the other positions remain unchanged.
Clearly, Moss (who completes the seventh lap in 42’35"2) does not want to risk a mechanical failure. However, this will happen on the following lap (the eighth), when Moss beats the lap record again, annihilating all of Gendebien’s advantage and taking the lead for fifteen seconds. On the penultimate lap, the Porsche, still driven by Moss, extends its gap over the Ferrari, now with von Trips at the wheel. So, everything seems to be already decided, when, right on the last lap, the unexpected occurs, with a dramatic turn worthy of the oldest race in the world.
Moss’s Porsche has to stop for a mechanical failure (a broken differential) before Buomfornello straight, while von Trips and his Ferrari provide an incredible exploit, covering the last lap of the race in 40’05"2, again beating the lap record at a staggering average speed of 107.807 km/h. The 2.5-litre Ferrari also breaks another record: the average speed over the race distance, with 103.433 km/h, having covered 720 kilometres in 6h57’39"2.