31st May 2012

GRANDE PREMIO AUTOMOVEL de PORTUGAL

DAY OF DAYS FOR HARRY SCHELL

HARRY SCHELL HAS BEEN RACING IN FORMULA 1 FOR MANY YEARS BUT HAD NEVER WON A CHAMPIONSHIP GRAND PRIX - UNTIL NOW. THE FRANCO-AMERICAN STARTED THE RACE FROM THE FRONT ROW AND AFTER JACK BRABHAM'S VERY POOR START AND STIRLING MOSS' RARE ERROR ON LAP 2 HARRY CONTROLLED THE RACE FOR THE ENTIRE 62 LAPS. BRABHAM CAME BACK AT HIM BUT THE B.R.M WAS NEVER SERIOUSLY TROUBLED.

*       *       *       *       *       *       *       *       *       *       *       *       *       *       *       *       *       *       *

ENTRY

A small but select entry was invited for this, the very first World Championship Grand Prix to be held on the parkland circuit in Monsanto Park just to the west of the Portuguese capital Lisbon.

The organisers had managed to persuade Scuderia Centro Sud to bring one of their Cooper Maseratis so that it could be driven by a local driver - Mario Cabral. This was not a universally popular decision because Cabral's experience prior to this race was limited to local racing. It was hoped that he would keep well out of the way of the quicker drivers.

Ferrari brought five cars although only three drivers. Since the sad loss of Jean Behra the Italian team was dominated by English-speaking drivers - Tony Brooks, Phil Hill and Dan Gurney. However, the five cars consisted of three pure 1959 cars plus two new cars which are technically 1960 machines but which had been rushed through the factory in an attempt to improve the desperately poor season the team has so far endured. Who would drive what was to be decided after the untimed practice session the day before official practice begun.

The other dozen cars were from the usual British teams, Cooper - three cars, B.R.M - three cars, including one for Ron Flockhart, Lotus - two cars and two from Rob Walker. Making up the British contingent it was good to see Aston Martin arriving for a rare appearance, although they say they do intend to appear at the next three events this season.

PRACTICE

Jack Brabham was fastest in all three practice sessions managing to go quicker each time someone else threatened to take pole position away from him. In the fist session it was Phil Hill who came closest to pipping the #1 Cooper, while Stirling Moss had the quickest time for long periods in the other two practices but it was never going to be quite enough to beat Brabham. Each session produced quicker times than the previous one and indeed, Brabham's time from the first session would only have given him 7th place on the final grid. Moss retained second place but Harry Schell's appearance on the front row was something of a surprise. At this circuit, more than at any other this season, 'Arree seemed absolutely at home and comfortable, the B.R.M looking smooth, steady in the corners and very quick.

The second row of the grid was out of the ordinary, too. No real surprise to see Bruce McLaren up there - the Kiwi driving the new chassis that first appeared at AVUS. However, an Aston Martin on the second row of the grid was a real shock. Both Astons went beautifully, looking like big limousines cruising around the wide open park circuit. Salvadori was the quicker of the two and delighted the team with his speed. Two Ferraris shared the third row of the grid with Shelby in the second Aston. It had been a game of musical chairs with the red cars. The car that Brooks drove in the first session was taken over by Hill in the other two; Brooks tried the third 1959 car in se ssion two with no number on it, just a big T. He was not happy with that car and in the final session drove the car that Hill drove in P.1. Gurney started in one of the new cars but by the final session he had taken over the spare that Brooks had discarded. I'm not sure who was most confused, the drivers, the team or everyone else.

Gregory and Bonnier made up row three, neither going as well as was expected. Bonnier particularly seems to have gone off the boil in comparison with his early season form. The remaining runners were in the order Trintignant, Graham Hill, Flockhart and Ireland, with a very disappointed Gurney ahead only of Cabral in the Cooper Maserati, who was, in the end, only a couple of seconds adrift.

HERE IS THE FULL GRID ORDER FOR THE 62 LAP RACE:

   1.
1
J. BRABHAM COOPER CLIMAX T.51
2. 01'79
   2.
4
S. MOSS COOPER CLIMAX T.51
2. 01'97
   3.
6
H. SCHELL B.R.M Type 25
2. 02'55
   4.
3
B. MCLAREN COOPER CLIMAX T.51
2. 03'63
   5.
10
R. SALVADORI ASTON MARTIN DBR4/250
2. 03'96
   6.
15
P. HILL FERRARI Dino 246
2. 04'40
   7.
14
T. BROOKS FERRARI Dino 246
2. 05'04
   8.
9
C. SHELBY ASTON MARTIN DBR4/250
2. 05'11
   9.
2
M. GREGORY COOPER CLIMAX T.51
2. 05'18
 10.
7
J. BONNIER B.R.M Type 25
2. 05'41
 11.
5
M. TRINTIGNANT COOPER CLIMAX T.51
2. 05'50
 12.
11
G. HILL LOTUS CLIMAX 16
2. 06'10
 13.
8
R. FLOCKHART B.R.M Type 25
2. 06'99
 14.
12
I. IRELAND LOTUS CLIMAX 16
2. 08'64
 15.
16
D. GURNEY FERRARI Dino 246
2. 09'45
 16.
18
M. CABRAL COOPER MASERATI T.51
2. 11'59

