TeamsDick Gibson: 1957 Formula One Season By Jeremy McMullen
In the years prior to World War II, Brooklands would be considered the center of British motor racing. Following the end of the war it would be Silverstone that would become the new home. However, there would be one small town that would have as much to do with motor racing as either of the two more famous locations. This town would continue to produce racers and motorsports teams that would become the benchmark in British motor racing. This, of course, would spawn other generations of racers, one of those would be Dick Gibson.
Bourne, in Lincolnshire, is certainly a picturesque and tranquil town in the southern region of the East Midlands. Spotted with beautiful abbeys and gardens it is hard to conceive that such a location would become an important center for the loud activity of motor racing. However, that is exactly what would happen.
While the name Thomas Raymond Mays will be forever linked to British Racing Motors and the early fiasco the whole project would be until it hit its stride under the control of Alfred Owen, Mays was quite a successful motor racing driver. Famous for his White Riley, Mays would be quite successful in hill-climbing events.
In time, Mays would develop and found English Racing Automobiles and would end up competing in such races as the 1935 German Grand Prix against the likes of such drivers as Tazio Nuvolari. Throughout England prior to the beginning of the Second World War the name Mays was one of the most prominent in the theater of motorsports in England.
Following the Second World War, Mays would use his fame and would convince many British companies to invest in the idea of a national motor racing team. This would give birth to British Racing Motors or BRM.
About the time Mays was using his name to convince people of the idea of BRM, the influence of motor racing throughout Bourne would have a direct impact on another young man leading him to set his sights on a career in motor racing.
Born in April of 1918 in Bourne, Richard 'Dick' Gibson would be in his teens when the ERA company would be mixing it up with the great teams and drivers of European grand prix racing. This would undoubtedly have an impact on the then teenager. However, just when Richard could have looked to motorsports as a career the Second World War would be looming on the horizon and all such pursuits would be halted.
By the time the war ended, Gibson would be in his late twenties and would be looking to get back to a normal life, whatever that may have been following the end of a war. By the very early 1950s Mays had turned his efforts to the BRM project based right there in Bourne. This may have been an influence on Gibson's life for it would be only a couple of years later, in 1953, that Gibson would make his presence felt in the sportscar scene.
Taking part in the National Davidstow in August of 1953 with a Jaguar XK120 Gibson would have an impressive start to his racing career in the upper levels of motor racing as he would take 4th place in the event.
Being a working man and privateer entry now in his early 30s, Gibson would only take part in a few upper level events over the course of 1953 and 1954. Then, in 1955, Gibson would jump into Formula Libre and sportscar racing full-time. Gibson would become quite active in Formula 2 racing and, in that same year, would take part in his first Formula One race. Competing with an A-Type Connaught in the non-championship Curtis Trophy race at nearby Snetterton, Gibson would suffer from overheating and would end up retiring just two laps from the finish. After another couple of early retirements in the Daily Telegraph Trophy race and the International Gold Cup, Gibson would finally earn a 7th place result in the 1st Avon Trophy race held at Castle Combe in October of 1955.
One year later, Gibson would improve upon his results in a Formula One race combining in a drive with Bob Berry to finish 5th in the BARC Aintree 200 in April of 1956. This would be followed by an 8th place at the International Trophy race and a 6th place at the 1st Aintree 100. Gibson would earn another top ten result in the BRSCC Formula 1 race in October of 1956. Richard's performances were certainly quite impressive given the fact he had been earning them with an older Connaught A-Type chassis, which was a Formula 2 car going up against other Formula One machines.
Gibson would realize the gap between the older Formula 2 machines and the Formula One cars was growing wider and wider. This would lead Gibson to switch his focus to Formula 2 for the 1957. However, this switch would have its rewards and opportunities.
Cooper had come to develop a winning design when it introduced its T41 and T43s. The line of interested Formula 2 drivers would be long. One of those that would be in line to receive one of the new cars would be Gibson. Finally, he would take delivery of his machine, chassis F2-26-57, and would look forward to his first opportunity to test it out against the other Formula 2 drivers throughout England.
