16th March 2013

ARGENTINE GRAND PRIX

SHOCK WIN FOR STACEY & LOTUS

The final two races in 1959 were won with some ease by Tony Brooks in the 1960 Ferrari. Phil Hill drove the car in Argentina - and was lapped! The new, rear-engined British cars dominated the race with Graham Hill in the B.R.M and Alan Stacey in the new Lotus 18 battled for the whole race and it was the young man from Essex in the Chapman-designed Lotus that ran out a worthy winner. Innes Ireland must have been kicking himself; why? Read on....

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ENTRY

In truth, the Argentine Grand Prix comes along a little too early. Ferrari had no problems with development of their cars because as we know, they introduced their 1960 car well before the end of 1959 and as mentioned, Tony Brooks dominated the final two races of that season. They had two of the new cars running before the end of 1959 and here in Argentina they produced a third new car. Both Tony Brooks and Dan Gurney had moved on leaving Phil Hill as the nominal number one driver. Wolfgang von Trips was drafted in to join Cliff Allison as a regular team driver. Von Trips was to drive the brand new car with Allison in the second of last year's new cars. In addition the team brought over one of the 1959 cars for the veteran Argentine Froilan Gonzales to drive in what would probably be his last Championship Grand Prix.

The British manufacturers had made a supreme effort to get their new cars ready for the race and Cooper, Lotus and B.R.M all had two new cars up and running. The problem was that none of them had run prior to the beginning of practice, other than quick shakedowns back in England to make sure that everything was screwed together properly. Cooper have decided to run just two cars this season, having retained the services of Jack Brabham and Bruce McLaren. The new T.53 Cooper is a sleek compact piece of machinery and looks as though it is going to be very competitive indeed. Graham Hill has moved across from Lotus to B.R.M where he joins Jo Bonnier who has stayed for another year. There will be a third type 48 for Dan Gurney, but not yet. Hill's place at Lotus has been taken by Alan Stacey - the one-legged driver from Essex having driven very nicely at Sebring at the end of 1959. Innes Ireland remains the Lotus number one. In addition to the two brand new works Lotus 18s, Rob Walker has bought one for Stirling Moss to drive and very smart the car looked in its dark blue and white livery with white wheels. Maurice Trintignant had one of Walker's 1959 Coopers for this race while Lotus brought one of last year's 16s for local driver Alberto Rodriguez Larreta.

The remainder of the large 22 car entry was a mish-mash of various cars of varying ages. Scuderia Centro Sud brought a large number of cars from Italy. Their true 1960 cars are Cooper Maserati T.51s which were driven in Argentina by two local drivers; Roberto Bonomi was virtually unknown to the European-based attendees but the other Cooper Maserati was in the hands of the very experienced Carlos Menditeguy who drove in Europe a few years ago. There were no less than five Maserati 250.Fs present and although several came with the Centro Sud team most were entered under the names of their drivers. Giorgio Scarlatti and Gino Munaron from Italy drove two of the cars - Munaron's being a car that used to have the V.12 Maserati engine but had been fitted with a regular 6 cylinder motor. The other three cars were driven by Antonio Creus from Spain, Ettore Chimeri from Venezuela and the Argentine driver whose name seems to confuse some people as he is sometimes called Estefano Nasif but who seems actually to be Nasif Estefano. Finally, two drivers who had spent 1959 driving for British factory teams arrived with other cars having been dropped by those teams. Harry Schell had the blue and white Cooper that he drove at Sebring last year while Masten Gregory arrived with the Formula 2 Behra Porsche which is now entered by the American Camoradi organisation.

PRACTICE

It was clear from the very start of practice that B.R.M have produced a very nice little car indeed. Graham Hill took to it like a duck to water and set fastest practice lap in both of the two sessions. The car did not look very fast in a straight line but the handling of the dark green car was so good through the twistier parts of the Buenos Aires autodrome that it more than made up for its lack of top speed. Several drivers took a while to get to grips with their new cars, so the order changed considerably from the first session to the second. Phil Hill was second only to Graham in the first session but although he went slightly faster in the second, he dropped from second to seventh in the second.

Stirling Moss adapted very quickly to his new mount maybe because his innate skill enabled him to come to terms with the very quick but difficult to drive Lotus somewhat quicker than the two factory drivers. However, as with Phil Hill, his faster time in second practice saw him only make 8th place and a third row of the grid start. Alan Stacey flew around the circuit on the second day and put his Lotus on the front row alongside second fastest runner Jack Brabham. The two works Cooper were very quick but both the drivers were finding them a real handful and doubted if they would be able to keep up the pace for 80 laps. McLaren was down on the third row next to Moss.