THE RACE

The pattern of the race was set before the cars had completed half of the second lap. At the drop of the red and green Portuguese flag Jack Brabham made a terrible start and was swamped by virtually all the cars in the race. Harry Schell had rocketed into the lead from the front row, closely pursued by Moss but the dark blue Cooper spun out of the race on lap 2 at the elongated S-bend towards the end of the long straight. Quite what happened is as yet unclear but Stirling must have seen his Championship hopes fade dramatically with his retirement. One lap later, just a little further along the road, the left front wheel of Bruce McLaren's Cooper departed from the car so with Brabham working his way back through the traffic, Schell was able to make good his escape. Phil Hill and Jo Bonnier had made superb starts and by lap 10 these two were holding 2nd and 3rd positions from Salvadori, a rapidly recovering Brabham and Trintignant. Bonnier had been particularly impressive and by one third distance he was still 3rd and by now he was ahead of Hill's Ferrari but both had been passed by a charging Roy Salvadori who was making the Aston Martin fly like never before.

Brabham was up to 4th by lap 20 where he remained for several laps although he was reducing the gap to the cars ahead all the time. However, by half distance, although he had got ahead of Bonnier, he had been overtaken again by Phil Hill who was only 7 seconds behind Salvadori and only 11 away from Schell. Finally, Brabham found the groove and passed both the Ferrari and the Aston Martin, closing to within just under 5 seconds of the B.R.M by lap 40, leaving Hill and Salvadori to argue over 3rd. Tony Brooks retired his Ferrari on lap 45 with braking problems, 11 laps after Graham Hill had given up with a sick engine in the Lotus. At the back Gurney had put some distance between himself and Cabral but was totally unable to get anywhere near the rest of the lower order which consisted of quite a scrap between Trintignant, whose good start faded, Shelby, Flockhart and Ireland.

Just when it looked as though Brabham was preparing to pounce, Schell surprised everyone by starting to stretch the gap again - 14 seconds by lap 50 and 21 seconds by the end. It had been a consumate performance by a frequently underrated driver. Given that Moss had retired Brabham was quite content with 2nd plus fastest lap, which gave him only one point less than Schell got for winning. Phil Hill won the 3rd place battle, beating Salvadori by 20 seconds in the end and they were followed home by Bonnier and a very subdued Masten Gregory who had a lonely afternoon although he did find the Cooper going better as the race progressed - his fastest lap being faster than his best practice lap by some margin. The rest of the dozen finishers were lapped at least once with Trintignant taking 7th and Gurney and Cabral finishing last but one and last respectively, where they had been all afternoon.

HERE IS THE RESULT OF THE THE 62 LAP RACE:

   1.     6 H. SCHELL B.R.M Type 25
2. 11. 13'34
   2.     1 J. BRABHAM COOPER CLIMAX T.51
2. 11. 34'49
   3.   15 P. HILL FERRARI Dino 246
2. 12. 02'56
   4.   10 R. SALVADORI ASTON MARTIN DBR4/250
2. 12. 23'05
   5.     7 J. BONNIER B.R.M Type 25
2. 12. 50'47
   6.     2 M. GREGORY COOPER CLIMAX T.51
2. 13. 22'98
   7.     5 M. TRINTIGNANT COOPER CLIMAX T.51
61 laps
   8.     9 C. SHELBY ASTON MARTIN DBR4/250
61 laps
   9.     8 R. FLOCKHART B.R.M Type 25
61 laps
 10.   12 I. IRELAND LOTUS CLIMAX 16
61 laps
 11.   16 D. GURNEY FERRARI Dino 246
60 laps
 12.   18 M. CABRAL COOPER MASERATI T.51
59 laps
Fastest lap:   J. BRABHAM, COOPER CLIMAX T.51,   on lap 18,   2. 03'25

Retired:
  14 T. BROOKS FERRARI Dino 246
44 laps
  11 G. HILL LOTUS CLIMAX 16
33 laps
    3 B. MCLAREN COOPER CLIMAX T.51
2 laps
    4 S. MOSS COOPER CLIMAX T.51
1 lap

MONSANTO MUSINGS

  • Given the speed of Schell's B.R.M, Moss must have wished he had the B.R.P car in Portugal.
  • Sadly it seems will we not be seeing the car again.
  • Brabham said that the engine would simply not rev at the start but he was quite satisfied with second place.
  • It was wonderful to see both Ferrari and Aston Martin showing such good form.
  • However, Tony Brooks must be a little irked because he rejected the car that Phil Hill drove to third.
  • The new Ferraris were very disappointing but the team say they will persevere with them although they will probably not be seen until Monza.
  • The addition of a Spanish Grand Prix at Montjuic Park will see the same entry as Portugal but with two Centro Sud Coopers rather than one.
  • These will be driven by Ian Burgess and Spanish driver Francesco Godia.
  • Montjuic Park is a tight, twisty circuit and the race will be over 90 long hard laps.

    Back to the Fifty-niners index page.

    Back to my home page.