Teams1952 Formula One Season By Jeremy McMullen
The McAlpine name is famous in Britian for engineering and building some of the most influential arenas of public life. Known for building railways, roads and even stadiums, the McAlpine name seems almost everywhere. In the case of one of their sons, Kenneth, he was determined to design and build a racing empire.
Using his family's wealth, Kenneth would begin laying the initial foundation for his racing empire. The Chobham-born McAlpine would purchase a Maserati 8CM and then would take the car to Send, Surrey where Bugatti specialists Continental Cars would be in charge of preparing the car for Kenneth and the upcoming races. It was during this time that McAlpine would meet a couple of kindred spirits. Mike Oliver and Rodney Clarke had been pilots in the RAF. Both of them had the dream of starting their own racing team. Taking a step in that direction, both the gentlemen would join Continental Cars, which originally was designed to be a post-war Bugatti dealership.
Over the course of preparing his Maserati 8CM, and other discussions he had with Oliver and Clarke, McAlpine was convinced to fund the building of a new sports car for 1950. This gave birth to Connaught Engineering, which is actually merely a pun of the name 'Continental Cars'. The gentlemen would end up basing its operations near Continental Cars in Send, Surrey.
In 1951, McAlpine would take his car, and his new team, and start out the team's racing career well with a podium finish at the Daily Mail Trophy race at Boreham. Then, in 1952, the focus became more ambitious, not so much as a result of their own doing, as much as, the result of the doings of the Formula One World Championship governing-body. Decisions would be made the would enable Connaught to see what kind of empire it could engineer within the realm of the World Championship.
The departure of Alfa Romeo, and a non-existent heir-apparent to take their place in the battle with Ferrari, would lead the World Championship governing-body to take a hard look at Formula One. Costs were too high and the competition was too low. Changes needed to be made. In the interim, it was decided the Formula One World Championship would actually compete according to Formula 2 regulations.
Being able to now take part in the World Championship motivated McAlpine, and the others, to expand their 'factory' effort. Connaught had achieved some success in its short history in Formula 2. Compared to some of the other Formula 2 conforming chassis that were being produced in Britain at the time, the Connaught offered better performance, and therefore, was more attractive to young talent looking to drive for a good team.
The addition of the rounds that counted toward the World Championship made for a rather busy grand prix season. In the case of Kenneth McAlpine and Connaught Engineering; however, the season wouldn't get start until May.
McAlpine had put in an entry for a couple of the cup races that took place at Goodwood in April, but he would not appear at either of those races. Therefore, the first race of the season for Connaught would come on the 10th of May and it was the 4th BRDC International Trophy race.
Held at Silverstone near Towcester, the BRDC International Trophy race was comprised of a couple of heat races and a final. Each of the heat races consisted of 15 laps around the 2.88 mile road course. The final would be 35 laps.
Connaught would bring three cars to the race. McAlpine would drive one. Kenneth Downing and Philip Fotheringham-Parker would drive the other two. Downing would end up being placed in the first heat race while the other two would take part in the second.
Fastest times in practice would end up establishing the starting grid for each of the heat races. In practice for the first heat, Downing looked good in the Connaught A-Type chassis. Being that the Silverstone circuit was wide and relatively flat, drivers were inspired to push their cars to the absolute limit. Downing would end up doing just that.
Only five seconds would separate the top-eight on the starting grid. The fastest of them all would be Mike Hawthorn driving a Cooper-Bristol T20. He would lap the circuit in two minutes flat. Peter Collins, driving an HWM-Alta, would end up being two seconds slower and would start 2nd. Jean Behra would join Hawthorn and Collins on the front row with his Equipe Gordini T15. Another HWM-Alta pilot, Lance Macklin, would end up taking the fourth, and final, spot on the front row with a time of two minutes and three seconds.
Downing would put in some impressive laps in practice. His best time would end up coming up just a little short. Downing would end up missing the front row by just a little over a second. However, he would start right off of Hawthorn's left shoulder on the second row in the 5th place starting position.
The heat race itself was very important. Starting positions on the grid for the final were to be based upon finishing times in each heat race. Therefore, it was important for the competitors to go as fast as they dared in order to try and earn the best starting position possible for the final. However, it was important the driver didn't push too hard and damage the car so that he could not even take part in the final.
Unfortunately, Downing would end up doing the later. The race would get underway without any real problems. The laps began to tick-off. Hawthorn and Behra were driving the pace. Each would record the fastest lap of the heat with times equal to what Hawthorn's qualifying effort had been. To keep up, Downing would also have to push. Unfortunately, the engine in Downing's Connaught wasn't up to the task and would fail on him on the 6th lap of the race. Downing was out.
Under great pressure from Behra, Hawthorn would go on to win the race. He would end up holding on by a little over two seconds over Behra in 2nd. Collins would end up finishing the race 3rd, down thirty seconds to Hawthorn.
With Downing out of the first heat race, it was up to McAlpine and Fotheringham-Parker to carry on for Connaught Engineering.
The second heat race was shaping up to be better for Connaught. In practice, both of the A-Types remained well in touch with the fastest competition. Robert Manzon, driving a Gordini T16 for Equipe Gordini, would prove to be fastest in practice. Manzon's time was two minutes and one second. While slower than Hawthorn in the first heat, Manzon would manage to grab the pole.