Wolfgang von Trips settled very nicely into Ferrari, moving from 10th after the first session up to a place on the front row for the start. Jo Bonnier showed that B.R.M have a solid team of drivers by planting his type 48 5th on the grid, separated from Phil Hill's Ferrari by none other than veteran Gonzales who found the 1959 Ferrari going really well; somewhat better than Allison's 1960 car which was down in 13th place behind the Coopers of Menditeguy and Trintignant. Larreta put the old Lotus onto the fourth row of the grid ahead of Schell, Bonomi and Gregory in the F.2 Behra Porsche. Possibly not surprisingly the five Maseratis brought up the rear with Scarlatti being the quickest of them. However, none were disgraced and even Chimeri in last place was less than nine seconds away from Graham Hill's pole position time.

As the clear number one driver at Lotus, Innes Ireland requested that he drive the car that Stacey had practiced while Stacey would take over Innes' car. The numbers were changed and Stacey took his front row position in the car that should have been on row three while Ireland started from row three with a front row car. Whether this was a smart move or not only the race would show.

HERE IS THE FULL GRID ORDER FOR THE 80 LAP RACE:

   1.
42
G. HILL B.R.M type 48
1.36'91
   2.
18
J. BRABHAM COOPER CLIMAX T.53
1.37'70
   3.
22
A. STACEY LOTUS CLIMAX 18
1.38'19
   4.
30
W. von TRIPS FERRARI Dino 246
1.38'31
   5.
40
J. BONNIER B.R.M type 48
1.38'45
   6.
32
F. GONZALES FERRARI Dino 246
1.38'52
   7.
26
P. HILL FERRARI Dino 246
1.38'57
   8.
36
S. MOSS LOTUS CLIMAX 18
1.38'99
   9.
16
B. MCLAREN COOPER CLIMAX T.53
1.39'09
 10.
20
I. IRELAND LOTUS CLIMAX 18
1.39'68
 11.
6
C. MENDITEGUY COOPER MASERATI T.51
1.40'15
 12.
38
M. TRINTIGNANT COOPER CLIMAX T.45
1.40'40
 13.
24
C. ALLISON FERRARI Dino 246
1.41'20
 14.
46
A. LARRETA LOTUS CLIMAX 16
1.42'09
 15.
34
H. SCHELL COOPER CLIMAX T.51
1.43'19
 16.
4
R. BONOMI COOPER MASERATI T.51
1.43'28
 17.
2
M. GREGORY BEHRA PORSCHE
1.44'41
 18.
8
G. SCARLATTI MASERATI 250.F
1.44'42
 19.
10
N. ESTEFANO MASERATI 250.F
1.44'80
 20.
12
A. CREUS MASERATI 250.F
1.45'01
 21.
14
G. MUNARON MASERATI 250.F
1.45'22
 22.
44
E. CHIMERI MASERATI 250.F
1.45'50

THE RACE

Graham Hill made an excellent start from pole position and led fellow front row starter Alan Stacey away on lap 1. The B.R.M was going splendidly and the Londoner must have thought he was in dreamland, leading a Championship Grand Prix in his first drive for the Bourne team. Moss made a sharp start and as the 10 lap mark was reached Stirling was up to 3rd less than 2 seconds behind Stacey who in turn was 5 seconds behind Hill. Bruce McLaren was right behind Moss with Ireland and Bonnier staying fairly close to the men in front of them. Jack Brabham was an early retirement when the Cooper's steering failed as he turned into the first corner on his 9th lap. Clearly the new rear-engined British cars were much too quick for the front-engined Italian cars. The Ferraris were running 7th. 9th and 10th, with Menditeguy's Cooper Maserati in amongst them. Allison stopped with electrical problem early on and clearly the writing was on the wall for the men from Maranello. Innes Ireland gave the impression that he had made totally the right choice when he swapped cars with Stacey as he shot past all four of the cars ahead of him to lead the train of green cars across the line by lap 20, but Stacey, Hill and McLaren were right behind him although Moss had slipped off the pace as the handling of the Walker Lotus seemed to deteriorate very quickly. Although von Trips had led the Ferrari challenge early on, it was Phil Hill was came through to 7th by lap 20 with Gonzales also passing the German, all three Ferraris now being ahead of Menditeguy.

