Posts Tagged ‘Mercedes Benz W196’

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(Bert Hardy)

Stirling Moss sets off on his first test laps of an ‘orrible looking Mercedes Benz W196, Hockenheim 4 December 1954…

Stirling Moss started the 1954 Grand Prix season, the first year of the 2.5 litre formula with a customer Maserati 250F acquired with family resources and some trade support. By seasons end he was Officine Maserati’s ‘team leader’ albeit unsigned by them for 1955 which rather created an opportunity for others.

Mercedes re-entered Grand Prix racing from the ’54 French Grand Prix and quickly, again, became the dominant force. The idea for this article was finding some Bert Hardy ‘Picture Post’ images of Stirling Moss’ first test of the W196 at Hockenheim on 4 December 1954, the precursor to him joining the great marque for 1955.

Some quick research uncovered an article written by Mattijs Diepraam and Felix Muelas on 8w.forix.com, a great website if you haven’t tripped over it by the way.

It’s a ripper article the contents of which they sourced from Ken Gregory’s and Stirling Moss’ books. Rather than re-invent the wheel I have truncated their article a smidge without taking away their interesting, nitty-gritty of circumstances around Stirling and Alfred Moss, and Moss’ Manager, Ken Gregory’s deliberations and negotiations about ‘the boy’s 1955 contractual commitments.

‘The Hockenheimring, was still raced anti-clockwise like they do at Indianapolis when Stirling Moss flew in to test the car that was the class of the field from the word go at the 1954 French GP.

After a few laps he knew. And then there was that handsome offer made to Ken Gregory. Mercedes simply wanted Moss and the effort to get him was meticulously planned. It left Gregory gaping at the negotation table – as he readily admits in his highly entertaining 1960 book ‘Behind the scenes of Motor Racing.’

‘And still it almost went wrong – although knowing Neubauer cum suis a plan B and even plan C would have been rushed out of the Untertürkheim premises forthwith. The first thing Moss and Gregory noticed of Mercedes-Benz interest was a brief and factual telegram by Daimler-Benz AG enquiring about the availability of Stirling Moss for 1955.’

“CABLE WHETHER STIRLING MOSS BOUND FOR 1955 STOP. OUR INQUIRY WITHOUT COMMITMENT – DAIMLER-BENZ.”

‘Stirling’s gut reaction was no. He had a signed contract with Shell-Mex and BP for 1954 and 1955 and was sure of a sponsorship clash with Mercedes suppliers, Castrol. Beside that, the contract was a done deal and he would not think of dissolving it so shortly after he had given his word – of which, in Stirling’s view, the contract was merely a written confirmation. He didn’t have time to think about it anyway, as he was due to leave for the US, to race in the so-called Mountain Rally.’

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Moss relays to Rudy Uhlenhaut left and Karl Kling what its like out there, car far less forgiving than the 250F Moss raced in 1954. Stirling has done plenty of laps by the look of his face (Bert Hardy)

‘Gregory thought otherwise, and after consulting Alfred Moss, decided to go Stuttgart himself. On the advice of Stirling’s dad, Ken armed himself with monstrous demands, to act like a tough British cookie and see what happens. It was a total shock to Gregory to find that Herr Neubauer, the long-time Mercedes boss, was infinitely better prepared for the meeting. Not only did the overbearing team manager come up with the most remarkable details of Stirling’s career – he also came up with a figure that would amount to Moss’ salary, a number that froze Gregory to the ground and left him gasping for air until he got on the flight back to England.’

‘Before leaving he convinced Alfred Neubauer to pair Moss with Fangio in the new 300 SLR sportscar, and of giving Stirling a test before anything was signed. The rest of the deal was ironed out on the spot. The Shell and BP matter was conveniently postponed until after Stirling’s arrival.’

‘On his return Gregory phoned Stirling in the States, having tracked him down in the Rootes building in New York. Initially an irritated Stirling reiterated his view on the contract with Shell and BP but then Ken told him about the contract terms – the sportscar pairing with Fangio, the permission to race his 250F in non-championship events – and, of course, the money involved. An honourable human being he may be, Stirling is only human as well. This was too good to be true.’

