Posts Tagged ‘Albert Park Circuit’

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(LAT)

Stirling Moss leads the 1956 Australian Grand Prix at Albert Park in his works Maser 250F…

The dark, gloomy, wet weather shot could be in Europe. Stirling won the 80 lap, 250 mile race held on 2 December 1956 by a lap from teammate Jean Behra, Peter Whitehead’s Ferrari 555 Super Squalo, Reg Hunt’s Maser 250F and Stan Jones similar car.

The excitement of this post Melbourne Olympic Games race meeting run over two weekends I covered in an article about the Australian Tourist Trophy which Moss also won the week before, in another works Maser, this time a 300S, click here to read it;

https://primotipo.com/2016/01/29/1956-australian-tourist-trophy-albert-park/

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Moss during the 1958 Melbourne Grand Prix metting in Rob Walker’s Cooper T45 Climax. He raced sans the rear engine cover in the final, such was the heat, so this is a practice shot or heat (Fairfax)

 

This short article is pictorial in nature, I rather like the justaposition between his win in the conventional, state of the art 250F in 1956 and victory 2 years later in the 1958 Melbourne Grand Prix. This time  Stirling was in a paradigm shifting, mid-engined Cooper, in this case a T45 Climax. He took the first modern era, mid-engined GP win on January 19 1958 in a Cooper T43 Climax at the Buenos Aires circuit in Argentina.

Moss chills in the Albert Park paddock before the off in 1956 (S Landrigan)

 

 

Stirling won that 32 lap, 100 mile Albert Park, Melbourne GP race run in super hot conditions on 30 November 1958 from Jack Brabham’s Cooper T45 Climax 2.2 FPF.  Doug Whiteford’s Maser 300S and Bib Stillwell’s Maser 250F were third and fourth.

The race was a Formula Libre event attended by over 70000 spectators. Brabham led away at the start but Moss soon passed him and moved steadily away keeping a strong lead despite easing in the final laps given his cars water temperature, which was off the Smiths clock!

(R Jones)

 

 

Melbourne GP start, Jack gets the jump in the centre from Moss on the left, both in Cooper T45’s and Stan Jones Maserati 250F.

Stirling’s car was fitted with an Alf Francis built Coventry Climax FPF, 4 cylinder DOHC, 2 valve, Weber carbed engine of 2051cc, it was a ‘screamer’ with trick cams and crank. Jack’s T45 toted a 2.2 litre FPF, revised ‘Ersa’ 5 speed ‘box and double wishbone rear suspension.

 

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The two new-fangled Cooper T45’s were the class of the field, Moss and Jack took a heat apiece. The natural order of things in Australia changed very rapidly, just like everywhere else, albeit the last Australian Grand Prix won by a front-engine car was Stan Jones win at Longford several months after the Albert Park meeting, on 2 March 1959.

 

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Jack’s Cooper being fettled in the Albert Park paddock in 1958, probably a practice day shot, T45 Climax (G Rhodes via KBY191)

 

Brabham was still on the rise as a driver, he raced in F2 in 1958 (and in the F2 class of some GP’s) but took fourth in the Monaco classic, sixth in the French, seventh in the Portuguese and eighth in the Dutch GP at Zandvoort-all in works F1 Cooper T45’s. His time was shortly to come of course in 1959 and 1960.

 

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Moss takes the chequered flag in his Cooper T45, Melbourne GP, November 1958 (LAT)

 

Sadly, the 30 November 1958 Albert Park race was the last race meeting until the modern Albert Park era which commenced with the first of the F1 Grands Prix in 1996- or more precisely with some historic events in the years before which ‘softened up the public’ to the concept. The use of the park for motor racing became enmeshed in fifties Victorian State politics, the net result was the end of racing for nearly forty years.

Barry Green observed in his book, ‘Glory Days’, ‘In many ways that final meeting represented a changing of the guard. The two nimble, little rear-engined cars had blitzed the field, underscoring the fact that the writing was on the wall for the big, front engined cars’.

‘So too, the days of the wealthy sporting amateur, of racing for a silver cup and the fun of it all. Professionalism had arrived- to see that, one had to look no further than the darkening sky over Albert Park; to a hovering helicopter, about to pluck Stirling Moss from the crowd and whisk him off to Essendon Airport and connections to the Bahamas for the Nassau Speed Week’.

