TeamsBill Whitehouse: 1954 Formula One Season By Jeremy McMullen
Rising out of the ashes of World War II, Great Britain's industry was in almost as bad a shape as Germany's. Wartime production had reduced levels of materials and other necessary materials. This would make it very difficult for major British manufacturers to rise up and challenge the likes of Ferrari and even Maserati. As with Germany, the period of the late 1940s and early 1950s would give rise to the privateer and small car manufacturer. This would be a crowded field of talent. Just one of those faces in the crowd would be William 'Bill' H. Whitehouse.
Born in London in 1909, Bill Whitehouse would become a car dealer in the south of London. Much of his life before and during World War II would be relatively unknown. But after the war, Whitehouse would catch the racing bug and would start out participating in the 500cc formula in 1949.
Whitehouse would purchase a Cooper MKII from Stan Coldham and would be immediately successful earning a 5th place result in one of his first races. He would then earn a 2nd place result at a race in July of that year.
In 1950, Whitehouse's career in the 500cc formula would really take off. He would win the Production Car race and grand final at Brands Hatch in April of 1950. Often times he would be found in 2nd place only beaten by the mighty Stirling Moss. A victory at Rouen in July, beating John Cooper and others, made it clear this car dealer not only could talk about racing but could compete as well.
The 1951 season would be even better with top results earned at Castle Combe, Genoa and even the Nurburgring. However, the season would be highly competitive. And at the end of the season, Whitehouse would lose out on the championship to Ecurie Richmond's Eric Brandon.
During the 1951 season, Bill would make his debut in Formula 2. Surely it would be only a matter of time before he would be racing in the higher formulas, even perhaps the World Championship.
It would appear as if Whitehouse had missed the boat. Although he would take part in a Formula 2 race here and there during the 1952 and 1953 seasons, he still would not try his hand in the World Championship. Then with the reintroduction of Formula One regulations for the World Championship in 1954, it would have seemed to be the wrong time to make what would have effectively been two leaps up to Formula One racing, especially with a Formula 2 car, but that would be exactly what Whitehouse would do.
The early part of the 1954 season would see Whitehouse return to his more 'native' 500cc formula racing. But then in June of '54, Whitehouse would make an appearance in his first Formula One race.
In early June, Whitehouse would travel from his place in London to the East of England and a motor racing circuit just a few miles south of Attleborough in Norfolk. The motor racing circuit was actually a former World War II bomber base known as RAF Snetterton-Heath. In 1954, the former RAF Snetterton-Heath would be simply called Snetterton Motor Racing Circuit and it would host a series of events on the 5th of June. One of those events would be the 10 lap, 27 mile, 2nd Curtis Trophy race.
Once a bomber base for the United States Army Air Force's 96th Heavy Bombardment Group, RAF Snetterton-Heath would be just one of the sites from which American heavy bombers would launch on dauntless bombing raids against the Third Reich. After the war, the base would become abandoned until 1952 when it would host its first motor races on the 2.70 mile perimeter road surrounding the former airbase's three runways.
Whitehouse would come to Snetterton with a Connaught A-Type that he had purchased. However, the style Connaught he had purchased was different than the majority of the rest of the Connaught's out in the field. While the car would be practically the same inside and out, he would have one of the rare chassis Connaught produced with a longer body. However, as Roy Salvadori unloaded with the Golby Engineering Maserati 250F, Whitehouse wouldn't need a longer car, but one with more power.
The field for the 10 lap race would be rather small. But this would offer a great opportunity for Whitehouse in one of his first Formula One races, albeit a non-championship race.
In practice, it would not be surprising at all that Salvadori would set the pace in the Maserati. Salvadori would, therefore, gain the pole for the race. Les Leston would qualify his JAP-powered Cooper in the 2nd position while Michael Young would put his Connaught in the field in the 3rd position. Whitehouse would start toward the middle of the field with a 4th place starting position. In all, eight cars would line up to start the 10 lap race.
The small field would tear away from the grid to start the 10 lap race. Immediately, Salvadori would take to the lead and would be in control of the proceedings. Whitehouse would make a good start and would also right up there at the beginning.
While Salvadori continued in the lead of the race, attrition began to claim some victims. Ted Whiteaway would fall out of the running. He would be joined just a little later by Leston and Michael Young. This meant that in his first Formula One event, Whitehouse would be in the top three and looking quite strong.
Salvadori would certainly show that he was in a class unto himself as he would turn the fastest lap of the race and would continually extend his lead over Whitehouse who found himself running in 2nd place a few seconds ahead of Jock Somervail.
It would take Salvadori just eighteen minutes and twenty-six seconds to complete the 10 laps and take the victory. The question would be just how far behind would be the 2nd place finisher, and would it be Whitehouse? It would be a truly remarkable debut for Whitehouse. Although the level of competition would be quite low, he would be nonetheless impressive in his non-championship debut. Trailing behind by fifty-four seconds, Whitehouse would come across to score a 2nd place finish! He would end up beating Somervail by a margin of a little more than six seconds.
Whitehouse's debut in a Formula One non-championship race, considering the fact he was going up against a Formula One car, would be nothing less than superb. It was obvious that all those years of competition and all of those moments of success in the 500cc formula were certainly well deserved. He would just need to keep the results coming for the entire season, which was only just beginning.
