TeamsCooper Car Company: 1958 Formula One Season By Jeremy McMullen
Throughout the decade of the 1950s, there was really only one national that was routinely successful within the new Formula One World Championship. Those cars would come adorned in red. However, a small car manufacturer from Surbiton would help to change all that, signaling the beginning of an era in Formula One that remains to this very day.
Tony Vandervell had done much to remove the stain of embarrassment suffered by the British people as it naively hoped in the BRM project. Vandervell's Vanwalls had taken on the best from Italy and had come away victorious, earning victory in none other than the British Grand Prix in 1957, the first for a British manufacturer in the British round of the Formula One World Championship. The Vanwalls were certainly fast, and seemingly the only make of car from England capable of taking the fight to the red cars from Italy.
However, new regulations would come into play for the 1958 season. They would be aimed almost squarely at the Vanwalls. But while they would potentially make one British entrant weaker, another would come into its strength.
Cooper had made a name for himself building cars for the lower formulas of racing. Within the 500 category there was really only one brand of car to have. It was as if Cooper was the unofficial car supplier for the series. But John and his team wouldn't stop there. They would soon build upon the 500 chassis, making a bigger example of the rear-engined machine for Formula 2.
The direction was simple. At the start of the 1950s Raymond Mays had promised the British public a car on par with that of the pre-war Silver Arrows from Mercedes and Auto Union. This approach meant a car based around the engine. Instead of sleek, nimble machines, the pre-war Silver Arrows, and the BRM that would come later, would all feature large, powerful engines in a front-engine configuration.
Resources being limited, Cooper would look to another approach to become competitive. Instead of a big, powerful engines, which British manufacturers were struggling to make, at least reliable examples, Cooper would turn his attentions toward innovation. Enzo Ferrari would place all of his importance in the engine. Innovative features, like disc brakes, were seen as secondary items that were not entirely necessary if the car was driven by the right driver. Cooper would look at the engine as secondary, if the car was light and nimble enough to make up the performance difference.
Therefore, while the red machines from Italy would sport large engines at the front of the car, Cooper would continue his efforts building a rear-engined car that was small, and therefore, light and nimble. The rear-engine arrangement enable Cooper's cars to have superior balance making them incredibly agile. Therefore, on more twisty circuits the Cooper would have an advantage in handling and wouldn't, therefore, need a big powerful engine to make up the difference.
This concept had been put to the test in the Monaco Grand Prix the year before. Jack Brabham had been at the wheel of a Formula 2 Cooper. Against the likes of Juan Manuel Fangio, Stirling Moss and Mike Hawthorn, Brabham ended up the race in 6th place, but had ran as high as 3rd over the course of the race. The concept of the rear-engined car certainly appeared to be proven. However, no one would realize just how proven the concept would be until the early part of the '58 season.
Finances being what they were, Cooper Car Company would not make the trip across the Atlantic to take part in the first round of the '58 Formula One World Championship, which was the Argentine Grand Prix. However, the company would be well represented with Rob Walker's privateer team running a T43 for Stirling Moss.
Moss would be driving the lone Cooper in the field and would be going up against a field made up almost entirely of old Maserati 250Fs and the newer Ferrari Dino 246s. In fact, other than the Walker Cooper, there would be no other car in the field built outside of Italy.
However, Moss would use the strengths of the Cooper to his advantage and would come away with a surprise victory, the first for a rear-engined car in a Formula One World Championship round.
The victory in Argentina would seem more of an anomaly than something that could be regularly expected. Vanwall wasn't present, the conditions weren't as hot as expected…there were a lot of reasons why the surprise wouldn't last. But then there were those that weren't surprised at all. In fact, the new regulations actually played into the hands of the Cooper.
The exotic, alcohol-based, fuels would be banned for 1958. The avgas fuel would be a concern for cars, like the 250F and the Vanwall that used the alcohol fuels for cooling purposes. This was not a concern for the Coopers. Furthermore, race distances would be shortened to right around two hours. The longer race distances had scared away privateers running Formula 2-type cars, like the Cooper, as they had shown unreliability over those distances. However, the short race distances opened the door to cars, like the Cooper. But there was one more advantage Cooper had in play.
Cooper had shown well in 1957 driving in certain races with an engine under 2.0-liters. Cooper continued its close relationship with Coventry and would have engines with displacements larger than 2.0-liters to use. This would close the performance gap even more.
No doubt encouraged and spurred on by Moss' achievement in Argentina, the Cooper Car Company would look to the beginning of its 1958 season, which would start in a rather normative place.
The '58 season would start for Cooper Car Company at a former auxiliary fighter airfield that had been attached to RAF Tangmere during the Second World War. The site was Goodwood and the event was the well-known Easter Monday Races which, in 1958, would be held on the 7th of April.
On that very same day, Maurice Trintignant would drive a Cooper entered by Rob Walker to victory around the tight and twisty streets of Pau. Hundreds of miles north, Jack Brabham would take victory at the wheel of a factory Cooper in the Formula 2 Lavant Cup race and would be readying himself, right alongside Roy Salvadori and Ian Burgess, for the 6th Glover Trophy race, a 42 lap race around the 2.38 mile Goodwood circuit.
The Glover Trophy race would provide an early glimpse of just where the Coopers stacked up against the competition. It would be an opportunity to see whether or not Moss' victory in Buenos Aires was for real or not. This would be possible as a result of Mike Hawthorn being present with a lone Ferrari Dino 246. It was just one Ferrari, but when combined with the other Maseratis in the field, it did offer at least a little glimpse to the future.
Moss would help the cause in practice. Despite the cold conditions, that included blustery winds and even some sleet, Moss, who would be at the wheel of another of Rob Walker's Coopers, would end up on pole. Jean Behra would earn 2nd on the grid driving a BRM 25. Then would come Hawthorn in the Ferrari. The final spot on the four—wide front row would end up going to Jack Brabham driving a T45 with an enlarged engine. Salvadori would end up on the second row of the grid while Burgess would be one row further back.
The start of the race would see Moss stall his car and Behra springboard into the lead. Meanwhile, Brabham followed along behind Hawthorn and Moss would be on the charge after receiving a push-start. Salvadori was not too far behind his Cooper teammate while Burgess was a little further down in the order, but still representing himself well.
Behra would lead the way while his BRM teammate would already be in the pits as a result of brake problems. This should have been a sign to Behra, but he would have little time to prepare himself as brake problems would lead to him missing a turning-in point and would result in the BRM crashing against a concrete wall. Amazingly, Behra would not be harmed besides some bruises. This handed the lead to Hawthorn in the Ferrari who would have Brabham trailing along a little ways behind in 2nd place.
Brabham appeared the greatest threat to Hawthorn. However, Moss would be on the charge and would be looming large with half a race still to go. Unfortunately, Moss had pushed a little too hard in his Cooper and an engine failure would end his race. This handed 2nd place back to Brabham and Salvadori would be on the move taking over 3rd place. Burgess would still be in the running inside of the top ten, but would not be able to match the pace of his Cooper teammates.
Hawthorn would set the fastest lap of the race and this would prove to be too much for the Coopers chasing. Hawthorn would average nearly 95mph en route to victory. This would be more than enough to give the Ferrari pilot a 36 second margin by the time Brabham came flashing across the line to finish in 2nd place. Hawthorn's pace would be such that Salvadori would not be able to remain on the lead lap. Finishing a lap down, Salvadori would still perform well by finishing in 3rd place giving Cooper two cars in the top three. Burgess would also hold on. He would end up two laps down by the end but would manage an 8th place finish.
Based upon the results from the Glover Trophy race, it seemed as though the victory in Argentina had been something of an anomaly. However, the season was just getting started, and the fact Cooper ended the race with two of its drivers on the podium suggested the season could hold some more surprises.
Cooper's factory effort would remain a mainstay in Formula 2 throughout the 1958 season. However, the non-championship Formula One events would also see a large influx of Coopers in the starting field. One of those that would be flush with Cooper chassis would be the 13th BARC ‘200' event held at Aintree on the 19th of April.
Aintree, back in 1955, had been the site of the first Cooper chassis to take part in a Formula One World Championship event. Jack Brabham had a specially-built Cooper with a Bobtail sportscar chassis and a rear-engine arrangement. This debut would not go all that well. However, in 1958, the BARC ‘200' race would be overrun with open-wheel Coopers. Cooper was producing the car to have in Formula 2. What's more, improvement in engine displacement was also making it a major contender in Formula One as well. Therefore, the field for the non-championship race, which would include a Formula One and Formula 2 race running concurrently, would be absolutely filled with Cooper chassis.