‘According to Gregory his stance immediately made an about-turn. And this is where Stirling’s own account of things takes off in his 1957 book In Track of Speed… “I was to receive the sensational and most encouraging news that the German Mercedes firm was ready and anxious to sign me as one of their official Grand Prix team for 1955. It is not easy, now, properly to analyse my feelings when the news reached America. I had gone over there to compete in the Mountain Rally, and had driven a Sunbeam in a trio of cars which won the team prize. When I heard of the Mercedes offer, I was a little awed, a little bewildered, and very pleased. With all my experience, I had not done a lot of real racing in the Grand Prix series on cars which stood a real chance. True, I had led the Maserati team for the latter half of the year, but to have a place in that all-conquering team – and I felt in my bones that it would all-conquering – was to give me a unique personal opportunity.”

And this is the November 22 entry for Stirling’s diary: “Up early, called on Jaguars, then to Rootes, where Ken called and told me of the fantastic Merc offer. Wow!”

Enough said.

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Neubauer projects and Moss listens and talks to Uhlenhaut (Bert Hardy)

Hockenheim Test and Build-up…

‘Between November 22 and December 3 lay a couple of weeks that became a string of field days for the press. The latter date would be the day of Moss’ return flight to London where he would meet up with his father and manager, the three of them flying straight through to Frankfurt for the planned test on December 4. In the meantime, Jerry Ames of Downtons, the British publicity agent for Mercedes-Benz did everything to alert his Fleet Street colleagues on the arrival of the important test, and this caused a flurry of reports on the Moss-Mercedes case. Did he have a verbal agreement with Maserati? What about the Shell/BP deal? How much would Neubauer be willing to fork out? And where were the principles of a man that had stated that he wanted to win the World Championship in a British car?’

‘All of it was fairly benign, though. From the US, Stirling had already released a carefully worded statement about his ambition to win the Championship in a British car but that there was very little hope in doing so the following year, and that as a professional racer he really had no other option than to accept the offer. These words were generally accepted as sincere. On the day of the test, however, the press were dealt a red herring by a wicked Neubauer. Although the news of the test was carefully leaked by Ames, leading to Picture Post magazine sending their feature writer Trevor Philpots and star photographer Bert Hardy on a plane to Frankfurt the very same day, the two Brits were picked up by a Mercedes-Benz driver pretending to have no knowledge of English and driven off in the wrong direction. It left Neubauer in the safe knowledge that Moss would say yes to them first before the British press could get hold of a possible no. The Picture Post duo were only allowed onto the Hockenheim grounds by the time the serious business was long underway.’

‘And so Stirling arrived at Hockenheim undisturbed to find everything thoroughly prepared for his test. And that’s understating things- to Moss and his party thoroughness was redefined. Mercedes chief engineer Rudolf Uhlenhaut had seen to it that the car had every aspect modified to Stirling’s build and style. So that was one excuse out of the way. Then there was Mercedes regular Karl Kling to set a yardstick – one that was set at 200kph just days before by the same Kling. But there had been a recent rainstorm, so that when Stirling did his reconnaissance laps on a 220A saloon, then switching to the 300SL gullwing sportscar, the track was still wet. These first laps soon created a dry-ish line on which Moss got his first hand on the W196.’

‘He thought it (the W196) was uncompromising, as any Mercedes driver would reveal. He admitted as such to a watchful Ken Gregory. “Stirling was not immediately at home with the Merc, and while Kling was circulating he told me he thought it was a very difficult car to drive; it was ‘fighty’, inclined to oversteer, and much more sensitive to handle than the Maserati, though the power, he said, was ‘fantastic’.” Despite being confused by the peculiar transmission at first he felt confident that he could master the car. He got down to a 2.15 – comparing to an average of 201kph – a time that was later equalled by Kling on a track still drier. A previously nervous Uhlenhaut was by now beaming with pleasure. A short discussion followed with Alfred Moss and Gregory, after which Stirling concluded that he should take Mercedes up on their offer, assuming that the sponsorship clash between the oil companies could be solved – and indeed it was solved in a most gracious way, with Bryan Turdle, competitions manager of Shell-Mex and BP, not hesitating to release Stirling from his 1955 Shell commitments.’

