At the end of the third weekend in June, the Belgian Grand Prix was run at Spa-Francorchamps, the fifth round of the 1960 Formula 1 World Championship. The characteristics of the track, the fastest on the calendar, should allow the Ferraris to finally express their true qualities, if it is true that the single seaters from Maranello boast a significantly higher engine power compared to the English cars. Ferrari's season could take a positive turn not only at Spa but also at Reims, where the French Grand Prix will be run at the beginning of July. If we want to refer to the past, we will remember that also in 1959 the Italian team remained without victories at the end of the first three championship races, that is until the cars were measured on a very fast circuit like Reims, since the Belgian Grand Prix was not run. Either Ferrari will succeed on these two consecutive occasions, or their decline will, at least for this season, be difficult to arrest.
The last time the Belgian Grand Prix was run, in 1958, the organisers underestimated the performance of the single seaters, setting a race of only 300 kilometres, which was finished in one hour and thirty-seven minutes at an average speed of 209 km/h by winner Mike Hawthorn. In 1959, due to financial issues, the Belgian Grand Prix was not held, but in 1960 the magnificent 14.1-kilometre circuit, located in the Ardennes, was once again ready to host Formula 1 single- seaters. Particular attention was paid to the organisation to ensure that the same mistake of two years earlier was not made: the Royal Automobile Club of Belgium established a 500-kilometre race to ensure a longer duration of the event.
We are not even halfway through the series of Formula 1 driver tests for the title of World Champion, so the situation has yet to take a precise shape. After the first four races so far held in Buenos Aires, Monaco, Indianapolis and Zandvoort, the drivers' ranking still hasn't a clear physiognomy: the leader is the New Zealander Bruce McLaren with 14 points, followed by Stirling Moss with 11, Brabham (World Champion in 1959) with 8, Ireland with 7, Allison with 6. Wolfgang von Trips, Phil Hill and Willy Mairesse (a young Belgian racer with good skills) are entered for the Scuderia Ferrari; Jack Brabham, Bruce McLaren, Tony Brooks, Olivier Gendebien, Chris Bristow and Lucien Bianchi will drive with Cooper-Climax cars; Innes Ireland, Alan Stacy, Jim Clark with Lotus- Climax cars; Jo Bonnier, Dan Gurney and Graham Hill with B.R.M. team cars. R.M. cars; and finally, Lance Reventlow and Chuck Daigh in the Scarabs. Whatever happens, Sunday's race will certainly not decide the awarding of the top title.
Practice began on Friday afternoon, 17 June 1960, and lasted until the evening, from 5:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. The time was chosen to avoid problems with local traffic, as the circuit covers a section of the area's road system, although many corners are elevated. Twenty cars are entered, of which the sixteen fastest in qualifying will have access to the starting grid. At the last moment, however, the entry of a Vanwall is withdrawn, leaving only nineteen cars to take part in the tests. Important absentees are the cars of the British team Aston Martin, not interested in competing on a circuit requiring high speeds, and the Scuderia Centro-Sud, whose participation has not been accepted by the organisers.
Roy Salvadori, Maurice Trintignant and Masten Gregory are therefore excluded from the list of participants; an unusual decision, considering the well-known experience of all three of these competitors. On the other hand, Michael Taylor, Willy Mairesse and Lucien Bianchi, who were taking part in an official race for the first time, were entered free of charge. Apart from this small parenthesis, all the other drivers, protagonists or not, are present. Dan Gurney still has his left forearm bandaged because of the injuries he sustained during his accident at Zandvoort, but he is still in condition to race. Stirling Moss will be at the wheel of the dark blue Lotus of Team Walker: his single seater was equipped with a long air duct starting from the nose, along the side of the cockpit, however, to end up in the two big Weber carburettors with double choke, unlike those used on the Cooper cars of Team Yeoman Credit.
