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United Kingdom Raymond Mays

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By Jeremy McMullen
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The inventor's mind could probably be summed up with a statement like this: 'Someone ought to making something that would be able to do this.' And the mind of the engineer could be summed up with the statement like: 'I bet I can make this better or more efficient.' Thomas Raymond Mays approached life seemingly with these points of view before himself at all times. Mays would become known for his ingenuity and skills as an entrepreneur and, oh yeah, as a racing driver.

Born just before the turn of the century (August 1899), Raymond was the son of a pioneer in British motoring. Therefore, motor-vehicles ran through Raymond's veins at a young age. But like everything in life, it's about timing and about being part of the 'right thing'.

The issue of 'timing' was prevalent almost right away. While attending Oundle School, Mays met an important connection, Amherst Villiers. It was 1917, and toward the last couple of years of World War I. Therefore, this important partnership had to be put on hold for the future as Raymond headed off to France, the Grenadier Guards and the war.

After returning from the war, Mays attended Christ's College, Cambridge, and later, started to go racing. In 1921 Raymond had coerced his father into buying him a Hillman. But Mays' father didn't have to wonder if this were just some passing fancy or not as Raymond went out and promptly won the first race in which he entered.

Being the son of a pioneer in British motoring, and being a bit of an engineer himself, Mays wasn't just happy going racing. He also had a passion for taking what worked already and making it work even better. This was not a cheap exercise and the fact Raymond would end up racing in hillclimbs and sprint events in Hillmans, Bugattis, ACs and Vauxhalls proves that Raymond needed a rather large budget to discover the fastest, most efficient racing machine out there. The problem was he wasn't finding one to his liking. Therefore, this led to only one possible conclusion in Mays' mind—to design and build his own. This led to the White Riley and eventually E.R.A. Throughout the 1920s, Mays focused primarily on hillclimbs and sprint races, and practically was an institution at the Shelsley Walsh hillclimb. Through a collaboration with his old school peer Amherst Villiers, Mays developed his cars utilizing superchargers and other 'tweaks'. The 'White Riley' developed from 'tweaks' made to a Vauxhall-Villiers, which included two rear wheels for the Shelsley Walsh hillclimb in 1929. With the two rear wheels, the car was well prepared for the event and Mays dominated, breaking the record as a result. This innovation, in particular, would become widely copied in later years.

Mays always had a passion to see Britain succeed at the top levels of motor sports. This passion and desire led to another collaboration, but this time between Mays, Humphrey Cook and Peter Berthon. The Flamboyant Mays had a tall order before him and it would take a rather large amount of money to even get it off the ground. That is where Humphrey Cook came in. Cook was the heir to a fortune in a London drapery and was the source of income Raymond needed to make this dream a reality. Peter Berthon was the designer genius who was charged with the task of creating a competitive race car. In 1933, these men started the English Racing Automobile company (ERA) (see ERA article). It was the intention of these men that their cars would take the fight to the French and Italian teams in the smaller 1.5 liter voiturette racing category. At the time of ERA's formation Mercedes and Auto Union dominated, and rightfully so, with Germany throwing the nation's money into the teams. There was almost no hope for Mays to compete with that power, but it was more than possible in the voiturette category, which was designed to make it possible for wealthy amateurs to compete on rather equal terms with the best professionals of the day.

In the midst of laying the groundwork for ERA, Mays entered the 1933 Mountain Championship race at Brooklands, which took place in October of that year. Mays entered the race with his 'White Riley'. During the race, one of the drivers touched another car and was sent off track. Taruffi, while in the lead, was overcome by the sight of nearly sixty people trying to help the stricken car get back on track. This led Taruffi to slow down. This allowed Straight and Mays to pass. Unfortunately, just as Mays went around Taruffi, his car suffered from a broken distributor and slid to a stop. Raymond had only completed one lap.
YearChassisEngine

In 1934, Mays, with the help of self-taught engine builder Peter Berthon, and designer Reid Railton, built the ERA R1A. The car was unveiled to the public in its first test session at Brooklands in May of that year and Mays was at the wheel to shake it down.

The Grand Prix of Dieppe was in July of 1934 and Mays and Cook decided to take the R1A to compete in the race. Mays' first race was a one hour heat race. In Raymond's heat there was Chiron in an Alfa Romeo Tipo and Clemente Biondetti in a Maserati T26M. However, Mays' main competition was the car's endurance. Six laps into the race his ERA developed ignition problems which forced the Brit to have to retire from the heat race, as well as, the final.

Then, in October of 1934, Mays took his new ERA to take part in the Nuffield Trophy handicap race at Donington Park. The venture paid off, as Mays was able to take his ERA to victory. Four days later, Raymond and Cook entered their ERA in the Mountain Championship race at Brooklands again. This time, Raymond's race went much better. He not only finished the race, he was able to finish 2nd behind the Maserati 3 liter 8CM of Straight. Raymond finished the 10 lap race 6+ seconds behind.

