Cooper Car Company: 1953 Formula One Season
Change is the portal to new possibilities, new opportunities. The change, the switch from Formula One to Formula 2 regulations in the World Championship opened up the door to many teams and manufacturers that had never had the opportunity to take part in the World Championship during its first couple of years. The change; however, would open the door to new teams and would lead to new revolutions.
One of those teams that had an opportunity presented to them was the Cooper Car Company. The company had been involved in racing, but on the more minor levels. But then, the switch to Formula 2 for 1952 and 1953 threw open the doors to the company and would end up paving the way for modern Formula One racing.
Of course the 1952 and 1953 seasons wouldn't be the first time in which a Cooper chassis had managed to make its way into a World Championship race. Harry Schell had put his Cooper T12 in the field of the 1950 Monaco Grand Prix but would retire on the first lap of the race. Although this would be the first appearance of a Cooper car in the World Championship the effort was more of a taste than an actual all-out push for Cooper to make its way into the Formula One World Championship. This would begin to change with the switch to Formula 2.
In the first year of the World Championship run according to Formula 2 regulations, Cooper merely supplied cars to small teams and privateer entries and did not put together an actual 'factory' effort. All of this would all change going into the 1953 season.
Going into the 1952 season, Cooper made its T20 chassis available to customers. The T20 would start off the 1953 season, but evolutions of the chassis, known as the T21 and T23, would become available as the season wore on.
Alan Brown had driven a Cooper T20 for the small Ecurie Richmond team the season before. He had taken his Cooper-Bristol T20 and managed to score a 5th place result at the Swiss Grand Prix, the first race of the World Championship in 1952. He would then follow the 5th place finish up with a 6th place effort at the Belgian Grand Prix. This was an impressive result given the fact the Spa-Francorchamps circuit was a ultra-fast circuit and the T20 didn't quite have the legs compared to the other competitors. Brown's record throughout the 1952 season had been rather impressive considering he had been driving for a small team. He would not have a retirement from any of the rounds of the World Championship in which he would compete and his 5th place result at Bremgarten would net him two points in the World Drivers' Championship. Alan Brown appeared to be a very competent and talented driver and Cooper would enlist his services.
Brown wouldn't be the only driver during the season, however. The small factory effort would also manage to secure the services of John Barber and an Argentinean driver by the name of Adolfo Schwelm Cruz.
While all of these were talented drivers, Cooper's best acquisition for driving duties would come in the shape and form of Stirling Moss. A staunch patriotic driver, Moss had tried ERA and Connaught Engineering the season before with little to no effect. Next to Connaught, the only other British design that showed any promise at all had been the Cooper T20. This would influence the talented young Brit to secure a seat with the team for a few races during the 1953 season.
Though Cooper Car Company would take advantage of the opportunity to take part in the World Championship during the 1953 season it would also take part in a number of minor racing series as well. The company would continue to race in the 500c.c. category, but would also take part in Formula 3. In Formula 3, Cooper would become a mainstay. In Formula 2; however, Cooper would have to take on the mighty Ferrari 500 and the newest challenger, the Maserati A6SSG.
Over the previous couple of seasons South America, specifically Argentina and Brazil, had come to host several non-championship races during what was considered the off season in Europe. These races would usually be some of the last races of one season and some of the first for the next. However, in 1953 there would be a change.
Argentina's President Juan Peron was keen to use grand prix racing to his political advantage. And in 1953, the World Championship would become, for the first time, a true world championship. The first race of the 1953 season would not be a non-championship race. The first race of the season would be the Argentina Grand Prix and it would be the first round of the World Championship.
Held at the Autodromo Oscar Alfredo Galvez circuit in Buenos Aires, the 1st Gran Premio de la Republica Argentina would be a 97 lap affair around the 2.43 number two circuit on the 18th of January. Traveling across the Atlantic Ocean was not a cheap affair but there would be many of the principal teams present for the race, including some of the smaller manufacturers like Cooper.
The Cooper team would come to Argentina with three cars. They would bring two T20s and one T23. They would take on Scuderia Ferrari and the new World Champion Alberto Ascari, as well as, a resurgent Officine Alfieri Maserati works team. The driver lineup for Cooper would consist of two Brits and an Argentinean. John Barber would drive the T23 while Alan Brown would drive one of the T20s. The team's third driver was Adolfo Schwelm Cruz and he too would drive one of the T20s.
The circuit in which the Cooper team would have to battle Ferrari and Maserati, and no fewer than five Equipe Gordini entries was the number two layout at the Autodromo Oscar Alfredo Galvez. The circuit, built just the year before, was officially named Autódromo 17 de Octubre as the date held special significance to Juan Peron and his political party as a massive labor demonstration on that day back in 1945 would lead to Peron's liberation and became generally called the day of 'Peronism'. Located in a park to the south of Buenos Aires, the circuit's layout was generally flat and featureless. The large grandstands provided the majority of the spectators an almost unspoiled view of the entire circuit. However, in 1953, vision would be severely limited, and this would lead to real problems.
In practice, Alberto Ascari was suffering from no problems whatsoever. He would take his Ferrari 500 and would turn the fastest lap time and would take the pole for the race. However, he would not run away. The race was in Argentina and its national hero was back behind the wheel of a grand prix car. 1951 World Champion Juan Manuel Fangio was back after his severe accident the year before. He would take his Maserati A6GCM and would set a lap time of one minute and fifty-six seconds. This would be just seven-tenths of a second slower than Ascari and pit him in the 2nd starting position on the four-wide front row. Fangio; unfortunately, would be all alone as the rest of the front row would be occupied by Ferrari teammates. Luigi Villoresi would start 3rd while Giuseppe Farina would start 4th.
The starting positions for the Cooper team weren't all that impressive. The cars were not in the same category as the Ferrari nor the Maserati and it showed during practice. The fastest of the Cooper teammates would be Alan Brown in a T20 Cooper-Bristol. His time around the circuit would be two minutes and three seconds. This was almost eight seconds slower than Ascari's pole effort and would put Brown 12th on the starting grid and on the inside of the fourth row. Adolfo Schelm Cruz, who had practically no experience with the T20, would end up starting the race right beside Brown in 13th position. His time was only a half of a second slower than Brown's during practice. The slowest of the Cooper teammates would be Barber. Despite having the latest evolution of the Cooper-Bristol chassis, Barber would start the race dead last in 16th position. Obviously, when comparing lap times to the Ferrari and Maserati, it was clear the Cooper cars were going to be fighting for 'also-ran' honors.
Heading into the race, President Peron was very interested in taking advantage of the moment and would announce that the race would be free. Therefore, almost the entire circuit would be lined with thousands of spectators fighting to gain a glimpse of the circuit and the best cars and drivers in the world. This; however, would prove to be a fatal decision.
Race day would break with hot and dry conditions, but soon there would be a cloud of depression that hung over the circuit. The 1953 World Championship season would pick up right where 1952 had left off. Ascari had the lead and was being chased by the rest of the field. What was different in 1953 was the fact Fangio was part of the chasing group.
Lap after lap would be completed and the attrition was surprisingly low. However, as 20 laps would come and go, a wave of trouble would hit the field. It would particularly strike the Argentineans hardest. Adolfo Schwelm Cruz would be the first retiree from the race. He would lose a wheel off of his Cooper-Bristol and would be forced out of the race. Two more Argentineans would drop out over the next few laps. This meant the first three retirements from the race would be Argentinean drivers. There would be more fall-out amongst the Argentineans, but it would involve spectators.
The entire circuit was lined by spectators and appeared more like a rally event than a grand prix. This made visibility for the crowd difficult, especially for young kids. Unfortunately, a young boy would decide to step out on the track in order to find a better view. When he did that he stepped out right in front of Giuseppe Farina. Farina, in an attempt to avoid striking and killing the boy, would quickly turn his Ferrari. He would miss the boy but would end up swerving into the crowd. He would strike a large number of spectators and would end up killing almost a dozen people. Multitudes more would be injured. Just like that, the celebratory mood of the event would change. It would be worsened a few laps later.
Fangio was doing everything he could to chase down Ascari. In his haste to try and track the Italian down, the Argentinean would melt his Maserati's engine and would be forced to retire from the race. Felice Bonetto had retired just a couple of laps prior. This left Maserati with just two cars while Ferrari had three. Then, with about thirty laps remaining, another potential threatening moment would take place when Robert Manzon would lose the wheel on his Gordini T16. There would be no injuries from the event, but it meant the two remaining Coopers would have the opportunity to move forward with all of the troubles many of the entrants had been experiencing.
Unfortunately for Cooper, moving forward was the most difficult part of the race. Neither Brown nor Barber was able to even come close to the pace of the Ferraris and Maseratis, let alone the remaining Equipe Gordini team cars. By the time Manzon had lost his wheel, both of the Cooper drivers were a number of laps down to Ascari and the rest of the front runners. This did not bode well for the rest of the race.
One driver having absolutely no troubles at all was Ascari. He had led from the very first lap of the race and had come under only a little challenge from Fangio until his engine let go. This left Ascari free to fly on to the finish without too much hassle from any of the other competitors. After three hours and one minute, Ascari would cross the finish line to win yet another race, the seventh in a row for him and the eight-straight for the Ferrari 500.
Luigi Villoresi had started the season off well as he would finish the race in 2nd place, down a lap to Ascari but over forty-five seconds in front of Jose Froilan Gonzalez in 3rd place. Amongst the Cooper drivers still remaining in the race, Barber, who had started dead-last, would have the best day. He would end up seven laps behind in 8th place with the new T23. Alan Brown would be the last car still running in the race. He would finish the race in 9th place, making it two Coopers inside the top ten. However, he would end up finishing the race ten laps behind.
In spite of finishing the race, and inside the top ten, the results made it obvious Cooper's pace was nowhere near that of the front runners. Unless there were more advancements to be made, the only opportunity Cooper Car Company would have to mix it up with either Ferrari or Maserati would be when either one of those Italian automakers came around to lap the Coopers. At least there would be a few months before the next round of the World Championship. The time would either prove to provide the team time to find extra pace, or, it would prove to be a long wait for the inevitable.
Although there would be a few months wait before the next round of the World Championship it didn't mean there weren't still Formula 2 races in which teams like Cooper could, and would, compete. The first of these non-championship races would actually take place at the same circuit as the first round of the World Championship, only a couple of weeks later.
Shipping cars from Europe to South America and back was not an easy proposition in 1953. Therefore, there would be a rather long break in between World Championship and non-championship races. The delay would then offer Buenos Aires to host yet another grand prix. Hopefully one less tragic than had taken place on the 18th of January. On the 1st of February, most of the same teams that had taken part in the first round of the World Championship prepared to take part in the 7th Gran Premio Ciudad de Buenos Aires.
The race, which would also take place on the number two circuit layout, would be less than half of the distance of the first round of the World Championship. Though only 40 laps, the race would prove just as tough, if not tougher, than the World Championship round. But it would also offer retribution.
