Victory !

Vanwall, Aintree, Stirling Moss, British GP

This is one of the greatest race finish photographs ever. Not only is it a wonderfully evocative image in itself, but it records a most important win. It is the afternoon of July 20, 1957 at the Aintree motor racing circuit at which the British Grand Prix was held that year. Aintree was laid out around and inside the site where the famous Grand National steeplechase horse race was held, located just north of the center of Liverpool. Stirling Moss acknowledges the checker as his Vanwall, which had been started by his teammate Tony Brooks, crosses the finish line to mark the first win of the British Grand Prix by a British car, and indeed the first win of any postwar championship Grand Prix by a British-built car. On the left in the pit lane is Roy Salvador’s Cooper-Climax which will be bumped across the line to finish fifth, five laps down.

The Aintree motor racing circuit had been created in 1954 by the manager of the horse racing course, Mirabel “Ma” Topham, a former actress from the musical stage whose family owned Aintree. Ma Topham, at well over 200 lbs., was a larger-than-life personage in other ways as well and ruled Aintree with the proverbial iron hand. Several grand prix and many other races were held at Aintree over the years with the last British Grand Prix being run there in 1962. Perhaps the most famous corner was Melling Crossing where the race course crossed a public road which traversed the circuit. The public road was lined with tall hedges and the race course crossed it at an angle in the corner such that the approach down Railway Straight seemed to present a driver with an impenetrable green wall.

For the Grand Prix, Moss had started on pole with his Vanwall next to Jean Behra’s Maserati 250F and Tony Brooks’ Vanwall with about 0.2 seconds separating each of the three cars. Moss led the first lap and steadily pulled out to a 10 second lead. However, it all fell apart on the 21st lap when Moss came into the pits with a misfire. He and Brooks, the latter still suffering from his accident injuries sustained a month before at Le Mans, switched cars but Brooks had to retire the ex-Moss Vanwall on lap 51. Meanwhile, Moss really turned it on, breaking the lap record several times and leaving it a second faster than his pole time. When Behra’s Maserati blew its clutch, Mike Hawthorn’s Ferrari-Lancia ran over the pieces and punctured a tire and Stuart Lewis-Evans had his Vanwall’s throttle linkage come adrift. These misfortunes left Moss to cruise to a hugely popular win with the Ferrari-Lancias of Luigi Musso and Hawthorn some distance behind him.

Photo by Louis Klemantaski ©The Klemantaski Collection – http://www.klemcoll.com

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