Posts Tagged ‘Stirling Moss’

(unattributed)

‘It is not common for racing cars to be photographed from the rear- more usually from the side or front.
Here are a few rear views (or views of rears) from my archives’ – Bob.
Jack Saywell, above, in his only appearance at Bathurst in his 2.9 Alfa Romeo P3, Easter 1939.
He could do no better than 6th when his engine was reluctant to start after a pitstop to adjust the brakes. The photo below is from ‘The Magnificent Monopostos’ by Simon Moore- this pitstop one of several during the very hot 1939 AGP at Lobethal, the heat caused major tyre problems for the heavier cars which did not afflict winner Allan Tomlinson’s nimble, light MG TA Spl s/c, Jack was 6th again.

(GP Library)

My anal side, not dominant at all in normal life kicks in with a wonderful selection like this- I feel the need to pop in chassis numbers where I can- but I am going to resist given the time required to do so! Good ole Google works pretty well- ‘Jack Saywell Alfa Romeo P3 chassis number’ will give you anoraks a path to finding what you want, otherwise just enjoy these magnificent photographs from Bob’s archive, Mark.

(unattributed)

Paul Swedberg drove John Snow’s Delahaye 135CS to 2nd place at the Bathurst 1939 meeting, in John’s absence overseas. Paul’s own Offenhauser Midget, in which he was virtually unbeatable on the on speedways, was not entered.

(unattributed)

Ted McKinnon finished 13th in the 1953 Australian Grand Prix at Albert Park in his Maserati 6CM. Doug Whiteford won that day aboard the first of his two Talbot-Lago T23C’s.

(S Wills)

An unknown car exhibiting the disadvantages of a swing rear axle system. Something tells me that this is DW Stephenson in his DWS? Templestowe Hillclimb in outer eastern Melbourne, September 1954.

(S Wills)

Maserati’s chief mechanic Guerino Bertocchi is leaning into the cockpit of Moss’ victorious Maserati 250F at Albert Park during the AGP weekend in 1956.
Having debuted as a riding mechanic with Alfieri Maserati in the 1926 Targa Florio and subsequently being riding mechanic in thirteen Mille Miglias as well as the 12 Hour of Pescara, it has always saddened me that he should die in 1981 as a passenger to an American during a trial drive of a modern Maserati. Car enthusiast Peter Ustinov told an amusing story concerning Bertocchi. Guerino delivered a new Maserati road car to Ustinov in Switzerland and said to Peter “I don’t know who you are Senor Ustinov, but you must be important to have me, Bertocchi, delivering your car”.

(S Wills)

Reg Parnell enters Jaguar corner in his Ferrari Super Squalo during the same wonderful 1956 AGP weekend.
The 30mph sign would not have deterred him. It also serves to remind us that ridiculous speed limits are not a new phenomenon – this sign was at the start of Albert Park’s main straight.

(S Wills)

This photograph shows the large SU required to feed the highly modified supercharged Vincent engine in Lex Davison’s Cooper. Phil Irving was the designer and the modifier of this motor – still labelled H.R.D on its timing cover. Templestowe 1957.

(S Wills)

Stirling Moss in the Cooper T45 Climax FPF 2 litre, Melbourne Grand Prix, Albert Park, November 1958.
This photograph is taken during practice – the race was held on a hot day and the Cooper was denuded of much of its rear body work in an endeavour to keep the driver cool. The long shadows show that the photograph was taken in the early morning – I seem to recall that practice was at 6.30am.

In spite of the hour, note the huge crowd at Jaguar corner. In a previous post I have mentioned that Moss really only showed his sublime skill during the 1956 AGP when it began to rain with just six laps to go. On this morning Stirling was struggling with locking brakes and again demonstrated phenomenal car control – I was crowd marshalling at about the point from where this photograph was taken.

(S Wills)

Almost a rear view – note the missing engine cover to cope with the heat. Moss won the 32 lap, 100 mile race from Jack Brabham’s similar Cooper T45 Climax FPF, Doug Whiteford’s Maserati 300S and Bib Stillwell’s Maserati 250F.

