The 7th April 1957 saw the running of the Formula One non-championship Syracuse Grand Prix in Sicily around a 3.47 mile road circuit. Stirling raced a Vanwall, having accepted Tony Vandervell's offer to drive for the team during the 1957 season. His team mate was Tony Brooks, a man Stirling regarded as the 'greatest unknown driver of all time', and they remain friends to this day.
On the Thursday before the race, Stirling caught a flight from Lydd Airport in Kent, with his father Alfred, which went direct to Catania in Sicily, with a refuelling stop on Nice. From Catania, it was a two hour drive to Syracuse, where he was scheduled to have his first outing of the new season with the Vanwall team.
Jean Behra was the fastest in the #38 V12 Maserati 250F during the first day's practice, with Stirling only 0.7 seconds behind him in the Vanwall practice car. Stirling remembers that the car had a difficult feel to its throttle and was over-geared to the tune of 600rpm.
For qualifying on the Saturday, his cars gear ratios were improved and he was able to pull 7,500 rpm in fifth gear, although the car suffered a slight misfire at the top end. Stirling went onto qualify third behind the Ferraris of Peter Collins and Luigi Musso.
Unfortunately for Stirling, he made a bad start in his #20 Vanwall at the begining of the race, dropping to sixth on the opening lap. By the end of the second lap however, he was in the lead with his team mate Tony Brooks, in the #4 Vanwall, briefly in second place before Peter Collins, in the #32 Lancia-Ferrari 801, overtook him.
Stirling opened up a lead of 35 seconds in 32 laps, the race scheduled to be 80 laps, before the car suffered a broken injector pipe and he lost four laps in the pits having it repaired.
He resumed in seventh place, and despite not having fourth gear, set a new lap record and caught second placed Collins and race winner Musso, in the #22 V8 Lancia-Ferrari D50A, finishing on the podium in third place.
Stirling reckoned that he drove a good race and could have gone onto win it had it not been for the problems with the Vanwall. Tony Brooks also drove well up to the point his Vanwall suffered a broken water pipe, forcing him to retire.
Image © George Phillips Photograph Collection