1935 was a difficult year for Mays. He suffered from a total of four DNFs, out of the six races he competed. However, Raymond was able to score a victory in one of those two races he was able to finish.

In June of '35, Mays drove the new 'B' model ERA in the ADAC Eifelrennen, a voiturette race at the Nurburgring in Germany. Raymond wasn't the only driver now for the ERA team. In fact, for the Eifel, ERA entered three cars. Mays drove one, co-founder Cook drove another and Rose-Richards drove the third. But they weren't the only ones present at the race to be driving an ERA chassis. Richard Seaman (famous for his career with Mercedes-Benz) also drove a 'B' chassis ERA. Mays, and the rest of his ERA teammates took the top-three spots right from the start of the race. Rather quickly, Seaman moved up from 7th to 3rd, while Cook fell back in the field. Seaman was able to take the lead away from Mays but began to suffer from an oil leak. A stop by Seaman handed the lead back to Mays, but he was under pressure from Ruesch. Raymond was able to hold him off to score the victory; ERA's first in international competition. ERAs ended up taking 1st, 3rd, 4th and 5th.

Mays' only other good result in 1935 came at Bremgarten in August for the voiturette Prix de Berne. Mays had a new teammate in zu Leiningen. ERA cars became increasingly popular with privateer entries. Seaman arrived for the race driving an ERA again, but this time, even Prince Bira showed up with one.

Mays had the early lead but suffered from the wrong fuel mixture. This problem caused the lead to be handed over to Seaman, who disappeared into the distance. Bira would be involved in a tough fight throughout the race but would hold on to take 2nd. Raymond would end the race in 7th, almost 3 minutes down.

The intention of Mays, Berthon and Cook to create cars able to compete in the voiturette category was working out well. At just about each place an ERA was present it was in the hunt. The same held true going into 1936.

At Monaco, in April of '36, Mays took part in the Coupe de Prince Rainier. On race day it was cold and dull, but the race would hardly be. The race distance was 50 laps of the 3 kilometer track. Mays was running 2nd early on in the race. Then, as with his teammate Howe, Mays started to develop a misfire. Raymond tried to continue on as the winner of the race was very much in doubt given the fact that there were crashes and spins by those who had been in the lead at points during the race. Mays tried so hard to keep going that he would end up being disqualified from the race for receiving push starts. This was an unfortunate result after having started the race 3rd.