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Neubauer and a thoughtful Moss, the most recent of so many stars the German worked with (Bert Hardy)

Maserati Intervention…

Then came another thing to be solved. During the test a telegram arrived for Neubauer. It came from Commendatore Orsi of Maserati, claiming he had a contract with Moss and that Mercedes should back off. The claim was understandable as Moss had quickly become the lead Maserati driver since his display at the 1954 Italian GP and Orsi wasn’t particularly keen to see the second best driver of the world go off and team up with Fangio, doubling Maserati’s task. But Moss Sr and Gregory were able to convince the Germans that Stirling had in fact not agreed to anything, not even verbally. And so Stirling Moss was announced as the number two Mercedes-Benz driver for 1955 shortly after.’

‘For Moss the choice of Mercedes was obvious…The British manufacturers were a long way from threatening the establishment, and the new Climax engine was still not ready. Mercedes-Benz by all means were. And they showed it at that December 4 test. It had been a test with a thoroughness previously unseen by British drivers. But also one with immaculate attention for the human being inside the driver. That was Mercedes-Benz too. This is Stirling’s own recollection of the comfort he was supplied with as soon as he got back to the pits: “What really impressed me was that as I clambered out of the car, rummaging in my pockets for a handkerchief or rag to wipe my face, a mechanic suddenly appeared, bearing hot water, soap, a flannel and a towel! Out there in the middle of the desolate Hockenheimring this was forethought I could hardly credit. I thought then that to be associated with such an organization could not be bad…”

 Checkout my article on the Mercedes W196…

https://primotipo.com/2015/10/09/mercedes-benz-w196-french-gp-1954/

Photo Credits…

Bert Hardy

Bibliography…

8w.forix.com article ‘How Stirling Got His Mercedes Breakthrough’ by Mattijs Diepraam and Felix Muelas

Tailpiece…

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Neubauer, Alfred and Stirling Moss toast 1955 success, a year of bitter sweet for the great marque, Le Mans not in their wildest, worst dreams (Bert Hardy)

 

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(Maurice Jarnoux)

The Mercedes Benz 1955 1,2; Fangio and Moss in W196, 22 May 1955…

Mercedes had three 1/2 finishes for the year; at Spa and Zandvoort when Fangio led Moss and at Aintree where Moss led Fangio. At Monaco things were looking good for another but JM’s car broke a rear axle on lap 49 and Moss had an engine failure in the closing laps of the race (lap 80 of 100).

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(Jarnoux)

Maurice Trintignant (above) took a somewhat lucky, but well deserved win in his Ferrari 625 from Eugenio Castellotti’s Lancia D50, the Italian putting in a charge in the final stages of the race trying to catch the Frenchman.

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Ascari and Castelotti in D50’s ahead of Behra’s 250F, later in the race but before lap 80 when Alberto took his afternoon swim (Jarnoux)

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Moss discussing the Mercedes teams prospects with its legendary engineer/test driver Rudy Uhlenhaut during Monaco practice. This car was comprehensively rooted later in the day when Hans Hermann had a bad accident, hurting himself as well as the W196. Andre Simon was brought into the team to race the spare (GP Library)

This was the famous race in which Alberto Ascari crashed his Lancia D50 into the harbour perhaps distracted by Moss’ engine problems in front of him late in the race. He popped to the surface unharmed but was killed several days later testing a Ferrari sportscar at Monza.

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Ascari’s D50 cruises past Lance Macklin’s Maser 250F, DNQ. Ascari 2nd on the grid (unattributed)

 

It was a pivotal time in the history of GP racing; Ascari’s death robbed Lancia of the driver around which its GP campaign was built and Gianni Lancia’s lavish race program was quickly driving his company into insolvency.