Cooper itself would enter three cars in the race. There would be two cars entered in the Formula One category and a single entry for Formula 2. Jack Brabham and Roy Salvadori would be tasked with driving in the Formula One category. The young Bruce McLaren would be given the task of representing Cooper Car Company within Formula 2.
Aintree suited the Coopers much better than what Goodwood had. The 3.0 mile circuit was much more technically-minded and this aided the better-balanced Cooper. This would be demonstrated by the very close practice times. Less than a second would cover the whole of the front row. Jean Behra would end up on the pole in a BRM. His best would be 1:59.8 and would be just four-tenths of a second quicker than Roy Salvadori in 2nd place. Salvadori would be impressive as he would beat out Moss by another four-tenths. Moss would line up 3rd, in the final spot on the front row. Brabham would end up on the second row of the grid while McLaren would be off the pace by a couple of seconds within the Formula 2 category. He would end up on the seventh row of the grid in the 16th position overall.
The start of the 67 lap BARC ‘200' would take place under overcast skies and very cold conditions. This time, Moss would get away well and would lead the way over Behra, Salvadori and Brabham. Moss continued in the lead while Brabham soon took over 3rd place from Salvadori and began pressuring the BRM. This would be an incredible battle that would take a number of laps to sort out. Brabham would eventually get the position ahead of the BRM, but it would allow Moss to extend his lead over the field. Further back, McLaren would be steadily making his way forward, helped out in no small way by the struggles of some of the other Formula One runners.
Behra's effort would come to naught once again. Brakes would again be the culprit. Salvadori would also drop off the pace slightly and this made him vulnerable to attacks from Tony Brooks in one of the Formula 2 Coopers. Brooks was absolutely flying in his Cooper and he was easily pulling out an advantage over Stuart Lewis-Evans and Harry Schell running in 2nd and 3rd in Formula 2. McLaren would be struggling in his Cooper. He would be moving up the order but he would soon run out of motivation and would be well back within the Formula 2 field.
Brabham, on the other hand, would not be laying back. Moss' Cooper was suddenly displaying sounds of an unhealthy gearbox. It was barely conceivable he would make it to the end of the race, let alone hang on for a win, but Stirling wasn't about to give up on the ship. Lap after lap he would nurse his Rob Walker Cooper around. Brabham would be gaining, but not as much as one might have expected.
Salvadori would lose his position to Brooks. McLaren was stuck outside the top ten overall. Cooper's only real hope rested with Brabham running in 2nd place. Despite a super-human effort by Moss, the gearbox in his Cooper was quickly falling apart. A lap or two from the checkered flag, the Australian would be all over the back of Moss' own T45. Moss would hold him off through the penultimate lap, but it seemed highly unlikely heading around on the final lap of the race.
Everyone expected to see the track showed with bits of metal. Still, Moss nursed the car around. Heading into the final corner, Brabham was about to make his way past Moss. There was literally nothing left in the gearbox. But there was only a matter of a couple hundred yards to the finish. Brabham could take victory. He could see it and sense it. But Moss had been in this position before. It would matter little if the gearbox held together to finish second. So Moss would stand on it coming out of the final corner. He would ask everything of the gearbox. The Cooper would get sideways and would actually slow Brabham a little. Stirling would keep his foot on it as the two raced to the line. To the amazement of nearly everybody, the gearbox would hold together and Moss would clip Brabham by two-tenths of a second to take the win. It was an incredible last dash to the finish. Cooper would lose, but it would be a remarkable finish that just had to be appreciated nonetheless.
From the excitement of Brabham finishing in 2nd, Cooper would have to wait another 30 seconds before Salvadori came around to finish in 4th place overall and 3rd in Formula One. It would not be an especially good day for McLaren. Finishing more than three laps behind, the New Zealander would come across the line a very distant 13th overall and 7th within Formula 2.
Though Cooper's factory effort would come up short in both categories, it would still be an incredible sight looking down the results sheet. The top six cars would all be Coopers and just three out of the top thirteen would be chassis from a different auto-maker! It was clear Cooper was making a huge impression within open-wheel racing. They were certainly leading a revolution.
The results in the BARC ‘200' would have to be kept in perspective, at least that it was those on the continent would say. The field at Aintree consisted of just a couple of older Maserati 250Fs and none of the new Ferraris. The next race on the calendar, however, would provide a more balanced look. Once again, Scuderia Ferrari would dispatch a single Ferrari Dino 246 to England. It was for Peter Collins to drive. It was for the 10th edition of the BRDC International Trophy race on the 3rd of May and would provide an intriguing early look at an upcoming round of the World Championship.
The International Trophy race would be held for the first time in 1949 and that would come, as had those to follow, at Silverstone, an abandoned bomber training base situated near the villages of Silverstone and Whittlebury and straddling the Northamptonshire and Buckinghamshire border. Since that very first race in 1949, the BRDC International Trophy race had come to define Silverstone. Not only would the race only take place at the circuit, but it would give Formula One the iconic circuit layout that would be famous for decades to come.
The International Trophy race would be similar to the BARC ‘200' in that it would feature a Formula One and Formula 2 race running concurrently. It would also feature a change from its traditional format of two heat races and a final. Instead, the race would be 50 laps of the 2.92 mile circuit.
Cooper Car Company would bring just two cars to the race. They would be a couple of T45s entered for Roy Salvadori and Jack Brabham. These two would be going up against another gaggle of privately-entered Coopers and other machinery like the Lotus 12, BRM 25, Maserati 250F and Ferrari Dino 246.
Salvadori would be spectacular in practice. Despite the high average speeds around the Silverstone circuit, Salvadori would prove the top man taking the pole. The lap times between the first couple of rows of the grid would be incredibly close as just two seconds would be the difference. Besides Salvadori on pole, Brabham would delight the Cooper team earning the 2nd spot on the grid. This was remarkable, especially considering the fact Moss would line up 3rd in another Cooper and Peter Collins would complete the front row in the only Ferrari.
Unlike the last couple of races, the weather would be bright and sunny. Moss would again stall at the start and Collins would not. Collins would jump into the lead with Jean Behra and Ron Flockhart giving chase in the BRMs. The Coopers would not have the best start. Masten Gregory would also managed to get ahead of the two at the start and Brabham would be in 5th place while Salvadori would be right behind in 6th.
This didn't seem right after the two factory Coopers started from the first two spots on the grid. This would begin to be rectified when Brabham made his way past Gregory for 4th place and would begin to harass Flockhart for 3rd. Salvadori would find getting by Gregory to be more difficult.
Behra would take over the lead of the race until he was struck in the goggles by a rock that had been kicked-up. This would cut the Frenchman and would force him into the pits for a new set of goggles. Collins would be back in the lead, but would have Brabham all over him. Salvadori, meanwhile, would still be stuck back in the pack slightly. He would eventually get by Gregory and would even make his way by Flockhart, but it had taken him too long in order to keep in touch with his teammate.
Brabham pressed hard but could do little against Collins in the Ferrari. The Brit in the red machine would begin turning fast lap after fast lap and would pull out an advantage on Brabham that would prove insurmountable. Jack was still looking good, but there would soon be a misfire in the Climax engine and he would be forced to pit to have the plugs changed.
Collins was out front and pulling away. Salvadori had lost out to Flockhart once again, but the Cooper driver was still in a strong position. Brabham would rejoin the race, but would be down in 5th place overall, helped out by the retirements of Moss, Brooks and others.
Salvadori would need to get by Flockhart to try and challenge the Ferrari. This he would do. The race would change right then and there for Flockhart as he would crash his BRM out of the race. Salvadori was clearly in 2nd place, but was too far adrift to challenge Collins in the Ferrari.
Collins would cruise to victory finishing more than 23 seconds ahead of Salvadori in the Cooper. It would cause many to wonder what might have been if Salvadori had not been slowed up trying to get by Flockhart and Gregory during the earlier part of the race. This, of course, would be secondary to thoughts of what if Brabham had not run into trouble. Speaking of Brabham, the Australian would manage to finish the race a lap down in 5th place. This would be a disappointing, and yet, still good result considering the plugs in the Climax engine needed to be replaced.
It was now May and that meant the Monaco Grand Prix was right around the corner. The Formula One World Championship was about to resume after more than a couple of months hiatus. And, as the teams prepared for the second round of the championship on the 18th of May, it was clear the tiny Coopers were going to be in play so much more than what they had been the year before, especially around the 1.95 mile Monte Carlo street circuit that benefited a smartly-balanced car with good handling.
To say Cooper had its best chance of the season on the streets of Monaco would be something of an understatement. Measuring just 1.95 miles, the circuit was by no means a high-speed circuit and was not long enough for top speeds to even be approached. What was very important was acceleration and braking. But the biggest premium a driver longed for to be fast around the street circuit was a balanced car that inspired confidence. Light, the Cooper had acceleration and braking under control. Nimble, the Cooper had balance and handling firmly within its corner. This circuit was ideal and practically tailor-made for the Cooper.