Graham Hill reasserted himself at the front by lap 30 and actually drew away briefly from the rest although by half distance Stacey had reeled him in again and was right on the B.R.M's tail. Jo Bonnier spun off with his B.R.M on lap 34 and two laps later Stirling Moss lost a rear wheel on the long straight, slithering to a halt undamaged. Thus, Phil Hill moved into the top six in fifth place with Gonzales following him, also now in the points. McLaren had gained the upper hand over Ireland and settled into third place but losing ground to Hill and Stacey every lap. At the back, Gregory and Bonomi in their smaller rear-engined cars were mixing it with the Maseratis although the lower order had lost the Coopers of Trintignant and Schell, both of who retired before lap 15. Two laps past half distance, Alan Stacey took the lead of a Formula 1 race for the first time and although Graham Hill tried very hard, the younger man gradually eased away and by three-quarter distance, although the gap was only 4 seconds, Stacey had everything under control and Hill accepted that he couldn't match the flying Lotus and settled for an honourable second place. McLaren's Cooper had clearly been a terrible handful despite being very quick; sadly for Bruce, after he had comfortably won his battle for third against Innes Ireland, the Cooper got away from him just 4 laps from the end and Bruce spun out of the race at the corner before the pits. So Ireland inherited 3rd place but must have wondered as he saw his young team-mate taking Lotus' first-ever Grand Prix victory if that could actually have been him, had he not changed cars. Gonzales moved over to allow the regular Ferrari driver von Trips to take 5th place, behind Phil Hill, and three cars in the points certainly looked good on paper but in truth flattered Ferrari.

Scarlatti and Munaron did not last the distance in their Maseratis so it was left to Antonio Creus to be the leading Modena finisher although he was two laps behind Menditeguy who had a superb race into 7th. Bonomi retired quite late in the race leaving Estefano and Chimeri to bring up the rear.

HERE IS THE RESULT OF THE THE 80 LAP RACE:

   1.
22
A. STACEY LOTUS CLIMAX 18
2.11.46'14
   2.
42
G. HILL B.R.M type 48
2.12.08'91
   3.
20
I. IRELAND LOTUS CLIMAX 18
2.13.50'02
   4.
26
P. HILL FERRARI Dino 246
79 laps
   5.
30
W. von TRIPS FERRARI Dino 246
78 laps
   6.
32
F. GONZALES FERRARI Dino 246
78 laps
   7.
6
C. MENDITEGUY COOPER MASERATI T.51
78 laps
   8.
12
A. CREUS MASERATI 250.F
76 laps
   9.
2
M. GREGORY BEHRA PORSCHE
76 laps
 10.
10
N. ESTEFANO MASERATI 250.F
75 laps
 11.
44
E. CHIMERI MASERATI 250.F
75 laps
Fastest lap:   A. STACEY, LOTUS CLIMAX 18,   on lap 32,   1.35'59

Retired:
16
B. MCLAREN COOPER CLIMAX T.53
75 laps
4
R. BONOMI COOPER MASERATI T.51
68 laps
24
C. ALLISON FERRARI Dino 246
53 laps
36
S. MOSS LOTUS CLIMAX 18
35 laps
40
J. BONNIER B.R.M type 48
33 laps
8
G. SCARLATTI MASERATI 250.F
30 laps
14
G. MUNARON MASERATI 250.F
29 laps
38
M. TRINTIGNANT COOPER CLIMAX T.45
13 laps
34
H. SCHELL COOPER CLIMAX T.51
10 laps
46
A. LARRETA LOTUS CLIMAX 16
10 laps
18
J. BRABHAM COOPER CLIMAX T.53
8 laps

ARGENTINE ASIDES

  • Innes Ireland's words regarding his decision to drive Stacey's car have not been reported but would be highly interesting. However, it seemed like the right idea at the time.
  • Stacey's drive was mature and extremely professional. It raised more than a few eyebrows.
  • Graham Hill was not too disappointed with second. The B.R.M handling is superb though it is not as fast in a straight line as the Lotuses.
  • The Walker team think that Stirling's loose wheel was the cause of his handling woes - until it fell off.
  • Driving the car that Brooks dominated two races at the end of 1959, Phil Hill was lapped. Ferrari may well be in BIG trouble.
  • Although very fast, the new T.53 Cooper has a long way to go before it can compete with the other British cars.
  • Menditeguy has not driven in a Grand Prix for years but you wouldn't have guessed. He drove the Cooper Maserati beautifully.
  • The Walker team are flying out another Cooper for Trintignant for the Cordoba race as the old T.45 was rather poor. It will be a T.51.
  • Most of the entry for Cordoba will be as at the Grand Prix, except that Ferrari have gone home.
  • Gurney will replace Hill in the two-car B.R.M team while Gonzales will drive a Ferrari-Chevrolet!!!.

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