Moss versus Clark chapter excerpt

The word hadn’t gotten out. When the Ferrari transporter appeared at the Silverstone gates, reporters and enthusiasts alike all came running. Earl Howe and his BRDC people knew, of course, since Ken Gregory had scratched his double Lotus entry the night before, to replace it with a couple of Ferraris. There was much laughter when the transporter was parked next to the UDT-Laystall service van in the paddock spot reserved for the British Racing Partnership. As soon as the cars were offloaded, though, amazement soon transformed into shock. Both red cars carried a pale green stripe along the length of their noses. The names of Moss and Ireland could be read on the cockpit sides of the 156s. So that was why that single Lotus 18/21 had Masten Gregory’s name on it!

— “So what’s this all about, Ken?” Chapman was quick to ask once he had cornered his rival team owner. — “I thought we had a deal about your buying a pair of brand new 24s.”
— “Oh, that deal’s not off, Colin. We will still need those by the time we head to Zandvoort.”
— “I’m sorry but then I must ask again: what is going on here?”
— “Just doing Ronnie a favour, Colin. Just doing Ronnie a favour. The Colonel is his concessionaire around these parts, in case you’ve forgotten.”

Chapman, having already seen the pale green 250 GTO run in conjunction with Ronnie Hoare’s Maranello Concessionaires, seemed to see the logic in that, but kept having his reservations. Why was Moss also driving a Ferrari? And why hadn’t Rob Walker ordered his 24s yet? Moss driving for BRP in the pre-season was a different thing from Moss being a Walker-contracted driver for the World Championship. His next stop for a chat should be Mr Walker, Chapman thought, as he spotted good old Maurice Trintignant walking ahead of him. Maurice was driving Rob’s old Lotus while Moss was honouring his spring commitments with BRP. As he caught up with the French veteran he patted him on the shoulder and asked, “Last time for the old warhorse, Maurice?”
— “Oh yes, Colin. I’m sure I’ll be driving something else at Monaco!” Trintignant replied, unwittingly.
— “Still have to sell a couple of cars to your boss, though.”
— “Oh, I’m sure he won’t wait too long. Look, there he is. Go ask him yourself!”
— “I certainly will. Listen here, Rob, Maurice is telling me you still need two new cars from me.”
— “Two cars?” Walker replied, before he realized that his genuine surprise at Chapman’s question had just blew the whistle on his plans.
— “Well, what is Maurice going to drive if you only need one? Or am I the one to break it to your driver that you won’t be requiring his services after this race?”
— “No no, Maurice will be driving for us this season.”
— “Then what will Stirling drive?”
— “You’ll read it in the papers, Colin!” said Walker, and turned away while pointing vaguely into the direction of the BRDC club house, feigning that he was expected at some meeting. Chapman knew enough.

In the race, the sport’s supertrio fought hard, staging an epic battle for the lead that would be remembered for a long time. In the end, though, Moss’ Ferrari blew a gasket and was forced to retire, leaving Hill and Clark to thrash it out to the finish line, the BRM beating the Lotus by a whisker, in a strange prelude to what would happen in the forthcoming championship. Fighting with his new challenger and the surprising Hill in his quick new BRM had been satisfying for Moss, and not finishing the race didn’t leave him too bothered. Something else did, though, and it was the topic of a frank exchange of thoughts with Innes Ireland while going over their report for Maranello. Both of them had been impressed by the professionalism of the team.

— “They have done everything perfectly, don’t you agree, Stirl?” said Innes to his team mate. — “Everything was perfect, except that the car handled like a bowl of soup.”

Moss nodded. They had worked for hours and hours, trying to cure its terminal understeer, only for the car to suddenly switch to violent oversteer. “It did feel sure in the rain, though. But then it doesn’t always rain in Europe, so you really need to dial out those handling quirks.”

Moss knew. He’d driven around them here, getting to grips with a set-up that switched from understeer to oversteer in the same corner. It had left Innes a distant fourth, whereas he himself had been far away from the dominance this car had shown during the 1961 season. He now realised why, though. The engine was a massive step ahead compared to the Climax four-pots he had used the previous year, but the rest had caught up. — “You can rev these engines like hell!” Innes said, and that’s exactly what he thought. Compared to BRM’s and Climax’ new V8s, however, there wasn’t much in it, and with the Ferrari flexing in every directions, the British were trumping the Italians with their chassis.

Maybe it wasn’t such a bad idea after all to start the season with two cars, Trintignant driving the new Lotus 24. If all else would fail, he could always take that car.

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