|Rodney Nuckey: 1953 Formula One Season|
|by Jeremy McMullen|
| Born in 1929 in Wood Green located in London, England, Rodney Nuckey would be just ten years old when his family engineering firm Nuckey, Scott & Co. engineered important parts in use in British aircraft important to the defense of the country. Nearly a dozen years later, and under his influence and control, the family engineering firm would fund Nuckey's foray into motor racing.|
During the days of World War II, Nuckey, Scott & Co. were most notably known for their work creating precision taps and dies for aircraft production. These were very important in the manufacture of aircraft used in defense of the homeland. As a result, the company would become a rather wealthy engineering firm, at least wealthy enough for Nuckey to take to motor racing in 1952 in Formula 3. But Nuckey wouldn't just take part in races around the British Isles. The wealth from the company enabled him to be able to travel all around Europe and the Scandinavian countries in order to take part in some races.
Nuckey wouldn't just go and compete though. He was quite talented behind the wheel, which would be attested to when he would win at Skarpnack in Sweden and scored a number of other top results in other Formula 3 events.
Heading into 1953, Nuckey wanted to try his hand at the ultimate level of racing at the time. With Formula One on hiatus until the new regulations would be decided upon, Formula 2 racing was the highest in the land. To compete, Nuckey would go and purchase a Cooper-Bristol T23 in order to compete in the 1953 season.
And although Nuckey was known for being one of the more well-travelled privateer grand prix drivers he would not travel with to South America to compete against the major manufacturers in the first round of the World Championship in 1953. Instead, Nuckey first race of the 1953 wouldn't come until grand prix racing began in Europe.
While Nuckey would wait until grand prix racing kicked off in Europe his first race wouldn't come on native soil. On the 22nd of March Nuckey was in Syracuse, Sicily preparing to take part in the 3rd Gran Premio di Siracusa.
The Gran Premio di Siracuse would be battled out upon the 3.34 mile temporary road circuit situated to the west of the port-city of Syracuse. The event was to be an 80 lap affair and would feature some of the best privateers and the most dominant factory effort of the day.
Surprisingly, Nuckey would be one of four Cooper-Bristols in the field ready to battle it out against the might of Scuderia Ferrari and their dominant Ferrari 500 chassis. And after practice it seemed plain there was little hope for anyone other than a Ferrari driver.
Believed to exist on a site of a dismantled United States Army Air Force base from World War II, the Syracuse circuit started out amongst the rolling countryside immediately to the west of the downtown area. The circuit then headed into the city slightly before making the tight hairpin turn called Curva della Madonnina before heading uphill past the cemetery dedicated to the soldiers that had fallen in Sicily during the Second World War. After a very quick left=hand kink at Curva Carpinteri there was a blast toward Cruva Florida and on to the start/finish line.
Able to touch average speeds in excess of 95 mph the circuit played into the hands of the Ferrari 500 and Alberto Ascari would ride that advantage all the way to the pole. The rest of the front row would also be occupied by Ferraris. Giuseppe Farina would sit in 2nd place followed by Luigi Villoresi in 3rd. The Briton, Mike Hawthorn, was still relatively new with Ferrari and would end up being tripped up for 4th by Baron de Graffenried and the new Maserati.
Compared to the pace of the Ferraris, Nuckey would find his Cooper suffering a little bit. The best lap Nuckey could put together in practice would end up being just good enough for him to start form the fourth row in the 10th position. While it wasn't the worse position, it wasn't the best either.
Heading into the race it was quite well known that Ferrari had four bullets in which to win a race with. Either one was capable of pulling out the victory. Therefore, as the race got underway, it wasn't at all disconcerting for the team when Luigi Villoresi dropped out after just 3 laps. Valve troubles would end his day before he had even gotten into a comfortable pace.
Amazingly, there would be over thirty laps of racing before anyone else would fall foul of any trouble. But then, on the 36th lap of the race, two competitors would run foul of a crash that would end their days. This would seemingly trigger one of the most amazing collapses ever seen.
Nuckey had made a good start and was actually managing to work his way forward. At 80 laps, he knew he had some time in which to make his moves he just needed to make sure he didn't make a mistake while doing it. He would get by Peter Whitehead and would be threatening Eric Brandon. While he was helping himself moving up the order, Nuckey would also receive some help from others, namely Scuderia Ferrari.
One lap after the crash that took out Tom Cole and Sergio Mantovani, Alberto Ascari would retire from the race. He had been untouchable. He set the fastest lap of the race with a lap time of two minutes and five seconds, which meant an average speed of 98 mph. However, valve troubles would end his race as well. Well, it would at least end the race for the car.
Ascari would take over Mike Hawthorn's car for what was presumably the rest of the race. However, just twenty laps after his car retired with valve failure, Mike Hawthorn's car would succumb to the same problem thereby ending the day for Ascari yet again. This time it would be the end as Giuseppe Farina, a former World Champion, would not relinquish his ride. But it would end up not mattering at all anyway.
Just four laps after Ascari officially retired from the race in a second car, Farina's race would come to an end as well. Mechanical woes would end his day and less than 20 laps from the end. Just like that, all four of Ferrari's bullets had been expended without hitting anything. The race was wide open.
Well almost wide open. Baron de Graffenried was driving one of the new Maseratis. It had the same, if not more, power than the Ferrari. And in the hands of de Graffenried, it would be more than enough. However, it wouldn't just be enough, it would be dominant.