Michael Taylor will also be at the wheel of a private rear-engined Lotus, while Ireland, Stacey and Clark will drive the official single-seaters of Team Lotus. Scuderia Ferrari will have three front-engined Dino 246s, driven by Phil Hill, Wolfgang von Trips and Belgian driver Willy Mairesse, while the two Scarabs will be driven by Reventlow and Daigh as usual. Lucien Bianchi will be driving a Cooper for the team of the same name. Completing the list are the three Coopers of Team Yeoman Credit, with Brooks, Bristow and Gendebien driving the British cars. Gendebien's car will be fitted with a new engine, as the breakage reported on Bristow's car at Zandvoort turned out to be caused by a connecting rod screw sticking out through the side of the crankcase.
The last time the Spa circuit hosted Formula 1 cars, in 1958, Hawthorn set the fastest practice lap in 3'57"1 and the fastest race lap, and official track record, in 3'58"3, with an average speed of 213.068 km/h. After two years of development of the single-seaters, incredible speeds were expected, even though many of the drivers competing had never competed at Spa or had never driven cars as fast as those of 1960. It was for that reason that Brabham and McLaren made slow reconnaissance laps, while Yeoman Credit team let Bristow go out on the track in a car equipped with a two-litre engine, given his lack of experience on the Belgian circuit. A great lover of Spa, Brooks is quick from the start, enjoying the high-speed corners to the full. The two Hill drivers were also at their ease on the fast curves, while Stacey and Clark were in difficulty, being at the wheel of a Formula 1 single-seater for the first time.
Brooks immediately broke the old record of the track, as well as Moss, while Brabham was still running at 4 minutes, trying to get familiar with the track. The result of his efforts is a lap in 3'50"0, at an average speed of 220.695 km/h at the end of practice. Gendebien recorded his best time of 3'53"3, the fourth best of the day. Trips' Ferrari has problems and Mairesse is forced to give up his single seater. The German driver of Ferrari ran at 3'56"9, while Phil Hill didn't manage to go down under 4 minutes; a bad sign for the team of Maranello, symbol of the lack of progress after the hard work made in the previous two years. After getting familiar with the track, also Bristow started running in his official single-seater, getting a good result thanks to the enormous physical and mental effort: the British driver ran at 3'56"9.
Ireland set his best time of 3'55"4, even if his Lotus didn't make the most of the engine power on straights; the British driver was also slowed down by a pedal problem, forcing Clark to give up his single seater to his team mate. Stacey also struggled with a steering wheel problem. It was expected that the old record of 1958 would be easily beaten, but it was not expected that Brabham could do it with as much as seven seconds difference, and with an average speed of 220 km/h. Also interesting is the fact that the top speed reached by the new single-seaters on the steep Masta straight was not as remarkable as expected: just over 270 km/h, able to increase the average speed of the entire circuit by only 8 km/h. The reason is clear: in the previous two years the teams concentrated more on tyre development and better acceleration between 190 and 260 km/h, rather than a higher top speed.
On Saturday afternoon the sun is shining so brightly that the asphalt seems to melt. It is the last opportunity for the drivers to try to improve their position on the grid. Nineteen single-seaters are ready for the last practice session. At Burneville corner, situated at about the fifth kilometre of the track, the Lotus #12 driven by Stirling Moss went off the track fearfully, hitting the grass parapet on the outer side; the driver was violently thrown out of the car, while the car, after overturning, jumped onto the opposite parapet smashing into it. All the drivers on the track slowed down at the scene of the accident and returned to the pits to give their version of the facts.
Most of the drivers' testimonies claim that Moss was not seriously injured, and that he went off the track at the bottom of the Burneville fast downhill. Shortly before, Bristow had also stopped his car on the circuit due to a gearbox problem on his Cooper Yeoman Credit. At almost the same time as Moss' accident, Michael Taylor also crashed at La Carriere. With a Lotus stopped in every sector of the circuit, there is confusion in the stories that arrive and spread in the pits. As activity on the circuit is suspended, there is silence in the stands, with the public waiting for confirmation of what has happened. An air of depression and disinterest in the continuation of the tests is spreading among the insiders. Richard Maes, a Belgian race official who was about 100 metres from the spot of the accident, says:
"Moss's car skidded, rearing up like a horse. A wheel came off the car and the driver was thrown into a field. I immediately ran over to him, who was lying bent over and moaning. The car looked like it had been reduced to scrap. It's a miracle that Moss is still alive after an accident at that speed".