Cooper would recognize this, as would Rob Walker. The factory Cooper effort would send two cars for Jack Brabham and Roy Salvadori. Though they had been upstaged by Ferrari in their two encounters in non-championship events on English soil, it seemed for sure that the tables had been turned in the south of France, in this tiny principality overlooking the Mediterranean. This would never be proven more true than in practice.
Not all would be as serene as the backdrop for Cooper. John Cooper would make a flying trip to Nice for there, waiting for him, would be the latest Climax engine. This particular engine was increased to 2.2-liters and certainly offered more power. There would be just one and no room for it. Therefore, John would have the engine placed on the backseat of the car he was driving and he would race-off to Monaco with the prized new engine.
Tony Brooks would end up the fastest over the course of the practice sessions taking the pole in the Vanwalls with a lap time of 1:39.8. Starting right beside him on the front row would be Jean Behra in one of the BRMs. The final spot on the front row would end up going to Brabham in one of the Coopers. His best lap time in practice would be just over a second slower than Brooks. But what would be very interesting and telling from practice would be the fact that Salvadori would end up posting the very same lap time as Brabham. Because Jack would set the time first, he would start 3rd. Salvadori would be relegated to the second row of the grid and 4th overall, but this would still result in the two factory Coopers starting in the top four.
The day of the race would see brilliant sunshine pouring down all over the circuit. This would bring an immense crowd out to the principality awaiting the prince and princess to conclude the pre-race festivities and to set the stage for the 100 lap race.
Following the mandatory drivers' meeting, the pilots would take their places behind the wheel and would prepare for the start of the race. And, at the drop of the flag, Salvadori would make an incredible start from the second row of the grid and would vying for the top spot heading into the tight Gazometre Hairpin. Unfortunately, Salvadori would have too much speed going into the turn and would go straight on, forcing him to have to wait until the whole of the field passed before he could right the ship and set back off. Sadly, there would be contact with another car as well and this meant Salvadori limped around the circuit dead-last when he had been within reach of the lead. This handed the lead of the race to Behra in the BRM who was then followed by Brooks in the Vanwall. Brabham would look strong making it through the first lap of the race in 3rd place ahead of Moss and the fleet of Ferraris.
Though Brabham would get away well at the start of the race, Mike Hawthorn would be the man on the move in the early going. He would charge his way up to 2nd place by the 25th lap. At the same time, Brabham would steadily fall down the running order. Things had looked good for Cooper at the start of the race, but by the quarter-distance mark both of its factory efforts would be running at the tail-end of the field lucky to be still in the race.
Brabham struggled with some early problems and would actually end up dead-last during the early part of the race. Salvadori had been repaired from his first lap trouble, but was not up to speed compared to his efforts in practice. Both were still in the race, but further back.
Behra led the way during the early going and looked strong until more brake trouble taken the lead from his hands. Hawthorn would now be in the lead and suddenly looking untouchable. Brabham was finding his way again and steadily making his way forward after falling to last. Past the halfway mark he would be up to 8th and following Salvadori. However, he was going to get a boost up the order by his teammate as the trouble suffered by Salvadori would finally come home to roost ending his day.
Salvadori's retirement lifted Brabham closer to the points. He would be even closer when Hawthorn retired with the race firmly within his grasp. Maurice Trintignant was now in the lead of the race in the Rob Walker Cooper. Could it be the privateer could win two rounds of the World Championship in a row?
Trintignant carried on in the lead of the race, capable of keeping the margin over Luigi Musso steady. Jo Bonnier would retire, as would Wolfgang Von Trips. Suddenly, Brabham, who had been dead-last at one point, was now up to 4th place and looking on course for a strong result, possible even a podium if something happened to any of the others.
Trintignant would enjoy being gifted his second Monaco Grand Prix win. The first had come in 1955. Now, as he appeared around Tabac, with more than 20 seconds in hand, the Frenchman would enjoy his second. They were the only two victories he had achieved in the Formula One World Championship and they had come at the crowning race. Luigi Musso would finish a quiet 2nd while Peter Collins would be even more anonymous crossing the line in 3rd. Brabham's earlier problems would cost him dearly. Trintignant had won the race in a Cooper with a slightly smaller engine. Here was the Australian crossing the line more than three laps behind in 4th. It was a good result, no doubt. But it was still disappointing in many ways. Of course, it would not be as disappointing as Salvadori's race, in which he had thrown away a possible points-paying result as well.
Another Cooper had won a Formula One race, but it was the wrong Cooper. The Cooper Car Company had come to Monaco with high hopes. It would leave desperately wanting a top result to prove itself amongst the other Cooper customer teams.
Barely more than a week after the disappointing Monaco Grand Prix, the Cooper Car Company would be making final preparations for its assault on the Dutch Grand Prix held at Zandvoort. The team had seen great potential thrown away at the first turn in Monaco. Now, on the 26th of May, the team would be looking for a bit of redemption.
Zandvoort was not like Monaco in almost every single way. The Monaco circuit was slow and twisty. Zandvoort would be fast and daring. Blowing sand from the surrounding dunes would make the circuit quite difficult and was about the only thing blowing in Cooper's favor as a good handling car would be important in such conditions.
The conditions, come the conclusion of practice, would prove ideal for the Vanwalls. The Vanwalls would take full advantage of the cooler conditions by sweeping the front row of the grid. Stuart Lewis-Evans would end up on the pole having beat out Stirling Moss by some nine-tenths of a second. Tony Brooks would complete the sweep qualifying just a tenth off of Moss.
Brabham would make good use of the increased engine size. In practice he would use the good handling of the Cooper to be steady and smooth around the 2.60 mile circuit, an absolute must for a car lacking the horsepower of the Vanwall. When it was all said and done, the Australian would complete the practice sessions within a second and a half of Lewis-Evans' pole time and would end up 5th on the grid, starting from the second row. Salvadori would be a little adrift of his teammate lapping a little less than a second slower. The seven-tenths of a second would prove a big differences as Salvadori would end up down on the fourth row of the grid in the 9th starting spot.
The Dutch Grand Prix would be held on the 26th of May, which was a Monday. It was even more windy and suggested there would be a great deal of drama unfold over the course of the 75 lap race. However, the race would prove over before the cars even reached the first turn on the very first lap.
In front of an immense crowd, the flag would drop to start the Dutch Grand Prix. Stirling Moss would get the jump at the start and would lead the way heading into the first turn. Behind him, Lewis-Evans would be holding onto 2nd place, but only just over Harry Schell in one of the BRMs. Schell's leaping up the order meant Brabham and Salvadori would be sitting right around 6th and 7th places at the end of the first lap. This would not be all that bad for being the start of the race, especially given what had happened barely a week earlier.
Schell would be on the move. He would make his way by Lewis-Evans after around a dozen laps. The BRM would now be up to 2nd place. Salvadori would do his best to follow. He would get by Jean Behra and Tony Brooks for 4th place. Brabham, meanwhile, would find himself suffering a similar course. He would begin slipping down the order and would be fighting hard to remain in the top ten by the halfway mark of the race.
Moss would be out front and pulling away from Schell. Salvadori would find himself unable to fight with Behra in his BRM. Therefore, the Cooper driver would lose out on 4th place, but only momentarily as Lewis-Evans would soon fall out of the race with engine trouble, thereby handing Salvadori 4th place once again. Brabham would again lose a couple of laps as he attempted to fight to just stay in the race. It was incredibly similar to the Monaco Grand Prix. He was still in the race, but nowhere near what he could have been given his starting spot.
Once Moss grabbed the lead at the start of the race there was literally no chance for any other driver, other than that potentially provided by attrition. However, providence would favor Moss this day and he would cruise to an easy victory. Averaging nearly 94mph, Moss would be indomitable. Crossing the line to take the victory, Moss would have more than 45 seconds in hand over Schell finishing in 2nd place. Jean Behra would climb up the running order to make it two BRMs finishing in the top three. He would cross the line more than a minute and forty seconds behind Moss, but still a very good result for the team.
Cooper, in particular Salvadori, needed a strong result. Both would deliver. Salvadori would be impressive. He would lose a lap over the course of the race, but so too would Mike Hawthorn finishing in 5th place. Salvadori would redeem himself finishing a solid 4th place earning three points toward the championship. These points, when combined with those earned by Rob Walker's outfit, meant the Cooper-Climax combination was actually heading the championship tables when it came to constructors.
