F1 circuits history part 4: 1958-60

Posted on | Author Keith Collantine

The history of F1 circuits continues with a look at some of the curious tracks from the late ’50s and early ’60s, including the track that was so dangerous it was dropped for the ‘safer’ Nurburgring Nordschleife.

Plus the host of the one-off Moroccan Grand Prix, two of the first homes of the United States Grand Prix, and a pair of Portuguese venues.

Porto, Portugal

The Portuguese Grand Prix ran at two different locations including Porto and Monsanto Park (below). The Circuit da Boa Vista, a street track in the city of Porto, ran up to the harbour front at the western edge before winding through the city streets, jumping over tram-lines.

It was at Porto in 1958 that Mike Hawthorn was disqualified after spinning off and re-joining. He was reinstated only after his championship rival Stirling Moss gave evidence backing Hawthorn, and the points Hawthorn kept later allowed him to beat Moss to the title.

Porto held its second and final Grand Prix in 1960, won by John Surtees. But the venue has enjoyed a revival of late and held a round of the World Touring Car Championship last year, albeit with several chicanes installed.

Ain-Diab

The Moroccan Grand Prix was only held once, as the season finale in 1958. The Ain-Diab circuit near Casablanca used a coastal road and the sea mist hampered visibility on occasions.

It was here that Hawthorn beat Moss to the crown, but the race was marred by the death of Moss’s team mate Stuart Lewis-Evans.

AVUS

When the Automobil Verkehrs end Ubungs Strasse was first used in 1926 it was considered so dangerous the German Grand Prix was moved to the Nurburgring Nordschleife.

Before it was used for a world championship race it was shortened, in 1957, because part of the track had fallen into the Soviet-controlled sector of Germany after World War II.

The track was simply a dual carriageway, joined at one end by a tight hairpin and at the other by a fearsomely steep 43-degree banking. Today the maximum banking permitted on an F1 track is ten degrees.

Tony Brooks won the sole world championship race in 1959, setting a fastest lap of 2’05.9. Sadly F1 driver Jean Behra was killed in a sports car race during the event, which was the only occasion F1 visited AVUS. After that, it was back to the Nurburgring.

Monsanto Park

In between appearances at Porto the Portuguese Grand Prix was held once at Monsanto Park in Lisbon, using part of the dual carriageway to Estoril, which was a future host of the Portuguese Grand Prix. Moss won the sole F1 Grand Prix there but racing at the venue finished for good in 1971.

Sebring

Sebring hosted the first true United States Grand Prix in 1959. It was won by Bruce McLaren who, at the age of 22 years, three months and 12 days, was the youngest driver ever to do so until Fernando Alonso won the Hungarian Grand Prix in 2003.

The track was built on the former Hendrick Field airbase, the outline of which is clearly visible on the satellite map. So too is the modern circuit, built since the track was taken over by sports car builder Don Panoz in 1998.

As well as a fearsomely rough surface the circuit boasted some amusing un-imaginative corner names. The straight on the far right of the picture was called “The Straight”, the u-turn at the bottom left was called “U-turn”, and the big bend in the middle of the track was called “Big Bend”. The venue still hosts a 12-hour sportscar race as part of the American Le Mans Series.

Riverside

On the site of the old Riverside raceway in California there now stands a shopping mall, and all traces of the former track have been completely obliterated.

Like Sebring it only held the United States Grand Prix once, in 1960, before it moved on to Watkins Glen in New York. Riverside held its last race in 1989. Here’s a diagram of the 1960-specification circuit form Wikipedia.