In the Grand Prix of Modena, Stirling Moss didn’t have the slightest difficulty with imposing himself on the other thirteen drivers admitted to the race, which wasn’t valid for the World Championship. Since the official Ferrari team was missing, that is the only cars that could have caused problems to Moss - thanks to the proven performance superiority - he didn’t struggle to fight against the opponents, among which only Joachim Bonnier with the German Porsche managed not to be overwhelmed by the class of the great British driver. He won’t be able to win the world title this year either, which he deserves more than any other driver and that, which for at least five years, unfavorable circumstances denied him of it. In the two seasons preceding the current one, despite the superiority of the British Formula 1 cars to which Stirling Moss wanted to remain loyal, after the experience with Mercedes and the withdrawal from Maserati, the driver from London lost the title (in favor of Jack Brabham) for having tortured their cars too often, creating the reputation of a driver without mechanical sensitivity, which is probably unnecessary or at least too harsh. This year Moss had started with the exemplary victory in Monaco, but the great superiority of the new Ferrari compared to his Lotus forced him to give up, except on very difficult tracks, as the Nürburgring, where the mechanical qualities take a backseat against the class of a driver. But some could wonder what Moss could have done with a Ferrari. Perhaps this is an ambitious question, since the marriage between these two parties seems to be impossible. However, since the Italian Grand Prix will end the series of races valid for the 1961 World Championship in Monza on Sunday no matter what will happen, the title will not escape Phil Hill or Von Trips, who are the two best placed drivers in the ranking. And Moss will have to postpone his aspirations again even if, apparently, he gives to the title a purely formal value. Going back to the Modena Grand Prix, the race didn’t offer any particularly interesting technical information. Clearly, since we’re lacking a comparison with the cars from Maranello - which are currently the true touchstones in motorsport - it isn’t possible to go beyond general observations.
On the other hand, there’s the beautiful but unlucky race of Lorenzo Bandini who, despite a certain inferiority of his vehicle, has been able to fight bravely against the opponents, who are smarter and more experienced. The promising Emilian is one of the best young drivers, together with Giancarlo Baghetti and Carlo Mario Abate (who last Sunday won the 500 kilometers of the Nürburgring, which is an international championship race for touring cars, driving the fast Fiat-Abarth 1000). Meanwhile, we enter the week of preparation for the Italian Grand Prix, which is always one of the most classic races in the world. It is likely that, even before the start of the official tests, some of the competitors will go to the circuit in Monza to prepare with particular care for this great race. And, in the meantime, some technical innovations have been announced. It seems certain that at least three or four British cars will have the new eight-cylinder engine that should compensate for the current power inferiority against Ferrari. And in Monza power will be needed, since the Grand Prix won’t be held on the road circuit but on the complete ring of 10.000 meters, including the track with elevated curves: the average speed of the race will be more than 200 kilometers per hour. It's becoming a tradition - for the Italian Grand Prix - to be able to host a season finale which could lead to any result, and 1961 is no exception. Once again, more than one driver is fighting for the victory of the World Championship. The Italian Grand Prix is held in September, as usual, in a period in which the different teams have now completed the development of their cars and already make the new models debut: the new ones are often used during the test session while the old models, which theoretically are more reliable, are used for the race. The location is the very fast track located in Brianza with its peculiar combination of both road and elevated track. The circuit is flat and very fast even if it has three slow turns, while the basin is an oval circuit with lateral slopes that reach up to 80% and consists of two semicircular curves joined by two parallel straights for a length of over four kilometers. The two sections combine in the wide straight between the pits and the grandstands, divided by a row of signaling cones. For the spectators in this area there is an unusual view: you can hear the cars on the side of the pits that move away accelerating out of the South Curve in the direction of the elevated north, and you can see the cars - from the grandstands - speed towards the Curva Grande of the road, just after exiting from the South elevated at high speed. For safety reasons last year, the British teams and their drivers, believing that the entire elevated track was dangerous, had refused to take part in the event, leaving space on that occasion only to Ferrari, Porsche and some private teams.
The British had issued an ultimatum, stating that they wouldn’t participate unless the race was held only on the road circuit. The Automobile Club of Milan had concisely and sharply rejected their request and so the race was held on the combined road-track circuit without the British teams. The dreaded gradients of the elevated ring didn’t lead to those incidents that the British had predicted, so for 1961 everyone registered regularly, while the circuit remained unchanged. This time the protests aren’t lacking, but they are more moderate than last year’s: the British accept the solution of the combined track but don’t fail to emphasize the fact that, once again, they would rather race on the road circuit only. The only exception for this year is the reduction of the race distance from 500 to 430 kilometers. Anyone who didn’t appreciate the regulation is free skip the race; this is the disdainful position of the Italian Automobile Club. Thirty-seven competitors entered the Grand Prix, including official and private drivers who managed to prepare a two-liter car for the event. When Enzo Ferrari defected to the recent race in Modena, he said he was focused on the preparation of the event in Monza, which he showed by registering four official cars in the race and entrusting a fifth one to Giancarlo Baghetti, who races as a privateer. Phil Hill, Wolfgang von Trips and Richie Ginther are all equipped with engines at 120 degrees while the fourth member of the official team, the young Mexican debutant Ricardo Rodríguez, has an older car equipped with a 60-degree engine. A new car with a 120-degree engine was entrusted to Giancarlo Baghetti, member of a local team, the Scuderia Sant Ambroeus. But it’s Scuderia Ferrari that takes care of the car and the driver. As a T-car is available to all five drivers a car with a 60-degree engine, with the front suspension forged quadrilateral, used for all tests at the beginning of the season. With six almost identical cars, Scuderia Ferrari’s fleet is really impressive. Cooper has a new car with V8 Coventry-Climax engine, first seen at the Nürburgring last month, with Jack Brabham driving once again, while Bruce McLaren has a car equipped with the Coventry- Climax engine with 4 cylinders and another one was brought as a spare.
