TeamsVandervell Products: 1957 Formula One Season By Jeremy McMullen
By the end of the 1956 season Vandervell Products had proven itself to be the greatest threat from Britain in the Formula One World Championship. With performances at Reims and Monza, it seemed just a matter of time. The team wouldn't have to wait all that long.
Vandervell Products had made its debut in the Formula One World Championship in 1954 at the British Grand Prix. Entering their first Vanwall Special, Peter Collins would start the race from the third rank. Unfortunately, there would be no memorable result as Collins' race would last just 16 laps before engine problems forced the Vanwall out of the race.
At the Italian Grand Prix later on that year, it would be an entirely different story. Collins would start well down on the sixth row of the grid. This time, however, the car would make it all the way to the end and would just miss out on points when it finished in the 7th position.
This result in the Italian Grand Prix would encourage the team heading into the 1955 season. The result would also encourage Mike Hawthorn to join the team. Unfortunately, the combination of Vandervell and Hawthorn would prove an uncomplimentary partnership and Hawthorn would storm out of the team after a disastrous Belgian Grand Prix. And, when Connaught took the surprise victory at the Syracuse Grand Prix, it seemed Connaught and not Vandervell was Britain's team of the future. All of this would change heading into the 1956 season.
By the middle part of the '56 season Connaught was in terrible financial straights while Vandervell was just beginning to hit its stride. The first championship points would come in the Belgian Grand Prix when Harry Schell managed a 4th place result.
Then came the French Grand Prix. In that race, the only cars capable of keeping pace with the Lancia-Ferraris were the Vanwalls of Mike Hawthorn and Harry Schell. Schell's performance would be rousing as he would split up the Ferrari trio and would put Fangio under a great deal of pressure for more than a handful of laps. And, even though the team would end up with a 10th place result it was clear the Vanwall was getting better and better.
At the Italian Grand Prix, Maurice Trintignant and Piero Taruffi would struggle and would retire as a result of the suspension taking an absolute beating over the bumpy concrete banking. Schell, however, would not struggle like his teammates and would even have moments in the lead of the race. In the end, all three cars would end up out of the race, but, Vandervell was certainly a well respected team within the paddock and there would be a number of top drivers that would take notice.
The greatest strides Vandervell would take with its cars would come in 1956 when the team would hire Colin Chapman and Frank Costin to create a competitive race car. The sleek design would make for a very fast car. Unfortunately, reliability would prove to be the car's Achilles Heal. Nonetheless, the groundwork had been laid. All that needed to happen was some minor adjustments and improvements and they would have a car capable of winning. Some of the minor adjustments included coil springs being added to the rear of the car. Additionally, the power of the engine would be tweaked. By the start of the season the power output had been raised to some 285bhp.
Mr. Vandervell had a good driver in Harry Schell. He was someone that fit Vandervell's mold of a no-nonsense driver that would give his absolute best with the less than best. But while the car made up a lot of the equation, the right driver made up the rest. Stirling Moss had driven with the team in a non-championship Formula One race the season before. He knew the strides the team were making. Therefore, it would be a big announcement when Vandervell landed the talents of Moss for the '57 season.
Joining Moss at the team would be another talented driver. Tony Brooks had captured the attentions of many race teams after he had thoroughly dispatched the factory Maserati team at the Syracuse Grand Prix in 1955 while driving the unassuming B-Type Connaught. Vandervell recognized his talent and would sign him to join Moss within the team.
Vandervell would also turn to Roy Salvadori over the course of the season. Salvadori was not as fast as Moss or Brooks but he had proven himself more than once in '56 and was also well known for his experience and talent to develop a car. And so, Vandervell would have his driver lineup. He also had his car. The team was ready to make its mark in the Formula One World Championship.
The 1957 Formula One season would not start in South America as it would for Scuderia Ferrari and the factory Maserati team. Instead, the team would wait until the European grand prix season got going. This meant waiting until early April.
Usually the first race of the European grand prix season would come at Goodwood as part of the Easter Monday Races. In 1957, however, the first race of the season would come on the 7th of April on the island of Sicily. The race was the 7th Gran Premio di Siracusa and it would be an opportunity for another British car-maker to take victory in the race.
Ever since Connaught's surprise victory in 1955 the Italian teams had come to Syracuse serious and ready to race. The '57 edition would be no different as both the Ferrari and Maserati teams would be present and accounted for. Connaught would also be back with four entries of their own.
Founded by Greek Corinthians and Teneans, and becoming a powerful city-state of its own, Syracuse had played a major part in the history of the Mediterranean region. Mentioned in numerous historical publications, Syracuse's place of prominence in history had been assured well before it had become an important strategic objective during the Second World War. However, following the war, Syracuse's prominence would quickly wane as the French Riviera would become the haunting grounds of the affluent. Still, with its rich history and beautiful setting, it would still be a popular destination for the teams despite its merely being a non-championship event.
Scuderia Ferrari would come with a couple of their revised Lancia-Ferraris and Peter Collins would continue his strong form as he would be the fastest around the 3.48 mile circuit. His fastest time in practice would be 1:55.5. Luigi Musso, Collins' teammate, would end up second-fastest with a time of 1:55.9. Stirling Moss would be taking part in his first full season with the Vandervell team and would look strong in practice as he would garner the final front row starting spot earning 3rd place with a 1:56.3 lap time. Brooks wouldn't be far off the pace. Just a half a second slower than Moss, the dental student would end up on the second row of the grid in the 4th position.
When the race began, Moss would be all over the backs of Collins and Musso. Tried as they could, neither could shake loose from Moss' grip as he pushed his Vanwall hard in an effort to keep up and challenge the Lancia-Ferraris. Brooks would get away well too but would not be able to match Moss' pace, which would include the fastest lap of the race.
Attrition would be the biggest impact on the race. Schell would be out after just a lap. Jean Behra's race would last just 17 laps before brake issues took him out of the running. Brooks was not immune from trouble either and the former winner of the race would end up out of the event after just 34 laps with a water leak.
The 80 lap race would be just halfway through as Collins and Musso began to slip out of Moss' grasp. Moss had set an impressive fastest lap time that would be over a second faster than Collins' fastest lap in practice. But over the course of the 80 lap race the sustained pace would be such that Moss' Vanwall would begin to suffer.
Needing to back off on the 4-cylinder engine a little, Collins and Musso would disappear into the distance. Heading into the final moments of the race there would be just nine cars still running. However, out of those nine, just five would end up classified.
Collins and Musso would run away with the race. Averaging more than 102mph over the course of the race, Collins would leave just his teammate on the lead lap. In fact, more than just a couple of laps would separate the Lancia-Ferraris from the rest of the field.
Crossing the line, Collins would take an easy victory as Musso would finish a minute and 15 seconds behind in 2nd place. Stirling Moss would bring home 3rd place for Vandervell but he would end up more than three laps behind.
Early on the Vanwall had shown superior pace but it was the longevity of the car that still seemed to elude the team. However, were it not for Moss' talents behind the wheel it was more than likely the team would not have achieved the result it had, nor even finished. Moss would prove a very important acquisition for the team over the course of the season.
Vandervell and his team knew full-well the type of car they had. It was fast but not particularly a favorite on circuits where handling was of utmost importance. The next race on the calendar would come on the 22nd of April in Pau, France. Pau was just such a circuit in which the Vanwall would have been expected to struggle. Therefore, the team would avoid the race and would look to another event taking place on the same day. Goodwood would be hosting its Easter Monday Races, and so, Vandervell Products racing team would be at the circuit located in West Sussex preparing for the 5th Glover Trophy race.
In the post-war era Goodwood had become a popular destination for teams. Between some popular races and using the circuit for testing purposes, the 2.39 mile Goodwood Circuit would be an important stop. And, in the early days of spring, Goodwood would be a very important stop.
During the Second World War, Goodwood had been known as RAF Westhampnett and served as an auxiliary airfield. A number of fighter squadrons would call the grass airfield home. And, with only Lavant Corner and Woodcote as corners of any particular note, the perimeter road circuit would be about as fast as some of the fighters it used to host.
There was a lot of excitement within the British crowd leading up to the start of the Glover Trophy race. The Vanwalls were really beginning to come on. Owen Racing had been working hard on their troubled Type 25. And then there was Connaught. Everyone believed an incredible race was in the offering when Moss qualified on pole for the 32 lap race. Moss' time would be 1:28.2 and would be eight-tenths of a second faster than Brooks starting in 2nd place. Archie Scott-Brown would put one of the Connaughts on the front row in the 3rd position while Ron Flockhart would complete the front row starting 4th in a BRM.
Right at the start of the race, Moss would be out front and drawing away from the rest of the field. Roy Salvadori would be pulling out of the race with locking brakes in one of the BRMs. Brooks would be right up near the front and looking strong as well.
