TeamsConnaught Engineering: 1955 Formula One Season By Jeremy McMullen
When Connaught Engineering debuted its single-seater A-Type during the late spring of the 1952 season the car would achieve some tremendous results and would attract a number of customers during the Formula 2 era of the World Championship. However, by 1954, the company would be fighting for survival. Still, the company would fight on, carried forward by the hopes and dreams of a new car that, at the final race of the season, would make all of its scoffers take notice.
The British teams and manufacturers would find themselves at a bit of a disadvantage when it was the final year of the Formula 2 era. Suitable engines that were reliable and powerful enough to challenge the might of the red Italian cars were few and far between. The switch to Formula One regulations, with the 2.5-liter displacement, would make things even more difficult.
This was most obvious over the course of the Formula 2 era in the World Championship. When Connaught came onto the scene with it's A-Type chassis the car would earn a considerable amount of success, despite the fact that most came upon tracks throughout England. However, by the end of the 1953 season, the Italian cars, like Ferrari and Maserati, had developed cars and engines capable of a great deal of power and decent reliability. The Lea-Francis powered Connaughts, by contrast, were being pushed beyond their limits and reliability suffered.
In order to compete, Rodney Clarke needed to create a new car with a new, and much more capable, engine. The problem was that Kenneth McAlpine, son of the famous McAlpine engineering dynasty, was getting tired of seeing the company limp along in the red. The company had very little in the way of resources in which to use in order to battle the likes of Ferrari, Maserati, and then Mercedes-Benz. Still, Clarke was known as something of an innovative designer and he would carry on with his preparations and work to build a brand-new Formula One car.
At one time, Connaught Engineering had Stirling Moss, Roy Salvadori, Tony Rolt, Johnny Claes, and others, all taking a turn behind the wheel of their A-Type chassis during the Formula 2 days of the World Championship. But, by the end of the 1954 season, Connaught would have lost about all of its competitiveness utilizing a Formula 2 car against the new Formula One machines, and therefore, would also lose many of the truly internationally competitive drivers. Still, there would be enough British talent that would need a ride, or that still believed in the company.
Struggling financially, Connaught Engineering would remain right around England, waiting to take part in the first Formula One race of the season in England. The first race would come along on the 11th of April and would be a non-championship event held at Goodwood as part of the well known Easter Monday races. The race was the 3rd Glover Trophy race.
Prior to World War II, the area that would become RAF Westhampnett would be nothing more than just flat terrain as part of the Goodwood Estate. During the war, however, the same plot of land would become an emergency airfield for fighter aircraft attached to RAF Tangmere. The airfield would serve out the war and would be soon closed. The Duke of Richmond, Frederick Gordon-Lennox would retain the deed to the land throughout the war and would be left with nothing more than an abandoned airfield. However, the Duke was an avid motor racing enthusiast, and therefore, would make the decision to turn the 2.39 perimeter road into the Goodwood Motor Racing Circuit.
Following its first race in 1948, Goodwood would soon come to host a couple of popular events. One of those would be the Goodwood 9 Hour race. Another favorite event would be the Easter Monday races. The Easter Monday races would be a day filled with motor racing. Featuring short races, the day would play host to a number of different motor racing disciplines meant to showcase for the public the world of motor sport.
Just one of the many races held on that day would be the Glover Trophy race. The Glover Trophy race would be one of the longer races. Covering 21 laps, or 50 miles, the race was just long enough for the teams and drivers to put on a good show. But it was also short enough that the drivers likely could push their cars flat out the whole race making for some truly incredible racing.
Connaught Engineering would enter just a single car for the event. There would be a number of Formula 2 Connaught A-Types that would be entered in the race open to Formula One and Formula 2. However, Connaught Engineering would bring its brand-new B-Type chassis and it would be driven by Tony Rolt.
The first B-Type chassis would be quite different than the A-Types. Most obvious would be the fact the B-Type would have fully-enveloped bodywork. The front wheels would be nearly fully covered while the rear wheels much less so. In many ways, the Connaught B-Type would look similar to the Jaguar D-Type.
Despite having the talented Tony Rolt behind the wheel, the new Connaught B-Type, with its fully-enveloping bodywork, could not match the pace of Stirling Moss at the wheel of his own Maserati 250F. Moss would take the pole for the 21 lap race. Joining him on the front row would be Roy Salvadori driving another 250F. Given that there were only a couple of Formula One cars in the field, the older Connaught A-Types still had the potential of showing well. And this is something Don Beauman would prove in practice by taking the 3rd position on the front row. Bill Holt, driving another A-Type, would complete the front row in the 4th position.
The fact the new B-Type would be out-gunned by older 2.0-liter A-Types in practice would be a little disconcerting for Connaught. The reason for this was rather obvious and frustrating at the same time. The beautifully flowing bodywork had one major problem—visibility. The inability to see the front wheels would be enough for drivers to miss apexes and lose valuable time. Additionally, the design of the car would be such that a gust of wind could upset the handling of the car, thereby making the car quite uncomfortable to drive. Therefore, Tony Rolt would find himself on the second row of the grid in 5th place overall.
A number of cars would not start the race. Some would have issues, but certainly, some had issues with the inability of their cars up against the Formula One machines being driven by Moss, Salvadori and Gerard.
The Glover Trophy race would get underway with Moss quick off the line but Salvadori looking quite strong right from the start. Salvadori would be impressive throughout the early stages of the race and would look prepared for a fight.
Rolt, however, would not have the opportunity to get settled in for a fight before his race would come to an early end. Having completed just 8 laps, Rolt would begin to have power problems with the B-Type. The car was losing power and it was more than obvious it wasn't an intermittent problem. Rolt would pull out of the race and would find there was a problem with the car's fuel pump.
Some four laps later, the same problem would strike Moss and his Maserati. This would take Moss out of the running and would firmly hand the lead to Salvadori. But on this day, Salvadori would not need to have the lead handed to him.
Salvadori would be comfortable and fast in his Maserati; and that would be a tough combination to beat on any given day. Salvadori would make things even more difficult for his competitors as he would turn the fastest lap of the race and would further pull out an advantage over Gerard, who would find himself running in 2nd place.
Salvadori would run away with the race. Averaging a little more than 89 mph, Roy would cross the line thirty seconds ahead of Gerard in 2nd place. Just two and a half seconds would be the difference from Gerard back to Beauman in his Connaught A-Type.
It would be a difficult day for Connaught Engineering. And it would be particularly frustrating watching Formula 2 A-Types finish 3rd, 5th and 6th in a race that allowed Formula One cars, like the B-Type, to compete. It was clear there was still a lot of work to do. Unfortunately, Connaught's finances were such that even a small change would constitute a big risk.
The Easter Monday races would prove to be pretty successful for the older A-Types. Not only would three finish in the top six in the Glover Trophy race, but Salvadori would drive one to victory in the 7th Lavant Cup Formula 2 event. Don Beauman would make it especially memorable by taking the 3rd, and final, spot on the podium. Unfortunately, the actual factory Connaught team would not enjoy the same kind of success as its customers.
It was now the month of May, Clarke would be hard at work, even despite the limited resources, to create a new version of the B-Type. Unfortunately, the new version of the chassis would not be ready for some time. Therefore, in early May, Connaught Engineering would depart for Silverstone, still with its full-bodied B-Type. The team would be traveling to Silverstone to take part in the 7th BRDC International Trophy race, which would take place on the 7th of May.
Ever since its first edition back in 1949, the International Trophy race had produced some truly memorable moments. For motor racing historians, the International Trophy race would give the world the much more familiar 2.88 mile layout that used just the perimeter road of the former RAF Silverstone airbase. From a driver's perspective, perhaps none was quite so dramatic as the 1951 running that would be cut short after torrential rains would turn the circuit into more of a lake than a motor racing circuit. But then there was 1954. Mixed weather conditions would see the first heat conducted under quite wet conditions while the second heat would take place under drier weather. This would dramatically affect the finishing times and would lead to something of a controversy, even amongst Scuderia Ferrari, as Jose Froilan Gonzalez would be allowed to start in Maurice Trintignant's place (which was on the pole) while Trintignant would be forced to start a little further down.
Such issues made the race difficult to determine. Therefore, it would be decided heading into the 1955 edition of the race, to change the format of the race to be a much more conventional event with just a longer single event.
Connaught would arrive at the race with a couple of cars entered for the race. A third one, the new version of the Connaught B-Type, would be listed as an entry but would not arrive to take part in the race given that the car was far from being ready. In the two the team would have ready, Jack Fairman would be driving one while the check-writer, Kenneth McAlpine, would be behind the wheel of the other.
Instead of two heat races and a final, all of the entrants would take to the circuit for practice to gain the best possible starting positions for the 60 lap, 175 mile, race. The field would be filled with Formula One machines. Besides Maseratis, there would be a few Gordinis from Equipe Gordini and a couple of Vanwalls from Vandervell Products. And then there would be the couple of Connaughts.
Roy Salvadori, the victor at Goodwood a month earlier, would continue to be impressive and would set the fastest time during practice. He would take the pole with a time of 1:48. This time would barely edge out Mike Hawthorn in one of the Vanwalls by mere hundredths of a second. Stirling Moss would make it two Maseratis on the front row as he would line up 3rd. Jack Fairman would take chassis ‘B1' and would end up turning the fourth-fastest time in practice, and therefore, would complete the front row. McAlpine would end up a little further down in the field. His best time of 1:57 would land him on the fourth row of the grid in the 12th position.
The International Trophy race would draw a large crowd and they would watch as the field snaked around through the first few laps of the race. Overwhelmed by the sound of the engines and by the continuous action, it would be easy to become entranced. However, it wouldn't take long before attrition would begin to wake up driver and spectator alike.
Jacques Pollet would be the first out of the race. His race would last just 7 laps before transmission failure would bring it to an end. Then the favorites began to run into trouble. Stirling Moss would be out after 10 laps with a cracked cylinder head. The 1951 monsoon winner, Reg Parnell, would be out on the same lap with transmission ailments.
One by one the favorites began to fall out of contention. Robert Manzon would retire in another of the Gordinis. Mike Hawthorn would drop out in one of the Vanwalls with a broken oil pipe. In all, there would be seven out of the race before the race reached the 20th lap. And the dramatics was just beginning.
All of the attrition was actually aiding Connaught Engineering. Fairman, who had started from the front row, would remain right up toward the front of the field throughout the early going. The retirements of other competitors would help McAlpine make his way upwards. McAlpine would climb up the order so far that the two B-Type Connaughts would be running 3rd and 4th at one point.
As the two Connaughts continued to circulate, one of the most dramatic retirements was about to take place. After returning from the pits, Wharton would be pushing hard to make up lost time. While attempting to get around a slower car, he would be forced off line and would run over one of the oil barrels. The barrel would split open the fuel tank and immediately the fuel would erupt into flames. McAlpine would go on by as Wharton would extract himself from the car, still having suffered some serious burns. Smoke would rise from just off the side of Copse as marshals worked to get everything under control.
The race was turning into an absolute car-breaker, as was usual for Silverstone. Unfortunately, that meant the Connaughts were not safe unless they could out-run attrition. Fairman would lose that fight on the 29th lap of the race when his throttle linkage broke. Then, on the 44th lap of the race, the fuel system on McAlpine's car would exhibit some problems and would force him out of the running.
All of the trouble faced by the competitors would be lost on Peter Collins and Roy Salvadori who were locked in a great duel of speed. Collins would start 5th but would be quick to come up the order with all of the troubles the others would face. Roy Salvadori would be fast taking off from the pole, but he would find Collins and equal challenger.
The two men would be the ones to push the pace. Both would go on to set the same fastest lap time with a lap time actually a second faster than Salvadori's own pole-effort in practice. The pace of these two would leave everyone else well behind once attrition had its way with the faster competitors. So it was just between those two.
As the race developed, it was clear Collins was the stronger competitor on this day and Salvadori would back off just slightly to ensure that he would keep his 2nd place, which, by the end of the race, was more than safe as long as he finished.
Collins would race to victory. Completing the race distance in one hour, forty-nine minutes and fifty seconds, Collins would have nearly forty seconds in hand over Salvadori in 2nd place. More than a lap would be the difference back to Prince Bira finishing in 3rd.
While many of the other teams were struggling with unreliability, the Connaughts, for a majority of the race, seemed more than strong enough to show what the B-Type could truly do. Silverstone was notoriously difficult on cars and it could not have been entirely defeating the neither of the team's cars finished the race distance. However, retirements are still retirements. And just when they had the opportunity to come away with a splendid result, they would let the opportunity slip through their fingers. What's more, all-important prize money would also slip through the fingers.
After the lost opportunity at the International Trophy race, it would be more than a couple of months in between races for Connaught Engineering. This would not be as much a decision of the factory as much as the result of circumstances. The tragedy at Le Mans would put into doubt a number of races throughout Europe. It would lead the cancellation of the French, Swiss, German and Spanish Grand Prix and would lead to large gaps in between races.
However, for the British Connaught Engineering team, the most important Formula One World Championship race would remain on the calendar. Despite four rounds of the World Championship being cancelled, the British Grand Prix would remain on the calendar.
Given that there would be a little more than two months in between races for Connaught, it would be enough time for Clarke and his men to finish a couple of examples of the revised B-Type. Interestingly, the two new chassis, B3 and B4, would be entered under the Connaught team name but would be driven by a couple of Connaught's regular customers. Tony Rolt and Peter Walker would share B4 while Leslie Marr would be behind the wheel of B3. Jack Fairman would take to the wheel of B1 and Kenneth McAlpine would drive B2.
The 10th edition of the British Grand Prix would take place on the 16th of July but it would be conducted in entirely new surroundings. Silverstone had served as the home of the British Grand Prix since 1948 and had been the first-ever round of the Formula One World Championship back in 1950. But, for 1955, the venue for the British round of the World Championship would change.
Famous for being the home of the epic Grand National steeplechase, Aintree Racecourse would become the new home of the British Grand Prix. This seemed absolutely natural. Home to magnificent organic horsepower, Aintree seemed perfect to host horsepower of another kind. What's more, the layout of the 3.0 mile circuit could make use of the grandstands, and therefore, meant there was very little in the way of infrastructure that needed to be put in place before it could host a race. Thus, some of the best known, and biggest, manufacturers in Europe would descend upon Liverpool to take part in the sixth round of the 1955 Formula One World Championship.
Coming into the race, a lot of attention would be given the Mercedes-Benz team. And with Stirling Moss as one of its drivers, there was a lot of excitement about the first British driver winning the British Grand Prix. Of course, for Moss to do that he would have to defeat his Mercedes teammate Juan Manuel Fangio and a litany of other competitors.
Even when Brooklands hosted the British Grand Prix back in 1926 and 1927, there would not be a British champion of the British race. But at the conclusion of practice, many British fans would hold out hope that 1955 could be the year. Stirling Moss would stir the excitement as he would set the fastest lap time in practice and would take the pole for the 90 lap race. Just two-tenths slower would be Fangio and his Silver Arrows. Had it not been for Jean Behra and his Maserati, it would have been a Mercedes sweep of the top-four positions on the grid. Instead, it would be Behra that would start in the final spot on the front row.
Tony Rolt would be at the wheel of one of the Connaughts during practice and would prove the fastest of the Connaught entries. His lap time of 2:06.6 would end up a little more than six seconds slower than Moss' effort, and would lead to Rolt lining up 14th on the grid. He would line up with Ken Wharton on the sixth row of the grid. One row back, Ken McAlpine would be found. He would start 17th. The next row back, the eighth row, Leslie Marr would place his Connaught 19th on the grid after posting a time more than eleven seconds slower. Jack Fairman would be mere hundredths of a second slower than Marr but would end up starting on the ninth row of the grid in 21st.
An incredible crowd would assemble on a sunny and hot 16th of July. The engines would be brought to life and the drivers would move forward to take their grid positions. Unfortunately, one who would not take his place on the grid would be Fairman. He would withdraw prior to the start of the race.
Awaiting the drop of the flag, the crowd would be eagerly hoping for Moss to make a great getaway. And then the flag would drop and immediately the two Silver Arrows of Moss and Fangio would streak away while Behra struggled off the line.
Streaking into the first turn known as Waterway, it would be Fangio that would get the better of Moss. Behra, who would make a poor showing at the start, would recover nicely over the course of the first lap and would find himself back up to 3rd place overall as the field headed around on the 2nd lap of the race.
Like Behra, Rolt would have a terrible beginning to his race. At the conclusion of the first lap, Rolt would fall down from his 14th starting spot and would be 18th. Kenneth McAlpine would also struggle at the start and would lose ground as well. He would complete the first lap in 20th. Leslie Marr would be running right behind McAlpine at the end of the first lap in the 21st position.
By the 3rd lap of the race, Moss would be in the lead and the two Mercedes would settle into a comfortable pace at the front of the field. The three Connaughts in the field would also try to settle into a comfortable pace and begin the hard charge back up through the field. And, by the 10th lap of the race, Rolt would make his way up to 11th. McAlpine and Marr would run together on the circuit and would also begin to move up the running order and would be in 16th and 17th by the end of the 10th lap.
Just as Rolt powered his way up through the field, he would come into the pits to turn the car over to Peter Walker. This pitstop would drop them to the tail-end of the field, but it would only get worse from there. While circulating on the 19th lap of the race, Walker would experience trouble with the car. The throttle control would fail on the car making it impossible to continue on. This would come just one lap after Leslie Marr crashed out of the race due to a brake failure. This left Connaught with just one remaining entry after Fairman's withdrawal. Therefore, Connaught's hopes would come down to the very man that would help finance its existence—Kenneth McAlpine.
While Moss and Fangio pulled away from the field, many of the competitors, like the Connaught drivers, would find the going tough. Roy Salvadori, Horace Gould and Peter Collins would all retire from the race by the 30th lap of the race. Then, on the 31st lap of the race, Connaught's hopes would be totally shattered.
McAlpine would push hard and the Aintree circuit, by itself, would exact an incredible toll on cars. Numerous gearshifts each and every lap would put transmissions and clutches to the absolute test. Unfortunately, the clutch in McAlpine's car would finally fail its test leaving Connaught without a single car still running and more than half of the race still to go.
By the later stages of the race there would be just nine cars still out on the circuit still going. And of those nine, a couple would be so far behind they would be nothing more than entertainment for the assembled crowd.
Piero Taruffi, a late addition for the Mercedes-Benz lineup, would make his way past Luigi Musso on the 56th lap of the race. This would give Mercedes-Benz a clean sweep of the top four positions. From then on, it would be an effort by each of the Silver Arrows drivers just to make it to the finish. But for Stirling Moss, who would retake the lead on the 26th lap of the race, he would find the final lap of the race anything but comforting.
For 63 laps Moss would hold onto the lead, keeping Fangio at bay behind him. However, on the final lap of the race, Fangio would continually close the gap on Moss. Heading down the Railway Straight toward Melling Crossing, Fangio would be all over the back of Moss. And heading into Tatts corner for the final time, Fangio would come up underneath Moss' back end and would get a better drive off the final corner. It seemed the first World Championship victory for a Brit at the British Grand Prix would be snatched away at the very last moment. The crowd would grow tense and would be cheering Moss on as the two teammates powered toward the line. Moss would recognize that Fangio got the better drive off the corner and would dive down to the inside while Fangio would try and go past along the outside. Heading to the line, the two men would be practically side-by-side.
But then the crowd would erupt! By the slimmest of margins, Moss would cross the line to take the victory having beaten Fangio by just two-tenths of a second. Finally, a Brit had won the British Grand Prix! This fact would easily overshadow the fact Mercedes would pull off a 1st through 4th finish in the race. Mobbed by an incredible throng of well-wishers, Moss would accept the winner's wreath and a pat of approval by Fangio.
What a contrast of scenes it would be. One Brit would be enjoying the praise of tens of thousands of British faithful while another British team would be quietly packing and gathering everything up without any fanfare at all. Such is life in grand prix racing. People love a winner and could care less about the team that falls out of the race before halfway.
Not surprising, and yet, certainly concerning was the fact the newer evolutions of the B-Type chassis were the first to fall out of the British Grand Prix. Therefore, Clarke and his team of engineers would continue to work on the new car to improve reliability and performance. They would have a little less than a couple of weeks in which to do this before the team's next race.
The team's next race would have come on the 30th of July. Just a couple of weeks after the British Grand Prix, Connaught Engineering would enter a single car for Kenneth McAlpine in the 3rd London Trophy race, which took place at the 1.35 Crystal Palace Park temporary circuit.
Connaught would end up not arriving with McAlpine's car. However, the factory would sell one of the newer evolutions of the B-Type to the Walker Racing Team and it would show up at the race with Jack Fairman driving the B-Type.
After making it through the heat race, Fairman would have started the 15 lap final from the 5th position on the grid. However, prior to the race the decision would be made and Fairman would not start the final. In fact, three competitors would not start the final that would end up being won by Mike Hawthorn in Stirling Moss' Maserati 250F.
Although Connaught would skip the London Trophy race there would be a number of non-championship Formula One races that would be held throughout England toward the later part of the summer months. One of the first of those would come on the 13th of August at Snetterton. The race was the 3rd RedeX Trophy race and it would be a 25 lap event around the 2.70 mile Snetterton circuit.
Leslie Marr would actually enter the 3rd Daily Record Trophy race held on the 6th of August at Charterhall in Scotland. Driving the first of the later evolution B-Type chassis, Marr would finish his heat race in 3rd place and would end up finishing the final in 5th place. Qualifying for the final would actually go better than the final as Marr would start from the 3rd position along the front row. But still, the 5th was a good sign that Connaught had been improving reliability and performance over longer runs.
All four of the Connaught B-Types would arrive at Snetterton for the RedeX Trophy race. Leslie Marr would enter B3 under his own team name. B4 would end up being entered for Peter Walker under his own racing team name as well. Jack Fairman would be at the wheel of B1 while one of Connaught's founder, Mike Oliver, would get a start behind the wheel of B2.
RAF Snetterton-Heath would play a major role as a bomber base for the United States Army Air Force during World War II. Amazingly, this airbase that would play such a prominent role in launching some of the most famous air raids of the war would become abandoned after the war and would fall into a desperate state. However, during the early 1950s, with such circuits like Silverstone, Goodwood, Charterhall and many others as an example, it was believed that Snetterton-Heath could be reborn as a motor racing circuit. And, like Goodwood, Silverstone and others, the 2.70 mile perimeter road would be deemed as the perfect layout for the circuit. Thus, Snetterton Motor Racing Circuit would be born.
It wouldn't be too long before Snetterton would become a popular venue for motor races. In time, the circuit would come to host racing weekends in which a number of different racing disciplines would take to the track to strut their stuff. And, the RedeX Trophy race would be just one of those races.
The RedeX Trophy race would be contested over 25 laps, or, 68 miles. The race, originally, welcomed just Formula 2 cars. But, when Formula One returned in 1954, Formula One and Formula 2 cars would run the race together.
On a circuit such as Snetterton, with average speeds pushing well above 80 mph, the Formula One cars had a clear advantage. And, at the end of practice, it would be Stirling Moss that would take the pole in his Maserati. Harry Schell, driving one of the Vanwalls, would be 2nd. Horace Gould, also driving a 250F, would find himself in the 4th position on the front row. The final position on the front row would be occupied by Ken Wharton driving the second Vanwall. This made it Maserati-Vanwall all along the front row of the grid.
Looking down through the grid, it would be quickly noticed the Connaught B-Type drivers were pretty much all grouped together in the next couple of rows. Peter Walker would be the highest-placed B-Type driver. He would start the race from the second row of the grid in the 6th position. Fairman would be the next-highest B-Type starter. He would be on the third row of the grid in the 8th position. Mike Oliver would start right next side in 9th. Right beside Oliver, in the 10th position would be Marr.
Despite starting in the 10th position on the grid, Leslie Marr would not start the race. This would leave just three Connaught B-Types in the race. But at least the two Connaught Engineering entries would still be in the race, and therefore, would provide the team with a good opportunity for top result.
Unfortunately, during the race Oliver and Fairman would have to do their absolute best just to keep up with Moss and Schell at the front of the field. Moss would be the quickest over the course of the race. He would turn the fastest lap of the race with a lap time of 1:56.0. However, even Moss would not be able to keep up with Schell and the Vanwalls.
Schell would be able to take the lead and would begin to draw away from Moss. Ken Wharton would also make a great start and would soon find himself in 2nd place behind Schell. This mean Vanwalls would be running 1st and 2nd while Moss would give chase in 3rd place.
Amongst the Connaught B-Type drivers, the newest evolution would still show the greatest weakness when it came to unreliability. Peter Walker would fall out of the running while Oliver and Fairman continued in the race.
Oliver would find himself at the tail-end of the Formula One entries still in the race. Still, he would be in the race and doing well despite being at the wheel of the first evolution of the B-Type. Fairman would be further up the running order squeezed between two Maseratis.
The Vanwalls would run away at the front of the field. Averaging nearly 81 mph, Schell would cruise to victory beating his Vandervell Products teammate by some eleven seconds. Stirling Moss would complete the podium finishing the race in 3rd place some eight seconds behind Wharton.
Both of the older iterations of the B-Type chassis would perform well. Jack Fairman would bring his chassis home in 6th place behind Roy Salvadori in his Maserati. Mike Oliver would also bring his Connaught B-Type home at the end of the race. He would complete the race distance ahead of a couple of Connaught A-Types in the 8th position.
After a couple of frustrating races in which the team had performed well but came up short in the end, the RedeX Trophy race would be a welcomed result. Two strong race finishes inside the top ten meant the team would be able to overcome its setbacks and would gain some valuable confidence moving forward toward the later part of the season.
Building upon the strong result at Snetterton, Connaught Engineering would have a couple of weeks in which to further improve and prepare before its next race on the calendar. Then, finally, in early September, the team would be back in Aintree to take part in the 2nd Daily Telegraph Trophy race.
The last time Connaught Engineering had been at Aintree it was as part of the British Grand Prix. The team would enter a number of cars and would look strong throughout the first-third of the distance. However, by the end of the race, the Connaught attack would be thwarted and would be without a representative at the end. But now, on the 3rd of September, the team would return to Aintree in order to score some retribution.
At just 17 laps, or 51 miles, the 2nd Daily Telegraph Trophy would be a poor version of the British Grand Prix, but, it would still be a chance for Connaught to exact some revenge. And, given the fact the race was just 17 laps in length, Connaught's drivers could push their cars to the absolute limits for if a car couldn't complete just 17 laps, well then, Connaught had greater problems.
In practice, Stirling Moss would pick up where he left off back in July as he would set the fastest lap time around the 3.0 mile Aintree circuit. His lap time of 2:06.4 would end up six-tenths of a second faster than Roy Salvadori in 2nd place. Horace Gould would complete the front row setting a time of 2:09.0.
Connaught Engineering would return to Aintree looking to recover from its earlier setback. However, the team would arrive at Aintree with a slightly different driver lineup. Jack Fairman would be at the wheel of chassis B1. The second driver for Connaught would be something of a surprise. Instead of Oliver or McAlpine, Reg Parnell would take to the wheel of the second B-Type chassis, B2.
In practice, Parnell would take to the Connaught without too much difficulty. In fact, by the end of practice, Parnell would barely miss out on the front row. Setting a qualifying time just mere hundredths of a second slower than Gould's and Gerard's, Parnell would find himself starting from the second row of the grid in the 5th position. Jack Fairman would be a bit slower around the circuit. His best time of 2:11.8 would end up leading Fairman to starting the race from the third row of the grid in the 8th position.
The race would start out in dramatic fashion when Jimmy Somervail crashed on the opening lap of the race. Meanwhile, Reg Parnell would surprise everybody by actually powering his way to the head of the field and leading ahead of Stirling Moss. Roy Salvadori would make a great start and would also be pushing for the lead.
Unfortunately for Fairman and his Connaught, the race would start out absolutely terrible. Jack Fairman's race would last just a little more than 2 laps before he would crash and drop out of the race.
Parnell would be putting together the performance of a lifetime as he would continue to hold off Moss for the lead of the race. Over the first 12 to 13 laps the order at the front would remain unchanged. Behind the two, Salvadori was just getting warmed up.
It seemed Moss was just stalking Parnell, but then, it would all fall apart for Moss when his engine blew on the 13th lap of the race. This left Parnell in the lead with Salvadori closing in on him. Salvadori would continue to gain ground. Anchored by a fastest lap time over a second faster than Moss' qualifying effort, Salvadori would put tremendous pressure on Parnell and it would end up coming out in Salvadori's favor as the engine on Parnell's car began to run afoul. This would hand the lead firmly over to Salvadori while Parnell began to drift down the running order.
Parnell's engine would cause such problems that he would fail to finish the final lap of the race and would go from its leader to being a lap down in the end. Still, his performance would still be strong enough to let him finish.
It would be Salvadori's day. Besides setting the fastest lap of the race, Salvadori would leave everyone else in his wake over the course of the race. Completing the race distance in thirty-six minutes and thirty-three seconds, Salvadori would enjoy a victory with fifteen seconds in hand over Bob Gerard in 2nd place. Another ten seconds would be the difference back to Horace Gould finishing in the 3rd position.
Parnell's race would be a rather disappointing experience. Though he would start the race in 5th place and he would go on to lead more than a majority of the race, it would all come to naught in the end. In fact, he would go from the top to nearly the very bottom. Not only would he finish the race a lap down, but he would also finish up down in 6th place behind a couple of A-Type Connaughts.
It would prove to be a day of mixed feelings for the team. Parnell's 6th place was certainly a welcome result for the team, but the fact that it came after he had been dominating the race with Moss giving chase from behind would not sit well in the stomach. Then the misfortune leading to Parnell finishing behind a couple of Formula 2 A-Types would just be the final insult. Connaught was barely hanging on, in races and as a company. Still, with one race remaining on the team's calendar, everyone at Connaught would hold out hope that they could achieve what, to that point, had been nothing more than a dream.
The final Formula One race of the 1955 season for Connaught Engineering was to come on the 24th of September at Oulton Park. On that day, Oulton Park would play host to the 2nd running of the International Gold Cup, a race that had been won in spectacular fashion by Stirling Moss the previous year.
Oulton Park would be about as natural a man-made circuit as any. Constantly rising and falling; twisting and turning, the Oulton Park circuit was great fun for driver and spectator alike. Measuring 2.76 miles in length, Oulton Park had been birthed by the Mid-Cheshire Car Club on what had been formerly the Oulton Estate. Then, during the Second World War the grounds would be used as a staging area. But, in the days after the war it would be concluded that the natural flowing terrain would suit perfectly as a grand prix circuit and in the early 1950s Oulton Park would open.
The naturally-flowing circuit would offer drivers great challenges as many of the corners would have blind entries. These same elevation changes would also make the circuit a favorite with fans as it offered a number of unique vantage points all throughout the grounds.
In 1954, the inaugural running of the International Gold Cup race, Moss would start from the tail-end of the field and would put together one of the most impressive performances coming all the way up to take the victory by a comfortable margin over Reg Parnell. One year later, some things would change; some things would stay the same.
The field for the 54 lap race would be incredible. There would be two works Maseratis in the field, Vandervell would bring his two Vanwalls, Owen Racing would bring their new BRM 25 and even Scuderia Ferrari would come with two cars of its own. With a number of smaller teams and privateer entries, the field would be filled with top-flight challengers.
In practice, Mike Hawthorn would put in a splendid performance in one of the Lancia D50s. His lap time of 1:52.4 would prove to be quickest and he would take the pole. Unlike the previous year, Moss would not be found at the tail-end of the field. Instead, his best lap would be just two-tenths slower than Hawthorn's, and thus, would lead to Stirling starting 2nd. Completing the four-wide front row would be Luigi Musso in another Maserati and Eugenio Castellotti in the second Scuderia Ferrari entry. Just four-tenths of a second would separate the entire front row.
Once again, Connaught would bring the older B-Types to the race. And, once again, Jack Fairman and Reg Parnell would be the two drivers. Fairman would struggle behind the wheel of the fully-enveloped Connaught. His best time in practice would be nearly a full ten seconds slower than Hawthorn's. Therefore, he would start well down in the field. In fact, he would start 15th and on the fifth row of the grid. Reg Parnell, on the other hand, would fare a bit better in practice. Having finished 2nd behind Moss the year before, Parnell was well aware of the Oulton Park circuit and knew how to hustle around it. Therefore, his best time in practice would end up being just about five and a half seconds slower than Hawthorn. And as such, Parnell would line up on the third row of the grid in the 9th position.
Having won the race after starting from dead-last the year before, the prospects heading into the 1955 International Gold Cup had to look a whole lot more promising for Moss starting on the front row. And, as the race got underway, it would become very evident that Moss would be the guy to beat this day as long as the car kept running all throughout the 54 lap race.
This would prove more than difficult for some of the competitors as six would be out before the race reached the 20 lap mark. Among those that would be out early would be Peter Collins in the new BRM 25 and Horace Gould in an ex-Bira Maserati 250F.
Leslie Marr would enter the race with one of the later-evolutions of the B-Type and would be running well until he crashed the car and was forced to retire from the race after just 16 laps.
Jack Fairman would have a difficult day on his hands. He would not be on the pace and would be plagued by problems all throughout the race. He would lose a lot of time each and every lap of the race and would be well out of contention by the 20th lap. Peter Walker would be fairing much better in his evolved B-Type but would have his race come to an end with just 9 laps remaining due to transmission failure.
Reg Parnell would do well. He would be quick early but would fade later on. He would be running a ways behind Desmond Titterington in one of the Vanwalls but was enjoying a bit of an advantage over Roy Salvadori, the man who snatched Parnell's victory away at Aintree.
But nobody would snatch anything away from Moss; not on this day. Though Hawthorn would take the pole, Moss would turn the fastest lap of the race and would leave Hawthorn well behind. Heading into the final couple of laps of the race, Hawthorn would be the only remaining on the lead lap with Moss. And Moss would be running all by himself with plenty of space between himself and Hawthorn.
Moss would cruise to his second-straight victory in the International Gold Cup. He would average nearly 86 mph over the course of the race and that would translate into a margin of victory of some sixty-six seconds. Titterington would bring the Vanwall home ahead of Parnell in 3rd place.
Parnell would put together a solid performance and wouldn't have it stolen away in the later-parts of the race. His 4th place result would be a very good result for the team desperate to have its performance rewarded with some reliability. So while it would not be a victory, it would be a good result nonetheless and it would help to keep Connaught breathing.
The International Gold Cup race at Oulton Park was to be the final race of the season for Connaught. And, for all intents and purposes, it was. The team would skip the Avon Trophy race held on the 1st of October at Castle Combe; a race that wasn't all that far away. It seemed more than apparent the season was over for Connaught Engineering. But then there was the 5th Gran Premio di Siracusa held on the 23rd of October.
Connaught had said, 'Enough'. Their season was over. It had been a difficult season with very little success in light of all of the frustration. The company was barely hanging on as it was. It didn't need the expense of travelling anywhere and not having any assurances of coming away with a victory or a top result. But, the organizers with the Gran Premio di Siracusa would be desperate.
The year before, Scuderia Ferrari would be just one of a number of Italian teams to enter the race just outside of the ancient city of Syracuse. The race would see an unfortunate incident where Hawthorn would crash and his car would explode into flames. Hawthorn would fight to extract himself but not before suffering from some burns. Meanwhile, Scuderia Ferrari would end up losing a second car as Jose Froilan Gonzalez's car would erupt into flames as well as he stopped to help his teammate. Just like that, Ferrari would lose two cars in a matter of minutes.
Now, whether as a result of the previous season or not Scuderia Ferrari would not have an entry for the Sicilian race. Therefore, the organizers for the race would be rather desperate for competitive teams to come and take part in the event. Mercedes-Benz would withdraw from Formula One at the end of the Italian Grand Prix, and with Scuderia Ferrari out of the picture, organizers would be desperate for any team. Thus, the organizers would approach Connaught.
Connaught would be barely hanging on as a team and a company, and therefore, would initially balk at the idea. However, when the organizers promised £1,000 per car…well, that would be too good to turn down. And so, toward the later-part of October, Connaught would pack up its cars and equipment and would head across the English Channel for the first time all season long.
When Connaught arrived in Syracuse nobody would take the small English manufacturer seriously. Everyone knew they were in trouble financially and that they were only there as a result of the starting money offered. They were never considered a threat; not by any stretch of the imagination. The team would be considered even less of a threat given what time the team arrived at the circuit.
The cars and equipment had left England a week before the start of the first practice session but were nowhere to be found. The drivers were present, but not the rest of the team. And if the team itself didn't seem to be much of a threat, then one of its drivers must have seemed like a joke. Just a few days before, Tony Brooks had been at dental school studying. And now, here he was representing the absent Connaught Engineering team.
Brooks, and the other driver Les Leston, would learn the 3.48 mile road and street circuit by borrowing scooters and riding around the circuit at a much more sedated pace. Meanwhile, their competition was taking to the circuit in their grand prix cars and setting some scorching lap times. Both Luigi Musso and Luigi Villoresi would be behind the wheel of Maserati 250Fs and the two of them would continually lap the circuit with around an average speed of 100 mph. Having a clear advantage over everyone else already at the circuit, the two Italian drivers would be satisfied with their performances and looked forward to the next practice session with relative ease.
For Tony Brooks, there would be a lot of firsts he would have to deal with. He had some time behind the wheel of a Formula 2 Connaught and had done well. However, this would be his first race in a Formula One car and at a circuit he had never before been to. Oh, and to top everything off, there was the competition that did include some very good and talented drivers. The bad part to the whole thing was that the rest of the team, and the cars, still had not shown up. So now Brooks would have the incredible pressure of having a condensed period of time in which to learn and adapt to the new car and an unknown circuit.
Finally, the team would arrive on Saturday. Unfortunately, with each driver limited to just 15 laps in practice, Brooks and Leston would find themselves at a serious disadvantage. Brooks and Leston would take to the circuit. And, surprisingly, Brooks would find himself to be quite comfortable on the circuit in a short amount of time. This was not an easy thing to achieve when the Syracuse circuit was known to be fast and bumpy, usually an uncomfortable combination for most. But Brooks seemed to like it. Brooks would like it so much that in the short amount of time he had behind the wheel he would still manage to grab a front row starting position.
Neither of the eight Maserati drivers in the field really took the green cars seriously. Therefore, Luigi Musso would not turn as quick a lap as he had during practice the day before. He was confident of his pace and his ability to deal with the British team that had just arrived. Therefore, Musso would still grab the pole, but with a slower time than that which he had posted before. As with Friday practice, Villoresi would be second-quickest. But then, Brooks would crack off a lap time of 2:05.4, a time just seven-tenths of a second slower than Villoresi. This would grab the attention of the Italians, but it still wouldn't worry them a whole lot as they had participated in races against the Connaughts before. They knew they had the power, even with their 2.5-liter four-cylinder Alta engines. But, they were also well aware of their struggles with reliability throughout the year. Therefore, neither Musso, nor Villoresi would be all that concerned. And, when Les Leston would end up starting all the way down in 11th place, on the fifth row of the grid, it seemed they were justified.
Toward the later-part of the season, chassis B1 and B2 would be updated with the more conventional layout that would utilize an open-wheel design. This change had proven to be a good one as Connaught managed to perform well enough in the later races to garner some attention. But, against no less than eight factory and privateer Maseratis, it seemed the Connaughts had little to no chance as the cars lined up on the grid for the start of the 70 lap, 243 mile, race.
The engines would come to a roar, and then, the cars would power away from the grid fighting for position. A beautiful sunny day peered down on the thousands of spectators as they fought to catch a glimpse of the cars heading into the first turn. And to the amazement of spectators and the Maserati drivers, there would be this young dental student running in 4th place.
The surprise would continue lap after lap as Musso, Villoresi and Schell would be unable to shake the Englishman. On top of that, Leston would come all the way up from his 11th place starting spot to finish the first lap in 5th place. But considering the unreliability Connaught had experienced throughout the season, no one, even at Connaught, was getting all that excited.
But then, something happened. Brooks would make a move and would get around Schell for 3rd place. From then on, Brooks would continue to take chunks of time out of the advantage Villoresi held over him. It was clear Brooks was on a charge, a purely astonishing charge really.
In time, Brooks would reel in Villoresi and would eventually pass him for position. Villoresi would have a surprised look on his face when he found himself running behind the upstart green Connaught driven by a dental student. By the time the race was just 10 laps old, Brooks would find himself in 2nd place behind Musso. Leston had been running quite well but would push a little too hard and would spin on the 5th lap and would drop well down the order. This would take the fight out of Leston and he would pretty much just hold on from that point onward. That would be anything but true of Brooks.