Lotus were unable to purchase a V8 Coventry-Climax engine, so Innes Ireland and Jim Clark use the 1961 4-cylinder cars, while RRC Walker bought a V8 Coventry-Climax and installed it in a Lotus chassis for Stirling Moss to drive. With the help of Ferguson Research, this new engine, which is identical to Cooper’s, was added into the chassis of the Lotus Walker. This meant cutting the entire back of the chassis from behind the driver’s seat and redesigning the layout of the car. In this way the 1961 rear suspension is incorporated, using a transverse strut from the top of each frame support, thus lightening the transmission shafts of all suspension loads and giving space to the Hardy Spicer. A Colotti Type 32 gearbox was assembled to the Coventry-Climax engine and the new chassis was designed around the complete unit. This includes a frame that is part of the rear end of the frame and has the two upper side rails integrated, while the entire assembly is screwed to the main frame by large bolts, also screwed to the ends of the tubes, which are plugged and tapped. This structure is made of small diameter tubes, well arranged at the corners, and must be detached completely before the engine or gearbox can be removed. The Coventry-Climax V8 engine uses four downdraught Weber IDF type carburetors that are assembled in the V of the blocks. The car also features a complex arrangement of exhaust pipes so the tubes from the left and right cylinders are joined together, so that all eight slide up to a junction above the clutch housing, where they merge into two tail tubes that sprout from the rear of the car body, above the gearbox. The car was finished in a hurry to keep the old Lotus engine hood, with a huge bulge added to turn on the four carburetors, while the bulge on the left side of the 4-cylinder engine is still visible. The car arrives in Monza without ever being tested and the other Walker’s Lotus, with the 4-cylinder engine, that Stirling Moss used to win in Modena last week, is brought as a spare. B.R.M. made a wonderful effort and, thanks to their hard work, created two brand new cars. The British team arrived in Monza well before the start of the tests with these cars and two normal 4-cylinder cars with Coventry-Climax engine that had raced in Modena. The new cars have V8 engines, entirely designed by B.R.M. and are completely new, although the suspension, layout and gearboxes are those used on 4-cylinder cars. The whole general layout and shape of these new cars with V8 engine are a natural development of the tried and tested cars of 1960/1961, but a new chassis is designed to take the V8 B.R.M. engine to 90 degrees. Last April this new engine was still on the drawing table, but in July the parts were beginning to be produced and the project began to take shape and now, at the beginning of September, two complete cars are in Monza.
Engines undergo several test laps, and the cars are briefly tested at an old airport, while at Bourne headquarters a third car is about to be completed. This represents real progress and, before the official tests for the Italian Grand Prix start on Friday, the car is tested on the track in Monza, so much so that one of these has some problems and another one gets modified. The large bore and short stroke make the V8 B.R.M. engine very low and compact, although a large cup is used to prevent foam from forming in the crankcase. The cylinder blocks are at a 90 degrees angle and each bank has two overhead camshafts driven by a cluster of gears from the front of the crankshaft. Two valves are used for each cylinder, with spiral springs and single 10mm spark plugs in each cylinder, powered by a Lucas transistor ignition system, such as the one used on the Coventry-climax V8 engine. The segments on the flywheel provide at counted intervals of sparks instead of make-and-break contacts and these are fed to an 8-contact distributor head, driven by the gears at the front of the engine. Since there are no Weber Italian carburetors easily available and compatible with the structure of the B.R.M., and there is no British carburetor manufacturer interested in making racing carburetors, a Lucas injection system is used. This is a low-pressure system that injects fuel into the inlet ports; the pressure is supplied by an electric pump at about 100lb/sq-in and each cylinder has a conical inlet horn. This new B.R.M. engine is very compact, neat in its external appearance and well finished and fits perfectly into the chassis, with new cars that are even lower than those equipped with 4-cylinder engines. The four exhaust pipes that exit from each side of the engine are hidden, although they are of tuned lengths and merge into individual tail tubes on each side down along the gearbox side. The body is narrower than the previous models, and the nose is lower and longer, and has a very elegant contour along its entire length. The suspension fork and spiral for all four wheels are the same as the previous cars and the disc brakes are assembled on all four hubs; the front wheels are Dunlop, with removable hubs, while the rear wheels are alloy with a B.R.M. design, knock-off, with very wide and strongly webbed rims between the rim and the hub. The Owen Racing Organization has two members, Graham Hill and Tony Brooks. Porsche only have two cars, one for Jo Bonnier and one for Dan Gurney. Both cars use robust 4-cylinder engines with swingarm front suspension.
For the tests, the team has at its disposal the new experimental car driven by Barth at the Solitude racetrack, which has the cooling fan assembled horizontally and a lower body line. A third Porsche is registered privately by the Dutch Carel Godin de Beaufort, equipped with 4-cylinder engine, which has been used throughout the whole season. This was painted silver again after appearing in orange at the Nürburgring. John Surtees and Roy Salvadori have two Yeoman Credit’s standard Cooper-Climax, although the former has a new experimental car to drive during the test session. This model features a Formula Junior Cooper chassis, two inches shorter than the Formula 1 chassis, equipped with Formula 1 suspension and brakes. It’s fitted with a 4-cylinder Coventry-Climax engine, coupled to the latest 5-speed Coloni gearbox: the Type 29, which uses a different internal gear method than the 21 and 32. The new Yeoman Credit Special, equipped with Formula Junior bodywork, had been briefly tested in Modena, fitting 13-inch front wheels. The new car brings the strength of the Yeoman Credit team on the track in Brianza to six cars: two Formula 1, two special Formula 1 and two Inter-Continental, all Cooper-Climax. Their rival, UDT-Laystall, bring three cars for two drivers: Masten Gregory and Henry Taylor. These are the old Lotus-Climax equipped with a new Colotti gearbox and the last one with an original Colotti gearbox, while all three cars are equipped with the Lotus bodywork, which is thinner. Tim Parnell and Ashmore (both privateers) are driving the Lotus and Pilette (Equipe Nationale Belge) has an Emeryson at his disposal. All three cars have Coventry-Climax engines, while Brian Naylor has a Climax engine in his JBW. Fairman has an old and rather run-down Cooper-Climax which belongs to Fred Tuck, and Seidel has one of his white Lotus-Climax. Scuderia Centro Sud registered Lorenzo Bandini and their Cooper-Maserati, with Bertocchi from Maserati in charge of the engine, while Scuderia Serenissima also had a Maserati engine on their Cooper, with Maurice Trintignant driving the Italian team’s car. Other cars with a Maserati engine are Gaetano Starrabba’s Lotus and Renato Pirocchi’s Cooper, while Mennato Boffa joins Cooper-Lotus but doesn’t show up in Monza. Completing the list of participants are three cars of the small factory De Tomaso: one with 1.5-liter Juliet engine built by Conrero, with a double candle head and driven by Nino Vaccarella, and the other two with OSCA engines driven by Roberto Bussinello and Roberto Lippi.
