TeamsTony Gaze: 1952 Formula One Season By Jeremy McMullen
Ask just about any British citizen who Douglas Bader was and he or she would be rather quick to recall who he was. However, ask who Bader's wingman was and it would be almost certain to receive some blank stares or other pondering gestures. Such is Tony Gaze's life—almost always lost in the shadows. This is so much the case that Gaze would even be the inspiration for a book about himself called Almost Unknown.
Born in Australia in 1920, Gaze had the fortune of being part of some of the most important events in history, especially Formula One and grand prix racing history. Though 'Almost Unknown', Gaze's life is filled with incredible moments of purpose and fulfillment, but usually gets lost amidst the company he kept.
Amazingly, Melbourne-born Aussie would play a part in some of the most famous events in history. And he wouldn't just take part in one event; they seemed to just keep revolving around the man. Gaze's life would read like one of those fairytale books for boys where every important event in history revolves around the hero. In the case of Gaze it isn't fiction, but fact.
Gaze's highlights begin with the outbreak of World War II. During the first days of the war and the Battle of Britain Gaze, who was only 21, would be Douglas Bader's wingman. Then, once Bader had been shot down and imprisoned in Colditz Castle throughout the remainder of the war, Gaze would fly wingman to another British ace, Johnnie Johnson. Johnson would end up being the highest scoring allied ace in the European theater with 38 victories.
Gaze would achieve an impressive record himself. He would end up Australia's tenth highest ace earning 12.5 victories in the air. He would end up being shot down during combat but would manage to escape from occupied France with the help of the French Resistance. Upon returning to England he would get right back into the war. He eventually would fly a total of 488 combat missions during World War II, but his list of achievements don't begin to end there.
Toward the end of the war, Gaze would become the first Squadron Leader of an allied jet air wing to operate over enemy territory. He would also have the distinction of being the first allied pilot to land in France after D-Day. He would also be the first Australian to shoot down a jet. What's more, he would shoot down the jet with a propeller aircraft; the first to do so.
As part of the famous Tangmere Wing, Gaze wouldn't just fly with Bader and Johnson, Gaze would also fly with another well known name lost in the shadow of another. While part of the Tangmere Wing, Gaze would fly with a pilot by the name of Paul Tibbets. Tibbets was the pilot of a rather well known aircraft called the Enola Gay.
Although Gaze would lose his command as squadron leader of the 64th Eagle Squadron due to too many loses, he would be too important for the Royal Air Force to lose altogether. In the end, besides his record as a war ace, Gaze would also earn some other awards including three awards of the Distinguished Flying Cross.
Gaze's history in motor racing doesn't exactly start at the conclusion of the war, but just before it. As a very young man, Gaze would compete in one race at the old Brooklands Circuit in 1939. While his record in the air was rather remarkable, for the motor racing enthusiast, Gaze's contribution and importance resulted on his days off.
While based at Tangmere, one of the satellite airfields used for emergencies was Westhampnett. Then, in 1940, the airfield was upgraded and actually hosted squadrons of hurricanes. Part of its upgrade consisted of a concrete perimeter road around the airfield. The nicely finished concrete perimeter road seemed, to Gaze and fellow pilot 'Dickie' Stoop, to be the perfect location to go racing. And, on their days off, the two would be seen in their MGs racing around the airfield.
Due to being based so close, and travelling so often to Westhampnett to go 'racing', Gaze got to know the Duke of Richmond on whose lands the RAF Westhampnett airfield had been built. Gaze floated the proposal by the Duke and Freddie March that the perimeter road would be the ideal motor racing circuit to take over for Brooklands which had been closed for a while.
The Duke of Richmond had been a motor racing enthusiast looking for someplace to race since Brooklands had closed. Then, in the wake of the war's end, a number of former airbases, like Silverstone, were being transformed into motor racing circuits. The Duke of Richmond, who held the title to the lands on which Westhampnett had been built, decided to turn the airfield into a motor racing venue. Seeing that the airfield was situated on Goodwood Estates, Westhampnett would become known as the Goodwood Circuit.
Immediately after the end of the war, Gaze would start racing. However, he would start racing back in his native Australia. Then, in 1951, Gaze would return to England to drive an Alta chassis in Formula 2.
In 1952 events would take place to allow Gaze to add another moment to his already impressive list of life experiences. Providence had seen fit to have the race organizers and governing-body for the relatively new Formula One World Championship to switch to Formula 2 regulations for the 1952 and '53 seasons.
The departure of Alfa Romeo at the end of 1951 left on Scuderia Ferrari at the top of the list of contenders for the World Championship in 1952. The out-of-control costs were also contributing to the lack of competition. This situation needed to be rectified. However, the organization needed time, something they didn't really have. Therefore, upon investigation, it was decided to run the 1952 and 1953 seasons according to Formula 2 regulations. Formula 2 had proven to be a bit more competitive and somewhat less expensive. The organizers believed they had their answer, and Tony Gaze had found his opportunity.
In 1952, Gaze's season would start at the very location he helped inspire to get off the ground—Goodwood. Still featuring some of the concrete hard pads that would have been used for parked aircraft, Goodwood welcomed teams, cars, drivers and fans for its Easter Monday races.
The Goodwood Circuit hosted a series of races on Easter Monday. One of those races was the 4th Lavant Cup race. The race consisted of 6 laps of the 2.39 mile road course made up of the perimeter road around the former Westhampnett airfield. New to the road course for 1952 was the addition of a chicane at the head of the start/finish straight in an attempt to slow the cars down.
Gaze was present at the circuit with an Alta F2. He would face talent from around the British Isles. Most notable amongst those Gaze would race against was a young Mike Hawthorn.
Goodwood was a great place for smaller teams to come and compete. Most of the races were short affairs, which kept the attrition low and the racing tight. In the 4th Lavant Cup race, the racing was tight for every position except the winner.
Nobody touch Mike Hawthorn during the short race. Hawthorn would go on to set the fastest lap of the race with an average speed in excess of 84 mph. With an average speed well in excess of 84 mph, Hawthorn would cruise to victory by twenty-one seconds over Ecurie Richmond's two cars driven by Alan Brown and Eric Brandon.
Although Hawthorn thoroughly had beaten the rest of the field, the competition amongst the rest was quite tight. Brown held off his Ecurie Richmond teammate for 2nd place by only a second. Tony Gaze was locked in a battle with the Ferrari 166 of Bill Dobson and the Frazer-Nash of Lawrence Mitchell. In the end, Gaze would manage to finish the race a respectable 5th.
This was a rather good warm-up for Gaze who would take part in another race later on in the afternoon.
The race later on in the afternoon was the 4th Richmond Trophy race. Named after the Duke of Richmond, a friend and whom Gaze approached about making Westhampnett into a motor racing venue, Gaze no doubt desired a good result in the 12 lap race. There was only one little problem. The Richmond Trophy race allowed Formula One cars to compete.