The famous ‘handover’ of Lancia assets to Ferrari occurred later in the year, solving Enzo’s immediate need of competitive cars. The ‘sponsorship’ in the form of an annual contribution to the Scuderia’s budget from Fiat laid the foundations of a strategic partnership which, via ownership of the road-car division from 1969 and ultimate acquisition of the company upon Enzo Ferrari’s death continues today.

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Louis Chiron 6th let’s teammate Gigi Villoresi 5th Lancia D50 past whilst Jean Behra’s equal 3rd placed (with Cesare Perdisa) Maser 250F threatens (GP Library)

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Farina’s Ferrari 625 4th about to be swallowed by Ascari’s Lancia D50 (GP Library)

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That! high speed Mercedes transporter, Monaco 1955 (GP Library)

Credits…

Maurice Jarnoux, GP Library

Tailpieces…

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Moss heading up the hill from Ste Devote,  Monaco 1955, Mercedes W196 (unattributed)

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The master in the lead; Fangio led from pole until transmission dramas intervened on lap 49, Benz W196, Monaco ’55 (unattributed)

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Wonderful drawing of Fangio’s 1954/5 Mercedes W196 cockpit. Was there ever a more complex GP car than this in the context of ‘its time’!? A very successful one mind you…

Click here for an article on this fabulous car; https://primotipo.com/2015/10/09/mercedes-benz-w196-french-gp-1954/

Drawing Source: Setright ‘The Grand Prix’…

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Baptism at Aintree – Karl Kling’s Mercedes W196 & Roberto Mieres’ Maserati 250F push Jack at his 1st World Championship F1 event. Cooper T40 Bristol. 1955 British GP. (Jack Brabham Story)

Sixty years ago today, Jack Brabham made his Formula 1 GP debut at Aintree, but first he had to build the car…

The first half of 1955 was full of many goings on for Jack Brabham. With encouragement from the UK RAC motor sporting administrator, Dean Delamont, Jack was convinced to head over to the UK for some motor racing. Little did anyone know the success this would bring – although it was hardly immediate.

It the pages of the February 1955 ‘Australian Motor Sports’ there’s a brief piece on Jack and his trip to the Continent and it rumours that he had ordered a Cooper-Alta and might have a trial drive with Mercedes Benz. To finance such a trip he had to sell his highly developed & successful ‘RedeX Special’ – aka Cooper-Bristol. Stan Jones, having wrecked his Maybach II at the 1954 Australian GP purchased it. Just prior to selling though, Jack had his last race in the ‘RedeX’ at the January 31, 1955 Gnoo Blas meeting. This was a big meeting for the country NSW circuit with international drivers’ Peter Whitehead and Prince Bira running Ferrari & Maserati respectively. For Jack another part of financing the UK journey also meant selling his lathe and some other equipment – all to his later lament.

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The unloved ex-Whitehead Cooper-Alta at Ibsley. (Jack Brabham Story)

Flying to the UK, meant initially leaving his wife, Betty and young son, Geoffrey in Australia. Soon after arriving Jack took delivery of the ex Peter Whitehead Cooper-Alta. In fact he originally set up camp at Whitehead’s Chalfont St Peter’s race garage before a slightly later move to Bob Chase’s RJC Motors operation at Saltdean. His racing activities in the UK, began with the Cooper-Alta at the April 11, 1955 Goodwood Easter Monday meeting. The same meeting Cooper Cars debuted their petite 1100cc Coventry-Climax T39 ‘bobtail’ sports car. Their first foray into what would become a successful ‘Climax’ engine relationship.

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Brabham’s brand new, self built Cooper T40 Bristol, Aintree, British GP 1955. Car and driver victorious in the 1955 Australian GP, Port Wakefield later in the year. (unattributed)

History tells us that Jack Brabham never said much, he let his ability do the talking, whether by his driving or engineering skills. But he knew how to get what he wanted. Neither Charles, nor John Cooper ever officially interviewed Jack for a job at Cooper’s Surbiton works. He just hung around often enough until he was one of them.

Despite its Cooper heritage, Jack’s lack of enthusiasm remained for the Cooper-Alta. Even after an engine blow-up at the April 30 Ibsley meeting on the old RAF base, saw him convert it to Bristol power. Meaning he was never going to be satisfied continuing to race that car.