Heading into the final couple of laps de Graffenried was enjoying a lead of three laps over Louis Chiron in his OSCA 20. Chiron was enjoying a margin of his own over Nuckey, who had managed to get by Whitehead and Brandon and had been handed a 3rd place run with the retirement of the four Ferraris. The question was whether or not he could hold onto it as he did not quite enjoy the advantages de Graffenried and Chiron enjoyed.
After two hours, fifty-seven minutes and thirty-one seconds, de Graffenried would cross the line to take the surprise victory. Nearly a minute and twenty seconds, and three laps, later Louis Chiron would cross the line to take 2nd place. Another twenty-five seconds, and three laps, later it would be Nuckey coming across the line to take a very surprising 3rd place on foreign soil. He more than held off Brandon for 3rd place given the twenty second gap. Another twenty seconds then separated Nuckey and Whitehead.
It had truly been a special race in so many ways. While it was special seeing the absolute collapse of Ferrari, it was of course special for Nuckey. Given his relative inexperience and shortage of power, he manage to focus on the task at hand and was able to start the season out in a very positive manner. Of course it only fostered hope for more.
After the splendid result in Sicily, Nuckey would pack everything up. He would head back over to the European mainland and up to the coast of the English Channel. He was on his way to the homeland for his next race of the season.
Nearly a month would pass between races for Nuckey. After taking part in the race in Syracuse, Sicily, he was then seen at the Snetterton circuit on the 18th of April preparing to take part in the 2nd Aston Martin Owners Club Formula 2 Race.
Once known as RAF Snetterton-Heath airfield, Nuckey's family engineering firm likely developed taps and dies that aided in the construction of aircraft that was once intended to occupy the many hardstands and hangars. Instead, Snetterton-Heath would become home to the United States Army Air Force's 386th and 96th Bombardment Groups. As with many other World War II bases at the time the airfield would be arranged in a familiar triangular-layout with 2.70 miles of perimeter road and taxiways that was ideal for motor racing.
Ten cars would make up the field for the short 10 lap event. As the field headed to the starting grid, the field would be reduced to nine as Cliff Davis would not start the race as he was too busy saving his car for a later event. One of the favorites heading in, Ken Wharton, would break right on the starting grid. The universal joint failure would lead to him not even really moving off the line.
At only 10 laps, the race would be too short for any one driver to pull away from another or the field at large. This would become plain to see as the race carried on. Bobbie Baird would turn in the fastest lap in a Ferrari 500. However, as the race neared completion, it would be Eric Thompson that would hold onto the lead.
In spite of his fastest lap, Baird would have Nuckey all over him coming to the end of the race. Nuckey was also busy holding off Leslie Marr and Donald Bennett, but was giving it all to track down and pass Baird before the end.
Bob Gerard was giving Thompson a real run for his money. If Thompson made even the slightest bobble the race lead would be Gerard's. Heading around on the last lap of the race, there was only about two minutes in which Thompson had left to hold off Gerard and for Gerard to try and make his move.
Thompson would keep his head down and his focus forward. He would end up leading the way around Coram Curve and through the last left-hand kink before the finish. Thompson would hold on to take the win. He would defeat Gerard by just a little less than two seconds.
Behind Gerard, Peter Whitehead would come across to take 3rd place. He enjoyed an advantage of fourteen seconds over the 4th place finisher. In spite of everything Nuckey could do, the pace of Baird would be enough in the Ferrari to hold on and take 4th place. Nuckey would hold off Leslie Marr and Donald Bennett to finish in 5th place.
Although he would not experience the same result he had been able to earn at Syracuse, Nuckey still had reason to celebrate. He had started out his season with two races that ended with a 3rd and a 5th place result. These were incredible results for the gentleman from Wood Green, London. He just needed those kinds of results to continue.
While looking to keep the good results coming his way Nuckey would decide to leave his native land once again and go take part in a grand prix across the North Sea. Instead of taking part in the BRDC International Trophy race at Silverstone, Nuckey would travel to Djurgards Park in Helsinki, Finland. He would travel to Djurgards Park to take part in the 15th Elaintarhajot on the 10th of May.
Djurgards Park was quite a short road circuit. It consisted of just 1.24 miles of park roads rolling through the Toolo district of Helsinki. Just one year previous the site had been the home of the 1952 Summer Olympics games and the Helsinki Olympic Stadium, complete with its unmistakable tower, dominated the landscape.
Although the race took place in Finland there would be a couple of foreign entries in the field that included Nuckey. Roger Laurent would be behind the wheel of Ecurie Francorchamps' Ferrari 500 as well.
The tight park circuit played into the hands of Nuckey's Cooper-Bristol as it neutralized some of the horsepower advantage of Laurent's Ferrari. As a result, Nuckey would grab the pole with a time of one minute, eleven and one-tenth second lap. He would beat out Leo Mattila by seven-tenths of a second. Erik Lundgren would also beat out Laurent setting a time of one minute and thirteen seconds thereby concluding the front row.
The start of the 25 lap race would see Nuckey make a good start and lead away. However, Laurent would make a great start and would be quickly climbing his way toward the front of the field after starting in the third, and final, row of the grid.
The door for Laurent to climb further up the running order would be opened when Lundgren retired from the race with a broken prop shaft. Mattila would Carlsson and Laurent breathing right down his neck for a majority of the race.
