31st May 2012

GRAN PREMIO de ESPANA

MASTEN'S MONTJUIC SURPRISE

IT MAY APPEAR THAT THE EARLY RETIREMENTS OF MOSS AND BRABHAM CONTRIBUTED TO MASTEN GREGORY'S SHOCK VICTORY AT MONTJUIC PARK BUT THAT WOULD BE UTTERLY INACCURATE. THE BESPECTACLED KANSAN SET OFF LIKE A ROCKET AND LED AT THE END OF LAP 1 AND AT THE END OF EVERY ONE OF THE REMAING 79 LAPS. THE TRUTH IS THAT HE WAS SO FAR AHEAD BY QUARTER DISTANCE THAT HE WAS ABLE TO EASE HIS PACE YET STILL PULL FARTHER AND FARTHER AWAY FROM THE REMAINDER OF THE FIELD. FOLLOWING SCHELL'S FIRST GRAND PRIX WIN IN PORTUGAL, WE NOW HAVE ANOTHER NEW NAME ON THE WINNER'S LIST.

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ENTRY

There was one addition to the entry list from Portugal and one change of driver. Both involved Scuderia Centro Sud; at the suggestion of the organisers, the team allowed a local driver to handle one of their Cooper Maseratis - in this case Spanish veteran Francesco Godia-Sales, in what would be his first, and probably only, Grand Prix in a rear-engined car. Centro Sud also brought a second car this time, to be driven by regular team driver Ian Burgess.

Ferrari had four cars this time but only one was a 1960 car. This machine had a brand new chassis completely different to the one it had in Portugal. Tony Brooks and Phil Hill decided to stick with their 1959 cars so Dan Gurney would try the new one as well as his Portugal car and then decide which to use. The untimed session before timed practice enabled him to make a very quick decision - the new car was much better than the old.

As in Portugal 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. Aston Martin were encouraged by their Portuguese performance and arrived with much more confidence.

PRACTICE

Harry Schell followed up his maiden Grand Prix victory in Portugal with the fastest time in the first and second sessions but it was business as usual when Jack Brabham put in a superb lap to steal pole position from the B.R.M driver by 6/10ths of a second. Tony Brooks was always in the top half dozen throughout the three sessions and it was no surprise to see the Ferrari on the front row of the grid. Row two was quite a surprise for it contained two Americans. Carroll Shelby did a superb job to put his Aston Martin in 4th place and he was joined by Gregory in the Cooper. This was a fine effort by Masten because he was out very early in the first session and ended up that practice in 16th position out of the 17 runners. Finding Stirling Moss on row three was quite a surprise too but he lost the second session completely with a serious electrical problem. Thus he was playing catch up in final practice and 6th place was to have serious consequences in the race. Alongside him was Gurney, going very nicely in the new Ferrari and Innes Ireland who was excellent in his Lotus. Row four saw Salvadori, for once upstaged by his American team-mate and Graham Hill in the second of the Lotuses.

Phil Hill could manage only 11th fastest, handicapped by being first man out in the first session, ending it in last place. Phil knew there was much more speed in the car and was looking forward to the race. Two B.R.Ms kept Hill company on row five. This is round about where we would expect Ron Flockhart but Jo Bonnier was much further back than we have come to expect. Again, this was as a result of a lost session. JoBo had a complete steering failure after just one lap of the second session and ended it down in 16th place so a 13th place start was about the best he could have hoped for.

The final four places were all taken by Coopers. No surprise to see the Centro-Sud cars there but Trintignant was lower than normal, his car seeming to be dragging on the road on some of the dips and crests of this hilly circuit. Maurice was 14th. In between the two Maserati-powered cars in 16th place we found none other than Bruce McLaren. As with Moss, McLaren lost the whole of session two with electrical problems but was unable to find the speed that Moss achieved in final practice.

It was going to be a long, hard race - 80 laps around the Montjuic circuit with its steep downhill run then the long climb back up to the start-finish area would be a true test of cars and drivers alike.

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

   1.
1
J. BRABHAM COOPER CLIMAX T.51
1. 38'79
   2.
6
H. SCHELL B.R.M Type 25
1. 39'41
   3.
14
T. BROOKS FERRARI Dino 246
1. 39'53
   4.
9
C. SHELBY ASTON MARTIN DBR4/250
1. 40'03
   5.
2
M. GREGORY COOPER CLIMAX T.51
1. 40'42
   6.
4
S. MOSS COOPER CLIMAX T.51
1. 40'63
   7.
16
D. GURNEY FERRARI Dino 246
1. 40'82
   8.
12
I. IRELAND LOTUS CLIMAX 16
1. 41'86
   9.
10
R. SALVADORI ASTON MARTIN DBR4/250
1. 42'31
 10.
11
G. HILL LOTUS CLIMAX 16
1. 42'34
 11.
15
P. HILL FERRARI Dino 246
1. 42'36
 12.
8
R. FLOCKHART B.R.M Type 25
1. 42'47
 13.
7
J. BONNIER B.R.M Type 25
1. 42'59
 14.
5
M. TRINTIGNANT COOPER CLIMAX T.51
1. 43'63
 15.
17
I. BURGESS COOPER MASERATI T.51
1. 43'85
 16.
3
B. MCLAREN COOPER CLIMAX T.51
1. 44'75
 17.
18
F. GODIA-SALES COOPER MASERATI T.51
1. 44'90

