The remarkable first Monaco GP of an F1 legend
And in his first GP there in 1957, he put in a superb performance that grabbed attention and helped him climb to the top of the sport – in association with Avon Tires.
It was his first full season as an F1 driver with Cooper, but the British team did not yet have a car to maximize regulation of the 2.5-liter engine. Instead, Brabham had the T43, which operated as both an F1 and F2 car, with a two-liter version of the Climax FPF powertrain.
But, using Avon tires in place of his usual rubber, Brabham took advantage of the nimble Cooper and a spectacular race for almost get a remarkable podium.
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Things did not start well. Brabham was late on the track and had a problem with the brakes which contributed to a crash during testing. This meant he had to take back Les Leston’s car, and Brabham lined up at the back of the 16-car field.
Brabham however quickly moved into the peloton, helped by a dramatic crash up front.
Stirling Moss had taken the lead at the start but on lap five he got to the chicane too quickly, possibly due to a problem with the brakes. The Vanwall struck telegraph poles and in the crash that followed Peter Collins and Mike Hawthorn’s Ferraris were also damaged beyond immediate repair.
“I was behind them and I only remember a big cloud of smoke, dust and straw everywhere, big black lines reaching just beyond the chicane,” Brabham said in his autobiography. When the flag falls. “They were very lucky to get out of this.
Several other drivers also made early mistakes, allowing the Avon Chaussée Cooper to gain more seats. Brabham got the better of Ron Flockhart’s BRM and moved up to fourth in the first half of the race before having to stop to refuel. As well as being out of power, this replacement Cooper didn’t have an extra long-range fuel tank and therefore couldn’t run the race non-stop like other racers.
Brabham nonetheless quickly passed Masten Gregory’s Maserati for fourth place after the pit stop. When the engine of Wolfgang von Trips’ Ferrari failed in the final stages, the little Cooper was promoted to third. The only cars ahead now were the more powerful Maserati by Juan Manuel Fangio Maserati and the Vanwall by Tony Brooks.
Brabham’s fastest lap was only 1.6 seconds slower than Fangio’s, as he was over 6 seconds away from practice, and a brilliant podium for his third world championship start was in sight.
Then the Climax engine stopped. “The fuel pump drive had failed,” Brabham explained. “I walked over the top of the hill and passed the station to the water’s edge, and stopped just before the tunnel.”
But Brabham wasn’t done yet: “At that time I didn’t like to be beaten, so I got out of the car and pushed, I was impatient!
After three hours of racing on one of the most grueling circuits in the world, Brabham pushed the Cooper through the tunnel to the chicane, to Tabac, and along the harbor to reach the finish, under heavy conditions. tumultuous applause.
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“The worst part about pushing the car home wasn’t so much the exhaustion as the loss of third place,” added Brabham. “And the really scary part was going through the tunnel with all these mighty, mighty cars screaming in the dark!”
He was ranked sixth, one place out of points, but had made his mark. “It was the start of Cooper’s success in Grand Prix racing,” Brabham said.
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Autosport founding editor and GP journalist Gregor Grant agreed: “Sensational would be the best word to describe Brabham and the hastily rebuilt Cooper. It was one of the classic car racing performances that delighted everyone.
Two years later, Brabham would win the race for Cooper en route to his first world title.