On This Day in F1: 31st May 1959

On this day in F1 – brought to you by TheJudge13 chronicler: BlackJack’sBriefs

1959… remembered for…

Fidel Castro assumed power in Cuba… as Charles de Gaulle was inaugurated as president of France…

Harold MacMillan visited Russia – and was snubbed by Khrushchev, who claimed he had a dental appointment…

Nikita Khrushchev then toured the US – but was denied entrance to Disneyland…

While the Dalai Lama fled Tibet, to India… women in Nepal voted for the first time… while Swiss men voted against allowing Swiss women to vote…

Buddy Holly died in a plane crash… while Elvis Presley first entered UK charts with Heartbreak Hotel

The first Grammy Award ceremony had “Nel Blu Dipinto di Blu (Volare) winning…

Top movies included: Some Like it Hot. Room at the Top and Ben Hur,..

Emmies were won by Jack Benny, Rawhide, Perry Como and Perry Mason

Texas Instruments developed the first integrated circuit… while Russian Lunik probes reached the moon…

First hovercraft (SR-N1) crossed the English Channel…

The Barbie doll went on sale… and Hush-Puppies were a success with a bemused public…

Southern England was shrouded in ‘smog’ (fog combined with smoke). All transport systems were affected and people had to walk home unable to even see their own feet…

As Jaguar gave us the E-type, for £1,000… Volkswagen were marketing the ‘Beetle’ with a “Think small” campaign… and the Morris Mini-Minor (and the Austin Se7en) were launched on an unsuspecting public – for just £500 – and three feet shorter than the Beetle…

Note, in the background is Jack Brabham checking the engine of his Cooper Climax. On the far left is team-mate, Bruce McLaren...

Note, in the background is Jack Brabham checking the engine of his Cooper Climax. On the far left is team-mate, Bruce McLaren…

The first Daytona 500 race was won by Lee Petty…
The Aston Martin DBR1 won the Le Mans 24-hours for the third consecutive year…

and Formula Junior was introduced as a way of getting young drivers onto the circuits – and were the first class of racing cars to require roll-bars… The first champions were Michael May and Stanguellini.

1959 Stanguellini Formula Junior Monoposto

1959 Stanguellini Formula Junior Monoposto

The first FJ cars in Britain came from Elva (‘French’ for:
‘She goes’), Gemini and Lola… Keith Duckworth saw the potential of the new OHV Ford Anglia engine, and Cooper and Lotus joined in and had their own F- Junior cars before the end of 1959…

By the end of 1960 there were apparently over 100 FJ constructors worldwide – and nearly 500 (allegedly…) by the end of 1963… when Formula Junior was replaced by a short-lived Formula-3, and then by Formula Ford (and Formula Vee in America)…

Meanwhile

. . . back in 1945 the very successful pre-War ERA (English Racing Automobiles) company was resurrected by Raymond Mays, and Peter Berthon, as BRM (British Racing Motors) and was an almost immediate embarrassment.

ERA

BRM Type 15

Intended to spearhead the first real attempt to put Britain at the forefront of European racing it was 1949 before the Type-15 car was fired up for the first time due to an incredibly ambitious engine design – 1.5L V16 supercharged – but, although winning both it’s first two races (when it actually managed to start) in 1950, it was never successful again.

With few F1 cars available at that time the 1952-53 championships (both won by Albert Ascari) were run to F2 rules and, in 1954 a new, 2.5L F1 appeared, along with BRM’s Type-25, which often showed promise but similarly failed embarrassingly for the next four or five years until…

. . . on this day in 1959, Joe Bonnier finally took BRM’s first GP victory, in the Dutch GP at Zandvoort. However… yet again they seemed to be too late, as the ‘novel’, lightweight, Cooper Climax cars ensured the rear-engine concept was here for good, but BRM soon reacted and finally came good, winning the Constructors Championship in 1962. They were also runners up in 1963, 1964, 1965, and again in 1971. They continued to compete (with some management changes…) until 1977, racing in a total of 197 GP races, and winning 17 (ten by Graham Hill).

