Monaco GP 1961

The opening round in the 1961 World Championship for drivers held great expectations and proved to be the most memorable Monaco since 1933 when Achille Varzi won for Bugatti at an average speed of 57 mph after a race-long duel with Nuvolari, passing and repassing on this extremely tight circuit until Nuvolari's Alfa Romeo blew up on the 99th lap.

The 1961 race went to Stirling Moss who led from the 14th lap to the finish while the Ferraris of Richie Ginther and Phil Hill snarled at his heels. For Moss, driving a 1960 Lotus ownd by R.R.C. Walker, it was another of his Grand Prix victories snatched from factory teams. Walker's Pippbrook Garage, by thorough preparation and clever strategy not to mention brilliant driving, has been doing this since Moss's surprise win in the 1958 Argentine Grand Prix with a 1750 cc Cooper.

Moss's winning margin this time was only 3.6 seconds after 100 laps of grueling racing in the hilly and tortuous streets of Monte Carlo. Both the winner and runner-up Ginther came within one-tenth of a second of the 1:36.2 lap record set by Bruce McLaren in a Cooper last year. The race average, which kept rising throughout the event except for a brief period when approaching half-distance, beat all previous Monte Carlo performances. Last year Moss won with an average of 67.3 mph in a 2.5-liter Lotus; this year it was 70.66 mph with a 1.5-liter car. A hint of things to come was given during the last practice session when Moss secured the pole position with a lap at 1:39.1 after the Ginther and Hill Ferraris had dominated previous trials with laps of 1:39.3 and 1:39.8 respectively.

The three Ferraris were equipped with long snouts, reminiscent of the Sacha Gordine (widely publicized in 1952 but never raced) which, with the long megaphone tailpipes, made them by far the longest cars on the course. This hardly seemed logical, as compactness has been known to pay on this very twisty circuit. Mercedes-Benz produced a special short-wheelbase version of the W196 in 1955 and Vamwall had shortened front air in takes in 1957 and 1958 as did Ferrari later. In the Station hairpin, for instance, the new Ferraris had very little room to spare, especially in front. One car, Ginther's, had the latest V6-120° engine, said to develop 190 bhp at 9500 rpm on a 9.8 to one compression ratio. The cars of Hill and von Trips had the 180-bhp V6-60° engme.

During the winter Colin Chapman had obviously put a lot of work into the Lotus chassis as the Team Lotus cars of lnnes lreland and Jim Clark were developed considerably over last year's model as still raced by Rob Walker. Both the front and rear suspensions were all new. The front wishbones were longer, the pivot points being well inside the body, as were the spring/shock absorber units. At the rear end the roll center had been lowered, thus leveling off the roll axis of the car and visibly improving cornering stability. The engines were the latest Coventry Climax units, also used by Cooper and B.R.M. The swept volume has been increased from 1475 to 1498 cc by boring out the cylinders 0.02 inch. maximum power has been increased by about 6 bhp, but in the 5000 to 7000 rpm range power is up by 8 to 10 bhp. The tilt of the engine has been increased from 18 to 20 degrees in the Lotus.

On the first day of practice Jim Clark put in a lap at 1:39.6 before crashing and reducing the car to what seemed a complete write-off. By having new parts airlifted from England and working night and day. it was reconstructed in time for the race. Bad luck also befell Innes Ireland. His car started the first practice with a four-speed gearbox and he did a lap in I: 41.5. A five-speed box was installed overnight and allowed Ireland to reduce his time by a full second. The shifting must have been tricky, for Ireland spun around once, missing a shift, on Friday. In Saturday's practice the same thing happened as he was coming out of the tunnel. The car crashed and Ireland was hospitalized with leg injuries.

Porsche fielded three cars for Bonnier ,Gurney and Herrmann, all with four-cylinder fuel-injected engines. Bonnier's and Herrmann's cars also had the new wishbone-front-suspension chassis while Gurney's retained the old trailing-link type, Drum brakes were used on all three. The fuel injection did not raise the maximum power - the engine develops 160 bhp - but raised torque considerablv in the lower rpm ranges. Both Bonnier and Gurney said acceleration was improved. During practice there was a lot of transmission switching going on and for the race Bonnier had a four-speed while Gurney and Herrmann had fi\'e-speed units.

The B.R.M. team consisted of Tonv Brooks and Graham Hill, with cars improved considerably over last year's models. Dunlop disc brakes are now used at all four wheels and the tail-end transmission brake has been discarded. Coventrv Climax engines are being used until the B.R.M. V8 is ready to race. Graham Hill equaled Jim Clark's practice time but Clark, having got in first, started in the front row while Graham Hill made up the second row with Phil Hill's Ferrari.