Retribution wouldn't come for any of the Cooper cars, however. Four Argentineans would be the first to fall out of this race. Thankfully for Cruz, he wouldn't be one of the four. But he wouldn't last much more than his fellow countrymen. Alan Brown had already fallen out of the race before the 2nd lap because of a crankshaft failure. Even Alberto Ascari's day would end after just two laps due to a connecting rod failure. Then it would be Cruz's turn to run afoul of trouble. Just 8 laps into the 40 lap contest, Cruz's Bristol engine would fail him knocking him out of the race. This left just John Barber circulating in his Cooper. But against the Ferraris and Maseratis, he would still suffer.
Giuseppe Farina had suffered the most tragic low two weeks prior after he had swerved to avoid hitting a boy on the circuit, only to lose control into the crowd killing close to a dozen people. For many, such a tragedy would have been enough. However, Farina had been around racing for years and had seen such tragedies before. Though it wouldn't make it an easier to deal with, the shock would be lessened. Therefore, just a couple of weeks after the tragedy, Farina was back behind the wheel of his Ferrari 500, and in the closing stages of the race, found himself in the lead.
Almost all of the major contenders, including Ascari and Fangio, had run into trouble. But it didn't mean Farina was without his own battle. He and Luigi Villoresi were battling it out for the lead of the race throughout most of the closing stages. The two were never separated by more than a couple of car lengths. And going into the final lap of the race, they were separated by even less. The two would battle wheel-to-wheel. The two elders of grand prix racing were looking as if they were in their twenties or thirties yet again. They would continue to battle throughout the last lap. It seemed neither would gain the upper hand. And, at the finish, the result would portray just how hard the two had battled.
At the line, Farina would overcome the tragic events of a couple of weeks prior and would win the race by just one-tenth of a second over Villoresi. Mike Hawthorn, despite finishing well over a minute behind, would make it a Ferrari sweep of the top three positions.
The struggles of Fangio and Ascari would do little to help John Barber, except to make it clear just how far behind the Cooper was when comparing performance. Despite having the two fastest drivers out of the running for the victory, the best Barber would manage to do was to finish 12th some five laps behind.
After two races, the closest any of the Cooper cars had been to the front runners in either of the races had been five laps behind and that was for only a 40 lap race. Had it gone another 40 laps the gap would have been every bit of ten laps. This was not good for the team. They would need to find some performance gains were they desiring to be truly competitive. The team would have the long ride back across the Atlantic to come up with some new ideas as to how to pick up the pace.
Cooper Car Company's immediate strategy for dealing with the performance crisis was to attack with sheer numbers. One of the next non-championship races on the calendar for 1953 took place on the island of Sicily. The race was the 3rd Gran Premio di Siracusa. The race was 80 laps and would include no less than four Cooper chassis in the race.
Although there would be four Cooper chassis in the race, only one would be entered by the Cooper Car Company. The one entered by the Cooper Car Company; however, would feature a new driver. The new driver had been a teammate of Alan Brown's at the small Ecurie Richmond team in 1952. His name was Eric Brandon.
Ecurie Richmond, despite its incredibly small size, had enjoyed a rather impressive 1952 season. However, the team was more known for smaller formula races and would, in fact, abandon Formula 2 in 1953. This meant the team had a couple of Formula 2 Cooper-Bristols on hand with no races to attend. Therefore, Alan Brown's and Eric Brandon's Coopers would be absorbed by Cooper and entered as part of Cooper's works effort in 1953. Eric Brandon's 1953 campaign would get underway with the race in Syracuse. But he would arrive all alone and would have to take on the likes of Scuderia Ferrari and a couple of privateer Maserati A6GCMs.
Considered to be located on what had been an United States Army Air Force airbase during World War II before being dismantled, the Syracuse circuit was one of a number of circuits in Europe that took part on public roads. Racing around the countryside just west of Syracuse, the road circuit measured 3.40 miles in length and featured wide open, undulating terrain. The first half of the circuit consisted of a gradual climb of over sixty feet along the Via per Floridia past the war cemetery that had been built for fallen soldiers of World War II. Upon reaching the Curva Floridia, the ciruit quickly fell down to just over twenty feet above sea level by the time a driver crossed the start/finish line.
According to the events of practice, it seemed the race would be a Ferrari whitewash. Ascari would start on the pole with Farina and Villoresi joining him on the front row. Mike Hawthorn would end up being clipped by Emmanuel de Graffenried in his own private Maserati A6GCM for 4th. Compared to such pace, Brandon seemed to have little chance as he would start the race from the 9th place position on the fourth row of the grid.
Hope would come, and would come early, when the race started. Villoresi's day would come to an end after just 3 laps when valve trouble would end his race. But one of four Ferraris wasn't exactly a reason to get all that excited, and the fact the race would carry on for another thirty laps before there would be any more troubles in the field would be another reason for Brandon to not get excited.
However, 37 laps into the race, Brandon would have reason to hope. Alberto Ascari would suffer from valve trouble just like his good friend Villoresi and would retire his car. He would then take over Mike Hawthorn's car in an effort to salvage a top three finish, perhaps even a victory. Hawthorn's car; however, would also fail due to valve trouble on the very same lap. This left only Giuseppe Farina running for Ferrari. One of the other Maserati A6GCMs had also retired from the race. This meant there was only one Ferrari 500 and Maserati A6GCM left in the race. And the remaining Ferrari 500, that of Giuseppe Farina, wouldn't make it out of the woods either. Just 19 laps from the end of the race, a mechanical issue would strike Farina's Ferrari and would force him to retire from the race. In an uncharacteristic fashion, every single one of the Scuderia Ferrari entries were out of the race.
Unfortunately, there was one very important Maserati still running. Emmanuel de Graffenried would inherit the lead after Scuderia Ferrari's demise and would not relinquish it for the remainder of the race. In a little under two hours and fifty-eight minutes, de Graffenried would cross the line to take the victory. He could have gotten out and pushed his car around the last lap as he would enjoy a three lap margin over Louis Chiron in 2nd place. Three laps behind Chiron, and six behind de Graffenried, Rodney Nuckey would bring his Cooper-Bristol T23 home in 3rd place. Finishing just twenty seconds behind Nuckey came Brandon in his T20. This was a much better result for the team, but it had required a complete meltdown of Ferrari to get it. No matter how it happened, the team would celebrate what had been the best finish to that point in the young season. The team would hope for more, but such destruction of Ferrari and others could not be expected all that often, if at all.
With the next round of the World Championship still a couple of months away the Cooper Car Company needed to find another non-championship race in which to compete. Of course being able to 'compete' was the most desirous aspect of the hunt. England had been turning out a number of small factory efforts like Cooper and Connaught, but compared to the larger works efforts of Ferrari and Maserati, neither could really compete. Therefore, the best opportunity Cooper's team had of being able to compete was against other British designs. Thus, the team's next race in 1953 would come on home, safe, soil. Or so they thought.
The Cooper team would enter two cars in the 5th Lavant Cup race at the Goodwood circuit in Chichester, England. One of its older T20s would be driven by Eric Brandon while one of the newer evolutions of the chassis, the T24, would be driven by Stirling Moss. While the Cooper works team would only enter two cars in the 7 lap race there would be a total of nine different Cooper chassis entered in the race by other privateers and small teams.
Situated in Chichester, West Suffolk, England, Goodwood circuit came into existence at the end of World War II after it had served as an auxiliary fighter airbase during the war. Located on the grounds of the Goodwood estate owned by the Duke of Richmond, the perimeter road would be used by pilots, such as Tony Gaze, to host impromptu races on the days the pilots had off. Then, after the war, with Brooklands being shutdown, many racing enthusiasts were looking for a new place to go racing. Being interested in racing himself, the Duke of Richmond would give the airfield on his lands over to become a 2.39 mile circuit.
The Lavant Cup race was just one of a number of short races that were held over the April 6th weekend. And although the race was on home territory, foreign competition had made its way to the race and would make the competition very tough. Included amongst the starters of the race was the winner of the race at Syracuse, Emmanuel de Graffenried, and his Maserati A6GCM. Bobbie Baird would also be present in the race with a Ferrari 500. In addition to the Italian challenge, the Cooper works team would also have to deal with a half dozen Connaught A-Types.
In spite of the presence of the Maserati and the Ferrari, Roy Salvadori would start the race from the pole in his Connaught A-Type chassis. He seemed to be like a weak dam holding back an incredible wall of water as he would be joined on the front row by Emmanuel de Graffenried in his Maserati and Bobbie Baird in his Ferrari 500. Like bookends, Tony Rolt would manage to make it a Connaught at either end of the front row.
The race was short. Therefore, there was little room for mistakes or poor qualifying performances. A couple of drivers that would end up with their work cut out for them would be the two Cooper works cars entered in the race. Eric Brandon would start his T20 from 20th on the grid, which was dead last. And then there was Stirling Moss. Being a short race, starting position was very important to have the greatest opportunity of moving forward. A good starting position would be one thing he would not have. Though better than Brandon, Moss would start the race from 18th on the grid and from just one row further forward than Brandon.
A couple of drivers wouldn't even start the race. Another few drivers would be out of the running very early on. Included among the few would be Eric Brandon. Brandon's race would end just a short distance from where it had started and would leave just Stirling Moss in the running. Thankfully, for Stirling Moss, his race was going vastly better than his starting position would have suggested.
However, even over the short 7 lap distance, no one could handle the pace of de Graffenried and his Maserati A6GCM. In just 7 short laps de Graffenried would manage to take his Maserati and would stretch out an advantage of almost thirteen seconds over the rest of the field. At the line, de Graffenried would take just eleven minutes and thirty seconds to complete the 7 laps and win the race. Roy Salvadori would be the first to finish the race with a British car. He would end up thirteen seconds behind in a Connaught A-Type. Salvadori would lead home a string of three-straight Connaughts. Tony Rolt would end up finishing 3rd in his Connaught, but he would be about seven seconds behind Salvadori.
While three-straight Connaughts would finish the race from 2nd through 4th, there would be four-straight Coopers to finish 5th through 8th. Peter Whitehead and Ken Wharton would be the first two Cooper finishers. But then, in 7th place, came Stirling Moss in his Cooper Special. Moss had put together a truly impressive performance. He had started the race from 18th on the grid. But in just 7 short laps he had managed to make his way up to the 7th place spot by the end.
Although the field in the Lavant Cup would be dominated by British designs it would still be a foreign mark that would take the victory. More importantly, amongst the British designs, including other private Coopers, the factory effort still hadn't taken over as the favorite. There was still just as much of a likelihood that another privateer Cooper chassis would beat out the factory effort. Obviously there was still a lot of work that needed to be done. The question was becoming more apparent, 'Could it be done?'
Sticking to the British Isles, the next race in which the Cooper Car Company factory team would take part would be the 5th BRDC International Trophy race. As with previous editions of the race, the event would consist of two heat races and a final. The two heat races consisted of 15 laps. The final was comprised of 35 laps. The race, which was held on the 9th of May, would host a number of smaller teams and privateers but would have an entire field numbering thirty-six.
While there would be a number of Cooper chassis and drivers entered in the race, officially, there would only be one that would drive for the works effort. That would be Stirling Moss. Eric Brandon and Alan Brown would also be in the event, but they would either enter Cooper-Bristols under their own name or with another team altogether.
The BRDC International Trophy race would take place at another of the former World War II airbases turned racing circuits. The RAF bomber station called 'Silverstone' opened in 1943. The airbase would serve a distinguished career during the war but would lie dormant upon war's end. Rather vacant and quiet, the airbase would host its first race in 1947. This race was an impromptu event that would end up turning into the home of the British Grand Prix. When the Royal Automobile Club would come and sponsor events at the site the first layout of the circuit would include the triangularly arranged runways. Going into the 1949 season, the layout would be changed. The changed circuit would only use the perimeter road and would measure 2.88 miles in length. Wide open and flat as expected with an airbase, the site would manage to be one of the few airbases turned circuits that would make the grade and would end up becoming the official home of British racing.
As usual, the organizers for the International Trophy race would split the field up into two heats. Cooper Car Company's sole entry, Stirling Moss, would be placed in the first heat. Being placed in the first heat offered an advantage and a few drawbacks. The advantage was that the driver would get the heat race over instead of having to sit around and wait. That being said, the drawbacks included being first. Since starting position for the final was determined by the finishing time of the entrant in either heat, the second heat had an advantage in that the driver in the second would have an idea of the kind of pace he needed to drive in order to achieve a better starting position.
Staring positions for each of the heat races would be determined by practice times. Emmanuel de Graffenried continued his terror of the English population as he would end up being fastest in practice. His time of one minute and fifty-one seconds would earn him the pole. Furthermore, de Graffenried's time would end up being three seconds faster than the 2nd place qualifier Bob Gerard. This certainly did not look good heading into the race. The rest of the front row would include two Connaught pilots. Tony Rolt would start 3rd while Kenneth McAlpine would start 4th. Stirling Moss, like the Lavant Cup race, would have some work cut out for himself. His best lap around the circuit would end up being one minute and fifty-eight seconds and would push the young driver down to 11th overall and on the outside of the third row of the grid.
Despite starting the race from the third row and 11th place overall, Moss would be quick in the first heat race. Right from the very start he was on the gas and quickly making his way up through the field. A number of others, including Bill Aston, Joe Kelly and Hans Stuck were finding their races coming to an end almost right from the start.
Emmanuel de Graffenried was driving the Maserati A6GCM and it was clear that it was capable of taking the fight to the Ferrari 500, but at Silverstone, the car wasn't quite as dominant as it had showed at others. And though de Graffenried would set the fastest lap time in the heat, Stirling Moss would match it in the Alta-powered Cooper Special.
Over the course of the 15 laps the biggest obstacle Moss would face would not be so much de Graffenried in his Maserati but the fact Moss had started the race 11th. Emmanuel would hold on to win the heat having crossed the line in twenty-eight minutes and fifty-nine seconds. Just five seconds; however, would separate de Graffenried from Moss who would finish 2nd after having started the race 11th. Prince Bira, driving another Maserati A6GCM, would end up finishing in 3rd place but would be seventeen seconds behind Moss.
With the first heat over it was time for the second heat. While the second heat would have four Cooper-Bristols out of sixteen starters, all of them were privateer or other small team entries and had nothing to do with the factory Cooper team at all. But the Cooper-Bristols were anything but the main focus going into the second heat. Included in the second heat would be one very important entry and it would be the Scuderia Ferrari Ferrari 500 of Mike Hawthorn. Though a force of one, it was still an incredible force with which other competitors had to deal.
In practice, Ken Wharton would put together a tremendous display and would upset Hawthorn for the pole. Wharton would manage to pull out the pole with a Cooper-Bristol T23! His time would end up being a second faster than Hawthorn. And whereas the front of the first heat with a couple of Connaughts, the front row of the second heat would be occupied by four different cars. Wharton was on pole with a Cooper-Bristol, Hawthorn had a Ferrari. Starting in 3rd place was Louis Chiron in the Maserati brother's OSCA 20. And in the 4th place on the front row would be Maurice Trintignant in an Equipe Gordini Gordini T16.
In the second heat race it would be an absolute battle between the first two on the grid. Wharton would look very impressive in the Cooper-Bristol and would manage to keep Hawthorn at bay quite often during the race. Even when Hawthorn had the lead he could not pull away from Wharton. This was an incredible race for the Cooper-Bristol and was a sign of both the weaknesses of the Ferrari and the strengths of the Cooper.
Although Hawthorn would turn what would be the fastest lap of the heat, he just could not shake Wharton's small Cooper. Battling nose-to-tail throughout, there was still a question looming over the circuit as to whether or not the Ferrari would actually win the heat.
The battle was still intense as the two headed around for the final lap. Wharton would hang tough through the tight corners, but coming around Woodcote for the final time, it was Hawthorn who held the advantage. But it wasn't by much. Hawthorn would cross the line with a time that would be thirty-six seconds faster than de Graffenried's time from the first heat, but it would only be one second faster than Wharton in 2nd place. Hawthorn and Wharton had truly dominated the rest of the field as it would be over forty-five seconds before Roy Salvadori would cross the line in 3rd place.
The two heat races were over. It was time to set the grid for the 35 lap final. Hawthorn's mad effort to hold off Wharton would net him the pole for the final. He would have Wharton right beside him in 2nd place. Emmanuel de Graffenried would also be on the front row in 3rd place. And Stirling Moss would make the Cooper Car Company proud as he would finish off the front row with a 4th place starting position.
As the 35 lap race would get underway, Mike Hawthorn would show just what the Ferrari 500 could really do. He would pull out the lead over Wharton and de Graffenried. Meanwhile, Moss was heading in the wrong direction. The first few laps he would hold tough but the Brit's pace would begin to drop off.
Hawthorn's pace continued to increase. But he wouldn't be alone. Emmanuel de Graffenried would show that the Maserati was truly capable of taking the fight to the Ferrari as both he and Hawthorn would end up setting the fastest lap times of the race. However, just as soon as de Graffenried would record the same fastest lap time as Hawthorn trouble would strike and he would withdraw his car from the race. Wharton was unable to battle as he had. The Baron de Graffenried had withdrawn his car. And Stirling Moss was headed in the wrong direction on the leader board. This meant Hawthorn was turned loose.
With Roy Salvadori giving chase from rather well back, Hawthorn would set sail in his Ferrari 500. The race would take just a little more than an hour to complete, but in that time, Hawthorn would manage to lap up to 6th place. Unfortunately for Cooper, Moss would be one of those that Hawthorn would have the opportunity to wave to as he came through in the lead.
Hawthorn would face no serious threat throughout the last half of the race. He would be fast but careful and would go on to win the race by twelve seconds over Salvadori and his Connaught A-Type. Tony Rolt would at least make it a good day for Connaught as he would finish the race in 3rd about forty-five seconds behind Hawthorn. Stirling Moss would end up finishing the race in his Special, but would only manage to score a 9th place result.
Hawthorn had truly flexed the muscle of the Ferrari 500 and showed the Cooper-Bristol, even Moss' Special, to be still a ways away in performance. When able to break loose, Hawthorn's Ferrari was able to pull away. The key to success against such a car would be to keep it reigned in. This would be difficult to do considering some of the circuits in which the World Championship would compete in 1953.
Still, there was almost a month before the next round of the World Championship. Having competed abroad straight-away at the start of the season, the Cooper Car Company team would rest up a bit and would then head to Crystal Palace in London for the 3rd Coronation Trophy race on the 25th of May.
Once again, there would be a number of Cooper chassis in the race but Cooper Car Company would only enter one in the race. And, once again, Stirling Moss would be at the wheel of the Cooper-Alta T24 Special.
A fire had destroyed the original Crystal Palace that rested on the park site. Used for the Great Exhibition in 1851 in Hyde Park, the glass building would be moved to one of the highest points in London and would come to be known as Crystal Palace Park. Racing in the park setting dated back to before the Second World War and the circuit even boasted of an infield section that had been used before the war. However, after war's end, the outer circuit would be almost exclusively used for every race.
Basically a short rectangle, the 1.34 mile circuit took just over a minute to complete and had a medium average speed considering just how short the circuit was. Once considered the haunt of gypsies, the spirits dwelling within and around the park would be chased out by the sound of Formula 2 grand prix cars.
The Coronation Trophy race would be another in a string of races consisting of heat races and a final. The field would be separated into two heats with each heat race lasting 10 laps. The final would also be 10 laps in length.
As with the International Trophy race, Stirling Moss would be sequestered in the first heat. He would take on such talented British drivers as Lance Macklin, Ken Wharton and Tony Rolt. In practice before the race; however, it would be Archie Bryde that would prove fastest. He would take the first example of the T20 produced by Cooper and would put the car on pole. Starting next to Bryde on the front row would be Bill Aston and his Aston-Butterworth NB-41. Stirling Moss would start the race in 3rd place between Aston and Tony Rolt.
Although it would be Bryde that would prove fastest in practice and would start the race from the pole, in the heat race, it would be Rolt that would prove fastest. Bryde would start well, but would end up retiring from the race due to mechanical problems after 8 laps. Ken Wharton would make a good start from behind Aston on the grid and would be soon embroiled in a battle with Rolt for the lead. Feeling the pressure, Rolt would respond, and he would respond well. He would turn the fastest lap of the heat with a time of one minute and eight seconds. However, he still wouldn't manage to shake Wharton loose. Wharton was again stalking another driver as he had Hawthorn at Silverstone.
With the exception of Rolt, almost the entire second row of the grid would swap with the front. Bryde would retire with mechanical troubles. Aston was still running but had faded compared to the rest of the field. Rolt was in the lead of the race though chased by Wharton. And Lance Macklin had managed to come up and unseat Moss for 3rd.
In spite of the pressure from Wharton, Rolt would average a little more than 70 mph en route to victory in the first heat. Rolt had been feeling the heat throughout as he would only finish six-tenths of a second in front of Wharton. Over eighteen seconds would separate Rolt from Macklin in 3rd place. Stirling Moss, who had started the race in 3rd, would finish in 4th place almost forty-five seconds behind Rolt.
The entry list for the second heat would be larger than what it had been for the first heat. Included in the list of drivers for the second heat were Peter Whitehead, Peter Collins, Bobbie Baird and Tony Crook. John Barber and Alan Brown were also in the second heat driving Cooper-Bristol chassis, but under their own names or team names.
Practice would not go well for the former Cooper Car Company drivers. Alan Brown would qualify 9th for the race while Barber would qualify would position better in 8th. However, both would start the race from the third, and final, row of the grid.
Jack Fairman, driving an HWM-Alta, would start the race from the pole. Graham Whitehead would outduel Peter Collins and Whitehead to start 2nd. Collins and Peter Whitehead would start 3rd and 4th respectively.
If the starting position on the grid wasn't bad enough for Brown and Barber, then the race result would be. Alan Brown wouldn't even make it a lap before a fuel pump failure would end his race. John Barber would make it further, but not much. Troubles within the first few laps of the race would sideline Barber as well.