Despite all these different cars and several non-professional drivers were accepted, the club rejected the registration of Jackie Lewis and his Cooper-Climax. Luckily, Mimmo Dei has a reserve entry for Scuderia Centro Sud and gives it to Lewis, causing a great disappointment to the Milan Automobile Club, which made a mistake with the registrations and wasn’t willing to let him go on track. On Friday 8th September 1961 at 3:00 p.m. the official practice session starts and it will continue until 6.30 p.m., preceded by a session dedicated to driving only on the elevated track organized for the rookies of the circuit located in Brianza. Although this may appear an annoying precaution to many, it’s fundamental for those who have never driven on an elevated track and need a consistent number of laps at high speed to take confidence with the great heights and declivities of Monza’s bankings. Scuderia Ferrari had already run several tests in August on the 10-kilometre composite circuit and again the week before the official event. Ferrari know that their cars can run in 2'46"0, a reference which isn’t far from the record of 2'41"4 set by Phil Hilll the previous year. Richie Ginther, Ricardo Rodríguez and Wolfgang von Trips are the first ones to go on track. The first two are immediately able to set interesting times, the American runs in 2'46"8 with his 120-degree engine and the Mexican in 2'49"6 with the 60-degree engine. Phil Hill joins them as well, running in 2'48"9, then it starts to rain. At first, the light drizzle discourages the drivers from pushing the accelerator on the incredible banking then, increasing in intensity, it transforms the Lesmo and Parabolica turns into real skating rinks, discouraging everybody from going on track. Although the rain doesn’t last long and most of the track dries quickly, some wet spots remain on the track, preventing the drivers from setting competitive times. Talking about the British cars, Moss goes on track with the V8 Lotus Climax and Brabham with the V8 Cooper Climax, but both seem to be struggling: the Lotus has overheating problems while the latter has issues with the hydraulic system. If they are not slowed down by problems, both cars run rather well and their engines rumble in a fantastic way. Stirling Moss' engine rumble makes people rush to the sides of the track to see his Lotus pass by. The new B.R.M. didn’t go on track in the first tests: both Graham Hill and Tony Brooks use cars equipped with 4-cylinder engines, because one of the V8 was damaged during the tests and the other was developed for the practice session on Saturday.
Looking at the dangerous Curva Sud, where the tarmac is very smooth and the rain contributes to making it very slippery, without washing away the oil and the marks of the tires left on track, it’s fascinating to see Ricardo Rodríguez move around the long hairpin bend, gently swinging from one end to the other, unbothered by the car slipping, while Giancarlo Baghetti appears to be more worried and tries to maintain a constant steering angle. The latter gradually drifts outwards into a very light understeer, always managing to keep away from the grass but giving the idea of having a precarious balance. In sharp contrast, the De Tomaso appear rather nervous mainly because of the inexperience of the drivers. The most impressive driver is Jack Fairman who, driving an old Cooper, tiptoes keeping the engine revolutions and speed constant and stands out in the fastest stretch of the Ferraris. But he has a much less powerful engine than the one produced in Maranello, which doesn’t allow him to show the same driving fluidity in the same difficult conditions. Towards the end of the afternoon, when the whole track is dry except for a strange patch, the activity increased with Scuderia Ferrari deciding to keep Giancarlo Baghetti and Ricardo Rodríguez busy during the whole session, both on their cars and the T-car. Not everything is going well for the V8 Coventry Climax, in fact Jack Brabham returns to the pits without the engine cover, while Stirling Moss emerges driving the 4-cylinder Walker Lotus. The Lotus-Climax are very good, and Jim Clark makes his engine rumble on the elevated, for him it doesn’t make any difference if the track is high or low, and he overtakes Barth, who’s driving an experimental Porsche; the German is Porsche’s reserve driver. Yeoman Credit don’t appear to be in good condition because Roy Salvadori spends most of his time breaking in the new engine while John Surtees has problems with both his cars. Because of a misunderstanding during registrations, Jackie Lewis can’t run in the early afternoon practice session and is forced to watch the other drivers, among whom are Pilette, Pirocchi, Bussinello, Parnell, Lippi and Naylor who are barely running. On Saturday 9th September 1961 at 3:00 p.m., as usual, with a track which is in perfect condition everything is ready for another qualifying session to start - always preceded by a session dedicated to the high-speed ring - which is going to end, once again, at 6.30 p.m.
Scuderia Ferrari see all of their drivers running below the limit of 2'50"0. The two cars with V8 engines by Coventry-Climax are still struggling with the cooling system. The problem is not that the engine is overheating but that the circulation systems seem to be inadequate for the flow generated by the enlarged V8 pumps. Both Stirling Moss and Jack Brabham make short runs of a lap or two, but they are never satisfied, and they aren’t able to run for long. When both drivers come out without lids, engine or side panels the team understands that the problems are serious and seem to worsen, since Brabham is forced to use the car equipped with the 4-cylinder engine. On the other hand, things are not much better for B.R.M.: after taking part in the session with some delay, Graham Hill doesn’t go far before further problems force him to stop. He certainly isn’t the only one to stop along the circuit, many other rivals find themselves in his same situation, forced to stop in rather difficult sections of the track, therefore the race directors stop the session while the crashed cars are recovered and only after that they restart the session. The trouble for B.R.M. isn’t that serious, since a new distributor cap fixes the issue. Graham Hill is once again on track and sets a time of 2'50"0, which is very encouraging for B.R.M., especially because the V8 Climax engines don’t push their chassis over the limit of 2'51"0. Despite not making many laps Graham Hill sets an excellent time of 2'48"7, which puts him on a par with Ferrari. The two young drivers driving the cars from Maranello continue to work hard but, while Giancarlo Baghetti is rather cautious, Ricardo Rodríguez is very fast and shortly after Wolfgang von Trips sets a time of 2'46"3 with the car with a 120-degree engine. The Mexican driver responds with a time of 2'46"4 with the old car with a 60-degree engine: a fantastic performance, so much so that his teammates refused to believe the timekeepers. John Surtees is still struggling with the Yeoman Credit’s Coopers and is trying to get some practice; therefore, he puts his number on the 4-cylinder Cooper works that Jack Brabham used to make some laps. Tony Brooks sets a time of 2'52"2 with the 4-cylinder B.R.M., while the UDT drivers aren’t fit and, like the Yeoman Credit drivers, are overshadowed by Jackie Lewis, who runs in 2'54"0 with his private Cooper-Climax.