So having gained his new friendship with the likeable John Cooper, Jack was allowed use of Cooper’s Surbiton facilities to knock together what would be his own interpretation of Cooper’s new T39 ‘bobtail’ – shoehorning a big engine into a small sports car. One could even say this was an early incarnation of what would evolve into the Can Am style cars of the mid 60s and onwards.

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The bare bones of the Cooper T40 Bristol under construction. Tubular ‘curvy in the usual Cooper way’ chassis frame. Front and rear suspension upper transverse leaf spring and lower wishbones with Arnstrong shocks, drum brakes, 2 litre Bristol 6 cylinder engine.(Jack Brabham Story)

Part of Jack building his ‘streamliner’ F1 car, involved adding 50mm to the chassis’ wheelbase to accommodate the familiar to him, 2 litre Bristol 6 cylinder lump – in place of the 1100 Climax 4. Both built with the engine behind the driver. Worth noting is that in some official entry lists the car is claimed to have a 2.2 litre Bristol. Apparently that was the intent, but not reality. It was also built devoid of lights and anything that would add unwarranted weight.

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The Bristol 2 litre 6 cylinder in the rear of the T40. (Jack Brabham Story)

This project later tagged as T40 in the Cooper genealogy stakes – with 2 constructed. One Jack would use himself, this car was allocated chassis number CB/1/55 and another that Bob Chase’s RJC Motors would briefly run for Mike Keen. I say briefly, because unfortunately a crash at the August 20, 1955 Goodwood 9 hour took Mike’s life and the ever present problem of fire destroyed the car.

Jack Brabham’s UK presence hadn’t gone unnoticed by the UK specialist motoring press, gaining a few comments in race reports. Autosport magazine even showed off the incomplete T40 in their pages the day before its first race. Admittedly the photo would have been taken sometime before that, but it was a brand new car when it hit the circuit – with no test time.

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Autosport 15 July 1955 Cooper/Brabham announcement.

Liverpool’s Aintree circuit was the venue for the running of the July 16, 1955 British GP meeting. This meeting became Jack’s F1 debut race. The programme even mentions ‘The Cooper Grand Prix entry is a prototype of a full team to be built to race in 1956.’ A slightly premature comment as it turned out and the only F1 Grand Prix the T40 would take part. The car’s haste to complete meant new car sorting was lacking and a rear of grid start. Having liberated the Harley Davidson clutch setup from his Australian ‘RedeX’ C-B before sale, with some irony it was this part that let Jack down at Aintree making for an early retirement at 30 of the intended 90 laps the outcome. The dominant Mercedes Benz W196 team that included Juan Manuel Fangio, Karl Kling and Stirling Moss, saw Stirling taking race honours.

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Jack Brabham’s Cooper T40 Bristol from Ken Wharton Vanwall VW55 equal 9th, with victor Stirling Moss about to round them up in his Mercedes W196. (Bill Henderson)

Despite the niggling start Jack had more faith in the T40 than the Cooper-Alta. What followed over the ensuing month were national events at July 30 Crystal Palace & August 1 Brands Hatch with further retirements at both. Then crossing over the Scottish border his luck with the T40 began to change at the August 6 Charterhall meeting. Finally two 4th placed finishes in his Heat and Final. Continuing into the following week’s damp August 13 Snetterton. At that meeting Jack was able to mix it amongst some of the motor racing luminaries. Such as Harry Schell & Ken Wharton in Vanwall’s, Stirling Moss in his privately entered Maserati 250F and Roy Salvadori 250F. That being the finishing order for Snetterton’s RedeX Trophy race with Jack slotting in between Stirling and Roy for another 4th place. Had he not spun during his tussle with Moss it may well have been a 3rd place greeting him. This race alone was enough to convince Jack he would return to the UK in 1956 as he was about to send the Cooper T40 home to Australia. Jack and Betty then set to return to Sydney in late September to catch up with their son and more motor racing.