Whitehouse's season would continue just a couple of weeks after his success in the Curtis Trophy race. On June 19th, Whitehouse would be back in his native London. In fact, he would even be in an area of London near his own home town. He would be at Crystal Palace Park in the south of London. He would be there preparing to take part in the 2nd Crystal Palace Trophy race.
Named for the glass and cast-iron building that once stood on the site back in the 1800s, the area that would become Crystal Palace Park had once been a place for gypsies and other 'questionable' characters. However, by the 1800s, the park would become a popular place for recreation and sport. During the early part of the 20th century, the park would become even more popular and would even be the home for the local football team. This made the park the perfect site for a motor race if one was to have one anywhere near downtown London.
Utilizing the park roads around the park, the short 1.35 mile circuit would be anything but flat. Situated on top of one of the highest points in all of London, the circuit would feature some rather impressive undulation. In fact, the first portion of the circuit that passes through Ramp Bend toward the South Tower Corner and the Terrace Straight would see the circuit undergo an impressive climb. In fact, the portion of circuit between Ramp Bend and South Tower Corner would be called Maximum Rise. In reality, the tallest point on the circuit would be located at the long right-hander called North Tower Crescent. Once rounding North Tower Crescent, the driver and car would be treated to a steep downhill run that would include a fast right-hand kink before leading to the start/finish line.
Whitehouse would arrive at Crystal Palace Park with his Connaught. He would be just one of many that would come to the event from all over England. However, since the race would take place the day before the Belgian Grand Prix, the field would be a little smaller than what many had hoped.
As with the previous season and the first Crystal Palace Trophy race, the event would take place using heat races and a final. However, unlike the BRDC International Trophy race held at Silverstone, the heat races and the final would all be the same number of laps. Each of the two heat races would be 10 laps, just the same as the final.
The entire field of entries would be split into the two heats. Whitehouse would be drawn to start in the second heat. Therefore, he would have the opportunity to watch the first heat and see just what kind of pace he could expect.
The first heat race was intended to have Roy Salvadori, Oliver Simpson and some others. However, there would be just six cars listed in the first heat race. But included in those six entries would be Reg Parnell driving a Ferrari 625 Formula One car, Peter Collins and Les Leston.
In practice leading up to the first heat race, it would be Collins that would end up setting the pace in the R.R.C. Walker Racing Team's Connaught. This would be good news for Whitehouse as Collins would take the pole from Parnell and his Ferrari. In fact, even Les Leston would be quicker around the circuit than Parnell. Parnell would actually start the race from the 3rd position while Horace Gould would complete the front row starting in 4th.
Although he would be beaten out for the pole, Parnell would do everything he could to make sure the same thing would not happen during the heat race. Sure enough, as the field roared away, Parnell would be right there pouncing, trying to take the lead of the race. Collins and Leston would break off the line just as they lined up and would be fighting just as hard to keep the Ferrari at bay.
They could not hold back Parnell who would take over the lead of the race. While Collins and Leston may have been faster over the course of a single lap in practice, over the course of a 10 lap race, it would become clear the power advantage Parnell enjoyed.
Once in the lead, Parnell would begin to gradually pull away. Very quickly, his lead would be more than a second. And then, Parnell would rattle off the fastest lap of the heat which would only increase his lead over Collins and Leston who were still running just as they had started.
Anchored by a fastest lap time of one minute and seven seconds, Parnell would be well clear of Collins and Leston during the last lap of the race. The important thing would be finishing time. Averaging nearly 73 mph, Parnell would complete the 10 laps in just eleven minutes and twenty-six seconds. Collins would also pull out a margin over Leston in the last few laps of the heat. Collins would end up nine seconds behind Parnell in 2nd. Nearly another three seconds would pass before Leston would come through to finish in 3rd place.
The first race had become no contest once Parnell had assumed the lead. The second heat, with no Formula One cars in the listing, would seem to promise some tighter racing.
Although there would be no Formula One cars in the second heat field, Whitehouse would still find it to be filled with very talented drivers. This would be made all the more clear after practice when Whitehouse would find himself starting the second heat from dead-last, 9th place.
The pole for the second heat would end up going to Don Beauman in another Connaught. The rest of the front row would include Rodney Nuckey in 2nd place, Paul Emery starting in 3rd and Charles Boulton completing the row in 4th.
In his first race of the season, Bill had come somewhat from behind to score a 2nd place finish. Therefore, he was by no means out of it going into the heat race.
The field powered away from the grid and immediately Whitehouse was making good on his previous good result. He would be making his way up through the running order and would find himself right near the top five in no time.
At the front of the field, it would be Nuckey that would make a good start and that would be challenging Beauman for the outright lead of the race. Even from the very beginning it was obvious Boulton would be incapable of maintaining the same pace as his competitors and would begin to fall down the running order.
Jimmy Somervail's crash after 4 laps and Don Bennett's early retirement were all open doors for Whitehouse to take advantage and he would do just that. Bill would continue to force his way up the running order. He would push his way past Fairman and would find himself running in 3rd place with just a couple of laps remaining in the heat.
Nuckey had the lead of the race and would go on to set the fastest lap. This would help him to break free from Beauman's pursuit and would help him just to focus on making it to the finish line in the fastest time possible. Whitehouse's effort just to get up to 3rd place would cause him to be too far behind Beauman to challenge him. Therefore, the top three would be intent on doing their best just to earn their fastest finishing times possible.