Times in the second heat were even closer than they had been in the first. The top-ten would end up being separated by only four seconds. McAlpine's best time would end up only being separated from Manzon's best by a mere second. As a result, McAlpine would start the race 2nd. Rudolf Fischer and Duncan Hamilton would join Manzon and McAlpine on the front row. Fotheringham-Parker's best time would end up being a mere second slower than McAlpine but it would end up causing the Brit to have to start the race from 6th, which was in the middle of the second row.
Although the qualifying times in practice were ever-so slightly slower, the pace in the race would end up being a good deal faster. The second heat had an advantage. The competitors had the opportunity to see the pace in the first heat and could determine what they needed to run in order to have better starting positions for the final.
Fischer would make it clear he wanted the best starting position possible for the final. Manzon would lead away from the very start. Fischer; however, would be charging hard. Very soon, the Swiss restaurant owner would take over 2nd and would be rapidly pursuing Manzon. In an effort to catch and pass Manzon, Fischer would turn in the fastest lap of the heat. His time would be two second faster than any lap time anybody had set throughout the weekend.
This would be too much for McAlpine. It had already become too much for Fotheringham-Parker who had suffered a crash on the 8th lap of the race. In an effort to make sure one of the Connaught cars made it into the final, McAlpine would back off the pace quite a bit. In fact, the car wasn't quite up to speed anyway.
Manzon would end up being able to hold over Fischer over the course of the 15 laps. Manzon would win the heat by over two seconds. Fischer would finish 2nd. Finishing only about thirteen seconds behind Fischer was Tony Rolt who had put in an impressive performance after starting the heat race 7th.
McAlpine would end up being the last car officially still running in the race. He would nurse the car around to finish a lap down and in 8th place. The other seven finishers all managed to stay on the lead lap.
Starting grid positions for the 35 lap final were determined by the finishing times of each competitor in their respective heat race. McAlpine, who, at the time, had the sole remaining A-Type Connaught, was less concerned with starting position as much as being able to start the final. Although he would end up further down in the starting grid, the important thing was that he started. Downing would also receive a reprieve as he too would be allowed to start the final. He would end up starting the race, albeit in the 26th, and last, position on the grid.
The battle between Manzon and Fischer would end up earning them the first-two spots on the starting grid. Hawthorn would start 3rd after his battle with Behra, who would round-out the front row in 4th. McAlpine's conservative race pace would end up causing him to start 18th, which was on the outside of the fifth row. He would severely need to engineer something special if he wanted a podium finish.
The two minute barrier had been demolished by Fischer in the second heat. The strongest competitors knew they could push that little extra knowing they could turn such a lap. For others that could only manage to turn a two minute lap as their best time…it was going to be a long race.
The greatest hope the mid-pack runners had was if the front-runners made mistakes, or, if attrition began decimating the field. The later would seem quite likely as the final began. Only 1 lap into the race, the pole-sitter; Robert Manzon, would retire from the race with transmission failure. Just two laps later, Manzons Equipe Gordini teammate; Jean Behra, would also retire from the race with transmission failure.
Troubles began striking the whole of the front of the grid. Soon, Hawthorn was well off the pace and slipping back down through the running order. Fischer, who had turned in the fastest lap of them all at one minute and fifty-eight seconds, had seemingly hit a wall and seemed merely like another competitor out on the circuit. Providence had opened the door, but not for either of the Connaught entries.
Lance Macklin would come all the way from 10th on the starting grid to take over the lead in his HWM-Alta. Tony Rolt had started 5th and was running 2nd about ten seconds behind. Emmanuel de Graffenried, driving an update; but ancient, Maserati 4CLT/48, was in 3rd. Both of the Connaught entries were still running and actually moving forward in the running order as well. However, the pace was such they could not make their way too far forward. Most amazingly, Downing; after suffering an engine failure in his heat race, was still in the running and doing quite well.
Macklin would enjoy the opportunity dealt him and would drive on to take the victory by ten seconds over Rolt. Enrico Plate pilot, de Graffenried, would manage to hold on eight seconds to take the final step on the podium.
The pace in the final was furious. The fastest lap of the race would be set by two different drivers and it was a time of one minute and fifty-nine seconds. This would be too much for McAlpine. Even though he would finish the race 10th, he would finish down a lap to Macklin. In spite of being down a lap at the end it was still a rather good result since he had started the race 18th. Downing would end up being even more impressive. Armed with a working engine, Downing would end up coming up in the running order quite a ways. In spite of starting the final 26th, and dead last, Downing would manage to push the car forward to a 13th place result.
The International Trophy race consisted of a lot of ups and downs. However, the team would manage to have two cars finish its first race of the season. McAlpine had managed to start his heat race 2nd and Downing put together an incredible performance to finish 13th after starting the final last on the grid. There was some promise for the team concerning the season.
After the save at the International Trophy race on the 10th of May, the team would not compete in another race for almost an entire month. Then, on the 1st of June, Connaught entered a single A-Type chassis at Chimay in Belgium for Kenneth Downing.
The race was the 22nd Grand Prix des Frontieres and it took place at the 6.69 mile Chimay circuit located just to the west of Chimay, Belgium. The whole of the little town of Chimay could easily fit inside the route of the circuit. Though not as famous as some of the other public road courses, like Reims or St. Gaudens, the circuit was cut from practically the same mold.
