(N Tait)

‘Victory Swig’: Jack Brabham partakes of the winner’s champagne, Aintree, 18 July 1959…

Brabham won the British Grand Prix from the British Racing Partnership BRM P25 driven by Stirling Moss and Bruce McLaren’s Cooper T51- Jack similarly works mounted to Bruce.

This story of the race was inspired by a couple of marvellous pieces from Nigel Tait’s Repco Collection. I wrote a largely photographic article about this weekend a while back too; https://primotipo.com/2014/11/01/masten-gregory-readies-for-the-off-british-grand-prix-aintree-1959/

(N Tait)

The reality of the win was a bit more complex than the Telex back to Repco HQ of course.

Brabham was aided by the very latest version of the Coventry Climax Mk2 FPF 2.5 ‘straight port, big valve’ engine as Doug Nye described it, and the very latest version of the modified Citroen-ERSA gearbox which used roller rather than plain bearings and oil pumps to aid the reliability of the transmission which was being stretched beyond its modest, production car design limits by the increasingly virile FPF. The short supply of 2.5 litre Climaxes was such that Denis Jenkinson noted ‘…Lotus have to share theirs between F1 and sportscars and a broken valve or connecting rod means a long delay’ in getting an engine returned from rebuild.

This you beaut gearbox was not made available to Stirling Moss or Maurice Trintignant, driving Rob Walker’s T51’s so Moss elected to race a BRM P25- he had lost leading positions in the Monaco and Dutch GP’s due to dramas with the new Colotti gearboxes the team had been using in their Coopers. The BRM was prepared by the British Racing Partnership given Moss was not confident in the Bourne marque’s standard of race preparation after brake failure of his works Type 25 at Silverstone in May.

(Getty)

Moss in the BRP BRM P25- he raced the cars in both Britain and France (Q4 and lap record but disqualified after a push start) with Brooks #20 trying to make the most of a Vanwall VW59 that lacked the advantages of monthly competitive pressures and consequent development in 1959. The champion marque or ‘International Cup’ winner in 1958 of course.

Ferrari stayed in Italy due to industrial unrest, the metal workers were on strike. On top of that Jean Behra bopped Team Manager Romolo Tavoni in an outburst of emotion after Tavoni glanced at his tachometer tell-tale after the conclusion of the French GP and challenged his driver. His Ferrari career was over, and all too soon, two weeks after the British GP, he died in a sportscar race which preceded the German GP at Avus.

Without a ride in his home GP, Ferrari driver Tony Brooks (works Ferraris were raced by Brooks, Behra, Phil Hill, Cliff Allison, Olivier Gendebien, Dan Gurney and Wolfgang von Trips in 1959- no pressure to keep your seat!) raced an updated Vanwall instead. He was without success, back in Q17 despite two cars at his disposal and DNF after a persistent misfire upon completing thirteen laps.

The Vanwalls were the same as in 1958 ‘except that the engine had been lowered in the frame, as had the propshaft line and the driving seat, while the bodywork had been made narrower and some weight reduction had been effected’ noted Denis Jenkinson in his MotorSport race report. Such was the pace of progress the Vanwalls had been left behind after their withdrawal from GP grids on a regular basis. Nye wrote that the performance of the car was so poor Tony Vandervell gave Brooks all of the teams start and appearance money in a grand gesture to a driver who had done so much for the marque.

(unattributed)

Aintree vista above as the field roars away from the grid, at the very back is Fritz d’Orey’s Maserati 250F- whilst at ground level below Jack gets the jump from the start he was never to relinquish. Salvadori is alongside in the DBR4 Aston and Schell’s BRM P25 on the inside. Behind Harry is Masten Gregory’s T51- and then from left to right on row three, McLaren T51, Moss P25, and Maurice Trintignant’s Walker T51.

(J Ross)

So the race was a battle of British Racing Greens- BRM, Cooper, Lotus, Vanwall and Aston Martin- in terms of the latter Roy Salvadori popped the front-engined DBR4 in Q2, he did a 1 min 58 seconds dead, the same as Brabham but did so after Jack. He faded in the race in large part due to an early pitstop to check that his fuel tank filler cap was properly closed- an affliction Carroll Shelby also suffered. The writing was on the wall, if not the days of the front-engined GP car all but over of course- there were three front-engined GP wins in 1959, two to the Ferrari Dino 246, in the French and German GP’s to Tony Brooks. At Zandvoort Jo Bonnier broke through to score BRM’s first championship GP win aboard a P25.