Nuckey would need eleven minutes and thirty-six seconds to complete the distance and take the victory. Four seconds back would come Beauman in 2nd place. A little more than eight seconds would be the gap between Beauman and Whitehouse.
Finishing times would be important as they were to determine the starting positions for the final. Being nearly ten seconds faster than everybody else in his Formula One Ferrari, Reg Parnell would have the pole for the 10 lap final. Peter Collins would start in 2nd place. Rodney Nuckey's finishing time would actually net him the 3rd place starting position also on the front row. The final spot on the front row would go to Les Leston. Whitehouse would have a good starting position going into the final. He would start on the second row in 6th position almost right behind Nuckey. This positioning had the potential of providing Whitehouse a good spot in the running order if he could possibly make a good start off the line.
Parnell would get the best start off the line and would be in the lead of the race almost from the very moment of the dropping of the flag. Peter Collins would be right there initially. Their break off the line would off Beauman a great opportunity to get the jump on the rest of those starting in the front row.
Whitehouse would make the great start he needed. Helped by Leston's engine blow up delaying Nuckey and Gould slightly, Bill would be right up there behind Beauman just outside the top three in the running order.
At the head of the field, Parnell would again start drawing away from the rest of the field. However, Collins would give it everything he had and would keep Parnell closer than he had during the first heat race. The pace of Parnell, and the tenacity of Collins, meant Beauman and Whitehouse would be left behind.
Despite being pressured by Collins more heavily, Parnell would keep his head. He would go on to set the fastest lap with a time virtually the same as his fastest lap in the first heat. This would actually put the pressure right back on Collins. Collins would respond to the pressure but just could not really do anything about it.
Parnell would be the model of consistency. He would go on to average the same speed through the whole of the 10 lap race and would come across the line to finish the race in the same exact time in which he had the first heat race. This meant Parnell was never really troubled by Collins despite Collins following across the line closer. Parnell would take the victory. But instead of a nine second victory, he would only have a five second advantage over Collins at the finish.
Whitehouse would drive his Connaught hard throughout the 10 lap final. However, Beauman would be able to counter everything Whitehouse tried to do. This enabled Beauman to relax somewhat and focus on bringing his car home in 3rd place. The difference in pace between Collins and Beauman would be quite staggering. While Collins would be just five seconds behind Parnell, Beauman would end up seventeen seconds behind. Whitehouse would be even further still, but he would still manage to pull off a 4th place finish.
Whitehouse had done it again. He had come on strong when he absolutely needed to. He had started his heat race from dead-last on the grid but would end up the final in a very good 4th place. Whitehouse was certainly proving his reputation that he had earned in the junior formula ranks, but he would need an absolute apocalypse to happen to repeat the same performance at his next race.
Bill Whitehouse had taken part in two races and had finished no worse than 4th in either of them. However, as the calendar turned to July, his greatest challenge was still before him. Until 1951, Whitehouse had never take part in any type of racing except the junior formulas like the 500cc formula. However, in 1954, Whitehouse wouldn't just make a jump up in formula, he would make an absolute leap and his toughest test was set to take place on the 17th of July. The race was the British Grand Prix. It would be the fifth round of the Formula One World Championship.
The 9th RAC British Grand Prix would at least take part on a circuit Whitehouse was familiar, Silverstone. Situated on the border between Northamptonshire and Buckinghamshire in the Midlands of England, Silverstone would have its beginnings, like so many other motor racing circuits in England, in the dark days of the Second World War.
Opened in 1943, RAF Silverstone, as it would be known then, would be a bomber training base for the Royal Air Force. From its three runways, the No. 17 Operational Training Unit would operate its Vickers Wellington bombers.
While during the war Silverstone may only have been a training base, it would become Britain's home for motor racing in its second life and would host the cream of the motor racing world.
Hosting the British Grand Prix in its first year of existence as a motor racing venue in 1948, Silverstone and the British Grand Prix would be the first-ever round of the World Championship in 1950. But between 1952 and 1953, the circuit would become Alberto Ascari's own personal playground en route to his two World Championship titles.
Coming into the 1954 edition of the race, much would change. Alberto Ascari would have a falling-out with Enzo and would move on to Lancia and their new Formula One project. Juan Manuel Fangio would start out the season with Maserati as he had been the previous couple of years. However, just before the French Grand Prix he would switch to drive for Mercedes-Benz. This would prove very fruitful as he would take the victory with Karl Kling beside him and more than a lap separating him and those 3rd or worse. In fact, with all of the upheaval, and the resurgence of Mercedes-Benz, a large crowd would ascend on Silverstone in expectation of the 1954 British Grand Prix.
Of course Bill Whitehouse's role in the narrative would be practically non-existent. But he wouldn't be at the 2.88 mile circuit to do battle with Fangio or Ascari, unless he could. No, he would be there to experience Formula One World Championship racing. Here it was in his backyard and he would finally have the nerve and the opportunity to take part in it.
Whitehouse wouldn't just take part in the race; he would put his best foot forward when he could. He could have done a whole lot worse in practice. His best lap of one minute and fifty-six seconds would be faster than veterans like Peter Whitehead, Leslie Thorne and Eric Brandon. Even the two-time defending race winner, Alberto Ascari, would start worse than what Whitehouse would. Bill would end up starting the race from the sixth row of the grid in the 19th position overall.
