Moss had been holding a commanding lead when the misfire set in. He pitted and the magneto’s earthing wire was ripped out, but the hesitation persisted. Thus the hobbled Brooks was beckoned and helped from his car, which he “had kept nicely on the boil”; Moss leapt in and rejoined ninth. On lap 35, he passed the lacklustre Fangio for sixth. And after 14 more undercooked laps, the World Champion coasted into the pits, his Maserati’s valve gear broken.
Behra, meanwhile, was driving beautifully, responding spiritedly to Moss’s sequence of fastest laps and looking likely to cling to victory; the Frenchman in the crash helmet with the chequered band had yet to win a world championship GP. But everything changed on lap 69: his clutch assembly – or crankshaft – shattered; Ferrari’s Mike Hawthorn, running second, punctured on the shrapnel; and Moss passed team-mate Stuart Lewis-Evans for what he thought was third place.
In fact, Vanwalls were now first and second and Britain held its breath; gasped when Lewis-Evans’ throttle assembly came adrift, and almost passed out when the leader pitted on lap 79 (of 90). This, however, was only a precautionary 10-gallon splash-and-dash and Moss re-joined still in the lead, 40 seconds ahead of Ferrari’s in-form Luigi Musso.
This breakthrough victory triggered a track invasion and through the throng pressed Fangio. “The first one to congratulate us, as usual, was Juan,” said Moss. “Ever the great sportsman, whether he won or lost.” Both, of course, knew that this result might signal a shift in their balance of power. The subsequent German GP at the Nürburgring would be the crux of Fangio’s quest for a fifth world title.
Photography courtesy of LAT Images