Gaze, with his underpowered Alfa F2 chassis, would have to face a couple of Formula One machines in the race. Most notable amongst the Formula One cars entered was the Ferrari 375 that had Jose Froilan Gonzalez at the wheel. The Ferrari 375 had become the dominant car in Formula One from the middle of the 1951 season onwards. Gonzalez, in fact, had earned Scuderia Ferrari's first World Championship victory in a 375 at the British Grand Prix held at Silverstone. This was a very potent competitor in the field.
In addition to the Ferrari 375 present, there was also an aged Talbot-Lago T26C entered as well. It would be driven by Duncan Hamilton. While it would seem the two Formula One cars would thoroughly dominate the field, a number of new Formula 2 cars had been built and were present as well. Mike Hawthorn, who had won the Lavant Cup race earlier in the afternoon was also entered in the race. George Abecassis was also present with his new HWM-Alta Formula 2 car.
In practice, the new Formula 2 cars showed well. While Gonzalez would prove the fastest, and would take the pole, Abecassis would take his HWM-Alta and would end up being the second-fastest in practice. Tony Rolt, driving an older Delage 15S8, would be third-fastest in practice. Graham Whitehead would even manage to take the old ERA B-Type R10B and would start the 12 lap race from the 4th place position on the front row.
Compared to the rest of the field, Gaze was outpaced. There would only be fourteen that would start the race. Gaze, despite his experience around the circuit, which included when it wasn't even a circuit, would start the race from dead-last on the starting grid.
The older, powerful Delage and ERA chassis would be tested even in the short 12 lap race. On the 3rd lap, Rolt's race would come to an end due to an engine failure in the Delage. One lap later, Beb Gerard would also retire from the race due to an engine failure in his B-Type ERA.
Hawthorn had made a great start and was amongst the very top of the front-runners. Gonzalez, using the superior handling and power of the Ferrari 375, was in the lead and was pushing out an advantage over the rest of the field. Gaze was trying to make his way from last on the starting grid. This was not an easy task considering the more-powerful, although older, chassis in front of him.
Throughout the 12 laps, Hawthorn and Hamilton battled it out for 2nd place. This was impressive considering Hawthorn was in a Formula 2 Cooper-Bristol T20 and Hamilton was in a Formula One Talbot-Lago T26C.
Unbothered by anything, Gonzalez would cruise to the victory. He wouldn't be pressed at all as he would manage to finish the race with a thirty-six second margin over 2nd place. The reason for the margin was due to the fact the car chasing him was a Formula 2 chassis and it was too busy fending off another Formula One car. Hawthorn would drive an incredible race in the Cooper-Bristol to finish in 2nd place. Seven seconds behind Hawthorn, Hamilton would finish 3rd.
While Hawthorn was battling with the Formula One cars for glory, Gaze was battling just to finish. Although two would fall out of the race due to engine problems, Gaze would not move forward any more than what the two retirements gave him. Gaze would follow another Alta F2 chassis, driven by Gordon Watson, home in 12th, and last, place.
After the mixed results at Goodwood, Gaze would wait almost a month before he would race again. When he decided to enter another race it would be another on the decommissioned airfield circuit throughout Britain.
War is filled with tragedy. However, the Royal Air Force State Silverstone would begin its civilian life as a motor racing circuit with a tragedy as well. An impromptu race held on the station in 1947 would end in tragedy when a sheep, which on wandered onto the airfield during the race, would be struck and killed.
In spite of the death, Silverstone would become the home of the British Grand Prix and would quickly become the home of British Grand Prix racing. Similar to Goodwood, its course too utilizes the old perimeter road around the circuit. However, the first circuit layout actually used the cruciform runway layout to create an 'X-like' circuit design. This was abandoned for the 1949 International Trophy race in 1949 for the more familiar circuit layout which made Silverstone famous.
On the 10th of May in 1952 Silverstone served as host for the 4th BRDC International Trophy race. The previous years, the International Trophy race had been a Formula One race. In 1952, like the decision with the World Championship rounds, the race would be held according to Formula 2 regulations.
Another hoped for change would have to do with the weather. The previous year was more suited to fish or ducks than grand prix cars. A deluge ended up leading to the final race being called after only 6 laps. Everyone hoped and longed for good weather and good competition during the 1952 edition.
The International Trophy race consisted of two heat races and a final. The entire field would be split up into the two heats. Finishing times from the 15 lap heat races were then used to determine the starting grid for the 35 lap final.
Gaze would be included in the first heat along with Mike Hawthorn, Jean Behra for Equipe Gordini and two HWM-Alta pilots Peter Collins and Lance Macklin. Just in the first heat alone, seventeen would prepare to start the 15 lap race.
Back at Goodwood a month prior, Mike Hawthorn had managed to mix it up with some of the Formula One cars. While Silverstone, at 2.88 miles, was a half mile longer, Hawthorn would prove more than capable against the rest of the Formula 2 competitors in the first heat. Hawthorn's fastest lap in practice would be two minutes flat. This would earn the Brit the pole-position.
Starting beside Hawthorn on the four-wide front row would be Peter Collins in his HWM-Alta. Collins' best time was two seconds slower than Hawthorn but still good enough for 2nd on the grid. Collins would be able to start 2nd because he barely beat out Jean Behra, who had also turned in a two minute and two second lap. However, Behra's time was just a fraction slower. Finishing off the front row would be another HWM-Alta driver. Lance Macklin's best time in practice was just three seconds slower than Hawthorn and good enough for the last position on the front row.
Gaze looked a good deal better against a field of Formula 2 cars than what he had against some Formula 2 and Formula One cars. Gaze's best time was six seconds slower than Hawthorn. This would end up planting him firmly in the middle of the starting field in 9th place. He would join Prince Bira, Johnny Claes and Bill Aston on the third row.
Scoring the victory in the heat wasn't as important as finishing with as fast a time as possible. Therefore, the 15 lap first heat seemed like a parade or exhibition race. There was very little in the way of movement in the running order. Unfortunately for Kenneth Downing and Bill Aston, their cars decided they just didn't want to compete at all. Both would retire due to problems.
At the front of the field, Hawthorn would come under fire from Jean Behra who had gotten around Peter Collins. Only Behra was really pressing the issue. He and Hawthorn would trade fastest lap times during the heat race. Everyone else seemed willing to hold position in order to make it to the final. Some, compared to Hawthorn's and Behra's pace, seemed to be out on Sunday cruises.
Hawthorn would manage to hold off Behra by two seconds to take the win in the first heat. In the 3rd place position would be Peter Collins. Three drivers would end the race not classified due to being too slow around the circuit. Two of these three, including Johnny Claes and Ted Lund, would end up down by four laps by the end of the heat. Fortunately for Gaze, he wasn't the third that ended up not classified.