Some of the Maserati threat began to falter. Roy Salvadori would be out of the race by the 15th lap with a broken fuel tank. Then there would be Louis Rosier. He would be running well at the start but would develop problem with his suspension and would be out of the race by the 17th lap. Still, there would be six 250Fs out on the circuit still running. And either one of them would be capable of unseating Brooks in the 2nd position.
They would have been able to unseat Brooks if they had been able to catch him which, on this day, would prove impossible. Musso would retain the lead but would find his lead dwindling with each and every lap of the race. Musso would not be all that concerned about this as he still held onto the belief the Connaught would not be able to last the distance. This would be the view just about every one of the spectators held onto as well.
But, some would come to question their beliefs when Brooks managed to take over the lead of the race. Even though Musso believed the Connaught would not make the race distance he still could not stand to have the lead taken away from him. So, he would begin to push back causing the pace of the race to increase with each and every lap of the race. Three times the lap record would fall over the course of the race. And of those three times, two would come at the hand of Musso, trying so hard to break the Connaught.
Each would use the advantages of their cars to their betterment. However, Brooks would have the biggest advantage in that his B-Type would be equipped with disc brakes, which enabled him to go deeper into corners before needing to brake. Additionally, Brooks was aware that at the pace the two were running, is disc brakes would last longer than the drum brakes on Musso's Maserati. Therefore, as Musso pushed, Brooks would respond.
Connaught had come into the race the clear underdog. But on this day, it certainly seemed as though David was playing with Goliath. And, by the halfway mark in the race, the giant would be slain as Brooks would power past into the lead and would begin to draw away with the lead.
Musso still held out hope the Connaught would falter. But even though he had the lead well in hand, Brooks would only increase his pace until, with about 15 laps remaining in the race, he would take his turn breaking the lap record. He would do so with an incredible time of 2:00.2. This time would be nearly three and a half seconds faster than Musso's qualifying effort and would boast of an average speed in excess of 102 mph around the 3.48 mile circuit.
Brooks would be leading the race by nearly fifty seconds. It was beginning to dawn on a number of people that these British upstarts could actually pull off the victory. This reality also began to sink in to those at Connaught as well. All of a sudden, racing history would be flooding back to mind. And if Brooks could hold on, Connaught would be the first British manufacturer to win a major grand prix since Seagrave's victory in a Sunbeam all the way back in 1924 at the San Sebastian Grand Prix.
All of a sudden, things would change with those at Connaught. Taking on the giants had been one thing. Now they had the lead and the victory in hand. Now the focus would change. And this is when the tension would rise. It would be absolutely perfect having a dental student behind the wheel of the car. Being a dental student Brooks would need to have a steady hand under intense pressure. And in the closing stages of the race, that is exactly what Brooks would be facing.
The only way to deal with the situation was to continue to put the focus back on the challenge offered by Musso. But with just a couple of laps remaining it was more than clear Musso could not close the gap. Therefore, the team would give the signal to Brooks to slow to a point to hold the gap steady. This only made the tension worse.
Convinced the Connaught would fail, Musso would see the B-Type disappear into the distance and run without issue for around two and a half hours. The Maserati fleet would be soundly beaten. Even Villoresi, still running in 3rd place, would find himself a little more than a lap behind and nearly utterly shocked by the sight of the Connaught having come by a second time.
So many firsts would be achieved as Brooks cruised across the line to take the victory. Not only would Brooks break the track record, but he would provide the first win for a car with disc brakes, it would be the first win for a British manufacturer since 1924. It would be the first major Formula One grand prix win for Connaught Engineering. What's more, it would be the first victory for a British car that had been conceived, built and developed in the country that had gone on to take a major grand prix victory.
Musso would be soundly beaten. He would cross the line over fifty seconds behind Brooks in 2nd place. Villoresi would hold on to finish in 3rd place. He would finish the race a little more than two laps behind Brooks. Les Leston would also bring home the second Connaught. After his early spin that would drop him to the back of the field, he would focus on being consistent and steady from then on, instead of trying to challenge the rest of those at the front. He would end the race over eight laps behind Brooks in 9th place. But while the performances couldn't have been more vastly different, it was still good for Connaught to have both of its cars come home, victory or not.
The scene would be electric. And yet, there would be Brooks. Sitting quietly, people could have passed right by him without having even a thought that it was actually he that won the race. But while the scrutineers dove into the Connaught looking for anything illegal, Musso would realize who had clearly won that day. He would come over to Brooks and would congratulate him and would be the one to actually encourage Brooks to attend the prize ceremony.
Even by the early evening hours, the Connaught pit continued to celebrate while the other teams had already left, or, were in the process of heading out. It was a momentous moment for Connaught. Amazingly, it would be all the more momentous for what Connaught had managed to achieve as a British manufacturer, and, as a manufacturer that had been barely able to stay above water all season long. Fighting as if it was their last breath at each and every race, the Gran Premio di Siracusa would provide at least some relief to a team that had battled and battled all season long.
It was clear by Brooks' performance in the race that Connaught had a car that was capable of competing with the biggest manufacturers and names in Formula One, as long as the conditions were right. It would be amazing and mesmerizing to think that Connaught had almost not gone to Syracuse. And had they not, what a different mood there would have been at Connaught?
Because they did decide to make the trip, Connaught Engineering would end the season on the highest of highs. Whereas had the season truly ended for the manufacturer after Oulton Park, it is highly unlikely the team would have looked forward to 1956 with an excitement. But all of that would change now.
And, as a result of Brooks demonstrative victory in Syracuse, Connaught would enjoy a brief period of time where it would be the most successful British manufacturer in Formula One racing. And, all of a sudden, Connaught would go from being a team scoffed at to becoming a team that needed to be taken very seriously. Connaught Engineering