The first details began to come together and the truth about what happened took shape:
"Moss's single-seater suffered a break in the left rear axle, causing the loss of a wheel. This happened while he was taking a bump on the exit of a bend".
At the Burneville corner, which was run at a 150-degree angle at over 209 km/h and sloped down the side of the hill, Moss's single-seater suffered a break in the left rear axle, causing the loss of a wheel. This happened as Moss hit a bump on the exit of the corner. With the majority of the car's weight on the left rear wheel, facing the outside of the corner, it is easy to imagine what happened at the moment of the breakage: the single seater spun, hit the barriers at the ends of the circuit, causing Moss to throw himself from his seat, and then bounce back to the inside of the corner. The driver was rushed to the hospital in Malmedy, where his father joined him. On the way from the accident site to the clinic, Stirling Moss, more dazed than unconscious, regained consciousness. The doctors proceeded to X-ray the injured driver and found two dislocated ribs.
Initially it was feared that his nose and legs were fractured, but an X-ray ruled out such injuries. In a miraculous case, Stirling Moss avoided serious consequences. A sigh of relief came from the audience when the driver's condition was announced over the loudspeakers. Michael Taylor, victim of the second accident of the day, escaped with only a neck injury and a few broken ribs after being thrown from the seat of his car. Mrs Taylor, who accompanied her husband to hospital, said doctors were not concerned about the rider's condition. Taylor also did not lose consciousness. At kilometre 11 his Lotus overturned after a long braking manoeuvre at La Carriere, due to a broken steering column, and burst into flames. With two serious incidents happening simultaneously, the organisation became confused, and it was a long wait before seeing the track reopened for the continuation of practice.
While the parts of the two single seaters are collected, many drivers go around the track to check the seriousness of the scenes. Colin Chapman makes some inspection laps with Ireland's car. At the resumption of practice Phil Hill in a Ferrari records an excellent 3'53"5, while his team mate von Trips scores 3'57"8. Brooks didn't improve also because of the wet tar at La Source and the dust brought to the track by Moss' accident at Burneville. The Scarabs were still too slow as they ran 4'28"00, remaining extremely far from the results obtained in the first day of practice. At 5:00 p.m. practice ended, although about an hour and a half was lost in the confusion. This is because it is not possible to make up the time that has elapsed, due to the overlap in road use between the Grand Prix organisers and the public road network.
On Sunday 19 June 1960 the sky was overcast, but as the drivers made their ritual drivers' parade around the track the sun broke through, and the fog disappeared. With Moss and Taylor unable to race, the organizers allowed the remaining seventeen cars to prepare themselves on the starting grid, with the two cars of Scarab team ready to make their official debut in a European race. At Spa the organisation was not optimal, so much so that while the start was being given, Clark's single seater had not yet been set up by the mechanics. In the confusion that followed, Bianchi turned off the engine trying not to run over the Lotus mechanics. The fastest drivers at the start are World Champion Jack Brabham and Olivier Gendebien, who take the lead in the roaring carousel, with American Ferrari driver Phil Hill following in third. Usually, in the first laps on circuits like Spa there were already groups of cars separated, but this time the seventeen single seaters were all lined up in a row, with Brabham in the lead and Reventlow closing.