Just eleven seconds would be the difference between Whitehouse's time around the circuit and that of the pole-sitter Juan Manuel Fangio. Fangio was driving the beautifully designed W196. While he would be fast, Fangio would not be happy. The sleek fenders would cause the Argentinean to lose sight of the apex of the corners. This would cost him time, at least so he thought. Although he would not be comfortable in the car, he would still be fast. And he would prove that with his qualifying effort. Completing a lap of the circuit in one minute and forty-five seconds meant he would establish a new lap record with an average speed greater than 100 mph! One could only imagine if he had been happy throughout the course of the lap what the time would have been. This would not bode well for the rest of the field, even those that would start on the front row along with him.
Another Argentinean, Jose Froilan Gonzalez, would start alongside his countryman in 2nd place. Mike Hawthorn, one of the talented British drivers of the era, would line up on the front row in the 3rd position. Another of those talented British drivers would be Stirling Moss. He would complete the front row starting 4th in a Maserati 250F.
The weather the day of the race would be anything but un-English. The day would be cold. And on top of the cold temperatures, the track would be wet. Thankfully though, it would not be rainy.
The field would roar away at the start of the 90 lap, 263 mile, British Grand Prix. And although Fangio had set a new lap record in practice, it would be Jose Froilan Gonzalez that would get the jump in the wet conditions and would lead the race. Fangio would even lose out to Mike Hawthorn for 2nd place. Whitehouse would be toward the middle of the pack trying to take it easy through the first couple of laps of the race. Looking to avoid trouble, Whitehouse would tip-toe through the wet conditions and would look to find some kind of comfortable pace that would carry him all the way to the end of the race.
Coming around to complete the first lap of the race, there would be a surprise running up near the top five. One of the competitors that was on an absolute tear coming up through the field would be Onofre Marimon. Marimon had proven himself the year before by often running with Fangio, Ascari, Farina and the others. Well in the 1954 British Grand Prix he would put together a one lap performance that would be truly astounding. Marimon had started the race from 28th on the grid. However, at the end of the first lap, Marimon would be running in the 6th position just behind Jean Behra.
Whitehouse would have loved to have been able to pull off such a move himself, but, he would be looking content running around the middle of the pack. While he was certainly looking and hoping for the best result possible, he was certainly also approaching the race realistically. And the fact he had made it through the first couple of laps without incident was certainly reason to be pleased with his performance to that point. But there were still a lot of miles left to cover, and he would need to find a pace that would afford him the best chance of completing them all.
Gonzalez looked unbeatable in the wet conditions. Of course he had won the BRDC International Trophy race back in May at Silverstone in similar conditions. Besides that, Gonzalez had had good success all throughout his career at Silverstone. In fact, it was he that scored Ferrari's first World Championship victory, and he had done it at Silverstone back in 1951. And here he was, back with Ferrari and leading the race at Silverstone. Could be repeat his 1951 performance?
Of course a lot would depend on Fangio and the W196. After making a poor start, Fangio would be up to speed and would be threatening Hawthorn for 2nd place. Known for his tough competitiveness, Hawthorn could do really very little against the pace of Fangio's Mercedes and would hand the position over to the Argentinean. While frustrating for sure for Hawthorn, this would bring delight to the British fans as it would set up a battle between Hawthorn and Moss for 3rd place.
Laps continued to click off. The pace would increase with a somewhat drying track. This would allow Gonzalez to turn the fastest lap of the race with a time of one minute and fifty seconds. While Gonzalez would extend his lead, the rest of the front-runners would not let Gonzalez off too easy as six others would go on to set the same fastest lap time.
Not all was well with the entire field, however. A couple of competitors would find their races over after just a couple of laps. Robert Manzon and Peter Collins, each driving Formula One cars, would have their races come to an end after just 16 laps. And then there would be Alberto Ascari.
What a world of change 1954 would be. The years 1952 and 1953 had been times of utter domination for Ascari while he was with Ferrari. However, after the falling out with Enzo, things would look vastly different. The Lancia project continued to run into problem after problem, and therefore, delayed the debut of the new car. Ascari and Luigi Villoresi would only be on loan to Maserati for the British Grand Prix. Arriving late, both drivers would start toward the rear end of the field. But if one could make his way to victory from almost dead-last it would be Ascari. But it wouldn't be this day.
After just 21 laps, the engine would let go in Ascari's Maserati. While he would retire the car, Ascari himself would be far from out of the race. Luigi Villoresi, Ascari's good friend, would give his Maserati to Ascari for the remainder of the race. Armed with a second chance, Ascari would set off. Unfortunately, the second chance would run out after just about another 20 laps when oil pressure problems would finally bring an end to Ascari's bid for a third-straight British Grand Prix victory.
The circuit would continue to claim its victims. Prince Bira, Roy Salvadori and Jean Behra would all end up out of the race right around, or just past, the halfway mark of the race. Bill Whitehouse seemed to escape all of the trouble and was actually looking quite strong until it was his turn to be visited by attrition. Running some 60 laps into the race, Whitehouse's Connaught began to develop problems. It was not running smoothly at all and was starting to threaten his chances of making it to the end. Then, after 63 laps, the inevitable would happen. The fuel system would finally bring an end to Whitehouse's race. At the time of the failure, Bill was running right around the top fifteen and could have finished even better, if he could have finished the race.
