Sicilian beauty and tradition
- Mattijs Diepraam, Felix Muelas
- 8W October 1998 issue
- Stirling Moss - How Stirling got his Mercedes breakthrough, by Mattijs Diepraam/Felix Muelas
- Zeltweg - Not quite the Österreichring but very near, by Mattijs Diepraam/Felix Muelas
R R C Walker Racing Team Porsche 718
1960 Syracuse GP
Stirling Moss' 1960 Porsche programme (in a car that he describes as a "podgy flat-four") comprised nine races, of which he won four. He was classified second in another (the second edition of the Grand Prix de Bruxelles) on which he made a bitter comment:
"I would have won should its aggregate result been decided in a more conventional manner."
By this he meant that on aggregate times he had won - winning the first heat and coming third in the second. But as Belgians are Belgians they decided to resuscitate the thirties European Championship scoring system, thus giving points for positions (1 for winner and so on), with the lowest total of points winning. Brabham was 2nd and 1st, so he was declared the winner! Moss was seriously disgusted, because on aggregate times he had been more than 20 seconds faster than Black Jack...
Syracuse (or Siracusa in Italian) remained a permanent non-championship fixture on the F1 calendar, its date almost always set in early Spring and almost always acting as a Ferrari benefit. In 1951 the Sicilian town hosted the season's opener on March 11, with Ferrari's Luigi Villoresi taking the spoils. Amongst the variety of Ferrari drivers winning the race are Fangio, Musso, Collins, Baghetti and Surtees. In 1955, when Tony Brooks' Connaught crashed Ferrari's party, it was held as the season's finale.
In '59 and '60 (as well as '52 and '53, understandably) the event was organized for F2 cars, but with the F2 regulations to become F1 rules in 1961, Syracuse returned as an F1 event. As Sheldon puts it, the late fifities and 1960 were almost the only time in motor racing history when the same cars were used in both Formula 1 and 2 with the engine being changed from race to race. So Formula 2 looked equally as fascinating as Formula 1. He continues: "A fine entry assembled for the first race which was held in Sicily. All the major factories had cars in the race. Porsche's car was brand new and very similar to that used the previous year. Although the Ferrari was ostensibly the original Dino, it was more like the broom which had had three new heads and four new handles as it had been changed virtually completely since its first outing."
This is how Moss remembers his Porsche F2 debut at Syracuse:
"I made my Walker-Porsche F2 debut at Syracuse, in Sicily, on 19th March 1960. The Porsche had been delivered direct from Stuttgart, resplendent in Rob´s scots blue and white colours but with two factory mechanics in attendance. It had that air cooled engine in the tail, the most enormous drum brakes and stove-enamelled suspension parts. It was not much quicker than our familiar Coopers, but initially it was over-geared so I tried 5.50 rear tyres instead of 6.00s. And we soon got into the groove, with quickest time at 1.58.2 against Von Trips' 1.59 in the Ferrari. Suddenly Innes Ireland popped out in his ugly new Lotus 18 and knocked a tenth off my time. I had to make quite certain of pole with 1.57.6, Innes next up, then Gendebien's Cooper. Innes led briefly before I got by, my engine revving its heart out yet feeling unburstable in that remarkable Porsche way. I had to drive quite hard to build the gap, but my lead over the Ferrari was eventually 10 seconds. We had twice broken the lap record when rain began to fall. In the wet the Porsche proved quite tricky, and Taffy [Von Trips] closed with the Ferrari, but as I completed my 26th lap, the Porsche puffed blue smoke - a valve had dropped - and my race was over, Taffy winning for the home team. OK, so Porsche´s flat-four was not as unburstable as it felt..."
The last edition of the Syracuse GP took place on April 15, 1967. Rather aptly, Mike Parkes and Ludovico Scarfiotti, Ferrari's Monza '66 stars, dead-heated for the Scuderia, in honour of the recently killed Lorenzo Bandini, after which the daunting Sicilian track was abandoned for safety reasons.