On lap 2 Ireland overtook Phil Hill, while the first seven single seaters arrived at La Source separated by a minimum gap, and then they scaled the pit side with Brabham leading the group, followed by Ireland, Phil Hill, Bonnier, Gendebien, Graham Hill and McLaren. More detached they were followed by Brooks, Bristow, Trips and Mairesse; then again Gurney, Bianchi, Stacey, Clark and Daigh, who was in the last position. During the first lap the other Scarab, the one driven by Lance Reventlow, Barbara Hutton's son, suddenly caught fire. Luckily the young driver, showing an exceptional cold blood, managed to block the car and jump to the ground before the fire stuck to his overalls. On lap three it was Bristow in the eighth position to separate the two groups, both compact, followed at a distance by the two Ferraris driven by Trips and Mairesse, while Brooks slowly returned to pits and retired at the end of lap two because of the gearbox failure. At the lead of the race Brabham didn't hint at slowing down, followed with a certain gap by the Ferrari driven by Phil Hill. Behind the American driver they followed in order Gendebien, Bonnier and McLaren.
During the following lap Phil Hill managed to pass Ireland and Gendebien, while McLaren passed Bonnier. At this stage of the race the group was still close to each other, to the point that while Brabham recorded a new fast lap in 3'53"5, it was undoubtedly true that those who were following him were only a few tenths of a second away. Phil Hill was the author of an excellent race, to the point that the American seemed to be able to catch Brabham on the Masta straight; the two leading drivers, engaged in their challenge, were distancing themselves from the five following cars, driven in the order of Ireland, Graham Hill, McLaren, Gendebien and Bonnier. In the meantime, Trips passed Bristow and Clark recovered his pace after a bad start. The Scottish driver managed to close the gap on Stacey and Bianchi, while Daigh remained last.
During the fourth lap Dan Gurney was forced to retire because of problems with the exhaust manifold, from which water came out of the engine. Shortly afterwards Ireland pitted at the end of lap six, complaining of a clutch slippage problem; the hydraulic problem was resolved, and the driver was able to return to the race, but the pace was so intense that he found himself in the last positions, ahead of Daigh's Scarab. With the sun shining and the track dry, the average speed of the race was 215 km/h, much higher than the fast lap recorded in 1958. Phil Hill set the pace, even though he was a few seconds behind Brabham, who was forced to watch carefully in the rear-view mirrors. Brabham set a new track record: 3'52"9, with an average speed of 218.887 km/h.
Phil Hill, who was lapping at the same speed as the Australian driver, had a twelve second lead over the third driver in the race, Bruce McLaren, who was competing with Graham Hill, Gendebien and Bonnier for the runner up spot. McLaren was third on the eighth lap, Hill on the ninth and tenth, Gendebien on the eleventh. The small group ran at 3'53"0, but when Cooper team signalled McLaren from pits about the time, the New Zealander made a mistake and slipped to the rear of the quartet. Behind him Trips and Bristow were fighting each other, with the driver of the Yeoman Credit team taking the position at La Source, only to lose it coming back to the pits. Further back Ireland reached and passed his two teammates, while Clark tried to keep up with the Lotus leader and Stacey gave up the position without engaging in a duel.
During the eleventh lap Brabham overtook Daigh's Scarab, shortly before the driver returned to the pits because of an oil leakage. Two laps later, while the Scarab was still in the pits, the pit lane was animated by the entry of Bonnier, who, having lost a gear, wanted to check whether the gearbox problem had caused engine damage. Also, Ireland went back to the pits, while Bianchi occupied the pit lane with a broken internal cardan joint on the right side of the drive shaft of his Cooper. After a few minutes Bonnier left the pits hoping that the engine was OK, but after two laps - on lap 14 - he was forced to stop at the side of the track. Bianchi's mechanics identify the problem and start working to find a solution: a new drive shaft must be fitted. Ireland too restarts after a long pit stop, but at Blanchimont he spins, turning five times in succession, and when he thinks he has regained control of his Lotus he ends up off the road, destroying the car without injury.
