Italian Grand Prix 1961-2011: Monza, Death of von Trips & A Yankee Champion

When we started the 2011 Formula One season back in March, I noted that 2011 is the 50th anniversary of the magical 1961 F1 season in which Phil Hill, driving for Ferrari, became the first, and other than Mario Andretti in 1978, only American Formula One Grand Prix World Champion. From our season opening post in March, Circus Starts Anew, 50 Years On From the Yankee Champion:

As starts the 2011 Formula One season, so too started the 1961 F1 season fifty years ago. For all the differences brought by technology and time over five decades, there is much in common. The excitement and anticipation of the drivers, the longing to put the knowledge of the off season testing and tech changes finally to proof in actual race conditions, the first drivers’ meetings of the season, the beautiful people and the eyes of the international sporting world focused. There is nothing like the Formula One circus; that was the case then as much as it is now.

Longtime regulars here at the Emptywheel Trash Talk threads will likely remember that I had the privilege of knowing Phil Hill as I was growing up. Phil was the first, and still one of only two (Mario Andretti), Americans to win the Formula One Grand Prix World Championship and his career was immortalized in the excellent biography Yankee Champion by William Nolan. 2011 is the fiftieth anniversary of his championship season. In honor of that, I will be comparing and remembering the races and excitement of the 1961 season over the course of the current season. See here for some simply superb [Cahier Archive] photos from the 1961 season.

Phil Hill German GP 1961 - Cahier Archive

This will be the last formal installment in the 1961 retrospective series. While there are 19 races in this year’s 2011 F1 schedule, with six remaining after the Italian, there were only eight races on the 1961 docket. The Italian was the seventh and penultimate race, and the one that will not only live in infamy, but in which the Championship was determined. Indeed, with both the Driver’s and Constructor’s Championships decided at Monza in the Italian, and in light of the tragic death of their star factory driver, Count Wolfgang von Trips, the dominant Ferrari team did not even travel the Atlantic to contest the final race, the inaugral United States Grand Prix at Watkins Glen, NY.

So, in 1961 all the marbles came down to the famed steep banked course at Autodromo Nazionale Monza, north of Milan in Italy. Brad Spurgeon has a wonderful setting piece in yesterday’s New York Times:

Not many towns give the impression of being built around a racing circuit like Monza and the Autodromo Nazionale di Monza. Then again, Monza also happens to be one of the most historic racing tracks in the world, and, sitting as it does in a royal park, it has a national monument feel to it as well.

History is everywhere at Monza, which has been hosting the Italian Grand Prix since the 1920s. The old, banked oval track is still visible near the circuit used today. The 5.7-kilometer, or 3.5-mile, circuit has four long straights where speeds can reach 340 kph or more.

“Monza features the highest straight-line speeds of the year at around 350 kph, the highest average lap speed and, at 83 percent, the highest percentage of the lap spent at full throttle — not for nothing is it known as a ‘temple of speed,”’ said Norbert Haug, vice president of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport.

Read the rest of Brad’s article to also get a fuller flavor of the actual locale, separate from the track itself.

Phil Hill 1961 Monza - Cahier Archive

As to the track, however, suffice it to say that, hands down, Monza is the fastest in F1. In 1961, unlike the shorter and safer current 4.3 mile configuration, Monza featured a 6.2 mile circuit featuring a siamesed set of steeply banked 180 degree curves, with up to a 45 degree slope. One of the the stories I remember most vividly Phil telling from his F1 days was of the incredible speeds and physical forces on the driver at Monza. Phil had a brilliant mind, was highly detailed in his descriptions of things and often extremely demonstrative physically while doing so. Which made for a memorable depiction of Monza, to say the least. When he would describe how going through the high banking put such forces on the suspension that it caused the bottom of the car to basically travel on the paved surface, and regularly meet the surface with attendant sparks and grinding, you could literally almost feel, with him, the intense heat on your seat and danger of mistake. That, and the flat out speed, made Monza a dangerous enterprise indeed. The photo to the right, by the incomparable F1 photographer Bernard Cahier, is of a Monza bank in 1961, with Phil Hill leading his fellow Ferraris of Richie Ginther, Ricardo Rodriguez and Giancarlo Baghetti.