Finishing the race would be difficult for many of the competitors, even for someone who set the record-breaking lap around Silverstone. Fangio's frustrations with the poor visibility in the corners would come to a head during the race. Although he was running in 2nd place, he would continually hit oil barrels placed on the inside of the corners. Ironically, the barrels had been placed on the inside of the corners to enhance visibility in the corners. Nonetheless, the damage of hitting those barrels would end up slowing Fangio. Fangio would be further slowed when his gearbox would act up. This caused his 2nd place position to come back under attack from Hawthorn.
Wounded, Fangio would not be able to hold off Hawthorn from 2nd place. In fact, Fangio would not be able to hold off Gonzalez from putting him a lap down either. Fangio continued to drop down the running order until he found himself in a lowly 4th place behind Marimon.
Gonzalez would be untouchable. Averaging just under 90 mph, Gonzalez would power his way to victory. It would be his first victory since his triumph for Ferrari at Silverstone back in 1951. While his margin of victory in 1951 had been rather close, he would be in a class of his own in 1954. Gonzalez would enjoy a margin of victory of a minute and ten seconds over Mike Hawthorn running in 2nd place. Onofre Marimon would also have reason to be happy as he would come through in 3rd place despite being a lap down.
Up until his retirement just past the 63rd lap of the race, Whitehouse had been running quite strong considering it had been his first World Championship race and that he was doing it in a Formula 2 car. Despite his inexperience in Formula One, Whitehouse would certainly use all of his years of experience in the more junior formulas to look every bit like a wily veteran. Although he would not make it to the end of the race, his performance in his first World Championship race would be certain reason for him to leave Silverstone with his head held high.
After taking part in his first Formula One World Championship race there would be a few weeks that would pass between races for Whitehouse. It wouldn't be until the 7th of August, three weeks after the British Grand Prix, that Whitehouse would actually take part in another race. That race would be the 1st International Gold Cup race and it would take place at Oulton Park situated near the small village of Little Budworth in Cheshire, England.
Previously the Oulton Estate, Oulton Park Circuit would come to be built on the grounds of Oulton Hall and would be used during the years of the Second World War. Then, after the war's end, the Mid-Cheshire Car Club would develop a circuit design to be developed on the estate grounds. The circuit design would actually feature a multiple arrangement of layouts that could be used to fit the type of racing to be held.
The International Gold Cup race would be held on the longer 2.76 mile International Circuit layout. This provided a pleasant mix of corners the drivers and cars would have to negotiate in order to have a good lap. In addition to the varying types of corners, a good portion of the circuit would be blind because of the undulating terrain.
Ever since its first races in 1953, Oulton Park would be a popular circuit with drivers and spectators alike. Its races would attract tens of thousands and the 1st International Gold Cup race would be no exception.
A field that would include Stirling Moss, Roy Salvadori, Reg Parnell, Jean Behra and others would ensure that the crowds flocked to the circuit to watch the race. And the crowd would not be disappointed with what it would witness in the first edition of the race.
Despite the presence of a few Formula One cars driven by top talent, it would be Bob Gerard that would surprise many and take the pole for the 36 lap race. Jean Behra would also surprise a few people by being the second-fastest in practice. However, these two would be joined on the front row by one of the favorites, Reg Parnell. Stirling Moss, another favorite going into the race, would arrive late and would not post a time. Therefore he would have his work cut out for himself starting from dead-last on the grid, 21st position.
Bill Whitehouse would continue to impress despite it being his first year of competition in Formula One. He would take his Connaught and would garner a best lap time in practice of two minutes, four and six-tenths seconds. This time would be just over five seconds slower than Gerard's pole time and it would be more than good enough to earn an 8th place starting position, which would place him on the outside of the third row of the grid.
A couple of entries would not be able to start the race. The loss of Albert Wake and Tony Crook would reduce the number of actual starters to nineteen. As the field pulled away on the first lap of the race, the number of cars running would be further reduced. Paul Emery would suffer from a cracked cylinder head and Jack Fairman would be hit by a broken half shaft. Just like that, the running order would be reduced to just seventeen cars.
None of the non-starters or the early retirements would help Whitehouse, but they would help Moss' run toward the front. Had it been just about anybody else he or she would have been forgotten about. But because it was Moss starting dead-last, at least one eye would be focused on the young man looking to see what he would do. And he wouldn't disappoint. He would plow his way up through the field and would be found up amongst the leaders in almost no time at all.
Although all of the early retirements would not help Whitehouse, he wouldn't really need it. He would get away from the line rather well and would be looking consistently fast around the 2.76 mile circuit.
Bob Gerard just couldn't hold back Parnell in his Ferrari 625 forever. Parnell would make a good start and would be pushing for the lead, but Gerard would not let him go that easy. He would fight and claw and he would hang onto the back of Parnell doing his best to counter everything Parnell would try and throw at him in order to escape.
Roy Salvadori had started the race from the 6th position on the grid, the same row as Whitehouse. However, on the 15th lap of the race, he would throw it all away by crashing. This would help Whitehouse to move up in the order without having to really fight for it. Jean Behra's retirement after just 2 laps of running because of magneto failure would further aid in Whitehouse's upward movement in the running order.