Despite starting the heat on pole, Fairman wouldn't be able to handle the pace put forth by Peter Whitehead or Peter Collins. Interestingly, the running order after the start of the race would not be 1st through 4th, but 4th through 1st as Peter Whitehead led Peter Collins, Graham Whitehead and Jack Fairman. This was the exact opposite arrangement of how the front row existed before the start of the race.
Bobbie Baird would crash his Ferrari 500 just three laps into the heat race, and therefore, meant that it would be an all-British affair. Over the course of the remaining seven laps, nobody could keep up with Peter Whitehead. Driving his Cooper-Alta T24, Whitehead would take almost exactly twelve minutes to complete the 10 laps and would enjoy an almost twelve second advantage over Peter Collins, the 2nd place finisher. Third in the second heat would go to Graham Whitehead.
The two heat races were now over. It was time for the 10 lap final. As with the International Trophy race, finishing time of each competitor in their respective heat race would determine the starting grid. This meant Tony Rolt would start the final from the pole. He had taken only eleven minutes and forty-seven seconds to complete his 10 lap heat. This also meant Ken Wharton, who had finished just six-tenths of a second behind Rolt, would start on the front row in 2nd. Starting in 3rd place on the front row would be Peter Whitehead. Lance Macklin, the 3rd place finisher in the first heat, would round-out the front row with a 4th place starting position. Moss' twelve minute and fifteen second time would only be good enough to help him start from the three-wide second row in the 7th place position. In all, only eleven cars would start the final.
Leslie Marr, who would start the race from dead last, would be the first out. Marr would make it just one lap before crashing the Connaught A-Type. Jack Fairman, who had started from the pole in the second heat, was again off the pace of the rest of the field. He hard started the final in 10th and would remain right around there throughout. Stirling Moss was fighting hard in his Cooper and was making some very difficult passes in order to move forward. But still, he was not able to really make any headway in order to get into the top three.
The field had started with Rolt on the pole followed by Wharton, Peter Whitehead and Lance Macklin. And throughout the early stages of the race, that would be exactly how they would line up going around the circuit. Only Stirling Moss had been on the move from his 7th place starting position.
The tightest battles on the circuit would be broken down in pairs. First and second were in a tight battle throughout the event. Then, third and fourth were locked in an even tighter battle. Stirling Moss had Graham Whitehead behind him, but at least enjoyed a lead of a few seconds. These battles would rage throughout the 10 laps of the race.
By the end, Rolt had managed to put some space between himself and Wharton. Rolt would set the fastest lap of the race and would take just eleven minutes and forty-two seconds to finish the race. Rolt had let it all hang out as his finishing time would be better than any of the finishing times in either of the previous heats. Even Ken Wharton's time would be better than any time from any of the previous heats. Wharton would finish the race in 2nd place, crossing the line just two seconds behind. The tightest battle in the closing stages remained the fight between Peter Whitehead and Lance Macklin. Coming to the finish, the two were practically side-by-side. However, it would be Whitehead that would cross the line to finish 3rd. His advantage over Macklin for 3rd place would only by six-tenths of a second. Seven seconds behind Macklin would come Stirling Moss for Cooper Car Company. He had fought his way up from 7th place to finish 5th.
The battles amongst the British chassis were certainly tight. However, to fight against the Ferrari 500 and the Maserati A6GCM required pace quicker than the rest of the British car companies. The third round of the World Championship was just two weeks away. Cooper Car Company had an entry in the race, which was to be driven by Stirling Moss. However, competing against Scuderia Ferrari and Officine Alfieri Maserati required a car that could promise a little better performance. The Cooper Car Company would then decide to take part in a race that wasn't so much about a battle between car manufacturers as much as it was a battle between driver and track.
On the 31st of May, Stirling Moss would be getting ready to get behind the wheel of his Cooper-Alta Special to take part in a rather difficult race. Yes, the competition would be tough, but the circuit posed perhaps and even greater threat. The race was the 17th Internationales ADAC Eifelrennen and it would take place on the twisty and dangerous 14 mile long Nurburgring.
The Cooper Car Company would bring a single car entry to the race with Stirling Moss as its driver. Although the race was part of the West German Formula 2 Championship, Moss and Cooper wouldn't be the only foreign driver, team and chassis entered in the race. The year before, Rudolf Fischer had been victorious in his own Ferrari 500 driving for his own team Ecurie Espadon. In 1953, Fischer wouldn't be behind the wheel of a race car but both his Espadon and Ferrari 500 would be re-entered in the Eifelrennen. The Belgian, Paul Frere, would join the British driver Peter Collins for the event. The two would drive for the British HW Motors team in HWM-Altas. And of course the main threat would come from a number of privately-owned Maserati A6GCMs.
This international field would come to occupy the front row at the conclusion of practice. Kurt Adolff, driving for Ecurie Espadon in the team's Ferrari 500, would grab the pole. His time around the circuit would be ten minutes and forty-four seconds. He would be joined on the front row by Paul Frere in his HWM-Alta, Hans Klenk in his own rendition of the Veritas Meteor, and Stirling Moss in the Cooper-Alta Special.
It seemed the main threats to win the race were assembled right there on the front row, but when the race would start, another candidate would come powering his way to the front of the grid and to the forefront of possible victors.
Emmanuel de Graffenried had had a poor effort in practice and would start the race from the third row. However, right at the start of the race he would make a tremendous start and would manage to get by Adolff to take the lead.
Emmanuel de Graffenried would show off the power of the Maserati as he would begin to draw away from the rest of the field. Stirling Moss had started the race in 4th place but would begin to come under attack from the East German Edgar Barth. Peter Collins was also looking very impressive in another HWM-Alta. He soon would also get by Moss and would be fighting with Frere and Adolff for position inside the top three.
Just as soon as de Graffenried began to draw away from the field, Paul Frere would begin to draw him back in. Frere had broken away from the battle with Collins and Adolff and set his sights on the lead. Emmanuel would do his best to retain his position at the front. He would help his cause by setting the fastest lap of the race, but it was a far cry from the pole time recorded by Adolff in practice.
Despite the obviously slower pace of the race, Moss just couldn't keep up with his Cooper-Alta Special. This was not a good sign going into the rest of the grand prix season. The Brit would lose position to Collins and even Barth would manage to get by and begin to draw away.
One that was not able to draw away was de Graffenried. He would not put a foot wrong and would try and put a gap between himself and Frere. Emmanuel and Prince Bira's Maseratis were the only two, of four, that were still running as the laps began to wind down. De Graffenried needed to keep his foot on the gas, but he also needed to be careful if he wanted to make it to the end.
The battle would rage all the way until the two had crossed the finish line at the end of almost an hour and a half of racing. Coming down the long stretch toward the finish line, de Graffenried maintained the lead but was still closely followed by Frere. Paul was looking and hoping for any kind of mistake from the Swiss Baron. However, it wouldn't come. Emmanuel de Graffenried would cross the line almost two seconds ahead of Frere to take the victory. Peter Collins would finish the race in 3rd place. He would trail de Graffenried at the finish by only a little more than sixteen seconds.
The race, which had looked so promising at the start for Moss, would end up being a rather bitter disappointment. His car just couldn't turn the pace the young Brit was capable of doing. Though he had started the race 4th, Stirling would end up a very quiet 6th.
After the Eifelrennen, it was obvious to the team there was still a gap between their car and the performance of some of the other competitors. Unfortunately, some of the next rounds of the World Championship were coming up in just a couple of weeks.
The pace and development of the Cooper chassis was lacking concerning its competitors. The next race on the calendar would be the Dutch Grand Prix. The race took place around the slower-speed Zandvoort circuit, but its fast sweeping turns required the very best from a car. Cooper was still fighting to get the very best out of its chassis. Therefore, although the team had an entry in the race, Cooper would not attend the Dutch Grand Prix. Nor would the team attend the fourth round of the World Championship, which was the Belgian Grand Prix. In fact, it wouldn't be until July before the Cooper Car Company would enter another race, whether World Championship or non-championship. The next race in which the team would enter would be the fifth round of the World Championship. The race the team would enter would be remembered as an absolute classic.
The weather, on the 5th of July, was hot and dry. This was normal for Reims in the summer. What was also normal was seeing the World Championship back at Reims. The circuit was not prepared the year before, and therefore, the French Grand Prix would actually be held at Rouen-les-Essarts. However, in 1953, the French Grand Prix was back at the ultra-fast Reims circuit, right where it belonged.
In 1953, Reims would be even faster. Changed from the 1952 layout, the Reims circuit grew in length and in average speed. The circuit had changed going into 1952. The tight hairpin turn in the center of Gueux had been abandoned in favor of a fast sweeping right-hander called Courbe de Gueux.
This sweeping right-hander would remain but the circuit would not turn and head toward the Garenne corner. Instead, the circuit would continue on and sweep through a couple of fast right and left handers before coming to the sharp Muizon hairpin. This layout change made the straight along Route Nationale 31 a fair amount longer and would push the average speeds up from 105 mph to greater than 113 mph.
These changes favored the sleek and higher-powered Ferraris and Maseratis. And this fact would become very obvious during practice. Averaging a little more than 115 mph, Alberto Ascari would take the pole in his Ferrari 500. This had been a change since the Belgian Grand Prix. At Spa, it had been the Maserati's that dominated the time sheets. However, coming into the French Grand Prix the radiator inlet on the Ferrari had been redesigned and enabled the Ferraris to post times equal to the Maseratis.
The entire front row would be separated by less than seven-tenths of a second. Felice Bonetto would be the best Maserati starter after he had posted a time just three-tenths of a second slower than Ascari. Bonetto would be all alone on the front row though as Luigi Villoresi would qualify his Ferrari 3rd. As a sign of how the track suited the Ferraris and Maseratis all one had to do was look at the starting grid. The first eleven positions on the grid were occupied by either a Ferrari 500 or a Maserati.
As had become usual over the course of the last few races in which the team entered, Cooper Car Company would bring just one car to the race and it would be driven by Stirling Moss. Although outclassed in outright speed, Moss would still put together a splendid performance in his Cooper T24 Special. Moss would end up being the second-fastest amongst those cars that were not either a Ferrari 500 or some iteration of the Maserati A6GCM. Moss would start the race 13th, which was on the outside of the fifth row.
The Reims circuit consisted of entirely public roads traversing the countryside just to the west of Reims and to the east of Gueux. Wide open with farmland all around, the circuit featured gently rolling terrain and an incredible view from the start/finish straight.
A very large crowd had gathered for the 60 lap race, but hardly any would realize beforehand what they were about to witness. The start of the race would see Jose Froilan Gonzalez streaking ahead in his Maserati A6SSG. He had started the race on half-full fuel tanks and would hope to stretch out enough of a margin to regain the lead after making a fuel stop. While Gonzalez was streaking ahead with the lead of the race, the rest of the Ferrari and Maserati pilots would settle into an all-out brawl for the next 60 laps.