So, that was the setting and, yes, it was truly 50 years ago to the day, as the 1961 Italian GP was run on September 10, 1961. The video up top, while certainly not perfect, gives a very complete rundown of where the season stood prior to the race, who the key contestants were, and what the grid looked like at the start of the race. The actual race coverage is fine, even if a little thin; still, very much worth watching.

The race immediately prior to Monza was the German Grand Prix at Nurburgring (the Bernard Cahier photo above is of Phil in the 1961 German GP), which was won by Stirling Moss in the underpowered, but well handling and superbly driven Lotus-Climax. After the German, and despite Sir Stirling’s win, the Driver’s Championship was still a battle between Ferrari teammates Hill and von Trips, with Trips leading in points with 33, Phil in second with 29 and Moss a distant third with 21 points. From F1 Fanatic:

Hill had won at Monza 12 months earlier, while von Trips suffered crashes in two previous visits to the circuit. Five years earlier his [von Trips] steering had broken at Curva Grande, sending him into the trees at 190kph (120mph). Two years after that he crashed into Harry Schell’s BRM on the first lap.

The championship protagonists were two decidedly different characters. Von Trips, a German Count, was a natural talent but one with a slightly wild streak in his early years that led him to be dubbed ‘von Krash’. Later his rivals referred to him more affectionately as ‘Taffy’.

Hill was more technical in his approach and had great mechanical sensitivity. Earlier that year he won the Le Mans 24 Hours for the second of three times in his career.

Hill was also acutely aware of the dangers of motor racing. It weighed heavily on his mind, and at times caused him to develop stomach ulcers from the stress, which disrupted his racing season in 1954.

So began the 1961 Italian Grand Prix at Monza. The start was smooth, with the Ferraris taking the lead, but by the second lap, things had grown more competitive and dicing among the drivers was well underway. During the fateful second lap, untold tragedy struck. Again, from F1 Fanatic:

At Parabolica Gerry Ashmore’s Lotus spun off and hit the grass bank along the track and the driver was badly injured.

A trio of Ferraris led the field as they came off the Curva Sud Alta Velocita for the first time to complete lap one, Hill ahead of Ginther and Rodriguez. Clark lay fourth with Jack Brabham, von Trips and Baghetti behind him.

Halfway around the second lap, Clark had fallen behind von Trips and was trying to re-pass the Ferrari as they sprinted from Vialone to Parabolica.

“I was preparing to overtake him and my front wheels were almost level with his back wheel as he started to brake,” Clark described afterwards.

“Suddenly he began to pull over towards me and he ran right into the side of me. I honestly don’t think Taffy realised I was there. I am sure that, when he passed me earlier, he had decided his was the faster car and I would be left behind.”

Clark was on the left-hand side of the track as von Trips moved across. The contact fired the Ferrari left towards the crowd.

It rode up a 1.5m-high bank and flipped over. With only a chain fence between the spectators and the track, there was precious little to separate car from bodies.

The car gouged into the crowd before flipping back onto its wheels on the track. Following cars braked hard and ducked around the wrecked Ferrari.

Von Trips was thrown from his car and killed, 11 spectators died at the scene, and four others succumbed to their injuries over the following days.

The rest of the race was, well, relatively speaking, uneventful. Phil crossed the finish line in first place, his second year in a row victorious at Ferrari’s home track of Monza, and with the win, and Trips disqualification, won the Driver’s Championship and, correspondingly, the Constructor’s Championship for Ferrari. The final race classification had American Dan Gurney second in a Porsche, followed by Bruce Mclaren and Jackie Lewis, both in Cooper-Climaxes.

And thus, effectively, ended the 1961 Championship season (remember Ferrari did not, under the circumstances, even compete in the final race at Watkins Glen).

Phil Hill, the Yankee Champion, was crowned while both the drivers, teams and world mourned the carnage wrought by the tragic accident involving two greats, Jim Clark of Lotus and Count Wolfgang von Trips of Ferrari, not to mention the 15 innocent spectators’ lives taken in the path.

It was both one of the most glorious, and most tragic, days in motorsport history.

The photo at right, again from Bernard Cahier, is of Phil, this one posted as a toast to his 1961 F1 Championship, even though the photo is actually from his Le Mans triumph in 1962.