Brooks would be flying early on. He would go on to set what would end up being the fastest lap of the race with a lap time of 1:29.6. Unfortunately, he would not be able to consistently match the pace of Moss each and every time around the circuit, and so, Moss would continue to open up his advantage.
The race distance was just 32 laps, or, 77 miles. Moss' early pace seemed to ensure that he would cruise to an easy victory. This seemed all the more evident as Brooks dropped back and Scott-Brown dropped out. However, not even Moss was immune to trouble. Brooks would begin to suffer from throttle linkage problems, and then, so too would Moss. Brooks would manage to hold on and carry on over the course of the race. Moss' race, on the other hand, would entirely come to an end after just 13 laps. Ron Flockhart would be absolutely fighting his BRM and Jack Fairman could not keep up. So it was Stuart Lewis-Evans in the lead with a little more than half distance left to run. Brooks would still be in the race but outside the top five fighting with the throttle linkage problems.
Lewis-Evans was still young and inexperienced but he would not put a wheel wrong over the course of the race. Completing the race distance in a little under 51 minutes, Lewis-Evans would take the win by a comfortable margin over his Connaught teammate Fairman. Ron Flockhart would finish well back in 3rd place. Finishing in 6th place and more than 5 laps behind would come Brooks in the sole remaining Vanwall.
Once again, the Vanwalls had shown incredible speed and potential but were still struggling to make it last over the course of a whole race, even just a 32 lap event around Goodwood. This was not a good sign and showed the team still had a bit of work to do before their cars could actually achieve their potential.
If ever there was a time for the Vanwall to achieve its full potential it would be going into the next race on the season. Unfortunately, the next race of the season would take place at a circuit that didn't necessarily suit the Vanwall. Nevertheless, the Monaco Grand Prix, held on the 19th of May, was certain to be a race in which the team wanted to go right so that its World Championship season would get off on the right foot.
Ever since it hosted its first Monaco Grand Prix back in 1929, Monaco would be something special. Nestled along the Mediterranean along the French Riviera, the tiny principality had become the playground of the rich and famous and it was the one spot on earth where the dirt and grime of motor racing blended seamlessly and beautifully with the most exotic and expensive perfumes of the world.
In 1956, Stirling Moss had driven one of the most controlled and composed races of his life as he would easily win despite a charging Juan Manuel Fangio. Vandervell, couldn't have had a better driver then to lead the team into the very important 2nd round of the season. Surprisingly, it would be Moss that would touch off the most dramatic moment of the race.
Vandervell would come to the race with just two cars. Moss and Brooks would have the driving duties and would have a tough assignment with four factory Maseratis and Ferraris in the field.
Each of the days of practice would be sunny and dry. This prompted some fast lap times. On the first day, Moss had been the fastest. However, when practice was all said and done it would be Fangio sitting on pole in a Maserati 250F having posted a lap time of 1:42.7. Peter Collins would even go faster than Moss and would end up 2nd on the grid. Moss' time of 1:43.6 would be nine-tenths of a second slower than Fangio but it would still be good enough to start from the front row. Tony Brooks would be eight-tenths of a second slower than his teammate but would still be fast enough to start from the second row of the grid in the 4th position.
Heading into the race on the 19th, the overnight hours would be filled with heavy storms. However, by morning time the sun would be out and the circuit completely dry. It was going to be a beautiful day in paradise.
A total of 105 laps awaited the field of 16 cars. The immense crowd would assemble and take their place all along the circuit. Balconies, roof tops and everywhere in between would be filled with people patiently waiting the arrival of Prince Ranier and the start of the race.
All would be in place. The cars would come to life with their drivers behind the wheel. And then the flag would drop to start the race. On the short sprint down to the tight Gazometre hairpin it would be Moss and Fangio side-by-side. Fangio would be tight down the inside and would get on the power to kick the rear end of the Maserati around the hairpin. This would somewhat bang into Moss but it wouldn't upset him as the two would be side-by-side heading into Sainte Devote.
Coming into the race the designers and builders of the Vanwall had made one major change. The year before one of their cars, one driven by Maurice Trintignant, would end up out of the running because he had the nose of the car smashed in heavily going into the first turn hairpin. One year later, the long, sleek nose would be gone in favor of a stubby nose. This was meant to help reduce the potential of damage to the nose of the car. In the case of Moss, this wasn't so much a concern. For Brooks, on the other hand, it would really come in handy. Realizing this situation, Brooks would try and make his way to the outside of the corner. He would lose more than a couple of positions but he would not only make it through the first corner without incident, but the loss of position at the start of the race would translate into better positioning in just a couple of laps time.
Halfway through the first lap of the race it was Moss clearly in the lead with Fangio just a couple of car lengths behind. Coming across the line at the conclusion of the first lap the order at the top would include Moss, Fangio and Collins. Brooks would be down a position in 5th place but still looking quite good behind Schell.
Moss would lead through the first four laps of the race. Fangio would lose position to Collins by the 2nd lap and Brooks would get by Schell to sit in the 4th position. One year earlier, Moss had started out just like this and went on to a commanding win in a factory Maserati. One year later, Moss would be in the lead of the race but behind the wheel of a Vanwall and that was an entirely different car to try and handle around the streets of Monaco. Sure enough, on the 5th lap of the race, a dramatic moment would unfold when Moss would miss his braking point for the harborfront chicane. Unable to make the turn into the chicane, Moss would plow into the sandbagged barrier. He would be out of the race immediately. Collins would be following close behind and would be struck by debris causing him to make it through the chicane but crashing out of control into the barriers lining the harbor. Fangio and Brooks would be just far enough behind that both would make it through the chaos and would emerge in 1st and 2nd. The chaos wouldn't end for just when Fangio and Brooks made it through Mike Hawthorn would get distracted with the chaos and would end up piled alongside his friend and teammate Collins.
Fangio was now in the lead with Brooks barely a few car lengths behind. Being out front, it seemed highly unlikely that Brooks would be able to mount a challenge against the World Champion who looked calm, cool and collected behind the wheel. The laps would continue to disappear but Fangio would not be able to pull away as most thought he would. By quarter distance his lead was just 10 seconds as Brooks fought the Vanwall tooth and nail to stay within good order behind Fangio.
Brooks would be showing great poise running behind the World Champion. Further back, more and more cars would run into trouble and would be forced to retire from the race. Horace Gould, Harry Schell, Ivor Bueb and Carlos Menditeguy would all be out of the race by half distance.
Some 30 laps from the end, the order would still be Fangio running 1st while Brooks was in 2nd. Wolfgang von Trips had been running in 3rd place until engine trouble forced him to retire later on. Brooks would find a steady pace that kept him within a minute of Fangio but it would be Fangio that kept Brooks' as close as he was for his own pace around the circuit would be around 8 seconds off his fastest lap times in practice.
Only 6 cars remained heading into the final couple of lap, and with Brooks the only car remaining on the lead lap, the last half of the race had developed into nothing more than a processional. Still, as far as Vanwall was concerned, it was still a good race for a team with a car not suited to the circuit.
Fangio would win the race easily crossing the line 25 seconds ahead of Brooks in 2nd place. Masten Gregory would mostly inherit his 3rd place result as he would finish the race more than 2 laps behind.
Monaco would be a bittersweet moment for Vandervell. The team had been on the verge of a victory with Moss running in the lead of the race early on. There would be so many ‘what ifs' following the conclusion of the race. Still, a 2nd place result by the young Brooks would be a fantastic result for the team particularly since its car was not suited to the circuit. But the fact of the matter remained that the team was yet to earn that maiden World Championship victory. They were close. Could and would it ever happen?
At the conclusion of the Monaco Grand Prix on the 19th of May there would be a long break before what would be the fourth round of the World Championship. It had been intended the Belgian and Dutch Grand Prix would run during the month of June. However, disputes would remain and both races would remain off the calendar leaving until the month of July before the next round of the World Championship would be held. Vandervell, however, would have bigger problems.
Heading into the month of July, the French Grand Prix loomed on the 7th. Vandervell would have no drivers however. Tony Brooks would suffer a bad accident in the 24 Hours of Le Mans and would be slowly recovering from the injuries. Stirling Moss would also be out action as a result of a nasal problem suffered while water skiing. This meant the two car team didn't even have one of its two drivers. Therefore, Vandervell would turn to Roy Salvadori to drive one of the cars. The second would go to the talented Stuart Lewis-Evans who had been showing good speed and potential for becoming a race winner.
Having his driving situation sorted, Vandervell would take his team and would head across the Channel to France. But instead of heading toward Reims, the team would be on its way to Rouen, for, in what would be the first time since 1952, Rouen-les-Essarts would host the French Grand Prix.