Sadly this was the last race meeting at the ‘Park until the modern AGP era.

(S Wills)

Len Lukey (5th) in the Lukey Bristol tailing Bib Stilwell in the 250F Maserati through Jaguar corner in 1958.

(S Wills)

Ted Gray in the Tornado 2 Chev- again at Albert Park of course in 1958, Ted retired the Lou Abrahams car after completing only 4 laps.

(S Wills)

Len Lukey in the eponymous Lukey Bristol at Templestowe 23/3/1958 – or was it still called the Cooper T23 Bristol until it got its Vanwall inspired body?

(S Wills)

JW Philip in an Austin Healey at Templestowe on 20/04/1958. We know nothing of this car and driver.

(S Wills)

Jack French in a  Cooper Norton of only 499cc, but still good enough to break the magic (to me) 30 seconds. His time 28.15 Rob Roy, 1959. Coopers with various power plants were ‘King of the Hills’ in those days.

(S Wills)

At Templestowe in 1958; Bruce Walton in his Walton Cooper. Six times Australian Hillclimb Champion from 1958 to 1963.

(N Hammond)

And lastly, me at Rob Roy in my Type 35 Bugatti in 2008.
Credits…
Bob King Collection
References: ‘AGP – Howard et al’, Bathurst: Cradle of Australian Motor Racing John Medley, ‘ The Magnificient Monopostos’. Simon Moore. ‘Bugattis in Australia and New Zealand, 1920-2012. King and McGann
Tailpiece: Spiro (Steve) Chillianis, Rob Roy 1960, with some work to do …

(S Wills)

Car is the ex-Eddie Perkins rear engined Lancia Lambda Special, now fitted with an Austin A70 engine, or should we say ‘was fitted’. He recorded a time of 80.88 seconds- perhaps the ambulance broke the timing strip?
Finito…

(S Wills)

Stirling Moss was at his impeccable best in his works Maserati 250F in winning the 1956 Australian Grand Prix held over 250 miles at Albert Park, 2 December 1956…

With six laps remaining it suddenly rained and it was only then we saw what a true master Moss was- controlling his slipping and sliding car on the treacherous track with sublime skill.

Stirling is probably being interviewed by a journalist, or perhaps he is attending to an autograph? Known for his love of sleek cars, it is said he was not averse to sleek women. We think the young lady at right is his current friend. Does anyone have any clues as to her identity? What about the Moss wrist-watch, a distinctive part of his race apparel at the time- can any of you horologists advise us of make and model?

In the photograph below he may have been telling Reg Hunt, fourth and first local home in his 250F, how easy it was. Reg is already in street attire whilst Moss has not had a chance to change. We know the curly, dark headed boy is John Calligari, but who is the partially obscured driver on Reg’s left?

Look at all the boys, young and old, their eyes riveted on the man of the moment, or more particularly one of the two men of the era…

(S Wills)

Regular readers may recall the first of racer, restorer and author Bob King’s ‘Words from Werrangourt’ article a month ago. Bob has amassed an immense collection of photographs in sixty years of intense interest in motorsport which he is keen to share.

My traditional Sunday offering is a ‘quickie’- a few words and an image or two. This format will be used to gradually get the work of some wonderful photographers ‘out there’- fear not, there is enough to keep us going for a decade or so. And many thanks to Dr Bob!

Feature on the ’56 AGP…

https://primotipo.com/2016/12/27/moss-at-albert-park/

Credits…

Bob King Collection- photographer Spencer Wills

Finito…

 

(Popperfoto)

Stirling Moss does his thing…

Here he is gently hoisting Miss Heathrow, Carol Marshall, into the cockpit of Peter Wardle’s Lotus 59 Formula Ford outside the Savoy Hotel on 16 April 1970.

Its the press launch of the Johnson Wax Euro Formula Ford Trophy with Stirling present in his capacity as ‘Director of Racing for Johnson Wax’- Claude Bourgoigne won the 1970 championship in a Lotus 69F.

