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#94 1960 United States Grand Prix

2021-10-06 22:35

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#1960,

#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

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The second American Grand Prix for Formula 1 cars, which counts toward the World Championship, is held at Riverside Raceway on the edge of the South Californian desert. The Raceway is an artificial road circuit running over the undulating desert for a distance of 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-hander. This follows by a 500-yard (0.46 km) straight, another fastish right-hander and a 1/2-mile (0.8 km) climbing section with right-left-right almost flat kinks, with a slow double-bite right-hander which is the highest point. Two 500-yard (0.46 km) straights take the cars into the infield and out again with a fastish 180-degree turn at the bottom of the V. A long right-hander which suddenly tightens up, followed by an immediate left-hander, returns the cars to the straight. The last racing season under regulation 2,500 cubic centimetre air or 750 cubic centimetre supercharged engine ends under tension, the British manufacturers object that the new Formula 1 must be based on the current Formula 2 (atmospheric 1,500 cubic centimetre engine or 500 cubic centimetre supercharged engine), unladen weight greater than 450 kg: this notion of minimum mass which should improve passive safety being one of the main points of contention because it could favour Scuderia Ferrari with cars heavier up to now 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 victories, Jack Brabham takes a second world title, and his employer Cooper, with six wins, one second manufacturer's cup with its small rear mid-engined single-seaters. Technically obsolete front-engined Ferraris are regularly dominated, and Enzo Ferrari forgoes taking part in the American event to better prepare for next season with his new rear mid-engined weapon. The choice of Sebring for the first edition of the United States Grand Prix proved not very attractive to the public, the organizer Alec Ulmann, therefore, opts for the Riverside, a track more suitable for speed races than the old Florida airport. On the other hand, Florida's weather seems more likely to attract spectators for an event held in November.

 

Located on the outskirts of Los Angeles, this circuit opened in 1957 and is mainly used for endurance racing and stock cars. More than five kilometres long, it includes nine curves, some of which are very difficult, and allows averages of around 150 km/h. The weather during practice varies from hot and still too hot and gale force gusts, which move great clouds of fine desert sand on the track, they enter everywhere and reduce visibility to a few yards. There are three days of practice, but some drivers know the circuit pretty well before they arrived and settle for fast laps right away, while others are starting from nothing to learn the track, which is not an easy thing for the drivers. Stirling Moss in Rob Walker’s Lotus marks the fastest time of 1’54”4, Rob has a spare car for Stirling, and it's perhaps a good thing he got for the fact that Stirling broke one of the Colotti gearboxes during Saturday's free practice. The second-fastest time is realized by Jack Brabham in the works Cooper car, with him there are Bruce McLaren and Ron Flockhart – making three works Coopers. Next, in Yeoman Credit Coopers, arrive Gendebien, Brooks, Phil Hill and Taylor – in that order of speed. Three of the cars are the new high-tail Colotti-geared cars, whilst the fourth is an older normal-geared car, which is driven by Phil Hill in the free practice, but by Taylor on race day. Both Phil Hill and von Trips are released by Mr Ferrari, Phil to Yeoman Credit and von Trips to Centro Sud, in place of Masten Gregory. The other two Centro Sud cars are driven by Trintignant and Ian Burgess; Burgess’ car has the experimental head with carburettors and exhaust system reversed. Dan Gurney and Jo Bonnier run very quickly in practice in the B.R.M.s, while Graham Hill has lacked his usual verve. The B.R.M.s are the normal rear-engined cars with single rear disc brakes and not the new car which appeared at Snetterton, this now having a 1.1/2-litre Climax engine in it, as have the two others. Team Lotus has 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 the outboard rear disc brakes, while the other two are of the inboard variety.

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The rest of the group is made up of private owners, the most important of these is the Scarab entered by Reventlow and driven by Chuck Daigh. Since the car left Europe after the French Grand Prix, it has reduced in weight by 150 lb (68 kg) and the engine increased by 12 more bhp. A Lotus is entered by Jim Hall, and Pete Lovely is driving a Cooper-Ferrari, while Brian Naylor is entered in 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 altogether happy as Surtees’ driveshaft has broken in free practice and all the works Lotus cars have new ones, while Stirling runs on an old pair which are rather dubious. The flag fell and 21 of the 23 cars shot off, as Gendebien and Phil Hill have to be restarted. Brabham made his usual brilliant start taking the lead with Moss and Gurney very close behind him, while Bonnier and the three Lotuses of Ireland, Clark and Surtees are in very close attendance. On the second lap Burgess ends up in a spin but is able to restart himself by pushing, and jumping in, a thing he repeats twenty laps later just before he retires. On the fourth lap, Brabham is still firmly in the lead when he passes the pits, followed by Moss, Gurney, Bonnier, Ireland, and then a gap. Surtees ends up in a spin on the circuit and team-mate Clark is unable to avoid him, the resultant crash put Surtees out for good, and it took so long to straighten out Clark’s car that he never got away from the bottom of the circuit. Drama struck again on the fourth lap, when Brabham has just come out of the straight when there is an explosion which nearly blows him out of the car and a sheet of flame scorches his back. At the end of the lap, he returns to the pits, but all seems well, and he comes out again after being relegated to ninth place. Four laps later the same thing happens again; this time the mechanics find out what is wrong, petrol from the very full tank is surging out of the overflow pipe into the under tray, and as the car accelerates the fuel runs back to the hot exhaust pipe and is flashed off.

