Aston Martin and the 1959 Dutch Grand Prix.

Aston Martin Enters Formula 1.

The Design of the DBR4.

1959 DBR4 OutlineAston Martin built four DBR4 purpose designed F1 cars.  Today, three remain in existence.  Generally, Aston Martin’s focus was obtaining a Le Mans championship based on their modified sports cars.  Consequently, the Grand Prix car development program was a bit of a distraction to the company’s motorsport efforts.  From what I read, Aston Martin slowly, very slowly, had been developing the car since 1955.  Even thought it had disc brakes and some other modern components, it was generally based on outdated principles – most notably, due to the fact that it was front-engined.  Like the Bugatti 251, this car was doomed, to the wall of F1 shame, from the beginning.

Aston Marti DBR4 back

While aerodynamics, at this time, were still poorly understood, the DBR4 reportedly adhered to those principles that were understood.  That is, at least, until the engineers demanded that a giant scoop be added to the left side of the hood (pictured above: look between the wheels on the right side).  Although they had taken years to develop the DRB4, it still had not been ready for the 1959 Monaco GP, the first race of the season.  Upon its debut at the Dutch Grand Prix, Aston Martin realized they were in trouble.  That’s because Carroll Shelby and his teammate were only able to qualify tenth and thirteenth.

Yes, you are correct, this is the same Carroll Shelby that you may be thinking of.  The car designer and general American badass had a rather unsuccessful career at the pinnacle of motorsport, before having his epiphany about wedging a big American V8 into a small British roadster (known to gear-heads, simply as the 427 Cobra).

For more information about the development and testing of the DBR4, check out the following video.  It provides some great ‘behind the scenes’ footage of how these cars were machined:

The Race: 1959 Dutch Grand Prix.

1959 Dutch GP copyThe race took place at a high speed track known as Zandvoort.  Jo Bonnier (#7, pictured above), took pole position ahead of Jack Brabham and Stirling Moss.  Bonnier shot off the line and was leading at the end of the first lap.  Masten Gregory well down the grid.  However, he overtook everyone, including Jo Bonnier, as they crossed start/finish at the end of the second lap.  He held the lead for nine more laps.  However, Gregory (an American) had gearbox trouble on lap 12 and gave the lead back to Bonnier.  Bonnier stayed in the lead until lap 29.  Brabham and Moss were not far behind.  Eventually, Stirling Moss took the lead on the 60th lap.  However, his weak gearbox struck again and he dropped out of the lead.  Joakim Bonnier was able to re-take the lead and win his first Grand Prix.

Here is a video of the race:

Driver’s Championship.

  • Jack Brabham – 15
  • Joakim Bonnier – 8
  • Rodger Ward* – 8

*Rodger Ward won the 1959 Indy 500, which remained a points counting race in the F1 Championship.  He did not participate in any formal F1 events.

Constructor’s Championship.

  • Cooper-Climax – 14
  • BRM (British Racing Motors) – 8
  • Scuderia Ferrari – 8

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