It would just happen to be in August of 1957 that Gibson would not only have an opportunity to test out his new T43 against other Formula 2 entrants, but he would also have the opportunity to take part in his first Formula One World Championship event at the same time.
Although Gibson was presented with the fantastic opportunity to have his name recorded in Formula One history the race and its location would be reason to pause and consider what was really being offered. The race was the German Grand Prix and the race would take place on the 4th of August on the daunting 14 mile long Nurburgring.
Situated in the Eifel Mountains in western Germany, the Nordschleife happened to be a name that transcended the sport of motor racing. Just the mere mention of the name and even the most unknowledgeable motor racing fan would have at least heard the name someplace at some time.
Completed in the late 1920s, the Nurburgring would immediately earn a reputation for being a demanding and very dangerous circuit. Filled with elevation changes and a never-ending barrage of corners, the circuit demanded absolute perfect and concentration each and every lap. Otherwise, the driver was threatened with more than just an early retirement. In many cases, the threat of death would be that which would motivate a driver to maintain his focus. Considered the 'Green Hell' by even the most successful drivers, the picturesque setting remains merely a ploy to exact revenge on the unsuspecting and those not respectful.
Gibson would make the trip across the Channel and would make his way to Nurburg to take part in the rare opportunity. Little would he know just how special a moment it would truly be. Joining on track with Scuderia Ferrari, Maserati and Vandervell, Gibson would certainly be amongst the best in the world.
Obviously the Formula 2 cars would be able to do little with the best of the Formula One teams. This would be never more evident than when Fangio took the pole with a lap time of 9:25.6. Mike Hawthorn and Jean Behra would be on the front row in 2nd and 3rd respectively and would all lap around the 9:30 mark. The slowest of the front row starters would be Peter Collins in one of the Lancia-Ferrari. His best lap would be a time of 9:43.7 and would be well ahead of the fastest of the Formula 2 cars.
The fastest of the Formula 2 cars in the field would be Edgar Barth in a Porsche 550RS. His best lap would be 10:02.2. This would be a most impressive time considering the best Gibson would be able to achieve around the same 14 mile circuit. By the end of all the practice sessions Gibson would be down on the 7th row of the grid. His best offering of 11:46.4 would be more than 2 minutes slower than Fangio and proved the 24th starting spot was more than likely not be able to help get Gibson to the front.
The day of the race could not have been more beautiful. What people didn't realize is that the weather would be a mere sign of things to come. With all of the cars lined up on the grid and ready to go, the incredible crowd would be cheering waiting for the cars to roar away from the grid. The flag would drop and the 22 lap race would get underway. Hawthorn would get the best jump and would have Collins following along just ahead of Fangio heading into the first couple of turns. Lacking the power, Gibson would be much further back making his way through the first portion of the first lap.
The action over the course of the first lap would be tight behind the first four. Gibson would not be embroiled in the fight but would be doing his best to just survive the first lap. At the end of the first lap it would be the Ferraris of Hawthorn and Collins leading the way ahead of Fangio. Trouble with Horace Gould's Maserati meant Gibson would actually finish the first lap ahead of last place and would be in 23rd.
Gould would retire however and Gibson would be the last car running on the circuit. Up at the front, Fangio would be on the charge and would take over the lead of the race by the 3rd lap. Fangio had started the race lighter due to less fuel and the pace difference was more than obvious. Heading into the 4th lap it would still be Fangio leading the way building upon his margin over Collins and Hawthorn.
While this was all going on up at the front, trouble would be visiting Gibson at the back. Up and down the crests and over the bumpy concrete sections, Gibson's Cooper would take a beating and would finally fail on the 4th lap. After a little more than 42 miles, Gibson was out of his first World Championship event.
While Gibson was out, it seemed the race was just getting started at the front. Yes, Fangio was creating quite the margin between himself and the Ferraris but it was also become quite clear to everyone that he had less fuel on board. Could he build up enough of a margin to maintain the lead after he made his pitstop?