Nuckey continued to lead the race but had Laurent rapidly coming up through the field. He would get by Mattila, and then, would get by Carlsson. All he had between himself and the lead of the race was Nuckey. Yet despite all of his inexperience, Nuckey wouldn't budge an inch.
Throughout the last half of the race the action was tight and very exciting. Only about a second separated the top three throughout the remaining laps, and Matilla in 4th place wasn't more than a couple of seconds further back.
Heading into the final lap of the race Laurent was still all over Nuckey. The Londoner would continue to hold strong, but could he do it for just one more lap, just 1.24 miles? As the two came around Nordenskioldinkatu and headed toward the finish line it was incredibly close. Powering their way to the line it would be a drag race between Ferrari and Bristol power. And although Nuckey held the advantage coming out of the corner there was still enough power in the Ferrari to potentially out-drag the Cooper. Nuckey would plant his foot to the floor and as they crossed the line it would be Nuckey taking the victory over Laurent by just six-tenths of a second! Just a little more than a second after Nuckey crossed the line Gunnar Carlsson would finish in 3rd place.
Nuckey had done it! In really only his second season of top level competitive racing he had earned a victory in Formula 2. What was more, his first three races of the season were just fantastic as he had managed to add a victory to his 3rd and 5th place results at the previous races. It was truly an incredible start to the season for Nuckey and it was just getting started.
Riding a wave of confidence and joy Nuckey would head out across the Baltic Sea and would head into the Low Countries of Europe. His tour was in full swing and he had one more date on the European mainland before he would head back home for another race. Once arriving in Belgium he would make his way to the small town of Chimay. Famous for its ales with the same name, Nuckey wasn't in southern Hainaut region to taste the local brews, at least not entirely. He had made his way to the small town to take part in what was the 23rd Grand Prix des Frontieres.
Instead of taking part in the Coronation Trophy race in his native London on the 25th of May, the following day, Nuckey decided to take part in one of the more popular, and yet, quiet races in all of Europe. Besides Spa-Francorchamps, Chimay's road course was certainly one of Belgium's jewels and a great contribution to the motor racing scene in the years after World War II.
Taking place over 6.75 miles of public roads, the Chimay circuit started out with a blast down through some sweeping kinks toward the tight right-hand hairpin known as La Bouchere. After that it was a long 2.5 mile straight that then led to just about every kind of corner and bend possible. While the vast majority of the circuit wound its way through rather featureless countryside the circuit still had a number of special moments along its route. Perhaps none of those moments were more picturesque and indicative of Chimay than the long left-hand sweep by the Arbrisseau chapel that sat literally right along the side of the circuit.
Being in Belgium the Grand Prix des Frontieres was obviously quite popular with Belgian competitors. However, throughout its history the race had drawn a number of competitors from surrounding nations, and the 1953 running of the event would be no different. In fact, it would be the Frenchman, Maurice Trintignant, driving for the French Equipe Gordini team that would take the pole for the event. The popular Belgian Johnny Claes would join Trintignant on the front row.
Seeing as average speeds around the circuit routinely ran in excess of 90 mph it would be a difficult event for Nuckey with the Cooper-Bristol. Sure enough, Nuckey wouldn't manage to start the race within the first few rows of the starting grid. And as the race would start, he would have worse problems.
The race took place on the 24th of May and was planned for 20 laps. But as the field roared away down the road toward La Bouchere there would be a number of the starting field that would find their cars unable to go. Three cars would break almost right as the race got underway. Unfortunately, Nuckey would find his string of good results come to a very quick end when mechanical problems ended his day before the first turn on the circuit.
These first three out of the race would be joined by four more before the race would be 5 laps old. All but one out of the race would be the result of mechanical woes of some kind.
Trintignant had made a great start from the pole and led the way. Claes would remain in the fight but would be joined by fellow Belgian Roger Laurent. Trintignant would show his abilities as a racing driver as he would routinely set fast lap times and would maintain his advantage over Laurent.
Aided by the fastest lap of the race, Trintignant's consistent fast laps would enable him to pull away from those running in the top three and it would enable him to put away those running 5th place and on down.
Averaging a little more than 93 mph, Trintignant would cruise to victory over Laurent in 2nd place by more than a minute and ten seconds. The distance to Fred Wacker in 3rd place was just a mere two and a half minutes. Hans Stuck in 4th place, and on down through the field, trailed Trintignant by at least a lap.
After an incredible run of three races with a result no lower than 5th, the Grand Prix des Frontieres was a slap of reality for Nuckey. But mechanical failures were very much a part of motor racing and Nuckey was aware of this fact. The important thing was to limit and even prohibit them from happening again. While he had come to Belgium looking for yet another good result, Nuckey would have to leave Belgium and head home looking forward to the next opportunity to bounce back from the unfortunate result.
After a rather successful early part of May, Nuckey returned to England to try and end the month on a bright note. Once back in his native land Nuckey would head to Norfolk and Snetterton once again to take part in the 1st Snetterton Coronation Trophy race on the 30th of May.
As with the Aston Martin Club race back at the beginning of the month, the Snetterton Coronation Trophy race would be one of many races, and therefore, would be just 10 laps in length. Unlike the races in Finland and Belgium, the field for the race would be almost entirely made up of citizens of the British Empire.
Among the field of entries, Alan Brown would be fastest in practice. He would take his Cooper-Bristol T23 and would take the pole, but he would have quite the crowd alongside on the front row with him. Roy Salvadori would start 2nd while Bobbie Baird and Bill Black started 3rd and 4th. Rounding-out the five-wide front row would be Nuckey in his own Cooper-Bristol T23.
