#94 1960 United States Grand Prix

2021-10-06 22:35

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#1960, Fulvio Conti, Fabio Giardini, Translated by Carola Buzio,

#94 1960 United States Grand Prix

The second American Grand Prix for Formula 1 cars, which counts towards the World Championship, is held at Riverside Raceway on the edge of the South


The second American Grand Prix for Formula 1 cars, which is valid for the World Championship, is held at Riverside Raceway near the South Californian desert. The Raceway is an artificial road circuit running over the undulating desert for 3.275 miles (5.27 km). The course consists of a 1.1 mile (1.77 km) straight with a long 180-degree turn past the pit straight (pits are separated from the track by a low earth bank) and into a fast left-hand corner. This is followed by a 500-yard (0.46 km) straight, another fast right corner and a 1/2-mile (0.8 km) climbing section with right-left-right turns, with a slow right turn which is the highest point. Two 500-yard (0.46 km) straights take the cars into the inside and out again with a fast 180-degree turn at the bottom of the V. A long right-hand turn which suddenly tightens up, followed by an immediate left-hand turn, brings the cars back on the straight. The last racing season, with the 2.500 cc air or 750 cc supercharged engine regulations, ends with tension and the British manufacturers object that the new Formula 1 cars must be based on the current Formula 2 cars (atmospheric 1.500 cc engine or 500 cc supercharged engine), with an unladen weight greater than 450 kg. This minimum weight regulation should improve passive safety, which is one of the main points of contention, because it could favor Scuderia Ferrari with cars that are heavier than their competitors'. As we approach the last Grand Prix of the year, the outcome of the Championship has already been decided: after winning five consecutive races, Jack Brabham takes a second world title, and his team Cooper, with six wins, a second manufacturer's cup with their small rear mid-engine cars. Technically the obsolete front-engine Ferrari are often dominated, and Enzo Ferrari gives up on taking part in the American event to prepare better for next season with his new rear mid-engine weapon. Choosing Sebring for the first edition of the United States Grand Prix didn’t attract much the audience, therefore the organizer Alec Ulmann opts for Riverside, a track which is more suitable for speed races than the old airport in Florida. On the other hand, Florida's weather seems more likely to attract spectators for an event which will be held in November.


Located on the outskirts of Los Angeles, this circuit opened in 1957 and is mainly used for endurance racing and stock car racing. Long more than five kilometers, it includes nine turns, some of which are very difficult, and allows to reach an average speed of 150 km/h. During practice the weather varies from warm to too hot with gusts of wind, which bring great clouds of fine desert sand on the track which go everywhere and reduce the visibility to a few yards. There are three days of practice, but some drivers already knew the circuit pretty well before getting there and set fast laps right away, while other drivers are starting from scratch, which is not an easy thing to do for drivers. Stirling Moss in Rob Walker’s Lotus sets the fastest time with 1'54"4, Rob has a spare car for Stirling, and perhaps it’s a good thing because Stirling broke one of the Colotti gearboxes during Saturday's free practice. The second-fastest time is set by Jack Brabham driving Cooper, with him there are Bruce McLaren and Ron Flockhart - making a total of three Coopers. Next, driving Yeoman Credit’s Coopers are Gendebien, Brooks, Phil Hill and Taylor, respectively. Three are the new high-tail Colotti-geared cars, while the fourth one is an older normal-geared car, which is driven by Phil Hill during free practice, and by Taylor on race day. Both Phil Hill and von Trips are dismissed by Mr. Ferrari, Phil goes to Yeoman Credit and von Trips to Scuderia Centro Sud, replacing Masten Gregory. The other two Scuderia Centro Sud’s cars are driven by Trintignant and Ian Burgess; Burgess' car has the experimental head with reversed carburetors and exhaust system. Dan Gurney and Jo Bonnier are very fast during practice with the B.R.M., while Graham Hill is missing his usual liveliness. The B.R.M. are normal rear-engine cars with single rear disc brakes with a 1.1/2-litre Climax engine, as the other two, and not the new car which participated in Snetterton. Lotus have three cars for Clark, Surtees and Ireland, and though Clark and Surtees set faster practice times, Ireland’s more consistent driving paid off in the end. Clark’s car has external rear disc brakes, while the other two have internal disk brakes. The rest of the group is made of private owners, the most important is the Scarab entered by Reventlow and driven by Chuck Daigh. Since the car left Europe after the French Grand Prix, it was reduced in weight by 150 lbs. (68 kg) and the engine increased by 12 bhp. 