Each and every lap would see Gonzalez pulling out more of a margin only to be followed by the rest of the Scuderia Ferrari and Officine Alfieri Maserati teams battling it out literally wheel-to-wheel. Mere feet would separate the top six or so. In many cases, the World Champions, like Farina, Fangio and Ascari, would be seen side-by-side through corners, neither giving an inch but full of complete trust in each other.
The scene at the front was truly mesmerizing. It was so intense at the front that many forgot there were other cars in the race. Even the French Equipe Gordini team was practically forgotten about on this day. Little notice was given to those trailing a good distance behind the two Italian powerhouses at the front. Many of these entries were forgotten about, and for good reason.
Two Equipe Gordini cars were out of the race before even five laps had been completed. Maurice Trintignant, another Equipe Gordini driver, wouldn't make it past 15 laps. In all, there would be eight competitors out of the race altogether before the halfway mark. There were at least another eight or nine that were out of contention despite the fact they were still running in the race. One of those practically out of the running was Cooper Car Company's Stirling Moss in his Cooper-Alta. He was fighting hard in the British car, but he just didn't have anywhere near the pace of the Italian efforts.
Gonzalez would make his stop right around halfway. In the time it would take for Gonzalez to refuel, which would be less than thirty seconds, Gonzalez would lose the lead to Fangio. At the halfway point of the race, it would be Fangio in the lead over Hawthorn, Ascari, Farina, Marimon, Gonzalez and Villoresi. And these top seven cars would not be separated by anything more than just a few seconds. Gonzalez had made his fuel stop. So now the proper race could begin. Every one of the competitors was on equal footing concerning fuel load. The equality of pace between the two Italian makes would become even more apparent over the course of the remaining half of the race.
Because of the tight grouping of such talented drivers at the head of the field, the overall average speed would continue to increase as the race wore on. Each driver was pitched in a battle for position and neither driver would want to give.
One driver, despite his tenacity, that would have to give would be Stirling Moss. He had fought hard with his Cooper-Alta trying to stay in touch. His effort was in vain, and his car knew it. Therefore, after completing 38 laps, the clutch would go out in Moss' car. His race was over. He had a chance to watch the amazing spectacle from the sidelines just like the rest of the spectators. And what Moss and the rest of the crowd would witness over the course of the remaining 20 laps would be truly astonishing.
The pace continued to increase, and yet, the Ferrari and Maserati drivers remained in close contact, never giving an inch. The enthusiastic crowd would watch as the drivers would wield their cars side-by-side through the Thillois hairpin and they would continue their side-by-side battle all the way down the long start/finish straight before disappearing through the Courbe de Gueux. Time-after-time, Fangio and Hawthorn would pull right alongside each other and would give each other a look going down the long front stretch. Hawthorn would even go through the grass going around a slower car just so Fangio could remain alongside.
By this point in time the pace had really started to claim its victims, not merely in retirements, but in dominance. By the end of the race, only the top six would remain on the lead lap. Seventh and on down would be at least two laps behind. Such was the pace of these champion racers for the two biggest teams at the time.
So amazing was the sight that practically each and every other lapped car, when the train was coming through, would slow just to watch these famous drivers fight it out tooth and nail. Even those that were in the mix, drivers like Luigi Villoresi, were not unaware of the amazing spectacle. Villoresi would be seen in the last few laps beginning to slow his pace and shaking his head in recognition of the crazy fight in which he had been part for more than two-thirds of the race.
The last couple of laps came to down three cars, but really just two men. Fangio was holding the lead ever so slightly, over Mike Hawthorn. Each would take turns measuring the other up. Gonzalez was sitting back just slightly hoping to take advantage of a mistake. Despite his age, Hawthorn would look beyond his years as he and Fangio would not put a foot wrong, despite battling often side-by-side, throughout the last couple of laps.
Coming out of Muizon hairpin, Fangio and Hawthorn were still side-by-side. They powered down the long straight towards the Thillois hairpin, the last turn before another long stretch leading to the finish line. The battle between the two was intense; neither was really able to take advantage. Going into the final turn Fangio went to brake late to take away the position. However, Hawthorn would match his late-braking maneuver. This was an incredible move by the young Brit. The maneuver caused Fangio to have to go wide, which enable Hawthorn to take over the lead. The lost momentum then further hurt Fangio coming out of the corner. This meant Hawthorn was actually pulling out a car length or two of lead over Fangio. Fangio was even coming under threat from his Maserati teammate Gonzalez. The crowd, which had been jumping, cheering and screaming over the past few laps, had seen the maneuver from way off in the distance. They could see the three cars straining toward the line. The sound of the engines and of the cheering crowd grew louder and closer.
He had done it! The young Mike Hawthorn had out-dueled 'The Maestro' to win his first-ever World Championship race. The gap between the two had been exactly a second. Only four-tenths of a second separated Fangio and Gonzalez. In fact, Gonzalez's front wheels had managed to pull about even with Fangio's rear wheels by the line. Only a little more than seven and a half seconds had come to separate the top five. And after numerous races in which only the top three or so would end up on the lead lap with the winner, this World Championship race would produce a top six that would be separated by only a minute and sixteen seconds.
The incredible noise from the crowd over the last few laps would return as Mike Hawthorn would emerge from under his helmet. Then, when the crowd witnessed the age of Hawthorn the cheering grew into an ovation that was truly moving. The whole race was so emotional that tears would be seen from Hawthorn's eyes as he stood and listened to his nation's anthem being played after scoring his first World Championship victory in one of the greatest races of all time.
While the overall mood at Reims that evening was one of joy and amazement, not everyone was as ecstatic as the crowd slowly leaving the circuit reliving the events of the day. Stirling Moss' race had come to ruin with clutch failure. But failure aside, he had been thoroughly dominated in his Cooper. It offered nothing similar to the pace he and everyone else had just witnessed. The only consolation he and the team had, if it was one, was the fact there were many other teams and privateers that had been just as dominated throughout the day. The season had just passed the halfway mark and it seemed it was going to be a long last half.
One week after the disappointing result in the French Grand Prix, the Cooper Car Company team would send one car back to Crystal Palace for the 1st Crystal Palace Trophy race on the 11th of July.
The Crystal Palace Trophy race was part of the Elizabethan Cup and would take place around the same 1.38 mile circuit located in the park as was used for the Coronation Trophy race back at the end of May.
The field for the race would be rather small. In all, twelve entries would start the 15 lap race. The factory Cooper team would again support just one car, but it would not be Stirling Moss this time. Instead, it would be Les Leston and his Cooper-JAP T26. Despite the small size of the field, Leston would still have some strong competition in which he had to contend. Tony Rolt, Roy Salvadori, Lance Macklin and Duncan Hamilton were just a few of the names entered in the race.
In practice, Leston would show the qualities of his JAP-powered T26 chassis. He would put together some very impressive laps and would end up starting the race from the front row of the starting grid in 3rd place. Tony Rolt, driving a Connaught A-Type would prove to be the fastest of all the competitors, and therefore, would start the race from the pole. Sandwiched between Rolt and Leston would be Roy Salvadori in another Connaught A-Type.
The short nature of the circuit played into the hands of Leston and his Cooper T26. Unfortunately, Rolt and Salvadori would manage to hold station right from the start. The front row would end up holding station through the first few laps of the race.
Tony Rolt would come under pressure from Salvadori throughout the event. Salvadori would keep the pressure on Rolt when he would turn what would be the fastest lap of the race with a time of one minute and eight seconds.
Although under great pressure from Salvadori, Rolt would not put a foot wrong over the course of the whole of the race. Though not capable of turning the same lap time as Salvadori's fastest lap, Rolt would still match Salvadori in just about every other way, and therefore, would hold Roy at bay. Leston was doing everything he could do to keep the HWM-Alta of Lance Macklin behind him. Despite having a rather untested car underneath and around him, Leston would carry on lap-after-lap and would not succumb to the pressure.
Taking a little less than seventeen minutes and thirty seconds, Tony Rolt would come across the line to take his second victory at Crystal Palace. At the Coronation Trophy race, Rolt had managed to hold on against Ken Wharton. In the Crystal Palace Trophy race, Rolt would seem unflappable as he would hold off Roy Salvadori for the win. Speaking of holding on, Leston would take his new Cooper-JAP and would come across the line in 3rd place.
This was the first podium finish on the season for the Cooper Car Company team. Although against local talent and British chassis, the result was still reason for celebration. While the team knew there was still a long way to go, it could still take away many positives from the race. On top of it all, there was still time to make improvements to make themselves even faster.
The team's next opportunity to judge where it was according to its competition would come at the sixth round of the World Championship. The team would turn to Stirling Moss and his Cooper-Alta Special. However, neither Moss nor Cooper Car Company would make it for their home grand prix. They would withdraw their entry and would never even show. As a result of the no-show at Silverstone, nothing would be seen or heard of from the team until early August.
In early August, the Cooper Car Company team would appear at a grand prix race. The team's next race would be the seventh round of the World Championship. It was the German Grand Prix and it would be held at the infamous Nurburgring in West Germany. Therefore, the Cooper Car Company would return to the site it had visited earlier on in the season but had left with bitter disappointment.
Very few grand prix drivers throughout history would be considered Ringmeisters.
This is because that amidst the beautiful and pastoral setting of the Eifel mountains a truly ferocious and dark circuit lay hidden. Even the German racers were more than familiar with the truly haunting nature of the circuit called the Nordschleife.
Boasting 170 corners and about a thousand feet of elevation change, the Nordschleife was not like any of the modern circuits used in the 1950s. It was a throwback to a much earlier era when grand prix racing was truly a 'grand event'. It was born in a day and age when grand prix racing wasn't so much about laps as miles. Therefore, every trip around the Nurburgring would be like an epic adventure where man and machine were faced with just about everything nature could be thrown at them. A track very much part of the environment, racing Nurburgring, like Spa, was as much a competition against nature and natural elements as it was about racing other drivers and cars.
Because the World Championship was once again competing according to Formula 2 regulations the starting field for the German Grand Prix would include a number of German racers that would not have the opportunity to race anywhere other than in their home nation. A total of thirty-six cars would qualify for the 18 lap race. Among those thirty-six starters, fourteen would be from either East or West Germany.
While the race was a big opportunity for the German racers that didn't have the means to compete outside of the nation, it was also a big opportunity for Alberto Ascari. Just like the year before, Ascari would have the opportunity to leave Germany as the World Champion. Were he to be able to close the deal, he would be the first repeat World Champion in the series' short history.
If practice was any indication of things, then it was clear Ascari was going for the jugular right then and there. In 1951, the last year of Formula One as it existed then, Alberto Ascari had taken the pole for the German Grand Prix with a lap time of nine minutes and fifty-five seconds. In 1953, with presumably lesser-powered machines, Ascari would put together a truly incredible lap time just four seconds slower than his own lap time in the Formula One Ferrari 375 of 1951. Needless to say, Ascari had the pole for the race. He would end up posting a time almost four seconds faster than 'The Maestro' Juan Manuel Fangio. This was truly incredible, and an obvious sign Ascari was in pursuit of the World Championship title. The rest of the front row would include Giuseppe Farina and Mike Hawthorn. This would make it three Ferraris on the front row.