Lotus proceed beautifully, experiencing few problems with Jim Clark, who is able to set a time of 2'49"2 and Innes Ireland, very close with 2'50"3, while Bruce McLaren with the Cooper equipped with 4-cylinder engine can’t to get close to them. Other good results are those of Jo Bonnier, with a time of 2'49"6, with Dan Gurney not able to match his teammate, for once, and Carel Godin de Beaufort that surprisingly goes well. Among the many Italians, Nino Vaccarella set a good time of 2'56"0 with the De Tomaso equipped with Conrero engine, beating Lorenzo Bandini and Maurice Trintignant both motorized Maserati. Scuderia Ferrari, with all their drivers below 2'50"0, can be very satisfied even if Phil Hill, who believed he had a faulty engine, finally manages to convince the mechanics to put a new one before the race. The drivers of the V8 Climax are far from happy; Stirling Moss decides not to use his V8 car, while Jack Brabham is willing to run on track for a long time. B.R.M. are quite satisfied with the cars’ performance, but they are not so sure that they are ready to race; during the tests the fuel injector has some problems, the lubrication system is far from perfect and the engine leaves small patches of oil on the ground every time it stops. While Bourne’s V8 is surprisingly quiet, even though it runs at almost 10.000 rpm and releases 175 horsepower, if not more. It’s 170 horsepower for the Coventry Climax V8. With another twelve months of development work, it’s easy to estimate that these new engines will reach almost 200 horsepower, a power that Ferrari have already found with their 120 degrees V6. The regulation says that anyone who is slower than the second fastest test time will be eliminated, and with this rule only Pilette is excluded, despite another group of drivers not being able to go under three minutes on the lap. Sunday 10th September 1961 is a hot day that opens in the morning with two races for Gran Turismo cars which last three hours and the circuit is swarmed by a huge crowd with cars, scooters, motorcycles and bicycles that continue to go towards the circuit; a crowd that hadn’t been seen in Monza for many years. While the last-minute preparations are underway in the paddock, Stirling Moss decides not to use the car equipped with the V8 engine and Innes Ireland offers, with noble gesture, to give him his car. The car was then fitted with the upper dark blue body of the Walker-Lotus, keeping its dark green underside, and the number 28, which is Stirling Moss’. Meanwhile, the green top of the reserve car is fitted on the dark blue Lotus, because the owner’s car doesn’t match, and the number 38, which is Innes Ireland’s, is affixed as well.
Seeing the time that Jim Clark had gotten in practice, Innes Ireland knew that Stirling Moss could have done even better with the same car and that’s why he makes this offer, since the Lotus Walker of the British champion had come out rather worn out from the Grand Prix of Modena. Both B.R.M. drivers are driving cars equipped with a 4-cylinder Climax engine, as the V8 is not ready. Therefore, once again, it’s Jack Brabham the only one able to go on track with the new engine, even though he’s aware that it won’t last long. Meanwhile, in the box of Scuderia Ferrari, at about 11.00 a.m. Phil Hill grabs the sports director of the team from Maranello, Romolo Tavoni, by the arm and confesses to him:
"Romolo, I don’t want to race. Wolfgang von Trips is good and he’s faster than me. I’ve seen him bend, he does it safely. I don’t even know if the first corner turns left or right. I’ll do three laps, then I’ll stop".
In order to calm him down, Romolo Tavoni spills a bottle of water on Phil Hill’s head. Seeing his teammate so shaken, Trips asks Tavoni why the American driver feels that way. The Scuderia Ferrari sports director explained the reasons to the German driver, who replied:
"Romolo, I am Phil’s friend. He’s always been very nice to me; we traveled together to the United States. Tell him that I am not his opponent in this race. We will play it at the end of the championship".
"You’re going to tell him that, if you want".
So Trips goes to Phil Hill, and confesses:
"Phil, I’ll stay behind you, I’ll have your back, don’t worry, you’ll win this race. I’m not your opponent here".
Shortly after, the news became known to the press. The German journalist Richard von Frankenberg asked Trips:
"But why do you do it? You have a chance to become the first German World Champion".
"For me the driver is more important than everything else. And I already have a contract with Ferrari. The car is strong: we win this year, and we will win in 1962".
Everything seems to be ready for an overwhelming success of Ferrari. With the main straight divided in two, the 32 participants of the Italian Grand Prix line up in pairs; Scuderia Ferrari’s mechanics removed the engine side panels while Stirling Moss' car appears to be a jumble of blue tops, dark bottoms and yellow wheels. At the signal of 1 minute to the start everybody has their engines running and, among them, Richie Ginther keeps the revolutions of his engine at a constant level, high in the lap scale until Lord Howe raises the Italian flag for the last five seconds. Only at this moment the American driver begins to prepare for the start of the race. At the start of the Italian Grand Prix, Graham Hill managed to put his dark green B.R.M. among the red cars from Maranello, and Jim Clark was quick to recover positions as well.
All thirty-two drivers race regularly, pass the Curva Grande and then face the difficult turns of Lesmo and, while the group passes along the opposite straight, from the grandstands you can see Jim Clark’s Lotus between Ferrari. Arriving on the main straight, on the pit side heading towards the North Bend, Richie Ginther and Jim Clark are side by side, followed by Phil Hill, Ricardo Rodríguez, Wolfgang von Trips, Jack Brabham and Giancarlo Baghetti. All the cars overcome the pitfall of the first lap on the high-speed ring except for Ashmor, who tackles the Parabolica too fast and loses control of the car and ending off track. Coming out of the Curva Sud, at the end of the first lap, the ranking sees Phil Hill leading the group, followed by Richie Ginther, Ricardo Rodríguez, Jim Clark, Jack Brabham, Wolfgang von Trips and Giancarlo Baghetti, all so close to each other that, by the time they appear again, their order has completely changed. The firsts, forming a small group, begin to create a small gap with the rest of the competitors, led by Jo Bonnier, Dan Gurney, Stirling Moss and John Surtees. Before the start of the Grand Prix, Scuderia Ferrari drivers are warned that the valve springs are defective. Therefore, the drivers are forced to run at 500 laps/minute less than the maximum limit. Colin Chapman, who discovers the defect of the Ferrari engines, sends Jim Clark on track with half full tank, in order not to lose contact with the first drivers and try to push the Ferrari drivers to the maximum, causing an engine breakdown. During the second lap, approaching the Parabolica, Jim Clark, who is busy not losing contact with Ferrari, gets closer to Wolfgang von Trips. The German driver however, is focused on not letting the Scot pass, intent as he is in supporting his teammate, who continues leading the race. Therefore, Trips misses Clark’s arrival and closes the trajectory to his left, braking fifty meters before the braking point.