Gaze just couldn't keep up to the pace of Hawthorn and Behra. In the end, he would end up a lap down in 10th place. Toward the end of the heat, despite needing to have a fast finishing time to have a good starting position, Gaze could back off as he was under no threat for his position. The closest to him was Toni Ulmen, but he would end fifty-one seconds behind.
The second heat race featured another fast Equipe Gordini driver, Robert Manzon. He had to contend with the gentleman racer Rudolf Fischer and his Ferrari 500 chassis. Also amongst the second heat competitors was the reigning champion of the event, Reg Parnell.
Although a second slower in practice, nobody in the second heat would end up as fast as Manzon. As a result, he would start from the pole. Robert's time was two minutes and one second. The 2nd, 3rd and 4th place starters would also post times within two minutes and two seconds. However, Kenneth McAlpine would end up the fastest of the three and would start 2nd. Fischer would start 3rd. Crowd-favorite, Duncan Hamilton, would start the second heat from the 4th position on the front row.
The pace in the second heat was fierce right from the waving of the green flag. McAlpine could not handle the pace and would begin to slip down the running order. The man pressing the issue, for the most part, was Fischer. He was hard after Manzon and would manage to turn in a lap time of one minute and fifty-eight seconds in the midst of his pursuit.
This pace would prove to be too much for some other drivers as well. Duncan Hamilton's race would come to an end from 4th place after his HWM-Alta suffered from differential troubles. Even Reg Parnell would struggle and was forced to retire from the race.
In spite of the pressure mounted by Fischer, Manzon would carry on to the victory. He would defeat Fischer by the same margin Hawthorn had managed to hold on over Behra. HWM-Alta's Tony Rolt would end up finishing the race 3rd.
Compared to the pace of the front-runners of each heat race, Gaze's pace in the first heat was rather sedated. As a result of the lack of speed, he would start the 35 lap from the fifth row in the 17th position.
Everyone on the front row, including the HWM-Alta of Rolt starting on the second row in 5th position, had managed to finish their 15 lap heat race in under thirty-one minutes. The fastest of them all would be Manzon. Fischer's pace in his heat race assured he would start in the 2nd position. Hawthorn and Behra occupied 3rd and 4th on the front row.
Of the four that started on the front row, only one of them would finish in the top four. The troubles started right away. Manzon's final would come to an end after just one lap when his T16 developed transmission problems. Not to be left out, Manzon would be joined by his Equipe Gordini teammate two laps later with the same problem. With Manzon and Behra out it seemed the door was open for Hawthorn and Fischer to take the victory.
Hawthorn seemed to want to take advantage of the opportunity. He would turn the fastest lap of the race with a lap of one minute and fifty-nine seconds. However, just as it seemed assured Hawthorn would take the victory he too began to fade and drop down the running order. Surprisingly, Fischer, who had pressed Manzon terribly throughout the second heat, too was suffering.
The door to the race was throw wide open, but not wide enough for Gaze. Tony was mired down in the field competing against cars with similar pace to his own. However, it would be two seemingly long-shots that would rise to the top.
About every nine laps it became abundantly clear Gaze was not going to take the win at the International Trophy race. However, with the troubles suffered by those on the front row, the race was thrown wide open for a number of other racers that many would not have given a chance before the race started.
Lance Macklin had started the final from the 10th position on the grid. However, with just a turn remaining, he found himself all-alone and on the verge of victory. He would cross the line 1st and with a ten second advantage over the 5th place starter, Tony Rolt. Emmanuel de Graffernried, driving an incredibly aged and heavily revised Maserati 4CLT/48, would surprise everyone by coming home in 3rd place.
Gaze had plenty of opportunities to offer his congratulations to Macklin over the course of the race. By the end of the race, Gaze would manage to finish, albeit four laps down, in 16th.
After the results at the International Trophy race it was abundantly clear the Alta F2-1 just didn't have what was needed to be competitive, even in Formula 2. If Gaze had any aspirations of taking part in a World Championship race he would need a different chassis, or at least an updated one. After Silverstone, Gaze would take order of an HWM-Alta 51/52 chassis. Almost one month after Silverstone, he would debut with the new chassis. In order to see exactly how he and the new chassis compared to the competition he would head across to the European mainland for Italy.
In the northern part of Italy rests one of the earliest purpose-built motor racing circuit in all the world. Located just miles north of the town of Monza in the Royal Villa of Monza is the Autodromo di Monza. Boasting no fewer than three different circuits, Monza followed the route of other circuits like Montlhery and Brooklands and featured a banked oval in addition to a road course. In the same way, it was possible for the banked oval to be combined with the road course to make a much longer circuit. This arrangement would be used for grand prix races throughout the 1920s. However, the oval would be deemed to dangerous even by the 1950s. Therefore, the only portion used for races at Monza was the actual road course. In 1952, the road course layout measured 3.91 miles in length and seemed only minimally slowly than the oval itself. Except for the Lesmo and Vedano corners, the rest of the circuit was taken practically flat-out providing some incredible average speeds over the course of a lap.
In 1952, Monza hosted the best of the grand prix world a couple of times. One of the first important events held at the circuit was the one in which Gaze would debut in his HWM-Alta. The race was the 5th Gran Premio dell'Autodromo di Monza and it was held on the 8th of June.
The Grand Prix of Monza would make it two races in a row for Gaze that featured heat races in its format. However, the format, when compared to the International Trophy race, was rather different. In the first place, the race consisted of two 35 lap heat races and no final. Unlike the race at Silverstone, every entry would take part in the first heat. Finishing times in the first heat would determine the starting order for the second heat. In addition, the final results were determined by the aggregate time earned by each competitor over the course of the two heat races.
In the second and final races at Silverstone, Gaze had to face a Ferrari 500 chassis. However, that Ferrari 500 was driven by a small team owner Rudolf Fischer. At Monza, Gaze would face the whole might of Scuderia Ferrari. By this time, the Ferrari 500 chassis had earned victory at the first round of the World Championship and a number of other non-championship races. It was known to be good. Besides Scuderia Ferrari and its powerful chassis, Maserati would also arrive in Monza with a full-force of new A6GCM chassis.
Practice would make it real clear just how the race would go. Alberto Ascari, back from the United States, would turn the fastest lap in practice and would take the pole. In 2nd place would be his Scuderia Ferrari teammate and former World Champion Giuseppe Farina. The final two spots on the front row would be occupied by Jose Froilan Gonzalez in a Maserati A6GCM and Luigi Villoresi in another Ferrari 500. In fact, the top six would be taken by either Scuderia Ferrari or Officine Alfieri Maserati drivers.
Armed with a more-potent weapon, Gaze would prove to be capable of competing. In practice, Gaze would push his new mount hard. The pace would prove rewarding. Although he would not start on the first, or second, rows Gaze would prove impressive. He would end up starting on the outside of the third row in 12th place. In total, twenty-nine would line up for the start of the race.