One who did not start from the front row would make his presence known right at the start of the race. At only 10 laps, the race around the 2.70 mile Snetterton circuit would certainly take less than twenty minutes. Therefore, a good start and no mistakes would be of utmost importance. Tony Rolt would not start from the front row but he would get the good start part down and would be right there battling with Alan Brown for the lead of the race. Though he got the first part down he needed to make sure he got the second part down as well if he wanted a good result.
Nuckey would also make a good start and would soon be ahead of Black. But he needed to remain consistent and make no mistakes while he pushed hard to climb the running order. Thankfully for Nuckey, would be helped in his quest to ascend the order.
Things had remained quiet in the field until the 4th lap of the race when two competitors would end up out of the race. Nuckey would get help from Roy Salvadori who would also retire from the race just a little ways after Wyatt's and Large's exits on the 4th lap. Nuckey was running well and was in good shape. But he had Baird just ahead of him on the circuit. Could he chase him down before the end?
Tony Rolt remained out ahead of the field. A fastest lap time of one minute and fifty-one seconds would help him not only pull away from the majority of the field, but also, Brown in 2nd place. This lead would become too insurmountable for Brown over the course of a short 10 lap race.
Averaging 85 mph, Rolt would cruise to victory. He would enjoy a ten second margin of victory over Brown as he crossed the line. In the battle for 3rd place between Baird and Nuckey, it remained close even throughout the course of the final couple of laps. However, as the two rounded Coram Curve for the last time, Baird enjoyed a lead of a couple of seconds over Nuckey as they crossed the line.
Nuckey had done it. He had rebounded from his very early retirement at Chimay with yet another top five result. The 4th place finish at Snetterton was a good way to get back on course. This would be important just before he set off to the European mainland again.
Immediately after finishing 4th at Snetterton, Nuckey would quickly pack up and would head to the coast. He would be in a hurry to cross back over to the mainland as he was due to take part in another race the very next day. Nuckey's next race wouldn't just be some minor event; it would be at one of the most demanding and challenging road courses in all the world. He wasn't heading to some former airbase but a road course in the truest sense of the word. Nuckey was on his way to West Germany and the notorious Nurburgring.
Although there was a Formula 2 ADAC Eifelrennen race, and Nuckey had an entry in the race, he would only take part in the Formula 3 race. This would prove to be surprising since he was present at the circuit. The result in the Formula 3 race would also bring the decision into question as he would end up retiring from the Formula 3 race.
After the failed attempt in the Formula 3 race, Nuckey would have the opportunity to take his time and pack up. He would be heading back to England, but would have nearly a month before his next race, which again would be at Snetterton in Norfolk, England.
On the 27th of June Nuckey was once again back at Snetterton and the old Snetterton-Heath airbase. He was there to take part in what was the 2nd West Essex CC Formula 2 Race. As with just about every other race he had taken part at Snetterton, the West Essex race was also another short 10 lap race around the 2.70 mile circuit.
Snetterton had become a favorable place for Nuckey. His last race at the circuit back in May had gone on to produce a 4th place result. He would come back hoping to do even better.
Coming back he would face many of the same men he had competed against at the circuit before. Roy Salvadori and Bill Black would be present, but there would be a number of others that Nuckey was familiar with but hadn't competed against too often to that point of the season.
As the race got underway, Salvadori would be fast. Very quickly he would be up to speed and would even go on to set the fastest lap of the race with a time of one minute and fifty-one seconds. Yet, despite Salvadori's fastest lap he would have company up near the front. Kenneth McAlpine, John Coombs and Nuckey would all be right up there.
The pace of the four at the front would do in the rest of the field. It would also, surprisingly, do in Salvadori. Just one lap from the finish the engine would let go in his Connaught. This well and truly handed the lead to McAlpine. McAlpine then had enough in hand over Coombs, now in 2nd place, that all he needed to do was hold on. An even larger gap existed between Coombs and Nuckey.
Thankful for the gift, McAlpine would power his way to victory completing the 10 laps in just eighteen minutes and fifty-three seconds. Coombs would cross the line in 2nd place another seven seconds later. A little more than twelve seconds would end up passing before Nuckey would complete the podium finishing in 3rd place. He would end up nearly twenty seconds behind McAlpine, but would be more than a minute ahead of the rest of the field.
Yet again Nuckey enjoyed good success at Snetterton. He had actually improved upon his previous result at the circuit. In fact, in every single race he had competed at Snetterton, to that point, he had actually improved each and every time out. He had scored a 5th, 4th and now a 3rd. Surprisingly, after such success on his native soil, Nuckey would wait another month and would head back to the European mainland to take part in another race. But instead of the tranquil setting of French or Belgian countryside, this one would take place almost in the heart of a divided Berlin.
Only one week before the sixth round of the World Championship, which was the British Grand Prix, Nuckey found himself in the very heart of the biggest prize from World War II. Nuckey would be in West Berlin because he was scheduled to take part in the 9th Internationales Avusrennen on the 12th of July.
Although in competition against the Nurburgring, the Avus circuit was quite famous in its own right. Completed and opened in 1921, the Avus circuit was unlike most every other circuit there was in the world. It would be a straight-forward circuit in more than one way—figuratively and literally.