Of course, nobody would move up the order like Moss. After starting from dead-last, Moss would be up with Gerard and Parnell challenging for the lead of the race. With Gerard clinging to the back of Parnell with everything he had, Moss would take advantage of the situation and would take over the lead of the race. Once in the lead, Moss would pull away and disappear into the distance.
Moss would reappear a couple of times to put Whitehouse a couple of laps down before the end of the race but Bill wouldn't mind all that much given where he was running in the field at the time.
Coming to the last couple of laps of the race, the battles throughout the field had stretched themselves out a bit. Therefore, those last couple of laps would be efforts made by men just trying to ensure that they made it to the line.
The first to the line would be Moss. Averaging better than 83 mph, it would take Moss an hour, eleven minutes and twenty-seven seconds to complete the race distance and take the victory. The margin Moss would enjoy over Parnell in 2nd would be significant. As Parnell crossed the line it was noted that Moss enjoyed a twenty second advantage over Reg. Parnell would not enjoy such a margin over Gerard who would finish in the 3rd position. Gerard would fight hard every single lap and would finish just three and a half seconds behind Parnell.
While Whitehouse would trail Moss by a little more than two laps, it would still be a good race for the man from London. After starting the race from 8th place on the grid, Whitehouse would come through and would end up finishing in 6th place.
After suffering his first retirement of the year at the British Grand Prix, Whitehouse would recuperate well at Oulton Park. While he may have been able to do even better given the retirement of a number of Formula One cars from the field, he would still put together an impressive performance when finishing would certainly be the most important thing.
Though Whitehouse would not start his Formula One career, albeit mostly non-championship career, until June of 1954, the races would begin to come in a much more rapid succession after the British Grand Prix. On the 14th of August, just one week after the 6th place result at the International Gold Cup race at Oulton Park, Whitehouse would be back at Snetterton Motor Racing Circuit preparing to take part in the 2nd RedeX Trophy race.
Unlike the first Formula One race in which Whitehouse would take part in at Snetterton back in early June, the RedeX Trophy race would be a 40 lap, 108 mile, affair. However, the race would fail to draw the Formula One cars expected. In fact, the only one to come with a Formula One car would be Reg Parnell with his Ferrari 625. Though they had entries in the race, neither Roy Salvadori nor Peter Collins would come with their cars. This meant the race would be mostly a Formula 2 affair, and therefore, was a good opportunity for someone like Whitehouse to earn another good result.
Although he would be outnumbered by a large margin, Parnell would certainly be the favorite going into the race. But, Bob Gerard would again be in the field and he had been the one to give Parnell fits at Oulton Park just one week prior. After Whitehouse's performance at Oulton Park, he too would be favored for a top result as well.
As the race got underway, any thoughts of the finish would have to be put aside as Anthony Brooke and Leslie Marr would demonstrate the fact that one had to make it to the end first to finish first.
The field would make it through the first lap with nothing but minor bumping and bruising. However, on the 2nd lap, Marr and Brooke would come together and would end up crashing each other out of the race.
The trouble would continue. Cars would continue to fall out of the race. Jack Fairman would drop out after 13 laps. Ted Whiteaway would have his race last until he had completed 16 laps. Then, after just 19 laps, Peter Whitehead would retire with suspension failure. The attrition nibbled away at the field until there would only be nine cars still running by the halfway mark of the race.
One of those still running would be Whitehouse. However, just a couple of laps past the halfway mark of the race the car would develop some problems. He would be having trouble with his transmission and would be under threat of not being able to complete the race. Then, after just 23 laps, he would get his answer. The transmission just would not work for him anymore. This would bring an end to the race for Whitehouse.
Parnell would have nothing but good come his way each and every lap. He would be out front of the field, and with the fastest lap of one minute and forty-eight seconds, would be able to pull away from Gerard who was running in 2nd place. Parnell would have so many things his way that he would even lap those running 3rd or worse.
Parnell would cruise. In just one hour, thirteen minutes and sixteen seconds, Parnell would come across the line to take the victory. Forty-eight seconds would pass before Gerard would come across to finish the race in the 2nd position. Don Beauman would run a quiet race. He would be quieted by being put a lap down before the end of the race, but nonetheless, would come to finish the race in 3rd place.
The race would have been bitterly disappointing for Whitehouse. He had recovered well after his retirement in the British Grand Prix. He had lost a great opportunity. However, mechanical maladies were certainly part of motor racing. Whitehouse would, therefore, do his best to deal with the problem in order to keep it from continuing so as not to ruin what had been a rather good season.
Whitehouse would take a couple of weeks off between races. This would be necessary to repair the broken transmission in the Connaught and to ensure the car would be ready to go for what would be the final couple of races of the grand prix season. Then, toward the end of August, Whitehouse would leave his native London and would head west toward Bristol. About twenty miles east of Bristol, Bill would pull into the Castle Combe. He had come to the circuit to take part in the 3rd Joe Fry Memorial Trophy race.
Part of the Fry's Chocolate family, Joe Fry would become well known as a hillclimb specialist. He and his Freikaiserwagen would practically dominate the hillclimbing scene in the years before World War II, and even after. On the British racing scene, Fry was certainly one of the favorite racers of his day. He would die at the wheel of his Freikaiserwagen when he crashed in the 1950 Blandford hillclimb. This would be blow to the British motor racing scene and would lead to a memorial race being established in his honor at Castle Combe.
