ISBN 13: 9782746637139Michael Cox from Kansas City, Missouri, writes about his hometown hero and a legendary racer: Masten was a true motorsport pioneer: He was also a pioneer in that he was one of the rare drivers to wear eyeglasses during that time, a practice still very uncommon even today. Masten's nearsighted vision masten gregory the maverick so magerick that he required eyeglasses which, as Carroll Shelby once described, were as thick as "Coke bottles". Masten's older brother, Riddelle Gregory a racer himself too at one timeconfirmed his poor vision masten gregory the maverick saying, "Once we were driving down to Texas and Masten had me do the night driving through Oklahoma because he couldn't see very well at night.
Masten Gregory, the Maverick by Patrick Sinibaldi, Foreword by Carroll Shelby | #
Michael Cox from Kansas City, Missouri, writes about his hometown hero and a legendary racer: Masten was a true motorsport pioneer: He was also a pioneer in that he was one of the rare drivers to wear eyeglasses during that time, a practice still very uncommon even today. Masten's nearsighted vision was so poor that he required eyeglasses which, as Carroll Shelby once described, were as thick as "Coke bottles".
Masten's older brother, Riddelle Gregory a racer himself too at one time , confirmed his poor vision by saying, "Once we were driving down to Texas and Masten had me do the night driving through Oklahoma because he couldn't see very well at night.
Next thing you know, here he is racing in and winning Le Mans! He was the youngest of three children whose parents owned a local insurance company. His father died when he was three, which later led to his mother selling the family's insurance business. He never finished his senior year of high school and married at the age of Masten was described as a short, slight built, bespectacled man, who possessed a surprisingly deep voice with a noticeable Midwestern twang.
He spoke with an exaggerated deliberation, which was believed to be a result of his overcoming a childhood lisp. He was a chain smoker who was very independent and noted for his dry, witty sense of humor. His interest in racing was evident early on, as he enjoyed drag racing a Ford Coupe around the city streets as well as his involvement as a pitman for his brother-in-law Dale Duncan's race team.
The death of Masten's father later played an important role in his getting involved in racing. When his mother sold the family's insurance business, she set aside a significant amount of money for each of the children to inherit on their 21st birthday.
However, since Masten was over the age of 18 and married, this enabled him to collect his inheritance earlier, and with a large sum of money at his disposal, he was able to buy a Mercury-powered Allard sports car and go racing.
Masten's first race was a mile SCCA race in Caddo Mills, Texas, in November - a race that he unfortunately ended after five laps due to a blown head gasket. He installed a Chrysler engine in his Allard and next raced at Sebring in , where he lasted a little more than one of the twelve hours, retiring from the race due to rear suspension failure.
A win would come for Masten in his third race, an event in Stillwater, Oklahoma, with his brother-in-law Duncan finishing second in a Jaguar. Masten raced the car himself from then on with more wins and great finishes following. After being black-flagged in a race at Chanute Air Force Base, Masten displayed his characteristic sense of humor by showing up at his next race with black-flags painted on his car, which were used as a background for his car number By the end of , Masten was considered the top Jaguar driver in the United States.
His wins, along with a string of second-place finishes that season, helped Masten get an invitation to participate in his first international sports car race - an event in Buenos Aires during January He performed admirably in the Argentine Km in Buenos Aires until water pump problems ruined his day, dropping him to 14th at the finish. Masten, who stood 5'8" and weighed lbs, looked very young for his age.
When he first arrived to race in Europe in , his competitors initially balked at the idea of racing against "That Child. In , he went to race at Le Mans, but co-driver Mike Sparken broke a piston in the 3 liter Ferrari early on in the race.
Masten never got a chance to get behind the steering wheel. However, he was back to compete again at Dundrod to race in the Tourist Trophy race later that year, where he and Carroll Shelby teamed up together, finishing ninth overall and winning their class in a Porsche Spyder. In , he spent most of the year driving in and winning often various SCCA races.
His first big break came after a sports car race in , when he shared a win with three other drivers in the Argentine Km with all the big shots of international racing in attendance. It was at this race that Masten became the first American to score a debut podium finish in Formula One history with his brilliant third place finish in the Monaco Grand Prix. Truly impressive, since scoring a podium finish in a driver's first Grand Prix start has only been accomplished thirteen times excluding shared drives in the year history of Formula One.
Masten followed up this performance with an eighth place finish in the German Grand Prix at the Nurburgring, a fourth place finish in the Pescara Grand Prix, and another fourth place finish in the season-ending Italian Grand Prix at Monza.
He finished sixth in the World Championship that season while participating in only half of the races. Unfortunately, injuries kept him from competing much of the season, but it probably did not matter as the Maserati F was past its prime. However, Masten did manage a sixth place finish in the season ending Moroccan Grand Prix.
The injuries he incurred during the season were the result of one of his trademarked high-speed bailouts during a sports car race at Silverstone. Whenever Masten was faced with a major crash, he would stand up in the cockpit of his car and jump out just before impact. Shortly after the accident, Riddelle talked to him on the telephone while he was in the hospital. Masten stated that he lost control of his car when he got into the grass going into a corner as an evasive maneuver when a "little Porsche" moved over unexpectedly in front of him.
When Riddelle asked him why he jumped out of the car Masten replied, "You should have seen what I was going to hit! A huge earth embankment! He scored the second podium of his career by finishing third in the Dutch Grand Prix at Zandvoort.