I was researching the winner of the series and found this gem by Marcus Mussa on tentenths.com. Its British Formula Ford and Formula Atlantic champion, Grovewood Award winner and ‘Vanwall’ Tony Vandervell heir Colin Vandervell providing his recollections of the 1970 ‘EFDA European Formula Ford Championship’ series- he was second in the ‘Magic Merlyn’, the Mk11A chassis also raced by Emerson Fittipaldi and Jody Scheckter.

Colin Vandervell pensive, atypical it seems (ESPN)

‘The series was run initially by Nick Brittan and I seem to remember Tony Dron was involved (maybe he was Nick Brittan’s assistant at the time). I spoke to Colin Vandervell, who is blessed with an incredible memory- who told me a bit about the 1970 season. The series was sponsored by Johnson Wax. First prize was a F3 Lotus, with Holbay engine and a full budget for 1971!
First round – Zandvoort. Nick Brittan would not let Colin enter as he considered him not experienced enough! Race was won by Tony Trimmer.
Second round – Zolder. Colin got in and finished 2nd, miles behind Claude Bourgoignie, thanks to a lot of cars dropping out/crashing etc.
Third round – Anderstorp. Colin won
Fourth round – Salzburgring. Colin won
Fifth round – Hockenheim. Colin finished 4th. The first 20 cars were inside and all over each other- no chicanes at the time! Colin describes the race as “highly dangerous”. He was in the lead for most of it with Trimmer then the main pack caught them two laps from the end and they were swamped.
After Hockenheim there was a hill-climb in Switzerland, which Bourgoignie won.
Then at Imola Colin was 1.5 secs quicker than anyone in practice but (Colin) Chapman arranged for a bunch of Lotus drivers to enter with instructions to take Colin out! At the first corner two Lotuses (Loti?) hit him, Mo Harness barrel rolled 15 times and ended up in a ditch, bits of his rear suspension ripping off one of Colin’s brake lines.
Imola and Hockenheim were very, very fast tracks at the time. Colin says he used a 25/25 (24/24?) top gear at these tracks, higher even than Silverstone.
The final was at Brands Hatch and Colin won again.
In the end Bourgoignie was champion by only 3 points by virtue of winning or being well placed every time. Colin is sure he would have won if Brittan had let him into the first race.
Colin was of course driving his Merlyn (ex Emerson Fittipaldi, future Jody Scheckter and Frank Sytner!). In those days FF ran on road tyres – Avon crossplies in the dry and Firestone radials in the wet (for the wealthier drivers!).’
1970 EFDA/Johnson Wax Series Results
I’ve included the full list to enable you to cast your eyes over the array of talent, many of whom came through into the professional ranks in the coming years if not F1.
1. Claude Bourgoigne (B) Lotus-Holday 69F
2. Colin Vandervell Merlyn-Rowland Mk11A
3. Tony Trimmer Lola-Steele T200
4. Tom Belso (DK) Hawke-Lloyd DL2A
5. Jac Nelleman (DK) McNamara-Steele
6. Ian Taylor March-Spence 708
7. Hans Meier (A) Hawke-BRM L2A
8.Peter Lamplough Palliser-BR MWDF2
9. Brian Nelson (IRL) Crossle Nelson 16F
10. Huub Vermeulen (NL) Lotus-Holbay 61M
11. Tom Strous (DK) Lotus-Holbay 61M
Charles Carling Crossle Lucas 16F
Bob Evans Palliser-BRM WDF2
Derek Lawrence Titan-Lucas Mk6
Hakan Dahlqvist (S) Lotus-Holbay 61M
Peter Wardle Lotus-Holbay 69F
Vern Schuppan Palliser BRM WFD2
Mike Fraser Royale-RP RP3
Giancarlo Naddeo (I) De Sanctis
Mo Harness Lotus-Holbay 69F
Theo Koks (NL) Lotus Holbay 61M
Crystal Palace F3 Final, 10 September 1971…
Before and after!
The plunge for the lead coming into the kink before North Tower. Jody Scheckter, Merlyn Mk21 Ford, Dave Walker, Lotus 69 Ford and on the right Colin Vandervell, Brabham BT35 Ford. Jody has plunged down the inside just as Walker popped out of Vandervell’s slipstream with the Lotus and Merlyn about to lock wheels- all three cars made contact.
Roger Williamson won that day in Tom Wheatcroft’s March 713M Ford.

(unattributed)

Walker, Scheckter, Vandervell- the long walk home! (unattributed)

Check out this summary of Colin Vandervell’s career written by Andrew Marriott…

http://en.espn.co.uk/f1/motorsport/story/9325.html

Photo and other credits…

Popperfoto, ESPN, f3history.co.uk

Finito…

image

Stirling Moss guides his works Jaguar C Type through Fordwater on his way to 5th place at Goodwood sharing with 1951 Le Mans winner Peter Walker…

Britain’s first night race took take place at Goodwood on 16 August 1952. The British Automobile Racing Club hoped to emulate the commercial success of Le Mans, that classic a race of 24 hours duration of course.

The Goodwood enduro was a 9 hour event with a 3pm start to allow the spectators to see the cars in all their spectacular glory in the half light and full darkness.

Modifications were made to the circuits infrastructure by fitting floodlights to illuminate the grandstands and pits, the kerbs were given a coat of luminous paint and a beer tent was laid on, although due to post-war licensing laws it had to stop serving grog before the race ended! Sponsorship and plenty of pre-event publicity was provided by ‘The News of The World’ newspaper inclusive of £2,500 in prize money which represented a powerful incentive for the ‘local’ works teams and privateers to enter in force.

Jaguar and Aston Martin entered three car teams of C-types and DB3’s in the field of 32 cars. Both teams had much to prove. The C-Types were quick at Le Mans in June but all three cars retired with engine cooling related issues. The new Ferrari 250S and Mercedes Benz W194’s had been faster than the Jags, victorious at Le Mans in 1951, at the Mille Miglia in May. As a consequence Jaguar had designed a more aerodynamic body with a slightly smaller radiator. Jag’s cooling problems became apparent in practice, despite hasty modifications, solutions were not found pre-race. Peter Whitehead/Ian Stewart retired with a failed head gasket during the second hour, Stirling Moss/Peter Walker with engine problems in the third and the remaining Tony Rolt/Duncan Hamilton car with a head gasket failure in the fourth hour.

Le Mans 1952: #26 the Poore/Griffith Aston DB3 Spyder alongside the Parnell/Thompson DB3 Coupe, all three factory cars DNF (unattributed)

The new Aston DB3 ‘Spyders’ also failed to finish- Dennis Poore/Pat Griffith in the third hour with water pump failure and Lance Macklin/Peter Collins towards the finish with an accident in the twenty-second hour of the long, unforgiving race. The works DB3 Coupe driven by Parnell/Thompson retired in the second hour with gearbox dramas. The ’52 Le Mans was won by the Benz W194- Hermann Lang and Fritz Riess from the the sister car of Theo Helfrich and Helmut Niedermayr.

The chance to make a good showing on home turf was therefore ‘manna from heaven’.

Jaguar used the same driver combinations they deployed in France whilst Aston’s pairings were Reg Parnell with Eric Thompson, Peter Collins and Pat Griffith and George Abecassis with Dennis Poore.

Other strong entries included Pierre Levegh’s Talbot-Lago T26GS, famously for being so nearly the winner driving solo at Le Mans in 1952 before missing a gear very late in the race. Ferrari 225S’ were entered for Tom Cole/Graham Whitehead and Bobbie Baird/Roy Salvadori, a works Allard J2X for Anthony Hume and George Thomas plus a swag of Healey Silverstone, Frazer Nash Le Mans Rep, Jag XK120, Cooper T14 MG, HRG and HWM cars. In short, an interesting field that lacked only works Ferrari and Mercedes entries.

image

At the start Moss, at right, as usual, won the sprint to his car, but Tony Rolt, to Moss’ right led on lap one, but he was soon overtaken by Parnell’s Aston…

At the end of the first hour the order was Parnell, Rolt, Abecassis, Moss and Baird, Ferrari 225S, then Whitehead.