The circuit was comprised of public roads just to the northwest of Chimay. The circuit traversed the generally flat countryside with long straight-aways and sweeping corners. The circuit started on the twisting run from Vidal down to the La Bouchere hairpin. It then set off on along the Ligne Droite de Salles. The circuit wasn't without its dangers as it featured some fast corners such as Mairesse and Beauchamps.
Being that it was one of the more popular venues in Belgium, Downing would be facing a number of Belgian racers looking to score a victory in one of the nation's important races.
The jazz musician turned racing driver, Johnny Claes, would take the pole for the race. Another Belgian, Roger Laurent, would start 3rd. Sandwiched in the middle of the front row was the German driver Willi Heeks. Downing would end up starting the race on the second row in the 5th position.
The race, with one lap being the better part of seven miles, would not be a short event. The race was 22 laps and would be a total distance of 147 miles.
Things were looking good for Downing right at the start as the Belgians Claes and Laurent would come together on the very first lap of the race. Each would be knocked out of the running before the race had even completed one lap.
One lap later, another of the front row starters would take a hit. Heading onto the 2nd lap of the race, Heeks' AFM would have an oil pump fail on him. He would end up retiring from the race as well. In only two laps the entire front row was gone from the race. After Downing's performance at Silverstone he seemed capable of taking advantage of the troubles.
Unfortunately for Downing, there was another Belgian in the race. Paul Frere had started right behind Downing on the grid and had managed to make a good start. The two of them would end up being locked in a high-speed duel for the remaining 20 laps of the race.
The two battled back and forth. Frere had the lead but was being pressured heavily by Downing. Frere wasn't the one under so much pressure. He knew the circuit. He had the 'home-field advantage'. To show Downing he could handle the pressure he would go on to set the fastest lap of the race. He would cover the circuit in four minutes and sixteen seconds with an average speed in excess of 94 mph.
The race would go right down to the wire. As the two turned out of Beauchamps and headed down through Vidal, Downing was right there on the back of Frere. Coming through the last couple of kinks, Frere still held a very slim advantage. At the line, it was Frere who would hold on to take the victory. Only one second separated himself from Downing in 2nd. These were the only two that remained on the lead lap of the race. Robin Montgomerie-Charrington, who would run out of gas on the last lap of the race, would end up two laps down in 3rd.
This was a tremendous result for Connaught and Downing after the disappointing race at Silverstone. Downing proved the Connaught had the pace to challenge, not merely for a top-five position, but for the win itself. This was a great confidence-building race for the team heading into its busiest part of the season.
Three weeks after the 2nd place finish by Downing at Chimay, Connaught headed to Boreham in West Essex for the 1st West Essex CC Formula 2 race.
Connaught would arrive at Boreham with three cars. One would be drive by McAlpine. The other two would be driven by Downing and Bill Black. The three would take part in what was a rather short race. It was only 10 laps of the 2.99 mile circuit.
The Boreham circuit existed on what was a former Royal Air Force Station. During World War II the base was home to the 394th Bomb Group of the United States Army Air Force. Then, after the war, it would become useful, like Silverstone and Goodwood, as a racing circuit. The wide perimeter road served as a perfect grand prix course.
The field was rather small. Only eleven would start the race. The small field played into the hands of the Connaught team. Downing was especially excited about his chances and would end up setting the fastest lap in practice. This would earn him the pole-position for the race. Reg Parnell would start 2nd. Things would get even better for Connaught. McAlpine would end up setting the third-fastest time in practice and would start on the front row with his teammate. The rest of the five-wide front row consisted of Bill Dobson and John Barber. The inexperienced Black would end up starting the race second-to-last in 10th.
In practice, Downing was in a battle against the clock. In the race; however, Downing would have the very well known Reg Parnell starting right beside him. Whether stuck in neutral, or in awe of Parnell, Downing would lose the lead to Parnell very early on in the race. Parnell would turn the fastest lap of the race in an effort to stretch his margin over Downing. Soon, even McAlpine and Dobson would end up getting past the pole-sitter. McAlpine now had the job of trying to track down Parnell.
Parnell's experience would enable him to handle the pressure from the rest of the field. Averaging a little over 89 mph throughout the course of the race, Parnell would end up taking the victory. However, McAlpine would make it two podium finishes in a row as he would finish the race 2nd, nineteen seconds behind. Bill Dobson would end up one minute behind Parnell in 3rd.
After looking so promising at the start of the race, Downing would end up finishing a quiet 4th a minute and five seconds behind. Bill Black would end up driving a very steady race, and although he was one lap down by the end of the race, he would end up finishing 9th.
One finishing 2nd, another finishing inside the top-five and another finishing inside the top-ten; this is what Connaught Engineering wanted at every event. Confidence would continue to grow for the team.
After two-straight podium finishes, Connaught was ready to enter its first-ever World Championship race. The team would wait until the series headed across the Channel and came to their backyard.
On the 19th of July, Connaught Engineering was getting ready to take part in its first World Championship race, the British Grand Prix. The World Championship had come to England. With it came Scuderia Ferrari, Equipe Gordini and a host of other smaller teams and privateer entries that were very competent competitors. But this was the British Grand Prix. It was Connaught's home grand prix.
