The Hallowed Years
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TRIUMPH AND TRAGEDY
During his press conference on Monday 13th February 1961, Enzo Ferrari provided more proof that the rear-mounted engine had finally conquered his doubts. But before discovering which doubts, it would be useful to immerse oneself in the ambience of that time. What follows, written by Gérard Crombac in Sport Auto a year later, gives great insight into the cult status that Ferrari enjoyed: ‘The star of the day was the Commendatore himself. Enzo, immaculately dressed in a green loden overcoat, walked — strutted almost — among the journalists and behind his glasses his keen eyes didn’t miss a thing. He went from group to group registering the reactions on the faces, dispensing paternal greetings here and there. A small court buzzed around him soliciting a statement, an attitude to be photographed, a friendly gesture. Occasionally, he stopped and people crowded around him as, in a loud voice, he gave his opinion on a technical point, a race rule or an item of sporting policy. While he has often been criticised, it should be acknowledged that only a character as strong and as single-minded as his could be the driving force behind an organisation as go-ahead as it is productive.’
The Formula 1 chassis was redesigned and lightened compared with the Formula 2 version that had won the Solitude Grand Prix in 1960 and its coil-spring suspension was inspired by that of its rivals, Lotus and Cooper. In addition, to ensure victory everywhere, the team could rely on two types of V6 engine that were mainly the work of chief engineer Carlo Chiti. The first was the previous year’s version with a 65-degree angle and two valves per cylinder, and with power output announced as 180bhp. Its flexibility made it the right weapon for low/medium-speed circuits such as Monaco, Zandvoort and the Nürburgring. The second, with a 120-degree angle, was completely new. Its lowered centre of gravity and extra 10bhp meant that it was ideal for high-speed tracks like Spa, Reims and Monza.
Compared with its rivals, Ferrari thus had an abundance of resources at its disposal, enhanced by a power advantage — with either engine — because Cooper and Lotus, using Coventry Climax engines, had to make do with the 1960 four-cylinder Formula 2 unit while awaiting the V8 expected mid-season. BRM was in the same boat as its in-house V8 was still in the development phase. And Porsche also had to embark on the season with its four-cylinder boxer engine while its engineers readied an eight-cylinder version.
Another important aspect of the new Formula 1 Ferrari was that it had a non-synchromesh five-speed gearbox that was, in the words of Phil Hill, ‘astoundingly easy to shift’.
Was the Ferrari’s very streamlined nose with its two distinct air intakes the result of a search for efficacy or just for aesthetic reasons? In any case, the design earned the 156 the nickname ‘Sharknose’. Just a reminder: historically speaking there was nothing new about this configuration as the ephemeral Sacha-Gordine and a version of the Maserati 250F had both used comparable designs. Another sign that Maranello had not completely broken with its past was that the cars were still fitted with Borrani wire wheels.
Faithful to Kamm’s theories
In the presentation of new sports cars, the about-turn in Ferrari’s thinking was even more pronounced. As with the single-seater’s 1.5-litre V6, the 2.4-litre version was installed in the mid-engined position in a tubular chassis with bodywork by Fantuzzi. While the twin-nostril front end was obviously inspired by the Formula 1 car, the design of the rear remained faithful to Kamm’s theories as it was cut off and topped with a lateral spoiler. However, according to Ferrari the expected benefits of a reduction in aerodynamic drag calculated in the wind tunnel had not yet been translated onto the track. But without anticipating the future, what really underlined the novelty for Ferrari was the aluminium strip (later known as a spoiler) mounted on the top edge of the engine cover. According to in-house test driver Richie Ginther, who had come over from California for the press launch, it was the only tweak that Chiti and Fantuzzi could find to prevent the rear of the 246 SP from going light and wandering all over the road in corners.
But the revolution was still a partial one as Maranello persevered with the front-engined Testa Rossa (250 TRI 61). The power of its 3-litre V12 (300bhp at 7,500rpm against 266bhp at 8,000rpm for the Dino 246) could make a big difference depending on the nature of the circuit — Le Mans for example. It turned out to be the right decision.
