13th October 2011 2011

GRAND PRIX de CAEN

MOSS BEATS BRABHAM IN THRILLER

After 86 exciting laps, Stirling Moss held off a charging Jack Brabham by just over 7 seconds, to record his third F.1 victory of the season so far. Jo Bonnier was a solid third, having led the race briefly early on. For a full report of the event, read on....

ENTRY

To fill in the time before I move abroad and hoping that I might have a much larger area in which to build my circuits in the future, I have decided to run an imaginary race for the 1959 F.1 cars. Not totally imaginary in that this race was run in 1958 but not in 1959. It is the Grand Prix de Caen, run on the 2.2 mile circuit around the horse race course alongside the River Orne.

The entry is a high class one, boasting factory cars from Ferrari (Behra), Cooper (Brabham and McLaren), B.R.M (Bonnier and Schell) and Lotus (Graham Hill). Rob Walker's two dark blue Coopers will be handled by Moss and Trintignant, with Piper and Halford taking part with their Lotus 16s. The remaining four cars are all Maserati-powered. Roy Salvadori has Tommy Atkins' older T.45 Cooper while there is a brand new Cooper Maserati T.51 entered by Scuderia Centro-Sud and driven by Ian Burgess. Centro-Sud have also brought along one of their elderly 250.F Maseratis for Scarlatti to drive. Last but not least, Brian Naylor is giving his Maserati-powered J.B.W a rare airing.

PRACTICE

Unusually, both practice sessions were run on the same day and resulted in pole position for Stirling Moss, who went around in a time that was 2 seconds faster than Harry Schell's pole time from 1958. But Brabham, Bonnier and McLaren are all within a second of SCM so a close race may be on the cards. There was a sense of disappointment that Behra was not amongst the front runners but nobody could say that Ferrari were not trying. Jeannot has two cars at his disposal and he used them both. In the first session he was 8th in one car, then using the other car in the second session he went half a second quicker - and stayed 8th. However, he preferred the feel of the first car and so the Maranello mechanics installed a fresh engine in that car and Behra, being French, was allowed a few unofficial laps after the session ended. Unofficial timing had him lapping at around the sort of pace that put Bonnier on the front row.

The two Maserati engined Coopers form the bread in a Ferrari sandwich with three Lotus 16s following on. That Graham Hill was the slowest of the three came as no surprise given the severity of his morning accident where he braked way too late for the slowest corner on the circuit and ended up with the nose of the car up on the bank. Fortunately Lotus crew were able to get the car ready for the afternoon but Graham was not as gung-ho as he might otherwise have been. Naylor got the J.B.W working much better in the afternoon and comfortably overtook Scarlatti after being a second and a half slower in the morning.

THE RACE

Pole man Moss made a rather tardy start, allowing both his front row rivals to lead him around the early laps. Initially, Brabham led from Bonnier but JoBo passed the Cooper on lap 12 and held the lead until lap 30. Stirling had drifted to 15 seconds behind the leader by the time Brabham repassed the B.R.M but from then on the Walker Cooper homed in on the two dark green cars ahead of him. By half distance he was only 6 seconds behind Brabham who had Bonnier right behind him. It took Stirling until lap 50 to reel in Brabham but once past, the Englishman extended his lead steadily. He got as far as 12 seconds ahead but towards lap 70 the the green Cooper began to close on the blue one. Black Jack pulled out all the stops, setting the race's fastest lap on lap 76 but Stirling had things under control and ran out the winner with 7'65 seconds to spare.

Bonnier had accepted that he couldn't match the two rear-engined machines and was content to cruise home in 3rd place. Despite being down on the third row of the grid, Jean Behra in the Ferrari very quickly established himself in 4th place, lapping, for a time, virtually as quickly as the three cars in front of him but the Ferrari engine cried enough just after half distance. Nothing to show for the Italians but a more promising performance than of late. Thus did Bruce McLaren inherit 4th place having defended it strongly from Maurice Trintignant who was actually catching the Kiwi when he crashed at the same corner as Graham Hill had done in practice.

There was a fair old carve up over 5th place - or rather, 6th until Trint's retirement. The position was held early on by Burgess, going splendidly in the new Centro-Sud Cooper Maserati, but after he spun out of the race a battle ensued between Hill and Halford in Lotuses and Salvadori with Atkins' Cooper. It looked as though Halford had the beating of the other two but Graham Hill eventually wore him down and passed into 5th on lap 72 with Salvo pipping the private Lotus for 6th on the final lap by just 0'8 of a second. Following the retirement of David Piper's Lotus, the remaing two runners - Naylor in the J.B.W and Scarlatti's Maserati enjoyed a spirited dice for most of the race. Giorgio appeared to have the battle won when his engine suddenly lost all power around two-thirds distance.

For Harry Schell the race was a total non-event. As soon as the starter dropped the tricoleur, the B.R.M stuttered away and after two desperately slow laps, Harry pulled in to retire the B.R.M with an unspecified electrical gremlin..


HERE IS THE FULL RESULT OF THE 86 LAP RACE:

   1.   14 S. MOSS COOPER CLIMAX T.51     1. 54. 09'95
   2.     8 J. BRABHAM COOPER CLIMAX T.51     1. 54. 17'60
   3.     4 J. BONNIER B.R.M Type 25     1. 54. 43'19
   4.     9 B. MCLAREN COOPER CLIMAX T.51       85 laps
   5.   12 G. HILL LOTUS CLIMAX 16       84 laps
   6.   20 R. SALVADORI COOPER MASERATI T.45       83 laps
   7.   26 B. HALFORD LOTUS CLIMAX 16       83 laps
   8.   18 B. NAYLOR J.B.W MASERATI       81 laps

Fastest lap:   J. BRABHAM, COOPER CLIMAX T.51,   on lap 76,   1.17'09

Retired:
  16 M. TRINTIGNANT COOPER CLIMAX T.51       64 laps
  28 G. SCARLATTI MASERATI 250.F       59 laps
    2 J. BEHRA FERRARI Dino 246       45 laps
  24 D. PIPER LOTUS CLIMAX 16       37 laps
  14 I. BURGESS COOPER MASERATI T.51       36 laps
    5 H. SCHELL B.R.M Type 25         2 laps

CAEN CHATTERINGS:

  • A really splendid race with the result in doubt all the way.
  • Although B.R.M were dominant in Holland the Cooper proved to have the edge in France.
  • Behra was filled with optimism following a strong performance by the red car.
  • The new Centro-Sud Cooper went remarkably well. Burgess was mortified at throwing it all away.
  • But not as distressed as Schell who couldn't believe that his car was broken even before the start.
  • Graham Hill had to work extremely hard to beat Halford's similar but privately entered car.
  • Salvadori found the handling of the Cooper to be very loose. He did wonders to hold onto it all day.
  • Scarlatti was able to stay ahead of Naylor's similar engined car despite his car being somewhat older.
  • Nevertheless, Naylor was very happy to finish the race albeit 5 laps adrift.

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