Unfortunately for the team, the last time they had come and competed at Silverstone the results were rather mixed. Thankfully, for the team, they had a couple of great results before coming to the old World War II airbase. This would offer the team a good deal of confidence. Qualifying would end up helping as well.
McAlpine would end up footing the bill to enable the team to enter four cars in the race. McAlpine would drive one; Downing another. Eric Thompson and Dennis Poore would end up driving the other two. At the end of practice, it would be the one with the deep pockets that would start the race from the worst position on the grid.
Nobody could touch Scuderia Ferrari in practice. Giuseppe Farina and Alberto Ascari were easily two to three seconds faster than the rest of the field, even Piero Taruffi, their Ferrari teammate. Both Farina and Ascari would circulate the 2.88 mile road course in one minute and fifty seconds. This was eight seconds faster than the fastest lap turned during the International Trophy race back in May! Farina would end up clipping Ascari by a couple of tenths to earn the pole for the race. Ascari would start 2nd. Taruffi would turn in a lap of one minute and fifty-three seconds. This would be fast enough to ensure Ferrari started the race one-two-three. Robert Manzon would end up starting from the last spot on the front row.
Downing best time in practice back in May, for the International Trophy race, was two minutes and four seconds. Inspired and motivated by the fact it was the British Grand Prix, and the fifth round of the World Championship, Downing would blow his previous best time out of the water. He would turn in a lap during practice of one minute and fifty-six seconds. This time was fast enough that he would end up starting 5th and on the inside of the second row!
Downing wouldn't be the only good news for the team after practice. Though new to the team, Poore and Thompson would quickly get comfortable behind the wheel of the A-Type Connaught. Poore would also turn in a lap time of one minute and fifty-six seconds. However, he would start from the third row in 8th position. Right beside Poore, Thompson would start in another of the Connaughts. His time was only one second slower than Downing and meant he would start 9th.
McAlpine would end up being the worst of the Connaught starters. Back in May he had qualified for the International Trophy race with a time of two minutes and two seconds. He would improve his time for the British Grand Prix by two seconds. However, given the times of the all of the competitors, his two minute lap time would only enable him to start the race 17th and on the outside of the fifth row.
Thirty-two cars would roar away with the waving of the green flag to start the race. Farina lost many spaces right off the line. This would hand Ascari a healthy lead after his great start off the line. The rest of the field took up the pursuit.
Very quickly, many of the favorite contenders began to fall out of the 85 lap race. Nine laps into the race Robert Manzon, the 4th place starter, would end up out of the race due to clutch problems. Manzon's retirement, and Farina's poor start, enabled Mike Hawthorn to lead a contingent of British drivers, including Poore and Thompson, in pursuit of Taruffi and Ascari.
A number of British drivers either retired, or, were running well out of the hunt. Moss and Hamilton were out of the race, while Peter Collins was well out of the running. Connaught: however, was more than happy to do their part to uphold British honor.
All the British honor in the world wasn't enough to deny Ascari. His pace was absolutely fierce. He would end up leading every single lap and would lap the entire field before the end of the race. Averaging a little over 90 mph over the course of the 85 laps, it only took Ascari two hours and forty-four minutes to dispatch his competition. Piero Taruffi would finish a lap down in 2nd place. The British fans weren't without something to cheer about, however. Mike Hawthorn would bring the crowd to their feet as he would finish in 3rd two laps down. Thirty-four seconds later, Poore would bring Connaught to their feet as he would finish 4th, also two laps down. One more lap down, Eric Thompson would end up holding off Farina by thirteen seconds to finish 5th.
The start had hurt Downing. He had gotten caught up behind Farina, who was very slow to get away from the line. This would allow others, like Poore and Thompson to get by and into the top-five. Instead, Downing would run steadily just inside the top-ten throughout the race. He too would end up three laps down, but in 9th place. This made it three Connaughts inside the top-ten.
Facing such talent, McAlpine would struggle compared to the rest of his teammates. Still, he would manage to finish the race, which was something many other Brits could not claim. McAlpine would end up finishing a very quiet 16th, six laps behind Ascari at the end.
Connaught's Poore and Thompson would earn 3 and 2 points respectively. This was an amazing result for the team and firmly cemented many had that Connaught could become a grand prix contender, not just a national entrant. In spite of the beliefs of many, Connaught would not bite. The team would not journey across to the continent for the German Grand Prix on the 3rd of August. Instead, the team would continue to focus on more local Formula One and Formula 2 races.
Connaught would not travel to Nurburg, Germany to prepare for the sixth round of the World Championship and the 14 mile Nordschleife. Instead, the team would be just to the east of London preparing for the 2nd Daily Mail Trophy race, which was to take place at Boreham on the 2nd of August.
The last time the team had been to Boreham McAlpine had managed to leave with a 2nd place result. Unfortunately, that was the small West Essex CC Formula 2 race and the Belgian Grand Prix was the next day. Even though the German Grand Prix was the following day, the competition at Boreham in the beginning of August would be totally different.