And what about Ferrari’s rivals? Maserati did not commit to a works entry and relied on private teams to fight on with the Tipo 60s and Tipo 61s and, above all, two mid-engined Tipo 63s with, for the moment, the four-cylinder motor bored out to 3 litres until the in-house V12 was ready. And finally, Porsche announced the imminent arrival of new 718 RS coupés and spyders powered by a 2-litre flat-eight engine.
So, the Scuderia looked to have all the necessary firepower for the World Sports Car Championship, which was dying on its feet because, for subsequent years, only Grand Touring cars would be eligible to compete for the ultimate prize. This decision delighted Ferrari and led to uproar elsewhere because it was basically an unbidden gift to the Italian manufacturer, whose GTs were dominant. Ferrari’s only likely rivals would be Aston Martin, which was counting on Italian coachbuilder Zagato to lighten and beef up the underpowered DB4 GT, and Jaguar, whose new E-type, launched early in 1961, immediately showed promise even if the company hesitated about becoming involved on a works basis.
As for drivers, Enzo Ferrari put his confidence in Phil Hill, Wolfgang von Trips and Richie Ginther for the single-seaters, and Olivier Gendebien and Willy Mairesse — whose skills as a test driver were much valued — for endurance events.
‘As per usual’
Sebring 12 Hours, 25th March
‘As per usual’ wrote Christian Moity about Phil Hill and his sidekick Olivier Gendebien’s victory in the 12 Hours of Sebring, the first World Sports Car Championship event of the season. It was the pair’s second victory together in Florida and Hill’s third. But while Maranello was again able to count on the speed and long-distance racing intelligence of a duo who usually waited for rivals to fall by the wayside, this time they clinched victory after a white-knuckle gamble in their works 250 TRI 61.
There were two other works Ferraris at Sebring, the Giancarlo Baghetti/Willy Mairesse 250 TRI 60 and the Richie Ginther/Wolfgang von Trips 246 SP, backed up by an armada of privateer entries. They faced strong opposition from Maserati, including two cars entered by Camoradi for Stirling Moss/Graham Hill (Tipo 61) and Masten Gregory/ ‘Lucky’ Casner (Tipo 63). Porsche, although not a likely contender for outright victory, was represented by two works 718 RS 61s entrusted to Hans Herrmann/Edgar Barth and Jo Bonnier/Dan Gurney, plus the usual posse of spyders run by privateers.
The impetuous, fiery, talented Gregory in his Tipo 63 hit the front right from the start while Moss fluffed his getaway as his battery failed. After three laps, Gregory gave way to pressure from Pedro Rodríguez in his NART-entered 250 TR 59/60. Phil Hill, remaining faithful to his usual strategy of not upping the pace until half distance, moved over to let Ginther’s 246 SP through into third place. Richie was hell-bent on catching Rodríguez, who was unable to fend off the little Californian’s incisive attacks, and at midday, two hours into the race, the 246 SP was in front with the Rodríguez car, now driven by younger brother Ricardo, hot on its tail.
By half distance, the Mexican brothers had built up a two-lap lead over Hill/Gendebien, who began to ask themselves if their wait-and-see strategy was the right one. Then their #61 fell even further behind due to a calamitous refuelling stop. Several victory contenders had already quit: Graham Hill’s Tipo 61 Maserati joined the dead car park after a blown exhaust while Moss, called on to back up Gregory/Casner in the Tipo 63, had been forced to retire with suspension failure. In the Ferrari camp, von Trips had crashed out due to broken steering, damaging the 246 SP beyond immediate repair. Team manager Romolo Tavoni, always a dab hand when it came to reshuffling driver line-ups, assigned von Trips and Ginther to lend a hand to Baghetti and Mairesse. While at that moment not all the Maseratis had dropped out, it was only a matter of time before all but one of them did, the exception being the Tipo 60 of Briggs Cunningham/Bill Kimberly/Walt Hansgen that came home in 19th place. Neither of the works Porsches saw the chequered flag.
