A Grim Era.
In an era without exclusivity and non-competition clauses, drivers often raced at non-championship races. These races, often, were some of the most dangerous. This proved true for Harry Schell. Tragically, the semi-American (he was born in France to American parents), was killed in an accident at a non-championship race at the Silverstone Circuit on May 13, 1960.
Stirling Moss: Endurance Success.
In between the race at Silverstone and the May 29, 1960 Monaco Grand Prix, many of the Formula 1 driver’s, including Stirling Moss attended a grueling race at the Nordschleife known simply as the Nürburgring 1,000 kms. Stirling Moss won it in 1956. Missing victory in 1957, he followed it up with three consecutive victories in 1958, 1959, and 1960.
If there is one single fact that supports the contention that Stirling Moss is the greatest driver to have never won a championship, I believe that it would be his record at this treacherous endurance race. Stirling Moss was not just a great Grand Prix driver; but rather, he was gifted in his ability to excel in just about anything with a seat, wheels, and a motor.
The 1960 Monaco Grand Prix.
As you may recall, there was not much turnaround between the last race of the 1959 season and the first race of the 1960 season in Argentina . Accordingly, a lot of the development for the cars did not take place during the off-season. Instead, much of the development took place between the first and second races of the season. In fact, Ferrari even purchased their own Cooper-Climax for the express purpose of stealing whatever technology they could.
Stirling Moss, almost instinctually, recognized that the Lotus 18 would quickly become the car to beat. And without a second thought, he convinced team manager Rob Walker to ditch the Cooper-Climax in favor of Colin Chapman’s first mid-engined Lotus.
Moss’ decision was confirmed when he put the Lotus 18 on the pole in the tight confines of the Monaco circuit. Jack Brabham and Tony Brooks followed in their Cooper-Climax’s.
However, it was Bonnier who got the jump off the line. Jack Brabham took second, also beat Moss off the line. Now, Monaco – even in those days – is an extremely difficult circuit to pass on. This did not stop Moss. By the fifth lap, he overtook Jack Brabham. Moss continued his hard charge and overtook Bonnier for the lead after a dozen laps of chasing his shadow. Brabham exchanged positions back and forth. And then…
The heavens opened up and the race became a contest of adaptability as the road became slick. Jack Brabham capitalized early and overtook both Bonnier and Moss. Tony Brooks, however, became the early loser, in that he spun and fell down the order. However, he managed to keep from slamming into a wall and was able to continue. This left Bruce McLaren in fourth place as he fended off an attack from Southern Californian Phil Hill.
Brabham’s early success with the rain did not last. He slammed into the wall at Ste. Devote. Thus, Moss was back in the lead and was trailed by Bonnier, McLaren, and P. Hill. Moss had some sort of issue with his spark plug lead and had to pit for a quick fix. Exiting the pit, like a shark, Moss began to hunt down his prey one by one. He was successful and regained the lead. Bonnier’s suspension failed gifting second place to McLaren who was still fending off an attack from Phil Hill. And so they continued to the end of race. Moss, after his sports car victory as the Nürburgring, went on to win the 1960 Monaco Grand Prix.
The Lotus 18: Legend Status.
Previously, I have written about how many of the cars of the 1950’s seemed to be dinosaurs, in that they were essentially an evolution of a doomed species < >. In essence then, the Cooper-Climax T51 was the missing link between old and new. However, when I looked at the rundown of the Lotus 18, I was astonished by its similarity to modern cars. In fact, I am going to be so bold as to argue that the Lotus 18 is the first fully-modern ancestor of the modern F1 car (feel free to comment below if you agree or disagree).
One of the first things I noticed was that it used a sequential gearbox. While this early sequential gearbox may have had its problems, it must have been an incredible feeling for Sir Stirling to be slamming through the mesh gears while his competitors messed around finessing their H-pattern gearboxes.
Colin Chapman approached racecar design scientifically. Arguably, he was the first to do so. On a deeper level than meets the eye, he understood that lightness and handling can, in fact, beat outright power on the racetrack. More importantly, he had this realization at a time when few others believed it could be done.
For the Lotus 18, it’s the little – and even seemingly obvious – things that made the chassis such a success. For example, this was the very first racecar (of note) to place the driver in a semi-reclined position. The reason was simple, get the driver out of the wind and lower the back end of the car. Colin Chapman applied this level of ingenious, intuitive, and insightful reasoning to every aspect of his cars.
Colin Chapman’s realizations may be self-evident in retrospect; however, it took a visionary to peer into the future. Colin Chapman may not have been the first to put a motor in the back. However, he was the first to stand the form of an F1 car on its head. And thus, it follows that the Lotus 18 achieved legend status the moment its rubber hit the road.
- Bruce McLaren – 14
- Stirling Moss – 8
- Cliff Allison – 6
- Cooper-Climax – 14
- Scuderia Ferrari – 10
- Lotus-Climax – 9