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Small but potent liters

Skill won for Stirling Moss at Monte Carlo, but 1961 shapes up as a horsepower race for Grand Prix honors

Like a man who comes around a street corner and suddenly finds himself leading a parade, Stirling Moss of Great Britain was the unexpected star of the Monte Carlo Grand Prix opener last Sunday and in the end ran off with all the honors. The parade in this case was provided by Italy, with three Ferraris which finished, entirely on schedule, A-B-C, the only flaw in their planning being that Moss in his underprivileged Lotus somehow got in ahead of them early in the race—and stayed there to finish AA.

How he did it probably only Moss could say. In his second consecutive victory over the demanding Monte Carlo run, it became apparent that whatever handicaps he may be laboring under—and in this case it was an engine which is at least a year behind the Ferraris' new 1½-liter Formula I design—he always has something special on which to draw as long as the machinery holds up. The most strenuous efforts of California's Richie Ginther, who followed him closely all the way, were not enough to shake him, even when Ginther turned a lap in 1.36:3 to equal Moss's best. And Phil Hill, finishing third, also pushed his red Ferrari to the limit without being able once to take the lead which prerace experts believed was his for the asking. As for world champion Jack Brabham, who rushed back to Monte Carlo just in time to make the starting lineup after his qualifying lap at Indianapolis, he was never in contention, leaving the race in the end with engine trouble.

Despite Moss's brilliant performance Monte Carlo clearly showed the fix that Britain is in as the 1961 Grand Prix season gets fully under way. Having held out to the end against the new ruling of the Fédération Internationale de l'Auto-mobile, which limits engine sizes to 1½ liters (roughly the equivalent of a Class G sports car), the British found themselves stuck with the 2½-liter engines of yesteryear. They have had to borrow interim power plants from last year's Formula II to get this season's Grand Prix cars on the road. And though they managed to bring the weight minimum down to 450 kilograms (990 pounds) from the 500 kilograms at first contemplated (the FIA had the mistaken notion that reducing engine size while keeping car weight up would make for slower and therefore safer racing), they found their Continental competitors, who accepted the new ruling from the beginning, far ahead of them in the new formula when the season began.

A classic test of horsepower

Thus Ferrari, with a V-6 engine, and Porsche, a brand-new Grand Prix entry, already have a decided advantage in the power race which is developing. Coventry-Climax and BRM of Britain are both working now on V-8 power plants, but they are barely beyond the design stage and are not likely to figure this year. Emeryson, a new design by Paul Emery, who has long hidden his genius behind such names as Vanwall and Cooper, is, with its Maserati engine, still an unknown but not too highly rated quantity. This year's Grand Prix racing will be a classic test of who can get the most horsepower out of the cubic centimeters available. High revolutions—up to 10,000 per minute; multispeed gearboxes—up to six speeds in the Porsche; and, finally, cornering ability will be at least as important as driving skill.

In previous years, with larger engines allowed, a difference of 10% in power output between two rivals could be made up by the superior skill of a star, but now this difference is much more critical, for with 1½-liter engines the power output is down to around 180 bhp with not much in reserve. This will certainly make the 1961 Grand Prix competition an exciting affair right down to the checkered flag. At Monte Carlo, after he slipped into the lead at 13 laps, Moss was under relentless pressure through all of the 87 laps remaining, and only his supreme adroitness at cornering saved him. Moss being Moss, no one can put him out of the running for the drivers' championship but, facts being facts, more powerful cars than his—or, for that matter, Brabham's Cooper—must be considered likely to take top honors in the long run. Thus Dan Gurney and Phil Hill both stand an excellent chance, Hill because he is a driver of steadily increasing skill with the most powerful (190 bhp) of this year's Formula I cars, and Gurney because the Porsche's new flat-8 engine looks very promising. But the real battle will be among the manufacturers, who will fully deserve their own world championship award—1961, by every indication, will be the year of the car.