A.J. Baime has a very nice retrospective in Thursday’s Wall Street Journal if you would like some excellent further reading on the 1961 Italian.

As a side note, there are significant parallels between the glory and tragedy of Phil Hill’s 1961 Championship with the other American F1 Championship season, 1978 with Mario Andretti. As with Phil and Trips, Mario’s Championship run was marred by the death of his Lotus teammate, and closest points competitor, the great, and oh so fast, Ronnie Peterson. I had a chance to chat up Mr. Peterson briefly at the 1978 Long Beach Grand Prix; he was an immensely personable and jovial character, especially compared to the often stoic Swedes lately found in F1. Peterson, as with von Trips, died in flames at Monza. Again, as with von Trips, Peterson also, despite his death, still finished second in points, behind his eventual Championship teammate, in this case Andretti.

Well, in the immortal words of the Allman Brothers, that was then and this is now. And now we are at the 2011 Italian Grand Prix, at the once and future home of F1 speed, Monza. In Friday’s Practice, the Red Bulls, Ferraris and McLarens were all fast under hot conditions. Saturday’s Qualifying was uneventful and went mostly as you would predict from the recent few races. Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel took pole, his 10th of the year, followed by Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button in the McLarens in P2 and P3 respectively, and Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso in P4.

With his win last time out at Spa, it is nigh impossible that anyone will overtake Vettel for the Driver’s Crown, and completely impossible to keep Red Bull from repeating its Constructor’s title. The warm weather looks to hold for the race, which should make for fast laps and increased tire wear, and that has been a pronounced variable this year with the new Pirelli tires. This is probably Sebastian Vettel’s race to lose in the Red Bull, and I would look to him for the win. In spite of Lewis Hamilton’s resurgence in the McLaren in the second half of the season, I would keep an eye on Alonso. Monza is, after all, the home of the Scuderia Ferrari. The Italian Red will be out in full force, and Fernando is still, when he wants to be, as fast a driver as there is in the Circus. Monza is a course of skill and speed, it should be a great race.

So, there is the Italian Grand Prix, both then and now. I would like to personally thank Paul-Henri Cahier of the Cahier Archive. The stills in this post are all from the Cahier Archive, taken by Paul-Henri’s father and partner, Bernard. I personally contacted Paul-Henri and asked for permission to use the same, which he generously granted. If you are a F1 and international motorsport fan, you can literally die and go to heaven in the Cahier Archive. Collectively, the Cahiers have been covering F1 and top flite motor racing for going on 60 years, and continue to this very day. Please give them a look, they are friends to us here, and if you see something you like, and if a racing fan, you will, please support and buy their work.

[As an added bonus, and thanks to Nomolos for reminding me in an offhand way, I have added in a video clip from John Frankenheimer’s 1966 classic movie Grand Prix that is the Monza footage from the movie. Frankenheimer was, until he died, a friend of Phil’s. Additionally, Phil served as a technical consultant on the movie and did much of the driving of the camera car actually doing the filming for the movie.]

[As a second update bonus, I want to add in a couple of pieces from the Road & Track Special for the 50th Anniversary of Phil Hill’s 1961 Championship Season. I wrote most of the main post from memory as well as notes and articles I have had around for quite some time, except for a couple of things like the Brad Spurgeon piece on Monza. Unfortunately, that caused me to miss two absolutely fantastic pieces in Road & Track. Spectacularly good pieces, both by very good friends of Phil’s, R & T writer and photographer extraordinaire John Lamm and the other by Sam Posey. John’s is a wonderful race by race trip, as related by Phil, through the 1961 season. Phil Hill: 50 Years Later – The 1961 Formula 1 championship year in Phil Hill’s own words. Great work and, independently, John is one heck of a nice man and a star or his own right. Posey’s, (who I do not know much, but have always appreciated) is entitled A Man Like No Other is more of a biography as painted by Sam, and it too is really fantastic.]