Brabham would suffer a case of déjà vu. He would slip down the order in the early going of the race. Sadly, there would not be the comeback he enjoyed in Monaco. Though finishing more than two laps behind Moss, Brabham would trail behind in 8th place suffering a truly lackluster performance. Cooper had great potential. It just wasn't coming together for the factory effort, at least not like that which had come to its customer Rob Walker.
Following the Dutch Grand Prix, Cooper Car Company would find itself heading into a very serious part of the season. All of the circuits, from this moment forward, would be high-speed affairs where horsepower would trump handling on almost every occasion. The team needed to approach the remainder of the season with a certain amount of sobriety and clear-headedness. The team would make its preparations and would head-off across the Channel to the mainland. They would be on their way to Belgium and the heart of the Ardennes. The ultimate destination was the 8.77 mile Spa circuit, which, in 1958, would end up being the fastest circuit on the World Championship calendar. Therefore, the Belgian Grand Prix would be a severe test and an outright test of the development of the Cooper chassis for use in Formula One.
Given the sense of prestige that came with being the first potential World Champion as a constructor, Cooper was somewhat forced to make the journey into the Belgian Low country. However, as the cars began to be unloaded, one by one, it would become abundantly clear that all but the Coopers and Lotuses sported engines at least 2.4-liters in size. And it wouldn't take too long before such a short-coming made its presence known. Mike Hawthorn would take his Ferrari around the circuit the quickest. Enjoying the dry and sunny conditions, the man from Farnham would post a lap time of 3:57.1. This would be four-tenths of a second quicker than Musso, his Ferrari teammate. Stirling Moss would complete the front row being just another tenth slower than Musso.
Brabham would be the fastest of the Coopers, but he wouldn't just be a tenth or so slower. The Australian's best lap would be eight seconds slower than Hawthorn. As a result, Brabham would start the race from the third row of the grid in the 8th position. Still, this would be better than Salvadori who would be more than 18 seconds slower than Hawthorn. The second Cooper driver would end practice down on the fifth row of the grid in 13th position.
The race distance would be 210 miles, or 24 laps. There were concerns of overheating for the 2.5-liter machines heading into the event. Therefore, concerns had to be even greater for Cooper's tiny entries.
In front of a huge crowd under brilliant sunny skies, the prerace ceremonies would get rolling that would include a drivers' parade and a parade of old Bugatti racing cars. Finally, at the end of all the pageantry, the drivers would take their places behind the wheel. The flag would drop and the field would stream downhill towards Eau Rouge for the first time. Stirling Moss had jumped to the lead in Zandvoort and never looked back from that point on. At Spa, he would do the same leading the field up the hill. Behind him, Brooks would occupy 2nd place while the Ferraris follow close behind. Brabham would slip back slightly at the start, but it was obvious it was going to be a long race in very warm temperatures. The race wasn't going to be won in the first corner.
At the conclusion of the first lap, it would be Brooks leading the way. He would be under heavy pressure from Collins in the Ferrari, but this wouldn't bother the crowd as much as the wonder surrounding the fate of Moss. Then, finally, he would come through creeping along in his Vanwall. His race had gone past the first turn, but not through the first lap. Brabham and Salvadori would be close to each other at the conclusion of the first lap. Brabham would cross the line in 10th while Salvadori would be right behind in 11th. This was a nice conservative start to the race, but it still required trouble to visit the others to ensure a good result for even one of the Coopers.
There was no need to worry. Two cars, which included Moss, would be gone after just the first lap of the race. More would follow in the next few. Overheating and an accident meant both Brabham and Salvadori profited at least places before even the 6th lap of the race. Collins had challenged Brooks for the lead, and even took over the point for a period of time, before overheating brought the Ferrari driver's race to an end. Therefore, Brooks held onto the lead and was pulling away. He would be followed by Hawthorn and Lewis-Evans. Cliff Allison would be impressive in the Lotus, but right behind him would be Salvadori and Brabham. Salvadori had moved ahead of his teammate and was looking stronger. Brabham was again suffering his mid-race blues and, with just about ten laps remaining in the race, would be struggling just to remain in the race.
Brooks carried on in the lead of the race. Salvadori would be opening it up in his challenge of Allison for 4th. Championship points were firmly within his grasp, but he would move past for 4th place. Then, after about three or four laps in that position, temperatures and other concerns were on the rise. Roy would be forced to back out of it. He would lose out on 4th to Allison and would soon come under attack from Schell, Gendebien and Trintignant. All of Cooper's hopes would rest with Salvadori for Brabham had already retired with engine problems.
Salvadori was at the danger point. The points would need to be forgotten for a race finish and saving the team the cost of having to full overhaul a blown engine. This meant Salvadori lost out on 5th, 6th and 7th places in the running order. He had a lap in hand over Jo Bonnier in a privateer Maserati, but even this didn't seem a big enough gap.
Brooks would have more than enough in hand. The Vanwall driver would pour it on in the final couple of laps and would be able to cruise through La Source and across the line to take a well-earned victory by some 20 seconds over Hawthorn. Stuart Lewis-Evans would also have a good performance finishing in 3rd place exactly three minutes behind Brooks. Salvadori would manage to salvage his race after it looked as though it would come a cropper. He would drop well down and would end up a couple of laps behind Brooks in the end, but at least he would be there in the end. Salvadori would hold it together and would finish in 8th place, keeping more than enough in hand over Bonnier to keep his position.
The Belgian round of the World Championship was going to be a gauntlet for the Coopers, and it certainly didn't let down in expectations. Both of Cooper's drivers would be impressive in the midst and Salvadori's ability to hold onto the car to the end was a good performance from the man that had allowed his excitement to get the better of him on the streets of Monaco.
Leaving the Ardennes, Cooper Car Company would have a couple of weeks before the next round of the World Championship. But while the races would be removed by a couple of weeks, there would be little distance between the two. For, in very early July the team would make its way back across the Channel and into France. They would ultimately arrive in Reims, just about 150 miles from Spa-Francorchamps. It was time for the French Grand Prix and that meant another ultra-fast circuit; this one located just to the west of the city amidst the rolling countryside.
The French Grand Prix would be back at Reims after a year in which it had been contested up hill and down dale outside of Rouen. The return to Reims meant a return to speed. Covering 5.15 miles of French countryside, the Reims circuit would be little more than a triangular-shaped circuit boasting of long straights and hairpin turns. The only part of the circuit that would offer some variety would be found just after the start/finish line. A number of sweeping turns favored well-balanced cars, but the long straights certainly put a higher premium on horsepower and straight-line speed. So while Reims was not as fast as Spa, both circuits had very similar characteristics, which meant the Coopers would again find themselves facing a gauntlet that would be difficult to navigate.
As usual, Cooper would arrive in Reims with its two-car effort. As usual, Jack Brabham and Roy Salvadori would carry the team's hopes. They would find themselves in the usual company of faster cars, but they would have to get on with the task at hand and do their best to hold things together.
Juan Manuel Fangio would be back for what would be one more race driving a Maserati 250F. It would be quite interesting what a difference a year made as Fangio would struggle to make it onto the third row of the grid. Sadly, this was not because the Coopers were that much stronger. In fact, Brabham would struggle to make it onto the fifth row of the grid posting a lap time of 2:27.3. Being more than three seconds adrift of Fangio and nearly six seconds slower than Hawthorn, who was on pole, Brabham would find himself starting 13th. It could have been worse. He could have been starting where Salvadori was.
While the front row would be covered by less than two seconds, Salvadori would find himself more than 10 seconds slower around the same 5.15 mile circuit. Being nearer to five seconds slower than Brabham, Salvadori would start from the seventh row of the grid in the 18th position. Both drivers would be starting the 50 lap race from difficult positions, but the race was going to be about surviving. And that message would ring true very early on in the race.
Another race day filled with sunshine would greet all as the French Grand Prix approached on the 6th of July. The temperatures would be warm and this would not ease feelings at Cooper one bit. The cars would be lined up on the grid right beside the pits. The Coopers starting from the back of the grid told the story.
The flag would drop and the cars would roar away looking for position. Harry Schell would continue his impressive form by jumping to the lead. However, it would be short-lived as Hawthorn would make his way by to take over the lead of the race. Schell would slip back into a group of drivers all fighting and slip-streaming off of each other in an effort to move forward and challenge Hawthorn, who seemed to have the legs on just about everyone.
Considering the distance and the speeds, neither of the Coopers would be making a hard-fought charge to the front straight-away. Brabham would get a good jump on the race but would be just outside the top ten at the end of the first lap. Meanwhile, Salvadori would be just a couple of places further back. Salvadori would make the best start of the Cooper teammates and would seem to suggest he was coming to grips with his car around the circuit.