Wisdom rewarded? Lucky intervention from the hand of fate? Whatever. Just before 7pm the NART Ferrari pitted with no electrics and fading brakes: the 20-minute stop seemed interminable. Phil Hill seized his chance and went for it. Setting the second-fastest lap of the race in 3m 13.8s (rather slower than Moss’s best of 3m 12.2s), he installed himself in the lead. At 10pm, Hill and Gendebien clinched their second Sebring win in front of the sister works car of Baghetti/Mairesse/Ginther/von Trips. But it was third-placed Pedro and Ricardo Rodríguez, a lap behind, who captured the hearts of the public.
A spat between friends
Targa Florio, 30th April
A month after the Florida walkover, Ferrari tackled the Targa Florio in a very relaxed state of mind. Having pushed back the first Porsche at Sebring to fifth place, Ferrari already enjoyed a big lead over the German manufacturer in the World Sports Car Championship. So, in the light of past results the Sicilian event did not look as if it would overly shake up the existing hierarchy. After 10 laps of the Piccolo Circuito delle Madonie, victory for the Wolfgang von Trips/Olivier Gendebien 246 SP added a further eight points to Maranello’s tally. But it had not been an easy task as a quick look at the list of retirements showed: they included the works Ferraris of Phil Hill/Richie Ginther (246 SP) and Ricardo Rodríguez/Willy Mairesse (250 TRI 61).
The Porsche RS 61s were known to be quick and reliable in the Sicilian twists and turns, an environment that did not suit the Maserati Tipo 63s, and the podium was duly completed by two German cars driven by Jo Bonnier/Dan Gurney and Hans Herrmann/Edgar Barth. Two Maseratis followed in the hands of Nino Vaccarella/Maurice Trintignant and Umberto Maglioli/Giorgio Scarlatti, with another Porsche, the 356 B Carrera Abarth of Paul Ernst Strähle/Antonio Pucci, sixth.
The classification would have had a very different look if Stirling Moss, superbly supported by Graham Hill, had not been let down by his Porsche’s transmission a few miles from the finish, while he was repelling the assaults of von Trips in maximum attack mode. Even more so if Gendebien, Hill’s team-mate, had not decided at the start to race with von Trips rather than with his usual partner at the wheel of their new 246 SP. Hill was not at all happy with this sudden change even though it was based on the strategy decided before the start: namely, that in case of a breakdown in the early stages of the race, the Florida winners could fall back on the 246 SP of Ginther and von Trips. This was a risk that Gendebien, who was supposed to do the first stint, was not prepared to take.
With cars starting in numerical order at intervals, a visibly edgy Hill (#164) roared off in pursuit of von Trips (#162) and Rodríguez (#160). He caught von Trips near Bivio Polizzi and tried to muscle his way past, rightly judging that he was being held up. The result was contact and a spin that ended with Hill’s car pointing the wrong way. Helped by a handful of spectators, Hill was soon turned around and shot off after von Trips, whom he sliced past without difficulty before setting off after Rodríguez. He overtook the Mexican near Collesano after some 35 miles of pedal-to-metal motoring. But that was as far as he got. In the downhill section leading towards Campofelice, Hill came into a corner far too quickly, shot off the road and slammed into a wall, inflicting terminal damage on his 246 SP. It was a rare — very rare — accident in his career, but it occurred just as von Trips was stunning everybody with his own performance.
Did this episode leave a grudge between the two men for the rest of the season? Obviously, it is easy to speculate when one knows what happened afterwards. Even so, it is worthwhile posing the question in the light of what was to follow.
On the last lap, von Trips set a new record in 40m 3.25s, a time that he himself did not think he was capable of achieving. Asked before the start by Raymond Miomandre from L’Automobile about the kind of times he was hoping to set, he had declared: ‘It’s impossible to lap in under 41 minutes. As for getting near the 40-minute barrier, only one of us can do it — Stirling Moss!’
