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'The day I raced a Ferrari'



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Innes Ireland


BRP Ferrari 156




XIV BDRC International Trophy (12 May 1962)


April 23, 1962, was a black day for motorsport - and for Enzo Ferrari. That day at Goodwood, on board UDT-Laystall's Lotus 18/21, Stirling Moss' racing career abruptly came to an end, while the Commendatore lost his new lead Grand Prix driver. The charismatic team boss had hoped that Moss - in a Rob Walker-run Ferrari - would be inspiriational towards the Scuderia's 1962 title defense, which he feared would be very tough indeed. As we know his fears proved right.

With Moss out of action - perhaps for good but at least for the season - Ferrari had to look for a replacement. He turned to Maranello Concessionaires' Col. Ronnie Hoare, the Ferrari UK distributor, who in turn had had good contacts with the British Racing Partnership and sponsor UDT-Laystall. Also, Hoare had already purchased a 250GTO to enter in sportscar events. Soon the obvious thought came up that although Moss might be sidelined, Innes Ireland might be a fine alternative. The event that should prove Ireland's worth would be the International Trophy, to be held just short of a month after Moss' accident at Goodwood.

This is Ireland's own recollection of events: "This was a total surprise and quite inexplicable. Indeed, I still don't know why it happened since there was no suggestion, as far as I ever knew, of my being put on trial as a possible Ferrari works driver. It happened at the May meeting at Silverstone in 1962. First, I heard that Ferrari were not going to enter a works team, and then I got a call from Enzo Ferrari, asking if I would care to drive a works car for him in the race. Naturally, I was delighted. The next thing I knew, I was on my way to the Modena works in Italy for a 'fitting' of the car in company with Ken Gregory and Ronnie Hoare, the Ferrari concessionaire in England. We were received quite royally. I was shown the car and climbed in while the Ferrari technicians measured me for a new seat, altered the pedals to exactly the right position, adjusted the steering wheel to suit me, and asked if there was anything else I required. With all the attendance being danced around I felt I ought to suggest something. I had to rack my brains to think of anything but I remember finding something for them to do. It was all most impressive."

Hoare, Ireland and Ken Gregory, having flown over to Milan, found a chauffeured Ferrari 250GT awaiting their party of three to speed them to Modena to iron out the deal. Ireland himself recalls, "Another little courtesy, which Ferrari arranged for us, it was absolutely hair-raising. He knew only one way to drive - flat out all the way. What's more, he kept a cigarette in his mouth throughout the journeys and half-closed his eyes against the smoke as he drove. This, coupled with the fact that he held the steering wheel low down with the fingertips of one hand whilst averaging 120mph down the Autostrada did not enthrall me one bit. I know I am a terrible passenger in a car! I usually feel scared to death when I'm in the wrong seat, but this time I felt I was justified in being terror-stricken. Still, I suppose one must hand it to the fellow. He did get us there and back in one piece."

Apparently, the Man himself applied a similarly Italian driving style, as Ireland found out the hard way. "Speaking of being a terror-stricken passenger reminds me of the time, some little while later, when I went for a ride with Enzo Ferrari himself in a little baby Ferrari that he was considering putting into production but never did. It was an extremely fast little machine with something like a 1500cc engine. Anyway, Ferrari decided to take me for a run in it. We left the factory with a tremendous flourish, no suggestion here of stopping at the factory gate and taking a quick look up the main road that runs by - but a blare on the horn for the gateman to open up as we sped towards him, and out on to the road with the tyres screeching madly."

"The road past the factory winds through endless little cobblestone villages and the speed at which we travelled was quite alarming. I knew that Enzo Ferrari had been a racing driver once. What puzzled me was way he didn't still go on racing. I can only imagine that the local villagers must have got used to Signor Ferrari screaming sideways round the corners of their streets. Everything on that drive was at maximum. On the way back, he made no attempt to stop at the factory gates but went bounding on down the road with the horns blaring. I notice that the factory gates were firmly closed as we fairly rocketed past at about 125 miles an hour. But we had only passed the factory by a matter of three hundred yards, when he just stood on the brakes. I mean, he really leapt on the brake pedal and we came to a grinding, screaming halt. He looked at me with a great grin on his face and said: 'Hey, freno bene, si?' or whatever the Italian is for 'Aren't these brakes good?' It was impossible to answer. My stomach was way out somewhere on the front of the bonnet. Much as I love Mr. Ferrari's motor cars, I can't say I am too anxious to go for another ride with him."

Obviously, the BRP men relished the prospect of them taking the British works Ferrari deal instead of Rob Walker. After the deal was sorted, Ferrari invited them to lunch. Ireland has fond memories of it. "Immediately afterwards we lunched with Enzo Ferrari, although I found that lunch with the world's best car-maker was no fabulous affair. No, lunch with him meant eating in a workmen's cafe across the road from the factory gates - which was something that endeared me to him no end. The only difference between his table and the rest of the workers' was that his had a white tablecloth on it. I thought that was quite something."

The car that eventually turned up at the International Trophy - won from pole by Graham Hill in the Old Faithful - was the 156 that Baghetti had raced at the Aintree 200, a week after the Goodwood event. Across its bow was a pale green stripe, a nice gesture by Ferrari. In the meantime, Rob Walker himself was more concerned with Stirling's health and put Maurice Trintignant in his Lotus. Innes remembers being extremely impressed by Ferrari's professionalism. "They turned up at Silverstone with the car in a works transporter with a team of mechanics and six technicians, and I must say I felt wildly important while all this was going on. They had done everything perfectly. Everything was perfect, except that the car handled like bowl of soup. We worked for hours and hours but all the mechanics and all the technicians were unable to get it to handle properly. It either understeered like mad, or oversteered like hell, and in the end the best we could get was an odd combination of both, so that whenever I took a corner the handling characteristics changed halfway through. However, it was tremendous fun and in the race itself I managed to finish fourth which appeared to please everybody."