At the start of the first heat race, trouble would visit a number of the competitors. Three entries would be out of the race after the 1st lap of the race. Juan Manuel Fangio, the reigning World Champion, would end up crashing after completing the 2nd lap. He had arrived tired due to driving all through the night from Paris. The usually perfect driver would end up crashing off the side of the circuit seriously threatening his life. There would be many others that would end up falling out of the race after him.
Someone carrying on without even a hint of trouble was Alberto Ascari. He had taken the lead from the start and had gradually increased his advantage over Farina and the rest of the field. Like many others in the field, the pace was too much, even for Gaze's new car. The pace would also help contribute to eight others falling out before the completion of the first heat race.
Although he was pushing hard, Gaze would see Ascari pass him five times before the end of the first heat. Ascari would go on to take the victory easily. He would end up with a margin of over a minute on Farina in 2nd. Andre Simon, another Scuderia Ferrari driver, would end up one lap down in 3rd place. The pace was such that Gaze would actually end the first heat not classified according to Ascari's results.
Even though he was not classified at the end of the first heat race, Gaze had a decision to make. He was not classified according to finishing time Alberto Ascari had managed to achieve over the course of the first 35 laps. If Gaze continued to run in the second heat, and Ascari had troubles that dropped him out of the race, Gaze would be right back in it. Gaze would have faith and would hope for providence to afford him another opportunity to be part of something great.
As a result of the finishing results from the first heat, Ascari would start on the pole for the second, and final, race. Farina would start 2nd. Andre Simon would start 3rd followed by Felice Bonetto in 4th position on the front row. Gaze would start out worse than he had in the first heat. Instead of starting 12th, he would start 16th. But the most important thing was that he was starting.
At the start, it seemed it Gaze hadn't made a good decision to run except for gaining more track time with the new car. Ascari had the lead and was beginning to pull away. It seemed things would just unfold as they had in the first heat. But then, 14 laps in, Gaze's decision seemed prophetic. Despite being so much faster than the rest of the field, Ascari's race would come to an end due to a camshaft failure.
In spite of starting dead-last, Gaze was now in the running and managing to move his way forward. Farina, gifted with the lead, would gladly take it and also disappear.
Because of Ascari's failure, and those of others, Gaze was running in the top ten as the end of the race neared. Unfortunately, Farina's pace was proving to be just as damaging as what Ascari's was.
Farina would win the second heat with his smooth style. He would use his smooth style to pull out an advantage of a minute and a half over Andre Simon who would finish 2nd. Another seemingly out of the hunt before the start of the second heat, Rudolf Fischer would end up two laps down in 3rd place. Although four laps down at the end, Gaze would manage to finish the second heat in the 8th position. His perseverance seemed as though it would pay off.
While Gaze would improve his position after the end of the first heat, he would end up being dealt the same hand. Giuseppe Farina would take the overall victory. He would end up with a lap advantage over Simon who would finish 2nd. Though four laps down, Fischer would end up in 3rd place.
Gaze had fought hard. Unfortunately, the aggregate results would end up not rewarding the effort as much as what he had been hoping. At the end of over two and a half hours of racing, Gaze would end up not classified.
Although he had not earned that good of a result, Tony had faced the best competition there was in grand prix racing in 1952. He had gained some important experience and had come to realize what he needed to do in order to find some success. The question was whether the double-ace could make the necessary changes in order to be successful. One part of the answer would come a couple of weeks later in Belgium.
The third round of the World Championship, which would end up being Tony Gaze's first-ever round, was the Belgian Grand Prix. The race was held at another ultra-fast circuit, the 8.77 mile Spa-Francorchamps Circuit.
Unlike Monza, the Spa-Francorchamps consisted entirely of public roads. Near Francorchamps, Belgium in the Ardennes forest, the road course featured a number of elevation changes and blindingly-fast corners, some of which had blind entries. Although it was incredibly fast, there were very few actual straight portions of the circuit. The high average speeds came from the sweeping corners that required a great deal of bravery and skill in order to be fast. Fast, and equally dangerous, Spa-Francorchamps; nevertheless, was one of the most popular circuits with the drivers, as well as, the spectators.
The circuit's position in the Ardennes caused it to have similar unpredictable weather as that throughout the majority of England. On a fast and dangerous circuit like Spa, the rain only made things worse. At portions of the circuit like the climbing left-hand corner at Eau Rouge and the fast Masta Kink, the rain would make the circuit very treacherous.
At least during practice the circuit remained dry, and the average speeds reflected the fact. Fastest of all of the competitors, not surprisingly, would be Alberto Ascari. He would circulate the 8.77 mile circuit in four minutes and thirty-seven seconds. This time would end up being three seconds faster than the next-closest competitor. The next-closest competitor would be the former World Champion and fellow Ferrari teammate Giuseppe Farina. Six seconds would separate Farina from the other Ferrari teammate Piero Taruffi. Taruffi, who had won the first round of the World Championship at Bremgarten, would end up turning a lap of four minutes and forty-six seconds. Despite being nine seconds slower than Ascari, Taruffi would still manage to take the 3rd, and final, spot on the front row of the grid.
Being the first allied pilot to land on occupied Europe during World War II, Gaze was familiar with this part of Europe. However, his experience in a race car would prove no match compared to that of Ascari and others. In practice, the best time Gaze would garner around the circuit would be a lap time of five minutes and twenty seconds. This was almost forty-five seconds slower than Ascari's best. As a result of the rather sedated trip around the circuit, Gaze would start the race from the seventh row and the 16th position.
Being amidst a World War and living as long as he had in England, Gaze had grown accustomed to dealing with inhospitable weather and circumstances. However, Spa in a grand prix car; in the rain, was something else entirely. This was exactly what the entire field had to contend with the day of the race.
The rain had already been falling on the circuit before the race even began. This meant there were literally no dry spots out on the circuit. The pace would be much slower. The drivers needed to tip-toe to ensure their cars gripped the track. Otherwise, it would be very easy to slide off the track and out of the race.
The treacherous conditions were apparent right at the start of the race. Instead of Ascari leading right from the start and pulling away, he would carefully make his way up Eau Rouge and down the long straight to Les Combe. Ascari would even find himself threatened by one of the Equipe Gordini drivers, Jean Behra.
In the wet conditions Behra was looking quite comfortable. He would even manage to lead a lap. However, on the 2nd lap of the race, Ascari would do his best to stamp his authority on the race. He would manage to turn what would end up being the fastest lap of the race on the 2nd lap. The lap time would end up being a little more than two and a half minutes slower than his best practice effort, but it would be enough for him to stretch out a margin over the rest of the field.
In spite of the wet conditions, the majority of the very early retirements were the result of mechanical problems and not mistakes behind the wheel. But then, as the first-third of the race was being completed, the conditions began to catch out some of the competitors.
Ken Wharton would end up spinning off the track on the 10th lap. Then, on the 13th lap of 36, Piero Taruffi would spin his Ferrari 500. He would spin and collide with Jean Behra. The damage from the collision was too much to allow Behra to continue and he; therefore, retired from the race as well.