Hawthorn would continue to pull away at the head of the field. Musso was not content with finishing second to his teammate, and therefore, would set off in pursuit of the sister Ferrari. Musso would be clipping corners here and there, pushing to the absolute limits, and sometimes beyond. Musso was driving as though possessed. Then, sadly, he would push too far. Heading toward Muizon he would attempt to go flat-out. The car would swing out wide unable to grip the circuit. Luigi would slide off the circuit and would clip a ditch sending his car somersaulting. Luigi would be thrown out and would suffer terrible injuries. Luigi would be flown from the circuit and would later die from the injuries suffered. Now the race really became a matter of survival.
Musso's accident would cast a dark shadow over the circuit. Attrition would only help to ruin the mood. Musso's fatal accident would be just the beginning. Tony Brooks, Maurice Trintignant and Stuart Lewis-Evans would be just some of those that would retire throughout the first two-thirds of the race. The Cooper drivers, however, would not be among those that would suffer from unreliability. They would just have to deal with having cars incapable of matching the speeds of the front-runners.
Still, the attrition would help. Brabham would find himself in the top ten by the halfway mark of the race. Salvadori would struggle and would slip down the order some, but he would rebound to be just outside the top ten around the halfway mark. Both cars running on such a difficult circuit was good news. Was it too greedy to ask for a finish in the points?
Hawthorn would be greedy. He would lead the race from the very first lap of the race and would have little sight of the battle that raged behind between Stirling Moss, Jean Behra and Wolfgang von Trips. While Hawthorn was being rather greedy controlling everything from the front of the race, Salvadori would be at entirely at the mercy of his Cooper, which wasn't exactly performing up to par. While Brabham was inching his way toward a potential points-paying finish, Salvadori would be slipping further back, holding on just to make it to the finish.
Hawthorn would fly to the finish. Setting fastest lap of the race, Hawthorn would absolutely dominate the race taking the win and enjoying a margin of more than 20 seconds over Stirling Moss in 2nd place. Von Trips would enjoy a great run to 3rd place and Jack Brabham would do everything he could do to gain that 5th, and final, championship spot. Unfortunately, Peter Collins would be occupying that spot and would be a little beyond reach. Brabham would run a very good race. Listening to his car, the Australian would take care when he had to and pushed when he could. The result would be a splendid 6th place finish, a little more than a lap behind.
Salvadori would also manage to make it to the end. However, he would not set any lap records en route. Roy would complete the race, but would end up more than 13 laps behind in the end, and so, would not end up classified in the results.
The French Grand Prix was yet another tough test for Cooper's team, and yet, they would come through in strong fashion. This would offer them a good deal of confidence heading home for the British round of the World Championship. What's more, Silverstone would be a circuit that at least gave the rear-engined cars a chance. They would just need to take advantage of it.
Cooper Car Company would pack up after the French Grand Prix and would quickly make its way back to England. There were just a couple of weeks in which to prepare the cars for the British Grand Prix on the 19th of July. This would be an important time for Cooper would not only want to do well before the home crowd, but the Silverstone circuit also offered them a chance.
In early part of the year, the factory Cooper team challenged the lone Ferrari entry in the International Trophy race. The cars had shown good pace and the medium and high speed corners favored cars that were well-balanced. So while Ferrari and the Vanwalls had the horsepower, the better handling of the Cooper could claw back some of the difference. This was Coopers chance to make another good impression on the World Championship, and the team knew it.
Cooper would realize the opportunity to the point they would enter three cars in the race. Brabham and Salvadori would be the obvious entrants. However, a third car would be entered for Ian Burgess as well. This would give the team three weapons in which to take part in the upcoming 75 lap battle.
The Cooper drivers would fully take advantage of the situation. Stirling Moss would end up on pole in the Vanwall with a lap time of 1:39.4. However, Roy Salvadori would surprise many taking the 3rd spot on the front row. He would be flanked on either side by Harry Schell starting 2nd and Mike Hawthorn lining up 4th.
Brabham would be exactly two seconds slower than Salvadori in practice. However, he would earn a decent starting spot on the third row of the grid. Starting 10th, Jack would have opportunities presented him as well. The one that would be facing an uphill fight from the very start would be Burgess. He would be more than three seconds slower than Brabham and would end up on the fifth row in the 16th starting spot. This wasn't all that bad, but there would be just a total of 20 starters. So he was definitely starting from the back of the grid.
Amazingly, brilliant sunshine would rain down on the circuit as the drivers took their places in their cars. It would be absolutely beautiful for a race and everyone looked forward to the fight at the front between Moss and Hawthorn. However, Cooper was well-positioned to play the spoiler should certain events transpire.
The flag would drop and Moss would waste no time going to the front. The pole-sitter would take the lead heading into the first corner. Salvadori would also get a great start, but would lose out in the faster bits. The man that would be fastest of all would be Peter Collins. Collins would follow Moss through the first half of the lap but would then make his way by to take the lead. He would keep his foot on it in an attempt to force Moss into a pace that would be detrimental to his Vanwall. The strategy would end up working as Moss' race would be run after 25 laps.
A number of other drivers would find their day come to an end even before Moss'. This would help both Salvadori and Brabham, who were running quite well in the early going. The two Cooper drivers would be running nose-to-tail on the circuit and within the points during the first 25 laps of the race. Following Moss' retirement, things would only get better for Cooper. Collins would be clearly in the lead, chased by his friend and teammate Mike Hawthorn. Not far behind Hawthorn would be Salvadori. It would be a remarkable sight. Salvadori would have the position and he would be chased by Lewis-Evans in the more powerful Vanwall. However, the better handling of the Cooper would be able to hold sway, lap after lap, over the Vanwall. What was even better was the fact Brabham trailed along not far behind in 5th place. Two of the Coopers were within the points. The third was within sight of the top ten.
But, while things were going exceedingly well for two of the Cooper drivers, they would not be going all that well for the third. Burgess would be running the best he could throughout the first third of the race. But then, after 40 laps, the clutch would be gone in the Cooper. Burgess had strained the clutch a little too much in his efforts to get into the top ten that his race would come to an end altogether. This would be disappointing, but more than made up for by the other two cars up near the front of the field.
Two Italian cars led the way. However, not far behind would be a fleet of British cars and leading them all would be the coming revolution—Cooper. The battle between Salvadori and Lewis-Evans would be titanic. While Brabham would have his own battles with von Trips and Harry Schell, Salvadori would be never more than a couple of car lengths it seemed ahead of Lewis-Evans throughout the last half of the race. This helped Hawthorn solidify 2nd place, but it was also a source of some concern.
Hawthorn would be gaining ground on Collins. Taking victory would be huge for the championship battle. However, with the end approaching, Hawthorn would be seen pulling into the pits signaling rather frantically. The call for oil would go out and the crew would go to work. Nervous eyes would look back to Woodcote. Lewis-Evans was pushing Salvadori to such a degree their pace posed a potential threat to Hawthorn's 2nd place. Neither was coming, but Hawthorn was still stuck in the pits. Salvadori had a chance at 2nd place. The oil cap would be slapped into place and Hawthorn would charge back off into the race. Salvadori and Lewis-Evans still had not appeared. Second place would be out of reach.
Collins would prove to be the one out of reach. Intending to break Moss' Vanwall, Collins would practically demoralize everyone else, including his teammate. Collins would cruise to an easy victory. Averaging nearly 102mph, Peter would rush to victory defeating Hawthorn by a margin of 24 seconds. The real question was who was going to finish in 3rd place?
It was a battle between the established British threat and the coming British revolution. Which would win? The pair would approach Woodcote for the final time. Still there was nothing between them. However, as the cars powered out of the corner, it would be Salvadori leading home Lewis-Evans. It would be a difference of just two-tenths of a second, but it would be much more than that.
Salvadori had provided the team the cake. Could Brabham supply the icing? It would be a bittersweet day for Brabham. Starting further down on the grid, the Australian had climbed his way forward in commendable fashion. However, as the race entered its very last stages, he would be unable to hold off the challenge from Schell and would end up giving up the final points-paying place. Crossing the line about 30 seconds behind Salvadori, Brabham would finish a fine 6th place to give Cooper its best result of the season in the World Championship.
Following the high on home soil, the Cooper team would quickly set to work preparing its cars for the next round in the championship. This was going to be a very difficult test, not because the next race would take place at such an ultra high-speed circuit, but it would have a lot to do with the circuit nonetheless. The next round of the World Championship, which would take place on the 3rd of August, would be the German Grand Prix and that meant the imposing and intimidating Nurburgring.
The German Grand Prix offered an intriguing test, especially for Cooper. The race would feature a Formula One and Formula 2 race running concurrently. This had been done the year before and numerous Coopers would be entered in the Formula 2 category. One year later, Cooper would not just have Formula 2 examples of its T43 and T45 chassis. The team had more than proven itself in the previous round of the championship with its Formula One contenders as well. Therefore, Cooper would have to allocate itself accordingly.