Then the weather started to improve and as the track dried, the Jaguar’s pace became apparent with both Rolt and Moss passing Parnell. So, Jag, Jag, Jag, Aston, but then Whitehead crashed his C Type.

Disaster struck the Feltham team on lap 91 during a routine refuelling pit stop when Parnell’s car caught fire, burning two of the crew and team manager John Wyer. Parnell showed great leadership and strength of character, whilst his race drive was over he stood in for the injured Wyer to take over the critical team management role.

Eric Thompson came into the pits 3 hours into the race with smoke pouring from the rear of the car. Wyer and mechanic Jack Sopp pulled up the seats to investigate whilst Fred Lowndes refuelled. Spilt fuel from the last churn went onto the tail of the car and ran down onto the undertray where it was ignited by hot oil from a leaking fuel seal- within seconds the car was engulfed in flames and smoke. Wyer and Sopp suffered bad burns, Lowndes not so much but all 3 were taken to hospital whereupon Reg Parnell took charge. Aston DB3/3 was destroyed- and later rebuilt, Parnell, drove it to 5th in the 1953 Mille Miglia (unattributed)

 

At half distance the Moss/Walker Jaguar C Type led from the sister XKC of Rolt/Hamilton. The third C-type had crashed at Madgwick and retired whilst the DB3 of Abecassis/Poore had also dropped out of contention.

By 9pm the drivers had switched their headlights on, the spectacle of racing at Goodwood at night was fantastic but within half an hour of that a half shaft broke on the Rolt/Hamilton C Type which , allowed the remaining Aston of Collins/Griffith through, that car was then overtaken by the quick Ferrari 225S driven by Bobby Baird and Roy Salvadori.

Half an hour later Jaguar’s collapse was complete when the leading Moss/Walker car entered the pits with a broken rear radius arm that would take nearly an hour to repair. It is said that Jaguar boss Sir William Lyons was blissfully ignorant of all of the dramas which befell his team as he had retired to Goodwood House from the pitlane to enjoy what appeared to be a certain win!

image

The doomed Parnell/Thompson Aston DB3/3 earlier in the race prior to its demise (Getty)

In a race of rapidly changing fortunes the Baird/Salvadori Ferrari 225S had gone from from 4th to 1st in little more than an hour, but in a final twist of fate, on its last pit stop, the jack intended to lift the car sank into the patch of tarmac, softened by the earlier Aston DB3 fire! The loss of time was sufficient to let the Collins/Griffith DB3 into the lead with just an hour of the race to run. That pairing duly won despite an exhaust valve breaking an hour before the events end, from the two privateer Ferrari 225S’ driven by Cole/Whitehead and Baird/Salvadori.

Collins in the winning Aston DB3 early in the race (unattributed)

The Telegraph reported that ‘The Nine Hour had all the ingredients of a classic race; the changing weather, the drama of the pit fire and a dramatic fight for the lead, not to mention the fact that so many of the cars were competing on home soil. Yet the spectators were distinctly unmoved, many only arriving once the night racing began, and few staying for the duration. These were people who attended Goodwood for a grand day out – a nine-hour endurance race, where the leader wasn’t always obvious, was simply too long’.

‘When the Nine Hour race returned the following year it did so without any newspaper sponsorship to offer pre-event coverage. Spectators numbers fell as a result and with them the carnival atmosphere that made Le Mans such a success. Those who did go frequently left when it got dark, defeating the event’s raison d’être. It didn’t matter that the racing was first class (Aston would win again in ’53 and, after the race skipped a year, scored a third victory at what would be the last Nine Hour race in ’55) if nobody was there watching it. Perhaps the British will always see night racing as too good an excuse for a holiday abroad.’ the Telegraph concluded.