Also, Clark was forced to make a long stop on lap 14 to cool down the carburettor jet, so that Stacey remained the only Lotus Team driver on the track, in ninth position several seconds behind Mairesse. Meantime, at the end of lap 15 the gap between Brabham and Phil Hill increased to 12 seconds, but the Ferrari seemed to be faster. Behind the leaders, Bristow managed once again to pass Trips at La Source, and this time he managed to keep his position, but this duel favoured the comeback of Mairesse, who in the meantime was getting closer to the two drivers. In the following laps Trips' car had sudden clutch problems, so the Belgian driver had the chance to pass his teammate and to chase Bristow.
At mid-race Brabham still leads the group but Phil Hill in Ferrari reduces the gap, getting to only nine seconds from the Australian driver. Behind the American driver a group of competitors formed by Gendebien, Graham Hill and McLaren. At fifty seconds from Brabham there was Mairesse, then Bristow who tried to keep up with the Ferrari, while Trips lost ground because of an annoying vibration coming from the gearbox. Detached from the group and last driver among those not yet lapped by the leader was Stacey, who tried to manage his race without taking risks given the already difficult situation of Lotus team. Clark was among the lapped drivers, but it was Daigh, five laps down on the leader, who closed the classification. The American driver was then forced to retire on lap 16 due to an engine problem caused by a fuel leak. Mairesse and Bristow were engaged in a very risky duel, as the two drivers did not know each other and did not intend to give each other space.
On lap 19, at La Source, Bristow pushed the Belgian driver's Ferrari towards the outside of the bend, but Mairesse didn't lose his wits and the two drivers proceeded side by side along the Eau Rouge. In the middle of the green forest the Cooper was still in front, but going over the fast Burneville bend, where Moss crashed during Saturday practice, Bristow used a too wide trajectory and found himself on the outside of the bend. Trying to move to the inside, the British driver lost control of his Cooper and hit the concrete step that runs along certain sections of the circuit. The car then topples over onto the driver, crushing him and almost completely detaching his head from his torso. The public and the drivers were shocked by Bristow's death and an enquiry was immediately launched to find out what caused his Cooper to go off the road. Meantime Willy Mairesse, who managed to avoid the contact with the young rival's Cooper, finished the twentieth lap alone signalling the bad news to the mechanics present in the pits.
Stacey's death was not immediately communicated to the public and the competitors remaining in the race, as the body of the English driver was taken to the emergency room and the news of his death was not made public until the end of the race. The causes of Alan Stacey's tragic accident are truly exceptional: the driver lost control of his car when a bird flew over the track and perhaps dazed by the roar of the engines, hit him in the face. It was only a moment, but it was enough for Stacey to lose control of his Lotus, which was travelling at very high speed. The unfolding of the events was particularly impressed on one spectator, who testifies with others about the nature of the accident.
"I saw the bird take off at a low altitude and followed its flight with curiosity, without thinking of the possibility of an accident. Halfway down the runway the bird sprinted and at the same time a car, which I later learned was Stacey's Lotus, was coming at high speed. The car started to skid, overturned and caught fire".
In the meantime Mairesse returned to the pits with a transmission problem, and at the same time Gendebien overtook Graham Hill, taking the third position; Bruce McLaren began to lose his rhythm. On lap 29, the Ferrari mechanics in the pits despaired as Phil Hill stopped at the side of the track, so Brabham passed Graham Hill's B.R.M. on the main straight with an 18-second lead, regaining third place. Phil Hill's Ferrari is the victim of a break in a small fuel pressure gauge tube: the cold petrol that has spilled onto the American driver's leg means that he has to stop and investigate the break. While the Ferrari driver investigates the damage the hose catches fire, but the American manages to temporarily fix the problem and return to the pits, where with a stop of one minute and thirty-eight seconds the mechanics manage to fix the broken hose. However, the chance to win the Belgian Grand Prix is now lost Brabham overtakes the Ferrari driver, who returns to the race in fifth position.
