When Lotus and Moss changed F1 forever

It was 60 years ago that the legendary driver took the small British car to its first Grand Prix victory, and did so in the rain at Monaco!

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Stirling Moss steers the Lotus Type 18 to victory at Monaco in 1960 | Group Lotus photos

It was May 29, 1960, that Stirling Moss and Lotus took Formula 1 in a new direction, Group Lotus says as it celebrates the 60th anniversary of that victory.

“It was a classic David vs Goliath story,” said Clive Chapman, son of Lotus founder Colin Chapman.

“On 29 May 1960, Sir Stirling Moss drove his Lotus for almost three hours of punishing racing, battling through the rain on the streets of Monte Carlo to win the Monaco Grand Prix. It was the first victory in a Formula 1 world championship race for Lotus,” Group Lotus said in its news release.

Moss at Monaco in 1960

“Exactly 60 years after it all began, Lotus is paying tribute to the beginning of its truly remarkable Formula 1 history, which has seen legendary drivers such as Mario Andretti, Jim Clark, Jochen Rindt, Emerson Fittipaldi, Graham Hill, Ronnie Peterson and Ayrton Senna all claim wins for the Norfolk-based outfit.”

As part of its celebration, Lotus offers a podcast featuring an interview with motorsports journalist Damien Smith about the significance of the race for Lotus and Moss. The 50-minute podcast is available at iTunesGoogle Podcasts, SpotifyStitcher and ShoutEngine.

“The 1960 Monaco Grand Prix weekend got off to a flying start with Moss setting new lap records in practice and qualifying, earning him a spot on the front row of the grid and giving Lotus its first ever pole position,” Lotus says in its news release. 

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“But this was to be no ordinary ‘lights to flag’ victory. With eight drivers not qualifying, only 16 cars made it to the track. Up the hill from the start, Moss was passed by Jo Bonnier in the rear-engined BRM, who led for 17 laps until his brakes began to fade and he surrendered the lead to Moss. 

Acclamation after victory
Monaco, 1960

“A few laps later, the rain began to fall and Jack Brabham overtook Bonnier for second place as the drivers slowed to cope with the worsening conditions. The wet track became the leveler, forcing supreme concentration as the drivers battled to remain on the tarmac. Exemplary car control and driver input were critical in such treacherous conditions.

“On the 43rd lap, Brabham was hounding Moss for the lead but succumbed to gearbox problems. With the rain gradually easing, Moss began to pull away from the pack until he had to pit on the 60th lap with a loose plug lead, allowing Bonnier to regain the lead.

“The race was one of attrition. Pools of water remained across the track surface and Graham Hill collided with the commentators’ box. But it was in this tricky period of the race where Moss used his finesse and car control skills to catch Bonnier and continue to victory, finishing ahead of the dueling Bruce McLaren and Phil Hill. It was the first chapter of an epic story for Lotus.”

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And the first of the marque’s 81 Grand Prix victories. Lotus won the Constructors’ Championship seven times and its drivers won six titles.

Victory lap

At Monaco in 1960, Moss was driving a Lotus Type 18 entered by Rob Walker, heir to the Johnnie Walker whisky company.

“The Lotus Type 18, which Lotus founder Colin Chapman believed was the marque’s first proper Formula 1 car, was perfectly suited to the tight, twisting streets of Monaco,” Group Lotus proclaims. “The lightweight aluminum-bodied racer was agile and dynamic, taking the field – including a trio of entrants from Ferrari – by storm.” 


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A former daily newspaper sports editor, Larry Edsall spent a dozen years as an editor at AutoWeek magazine before making the transition to writing for the web and becoming the author of more than 15 automotive books. In addition to being founding editor at ClassicCars.com, Larry has written for The New York Times and The Detroit News and was an adjunct honors professor at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.

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