The stage was nicely set for a Brabham win from pole but it was not entirely a soda on that warm summers day ‘The big drama was tyre wear. I put a thick sportscar tyre on my cars left-front. Even so, around half distance i could see its tread was disappearing…so i began tossing the car tail-out in the corners to reduce the load on the marginal left-front.’

‘Moss had to make a late stop, and that clinched it for me. I was able to ease to the finish with a completely bald left-front’ Brabham said to Doug Nye. The Moss pitstop for tyres was unexpected as the Dunlop technicians had calculated one set of boots would last the race but they had not accounted for Stirling circulating at around two seconds a lap quicker than he had practiced! Moss later did a fuel ‘splash and dash’, taking on five gallons, as the BRM was not picking up all of its fuel despite the driver switching between tanks.

(MotorSport)

Whilst Jack won, the fastest lap was shared by Moss and McLaren during a late race dice and duel for second slot- Moss got there a smidge in front of Bruce ‘…as they accelerated towards the line, which was now crowded with photographers and officials, leaving space for only one car, Moss drove straight at the people on the right side of the road, making them jump out of the way, and to try and leave room for McLaren to try and take him on the left. This was indeed a very sporting manoeuvre…’ wrote Jenkinson. McLaren won his first GP at Sebring late in the season delivering on his all season promise. Harry Schell was fourth in a works BRM P25 and Maurice Trintignant fifth in a Colotti ‘boxed’ T51 Cooper despite the loss of second gear, with Roy Salvadori’s Aston, after a thrilling, long contest with Masten Gregory’s works T51, in sixth.

(BRM)

Nearest is Schell’s fourth placed BRM, then Trintigant’s T51- fifth, and up ahead McLaren’s third placed T51. BRM took the teams first championship win at Zandvoort in late May. No less than nine Cooper T51’s took the start in the hands of Brabham, McLaren, Trintignant, Gregory, Chris Bristow, Henry Taylor, Ivor Bueb, Ian Burgess and Hans Hermann

Photo and Research Credits…

Nigel Tait Collection, MotorSport 1959 British GP race report by Denis Jenkinson published in August 1959 and article by Doug Nye published in December 2009, Getty Images, John Ross Motor Racing Collection, BRM, Pinterest

Etcetera…

(unattributed)

The relative size of the McLaren Cooper T51 and Moss BRM P25 is pronounced on the grid. The pair were to provide lots of late race excitement after Stirling’s second pit stop.

(J Ross)

Wonderful butt shot of the Salvadori Aston Martin, #38 is the Jack Fairman driven Cooper T45 Climax, DNF gearbox, and Graham Hill’s Lotus 16 Climax up the road- he finished ninth.

(J Ross)

Roy Salvadori racing his DBR4 hard, he was at the top of his game at that career stage- if only he had stayed put with Cooper for 1959! He recovered well from an early pit stop but ultimately the car lacked the outright pace of the leaders however well suited to the track the big beast was. Carroll Shelby failed to finish in the other car after magneto failure six laps from home.

Two of these magnificent machines found good homes in Australia in the hands of Lex Davison and Bib Stillwell in the dying days of the Big Cars- Lex only lost the 1960 AGP at Lowood from Alec Mildren’s Cooper T51 Maserati by metres after a magnificent race long tussle.

Tailpiece: Brabham, Cooper T51 Climax, Aintree…

(MotorSport)

It’s almost as though Jack is giving us a lesson in Cooper designer/draftsman Owen Maddock’s T51 suspension geometry arcs!

Jack was famous for his ‘tail-out’ speedway style of driving, one eminently suited to the Coopers of the era. Lets not forget, according to Jack’s account of the race, he was accentuating this aspect of his driving to save the load on his increasingly threadbare left-front Dunlop.

Jenkinson in his race report observed that ‘The Coopers, both F1 and F2, were going extremely fast, and looking horribly unstable, yet the drivers seemed quite unconcerned, whereas drivers of more stabile machinery following behind were getting quite anxious at the twitchings and jumpings of the Surbiton cars.’

However untidy it may have all been, they were mighty fast, robust weapons of war.

Finito…

Comments
  1. David E.M. Thompson says:

    ‘a completely bald left-front’
    Does that mean that the tread pattern was worn away, leaving a slick? Or that the rubber was worn through to the fabric/cords?

    • markbisset says:

      David,
      I’ve no idea- it’s Jack’s quote to Doug Nye. Have a look at the very last photo- the sideways shot, the left front does appear to be devoid of tread, clearly tyre life was an issue up front with Moss stopping for tyres whilst noting his BRM is front, not mid-engined. Either way, Brabham was doing the ‘mechanical sympathy’ thing which served him well down the decades.
      Mark

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