31st January 2012

GRAND PRIX de l'A.C.F

MOSS WINS BUT PETOULET STARS

STIRLING MOSS CONVERTED POLE POSITION INTO A FAIRLY COMFORTABLE VICTORY AT REIMS. ALTHOUGH SHADOWED ALL THE WAY BY JACK BRABHAM, THE LIGHT GREEN B.R.M WAS NEVER IN ANY SERIOUS DANGER OF BEING CAUGHT AND STIRLING TOOK HIS SECOND CHAMPIONSHIP RACE VICTORY IN SUCCESSION. STAR OF THE RACE, HOWEVER, WAS UNDOUBTEDLY MAURICE TRINTIGNANT WHO MAY HAVE BEGUN THE RACE BACK ON ROW FIVE BUT WHO PASSED CAR AFTER CAR AND TOOK A WONDERFUL THIRD PLACE. AND AS FOR FERRARI.....

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ENTRY

The circus arrives at the triangular road circuit in the champagne region of France for the French Grand Prix. The entry of 21 cars is very much weighted towards factory cars, with a remarkable balance from the point of view of engines. There are no less than six Maserati powered cars, four with B.R.M units, five from Ferrari and six with Climaxes. The four B.R.Ms consist of three factory cars - Bonnier, Schell and Flockhart - plus the British Racing Partnership car for Moss. Ferrari have brought five of their Dino 246s for Brooks, Behra and Phil Hill, with one off drives for Belgian sports car driver Olivier Gendebien and a first Grand Prix drive for new American pilot, Dan Gurney. Cooper have their regular three cars while Trintignant handles Rob Walker's car. Ireland and Graham Hill will drive the two Lotus 16s. Roy Salvadori drives Tommy Atkins' Maserati powered Cooper while of the other five Maserati engined cars, three are entered by the Scuderia Centro Sud. Fritz d'Orey from Brazil drives a 250.F while Centro-Sud have brought two T.51 Coopers with Maserati power units. Ian Burgess drives one while Colin Davis has a brand new car that had not turned a wheel before practice. The little known Scuderia Ugolini have two 250.Fs for Scarlatti and Carel de Beaufort.

There will be three practice sessions to determine the starting grid for the 50 lap race.

1st PRACTICE

A great deal of time and effort had been put in by the Scuderia back in Maranello to try to improve the performance of their cars following a fairly dismal start to the Championship season with just one 4th and one 6th place from the two races run so far. The idea of bringing so many cars to this race did not seem sound thinking but when Tony Brooks and Jean Behra set 1st and 2nd best times in the first session of practice, the decision did not seem to be quite so foolish. In addition, Phil Hill was 7th, Gendebien 10th and Gurney 11th, so things looked pretty good for Ferrari. Coopers filled the next three places, Gregory from Trintignant and Brabham, with Moss being the best of the B.R.Ms in 6th. Shell and Bonnier split Hill and Gendebien, but much more was expected from the Bourne cars, which admittedly, did their practising early in the session while the track was far from its best.

The two Lotuses posted very similar times and both were ahead of Bruce McLaren who found his Cooper to be very down on power, ending the session in 15th place. The bottom six cars were all Maserati powered, with Davis taking it carefully with the brand new Cooper but still finishing up ahead of a very disgruntled Roy Salvadori who set the slowest time of all, the Atkins car not working at all well. Scarlatti was the quickest of the three big 250.Fs but these cars really do look terribly old fashioned these days, even compared to the other front engined cars; both the Ferrari and the B.R.M being more compact and altogether more modern.

2nd PRACTICE

The two quicker Ferraris retained their front row positions after the second session on Friday afternoon, however, they were both beaten by Jo Bonnier, who got his B.R.M wound up and set a time that was a second and a half quicker than Brooks managed the day before and almost the same amount faster than Brooks' time in the same session. Behra failed to improve and indeed, a number of drivers found their cars slow down the Thillois Straight, presumably due to a head wind. It seems odd that not all were affected in the same way. Moss improved to 4th while Brabham jumped ahead of Gregory and Trintignant. McLaren's car had undergone some work between sessions and was going much better as was Salvadori, the two Coopers rising to 9th and 17th respectively, although Salvadori seemed to be more affected by the Thillois problems than most though not as badly as Harry Schell who dropped from 8th to 12th with no improvement in his time.

Burgess actually got his Cooper ahead of Graham Hill's Lotus but otherwise it was business as usual at the back where the three Maseratis finished together in the list and all still ahead of Colin Davis who was left in last place following Salvadori's progress.