Castle Combe would be the logical place to hold a race in memory of Fry. Fry's hometown of Chipping Sodbury lay just about nine miles away a little further west. Castle Combe itself would be yet another of former World War II airbases turned into motor racing circuits. Measuring 1.84 miles in length, the Castle Combe circuit would be anything but slow. Appearing to be little more than a flat oval with some extra bends and kinks, average speeds around the circuit would remain relatively high.
The field would be relatively small considering previous editions of the race. However, the field would still feature a number of strong competitors including Reg Parnell, Jack Fairman, Bob Gerard and others. Roy Salvadori had been listed as a potential competitor in the 15 lap race but he would not arrive just like Les Leston and John Webb. In all, thirteen would take part in the race.
As with many of the other races, Reg Parnell would have to be considered the favorite to take the victory. But that would all change after just one lap of the race. After just one lap, the engine would spectacularly let go on Parnell's Ferrari bringing about an end to his race.
Parnell's failure would open the door to a number of other competitors including Whitehouse. The door would get even bigger when Fairman retired from the race also with an engine failure. Bob Gerard would certainly be considered one of the favorites after Parnell retired with his engine failure. Gerard would make his bid by setting the fastest lap of the race with a lap of one minute and sixteen seconds. However, the pace would take its toll on Gerard's car. And some time after Fairman's engine let go, suspension failure would bring about the end of Gerard's chances at victory.
Whitehouse would be impressive coming back from his transmission failure at Snetterton. He would be up amongst the top five and would even run higher than that. Horace Gould would have the lead of the race but Whitehouse would be not too far behind in 2nd place. Whitehouse would have a comfortable advantage over John Riseley-Prichard in the remaining laps of the race and seemed on track to recover from his retirement in the RedeX Trophy race.
Horace Gould would be too strong in his own Cooper-Bristol T23. After less than twenty minutes of racing, Gould would come across the line to take the victory. Eleven seconds would tick by before Whitehouse would come across to finish in 2nd place. Whitehouse would have six seconds in hand over Riseley-Prichard in 3rd place.
Whitehouse had come back in a very strong way after his early retirement at Snetterton. Despite his inexperience, Whitehouse had looked strong. And with the help of some key retirements, Bill would score yet another 2nd place result, an incredible achievement considering the competition Whitehouse would face throughout the season.
The season was beginning to wind down. Only a few races remained on the English mainland, and even fewer that Whitehouse would take part in. In fact, the only race in which Whitehouse would take part in before the end of the season would not come until early October. Whitehouse would head northwest all the way past Oulton Park and just past downtown Liverpool. His ultimate destination would be Aintree, the site of the 'Grand National' steeplechase since of the middle of the 19th century. The Aintree Racecourse, a little more than a hundred years later, would come to host horses of a different kind. The race would be the 1st Daily Telegraph Trophy race and it would take place on the 2nd of October.
Filled with such renowned fences as 'The Chair', 'Canal Turn' and 'Becher's Brook', the Grand National is run over 4.5 miles and is considered among the most demanding steeplechases in all the world. The course is renowned for its toughness and often reduces fields of more than 40 horses down to, sometimes, less than 5 still running at the finish. This would make the circuit the perfect location for a grand prix race.
The 3.00 mile circuit would be the idea of Earl Howe and Raymond Mays. The idea would be accepted and work would set about building what would still be Britain's only purpose-built grand prix circuit. The circuit itself would surround and exist within the confines of the Grand National course. The start/finish straight would actually utilize the same stretch as the start/finish for the Grand National, and therefore, would also use the same grandstands for the tens of thousands of fans that would come to the race.
Considered 'Goodwood of the North', Aintree would welcome a large number of competitors for the 1st Daily Telegraph Trophy race. The field would be littered with Formula One cars and top level talent. Stirling Moss would be at the race driving for Maserati. Jean Behra would represent Equipe Gordini along with Andre Pilette. Mike Hawthorn would even be at the race but not with Scuderia Ferrari. Instead, he would be the driver for the Vanwall 01 chassis.
Against a field that would include no fewer than nine Formula One cars, Whitehouse would certainly have his work cut out for himself. It was almost as if the race were a second edition of the British Grand Prix.
Practice would make it certainly seem as though it was the British Grand Prix all over again. Stirling Moss would be fastest in the Maserati. His best effort of two minutes, three and six-tenths seconds would earn him the pole for the 17 lap race. Joining Moss on the four-wide front row would be Jean Behra in 2nd, Mike Hawthorn in 3rd and Harry Schell in 4th in his own Maserati 250F.
The performance disadvantage would be a little more than obvious for racers like Whitehouse in practice. His best time around the 3.00 mile circuit would be two minutes and sixteen and eight-tenths seconds. The competition amongst the Formula 2 cars would be tight. Whitehouse's time would be just four-tenths of a second slower than Horace Gould's time. However, those four-tenths of a second meant Whitehouse would start the race from 13th on the grid, or, what would be the fourth row. With the exception of Louis Rosier starting in 10th place and Roy Salvadori who would start 18th with no time, 8th through 19th would have all been Formula 2 cars, and only seventeen seconds would be the difference between all of them.
Seeing that this would be the last grand prix race of the season, Whitehouse would look and hope for a strong result to end the season on. This would help him going into the off-season in his decision as to what he would do.
