It was not easy, as Sir Stirling Moss has recalled: “The Vanwall…did not do its winning easily….bad flat spots, bad gearbox and a car which demanded delicate handling, but very fast, with good brakes, and acceptably reliable…”.
Was the great man damning the car with great praise? Absolutely no way. But he was always, and is still, totally honest and objective – telling it exactly as he saw things – peerlessly honest. While Moss was very much team No 1 driver, Tony Brooks was the fabulously gifted No 2 – a profoundly talented driver, equally honest and straightforward – and as blindingly quick on his day. As a dentistry student-cum-part-time racing driver in 1955 he had won the Syracuse GP in Sicily for Connaught – thus became the first British driver to win a proper Grand Prix race in British Grand Prix car since Henry Segrave’s win for Sunbeam in the French GP at Tours in 1923.
In the mid-summer of 1957 Tony found himself reporting for Vanwall duty in the British GP at Aintree, beaten-up, battered and sore with a hole in his hip the size of his fist. Driving a works Aston Martin sports car at Le Mans he had made a mistake, crashed and rolled the car over upon himself. He had been forcibly freed by a Porsche then tee-boning his overturned Aston and knocking it off him… At Aintree, he arrived a stone below his normal racing weight, bandaged and padded for his return to racing.
After a wet race day morning Aintree dried out and as Tony wrote at the time: “Behra (Maserati) made an excellent start, leading Stirling and me into Waterways Corner, but Stirling squeezed by on braking into the long right-hand corner leading onto the straight, and at the end of the first lap it was Moss, Behra, Brooks… Stirling edged away from Behra and was 7.5secs ahead by lap 10, stretching it to 9secs by lap 20, but then things started to go very wrong. Unbeknown to me, Stirling’s car had developed a misfire and he pitted on lap 21 to investigate. In desperation, the mechanics ripped off the magneto earth wire and he rejoined the race in seventh, but the engine was no better so he pitted again after the next lap.