Jim Hall enters a Lotus, and Pete Lovely is driving a Cooper-Ferrari, while Brian Naylor enters his JBW-Maserati and Bob Drake is driving a 1957 250F Maserati. At 2:00 p.m. on Sunday, the cars line up with perfect weather. Moss isn't totally happy as Surtees’ driveshaft broke during free practice and all the Lotus cars have new ones, while Stirling races with an old pair which are rather unreliable. The flag dropped and 21 of the 23 cars that lined up sprint, as Gendebien and Phil Hill have to restart their cars. Brabham made his usual brilliant start taking the lead with Moss and Gurney very close behind him, while Bonnier and the three Lotus driven by Ireland, Clark and Surtees are very close. On the second lap Burgess spins but restarts his car on his own by pushing, and jumping in, which he then repeats twenty laps later just before retiring. On the fourth lap, Brabham is still firmly in the lead when he passes the pits, followed by Moss, Gurney, Bonnier, Ireland. Surtees spins and his team-mate Clark can’t avoid him; the resulting crash put Surtees out for good and retrieving Clark’s car took so long that the driver remained on the track for a long time. Drama struck again on the fourth lap, Brabham has just come out of the straight when there is an explosion which nearly throws him out of the car and flames burn his back. At the end of the lap, he returns to the pits, but everything looks good, and he goes back on track after dropping to ninth place. Four laps later the same thing happens again; this time the mechanics find what’s wrong, gas from the tank, which is very full, is overflowing from the pipe into the under tray, and as the car accelerates the fuel goes back to the hot exhaust pipe and it burns. Moss is now in the lead, with both B.R.M.s driven by Gurney and Bonnier within view. Unfortunately Gurney, whose engine has sounded rough for some time due to a cracked exhaust pipe, suddenly retires on the eighteenth lap when the core plug blows out and the car overheats. This leaves Bonnier, Ireland and McLaren chasing Moss. Going well with the Yeoman Credit’s Cooper, Phil Hill has climbed up from nineteenth to eighth place in seven laps. Tony Brooks in another Yeoman Credit Cooper spins in the infield turn and doesn't try to restart, as he thinks he spun on his own oil. Henry Taylor isn't very happy as he is overheating the engine and having a plug lead issue. Graham Hill doesn't seem to be very happy about the track and eventually retires before mid-race, having somehow selected two gears at once. 


Towards the second half of the race Moss is still leading followed by Bonnier, Ireland, McLaren and the American Lotus owner Jim Hall, who does a very good race considering the rivals that are racing with him. Three laps from the end, Hall has a transmission issue and, in some way, has to push the car to the finishing line to obtain the seventh place. When it looks like the order has settled for the end of the race, Bonnier goes to the pits with a very rough engine, the mechanics find an issue with the valve spring and Bonnier slowly goes back on track to complete as many of the 75 laps as he could. The Scarab, although being four laps away from Stirling, still manages to complete 71 laps, which is the longest the car has run non-stop. Clark’s Lotus, which already is well behind, fell farther back due to a leaking water pump, which led to a leakage. Brabham has been under pressure since he has to control the fiery nature of the car and has climbed up to fourth place, one lap behind Moss, when Stirling got a well-deserved checkered flag, with Ireland and McLaren respectively 38 and 82 seconds behind him. Some organizers could have done better by studying European racing a little more and use a few experienced marshals. The commentary is annoying in its inaccuracy and its continuity, also in its constant reference to a silly star system for drivers which is taken from an English weekly magazine, and which isn’t known by most people who follow this sport. For the first time in the history of the Modena Grand Prix, which is now in its sixth edition, in the group of competitors there will be many foreign drivers. In fact, in the competition scheduled for Sunday 2nd October 1960, among the twelve cars racing, only one is Italian: precisely Wolfgang von Trips’ Ferrari, the German driver who won the two most prestigious Formula 2 races. The other eleven cars will represent the British and German sports industry: the two official Porsche, the two official Lotus, Stirling Moss’ special Lotus, the Cooper Climax of the Belgian national team and the cars of Scuderia Centro-Sud will compete in the race. Likewise, for the first time in the history of racing, there will be only one Italian driver on track: Giorgio Scarlatti. His task will be very hard as he will face champions such as Moss, Ireland, Bonnier, Gendebien, Trintignant and the multiple motorcycling World Champion John Surtees. The first two editions of the Modena Grand Prix were won by Scuderia Ferrari, both by Alberto Ascari. The third Modena Grand Prix saw another Italian success, with Villoresi driving Ferrari. 