In 1958 Vanwall and Cooper had actually beaten BRM in putting British constructors on the F1 map but there were still huge, and proud, sighs of relief in Britain, on this day, in 1959

Aston Martin DBR4

Aston Martin DBR4

Also ‘first’ ‘on this day’, at the same event, was the appearance of the Aston Martin DBR4 but this was their 1957, front-engine design (ignored in 1958, in favour of the sports-car programme) and now out of date before it even appeared…

And Innes Ireland made his GP debut here, on this same day, after having failed to compete at Monaco when he crashed while exiting the tunnel during practice, in the, also front-engined, Lotus 16. He finished 4th and scored his, and Lotus’s first championship points.

It seems odd, in retrospect, after the Cooper successes of
1957/58, that these new cars were arriving in 1959 with
 front engines, especially from Colin Chapman, who was to
 become one of the most innovative designers of the era, 
having already designed the chassis and suspension for the
1956 Vanwall and later offered his design services to 
modify the BRM suspension.

Incidentally, the first, 1954, Vanwall was designed by Cooper’s designer, Owen Maddock, and built by Cooper. Things were soooo different back then… ‘The past is a foreign country…’

PS – and finally…

On this day in 1981 there was chaos at the Monaco GP immediately before the start when a fire in a hotel storeroom above the tunnel, and the over-exuberant assistance from Les Pompiers, resulted in water cascading through the roof of the tunnel onto the track, and for a time the whole Grand Prix was in doubt as it was feared the tunnel’s electric lighting could fail. In the event, the race just started an hour late.

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13 responses to “On This Day in F1: 31st May 1959

  1. Thanks a lot again BJF, really enjoyed the read, and think I recognize the video above!:-)

    But if you allow me I would like to post another video: it is not a British racing car, but it is car from the same era as the Type 15: a 1951 Ferrari 212 Monoposto being filmed at an event that I recently attended, it is really amazing footage of an astonishing car, simply to good not to share it with you! At the event I got to know the owners of the car and I’m currently doing some research on the car for them, but feel free to help!

    http://youtu.be/LZZPNEeQuUM

  2. Hey Bart – nice to hear from you again. Really nice filming of the Ferrari – but I was desperate to get the camera in closer on a wider-angle lens… 😉
    Is this part of a bigger film/project…?

    • Not that I’m aware of, the filmcrew was actually hired by the event organizers so I guess the main purpose of the film is promotion for next year’s event…

  3. Good stuff BJF. Enjoy your articles, but that’s a picture of a BRM P25 not an Aston DBR4.

    • Oh dear… you’re quite right… and I did know that…
      Unfortunately I submitted this column without a caption for this photo… so it looks as if you have won an inadvertent second Bar Exam this week… 😉
      I’ll have to have a word in chambers… 😉
      But I’m glad, Jon, you otherwise enjoyed it.
      [I must check the details.
      I must check the details.
      etc. x 100]

      • I’m just a pedant, sorry. I love all the older stuff on this site, and I think a little more understanding of the real history of F1 that you get here, (and it was just as fractious then as it is today) would help the fanboys etc get some perspective on what F1 has always really involved. Thanks for your efforts.

          • I have no problem with pedants – but I like polite people… 😉
            I can’t really agree with it being as fractious as before though. Do you recall Moss coming to Hawthorn’s defence in Casablanca…? Hawthorn was reinstated and won the championship – by one point – from Moss. And Moss knew his evidence would do this… Compare that behaviour with today’s over-inflated egos… [Not everyone of course.]

            “BJF=TJ13?” – – I’m afraid not…!
            Any more suggestions like that and you’ll have the Judge asking you to approach the bench… 🙂

  4. Thanks – if you’re still talking to the owners try suggesting to them that such cars need to be properly recorded – while they can…

  5. On 31 May in 1965, Memorial Day, Jim Clark won the Indianapolis 500.

    He led the race for all but 10 of the 200 laps.

    I remember it well and with great joy!

    He went on to become (and remains) the only driver in history to win the Indy 500 and the Formula One World Championship in the same year.

    • Hi ‘D’ – nice to hear from you – and a worthwhile story to have remembered… It certainly slipped my memory…
      If you have any other such items, and don’t want to cover them yourself, please pass them on… but please give me a few weeks notice.
      I used to like the old adage: ‘I’ve forgotten more than you’ve ever learned,” but I now find myself forgetting more than I ever learned… 😉

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