The Carnival Is Over…

Posted: February 12, 2019 in F1
Tags: , , , ,

(PA Images)

John Surtees listens to Tony Vandervell’s questions in the Silverstone pitlane- Vanwall VW14, 6 May 1961…

The carnival is over in the sense that this weekend was the last ever race by the Vanwall Team. The first, fittingly was also at Silverstone when Raymond Mays and Ken Richardson contested the British Grand Prix on 14 May 1949, the 1.5 litre V12 Ferrari 125 ’02C’ ‘Thinwall Special’ retired after it was crashed by Richardson on lap 81 of the race won by Emmanuel de Graffenried’s Maserati 4CLT-48.

The result in May 1961 was better, a finish at least- 5th in the Intercontinental Formula 200 mile BRDC International Trophy, the race won by Stirling Moss from Jack Brabham and Roy Salvadori in Cooper T53 Climaxes. Henry Taylor was an interloper in 4th aboard a Lotus 18 Climax.

I wonder then, if young Surtees, fixated on his own career, understood the significance of Tony Vandervell’s work in making the breakthrough for the ‘Green Cars’?- the world of GP racing as we know it changed with the Vanwall victories of the late-fifties.

Surtees in more pleasant weather aboard the Vanwall during the BRDC Intl Trophy weekend (Getty)

 

(unattributed)

VW14 was the only mid-engined Vanwall built.

Of 2.6 litres in capacity, three of the nine Vanwall 2.5 litre engines- V5, V6 and V9 were converted to rear-engine specification in 1961 which involved movement of the fuel injection pump and magneto to the right hand side of the cylinder block. In Mk 2 form this car is retained by Vandervell Products.

At Silverstone Bruce McLaren put his Cooper T53 on pole from Moss, Brabham, Hill BRM P48, Salvadori, then Surtees and Ireland’s Lotus 18 Climax.

Surtees drove the car well in tricky, wet conditions holding second between Brabham and Moss and then spun finishing fifth.

Checkout my feature article on Vanwall Cars…

https://primotipo.com/2014/09/05/vanwall-cars-and-the-moroccan-grand-prix-1958/

Etcetera: Jack Brabham’s Test Driving Impressions of the Vanwall…

Stephen Dalton provided a copy of Brabham’s August 1961 ‘Motor Racing’ magazine column which included Jack’s driving impressions of the car on the Thursday prior to the 8 July Silverstone ‘British Empire Trophy’ won by Stirling Moss in a Rob Walker Cooper T53 Climax. Jack also raced a T53 Climax that season, so that is his frame of reference.

‘Silverstone was a disappointment too, though the Thursday preceding the race was very interesting when i had a go in the Vanwall. Tony Vandervell wanted me to try it to see whether i would drive it in the race. (Jack entered the Intercontinental races in his own car not a factory Cooper so he was free to pick and choose)

After the try out i decided it was not a race winning car in the form in which i drove it so i regretfully turned down the drive. But i think with perhaps two days of test driving, while suspension alterations were made, it could have been a potential winner. Unfortunately we didn’t have time for this, and i decided to use my Cooper in the race…

The Vanwall is about the same weight as the Cooper but it has about 40 horsepower more more than the 2 1/2 litre Coventry Climax gives.

The five-speed gearbox, designed by Colotti and made by the Vandervell Organisation, is a real honey to use. The brakes too were very good, though completely different in feel to what i have been used to, with a much softer pedal. But they are more than adequate for the cars performance, and they really do stop the car.

The Vanwall certainly felt a beautifully made, rigid racing car. It steered very well down the straights but it did not handle well enough round the corners to make full use of the performance. I found it was over-steering too much, and i was also getting the front wheels pattering across the road.

After a comparatively short experience with the car i managed a Silverstone lap in 1 minute 36.8 seconds. This was of course 3 seconds slower than i managed in my Cooper during the next days practice. With a little more practising i think a 1 minute 35 seconds lap would have been quite possible with the Vanwall, but i wouldn’t have liked to have tried anything much quicker without modifications. To my mind it would have been necessary to have altered the roll stiffness and the spring rates to get a better balance.

Cornering apart, it is in fact difficult to answer the question why the Vanwall was not as fast as the Cooper. The Climax, of course, has more torque at low revs, but the Vanwall really winds up in a most exciting way along the straights, and the traction is good.

I would rate the car as possessing definite prospects in Intercontinental competition. It could of course be turned into a Formula 1 car, since it is light enough for a 1 1/2 litre engine. But i doubt whether the frame is wide enough to take a multi-cylinder engine, which i think would be needed to compete seriously in Formula 1 next season.

Another thing which struck me at the time was the enthusiasm of Tony Vandervell when he goes motor racing. I was pretty impressed with his knowledge of racing machinery’ Jack concluded.

So there we go, with a couple of days suspension sorting the Vanwall was potentially a competitive Intercontinental car in 1961.

Credits…

Getty Images, f2register, Stephen Dalton Collection

Tailpiece: Surtees, Vanwall VW14…

Surtees sets off for the grid and the last ‘in period’ race by a Vanwall, 6 May 1961, Silverstone (unattributed)

Finito…

Comments
  1. David E.M. Thompson says:

    That Siverstone race is featured in a YouTube video.

  2. David E.M. Thompson says:

    “three of the nine Vanwall 2.5 litre engines- V5, V6 and V9”
    Sounds interesting, but those are serial numbers, not engine configurations.

    • markbisset says:

      Serial numbers is exactly the point I am making! Shall have a look at the footage- thanks for the heads-up.
      M

      • David E.M. Thompson says:

        Didn’t mean to criticize, Mark. I was admitting my own misinterpretation.
        Great article. I didn’t remember this car, though I had read your 2014 Vanwall post.
        Nor do I remember the Intercontinental Formula, a British protest against the new 1961 1.5L F1.
        Again, great article.

      • markbisset says:

        No sweat David,
        I wasn’t sure what you were getting at! Magic cars and such a story around Vandervell himself. I saw the cars at Donington decades ago but none have ever made their way here for the Phillip Island Historics / Australian GP ‘double’.
        I’ve not got a decent book on Vanwall- which I must address!
        Mark

  3. Lynton Hemer says:

    I have the Jenkinson Posthumous book on Vanwall. I bought it at some expense on Abebooks. It’s a good read, and quite comprehensive. I can stick it in my bag when I go to the Island if you’ll be there and want a look.

  4. David Wilson says:

    Hello Mark, thanks for more interesting material, especially from your neck of the woods. Jenks runs out of steam in covering 1958 ,strangely enough .I compensate by looking at his reports in Motor Sport that year.

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