1950 Formula 1

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United Kingdom Joe Fry


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By Jeremy McMullen

It is said that women have a weakness for chocolate and that it brings comfort and pleasure. It is also said that behind any good man is a great woman. It would seem then there were many great women behind Joe Fry's motor-racing career. As a member of the Fry Chocolate family, Joe spent his time honing his racing skills, alongside his cousin David, instead of working in the family business. In time, Joe became one of the bright stars in Britain's motor racing scene. Joe, and his cousin David, caused the name Fry to be even more synonymous with motoracing as with chocolate.

Born in Chipping Sodbury in 1915, Fry, by his early twenties, was setting many hillclimbing records in the highly successful 'Freikaiserwagen' that David Fry co-created with Hugh Dunsterville. This car was noteworthy in that it was the first rear-engined car created and raced in hillclimbing events. Fry didn't just compete in the 'Freikaiserwagen'. Joe would race events in various other cars like the 4.5 liter Bugatti and Type 55 Bugatti. However, the combination of Fry and 'Freikaiserwagen' seemed to prove special. While developed further by David, the 'Freikaiserwagen', in the hands of cousin Joe, would enjoy abundant success in sprint and hillclimbing races. In the short run up to the second world war Joe and the 'Freikaiserwagen' set a number of hill records and a number of unofficial outright records, including one at Prescott.

At the outbreak of world war two, Fry would remain at the top of the record sheets in both the blown and un-blown categories at the Shelsley Walsh Hill Climb. After the end of the war and the resumption of racing, Fry picked up pretty much where he left off. In 1947, He would end up finishing second in class at the Brighton Speed Trials, but the next year would take the class victory. Fry would also take the class victory at Brighton again the following year.

1949 was a breakthrough year for Joe, if he hadn't already proved himself in hillclimbs and sprint races. In a reconstructed 'Freikaiserwagen', Fry set a brand new hill record at Shelsley Walsh. At the Blandford hillclimb, Joe would end up setting the fastest and winning time of the day at 31.13 seconds. Fry's second-place finish at the Bouley Bay Hill Climb in Jersey meant that he took the lead in the British Hill Climb Championship. Unfortunately, mechanical problems in following events would lead to Fry slipping to fourth overall in the 1949 championship.

All of this success and talent made Joe an obvious choice when it came to who would compete at the first event of Formula One's inaugural season, especially seeing that it would all begin at Silverstone in England. At the first race of Formula One's beginning, Joe Fry brought his own Maserati 4CL. Despite being a 4CL, Fry's Maserati was not the newer 4CLT, and it showed in qualifying. Despite all of the sprint and hillclimbing records, the best Fry could do was 20th on the starting grid, some 16 seconds off the qualifying time of Giuseppe Farina and his Alfa Romeo.

The race, however, fared better for Fry, who would co-drive his car with Brian Shawe-Taylor. Fry completed the first 45 laps, and then, turned the car over to Shawe-Taylor for what ended up being the remaining 19 laps. It was a 70 lap event, but Fry and Shawe-Taylor ended the race some 6 laps down. However, Fry and Shawe-Taylor finished the race, which is more than can be said for many other entries. Despite being the second-to-last running car on the track, Fry and Shawe-Taylor ended up the race coming home in 10th. Though they didn't score any points, they could brag about the fact they ended up the first race faring better then the eventual 5-time world champion Juan Manuel Fangio.

The descent finish at Silverstone, and all of his past records, meant that Fry was one of Britain's hopes for the future. However, it all came to a premature end just a couple of months after the Silverstone Grand Prix at the hillclimbing event at Blandford. Fry died in an accident behind the wheel of his 'Freikaiserwagen' during the event. There were so many things on the horizon for Fry that ended up coming to naught because of his death.

Fry, besides his own racing career, was investing in a new car design called the Gordano. The Gordano was intended to be designed with a 4 cylinder 1.5 liter engine with a chassis designed by Dick Caesar. Fry's death led to the project being scrapped and forever abandoned.

It is believed that too much of a good thing is actually unhealthy. The same is believed to be true concerning too much chocolate in one's diet. Despite beginnings in chocolate, Joe Fry developed a whole new successful family business in auto-racing. It appeared this business was on the verge of becoming a thriving enterprise, but like chocolate, too much diet of speed and danger ended up catching up to Joe Fry. Unfortunately, the very business Fry showed promise forever brought his career to an end.


500 Race contributors. 'Joe Fry.' The 500 Owners Association, Web. 13 Apr. 2010

Stowe, Peter. 'Motorsport in the Bristol Area.' Motorsport History; Some of My Special Interests,
Web. 13 Apr. 2010.

Wikipedia contributors. 'Joe Fry.' Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 5 Apr. 2010. Web. 13 Apr. 2010.