Cooper Car Company would again turn to Stirling Moss to take them toward the front of the order. Driving his Cooper-Alta T24 Special, the fiercely patriotic Brit would see his best time slip down the starting order behind Italian and French automakers. Pushing closer to eleven minutes and than ten in lap time, Moss's best effort would enable him to start the race 12th overall and in the first position on the fourth row. While definitely out-classed by the Ferraris and Maseratis, Moss' effort was still better than more than half of the field. Therefore, if he could make it to the end of the race, there was a good chance for a good result.
The Nurburgring posed a serious threat if it rained on any portion of the 14 mile circuit. However, on the day of the race, the weather would be sunny and dry, and therefore, presented perfect conditions to watch the best drivers in the world wrestle with the Nordschleife.
Despite starting on the pole, it would be Fangio that would lead into the first turn. He would be followed by Ascari and Hawthorn. Giuseppe Farina would make a terrible getaway and would be fighting to move forward from back around 7th or 8th. Moss would make a good getaway at the start and would find himself right near the back of Farina's Ferrari. If possible, Moss could latch right onto the back of Farina's car and follow him up through the field.
One that wouldn't be kept down very long would be Ascari. Though Fangio had beaten him to the first turn, it wouldn't be more than a few corners and Ascari would have the lead. Fangio and Hawthorn would give chase. Once in the lead, Ascari began to draw away.
Ascari holding down the front position meant almost all of the action was taking place behind him as there was very little threatening his place up at the front. What would be happening behind him would be wholesale attrition. Two cars would not even start the race. Another two would find their cars were unable of reaching 14 miles and would retire without having completed a single lap. Three more would find their cars could do no more than 30 of the scheduled 255 miles as their cars would also retire after just one lap. It would continue like this lap after lap. Before the race had completed 10 laps, the field had lost over thirty percent of its entries.
But not even Ascari was free from worry. And sure enough, nine laps into the race, attrition would come to visit him. While lapping at an incredible pace at the front of the field, the stress and strain of the Nurburgring was slowly beginning to take its toll. Then, on the ninth lap, the circuit would exact its revenge against Ascari. In the midst of one of the corners, one of his wheels would come off his car. In a tremendous display of talent, Ascari would nurse the tricycle back to the pits. Since the World Championship was on the line, Villoresi would be signaled into the pits. He would hand his healthy Ferrari 500 over to his good friend so that he could continue his chase of the title. Villoresi would also manage to rejoin the race when he was given Ascari's repaired car.
Waiting for Villoresi cost Ascari a good deal of time. Therefore, he would go on a rampage in order to salvage his chance of retaining the title. Within two laps of rejoining the race, Ascari would post what would be the fastest lap of the race. His time, incredibly, was over three seconds faster than his own qualifying effort and less than a half a second slower than his own qualifying effort in a Formula One Ferrari 375 back in 1951! He was on the absolute edge in an effort to make up lost time.
Stirling Moss continued to look good in his Cooper. The twisty sections of the circuit were helping the Cooper chassis to overcome some of the other deficiencies it may have had. However, even though Moss was doing well and was nearing the top five, he and the team would get an idea of just how far away they were from the pace of the Ferraris and Maseratis when Ascari would come screaming by in his search to get up to the front of the field.
Ascari was almost there. Hawthorn was firmly within his sights, and would be no match for the pace in which Ascari had been turning. Unfortunately for Ascari, the car wouldn't even be equal to its own pace. Just as Ascari was about to take over 3rd place from Hawthorn, the engine in the Ferrari would cough and spew out a bunch of smoke. That was it. Just three laps away from the end, Ascari's race was over. His World Championship hopes, at least of retaining it when he left Germany, would depend upon Hawthorn. Hawthorn already had a victory and there were three races left. He posed the greatest threat to Ascari.
Fortunately for Ascari, and unfortunately for Hawthorn, nobody was going to beat Giuseppe Farina this day. His smooth driving style suited the twisty circuit well. He would end up winning the race with a margin of over a minute on Juan Manuel Fangio, and almost two minutes over Mike Hawthorn in 3rd.
Stirling Moss would put together the most impressive performance for the Cooper Car Company. Though he would not finish on the podium, nor would he even manage to finish on the lead lap, Moss still managed to put together an impressive performance in the Cooper. Unlike some of the other races, the Cooper chassis didn't appear outclassed. By contrast, Moss' Cooper would be the only car inside the top eight that was something other than a Ferrari or Maserati. This was a good sign to the team. They would not leave the German Grand Prix with any points, but they were certainly closer than they had been at any other time in the season. This boded well for the rest of the season.
Cooper Car Company had left the German Grand Prix with some good news. They eagerly looked to expound upon that good news. They would hope the 3rd Grand Prix des Sables d'Olonne would hold something special.
In its early days, Sables d'Olonne would present visitors with the rather unwelcome smell of fish as the small 'Sands of Olonne' had been an important port for cod fishing back in the 17th century. In time, the town would become popular tourist spot. However, during World War II, it would again become an unwelcoming place as the German army would destroy its port and mined the harbor. After the war though, the town of about 10,000 people would come to host grand prix racing.
The Sables d'Olonne circuit would be made up of the town's streets including a portion of the Marechal de Lattre de Tassigny that runs along the shoreline and overlooks the Bay of Biscay. The rest of the circuit ran around the Lac de Tanche and along the Rhin et Danube. In all, the circuit measured 1.82 miles, it was relatively flat and was quite slow.
The Grand Prix de Sables d'Olonne was yet another race that incorporated heat races and a final. However, its format would be different than those held in England. The race would work like the Grand Prix of Monza. The field wouldn't be split into heats. Instead, everyone would compete in each of the heats. The final results would then be determined by the aggregate time of each competitor.
Each heat race consisted of 45 laps of the 1.82 mile circuit. Starting positions for the first heat would be determined by practice times. Being that the race took place on French soil, and since neither Scuderia Ferrari nor Officine Alfieri Maserati were present, the favorites had to be the French Gordini chassis. Sure enough, in practice, the fastest of all the competitors would be Harry Schell driving a Gordini T16. In fact, the entire front row would consist of Equipe Gordini teammates with Gordini T16 chassis. Maurice Trintignant would start in 2nd while Jean Behra would start 3rd. The starting field wasn't without its fair share of foreigners. Of course Stirling Moss was present for Cooper in his Cooper-Alta Special, but starting next to him on the second row would be Elie Bayol. Now Elie Bayol may have been as French as they came, but his car was an Italian OSCA 20.
Averaging just over 74 mph a lap, the Sables d'Olonne circuit was by no means a fast circuit. Therefore, acceleration and handling was of utmost importance. Right from the start of the first heat race, nobody seemed as adept to the circuit as Jean Behra. Though born on the opposite side and along a different body of water, Behra seemed right at home in the first heat and quickly began to pull out a lead.
Behra's escape would be further aided by Trintignant's failure and Harry Schell's drop off in pace. Another driver and car pairing that seemed quite at home on the circuit would be Chiron. He, like Bayol, was driving an OSCA 20 and the car seemed to handle well and accelerate quite quickly. Then, of course, there was the Ferrari 500. Never to be counted out in any conditions, Louis Rosier had his own personal Ferrari 500 up inside the top five and looking for more before the end of the first heat race.
Behra would cruise to victory. His advantage would be twenty-eight seconds over Chiron. Louis Rosier would finish in 3rd place albeit thirty-three seconds behind. Moss, who would have the benefit of Trintignant falling out of the race and Schell dropping off the pace, wouldn't be able to really improve his position all that much. However, he would drive a very consistent race and would finish in 4th place, but one lap down. Moss had to hope and pray for a lot to happen if he wanted to have even a chance of finishing on the podium. But races are never over until everyone has crossed the finish line. And with 45 more laps remaining a lot could still happen, and a lot more would.
The starting positions for the second, and final, heat were determined by finishing times from the first heat. Therefore, Behra would start from the pole after his splendid drive. He would be joined on the front row by Louis Chiron and Louis Rosier. Moss would start the race right off the left shoulder of Behra in the second row.
The second heat race would get underway with Elie Bayol dropping out almost right at the word 'go'. Harry Schell had dropped his pace in the first heat race. In the second, his pace would literally come apart as he would lose a wheel and would end up retiring from the event.
Maurice Trintignant would start the second heat despite his retirement in the first. He would drive as if he were trying to make up all the ground he had lost. The pace would be quick and was dangerous territory. Getting caught up in Trintignant's push could cause mistakes. Sure enough, Behra, who practically had the race sown up, would crash his T16 just 33 laps into the second heat. While Moss would be able to catch Trintignant and Giraud-Cabantous, Moss would come to recognize the fact he couldn't catch Louis Rosier and Chiron. Therefore, he would back right off and would focus on finishing the second heat in one piece. He would end up going a number of laps down before the end of the heat but he knew he could finish in the top three if he just kept everything together for the remaining laps.
Trintignant would go on to win the second heat but would end up not classified in the results due to his retirement in the first heat. A Ferrari 500 would take yet another victory. Although gifted to him by Behra, Louis Rosier would take the victory no matter how it wanted to come to him. Louis Chiron would finish the race 3rd. Moss, being careful to make it to the end, would finish the second heat in 5th place and three laps down. But the number of laps down wouldn't matter when the final results would be tallied, at least not in this instance.
In the aggregate results, Rosier would be gifted with an overall victory. His margin of victory would be just thirty seconds over Chiron in his OSCA 20. With Behra out of the running, Moss would just make sure he finished. His steady and sure drive would net him a 3rd place finish.
This is more of what Cooper had hoped it would experience throughout 1953. While not setting fire to the speed charts, the steady drive by Moss and the reliability of the Cooper chassis would make it possible for Moss to be in position for a 3rd place result. This made it a few good results right in a row. It seemed everything was coming together. It may have been a little late, but 'better late than never'.
Looking to keep the momentum rolling, the Cooper Car Company team would return back across the English Channel and would actually travel all the way north to Charterhall, Scotland for the 2nd Newcastle Journal Trophy race held on the 15th of August on the Charterhall circuit near Greenlaw.
Stirling Moss would enter the race, but under his own name. Therefore, Cooper would bring on a driver that had raced for the team earlier on in the year. Eric Brandon hoped to partake of the same momentum in which the Cooper team had come to enjoy over the course of the previous couple of races.
Another of the airbases turned motor racing circuit, Charterhall looked to change its reputation from what it had been during the war. During World War II, Charterhall was a night fighter training base and had come to earn the not-so-flattering nickname 'Slaughter Hall'. Simple in its layout, the 1.99 mile circuit was basically a large 'T' with the main runway serving as the start/finish straight. Yet despite utilizing the long main runway, the average speeds around the circuit were rather medium speed due to the slow nature of the hairpin turns that led onto and off of the main straight. In addition, it was only the main straight in which drivers and cars would be allowed to really stretch their legs. The other straights were short bursts of acceleration that did little to increase average speeds around the circuit.
The race would be 50 laps. The field would be a good size given the fact the eighth round of the World Championship was only a week away. Although the starting field size would be rather large, troubles would come upon them right from the start.