There was no World Sportscar or Manufacturers Championship in 1952, that competition started in 1953. However the classic race spoils went to Mercedes Benz W194/300SL at Le Mans and the Carrera Panamericana with a Ferrari 250S victorious at the Mille Miglia and a Lancia Aurelia B20 at the Targa Florio

Vaino Hollming Jag XK120 leads Pierre Levegh Talbot-Lago T26GS then the Lawrence Mitchell Frazer Nash High Speed, Goodwood 9 Hour (Getty)

Aston Martin DB3 Technical Specifications…

Ex-Auto Union design team member Robert Eberan-Eberhorst first worked for ERA when he come to the UK post-war. He was contracted for 3 years from November 1930 to design a sports-racer for Astons which was to use the AML LMB 2.6 litre 6 cylinder engine and a David Brown 5 speed gearbox.

He chose a period typical ladder frame chassis design, the main members made from 16 guage, 4 inch chrome-molybdenum tubes with substantial cross bracing by three 14 guage 5 inch tubes.

Front suspension was similar to the DB2- trailing links, transverse torsion bars, piston type shocks and a roll bar. At the rear a more sophisticated De Dion rear axle was deployed. This was constructed from three steel sections welded together and was located by a Panhard Rod and parallel locating links. The upper links ran fore and aft, the lower links angled. Each of the lower links engaged by serrations with a transverse torsion bar. Armstrong double piston dampers were used. The car weighed circa 2165 pounds/980Kg with 9 gallons of fuel.

(Autocar)

Steering was by rack and pinion with 2 turns lock to lock, brakes were Al-fin drums, inboard at the rear. Spoked wire wheels were of course used with Rudge-Whitworth knock-off hubs.

The DB3 first raced in 2580cc form, with triple 35DCO Weber twin-choke carburettors. The alloy, DOHC, 2 valve head engine developed 133bhp @ 5500rpm. The gearbox was a DB S527, 5 speed with overdrive top gear, from July 1952 a DB S430/63R 4 speed box was used.

Into 1952 the engines ran Weber 36DCF carbs making 140bhp @ 5200rpm, still way too little. By the 1952 Monaco GP a 2922cc engine developed 147bhp @5000rpm but any increase in capacity of the LB6 engine was impossible as each pair of bores were siamesed.

163bhp was achieved from an engine with 35DCO twin-choke Webers and connecting rods with offset big ends at the Goodwood 9 Hour in 1952.

Bibliography…

Article by Chris Knapman in ‘The Telegraph’ April 2011, ‘Aston Martin: The Racing Cars’ Anthony Pritchard

Photo Credits…

Getty Images, Klemantaski Archive, Don Price, Autocar

Tailpiece…

image

hawt hill

I don’t think of Mike Hawthorn as a Lotus driver but here he is with Graham Hill, rather similar in age, they were both born in 1929…

Amazing really, grafter Hill worked hard to get into motor racing, his GP career started not long before Hawthorn’s finished and went well into the 1970’s, not to forget Graham’s Le Mans and Indy wins of course. Mike’s racing entree was smoothed by his fathers wealth, it’s intriguing to guess what he may have achieved had he raced on into the 1960’s and applied his considerable skills to Chapman’s works of Lotus art.

Both Hill and Hawthorn are English to the core albeit completely different charcters. And personalities they certainly were. It’s a wonderful shot.

image

Hawthorn, Lotus 11 Climax, Oulton Park, Cheshire April 1955 (Popperfoto)

The event or reason for the Hill/Hawthorn shot is unrecorded but dated 12 April 1956 as is the photo of Hawthorn with Stirling Moss below. Its dated 11 May 1953, i am interested if anybody can assist with the places and occasions…

hawt moss

Credits…

Getty/Manchester Daily Express, Popperfoto

image

There is no such thing as too many shots of the great Brit in a Maserati 250F, and I have posted a few…

According to the photo caption the meeting is on 7 June 1954 at Goodwood. The meeting’s F1 race was the ‘BARC Trophy’, Reg Parnell won it in a Scuderia Ambrosiana Ferrari 625, but Moss wasn’t entered, so, a bit of a mystery.

Perhaps it’s the ‘Goodwood Trophy’ on 25 September 1954, he won that event in 250F #2508 and carried his #7 personal preference race number.

Credit…

Universal Images Group

moss 1

(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.’

moss 3

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.

moss 2

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)