Following two Championship years Cooper could do no better than the third row, represented by Bruce McLaren. Brabham took part only in the first practice session achieving 1:44.0 and was allotted the last position on the grid. The Monaco event occurred during the time Brabham was "commuting" by jet to the United States to qualify for the Indianapolis 500, which he did with a very convincing average of 145.144 mph. He arrived in Monaco just in time for the Grand Prix.

The Maserati-engined Emerysons of the Ecurie Nationale Beige weren't fast enough to qualify and Gendebien's car sounded particularly rough. Another non-qualifier was Masten Gregory in the Camoradi Cooper. This was unfortunate for Gregory was right on form, driving in a highly polished manner and making it look very easy, but the car didn't have the speed required to put him on the grid.

Sunday morning was bright and warm. but by noon the sky was overcast and the risk of overheating was consequently reduced somewhat. StilI most competitors chose to run with the engine side panels removed. Race director Louis Chiron briefed the drivers before the start, stressing the dangerous nature of the circuit and making a plea for traffic safety.

At the fall of the flag Brooks made his way up from the third row and tied with l\Ioss to the Gasworks hairpin. Richie Ginther was out in front of Jim Clark and with the end of the first lap the order was Ginther, Clark, Moss, Brooks, Gurney, Bonnier, Phil Hill, Graham Hill. Trintignant and Surtees. By lap five Bonnier and Gurney were in third and fourth while Herrmann in the third Porsche was way back in the field trying to follow Brabham on his way up.

The Lotus challenge was broken when Jim Clark spun and subsequently made the first of a series of pit stops to try to correct ignition trouble and add water. Graham Hill's B.R.M. had fuel delivery trouble and also pulled up at the pits.

Bonnier left teammate Gurney to stay with Ginther and Moss in the lead. On lap 14 both Moss and Bonnier went past the Ferrari and the pace quickened. Moss lapped at I: 39.9 and yon Trips did I: 39.8 putting the three Ferraris in team formation, Ginther 3rd, Hill 4th and von Trips 5th. Hot on their tails were the Coopers of McLaren and Surtees.

The American Ferrari drivers pressed their bid for the lead. Ginther lapped in I:39.2 only to be passed on the 25th lap by Phil Hill who went on to attack Bonnier, surging past the German car in front of the pits. Phil Hill. chasing Moss, reduced the gap from 11.1 to 6.1 seconds in 21 laps. Ginther was close behind, repeatedly breaking the lap record with times of I :38.2 and I :38.0. He passed Bonnier and Ferraris were now second and third.

Herrmann's Porsche developed a fuel leak and stopped at the pits. Brabham retired his Cooper and by half distance both B.RM.s were out of the race. Gurney was in sixth place and Herrmann ninth when Bonnier suddenly retired with fuel delivery trouble in the injection pump. He left the car near the chicane and walked back to the pits looking very angry. Porsche reliability is evidently not up to the reputa. tion gained by the make in sports car racing over a period of years and the new air-cooled flat-eight will have to be both powerful and reliable to compare with the machinery lined up by Ferrari at Monaco. The red cars from Maranello gave an impression of complete dependability, never missing a beat, sounding just as fresh and crisp toward the closing stages as they did at the start. It's true von Trips couldn't keep up with his teammates, but the pace was so hot that by the 60th lap only six cars were still on the same lap.

Moss was widening the gap between Hill and himself and the race average continued to rise. Ginther was right on Hill's tail and must have given him the impression he could go faster, so after a bit of hand-waving they swapped positions, Hill pulling wide to the left before the corner at the bottom of the hill to the Casino to let Ginther through on the inside.

There were now ten cars left in the race and four were on the same lap. Moss and Ginther were about six seconds apart, more and then less as first one, then the other was held up by slower cars before reaching a point to pass. It was the hottest pursuit seen in a long- time and must rate with the Hawthorn-Fangio duel at Rheims in 1953 in its sheer intensity. Ginther proved himself to be a tiger in the best tradition and teammate Hill carefully dropped behind. Ginther brought his lap time down to I :36.3 on the 84th lap, reducing Moss's lead to 3.8 seconds. On the next lap Moss equaled this time and the gap between the two stayed at 3.5 seconds until they reached the finish line well within sight of each other.

Moss's feat in bringing his car home first is understandable in view of his intimate knowledge of the circuit. But this makes it no less admirable, particularly when it is remembered that the car is not the latest model although it does have a brand-new Climax engine. It was Moss's third win at Monaco. In addition to being first last year, he won for Maserati in 1956 at 64.94 mph and was leading in 1955 when his Mercedes-Benz blew up.

Ferrari is clearly in a period of risorgimento and the opposition will have to improve before the Dutch G.P. at Zandvoort next weekend where the Ferrari will be much more suitable than at Monte Carlo - if they wish to provide serious competition. The lap record for the track in the sand dunes currently belongs to Moss, of course, but not even a master can be counted on to perform miracles. Not all the time.

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Author: ArchitectPage