 

Start of one of the heats won by Brabham’s Cooper T45 on this side. In the middle is Ted Gray’s big, booming Tornado Chev with Bill Patterson in the white Cooper T43 Climax (R Jones)

 

Checkout this fantastic BP film, supporters of Moss’ attendance at the event, of the 1958 Melbourne GP meeting…

 

 

Bibliography…

‘Glory Days-Albert Park 1953-8’ Barry Green

 

Credits…

stirlingmoss.com, LAT, Fairfax Media, Graham Rhodes, Simon Landrigan, Robert Jones

 

Tailpiece: And a fine tail it is too. Moss, Maser 250F and mechanic in more recent times. ‘I won’t remember your number, text me’ is the gist of the conversation…

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(unattributed)

Finito…

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Reg Hunt, Kevin Neal and Lex Davison launch their ‘Italian Stallions’ off the line at the start of  Albert Parks’ 150 mile ‘Argus Trophy’…

Hunts’ #2 Maserati 250F won the race from Davisons’ #4 Tipo 500 Ferrari with Neal #3 third in Hunts’ old Maser A6GCM. Thats Tom Hawkes in the ex-Brabham ‘Redex Special’ #7 Cooper Holden Repco making its debut with that engine at this meeting. Arthur Griffiths in the ex-Davison 1954 AGP winning #5 HWM Jaguar is on row two. Further back is Bill Wilcox in the ex-Jeff Scorer, ex-works/Gaze #9 Alta and Bill Craigs’ ex-Whitehead, Holden engined and rebodied # 11 Alta.

There were two racing carnivals at Albert Park in 1956. This ‘Moomba’ Meeting (Moomba is still a marvellous annual Melbourne late Summer festival) in March and the Australian Grand Prix meetings after the Melbourne Olympic Games in the last weekend of November and the first in December. Similarly, the ‘Moomba’ meeting was held over two weekends, race days were Sunday 11 and 18 March 1956.

In  many ways the image symbolises an era of single seater racing just underway in Australia, the dominance of the current ‘Red Cars’ from Italy ending a period when the Australian Special, and older ex-works European cars held sway.

Racing at Albert Park…

Barry Green in his wonderful book ‘Glory Days’, writes that their was a strong push to race at Albert Park in 1934. The Light Car Club of Australia, (LCCA) the promoter of race meetings at Phillip Island were aware of the ‘Islands growing unsuitability with its loose gravel surface as speeds increased. Extensive negotiations secured Albert Park as the venue for a race meeting to celebrate the Centenary of Victoria in 1935.

The ‘Sun News Pictorial’ one of the Melbourne daily tabloids, and then as now a good thing in which to wrap ones fish n’ chips, announced the event on June 4 1934.

In doing so the ‘paper lit the fuse of naysayers who brought about the events cancellation, but not before racers Arthur Terdich, Bill Lowe, Barney Dentry, and Cyril Dickason in Bugatti, Lombard, and Austins respectively, lapped the track with mufflers fitted to prove noise wasn’t the issue…

Post war things were a little different and a partnership between the LCCA, the Army who had a facility at Albert Park, and Victorian Labor Senator Pat Kennelly were more successful.

The three provided the combination of race organisation and promotional ability, logistical capability, the Army being able to ‘man’ Albert Park, a site of some 570 acres, and political power and influence.

For all three groups the ability to raise funds in the aftermath of World War 2 was important. For the army funding for war widows and orphans, for Kennelly the ability to finance much needed improvements to the park to improve the local amenity for the working class community, and for the LCCA, the improvement of motor racing.

And so, the 1953 Australian Grand Prix held at Albert Park over 64 laps, 200 miles in total was won by Doug Whiteford in a Lago-Talbot, the last AGP win for French Racing Blue…

1953 was the commencement of Albert Parks ‘first phase’ as a race track lasting five short years until November 1958 when the naysayers again held sway…until 1996 when again the political pendulum swung in the sports and business’ favour, Victorian Liberal Premier Jeff Kennett ‘snatching’ the race from Adelaide…

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Lex Davison #3 HWM Jag, Stan Jones #2 Maybach, and Doug Whiteford in the winning Lago-Talbot at the start of the 1953 Australian Grand Prix at Albert Park, the venues first race meeting on November 21. Cec Warren #6 Maserati 4CLT, Frank Kleinig #7 Kleinig Hudson 8, W Hayes #10 Ford V8 Spl, and a badly smoking  Ted Gray #11 Alta Ford V8 (AGP website)