Cooper realized its best chances were still within the Formula 2 category. Therefore, the team would enter two 1.5-liter cars within the Formula 2 category and just one within the Formula One class. Jack Brabham would be driving one of the Formula 2 cars, along with Bruce McLaren. Roy Salvadori, given his impressive performance at Silverstone, would be given the task of taking the fight to the other Formula One cars.
With the exception of the Dottinger Hohe and the area around the Flugplatz, the 14 mile long Nurburgring was nearly perfectly suited to the Cooper. The circuit constantly twisted and turned upon itself and handling was of utmost importance.
Poor handling had hurt the Vanwalls the year before, but that would be improved greatly for '58. Still, it would not be enough to give either of the Vanwalls the pole. That honor would go to Hawthorn in the Ferrari. Tony Brooks would be a second slower and would line up 2nd right beside his teammate Moss in 3rd. Peter Collins would help to bookend the Vanwall by putting his Ferrari 4th, the final spot on the front row. Salvadori would show well in the Cooper. He would end up 21 seconds slower than Hawthorn around the circuit in practice, but it would still be good enough for a spot in the middle of the second row. Lining up 6th, Salvadori would be able to use the superior handling of the Cooper to his advantage. He just needed to keep up with the speeds of the Ferraris and Vanwalls. This was not going to be very easy.
As for the Formula 2 entrants, McLaren would be impressive. The New Zealander would end up third-fastest in practice and would line up on the fourth row of the grid in the 12th position. Brabham would be found a couple of rows back lined up in 19th position.
The German crowd normally flocks to motor racing events and this would be no exception. In front of the large crowd, the race would get underway with Moss, once again, sprinting to the fore. Brooks would take position behind his teammate while the Ferraris of Hawthorn and Collins would be right behind. Salvadori would lose out over the course of the first lap of the race. It was a 15 lap event and, therefore, did not necessitate Salvadori pushing so hard at the beginning. Look toward the long game, Salvadori would cross the line just inside the top ten at the completion of the first lap. McLaren, on the other hand, would be pushing from the very start and would complete the first lap just a couple of places behind Salvadori overall. Brabham would be in trouble right from the very beginning and would be fighting hard just to stay in the race.
Moss' lead would evaporate after just three laps when his Vanwall would run into trouble. Hawthorn would briefly lead, but it would be Collins that would firmly take over the point. Collins would be in the lead and would hold sway over the field for the next half dozen laps. Attrition and sheer pace would help McLaren move forward. By the 10th lap of the race the New Zealander would be up to 7th place overall and within striking distance of the top five. However, he would have to get by Salvadori in the Formula One Cooper. He would be in the running still and would be an impressive 5th place, but following one of the Lotuses. Brabham's race would be terribly short. He would crash during the opening lap of the race. He would then attempt to get back around to have the car taken care of by the crew, but it would be too late. The Australian would be out of the race.
Moss' retirement seriously hurt his championship hopes, especially with two Ferraris leading the way. He needed help. Brooks had been quick in practice but struggled with his Vanwall during the first half of the race. However, the handling would come back to him as the fuel load went down. Suddenly, the Vanwall driver would kick it up a gear and would be reeling in the Ferraris in a similar fashion to Fangio's great charge the year before.
One the 11th lap of the race Brooks would slide past Hawthorn for 2nd place. Later on, he would get inside the Ferrari of Collins to take over the lead of the race. Collins had had this happen to him two years in a row and he wasn't about to stand for it. Therefore, the Ferrari driver would set off in pursuit of Brooks. Sadly, and tragically, he would push a little too hard and would forget just exactly where he was on the track. Cresting a rise and entering a right-hander late, Collins would struggle to keep his Ferrari under control. The car would clip a ditch and would vault into the air throwing Collins against a nearby tree. Hawthorn would see the whole thing and knew what the result would be. Brooks would come around to complete the lap, then there would be a long gap. It was obvious there was a problem. Hawthorn would pull into the pits and would immediately get out of his car. His look would say it all.
Collins was gone. Unaware, Brooks carried on in the lead of the race with an insurmountable lead over the 2nd place man. Cooper would find the situation very difficult. Emotions would run high known Collins was lost. However, Salvadori would now be promoted to 2nd place in the running order. Bruce McLaren was also lifted to 5th place as a result of all the drama. The Formula 2 car could not earn championship points, but the prize money and place within the top five overall would be terribly encouraging and motivating.
Brooks would ease his way to victory. Crossing the line in a little more than two hours and twenty-one minutes, the Vanwall driver would finish nearly three and a half minutes ahead of Salvadori. But it would matter little to Salvadori and Cooper as they would come through to finish on the podium. A little less than three minutes later, McLaren would bring further delight to the crew at Cooper. McLaren would absolutely dominate Formula 2. Not only would he finish 5th overall, but he would come across the line more than 30 seconds ahead of Ian Burgess who would finish 2nd within the Formula 2 category.
The British and German grand prix provided Cooper with their best opportunities throughout the remaining seven rounds of the World Championship and the team had done its best to take advantage of every one. Unfortunately, some of the help would come at the cost of Collins' life. This would not be price Cooper would ever demand.
There were just three rounds of the World Championship remaining for 1958. Among the remaining three rounds there would be two brand new additions to the championship. The first would come on the 24th of August and it would be the Portuguese Grand Prix.
The inaugural Portuguese Grand Prix would take place in the popular city of Oporto. The city would garner much of its fame for the wine deriving its name from the city itself. However, besides the port wine, Oporto would be a popular destination with tourists boasting of incredible architecture and beautiful sights, especially with the Douro River cutting through a portion of the large urban area.
The Boavista street circuit would be the site of the race. As far as temporary road courses go, Boavista offered just about everything to drivers. There were some portions of the circuit paved with cobblestones. Then there would be a couple of long straights, tight sweeping sections and then the famous tramlines that cut through a portion of the circuit. Besides being a technical circuit, the circuit required great care as a result of the obstacles and intriguing ‘extras' that normally didn't make up a grand prix circuit, at least not during the post war years.
Cooper would come to Oporto with just two cars once again. Salvadori had so impressed it was not surprising he had the drive in one of the factory Coopers. However, it would be a little surprising McLaren would not get the nod for the second car, especially given his performance in the German round of the World Championship. But, instead, Jack Brabham would be in his usual position driving the 2.2-liter Cooper T45.
Besides one short section, the 4.60 mile Boavista catered to the cars with the extra horsepower. The Vanwalls would come with some updates and they would demonstrate their strength in practice putting two cars on the front row of the grid. The lap times would be incredibly tight at the front of the field. Moss would end up on the pole. Mike Hawthorn would miss out on the first position on in the first rank by just five-hundredths of a second. Lewis-Evans would end up 3rd having been just four-tenths slower than Moss.
Brabham sorely needed some confidence and would seem to find his pace during practice. Pushing his Cooper, he would be just three seconds slower than Moss. This would result in Jack starting from the third row of the grid in 8th position. Salvadori would be the one that would be a bit off the pace around Boavista. Roy's best would be nearly six seconds slower than his teammates. This would result in the second Cooper landing on the fifth rank. Salvadori would start 11th, which was certainly not as good as what he had been achieving lately, but still wasn't all that bad.
Rain fell prior to the start and continued to fall as the drivers prepared for the start. The rain would finally come to a stop just before the drop of the flag, but the circuit would still be quite wet. It was believed such conditions would make the track terribly treacherous but Moss would spring into the lead and would press the case very early on. Hawthorn was within reach of the title if he could keep the pressure up on Moss. The Ferrari driver would take the advantage for a short period of time, but Moss would soon resume the lead and would pull away from the rest of the field.
Brabham would have a poor start to the race and would complete the first lap right around 10th place. Salvadori would be not far behind, but he too would slip down the order during the first portions of the 50 lap race. Brabham would soon recover and find his pace in the damp conditions. By the halfway mark he would be embroiled in a close battle with Brooks for a spot around 7th place. Salvadori would slip down the order and would be running last, but would be taking care in the changing conditions.
While Moss carried on, seemingly without a care in the world and totally in control of the situation, many other drivers would find the conditions difficult and would lose control of their cars. Graham Hill would suffer an accident during the race. Brabham would also run into trouble and would drop all the way to the back of the grid. Only Salvadori would be running behind him on the leaderboard.
Moss would be out front. Hawthorn would be fighting with Jean Behra for 2nd until the BRM ran into trouble. However, Hawthorn would lose control of his Ferrari and would be forced to reverse along a portion nearby the circuit to get going. This was perfectly representative of the difficult and drama-filled Portuguese Grand Prix. It would also be demonstrated by the fact though both of the Cooper factory cars ran last on the leaderboard, both would be pushing the top ten heading into the final moments of the race.