Essentially two long straights interrupted by a tight hairpin turn to the south and a steeply-banked curve to the north, the Avus circuit had originally been built with much larger dimensions. Before Bernd Rosemeyer's death in a land speed record attempt in 1938, the length of the circuit measured more than 12 miles. But after Rosemeyer's death the circuit would be shortened to 5.15 miles, which was still a circuit featuring two incredibly long straights.
As with the Eifelrennen, the previous year's Avusrennen would be won by the Ecurie Espadon team. However, one year later, it would be the Ecurie Francorchamps team that would end up on the pole with Jacques Swaters behind the wheel. Alan Brown would also look impressive in the Cooper-Bristol T23. He would start the race in 2nd place and would also line up on the front row. Nuckey would have a very impressive practice session. He would use his Cooper-Bristol to good use and would end up completing the front row by starting the 25 lap race from 3rd.
The field would be shaken up right from the very start of the race. Kurt Adolff would crash the defending champion car. Alan Brown would end up suffering the same fate just one lap later. While Swaters made a great start and held onto the lead of the race, Nuckey's mediocre start, and Brown's disappearance from the race, would end up opening the door to a number of fast German entries.
The German entries had proven to be relatively fast, but their problem had been reliability. And although a couple of German drivers had managed to get by Nuckey he would still have the reliability question to rely upon to perhaps give him a late boost in the running.
Things seemed good for Nuckey despite falling quite a ways back from the rest of the front-runners. Cars continued to fall out of the race at a rate of just about one or two a lap it seemed. In fact, by the time the race was just five laps old five entrants would be out of the race due to either crashes or mechanical problems. The constant attrition would seem to slow the rest of those still running just because of the fear there would be no one left in the race.
Although the rate of attrition would slow the retirements continued to come. Before the race would be completed there would be twelve that would end up retired from the race. This left just nine still in the race. But amongst the nine, only the top seven would even have a chance coming into the final couple of laps.
Swaters continued to hold onto the point position, but Klenk, Helfrich and Herrmann were still holding position ahead of Nuckey in the running order. Nuckey would then have Johnny Claes and a couple of others all on the same lap with himself. Therefore, not only would he have to hope for the Germans running ahead of him to have trouble, but he would have to pray he too didn't run into trouble.
Out front, it seemed Swaters had nothing to worry about. Despite Theo Helfrich setting the fastest lap of the race, Swaters would round the steeply-banked Nordkurve and would power his way across the line to take the victory. Swaters would actually slow over the last couple of laps as the finishing times of those behind him would attest.
The German racers following Swaters would not run into any kind of trouble except an inability to keep pace. Hans Klenk would end up in 2nd place but would cross the line more than two minutes and thirty seconds behind. Theo Helfrich would then come across to finish in 3rd place. He would be a further fourteen seconds or so behind Klenk.
Nuckey would find his Cooper-Bristol unable to really keep pace with Swaters' Ferrari over the course of 25 laps. Not only was there a horsepower disadvantage, but the question of reliability also came to plague the mind as well. Before the end, Nuckey would end up going a lap down but would still pull off another good result when he finished the race in 5th place.
Overall, Nuckey had been enjoying a good season to that point. He continued to pull off some top results in some rather tough races. This was all very encouraging as Nuckey's appearance in his first World Championship race was on the horizon. Surprisingly though, Nuckey's first ever World Championship grand prix wouldn't come on his native soil one week later. Instead, Nuckey would skip the British Grand Prix and would head back to Germany.
At the end of July Nuckey would again be in West Germany. He had made his way back to the Nurburgring to take part in the seventh round of the World Championship, the German Grand Prix. Nuckey had been to the Nurburgring just a little earlier but it was to take part in a Formula 3 race. This time he would find himself amidst the best in the world in the middle of a World Championship fight. Going up against the best teams, cars and drivers in the world, it would be no small miracle for Nuckey to pull off a top flight finish in the German Grand Prix on the 2nd of August.
If the competition wasn't enough, the circuit was certainly another competitor in which every driver and car had to contend. A thousand feet of elevation changes, 170 corners and a mind-numbing 14 miles of circuit all made the Nurburgring one of the most demanding and challenging road courses in the world.
Coming into the race, Nuckey had only the race to think about, but he would come to the race in the midst of a fight for the World Championship. This meant he would need to be on his toes throughout the course of the race in order to ensure that he wouldn't do something to interfere with that battle. Like most every one of the German racers taking part in the event, Nuckey knew full well he was anything but the main course in the meal that would be served up over the course of 18 laps.
Alberto Ascari knew he was close to his second championship, and during practice he would show that he was fully intent on doing everything he could to make sure the World Championship would wind up in his hands. He would go out and would break the ten minute mark to take the pole for the race. He would be the only one to break ten minutes. He would also enjoy about a four second advantage over Fangio's best time in 2nd place. Giuseppe Farina and Mike Hawthorn would end up completing the front row.
Over the course of practice it would become clear the disparity between Nuckey's pace and that of Ascari's. While Ascari put together an incredible lap to break ten minutes, Nuckey would need the lap of a lifetime just to be able to break eleven. It wouldn't happen. His best time of eleven minutes and twenty-two seconds would mean Nuckey would start the race down in the middle of the grid. In fact, Nuckey would start the race 20th overall and from the middle position of the sixth row.