"No, don’t do this Taffy".
Says Jim Clark to himself, desperately braking to avoid crashing with Wolfgang von Trips' car. But there’s nothing to do. The wheels of the two cars, launched at over 200 km/h, hook just before the braking point. Phil Hill, Richie Ginther and Ricardo Rodríguez, who are in front of them, continue normally, luckily the same goes for Giancarlo Baghetti and Jack Brabham who, instead, are next to the two drivers involved in the accident. The two cars end up in the escape route outside the track but, while the Scottish driver’s car manages to dampen the inertia against the side embankment and to stop in the grass without too much damage, the German driver’s Ferrari takes off spinning, crashing into the protective net, behind which there are dozens of spectators. The car then bounces back and darts into the middle of the track, while the driver is thrown out of the cockpit, bouncing off the embankment and flying a hundred meters away from the point of contact of the car against the nets. Despite the prompt intervention of the doctors, there is nothing to do for the unlucky Wolfgang von Trips, who loses his life due to the fracture of some cervical vertebrae, as well as presenting the exposed fracture of a humerus and signs of chest compression. The German driver won’t know that his Ferrari, crashing against the protective nets, caused the death of eleven spectators, who were leaning against the fence, and injured many others, three of whom died shortly after. With the track still slightly dirty, it’s almost a miracle that no other car was involved in the accident. For all the spectators in the stands and in the pits, or along the rest of the circuit, the race goes on as usual: the details of the accident are unknown and are not disclosed by the organizers. At the end of the second lap the order of the standings sees Phil Hill leading the race, followed by Richie Ginther, Ricardo Rodríguez, Giancarlo Baghetti and Jack Brabham, leading the race with a good gap on Stirling Moss just ahead of the two Porsches of Jo Bonnier and Dan Gurney, then John Surtees, Bruce McLaren, the two B.R.M. of Graham Hill and Tony Brooks, Innes Ireland and Jackie Lewis. The four Ferrari drivers are threatened by Jack Brabham: the V8 Cooper-Climax allows the Australian driver to maintain the pace of the cars from Maranello with ease. Even Stirling Moss, who’s engaged in a furious battle with Dan Gurney, behaves well even though he is struggling with the different behavior of a car he has never driven before. During the third lap, at the South Bend, Jo Bonnier and John Surtees crash. The Cooper Yeoman Credit of the British driver hits the tail of the Porsche driven by the Swedish driver: therefore, John Surtees is forced to return to the pits with the damaged car, without hiding a clear disappointment for the maneuver, while Jo Bonnier continues to race feeling strong vibrations coming from the back of his car. As time goes by, different groups of drivers form along the circuit.
The leading one sees Jack Brabham skillfully blending with the four Ferrari, with Phil Hill leading the group most of the time, with some reduced gaps. Further behind follow Stirling Moss and Dan Gurney, often side by side, and a length or two from Jo Bonnier and Bruce McLaren. The latters follow Graham Hill and Tony Brooks, with Jackie Lewis in the lead, and follow all the other competitors, including Carel Godin de Beaufort, who’s engaged in a battle with Gregory, Vaccarella and Taylor. During the fifth lap Innes Ireland was stopped by gearbox issues, while Masten Gregory, who also went back to the pits for mechanical problems, is able to continue, at least for the moment. While the front of the group is still compact and tidy, the end is a messy row of cars that retire one after the other. During the ninth lap Jack Brabham, noticing that his engine is leaking a lot of water, decides that it’s time to go back to the pits to retire, before causing more damage, but he’s still very happy with the V8 being fast enough to keep up with Ferrari. With Brabham in the pits during the eighth lap, while the four cars from Maranello finish the ninth lap with Richie Ginther in the lead, followed by Phil Hill, Ricardo Rodríguez and Giancarlo Baghetti, the race seems to be finished already, since there isn’t any hint of withdrawal due to mechanical issues for the first four cars. The first four drivers continue the race comfortably, twenty seconds ahead of the duo Moss-Gurney, regularly gaining ground, running in about 2'50"0. At this speed there wouldn’t have been any need to change the tires and therefore 20 seconds are a big advantage. Meanwhile, for a lap or two Graham Hill visibly slows down his pace, and so Lewis overtakes him. The reason became apparent when the Climax engine in his B.R.M. broke and Graham Hill went back to the pits to retire on lap 10. Fairman, Ireland and Naylor were also forced to retire between the fifth and the sixth lap and, as a result, the starting line-up quickly gets smaller. Jo Bonnier seems to be the next to retire, as the vibration is constantly getting worse and, even if she stops at the pits, the issue can’t be solved. The Swedish driver finally surrenders on lap 14, after a few laps. After thirteen laps the four Ferraris lead the race peacefully, with Richie Ginther ahead of Phil Hill, although the two swap positions several times. Ricardo Rodríguez and Giancarlo Baghetti follow the leading duo. The four Ferrari drivers are seen down the straight of the road circuit, towards the place of the terrible accident, but only two of them exit the south corner and pass through the pits: Phil Hill and Richie Ginther. However, shortly after on lap 13, Ricardo Rodríguez exited the corner and headed towards the pits.