This left Ascari all-alone out at the front of the field. All of the retirements and accidents were also leaving Gaze all-alone at the end of the field.
Ascari would dominate the rest of the field over the course of the remaining portions of the race. He would end up crossing the line and taking the victory by almost two minutes over Giuseppe Farina. In spite of being over seven minutes per lap in the rain, only the top three would remain on the lead lap. Thankfully for Manzon, who would finish 3rd, a lap was taking seven minutes. Otherwise he too would have come under threat of being lapped before the end of the race. As it were, he would finish down four and a half minutes by the end of the three hours of racing.
Although he had lived and served all those years in England during World War II, nothing could help Gaze turn a faster pace in the wet conditions around the Spa Circuit. Of course, Gaze was racing under his own name. The costs associated with a broken race car were absorbed directly by him. Therefore, Gaze would decide 'discretion was the better part of valor' and would concentrate on bringing the car home in one piece. Although six laps down at the end, he would do just that. Gaze, though not classified in the end, would be the last car still running in the 15th position.
The wet conditions at Spa would make for a difficult first race for Gaze in the World Championship. The conditions also made it difficult to determine how he and the HWM-Alta stacked up against the competition after Monza. Gaze would skip the fourth round of the World Championship, which was another three hour test at Rouen-Les-Essarts for the French Grand Prix. Instead of taking part in the fourth round of the World Championship, Gaze decided to wait in order to take part in the fifth round of the World Championship for his next race. It would provide Gaze a chance to return to a familiar setting and avenge for a frustrating earlier race.
Like Monza, Silverstone hosted a number of important races throughout the racing season. Also like the Monza Grand Prix back in early June, Silverstone had already hosted the International Trophy race in May. Then, in mid-July, the circuit would host, for the 7th time, the British Grand Prix.
Back in May, Gaze had managed to finish the BRDC International Trophy race, but he had done so well down in the order, and with an older chassis. This time he was coming to the circuit with a new chassis and renewed hopes despite the presence of such international competition.
A good deal of the competition would come from 'local' racers. A number of United Kingdom racers would help to generate a field of thirty-two entries for the fifth round of the World Championship on the 19th of July. Local racers with Formula 2 cars were not going to miss the opportunity the organizers provided them.
Although the field was filled with more local talent, none could outdo the drivers from Scuderia Ferrari during practice. Throughout practice, the battle for the fastest lap time was down to just two drivers, Alberto Ascari and Giuseppe Farina. In the battle between Ascari and Farina, it would end up being Farina that would end up grabbing the pole. Both he and Ascari would turn laps of one minute and fifty seconds, but Farina's time would end up being just slightly faster.
In the battle for the two remaining positions on the front row, Piero Taruffi had an advantage with the Ferrari 500 chassis and would take advantage of it to ensure Scuderia Ferrari started one, two and three. Robert Manzon, who had raced well at Silverstone back in May, would end up starting the race 4th for Equipe Gordini.
The fastest lap time turned during the International Trophy race back in May of 1952 was turned by Rudolf Fischer. His time around the 2.88 mile circuit would be one minute and fifty-eight seconds. Just a couple of months later, a one minute and fifty-eight second lap would only end up being good enough for a fourth row starting position. Unless Gaze could dramatically pick up his time from his previous Silverstone start, he would end up well down in the field. Unfortunately, he could not. Gaze's best time in practice would be a lap of two minutes and five seconds. While still a rather respectable time, it would only be good enough for Tony to start from the eighth row in the 26th position.
The start of the race would see Farina spin his tires too much while Ascari immediately shot off the line into the lead before the first turn. The spinning of the tires at the start would end up costing Farina who would end up being swallowed up by many of the other competitors.
In the lead of the race, Ascari began to stretch his advantage over his teammates and the rest of the competitors. One of his main threats, Robert Manzon, would end up dropping out of the race only 9 laps into the race due to a clutch failure. On the very same lap, Ascari would turn what would end up being the fastest lap of the race. His lap time would only be two seconds slower than his 2nd place starting time and would cause a number of other competitors to fall out of contention including Gaze.
Only 20 laps into the race problems developed for Gaze. Because of the incredible pace, Gaze had been pushing his HWM-Alta hard. It would end up being a little too hard as the car's Alta engine would end up blowing a head gasket thereby ending the day for Gaze.
It really didn't matter all that much. Ascari had led from the very first lap. He would go on to absolutely dominate the field over the course of the 85 laps. It would only take two hours and forty-four minutes for Alberto to complete the 248 miles. He would end up crossing the line having lapped the entire field.
Piero Taruffi would end up finishing a defeated 2nd place. Another lap separated Taruffi from the 3rd place finisher. In spite of the Ascari exhibition, the British fans would find a reason to stand up and cheer. Mike Hawthorn would prove his World Championship caliber talent as he would manage to bring his over-matched Cooper-Bristol T20 home to a 3rd place finish. In fact, Hawthorn would lead home a British barrage. British drivers would end up finishing their home grand prix in 3rd, 4th, 5th, 7th, 8th, 9th and 10th. This was an amazing result in spite of the dominant performance by Ascari.
Unfortunately for Gaze, it wouldn't be a great day for Australians. Despite being the first Australian to take part in the World Championship, Gaze didn't have anything but failure and non classification to show for the effort. He needed things to turn around. He would look to one of the most challenging and dangerous circuits in the world to find hope.
On the 3rd of August, Nurburg, Germany played host to the sixth round of the World Championship. This meant the World Championship would be held on the 14 mile long notorious Nordschleife.
Only a handful of drivers had come to be considered Ringmeisters. The Nordschleife was intriguing and disliked all at the same time. Situated in the Eifel mountains, the circuit seemed to endlessly twist left and right, up and down. Each lap seemed near to an eternity and flirted with danger every moment of a lap. The dangers of the circuit nearly caused drivers to hold their breath throughout each circulation of the circuit. Drivers seemingly could only take a breath of relief once on the long straight leading back to the first turn.
Familiar with danger being a former fighter pilot in the Battle of Britain, Gaze believed he was up to the challenge the Nordschleife posed. The one advantage Gaze did have over his fellow competitors was the fact he had grown accustomed to the constant twists and turns of dogfighting which required a great feel and concentration, and above all, a will to do it.
At the German Grand Prix, Gaze, as well as the rest of the field, would face an Alberto Ascari on the hunt for his first World Championship title. He had come close the season before. However, throughout 1952, Ascari had been absolutely dominant. The World Championship was well within his grasp. He had the opportunity to take the title for himself at the German Grand Prix. All he really needed to do was score the victory. Therefore, he was intent on leaving the Nordschleife, despite its reputation, with a victory.
