The 1958 Dutch Grand Prix.

A photograph of my race notes for the 1958 Dutch Grand PrixSo, I am staring at my notes wondering what to write about.  My last post was about the arrival of the British invasion into F1.  This is certainly confirmed as I look at a sea of green (not literally; but rather, a page of references to Vanwall and British Racing Motors [BRM]).  I hate to admit that this whole thing (writing project GP evolved) does not come naturally; however, some posts just are tough to write about.  Some are challenging because so much happened that it is difficult to synthesize a story line.  This race is the opposite.  It was destined for obscurity from the beginning.  And so, I bring it up, only to lay it back down and let it fade back into the annals of Formula 1 history.

Mike Hawthorn struggling at the 1958 Dutch Grand Prix.

Mike Hawthorn in his Ferrari Dino 246s at the ’58 Dutch GP.

The Race.

Vanwall

Vanwall (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The VII Grote Prijs van Nederland took place at the Circuit Park Zandvoort.  Unusually, the race took place on Monday, May 26, 1958.  The race was slated for a Monday, as it was a holiday.  The promoters intuition was correct and the event drew a large crowd.  Stuart-Lewis Evans, and his pretentiously hyphenated last name, qualified first.  Although, a resident hater, Colin Grayson, strenuously objects to the claimants name hyphenated name being called pretentious. I’ll let you decide. Either way, apparently, he was Tony Vandervell‘s favorite driver.  As Tony’s last name suggests, he was the Vanwall team owner.  So-called golden boy Mike Hawthorn was the fastest Ferrari in practice, but he could not compete with the Vanwall’s.  In fact, Stirling Moss and Tony Brooks qualified second and third, behind Stuart-Lewis Evans.

Stirling Moss was untouchable in the race.  In fact, he led every single lap.  An American, by the name of Harry Schell, has been around for some time now.  However, he is finally rising to the top of the race results.  He was driving for BRM and finished in second; however, he was nearly a minute behind Stirling Moss.  Jean Behra was a bit shy of two minutes down on the leader at the end of the race, in third place.

The rise of British Teams in F1: A Few Thoughts.

British Racing Motors

British Racing Motors (Photo credit: John Gulliver)

The front of the grid has recently and quickly shifted from Italian red to British racing green.  How did the British come to the front so quickly?  Well, BRM has actually been working on producing a successful chassis for nearly a decade.  From what I understand, Vanwall were simply champs at adapting to the new regulations.  For example, exotic fuels had been ruled out in favor of something akin to airplane fuel.  Vanwell was able to extract better performance from the new fuel than the other teams.

But, this is not the entire story.  In the case of BRM, they had been at it a decade and their hard work was finally paying off.  But, perhaps it should have paid off sooner.  British Racing Motors had actually been the recipient of literal spoils of war, with a BMW connection.  When Germany lost the second world war, a boatload of technical information was handed over to the British government.  Included, was all the racing and development information for the original BMW 328 engine.  The technical information was eventually handed over to BRM.  However, they found little success with the information and it took over a decade to reach the success that they have begun to achieve in the last few races.

There are other reasons as well for the rise of the British teams.  Britain, due to WWII, had a glut of engineering, aerodynamic, and mechanic talent.  These individuals, no longer finding employment in the war machine, had to find other applications for their skill-sets.  And so, racing saw a large number of people with technical backgrounds entering the sports various British teams.

America saw the same effect.  As I understand it, this was the impetus for the post-WWII hot-rod movement.  I’m proud to say that my grandfather, Lloyd Seehorn, was one of these people.  I still remember him showing me the roads he use to race his car on.  He fondly remembered sourcing a shorter, more efficient, gear ratio that others were not aware of.  It was this simple change that gave him an edge on the streets of Spokane, Washington.  I can only imagine what it would have been like to be around such a predominant culture of excitement about cars, speed, and modification.

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