Here, the muzzle cover is removed and the mechanics work between the batteries and the oil tank. Soon after, Stirling Moss appeared accompanied by Dan Gurney, while Giancarlo Baghetti was forced to return to the pits. After taking a quick look under the hood of the engine, the car #32 retires as well with the engine broken. It’s not long before Ricardo Rodríguez’s car is retired as well, perhaps due to problems with the fuel pump even though they suspect it’s something more serious. This sudden change in the situation leaves Phil Hill and Richie Ginther on the track alone, running closely, but they’re aware that if two cars retired then it could be their turn too, and therefore they begin to slow down the pace. However, the two leading drivers can’t relax completely because Stirling Moss and Dan Gurney continue to push each other, continually overtaking each other and always keeping the tension high. Then there is Bruce McLaren, followed by Tony Brooks, Jackie Lewis, Roy Salvadori, Maurice Trintignant, Carel Godin de Beaufort, Nino Vaccarella and Lorenzo Bandini, with the other competitors who follow with a delay. Masten Gregory stops his UDT - Laystall Lotus outside the South Corner due to suspension issues on lap 11. The two surviving Ferrari now run in 2'53"0; the drivers don’t look as confident as at the start of the race and, with Moss and Gurney continuing to battle each other, we begin to wonder if we can witness another victory of the British driver. Scuderia Serenissima’s box signals Maurice Trintignant to enter. When the French driver stops at the pits Count Volpi gives him the sad news of Trips’ passing and suggests him to withdraw from the race, but the driver doesn’t agree and continues the race, with the Cooper-Maserati that for once behaves quite well. Halfway through the race, when the leaders go to the pits after completing twenty-one laps, the order of the standings sees Phil Hill leading the race, followed by Richie Ginther. Stirling Moss ahead of Dan Gurney follow from afar. The latter are less than 20 seconds away from Ferrari. Bruce McLaren, Tony Brooks, Jackie Lewis and Roy Salvadori, who are the only drivers to have completed all the laps, follow. Then there is Carel Godin de Beaufort, Maurice Trintignant, Lorenzo Bandini and Tim Parnell, with Trevor Taylor and Renato Pirocchi far behind. These are the fourteen drivers left in the race, out of the thirty-two starters. However, on the next lap Richie Ginther loses positions and during the 24th lap he entered the pits: another Ferrari retires due to a broken engine.
Now a victory for Stirling Moss appears to be an increasingly tangible possibility since the British reduces the gap from the last surviving Ferrari and manages to increasingly contain the pressure of Dan Gurney’s Porsche. As a worried Phil Hill takes the Curva Grande, Stirling Moss and Dan Gurney rush out of the Curva Sud: the gap is still around 20 seconds. Bruce McLaren is doing a solitary race, while Ian Brook starts to see Jackie Lewis in the mirrors of his B.R.M. The young driver from Stroud is doing a magnificent clean race, always keeping a constant pace. The most encouraging aspect for Phil Hill is the awareness that his car has been equipped with a new engine, not stressed by the tests, and gradually increases his advantage to 28 seconds while Jackie Lewis, in the meantime, is less than ten seconds away from Tony Brooks. Likewise, although delayed, Lorenzo Bandini is slowly but progressively gaining ground again on Carel Godin de Beaufort. Stirling Moss' possible comeback stops after thirty laps. At first, the British driver keeps close to his rival until, during the thirty-sixth lap, he is forced to return to the pits and retire: the bearing of the left front wheel breaks making the wheel fluctuate on the pivot. The continuous stress of the external wheel in the right-hand corners and in the two demanding elevated turns leads to the final breakdown of the component. For the first time since the start of the race, Dan Gurney finds himself alone and, once again, the Italian Grand Prix has two American drivers in the lead, although this time on different cars. With the mechanics of Scuderia Ferrari keeping their fingers crossed, unfortunately sadly aware of the tragic fate that struck Wolfgang von Trips, the race of the team from Maranello continues safely, tackling the remaining laps without problems to the engine or any sign of a mistake from their driver; likewise, Dan Gurney safely follows in second place. Meanwhile, Lorenzo Bandini reaches Carel Godin de Beaufort and overtakes him, but the Dutch, strengthened by the duel, promptly overtakes the Italian and the two end up engaging in a hard battle. During the 40th lap, Jackie Lewis is right behind Tony Brooks and during the next lap he goes ahead of the rival, but only a few inches.
This happens as Phil Hill crosses the pits for the last time, before facing the North and South Turn, finally welcomed by the checkered flag. His second consecutive victory of the Italian Grand Prix also gave him the points which are necessary for the mathematical victory of the World Champion title. However, this is a title that the American driver can’t celebrate as he wants, he was told the news of the tragic fate that struck his teammate during the second lap of the race. Dan Gurney comes in second and Bruce McLaren is comfortably third, while in the back the battle for the fourth place is yet to be resolved. Tony Brooks tries to undermine Jackie Lewis’ position in the sprint, but the final finish rewards the latter by only a tenth of a second. A lap away is Roy Salvadori, and two Carel Godin de Beufort and Lorenzo Bandini, who finishes with only four other competitors behind them, for a total of twelve cars on thirty-two starters of what was a tough and ruthless race. There is little joy for Scuderia Ferrari’s mechanics and for Phil Hill’s victory, a triumph sadly marred by a serious disaster, undoubtedly unfortunate, but at the same time not entirely unpredictable. The tragedy of Monza has even greater consequences during the evening. In fact, another person, who had been hospitalized in very serious conditions, passes away without regaining consciousness on Monday evening, bringing to fifteen the total number of victims of the accident. Of the injured, other three are still in desperate condition at the hospital in Monza, so it’s possible that the tragedy can take an even more chilling and painful twist. The fifteenth victim died in the evening: it’s the nineteen-year-old Rinaldo Girod, from Arnaz in Valle d'Aosta. Rinaldo Girod had been under the oxygen tent all day in a desperate attempt to snatch him from death. Meanwhile, in the morning, the investigating judge leading the investigation had questioned the British driver Jim Clark, finally out of the state of shock in which he had fallen after the disaster. As it’s well known, while driving his Lotus launched at 200 km/h, he hit Baron Von Trips' Ferrari, causing it to go off track and throwing it among the people seated behind the protective net. Clark, still shocked by the terrible tragedy, answered the questions asked by the instructor judge, Dr Imorota, reconfirming the thesis already provided at the end of the tragic race:
"Von Trips stood next to me, even a little more in front of me; suddenly, 200 meters from the porphyry curve, he moved to the left to approach the elevated turn better. So he cut me off the road and my right front wheel bumped into the left rear one of the German driver causing the accident".