One against three
Monaco Grand Prix, 14th May
Two weeks later the glittering Principality of Monaco was the theatre for the first World Championship Grand Prix of 1961. A major shake-up in the sporting regulations awaited the teams as the organisers this year fixed the number of starters at 16, wishing to minimise risk on this short and tightly confined circuit. The 16 would comprise 12 invited drivers plus four selected from the other 12 on the entry list according to their practice times. Ferrari’s abundance of resources meant that it could afford to mix its options, so Richie Ginther — one of those who had to qualify — had a 120-degree V6 while Phil Hill and Wolfgang von Trips used 65-degree versions.
Stirling Moss in his Lotus 18 with four-cylinder Coventry Climax power was in scintillating form and set the pace in the three practice sessions, taking pole position with a time of 1m 39.1s. Of course, practice and the race were very different challenges, but on Saturday evening the grid line-up gave cause for reflection: would Jim Clark, quickest in the first session before wrecking his car, thereby eliminating himself from the second and third sessions, have knocked Moss off pole if he had had the chance? As it was, Clark’s time (1m 39.6s) placed him third, with Ginther (1m 39.3s) between the Lotuses on the front row, the Ferrari’s engine advantage not having made the expected difference. Better things had also been hoped for from Phil Hill and Wolfgang von Trips, who set the same time (1m 39.8s) to take up fifth and sixth positions on the grid after Graham Hill’s BRM.
Ginther led the pack into the Gazomètre hairpin and managed to fend off Moss until lap 14, when the Englishman took the lead despite his engine having a power deficit of around 20bhp. He would stay in front until the chequered flag. Was it a breeze? No way. He had to spend the next 86 laps repelling attacks from different drivers glued to his gearbox, starting with Jo Bonnier (Porsche), who got past Ginther at the same time as Moss. Phil Hill then displaced Bonnier on lap 26, having climbed from seventh place on lap 1 and getting the better of Ginther on lap 24. Determined to close the gap to the dark blue Lotus with its white noseband, Hill’s deficit was 10 seconds by lap 40, with Ginther fourth behind the Porsche after a brief skirmish with von Trips in fifth place. A lap later, Ginther got past Bonnier and now the two Ferraris homed in on Moss together with the Porsche in their wake.
By lap 45, this trio of pursuers was eight seconds behind the Lotus, then seven seconds at lap 50 (half distance), then five seconds at lap 60, with Moss having to draw upon all of his talent. Suddenly Bonnier was seen walking back to his pit as his Porsche’s carburation had gone on the blink, leaving the two Ferraris on their own to challenge Moss. The next 10 laps were a mirror image of the previous ones except that Hill was now under pressure from Ginther and beginning to tire as he strove to keep the gap to Moss from widening again. ‘I was starting to have carburation problems,’ stated Hill, and his Ferrari was also running out of brakes. When the gap started to stretch, from five to six-and-a-half seconds, he signalled that he no longer felt able to influence the outcome of the race and let Ginther past on lap 65 for his turn to have a go.
Ginther gave it his all in a final desperate charge in the last quarter of the race to get within overtaking distance of Moss. Not enough superlatives exist to describe Stirling’s ease and talent behind the wheel that day as he put in a drive that would go down in the annals. On lap 80, the Lotus’s advantage was still much the same, six seconds, but Ginther kept at it and set his fastest lap of the race so far on lap 84 in 1m 36.3s. On the following lap, Moss equalled his time; Richie’s pugnacity was matched by Stirling’s steely determination. By lap 96, with just four laps to go, they were separated by four-and-a-half seconds, and by the finish the gap was just 3.6 seconds. Suddenly time and history stood still! Moss and Ginther had both driven the races of their lives. The other two Ferraris came home next, Hill in third place and von Trips, who had been handicapped by throttle problems, a very distant fourth, two laps down.