In spite of Ascari's obvious pace advantage, the start of the race would see Fangio get the best jump from the 2nd position. He would lead the field, but it wouldn't last for very long. At 14 miles in length, Ascari would have plenty of time in which to get around Fangio and take the lead of the race before even completing the first lap. Ascari, however, would barely need a mile as he would power his way by Fangio and would begin to pull away from the field on a whole.
Behind Ascari, the rest of the field needed to concern itself not so much with position but with making it through the first lap unscathed. Two of the German entries wouldn't even manage to make it off the grid as their cars broke right at the start. Another few entries would fall out of the running after having completed just a single lap. Nuckey, on the other hand, looked strong in his first World Championship and was even trying to position himself in order to move up the order.
A race lasting 18 laps of a 14 mile circuit, there would be plenty of opportunity for attrition and mistakes to take their toll. Nuckey would find his pace and would wait for the race to come to him.
The only problem with waiting for the race to come was the fact Ascari was running so fast at the front that the race would end up coming from behind in the form of the leaders lapping the field. But just about the time Nuckey began to come under fire from the leaders and was being threatened with going a lap down, it wasn't Ascari that was doing the threatening.
After eight or so laps, Hawthorn, Farina and Fangio would all come across a hobbling Ascari. One of the wheels had broken loose on his car and he was doing everything he could to make it back to the pits. Hobbling back and having to wait for repairs to be made, it was clear the race would be over for Ascari. And as the way things were going, there was the potential for the World Championship to have to go another race. As a result, as Ascari pulled into the pits, Luigi Villoresi would pull in with his Ferrari as well. He would turn his car over to Ascari for the rest of the race while he would wait for Ascari's car to be repaired.
Just like that Ascari was back in the race and on a terror. Soon Nuckey would be passed by an absolutely flying Ascari. Alberto knew he had a second chance and he wasn't about to squander it. Given the doubt Ascari would win the championship there at the Nurburgring, he would begin to set some absolutely blistering lap times that would ultimately culminate in his setting a fastest lap of the race time on lap 12 of nine minutes and fifty-six seconds! This time was truly incredible. Just to break the ten minute mark was thought to be something near impossible for a Formula 2 car, but to turn in a lap time within a second of the fastest lap time turned by the old Formula One cars was certainly something special to behold, and it put perhaps some fear into the rest of the field.
Farina had the lead of the race by this point and Fangio had taken over 2nd place from Hawthorn. This is exactly what Ascari needed if he couldn't pull off the win. And at the pace he had been travelling over the previous few laps, it wouldn't be at all surprising that he wouldn't.
Just about the time Nuckey would find himself going down another lap, Ascari's incredible display would come to an end. The engine had given its all, and after 15 laps, there was nothing left. Ascari would pull to the side of the road and would wait and hope.
The race had gone rather badly for Ascari, although he was still in line to take the championship, but it had gone quite well for Nuckey. In his first ever World Championship race, Rodney was still running and was practically all by himself. While he was quite a ways behind the competitor ahead of himself, he also had a lead of over two minutes on the driver behind. All he needed to do was keep the car on the road and out of trouble and he would earn that truly remarkable finish he would need a lot of help to earn.
Nuckey would receive a lot of help along the way. As the drivers headed toward the finish line there were eighteen that had retired. Another couple would be out of the running precisely because they were too far behind.
Out front, Farina was busy enjoying a lead of more than a minute over Fangio. The smooth driving style of Farina made it almost certain he would take yet another victory. And as he crossed the finish line, after three hours and two minutes, Farina would become the oldest to win a grand prix by himself. A little more than a minute later, Fangio would cross the line in 2nd place. Nearly two minutes would elapse before Mike Hawthorn would finish the race in 3rd.
Just a little more than three minutes after Hawthorn, Nuckey would finish the race two laps down in an incredible 11th place. Other than Hans Herrmann, there was no other driver that finished higher than Nuckey that had as little major grand prix experience as he.
Against many drivers, with much more experience than himself, Nuckey was nearly able to pull out a top ten result, a truly remarkable ending to his first World Championship race considering the number of superior cars and drivers in the field. He continued to keep the good results coming. And as the season entered its final couple of months, he hoped he would be able to keep it going so as to end as well as he started.
After the splendid result in the German Grand Prix, Nuckey would step away from major racing for more than a month. As he looked to take part in his next race he would need to figure out where it would be. While the majority of the teams and drivers were in Monza, Italy taking part in the Italian Grand Prix, Nuckey would instead decide to head back across the North Sea and on to Sweden to take part in the 3rd Skarpnacksloppet held on the Skarpnack airfield circuit on the 13th of September.
A former airfield, the flat plain to the northwest of Lake Alta not only served as the best location for an airfield, but the airfield would come to be the perfect site for motor racing as well. At only 1.05 miles in length, the iteration of the circuit used in 1953 was one of the shortest anywhere. In addition to the circuit's length, the circuit itself was rather unpopular with drivers, but it was one of the few road circuits in all of Sweden at the time.
Unlike the race in Helsinki, Nuckey would be really the only foreigner, or non-Scandinavian in the field. Even that honor would end up being short-lived as well.
As the field roared away at the start of a short 15 lap race, Nuckey was left rather stranded on the grid. His Cooper-Bristol, which had stood the test against the best teams, cars and drivers in the world, ended up braking amongst a field of competitors in which Nuckey had to have been a favorite. Instead, he would have to watch as the rest of the field would battle it out.