Bmaz is a rather large saguaro cactus in the Southwestern Sonoran desert. A lover of the Constitution, law, family, sports, food and spirits. As you might imagine, a bit prickly occasionally. Bmaz has attended all three state universities in Arizona, with both undergraduate and graduate degrees from Arizona State University, and with significant post-graduate work (in physics and organic chemistry, go figure) at both the University of Colorado in Boulder and the University of Arizona. Married, with both a lovely child and a giant Sasquatch dog. Bmaz has been a participant on the internet since the early 2000’s, including active participation in the precursor to Emptywheel, The Next Hurrah. Formally joined the Emptywheel blog as an original contributing member at its founding in 2007. Bmaz grew up around politics, education, sports and, most significantly, cars; notably around Formula One racing and Concours de Elegance automobile restoration and showing. Currently lives in the Cactus Patch with his lovely wife and beast of a dog, and practices both criminal and civil trial law.
84 replies
  1. chetnolian says:

    Grand post bmaz. I envy you having met these guys. I was never so fortunate.

    I agree the odds are on Vettel but the opening wings and the KERS really do add unpredictability. And it’s McLaren, not just Hamilton, who seem to be getting their act together. It wasn’t Hamilton on the podium at Spa

  2. bmaz says:

    @chetnolian: True dat. Jenson also has been making a push. Pity the McLarens and Ferraris were not more on the mark earlier, so there was a real dogfight down the stretch.

  3. nomolos says:

    Lovely post bmaz, thank you. I fortunate to have been around in the late 50s and early 60s in Europe and went to many of the Grands Prix including all the great circuits…some of which are unfortunately no longer on the schedule. My father was a friend of Mike Hawthorn and so I was a lucky lad to have been in garages with many of them. I do miss the “devil may care” attitude of the old drivers but then that is what killed more than a few.

    I look forward to the race tomorrow remembering that that is where Moss was damn near killed in the same year that Hawthorn retired after the death of Collins.

    On another note I miss the Mille Miglia.

    Keep up the good work

  4. bmaz says:

    @nomolos: I heard nothing but superlatives for Hawthorn. The bizarre racing triangle with Hawthorn, Peter Collins and Luigi Musso was really something. Eery, and depressing, how all three died within the year. You know there are elements or 58-64 interspersed within John Frankenheimer’s Grand Prix; including, a little, the triangle (a bit skewed to be sure, but there with a hospital scene and everything).

    Here is an awesome clip for any not familiar with the classic movie.

    And here are select scenes from the Monza portion of Frankenheimer’s Grand Prix

  5. nomolos says:

    @bmaz: He was, like my father, a bit of a roue, a high liver, a womanizer but a delight. I was just 15 when started hanging out in Europe, back then, going to school in Switzerland and living Cap Ferrat…too much for a young lad but a time I look back on with pure delight. I have, of course, become a straight liver myself…none of the wild times have stuck to me…

  6. Jim White says:

    In my strange little world, F1 is just one of those keys I never use on my computer.

    (But seriously, great post.)

  7. bmaz says:

    @Jim White:

    Jim White!! Welcome Home Dude! I have missed you brother, and glad to hear things are starting to stabilize and come around physically after the big valve job. Seriously, we missed you.

  8. Bustednuckles says:

    Awesome.
    What a lucky guy you are.
    I have been a race fan since I was a child, my dad raced a Bug Eye Sprite back then. I was told that they used to cram my baby seat between the seats of it and go to rally’s.

  9. Bob Schacht says:

    For those of us who are fans of the oblong ball, there is an interesting game coming up tonight: Michigan vs. Notre Dame! Despite ND’s loss last week, some of the TV pundits are predicting ND to beat Michigan, and to wind up in a bowl game. So tonight should be a major test for both teams.

    Bob in AZ

  10. radiofreewill says:

    Go Gators, brother Jim!

    Great article, bmaz!

    They’ve got a barn burner going in Athens tonight…28-28 UGA and SC in the fourth.

  11. Jim White says:

    @bmaz: Thanks for your (and radiofreewill’s) kind words.

    Gators doing well enough, up 25-0 at the half over UAB. Next week Tennessee comes to town in what is shaping up to be a very interesting game.

    Oh, and when everyone starts getting Mark Richt’s resume in your inboxes, just delete it.

  12. Peterr says:

    If you are a F1 and international motorsport fan, you can literally die and go to heaven in the Cahier Archive.

    In my humble professional opinion, this is not hyperbole.

    Wow.

  13. bmaz says:

    @Peterr:

    Yeah, the Cahier Archive collection is really something isn’t it? Just spectacular.