Considered one of the finest circuits of its time with its modern pits and paddock, Rouen would be quite different from Reims, the other home for the French Grand Prix. Both circuits would road courses in every sense of the word, but while Reims would be flat and fast having only a few corners, the Rouen circuit would have a noticeable gradient change over the course of a lap and would feature a number of technical corners that challenged the drivers. Still, the circuit was fast and, with its natural setting down within a valley, a good portion of the circuit could be seen by the spectators perched along the banks of the hills.
Not having his top drivers behind the wheel, Vandervell would find his team a bit off the pace in practice. Salvadori would end up being the fastest of the team and he would end up on the third row of the grid in the 6th position. Meanwhile, Lewis-Evans would be found on the fourth row of the grid in the 10th position. The fastest car in practice would be, not surprising, Juan Manuel Fangio. His lap of 2:21.5 would give him the pole by a little more than a second over Jean Behra in his Maserati. Luigi Musso would complete the front row in the 3rd position in a Lancia-Ferrari.
Amongst the entire field, Fangio would be one of only a handful of drivers to have actual experience driving around the Rouen-les-Essarts circuit. This would certainly play into their hands heading into the race on the 7th of July.
The banks of the hills would be absolutely filled near the Nouveau Monde hairpin. Up at the top of the rise and lost around the heavily-wooded forest, the cars would take their places on the grid. The drivers would slowly make their way to their cars basking in the bright sunshine. It was going to be a beautiful day for a grand prix.
The engines would be brought to life and the grid cleared as the countdown had begun. Then there would be the drop of the flag and the field would roar away at the start of the 77 lap race. In 1956, the circuit's length would be extended covering a total of 4.05 miles, with plenty of straights and some tricky winding bits, the Rouen circuit would offer a great deal of excitement for the driver and the spectator.
Musso would get the best start of all the front row occupants and would actually be in the lead heading down through the esses toward Nouveau Monde for the first time. Lewis-Evans would make a good start while Salvadori would have a terrible one. Nonetheless, both Vanwall pilots would be right around the top ten heading around on the first lap of the race, but without Moss and Brooks it seemed as thought the team would miss out mightily.
At the conclusion of the first lap it would be Musso holding onto the lead over Behra. Behra would be under attack from Fangio who had been recovering from a terrible start. Lewis-Evans would complete the first lap in 8th place having climbed up from his 10th place starting spot. He would be fighting with Maurice Trintignant and would be holding off Carlos Menditeguy. Salvadori would be the big loser at the end of the first lap. Despite starting the race from 6th on the grid, problems at the start would result in Roy crossing the line for the first time in 11th place. He would be following along behind Hawthorn.
Musso would put up a gallant fight for the lead for a few laps but there would be really very little he could do to hold back the more experienced Fangio. Fangio would be in the lead by the 4th lap of the race and would immediately begin to draw away from the rest of the field. Musso would do his best to hold on but it seemed a losing cause. Behra would come under pressure from a fast Peter Collins. Behra would do his best to hold on but the Frenchman would have to give way by the 5th lap and would be relegated back to 4th place.
Lewis-Evans would get by Trintignant but would have Menditeguy challenging hard for his position. The two would fight back and forth with Menditeguy taking the position. Then the two men would be joined by Hawthorn who had left Salvadori well behind. By the 10th lap of the race Lewis-Evans would be in 9th place followed at some distance by Salvadori. Once again, the Vanwall was proving quite fast on the straights but a handful through the faster corners. Salvadori was a much better driver over long distance races like Le Mans. Wrestling with a car on the limit for three hours was not his forte. Lewis-Evans was fast but his inexperience around Rouen would do him the most harm.
Fangio would be in the lead with Collins and Musso battling it out for runner-up honors. Musso would hold onto 2nd place for a handful of laps and then it would be Collins that would take up the position for 10 laps or so. In spite of his inexperience, Lewis-Evans would begin to put together a charge. Salvadori would end up falling out of the race after 25 laps with valve issues. This explained his poor performance at the start and throughout the early part of the race. However, just when Salvadori retired from the race Lewis-Evans would begin his. Pushing the Vanwall hard, the Brit would soon be on the attack. It was as if the circuit had just fully come to him and he knew exactly how to be the fastest man around the circuit.
Lewis-Evans would be on the charge. Clicking off fast lap after fast lap, he would soon be challenging Harry Schell for 7th place. Hawthorn had gotten around him and began to set off after others. Lewis-Evans, however, would use Hawthorn as his catalyst. Following the tall Ferrari pilot Lewis-Evans would realize the fast way around the circuit and would quickly bring pressure to bear back on Hawthorn. There would be very little that Hawthorn could do and, by the 27th lap, Lewis-Evans would be by into 5th place.
Lewis-Evans' performance in the middle of the pack would be the most impressive piece of racing going on around the 25 lap mark. Fangio would be comfortably in the lead while Collins and Musso battled it out for 2nd. Lewis-Evans' performance would be very reminiscent to Schell's performance in the French Grand Prix the year before when he managed to split the three leading Ferraris. Unfortunately, it would prove to last about as long. Lewis-Evans would be in 5th place for only a handful of laps before the damage of his pace had become too great. Over the course of the first third of the race Lewis-Evans had pushed so hard that his steering would be broken. He would end up retiring from the race. Both Vanwalls were out of the running.
Everybody was out of the running as soon as Fangio took over the lead of the race. Once Musso took over 2nd place from Collins on the 28th lap of the race the race for 2nd place would also be settled. Musso finally had the position back and would do his best to set off after Fangio, but the fight with his teammate, and consistent fast laps from Fangio, would be too much for Musso to overcome despite the fact he would set the fastest lap of the race with a little more than 10 laps remaining in the race.
As usual, Fangio would put together a truly dominant performance. Attrition would help to reduce the number remaining in the field. The retirement of the two Vanwalls would not held to add a little spice to the constructor make-up heading into the final few laps of the race. Were it not for the Cooper-Climax of Mike MacDowell and Jack Brabham it would be all Italian machinery making its way toward the checkered flag. Not surprising would be the fact that just Musso and Collins remained on the lead lap.
Fangio would be in a class unto himself yet again. Completing the race distance in a little under three hours and eight minutes, Fangio would average nearly 100mph en route to the victory. Luigi Musso would put together perhaps one of his finest grand prix performances overcoming Peter Collins to finish the race around 51 seconds behind Fangio in 2nd place. Collins would finish a very quite 3rd, crossing the line over two minutes behind Fangio.
Not having the pairing of Brooks and Moss hurt Vandervell dearly. Of course the mechanical problems didn't help as well. Still, Lewis-Evans had impressed with his charge right before the race would come to an end for him. It had been a very lackluster weekend. The problem was that Brooks was still recovering, so too was Moss. There was very little confidence that either would be ready for the next round of the World Championship just a couple of weeks away. And this was a round that Vandervell certainly didn't want his best drivers missing.
Following the French Grand Prix on the 7th of July at Rouen there would be a non-championship event held at the more usual site of the French round of the World Championship. On the 14th of July, just about 170 miles away just outside the city of Reims, would be held the 23rd Grand Prix de Reims.
More than 20 times throughout the history of grand prix racing the Grand Prix de la Marne would host some of the best and fastest cars in the world. By 1957, the Marne would be dropped and the non-championship event would become, simply, the Grand Prix de Reims. The race would still take place on the same 5.15 mile circuit that the French Grand Prix had used for a number of years. This meant Vandervell finally had his opportunity to make up for what had been lost.
In the French Grand Prix the year before, Harry Schell had taken over for an ill Mike Hawthorn and began one of the bravest charges up through the field. The Vanwall was fast and it suit the all or nothing style of Schell. In time he would reign in the three Lancia-Ferraris and would split them up. He would be the only one over the course of the whole of the weekend that would manage the feat. He would make it all the way up to 2nd place and would even challenge Fangio for the lead. Unfortunately, the Vanwall couldn't match Schell's determination and a lengthy pitstop meant the car finished down in 10th place. But even though it wasn't to be the French Grand Prix, a return to Reims meant an opportunity to finish what had not been the year before.
Vandervell would have a problem with his plans for retribution. He had released Harry Schell. Additionally, his replacement, Stirling Moss, would still be home recovering from his nasal problems. Tony Brooks would definitely be a no-show after his injuries suffered at Le Mans. And so, Vandervell would again have to turn to Stuart Lewis-Evans and Roy Salvadori.
The race on the weekend of the 14th of July would start out with a dark cloud hanging over the circuit. Owen Racing's Herbert MacKay-Fraser would end up qualifying on the fourth row of the grid for the Formula One race. It would end up being a vacant spot come time for the race as MacKay-Fraser would lose his life in a crash in the Formula 2 race preceding. The mood would be dampened but the race would still go on.
