The 1960 Season Begins with Logistical Difficulties.
From an outsider’s perspective, the Formula 1 circus appears to magically arrive at the races. With mobile phones, cloud computing, and global position tracking, the logistics game of shipping the F1 circus to a racetrack is vastly easier from how it was 60 years ago.
Consider this, the 1959 season concluded in December at Sebring. The teams needed to get the cars to Europe for off-season re-equipping and development. Then, the cars needed to be in Argentina by the week of February 7, 1960. Like any plan, it sounded good; however, difficulties arose.
First, the ships leaving Sebring were delayed an entire week. Next, they arrived in Britain amidst a dispute as to who was to unload the cars.[i] Cooper’s team affairs manager, Andrew Ferguson, noted, “The captain of the American freighter took matters into his own hands and made the perilous journey up-river to the dock-side.”[ii] He picked a random dock. The meat import folks quickly informed him that he had chosen wrong and another dispute arose.
Ferguson continued, as quoted by Eoin Young, “After countless telephone calls to labour-gang chiefs and Union officials, permission was received to unload the crates into barges and thence to the dock side.”[iii] Essentially, this left six days for the off-season, before the cars needed to be shipped to South America.
As soon as the cars were back at the Cooper shop, the cars were stripped and engines removed. The engines were immediately sent to Coventry-Climax, the Cooper engine supplier. Somehow, the engines were rebuilt and the cars reassembled in time to board the ship for Buenos Aires.[iv]
However, the difficulties were not over. One of the ships engines threw a rod and it took three days of straight of repairs and engine work to get the ship ready to go.[v] As they approached the Argentinian coast, Murphy’s Law persisted. The engines failed. They needed to be towed; however, there was yet another strike by the local dockworkers. Eventually, a ship manned by the Argentinian army towed the ship into the bay.[vi]
Only by seven o’clock the night before the race did the cars arrive at the track. Bruce McLaren wrote, “There was frantic activity as [the cars] were rolled out, numbers went on, petrol in, and brake discs cleaned of grease and, with only a few minutes of light left, Jack [Brabham] and I set off on a dozen laps to find out which way the circuit went.”[vii]
There was a bit more practice the morning before the race; however, it was barely enough time to bed brakes and scrub tires, according to McLaren.[viii] A short time later, the cars gridded up for the race.
The 1960 Argentine Grand Prix.
Prior to the race, Stirling Moss had qualified on pole in his Rob Walker Cooper-Climax. Notably, Colin Chapman arrived with a Lotus-Climax and out-did the factory Cooper boys. Innes Ireland qualified second in his Lotus 18.[ix] Graham Hill, recently recruited by BRM, qualified in third.
As Bruce McLaren was not familiar with this track, his success here was impressive; mitigated only by the fact that he won due to a number of mechanical failures. The start followed that familiar ritual of flag up, engine revs up, flag down, clutch out, cars off. As the cars completed their first lap, it was Ireland, Bonnier, Graham Hill, and Phil Hill.[x]
Stirling Moss had an uncharacteristically slow start. However, he quickly found his groove and passes the local driver, Carlos Mediteguy in his Cooper. Then, he passed recently deceased Jose Froilan Gonzalez. Then, he overtook Jack Brabham (Cooper-Climax). Phill Hill (Scuderia-Ferrari), and Innes Ireland (Lotus-Climax).[xi]
Thus left Moss in third place behind Graham Hill and Bonnier. Shortly thereafter, Moss passed both and took the lead. Bonnier was not about to let this stand. He leveled an assault against the gifted Moss. On the twenty-first lap, he overtook Moss and took the lead.
If you know much about Stirling Moss, you know that he is not the type to give up. Working hard, he overtook Moss by the completion of the thirty-sixth lap. However, Moss’ suspension gave up and his race was over. At least, this time, it wasn’t his gearbox.
Graham Hill and Jack Brabham both retired as well. Suddenly, McLaren found himself in second place. Ireland was nearly a full lap ahead of Bruce McLaren; however, he had gearbox problems. Although he finished the race, he fell back quite a ways back. Thus, Bruce McLaren won at a circuit that he was unfamiliar with. And with this, the trajectory of the McLaren legacy rose just a little bit higher. I must admit that I’m excited to watch how the McLaren name rose to the epic heights that it commandeers today.[xii]
- Bruce McLaren – 8
- Cliff Allison – 6
- Carlos Menditeguy – 3
- Cooper-Climax – 8
- Scuderia Ferrari – 6
- Cooper-Maserati – 3
[i] Eoin Young, McLaren Memories: A Biography of Bruce McLaren, 78 (Haynes 2005).
[ii] Id. (providing my entire account for the logistical difficulties between the 1959 and 1960 seasons).
[iii] Id. at 78-79.
[iv] Id. at 79.
[vii] Id. at 80.
[ix] Simon Aaron and Mark Hughes, The Complete Book of Formula One, 100 (Motorbooks 2008).