1961 Monaco Grand Prix
: 1961 Monaco Grand Prix: Outdueled by a Legend By Jeremy McMullen
Powering his way around Tabac, Richie Ginther would find that his time had run out. He had doggedly fought and wrestled his way around the tight, twisty streets of Monaco in pursuit of Moss. The British veteran had an answer for everything but it required perhaps the best drive of his life to hold off the undersized American.
Paul Richard 'Richie' Ginther started out his career in racing as a mechanic and preparer of racing cars. One of his friends and customers would be the great Phil Hill. Returning from his national service during the Korean War, Richie would ramp up his own racing efforts and would first be a regular in the sportscar scene.
Endlessly racing all throughout the mid-to-late '50s, he would earn a great deal of success and would even enjoy a string of victories that would make any racer envious. After some impressive performances Ginther would attract the attention of the Ferrari factory and he would be hired by the team heading into the 1960s as a testing driver and mechanic.
Ginther would prove himself again and again and this would result in him getting his first taste of Formula One in 1960. Many would dream of starting out their Formula One career with Ferrari and that is exactly what Richie would do.
His first race for Ferrari would be a supreme test as it would be the 1960 Monaco Grand Prix. Formula One was already difficult enough, but to make a debut at arguably the toughest circuit in the world would be an incredible test for even the best.
While drivers like Masten Gregory, Chuch Daigh and Cliff Allison would fail to qualify for the race, Ginther would make it through practice to qualify 9th. In fact, Ginther would qualify ahead of the man he had prepared cars for in the past—Phil Hill.
Ginther would lose out a couple of positions at the start of the race and would actually fall all the way to the back of the field and would stay there throughout the first third of the race. However, by the 40th lap of the race he would find his footing and would begin to march back up through the field.
Stirling Moss and Jo Bonnier would be battling it out for the lead of the race. Ginther, on the other hand, would be working hard to remain in the running. The rain had come down and a number of drivers suffered because of it. In Ginther's case the weather would be welcome as it would allow him to climb all the way back up inside the top ten.
The carnage would be terrible and Richie would be one of the few still to be running, and not just with a damaged car in an effort to score points. Moss would go on to take an easy victory over Bruce McLaren. Ginther, however, would be impressive in his own right. He would finish 30 laps behind but he would still hold on to finish 6th. As a result, he would score a single championship point on his Formula One debut. What's more, other than Phil Hill finishing in 3rd place, Ginther would have the highest finishing Ferrari in the field.
Ginther would prove himself in his very first Formula One race. In difficult conditions he would keep his car out of more trouble and would actually finish while many others were unable to. He had finished well back but it seemed that he had the potential. He just needed some more time.
Ginther would gain more valuable seat time over the course of the 1960 season and the validation of his talent would come by the end of the season. The Italian Grand Prix would make use of the controversial concrete oval in addition to the regular road course. This would draw a good deal of controversy and would lead to many teams boycotting the race. Ferrari, however, would be at the race in strength.
Ginther's talent would show when he started the race from the middle of the front row. After leading nearly the whole first half of the race, Richie would lose the lead to his teammate Hill. Remaining locked in behind his teammate in 2nd place the two Ferrari teammates and friends would streak home to a one-two race finish.
It would be an impressive performance by Ginther. He would show himself capable of leading and remaining in the lead of a grand prix. Were it not for the greater experience of Hill, Richie likely could have earned his first grand prix victory in the Italian Grand Prix in just his first season of racing.
So Ginther had proven himself finishing the 1960 Formula One World Championship in 8th place. He had beaten the likes of Graham Hill, Tony Brooks and John Surtees. He even ended the championship tied with future champion Jim Clark. It seemed entirely likely the next season would only be better for Ginther.
The Monaco Grand Prix would be an important race in 1961. Of course, it was the crown jewel of Formula One, so it was automatically an important race. However, that year the race would serve as the first World Championship event of the season. It would likely set the tone for the season to come. Therefore, it was a race in which a good result would be important as it could really provide momentum.
The Monaco circuit itself would not provide great insight as to the type of season everyone could expect. Even by the early 1960s the circuit was very much out of place. Tight, twisty and offering absolutely no room for error, the average speeds around the 1.95 mile circuit were anything but the average seen at places like Silverstone and Monza. Therefore, it was entirely possible for a light, underpowered car to come to Monaco and hold off more powerful challengers. The nature of the circuit made it very difficult to pass and it didn't favor outright speed as much as great handling, braking and acceleration.
Heading into the season Ferrari had their 156 chassis powered by a 1.5-liter six-cylinder engine. Compared to the more numerous four-cylinder Climax engine, the 1.5-liter Ferrari engine had 30 extra horsepower. This horsepower advantage, it was believed, would enable the 156 to accelerate more-quickly. So it seemed Ferrari had an advantage heading into the race.
In practice, it seemed true Ferrari had an advantage as Ginther would turn in a truly spectacular lap time of 1:39.3. This time would beat out Jim Clark in his Lotus-Climax by three-tenths of a second. Still, somehow, Stirling Moss would manage to capture the pole with an older Lotus 18. Driving for Rob Walker Racing, Moss would turn in a lap of 1:39.1 taking the pole by two-tenths of a second. It would be a remarkable achievement by the defending winner and Formula One great.
Tens of thousands of fans would cram into the tight area of the Monaco principality in preparation for the 100 lap race on the 14th of May. The weather would be beautiful with no expectation of rain, unlike the year before when rain played an important role in the events of the race.