Moss would appear above all of the strife performing a flawless race under the difficult conditions. The Vanwall driver would be untouchable as he powered across the line with his hand raised to the air. There would be good reason. Hawthorn would recover to finish in 2nd place but would be nearly a lap behind and would need Moss' help just to retain his result. Late problems for Behra would enable Lewis-Evans to sneak through for 3rd place.
The remainder of the top ten would be a battle amongst Cooper chassis. For the majority of the second half of the race, Maurice Trintignant held the advantage over Brabham. However, Brabham would manage to get the better of the Frenchman in the late stages and would end the race a little more than two laps behind in 7th place. Salvadori would never really find the pace he had enjoyed in the previous couple of races. Finishing a further two laps behind, Roy would cross the line a rather quiet 9th place. Both of the Coopers had finished what was a difficult race, in more than one way. Not only was the circuit not ideally-suited to the Cooper, but the weather conditions made it all the more difficult. Both drivers looked to the finish and drove a calculated race. This wouldn't result in a spectacular finish, but it would result in a double finish nonetheless.
Prior to the Belgian Grand Prix, and the start of the ultra-fast circuit portion of the calendar, Cooper had been leading the constructors' championship. Following the Portuguese round, Cooper was hanging onto third place. The fight in the championship was indicative of the change in circuit types. Sadly, it was certainly not going to get any better as the team made its way into the north of Italy in early September. The Italian Grand Prix, which was set for the 7th of September, no longer made use of the 6.2 mile circuit that comprised both the fast road course and banked oval, but still, the 3.56 mile road course would be anything but slow and twisty. Practically the cathedral for grand prix motor racing in Italy during the 1950s and onwards, Cooper would be entering the mouth of the beast.
There would be signs of hope. Vanwall had swept the whole of the front row the season before. This would be a remarkable sight: a sea of British Racing Green occupying the front rank at a circuit that certainly bleeds national red. It would be even more impressive reflecting upon the performance during the race itself. Not only would Tony Brooks set the fastest lap, but Stirling Moss would romp home to a convincing win facing little to no challenge from either a Maserati or Ferrari. This would have to be encouraging for any of the British teams, but it would do little to help Cooper. The Vanwalls had the horsepower. They had a 2.5-liter engine capable of pushing the Vanwall up to some impressive top speeds. The Coopers didn't have that kind of horsepower from their smaller Coventry four-cylinder engines. Stability and handling were the greatest strengths of the Coopers and they would take a very distant backseat around the Monza circuit.
The Autodromo Nazionale Monza has been all about speed since the day it came into existence during the early 1920s. Sadly, the circuit would be marred by terrible accidents during its early history. The worse of these would come in 1928 when Emilio Materassi crashed into the crowd. He would lose his life right along with 27 spectators. The high average speeds would lead to a number of different circuit arrangements throughout the pre-war era. The post-war years would see the track renovated a couple of times. Then, in 1954, the circuit would undergo another revamping. The track's infrastructure would be updated and the circuit would feature a steeply-banked oval section reincorporated to the road course just as it originally existed throughout the 1920s and early 1930s.
The banked oval would be abandoned shortly after as a result of being deemed too dangerous and for being terribly bumpy. This would be most welcome to Cooper as the road course offered enough of a challenge. It was highly likely the Coopers would not fair very well at Monza, but there was always the hope of the unexpected happening.
Everything would appear very straight-forward as the practice sessions carried on. Stirling Moss would end up the quickest in the Vanwall. Seemingly picking up right where he left off, Moss would be on pole with Tony Brooks lining up 2nd. Stuart Lewis-Evans, the pole-sitter the previous year, was well on his way to making it a clean sweep of the first three positions by Vanwall. However, Hawthorn would push his Ferrari to the very limit and would manage to snatch 3rd place on the front row, thereby interrupting the Vanwall assault on Monza.
Obviously at a serious disadvantage around Monza, the Cooper drivers would struggle to make it onto the first three rows of the grid. Salvadori would end up the fastest of the two and he would miss out on the third row by about two seconds. Roy would end up 14th on the grid and on the outside of the fourth row. Brabham would be just three-tenths of a second slower than his teammate and would end up on the fifth rank. In fact, Jack would start 15th thereby grouping Cooper's car together on the grid.
The grid would be packed. Besides being packed, starting toward the back of the grid also meant a good deal of traffic heading off around the fast right-hand bend. There was a good deal of potential for trouble without having completed a single lap. While Cooper's crews were worried about the longevity of the cars over the course of the 70 lap race distance, the drivers needed to take care on the very first lap, let alone think about the whole of a race distance.
The passionate Italian racing crowd would be on hand in force as it prayed and hoped for an Italian car to reassert itself as the car to beat around its home circuit. However, as the flag dropped to start the race, it would be the green Vanwall of Moss that would be in the lead of the race. There would be hope however as Phil Hill would have his Ferrari right up behind the Vanwall pressuring Stirling just as Collins had done so brilliantly in some of the other races over the course of the season. Hill would take over the lead of the race and would press Moss to go with him.
But while the head of the field was streaming around the circuit on its way toward the Lesmo corners, von Trips would become entangled with Harry Schell's BRM. The two would come together and this would result in yet another Ferrari driver being thrown out of the car. However, this time, von Trips would come away with relatively minor injuries. He would have his life, and that would be most important after two deaths in Ferraris. Schell would also suffer a terrible accident as a result of the contact. However, the American would manage to emerge from his BRM within much more than a few bruises.
Also, during the first lap of the race, Brabham would find himself tangled up with another fellow competitor. Brabham would be sent off-course and would be out of the race without having completed a single lap. Cooper was already facing an uphill and challenging day, Brabham's tangle on the first lap was the last thing the team needed. Salvadori was all the team had left.
Hawthorn was within reach of the title. It was time for the man from Farnham to push. He would make his way past Lewis-Evans and then Moss. Hill was leading the way and had been for some five laps. However, Hawthorn would make his way by, no doubt given more than enough room by Hill since Hawthorn was on the hunt for a World Championship. If Hill wasn't able to coax Moss into pushing his luck in the Vanwall then Hawthorn being in the lead would certainly do the trick. Sure enough, Moss would respond and would end up getting by Hill to challenge Hawthorn for the lead. Hill's race would be compromised when he ran into tire problems and was forced to pit for new rubber.
Meanwhile, Salvadori, Cooper's lone hope, would be running right around the top ten. The road would not be easy given the overall pace. Roy would have to be careful pushing his car. He was piloting a 2.0-liter version and the smaller engine would find the conditions very difficult. Salvadori really could push during the early stages of the race. He would have to wait until he sensed the car could make it to the end. The problem with that was whether he would be close enough to present any kind of challenge or not.
Moss would go into the lead of the race, but the Ferrari ruse had worked. The Scuderia had been nearly run out of the front row of the grid, but Hawthorn and Hill had worked things perfectly to run the green Vanwalls out of the picture during the race. Moss' race would come to an end after about 17 laps. Lewis-Evans would be unable to challenge for the lead and Brooks would be trying desperately to make his way back to the front after running into tire problems very early on. All looked good for Hawthorn and Ferrari. The championship was well within reach.
Salvadori would run into trouble and would end up slipping down the order all the way to the back of the field. It hadn't been going so well before that so this wouldn't be much of a demotion, but it wouldn't help forward progress.
Hawthorn carried on in the lead. Moss' championship hopes were slipping away. However, Brooks would prove the ultimate teammate. By the halfway mark in the race, Brooks would be the sole remaining Vanwall. It looked very bleak. However, Brooks would be up to 4th by this time and would be challenging for 3rd place. Helped by more tire problems for Hill, Brooks would find himself in 2nd place with a little more than 20 laps remaining in the race. Suddenly, the Ferrari looked the prey and the fragile Vanwall the hunter.
Brooks would be helped out early on by a high level of attrition. Four cars would be out of the race on the first lap, including Brabham. Following that, eight more drivers would retire with various problems. This helped reduce any delays for Brooks, but it would also help to turn around what was proving to be a disappointing race for Salvadori.
The pace in the Cooper just wasn't there. The smaller Climax engine just couldn't handle the stress over 70 laps. However, attrition would help to vault Salvadori up the order. Heading into the last ten laps of the race he would be up to 5th place overall. The only concern now would be whether he would be classified in the results.
Amazingly, Brooks would have the measure on Hawthorn. He stalked and hunted the Ferrari for more than ten laps. Then, with about 10 laps remaining, he would make his move. It would be remarkable. The Vanwall driver had come back from being so far down to take the lead. Despite his best, Hawthorn would have no answer. He would know he was well within reach of the championship and needed not to challenge Brooks, and potentially throw Moss a huge bone.