As far as Lewis-Evans was concerned, it would be a good thing the race went on. He would be starting the 61 lap event from the middle of the front row having posted a time in practice just two-tenths of a second slower than Fangio, who would be on pole. Vandervell had brought a new streamlined-body to the race but neither Lewis-Evans nor Salvadori could really make it work. It wouldn't really matter when Lewis-Evans took the conventional Vanwall and put it on the front row. Jean Behra would complete the front row being nearly two seconds off of Fangio's pace. Roy Salvadori would also make good use of the conventional Vanwall proving it to be more than fast enough. He would end up starting the race from the second row of the grid in the 5th position. His best effort in practice would end up being just four seconds slower than Fangio.
So the Vanwalls looked strong heading into the race. They just needed to be able to make it all the way to the end. On top of it all, the withdrawal of the BRMs meant that only the Cooper-Climax of Jack Brabham and the Vanwalls of Lewis-Evans and Salvadori were the only non-Italian cars in the race.
Right at the start there would be a big shake-up in the running order. Fangio would get away well, as would Behra, but it would be Musso that would be the best starter as he would leap up from the second row of the grid to challenge for the lead of the race. However, it would be Lewis-Evans that would be at the head of the field and pulling away. Meanwhile, Salvadori would get away a bit slower, always with the whole race in mind.
Peter Collins would be an early exit as his engine would expire after just 2 laps. He had been the winner of the French Grand Prix at Reims the year before. One year later, he would be the first out. Jo Bonnier, Chico Godia-Sales and Olivier Gendebien would all be out by the 25th lap. Both of the Vanwalls would not however and Lewis-Evans remained firmly ensconced in the lead and further adding to his advantage over the rest of the field that included Fangio, Musso, Behra and others. Salvadori would look to be in a different car altogether as he would be fighting, and losing, with Schell to get into the top five.
Trouble would continue to keep coming the way of the Lancia-Ferraris. Collins and Gendebien would be out, then came Hawthorn's retirement on the 27th lap as a result of engine problems. This was the third Ferrari to retire with engine problems. The fourth, and final, would be fighting for the lead.
At the same time the Ferraris were running into trouble, Lewis-Evans would be in trouble of his own. He had been running an incredible race at the head of the field when oil began streaming back from the engine onto his goggles and rear brakes. Despite being unable to see properly, Lewis-Evans would keep his composure and would back off the pace slightly to ensure that he wasn't on the raged edge where a mistake could turn costly. This would end up hurting him in the end, but it would still prove to be an incredible performance by the substitute driver.
Jean Behra would prove the fastest over the course of the race. His fastest lap time of 2:27.8 would certainly keep him in the fight for the podium. However, the pace of Musso would help the Italian to escape with the lead. Averaging more than 123mph, there would be no other driver that could match the consistent pace of Muss once Lewis-Evans conceded the position, especially not when Fangio crashed his Maserati on the 56th lap of the race. Some thought the Vanwall of Lewis-Evans might take a surprising victory but when he had to back off he would not only lose out on the lead but also 2nd as well. Salvadori could not keep pace with Schell either and he will be well behind heading into the final few laps of the race.
Musso would finally show what he was truly capable of behind the wheel of a grand prix car. In spite of Behra's best efforts, Musso would cruise to victory taking the win by more than 27 seconds. Lewis-Evans would be perhaps the most impressive in the Vanwall. He would end up finishing the race a minute and 16 seconds behind but it had been an intelligent and fast drive to 3rd place. Realizing the Vanwall had the pace, but for mostly just short runs, Lewis-Evans would maintain a quick, but sustainable, pace and would come away with a podium against an overwhelming fleet of Italian machinery.
Salvadori would also have a much better day than that which he had at Rouen. Completing the entire race distance, he would utilize Fangio's misfortunes to end the race in the 5th position two laps behind the victor Musso.
It had been a good race for Vandervell Products. The team had been beaten to the victory but the performances by both drivers would be good stepping stones and confidence-builders heading into the next race on the calendar, the all-important British Grand Prix. And it would be the performance in Reims that would help pave the way for such a memorable day at Aintree.
Leaving the French countryside and heading back across the Channel, the Vandervell Products team did so not on the back foot. Yes the team had suffered a double failure in the French Grand Prix at Rouen, but, they had recovered to have both cars finish in the top five at Reims, a circuit that tortures cars more greatly than what Rouen would. What's more, the team had earned a podium result with a non-regular driver. Imagine if Moss would be back in time to defend his first-ever British Grand Prix victory at Aintree? Could there be the first victory by a British manufacturer in its home grand prix? This was a question that still needed answering, but at least the team headed to Aintree looking forward to giving it their best, believing it to be possible.
The British Grand Prix would take place at Aintree on the 20th of July. This made it three grand prix races in as many weeks. This was a tough pace for any team to keep up, but Vandervell came into the race with great expectation. They had been performing well when it counted most, and the result in Reims just the week prior only further aided the team's confidence.
The team's confidence would get a further boost when Stirling Moss and Tony Brooks showed up to take part in the race. All of a sudden Vandervell had to make a decision amongst four very good racing drivers. He had contracted Moss, so it was abundantly clear he was going to drive. Lewis-Evans had also proven himself in Reims, and so, he too deserved a car. Then there was Tony Brooks. Brooks could drive, but whether he was actually fit was much less certain. Still, he too was available, and so, he too would be back behind the wheel of a Vanwall. So the team, for the first time all season, would enter three cars in a World Championship event.
Vandervell was determined to win his home grand prix. This was why the team would enter three cars. And he would need every single one of them when Officine Alfieri Maserati arrived with four cars right along with Scuderia Ferrari. Still, amongst the entry list it was clear the greatest threat to the Italian teams would come from the Vanwalls.
Aintree had first host the British Grand Prix in 1955. It would be a truly memorable affair. Not only would it be the last time Mercedes-Benz would take part in a Formula One race in England but it would pit teammates Fangio and Moss against each other in one of the most memorable races in grand prix history. When it was all said and done, Moss would hold off a late charge by Fangio to take his first-ever Formula One World Championship victory, a victory in the British Grand Prix. It would also mark the first time in which a British driver had won his home grand prix. Two years later, a British manufacturer was still to be without a victory in its home grand prix but Vandervell was intent on doing something about that.
Moss would also be keen to do something about that situation as he would take his Vanwall in practice and would capture the pole with a fastest lap time of 2:00.2 around the 3.0 mile circuit. His time would end up being just two-tenths of a second faster than Jean Behra but it would still be enough to give him the pole. Tony Brooks would further delight the British faithful as he would end up mere hundredths of a second slower than Behra and would capture the third, and final, front row starting spot. Therefore, Vandervell had two cars starting from the front row, and these were the two least healthy of the team's drivers.
Stuart Lewis-Evans would continue to impress. His best time in practice would be a little more than five and a half seconds slower than Moss. Still, his time would result in a position on the third rank, 6th overall.
Things could not have looked much better for Vandervell heading into the race. Yes, they didn't sweep the front row, but they certainly came close. There was certainly reason to be excited and confident heading into the start of the race on the 20th.
Moss had started on pole back in 1955 and converted that into a win. For the many British fans taking their places in the grandstands and spilling all around the circuit there would be more than one prayer uttered for a repeat of just such a performance.
The usual festivities would begin. There had been a strong breeze earlier in the morning and this was welcome as it drove out the rain that had been in the area overnight. The crowd would be excited and in great form as the cars would be wheeled out into position on the grid. The engines would be brought to life and the crowd would heighten with anticipation as the flag would drop to start the race. On the drag down to the first turn at Waterway it would be Behra that would get the better start. Moss would be in 2nd place. Hawthorn would be up to 3rd place just ahead of Brooks, with Collins in 5th place it meant there were four Brits in the top five.
Although Behra had got the jump off the grid Moss would not allow him to lead the first lap of the race. Getting by the Frenchman over the course of that first lap Moss would bring the British crowd to its feet when he emerged around Tatts for the first time. Brooks would also get around Hawthorn to cross the line in 3rd place. Lewis-Evans, on the other hand, would have a terrible start and would finish the first lap in 11th spot after qualifying 6th.
Moss would be in the lead and would begin drawing away from Behra stationed in 2nd place. Hawthorn and Brooks would be embroiled in a fine duel but it would be Hawthorn that would gain the position as the still ailing Brooks wasn't quite himself. Lewis-Evans would quickly recover from his poor start and would be rapidly making up for lost time. By the 15th lap he would be around Brooks for 5th place and looking to challenge Collins for his 4th place.
Brooks was soldiering on but it was clear he was suffering behind the wheel. Lewis-Evans had recovered to put a third Vanwall in the top five. Things could not have looked better for the team.
