A September Interlude

Dan Gurney, Phil Hill; Innes Ireland; Jim Clark; Modena

It is practice day for the Modena Grand Prix, September 2, 1961. Sitting on the pit counter at the Modena Aerautodromo are (l. to r.) Dan Gurney. Jim Clark, Innes Ireland and Phil Hill. The Modena Grand Prix was a non-Championship affair, held the weekend before the Italian Grand Prix. For an informal day, it had an unusual qualifying system. Because the course was so short, just under 1.5 miles, the field would be limited to 14 cars, although twice that number showed up. In addition, and just to rub in where the race was located, the three fastest Italian drivers were guaranteed to qualify. Ferrari, in spite of Modena being their test track, did not bother to enter, claiming the event was to close to the far more important upcoming race at Monza.

So among the our pit wall drivers World Champion-to-be Phil Hill had no car to drive and was a spectator. Dan Gurney had a works Porsche 718 while Jim Clark and Innes Ireland were the Team Lotus entries in 21s, but Ireland was bumped off the grid due to the “three fastest Italians” rule. Fastest of all without question was Stirling Moss in the Walker Lotus 18 fitted with slipperier 21 bodywork setting a pole time of 58.6 seconds. He shared the front row of the grid with the Porsches of Gurney and Jo Bonnier.

The race was over by the 11th lap when Moss passed Gurney and led for the remainder of the 100 laps. Gurney was later passed by his teammate Bonnier who finished second with Gurney third. Bonnier had had shifting woes early in the race, falling down the order to 12th place. His problem then seemed to cure itself and the Swede went right through the field finishing only seven seconds behind Moss.

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

To see more photos from our archive go to: http://www.klemcoll.com/TheGallery.aspx

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7 comments

  1. Jim sitz · · Reply

    What a difference a week makes–

    the Italian GP at Monza and in his
    column for” Competition Press”, Dan
    Gurney would write”..” and Phil is more
    ‘anxious then usual with the outcome
    of the championship on the line and final
    chance to win that”

    Ferrari had no intention of going to
    the New World and newly organized Watkins Glen
    round of the drivers title, despite generous offers
    by organizers.

    Jim sitz

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  2. Jack Brewer · · Reply

    Jim,

    That’s quite interesting. Gurney’s comments, perhaps unintentional or imprecisely expressed, would lead one to infer that the team had been told that Monza was their final race of the season.

    Do you think that if Von Trips had not died at Monza, that whatever the results there might have been, Ferrari had decided that the championship would have been over, as the team would not have gone to Watkins Glen under any circumstances?

    If that were the case, if the championship was still mathematically within either driver’s reach after Monza, that would have set up an earthquake within the team. Surely under those circumstances the Scuderia would have been at the U.S.G.P., don’t you think?

    Jack

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  3. Jack Brewer · · Reply

    Just to clarify my comment above, what I intended to say in the first paragraph was whether the team had been told IN ADVANCE that Monza would be the last race of the season for them.

    And I wonder if von Trips had survived Monza and Hill had been behind him in the points but within striking distance…..would he have tried to organize a privateer drive for Watkins Glen, assuming the Scuderia’s decision to skip the race? There were a lot of Americans entered and perhaps one could have been convinced to give up his ride to help facilitate the first world driving championship for a fellow American. Such acts were not unheard of in those days.

    Jack

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  4. Jim sitz · · Reply

    It is quite possible that a ride would be available for Phil.
    Mrs Louise Bryden-Brown of London had purchased a :Lotus
    Formula 2 car for Dan Gurney to drive in 1960. seems Dan drove
    the car just in German GP at Solitude.

    Very first entry filed for Watkins Glen was her Lotus 1500cc
    But for Ken Miles of Los Angeles, since she knew all the lads
    from her days in Carmel, California, no doubt she would have
    provided it for Hill.

    I too have given this whole scenario some thought. Phil told me on his
    arrival home from Monza, how unnecessary the death of Trips and his
    own disappointment not to drive in that final round.

    Jim Sitz

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  5. Jack Brewer · · Reply

    Thanks, Jim. Do you think that Hill and Trips were told before Monza that there were no plans to race in the U.S., and that the Italian GP would decide the championship? I had never heard this and if so it magnifies the pressure that both men must have been under.

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  6. Jim sitz · · Reply

    I do believe that Ferrari drivers quite aware of Monza being showdown.
    Gurney in his column seemed very convinced and ribbed his California
    buddy of being ” more nervous… or anxious- “-not sure which which,
    But it is all there in Competition Press. I only read it on arriving home
    after German GP where Hill put in one lap ” without screwing up” as he
    exclaimed !

    I was eager to return home, to re-group to see final climax at Watkins Glen
    so was very let down on that, Hill also not happy with response from crowd
    as new champion, but all these years later just recall his saying this at his
    Santa Monica home. That terse comment might have been at NY track or
    later at Laguna Seca, I cannot claim my memory is fully intact

    ….Too Many Birthdays !

    Jim Sitz
    Oregon USA

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  7. Great tete-ta-tete Gentlemen. Thank you. That had to be so hard on Mr Hill to get the championship that way. I guess politics was and always will be behind almost everything. Especially now with enormous sums of money involved. Allen R Kuhn

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