Lotus won its first ever F1 race 60 years ago with Sir Stirling Moss

By topgear, 28 May 2020

Sixty years ago today, Lotus scored its first World Championship Formula One win. There would be another 80 where that came from and a long list of era-defining technical innovations. But the first time is always special, not least because the winning driver in the Monaco Grand Prix that day was one Stirling Moss.

“Moss winning the 1960 Monaco GP was a classic David vs Goliath-type story,” Clive Chapman, managing director of Classic Team Lotus (and founder Colin’s son) says. “[He] was naturally quick, thoughtful and mechanically sympathetic – all characteristics that were of utmost benefit at Monaco, back when the race was three hours long.”

Says Lotus CEO Phil Popham: “Today we mark not just a legendary driver and a remarkable achievement, but the start of a defining period in the history of Lotus. Sir Stirling Moss is a name etched into motorsport folklore, and his skill at the Monaco GP exactly 60 years ago was the catalyst for our successful heritage in Formula One.”

Lotus’s first F1 entry had occurred two years earlier, in the ’58 Monaco GP, with Graham Hill and Cliff Allison driving; the latter finished a remarkable sixth in the Type 12. The switch from a front to mid-engined configuration in 1960 with the elfin, elegant and presciently engineered Lotus 18 kickstarted the team’s imperial phase.

Moss, an avowed patriot who preferred to race for the home side, had signed with the privateer Rob Walker. The scion of the Johnnie Walker whisky dynasty, Walker is remembered as perhaps the finest and most successful privateer ever to compete in F1. The famous blue livery with the white nose strip adorned many important racing cars, including the Ferrari 250 GT SWB with which Stirling Moss also demonstrated his sublime gifts (he won the 1960 Tourist Trophy at Goodwood in one, famously listening to the race commentary on the radio as he did so).

Says Chapman: “Rob Walker and my father enjoyed a mutually beneficial relationship which realised great success throughout the 1960s. Walker’s enduring relationship with Sir Stirling Moss was even stronger. Evidently Walker, as privateer entrant and sponsor, provided Moss with what he needed in order to realise his prodigious ability.”

Moss, Lotus, Walker: it was a powerful triumvirate. But even though he set new lap records at the Principality, and gave Lotus its first pole position, Moss had to fight hard that day for the win. Only 16 cars qualified, and Moss was soon passed by Jo Bonnier’s BRM. But then it began to rain, levelling the field in the way it did back then and still does today, and allowing Moss’s supernatural car control to come to the fore.

Although he cited his win in Monaco the following year among his greatest drives, the 1960 victory was pretty good, too: only the top three drivers finished all 100 laps, and only five were classified in the end. Bruce McLaren was second, with Phil Hill in the Ferrari 246 in third.

The Lotus 18, it should be noted, also helped Jim Clark to his first single-seater victory, in the Kentish 200 at Brands Hatch in August 1960. He would go on to enjoy a relationship with Lotus that would be one of the definitive partnerships in motorsport history. But that’s another story…

STORY Jason Barlow

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