By: Jeremy McMullen
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By: Jeremy McMullen
| It had been since 1923 and the French Grand Prix when a British car last had seen victory in a grand prix. Armed with the desire to bring an end to the drought, Humphrey Cook, Raymond Mays, and Peter Berthon bought a lot in 1933 behind the home of Mays and established English Racing Automobiles (ERA). In 1933 governments began investing in the likes of Alfa Romeo and other teams making the costs of competitive grand prix racing rather high. As a result of this, the three men of ERA quickly became disenchanted with their chances in grand prix racing. Instead, the men decided to enter competitive racing through another door, a door through which ERA would become popular for its customer cars. This move would later result in many ERA models filling the field and making an assault for Formula One's first ever title.
Cook, Mays and Berthon gave up on grand prix racing right away in favor of entering the very competitive 'Voiturette' ('small car' in French) class. To be as competitive as possible early model ERAs were designed with a wide range of engines from 1.1 and 1.5 liter supercharged engines to a 2.0 liter normally aspirated engine. Although teams and manufacturers, like Mercedes Benz, were competing in the top grand prix classes, ERA would have no easy go of it in the Voiturette class with companies like Maserati around.
In 1934 ERA entered their first race at Brooklands, and though not as successful as say…Maserati and their debut performances, by the end of the season ERA had scored some rather impressive victories. ERA continued its success in 1935. The most memorable race of that year for ERA had to be at the Nurburing in Germany when ERA machines scored 1st, 3rd, 4th and 5th place finishes. From 1935 till before the outbreak of World War II ERA proved to have dominant chassis in Voiturette racing.
Very soon, the men decided to try and make a go against the bigger competition in grand prix racing. Focus shifted, from that point on, to making an all-new competitive chassis. Yet while ERA shifted its focus to one specific chassis, by the time of the first ever Formula One race in 1950, there would be no fewer than 4 or 5 different ERA models that would race into Formula One's history.