The other two victories went to Maserati, first with Juan Manuel Fangio and then with Jean Behra. Modena, the Italian capital of racing cars, also has a racetrack which, small and collected as it is, offers spectacular top-class features, as spectators can follow the whole track from the stands and from any other position. Unfortunately, after a very promising start and the organization of interesting Grands Prix, particular local situations led to a progressive decay of the structure, so much so that at a certain point the tarmac conditions didn’t even allow the drivers of the manufacturers from Modena to use it safely. Finally, the crisis has been overcome, and the racetrack in Modena, after the decisive renovations, is now perfectly suited to host a long-distance race. Hence, the interest in the event in Modena, which will be attended by a dozen of well-known drivers, driving very recent cars already prepared by the manufacturers for the 1961 World Championship. As anticipated, Stirling Moss, who has even sent two cars to Modena - a Lotus and a Cooper - reserving his right to decide which one to drive after having tried both on the winding track, will participate as well. Before and after the last Italian Grand Prix in Monza (as everyone remembers, not attended by the British), Moss was the victim of severe attacks, because he was wrongly or rightly held responsible for the attitude he had towards the Italian race. It’s clear that the great driver from London is returning to Italy with controversial resolutions, and since he’s perfectly healed from the consequences of the accident that occurred in Spa last June, it doesn’t take much to imagine with how determined he is to fight on the track in Modena where ten years ago he proved to be one of the great hopes of motorsports (a promise kept completely). Against Moss there is a group of top-class drivers and cars. First, two Ferrari, driven by von Trips and Ginther. The German, with the car from Maranello, beat the British and Germans at the Solitude in July; then, in Monza he was the fastest of the Formula 1 drivers. As for Ginther, who has also become Ferrari’s official test driver, the American knows the circuit in Modena like the back of his hand, a track where the personal skills of the drivers are perhaps more important than the efficiency of the cars. On Sunday 2nd October 1960, the Swede Joakim Bonnier, on a Porsche, wins the Modena Grand Prix for Formula 2 cars, after a very intense race: heated, uncertain, full of plot twists and extremely exciting phases. 


Suffice it to say that between lap 50 and lap 87 of the 100 laps scheduled (equal to 236.600 kilometers) on the renewed, much smoother and safer track in Modena, Bonnier and the rear-engine Ferrari driver Wolfgang von Trips, overtake each other at least twenty times, and almost always in corners, taking advantage of the braking of the respective cars risking to the limit, gaining from time to time a meter or even less, while the audience (more than 20.000 people, enthusiastic and competitive as only the spectators in Modena can be) goes from one emotion to another, holds their breath, shouts with admiration. The Porsche of the Swedish driver, which is less powerful than von Trips' car, appears agile and slightly better when braking, but Bonnier shows an exceptional coolness and timing in the difficult stages of overtaking, while the German appears more aggressive and reckless. This is the most interesting phase of the Grand Prix, where the cars that will probably be the new Formula 1 vehicles are engaged in the race. The start of the race is dominated by Bonnier, while the top-class drivers or those with the most efficient cars are behind him: Ginther, Von Trips, Barth (also on Porsche) and Stirling Moss, driving Lotus. Then Moss attacks and manages to climb up to third place after the two Ferrari, but then paying the price of this with the retirement, caused by an irreparable valve failure. This happens on lap twenty-one. Subsequently, Ginther, the second Ferrari driver who drives a traditional front-engine car, takes the lead with a very decisive action, while von Trips keeps Bonnier under control (apparently with ease). On the other hand, it looked like the race was going on with difficulty, despite the average speed kept increasing (from the initial 137 km/h it goes, after a third of the race, to over 139 km/h), when von Trips overtakes Ginther, and almost at the same time Bonnier also starts to attack and overtakes the American, engaging in an aggressive fight with Trips. At first, he resists, then the bearded Swede manages to put the wheels of his Porsche ahead of the Ferrari, with a breath-taking overtake. This is where the thrilling phase of the race begins. The two drivers give their absolute best, repeatedly beating the lap record until both of them go under the limit of 59 seconds to cover the 2.366 meters of the track, corresponding to the average speed of 144.365 km/h (Trips on lap 79 and Bonnier on lap 89). 