THE RACE

Stirling Moss paid dearly for his poor grid position because after making a fairly gentle start, he begun to move towards the front but as he approached the start and finish line at the end of his 10th lap he made a move to go around Shelby's Aston Martin on the outside of the right-hand curve. Unfortunately for both drivers, Shelby chose that very moment to lose the back end of the big Aston and the sliding rear of the green car collected the rear of the blue Cooper and both cars spun wildly off the track, sustaining sufficient damage to put both out of the contest. One lap later, Jack Brabham's Cooper ground to a halt just before the pits, having suffered a total electrical failure. At that point, he was in second place but was already a staggering 17 seconds behind his American team-mate. Gregory had burst through from the second row at the start and his pace over the first 20 laps was outstanding. He set the fastest lap as early as lap 9 and he was out of sight and far away before the remainder of the field had got itself going. Although Gregory eased off after lap 30 he continued to pull away from whoever was in second place (Tony Brooks for most of the race) until three-quarter distance at which point Brooks actually reduced the gap slightly but only slightly, the winning margin at the end being 71 seconds or effectively, around three-quarters of a lap.

Ferrari had by some distance their best race of 1959 - if you don't include Behra's win at Syracuse. Phil Hill worked his way rapidly through to dispute second place with Brooks and indeed, Tony allowed Phil through into second for a few laps but Hill realised that he was no match for Gregory, so let his team leader back into second, where he stayed for the remainder of the race. In the end, Hill lost third place to a rather subdued Harry Schell who slipped to fifth early on, behind Gurney in the third Ferrari, but once past the tall Californian, he ran fourth for many laps, gradually closing in on Hill's Ferrari, finally passing it on lap 55 to run a steady, unlapped third through to the end. The aforementioned Gurney spent almost the entire race in fifth and finished there to put all three Ferraris into the top five. Following Brabham's retirement, Roy Salvadori moved into sixth with his Aston Martin and there he stayed right through the race.

Various drivers held seventh place; initially it was Bonnier who made an excellent start but sadly for Jo his engine failed on lap 32. Thereafter seventh place was fought out between the two Lotuses and Bruce McLaren. McLaren had a very strange race. His car started very poorly, then picked up enormously, enabling Bruce to scoot past the two Lotuses but then it went right off again, dropping back behind the Lotus duo - then back it came again and the Cooper lapped extremely quickly to get back into seventh but too far adrift of Salvadori to contemplate making into the points. Behind the Lotuses, who finished with Hill ahead of Ireland, Paco Godia was the only other finisher, no less than 5 laps behind.

The other three retirements were Flockhart who spun off, Trintignant whose steering went awry and Burgess, whose brakes failed. And so it proved to be a rather unusual race, with four Americans (if you count Schell) in the first five and three Ferraris in the second, fourth and fifth places. Moss' retirement means that Harry Schell has overtaken him in the Championship table but retirement or not Jack Brabham is just a whisker away from the 1959 Championship.

HERE IS THE RESULT OF THE THE 80 LAP RACE:

   1.     2 M. GREGORY COOPER CLIMAX T.51
2. 16. 22'05
   2.   14 T. BROOKS FERRARI Dino 246
2. 17. 33'75
   3.     6 H. SCHELL B.R.M Type 25
2. 18. 10'49
   4.   15 P. HILL FERRARI Dino 246
79 laps
   5.   16 D. GURNEY FERRARI Dino 246
79 laps
   6.   10 R. SALVADORI ASTON MARTIN DBR4/250
79 laps
   7.     3 B. MCLAREN COOPER CLIMAX T.51
78 laps
   8.   11 G. HILL LOTUS CLIMAX 16
78 laps
   9.   12 I. IRELAND LOTUS CLIMAX 16
78 laps
 10.   18 F. GODIA-SALES COOPER MASERATI T.51
75 laps
Fastest lap:   M. GREGORY, COOPER CLIMAX T.51,   on lap 9,   1. 39'03

Retired:
    5 M. TRINTIGNANT COOPER CLIMAX T.51
40 laps
  17 I. BURGESS COOPER MASERATI T.51
32 laps
    7 J. BONNIER B.R.M Type 25
31 laps
    8 R. FLOCKHART B.R.M Type 25
14 laps
    1 J. BRABHAM COOPER CLIMAX T.51
10 laps
    4 S. MOSS COOPER CLIMAX T.51
9 laps
    9 C. SHELBY ASTON MARTIN DBR4/250
9 laps

MONTJUIC MACHINATIONS

  • Even Masten Gregory could not explain where his tremendous speed came from. He has seen nothing like it all season.
  • Poor Moss was mortified as yet another race passed by without any points for him. He has missed out in 3 or the last 4 Grands Prix.
  • Brabham's problem was that part of his electrical system simply fell apart. Jack's first Grand Prix retirement of the season.
  • Ferrari seem to be running into some sort of form, just in time for Monza where they will probably enter five cars.
  • The new chassis coupled with the 1960 body shape looked very promising for Ferrari - and Gurney.
  • A rather low key affair for B.R.M. It seems odd that as Schell has become stronger so Behra has gone the other way.
  • Poor Trintignant had a very poor Spanish race. His car bottomed out over and over, then the steering coloum came loose.
  • Godia-Sales was very happy to finish, albeit three laps behind his nearest competitor.

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