But then, on the 22nd lap, it was clear not all was well with Moss' leading Vanwall. His pace had slowed. Behra would go by into the lead followed by Hawthorn. By the 24th lap Moss would be out of the race with misfire issues. He wouldn't be out for long.
Before the race, Brooks had come to Moss and told him that if Moss found himself out of the race he would come in and turn his car over to Moss for the rest of the race. Brooks was still ailing and it was only right the faster driver that day should have the drive. Brooks had been delighted when he learned of the opportunity to team with Moss at Vandervell. This gesture would only prove his delight with the situation and his humility to recognize the opportunity presented to the team.
Brooks would pull into the pits and would slowly extract himself from the car. Immediately Moss would jump in and set off after the leaders. The problem was that by the time he rejoined he would find himself down in 9th place and well back. In order to catch Behra, Moss would be required to set about doing laps at a record pace. That suited him just fine. The race was on.
By the halfway mark of the 90 lap race Behra would still be in the lead comfortably over Mike Hawthorn. Lewis-Evans would be sitting a proud 3rd and Collins would be 4th. Moss' rise up through the running order would be rather swift and by the halfway mark he would be in 5th place and gaining on Collins. Moss' rise would be helped by the retirements of Fangio and Schell but much of the ascent up the order would be purely the result of Moss standing on the Vanwall each and every lap and the car responding favorably. It was as if both car and driver wanted the win.
Even though Moss was making up ground, Behra would still be out front by a minute and would be pressing harder as well. He would lower the lap record in response to the charge by Moss. This would cause Moss to have to push even harder. Heading into the last half of a race it wasn't even clear if the Vanwall would make it the rest of the way. But there also had to be some concern about Behra's Maserati.
The order would be unchanged from the 50th to the 69th lap. Moss had managed to pull within 22 seconds of Behra but still had Hawthorn and Lewis-Evans in front of him. It seemed terribly likely that Lewis-Evans could take a maiden victory in the British Grand Prix if things went his way in the final 20 laps.
Suddenly, just when it seemed too tall an order for a British car to take over the lead, there would be a dramatic shift that would bring absolute delight to the British fans.
Behra was in the lead but he had been pushing his Maserati really hard in order to stay there. Neither Hawthorn nor Lewis-Evans were really gaining but Moss certainly was. This was causing the Frenchman to put a great deal of stress on his Maserati. It really became a question of whose car would crack first. Just 20 laps from the checkered flag the answer would be realized when the clutch in Behra's Maserati absolutely blew up and sent pieces all over the circuit. Behra would be out of the race. Hawthorn would not realize there was debris on the circuit and would drive right through it later to suffer from a punctured tire. At about the same time, Moss would be making his way by Lewis-Evans. Rounding Tatts and crossing the line, suddenly, Moss would be in the lead with Lewis-Evans following along in 2nd place. It was Vanwalls 1st and 2nd with less than 20 laps remaining in the race.
Moss had been pushing so hard that he would set the lap record with a time of 1:59.2. Well in the lead, he would have no need to push so hard. He just needed to focus on making it to the end of the race. This wouldn't be so easy as Brooks would finally retire Moss' ailing Vanwall after 51 laps. Then, with just about 15 laps remaining Lewis-Evans would run into trouble and would stop along the circuit trying to hastily repair the problem. He would do a good enough job to limp the car back around to the pits. There the car would be looked over. It was clear throttle linkage problems were rearing their ugly head with his car. Unfortunately for Lewis-Evans, who had performed a brilliant race, the problem would be too much to fix and his race would come to an end with just 8 laps remaining. Now Moss would have real reason for concern.
Moss had a lead of about a minute over Musso but the two other Vanwalls were out of the race. On top of that, he had absolutely beaten Brooks' Vanwall to death in an effort to catch the leaders. How much could the car take before it too decided to give up?
Moss would never find out. Rounding Tatts for the final time, the crowd would break into an incredible wall of cheering and adulation as Moss powered his way out of the corner toward the line. Arm raised high and shaking in utter disbelief, Moss would cross over the line to take a truly remarkable and unforgettable victory in front of the home fans. A British manufacturer had done it. Mays had promised that BRM would do it, but seven painful, humiliating years would finally come to an end as Moss and the Vanwall earned victory, the first for a British manufacturer and in its home grand prix no less.
Although nobody would care, Luigi Musso would enjoy another great drive bringing the Lancia-Ferrari home in 2nd place more than 25 seconds behind. Mike Hawthorn would add further delight to the British faithful as he would bring home 3rd place 17 seconds adrift of Musso having recovered from the punctures that ruined his race.
It would be a phenomenal sight as both Moss and Brooks would collect the winner's trophy. They had done it. It had been a team effort almost like a sportscar endurance race. That is what was needed to nurse Brooks and the Vanwall across the line. The moment would not be lost on Moss who would exclaim, 'It was something I had dreamed about for years; winning a Grand Prix in a British car…Tony and I being the first British drivers to win a grand prix since Seagrave and Sunbeam back in 1923. And also to be the first all-British winners of the British Grand Prix. Fantastic experience.'
It would be a year dominated by British teams. Le Mans, Formula 2 and even the Nurburgring 1000km. But grand prix racing had eluded British marques, especially since the formation of the Formula One World Championship. That would all come to an end on the 20th of July in 1957.
Vandervell Products would have a couple of weeks in which to revel in its achievement at Aintree. There was a non-championship grand prix held in Caen on the 28th but the team would not make the short jaunt across the Channel. Instead, the team would set about preparing its cars for the next great test. And despite the monumental and historic win, there was still a lot of work to do as there still were two cars that failed to make it all the way to the finish in the British Grand Prix. Vandervell still had issues with its cars and they needed to be addressed.
The team would certainly want to address its issues before the next round of the World Championship coming up on the 4th of August. The race was the German Grand Prix and it took place at a circuit that took pleasure in exploiting weaknesses in cars—the Nurburgring.
Situated within the Eifel Mountains, the small town of Nurburg would be a capital in the world of motor sport. Completed in the spring of 1927, Eichler Architekturburo's creation known as the Nurburgring would quickly become the most infamous circuit in all the world. A shortened version of the epic grand prix of days gone by, the Nurburgring was as much a throwback as it was modern. Measuring over 14 miles, boasting of more than 170 corners and having more than a thousand feet of elevation changes per lap, the circuit was a true road course that had been purpose-built. Scary, treacherous and beautiful all at the same time, the circuit had a way of seducing its prey, and then, devouring without any warning whatsoever. Many would fall in love and would welcome its bite. Others would immediately hate the circuit and would fight its temptation with all they had.
One of those that absolutely loved the Nurburgring was Juan Manuel Fangio. And, despite the victory by Brooks and Moss at Aintree, he was within a win of securing his amazing fifth World Championship. Another that loved and enjoyed the circuit was Stirling Moss. Most all of his success on the circuit had come at the hands of sportscars but it was certainly clear he had an affinity for the place. His Vanwall, on the other hand, was an entirely different question.
The work of Colin Chapman and Frank Costin had made the Vanwall an amazingly quick car. Handling, however, was not its strongest-suit. Continual work had been done to make it better, but around fast and medium speed corners the car continued to struggle. This would be evidenced by the lap times in practice.
Order would be restored following the victory by Vandervell in the British Grand Prix. Practice times around the Nurburgring would reveal an all-Italian front row with Fangio starting from pole with a lap time of 9:25.6. The previous season he had broken the lap record by a matter of a few seconds. One year later, and no doubt helped by the new track surface, the record would be absolutely obliterated.
Besides Fangio on pole, Hawthorn would start in 2nd place in a Ferrari. Jean Behra would start 3rd in another Maserati. And then there would be Peter Collins in 4th place in yet another Ferrari.
Proving to be recovered from his accident, the fastest of the Vanwalls around the circuit would be Brooks posting a time of 9:36.1. He would start from the second rank in the 5th position. Starting with him in the second row would be Moss in the 7th position with a time 5 seconds slower than Brooks. This would be phenomenal considering Moss was usually the faster qualifier.
After his last couple of performances Lewis-Evans would earn the drive in the third car once more. His best lap time in practice would be a little less than 4 seconds slower than Moss and would lead to him starting from the third row in the 9th position.
As usual, a large crowd would assemble in the grandstands and all around the 14 mile Nurburgring. The Germans were certainly passionate about motor racing and at least the weather would be absolutely perfect to enjoy some of the finest cars and drivers in the world. The cars would be assembled on the start/finish straight.
Everyone expected fireworks, and it seemed hard not to include the Vanwalls in part of the celebration as a result of the stunning victory at Aintree. However, when the race got underway and the field streamed down toward the first corner it would be Hawthorn and Collins that would be leading the way ahead of Fangio. The first of the Vanwalls would belong to Lewis-Evans. He would barely be inside the top ten heading through the Sudkurve be he would be in front of Brooks and Moss.