The racing at the front of the field would be tight. Less than ten seconds would separate the top three almost throughout the entire event. In the end, Erik Lundgren would come across the line in fifteen minutes and forty-one seconds to take the win by a little more than three seconds over Leo Mattila in a Cooper-JAP 12. Just five seconds would separate Mattile from 3rd place finisher Ewald Hagstrom in a Ford Special.
What seemingly appeared to be a sure thing exploded in Nuckey's face. He perhaps would have done better battling the best in the world in Monza. But the trip had not been all a loss. During the Formula 3 race Nuckey would end up getting run over by Effyh's car. The car would actually climb up and over the back of the car. Yet, in spite of this Nuckey would go on to win the race. Therefore the trip hadn't been entirely in vain. Instead, Nuckey would return to England with his head held up rather high and would focus on the remaining races on his home island for the rest of the season.
Upon returning from his failed trip to Sweden, Nuckey would remain around his native London. He would do this not because he didn't know what to do next, but because his next race would take place there the very next week. On the 19th of September, Nuckey would travel the short distance due south and would arrive at Crystal Palace Park in order to take part in the 1st London Trophy race.
Centuries ago, Crystal Palace Park was part of the Great North Wood, a wilderness located on the southern edge of London. One of the highest locations in all of London, Sydenham Hill is the site of the cast-iron and glass building from which Crystal Palace Park draws its name. Originally built for the Great Exhibition in Hyde Park in 1851, the Crystal Palace would be moved to Sydenham Hill in 1854 and would become an area attraction and a place of recreation. Then, in the early 1950s, the narrow park roads would come to host motor racing. And in 1953, the 1st London Trophy race would be held on the 1.34 mile circuit.
The London Trophy race followed a different format from the World Championship rounds and just about every other grand prix in which Nuckey had taken part that year. The race would consist of two 10 lap heats. The final results would be determined by the aggregate time of each competitor over the course of the two heats.
The best practice times would determine the starting grid positions for the first heat. And in practice Stirling Moss would be the fastest of them all and would start from the pole. Tony Rolt would start alongside in 2nd place while Ron Flockhart qualified 3rd and rounded-out the front row. Nuckey would just miss the front row but would still have a good starting position in the second row right behind Moss and Rolt.
Ron Flockhart would not start the first heat due to mechanical troubles. As the race got underway Moss and Rolt would lead the way. Bob Gerard would make a good start and would gain the advantage over Nuckey, whom started right beside Gerard in the second row.
The rest of the 10 lap first heat would almost entirely consist of the battle between Moss and Rolt, which would run unabated the entire time and with never more than a car length between the two. The pace of these two would effectively string out the rest of the field. Gerard would do his best to try and maintain contact with the two. This would cause Nuckey to have to push real hard in his Cooper. And while he had shown good speed, he just would not stay with Gerard over the course of the first heat. In fact, he would become more concerned with holding off Horace Gould coming up behind him.
Moss and Rolt would trade blows all throughout the 10 laps. Coming to the finish line it was still up in the air as to who would actually pull out the victory. Headed to the right-hand kink just after New Link Moss held a very slight edge coming to the line. And at the line it would be Moss by just four-tenths of a second, or, half a car length. About sixteen seconds later Bob Gerard would come across the line to take 3rd place. Nuckey would also come through ahead of Gould to take another strong 4th place.
If the pace in the first heat had been hurried then the second heat would be even more rapid. The pace over the course of the final heat would pick up an average of about 2 mph more over the first. And again, it would be a truly epic duel between Moss and Rolt that would drive the speeds further up.
In the second heat, Gerard would fall by the wayside. This would be an opportunity for Nuckey, but he would have issues of his own as he tried, yet again, to hold off Horace Gould in another Cooper-Bristol T23.
Rolt and Moss would continue to go at it throughout the second 10 lap heat race. Rolt would throw something at Moss and Moss would respond keeping Rolt at bay. Although the two would push the average speeds up during their battle, it would be Flockhart that would actually turn the fastest lap of the race. Of course he would have little to lose after not starting the first heat race.
Nuckey had everything to lose. He had only beaten Gould by a small margin in the first, and as Gould managed to make his way past in the second heat, was under threat of throwing it all away. Nuckey just needed to stay close, closer than the time gap he had managed to earn over Gould in the first heat.
Moss would continue to hold onto 1st over Rolt. As the two neared the finish, Rolt had tried just about everything and Moss responded to block. As the two approached the line, Rolt backed off slightly. Moss would win the second heat also by a larger margin of nearly two and a half seconds. Rolt knew he was beat and that he had 2nd place sewn up. The battle would be for 3rd.
Nuckey would try hard but would be unable to overcome Gould for 4th place in the second heat race. As the two finished the race and the aggregate times were being assembled, it also become clear that Nuckey failed to stay close enough to maintain what advantage he had earned in the first heat. As a result, Moss would take the overall victory followed by Rolt. In 3rd place would come Gould with Nuckey finishing a solid, but disappointing, 4th.
Although Nuckey had lost out on his opportunity to finish 3rd, he still had another strong showing. Yet another top five result for Nuckey was a good sight as the end of the season neared. There would be just a couple more races left and more top five results, or better, were certainly a way to bring it to a close.
Just one week after the London Trophy race, Nuckey would take his car and equipment and would head to yet another of England's airbases-turned motor racing venues. This particular venue was situated on the Goodwood Estate near Chichester in West Sussex. The event in which Nuckey was heading to take part was just one of many races. However, he had an entry in the 6th Madgwick Cup race set to take place on the 26th around the Goodwood Circuit's 2.39 mile track.