    Don’t know if you read the bios, but here is the first paragraph from Bernard’s:

    He was an adventurer from his young days, fighting as a volunteer in WW2 when he was only seventeen, traveling to Cameroon and then to California in 1948 where destiny caught up with him: his first job was working together with Phil Hill selling foreign sports cars in Hollywood, and he married a California girl named Joan.

  14. Bob Schacht says:

    Oblong ball report:
    Notre Dame jumped out to a 14-0 start against Michigan. After that, Michigan led the scoring 7-3, so ND now leads 17-7.

    Michigan’s defense clearly had a rocky first quarter. Michigan’s offense has the shackles on Denard Robinson. Unless they open things up more in the second half, they’re toast.

    Bob in AZ

  15. bmaz says:

    Say, this game reminds one of a few years ago when the unvictorious and untied Wolvereenies took on the unvictorious and untied Fighting Irish. Those were good times!

  16. Bob Schacht says:

    The latest Michigan touchdown has to go into the books as the bizarro play of the year. Talk about lucky bounces!

    Bob in AZ

  17. orionATL says:

    bmaz –

    this post of yours is, simply, very, very exciting reading,

    which means, of course, it is very fine sports writing.

    how wonderful to find a sports writer who focuses on the contest and not on the contract, the agent, the owner, the manager.

    sports writing should be about the sporting event, about the competition, the almost, the win, the player(s), the loss, the death.

    nowadays it mostly never is.

    your writing brought sports back to its roots –

    the history, the contest, the chance events, good luck, bad luck, foresight, lack thereof, good coaching, bad coaching, the final outcome – victory AND defeat.

    thanks for some great sports writing over the last few months and for bringing F1 into view for me.

    i enjoyed this post especially due to ts emotional content.

  18. prostratedragon says:

    My football motto proves out not once, but twice: that fellow that’s running by you (db calling yourself poaching) is the one who’s going to get the football.

    Great call for the win by Coach Hoke, great call, and great execution by the offensive players, on both sides actually.

  19. randygorsuch says:

    BMAZ, your retelling of these racers racing, plying their trade at a time, when a mechanical failure or a very human mistake in 1000th of a second as happened at Monza killed 14 people. Extremely compelling. Phil would would most certainty be heart warmed by your passion and your reverence of his livelihood.

  20. Bob Schacht says:

    @emptywheel:
    As Brent Musberger enthused, “This game is an instant classic!” 3 TDs in the last 2 minutes by Michigan???

    I guess it was exciting because both defenses were so bad. But also it was a turn-over fest by both teams.

    And there has to be a new term to describe Denard’s touchdown. Call it the Immaculate Bounce? What else to call it?

    The Michigan fans were so stunned that they stayed around after the game, and the Michigan band came out on the field to do the half-time show all over again.

    The end of the game was so magical that the only thing I can think of to compare it to is when Jesus and Elijah(?) held their gabfest on Mt. Tabor, and Peter was so elated that he wanted to build tabernacles for everyone so they could hang around for a while longer.

    Bob in AZ

  21. bmaz says:

    Well, a wild start to the Italian I must say. Alonso blistering to start, but now overtaken by Vettel. Vettel has opened a big lead. Great race between Shuey and Hamilton for third.

  22. chetnolian says:

    Wow what a race!

    Glory for all the top teams and of course it was great to see the old meister really on form, including getting right to the edge. I don’t know what coverage you guys get, but we had Ross Brawn on team radio oh so carefully warning Schumi to leave some room. He probably wouldn’t take that from anyone else in the World.

    And I did warn you which McLaren driver would be on the podium. Just cos he comes from where I now live doesn’t mean I’m biassed! Jenson really is the thiking man’s driver, keeping back in case Lewis and Scgumi had a crah-fest, then just popping through, calm as you like. I bet Lewis was incandescent.

  23. bmaz says:

    As a second update bonus in the main post above, I added in a couple of pieces from the Road & Track Special for the 50th Anniversary of Phil Hill’s 1961 Championship Season. I wrote most of the main post from memory as well as notes and articles I have had around for quite some time, except for a couple of things like the Brad Spurgeon piece on Monza. Unfortunately, that caused me to miss two absolutely fantastic pieces in Road & Track. Spectacularly good pieces, both by very good friends of Phil’s, R & T writer and photographer extraordinaire John Lamm and the other by Sam Posey. John’s is a wonderful race by race trip, as related by Phil, through the 1961 season. Phil Hill: 50 Years Later – The 1961 Formula 1 championship year in Phil Hill’s own words. Great work.