United Kingdom Drivers  F1 Drivers From United Kingdom 
George Edgar Abecassis
Henry Clifford Allison
Robert 'Bob' Anderson
Peter Arundell
Peter Hawthorn Ashdown
Ian Hugh Gordon Ashley
Gerald Ashmore
William 'Bill' Aston
Richard James David 'Dickie' Attwood
Julian Bailey
John Barber
Donald Beauman
Derek Reginald Bell
Mike Beuttler
Mark Blundell
Eric Brandon
Thomas 'Tommy' Bridger
Thomas 'Tommy' Bridger
David Bridges
Anthony William Brise
Chris Bristow
Charles Anthony Standish 'Tony' Brooks
Alan Everest Brown
William Archibald Scott Brown
Martin John Brundle
Ivor Léon John Bueb
Ian Burgess
Jenson Alexander Lyons Button
Michael John Campbell-Jones
Anthony Colin Bruce Chapman
Max Chilton
James 'Jim' Clark, Jr.
Peter John Collins
David Marshall Coulthard
Piers Raymond Courage
Christopher Craft
Jim Crawford
John Colum 'Johnny Dumfries' Crichton-Stuart
Tony Crook
Geoffrey Crossley
Anthony Denis Davidson
Colin Charles Houghton Davis
Tony Dean
Paul di Resta
Hugh Peter Martin Donnelly
Kenneth Henry Downing
Bernard Charles 'Bernie' Ecclestone
Guy Richard Goronwy Edwards
Victor Henry 'Vic' Elford
Paul Emery
Robert 'Bob' Evans
Jack Fairman
Alfred Lazarus 'Les Leston' Fingleston
John Fisher
Ron Flockhart
Philip Fotheringham-Parker
Joe Fry
Divina Mary Galica
Frederick Roberts 'Bob' Gerard
Peter Kenneth Gethin
Richard Gibson
Horace Gould
Keith Greene
Brian Gubby
Stanley Michael Bailey Hailwood
Bruce Halford
Duncan Hamilton
Lewis Carl Davidson Hamilton
David Hampshire
Thomas Cuthbert 'Cuth' Harrison
Brian Hart
Mike Hawthorn
Brian Henton
John Paul 'Johnny' Herbert
Damon Graham Devereux Hill
Norman Graham Hill
David Wishart Hobbs
James Simon Wallis Hunt
Robert McGregor Innes Ireland
Edmund 'Eddie' Irvine, Jr.
Chris Irwin
John James
Leslie Johnson
Thomas Kenrick Kavanagh 'Ken' Kavanagh
Rupert Keegan
Christopher J. Lawrence
Geoffrey Lees
Jackie Lewis
Stuart Nigel Lewis-Evans
Michael George Hartwell MacDowel
Lance Noel Macklin
Damien Magee
Nigel Ernest James Mansell
Leslie Marr
Anthony Ernest 'Tony' Marsh
Steve Matchett
Raymond Mays
Kenneth McAlpine
Perry McCarthy
Allan McNish
John Miles
Robin 'Monty' Montgomerie-Charrington
Dave Morgan
Bill Moss
Sir Stirling Moss
David Murray
John Brian Naylor
Timothy 'Tiff' Needell
Lando Norris
Rodney Nuckey
Keith Jack Oliver
Arthur Owen
Dr. Jonathan Charles Palmer
Jolyon Palmer
Michael Johnson Parkes
Reginald 'Tim' Parnell
Reginald 'Tim' Parnell
Reginald Harold Haslam Parnell
David Piper
Roger Dennistoun 'Dennis' Poore
David Prophet
Thomas Maldwyn Pryce
David Charles Purley
Ian Raby
Brian Herman Thomas Redman
Alan Rees
Lance Reventlow
John Rhodes
William Kenneth 'Ken' Richardson
John Henry Augustin Riseley-Prichard
Richard Robarts
Alan Rollinson
Tony Rolt
George Russell
Roy Francesco Salvadori
Brian Shawe-Taylor
Stephen South
Michael 'Mike' Spence
Alan Stacey
William Stevens
Ian Macpherson M Stewart
James Robert 'Jimmy' Stewart
Sir John Young Stewart
John Surtees
Andy Sutcliffe
Dennis Taylor
Henry Taylor
John Taylor
Michael Taylor
Trevor Taylor
Eric Thompson
Leslie Thorne
Desmond Titterington
Tony Trimmer
Peter Walker
Derek Stanley Arthur Warwick
John Marshall 'Wattie' Watson
Peter Westbury
Kenneth Wharton
Edward N. 'Ted' Whiteaway
Graham Whitehead
Peter Whitehead
Bill Whitehouse
Robin Michael Widdows
Mike Wilds
Jonathan Williams
Roger Williamson
Justin Wilson
Vic Wilson
After Monaco, Raymond failed to start the Tunis Grand Prix and then suffered a DNF in the Isle of Man voiturette race. To help turn his year around, Mays needed to go and take part in a race he was familiar with and had a good chance at a positive result. He got a positive result alright when he went back to Shelsley Walsh for the hillclimb.

In June of '36, Mays took part in the Shelsley Walsh hillclimb; the same race he had broken the record at a few years prior. This time, Raymond was present with one of his ERAs. Mays found his old touch at the familiar event and went on the win the hillclimb.

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Formula One World Drivers' Champions
1950 G. Farina
1951 J. Fangio
1952 A. Ascari
1953 A. Ascari
1954 J. Fangio
1955 J. Fangio
1956 J. Fangio
1957 J. Fangio
1958 M. Hawthorn
1959 S. Brabham
1960 S. Brabham
1961 P. Hill, Jr
1962 N. Hill
1963 J. Clark, Jr.
1964 J. Surtees
1965 J. Clark, Jr.
1966 S. Brabham
1967 D. Hulme
1968 N. Hill
1969 S. Stewart
1970 K. Rindt
1971 S. Stewart
1972 E. Fittipaldi
1973 S. Stewart
1974 E. Fittipaldi
1975 A. Lauda
1976 J. Hunt
1977 A. Lauda
1978 M. Andretti
1979 J. Scheckter
1980 A. Jones
1981 N. Piquet
1982 K. Rosberg
1983 N. Piquet
1984 A. Lauda
1985 A. Prost
1986 A. Prost
1987 N. Piquet
1988 A. Senna
1989 A. Prost
1990 A. Senna
1991 A. Senna
1992 N. Mansell
1993 A. Prost
1994 M. Schumacher
1995 M. Schumacher
1996 D. Hill
1997 J. Villeneuve
1998 M. Hakkinen
1999 M. Hakkinen
2000 M. Schumacher
2001 M. Schumacher
2002 M. Schumacher
2003 M. Schumacher
2004 M. Schumacher
2005 F. Alonso
2006 F. Alonso
2007 K. Raikkonen
2008 L. Hamilton
2009 J. Button
2010 S. Vettel
2011 S. Vettel
2012 S. Vettel
2013 S. Vettel
2014 L. Hamilton
2015 L. Hamilton
2016 N. Rosberg
2017 L. Hamilton
2018 L. Hamilton

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