 

Moss is now in the lead, with both B.R.M.s of Gurney and Bonnier within view. Unfortunately, Gurney, whose engine has sounded rough for some time with a cracked exhaust, suddenly dropped out on the eighteenth lap when the core plug blows out and the car overheated. This leaves Bonnier, Ireland and McLaren chasing Moss. Going well in the Yeoman Credit Cooper, Phil Hill has pulled up from nineteenth to eighth in seven laps. Tony Brooks in another Yeoman Credit Cooper ends up in a spin on the infield turn and doesn't try to restart as he thought he has spun on his own oil. Henry Taylor isn't very happy as he is overheating the engine and having plug lead trouble. Graham Hill doesn't seem very happy about the circuit and eventually retires before half-race, having somehow selected two gears at once. As the race went into the last half it is still Moss followed by Bonnier, Ireland, McLaren and the American Lotus owner Jim Hall, who drives a very good race considering the opposition that was present. Three laps from the end, Hall develops transmission trouble and must push the car some way to the finishing line to get the seventh place. When it seems certain that the order has settled down for the end, Bonnier comes into the pits with a very rough engine, the mechanics diagnose valve-spring trouble and Bonnier goes out slowly to complete as many of the 75 laps as he could. The Scarab, although running four laps down on 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 sprung a leak. Brabham has been putting on the pressure since he cures the explosive nature of the car, and he has worked through to fourth place, one lap behind Moss, when Stirling took a well-deserved chequered flag, with Ireland 38 seconds and McLaren 82 seconds behind. Some organisers could have done better to come and study European racing a little more and use a few grown-up marshals. The commentary is annoying in its inaccuracy and its continuous volume, also in its continual reference to a silly star system for drivers which is taken from an English weekly periodical, and which most people connected with the sport ignores.

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For the first time in the history of the Modena Automobile Grand Prix, now in its sixth edition, the field of competitors will be dominated by foreign participation. In the competition scheduled for Sunday, October 2, 1960, in fact, of the twelve cars competing, only one will be Italian, precisely the Ferrari of Wolfgang von Trips, the German count to whose credit this year are the victories in the two most prestigious Formula 2 races. The other eleven cars will represent the British and German sports industry: the two official Porsches, the two official Lotus, the special Lotus of Stirling Moss, the Cooper Climax of the Belgian national team and the cars of the Scuderia Centro-Sud will compete. Likewise, for the first time in the history of racing, there will be only one Italian driver on the track: it is Giorgio Scarlatti. Scarlatti’s task will be very hard as he will face champions such as Moss, Ireland, Bonnier, Gendebien, Trintignant and the multiple World Champion of motorcycling John Surtees. The first two editions of the Modena Grand Prix were resolved with the same number of Scuderia Ferrari victories, both by Alberto Ascari. The third Modena Grand Prix saw another Italian affirmation, that of Villoresi, again on Ferrari. The other two successes went to Maserati, first with Manuel Fangio and then with Jean Behra. Modena, the capital of racing cars, also has a racetrack which, small and collected as it is, offers spectacular first-rate features, as spectators are able to follow the whole development of the track from the stands and 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 system, so much so that at a certain point the asphalt conditions did not even allow the drivers of the Modena car manufacturers to use it anymore safely.

 

Finally, the crisis has been overcome, and the Modena racetrack, after the decisive readjustment works, is now perfectly suited to host a wide-ranging race. Hence, the interest in the event in Modena, which will be attended by a dozen well-known drivers, at the wheel of very recent single-seaters, indeed already prepared by the manufacturers for the 1961 World Championship. As anticipated, there will be Stirling Moss, who has even sent two cars to Modena - a Lotus and a Cooper - reserving the right to decide which one to drive after having tried both on the winding track. Before and after the last Italian Grand Prix in Monza (as will be remembered, deserted by the British), Moss was the subject of severe attacks, because he was wrongly or rightly held responsible for the attitude held across the Channel towards the top Italian race. It is clear that the great London rider is returning to Italy with controversial resolutions, and since he is perfectly healed from the consequences of the accident that occurred on the Spa circuit last June, it takes little to imagine with how much determination he will fight on that track in Modena where ten years ago he proved to be one of the great hopes (maintained at one hundred per cent) of motoring. Against Moss, a group of high-level men and machines. First, two Ferraris, driven by von Trips and Ginther. The German, with the single-seater from Maranello, beat the British and Germans at the Solitude in July; at Monza, then, he was the fastest of the Formula 1 car drivers. As for Ginther, who has also become Ferrari’s official test driver, the American driver knows the Modena circuit like few others, a track where the driver’s personal resources are perhaps more important than the efficiency of the mechanical means.