In the first place, the race itself would be different. The 2nd Daily Mail Trophy race was one of a few races throughout 1952 that still allowed the Formula One cars of the previous years to compete. This meant the powerful Ferrari 375 could be brought out of retirement. Scuderia Ferrari would do just that. They would end up sending two 375s to the race to be driven by Luigi Villoresi and Chico Landi. In addition to the Ferrari 375, BRM would also bring two of their troublesome, but powerful, P15s. There would also be five of the aging Talbot-Lago T26Cs entered in the race.
Perhaps recognizing the strength of the competition, Connaught would only enter two cars in the race. The drivers for the two cars would also be a couple of the best Connaught had. Dennis Poore would drive one, while Kenneth Downing would drive the other.
In practice, the performance differences between the Formula One and Formula 2 cars were apparent right away. The first-four spots on the starting grid were taken by Formula One cars. Villoresi would be fastest in one of the 375s. Jose Froilan Gonzalez, driving one of the BRM P15s, would end up starting 2nd. Landi would start the race 3rd followed by Ken Wharton (in the other P15) and Louis Rosier driving the first of the Formula 2 machines.
In spite of the numerous T26Cs in the race, Poore would end up putting together a very good lap in practice and would be able to start the race on the second row in 8th place. Comparatively, Downing would struggle. He would still turn in a rather incredible performance in the other Connaught, but could not match Poore's pace. As a result, Downing would start on the third row in 11th place. In all, thirty-five would prepare to start the race.
The start of the race dawned with a very wet track and rain still falling. This would serve to equalize the performance margin to a great degree. Mike Hawthorn would prove this right from the very start.
In the slippery conditions, the excessive horsepower of the Formula One cars was working against them. The lighter Formula 2 cars were able to handle better in the wet conditions. Instead of excessive wheelspin, the Formula 2 cars were able to put the power down much more smoothly and efficiently. This enabled Hawthorn to come up and lead the race throughout much of the race.
Three laps into the 67 lap race, Gonzalez was out of the running when he crashed out in one of the BRMs. In spite of bring from the British Isles, even Downing and Poore would struggle in the conditions. They were not able to get anywhere near the performance and handling Hawthorn seemingly got for nothing. Struggling in the conditions, both of the Connaught drivers would fall out of the top-ten.
Unfortunately for Hawthorn, he too was threatened with being dropped down in the order as the rain had come to an end and the track had begun to dry out. As the track dried out, the pace of the Formula One cars picked up. Soon, Villoresi was threatening Hawthorn for the lead. Poore and Downing had been struggling in the wet conditions. Unfortunately, it would not get any better as it dried out. On top of it all, the other Formula One cars were able to get by and move up.
Villoresi would end up getting by Hawthorn for the lead. Landi would also get by Hawthorn. Ken Wharton had been running up with Villoresi and Landi but his gearbox would fail on the 61st lap of the race.
Villoresi would go on to win the race by ten seconds over Landi. Hawthorn would finish a minute and six seconds later in 3rd. This was an amazing race for the young Brit.
The same could not be said of Connaught's British drivers. Downing would end up seven laps down by the end of the race and would finish 18th. In fact, he would finish worse than Ken Wharton. In spite of starting the race 8th, Poore was soundly out-classed in the conditions. The best he would end up being able to do was to finish five laps down in 15th.
The return to Boreham had proven to be quite unfruitful. Given the view many had about their chances in the World Championship, it seemed the team would have had a better opportunity had it travelled to take part of the German Grand Prix on the 'Green Hell'.
After the truly bitter race at Boreham, Downing decided it was time to take the team across to the European continent in order to see just how good the team really was against the best in the World Championship. Therefore, in the middle of August, Connaught would send a single car with Downing in order to take part in the seventh round of the World Championship.
Situated amidst the sand dunes overlooking the North Sea, the 2.62 mile circuit had become the official home of Dutch grand prix racing. Opened in 1948, Zandvoort had hosted the Dutch Grand Prix for a couple of years. However, in 1952, it would be the first time the Dutch Grand Prix counted toward the World Championship.
Coming into the race, many teams and private entrants had seen the writing on the wall. Ascari had already earned the Drivers' World Championship and had been dominant throughout. In the face of the dominant Ferrari 500, and the less-likely chances on earning any prize-money, many privateers and small teams would be absent from the 90 lap race. The times in practice made it clear as to why the absences weren't foolish.
Ascari would end up turning in the fastest time around the 2.62 mile circuit. His best lap time would be one minute and forty-six seconds. This would be over two seconds faster than Farina's best, who would start 2nd. Hawthorn continued to impress in his Cooper-Bristol T20. He would start the race 3rd.
Back at Silverstone for the fifth round of the World Championship, Downing had managed to start that race from the 5th position on the starting grid. His margin behind Farina was less than ten seconds. It would be a totally different story for the seventh round. Downing would push the Connaught A-Type hard. Unfortunately, the best lap he could put together would be almost ten seconds slower than just Farina's time in 2nd. As a result, Downing would start the race from the fifth row in 13th.
Right from the very start of the race, Ascari was in control. Farina would take up the pursuit followed by Hawthorn and Villoresi. Very quickly, Ascari would stretch his lead. In an effort to stretch it even more, he would turn the fastest lap of the race. The torrid pace would end up being too much for a good number of the entrants. Downing was one of them.
