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THE U.S. GRAND PRIX, October 8, 1961, is multiply significant, as reported by R&T’s Jim Crow: “Statistically, it was the first World Championship win for the uninhibited Scot, the first Grande Epreuve victory for Chapman’s Lotus team and the first U.S. Grand Prix Formula I event to pay its own way.” Here in Parts 1 and 2 today and tomorrow are tidbits on Crow’s race report from R&T, January 1962.
The Third U.S. Grand Prix. It was also a win for the town of Watkins Glen, N.Y. As Crow observed, “The two previous F-I events held in the U.S. had flopped. The first, at Sebring, Fla., on Dec. 12, 1959, won by Bruce McLaren’s Cooper, was a dismal financial failure. The next, shifted by impresario Alec Ulmann to Riverside, Calif., took place on Nov. 20, 1960, and was won by Stirling Moss in a Lotus [privateer Rob Walker’s], but there still weren’t enough cash customers to pay the bills.”
Indeed,Wikipedia notes that “When prize money checks bounced, Charles Moran and Briggs Cunningham paid the money to save face for their country.” Also, Wikipedia notes that the official name for the 1961 U.S. Grand Prix was “IV Grand Prix of the United States.” Back in 1958, Riverside hosted a sports-car event billed as the “United States Grand Prix.”
Where’s Enzo? The 1961 U.S Grand Prix was the last event of that year’s Formula One calendar, and Ferrari’s Phil Hill had already clinched the World Championship, both for Drivers and Manufacturers. Known to get shirty about one thing and another, Enzo Ferrari decided to ignore the U.S. event.
R&T quoted a British competitor on the matter: “They always spoil the fun with their damned intensity anyway.”
Innes Was There. Crow wrote, “Ireland, an ex-paratroop officer and private pilot whose extroverted high spirits have earned him his ‘Innes the Menace’ nickname, enjoyed every minute of it—from the adulation of the crumpets to the division of the $11,000 prize money.” (More than $100,000 in today’s dollar.)
“Doing everything the hard way,” Crow commented, “Ireland’s practice session did not bode well for success. On Friday he had done a fairly spectacular rear-first exit from the fast South Loop when his steering came unscrewed.”
I’m reminded of Innes’s exiting the Monaco tunnel—ahead of his car—earlier that year.
Tomorrow in Part 2, Stirling Moss, Jack Brabham, Roy Salvadori, and Jim Clark play roles in Innes’s victory. And Phil Hill drives a Ford Thunderbird. ds
© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2021
I thank you for the article. I have many fond memories of the event, my first grand prix at age 8. It really is a historic race in F1 history. Although Crow did not know at the time, it was to be Sterling’s last championship counting Grand Prix. I wish we had more characters like Innes Ireland, his Grand Prix reporting in his later years was a great transition from Rob Walker in Road and Track.