Sure enough, Ascari's intentions became quite clear during practice. He would be fast right away. Then, he would turn in a lap around the 14 mile circuit of ten minutes and four seconds. This time would end up being just about three seconds faster than Giuseppe Farina's best time. The two Ferrari drivers would be joined on the front row by two Equipe Gordini drivers. Maurice Trintignant would start 3rd after recording a lap time fifteen seconds slower than Ascari. Robert Manzon would then take the 4th, and final, spot on the front row with a time twenty-one seconds slower.
Already used to the nature of dogfighting, which consists of constant movement and lurking danger, Gaze seemed right at home on the Nordschleife and would look impressive during practice. His best time would enable him to start from the fourth row in the 14th position.
At many circuits, the drivers race each other and not so much the circuit. At the Nordschleife; however, the circuit posed as much of a threat as another competitor. Each lap, each corner, required intense focus. On top of the dangers the circuit itself posed, the constant acceleration, braking, twisting and turning absolutely beat a car to death each and every lap. This fact would become very clear when the race got underway.
As the field left the grid to start the 1st lap, Ascari had taken the lead and was straining to stretch out an advantage. While the goal was either a victory or a points-paying result, attrition was in a race to catch what cars he could. Any lapse of concentration, or weakness in the car, and it would be taken advantage of by attrition. Trintignant would lose his concentration for just a split second on the 1st lap. As a result, he would suffer an accident that would lead him to retire from the race. Three other competitors would have trouble with gearboxes and brakes. In all, eight competitors would not make it around for the completion of the 1st lap. This meant eight competitors had long walks back to the pits.
The race was only 18 laps long. But each lap seemed like it was 18 laps. After ten minutes of intense focus each driver was faced with the reality there were still seventeen more laps like that to go. This didn't seem to both Ascari though. In search of his first World Championship, Alberto was not struggling with a lack of focus. Very quickly he had managed to stretch out his margin over Farina in 2nd place.
Cars continued to drop out of the running. After 4 laps had been completed, another seven competitors had dropped out of the race. Thirty drivers had started. The field was now reduced by half. On the very next lap, the field would be further reduced by one. Unfortunately, that one would be Gaze. Although looking good throughout the first few laps, gearbox troubles would end up bringing his German Grand Prix effort to an end.
It really didn't matter all that much as the race seemed to only be about two drivers. Ascari had a large lead coming down to the final couple of laps. However, his car was not all that healthy. He knew very well he was in a race against attrition. He would not win the race with a sick car. He knew something had to be done. Therefore, just as the white flag waved for the final lap, Ascari pulled into the pits to have his oil system checked and to have new oil added to the car. This would end up being a lengthy stop, and thus handed the lead of the race to Farina.
By the time Ascari's car was go to go, Farina had pulled out a rather larger margin. Ascari knew he had only about ten minutes to make his way past Farina if he wanted the World Championship title. The season before the title was lost due to tires not handling the heat as well as those on Juan Manuel Fangio's car. He was not about to lose the title again to something trivial like an oil problem. Therefore, the real race had finally got underway. It would be a one lap sprint around the 14 mile long Devil's playground called the Nordschleife.
Proving to be a Ringmeister in his own right, Ascari was soon right behind Farina. He had caught him, but he now needed to figure out a way past the former World Champion. This was not an easy proposition given Farina's reputation with those he meant to put a lap down. He was considered ruthless with back-markers, Ascari could expect him to be as ruthless when a victory, and championship hopes, were on the line.
Really, there was nothing Farina could do. Ascari's pace was such that he just could not be held back. Ascari would get by the former World Champion and would immediately begin to draw away. As though in totally different cars, Ascari seemed to have an incredible performance advantage over Farina. Alberto would cross the line as the race champion and the World Champion. He had been so focused on catching and passing Farina on the last lap that he would end up winning the race by fourteen seconds. Besides the impressive race between Ascari and Farina, Rudolf Fischer also put together an impressive race. The gentleman racer would end up taking his Ferrari 500 and earned a 3rd place finish, beating out Scuderia Ferrari's third driver Piero Taruffi.
Ascari had his World Championship title. In contrast to the celebrations taking place in the Ferrari pits, Gaze had already packed up his broken car and quietly left the circuit. He had now taken part in three World Championship races and hadn't managed to finish any of them. This was not what he wanted his experience to be like. He needed a good result to help restore his confidence and to prepare him to make a good run throughout the remainder of the 1952 season.
Gaze would travel from the isolation of the Eifel mountains and would head to the edges of western Scotland. Returning to a more natural setting, Tony made his way to Turnberry, Scotland for the 1st National Trophy race on the 23rd of August.
Turnberry was a more natural setting for Gaze seeing that it was yet another former airbase decommissioned and resurrected to host motor racing events. In addition to being a good site for a motor race, Turnberry's position on the western coast of Scotland about twenty minutes southwest of Ayr was an incredible picturesque scene. A number of castle ruins, as well as the imposing Culzean Castle, were found to be within a very short drive of the circuit.
The field entered in the race featured drivers from all over the British Isles. However, Gaze's presence at the 1st National Trophy race made the event an international affair.
In practice, there would be one that rose above the rest of the field. Mike Hawthorn, despite his young age, would seem well beyond his years and would take the pole for the 15 lap race. The grid arrangement featured a four-three-four setup. Therefore, Hawthorn would be joined on the front row by three other competitors. Ninian Sanderson, driving for Ecurie Ecosse, would delight the Scottish fans with a 2nd place starting position. Andre Loens would start 3rd while Ken Wharton would round-out the front row in 4th. Desperately looking for a good result, Gaze would start not too far back on the starting grid and was looking to be in a good position for the race.
At 1.75 miles long, a lap only took about a minute and twenty seconds. Therefore, the 15 lap race would only take somewhere around twenty minutes to complete. This didn't give too much time for the drivers to move up the running order. This, then, put pressure on the drivers right from the very start. And it would show when the race started.
The 1st lap of the National Trophy race would see an incredible amount of carnage. Drivers desperate to make a move would end up leading to a number of mistakes that would end up taking out a number of other competitors. Five of the fifteen starters would end up out of the race on the very first lap. Two of the retirements were due to crashes. Gaze; however, would keep his head about himself and would only move forward due to the mistakes of others.
Hawthorn had made a good start and was free of the carnage behind him. He continued in the lead and even began to pull out a good-sized margin over the rest of the field. After the first lap troubles things seemed to settle down, but there were still retirements from the race. Before the race ended, there would be another four that would retire from the race. This meant there would only be six cars still running at the end. Thankfully, for Gaze, he would be one of them.
Desperate for a good result, Gaze would drive a steady and smart race. He would stay out of trouble, although trouble was all around him, and would manage to finish the race a fine 4th. He; unfortunately, was too far behind to take the final spot on the podium.
The final spot on the podium would go to Ecurie Ecosse's Ninian Sanderson. Frustrating to the Scottish fans, the Englishman; John Barber, would happen to get by Sanderson to finish the race in 2nd place. Of course the English heaped the insults on the Scottish as Mike Hawthorn would run away with the race and score the victory.
