This weekend at Searing, for the first time in 43 years, a Grand Prix race will be held on American soil. The event will be doubly exciting as it will decide the world championship, closely contested by racing drivers Jack Brabham (Australian), Stirling Moss and the author (both British). Brooks, at 27, has been a leading Grand Prix driver since 1955. He is a dental surgeon who wonders about continuing his driving career now that he and his wife Pina have a new daughter. To take the 1959 title, he must win at Sebring. Here he discusses the strategy of the Big Three (opposite) in the run for top money.
This is an article from the Dec. 14, 1959 issue
The interest and attention of the whole world of motor racing will center on the American Grand Prix at Sebring, Fla. on December 12. It is of importance to the American racing fraternity because it is the first European-type Grand Prix motor race to be held in America since Vanderbilt Cup days; it also means much to the European enthusiast as it will decide who is to be the world champion driver for 1959.
For the world championship, the international governing body of motor sport (the FIA) nominates six or more events at the start of each racing season in which drivers may score points toward the championship. This year nine events were nominated from which a driver may count only his five best performances. The races counting for this year's championship are the Grands Prix of Monaco, Holland, France, Britain, Germany, Portugal and Italy, with the American race still to come. The 500-mile race at Indianapolis was also included, but the fact is that Indy does not conform to the Grand Prix racing car formula, which is for cars with un-supercharged engines not larger than 2½ liters.
In the nominated events a driver receives points according to his final placings, but the race must last for two hours or cover more than 200 miles. First position carries eight points, second six points, third four, fourth three, fifth two, and the driver who makes the fastest lap during the race gets one point. The maximum score for a driver per race therefore is nine points.
Jack Brabham, who drives a Cooper car, is leading the championship with 31 points, but he is already counting five performances (the maximum) and in order to pick up points at Sebring must exceed his worst performance, a third place (four points). He has won two Grands Prix (Monaco and Britain). Third place plus fastest lap would increase his score by one point.
Stirling Moss, driving a Cooper, privately entered by Rob Walker (also sponsoring Maurice Trintignant in a Cooper), is second with 25½ (he shared fastest lap in one event) and he, too, is counting five performances. He has won two Grands Prix (Portugal and Italy), his worst performances being only the fastest lap in two races, so he will have to deduct one of those points from any he may score at Sebring.
I am lying third (Ferrari) with 23 points, having two Grand Prix wins (France and Germany), one with the fastest lap, and a second place. I am counting three events as I have finished in only four races, scoring points in three of them. I can, therefore, add all the points that I may score at Sebring to my total of 23.
The point system is rather complicated but it must be understood if the significance of Sebring is to be fully appreciated. It will provide the key to the whole race, tactics, speeds and drivers' performances. It also explains why the team managers will look more like mathematicians, with their boards, slide rules and lists of permutations, than race directors.
One thing is certain: I must win the race to win the championship. A win would give me a further eight points, 31 in all, and equal to Brabham if he finished in no better than third position. Although I would finish with the same number of points as Brabham I would win the championship on the basis of having won three Grands Prix to Brabham's two. Moss, on the other hand, could win the championship if he finished second, providing he also made the fastest lap and Brabham finished no higher than third. Moss's position would be 25½ (present total), plus six (second), plus one (fastest lap), minus one.
He would beat Brabham by half a point. He would also beat me by half a point, even if I won the race, so the importance of the fastest lap at Sebring becomes apparent. Should Brabham win the race, or finish second with the fastest lap, he would be unassailable world champion whatever Moss or myself did. The possibilities are many, but it is permissible to consider some of the tactics that may be employed by the three leading contenders for the title.
Jack Brabham will have to rely on signals relayed to him from his team manager. How he drives will depend upon where Moss and I are in the race. If we are behind, he can well afford to slack off. He also may rely on either his teammate Masten Gregory, who, with 10 Grand Prix points, has nothing to lose so far as the championship is concerned, or on New Zealander Bruce McLaren if Gregory has not fully recovered from earlier injuries. The Cooper factory, not feeling favorably disposed toward Moss, who will drive almost any make, could start Gregory with a half-filled fuel tank and/ or a more powerful but perhaps unreliable engine. With less weight to carry, Gregory might drive faster than he need to in order to push Moss and me into going too fast and running the risk of destroying our machinery. He also might be sent in to steal the fastest lap—and a very valuable point—from Brabham's two leading contenders.