This version seems to be supported by a detail: the right front of Clark’s #36 Lotus is semi-smashed. But we have to keep in mind that this damage could be caused by the subsequent exit of the green car of the English driver, which hit the embankment. It will be up to the current technical investigation to determine exactly (if this is possible) the precise causes of the accident. Two other versions on the accident of Monza, which at first seem to be fairly reliable, were formulated in the last hours and the technical investigation, which supports and completes the judicial one, investigates also on these versions. According to one of these, after being overtaken by Trips, Clark gets to the point of the crash at high speed to try to overtake the rival again. To do so, the braking point gets delayed during cornering. Clark arrives on Trips’ tail at 200 km/h, while the German’s Ferrari went at 180 km/h. After being overtaken, Trips’ car turns to the left and ends up against the net where the audience is. In this very serious case, it would be Clark’s responsibility, who made a risky maneuver: in fact, in order to gain ground against Trips and overtake him again after being overtaken, he would have delayed the braking, being forced to try to overtake the Ferrari abruptly. Having done this too fast, he couldn’t avoid colliding with Trips' car. The third version attributes the first cause of the accident to the McLaren driver. He hit Trips, pushing him to the left, where the German would have been hit by Clark’s car.
However, this third version of the facts hasn’t been substantiated by reliable evidence yet. In an attempt to recreate the accident as accurately as possible, the Instructor Judge, accompanied by three of the injured, the director of Monza circuit, the managers of the Automobile Club of Milan (organizer of the race) by the authorities and the Carabinieri cooperating in the investigation, carried out an on-site inspection of the disaster. For the occasion, it was requested the intervention of Lotus with all the cars of the British company that participated in the Italian Grand Prix (except for Clark’s car, of course, already seized on Sunday at the time of the accident together with Trips’). Behind closed doors and with the strictest restraint, a series of deceleration, braking and curve tests were carried out at the same location as the collision between the two racing cars, which triggered the frightening accident. These tests were repeated at different speeds, to acquire a first element: to determine the exact speed at which the cars were racing in that point of the circuit. Of course, nothing about the results of the investigation has been leaked. However, it seems that the responsibility of the British driver has been excluded, since he was able to leave for London on Monday afternoon, where in any case he will be available to the Italian judicial authority for any further developments in the investigation. As for the safety conditions of the track, the statements made by Dr Luigi Bertett, president of the Automobile Club of Milan and organizer of the competition that ended so tragically, are interesting.
"I believe that motor racing is necessary. All manufacturers, even those who don’t participate directly, are interested in these races, which are much more than pure and simple sports competitions. When one of our cars wins abroad, the whole Italian industry wins, not only one manufacturer. When a car triumphs, it’s the best demonstration of a people’s progress. You say that we run too fast here: it isn’t true, we also run for the fathers, for the ladies, for eighteen-year-old boys, who can drive private cars at speeds that are very close to those of the track in Monza. Disc brakes, direct injection engines, a certain expertise on suspension wouldn’t have been possible without Grand Prix competitions. Today on the Autostrada del Sole there are curves designed to reach also 160 km/h. If a father, a lady or an 18-year-old can reach those speeds, they also owe it to the drivers who risk their lives in Monza".
Dr Bertett continues:
"You wondered why we didn’t stop the race after the tragedy. First of all, it’s a sporting tradition that a race never stops: it didn’t even happen at Le Mans. Secondly, it’s a prudential rule not to do so, to prevent the audience from panicking. What would have happened if, once the news of the disaster had been communicated, the audience crowded the place of the tragedy or lost their cool?"
Dr Bertett then addressed the point of view concerning the safety conditions of the track.
"For me it was just a tragic accident. The track was safe (and was also insured with a maximum of 500.000.000.000 liras, which will be paid to the victims as soon as possible). In the measurements that the judge made today it was found that, on the site of the accident, the protective net is 1.65 meters and the embankment that supports it is 1.60 meters, that is, so we are at 3.25 meters above the track. Furthermore, the embankment is ten meters from the ground, with a slope of the grassy shore of 45 hectares".
Why was the placement of a guardrail not planned?
"Because if a driver bumps into it, he returns on the track and each driver must have a certain space of maneuverability; that is that strip of grass".
Couldn’t you place a double protective guardrail near the net?
"But how could we predict that a car was going to fly off in a straight line? In any other point of the circuit we could have predicted a disaster, but not there".
But don’t you think that the audience was still too close to the track? Wouldn’t it have been cautious to push it further back?
"Don’t be cruel with this circuit. Despite what has happened, I consider it to be the most protected circuit in the world. People are quick to criticize: they haven’t seen how the races are abroad, with spectators even on the edges of the track and that could be touched by the wheels of the cars".
On Tuesday 12th September 1961, the funeral of the victims took place in Monza, and they were transported one by one to the funeral home set up in one of the two gyms of the Centro Studi in Monza. Sixteen catafalques had been prepared to receive the coffins, but only ten of them are occupied. There were sixteen because the condition of one of the wounded didn’t leave any hope and unfortunately could expire at any moment. The coffins of Mario and Roberto Brambilla (father and son) leave today for Gorgonzola, where the family tomb is located, while in the night other two were moved to Biella, Paolo Perazzone and Laura Zorzi’s. Trips departs at around 5.00 pm from Linate Airport to Hemmersbach Castle (near Cologne). The funeral of the other victims will take place, as it has been said, at 5.00 pm in the Duomo. Monsignor Ripamonti, Archpriest of Monza, will celebrate a Mass in memory of the victims, giving the bodies good pontifical diction. The conditions of the patients in the hospital remain stationary, although there are few hopes for Renato Janin, another youngster from Valle D’Aosta, and for the Swiss Rostmarie Bakman. Meanwhile, at the Hospital in Desio the brothers Maurizio and Bernardo Skordelet from Freiburg, who received a visit from the Swiss Consul in Milan, have improved considerably. There will be an echo of the disaster in Monza in the Italian Parliament, following the three questions asked so far (however, others will be announced) by the Christian Democrat Isgrò, the Communist Pirastu and the Socialist Pieruccini. Mr Isgrò is essentially calling on the government to impose to the organizers of motor racing greater safety measures for the audience, while the other two Members are calling for the complete abolition of motor racing. Mr Pieraccini points out, among other things, that:
"Demands of technical progress in the automotive area cannot be raised in defense of the continuation of these races, since many large companies in the sector have not participated in such events for years, while developing their production efficiently".