Although eighteen would start the race, ten would end up retiring due to some kind of problem. Included among those that would end up out of the race would be Stirling Moss. His Cooper-Alta would fail due to a fuel injection problem. Another retiree would be Jimmy Stewart, an older brother of one future World Champion by the name Jackie.
Pretty much all that was left in the race were Connaughts and Cooper. Among them was Eric Brandon in his Cooper-JAP. Brandon continued to complete lap after lap, and was inside the top ten; however, he could not move any further up the running order.
At the head of the running order was Ken Wharton in his Cooper-Bristol T23. He was being chased, though at a distance, by Roy Salvadori in his Connaught. He, in turn, would be followed closely by Ron Flockhart. Each one of these three would go on to set the fastest lap of the race and would set out an advantage over the rest of the field.
Though each of the top three would go on to set the same fastest lap time in the race, nobody would be able to keep up with Wharton over the course of the 50 laps. Averaging a little less than 80 mph, Wharton would go on to win the race and would do so with a twenty-eight second advantage over Roy Salvadori in 2nd place. Ron Flockhart would end up coming across the line 3rd place some four seconds behind Salvadori. Eric Brandon would go on to finish the race in his Cooper-JAP. His pace would be such that he would end up in 7th place, but two laps down to Wharton.
While Brandon would manage to finish the race, and would do so inside the top ten, the result, especially against other British marks, was not in line with the momentum the Cooper team had been managing to maintain over the past few races. With just a few races remaining on the season it was important the momentum didn't come to a stop. The team needed to enter another race to keep up the positive results. But it needed to make sure, the best it could, that the next race would provide the positive result they needed. That next race would end up being in the Italians' backyard.
The next race in which the Cooper Car Company team hoped it could use to regain its momentum would be the last round of the World Championship. The ninth, and final, round of the World Championship was the Italian Grand Prix and it was held at another of the ultra-fast circuits, the Autodromo Nazionale di Monza.
Built in the mid-1920s, the Monza circuit was one of the first purpose-built road courses in the world. But it featured more than a road course. Actually, the Monza circuit would end up becoming one of the first motorsports complexes in the world as well as it would feature not only a 3.91 mile road course, but also, a steeply banked oval measuring over two and a half miles in length. Each could be used separately, or, could even be put together to create one long 6+ mile circuit. While the steeply banked oval made it possible to reach some incredible speeds, it really wasn't necessary in order to increase the average speed if used in conjunction with the road course. By itself, the road course was ultra-fast. Average speeds around the road circuit would routinely exceed 110 mph.
Heading into the ninth round of the World Championship, Monza would be an opportunity to let the Ferraris and the Maseratis run free. It would be one last opportunity to see the Formula 2 cars strut their stuff as part of the World Championship. And in practice, they would do just that.
The top seven places on the starting grid would be occupied by either prancing horses or Neptune's trident. It would have most likely been the top ten places occupied by either of the marks were it not for Maurice Trintignant in his Gordini T16 qualifying 8th in the middle of the third row, and, Stirling Moss; qualifying his Cooper-Alta for Cooper Car Company in the 10th position on the inside of the fourth row.
Although the front of the grid was still dominated by the two Italian teams from Modena, Moss' qualifying effort wouldn't be all that slow compared to the time posted by the pole-sitter. The fastest of the field, no surprise, would be Alberto Ascari. Though he had already secured the World Championship title for the second year in a row he would not rest on his laurels throughout the rest of the season. Therefore, he would be quickest in practice posting a time of two minutes and two seconds. He would be joined on the front row by other World Champions. Juan Manuel Fangio would start in 2nd place while Giuseppe Farina would start 3rd. The entire front row would be separated by only a little more than a second. Stirling Moss' time would be obviously slower since he would start the race 10th. But it would not be too much slower. Moss' best time in practice would be two minutes and six seconds. In all, Moss' best time would end up being just about four seconds slower than Ascari. This was rather impressive given the circuit and the fact of some of the gaps that Ascari had enjoyed over the team's cars at other World Championship races. Though this was significant, there was just one problem going forward into the future: there wouldn't be one. This would be the last Formula 2 race in the World Championship. However, Cooper could certainly take what was working and apply it to the new Formula One machines for 1954 were the company to head in that direction.
The day of the race was a beautiful sunny and mild day and seemed to set the perfect stage for yet another incredible battle between Scuderia Ferrari and Maserati. Moss settled into his Cooper hoping to stay in touch with the battle that had, for intents and purposes, left him behind during the French Grand Prix.
When the flag waved to start the race, Fangio would make a poor start and would drop back nearly outside of the top five. Ascari would make an excellent start and would be followed by Giuseppe Farina into the first sweeping right hand Curva Grande corner. Although Fangio had lost out at the start another Argentinean driving a Maserati, Onofre Marimon, would pick up the fight against the Ferraris of Ascari and Farina. And, before the end of the first lap, would manage to take over the lead of the race.
Although Marimon had come to take the lead of the race, the battle to lead the first lap would be ongoing. Using slipstreaming down the long straight stretches, Marimon, Ascari and Farina would exchange lead of the race. However, as they crossed the line to end the first lap of the race it would be Ascari that would hold the point at the front.
In what was really no time whatsoever, Fangio had managed to rejoin the group at the front and it would become a constant four-way battle for the lead. Many times throughout the course of each and every lap just about every one of the four would take a turn at the front of the field. The race would continue on like this throughout the first half of the 80 lap race.
While it seemed the front-runners were able to carry on at whatever pace they desired, there were many others in the field that would find that anything other than a nice Sunday drive would be too much. By the halfway mark of the race there would be seven of the thirty entries out of the race. Of those seven retirements, five would be the result of engine failure.
Unlike the French Grand Prix, Stirling Moss was able to keep his foot on the gas and his car would continue to soldier on. Although his Cooper-Alta continued to carry on without trouble, his pace wouldn't be enough to keep touch with the Ferraris and the Maseratis. He could do even less with those that were just putting together an inspired performance. One such inspired performance was putting put in by Louis Chiron in his OSCA 20. Chiron had started the race 25th. However, by the halfway point, he was approaching the top ten and looking to move even further forward.
The pace at the front was also exacting a toll amongst the front-runners. Onofre Marimon's Maserati would suffer cooling problems, which would force the Argentinean into the pits to have repairs made. While he would rejoin the race, he would be a number of laps out of the running, but he was still fast enough to stay with the leaders.
Marimon's effort to win the Italian Grand Prix had come to a very definite halt. Stirling Moss' attempt to stay in touch and even move forward would also run out of steam. Fighting the pace of Fangio, Ascari and Farina, Moss continued to slip backwards. Very soon, the only way in which Moss would stay in touch with the leaders would be when they came around to put him more than one lap down.
Marimon's departure from the group left Fangio, Ascari and Farina battling it out for the lead of the race. Luigi Villoresi and Mike Hawthorn were left behind to fight amongst themselves. Even though Marimon had dropped out of the group, going into the final couple of laps, he would find himself uncomfortably involved in the proceedings at the front.
Heading into the final few laps, Marimon was back on the heels of the leading trio. The leading element would also find themselves catching Villoresi and Hawthorn. Obviously the race was over, at this point, for Hawthorn and Villoresi. Therefore, Hawthorn would back off and allow the leading crew to come through without issue. Villoresi would allow them through but would latch onto the back of the group for what would be the final lap of the race.
Up until this point of the season, Ferrari had managed to pull out a win in each and every World Championship race it had competed. This kept the consecutive winning streak going for the Ferrari 500 going despite there being some really close calls. Coming into the final turn, it was the two Ferraris of Ascari and Farina that were in front of Fangio. It seemed Ferrari would manage to hold off Maserati just one more time. However, the matter that needed to be decided would be which Ferrari driver would have the honor of earning the final win for the Ferrari 500. Farina had the lead and certainly wanted to win. Ascari; however, also wanted to score the victory. Going into the final corner, Ascari would try to swing out wide and would pray his car could hold. It would not. The car snapped around practically right in front of Farina. Farina would have to swerve to avoid hitting his teammate. When he did that, Fangio had been just far enough back and would come through into the lead of the race. Although Fangio would be able to come through into the lead of the race, and Farina would swerve enough to miss his teammate, Marimon would have nowhere to go and would run right into Ascari. Just hundreds of yards from the finish line, the double World Champion and the Ferrari 500 would come up short in its final race together.
Although Fangio had brought the Maserati across the line to take the victory, the events of the final corner had happened so suddenly and had caught many of the race officials off guard. Therefore, by the time they realized that it had been Fangio that had actually won the race, Fangio had already passed them and would continue on just for one more lap because he had thought, due to the lack of proper signals, that he still had one more lap to go. Surprisingly, even Farina thought the same. Fangio would lead Farina around for one more lap. By the time the two arrived from the extra lap the circuit was filling up with spectators and team members. Though a bit confused, Fangio would appreciatively take Maserati's first win in the World Championship. The most frustrating end to the race for Ascari was simply the fact that he had been within sight of the finish. As it were, he would end up retired from the race and his good friend Villoresi would finish the race 3rd one lap down. Villoresi's decision to keep his foot on it when compared to Hawthorn's backing off the pace certainly paid off that day.
While Ascari had crashed out of the race while in sight of the finish, another that would finish but wouldn't be in sight of much more than another lap down would be Stirling Moss. In the final Formula 2 World Championship race Moss would finish. Unfortunately for Moss and the Cooper Car Company team, he would finish worse off than what he had started, and, he would end up ten laps behind, or, what equated to being about twenty minutes behind Fangio at the finish. Obviously, the Cooper chassis was still behind in the performance department. And while there was nothing more that could be done for the World Championship, since it was over, there were still a number of non-championship races in which the team would compete before the end of the season. And while the rest of these races would take place back across the English Channel in the more familiar and welcoming confines of the British Isles, if the team continued to fight to improve, the team could experience some good results before the end of the season and before everything changed.
One week after the final round of the World Championship, the Cooper Car Company team would return to England for its third round at Crystal Palace. The third race, and final, race of the season on the 1.34 mile Crystal Palace Park circuit would be the 1st London Trophy race.
The two previous races at Crystal Palace would witness Cooper Car Company come with a single car effort and with different drivers each time. For the third trip to the circuit, the circuit would turn to one of its previous drivers. Stirling Moss, who had driven for the team in the Coronation Trophy race back in May, would come back and drive for the team in the 1st London Trophy race.
Just as with the two other races held at Crystal Palace, the format of the London Trophy race would include the use of heat races. However, the results would be determined according to aggregate time accumulated by each driver over the course of two 10 lap races.
Practice times before the start of the first heat would determine starting position. And in that practice session, it would be Stirling Moss that would come out on top. Therefore, Moss would earn the Cooper Car Company team its first pole of the season. Though on pole, Moss wouldn't have an easy time of things. Tony Rolt would start in 2nd place while Ron Flockhart would start 3rd. Both were driving Connaught A-Type chassis, and both were on the front row with Moss.