If Moss is winning the race, Brabham will have to put his foot down to finish in second position and the team manager will put out a signal to Gregory to do the fastest lap at Moss's expense. Should I be winning the race, Brabham will again have to push hard to get into third place, and do the fastest lap, or to finish second. If Moss and I retire, Brabham can saunter home, or even retire himself, without losing his lead in the championship point standings.
Moss will endeavor to lead from start to finish and try to shake Gregory off from the drop of the flag. I shall also try to win the race, but how I shall set about it will depend on the data obtained in the practice sessions. If tire wear is bad, I shall have to go flat out from start to finish to make up for lost time during tire changes. If I think I can get through nonstop and know that my rivals must change tires, I can afford to follow at a discreet distance until well into the race. If Masten Gregory sets the pace I shall have to judge whether he can go through to the finish at the same speed or whether he is just bait. He could afford to stop at half distance and wait in the pits until Moss or I did the fastest lap. He could then take the fast lap away from us with a high-speed burst on Brabham's behalf, with tire conditions and pressures, fuel level and engine tune exactly right for fast laps.
Signor Romulo Tavoni, the Ferrari team manager, may ask my teammates to try to take the lap record away from my rivals. They will also endeavor to stay in front of Brabham and Moss to push them down the points' table, but it will all be to no avail if I am not the first to see the checkered flag.
Although I have outlined the possible tactics of the three contenders, the race may well be won by other than these three. The resulting change in the possible finishing positions of Brabham, Moss and myself will give the team managers something of a headache.
At an event on which so much depends, it is as well to remember some basic theories and facts about race driving. It does not matter how fast one goes over a few laps of the circuit. If the car does not cross the finish line the whole object of the race is lost, and unnecessary pressing of the car can often result in a certainty becoming a failure. "Win the race at the lowest possible speed" is a good maxim, and an even more important one is "Never substitute recklessness for ability." If a driver's natural ability, plus the performance of his car, are not sufficient to win a certain race he should accept this fact. There is always another day, another race.
Sebring is an airfield and road circuit of 5.2 miles and varies in width from 60 feet on the runways section to 24 feet on the private and perimeter roads which complete the course. The surface consists of concrete, asphalt and in parts macadam, but it is rough in a number of places and abrasive. The perimeter roads are rather narrow in contrast to the wide-open spaces of the airfield runways, the latter being delineated by barrels every 15 yards or so, and this permits cars to dodge between the barrels to make a wider sweep of certain corners when attempting really quick lap times. Of the 12 corners in the 5.2 miles, three are very slow (25 to 35 mph) and the remainder vary between medium speed (70 to 90 mph) and fast (100 mph upwards). As with all airfield circuits, Sebring is flat and featureless and does not compare with the classic circuits to be found on the continent of Europe. These are true road-racing courses, consisting of everyday roads. Most of the English circuits are basically like Sebring's. We are not permitted to close public roads for racing.
The real importance of Sebring is, however, the fact that the organizers are the first in America to tackle the very difficult task of putting on a full Grand Prix event. Not satisfied with this, they took on the added responsibility of requesting that it should count for the world championship, and they have done much to provide a common meeting ground for American and European drivers. Grand Prix driving could use the spectator boost that would come with greater American interest in the European variety of road racing. The midget and Indianapolis drivers may like what they see at Sebring.
It has been rumored in the press that my future in racing depends upon the outcome of Sebring. If I win the championship, perhaps I am expected to retire? The advent of family responsibilities (my wife and I have a new daughter) has probably led to this line of thought. I am a dentist and do not have to motor-race for my livelihood. Every year, consequently, I find myself weighing the pros and cons of continuing racing. No doubt I shall do so again.
But much else than consideration of my own future depends upon Sebring. Its success or failure will provide a pointer as to the future of American road racing and the possibility of eventual integration of American and European formulas to form a common basis for competition. Who will win the first Grand Prix of the U.S.? Only one thing is certain. The winner will truly have earned his victory.
MEN AND POINTS
JACK BRABHAM 31
No. 1 driver for rear-engine Coopers, he must finish at least third and take fastest lap to win world title. Can rely on tactical team aid from his Cooper colleagues.
STIRLING MOSS 25½
Driving private-entry Cooper, he may have to win race plus fastest lap to top Brabham, but could finish second and still stand high man in the final point standings.
TONY BROOKS 23
In a Ferrari, he has outside chance for world championship, but to gain it he must win at Sebring while Brabham fails to add points and Moss adds no more than five.