The Italian Prime Minister, Mr. Scelba and Mr. Folcili have taken an interest in the tragic event and the questions presented: the latter was given directives for the establishment of a small technical committee which, based on the most recent experiences, verifies and states the conditions under which the Monza circuit can be used for sports competitions. The Commission shall report, within a maximum period of one month, on the measures required to give new technical regulations to motor racing, so that the usability of the circuit is liable to the essential safety measures for the audience. In the meantime, it’s rumored that the manufacturer from Maranello won’t take part in the last round of the World Championship: the United States Grand Prix, scheduled for 8th October 1961 in Watkins Glen (but the rumor hasn’t been confirmed in Modena, where the managers of Scuderia Ferrari are unavailable). This doesn’t mean much because their first driver Phil Hill is now mathematically World Champion, as Enzo Ferrari, in front of the huge accident of Monza, had a very humane reaction. Considering the end of the 1961 racing season, mourning the death of their driver Wolfgang von Trips and the innocent victims of Sunday, Ferrari certainly couldn’t be criticized and Phil Hill himself, who should have been officially awarded the world title before his fellow countrymen, would certainly be the first to understand this decision. It still has to be seen whether the collected testimony is true, and if the commitments already taken by Ferrari with the organizers of Watkins Glen can be called off. On the other hand, it’s not the first time that, in the aftermath of a serious accident, the teams decide not to participate to the next race. It would be surprising if this wasn’t the case. How could someone be insensitive before so many bereavements? It's nice to say that the people of the trade, drivers, builders, technicians, are always prepared for the worst and that they have a professional mentality which resists the emotions. When an irreparable harm happens, everyone becomes normal again, and they say:
"Enough, we can’t do it anymore".
Then the days pass, things take on another aspect, and they have hope and trust again. It’s the game of life which, from time to time, seems to stop for something bigger than us that dismays us, and then resumes its normal flow. We stop for a moment of recollection, and immediately after we enter the fray again. Even on Sunday evening in Monza, we hear many people say with confidence that everything is over and that they don’t want to deal with racing anymore. Yet, decisions like this cannot be made in a moment of discouragement. In fact, in the history of motor sport these are very rare. The most recent is that of Lancia which, in 1955, the day after the tragic death - always in Monza - of their team leader Alberto Ascari, closed the short but glorious cycle of their competitive activity. But we reiterate, usually it’s not too late for second thoughts. And while keeping the memories alive, everything starts again as before. This is perhaps the inexorable destiny of motor sport and its characters: to go on at the risk of sacrifice and pain, chasing the next goal, not allowing humane compassion to take over. There is perhaps an unwritten, cruel law that requires us to forget but without stopping: it could be a virile habit, but is it really useful? On the deserted circuit a car slips in the east straight, widens to the left, runs on the black marks left on the track by Trips’ Ferrari and Clark’s Lotus tires. The magistrates of the investigation recreate the disaster of Sunday in its culminating stages. But on Monday 11th September 1961 their attention is on the carnage. On Tuesday, instead, they analize the moments that preceded the tragic collision. Not even the video shot by the young Italian television operator Sergio Chesani clarified this point. Perhaps the one who managed to fix the tragedy in its initial phase is a German television operator, Rusch, whose video will probably be requested by the Italian judicial authority. No matter how many eyewitness, photographic and video testimonies have been collected so far, Sunday’s disaster still is mysterious, certainly more complex than it seemed to be in the beginning. For example, a news on the medical-legal level is announced. Not all fourteen spectators killed in the disaster died being hit directly by the Trips’ car. Some of them don’t have external injuries. One of them died due to a chest injury caused by a sharp object. It’s thought to be a woman’s shoe heel, one of those stilettos, which could have penetrated the chest cavity of this unlucky person to the point of damaging the major organs. They’re trying to find the explanation of this strange death: the spectator was probably overwhelmed and has been stepped on by the crowd, which was escaping from the disaster.
The detail appears even more unbelievable if you think that a few of meters from the disaster people either didn’t know or didn’t want to know anything; they continued to enjoy the race with their radios on, having picnics on the grass. We began to talk about a hypothesis that had already been considered initially: another car, either McLaren’s or Brabham’s, collided with Trips’ car, making it spin and throwing it against Clark’s wheel. But there’s no evidence of that. Another surprise: the small car of Aosta that stood on the embankment and that had been held responsible for the carnage, keeping the spectators compressed against the net, preventing them from leaving. It was about a hundred feet from the accident. Therefore, it didn’t hinder greatly the movement of the crowd. It’s incredible to think that a few meters from the disaster there were people snacking and keeping their radios on, while it was already known, or guessed, that death had entered the area where the audience was: It’s true that nothing could have been done by the crowd running towards the exits. But this indifference mercilessly emphasizes again the present misfortune and suggests some kind of insensitivity and neglect in the society, as if the message on Sunday was to only look after yourself and to enjoy, without caring too much about those who were unlucky. The technical investigation brings out other psychological backgrounds of the unfortunate Sunday in Monza. What was the mood of the drivers at the start? Men are now more unpredictable and less manageable on board these perfect fast cars. And now let’s look at the men who were driving the Lotus and Ferrari. They weren’t quiet, quite the opposite, they were divided not only by the nervous sporting rivalry but by a more personal and spiteful aversion. On the race eve, Lotus decided to give Stirling Moss the best car, taking it away from Jim Clark, who is the official Lotus driver. The discussion dragged on painfully during test days. On Sunday it was established that Clark should hand his car over to Moss.
But this didn’t happen. They are not runners, men who tolerate drops in their reputation. We can imagine that the explanations between the two drivers were rather harsh. Certainly, Jim Clark left satisfied; Moss, instead, was gloomy. But there’s also another detail: Lotus was less powerful than Ferrari. Clark knows that to win, to show his team that he fully deserves to be the leader, he must take an advantage in the corners. The Ferrari run on the straight. Here is Jim Clark with two great stimuli, one leads him to show that he’s better than Moss, the other pushes him to get rid of his rivals in the only possible way: reckless boldness in the curves. And this man, so focused on asserting his personality, runs into another driver, Baron Wolfgang Graf Berghe Von Trips, who masks in the race his discontent, his resentful personality, with an apparent glacial indifference. The collision between Clark and Trips starts on the first lap. Clark surprises Trips' Ferrari on the curve and overtakes it. However, in the Rettifilo Trips overtakes Clark: and here they are on the second lap, again ahead of the curve. Clark makes Trips swerve, and he realizes that the competitor threatens to repeat the same action as before. But this time, instead of putting his hand on the lower gears, Clark pushes the accelerator. Trips tries to stop him, he doesn’t want to lose the record, neither of them is willing to lose it. This is the preamble of the disaster, something that not even the cameras or photos could fix.