As Downing headed around on his 27th lap, the oil pressure failed on his Connaught. This would cause him to retire from the race. This was the first retirement the team had suffered since the International Trophy race back in the early part of May. Unfortunately, this meant the team had suffered two fruit-less races in a row. The team needed to have providence come back to them to off confidence going into the last few races of the season. They would get some of the confidence back and it would come in a big way.
One week after the failed attempt at the Dutch Grand Prix, Connaught headed north to Scotland to take part in the non-championship 1st National Trophy race. The race took place at the old Turnberry Royal Air Force Station.
Right on the southwestern coast overlooking the Irish Sea, Turnberry had been a Royal Air Force Station during World War II. Wide-open and windswept, the Turnberry station became another in a long line of abandoned airbases from World War II to be used to host motor sports. In 1952, it would host a rather minor Formula 2 race. However, who Connaught had brought as their drivers would be anything but minor.
Connaught would bring two cars to the 1st National Trophy race on the 23rd of August. The team would manage to employ Mike Hawthorn to come and drive in the race alongside Dennis Poore. Initially, it was to be McAlpine and Black driving the two cars. However, Poore and Hawthorn became available for the race. McAlpine would take advantage of the opportunity and brought the two drivers to the race. It was Hawthorn that Poore had followed home at the British Grand Prix earlier in the year.
The move was paying off for Connaught right from the start of practice. Very quickly, Hawthorn was proving to be one of the fastest around the 1.75 mile circuit that used one of the runways and the perimeter roads around the base. Then, Hawthorn would take over. He would turn in a lap of one minute and twenty seconds. The twenty-three year old would manage to go two seconds faster than the next-fastest qualifier. The second-fastest qualifier would be Ninian Sanderson in a Cooper-Bristol T20. Andre Loens and Ken Wharton also start the race from the front row. Poore would not be able to match the pace of his new teammate. He would start the race a little further down in the field.
At only 15 laps, the pressure was on the entire field right at the start of the race. Those who started from the front row would be under pressure to hold onto their positions while those who started further back on the grid would be pushing to move forward and try to hold on over the course of the race. In the case of Poore, he would end up being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
With the field bunched up at the start of the race, a mistake by one would end up hurting another. Gaps close quickly at the start, and what seemed like a good idea a moment earlier ends up looking like a nightmare. The nightmare would visit Poore and Bill Skelly. The two would come together on the 1st lap of the race. Both of their races were over just like that.
Connaught was left with only one car, but it was a powerful remaining entity. Hawthorn had made it through the 1st lap melee and would set off in search of a victory. He would receive more help along the way.
Only 6 laps into the race, the timing chain broke on Ken Wharton's Frazer Nash. Then, one lap before the end of the race, the engine would let go on Loens' Cooper-Bristol T20. However, by that time, Hawthorn was in complete control.
Hawthorn would only need a little more than twenty minutes to complete the 15 laps and he would end up taking the victory rather easily over John Barber and Ninian Sanderson.
In spite of Poore's early exit, Connaught had received the shot in the arm they needed. Hawthorn's performance offered the team confidence that, in the right hands, the car was not only capable of good results, but victory. The team would need this confidence heading to its next race.
Connaught's next race on the season would be the eighth, and final, round of the World Championship. The race was the Italian Grand Prix.
The Italian Grand Prix was one of the most popular races throughout Europe and the world. It would be enough of a draw that it would pull Connaught away from England and come en masse to take on the throng of Italian race fans and the 3.91 mile Monza circuit; not to mention Scuderia Ferrari and a resurgent Maserati.
The team was a little more willing to take part in the race after they were able to secure the talents of a young Stirling Moss for the race. Altogether, Connaught would bring three cars to the race. Moss would drive one. McAlpine and Poore would drive the other two.
Just because the team showed up in Monza didn't mean they were automatically in the race. There were thirty-five entries for the race. The problem was, there were only twenty-four spots on the starting grid. Making it into the race would be no small victory.
One who would end up not needing to worry about making it into the race would be Ascari. The World Champion would not cruise in the last World Championship race of the season. The race was before the Ferrari faithful and other Italian race fans. This was the time for the Italian, in the Italian car, to put on a show. He would do just that. He would turn the fastest lap during practice. His time around the 3.91 mile road course would end up being nine-tenths faster than Villoresi in 2nd. Farina would start on the front row after setting a time four-tenths slower than Villoresi. Maurice Trintignant, driving for Equipe Gordini, would end up spoiling things for Scuderia Ferrari as he would end up earning the final spot on the front row.
Stirling Moss would make sure he made it into the race. He would end up turning in what would end up being the ninth-fastest time in practice, which was a little over four seconds slower than Ascari. This placed Moss on the inside of the third row.
Neither Poore nor McAlpine would fare as good. Inexperienced with the incredible speeds around the old road circuit would cost the two time. Of the two, Poore would fare the best. His time was a little over eight seconds slower and placed him down in 19th. McAlpine would sweat the last few moments of practice slightly as his best time was only good enough for the last row of the starting grid. However, Connaught would end up being able to get all three of its cars into the race. HWM and Enrico Plate could not even say they had one car in the race. Connaught had achieved a small victory. However, the team still had the actual race still to go.