Sometimes it seems that one driver or the other is about to give up, but it’s always a wrong impression, and suddenly arrives the driver’s reaction. Until lap 87, when there is the feeling that the German is in trouble with the brakes: Bonnier has the green light, and Trips has to give up his position to his teammate Ginther. Once general attention was focused on what was happening in the leading positions, the race of the other drivers goes almost unnoticed, and none of the other participants manages to shine except, at times, the other two Porsche drivers Herrmann and Barth, in fourth and fifth position, who are respectively one and two laps behind the leader. Therefore, it’s a beautiful Grand Prix, impeccably organized, and which should be prelude to a full resumption of competitive activity at the spectacular racetrack in the Italian capital of motor sport. At the end of the World Championship, motorsport, now paused until spring, hasn’t been mentioned for some time. There’s a bit of activity only in those places where New Year coincides with summer, and news of Stirling Moss' victories from some Pacific Island or South Africa (the last one is on Boxing Day, 26th December 1960, where the British champion won, driving a Porsche, the Grand Prix of East London) arrive regularly in Europe. The start of the season won’t coincide this time with the three races of the Argentine Temporada, between January and February: it will be necessary to wait until the end of March to see the sports cars competing in a World Championship event (the 12 Hours of Sebring, Florida), and until the Monaco Grand Prix, in May, for the resumption of the races valid for the Formula 1 World Championship. With all this, the manufacturers work hard. As it’s well known, on 1st January 1961 the new Formula 1 will come into force, it requires engines with a maximum displacement of 1.500 cc (against the 2.500 cc of the old regulations), a minimum weight of 450 kilograms (which didn’t have limits until now), electric starting with on-board equipment and other minor instructions. Basically, the chassis of the old Formula 1 will be used, while for the engines, apart from the 1.500 cc of the discontinued Formula 2, new units are in preparation, in Italy, England and Germany. 


As far as we know today, this will be the situation. Ferrari will use the well-known 1.1/2-litre six-cylinder engine assembled on both the rear-engine and the traditional cars, the former for mixed circuits and the latter for very fast ones. Thanks to the power delivered by the current 1.500 cubic centimeters, the team from Maranello should face next season with some level of peace of mind. Cooper and Lotus will initially use the four-cylinder Climax, while the chassis will be identical to the past, except for the considerable weighting they will have to undergo to fall within the limits prescribed by the new regulation (basically, about seventy kilograms more). However, a new eight-cylinder engine is being prepared in Coventry, which should compensate for the inferior power compared to Ferrari engines; the other British team, B.R.M., would also be equipping a new V8, which we’ll hardly see before the summer. New Formula 1 cars will be manufactured by Maserati and by Osca, which in any case won’t take part directly in the competition, limiting themselves to supplying cars to customers or secondary teams. There will be Porsche, which with the new Formula 1 will officially enter the list of participants, and which perhaps will annoy everyone. The German manufacturer will initially use the well-known former Formula 2 cars but will make sure they have a new eight-cylinder engine ready. In addition to Formula 1, an Intercontinental Formula, which requires engines of up to 3.000 cc that will be used in many Grands Prix, including the Indy 500, the Monza Lottery Grand Prix and the Centenary Grand Prix, scheduled for Sunday 17th September 1961 in Turin, has been launched. As regards the creation of the official teams for 1961, the situation hasn’t been figured out yet. Especially because the most requested driver, Stirling Moss, is still free from commitments, uncertain between Lotus and Porsche. It’s said that Ferrari would be willing to make more than a sacrifice to have him on his team. But the driver from London doesn’t seem to be wanting to move to Italy.


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