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The first GP win by a rear-engined car



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Stirling Moss (Luigi Musso)


R R C Walker Racing Team Cooper-Climax T43 (Ferrari Dino 246)


Buenos Aires


1958 Argentinian GP


Rarely has a season started off in a more sensational manner than it did in 1958 - of Stirling Moss's tally of famous wins, his victory against-all-odds at the 1958 Argentine Grand Prix stands out as perhaps the best of them all. On the way across the Atlantic Ferrari must have thought that they had it made. Maserati were out of the picture while Vanwall and BRM decided against the trip because of trouble with adapting their engines to avgas.

This meant that Ferrari's opposition comprised of a bunch of privately owned Maseratis and Stirling Moss, who made a one-off appearance in Rob Walker's little mid-engined Cooper. Coventry-Climax had the engine out to 1.9 litres but this scarcely seemed enough to cope with the Ferraris which boasted the full 2.5 litre Dino engine. Cars now had to run on regular aviation fuel but this seemed to cause few problems - Fangio in a Sud Americana Maserati was fastest in practice with two Ferraris following closely and Jean Behra also on the front row.

The weather was not quite as hot as usual for the big race as the small field of just ten cars drew up on the grid. That was about as far as Peter Collins got for a drive-shaft failed, ending his race there and then. So the lead was taken by Hawthorn but it didn't take long (lap 9) before Fangio took over while Hawthorn was struggling to hold off Behra. Musso was just about keeping up. Moss, having qualified seventh, didn't have a smooth getaway, but once into his stride he started to press the front runners. First he caught Musso and then started to close on Behra and Hawthorn. The Maseratis showed signs of overheating which wasn't surprising as they were designed to run on alcohol which runs cooler than petrol. Hawthorn's car started to lose oil pressure and he stopped to see if everything was alright. Fangio stopped for new tyres and resumed in fourth place.

Suddenly Moss was in the lead! He was followed by Musso who was quite confident for the remainder of the race as the Cooper would have to stop for fresh tyres soon. He was further reassured when Walker's mechanics started preparing for a pitstop. This would assuredly drop the Cooper well down the field as it had bolt-on wheels rather then the more usual knock-off ones.

Then it slowly dawned on the Ferrari team that the Cooper was going for a non-stop run...

By that time it was too late. Moss won the race with a final gap of only 2.7 seconds, as Musso strove mightily to close the gap. At the finish, Moss had canvas showing on both rear wheels. It was an amazing triumph - also the first one for a privately entered car - which at the time was regarded as a freak result.

Things were changing rapidly in F1 and during the 1958 season it dawned on the opposition that a nimble mid-engined car was the thing to have. But the day after few seemed to appreciate the meaning of this victory and the sheer skill involved in this awesome giant-killing performance which will probably never find its equal in modern-day F1 racing.

Reader's Why by Tjeerd van der Zee

Moss' victory in Argentina marked the first win of a mid-engined car in a World Championship Grand Prix. Before the World Championship was inaugurated in 1950, Auto Union won a lot of GPs with a mid-engined car. The first was the German Grand Prix of 1934, the driver being Hans Stuck, father of former F1-driver and sportscar ace Hans-Joachim Stuck. The honour of the first mid-engined Grand Prix car however goes to another German product, the Benz Tropfenwagen, which took fourth place in the 1923 Italian Grand Prix, with Nando Minoia behind the wheel.

Moss drove the Argentine Grand Prix in a Cooper for the private stable of Rob Walker instead of his works Vanwall, because Vanwall, as well as BRM, needed more time to prepare their cars and weren't unable to take part. Nobody gave Moss the slightest chance against the opposition (6 Maseratis and 3 Ferraris), but in the end he beat Ferrari driver Luigi Musso by 2.7 seconds. The Ferrari had 280 bhp available, the tiny Cooper only 175. Rob Walker's Cooper upset the Grand Prix world again the next race in Monaco. This time it was Maurice Trintignant who beat all the front-engined oppostion.

The remaining races however were dominated again by the Vanwalls and Ferraris, Mike Hawthorn eventually beating Stirling Moss the the title by one point. It was the fourth time in succession Moss took the runner-up spot in the World Championship. Three third places were to follow, making Moss the most succesful driver ever not to become World Champion.