Jose Froilan Gonzalez streaked ahead with the lead at the start of the race. He had decided to run light on fuel in order to open up a large enough gap to enable him to retain the lead after stopping for fuel. While such strategy was being played out at the head of the field, Connaught's drivers were looking just to get into a comfortable pace in order to be in position for a good result by the end.
For McAlpine, that end would only be 4 laps into the 80 lap race. The rear suspension had developed a failure that cost him the race. His race lasted only about nine minutes. The other two drivers continued on without any problems.
Gonzalez's margin over Ascari had stretched as far as it was going to. Gonzalez took the opportunity to pit to get more fuel. However, it wasn't enough of a gap. Ascari would take over the lead and the control of the race from that point on.
To make sure he had control of the rest of the field, Ascari would turn in the fastest lap of the race with 24 laps still remaining in the race. The time was only four-tenths slower than his pole-winning lap in practice.
In an effort to regain the lead, Gonzalez would match the time on the very next lap and then again on the 60th lap of the race. While Gonzalez was pushing in an attempt to climb back up the running order to retake the lead from Ascari, Moss was rapidly descending the running order. His 2.0-liter Lea Francis engine had suffered a pushrod failure. His race was over.
Never able to match the pace of the front-runners, Poore focused on finishing the race and looking to Providence to provide a good result. After the failure of McAlpine, and then Moss, finishing definitely became Poore's focus. As a result of backing off the edge of the limit, Poore would give Ascari plenty of room to come by.
Ascari would hold off Gonzalez's advances to take the victory. He would end up beating Jose by one minute and one second at the end. Another whole minute would pass before Villoresi would come across the line in 3rd place.
At the last World Championship race in which Poore had raced he had finished on the attack toward the front of the field. That was on home ground in Silverstone. This time, Poore was on the Italians' home ground. Poore would finish the race. His Connaught would be one of only three none-Italian marks that would end up finishing in the top-thirteen. He would quietly slip across the line in 12th position, six laps down.
Unfortunately for Poore, he could not turn the last round of the World Championship into one more points-paying position before the end. Still, Poore would end up 14th in the World Championship standings due to his 3 points earned at the British Grand Prix. Eric Thompson would end up 21st with his two points. In what was only the third year of the team's existence, Connaught Engineering managed to score 5 points in total in only three races. This, combined with the team's rather good non-championship results made the team a favorite going for the following season.
1953 was still a little ways off. The team still had a couple of non-championship races in which it would compete for the end of the grand prix season.
After returning from the European mainland, Connaught Engineering made its way to Goodwood for the 5th Madgwick Cup race on the 27th of September. This would be the first time during the season in which the team had made it to Goodwood. Back in April McAlpine had planned to bring the team, but would not arrive.
Formerly the Royal Air Force Station Westhampnett, Goodwood had been an auxiliary landing field for fighter aircraft during World War II. The airbase was built upon the Goodwood Estate. When the airbase was decommissioned in the 1940s, the Duke of Richmond, the owner of the Estate and a fellow racer back before the war, would give permission to hold motor races on the road that formed the perimeter of the grass runways.
The Madgwick Cup race was one of a number of short races held at the Goodwood circuit. The race would only be 7 laps of the 2.39 mile circuit.
Although Connaught would not make it back in April, it would come in force at the end of September. The team would end up coming to the race with four cars. McAlpine would be joined by Poore, Downing and Thompson. Leslie Marr would also enter the race with a Connaught. It was the same one with which Hawthorn drove to victory at Turnberry.
At only 7 laps, starting position, and a good start, would be paramount to having a good result. Getting bogged down in the field would almost certainly guarantee a rather mediocre finish. Connaught's drivers would take this fact to heart.
In practice, Thompson would end up being the fastest of the entire field and would deservingly start from the pole. Right beside him in 2nd would be Downing in another Connaught. The rest of the front row included Duncan Hamilton and Alan Brown.
Poore would make sure he didn't start at the back of the grid either. He would end up being able to start the race from the second row in 5th position. McAlpine would manage to make it all four cars in the top-ten when he would qualify 10th for the race.
Duncan Hamilton would end up not starting the race due to an engine problem. This would reduce the competition by one. The start itself would further reduce the number; unfortunately that would include one of Connaught's entries.
The field headed down toward the right-hand sweeper. The field was bunched up as usual. Andre Loens and Stirling Moss would collect each other rather heavily and would immediately be out of the race. Unfortunately, Thompson; the pole-sitter, would also receive some damage. He would try to continue but would eventually retire from the race the very next lap.
While Thompson was out of the running, Poore was making it very clear he was very much in the running. Chasing Downing, Poore would turn the fastest lap with a time of one minute and thirty-nine seconds around the 2.39 miles.
Downing took advantage of the troubles that came upon Thompson and took over the lead of the race. Very soon, he would come under pressure from Poore, his Connaught teammate. McAlpine would also take advantage of the troubles early on to move further up the running order as well.
In spite of Poore's fastest lap time, Downing would be able to gap his teammate slightly by the end. Downing would go on to win the race by thirteen seconds over Poore. Alan Brown, who had started 4th, would come in 3rd about four seconds behind Poore. McAlpine would manage to come from 10th on the starting grid to finish 5th, only about twenty-one seconds behind Downing.
One-two was a tremendous result for the team, especially since it seemed the chances for such a result went away with Thompson's retirement from the race. However, Poore's performance continued to prove the performance of the Connaught.
