TeamsAtlantic Stable: 1953 Formula One Season By Jeremy McMullen
Ever since the 1930s, Peter Whitehead had used the wealth from the family wool business to fund his racing. The business had provided him the opportunity to travel across Europe and Asia to Australia. Throughout that time, and after World War II, Whitehead had usually competed under his own name. However, in 1953, Whitehead would use the ocean nearest to home as inspiration and would compete under the name of Atlantic Stable.
The wool industry had taken Peter Whitehead to Australia and to a win in the Australian Grand Prix and the Australian Hillclimb Championship back in 1938. Numerous other good results would come Whitehead's way before the dawning of the Second World War.
Born in Yorkshire at the beginning of the First World War, Peter would find himself unable to avoid the Second World War and would serve as a pilot in the Royal Air Force. However, as soon as the war ended he would be back behind the wheel of a race car.
Throughout the late 1940s, Peter Whitehead was a strong competitor in Formula One before it officially organized into the World Championship. So strong was he as a privateer that he would earn the distinction of being the first privateer that Enzo Ferrari ever sold a grand prix car to.
As the 1950s came around, Peter Whitehead was growing into one strong competitor in sportscar racing. He and Peter Walker would earn an overall win in the 1951 24 Hours of Le Mans. At the same time that his sportscar career was really beginning to take off, he had been winning races just about everywhere in Formula 2.
Whitehead had already achieved some success in the World Championship taking 3rd place in the French Grand Prix. But his success in Formula 2 set the stage perfectly for him to be able to continue to take part in the World Championship when it switched to Formula 2 regulations for the 1952 and '53 seasons. Unfortunately, Whitehead, the privateer, would have to compete against the might of Scuderia Ferrari and a growing threat from the factory Maserati team.
Very aware of the dominance of the two Italian teams in grand prix racing, Whitehead would turn his focus mostly to sportscars but would still take part in a number of grand prix races throughout the 1953 season. In order to be as competitive as possible, the Brit would turn to one of England's most promising grand prix car manufacturers. Whitehead would purchase an Alta-powered derivative of the Cooper T24. With his new chassis, chassis number CA-1-53, Whitehead would head to his first race of the new season. Whitehead's season would end up starting where it did for so many Brits.
Whitehead, and his Atlantic Stable team, would pack everything up and would head to the south of England to the West Sussex region of the country. The destination would be a motor racing venue near the small village of Westhampnett. There near the village sat the Goodwood Circuit. Whitehead was on his way there to take part in the Easter races held at the circuit on the 6th of April. The race was the 5th Lavant Cup race.
Being a pilot in the Royal Air Force, Whitehead undoubtedly had heard at some point in time of RAF Westhampnett. Named for the nearby village, the airfield would be an auxiliary airfield for RAF Tangmere, but would also come to host a few fighter squadrons that flew Spitfires and Hurricanes. Located on the Goodwood Estate, the airbase would be destined to become a motor racing venue after being decommissioned. This would be the result of the fact the Duke of Richmond, the titleholder of the Goodwood Estate, was a keen motor racing enthusiast. From the late 1940s onward, Goodwood would become a popular venue hosting a number of different races throughout the year.
The Easter races would see Goodwood host all different kinds of categories of motor racing all in one day. The day would consist of a number of short races that would serve as something similar to exhibition races. One of those race, named for a nearby village, would be the Lavant Cup.
The field would include probably the best Britain had to offer. But the field would also include a very talented foreign privateer. The Swiss Baron Emmanuel de Graffenried would be among those preparing for the 7 lap race in his new Maserati.
In spite of de Graffenried and his new Maserati, Roy Salvadori would prove to be the fastest in practice and would take the pole with a time of one minute, thirty-five and four-tenths seconds around the 2.39 mile circuit. Though Salvadori would earn the pole, it would be by just two-tenths of a second over de Graffenried. Bobbie Baird and Tony Rolt would end up completing the front row starting 3rd and 4th respectively.
Whitehead's best time in practice would be nearly four and a half seconds slower than Salvadori's best. But, the time would be nonetheless good enough for him to start the race from the 7th spot on the grid, which was the outside of the second row.
The race itself would see de Graffenried come back and head to the front with Salvadori there doing his best to give chase. Neither Bobbie Baird nor Bob Gerard would get off to such a great start and would struggle from then on. Being that the race was just 7 laps long, any mistake had the potential of really hurting, and this would be exactly what the two would have to deal with.
Whitehead would break off the line pretty much where he had started. He would end up moving up the order because of Baird's and Gerard's misfortune, but he would not be able to move up the order much more than that. He would have Ken Wharton giving chase behind him and he would be trying to haul in Kenneth McAlpine.
Despite being a short race, the field would end up getting strung out fairly evenly. Therefore, there would be little action toward the later part of the race. Though Salvadori would turn in the fastest lap of the race, once de Graffenried had the lead there was no catching him.
Coming into the final couple of laps of the race, Whitehead trailed behind McAlpine by more than five seconds but was under threat himself as he had managed to pull out more than three seconds advantage over Wharton who was himself embroiled in a rather close battle with Stirling Moss and Bob Gerard. Only two seconds would separate the three men.
More than two seconds would separate de Graffenried from Salvadori. As a result, de Graffenried would cruise around the circuit on the last lap of the race and would come across the line to take the victory by nearly seven seconds over Salvadori. Another seven seconds would separate Salvadori from Tony Rolt finishing in 3rd.
Although he had started from the second row of the grid and was finding forward progress hard to come by except for through attrition, Whitehead would nonetheless power his way to a very solid 5th place finish about seven seconds behind McAlpine.
The 5th place result had been a good way to start out the 1953 season. It was a solid result upon which Whitehead could build. Though he could not reel in those in front of him, Whitehead had still shown quite strong being able to hold and pull away slightly from Ken Wharton and Stirling Moss.
About a week and a half would separate races for Atlantic Stable. Then, on the 18th of April, the team would be near the village of Attleborough in Norfolk for the 2nd Aston Martin Owners Club Formula 2 race. The race would take place on at the new Snetterton motor racing circuit, another of England's decommissioned airbases.
Constructed in 1942, RAF Snetterton-Heath would come to be allocated for the United States Army Air Force in 1943. From that time until 1945, Snetterton-Heath would serve as the headquarters for the 45th Combat Bombardment Wing of the 3rd Bomb Division. From the base, attacks would be made into such nations as France, Germany, Holland, Belgium, Norway, Poland, Hungary and Czechoslovakia. From this base, General Curtis LeMay would lead the noe famous Regensburg missions that went all the way to North Africa. One of the other large raids in which the base's 3rd Division would take part would be the Schweinfurt mission conducted on the 14th of October in 1943.
After the base was closed in 1948 it sat idle for a couple of years. Then, in 1952, the airbase would be purchased and the perimeter road would be turned into 2.70 miles of motor racing circuit.
The race in which Whitehead had come to be part of would be another short race. The race would be just 10 laps and would cover only 27 miles. But it would still feature some very competitive racers like Eric Thompson, Rodney Nuckey, Ken Wharton and Bob Gerard in the field.
The threat from Wharton wouldn't have an opportunity to materialize as his universal joint would break right at the start of the race. Bobbie Baird would prove to be quite fast in his Ferrari as he would set the fastest lap of the race. However, he would prove not to be as fast as either Eric Thompson or Bob Gerard.
Eric Thompson and Bob Gerard would be locked in a good fight at the head of the field. Less than a couple of seconds would separate the two. Peter Whitehead would also look good right from the beginning but would lose ground to the two as the race wore on.
Despite Baird's pace in the Ferrari, Whitehead would managed to keep Baird more than a few seconds behind him. Unfortunately, Whitehead would be more than a few seconds behind Gerard.
Thompson would average a little more than 84 mph en route to victory. Just one and eight-tenths of a second would separate Thompson from Gerard in 2nd place. However, nearly twelve seconds would separate Gerard from Whitehead's threats in 3rd place.
Whitehead again managed to put together another solid run that would result in a podium finish. The car's reliability and Whitehead's prowess behind the wheel kept him out of trouble and had resulted in a couple of strong results. However, for his next race, Whitehead would have to dig even deeper.
Time moved into the month of May. At the very beginning of the month, the team would make its way to the south and west of France. Whitehead would be on his way to the wine capital of the world. He was to take part in the 3rd Grand Prix de Bordeaux on the 3rd of May.
While known as the wine capital of the world, it would be nearly forgotten that Bordeaux would actually become the capital of France for a little while during World War II. As the Germans closed in on Paris, the French Government left he famous city and looked for another place from which it could dispense its rule and take care of its citizens. For a while, Bordeaux would fill in for Paris. Eventually, the French government would set up its headquarters in Vichy.
From 1940 to 1943, Bordeaux would also become a submarine base for the Italian Royal Navy. German U-boats would also used the concrete pens for its 12th U-boat Flotilla that would come to take part in the Battle of the Atlantic. These pens would continue to be a part of Bordeaux's history as they would prove too troublesome to remove.
Peter Whitehead would prepare to face some other very troublesome and stubborn racers in the Grand Prix de Bordeaux. This would prove to be the first race of the season in which Whitehead would have to deal with the challenge of Scuderia Ferrari and the factory Maserati team. No fewer than four Ferraris and two Maseratis would fill the field for the arduous 183 mile, 120 lap, race.
In practice around the 1.52 mile circuit, it would be Luigi Villoresi that would be the fastest and would earn the pole. Just one tenth of a second would separate Villoresi from his good friend Alberto Ascari starting in 2nd place. The Frenchman, Maurice Trintignant, would provide the French crowd reason to celebrate as he would start the race from 3rd, or, the final spot on the front row.
Whitehead's best time around the circuit would certainly be respectable. His best effort would be just four seconds slower than Villoresi's best. Therefore, Whitehead would start the race from about the middle of the grid. He would be 10th overall and would start from the fourth row of the grid.
The field would roar away on the first of many laps. Ascari, Villoresi and Trintignant would be up at the front leading the way. Giuseppe Farina would make a decent start from the second row and would be part of the group early on. Juan Manuel Fangio would be making his way up from a poor 8th place starting position.
Peter Whitehead would find himself buried right in the middle of the pack around some of the tight sections of the circuit. Therefore, he would need to be careful in order to avoid running into trouble with other competitors. He would also need to take care of the car merely because of the nature of the circuit. Unfortunately, he would not.
At only a little more than a mile and a half in length, the Bordeaux circuit would feature a number of gear changes that would challenge the reliability of the engine and the gearbox. Unfortunately, after 26 laps, Whitehead would use up the clutch on the car and would be forced to retire. On that same lap, Yves Giraud-Cabantous would also retire from the race due to clutch problems.
About 30 laps later, Giuseppe Farina's race would run afoul of gear selector problems and would force the inaugural World Champion to retire from the race.
By this point in time, Ascari was still at the front of the field with Villoresi trailing some distance back. These two would be absolutely dominate, however. Juan Manuel Fangio would find his way up to the head of the chasing group. But, he would find himself to be the hunted instead of being the hunter. By the time 30 laps or so had been completed he was already a lap down and not looking to be able to pick up the pace any.
Against Ascari and Villoresi there was little hope. Fangio would be unable to make up any ground, Maurice Trintignant would retire from the race after 62 laps with half shaft failure and Louis Rosier would also run into gear selector failure.
With just about 20 laps remaining in the race, the only driver left in the field that could have mounted any kind of challenge to Ascari's lead was Fangio. However, within just a few more laps, he would be lapped for the fourth time. Truly, Ascari and his friend Villoresi were in a class of their own on this day.
After two hours, fifty-eight minutes and fifty-nine and five-tenths seconds, Ascari would cross the line for the final time and would take a thoroughly dominant and demonstrative victory. Luigi Villoresi would put together an impressive performance in his own right and would come in 2nd place some fifty seconds behind Ascari. Fangio would be a former World Champion that had been blown away. He would cross the line four laps down in 3rd place.
Even had Whitehead made the entire race distance it was certainly unlikely he would have even been close to Ascari and Villoresi. In many ways, the retirement was something of a blessing. This would be because it would act as something of a shield to hide just how bad the result may have been when compared to the pace Ascari had been able to achieve.
With the race over, the team would pack the stricken car up, along with the rest of the equipment, and would head back to the coast and to England for the team's next race.
Just six days separated the Grand Prix de Bordeaux and Atlantic Stables' next race. The team would hurry back across the English Channel to England. The team would then continue on north of London until arriving at the border between Northamptonshire and Buckinghamshire. The team was on its way to Silverstone. It would be heading there to take part in the 5th BRDC International Trophy Race on the 9th of May.
Listed in the Domesday Book, the area around the village of Silverstone had been nothing more than Whittlewood forest during the Middle Ages. The full wealth of the area wouldn't really come to be known until the outbreak of the Second World War. At that time, the land would be developed and an airbase known as RAF Silverstone would come into being. A base for the 17th Operational Training Unit, Silverstone was the home to Vickers Wellington bombers. Then, by 1948, the now decommissioned airbase would become Britain's home to motor racing.
Utilizing the 2.88 miles of perimeter road around the former airbase, the BRDC International Trophy race would be first held at Silverstone in 1949 and would be one of the bigger races throughout the whole of the British Isles.
The International Trophy race would follow a different format than the British Grand Prix that would also be held at Silverstone. Instead of a certain number of laps or miles, the race would be broken down into heats and then a final.
The entire field would be broken up into the two heats. Peter Whitehead would be listed in the second heat along with Ken Wharton, Mike Hawthorn, Maurice Trintignant and others. He would stand by and watch the action from the first heat.
The first heat would have Emmanuel de Graffenried, Stirling Moss, Tony Rolt and Louis Rosier all competing against each other. Emmanuel de Graffenried would take his new Maserati and would set the fastest time in practice, and therefore, would start the 15 lap heat race from the pole. The rest of the four-wide front row would include Bob Gerard in 2nd, Tony Rolt starting 3rd and Kenneth McAlpine lining up 4th.
Gerard would end up jumping the start of the race but would continue on without slowing down one bit. Stirling Moss would come all the way from 11th place on the grid, which was the third row, to find himself fighting with de Graffenried not for a top five place, but for the lead of the heat.
Prince Bira would also make a good start from the second row of the grid and would be in a fight early on with Tony Rolt. Kenneth McAlpine would be perhaps the biggest loser off the start and would get pushed down the order.
Over the course of the heat, there would be five starters that would not make it to the end of the race. Among them, Bill Aston would have an oil leak that would take him out of the running after just two laps and Roberto Mieres would fall out after 10 laps with transmission ailments.
Throughout the 15 lap heat race, de Graffenried and Moss would duel. Each would strike a blow. Emmanuel de Graffenried would set the fastest lap of the race, but, Moss would later match the time. Mere seconds would separate the two. However, as they came to the line for the finish, it would be de Graffenried that would forge out an advantage and hold it to take the victory. After twenty-eight minutes and fifty-nine seconds, de Graffenried would cross the line to take the victory by five seconds over Moss. Another seventeen seconds would pass by before Prince Bira would come through to finish in 3rd. Although Bob Gerard would actually finish the heat in 5th place, the race stewards would slap him with a 60 second penalty for jumping the start. This meant Gerard would 'officially' end the race in the 8th spot in a tie with James Scott-Douglas.
It was time for the second heat. The expected battle between Hawthorn, Wharton and Trintignant would not disappoint. Ken Wharton would end up taking the pole, just edging out Hawthorn by a mere second. The veteran, Louis Chiron, would surprise many as he would manage to start the race from the 3rd position, also on the front row. Maurice Trintignant would complete the front row by starting in 4th.
Peter Whitehead would again find himself down in the middle of the field. Once again, Whitehead would put together an impressive time that was only six seconds slower than Wharton's pole effort. Therefore, Whitehead would start 10th overall and from the third row of the grid.
The second heat race would get underway with Hawthorn and Wharton immediately setting off to fight an epic battle at the front of the field. Whitehead would make a good start but would still be tucked right in the middle of the pack.
The pace of Wharton and Hawthorn up front would be quick. In fact, the pace was proving to be a bit faster than the first heat. This was putting pressure on many of the contenders. Louis Chiron and Harry Schell fell out of contention up at the front of the field and would begin to drift down the top ten. Roy Salvadori would be one of the few that was able to push his car hard and would manage to make his way up to 3rd place. Surprisingly, Peter Whitehead would be the one giving chase of Salvadori.
When Trintignant's transmission failed him with one lap remaining in the heat, Whitehead found himself nine seconds ahead of Chiron and ten seconds behind Salvadori in the 4th position overall. However, neither he nor Salvadori would be able to keep pace with Wharton and Hawthorn.
The duel between Wharton and Hawthorn had been truly epic. In an effort to break free from Wharton, Hawthorn would set the fastest lap of the race with a time of one minute and fifty-one seconds. However, Hawthorn could not shake Wharton who would remain thoroughly locked to the backside of Hawthorn's Ferrari.
Though Wharton would fight with everything he had, Hawthorn would manage to fend off the challenge and would take the win. Hawthorn's finishing time of twenty-eight minutes and twenty-three seconds would be thirty-six seconds faster than de Graffenried's effort in the first heat. This would be important heading into the final.
Hawthorn would take the victory by a mere second over Wharton in what had been a truly splendid duel around the 2.88 mile circuit. Fifty seconds would then separate Hawthorn and Wharton from Roy Salvadori who would cross the line in 3rd place. Ten seconds would then pass before Whitehead would come across the line in a very impressive 4th place. This was a truly impressive performance by Whitehead given the fact he started 10th and had a number of very talented drivers starting on the grid ahead of him.
Finishing times were determine the starting grid for the 35 lap final. This meant Mike Hawthorn would start on the pole with Ken Wharton alongside in 2nd. The rest of the four-wide front row would include Emmanuel de Graffenried in 3rd place and Stirling Moss in the 4th, and final, position on the front row.
Whitehead's effort in the second heat would be rewarded. During the second heat Whitehead would push his Cooper-Alta hard and would end up with a 7th place starting position for the final. This meant he would start on the outside of the second row. Interestingly, his effort in the second heat meant Whitehead would start the final in a better position than what he had in the second heat.
Although Mike Hawthorn would be the only representative of Scuderia Ferrari, he would prove to be more than capable of taking the fight to crowd around him intent on defeating him. This would never be more true than during the final.
Hawthorn would make a good break from the grid, but not as good as Emmanuel de Graffenried. This fact would come under question. Nonetheless, the race would go on. And while Hawthorn was proving to be the favorite, de Graffenried would do his best to battle the Ferrari driver. In his attempt to fight with Hawthorn, de Graffenried would turn the fastest lap of the race and would keep the pressure on.
At the start of the race, Tony Rolt would make a good start and would actually push Whitehead down. Whitehead would further be pushed down the order as Kenneth McAlpine would put together an impressive performance that would also see him come up the running order well inside the top ten from his 13th starting position on the grid. Bob Gerard would also be pushing hard after his penalty in the first heat. He too would make his way inside the top ten and would also supplant Whitehead.
Whitehead was moving backward. Unfortunately, he just couldn't manage the same pace as what he had managed to put together in the second heat. Additionally, he would receive little help from attrition.
Tough Lance Macklin and Maurice Trintignant would retire from the race, the two had started the race behind Whitehead and served as no help to move Whitehead up in the order. Then, on the 16th lap of the race, Whitehead would receive the only help he would get throughout the entire 35 lap race.
Emmanuel de Graffenried knew he would be handed a penalty as it had been discovered he had jumped the start of the race. Knowing this, de Graffenried would decide to park his car instead of carry on the entire distance and then be penalized. Therefore, de Graffenried would pull into the pits and would withdraw. This would help Whitehead gain back one of the positions he had lost.
Another thing lost in the final would be the duel everyone witnessed between Hawthorn and Wharton in the second heat race. Hawthorn's pace, while not as fast, was still more than enough. Wharton could not keep up for 35 laps and would actually drop down in the running order as well during the race. This left Hawthorn virtually all alone at the front of the field.
After an hour, six minutes and thirty-six seconds, Hawthorn would power his way through Woodcote and across the line to take the victory. Twelve seconds would pass before Roy Salvadori would come across the line to take a well deserved 2nd place after starting 5th. Tony Rolt would also put together a very impressive performance. After starting the race from 8th place on the grid, Rolt would make a great start and would only improve after that to take 3rd place.
Though he had started 7th, Whitehead would not stay there. The veteran seemed, after the performance in the second heat, as if he might be able to challenge for a top five spot. However, nothing of the sort would actually happen. Instead, Whitehead would slip down the running order and would have to fight just to stay inside the top ten.
Whitehead wouldn't slip down the order, however, as bad as that suffered by Stirling Moss. In a battle of two Alta-powered Coopers, it would be Moss that would take the most damage. After starting the race from the front row in 4th place, Moss would slip all the way down in the order and would fight to take Whitehead's position. However, though Moss' Cooper-Alta was a specially designed car, it wouldn't be able to help Moss to overcome Whitehead in the normal Cooper-Alta. Instead, it would be Whitehead that would come across the line in 8th place ahead of Moss in 9th. Both men would end up a lap down to Hawthorn by the finish.
After all of the promise that seemed to be coming Whitehead's way after the second heat performance, the final would be something of a disappointment. Nonetheless, the result was still a top ten finish. It was still something of a positive result upon which the team could build.
After the International Trophy race held at Silverstone on the 9th of May, it seemed the race just moved west to perform a second act. For on the 16th of May, the Dundrod Circuit prepared to host the 7th Ulster Trophy race, which was another race that followed a similar format to that of the International Trophy race.
The race wouldn't be the only familiar element to the weekend. Almost all of the same entries that had taken part in the International Trophy race would also make the trip across the Irish Sea to take part in the Ulster Trophy race.
While the format of the race may have been similar, the circuit's upon which the two races would be held would almost be at opposite ends of the spectrum. Instead of a flat, wide-open former airbase, the Dundrod circuit took place along country roads around the villages of Dundrod, Tornagrough, and Tullyrusk. These roads would be anything but flat as there would be a number of blind crests and downhill runs toward tight corners. Another major, and obvious, difference between the two circuits would their length. Silverstone measured 2.88 miles. In sharp contrast, the Dundrod circuit would measure 7.41 miles.
Despite being a rather narrow, two-lane road course, the Dundrod Circuit boasted of some very fast sections that required a great deal of courage in order to be fast. This also meant danger was just at the edge of the circuit waiting to pounce on even the slightest of mistakes.
As with the International Trophy race at Silverstone, Whitehead and Atlantic Stable would be listed in the second heat. Therefore, he would have the opportunity to watch the first heat and get a sense of the pace.
The first heat would again have Stirling Moss, but no Emmanuel de Graffenried. Instead, Moss would have Duncan Hamilton, Jimmy Somervail and Jock Lawrence to deal with in the first heat.
In practice, it would be Moss that would set the pace. He would take the pole with a fastest lap time of four minutes and fifty-nine seconds. Eighteen second would separate Moss' time from John Lyons' time. However, Lyons would still start from the front row in 2nd place. Duncan Hamilton would be a further two seconds slower than Lyons, but would also start from the front row in 3rd.
It was obvious Moss had an advantage when it came to performance. He would put that advantage to good use during the heat race. He would be fast right out of the box and would go on to set the fastest lap of the heat with an incredible time that was three seconds faster than his own qualifying effort. However, he would have trouble.
After looking so dominant, Moss would begin to slip back. This would allow Duncan Hamilton to come through and take the lead of the race. Jimmy Somervail would come from the second row of the grid and would begin to give Moss some concern.
After starting from the front row, John Lyons would slip down the running order and would be threatened with falling out of the top five before the end of the 10 lap heat race. The same would be true of Moss. After looking so dominant, he was still fighting hard just to hang onto his 2nd place position.
Duncan Hamilton would be out front and would go on to take what many believed to be a surprise victory. Moss would do everything he could to hold on and he would come across the line nine seconds behind in 2nd place. Just six seconds would separate Moss from Jimmy Somervail who would end up finishing 3rd.
After watching the events of the first heat, Whitehead prepared to face off against Mike Hawthorn, Emmanuel de Graffenried, Ken Wharton and Roy Salvadori in the second heat. But first the grid had to be set.
Practice would see Hawthorn dominate the proceedings. He would set a lap time of four minutes and fifty-one seconds, which would be eight seconds faster than Moss' effort in the first heat practice. While Hawthorn would take the pole, he wouldn't enjoy a performance advantage of more than ten seconds as Moss did. Ken Wharton would set a time equal to Moss' and would start from the middle of the three-wide front row. Emmanuel de Graffenried would only be a further two seconds slower, or ten seconds slower than Hawthorn, and would start in 3rd position, the final position on the front row.
Also joining Peter Whitehead under the Atlantic Stable name, and in the second heat, would be his half-brother Graham. Graham would be at the wheel of a Bristol-powered Cooper T23 and would start the race down in 11th place, which was the inside of the fifth row.
The Atlantic Stable almost had three cars entered in the race. Besides the Whiteheads, American driver Tom Cole Jr. would also be listed under the team name as a possible driver of the Cooper-Bristol that Graham would take and drive. Cole was familiar with Peter Whitehead and would even co-drive with him in next month's running of Le Mans.
Peter Whitehead would take the Cooper-Alta T24 and would turn a lap of the circuit in five minutes and eight seconds. This meant Whitehead was seventeen seconds slower than Hawthorn but would still be good enough to enable him to start the race from 6th place on the grid, which was the inside of the third row nearly right in front of his brother.
The race would see Hawthorn pull away with the lead. Ken Wharton and Emmanuel de Graffenried would be right there threatening the young Ferrari driver. Peter Whitehead would make a good start and would fight with Louis Chiron for his position.
As Hawthorn led the field around Rushyhill to start another lap, the field would lose one of its strongest contenders. Emmnauel de Graffenried would have the rear axle on his Maserati fail thereby bringing an end to his heat and race. One lap later, the field would further lose two strong competitors when Lance Macklin would withdraw and Peter Collins would drop out with a misfire.
While Collins' and Macklin's retirements wouldn't affect Peter all that much, they would help Graham move forward from his 11th place starting position. Then Emmanuel's withdrawal would only further move Graham up the order.
Emmanuel de Graffenried's early retirement would lend a hand to Peter Whitehead as he would manage to get by Louis Chiron. This meant Whitehead had come from 6th on the starting grid and would find himself now in 4th place and pulling away from Chiron.
The great battle between Hawthorn and Wharton would not materialize in the second heat of the Ulster Trophy race. However, the crowd would not be let down as Wharton and Bobbie Baird would be locked in a battle almost throughout the 10 laps. The two would be locked nose-to-tail each and every lap and would put on a great show for the spectators that had grown rather bored with watching Hawthorn pulling away at the front of the field.
Aided by setting the fastest lap of the race, Hawthorn would cruise to victory. The only question really to exist in the second heat would be who would finish 2nd. That battle would go right down to the line. Rounding the bend and crossing the line, it would be Wharton that would beat Baird by about a second for 2nd place.
Whitehead couldn't reel in Baird or Wharton. However, Whitehead would keep his head down and would pull away from Louis Chiron to come across the line to finish a fantastic 4th after starting 6th.
Graham would also have a solid performance despite starting 11th. He would manage to come up the order, obvious helped by attrition, to finish the second heat in the 8th place position. He would just avoid being lapped by Hawthorn.
There would be yet another difference between the Ulster Trophy race and the International Trophy race. Unlike the International Trophy race, the race at Dundrod would feature another qualifying effort to set the grid for the 14 lap final.
In that qualifying session, Mike Hawthorn would go on to take the pole. Bobbie Baird would line up 2nd on the grid and Ken Wharton would complete the front row starting in 3rd place. Peter Whitehead would find himself back down in 6th place once again after qualifying. The question would be whether or not he could repeat the performance he had put together in the second heat?
Peter would be helped out even before the start of the final. Stirling Moss would withdraw from the final. His gearbox had been giving him troubles and would lead him to decide to retire rather than try and push on with an ailing car.
The final would start. As the field wound and snaked its way through the esses toward the right-hand bend onto Leathamstown Road, Hawthorn would lead the field on the long run down to the right-hand kink known as Cochranstown. He would immediately begin to pull an advantage over Ken Wharton and Bobbie Baird who were busy fighting amongst themselves. Peter Whitehead would make a good start and would find himself running right there with Roy Salvadori and just ahead of Louis Chiron and Duncan Hamilton.
Hawthorn would pour it on, but he also knew he had the pace under his control. He would go on to set the fastest lap of the race with a time of five minutes flat. While it wouldn't be as fast as some of the laps he had recorded at other times it would still be good enough to continue to stretch out his advantage over the rest of the field.
Unlike the second heat race, the battle between Wharton and Baird wouldn't materialize in the final. Though they ran 2nd and 3rd once again, more than thirty seconds would end up separating the two.
Whitehead would continue to look good at the wheel of his Cooper-Alta. Then, when Roy Salvadori retired with rear axle problems after 8 laps, Whitehead would find himself in 4th place once again. And although Whitehead would find himself in 4th place, Bobbie Baird would be too far up the road to even think about catching him. Therefore, as the laps continued to click off, Whitehead would find himself increasingly running alone out on the 7.41 mile circuit.
Hawthorn was also all by himself and enjoying it. As he appeared around the bend for the final time and crossed the line, Hawthorn would go on to take the victory by a margin of one minute and thirteen seconds over Ken Wharton. Thirty-three seconds would be the difference between Wharton in 2nd and Baird crossing the line in 3rd. Nearly a minute and a half would click by on the clock before Whitehead would appear around the bend and come across the line to finish the race in 4th.
Despite being minutes behind Hawthorn and the rest of the top three, the performance would still be a very good result for Whitehead and Atlantic Stable. After losing ground in the final of the International Trophy race, Whitehead's ability to maintain pace and run inside the top five was certainly a good sign for the team moving forward. It was also a good sign considering the competitiveness of the team.
Atlantic Stable would pack everything up and would leave Northern Ireland. The team would make its way back across the Irish Sea to England. Once back on the English mainland, the team would almost immediately head to London and Crystal Palace Park just to the south of the city's center. The team would make its way to Crystal Palace Park to take part in its next race, the 3rd Coronation Trophy race held on a 1.34 mile course laid out around the park overlooking London.
Once the haunt for gypsies, Crystal Palace Park would turn into a cultural and recreation center for London during the late-19th century. Named for the cast-iron and glass structure built for the Great Exhibition held in the middle part of the 19th century, the structure would first call Hyde Park home before it would be moved to the park a few years after the exhibition.
The circuit used for the Coronation Trophy race utilized park roads that ran through a portion of the circuit. Essentially a rectangle in shape, the Crystal Palace Circuit featured esses and quick kinks between each of the legs of the rectangle. The circuit would start out with a short blast down toward Ramp Bend, a right-hander. The whole run form the start/finish line to the Terrace Straight sees a gradual climb over nearly 70 feet. The climb continues until reaching its zenith at the North Tower Crescent. From there back to the start/finish line, it is about a hundred foot descent through some fast sweeping esses and the New Link kink.
The Coronation Trophy race would be yet another race that would feature heats and a final. Each of the heat races would last just 10 laps, as would the final. Many of the usual suspects would be found in the field for the race. And as with the other races, Peter Whitehead would be listed in the second heat race. Also listed in the second heat would be the team's second car for the race, the Cooper-Bristol T23 driven by Peter's half-brother Graham. As with the race at Dundrod, Tom Cole Jr. would also be listed as a potential driver of the Cooper-Bristol, but once again, the car would be taken by Graham.
Stirling Moss and Ken Wharton would have Tony Rolt, Lance Macklin and others to deal with in the first heat. To almost everyone's surprise, Archie Bryde would prove to be fastest in practice and would take the pole. The utter surprise would continue when Bill Aston would end up starting beside Bryde in the 2nd place position on the front row. The rest of the front row would have Stirling Moss lining up 3rd and Tony Rolt alongside in 4th.
Bryde and Aston would stand little chance against the talent and the might of Moss, Rolt, Wharton and others. Rolt would head off at the start of the race up at the front of the field but Wharton would come from the second row of the grid to be right there with Rolt. Lance Macklin would also make a good start from the second row of the grid and would force Moss further down in the order.
Bryde would last up until two laps remained in the race. Mechanical woes would end his race and would bring to an end an incredible performance early on. Bill Aston would also fade against the pace of the others.
Though Moss would get muscled out and would be running down in a frustrating 4th position, a great epic battle would ensue between Tony Rolt and Ken Wharton at the head of the field. Almost throughout the short 10 laps, the two would be separated by just a car length. The fight would continue lap after lap. Wharton would keep the pressure on Rolt, but Rolt would respond by setting the fastest lap of the race and maintain the most slender of leads.
The two continued to fight it out until the very end. Coming through New Link, the nose of Wharton's car was even with the rear end of Rolt's car. However, Wharton wouldn't be able to power his way by and Rolt would beat Wharton by just six-tenths of a second.
The battle between Rolt and Wharton would actually cause the two to pull away from Lance Macklin who was running in 3rd place. Macklin would quietly come across the line to finish the race in 3rd. He would be around eighteen seconds behind Rolt at the line. Moss would be further behind. Nine seconds would be the margin as Moss came across the line to finish the heat 4th.
The second heat would have Peter and his half-brother facing Peter Collins, Bobbie Baird Jack Fairman and others.
Jack Fairman would keep the surprises coming as he would take the pole for HWM-Alta. Graham Whitehead would be very impressive in practice and would put his Atlantic Stable Cooper-Bristol in the 2nd position right beside Fairman. Peter Collins would take his HWM-Alta and would start the heat from 3rd. The second heat was shaping up to be something special for Atlantic Stable as Peter Whitehead would put his Cooper-Alta also on the front row in the 4th position.
As the second heat started, Peter Whitehead would make an incredible start and would immediately shoot toward the lead. Jack Fairman would be absolutely blown away by Peter Collins who would end up being chased by Graham.
Peter Whitehead would push hard right from the very start. At every corner he would hang it out there in order to be in a good position to power his way down the short straights around the circuit. He would push harder and harder until he would ultimately set the fastest lap of the heat. This pace would enable him to pull away from a fantastic duel that had developed between Peter Collins and Graham Whitehead. The battle would actually help Peter Whitehead to escape with the lead of the race, but the fight would truly entertain the crowd.
Under little pressure, Peter Whitehead would actually back off slightly and would just control the pace. As a result, the average speed of the race would actually be slower than that of the first heat, but nonetheless, Peter Whitehead would come across the line to take the victory with a nearly twelve second advantage over the battle for 2nd.
The battle between Collins and Whitehead would be just like that of Rolt and Wharton. The two would be never more than a car length apart for what seemed to be the entire heat. And as with Rolt and Wharton, the two would come around the New Link kink seemingly attached. As they crossed the line, Collins would nip Whitehead for 2nd place by just six-tenths of a second.
Similar to the International Trophy race, the grid for the 10 lap final would be determined by finishing times of each competitor in their respective heat. The battle between Rolt and Wharton would end up earning the two of them the first couple of positions on the front row with Rolt taking the pole. Peter Whitehead would line up 3rd and also on the front row. Lance Macklin would complete the front row starting 4th. Graham Whitehead would start right behind his half-brother on the second row of the grid. Overall, Graham would start 6th.
The front row would break off the line and would begin the climb toward the Terrace Straight in the same order in which they had started. Rolt held onto the lead by the slimmest of margins over Wharton. The margin between Peter Whitehead and Lance Macklin would be even less.
On the first lap of the race, Leslie Marr would crash his Connaught A-Type. This would end up being the only retirement from the 10 lap race.
All throughout the field, little duels would begin to emerge. Tony Rolt and Ken Wharton would renew their battle from the second heat. The pace of Peter Whitehead and Lance Macklin would be so close than mere tenths would separate the two. Further down, a three-way battle would develop between Stirling Moss, Graham Whitehead and Peter Collins. Only seven seconds would cover the three competitors.
Rolt would come to have enough of Wharton climbing all over his backside. He would push hard in his Connaught and would go on to set the fastest lap of the race and would eventually manage to pull out a little bit of an advantage, but it would just be mere car lengths. The battle between Peter Whitehead and Lance Macklin would not relent at any point in time. Lap after lap of the race, mere tenths remained the difference.
Rolt would increase his average speed during the final compared to the first heat. Averaging nearly a mile an hour faster, Rolt would go on to complete the 10 lap final in eleven minutes and forty-two seconds. This would be five seconds faster than his first heat time and would afford him a two second advantage over Wharton at the line. Rolt had fought hard and had picked up the pace in an effort to break up Wharton's attack. It would work and Rolt would earn a well-deserved win.
Twelve seconds would separate the battle for the lead and the battle for 3rd place. In each of the heat races there had been a battle somewhere in the field that had resulted in a difference of six-tenths of a second between competitors. The final would be no different, and it would be in the battle for 3rd place. Peter Whitehead and Lance Macklin had put on a breath-taking performance from the very start of the race. The two would battle nose-to-tail, sometimes even closer. Coming to the line, Peter Whitehead's hard work would be rewarded. Not only would he hold off Macklin, he would also earn his first podium result of the season.
Peter Whitehead had prevented Macklin from taking his position. Unfortunately, Stirling Moss would prevent Graham from taking his. Therefore, Graham would come through to finish about four seconds behind Moss in the 6th position.
After half a dozen races on the season, Atlantic Stable had finally come through to stand on the podium with Peter Whitehead's 3rd place finish. Graham's strong showing in 6th place would make the race and very strong showing for the team before the team headed to its next race.
Throughout the season, consistency certainly had been a key to the success Atlantic Stable had managed to garner in the first few months of the season. However, heading into the next race, the team would need to add to the reliability, speed and lots of it.
Only a week would transpire between races for Atlantic Stable. The team would, therefore, pack and depart London for the coast once again. The team would cross the English Channel to France and would head towards the south of France. Ultimately, the team would head to Albi for it was scheduled to take part in the 15th Grand Prix de l'Albigeois on the 31st of May.
Situated around the cathedral, the Episcopal city of Albi would serve as the seat of the Archbishop of Albi and would be one of the main cities to be built in Langeudoc-style using red brick. After the heresy of the Cathar, a strong Christian sentiment would arise in the fledgling city. As a result, the massive and imposing Sainte Cecile cathedral would be built. Embellished over the years, the cathedral would just come to serve as a symbol of the city's focus on art and culture. During the 13th century, the Palais de la Berbie would be built. The Bishop's Palace would then become to Toulouse-Lautrec Museum. One of the oldest castles in France, the museum would come to host more than 100 famous works of art.
Albi wouldn't just be a center of art based upon brush and canvas or of architecture. The city would also become a center for celebrating technological advancement and the recognition of the artistry found in powerful racing engines and beautifully sculpted metal.
The Grand Prix de l'Albigeois would feature a blending of grand prix artwork. It would be one of the few races of the season in which Formula One cars, both the old and the ones conforming to the coming regulations, would be allowed to take to the track. In addition to the Formula One cars, the race would also permit Formula 2 cars as well.
In 1953, the race would feature two 10 lap heats and an 18 lap final. The first heat race would be for the Formula 2 cars entered in the event. The second heat would obviously be for those cars conforming to Formula One regulations. The final would then see the two classes competing together on the track.
There would be some changes as the Atlantic Stable team arrived at Albi. As was rather normal in the day, Peter Whitehead would not enter the race under the Atlantic Stable name although he would still be driving the same Cooper-Alta. Instead, he would enter the car under his half-brother's name. However, Atlantic Stable would have its name on one of the entries. The American Tom Cole Jr. would be at the wheel of the Cooper-Bristol T23 for the team. This would not be coincidental for the next week Peter Whitehead and Tom Cole would pair up and drive a Jaguar C-Type in the Hyeres 12 hour race.
Since both men were driving Formula 2 cars they would each take part in the first heat race. However, before the race would start, the starting grid would need to be determined. In practice, the long straights of the 5.55 mile road course played to the strengths of the OSCA power propelling Elie Bayol's OSCA 20 along. As a result, Bayol would set a best time of three minutes and eight seconds and would take the pole. He would be joined on the front row by Harry Schell and Louis Rosier.
Peter Whitehead would start from the second row in the 5th position having set a time nearly eight seconds slower. Tom Cole would have liked to start from the second row. His best effort would end up being nearly eleven seconds in arrears and would cause him to start 6th on the grid. This was still a rather good position as it would be the inside position on the third row. Basically he set the next-fastest time after Whitehead.
Besides the first portion of what was essentially a triangular-shaped circuit, the remaining two-thirds was almost nothing but flat out straights interrupted by rather sharp ninety degree or hairpin turns. Therefore, horsepower would be very important throughout a lap of the Albi street circuit. While each car was capable of producing a spectacular lap, only the Ferrari 500 chassis could really maintain a fast pace over any great distances. This would be evident in the Formula 2 heat race.
The heat would get underway to the sounds of screeching tires and tire smoke. Elie Bayol would make a good start and would be right up there at the front of the field. However, he would have Louis Rosier as company. While the OSCA 20 Bayol was driving had power, Rosier had the confidence as he was at the wheel of a Ferrari 500. Harry Schell would be right there with his Gordini T16 as well. Though the Gordini didn't quite have the power of the Ferrari, Schell would make up for the lack of power. Known for his throwing and wrestling with cars, Schell would get more out of his cars simply because he would take them up to their absolute limits each and every lap. Therefore, if the car lasted, Schell would earn a good result. But often, the cars couldn't handle Schell's rough ways.
The race would continue on with Rosier and Bayol up at the front. Schell would end up dropping off the pace as the race wore on and would eventually retire after 8 laps because of a spark plug issue.
Schell's misfortune then left a gap. That gap would be filled with Peter Whitehead in his Cooper-Alta. While Peter was looking quite good, he had the Argentinean Roberto Mieres all over him. Mieres had managed to set the fastest lap of the race but found himself stuck behind Whitehead not really able to make any headway.
Cole would also start the race well and would be holding station behind Mieres when Whitehead managed to get by him. Cole's pace throughout the heat would be similar to what he had done in qualifying. It was such that he would lose ground to Mieres and Whitehead, but he would also be fast enough that he would actually pull away from Charles de Tornaco and others running behind him. Therefore, in one of Tom Cole's first experiences in Formula 2, he would find himself running all alone. This wouldn't be a bad way to gain some valuable experience.
As the race wore on, Rosier would begin to truly break away from Bayol. The steady, powerful pace of the Ferrari 500 would just wear down its opponents when in the right hands. Averaging 98 mph it would take Rosier just thirty-three minutes and forty-one seconds to earn the victory in the Formula 2 heat. He would go on to take the victory by twenty-four seconds over Bayol. The race would be for 3rd place. Despite setting the fastest lap of the race, Mieres would be throttled by Whitehead. Peter would cross the line a little more than a second ahead of Mieres and twenty-eight seconds behind Bayol. Tom Cole would hold station pretty much all throughout the heat. However, his pace would be such that he would manage to build up an advantage of something like fifty-five seconds over Charles de Tornaco. Therefore, Cole would come across the line to take a rather solitary 5th place.
It was time for the Formula One cars to strut their stuff. The race would be one of the few remaining opportunities for people to witness the howling anger of BRM's P15 and its mammoth 16-cylinder engine. The BRMs would have the company of the mighty Ferrari 375 and even a Gordini T16 conforming to the upcoming Formula One regulations.
BRM would unload three of its P15s and would have Juan Manuel Fangio, Jose Froilan Gonzalez and Ken Wharton behind the wheel of the beasts. Scuderia Ferrari would bring two of their 375s to the race. Alberto Ascari and Giuseppe Farina would be the drivers chosen to carry the proud Ferrari flag.
In practice, it would be BRM that would have the honor of starting on the pole as Fangio would set the fastest time with a lap of two minutes and fifty-two seconds. Jose Froilan Gonzalez would be some six seconds slower and would start in 3rd place, also on the front row. Sandwiched between the two BRMs would be the Ferrari of Alberto Ascari.
To the mighty roar of Formula One engines the second heat would get underway. Fangio would power his way through the esses along St. Antoine and would look formidable doing so. The field would follow through in behind Fangio.
Trouble would come rather early for one of the strongest teams in the heat. Alberto Ascari would suffer from gearbox failure after just 3 laps and would be out of the running. Amazingly, he would be joined by his teammate, Farina, just two laps later. His engine would expire in grand fashion.
With the Ferrari threat dispelled, Fangio was free to run. He would go on to set the fastest lap of the heat with a time even faster than his qualifying effort. This would help him gap the field by a very comfortable margin.
Gonzalez would be off the pace and would drop down the running order. However, Wharton would make up for Gonzalez as he would start from the second row of the grid but would find himself running in 2nd place after the misfortune suffered by Ascari and Farina.
Fangio would be untouchable. Helped along by an average speed in excess of 110 mph, Fangio would go on to score the heat win. Ken Wharton would bring his BRM home to a 2nd place finish but he would trail behind Fangio by more than a minute and ten seconds. Louis Rosier would bring the only remaining Ferrari 375 across the line in 3rd place.
The starting grid for the final would be arranged in a specific pattern. The first four places would be delegated for the top four from the Formula One heat. The next four places would be set aside for the top four from the Formula 2 heat. After that, the grid places would alternate from Formula One to Formula 2. Six cars from each category would line up on the starting grid for the final.
This meant Fangio started on pole with his teammate Ken Wharton right beside him in 2nd. Louis Rosier would decide to drop his victory position from the Formula 2 heat and instead take the 3rd place starting position earned from the Formula One heat. Peter Whitehead would start the race from the third row of the grid. His position in 6th place would be the result of Rosier taking his Formula One finish. This also meant Tom Cole would also start from the 8th position on the outside of the third row.
The pace difference between the Formula One and Formula 2 cars would be obvious from the very first lap. Being able to compare to the two classes side by side made the performance deficiencies of the Formula 2 cars seem as though they were standing still heading down the long straights.
Powering along the straights at speeds near 190 mph, Fangio was out in front of the field and looking incredibly strong. Behind him a little ways was Wharton, also looking strong in his P15. Maurice Trintignant and Roberto Mieres were doing their best to stay in touch with the old Formula One cars. Compared to the Formula One cars, Cole would find the going rather difficult. He would need to keep his focus and not worry about the sheer advantage in pace achieved by the Formula One cars. This would not be easy, but thankfully, Cole was used to different classes from sportscar racing.
Cole moved up in the Formula 2 ranks when Bayol would retire with clutch related issued after just two laps. At the halfway mark of the race, Cole would move up the overall order when Fangio threw a tread on his tire. Fangio's pace throughout the whole of the weekend had been incredibly fast. He had broken the lap record at Albi, and therefore, certainly wasn't taking it easy around the fast circuit. Anyway, the thrown tread would force the Argentinean to retire from the race despite having the lead.
Wharton would inherit the lead of the race and had proven to be fast all throughout the race. He would end up setting the fastest lap of the race. However, just as Wharton was becoming comfortable in the lead it would all come to a very big end. While in the lead, Wharton would crash his P15 heavily. The damage to the car would be such that the team would just scrap the car after the race. This meant Louis Rosier would take over the lead of the race with just 7 laps remaining in the race.
In the race for Formula 2 honors, Peter Whitehead had been looking strong but he would not be in the lead of the race. That honor would go to Roberto Mieres. Setting a fastest lap time of three minutes and fourteen seconds, Mieres would be able to hold onto his lead and even gap Whitehead. When Charles de Tornaco went out of the race on the same lap as Wharton's big crash, it left Cole running in the last position in the field overall and in Formula 2. However, he was still running and looking quite good.
Rosier continued in the lead of the race. He would come under threat from Gonzalez in the sole remaining P15. However, he would throw two tire treads and would be forced to back off, but he would not retire.
Enjoying a lead of nearly thirty seconds, Rosier would cruise to the surprise victory to the delight of the thousands of French fans assembled to watch the race. Jose Froilan Gonzalez would hold onto his ailing P15 and would finish the race 2nd. Nearly a minute and a half would go by before Maurice Trintignant would come across the line to take 3rd place overall and in Formula One.
One lap down, Roberto Mieres would look impressive in the Gordini T16 and would take the victory in Formula 2. Following a little ways back would be Peter Whitehead in 2nd place. Johnny Claes would take his Connaught A-Type and would finish a strong 3rd in category. Tom Cole would keep his head about himself and would come across to finish in 4th place.
Although there were only seven cars to finish the race, Cole had a strong showing considering his inexperience in Formula 2. Though not racing under the Atlantic Stable name, Whitehead and Cole managed to garner two top five results. This would set the two up well for their next race together in Hyeres the following week.
One week after earning positive results at Albi, Peter Whitehead and Tom Cole would join together to drive a Jaguar C-Type in the Hyeres 12 Hour race. Taking place the same day as the Grand Prix of the Netherlands, Whitehead and Cole would still take on some very strong sportscar racers. But, at the end of the race it would be clear the two dominated the event.
By the end of the race, Whitehead and Cole had earned nothing less than an 8 lap advantage on the closest rival and would cruise to a rather easy victory. This would set Peter Whitehead up for yet another strong showing at the 24 Hours of Le Mans just one week later.
After scoring a win with Tom Cole in the Hyeres 12 Hour race, Peter Whitehead would join the Jaguar factory team for its assault on the 24 Hours of Le Mans. On a team that also featured Tony Rolt, Duncan Hamilton and Stirling Moss, Whitehead would partner with Ian Stewart in the number 19 Jaguar entry. Interestingly, Peter Walker, whom Whitehead and co-driven with to victory in the 1951 24 hour endurance classic, would also be on the team but he would partner with Stirling Moss.
Facing the might of Ferrari, Briggs Cunnigham, Porsche, Panhard, Alfa Romeo, Lancia, Aston Martin and others, the Jaguar factory team would come through to score a one-two finish and Peter Whitehead would add a 3rd place overall finish to his overall victory from 1951.
Providence was certainly with Peter Whitehead. After the race in Hyeres, and of course the Le Mans, Whitehead would remain in France. In early July, the World Championship would gather in Reims, France for what was to be the fifth round of the series. While Whitehead would not take part in the French Grand Prix as part of the World Championship, he would still be in Reims in order to take part in a race.
In addition to the French Grand Prix, Reims would host the 12 Hours of Reims. Entering a Jaguar C-Type under his own name, Whitehead would partner with Stirling Moss to take part in the endurance sportscar race.
The pair would start the race from the 3rd spot on the grid. However, they would not end up there. After 12 hours of racing, Whitehead and Moss would come to cross the line the victors ahead of Louis Rosier and Yves Giraud-Cabantous in a Talbot T26GS and Briggs Cunningham and Sherwood Johnston in a Cunningham C4-R. Whitehead and Moss would be truly formidable in the race as they would end the race four laps ahead of the Talbot and seven ahead of the Cunningham C4-R.
After the string of races on French soil, it was truly evident Peter Whitehead was truly becoming a very talented sportscar driver and was giving that sphere of motor racing more and more attention.
While Peter Whitehead was off enjoying a spectacular few weeks in France, the Atlantic Stable team would remain idle. In fact, it would be more than a month between Formula 2 races for the team. Then, finally, on the 11th of July, the team would be back in action. The team had made its way back to London and the Crystal Palace Park, but this time the team came to take part in the 1st Crystal Palace Trophy race.
The team entered just one car in the race, which was to be 15 laps of the 1.34 mile circuit. The race would be short. Covering just 21 miles, the expected time to complete the race distance would be somewhere less than twenty minutes.
In practice for the race, Tony Rolt would gain the pole-position. Roy Salvadori would also be fast in his Connaught but would have to settle for starting the race 2nd. The front row would be completed with Les Leston in 3rd. Peter Whitehead would find himself starting from the 5th position. Once again, he would find himself starting from the second row of a grid. In all, twelve cars would line up to start the race.
The field would roar away, Climbing toward the back stretch for the first time, Rolt held onto the lead with Roy Salvadori all over his backside. Les Leston and Lance Macklin would all be holding station right where they had started. The lineup after the first lap of the race would be the same as how they had started.
Salvadori continued to harass Rolt but Rolt would not budge an inch. Despite setting the fastest lap of the race, Salvadori would continue to struggle to find a way past Rolt. Whitehead continued to follow along behind Macklin. The order behind Whitehead would finally become disrupted. Kenneth McAlpine had started the race beside Whitehead in the 6th position. However, he would retire from the race. Therefore, Duncan Hamilton, who had started in the 7th position, would slot into 6th place. In fact, the only one to actually jump up any positions by passing out on the circuit would be John Webb. Webb had started the race dead-last in 12th. However, before the end of the race, Webb would manage to come forward and finish in the 9th position.
Salvadori would give it everything he had to try and break up the order at the front of the field but Rolt would counter every move he tried. As a result, after averaging more than 71 mph throughout, Rolt would come across the line in just seventeen minutes and twenty-three seconds to take the victory over Roy Salvadori. Following a little ways behind Salvadori, Les Leston would come through to finish in 3rd place.
Behind Leston came Macklin. And following Macklin, Whitehead would come through to finish 5th. Whitehead had started the race from the 5th position on the grid and had finished right where he started.
While Whitehead was certainly looking for more, another top five result for the team would still be a good way to get back into the swing of things after being away from grand prix racing for over a month.
The month of June and early July had seen Peter take part in some very tough sportscar races. The demanding Hyeres and Reims 12 Hour and prestigious 24 Hours of Le Mans had resulted in some very memorable results. But now, Whitehead and Atlantic Stable were staring down its toughest grand prix test of the season.
Following the team's 5th place result in the Crystal Palace Trophy race, the team would be in no hurry to pack and leave for its next race would be just two hours to the north. However, while the team could enjoy the leisurely trip they were headed to one of the most important grand prix races of their season, and therefore, needed to be at their very best. The team needed to be at its very best because it would be going up against the very best. The team was on their way to Silverstone. They were heading there to take part in the sixth round of the World Championship, the British Grand Prix.
As Atlantic Stable arrived at Silverstone, it would find itself arriving amidst a tightening battle for the World Championship. The previous season saw Ascari miss the Swiss Grand Prix, the first round of the World Championship. However, when he returned, he absolutely dominated every other race on the season.
Throughout three of the first five rounds of the current season, Ascari continued his dominant run of race victories, but there had been some close calls along the way. Then, at the last round, Ascari's string of victories came to an end. Though Ferrari continued its streak, it was Mike Hawthorn that pulled out the victory. And with four rounds remaining, Hawthorn was beginning to pose a serious threat to Ascari because of his victory in the French Grand Prix. Therefore, to maintain his stranglehold on the championship Ascari would need a good result at the British Grand Prix.
While Atlantic Stable had entered more than one car in a couple of events during the 1953 season, the team would head to Silverstone with just its Cooper-Alta T24 to be driven by Peter Whitehead. It would have taken an onslaught of more than half a dozen cars to disrupt Ascari and his effort to come away from the British Grand Prix the clear favorite to retain the World Championship title.
The reality of Ascari's determination would become evident in practice when he would take his Ferrari 500 and turn the fastest lap. Completing the 2.88 mile circuit in one minute and forty-eight seconds Ascari earned the pole. Only two seconds would separate the whole of the front row, however. Jose Froilan Gonzalez, who had earned Ferrari their first-ever World Championship victory at the British Grand Prix back in 1951, would qualify well with his Maserati A6SSG and would start 2nd. Mike Hawthorn would thrill the British crowd as he would post a time of a little more than a minute and forty-nine seconds and would start 3rd. The front row would end up alternating Ferrari, Maserati as Juan Manuel Fangio would take his A6SSG and would start 4th.
Though Hawthorn would be the best starting Brit in the field, the best starting British car couldn't be found until one looked in the third row of the grid. Tony Rolt would take his Connaught A-Type and would power his way to a time of one minute and fifty-four seconds, and therefore, a 10th place starting position. Remarkably, Whitehead would also prove to be right there with his Cooper-Alta. Peter's best time around the circuit would be one minute and fifty-seven seconds. This time would be good enough for him to start the race 14th overall and from the fourth row of the grid. While the front two rows would be nothing but Italian makes of cars, Whitehead would find himself on an all-British fourth row. Not only were the cars British but he would have Kenneth McAlpine and Lance Macklin beside him.
The race distance was to be 90 laps, or, 263 miles. And as is usual for England, the cars would begin to line up on the grid under overcast skies with a very real threat of rain.
Since the circuit was dry at the start the pace would be furious throughout the early stages of the race as each driver attempted to open up any kind of advantage before the rains came and played havoc. As a result, Fangio would peel away from the grid at the start of the race and would actually lead heading into Copse. However, he would enter the turn a little too hot and would have to back out of it just to save the car. This would allow Ascari to slide back into the lead while Fangio would slot in behind him in 2nd. Behind Ascari and Fangio it would be Hawthorn, Farina and Gonzalez.
Being down toward the middle of the twenty-eight car field, Whitehead had to be careful not to get tangled up with other competitors during the first couple of laps of the race. Then he needed to settle into a comfortable, yet fast, pace as it would be a long day of racing.
A couple of entries wouldn't even make it through the first lap of the race, a race that would be filled with attrition. Kenneth McAlpine would split a hose and would be forced to retire while Tony Crook would have his fuel feed interrupted which made carrying on also almost impossible.
Ascari would be out front with Fangio trailing behind. Further behind these two, trouble was brewing. After a couple of laps, Hawthorn would spin off one of the corners much to the disappointment of the British faithful looking for a repeat of his epic French Grand Prix drive. Though he would spin and would lose a number of positions, he would manage to make it back onto the circuit to carry on.
Trouble was rife throughout the field. Harry Schell and Bob Gerard would last less than 10 laps. A couple more, including Maurice Trintignant, wouldn't make it 20 laps. In all, there would be ten cars that would be out of the race before the race reached halfway.
Peter Whitehead, however, was still in the running and was benefiting from the retirement of some of those that had started ahead on him on the grid. Throughout the first half of the race, Whitehead would remain right around the top ten. However, with the retirements, he would be inside the top ten and looking to climb even higher if he could.
No one could climb any higher than the man at the front. Ascari was truly flying and was pretty much untouchable. As the rains began to fall and cause even more havoc throughout the field, Ascari continued to carry on at over 90 mph average per lap. This would lead to him lapping all but Fangio by around the halfway mark of the race. The rain also seemed to slow the field down, except for Ascari and Fangio that is.
Whitehead would already be a number of laps down by the time the rains visited the track. However, it seemed the genial visits Peter seemed to get from Ascari only seemed to increase as the race wore on.
Attrition also wore on. Aided by the rain, cars began to break down in earnest. Emmanuel de Graffenried would suffer from a broken clutch pedal, Roy Salvadori would have a radius rod break, Onofre Marimon would have his engine give up in his Maserati and even Luigi Villoresi would have the rear axle fail on his Scuderia Ferrari. In all, eighteen cars would fail to make it to the end of the race.
In all reality, only really two would really be in the race for the finish, and even then it would be down to one. Despite the rain, Ascari would still average more than 92 mph over the course of the 90 laps and would easily cruise to victory, his fourth of the season. Ascari had been thoroughly dominant. Juan Manuel Fangio would cross the line to finish 2nd but he would be exactly a minute behind. The rest of the field would be even worse-off.
Giuseppe Farina would drive his way to a 3rd place result. He would enjoy a lead of more than forty-six seconds over Jose Froilan Gonzalez in 4th place. However, Farina would trail Ascari by two laps having just been passed for the second time only a couple of laps before the end of the race.
Peter Whitehead would have loved to have only been lapped twice by Ascari by the end of the two hour and fifty minute race. Instead, Whitehead would receive regular visits from Ascari. In fact, it would break down that just about every 8th lap or so Whitehead would have Ascari come around to put him another lap down. In the end it wouldn't matter all that much. Whitehead wasn't in the battle for the World Championship. He was in the battle for making it to the finish and possibly being one of the better-positioned British drivers in the results when it was all said and done. He would achieve both of those objectives.
Though he would not finish in the points, he would still finish and inside the top then. Whitehead would survive the carnage and the weather to finish the race 9th overall, albeit some eleven laps down to Ascari.