Moss would get a little bit of a reprieve going into the race as Flockhart wouldn't start the race. This ended up being a good thing as Moss would have all that he could handle during the race. From the time the flag waved to start the race, Moss had Rolt breathing down his neck. He and Rolt would have a side-by-side battle of their own for the period of then laps.
Despite being under great pressure throughout the 10 laps, Moss wouldn't whither. Instead, he would drive coolly and calmly. But that doesn't mean he had managed to break away from Rolt. Moss would go on to win the first heat. However, he would score the victory by just four-tenths of a second! Bob Gerard would finish a rather quiet 3rd. A future Formula One boss, a man by the name of Bernie Eccelestone, would finish the first heat 6th.
The same practice times from before the start of the first heat would serve to set the grid for the final heat as well. Therefore, it was Moss on the pole again joined on the front row again by Rolt, but also Ron Flockhart.
Taking full advantage of his second opportunity, Ron Flockhart would fly during the second heat. Flockhart would go on to turn what would be the fastest time of the second heat. However, it would not be enough to battle with Moss.
The first heat's finish had been too close. Therefore, Moss would set about making sure he couldn't be beaten. Although he would still have Rolt right behind him throughout the second heat, Tony would not be close enough to take advantage. Instead, Moss would cruise to a second victory. This time, the advantage over Rolt wouldn't be just four-tenths of a second. No, Moss' time would end up two and four-tenths seconds faster.
When added together, Stirling Moss would come out the winner of the London Trophy race by the margin of just three seconds. The Cooper factory effort had fought all season long, but it would leave Crystal Palance in 1953 a winner. Tony Rolt had been close throughout the day's racing but would come up just three seconds slower and would be relegated to a 2nd place finish. And though Ron Flockhart would come in 3rd in the second heat, his failure to take part in the first heat would cost him dearly. Instead, it would be Horace Gould that would finish in 2nd place.
This would have been the way to end the season, but it wouldn't be the end for the team. Not just yet anyway. There were still a number of non-championship races in which the team could really use to end the year on a real high.
The London Trophy race had been the third race of the season at Crystal Palace. Just one week after the race at Crystal Palace, the 26th September, the Cooper Car Company team would be in Goodwood for the second time on the year for the 6th Madgwick Cup.
As with the Lavant Cup all the way back in the early part of the year, the Madgwick Cup race would be short, just 7 laps, and would be just one of a number of races to take part on the 26th of September.
The last half of the season had been all about momentum. Heading into the Italian Grand Prix, Cooper Car Company had momentum on their side. At Monza, blessings continued to come their way as a result of the team's hard work and Stirling Moss' driving. While not even close to capable of competing against Ferrari and Maserati, Moss would keep his car running to the end. Though finishing outside the top ten, the team would still have many positives from the experience. Then, if the momentum had slowed any after Italy, it would get a shot in the arm with Moss' victory in the London Trophy race.
It was obvious things were really beginning to roll for the team. The goal, then, for the rest of the season, and a good indicator of the team's effort, would be if the good results could carry on through the rest of the season.
If practice was going to be any indication of things, then it seemed the team had been working hard and were going to be rewarded for the hard work. Stirling Moss wouldn't start from the pole as he had at Crystal Palace, but he would certainly be close. Roy Salvadori would actually grab the pole in his Connaught A-Type. However, Moss would start right beside him on the front row in the 2nd place starting position. Obviously, the front row was a good place to be. Tony Rolt and Bob Gerard would evidently think so as well as they would start 3rd and 4th respectively.
Tony Rolt had been plastered to Moss' rear end throughout the London Trophy race. He evidently wanted to exact some revenge, for as soon as the flag waved to start the race, Rolt was again climbing all over the back of Moss. Moss would take the threat and would match every tactic blow for blow. Unfortunately for Moss, this fighting would allow Salvadori to escape at the head of the field.
Over the course of the 7 lap race, the main battle around the 2.39 mile Goodwood circuit would consist of the fight between Moss and Rolt. While Salvadori would check out with a couple of second lead over Moss, Stirling would never have anything more than a single second lead over Rolt. Often times, Rolt's nose would edge right up to beside Moss, but just could not get past. But Rolt wouldn't give up.
As long as Moss and Rolt would battle it out Salvadori had little to worry about at the front battling him. He would just focus on hitting all of his marks and staying smooth for certainly Moss was being distracted by Rolt.
Salvadori would use the distraction, and a fastest lap time, to pull out an advantage over Moss of a little more than a few of seconds. This was more than enough. In exactly eleven minutes and fifteen seconds, Salvadori would come across the line to become champion of the Madgwick Cup race. Three seconds later, Stirling Moss would come across the line in 2nd place barely holding off a charging Tony Rolt that would finish in 3rd place by only four-tenths of a second.
While it wasn't two-straight victories, a tough 2nd place result was like another victory for the Cooper team. Over the past two races, the team had remained inside the top three and seemed to belong there. The hard work was paying off. Good things continued coming the team's way. And with just two races left in which the team would take part in 1953, it seemed the team was still heading in the right direction. Could they keep it together?
Over the course of the last couple of races, Stirling Moss and Tony Rolt had been doing their best to recreate the battles seen in the World Championship between Ferrari and Maserati. The only difference had been that it was taking place on a smaller scale and that it was all very British. However, just as with Ascari's spin and crash at Monza, the question remained while watching such displays, 'How long could these drivers keep this up without something going seriously wrong?' In the case of Stirling Moss and Tony Rolt, the answer would come crashing in during the very next race.
The next race of the 1953 season, at least in England, was also the second-to-last Formula 2 race of the season in Europe. The race was the 2nd Joe Fry Memorial Trophy race and it took place on the 1.83 mile Castle Combe circuit located in Chippenham, England.
Castle Combe was just another of those airbases turned motor racing circuits. The airfield opened in 1941 and would continue to be used by the RAF until 1948. Then, in 1950, the airfield would host its first races. This fast circuit would soon come to host everything from club races up to and including Formula 2 races. At 1.83 miles in length, the Castle Combe circuit featured average speeds only a little more than 80 mph during the early 1950s, but its fast corners would require a great deal of bravery and skill in order to be truly fast around the circuit.
In 1952, at the 1st Joe Fry Memorial Trophy race, Stirling Moss started from the pole. And while he had started on the pole, he would end up out of the race after just 6 laps. In 1953, Moss was looking for more of the same when it came to starting position, but, was looking for something better during the race. Unfortunately, he would get something worse.
The race would come roaring to life. The intense battle between Moss and Rolt would begin again in earnest. However, this time the battle would get a little too intense. During the very first lap of the race, the two would make contact. Moss would be sent barrel-rolling to an abrupt stop. Moss was hurt terribly. Rolt being a strong competitor, but not an inhuman, would end up stopping his Connaught and would come over to assist Moss extract himself from the car. Moss was damaged and would not be able to easily make his way out of the car. Soon, he would be out of the car and headed for some medical car. It would be later found that he had suffered a fractured shoulder in the accident.
With Moss all right, the focus could get back to the race. However, because of the accident, two of the favorites were out of the race. The Cooper team had suffered a blow it did not want to experience at the very end of the season. Still, the race would go on.
Rolt and Moss wouldn't be the only favorites that would exit the 20 lap race early. In fact Kenneth McAlpine and Roy Salvadori would all end up out of the race before it was half over. Of course, Salvadori's departure was frustrating since he was the defending champion of the race.
The misfortunes of many were advantages for a few. And Bob Gerard would do his best to take advantage of the situation. He would take his Cooper-Bristol T23 and would record what would be the fastest lap of the race. He would post a time of one minute and sixteen seconds. Posting such a time made it practically impossible for any one else to catch and stay with Gerard. Horace Gould and Ken Wharton would do their best but they just didn't have an answer for Gerard.
It would take Gerard a little less than twenty-six minutes to complete the 20 lap race. He would take the win by almost twenty-five seconds over Gould. Ken Wharton would follow in 3rd place another twenty-three seconds behind Gould. And once again, Stirling Moss appeared to be on the verge of a good result at Castle Comb, but again, would suffer an early retirement. In the case of the fractured shoulder, Moss would certainly face an early retirement to the 1953 season. Although the Cooper Car Company factory team would take part in one more race before the end of the season, Stirling Moss would not complete the season for the team.
Eric Thompson would have the honor of racing for Cooper Car Company in the final race of the 1953 season. The team would enter a Cooper-Alta for him in the 1st Curtis Trophy race held on the 17th of October at Snetterton in Norfolk, England.
Snetterton, like so many circuits in England, had been a Royal Air Force airfield during World War II. RAF Snetterton Heath would open in 1943 and would be designated for use by the United States Army Air Force. It would continue to be in active service until 1948. Then, when the airfield would be decommissioned, Snetterton would become another perfect setting to hold motor races in post war England. The circuit would consist of 1.95 miles of perimeter road and would boast two double-apex corners and three rather short straights. Because it had been an airbase, the ground was virtually featureless with the exception of the wartime buildings still present in the wide open area around the former airbase.
This was the Cooper factory's last opportunity to head into the off season, with a whole new set of regulations and changes coming for the following year, on a high note. As the race would get underway, the season would end up horribly wrong.
Ron Flockhart and Roy Salvadori would find their final efforts of the season come to an end even before the completion of the first lap. Joining them in retirement would be Eric Thompson. This was it for Cooper Car Company in 1953. The race was only 15 laps. It was certainly short enough that the team's car could circulate and end the season with a good result. Instead, the car, and the team, would end the season on one of the worse notes they could hit. It perhaps had only been eclipsed by the terrible accident Moss experienced just two weeks prior.
While the Cooper Car Company team would slowly pack up their equipment, upset with the end of the season, the race would go on. Bob Gerard had been untouchable at Castle Combe back on the 3rd of October. It seemed the cool autumn air helped Gerard to burn his brightest as he would literally dominate the field at Snetterton.
Only a handful of cars would make it to the end of the race, even though it was only a fifteen lap affair. However, out of that handful, only one would remain on the lead lap with Gerard. Gerard would post the fastest lap of the race and would go on to win by a margin of more than two minutes over Les Leston. Jimmy Somervall, though a lap down, would finish the race 3rd.
While the factory effort for Cooper experienced failure on the opening lap of the race, the event would still be yet another victory for the manufacturer. This was due to the fact that the top three finishers would all be driving Cooper chassis of some kind. So while the team may have struggled throughout the year, the basis was certainly there for the company to become one of the great manufacturers in grand prix history.
Moss' injury and Thompson's very early exit in the last couple of races certainly hurt Cooper Car Company's confidence going into the off season. The off season would be a time of change. The new Formula One regulations had been published. Cooper had to make some decisions. But at least with the new regulations, stability had come into the picture. Teams, like Cooper's factory effort, could expect certain regulations to remain the same, or at least remain similar, from year to year. This meant Cooper had the opportunity of building cars for his team without fear of them being outlawed the very next season. What this also meant was that people and manufacturers, like Cooper, could take the rules and design something that would be truly revolutionary and would take grand prix racing into a whole new future.Sources:
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