On this day in... 1959

05th September 2017
Henry Hope-Frost

Fifty-eight years ago today (September 5th), the World Sportscar Championship, manufacturer motorsport’s jackpot, would be decided in West Sussex – in a six-hour dogfight around the sweeps of the Goodwood Motor Circuit.


And Ferrari, Porsche and Aston Martin – could there have been three bigger players? – all had their eyes on the prize. 

The Italians had triumphed around the bumpy Florida airfield circuit of Sebring in the 12 Hours, the Germans had taken Targa Florio victory around the fast and narrow roads of Sicily’s Piccolo Madonie, and the Brits had taken big scalps after 1,000 kilometres around the chilling Nürburgring Nordschleife and 24 hours of flat-out toil at Le Mans. 

The stakes were high: the Royal Automobile Club Tourist Trophy was as prestigious as British motor races got. And for the second successive – and final – time in the World Championship, Goodwood was its host for an early-autumn showdown. 

Stirling Moss gave Aston Martin plenty of home hope by sticking the #1 DBR1 on pole, six-tenths clear of the fastest Ferrari, the Testa Rossa of Tony Brooks and Dan Gurney. With the other two works Astons lining up only seventh and 12th, behind their rival Ferraris and Porsches, Moss once again found himself carrying the weight of expectation.


And that’s how the 29-year-old star liked it, shooting off into an immediate lead unfazed after the traditional track-dash start had featured a bungled flag-drop signal.

Maestro Moss controlled things at the front as was his wont, handing the car over to team-mate Roy Salvadori, who’d taken that historic Aston Le Mans win a few months earlier, during the first round of pitstops. Salvadori, always mighty around Britain’s then-fastest circuit, kept the car out front ready for the first round of refuelling.

And that was the point David Brown and the Aston crew must have thought their world title had, literally, gone up in flames.

Spilt fuel from the refuelling nozzle ignited on the hot exhausts of the DBR1 and the car and pit area was soon ablaze. Salvadori jumped out and watched as the fire crew battled to save the DBR1.

Moss, meanwhile, was quickly ushered over to the #2 car of Carroll Shelby (who’d won Le Mans with Salvadori) and Jack Fairman (winner with Moss at the Nürburgring). A legitimate rescue plan from Brown involved Aston’s fastest man trying to win this race having used two DBR1s.


And it proved as savvy as it was spontaneous, for Moss battled back to the front in the sister car and brought it home a lap ahead of the best of the Porsches – the 1500cc 718 RSK of Wolfgang von Trips and Jo Bonnier – for an historic victory that handed Aston Martin the title.      

RAC Tourist Trophy, 1959

1. Carroll Shelby (USA)/Jack Fairman (GB)/Stirling Moss (GB) – Aston Martin DBR1/300, 224 laps

2. Wolfgang von Trips (D)/Jo Bonnier (S) – Porsche 718 RSK, 223 laps

3. Olivier Gendebien (B)/Phil Hill (USA)/Cliff Allison (GB)/Tony Brooks (GB) – Ferrari 250 TR59, 223 laps

4. Maurice Trintignant (F)/Paul Frère (B) – Aston Martin DBR1/300, 221 laps

5. Tony Brooks (GB)/Dan Gurney (USA) – Ferrari 250 TR59, 220 laps

6. Peter Ashdown (GB)/Alan Ross (USA) – Lola Mk1-Climax, 210 laps

Photography courtesy of LAT Images

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