Monsanto F1 Circuit Then – A Note from Dan Gurney


Last week I promised to dig out an interesting story related to the 1959 Portuguese F1 Grand Prix at Monsanto circuit and (to my huge surprise and what a pleasant surprise it was!) Dan Gurney was kind enough to send me a brief note with his recollections of the race. This is cool, super cool, uber cool!

My memories of 52 years ago are not crystal clear, but, never the less evocative.

Portugal was a fabulous exotic place for me in those days. Lisbon and the circuit at Monsanto were full of things that stimulated my interest in history. I thought of the World famous explorers that ventured out from Portugal in the days when many people thought the World was flat. As it was my third F-1 race for the Ferrari factory with their front engined cars, I was full of enthusiasm to be there.

I recall that it was rather warm that day and my friend Bernard Cahier (the famous French photographer) was busy splashing large cups of cool water on the over heated drivers going by at a very slow turn towards the end of the race. I was proud to be the best finisher in the Ferrari team.

Monsanto circuit gallery is still here

Credit: Bernard Cahier

Credit: Bernard Cahier

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4 thoughts on “Monsanto F1 Circuit Then – A Note from Dan Gurney”

  1. Superb photographs and a lovely note from Mr Gurney. Interesting to reflect that US drivers finished second and third behind Stirling Moss’ Rob Walker Cooper at that race in 1959: Masten Gregory qualified his factory Cooper on the front row and finished second, ahead of Dan.

    • Thanks, I went for black and white photography to reflect that era. It’s one of those “lost” circuits that always attracted my attention. They do revival festivals in Porto but nothing at Monsanto as far as I’m concerned, it would be lovely to bring back 1950s F1 machinery there, very unlikely to happen though…

      I suppose another point of interest with Monsanto is the battle between front engined and rear engined cars, F1 evolving and taking its shape as we know it now.

  2. Great memories, I’m happy to see Dan remembering as a highlight the episode with my father “cooling down” his driver friends (it really was hot that day…), what an amazing sight and photo! But let’s not forget that this was also the Grand Prix debut of Mario “Nicha” Cabral, driving Mimo Dei’s Scuderia Centro Sud Maserati. And interestingly, the previous year my father had arranged for Dan’s European debut, when he drove a 1.5L Osca at the Nürburgring 1000 Km entered by the same Mimo Dei! Both Dan and Nicha remained best of friends with the Cahier family through the following decades. Wonderful characters!

    • It was damn hot in Monsanto when I was there last week, I’d say close to 35 degrees at least! I had to cool down in more or less the same fashion… Photo is amazing indeed: imagine a modern day F1 driver slowing down a bit just to get a bottle of cold water from a photographer (who’s casually standing a few inches away from the roaring cars) and have a drink while completing the last laps of the race. That’s safety going thru the window but how romantic!

      Had no idea you knew Nicha Cabral so well, he’s going to take part in the Algarve Historic Festival down at Portimão this weekend. Shame I can’t be there myself, a great event.

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