The British Invade the 1958 Monaco Grand Prix.

Race Poster from 1958 Monaco GPMay 18, 1958.  After nearly five months off since the Argentine GP, the Formula 1 circus arrived in the luxurious principality of Monaco.  I have spoken about the rising British invasion into F1 several times now.  This race is definitive evidence that the British revolution is underway.

The 1958 was a race of several notable firsts:

Allow me to break down a bit of background on the race.  Ferrari brought a new car.  It’s first appearance was at the Argentine GP; however, I did not have a chance to discuss it until now.  It was known as the Ferrari Dino 246s F1.  It was a direct translation of Scuderia Ferrari’s prior-year Formula 2 car.  It was a V6 putting out 280 horsepower at approximately 8,500 rpm.  This may not seem like much, but these cars were pretty light.  Also, that was an extraordinary amount of power to run through extremely narrow old-timey tires.  It was a tubular space-frame as the notion of a monocoque had not yet permeated race cars or road cars.  It had relatively modern suspension, but the rear suspension had not yet advanced beyond a De Dion tube.  Scuderia Ferrari, at Enzo’s direction, stuck with drum brakes despite mounting evidence that drum breaks were a doomed technology in the face of evolving disc brake technology.

Black and White Photo of Maurice Trintignant leading 58 Monaco GP

Maurice Trintignant leading in his Cooper-Climax

Turning to the next tidbit, if you are a fan of modern Formula 1, you are assuredly familiar with Bernie Ecclestone.  For those not familiar, in essence, he is the F1 boss controlling every aspect of Formula 1.  I was shocked to realize that he first showed up in 1958.  He is still on the grid at every race, and worth billions upon billions.  Bernie Ecclestone was the driving force behind the commercialization of the sport.  But, in 1958, he was off to a slow start.

Ever the deal-maker, Bernie Ecclestone tried to revive the defunct Connaught team, by buying up three cars.  He recruited two other drivers, Bruce Kessler and Paul Emery.  None of three managed to qualify for the 1958 Monaco Grand Prix.  They were in good company.  A dozen other drivers failed to qualify as well.  And so, the richest man in Formula 1 began his F1 career in failure.

As you may recall, in those days, cars were painted according to the origin of the team.  Until the last few races, each and every race was a sea of Italian red.  But, now, the tide was shifting and British racing green was ebbing into the front of the grid.  In fact, the front two rows (which had more cars on each row back then), were entirely that distinctive color of green.

This race is well-covered by extensive footage on YouTube.  So, I will let the following video do the heavy lifting of explaining the details of the race.  For the short version:

And, next, for the extended race review:

I also found, what appears to be amateur film of the race.  It’s sort of fascinating to see the pre-race affairs through the eyes of an unknown amateur.  I wonder if he (or she) has any idea that the footage has lived on into the ether of the internet.  Imagine if you told him in May 1958: “Hey, in 2013, anyone in the world will be able to watch this footage from a device that most everyone has at home and many have in the palm of their hands.”  Then again, such is the wonder of the Interwebz.

And, so, again, we come across a truly significant race, in which the particulars of the race are irrelevant.  The ’58 Monaco Grand Prix is important for its symbolism.  This is the very point of time that the British stepped up, and said, “step aside, Enzo, and see what British ingenuity can accomplish.”  This may seem insignificant now, but the British (from what I understand – as I’m only versed on the races I have already covered), will dominate Grand Prix racing well-beyond the next 15 seasons.

And so, I will leave off with this fantastic picture of an Italian car (Wolfgang von Trips) struggling to keep pace with the British teams.

Wolfgang Von Trips turning Monaco's tightest corner

I mentioned Bruce Kessler as one of the drivers who failed to qualify for the Monaco GP this year.  This was his only attempt to qualify for an F1 race.  But, he would go on to have a lengthy career in film and television.  He would direct CHiPs, The A-Team, and the one and only Renegade starring Lorenzo Lamas.  If you are an American from my generation, you likely grew up on at least one of these three.

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