Fangio would be pushing hard to pad his advantage. Breaking the lap record lap after lap, Fangio would be impressive before he made his pitstop. Just passed the halfway mark of the race Fangio would make his stop. Unfortunately, problems in the pitstop would cost Fangio more time that he originally had hoped and when he finally rejoined the race he would be down in 3rd place about 45 seconds behind the pair of Hawthorn and Collins. This would set the stage for one of the most memorable drives in Fangio's career. Unfortunately for Gibson, he would not be able to witness it from behind the wheel of his Cooper.
Not having full tanks and fresh rubber, Fangio would press hard each and every lap breaking the lap record again and again in his attempt to reel in Hawthorn and Collins. Taking out more than a few seconds each and every time around it was clear Fangio was gaining time, but did he have enough laps left?
Fangio's performance would be impressive as he would smash the lap record. Slip-streaming down the long straight, Fangio would be right behind the two Ferraris. Then, with just 2 laps remaining in the race Fangio would retake the lead going around Collins and Hawthorn through the South Curve and not much further past. It had been an incredible performance and a demoralizing move against Hawthorn and Collins.
The incredible race would run out with Fangio taking the victory by a little more than 3 seconds over Hawthorn. Collins would finish the race much further back having relaxed once beaten by Fangio. He would finish the race 3rd some 35 seconds behind.
It had been an incredible race, but not so much for Gibson. Yes, he had managed to take part in his first Formula One race but it would only prove to be memorable for a few moments. However, the pace of the Formula 2 Cooper-Climaxes did offer Gibson some hope in other Formula One events.
Having taken delivery of his Formula 2 Cooper, Gibson would find the schedule at that point in time in 1957 to be filled mostly with Formula One events rather than Formula 2 races. For many, this would discourage them from taking part until the Formula 2 events came up on the calendar. However, there was one Formula One event, a non-championship event, in which Gibson had performed well the year before in an older Formula 2 car. In 1956, Gibson finished 8th in the BRDC International Trophy race. In 1957, it just so happened that the crisis in the Suez led to the race being moved from its usual May date to the 14th of September. This seemed to signal an opportunity for Gibson.
Having repaired his Cooper-Climax, Gibson would venture to Silverstone in the middle of September for the International Trophy race. Upon arriving, the man from Bourne would find that things had changed beyond just the date of the race. Instead of the qualifying and race format that had been used for the last few years, the '57 edition would revert back to the two heat races and a final format.
Combined with practice, this format demanded a lot from any car. Then there was Silverstone itself. Measuring 2.9 miles in length and very fast, the circuit had a way of purging itself of the weak. Only the strong could survive the gauntlet that was Silverstone.
Gibson would find himself listed in the second heat. The first heat would see Tony Brooks on pole in a Cooper T43. This was impressive considering Jean Behra started alongside in 2nd place in a BRM 25 Formula One car. Ron Flockhart would make it two BRM 25s on the front row while Masten Gregory would complete the front row in a Maserati.
In the 15 lap heat race, Brooks would be unable to show his true potential as his Cooper would retire with wheel problems on the very first lap. Besides, there was really very little anyone could do with Behra over the course of the race.
Posting the fastest lap of the heat with a time over 2 seconds faster than his own qualifying effort, Behra would absolutely run away with the first heat. Averaging more than 101mph, Behra would be all by himself as he crossed the line to take the victory. Ron Flockhart would hold on to finish 2nd but he would be 43 seconds behind Behra at the finish. Gregory would finish 3rd. He would be a further 8 seconds behind Flockhart.
Like the first heat, the second would have a large gaggle of Formula 2 cars. However, there would only be three Formula One cars in the field. This provided opportunities to the Formula 2 runners and put some pressure on the Formula One drivers.