    Posey’s, entitled A Man Like No Other is more of a biography as painted by Sam, and it too is really fantastic.

    These are both really superb and great reads.

  24. bmaz says:

    @chetnolian:

    An excellent race but for Luigi shunting the mid pack at the start. I was hoping Alonso had a bit more to really challenge Vettel, but that was not to be. The racing between Schumacher and Hamilton was superb. And, still, no love lost between those two.

  25. radiofreewill says:

    Undoubtedly the greatest piece of ‘cinema verite’ from a race fan’s point of view, this uber famous clip of a Ferrari 275 roaring down the cobblestone streets of Paris at dawn on a Sunday in ’74 features a 165mph run down the Champs d’Elysee, a split-second decision to veer through the Louvre courtyard to miss a bus and frightening acceleration up the hill at Montmartre!

    Rendevous – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LlPfilnRDuI

  26. randiego says:

    Great stuff Bmaz – you’ve got me wondering what channel these races are on!

    Funny thing, yesterday afternoon MsDiego and I were visiting friends in Long Beach and we had dinner at Pine and E.Ocean. I walked up the block and was trying to figure out exactly where the course ran.

    What a game I missed! The last time I looked at it Michigan was down two touchdowns. I hope someone replays the second half, I want to see that!

    BRADY HOKE – FEEL THE MAGIC!!

    Today I have the Bolts vs Vikings. The last time they played Adrian Peterson set the NFL single game rushing record with about 1,000 yards or so. Painful memories.

    The Chargers will have that amazing offense again this year, without Mr Sproles. I assume they’ll be fine.

    On defense, they have Mr Bob Sanders playing safety (please please please let him play a whole season), a veteran LB Takeo Spikes to go with pro-bowler OLB Sean Phillips, and the #1 pick, DE Corey Liuget from Illinois. Watch this kid – he’s been blowing up plays all through training camp.

    Go Bolts!

  27. bmaz says:

    Where are all the football folks, hmmmmm?

    Cause, quoth the Raven, Terrell Suggs is BAD! He is an ASU man of course

  28. P J Evans says:

    @randiego:
    I walked up the block and was trying to figure out exactly where the course ran.

    It ran along Seaside and Shoreline, the few times I was in LB at the same general time. (In fact, GoogleMaps has Seaside also marked as ‘Grand Prix Circuit’.)

  29. Jim White says:

    And for those of you who thought both the Yankees and Red Sox were locks for the playoffs, don’t look now but the Rays are only 4.5 games back of the Sox and are up on them 2-0 in today’s game, which would give the Rays a three game sweep if they hold. Four game series coming up at Fenway later this week could be very interesting.

  30. scribe says:

    Now that he’s married and getting some at home, Big Ben is not the same snarling madman he used to be.

    Of course, Big Ben’s alleged victims are still alive, unlike Ray Lewis’.

  31. scribe says:

    One would be excused for thinking Andy Reid would have learned proper clock management skills and techniques from his Super Bowl debacle.

    I guess he didn’t.

  32. scribe says:

    @Jim White: Sawx are going to do their classic impression of lawn furniture in New England, i.e., come Labor Day, they fold up and get put away for the winter.

    And this Yankee fan is chortling like a department store Santa.

  33. randiego says:

    “Of course, Big Ben’s alleged victims are still alive, unlike Ray Lewis’.”

    Come on dude, that stuff is just weak. The guy is a douche. I know it’s hard for Stiller fans to own that, but jeez one is football, the other is a bit more serious. Everyone makes choices and the guy made his despite many many warnings about the path he was on.

    The Ray Lewis stuff just makes y’all look desperate.

    • bmaz says:

      Randiego is gonna get some of those low-ride-duh wheels that keep spinning even while stopped at a traffic light. This will embarrass YoungDiegoToBe to no end growing up.

