13 January 2019

Fascinating F1 Facts: 46

If anyone ever asks you who won the 1960 South African Grand Prix, you have to tell them that they may not know the correct answer.

Either that or the question is a trick one.

To be fair, there are probably not many people who would know the answer without having to look it up. Trying to remember the details of the 997 Grands Prix to date is hard enough, not taking into account all the non-championship races in the days when there were such things. Some years there were 15 or more such races, some less important than others. And then there were other races for which the rules were extended to become Formula Libre (literally "free formula") which meant that F1 cars would race against whatever local or imported machinery there was in the region.

It's a complicated business and the South African Grand Prix of 1960 is a particularly troublesome example. Why?

Because there were two of them. I kid you not. The sixth and seventh South African Grands Prix both took place in the same calendar year.

One might argue that this was because the South Africans had not had a Grand Prix since 1939 and so were wildly enthusiastic and needed have two in the same year, but that is not really the reason. The truth is that  in order to attract international racers to South Africa in the winter months (the southern summer, of course) there had to be more than one race to make it cost-effective and so it was a question of fitting in the races on the available dates. By 1961 there was a four-race series in South Africa , with the Rand, Natal, South African and Cape Grands Prix, taking place at Kyalami (Johannesburg), Westmead (Durban), East London and Killarney (Cape Town).

The first 1960 South African Grand Prix took place on New Year's Day, Friday, January 1 at the East London circuit in the Eastern Cape province, on the Indian ocean coast. The city is about 620 miles to the east of Cape Town, and 400 miles to the south-west of Durban. It was run to Formula Libre rules and the field was, how shall we say, eclectic, ranging from Cooper-Climax T51, which had been built for the 1959 season, to Jaguar D-Types, Porsche Spyders, Tojeiros and even a Maserati-Corvette (whatever that might have been). The race was won by Belgian Paul Frere in a 2.5-litre Cooper-Climax, who beat Stirling Moss driving a 1.5-litre Cooper-Borgward Formula 2 car, who was chased by Syd Van der Vyver in a F2 Cooper-Alfa Romeo. The race drew a crowd of 50,000 raced-starved South Africans…

The second 1960 South African GP took place almost a year later, on Tuesday, December 27, two days after Christmas. It followed on from a similar Cape Grand Prix, which had been held at the Killarney on Saturday, December 17.

The leading entries were all using Formula 1 cars and some of the sport's biggest names were present. Double World Champion Jack Brabham was there in a Cooper-Climax T53, Wolfgang Von Trips was there in an up-to-date Lotus 18, run by Scuderia Colonia. This may sound like some exotic Italian operation but in reality was based in Cologne and was a team in which he played a significant role, as a part-owner. The team existed to promote young German drivers. There were also the two factory Porsche 718s driven by Stirling Moss and Jo Bonnier. It had been a tough year for Moss, who suffered serious injuries in a crash at Spa in June. He was back racing in October, doing several races in the United States and won the last round of the World Championship having ended at Watkins Glen on November 20. The big F1 names then went off to the Bahamas for the Nassau TT sports car race on the 27th, followed by the Governor's Trophy and Nassau Trophy on consecutive days on the first weekend in December. They then found their way to South Africa for the Christmas races.  Moss won from Bonnier in Cape Town, with Von Trips third and then at East London Moss and Bonnier scored another 1-2 with Brabham third in a Cooper-Climax. Once again it was Van der Vyver who was the best of the locals with a Lotus-Alfa Romeo…

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Fascinating F1 Facts: 45 »

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