FINAL PRACTICE

The regular status quo was restored as Stirling Moss put the rest in their places with a scintillating performance in the final practice session. Stirling lapped no less than 3 seconds faster than Bonnier's best time from the day before. However, the track proved to be infinitely quicker than at any time so far with every single driver but one improving his time, some by great chunks. The exception was Ian Burgess who had the engine of his Cooper virtually fall out of the chassis before he had completed one lap. Predictably, given the way the season has gone so far, Moss is joined on the front row by Jack Brabham who was almost a second slower than the pale green B.R.M but nevertheless, went very, very well. Tony Brooks just managed to pip Bonnier to take the other front row position with Harry Schell joining his team mate on row two. Harry's car was working as it should which tended to make its performance on Friday afternoon all the more inexplicable. Behra's improvement was one of the smaller ones and dropped him to the middle of row three, which he shares with McLaren, who was 6th fastest and Gendebien who was a very creditable 8th.

Gregory and Trintignant fell further down the list, finding themselves split by a fine effort from Ron Flockhart in the third works B.R.M. Phil Hill and Dan Gurney were rather disappointed to be so far down with the tall Gurney ending up ahead of only five Maserati engined cars. The fastest of those five - Salvadori having moved up to 14th - somewhat surprisingly, was Davis who finally got to grips with the Cooper and jumped ahead of all three of the old 250.Fs.

HERE IS THE FULL GRID ORDER FOR THE 50 LAP RACE:

   1.     2 S. MOSS B.R.M Type 25
2. 19'40
   2.     8 J. BRABHAM COOPER CLIMAX T.51
2. 20'38
   3.   24 T. BROOKS FERRARI Dino 246
2. 20'67
   4.     4 J. BONNIER B.R.M Type 25
2. 20'86
   5.     6 H. SCHELL B.R.M Type 25
2. 21'19
   6.   12 B. MCLAREN COOPER CLIMAX T.51
2. 21'64
   7.   30 J. BEHRA FERRARI Dino 246
2. 21'95
   8.   22 O. GENDEBIEN FERRARI Dino 246
2. 23'45
   9.   10 M. GREGORY COOPER CLIMAX T.51
2. 23'55
 10.   44 R. FLOCKHART B.R.M Type 25
2. 23'95
 11.   14 M. TRINTIGNANT COOPER CLIMAX T.51
2. 24'21
 12.   34 I. IRELAND LOTUS CLIMAX 16
2. 25'39
 13.   26 P. HILL FERRARI Dino 246
2. 25'43
 14.   16 R. SALVADORI COOPER MASERATI T.45
2. 26'19
 15.   32 G. HILL LOTUS CLIMAX 16
2. 26'48
 16.   28 D. GURNEY FERRARI Dino 246
2. 27'20
 17.   20 C. DAVIS COOPER MASERATI T.51
2. 28'72
 18.   18 I. BURGESS COOPER MASERATI T.51
2. 29'26
 19.   40 G. SCARLATTI MASERATI 250.F
2. 29'77
 20.   42 C. de BEAUFORT MASERATI 250.F
2. 30'06
 21.   38 F. d'OREY MASERATI 250.F
2. 30'10

THE RACE

The 21 starters was reduced to 20 even before the drop of the tricoleur. Ian Burgess found that his car would not move due to something having siezed in the transmission area, so his car was hoiked away as the others departed. Moss made a clean getaway and in the course of the first half a dozen laps he drew away from Brabham at about a second a lap. Once the gap was 10 seconds Stirling simply controlled the race from there. He did speed up a little around two-thirds distance but then eased off a little towards the end so that the Cooper got to within 10 seconds of the B.R.M by the finish. But the truth is, it was one of Moss' easier victories. Brabham drove hard for the whole of the two hours and it is to his eternal credit that he never gave up and kept SCM honest without ever threatening to beat him.

The true excitement of this French Grand Prix came, appropriately, from a Frenchman. Maurice Trintignant was allowed to drive the Rob Walker Cooper normally reserved for Moss as opposed to the second Walker car and although he was only 11th on the grid he begun to move up the field very quickly. Initially his progress was as a result of early retirements but as he got into his stride he passed Flockhart, Masten Gregory, then the other two B.R.Ms and found himself in 3rd place where he stayed through to the end. There was quite a battle between Gregory and the two quicker works B.R.Ms which see-sawed, mainly depending on whether Gregory was going well or not so well; the Cooper seemingly running rather irregularly. During one of his better periods, he actually set fastest race lap but as the race approached its end Masten was between Bonnier and Schell and had Bonnier's 4th place in his sights. He wouldn't have got there but overdid it at Thillois on the final lap, crashing out and dropping from 5th to 6th.