Brabham was now sure of the victory and could proceed without taking further risks. Graham Hill moved up to second position and increased the gap on Gendebien, who was forced to slow down because of a gearbox problem. As Brabham crossed the finish line and began the 36th and final lap, Graham Hill faced the Blanchimont bend when his B.R.M. engine released a cloud of oil. The British driver manages to proceed along the La Source hairpin bend and take advantage of the descent towards the B.R.M. pit, which is across the finish line. But the driver is so worried about the engine of his single seater that he doesn't think about the possibility to stop before the finish line to wait for Brabham to complete his lap, to win the second position. In the meantime, also the problem of Gendebien's car worsened, so that McLaren took the third position, which became second with the error of judgement of the B.R.M. driver. Gendebien proceeded down the slope with only the first and second gears of the gearbox intact and stopped before the finishing line waiting for Brabham to complete his last lap.
Jack Brabham completed his final lap and won a race marred by tragedy but won with merit, having been lucid from the start until the chequered flag dropped. His young team-mate, Bruce McLaren, took second place, earned both on merit and with a touch of luck, as it came after the problems that affected his rivals. Gendebien crossed the finishing line taking the third position, followed by Phil Hill who finished fourth; the American driver was disappointed at the end of a sensational race in which he would have certainly deserved to win the podium. The Lotus driven by Clark and the Cooper driven by Bianchi completed the classification of the first and only six drivers who arrived at the finishing line, on a total of seventeen starters, showing once again the difficulty of driving on the Spa circuit and the uniqueness of the Belgian Grand Prix with respect to the rest of the appointments that made up the calendar of the World Championship.
The very fast circuit of Spa-Francorchamps was once again the scene of two serious car accidents today. On the smooth track, where already on Saturday Stirling Moss and Mike Taylor had risked losing their lives during practice by going off the road with their fast but perhaps too light Lotus cars, two accidents caused the death of young British drivers Alan Stacey and Chris Bristow. The first victim was 22-year-old Chris Bristow, considered by the engineers and Stirling Moss - who was a close friend of his - as one of the most promising drivers of the last generation. Two more deaths are thus added to the long series of disasters that have hit motorsport hard in recent years. This season alone, eight drivers have lost their lives in various competitions on circuits around the world. Harry Blanchard, an American of Belgian origin, lost his life on 31 January 1960 in the 1000 Kilometre race in Buenos Aires when his Porsche overturned.
The Italian-Venezuelan Chimeri died on 27 February 1960 for the same reason in Havana where he was taking part in the Cuban Grand Prix in a Maserati; the American Jim Hughes went off the road in his Lotus (killing a photographer) at the 12 Hours of Sebring held on 28 March 1960; Argentinean gentleman Van Dory lost his life on 3 April 1960 in the 200 Miglia; Harry Schell died on 13 May 1960 on the English circuit of Silverstone; Englishman Threefall died on 22 May 1960 in the Aix Les Bains disaster, which also cost the lives of six spectators. To these six names are now added those of Bristow and Stacey. A cruel destiny, which was particularly harsh on the English Team Lotus team with disconcerting persistence. The British team lost a driver (Stacey) in two days, and two others (Moss and Taylor) will be unavailable for a long time.
After today's Belgian Grand Prix, the fourth round of the World Championship and following the competitions held in Buenos Aires, Monaco and Zandvoort, the New Zealander McLaren keeps the first place in the classification with 20 points. Brabham, the outgoing World Champion, follows him with only 4 points while in third place, with 11 points, remains Stirling Moss, who followed from the hospital of Malmedy - where he is hospitalized after Saturday's dreadful accident - the phases of the race that cost the lives of the two appreciated colleagues. The British rider is not commenting on the two fatal accidents, nor is he making any predictions about his stay in hospital and his return to racing. The doctors are however satisfied with Moss' condition, who still has his legs in plaster from the knee to the foot as a precaution against fractures that an initial X-ray examination has fortunately revealed to be not serious. Moss is continuously assisted by his father and will almost certainly have to wait at least two months before being able to try again the adventure in the motor GPs.