The season was beginning to wind down. Only two Formula 2 races remained for 1952, and both of them took place in England. The first of the two would end up being just one week after the Madgwick Cup race.
About 100 miles to the northwest of Goodwood, Connaught Engineering took one car to Castle Combe for the 1st Joe Fry Memorial Trophy race on the 4th of October. Connaught would only bring one car to the race. The one car was to be driven by McAlpine
Transitioning from one abandoned airfield to another, Castle Combe, like Goodwood, was a Royal Air Force Station based upon the Castle Combe Estate. Once the airfield was decommissioned in 1948, the base's perimeter road would become the perfect venue to hold races. The circuit would open in 1950. Though only 1.83 miles in length, the circuit would become fierce some and scary due to its fast, sweeping corners.
Sixteen cars and drivers would be present at the event. In practice, Stirling Moss would prove to be the fastest of the entire field. He would barely beat out Peter Whitehead with a lap of one minute and eighteen seconds. Roy Salvadori and Alan Brown would also start on the front row.
McAlpine couldn't quite match the pace of Moss and of others. He would complete a lap of the circuit in one minute and twenty-five seconds, which was a little over six seconds slower than Moss. This put McAlpine down on the third row in 9th.
The race was only 20 laps and covered a distance of about 37 miles. For many, being able to make it past the first couple of laps was the main challenge. Peter Whitehead would be out before the completion of the 1st lap due to an accident. Another couple, including Moss, would be out before 7 laps had been completed.
McAlpine would be able to make it past the first couple of laps, but not much further. Right around the halfway mark of the race, he would suffer a failure that would take him out of the race.
In spite of only being 20 laps, only half of the field would make it to the end. Since Whitehead and Moss were out of the race, Salvadori inherited the lead and would not let go of it throughout the remainder of the race.
Salvadori would end up finishing the 20 laps in twenty-six and a half minutes and would beat Ken Wharton by twelve seconds. Wharton was in a duel with Ninian Sanderson. In the end, Wharton would beat Sanderson to the line by four seconds.
A retirement was not how McAlpine, Oliver and Clarke wanted to finish the 1952 season. However, there would be only one more chance left to end the season on a bright note. Connaught would end up taking advantage of the opportunity and would turn it into an truly incandescent moment.
On the 11th of October, Connaught Engineering was in the Scottish Borders region preparing for its last race of the 1952 season. The race was the 1st Newcastle Journal Trophy race and it was held at the 1.99 mile circuit at Charterhall.
Seeing that it was the last race of the season, Mike Oliver decided he wanted to crack a crack at the event. Therefore, the team would bring a brand new A-Type chassis for Oliver, as well as, two others for McAlpine and Poore.
The race at Charterhall was another event to take place on an abandoned Royal Air Force Station. Once notoriously known as 'Slaughter Hall', the airbase was used as a night-fighter training base during World War II and even was located right near a site used for flight training for the First World War. In April of 1952, Charterhall hosted its first-ever event. Exiting out of Toft's corner, the long start/finish straight enabled the competitors to reach some impressive speeds before having to brake hard for the double-apex right-hand 'Lodge' corner. The 1.99 mile circuit was rather bumpy and rocky, but was considered to be a good site, even as good as those found in the lower part of England.
Twenty-nine would make the journey north to Charterhall to take part in the race. It was the last Formula 2 race for the season in all of Europe, and therefore, drew a rather large number of competitors.
The race would be 40 laps and the race would total 80 miles. Considering an average lap time around the circuit, the last race of the season in Europe would take about an hour. In the case of twenty-two of the competitors, it would take even less time before the last race would be over.
It was not a good event for any Frazer-Nash chassis. In total, there were seven Frazer-Nash chassis entered in the race. All seven would end up retiring from the race. HWM-Alta also didn't have a good race. In spite of Tony Gaze turning the fastest lap of the race with a time of one minute and twenty-six seconds, all of the HWM-Altas would also end up retiring from the race.
In contrast, it was an incredible day for Connaught. Dennis Poore and McAlpine would streak ahead of the pack. Oliver, in his only Formula 2 race on the season, would be running right behind them not too far behind.
Connaught's prayers were answered. They would end the season on the most incredible high-note possible. Poore would streak to the win. He would complete the 40 laps in fifty-nine minutes and twenty-one seconds and would finish with a lead of thirty-five seconds.
Thirty-five seconds after Poore, McAlpine would come across the line in 2nd. He too would complete the distance in under one hour. But then, the incomparable happened. Mike Oliver would end up holding onto his 3rd place position and would come across the line a mere six seconds behind McAlpine. Connaught had earned a one-two-three in the very last race of the season! The team could not end the season any better!
The five points earned in the World Championship, and the impressive performances at non-championship races, would make Connaught's A-Type chassis a desired entity with many small teams and privateer entries. While marked with some downs, the season also definitely had its ups. In just three years of existence, Oliver, Clarke and McAlpine had managed to take Connaught into the points in the World Championship, a one-two finish at Goodwood, and then a one-two-three sweep at the final non-championship race of the season. Surely the future seemed bright for Connaught. Undoubtedly, the team would be a favorite going into the 1953 season. Connaught Engineering