The Big Red Italian Cars…

I wrote about Reg Hunt a while back, https://primotipo.com/2014/07/19/reg-hunt-australian-ace-of-the-1950s/ .He was an Englishman with a family background in the motor-trade, who came to Australia in 1949. By 1953 his ealerships were doing well enough to return to the UK for a season of F3, in a 500cc  Cooper Norton Mk8 in 1954. He did well against the best and arrived back in Oz, razor sharp and with a big, red, modern, ex-works Italian car…

His ex-Gonzalez Maserati A6GCM started life as 1953 2 litre chassis # 2041 but was renumbered # 2503 after a 250F engine was fitted for the new 2.5 litre F1 which commenced in 1954. Sold to Harry Schell for that season it arrived in Australia late in the year and was first tested by Hunt at Fishermans Bend before being raced at Ardmore for the 1955 NZGP where he popped it on the front row along with Prince Biras’ 250F. Bira lead the race from start to finish, Hunt fifth in a field which included the Whitehead and Gaze Ferrari 500/625’s.

Hunt was stiff not to win the 1955 Australian Grand Prix in the A6GCM at Port Wakefield, a broken cam-follower slowing him and handing victory to Jack Brabhams Cooper Bobtail.

Not to be outdone, and needing to remain competitive, Lex Davison, the 1954 AGP winner acquired his good friend Tony Gazes’ Ferrari 500/625, the car fitted with a 625 engine enlarged to 3 litres. These Lampredi designed, big-bore 4 cylinder DOHC engines a mainstay of Ferrari single-seaters and sports cars throughout the 50’s.

In recent years, having passed into the ownership of the ‘Wheatcroft Collection’ in the early 60’s, the car has been identified as Tipo 500#5, Alberto Ascaris’ 1952 and 1953 World Championship winning chassis, the ‘winningest’ chassis of all time with at least ten Grands’ Prix victories…but at the time Davo had just acquired a competitive car which would be very kind to him in years to come.

It was Lexs’ first meeting in the car, a change in gearing a mistake in set-up which blunted the cars performance, but the promise of the combination was undeniable.

Having made such an impression with the A6GCM Hunt had no trouble convincing Maserati to part with a more recent mount, securing Jean Behra’s 1955 factory 250F, chassis #2516, the car winning non-championship Grands’ Prix in Pau and Bordeaux in that year.

Hunt won both the feature racing car events of the Moomba meeting. Davison second in both and Neal third in one, DNF in another, in the car the Melbourne transport business man was to buy from Hunt.

Before long Stan Jones also acquired a 250F, a more recent spec car than Hunts’.

The mid-engined F1 Coopers were not far away, but for the moment, a wonderful era of modern ‘Big Front Engined Red Racing Cars’ had arrived in Australia…ending with the 1959 Australian Grand Prix, but we will come to that !

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Reg Hunt leads Lex Davison , Maserati 250F and Ferrari Tipo 500, Albert Park ‘Moomba Races’ March 1956. Check out the trees, kerbs, and very thick chain wire fence on these everyday suburban roads within the park! Crowd of over 70,000 in attendance (museumvictoria.com.au)

 

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Albert Park Road Circuit 1950’s. Length 3.13 miles, direction of travel the opposite to the modern circuit which is true to, if not identical to the spirit of this fabulous, historic venue. Barry Green ‘Glory Days’

 

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Alberto Ascari #5 in the Gaze/Davison Ferrari Tipo 500/5, alongside Froilan Gonzalez #24 in the Hunt/Neal Maserati A6GCM/2041/2503 at the start of the 1953 British GP at Silverstone which Ascari won. #8 is Mike Hawthorn, behind him #7 Luigi Villoresi both in Ferrari Tipo 500’s. The wheel on the far right is Fangio in a Maser A6GCM. The blue car beside Hawthorn is Onofre Marimon also in a Maser A6GCM. The green car behind Villoresi is Tony Rolts Connaught Lea Francis , and beside him the green car with white noseband is Ken Whartons’ Cooper Bristol. (Mirror Archive)

Credits…

‘Glory Days’ by Barry Green; oldracephotos.com, museumvictoria.com.au, AGP Website, Mirror Archive

Finito…