Schell would not seem to be under any pressure as he would take the pole with a rather quiet lap of 1:44.8. Keith Hall would be 2nd in a Lotus-Climax. Ivor Bueb would be 3rd in a Maserati and George Wicken would complete the front row with a Cooper T43. In spite of being listed with Formula 2 cars, Gibson would not have the kind of pace in practice as some of the others. In the end, he would start the race from the fourth row of the grid in the 13th starting spot. Yes, he needed to focus on getting through the heat race, but his finishing time would also be very important.
Schell would get out front and would have the race under control from the very beginning. However, he would not check out as Behra had done. Instead, Jack Brabham and Jo Bonnier would remain pretty close throughout the race. Starting toward the back of the grid was a sign of things to come in the heat race and Gibson's pace over the course of the race showed his gentlemanly racing pedigree. Ultimately lapped before the end, Gibson was certainly concerned with consistency much more than out-right speed.
Brabham would be impressive in the Cooper T43. Despite the fact Schell would take the win, the Australian would finish the race just 7 seconds behind in a less-powerful Formula 2 machine. Brabham would also manage to finish ahead of Bonnier who would come across the line 3 seconds behind. Gibson would finish the heat race a bit more than a lap behind. Finishing in 12th place was by no means inspiring but it would certainly get him into the 35 lap final without any complications or trouble.
It was more than obvious that against the Formula One machines there was very little hope for Gibson. Therefore, he looked to the final as an opportunity to bring home a race finish and set up the rest of his season in Formula 2. Starting all the way down on the 7th row of the grid in the 24th position overall, Gibson had to focus more on the future than the here and now.
Jean Behra would be on pole as a result of his finishing time in the first heat. Flockhart would start alongside in 2nd while Gregory and Schell would round-out the front row for the final.
As the final got underway, it was clear there wasn't anybody that was going to challenge Behra for the victory unless attrition made its presence felt and, with the BRM chassis, it was entirely possible. Going on to post what would end up being the fastest lap of the final though certainly seemed to indicate that all was well with Behra's BRM and that his was willing to go up against attrition.
Gibson, however, seemed incapable of really challenging. This would seem to be a negative against the man from Bourne, but as the race wore on it actually seemed to play into his hands a bit as a number of Formula 2 Coopers would retire from the race with mechanical maladies. Richard, on the other hand, would improve upon his position and would actually be ahead of some of the other Formula 2 drivers heading into the last part of the race.
Behra would be well out in front and seemed en route to the victory. The real battle would be for 2nd through 4th as Schell, Flockhart and Bonnier would be locked in a tremendous battle. Never more than a couple of seconds would be between these three drivers over the course of the race. And, as a result of Behra's pace and the fight amongst the three, the rest of the field would be left behind.
Attrition would be no match for Behra this day. Averaging nearly 100mph for more than an hour and one minute, Behra would be untouchable and would cruise to an easy victory. A minute and a half would pass and it would be only then that the battle the remainder of the podium would become clear. Schell would pull away over the last couple of laps and would cross the line 6 seconds ahead of the battle for 3rd place. This battle would be much closer as Flockhart barely held off Bonnier by the margin of just a second to ensure there would be a BRM sweep of the podium.
The other one from Bourne in the race, Gibson, would end up being more than 4 laps behind, but he would still manage to come through in 16th place. This was not the kind of result he may have been hoping for but it had at least been a race finish and it was something to build upon for the rest of the season. In fact, amongst the Formula 2 cars in the field he actually finished 8th and that was surely a decent result in the new car.
Following the conclusion of the International Trophy race at Silverstone the Formula One season had drawn to a close for Gibson. He would, however, switch his focus to Formula 2 and would come away with a 9th place result at Oulton Park in the International Gold Cup race. In that race Gibson would end up beating a future double World Champion by the name of Graham Hill.
While not as famous as another famous racer from Bourne, Gibson was certainly making his own mark in motor racing. The purchase of the Cooper in 1957 would actually be really just the beginning of a long Formula 2 career that would lead him all over Europe and that would cause the legacy of Bourne in motor racing to grow even more.