While the competition, with the exception of Hawthorn, may not have been to the caliber of those Gaze had faced in the World Championship, the 4th place finish at Turnberry was still an important result for the Aussie. He had need of a good result. The car had completed the distance, and he finished in the top five. The result encouraged him to take one more stab at the World Championship. He would take that chance at the only remaining round of the championship.
Two weeks after the decent finish at Turnberry, Gaze again travelled across the English Channel to the European mainland. He would venture onward to Italy, and the Autodromo di Monza, once again for the final round of the World Championship, the Italian Grand Prix.
The last time Gaze had been to Monza it had been for the Grand Prix of Monza. The field was filled with twenty-nine cars for that race. Over thirty entries would be entered for the Italian Grand Prix on the 7th of September. Unlike the race back in June, not all of the entries would be allowed to take part in the race. The race organizers for the eighth, and final, round of the World Championship had decided on a twenty-four car field. This meant a large number of entries would have a race on their hands just to make it into the race.
One not really having to worry about making it into the race was the new World Champion Alberto Ascari. In practice he would ensure the Tifosi that he would be in the race as he would take his Ferrari 500 and turn the fastest lap around the 3.91 mile circuit. His time would end up being nine-tenths faster than his good friend and Ferrari teammate Luigi Villoresi. Giuseppe Farina kept the Ferrari fans cheering as he was able to start from the 3rd position on the front row. Neither Piero Taruffi nor Andre Simon would be able to make it a clean sweep of the front row for Ferrari. Instead, it would be Maurice Trintignant, for Equipe Gordini, that would take the 4th, and final, spot on the front row.
Throughout the course of practice, Gaze would realize that he was in the midst of the race just to get into the race. Heitel Cantoni had turned in a lap of two minutes, fifteen and nine-tenths seconds. This left only one spot left on the grid. Times needed to be down near Cantoni's but nobody seemed capable of getting down to that time. Soon, it was apparent that a time in the two minute and seventeen second range would probably earn the final spot. Unfortunately for Gaze, he was struggling just to get down under two minutes and twenty seconds. Out of the eleven battling for the one remaining spot on the starting grid, Gaze's best time would end up being about three seconds too slow. Gaze would not qualify for the final round of the World Championship.
In the race itself, Jose Froilan Gonzalez had declared he was going to do everything within his power to ensure that Ascari didn't make it a streak of six-straight victories. Early on, it seemed his strategy of starting on lighter fuel tanks would work. With each lap, Gonzalez continued to stretch out a margin over Ascari. About a third of the way through the race, the margin had steadied and Gonzalez needed fuel. He would come in for fuel with near a thirty second advantage. However, it would not be enough.
Ascari would come through into the lead of the race. The Tifosi would react with great exuberance. Gonzalez would rejoin the race down in the running order, but was fully intent on taking back the lead.
Alberto wanted to make sure he held onto the lead since Gonzalez was marching his way back up the running order. On the 56th lap of the race, Ascari would turn the fastest lap of the race with a time of two minutes and six seconds. In an effort to match Ascari blow-for-blow, Gonzalez would turn the very same time on the next lap and would again do it on the 60th.
Despite Jose's best efforts, Ascari had the lead, and in front of the home crowd. He wasn't going to be beaten. Ascari would end up taking the win, much to the delight of the Tifosi. It had been an incredible year for Alberto and Scuderia Ferrari. Gonzalez would manage to fight his way up to 2nd place at the end. He would finish one minute and one second behind Alberto at the end of the 80 laps. Luigi Villoresi would give the Ferrari fans another reason to celebrate as he would finish on the final spot of the podium in 3rd.
While the Italian Grand Prix capped-off an incredible season for Alberto Ascari, for Tony Gaze, it brought to an end a very disappointing and upsetting World Championship experience. He had, or at least attempted, to take part in four rounds of the World Championship and would either fail to qualify, or, would fail to finish each one. The season just could not end like that. Thankfully, there were still a number of non-championship races remaining on the calendar.
The first of the non-championship races in which Gaze would compete before the end of the season would come just one week after the failed Italian Grand Prix attempt. Gaze would travel about nine hours west to Cadours, France in order to take part in the 4th Circuit de Cadours.
The grand prix race at Cadours was another race to feature a couple of heat races and a final. The wonderful part about the race at Cadours; however, was the fact the race offered a repechage, or, 'second chance' after the conclusion of the second heat. Therefore, just about everyone was guaranteed to take part in the final, unless the competitor's car just couldn't be repaired in time. This was the race for Gaze. And, in fact, he would be very grateful for the repechage.
The field would be minus Scuderia Ferrari and some of the other factory efforts, but it wouldn't be void of any talent. Louis Rosier would come with his own Ferrari 500. Peter Collins would also be present in his HWM-Alta. The field would also include Yves Giraud-Cabantous, Emmanuel de Graffenried and Harry Schell.
Louis Rosier would battle Peter Collins, Charles de Tornaco and others in the first heat. Gaze would be situated in the second heat with de Graffenried, Giraud-Cabantous and Schell.
In practice for the first heat, the Ferrari 500 of Rosier again proved dominant and would earn the pole for the Frenchman after setting a lap time of one minute and fifty-eight seconds around the 3.43 mile circuit. The grid was arranged two-one-two. Joining Rosier on the front row would be Collins in the HWM-Alta. Charles de Tornaco would start by himself on the second row in 3rd position.
In the first 15 lap heat race, Rosier knew he had the advantage over Collins. Therefore, even though he would be pressed by Collins throughout the course of the 15 laps, Rosier would lap the circuit very comfortably in the lead of the field. Collins would push hard and would turn the fastest lap of the heat in an effort to beat Rosier. It wouldn't happen.
The field pretty much held station throughout the 15 laps. Andre Loens had dropped out of the race due to problems. This handed 4th position to Willi Heeks. Otherwise, there were little, to no, other changes.
Rosier would ride his powerful Ferrari chassis to the victory in the first heat. He would end up with an eleven second margin over Collins in 2nd place. Keeping with the status-quo, Charles de Tornaco; who had started 3rd, would remain right there to finish 3rd. He would be fifty seconds behind Collins at the finish.
In practice before the second heat, Schell would use the new Gordini T16 chassis to good effect and would qualify on pole with a time of two minutes and one second. Yves Giraud-Cabantous, like Schell, was off the pace set by those in the first heat. Yves' best lap would only be a two minute and five second lap time. This was four seconds slower than Schell for the pole, and, two seconds slower than Collins had turned for 2nd place in the first heat. Emmanuel de Graffenried would start by himself in the second row with the 3rd place starting position. Gaze would end up just missing out on a top three starting position as he would turn in a lap just one second slower than de Graffenried. As a result, Gaze would start 4th on the inside of the third row.
A number of cars would drop out of the race over the course of the 15 laps. Initially, things were looking good for Gaze. However, he too would run into trouble. He would end up falling out of the race before the end of the heat.