In ‘Monogasque Murmurs’ (sic), Denis Jenkinson’s short tailpiece to his race report in Motor Sport, he posed the question: ‘Who is Paul Ritchie Ginther?’ His answer took up four lines: ‘He rode as passenger to Phil Hill in a 4.1-litre Ferrari in the Mexican road race when they chased Maglioli in the works 4.9-litre Ferrari in 1954, and has been test driving for the Scuderia Ferrari for 12 months.’
Less than a week later, the Zandvoort sand dunes replaced the winding Monaco streets for the first practice session of the Dutch Grand Prix, which was scheduled to be held on Monday. If the late arrival of the transporter from Maranello meant that Ferrari’s rivals had the track to themselves early on, their respite was short-lived when the three 120-degree V6 156s ventured out just after midday. Two sessions later the evidence of their crushing domination was plain for all to see in an all-Ferrari front row, with Phil Hill on pole for only the second time in his career, Wolfgang von Trips second with the same time (1m 35.7s) and Richie Ginther third (1m 35.9s). Behind them came Stirling Moss’s Lotus (1m 36.2s), Graham Hill’s BRM (1m 36.3s) and Dan Gurney’s Porsche (1m 36.4s).
The race was certainly a fruitful one for Ferrari because it culminated in a win for von Trips with Phil Hill second. During the warm-up lap, Hill had a worrying moment due to a loose clutch pedal, but once it was repaired he encountered no further problems. Von Trips came round in the lead on lap 1 and thereafter was never under threat. With three laps gone, the outcome seemed to be done and dusted, as there were very few changes in the order for the rest of the race. For a long time Phil Hill did battle with a pugnacious Jim Clark (Lotus) but finally found a second wind and secured a more comfortable advantage. Behind this trio, the final third of the race was about as exciting as watching paint dry with Ginther, Moss, Jack Brabham (Cooper), John Surtees (Cooper), Graham Hill, Tony Brooks (BRM) and Gurney forming a procession until the finish. The race, though, did came alive for one brief moment when Moss put on a last-minute charge and snatched fourth from Ginther almost on the line.
Phil Hill was unhappy about being beaten by von Trips. The German, notorious for his many shunts at the start of his career, had metamorphosed into a fast, reliable driver, as he had now proved not only here in the Netherlands but also in Sicily three weeks earlier.
• 1960: A year of transition in F1, struggling with the powerful front-engined Dinos while rear-engined Cooper blew away its rivals; Le Mans yielded five of the top six places with Testa Rossas placed 1–2.
• 1961: F1 supremacy with the all-conquering ‘shark-nose’ 156 — Ferrari’s design for the new 1½-litre formula — saw Phil Hill emerge as World Champion after Wolfgang von Trips’s death at Monza, and brought Ferrari’s first constructors’ title; another Testa Rossa sweep at Le Mans gave Olivier Gendebien his third Ferrari victory in this classic race and Phil Hill his second.
• 1962: After the departure of key engineering brains, F1 fortunes plummeted, with no victories all year; but Ferrari’s onward march in sports car and GT racing continued, enhanced by the arrival of the 250 GTO; Gendebien and Hill won Le Mans yet again.
• 1963: Former motorcycle champion John Surtees began the effort to restore F1 success against Lotus pre-eminence; Ferrari’s rear-engined sports cars finally bore fruit as Lorenzo Bandini and Ludovico Scarfiotti in a 250 P won Le Mans, where Ferraris now took the top six places.
• 1964: With the F1 title chase going down to the wire, John Surtees delivered another pair of drivers’ and constructors’ crowns driving the new V8-powered 158; Nino Vaccarella and Jean Guichet in their 275 P headed yet more Ferrari steamrolling success at Le Mans.
• 1965: The last year of 1½-litre F1 brought a lean Ferrari season while Lotus again dominated; sports car success continued, topped by an unexpected sixth consecutive Le Mans victory, achieved by Jochen Rindt and Masten Gregory in a 250 LM.
Page extent: 368pp
Illustration: 390 photos, including colour
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