  34. Randiego says:

    The Chargers are being beaten soundly by the Vikes. A special teams TD to start the game, missed tackles, no QB pressure, etc. 17-7 mid-2nd

  35. bmaz says:

    @radiofreewill:

    Okay, just watched that. Kick ass. However, can say unequivocally, the sound is completely dubbed. the shift points, tire squeals….none of it matches the physical dynamics a real car would be undergoing, nor indeed that the car in the video was undergoing. I also think because of the low ground level placement of the camera, the speed was not nearly as fast as it looks, which is not to say it was not still fast.

  36. Jim White says:

    After half a game, Rex Grossman has played Bad Eli dead even. In fact, if the ‘Skins had any other than an ex-FSU kicker (wide right, of course!), they’d be up by 3.

  37. P J Evans says:

    @bmaz:
    I watched it without the sound on. It was fun watching the red lights being run through. (If I had a decent map of Paris, I might try figuring out the ‘course layout’.)

  38. Randiego says:

    I watched it and loved it. The tires were complaining an awful lot which surprised me.

    It reminds me of the racing footage and sound effects from “Le Mans” which predates it.

  39. scribe says:

    @bmaz: Gotta disagree with you on the actual speed. I had much the same thought as you expressed, then I looked at the dotted center/lane lines going by. Regardless of how low the camera placement was, they don’t go by that quickly unless you’re flying. I once drove 130 on the autobahn, and that looked a lot like the video.

    I liked the one or two pedestrians jumping out of the way, and the woman walking her dog by the garbage truck. Nice touches.

    And my stuffed peppers (another fruit of the garden) are coming together nicely, making an exceptionally pleasant smell as they bake. Another half hour and they should be ready, just in time to watch Bad Eli lose.

  40. randiego says:

    Wow. Impressive comeback win by the Bolts, when they looked pretty beaten. All without their kicker, who got hurt on the opening play of the game.

    Donovan McNabb had a decent day, but the Vikes D looked really good. They were smacking Philip Rivers around all game.

    Bolts D sucked it up and played much better in the second half, and Norv figured out the D. Amazing TD play Rivers sealed the deal.

    PS – Hey I thought Kolb looked pretty when they played the Bolts in the preseason.

  41. radiofreewill says:

    bmaz, phred and scribe…Here’s the wiki on this much debated, controversial film:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/C'%C3%A9tait_un_rendez-vous

    The story I heard was that the french authorities were so outraged at the film that they jailed the director the first night it was shown.

    When the case went to court, the director stated that the movie was the benefactor of an optical effect due to mounting a small, gyro-stabilized camera below the front bumper of a land-yacht Mercedes, driven by the director at ‘slightly above normal speeds.’ The court accepted his story, albeit with great skepticism.

    A few years after the case got settled, however, an article came out, sourced anonymously to a then-current F1 driver (largely rumored to be Prost) that told the story slightly differently.

    While the director’s 275 was sent off to be tuned-up, the driver made daily practice runs in the Mercedes sorting out his route options.

    On the morning of the shoot, according to the anonymous driver, they stationed the flagman at the Louvre, and drove the race set-up Ferrari flat-out through the streets with the director riding shotgun.

    Which story is true, we may never know, but I used to know a guy who owned a short-nosed 275, and I can tell you from riding with him that it takes a physically-fit, prodigiously skilled driver to jump on the back of that howling beast and make it perform with silky-smooth elan.

  42. P J Evans says:

    @radiofreewill:
    mounting a small, gyro-stabilized camera below the front bumper of a land-yacht Mercedes, driven by the director at ‘slightly above normal speeds.’

    Yeah, right. And those cars in the next lane were really doing 10 kph, and the red lights were all decorative….

    • bmaz says:

      Well, see, that is one of the problems I saw; the cars and other things higher up off of the pavement did not get overtaken as fast as they would have if the camera car was really going as fast as they wish you to believe. They were going at a decent clip, I just do not believe they were going nearly as fast as you think.

  43. radiofreewill says:

    I agree that the lower camera mount gives the impression of greater speed…but, but, but when I ‘borg’ into that clip, then like phred it tightens me just to watch it – it just feels legit to me, and ianaracecardriver.

    In the anonymous driver’s story, they tested the 275 on the cobblestone streets in order to set it up, and one of the adjustments they made was to lower the tire pressure so that the rubber would stay molded to the round stones during cornering – but it makes for a lot of squealing!

    Also, they decided to run barely muffled exhaust-pipes, counting on rattling every brick in front of them to keep the way clear of pedestrians.

    Because the 275 is inelegant and balky when launching from a standing start, they were committed to keeping the whole run between 2nd and 5th gear – which meant running the red lights. The director kept a map in his lap with the route marked, and had the power to call-off the run if he saw too much congestion in an intersection, for instance.

    But, if you ask me, the driver working that Ferrari motor shows real race-driver skills – expert heel-and-toeing, accelerating and braking in a straight line, negotiating turns in the high-rpm power band of a single gear, and absolutely phenomenal eyesight!

    As I see it, the director had every vested interest in the land-yacht Mercedes story keeping him out of jail, and the anonymous driver wouldn’t have wanted to jeopardize his F1 career.

    So, I’m of the opinion that we’re looking at the handiwork of the 19-year old Prost, showing the skills of a Formula 3 champion, which he already was, and the signs of the greatness yet to come in F1.

    • bmaz says:

      I am still dubious that it is exactly what it appears to be, not that it not still way kick ass though. If I had to guess a french driver back then to do that though, it would be Rene Arnoux well before Prost. And Rene did have an FIA Superlicense for F!, though he was legendary as a street and movie stunt driver.

  44. radiofreewill says:

    After reading his wiki, I think you’re right – the then 25 year old Arnoux would be a better candidate!

  45. randiego says:

    and Tony Romo singlehandedly snatches defeat from the jaws of victory. No excuse, he choked. JETS get lucky again.

  46. Bob Schacht says:

    @randiego: We were in Las Vegas tonight, having dinner before a peep show(!), and witnessed a number of loud shouts emanating from the sports bars. On passing one of those sports bars, I saw the helmets of the Cowboys, and thought, wow, there are either a lot of Cowboys fans here, or Cowboy haters, or maybe both.

    Oh, and the NY Giants, even with the Manning brother not on IR, looked pitiful.

    Bob in AZ

  47. scribe says:

    @bmaz: Like the man on my TV said this morning: “Tony Romo did what Tony Romo does: he threw the ball to the other team.”

    This Dallas-hater revels in it, particularly b/c that made me 2/3 for Sunday: Philly and anti-Dallas won.

    Now we have to see how anti-Cheatin’ Bill does tonite.

  48. dugsdale says:

    Late to the thread, but here’s more support for the “Mercedes 6.9 camera car” explanation. (The evidence for this seems overwhelming, just going by what’s on the web, but I still prefer to think of a F275 making the run.)

    http://jalopnik.com/199552/claude-lelouch-explains-rendezvous

    Evidently Lelouch remastered the original 35mm film and it was put out on DVD, but the DVD producers have yanked the linked “making-of” video posted on the site. Too bad…the still image in the video window looks tantalizing.

    Bmaz, thanks for the F1 postings. You’re taking me back to my yoot…when men were men, and race drivers referred to footballers and baseballers derisively as “stick-and-ball men” (Moss, I think). Your post is a festival of stuff I haven’t seen before but will certainly tie up my morning, and happily so. Salutations!! (Now, if only someone would bring out a compendium of Henry Manney IV’s writing and Bernard Cahier’s photography, …. well, probably 12 people would buy it, but I’d be one!)

  49. dugsdale says:

    OK, here’s a youtube link to the “making-of” video w/Lelouch explaining the feat, and walking us around the Merc 6.9 camera car. Dialogue is entirely in French, so I’m helpless to translate, but maybe there’s a subtitled version out there…?

  50. bmaz says:

    @dugsdale:

    Yes, I do not speak French, but I think that all looks about right. The Ferrari 275 is an awesome car, one for the ages in many respects. However, it would have been very hard to mount the camera equipment to it. More importantly, and as I noted far above on this subject, the film is simply too smooth. I know there were reportedly gyro stabilizers or whatever, but I still do not buy that being shot off of a 275 going as fast as many people seem to think. The 275 at that kind of speed would have been in a dynamic herky jerky state.

    The Merc 6.9, however, had a very elaborate active pneumatic air suspension that made it spectacularly smooth and stable. I spent a pretty fair amount of time in its predecessor, the 300SEL 6.3, the air suspension was wonderful, and the 6.9 version was superior even to that.

Comments are closed.