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Jacks thoroughly modern mid engined, ‘central seat sports derived F1 car’ ahead of the over the hill Ferrari 625 of Mike Hawthorn, monstering the little Cooper. MH finished equal 6th in the race with Fazz teammate Eugenio Castellotti. Things got better for Ferrari, the Lancia D50 ‘gifts’ were not too far away! (unattributed)

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The year of 1955 was also a period whereby other Aussies had made the trip to England for a racing holiday. Orders had been placed with Aston Martin for 3 of their DB3S racing sports cars. The ‘Kangaroo Stable’ as it was so named with members being Tony Gaze, David McKay, Les Cosh, Dick Cobden, Tom Sulman & Jack Brabham. Circumstances played against them though. Late delivery of the cars didn’t help, but it was the June 11-12, 1955 running of Le Mans that put the skids on racing soon afterwards with a number of events cancelled as a result to the Pierre Levegh Mercedes going into the crowd at Le Mans.

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‘Kangaroo Stable’ Aston Martin DB3S at the Hyeres 12 Hour, France 29 May 1955. L>R Gaze, McKay, Brabham, Cosh and Cobden standing near the post. Only Tom Sulman is missing from the shot. Race won by Canonica/Munaron Ferrari 750 Monza, then came the Kangaroo Stable trio; Gaze/McKay 2nd, Cosh/Cobden 3rd and Sulman/Brabham 4th. (David McKay ‘Behind The Wheel’)

Jack Brabham was present at the famous French road course that year, but as a reserve driver for the Bristol team. He got to qualify, but never received the call up to put his helmet on for the race. That may well have been one of several omens Jack was granted in 1955 and over his outstanding career.

Cooper Cars Ltd also had a presence at Le Mans with the John Brown/Edgar Wadsworth Cooper T39 1100 and the Whitehead Brothers Cooper-Jaguar that year, but it was the infancy of Jack and John’s friendship, hence no involvement with the Surbiton marque’s effort

Another instance of Brabham luck was just before he headed for home. September 17 was the Dundrod RAC Tourist Trophy meeting in Ireland, with Jack there to share the Michael O’Shea owned Cooper T39 with London driver, Jim Mayers. An inexperienced French driver, Vicomte Henri de Barry created annoyance for several drivers as he baulked their progress, with those drivers’ having to take risks to get past to further their race on the testing Irish road course. Unfortunately the situation ended as badly as it could with a fiery crash at Deer’s Leap involving several cars. Jim was one of 2 drivers to die at that crash scene – the Cooper scattered to oblivion. This event would also claim another driver, elsewhere around the course. Although not knowing otherwise, Dean Delamont had sought out Betty Brabham, thinking it was Jack involved in the main crash – only to find him in the pit. Jim and Jack had flipped a coin to decide who did the first stint. We know who won…

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Together in the UK, Betty Brabham followed Jack mid-year. While their son, Geoffrey stayed with his grandparents in Sydney. Cooper T40 Bristol. (Jack Brabham Story)

So as can be seen there were a few familiar names that helped establish Jack Brabham in those early days in the UK – Whitehead, Chase, Cooper & Delamont. The Bristol marque also played its part with their engine and the Le Mans reserve driver gig. Through them, Jack Brabham, Jim Mayers & Mike Keen are also entwined with their 1955 Le Mans Bristol team involvement. Taking out 7th (Mayers), 8th (Keen) & 9th places behind Jaguar’s Mike Hawthorn, Ivor Bueb winning entry. It was all a taste of the next 15 years Jack would encounter in the highest levels of motor racing, including building more racing cars.

Etcetera…

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Jack shipped the Cooper Bristol home to Australia at the end of 1955, and in the saltbush country of the new Port Wakefield circuit, 100Km from Adelaide, won the 1955 Australian Grand Prix on 10 October. A lucky win from Reg Hunt’s ailing Maserati A6GCM and Doug Whiteford’s Talbot-Lago T26C. The first mid-engined AGP win. (unattributed)

Bibliography and Photo Credits…

‘The Jack Brabham Story’ Jack Brabham and Doug Nye, ‘Behind The Wheel’ David McKay, Bill Henderson

Finito…