Leaving the stadium section of the circuit Hawthorn would still be in the lead ahead of Collins. Fangio would still be ahead of Behra. Moss would recover from an absolutely terrible start to climb all the way up to 5th place, but he would come under pressure from Musso as his Vanwall continued to show its weaknesses on fast, twisty circuits. There really wouldn't be much the Vanwall drivers could do as their cars were certainly not suited for a vast majority of the 14 mile circuit. It was going to be a long 22 laps for the Vandervell team.
At the end of the first lap it would still be Hawthorn leading the way ahead of Collins. Fangio would be a little ways behind in 3rd place. Behra would still be in 4th place. Brooks would be ahead of Moss as the two Vanwall drivers completed the first lap in 7th and 8th. Lewis-Evans wouldn't be too far behind in the third Vanwall. He would cross the line for the first time in 9th.
The order would remain relatively unchanged for the first couple of laps except amongst the Vanwall drivers. Moss would be struggling surprisingly while Lewis-Evans would be just hitting his stride. By the 3rd lap of the race Lewis-Evans would be ahead of Moss and then ahead of Brooks by the 5th lap.
Meanwhile, at the front of the field it would be Fangio in the lead. He needed to get by the two Ferraris as he had elected to start the race on half-full tanks. He would be lighter but he would need to pull out a large advantage before he stopped for his one his one pitstop. Hawthorn and Collins would go the entire length of the race without stopping.
Given the length and nature of just one lap of the Nurburgring it wasn't at all surprising that there would be some early retirees from the race. Horace Gould would be out after just one lap due to a wheel problem. Dick Gibson, Paul England and Jack Brabham were all driving Cooper-Climaxes and they would all be out of the race by the 7th lap.
Despite his early struggles, Moss would recover and would definitely lead the charge for Vandervell by the 10th lap of the race. Lewis-Evans would be going well until he made a mistake and ended up crashing his Vanwall on the 11th lap and would be out of the race from then on. Brooks would still be in the running but struggling with the Vanwall. He would be back in 9th place and following after Jean Behra, who had made his pitstop with his Maserati.
Fangio continued to build upon his lead. His advantage would be some 30 seconds when he would make his stop at the end of the 11th lap. Jumping out of the car while the crew set to work refueling and changing the tires, Fangio would not realize the chaos going on around him as the crew would lose track of the knock-off hub for one of the wheels. The stop would take longer than expected and he would lose his lead as a result of the situation. The top three in the race had pulled out such an advantage that when the wheel was refitted and Fangio emerged back on the track he would be some 45 seconds behind Collins and Hawthorn but he would still be in 3rd place.
Moss would get by Schell for 5th place but would become stuck as he could not wield his Vanwall around the Nurburgring fast enough to draw in Luigi Musso in 4th place. Brooks had come to benefit from the struggle of others, including Lewis-Evans, to climb up to 8th place in the running order. Still, even he could not really do anything with the ill-handling Vanwall.
Vandervell was racing for merely a points-paying result. Fangio would be racing for what seemed to be his life. Some 45 seconds behind when he rejoined the race, Fangio would set about lapping the circuit at record pace, lowering the lap record just about every time around the 14 mile circuit. It would be impressive watching him work the wheel of the Maserati so forcefully, and yet, gracefully at the same time. He was on a mission; the World Championship was again his for the taking. He just wanted the win. Chunks of time would be taken out of the lead of the two Ferraris. Still, it didn't seem he had enough laps left to reel them in.
While Moss and Brooks were mired down in 5th and 8th spot, Fangio would be anything but mired down. His foot was on it and he had one major advantage over the two leading Ferraris. Despite the fact the wheel problems caused him to be well behind at the end of his stop, Fangio still had new tires on his Maserati. The fuel loads in the Ferraris were coming down to equal levels of Fangio but their tires were well worn by this point in time. The new boots and the resurfaced track meant Fangio could absolutely fly, and he would.
Heading around on the 20th lap of the race, Fangio was nearly up to Hawthorn and Collins. It really was just a matter of time before he made his move and retook the lead of the race. He would be right behind them coming up the long straight before the start/finish line but he would wait until the south curve before he would dispatch Collins. Hawthorn would last just a little while longer. Fangio had done it. In what many would consider the drive of his life, Fangio would erase a 45 second deficit to be in the lead with just a couple of laps remaining.
No such charge would be made by either of the Vanwall drivers left in the race. In fact, heading into the last couple of laps of the race Brooks would come under fire from Masten Gregory and would be fighting with everything he had just to hold onto 8th place. Moss would still be in 5th place looking like an average driver as he had to wrestle with the Vanwall to shuffle it around the circuit without incident.
Heading into the final lap of the race, Collins would back off his pace having been fairly beaten by Fangio. Hawthorn would do his best to hang on to Fangio however. Greeted by waving fans celebrating the performance they had just witnessed, Fangio would maneuver his Maserati through the corners without putting a wheel wrong. Flying up the long straight before powering his way down toward the checkered flag, the Argentinean would have a lead of a couple of seconds over Hawthorn as they flashed over the line to complete the race. It would be a marvelous victory for Fangio. Collins would finish a little more than 30 seconds behind his teammate and friend Hawthorn. Stirling Moss would fight and fight with his Vanwall and would end up winning the battle as he flashed across the line in 5th place, some four minutes and 37 seconds behind Fangio.
Brooks would not only end up a lap down as a result of Fangio's record pace. He would also end up losing his position to Gregory before the end. Gregory would manage to pip Brooks for 8th place with only one lap remaining in the race. Brooks would end up 9th and well out of the points.
It had been a remarkable day for Fangio who earned his fifth World Championship title with the wonderful victory. No such adjectives could be used for Vanwall. After their stunning victory in the British Grand Prix the Vanwalls looked absolutely mediocre around the Nurburgring. The car's weaknesses were made obvious and it seemed as though the car was just as scared of the circuit as any driver ever would be. Still, the team had two of their cars finish the race and they still had some momentum on their side. They could still look forward to the next race with some confidence.
In 1957, two epic and arduous circuits would test cars and drivers, and they would come back-to-back. The Nurburgring was certainly a fearsome circuit to behold. On the 18th of August, cars and drivers would be faced with the longest grand prix circuit in Formula One history. Titled the 25th Gran Premio di Pescara, teams, cars and drivers would be faced with the epic Pescara circuit that covered nearly 15.9 miles of extremely fast city streets and unbearably slow hairpin mountainous roads. The grand prix was as much a road rally as it was a grand prix.
In the 1950s, grand prix circuits would still be widely comprised of public roads. Circuits like the Reims, Rouen, Nurburgring and Spa-Francorchamps would all be public road courses but they still had the feel of taking place within one geological area. Pescara would be different. The circuit itself would start along the city streets of Pescara. The beginning of the circuit would be long, straight and fast as the streets ran along the coast of the Adriatic. This would be flat, with very little elevation change. However, the circuit would then turn inland and toward the Maille Mountains. Climbing up the mountains and then descending back down them, there would certainly be a large amount of elevation change through this area. The circuit would also change as the long fast straights would give way to the seemingly endless array of hairpin turns climbing and descending the mountains.
The Pescara Grand Prix would only be on the World Championship calendar for a single season, but to many, the race in 1957 would mark the end of road racing. Little did the teams and drivers know how memorable of a race it would actually be.
Because of the long straights that made up about two-thirds of the circuit the lap times around the nearly 16 mile long circuit would be similar to those of the Nurburgring. As usual, Fangio would prove the fastest in practice posting a lap time of 9:44.6. Stirling Moss would find the long straights and the slow hairpin turns much more to the liking of the Vanwall and he would end up on the front row in 2nd place as a result of a best lap of 9:54.7, a little more than 10 seconds slower than Fangio. Luigi Musso had been putting together an impressive year but had very little to show for it to that point. He would complete the front row in the 3rd position with a time of 10:00.0.
The two remaining Vanwalls would be found in the third rank. Tony Brooks would be the faster of these two with a lap time of 10:08.8. He would start in the 6th position. Lewis-Evans, meanwhile, would complete the row starting in 8th.
All in all, the field would be relatively small as a result of Scuderia Ferrari's ban of the race out of protest of the Italian government's proposed move to ban road racing. This was in response to Alfonso de Portago's accident in the Mille Miglia earlier in the year. Musso would be at the wheel of a Ferrari lent him by the factory but he would enter under his own name. So, just a total of 16 cars would prepare to take the start of the 18 lap race.