The field would roar away with Moss still up at the front being chased by Behra and Hawthorn. Harry Schell would slot into position amongst the rest of his fellow front row starters and would be looking for opportunities to move up.
Whitehouse would need to be careful during the opening stages of the race. Being well down in the field at the start, the field would be all tightly bunched in the opening couple of laps and this had the potential for disaster.
It would end up being a disaster for Charles Boulton who would exit the race after just one lap because of problems. The rest of the field would make it through the first couple of laps without too many 'hold your breath' moments.
Moss and Hawthorn would put on a delightful show for the British audience. Being at the home of the Grand National, Moss and Hawthorn would carry on around the course separated by only a few lengths throughout the majority of the race. The two would be jockeying with each other with their pace trying to break the spirit of the other. Moss would strike a blow setting the fastest lap of the race with a time of two minutes and four seconds. Just a little more than a second off of his qualifying effort, it was obvious Moss was putting the spurs to his Maserati 250F. However, Hawthorn would 'show the whip' to his Ferrari and would match Moss' blow by setting the exact same time a little later on.
Touching speeds in excess of 86 mph over the course of a lap, the pace of Moss and Hawthorn would take its toll on the rest of the field. Keith Hall and Leslie Thorne would all exit the race after just 8 laps. The attrition wouldn't stop there, however. Unfortunately for Whitehouse, it would next come to visit him. After 9 laps of running, problems would force Whitehouse to retire from the race. Bill would not be able to end the season on the high note that he had been hoping for.
Stirling Moss' race would look entirely different. Instead of feeling rather low, he would be flying high at the front of the field. But he could not relax, not with Hawthorn following. Harry Schell would be giving Hawthorn trouble as well as only about a second would separate the two of them.
Just about three laps away from the end of the race the final wave of attrition would roll through the field. Surprisingly, it would be some of the strongest contenders that would find themselves exiting the race before the end. Reg Parnell would fall foul to gearbox problems while Jean Behra would have to retire with clutch issues.
Their departures would be of little consequence to Moss who had pulled away ever so slowly from Hawthorn but was certainly enjoying some breathing room. Hawthorn would have anything but breathing room as Schell would continue to hound him. Of course, Schell wouldn't be able to relax either having Sergio Mantovani just a couple of seconds further back.
The battles between Hawthorn and Schell would allow Moss to escape and focus on being fast, but steady, in order to make it to the finish. He would end up making it to the finish in very good order.
After thirty-five minutes and forty-nine seconds, and at an average speed of 85 mph, Moss would claim yet another non-championship victory. He had managed to put together a comfortable margin over the later-half of the race. This would end up being an advantage of more than fourteen seconds by the time he crossed the line for the final time. Hawthorn would remain locked in a battle with the feisty Harry Schell. However, Hawthorn would manage to hold onto 2nd place by exactly a second over Schell.
Yet another early retirement for Whitehouse. Although it was certainly not going to be an easy race, had the Connaught been reliable enough to cover the distance, Bill just may have pulled out a strong result just as he had at Crystal Palace and the Joe Fry Memorial Trophy race. Instead, Whitehouse would have to pack up his car and equipment and would call it a season.
The real tough decisions were just starting to come for Whitehouse. He had just taken part in his first Formula One World Championship race when he participated in the British Grand Prix. He had also taken part in a number of non-championship grand prix and had achieved mixed results. However, the good results Whitehouse would earn, given the level of racing he had been competing at for years, would certainly be exceptional, especially the two 2nd place results. This would cause Whitehouse to have to sit back and ponder the future.
One of the important factors that would weigh into Bill's decision about the future would be the simple fact that the Connaught had not only proven to be questionable when it came to reliability, but it was also underpowered compared to the Formula One cars that were now allowed under the new regulations. This meant Whitehouse would be at a most definite disadvantage if he tried to stay with a Formula 2 level chassis.
If he desired to step up to a Formula One car, he would then have to consider the cost. And the car dealer from south London would certainly find a top level Formula One car anything but cheap.
Then, another event would happen that would that would help Whitehouse make a decision, at least for the short-term. Formula 2 would be canceled in 1955. This left Whitehouse really without a place to race his Connaught other than in Formula One races where he would be out-classed. Therefore, in recognition of the circumstances, Whitehouse would pseudo retire from racing and would focus on his car dealership.
Over the course of his racing career, Whitehouse would meet a few car dealers that would participate in grand prix racing as something to do on the side. One of those that he would strike up a friendship with would be a man that would become quite well known in Formula One circles. His name was Bernie Ecclestone.
Although he had retired after the 1954 season, Whitehouse couldn't stay out of racing for very long. He would return to Formula 2 racing when it returned. In 1957 he would purchase a Cooper-Climax F2 car and would compete in a number of races throughout the season. Then, tragically, he would somersault through the air in Roy Salvadori's Formula 2 car that Salvadori had lent him after his car had failed in practice. The event was held at Reims, France and on his way down to the Thillois hairpin he would lose control, the car would flip through the air and would crash through a tire barrier and caught fire. He would end up dying in the crash and the ensuing fire.
A popular man with the workers at Cooper, Whitehouse had been one of those British racing pioneers, one of those men that was as common as the worker that built cars for him. It would be his spirit and that of many other British drivers that would make Britain the center of the Formula One world.