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On Sunday, October 2, 1960, the Swedish Joakim Bonnier in a Porsche wins the Modena Grand Prix for Formula 2 cars, after a race as rarely seen: heated, uncertain, full of alternatives and extremely exciting phases. Suffice it to say that between lap 50 and lap 87 of the 100 laps scheduled (equal to 236,600 kilometres) on the renewed, much smoother and safer track of the Modena Aerautodromo, Bonnier and the rear-engined 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 mechanical means to the limit of risk, gnawing from time to time the meter and even less, while the crowd of spectators (more than 20,000 people, enthusiastic and competent as only in Modena can be) passes from one emotion to another, holds their breath, bursts in shouts of admired astonishment. The Porsche of the Swedish driver, which is less powerful than von Trips' car, appears agile and slightly better under braking, but it is above all Bonnier who shows exceptional coldness 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 be approximately the new Formula 1 cars of next year are engaged. The start of the race is dominated by Bonnier, while the men of the highest class or with the most efficient cars settle behind him: Ginther, Von Trips, Barth (also on Porsche) and Stirling Moss, at the wheel of the Lotus. Then Moss goes on the offensive and manages to climb up to third place after the two Ferraris, but at once paying the price of this exploit with the retirement, caused by an irremediable valve failure. That’s on lap twenty-one. Subsequently, Ginther, the second Ferrari driver, who drives a conventional front-engine car, takes the lead with very decisive action, while von Trips keeps Bonnier at bay (apparently with ease).

 

On the contrary, it is thought that the race had to go on wearily, despite the average kept going up (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 the attack and beats the American, engaging in a violent fight with Trips. At first, he resists, then the bearded Joakim manages to put the wheels of his Porsche ahead of those of the Ferrari, with a breath-taking overtake. This is where the thrilling phase of the race begins. The two drivers give a high school essay and now one, now the other, takes the lead, repeatedly beating the record on the lap, until they both reach the limit of 59 seconds net to cover the 2,366 meters of the track, corresponding to the average time of 144,365 km/h (Trips at lap 79 and Bonnier at lap 89). Sometimes it seems that this or that driver should give up, but it is always a wrong impression, that inevitably comes the reaction. So, 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 on the return of team-mate Ginther. With the general attention polarized on the events for the leading positions, the race of the other competitors goes almost unnoticed, and moreover, none of the other characters ever manages to shine, except, at times, the other two Porsche drivers Herrmann and Barth, classified in fourth and fifth place, but respectively one and two laps behind. Unlucky, as for too long now, Giorgio Scarlatti. It is therefore a splendid Grand Prix, impeccably organized, and which should prelude a full resumption of the racing activity on the track, the spectacular Aerautodromo of the capital city of Italian motorsport.

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At the end of the World Championship, for some time there has been no mention of motorsport, now dormant until spring. Only where the New Year coincides with the summer is there a bit of activity, and news arrives regularly in Europe of Stirling Moss' victory from some Pacific islands or South Africa (the last one is on Boxing Day, December 26, 1960, in which the British ace won, at the wheel of a Porsche, the Grand Prix of East London). The start of the season will not 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 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 workshops work hard. As is well known, on January 1, 1961, the new Formula 1 will come into force, which prescribes engines with a maximum displacement of 1,500 cubic centimetre (against the 2.500 cc of the expired regulations), a minimum weight of 450 kilograms (until now free), electric starting with on-board equipment and other minor provisions. In practice, the chassis of the old Formula 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 would be the situation. Ferrari will use the well-known 1.1/2-litre six-cylinder engine mounted on both the rear-engined and the traditional-type car, the former for mixed circuits, the other for very fast ones. Thanks to the power delivered by the current 1,500 cubic centimetre, the Maranello team should face the next season with a certain degree 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 (in practice, about seventy kilograms more). However, a new eight-cylinder engine is being prepared at Coventry, which should compensate for the inferior power compared to Ferrari engines; the other British team, the B.R.M., would also be equipping a new 8V, which however we will hardly see used before the summer. New Formula 1 cars would then be manufactured by Maserati and by Osca, which in any case would not take part directly in the competition, limiting themselves to supplying the cars to customers or secondary teams. There will be Porsche, which with the new Formula will officially enter the list, and which perhaps will be everyone’s bugbear. The German carmaker will initially use the well-known former Formula 2 single-seaters but makes sure it has a new eight-cylinder engine ready. In addition to Formula 1, an Intercontinental Formula has been launched, which prescribes engines of up to 3.000 cc, reserving it for a number of Grand Prix, including the Indy 500, the Monza Lottery Grand Prix and the Centenary Grand Prix, scheduled for Sunday, September 17, 1961, in Turin. As regards the formation of the official teams for 1961, the situation has not been settled yet. Especially the most requested driver, Stirling Moss, is still free from commitments, uncertain between Lotus and Porsche. It is said that Ferrari, to have him on his team, would have been willing to make more than a sacrifice. But the sudden London runner doesn’t seem to be in favour of moving to Italy.

 

Fabio Giardini

 

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