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His Best Race: Richie Ginther in Monaco, 1961

It might seem unusual to suggest that a top level driver's best race was when he finished second. Although it would be a matter of opinion of course, it is very possible that Richie Ginther's best race was the May 14, 1961 Monaco Grand Prix. For Monaco that year Ferrari entered three of its new 156/61 Dino 1.5 liter grand prix cars. One was assigned to Phill Hill and one to Wolfgang von Trips, the Scuderia's two best drivers, and the third car was given to their development driver, Californian Richie Ginther a close friend of Hill.

In fact, Ginther received the oldest Dino 156, chassis 0001, which one could identify by the fact that it alone used forged front upper control arms, a 1960 item, whereas its later sisters used lighter welded front tubular suspension arms. However, this Dino also received something new, an experimental 120º included angle V6 motor, which Ferrari hoped would achieve both increased power and a lower center of gravity.

In qualifying Ginther let it be known that he would be very competitive, splitting the front row between Stirling Moss, on pole with Rob Walker's Lotus 18, and Jim Clark in a works Lotus 21.

Ginther led from the start for a number of laps until overtaken by Moss. He then dropped back and his teammate Hill had a go at Moss, but could not get close to the Lotus. Ginther then overtook Hill and closed the gap to Moss, setting the fastest lap on round 84 which was equalled by Moss on the very next lap.

At the end Moss won after a truly superb drive, under pressure the whole way, but Ginther had driven as his equal and was but 3.6 seconds back at the finish. Phil Hill was third, the only other driver on the lead lap, but some 37 seconds behind Ginther. Ginther was exhausted after his efforts. Here, he is being warmly congratulated by Ferrari's team manager Romolo Tavoni. The man with the beard behind Ginther is famed racing journalist Denis Jenkinson.

It was indeed a great race.

Photos by Peter Colton ©The Klemantaski Collection –

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