Formerly RAF Westhampnett, the Goodwood circuit, like so many others throughout England, had actually started out life as an airfield during World War II. RAF Westhampnett was actually an auxiliary airfield for RAF Tangmere and hosted a squadron of Spitfires during the early days of the Battle of Britain. After the war, Westhampnett would be decommissioned and abandoned. The Duke of Richmond, an avid racer and enthusiast would decide to keep the airfield as it was and would turn its 2.39 miles of perimeter road into a motor racing circuit. Known mostly for its Easter Day races and the 9 hour endurance race, Goodwood would come to host a number of races throughout the year including the short, 7 lap Madgwick Cup race.
Practice would end up not being the best experience for Nuckey. In a race where starting position would be very important, Nuckey would start the short race from 16th on the grid, which was dead-last in the field. Four rows in front of him it would be Roy Salvadori on pole with Stirling Moss, Tony Rolt and Bob Gerard alongside in 2nd through 4th.
The start wouldn't be everything, but it would certainly be close to it. For Duncan Hamilton the start would mean the end as his car's drive shaft would break on the grid leaving him out of the running before it even started. A couple more would also exit the race with mechanical woes. All of these troubles would help Nuckey, but he would need even more if he was to earn another top five, or better, result this day with Salvadori, Moss and Rolt up at the front of the field.
Salvadori would make a good start and would lead the field. Stirling Moss and Tony Rolt would give chase, but it would be Ken Wharton that would overtake Bob Gerard's 4th place as the race neared the last half.
Salvadori would be on the gas right from the start and would go on to set the fastest lap of the race with a lap time of one minute and thirty-five seconds. This consistent pace would enable him to gap Moss in 2nd place. As with the London Trophy race, the real battle on the track would be between Moss and Rolt who were at each other's throats yet again.
Another that had choked everything he could out of his car would be Nuckey. Starting at the back of the field he had to push like mad throughout and as the end of the race neared, the car neared its end. He would end up retired from the race for only the second all season.
Salvadori would suffer no such problems. In just eleven minutes and fifteen seconds he would cover the 7 lap distance and would take the victory. The battle between Moss and Rolt, however, would again rage right to the line. And as with the first heat of the London Trophy race, Moss would beat Rolt by the margin of just four-tenths of a second.
Although it had only been Nuckey's second retirement all season long it could not have come at a worse time. Only a couple of races remained on the season, and trouble like this could have the tendency of spreading. He certainly wanted to right the ship before the end.
Nuckey had put in an entry for the 11 Joe Fry Memorial Trophy race held at Castle Combe on the 3rd of October. However, he would not attend this race. This meant his season, which had gone so well, would come down to just one more race. That race would take place on the 17th of October and it would be the 1st Curtis Trophy race and it was held at a track in which Nuckey had enjoyed considerable success throughout the season—Snetterton.
As with most every other race of the season in which Nuckey had participated the Curtis Trophy race would be a rather short affair, just 15 laps. As practice would reveal, the race would be even shorter than that for Nuckey.
Rodney wouldn't end the season on the bright note he had hoped for. During practice he would unfortunately crash his Cooper-Bristol and would be unable to take part in the race. Instead, he would pack up his broken car and equipment and would head back home.
A number of other cars wouldn't make it much further in the race. Ron Flockhart, Roy Salvadori and Eric Thompson, three favorites in the race, would break right at the start of the race and would be out before even completing a single lap.
Their misfortune would profit Bob Gerard who would go on to record the fastest lap of the race and score the victory. He would end up beating Les Leston by nearly thirty seconds and would have a full lap in hand over Jimmy Somervail.
Although the season ended with two retirements in a row it had been all-around good season for the inexperienced Nuckey. He had won a race and had scored numerous top five results. It had been a truly impressive season and it brought the Londoner to some very important decisions.
The World Championship would compete according to new Formula One guidelines starting in 1954. Therefore, the Cooper-Bristol would likely be outclassed with the new regulations. And with the expectancy that most all of the non-championship races would also conform to the new Formula One regulations, it seemed Nuckey either had to step up or step back down.
While Nuckey would take part in races in all different levels he would go on to mostly focus on Formula Libre and Formula 3 races. He would end up making one more very brief appearance in the World Championship before retiring to Australia.'1953 Non-World Championship Grands Prix', (http://www.silhouet.com/motorsport/archive/f1/nc/1953/1953.html). 1953 Non-World Championship Grands Prix. http://www.silhouet.com/motorsport/archive/f1/nc/1953/1953.html. Retrieved 19 October 2011.
'1953 World Drivers Championship', (http://www.silhouet.com/motorsport/archive/f1/1953/f153.html). 1953 World Drivers Championship. http://www.silhouet.com/motorsport/archive/f1/1953/f153.html. Retrieved 19 October 2011.
'1952 Non-World Championship Grands Prix', (http://www.silhouet.com/motorsport/archive/f1/nc/1952/1952.html). 1952 Non-World Championship Grands Prix. http://www.silhouet.com/motorsport/archive/f1/nc/1952/1952.html. Retrieved 19 October 2011.
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Rodney Nuckey: 1953 Formula One Season
Born in 1929 in Wood Green located in London, England, Rodney Nuckey would be just ten years old when his family engineering firm Nuckey, Scott & Co. engineered important parts in use in British aircr.....