On This Day in #F1: 10th May 1959

Brought to you by TheJudge13 chronicler Jennie Mowbray

– 1959: Jack Brabham’s Inaugural Win

“He was hard and tough and wiry – just the sort that won’t say die –
There was courage in his quick impatient tread;
And he bore the badge of gameness in his bright and fiery eye,
And the proud and lofty carriage of his head.”

~Banjo Patterson – The Man from Snowy River~

It had been a lengthy wait for the opening of the 1959 season due to the cancellation of the Argentinian Grand Prix and it wasn’t until May 10 that the teams eventually assembled to compete at the twisting and tortuous Monaco circuit. The battle that would ensue would be between the superior handling of the Coopers with their innovative rear engine configuration against the premium power and expert engineering of the Ferraris, who were now anticipating their dominance with the demise of both the Vanwall and Maserati stables.

Jack-BrabhamJack Brabham, nicknamed “Black Jack” in his native Australia in part due to his jet black hair and pirate-like stubble as well as for his ruthless racing on the track, had arrived in the United Kingdom in 1955 and had acquired a Cooper racing car. The father and son team of Charles and John Cooper were the radical innovators of their day. They had decided to go against the long ingrained concept of “the horse before the cart” and had placed their engine behind the driver. With increased weight over the rear wheels the manoeuvrability of the car from side to side during cornering had been considerably improved.

Initially the Coopers were under-powered with their 1.960 cc engine but despite this Stirling Moss had wielded it to a win at Argentina in 1958 where he had been given leave to drive the Cooper as his Vanwall was not yet race-ready. For 1959 the factory Cooper team now had a state-of-the-art 2.495 cc Coventry-Climax engine which was also being used by the Rob Walker privateer team. The two teams were using different gearboxes, both of which were having difficulties handling the increased power and torque produced by their new engine.

During qualifying Moss placed his Rob Walker Cooper on pole position, with Jean Behra in his Ferrari only four hundredths of a second behind. They were closely followed by Brabham in his works Cooper and Tony Brooks in the second Ferrari.


Race day dawned resplendent. The dusky shadows of the trees and buildings were overlying the track, sunlight was glinting off the water and pretty girls in their spring dresses were perched like birds on the balconies trying to get a better view of the cars (and their pilots).

Behra took the lead off the line, with Moss and Brabham hot on his heels. Their tyres squealed as they struggled to manipulate their machines around the Monaco hairpin. After a hard fought battle, Moss eventually passed Behra on Lap 22. Brabham then got ahead of Behra for second place on lap 23 and shortly afterwards Behra’s engine failed. It was on lap 81 that Moss pitted with transmission problems. The multiple gear changes required at Monaco had caused havoc with his gearbox and he was forced to retire on the following lap. Brabham was now in the lead and he finished over twenty seconds ahead of Brooks for the first ever World Championship race victory for an Australian.

20 responses to “On This Day in #F1: 10th May 1959

    • Thanks Matt – It does look beautiful – surely having cars dive into the harbour only adds to the excitement – lol:)

      • You still can. Senna did it. Even jos verstappen did it. Maybe nowadays they just don’t have the balls any more

          • And then Kimi did as well to just manage to get 10th to keep his points streak going…

        • To add to your point, Schumacher started last in 2006 after his “accident” in qualifying yet finished 5th and in 2010 Alonso crashed in FP and missed qualifying, started last and finished 6th, so it does happen.
          I also remember 2001, I believe, when DC qualified on pole, couldn’t get off the line and couldn’t get past Bernoldi for 50 odd laps…

          • Yes, and there is the fact that it’s just insane to drive at those speeds in such little spaces. I dont really understand why some people call monaco boring. (Yet senna’s on board is considered the greatest lap, by many of those people) It’s one of those races I look forward to, the most. People complain about the tilke tracks and here we have the complete opposite, but that’s considered boring 😆

    • Absolutely! Fantastic picture (is that Tabac?) of an unfenced track and beautiful video with cars sliding in Loews.

      • Yes it is Tabac, how times have changed, I couldn’t believe the lamp posts situated by the side of the road with nothing preventing a collision with them!

        • By the 60s, the bales extended all the way down to Tabac! March of progress 😛

  1. A shame for Moss, losing this win cost him the shot at the championship in 1959. By modern race distances (78 laps) Moss would have just clung on to win. But Brabham deserves his success, from pushing forwards the rear-engined revolution when he arrived at Cooper (winning the Australian GP with one), to then winning with his own team in the mid-60s.

  2. God bless Banjo Patterson…!
    . . . and of course I love the shot of Jack coming down the Quai Albert…
    with an independent air…
    You could hear the crowd declare…
    . . . Ah Jennie – my first GP was there… 🙂

    • Was hoping I’d do it justice:)

      …your first GP was there – as in – you were actually there that day?…

      It sounded like you were quoting something but my literary education didn’t stretch far enough to know what…but it wasn’t hard to find it – loved it:) I’m sure winning the race beat making a million franks for Jack that day…

      • “. . . you were actually there that day?”
        My long-lost uncle had his yacht tied up there, on his way back from Shanghai, and my aunt flew me out on BOAC to watch the race – I think she might have thought she needed to meet him sort of half way in case he didn’t get back to Blighty. But I fell in the harbour and spent the race in hospital on a stomach pump. 😉
        I remember in those days, in order to minimise disruption, practice used to take place at 06:00. During breakfast an elderly dowager asked the waiter what on earth was all the noise that morning.
        He replied: “It’s for the Grande Epreuve madame. The drivers are practising.” to which the dear old soul retorted: “If they’re only practising, why can’t they do it somewhere else…!?”
        Oi vay!

        • Thanks BJF:) Loved the story…I was incredibly excited at my first GP and that didn’t involve a yacht and Monaco…though sight seeing the views from the local hospital doesn’t sound like fun…

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