Moss' pole suggested the two-time winner had the potential of a third. However, the presence of the inexperienced Ginther on the front row suggested Ferrari may have something in reserve when it came to a 100 lap race. And, as the flag dropped to get the race underway the suggestion seemed true as Ginther would lead the way on the short sprint down to the tight Gazometre hairpin.
Ginther would be the clear leader going through the hairpin while Jim Clark would be to the outside of Moss through the first turn. Heading up the hill following Sainte Devote it would be Ginther leading ahead of Clark while Moss would be a few car lengths back in 3rd place. Already it seemed clear Moss was holding the rest of the field up; that his older Lotus was not capable of matching the pace of the newer cars.
The favored team was leading the race, albeit with a perhaps not-so-favored driver with the inexperienced Ginther. Still, he had a chassis with its engine placement lower than the other cars and it had shown to be a positive as he enjoyed a greater handling, and therefore faster, car over the course of practice. And now, here he was out front, leading the way in just the first race of his second season in Formula One.
At the end of the first lap it was Ginther lead with Clark running in 2nd place ahead of Moss. Richie carried on. Clark, however, would find himself in trouble by the second lap of the race. Fuel problems would force the Scot to pit his Lotus. This would drop him all the way to the back of the field and would promote Moss to 2nd place.
Realizing his deficiencies with the older Lotus 18, Moss would embark on a race that would span the ages. He knew he had to run each and every lap at qualifying speeds if he wanted to catch, and pass, Ginther to give himself a chance at the victory. Clark being out of the way, Stirling would shift into gear and would begin a remarkable stretch in which he would admit later, 'I was within a hair's breadth of the limit for at least 92 of the 100 laps.'
Moss would be pushing like mad and, somewhere along the way, would lose a body panel along the side of the car. Now able to see inside the cockpit from the side of the car, it was clear to see that Moss was on the limit and amazingly hauling in Ginther who had built up a bit of a lead already.
Moss would go into the lead and Jo Bonnier would follow him through on the 14th lap of the race. About 10 laps later, Ginther would wave through Hill signaling him to take up the chase of Moss. Ginther would seem to lose a bit of confidence toward the end of the first quarter mark of the race. He and teammate von Trips would battle it out for 4th place while Hill would make his way by Bonnier for 2nd place. Moss, meanwhile, was in the lead and building up an advantage.
Ginther would suddenly regain his focus, and his speed. He would move ahead of von Trips and would begin to put together a charge toward the front that would see him soon get by Bonnier for 3rd place.
By the halfway mark it was Moss in the lead by just under 10 seconds over Phil Hill. Ginther, who had lost ground at the end of the first quarter mark of the race, had suddenly recaptured his speed and was rapidly gaining ground on his Ferrari teammate.
Moss couldn't pull out much more of a lead but his advantage would still be enough to frustrate Hill, who was doing everything possible with a car that had more horsepower, but was unable to close in any further. Being inexperienced within the Ferrari team, and a good team player, Ginther would sit still behind Hill willing to push his teammate closer to Moss.
But it wasn't happening. Moss continued to click off laps at qualifying speeds and Hill just could not find the same pace. Just 25 laps remained in the race. Hill didn't have the pace. There was just one that had the potential of reeling in Moss and it was the least experienced of the two.
Coming up the hill from Sainte Devote, Hill would move to the side and would signal Ginther to take up the fight. Richie would blast by and would set off after Moss. The lead by that point in the race was 7 seconds. This was a daunting task for the young American in just his second Formula One race at Monaco.
Moss would be remarkable, lapping at qualifying speeds. But Ginther would be remarkable in his own right. Chasing after the legend, Ginther would set the fastest lap of the race. In just his second season in Formula One, and in the first race of the 1961 season, Richie would set the fastest lap putting tremendous pressure on Moss. Moss would respond the very next lap matching the lap time. Still, over the course of the last quarter Ginther would be faster and would routinely draw closer and closer to Moss.
The pace would be furious. Just the top three would remain on the lead lap and Ginther would look the faster of the three. Unfortunately, Moss was still at the front and able to use backmarkers to his advantage maintaining his lead.
The tension was beginning to reach its fever pitch. Ginther had dropped Moss' lead down to just 3 seconds. Many more laps and the young American could challenge for the lead. But just when the race was reaching its peak, the race had entered the denouement.
Ginther was giving chase, but Moss was on his final lap. He had been under pressure from Fangio and other greats around the streets of Monaco and had withstood them all. The wily veteran knew how to make his way around the circuit. In spite of Ginther's great, last charge, the legendary Moss would hold on to take the victory in the aged Lotus 18.
Seen at times waving to the crowd and the backmarkers, Moss had been in control the whole of the race. Had not the decision been made so late to release Ginther from behind Hill, that confidence may have been turned to some concern as Ginther would finish his second Monaco Grand Prix in 2nd place just a little more than 3 seconds behind Moss. Phil Hill would complete the podium coming across in 3rd place nearly 50 seconds behind his Ferrari teammate.
It would be a bittersweet moment for Ferrari, but one of sheer joy for Ginther. He had shown his quality chasing after the well-respected and legendary Moss. He had shown the speed to compete, and on Formula One's toughest stage. There were years in which Moss would be content following behind the great Juan Manuel Fangio, just because he was following a great champion. On this day, Ginther would have no shame having been outdueled by a legend.