Thursday, August 13, 2009

"A dice ... perhaps the greatest of all time."

Probably Innes Ireland's greatest victory was in the 1961 Solitude Grand Prix. Here is an extract from Jenkinson's report in Motor Sport.

"On lap 20 Brabham's engine coughed once or twice, and immediately Bonnier and Gurney were past, and then it spluttered again, as if getting low on fuel, or suffering from fuel feed trouble, and McLaren was by. This let the two Porsches attack Ireland and on lap 21 the order was Ireland, Gurney and Bonnier, all in a tight bunch and one felt that the Lotus could not cope with a concerted attack by the two silver cars, especially as Brabham and McLaren had dropped back out of the slip-stream, and could not help anymore.

It seemed impossible that a Lotus could beat the Porsche team on their own doorstep, and the crowd were obviously very partisan and urging on the two silver cars. Fortunately for Ireland the two Porsche drivers were too engrossed in their own personal battle to think of ganging-up on the Lotus, so Ireland still led on lap 22, and again on lap 23, but on the penultimate lap Bonnier got by, and one thought "that's it, Ireland's had it now" for the three cars disappeared up the hill with the green Lotus in the middle of a Porsche sandwich to start their last lap.

Down through the fast swerves Ireland could do nothing to get by and down the long straight he tried to pull out of the slipstream and get by but it was no good, and as they approached the hairpin at the end of the straight the forceful Ireland thought "now or never," but somehow Bonnier's Porsche was using all the road and there just wasn't room for the Lotus to try and get by. A lesser driver would have settled for an honourable second place, played the gentleman and satisfied the crowd by letting the Porsche win, but not Ireland, for his fighting spirit was really up, and gritting his teeth and hoping Chapman wouldn't mind if he crashed, he took to the grass, went by Bonnier on the braking, and then standing on everything scrabbled back round the corner in the lead. From this point back to the finish was all corners and curves, and it did not need much imagination to keep the two Porsches at bay, but there was still the short straight from the last left hand curve over the finishing line. There was a cry of dismay from the crowd as the Lotus appeared in the lead, but a shout of joy from the Lotus pit, and Ireland crossed the line a matter of three feet in front of Bonnier, with Gurney an equal amount behind. Had the chequered flag been at the other end of the of the pits Ireland would never have made it. It was a glorious victory for Team Lotus, and Ireland had surpassed himself. McLaren and Brabham finished fourth and fifth, and nobody had a lap of honour, they were all much too puffed. It had been one of the best motor races for many years."

No comments: