TeamsR.J. Chase/Equipe Anglaise: 1954 Formula One Season By Jeremy McMullen
1953 would see Alan Brown join Bob Chase for the season. In the team's one and only World Championship race, Brown would be running well but eventually would have to retire before the end. The 1954 season, with the new Formula One regulations, was very likely to be Brown's last opportunity to take part in a World Championship race. Unfortunately, he would only manage to see it, not actually enter in.
Alan Brown had enjoyed a surprisingly successful season for Ecurie Richmond in the 1952 World Championship. It would end with him scoring a 5th place in the Swiss Grand Prix and a 6th place result in the Belgian Grand Prix. When the season was all over, Brown would accumulate 2 championship points and would end up 16th in the standings.
Brown knew the finances at Ecurie Richmond would prevent the team from continually taking part in many of the Formula 2 races. This, and the apparent greater opportunity, would lead Brown to join Robert Chase and his Formula 2 team.
The 1953 season would see Brown competitive but unable to achieve anywhere near the success he had with Ecurie Richmond. But Brown couldn't give up so easily. He had started a team under his own name called Equipe Anglaise. The team would use the same Cooper-Bristol T23 Chase had purchased for the team under his name of R.J. Chase.
Besides the grand prix effort, Brown and Chase would be important figures in the sports car scene. The pairing would work closely together preparing a sportscar converted from a Cooper chassis. The two men would focus heavily on the sportscar program but would still take part in Formula 2 races with the Cooper-Bristol.
The Formula 2 and grand prix racing would take something of a backseat within the team primarily because of the fact Brown would be contracted by Vandervell to help with the development of his new Vanwall chassis.
Nonetheless, Chase and Brown would load their Cooper-Bristol T23 onto a transporter and would head to the south of England to take part in what was to be the first grand prix of their season. They would arrive at the Goodwood Circuit to take part in the Easter Monday races held on the 19th of April.
The race, in particular, in which Chase and Brown would take part would be the 6th Lavant Cup race held on the 2.39 mile Goodwood Circuit. The race would be just one of many short events held during the Easter Monday races.
Situated just 3 miles north of Chichester and just about 30 minutes away from Portsmouth, the Goodwood Estate was in a very important location during the turbulent years of the Second World War. When the defense of the island nation was never more important, a portion of the estate would be given to make an auxiliary airfield to RAF Tangmere. RAF Westhampnett would thus be born.
At the conclusion of the war, the airfield sat empty and almost useless. However, the Duke of Richmond, the title holder to the estate, would realize the perimeter road would make for a perfect motor racing circuit. Therefore, the Goodwood Circuit would come to be. And on every Monday after Easter the circuit would host a series of short races to allow numerous racing series the opportunity to take part in one big day of racing.
The new Formula One regulations would come into effect in 1954 but there would be a number of teams and privateers that would stick with their older Formula 2 cars simply because of an inability to afford going and buying an entirely brand new car. Equipe Anglaise would be one of these that would come to the race with an older Formula 2 car. But thankfully, there would only be a couple 2.5-liter machines in the field.
The starting grid for the race would be relatively unknown but Roy Salvadori would be up at the front of the field with a Maserati 250F. Kenneth McAlpine and Reg Parnell would also be up at the front of the field. Parnell would be driving a converted Ferrari 500. Called the 625, the Ferrari 500 would have a 2.5-liter engine powering the car.
The race was short; just 7 laps in total. This meant the start would be very important. Drivers would be pushing hard given the short race distance and a poor start certainly meant a poor finish.
And while Salvadori and Parnell would be quickly off the line and battling for the overall lead of the race, there would be some that would have to be less concerned about their start as they would about merely making it to the end of the race.
John Webb would be the first one out of the race. However, it wouldn't be much further before Peter Whitehead would also depart the race with a broken throttle linkage. Each of these two drivers would last just one lap of the race.
Brown wouldn't make it much further unfortunately. Alan would make it through the 2nd lap of the race and would be circulating the track on the 3rd lap of the race when, all of a sudden, problems arose with his Cooper-Bristol. This would take the man from Yorkshire right out of the race.
Amongst those still running, Parnell and Salvadori would be locked in a tremendous battle amongst the two Formula One cars in the field. Both were at the head of the field and separated by less than a second each and every lap.
Parnell would hold onto the lead but Salvadori would be quite a handful in the Maserati. Parnell and Salvadori would end up setting the same fastest lap time of the race showing just how evenly matched the two drivers and cars really were.
The advantage of the 2.5-liter engines would be obvious even over the course of a short 7 lap race. Parnell and Salvadori would be running nose-to-tail but would have thirty seconds in hand over the rest of the field of Formula 2 cars.
The battle would rage each and every lap. Even as the two rounded Woodcote and powered toward the finish line for the final time, Parnell would be just ahead of Salvadori. Coming to the line it would be an incredible finish with Parnell literally edging Salvadori out for the victory. Just six-tenths of a second would be the margin between the two drivers. In 3rd would come McAlpine. He would hold onto the final position of the podium coming across the line some ten seconds ahead of Lance Macklin in an HWM. Although McAlpine would finish in 3rd place, he would not be at all close to Parnell and Salvadori finishing exactly thirty seconds behind Parnell.
The first race of the season could not have started out worse for Brown and Chase. In a very short race as it was their car would prove capable of only completing 2 laps before trouble hit. This would need to be rectified, obviously, or else, they might as well just focus on their sportscar program.
Thankfully, it was still very early in the season. There would be plenty of opportunities for the team to turn around its season after the poor showing at Goodwood. However, Chase and his team, including Brown, would have other pans in the fire.
Somehow, some way, Brown would come up with an idea of taking a Formula 2 Cooper-Bristol T20 and adapting it for use in sportscar racing. With Chase's help, a sportscar version of the T20 would be built and would be deemed legal within the rules. And in 1954, Brown and R.J. Chase would take part in a number of sportscar races with this specially adapted Cooper T20.
Just days after the failure at Goodwood Alan would enjoy a huge success in the British Empire Trophy race held at Oulton Park on the 10th of April. In that race, Brown would start up near the front of the field. He would prepare to do battle with a number of Jaguar C-Types. The main competition would be the C-Type Jaguars driven by the Ecurie Ecosse team. However, Brown would end up beating them all coming home the winner by thirty-four seconds over Roy Salvadori driving a Maserati A6GCS for Gilby Engineering.
Therefore, it would be needless to say that the Equipe Anglaise team had other interests besides grand prix racing. And given the disadvantage of running Formula 2 cars against Formula One machines, it was very wise of the team to focus in another area of motorsport. Unfortunately, what that meant was Equipe Anglaise and R.J. Chase would not be entered in too many grand prix races in 1954.
A prime example of this would come on the 15th of May. Alan Brown would be busy preparing to take part in the 5th BRDC International Trophy race, but not for Equipe Anglaise. Instead, Brown had been contracted by the G. A. Vandervell team to shake-down the team's new Vanwall chassis.
Yes, a number of non-championship races would pass before the team would field a car. Then, in June, the team would have an entry for the 2nd Crystal Palace Trophy race held at the Crystal Palace Park in south London. However, the team would not arrive at the race and time would continue to go on before the team would actually be present and ready to take part in a race.
While R.J. Chase and Equipe Anglaise would take part in a number of sportscar races it wouldn't be until July that the team would be seen at a grand prix. When the team finally made what was its second appearance at a grand prix it would be at what was its biggest race of the season in grand prix. For in the middle of July, Equipe Anglaise, would pull into the Silverstone Circuit in hopes of taking part in the 9th British Grand Prix, which was the fifth round of the World Championship in 1954.
Back during the days of the Second World War, RAF Silverstone, as was known, was a bomber training base for the Royal Air Force base. Operational Training Unit No. 17 used Vickers Wellington bombers and would daily launch out of RAF Silverstone to prepare to become the nation's best bomber crews.
After the conclusion of the war, the airbase would be quickly abandoned. But soon, the former airbase would take on its biggest role. By 1948, the British Grand Prix would be held at the former airbase. One year later, the circuit would host the first International Trophy race. Therefore, by the early 1950s, Silverstone was the new home for British motor racing.
Ever since 1950, Silverstone had been part of the Formula One World Championship. 1954 would see the 2.88 mile circuit host three of the largest factory teams of the day. As the teams pulled into the circuit and began to unload it was clear the 9th British Grand Prix would be filled with some absolute heavyweights. Included in the field would be Scuderia Ferrari and the Maserati factory effort Officine Alfieri Maserati. But on top of the presence of Ferrari and Maserati, the Silver Arrows of Mercedes-Benz would make its first appearance at a British circuit since before the start of the Second World War.
It was clear, especially at a fast circuit like Silverstone, the new Formula One cars would be the favorites heading into the race. Nonetheless, there would be a large number of privateers and small teams entered in the race driving older 2.0-liter Formula 2 machines. Most all of them were present to be a part of history and were not at all entertaining fits of fantasy about their chances against a field half-full of Formula One chassis.
As the cars headed to the track for practice, it was clear Brown was going to play nothing more than a supporting role in the unfolding story that was to be the British Grand Prix. In fact, as practice wore on, it would become abundantly clear Brown and the team would be lucky to even be considered a supporting act compared to the pace of the Formula One cars.
The fastest in practice would be Juan Manuel Fangio driving one of the new Mercedes-Benz W196s. In spite of his difficulties with the sleek bodywork of the car blinding the apexes of the corners, Fangio would go on to set a new lap record around the 2.88 mile circuit. His fastest lap time would be 1:45 at an average speed just over 100mph.
Brown, in the team's Cooper-Bristol T23 would provide and clear and stark contrast between the power of a 2.0-liter and a 2.5-liter engine. While Fangio would set a new lap record with a time of 1:45, Brown would be happy just to get near the two minute mark. As it was, Brown's best lap around the circuit would be an incredibly slow 2:12. With a margin of 27 seconds between himself and Fangio, Brown and the team had a very important decision to make concerning whether to even take part in the race.
In spite of the desire to take part in what obviously would be a special race on the season, the R.J. Chase team would withdraw from the British Grand Prix after qualifying was over. So while the team had actually made it to a race, it would mark the second race in a row in which the team would fail to compete. It was now three months since the team last competed in a grand prix, whether championship or non-championship.
Alan Brown and the R.J. Chase team would take part in more and more sportscar races and would obviously focus on that instead of participating in championship or non-championship grand prix. This was understandable considering the obvious disadvantages of running a 2.0-liter Formula 2 car against newer 2.5-liter Formula One cars. It was also understandable when the team would continually score top results in the sportscar races.
The team would make a second appearance at Oulton Park just before the British Grand Prix and would come away with yet another victory. A supporting sportscar race to the British Grand Prix would see Alan Brown come away with a top ten result in that race.
It was clear the team was shifting its focus over to sportscar racing and had good reason to do so. Yet, the team would continue to enter some non-championship grand prix, albeit much more sporadically.
The R.J. Chase team would again head to Oulton Park, this time in August. After racing successfully for Kenneth McAlpine at Brands Hatch on the 2nd of August, Alan Brown would make his way to the Oulton Park Circuit on the 7th of August to take part in the 1st International Gold Cup race.
Brown would enter the race under his own name, but he would be driving the Cooper-Bristol owned by Robert Chase. It was not at all surprising that Brown would attend the race given the success he had achieved at the circuit throughout the season. However, he would not experience anywhere near the same amount of success given the presence of a number of Formula One cars in the race. In fact, finishing would prove to be the biggest competition Brown would have at the race. After 18 laps, a fuel pump failure would bring about the end of Brown's race.
Yet again, the Cooper-Bristol would fail to complete a race. It was obvious the team had reliability issues that needed to be sorted out. But being more concerned with sportscar races, the single-seater Cooper-Bristol would obviously take a backseat.
Instead of working hard to fix the car and prepare it for the next race on the season, the team would obviously just sit the car to the side and work on it at a much less furious pace. The shift of focus meant the car would not be turned around as fast as could have been possible, which meant there would be more time that would pass between races
And while the team would continually take part in sportscar races throughout England and the European mainland, it would be the end of September when the R.J. Chase/Equipe Anglaise made another grand prix appearance.
On the 25th of September, the R.J. Chase/Equipe Anglaise team would be back at the Goodwood Circuit preparing to take part in the 7th Madgwick Cup Formula 2 race.
As with the Easter Monday races back in the spring, the Goodwood Circuit would also host a weekend of racing in the fall that followed a similar format. The day of racing would see a number of different categories of motor racing taking part in short events around the 2.39 mile Goodwood Circuit.
The Madgwick Cup race would be strictly for Formula 2 cars and would be the best opportunity the R.J. Chase/Equipe Anglaise team would have perhaps all season long in a grand prix event. The opportunity for the good result would not be presented to Alan Brown. While Alan would be at the wheel of the sportscar, and would fare extremely well, it would be Mike Keen that would have the mission of taking the troubled Cooper-Bristol T23 to victory, or at least a finish, in the Madgwick Cup race.
As with the Easter Monday races, the Madgwick Cup race would be short, just 7 laps in length. However, Keen would still have a number of talented drivers in which he would have to contend over the course of the 17 mile race. Bob Gerard posed probably the toughest competition, but Don Beauman, John Riseley-Prichard and Leslie Marr would also make for some very tough racing over the course of the 7 lap race.
In practice, Bob Gerard would not let anyone down as he would set the fastest lap of the race in a Cooper-Bristol T23. The second-fastest in the field would be Don Beauman driving a Connaught-Lea Francis. The rest of the four-wide front row would see Leslie Marr starting in 3rd place with John Riseley-Prichard in 4th.
Mike Keen would be impressive in practice. His best lap in the Cooper-Bristol would see him just miss out on the front row of the grid. Instead, Keen would start the race in 5th place, the first position on the second row. In all, fifteen cars would line up on the grid preparing to take part in the race.
As the cars leapt away from the grid at the start of the race, Keen would make a good start and would be right up at the front of the field heading through the first few turns. He would fight hard to keep with Gerard and Beauman.
Gerard would be out front with Beauman giving chase and staying pretty close to Gerard's car. Keen would find himself locked in a battle with Riseley-Prichard. Leslie Marr had started on the front row but he would fade out of the picture right away. This would leave Keen and Riseley-Prichard alone in their battle for 3rd place.
Out front, Gerard continued to lead the race and would pull away gradually with each and every lap. Still, Beauman would keep Gerard in sight. All it would take is for Gerard to make a mistake and he would easily take over the lead of the race.
Keen and Riseley-Prichard would fight it out throughout the entire race. Keen would be absolutely impressive for R.J. Chase after the trouble the team had been experiencing at the other races in which they had taken part. Mike would battle hard and would gain the position. He would then fight with everything he had to maintain his advantage over Riseley-Prichard. But while Keen and Riseley-Prichard were also at the wheels of Formula 2 cars like Gerard and Beauman, neither of them could keep touch. But as far as R.J. Chase was concerned, finishing would be of greater importance than worrying about keeping touch with the leaders.
Gerard would be tough throughout the race. He would go on to set the fastest lap of the race and would hold on to take the victory over Beauman. Gerard's advantage at the end of the race would be a little over three seconds.
Fifteen seconds would be the gap back to Keen and Riseley-Prichard. Through the last couple of laps of the race, Keen was enjoying a little bit of an advantage, but he would not take it for granted. He would continue to push hard all the way to the finish. This would pay off as Keen's good start and strong performance in the race would net him a 3rd place finish with a margin of about two and a half seconds over Riseley-Prichard.
Finally, the R.J. Chase team would have a race finish, and a podium on top of it all. While the team would have dearly loved a result like this at the other grand prix races they had entered it would still feel good nonetheless, especially since the end of the season was rapidly approaching.
The grand prix season was drawing to a close fast. By the beginning of October there was only one round of the Formula One World Championship remaining on the calendar and really only one major non-championship race as well, at least in Europe. The final non-championship race would take place in England. It would be a brand new race at a brand new venue. The race was the Daily Telegraph Trophy race and it would be held on a 3.00 mile circuit located within and around the Aintree Racecourse near Liverpool.
There was a lot of expectation surrounding the race and it was widely known it would host the British Grand Prix in the near future. Therefore, the race would draw a number of local and foreign entries. This meant a large number of Formula One cars in the field. As a result, Robert Chase and his team could be sure a top result would be tough to come by. The R.J. Chase team would have an entry in the race and the Cooper would be driven by Alan Brown. In fact, the team would intend to have a new car in which to race. The team would enter an Alta-powered Cooper T24. Capable of reaching speeds in excess of 150 mph, the car would be better able to compete against the numerous Formula One cars entered in the race. However, the team would end its season without appearing in its final race. Just like that, the 1954 season would draw to a close for the R.J. Chase/Equipe Anglaise team.
The failure to arrive at Aintree would also bring to a close the R.J. Chase/Equipe Anglaise chapter in the World Championship. The withdraw from the British Grand Prix would be the final time the team would be seen trying to enter a Formula One World Championship grand prix. Instead, the team would almost entirely shift its focus to sportscars.
It would not be the end for Alan Brown, however. After one final appearance in single-seaters in 1955, Brown would focus on his sportscar career, which would last up until 1956. Then, in 1958 and 1959, Brown would start his own Formula 2 team and would provide rides to many aspiring young drivers. One of those drivers that he would come to partner with would be a man that would become well known in Formula One during the late 1960s and on through the 1990s. His name is Ken Tyrrell. The two men would join forces to create a two-car Formula 2 team. One of the most famous drivers to have driven for the team would be Bruce McLaren. But even Masten Gregory would sit behind the wheel of one of their cars for a while.
At about the same time he started his own Formula 2 team Brown would come to own Connaught Cars Ltd. Realizing the company's position, Brown would turn the manufacturer into a garage.
In spite of Brown's numerous involvements in and around the racing scene, he would begin to fade into the background until he was almost forgotten about. He would go on to live a long and productive life, out-living many more notable competitors. Brown would pass away in Guildford, Surrey in January of 2004, at the age of 84.
Like so many other small teams and privateers, R.J. Chase's place in Formula One history, at least on the outside, would appear to be minimal at best. Like a vapor, the team's presence in the World Championship would be there one minute and gone the next. However, it would be the relationships of Alan Brown and Ken Tyrrell that would show that even the briefest of moments can leave some of the most lasting impacts. Equipe Anglaise