Sir Stirling Moss gives Lotus its first Grand Prix win at Monaco 1960 - Motorsport Moments
Lotus and Sir Stirling Moss took victory at a rain-affected, three-hour-long Monaco epic
Moss (already an established winner in Mercedes, Maserati and Vanwall machinery by that point) was at the wheel of a Lotus 18 – considered by marque founder Colin Chapman to be its first proper Formula One car – entered by Rob Walker’s privateer team.
The whiskey heir’s outfit made the decision to switch to Lotus for this race, having run a Cooper-Climax in the season-opening event in Argentina, where Moss shared the drive with Frenchman Maurice Trintignant.
The Brit got off to a good start in practice and qualifying, setting new lap records of the Monte Carlo track in both. He started from pole – the first time a Lotus F1 car did so – and all the elements were thus in place for a classic ‘lights-to-flag’ victory.
What followed was far from conventional, though. First, Moss lost first position to Jo Bonnier’s BRM as they headed up the hill on the first lap. The Swede led for 17 laps until brake fade took its toll and he had to cede the lead to Moss once again.
Then a real curveball was thrown as, in a rather out-of-character moment for the French Riviera in May, the heavens opened on lap 28. The downpour saw Bonnier lose another position, this time to Jack Brabham, who then set off in pursuit of Moss’ Lotus.
As the legendary motorsport journalist Denis Jenkinson described it, the rain was by now falling so heavily that “everyone was having to drive with velvet feet in order to get any traction at all”.
Brabham’s chase of Moss kept up until lap 41, when the Australian lost control at the Sainte Devote corner and hit the wall, damaging his gearbox and bringing his charge to a premature end.
It looked like mission accomplished for Moss, but on lap 60 he had to head for the pits so his mechanics could attend to a loose plug lead. That put Bonnier back in front, and Moss had to head back out on track, hunt him down and pass him in the still tricky and damp conditions.
In the end, he crossed the finish line an astonishing 52 seconds ahead of his nearest rival, second-place Bruce McLaren (Bonnier having retired with suspension failure), with Ferrari’s Phil Hill in third.
Moss had secured Lotus’ first-ever F1 win in a race that had gone on for almost three hours in total due to the reduced pace in the rain. He and the Lotus 18 would win again in the season-finale race in the US; in total there would be another 80 victories for Lotus Grand Prix cars, along with seven drivers’ and six constructors’ world titles, in the subsequent years until the original Team Lotus closed its doors in 1994.
Reflecting on the win for this year’s 60th anniversary, Colin Chapman’s son Clive – who nowadays is managing director of the Classic Team Lotus historic racing outfit – said: “Moss winning the 1960 Monaco GP was a classic David versus Goliath-type story, which was well received and an important boost to the Lotus marque, still in its relatively early days.
“Moss was naturally quick, thoughtful and mechanically sympathetic – characteristics which were of utmost benefit at Monaco.”
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