He was quick, and carefree, and for 1954 Tony Vandervell engaged him to drive his ‘ThinWall Special’ Ferrari and own-built emergent ‘Vanwall Special’ cars. The following year saw Collins swop allegiance to BRM – excelling in the V16 supercharged Libre cars, and giving the Formula 1 BRM Type 25 its racing debut. Moss regarded Peter’s talents sufficient to warrant a Mercedes-Benz invitation to team up with Stirling for the 1955 Sports Car World Championship-deciding Targa Florio mountain race in northern Sicily. Driving the works 300SLR, they won.
Joining Ferrari for 1956 Peter Collins had a fine year with his first Grand Prix wins at Spa and Reims, and victory co-driving with Phil Hill in the Venezuelan 1,000km at Caracas to clinch a second consecutive Sportscar World Championship. Peter and Phil became very close – good mates – but of course it was Mike Hawthorn who was really Collins’ bosom pal – mon ami mate, as Hawthorn addressed him… with Louise becoming mon ami matess.
From this the legend has grown – since both died at the wheel of high-performance cars – of their inseparable friendship, but Louise counsels caution before one accepts that concept as gospel: “Peter and Mike were certainly great mates – but remember this really came about when they travelled and raced together within the Ferrari team. Once abroad they were really thrown together. Peter was very cosmopolitan and adapted with incredible ease to ‘foreign’ ways and ‘foreign’ food. He had a real talent for picking up languages, and within just three or four days you’d find him quite fluent in Spanish or Portuguese, as easily as in French or German. In contrast Mike often grumbled about ‘foreigners’, ‘foreign ways’, foreign languages – ‘What’s wrong with English?’ – he wasn’t comfortable with what he regarded as ‘foreign food’, and I think he didn’t really like the life without English pubs. And then when we were all in England – Mike and Peter hardly contacted one another, let alone spend more time together. They both had other friends to catch up with… all these things are relative.”
Photography courtesy of The GP Library.