However, in a sports car race at Goodwood, Masten again performed another one of his trademarks by bailing out of his Jaguar when his steering failed. He consequently missed the final two Grands Prix as a result. Despite missing several races due to these injuries and having his share of mechanical problems, Masten still finished tied for eighth in the World Championship, with Jack Brabham winning the World Driver Championship.
Brabham, McLaren and Masten's efforts that season helped bring Cooper their first Constructors championship as well. In , Masten's contract with Cooper was not renewed, something that he was very bitter about.
According to Riddelle, Masten maintained this belief as well. While we may never know the real reason for Masten's release, Cooper did decide to become a two-car team for the season. And whether or not this was at the request of the newly crowned champion Brabham is not known for certainty. As far as Masten being faster than "Black Jack" Brabham, Masten probably did not get the machinery or attention to show it as a third driver for Cooper.
However, he did win a pole and set a course record in a non-championship Grand Prix at Aintree that season. This, in addition to qualifying directly behind Brabham in his final two Grands Prix before getting injured. He also scored his career best finish, a second place finish, in the Portuguese Grand Prix which also turned out to be his last race for Cooper before his season ending injuries.
It also should be noted that Masten had out-qualified and finished ahead of Brabham in four out of the six races in which they competed against one another during the previous two seasons. One thing was certain: Masten was consistently faster than McLaren when the two went head to head in Formula One and in Formula Two that season. However, McLaren was retained and Masten's contract was not renewed. The best finishes Masten was able to produce before his Formula One career ended in , occurred during the season when he drove a Lotus 24 for the UDT Laystall team.
At the French Grand Prix, he was running fourth behind Dan Gurney the eventual winner before having to retire due to ignition problems. Otherwise, it might have produced an interesting scenario of the two Americans battling it out for their first Formula One win. Masten's talent and commitment to Grand Prix racing earned him a better fate in Formula One.
He was so dedicated to landing a competitive Formula One ride that he actually moved his wife and children to Italy during the s, into a villa across from the Ferrari factory. However, the best Formula One opportunity that Enzo Ferrari would offer him was as a number four driver where he would only get to compete in two or three Grands Prix a year.
At any rate, it is highly probable that Masten would have been the first American to win a Formula One Grand Prix and possibly even a World Championship if he could have landed a top ride with a factory team after his impressive rookie season.
Fortunately, Masten's sports car career took off again after his release from Cooper. At the Le Mans 24 Hours, despite having to retire due to electrical problems, Masten recorded the fastest lap of the race in his Birdcage Maserati T61 during the opening laps of the race. This was the first time an American had ever recorded the fastest lap overall in a race at Le Mans. In a Le Mans review article, it was stated that Masten was turning such fast laps in the opening part of the race that at one point a jet-powered helicopter flying overhead could not keep up with Masten down the Mulsanne straight.
In , Masten won a Km race at the ever-treacherous Nurburgring circuit in a Birdcage Maserati co-driving with Lloyd "Lucky" Casner despite having no sponsor and having to borrow tires after the final practice. At Le Mans that same year Masten recorded his best finish to date in the 24 Hour race co-driving with Bob Holbert, finishing fifth place overall and first in class in a Porsche RS61 Spyder. In , Ford Motor Company began its pursuit of beating Ferrari and capturing the most prestigious sports car race in the world, Le Mans.
He was paired up with Richie Ginther in one of their GT40 entries, and things looked very encouraging as the team led for a while early on in the race.
A slow pit stop caused Masten to come out in second place and the team held that position going into the evening until the car retired due to gearbox problems in the fifth hour. He teamed up with Jochen Rindt and the two blistered the 8. It was the first time that an American entry had ever won the prestigious race. It was also an unexpected win since it had been eight years since a non-factory team had won Le Mans. This was easily the biggest win of Masten's career.
It also happened to be a big win for Goodyear since this was the first time a car fitted with Goodyear tires finished first overall in an international race. Interesting to note, to this date the win was the last time a Ferrari has ever won Le Mans. George Bryant was Masten's stepfather and according to Riddelle, their mother did not like Masten racing to begin with.
She was especially against the idea of her husband sponsoring their son. Masten qualified on the last row thirty-first for the race, but that starting position did not impede him. He quickly passed fourteen cars on the opening lap and was running fifth before engine problems ended his great run.
Masten's international sports car career then started to wind down with the following highlight finishes: Finally, after the death of long time friend Jo Bonnier at Le Mans in , Masten decided it was time to distance himself from competitive racing. Masten never officially retired from racing. He told his brother that many drivers announce their retirement and then come back so he decided that he would just stop competing. Certainly, the dangers associated with competitive racing cannot go unspoken.
In addition to seeing his long time friend Bonnier die from a crash at Le Mans, Masten had seen quite a few of his fellow competitors perish in racing accidents. Masten himself had seven major crashes during his career, any of which could have easily resulted in him meeting his Maker.
He was unfairly labeled as a car crasher by a few critics and it was said to have hurt his career. However, the records clearly show that Masten rarely ever crashed out of an F1 event, even in non-championship Grand Prix, and virtually all of his crashes occurred in sports cars. Masten had a very cavalier attitude on the racetrack and was never afraid to stand on the throttle, which boded well for someone racing independent machinery up against factory teams.
He once said, "Frankly, if I couldn't go motor racing I would have to do something else involving hazard because it is the moment of risk that makes the rest of life bearable, valuable or delightful. I hadn't made any plans because it didn't seem worthwhile. Stirling Moss told me flatly that I was going to kill myself soon after I got to Europe.