So Brooks would be left alone and free to fly his way toward the checkered flag. The teammate would bail out the team leader. Brooks would flash across the line to take the victory followed, by about 24 seconds, by Hawthorn. Phil Hill would recover to finish 3rd just a few seconds behind his teammate.
Salvadori would salvage together an impressive performance. No doubt helped by attrition, he would keep his head and car together and would let the race develop before he asked the car to give him everything it had. In the end, the Cooper would be more than eight laps behind. This would be a reality. However, what was also a reality is that Salvadori managed to finish the race 5th and would end up earning a couple of points for himself and Cooper. The Cooper had been outmatched in every way. However, Salvadori managed to put together an intelligent drive to offer his team hope when they had very little.
There was just round of the World Championship left in 1958. The final round would be yet another new addition to the World Championship and offered Cooper another intriguing opportunity. The final round in 1958 would be the Moroccan Grand Prix. The race would be held on the 19th of October and would offer a Formula One and Formula 2 race run concurrently, just like at the German Grand Prix.
The Moroccan Grand Prix had been held the year before, but had been a non-championship event. Prior to that, the race had been a sportscar race held in Agadir. In 1958, the race would not only be included in the World Championship calendar, it would prove to be the decider. Coming into the race Hawthorn led, but there was still an outside chance Moss could snatch the title away. Everything had to go right for the Vanwall driver, but it was possible.
As for the constructors' title, Cooper was solidly in 3rd place trailing behind Vanwall and Ferrari by about 10 points. Overall, it had been a good season. The team hoped it would end on a good note as well.
The grand prix would be held at a public road course just to the west of Casablanca and would be called the Ain-Diab circuit. Measuring 4.72 miles, the Ain-Diab circuit was similar to Boavista in its layout. It was fast but never really included a straight portion of circuit of much note. The majority of a lap would consist of fast portions of circuit with kinks turning both left and right. It was easy to get caught out around the circuit and this would be made even worse by the sand blowing in by the nearby Atlantic coast.
The constantly moving nature of the circuit seemed to favor the handling of the Coopers. However, the circuit still boasted of a high average speed. This then favored the front-engined cars with higher horsepower. Recognizing this, Cooper would enter a couple of their cars within the Formula One category and would pull out all the stops within the Formula 2 class.
Roy Salvadori would be at the wheel of the 2.2-liter T45. Jack Fairman would be given the 2.0-liter T45. Then, within Formula 2, there would be Jack Brabham and Bruce McLaren. They would be joined by no less than four others that would be entered under their own names or team names, but that would be associated with the Cooper factory effort. Therefore, in many ways, Cooper was stacked within the Formula 2 category.
Fairman would be impressive in practice as he would be on the pace rather quickly. While Mike Hawthorn, Stirling Moss and Stuart Lewis-Evans would occupy the front row in that order, Fairman would prove to be the fastest of the Cooper Formula One entries. His lap of 2:27.0 would be around four seconds slower than Hawthorn's pole. But, because the lap times were so close at the front of the field, that four seconds would translate into a fifth row starting spot. Fairman would line up 11th, which wouldn't be that bad when Salvadori would be found a row back in 14th position with the more powerful T45.
As for the Formula 2 field, Brabham would set the pace. His best effort of 2:36.6 would land him on the eighth row of the grid, but would give him the pole within the Formula 2 field. Bruce McLaren would end up third-fastest and would start 21st on the inside of the ninth row. All of the remaining spots on the grid would be occupied by drivers entering factory Coopers under their own name. Therefore, Cooper owned the Formula 2 field in the Moroccan Grand Prix.
The ceremony leading up the start of the 53 lap race would be quite impressive and filled with a great deal of pageantry. However, the drivers would soon be in their seats ready for the start of the race. It would be warm and sunny and a seemingly ideal setting for a championship decider.
The flag would drop and the race would get underway. Moss' options were straightforward. He needed to drive flat out and set the fastest lap just to give himself a shot. Moss would sprint into the lead and would charge after that illusive title. Phil Hill would go with him attempting to break the Vanwall. Fairman and Salvadori would swap positions at the start of the race. Salvadori would be knocking on the door of the top ten while Fairman would be fighting to remain within the top fifteen. The last seven positions in the running order would be reserved for Formula 2 runners. Brabham would lead the way with McLaren following along not far adrift.
Phil Hill would slide off the circuit enabling Moss to escape into the distance. However, Hawthorn was now in 2nd place and holding steady. Hill would recover and would retake 2nd place from his teammate. Hawthorn was running a very conservative and controlled race. He needed to finish in 2nd place if Moss won and set the fastest lap. Moss was certainly going after the fastest lap of the race as he would break the track record lap after lap. But, with Hill occupying 2nd place Hawthorn knew the title was likely going to be his.
Brooks would throw a wrench into that plan. He would challenge Hawthorn and would end up taking over 3rd place. This was not good for the Ferrari pilot, but would only last about 30 laps before the Vanwall retired.
Salvadori would be stuck in the middle of the field. Fairman would recover from a poor start and would soon hook-up with his Cooper teammate. The two would steadily move up the order. Salvadori was the faster of the two, but Fairman would do his best to move up with Roy nonetheless. Further back, Brabham continued to lead McLaren and the Formula 2 field forward. Nearing the halfway mark, Brabham would be nearing the top fifteen while McLaren ran right behind. McLaren would then run into trouble and would slip back in the order. Francois Picard and Tommy Bridger would get by McLaren, but both would end up retiring from the race enabling the New Zealander to follow his fellow man from down-under.
Moss continued to lead the way and push the lap times lower. It was clear he was going to turn the fastest lap of the race and was likely going to win. Still, Hawthorn was in 3rd and within easy reach of his teammate in 2nd place. Moss, once again, needed help. While Salvadori and Fairman were both making their way into the top ten, Stuart Lewis-Evans would be doing his best to make it to the front to help out Moss. Ferrari would recognize this and would signal Hill to give Hawthorn the position. Lewis-Evans would be up to 5th place and still pushing hard when his engine would suddenly seize throwing his Vanwall off the circuit. Oil spilling from the car would erupt and Stuart would be engulfed in flames as he extracted himself from the car. He would have no help and would be forced to roll around by himself to extinguish the flames. By the time workers got to him the burns would be so terrible he would be immediately taken from the circuit and flown to London. Everyone would have a bad feeling about the situation. Six days later, those bad feelings would be confirmed.
Moss was without help and Hawthorn was now in 2nd place. The Vanwall driver had done everything he could, but it was going to come up short. Despite the circuit not favoring the Coopers, both Salvadori and Fairman ran inside the top ten and remained strong heading into the final few laps of the race. Further back, Brabham was running an impressive race in the 1.5-liter Cooper. He would be knocking on the door of the top ten and would be followed a distance behind by McLaren running 2nd in Formula 2. Cooper was looking good for one last top result.
Moss would charge to the victory having led every single lap of the race and setting the fastest lap. It would be a remarkable achievement, and yet, would not be enough as Hawthorn would come through nearly a minute and a half later to take 2nd place. Hawthorn's race would be out of Moss' control and, despite all the effort, it would be Hawthorn that would take the championship by a single point. Phil Hill would complete the top three finishing less than a second behind Hawthorn. Moss was that close.
Salvadori would run another intelligent race and would use attrition to his advantage to cross the line a couple of laps behind in 7th. Jack Fairman would perform brilliantly in his subbing role with Cooper. He would be quick in practice and would end the race just a lap down to Salvadori in 8th place. Cooper would have an outstanding race in Formula 2. Of course, every single entrant within the category would be at the wheel of Coopers from the factory. However, Brabham and McLaren would lead the way. Brabham would finish the race just outside the top ten in 11th place, just four laps behind the leading Vanwall. McLaren's troubles would cost him a lap to Brabham, but he would recover in fantastic fashion to finish in 13th overall and 2nd within Formula 2.
Though Cooper would not score any points in Morocco, they would finish a solid 3rd in the first Constructors' Championship and had more than proven themselves over the course of the season. Their true success still seemed to be a couple of years off to most within the Formula One fraternity, but those were likely the same that didn't recognize, or dismissed, the coming rear-engined revolution.
While the 1958 season would see Cooper prove itself, it was still off the pace in more than one event. Therefore, such views of Cooper still needed a couple more years to really become a challenger could have been justified. However, Cooper had achieved its success using innovation over brute force, and perhaps no one, other than Cooper himself, realized just how close they really were. However, it would soon become apparent just how important the '58 season was, not only to Cooper, but to Formula One on a whole. Cooper Car Company