Of the remaining runners, Salvadori had a good run to 8th behind Ireland's Lotus while a rather surprising fact is that apart from Burgess' failure to start, all the remaining Maserati engined cars ran solidly and all finished. Colin Davis gradually got to grips with his Cooper - his first Grand Prix remember - and was flying towards the end, passing d'Orey's 250.F two laps from the end, leaving the Brazilian to be the final finisher.

And so we come to Ferrari. The only word that truly describes the afternoon that the Maranello men endured is abysmal; but then dreadful, disastrous, horrible, pathetic and awful would all do just as well. It all looked so promising; Tony Brooks was on the front row, Behra and Gendebien on row three with Phil Hill not far behind. Only debutant Dan Gurney was towards the back, taking it carefully in his first Grand Prix and in a brand new Ferrari that was finished only the day before practice began. Ferrari's day was going really well... and then the race started. By lap 4 both Hill and Gendebien had departed with engine problems but at the front, things were looking better. Brooks had dropped into a steady 4th place which became 3rd when McLaren retired his Cooper and by lap 20 he had been joined by team-mate Behra who was just a quarter of a minute behind him in 4th. Then, if you aren't Italian I guess this is probably quite funny, Brooks rolled to a halt at Muizon on his 24th lap, to be joined seconds later by Behra - both the Ferraris having broken down in the same place on the same lap. So it was left to young Gurney to carry the flag for Maranello, which he did, through to the finish, but sadly he was two laps behind in 11th place. It really cannot get much worse for the team, can it?

HERE IS THE RESULT OF THE THE 50 LAP RACE:

   1.     2 S. MOSS B.R.M Type 25
2. 00. 46'71
   2.     8 J. BRABHAM COOPER CLIMAX T.51
2. 00. 54'49
   3.   14 M. TRINTIGNANT COOPER CLIMAX T.51
2. 01. 28'92
   4.     4 J. BONNIER B.R.M Type 25
2. 01. 43'31
   5.     6 H. SCHELL B.R.M Type 25
2. 03. 04'21
   6.   10 M. GREGORY COOPER CLIMAX T.51
49 laps NRF
   7.   34 I. IRELAND LOTUS CLIMAX 16
49 laps
   8.   16 R. SALVADORI COOPER MASERATI T.45
49 laps
   9.   40 G. SCARLATTI MASERATI 250.F
49 laps
 10.   42 C. de BEAUFORT MASERATI 250.F
48 laps
 11.   28 D. GURNEY FERRARI Dino 246
48 laps
 12.   20 C. DAVIS COOPER MASERATI T.51
47 laps
 13.   38 F. d'OREY MASERATI 250.F
47 laps
Fastest lap:   M. GREGORY, COOPER CLIMAX T.51,   on lap 31,   2. 19'42

Retired:
  32 G. HILL LOTUS CLIMAX 16
42 laps
  30 J. BEHRA FERRARI Dino 246
23 laps
  24 T. BROOKS FERRARI Dino 246
23 laps
  44 R. FLOCKHART B.R.M Type 25
16 laps
  12 B. MCLAREN COOPER CLIMAX T.51
11 laps
  22 O. GENDEBIEN FERRARI Dino 246
3 laps
  26 P. HILL FERRARI Dino 246
2 laps
  18 I. BURGESS COOPER MASERATI T.51
D.N.S

REIMS REMINISCENCES

  • The domination of Moss and the pale green B.R.M is getting very worrying for the rest of the F.1 field. At this rate the Championship will be sewn up very soon.
  • The problem is that it appears no-one other than Jack Brabham can get anywhere near Stirling.
  • Bonnier had front suspension problems which slowed him down until the fuel load lightened and enabled him to push much harder.
  • Harry Schell felt all weekend that his car was down on power compared to Bonnier's. 'Arree was happy to finish 5th.
  • There is a growing rumour that Ferrari will not be sending any cars to Aintree for the British Grand Prix. This would be very sad.
  • Should that happen, it is believed that Vanwall may well roll out an old car for Tony Brooks to drive.
  • The Centro-Sud mechanics found that the gearbox had siezed on Burgess' car which explains why he didn't start. They will be bringing both cars to Aintree.
  • There will be 24 starters at Aintree - 16 guaranteed, with 8 spaces to be argued over by the remaing entries - many of which are F.2 cars.
  • Before that race, however, there is an International F.2 race to be run at Rouen.

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