The day of the race, the 18th of August, would be a sweltering affair. The sun would be beating down on the circuit, on the cars and the drivers. The crowd would be fighting for shade as the cars lined up on the tight grid positioned along Pescara's city streets. As the flag dropped to start the race, Musso would shoot into the lead with Moss right close behind. Further back, a tragedy would be executed as Horace Gould would strike a mechanic who was slow to get away from the grid. The mechanic would end up dying. Gould would be out of the race immediately, but the race would go on.
Musso would hold onto the lead over the course of the first half of the lap despite the sheer speed of the Vanwall. Brooks would be running well in 5th place until his Vanwall suffered mechanical problems and was forced to retire. Lewis-Evans would take over the position and would be looking good over the course of the first lap.
Musso would lead the first lap of the race but Moss would be in position to take advantage of the long straight at the beginning of the lap. He would use the speed of the Vanwall to get by and take over the lead of the race. Fangio would be behind Musso in 3rd place and Lewis-Evans would take the first lap in 5th place behind Behra.
Moss continued to lead the race but Musso would remain right there with him. Fangio would continue to run in 3rd place at a nice controlled pace. He had already won the World Championship and was in no hurry to press a bad situation.
The heat would be the worse situation for the cars and drivers in the early going. Lewis-Evans could testify to this as he would drop all the way down to 11th by the 3rd lap of the race as a result of a tire failure. He would remain mired down in the field as a result of another tire failure just a few laps later.
Moss would be suffering no ill effects from the heat in his Vanwall and would continue to lead the race. He began to pull away from Musso. The Vanwall certainly enjoyed the circuit. Suddenly, on the 10th lap of the race, Musso was nowhere to be found. Moss would go through but Musso would not. Then, suddenly, Fangio would appear, but he too would be well behind and suffering from a damaged wheel. It then became apparent what had happened. Musso's engine had blown up over the course of the lap and oil would be strewn all over the circuit. Fangio would hit the oil, spin, and end up damaging his wheel. He would limp back to the pits still in 2nd place as the heat had reduced the field dramatically.
Behra, Salvadori, Musso, Godia-Sales and Halford would join the others that had already fallen out of the race during the first lap. Fangio would still be in the race but he would be well behind. Still, he was in 2nd place and under no threat from any other competitor, such was Moss' pace and the terrible effect of the heat.
Just about the time Musso would disappear and cause Fangio great distress, Lewis-Evans would find himself coming under fire from his teammate. The double tire failure had severely hurt him and he was going to be going a lap down to his teammate. Moss would be out front with absolutely no threat coming from behind. He could choose his pace just to ensure the Vanwall would make it all the way to the end. In fact, just prior to the start of the last lap Moss would come into the pits and would extract himself from the car quite leisurely. While the crew set to work putting fuel in the car and changing the tires, Moss would have time to cool down a little and enjoy a drink. There would even be enough time for the Vanwall to be topped off with oil just to make sure it would make it the final miles of the race. He would then leisurely get back into the car and drive off.
It would be perhaps the easiest win of Moss' entire career. Crossing the finish line in two hours, 59 minutes and 22 seconds, his finishing time would actually be slower than what it could have been had he not stopped for a long time in the pits to ‘freshen-up'. Fangio would end up working hard in the Italian heat. He would finally finish the race three minutes and 13 seconds behind Moss. Harry Schell would finish in 3rd place a further three and a half minutes adrift.
Had it not been for all of the trouble with his tires Lewis-Evans likely would have finished much further up in the order. As it was, he would finish in 5th place well more than a lap behind Moss. But still, it was in the points.
This made it two World Championship victories on the season for Vandervell. They surely were the British marque destined to take the fight to the Italian teams. Confidence was running high within the team. What really excited the team would be the fact the final round of the World Championship for 1957 also suited the Vanwall.
As a result of the victories in the British and Pescara Grand Prix, Moss would shoot up the standings. Fangio had dominated to take his fifth World Championship, however, next-best honors was still very much in doubt. With Moss in 2nd, Brooks in 5th and Lewis-Evans tied for 12th with 5 points, Vandervell was doing exceedingly well against the Italian factory teams. One race remaining, the team could really make an impact.
The final round of the World Championship of 1957 would take place three weeks after the grand prix in Pescara and only about 350 miles up the road in Monza. It was the Italian Grand Prix. And in 1957, there was the potential for a memorable British invasion.
The Autodromo Nazionale Monza would be built in the Royal Villa of Monza park just to the north of Monza's city center. When opened in September of 1922, Monza would be one of the fastest circuits in the world comprised of both a loop circuit and a road course. The combined circuit measured 6.2 miles in length and was very fast and dangerous. A number of deaths would lead to the circuit's layout to change a number of times, but mainly, it would be the oval section of the circuit that would be abandoned.
Although the 3.91 road course section would be without the fast oval portion, the circuit would still be very fast. Then, prior to the 1955 Italian Grand Prix, work would be done revitalizing the oval. Steep banking would be incorporated and the famous Parabolica would make its first appearance. The combined circuit would be used again in 1955 and would remain for two years. However, in 1957, the bumpy concrete banking would be abandoned in favor of just the road course once again.
The change back to the road course would actually favor the Vanwall as the bumpy concrete banking had done the cars harm the previous season. Entering three cars in the race, Vandervell looked strong without even having taken to the track for practice. Still, the work ahead of the team would be anything but easy as a result of five factory Maseratis and four Scuderia Ferraris.
Taking to the circuit for practice, each of the three Vanwalls would be fast. The heat would again bear down on the circuit and threatened the reliability of all the cars. Nonetheless, it would be a tightly contested Friday practice with Moss barely edging out Fangio for the fastest time around the circuit.
It seemed nobody could beat Moss' time. The heat on Saturday would cause many to avoid taking to the circuit. But, when Lewis-Evans went out and promptly went fastest he would bring all of the other cars out on the track with him. When it was all said and done it would be a truly historic front row as Stuart Lewis-Evans would start from pole with a lap time of 1:42.2. Stirling Moss would end up in the 2nd position with a lap time a half a second slower. The amazing scene would only get better when Tony Brooks lapped just two-tenths of a second slower than Moss and would end up in 3rd place on the front row. Vanwall would end up in the first three positions on the front row. The final position on the front row would go to one outpaced Fangio.
Heading to race time on the 8th, there would be very little for the Vanwall mechanics to do as each of the three Vanwalls had performed without any kind of trouble. Just some final adjustments and checks would go on prior to the cars being rolled out onto the grid.
The temperatures would be just as hot as the previous couple of days but the teams and drivers had become accustomed to the weather and had discussed appropriate strategies. It would be an amazing sight to see the three British Racing Green Vanwalls arranged all along the front row with just one Maserati seemingly tagging along.
The incredible throng of passionate Italian race fans would begin spilling in all around the circuit. They too would be taken back by the sight at the front of the grid. The drivers would soon take their places behind the wheel. Vandervell's hopes would be wanting to soar; held down only by nervousness.
The engines would be roaring ready to go for 87 laps, and then there would be the drop of the flag and the Italian Grand Prix would be underway. Moss would rocket away from the grid with Jean Behra also making a fast start in the V12 Maserati. Halfway around the circuit, it would be Moss leading Behra. Following Behra would come Lewis-Evans followed by Brooks. Three cars in the top four, Vandervell could not have expected a much better start to the race.
Although Moss would lead the first lap of the race, things would be just heating up amongst the top five runners. Over the first 20 laps of the race the lead would change hands, officially, some nine times between five different drivers. It would be amazing to behold. The first 20 laps of the race would feature the top five. Amongst the top five each would spend time in the lead and back in 5th place. The long straights would allow for a lot of slip-streaming that would lead to numerous changes in position.
Vandervell could not have asked for more from his three drivers early on in the race. The pace was truly torrid but all three would remain up at the front dicing it out for position. More than once the three Vanwalls would hold onto the top three positions in the order. The three Vanwalls would be consistently together, often running side-by-side down the long straights. This would certainly cause Vandervell and the team some moments of great nervousness but they would give each other enough room and the incredible show would continue to go on. But this would be difficult to sustain with the high temperatures, terrible pace and the presence of Fangio and Behra. Nonetheless, the three drivers were doing their best and it would make for some of the best racing since the 1953 French Grand Prix.
Nearing the 20th lap of the race Lewis-Evans would be in the lead with Brooks in 2nd place and Moss 3rd. Unfortunately, just when Vandervell looked its strongest issues would begin to arise that would see the amazing early battle begin to unravel. The first to encounter problems would be Brooks. Brooks would head into the pits with a sticking throttle issue. This plaguing problem had again ruined a great and fantastic battle. This dropped well down the field. He would end up returning to the circuit but would be outside the top ten.
It wouldn't be too long after Brooks' misfortunes that Lewis-Evans would slow as it became painfully obvious his engine was not running in top form. Eventually, he would be forced to retire after 49 laps as a result of a cracked cylinder head.