Atlantic Stable and Peter Whitehead kept their remarkable run going. Though not in contention at any point during the British Grand Prix, the team still made a strong showing and managed to bring their car home yet again. Had it been a regular British Formula 2 race, Whitehead had been in position to score another podium finish. With the exception of the Grand Prix de Bordeaux, Whitehead had been able to finish every other race on the season and to hang in there against the best teams, cars and drivers of the world certainly spoke volumes as to the team's abilities.
Atlantic Stable would take a couple of weeks off in between races. The team would skip the seventh round of the World Championship, the German Grand Prix, and instead, would wait until the next week to take part in another grand prix.
It was now early August. The team would pack everything up and would head northwest up towards the northeastern border of Wales. Before the weekend of the 8th, the team would pull into the Oulton Park Circuit situated near Little Budsworth in Cheshire. The team would be at Outlton Park to take part in the 1st Mid-Cheshire M.C. Formula 2 race.
Situated in a picturesque setting of rolling countryside and small villages, the Oulton Park Circuit originally had been part of the Oulton Estate. During World War II, the setting would be used to stage some exhibition boxing matches for Joe Louis. Because of its setting and the nature of the circuit, Oulton Park would become a popular venue for racers and for spectators. Many of those spectators would try and crowd near the circuit's famous 'Knickerbrook' corner. This corner was a fast, right-hand kink that required great courage and was truly breathtaking to navigate each and every lap.
Knickerbrook corner would be somewhat taken out of the equation for the 33 lap Mid-Cheshire M.C. race. Oulton Park had been designed and built with three possible circuit layouts that could be used for specific events. For the Mid-Cheshire race the, what has become known as, Fosters Circuit would be used. This layout abandons the 'handle' portion of the circuit design and utilizes just the square 1.66 mile circuit.
In practice for the 50 mile race, Les Leston would be surprisingly quick around the 1.66 miles and would take the pole with a time of one minute and nine seconds. Tony Rolt would be narrowly beat out for the pole as his time would be just two-tenths of a second slower. As a result, Rolt would line up 2nd, or, in the middle of the three-wide front row. Peter Whitehead would complete the front row. Peter's fastest lap time in practice would be exactly a second slower than Rolt and good enough for 3rd place on the grid. In all, there would be six cars that would start the 33 lap race.
As the race got underway, it was obvious Rolt was gunning for the lead and for sheer dominance. He would take the lead and would begin to pull away in earnest. Leston and Whitehead would try hard but would find it difficult to keep touch with Rolt.
Then, after just 6 laps, or about seven minutes, Leston's chase would come to naught as his gear lever would break, thereby ending his race early. This was truly a disappointment for him after he had started from the pole.
Whitehead solidified his 2nd place position. Edward Greenall had started in the 5th position and had made his way up to 3rd place after Leslie Marr retired after 12 laps with steering failure. However, Greenall was no threat to Whitehead.
Nobody was a threat to Rolt, although he would drive like he was being chased by the devil. Rolt would crack off a fastest lap time exactly a second faster than his own qualifying effort and only increased his margin over the rest of the field.
Coming to the final couple laps of the race, to say that Rolt was running alone in 1st would have been a certain understatement. He had lapped the field and was just cruising his way to the finish. Averaging 77 mph, Rolt would fly to the victory completing the distance in just thirty-eight minutes and thirty-three seconds.
Though a lap down, Peter Whitehead would make his way to another podium finish. After starting the race 3rd, Whitehead would push and would end up finishing in 2nd. Edward Greenall would drive impressively and would come across the line in 3rd.
There was literally nothing Whitehead could do with Rolt. However, he would keep his car together yet again and would yet another podium finish. The reliability of the Cooper-Alta certainly had been one of the key stories on the season for Atlantic Stable. Many other teams operating T24 chassis found the season hard-going. They, however, would continue to complete race after race.
One of the reasons why the team's Cooper chassis continued to run strong late in the season may have been due to the fact there would be breaks in between races. This would be the case after the Mid-Cheshire M.C. Formula 2 race. Instead of taking part in other non-championship and championship rounds of the Formula 2 season, Peter Whitehead would be busy taking part in other sportscar races. His interest in sportscar racing was certainly taking off and he was gradually taking part in more and more of those races including the 12 Hour of Pescara.
Competing on the 15.89 mile Pescara circuit, Peter Whitehead and Duncan Hamilton would start that race from the pole in their Jaguar C-Type. The race would fare well until steering problems would sideline them for the remainder of the event.
And while Whitehead was coming back from Pescara, Italy he would not stop off in Berne, Switzerland to take part in the Swiss Grand Prix one week later. Instead, he would travel all the way back to England and would enter the Goodwood 9 Hour with Ian Stewart.
Driving for W. Lyons, Whitehead and Stewart looked to have something of a repeat performance from their effort at Le Mans earlier on in the year. The two would start that race from 7th place on the grid and would end up repeating their effort exactly by finishing that race in 3rd place.
It was very obvious Peter was achieving greater success in sportscars than in single-seater grand prix. And while he would take part in a few more sportscar races before the end of the season, including the Tourist Trophy and the 12 Hours of Casablanca in which he would finish 5th overall with his brother, there would only be one more non-championship Formula 2 race in which Whitehead and Atlantic Stable would take part in for 1953. That race would come on the 12th of September at Snetterton once again. The race was the 1st RedeX Trophy race.
Just one of a number of races held over the weekend, the RedeX Trophy race happened to be a 10 lap, 27 mile, race around the 2.70 mile Snetterton Circuit. The last time Atlantic Stable had been to Snetterton, Peter had come away with a 3rd place result. Seeing that they were back at Snetterton, and that it was the last race of the season, the team would desperately hope and fight for an even better result.
As with the Aston Martin Owners Club race back in the middle of April, Whitehead would have to contend with Eric Thompson driving for Rob Walker Racing. He had scored the victory earlier and would certainly be a favorite to repeat given the length of the two races would be identical, to say nothing of the fact it was also the very same circuit.
Only eight cars would take the start of the race as Brian Naylor would crash during practice and would be unable to start the race. Right from the start, Thompson was strong once again. He certainly knew Snetterton well. However, Peter would remain right there with him not letting him go. Peter would have a battle of his own brewing with Les Leston. Not more than a couple of car lengths would separate the two of them as well. Therefore, Whitehead had quite a task before him. While trying to keep his focus ahead in order to battle with Thompson, he would also have to keep another eye in his mirrors in an effort to block any and all efforts Leston may have tried to make.
As the race wore on, a few of the nine would fall out. In total, half of the field would not make the race distance. Tony Crook's method of retirement from the race would have to be perhaps the most bizarre of all.
While powering along, Crook went to shift and would have his clutch absolutely fall apart right then and there. This would lead to other problems on the car that would eventually cause the brake pedal inside the car to be totally wiped out. Unable to stop the car, Crook would plow through a field and would get struck in the head by a cabbage. The cabbage would end up knocking Crook totally out.
Among the four cars that would remain in the race, the top three would be right there together. Whitehead would be sandwiched between Thompson and Leston but would be able to hold his own.
Thompson would also manage to hold his own. He would go on to set the fastest lap of the race and would eventually draw out a little bit of an advantage over Whitehead, but not much. Nineteen minutes exactly, Thompson would come across the line to collect his second victory at Snetterton. Nearly four seconds later, Whitehead would cross the line for the final time in a Formula 2 race for 1953 and would end up 2nd. Peter would just eek out the 2nd place as Leston would cross the line just a half car length behind or the distance of four-tenths of a second.
Atlantic Stable and Whitehead had done it. Not only had the team made it through the season with just one early retirement, but they also improved upon their result at Snetterton from back in April. In fact, with the exception of the races in which it was already a given that finishing in the top ten would be the best they could do, the team would perform splendidly all season long. It would be a testament to the prowess of the team and of Whitehead and others that had been behind the wheel of the car throughout the season.
As for Atlantic Stable, 1953 would be the only time in which the name would take part in a World Championship race. And since Peter Whitehead would only take part in one more round of the Formula One World Championship, and it would be in 1954, it would be of little surprise that the name would fade away into distant memory like a short-lived vapor.
While Atlantic Stable may have disappeared into World Championship history after the end of the 1953 season, Peter Whitehead would not. He would continue to take part in championship and non-championship grand prix. However, he truly would refocus his career more toward sportscars.
1954 would see him dominate Reims once again, as well as, Snetterton. He would also go on to score a number of other top three and top five results throughout the year in sportscars. Toward the later-part of the 1950s, Peter would join forces with his half-brother and would claim yet another achievement as the two would go on to finish 2nd overall at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. For a man that came into racing as a result of the wool industry, there certainly was no hiding his abilities as a grand prix and sportscar driver. Atlantic Stable