"What impressed me more than anything was the feeling of taking a car out to race in the wet - it poured with rain at Silverstone for the first part of that meeting - and feeling safe about it. No other Formula One car I had ever driven felt as sure in the wet as the Ferrari. Somehow, I never felt that it was going to get the better of me. It was always controllable despite the wet condition of the track, and this was a great comfort. I wrote my report and sent it back to Modena and that was the end of the affair."

This is what his report was like. "I was asked to submit a report to Ronnie Hoare at Maranello Concessionaires, presumably for onward transmission to the factory. I told them that it wasn't just understeering, but that the wire wheels were flexing everywhere! I suggested that they fit a wider track. I tried hurling it through the corners to induce oversteer, but the transition was frighteningly quick when it lurched to oversteer. You could rev it like hell, though."

In the end the Grand Prix deal for Ireland fell through because of a triviality: a sponsorship conflict. "I later discovered from BP's Dennis Druitt that I was under consideration for the Ferrari Grand Prix team, but I was a BP contracted man, and Ferrari ran on Shell!" What was painful was that the later champion, Graham Hill, campaigned a BRM that used the wider track that Ireland had suggested.

Reader's Why by 'Uechtel'

A Ferrari without the red Italian race colour and not entered by the Scuderia is always good for a story. This one was originally intended for Stirling Moss, who, having just lost the 1961 championship yet again to these all-dominating red cars, perhaps intended to follow the motto "if you can't beat them, join them".

Far too often during his career Stirling Moss tried to switch to supposedly better machinery rather than concentrating on the development of just one car, thereby tending to scatter his Grand Prix efforts over a lot of different cars and different teams. In the early sixties he usually drove for Rob Walker's team in world championship events and for BRP (British Racing Partnership, formed in 1959 by Stirling's father Alfred and their business adviser Ken Gregory) in the minor races, both teams relying on their old but faithful Lotus 18s.

1961 was a year of total Ferrari superiority. In the first year of the new 1500 cc formula they were the only team that had a really suitable engine to its avail. Their British opponents had to rely on the old Climax four cylinder, the new Climax and BRM V8 engines still being under development, not to appear until late in the season.

Once again Moss proved, that he was Ferrari's only serious opposition, even winning the Dutch and British Grands Prix in Rob Walker's old Lotus 18, uprated to 21 specification. Even Colin Chapman recognized this and, as his team drivers Clark and Ireland did not have any title chances any more, he finally followed Ireland's suggestion to give him a true works car for the Italian Grand Prix. But the car failed and so it was an easy march through for Ferrari, Phil Hill's title win only overshadowed by the death of Wolfgang von Trips in that very race.

So at the beginning of 1962 nobody could be sure about whether Ferrari would retain its power advantage from the last season or whether the new British engines would turn the tables to their favour. In the early-season non-championship races this question could still not be answered as the British teams were among themselves there, Ferrari usually being not present at such minor events.

Perhaps this was the reason why the Commendatore had made a deal with BRP to loan one of his cars to Moss for the International Trophy at Silverstone, so that he could see how the car would perform in the hands of a real racer. Moss in return could not be sure about whether Ferrari superiority was already broken and therefore of course had a strong interest, too, to open up this alternative.

Ferrari had wanted to sign up Moss as a full member of his works team. But Stirling, having been warned by Fangio, was afraid of the Commendatore's treatment of "his" drivers and the internal team rivalries and demanded that he would only drive a Ferrari in Rob Walker's colours. It tells a lot about Ferrari's respect for Moss that he agreed.

But it was not to be. Having practised in a class of its own in the old, but now already V8-engined Lotus 18, Moss had the horrific accident at the Goodwood race, after which he came to the conclusion that it was better to end his career. So Innes Ireland, who had been released by Chapman despite having scored Team Lotus' first Grand Prix win at the 1961 US Grand Prix and now engaged with BRP, suddenly found himself in the cockpit of one of the famous Sharknose Ferraris at the Silverstone race.

In practise Ireland's performance was not fully convincing, qualifying only for the second row, sixth position on the grid, but at the start of the race he shot into second position behind Clark's new Lotus 24 and in front of the BRMs of Graham Hill and Richie Ginther.

The weather was wet and the Ferrari obviously disliked this. So Ireland soon lost ground. With conditions getting worse Ireland finally was lucky to bring home fourth place, while Hill won in one of the most exciting finishes ever, overtaking Clark at Woodcote, the last corner of the race. In third place, also ahead of the Ferrari, came yet another of the new British cars, the Lola of John Surtees.

Despite the conditions not being truly representative this result was nevertheless an anticipation of things to come. During the course of the season the Ferraris, having won everything in 1961, did not score a single victory in any world championship event at all, being simply blown off by the British cars with their V8 engines and superior chassis designs like the fuel-injected BRM P57 and the new mono-co-que Lotus 25.

One reason why Ferrari had lost contact certainly lay in the team's overstressing of their resources, making a big effort for sports car racing simultaneously. In addition to that in winter 1961/'62 there had been some upset within the team, leading to the defection of Chiti and seven other top executives to form the new ATS company. There simply was not enough manpower available at Ferrari to take full care about the Formula 1 cars, so the old models had still to be used in the upcoming season in nearly unaltered form.