Jean Behra would end up falling out of the race with an engine problem. Peter Collins would be another retiree when his engine let go after 62 laps. This left Moss at the head of the field followed by Fangio. Mike Hawthorn would take over 3rd place when Collins retired. Brooks would recover from his early throttle issues and would be absolutely flying. But, once again, Brooks' troubles would continue rearing their ugly head. He would be forced to the back of the field once again. This would force him to perform yet another stellar comeback.
Brooks would do his best. He would end up turning the fastest lap of the race on the 72nd lap with a time of 1:43.7 at an average speed of nearly 124mph. Around the same time Brooks was flying in one of the Vanwalls, Moss would be pulling into the pits in the other. He would be coming into the pits to have some new tires fitted to the car. The stop would take some time but his lead had been such that he would rejoin the race still comfortably in the lead.
Just 10 laps remained in the race. And while Brooks and Lewis-Evans had problems to deal with in their Vanwalls, Moss would have none with his. Enjoying a 41 second margin, Moss would cruise to his third victory of the season. Fangio would come through in 2nd place in what would be his final Italian Grand Prix. Wolfgang von Trips would use the attrition to his advantage and he would end up coming through to finish in 3rd place a little more than 2 laps behind.
Had it not been for the late trouble with Brooks' Vanwall he likely had a top five finish in the offering. Instead, he would have to push incredibly hard just to finish in the 7th position some 5 laps behind teammate Moss.
It would be another incredible day for Vandervell. They had achieved their 3rd victory on the season and Moss had been dominant once again. The British had finally arrived in Formula One and the victory in front of the passionate Italians would be a truly special moment. Although their Italian machines had not earned the victory, the Italian fans understood and appreciated what they had just witnessed. They would flock onto the circuit and the roar surrounding Moss would be absolutely deafening, and thoroughly enjoyable.
The last half of the season in the World Championship and been pretty much dominated by Vanwall. Had it not been for the struggles at the Nurburgring it could have been that a Vanwall won each of the last five races of the season. Suddenly, the complexion of the World Championship would have changed. At the time, the German Grand Prix didn't seem all that important. Everyone believed Fangio would sow up the championship at some point. But, looking at the results following the Italian Grand Prix, suddenly the importance of the victory at the German Grand Prix could not be overlooked. Moss and Vanwall had come into its own. The championship standings following the German Grand Prix had shown Fangio so far out ahead of the rest. It would be a slightly different story at the end of the season. Fangio would still be the clear winner but Moss would firmly take over in 2nd place having scored 25 points. Tony Brooks would end the season in 5th place with 11 points while Stuart Lewis-Evans would remain down in 12th place with 5 points.
Vandervell was now one of the strongest teams in the paddock. Their cars still had some nagging issues but with Moss, Brooks and Lewis-Evans the team had drivers capable of remaining up at the front. Vandervell was the British marque that assumed command in the fight against the Italians. Unfortunately, the World Championship for 1957 was over. Another race or two and Fangio's fifth championship could have come under some fire.
Although the World Championship had drawn to a close there were still some non-championship races left on the calendar. Political intrigue with Britain and the Middle East would cause the International Trophy race to move to the 14th of September, just a week after the Italian Grand Prix.
Vandervell would have an entry for the race, and it would have been a true sensation to have the team that just took victory in the Italian Grand Prix as part of the event. However, the team would be in no rush following the race at Monza. And, although the team would have an entry in the race, Vandervell would not show up for the race as they would be taking their time getting home and rebuilding their Vanwalls.
This was not the end of the season for Vandervell however. There was still one race on the calendar the team had plenty of time in which to prepare. Toward the end of October the team would assemble their three cars and would load them, and the equipment, up for a journey that would take them to the Africa continent. It would be in the city of Casablanca that the final Formula One race of 1957 would be run. It was the 6th Grand Prix de Maroc and it would take place at the Ain-Diab street circuit on the 27th of October.
The country of Morocco is rocky and dry like most of North Africa. However, this desert-like setting can offer some beautiful picturesque settings. In the case of the Ain-Diab circuit, situated right along the coast, within a matter of yards from the Atlantic, the setting just could not be beat.
Entirely comprised of roads traversing the countryside to the southwest of Ain-Diab, the circuit measured 4.74 miles to the lap and was relatively flat all the way around given that it sat so close to the coast. Mostly made into the shape of a rectangle the circuit's layout meant the average speeds would be high.
All of the major teams would be present for the 55 lap event. The event was to be part of the World Championship for the following year so this would bring the teams across the Mediterranean for the non-championship event. Ferrari would come with just a couple of their new Dino 156s. The factory Maserati team would come with a handful of 250Fs. The Vandervell team would bring three cars to the race. Moss would make the trip along with Brooks and Lewis-Evans.
At the start of practice Moss would prove the fastest around the circuit. Vandervell's hopes certainly had to be soaring. However, Moss would fall ill over the course of the weekend and would not be able to take part in the race.
This left just the two Vanwalls of Lewis—Evans and Brooks to take the fight to the likes of Fangio, Behra, Collins and Hawthorn. Over the course of practice it seemed the team wouldn't really need Moss as Brooks would end up posting the fastest lap time in practice and took the pole with a time of 2:23.3. Jean Behra would end up in the middle of the front row. Stuart Lewis-Evans would put together another remarkable practice showing his talent. He would complete the front row in the 3rd spot.
If the race went anything like practice Vandervell had reason to feel confident the team could come away with yet another victory. In total, 14 cars would take to the grid for the final Formula One grand prix of 1957, at least in the Northern Hemisphere.
Some 50,000 spectators were believed to have assembled for the race on the 27th. The flag would drop and the race would commence with the cars roaring along the long straight toward the fast right-hander at the end. The first turn was tricky in that it featured about the only elevation change on the whole circuit. The turn was a rather tight climbing turn and it had caught out more than a couple of drivers over the course of the weekend. Coming through the turn it would be Behra in the lead.
Behra would continue to lead the way over the Vanwalls of Brooks and Lewis-Evans. Fangio would be running strongly, and with absolutely no troubles whatsoever. However, on the 7th lap of the race he would be shown the black flag and would come into the pits obeying the flag and the number on the board. It would turn out that the officials had the wrong number. Instead of 8 the number should have been 18.
Jack Brabham had suffered an oil leak and had done some work on the car away from the pits. The leaking oil and the work were cause for disqualification, but it had been Fangio that had been given the signal. The situation righted, Fangio would set back off into the race, but well down.
Another driver, Mike Hawthorn, would be struggling with illness but would find himself unable to go on. He would stop after 8 laps, the same time Brabham would be finally shown the black flag. The only other Ferrari in the race would belong to Peter Collins. He would be running well until he suffered a crash on the 17th lap of the race and would be forced to retire.
Just one BRM remained in the race after 25 laps. Unfortunately, just one Vanwall remained as well. Brooks' race would come to an end early on when electrical problems would force him out after just 12 laps. So, Vandervell was now down to just one car against a gaggle of Maserati 250Fs.
Lewis-Evans would do his best but Behra would be flying at the head of the field. He wouldn't be flying quite as fast as Fangio as he would go on to set the fastest lap of the race trying to overcome the officials' error early on.
Heading into the final couple of laps of the race, Behra would be out in front with a comfortable margin. Lewis-Evans would be impressive being the lone Vanwall in the field. He would maintain 2nd place ahead of Maurice Trintignant in the sole remaining BRM 25. Only the top four would be on the lead lap by the end of the race. Fangio's pace following the officials' error would enable him to be one of those four on the lead lap, but he would be too far behind to challenge for the podium.
Behra had dominated the race from the very start. Averaging more than 112mph over the course of the race, the Frenchman would cross the line to take the easy victory by 30 seconds over Lewis-Evans. Trintignant would come across the line a minute and 26 seconds behind Behra. Fangio would be nearly a lap down in 4th.
The final race of the season would be filled with a lot of ‘what might have been'. All three cars had shown the way throughout practice but concern and conservatism likely cost the team the victory. Still, Behra's performance was certainly special and tough to beat. But although the team had just one car finish the race, the 2nd place result was still something to be proud of as a team. Just a couple of years earlier there wasn't a British-made marque capable of sustaining a challenge of the Italians. That had all changed. What would the next season have in store?
1957 would be a break-out year in many respects, and not only for Vandervell. Yes, the team achieved some truly remarkable victories in the British, Pescara and Italian Grand Prix but, as time would tell, it would also break open the door for British dominance within Formula One. Britain would become Formula One's home as a result of the breakthrough season by Vandervell. It also meant the expectations for 1958 would be very high. Just like that, Vandervell's success over the course of the 1957 season would cause Britons, for the first time, to now expect great results, not merely hope for them. Vandervell Products