Schell, enjoying the new Gordini T16, would set a fast pace. It would end up being too much for another HWM-Alta driver as well though. Despite starting 2nd, Yves gradually began to slip down the running order and would actually end the heat on the verge of going one lap down.
Schell would cruise to the victory. Emmanuel de Graffenried would follow Schell home in 2nd place thirty-two seconds back. Alberto Crespo would finish in the 3rd position. However, he would trail by a minute and forty seconds to Schell.
Gaze would need to repechage if he wanted to have any hope of taking part in the final. He would be one of three that would take part in the 10 lap second chance. Proving to be a fighter to the very end, Gaze would manage to win the repechage and would be able to take part in the 30 lap final. The unfortunate part of it all was the fact his HWM-Alta had competed in 10 extra laps since he needed to take part in the repechage. He would have to hope this wouldn't adversely affect his final race performance.
The starting grid for the 30 lap final was determined by the times of the competitors in their respective heats. Therefore, Louis Rosier would start on pole. He would be joined on the front row by Collins. Schell would start on the lonely second row. Gaze's victory in the repechage would place him in the sixth row by himself.
The Cadours circuit featured a triangular pattern similar to other French circuits like Reims and Albi. However, unlike those other circuits, each of the three legs of the Cadours triangle featured some rather tight hairpin turns and slow, sweeping corners which kept speeds down. This also put incredible strain on the cars as they constantly accelerated, braked hard and had to negotiate tight turns.
In the 30 lap final, some of those that had made it through their heat without any troubles would end up out of the race. One of the first out of the race would be the Ferrari 500 of Charles de Tornaco. His Ferrari engine would have valve failure thereby ending his race. Three others would also run into trouble before the end.
Up at the front of the field, Schell had the advantage of not having Collins in the race and was; therefore, in an all-out pursuit of Rosier. All-out was the only way in which Schell would drive. Noted for his cursing and yelling through each and every corner of a circuit for an entire race, Schell was as entertaining to listen to as to watch. Collins failed to start the race when it was discovered he had a problem with one of the cylinder heads.
Enjoying his second life, Gaze was enjoying the misfortunes of some of the other competitors and gradually moved up the running. Basically, all Gaze had to do was hold onto the car, and pray the car would make it the entire race distance, and he would have a decent result.
In spite of all of his cursing, yelling and setting the fastest lap of the race, Schell just could do nothing with the greater power of the Ferrari 500. Rosier would power his way to victory. He would enjoy a thirty second advantage over Schell as he crossed the line. Another thirty seconds separated Schell and the 3rd place finisher de Graffenried. Gaze would also be able to breathe a sigh of relief. He would, in spite of being a lap down, finish the race. Not only would he finish the race, he would finish in 5th place. Though not great, it was still a good result considering how the season had been going for the Aussie.
Though considered something of a second home for Gaze, he would not take part in the races at Goodwood at the end of the September. In fact, after such a difficult season, Gaze would only take part in one more grand prix race before the end of the 1952 season.
In early October, Gaze would travel north and across the Scottish border for his final race of the season. One of the final races of the season would take place on the 11th of October at Charterhall in the Scottish Borders region. The race was the 1st Newcastle Journal Trophy race and it was held on the 1.99 mile Charterhall circuit.
Being part of the Royal Air Force, Gaze undoubtedly had knowledge of 'Slaughter Hall'. In World War II, Charterhall was a night fighter training base. It became notoriously known as 'Slaughter Hall' due to the large number of crashes and deaths that had happened around the base due to the nature of the training night fighters went through. After the war, it too had become another former airbase that became the site for motor races. Rather simple in its layout, speeds around the circuit would have remained relatively high were it not for the tight first and last turns that led away from and onto the long start/finish straight. Actually, the start/finish straight for the circuit used one of the long, wide runways that were part of the war years airbase.
Gaze would one of just twenty-eight drivers that would arrive for the final major grand prix race in Europe. Although it was one of the last races of the season, the field still consisted of mostly British talent. Only Johnny Claes helped Gaze make the event truly international.
Gaze looked to go out on a high note. He would give the 40 lap race everything he had. However, the field wasn't exactly void of talent and potent machinery. Connaught Engineering had proven their A-type chassis was quite good, especially at races around the British Isles. Then there were names like Stirling Moss, Peter Whitehead and Johnny Claes also in the field.
In the race itself, the person's name didn't matter as much as what kind of car the person was driving. If a person was driving a Cooper-Bristol, or, a Frazer-Nash of some kind, Charterhall would become like 'Slaughter Hall' all over again. Every single one of the seven Frazer-Nash chassis that entered the race would end up retiring. All but one of the Cooper-Bristols entered in the race, which were six, would also end up retiring before the race was over.
None of this seemed to bother Gaze, who was in hot pursuit of the front runners. In spite of the season he had, Gaze would give his final race of 1952, and pretty much his entire grand prix career, everything he had. He would push so hard around the old Charterhall airbase that he would manage to turn what would be the fastest lap of the race. He would average a little more than 83 mph to complete the lap in one minute and twenty-six seconds. However, this would end up being the one highlight Gaze would happen to take away from the race, and the season on a whole. Although the laps were running out, his HWM-Alta was running out quicker. He, like twenty-one others, would not finish the race.
The car to have was the Connaught A-Type. Although Bobbie Baird was entered in the race with the all-conquering Ferrari 500, nothing could touch the Connaughts over the course of the 40 lap race. Dennis Poore would lead the way and would score the victory for Connaught Engineering. However, he wouldn't be the only bright spot for the team. The team's two principles would end up coming in 2nd and 3rd to make it clean sweep for the team. Kenneth McAlpine would trail Poore by thirty-five seconds but would take 2nd place ahead of Mike Oliver, one of the designers of the Connaught A-Type chassis. This was an incredible way to finish the season for one team. In the case of Tony Gaze, it would pretty much accent the end of his grand prix career.
While truly frustrating, Gaze kept his motor racing career in perspective. He would quoted as saying, 'I did it for pleasure. I just enjoyed it.' It was this attitude that helped him through the difficulties of war, but especially the difficult 1952 World Championship and non-championship season.
During the 1952 season, Gaze had taken part in a few sports car races and had experienced better results than what he had in grand prix cars. Recognizing it was time for a change, Gaze would end up taking part in mostly sports car racing after the 1952 season. Gaze would also transition back to his greater love—flying. In the 1960s, he would take part in a number of glider competitions and would do quite well. He would also go on to marry the widow of one of Australia's famous racers, Lex Davidson. Diana had a common bond with Gaze. She wasn't merely the wife of a famous racer, she too was also an accomplished driver herself.
From his war experiences to his racing career, Gaze's life seemed to always play out in the shadows. However, in some of the biggest, or at least rather interesting, moments of history one person seemed to either be present or directly involved. Gaze had the opportunity to do and be part of more than many people put together. Though almost unknown, Gaze should never be forgotten.