TeamsHigh Efficiency Motors: 1958 Formula One Season By Jeremy McMullen
C.T. 'Tommy' Atkins would start out his career as a motorcycle racer riding Douglas motorcycles in the early 1930s. By the time the mid-to-late '50s rolled around, Atkins had moved on from racing, but not very far. Perhaps feeling a need to support up-and-coming drivers, Atkins would turn to providing rides, but in single-seater grand prix cars.
Prior to the Second World War, Atkins would be in search of speed records on a motorcycle. Riding motorcycles, Atkins knew very well their ability to produce a great deal of power from such a small package. He understood highly-efficient motors. During the war, however, Atkins would turn his skill toward making machine tools.
One of those that would cross his path at about this time would be Harry Pearce. The two of them would look to a career in motorcycle racing in the immediate post-war years. However, by the mid-1950s, Tommy would be 'encouraged' by his wife to put aside the motorcycle and think about his kids' future.
There was no ridding of the racing blood that coursed through Atkins' veins. And, though he would give up riding motorcycles it wouldn't be long before he and Pearce would turn their attentions to starting their own car racing team.
The name of the team would be, aptly, High Efficiency Motors and it would feature Atkins taking care of the day-to-day operations while Pearce would be involved in building the cars for the team. In 1958, like so many others, the team would turn to Cooper to help them make their effort in single-seaters a go.
One of the best options available would be a Climax-powered Cooper T43. A Formula 2 car, the team could take part in Formula 2 events, and, any event in which Formula 2 cars were allowed to run concurrently with Formula One machines.
Atkins had his car for his team. He then had to find a capable driver able to make the most of any opportunity. This would not be an easy find as there would be a number of good drivers that would hire out their services to a number of different teams. Thankfully for Atkins, Roy Salvadori would be willing to take to the wheel for the team's first event, the Lavant Cup race on the 7th of April.
The first race of Atkins' High Efficiency Motors's existence would come in early April of 1958 as part of Goodwood's Easter Monday races. Roy Salvadori would agree to do the driving duties and Pearce would set to work preparing the team's T43 for the event.
The Lavant Cup race took part around the 2.38 mile Goodwood circuit in West Sussex. Being part of the day's racing festivities, the Lavant Cup race would be filled with other talented drivers and teams. However, Salvadori would end up on pole for the 15 lap race. Therefore, the start of the team's career would be strong. They just needed that strong start converted into a strong finish.
This would prove more daunting than it seemed as Salvadori's race would come to an end after just two laps as a result of an accident. This would leave Graham Hill and Jack Brabham to fight it out for the win.
The battle would be tight and the finish an enthralling one as Brabham would beat out Hill for the victory by a mere four-tenths of a second. Cliff Allison would finish in 3rd.
Atkins' first attempt in single-seater grand prix cars started out as good as one could ever hope. There were certainly positive signs. They just needed to prove they belonged. Ian Burgess would help prove they did in the very next race.
The next race on the calendar for Atkins' team would come on the 19th of April. The event would be the XIII BARC '200' held at Aintree. It would be a race that featured Formula One and Formula 2 cars running concurrently and it would provide High Efficiency Motors an opportunity to fight it out amongst the Formula 2 ranks, but also, to try and do some damage amongst the Formula One entries.
In truth, Aintree was a rather favorable circuit to Formula 2 cars. Measuring 3.0 miles in length, the straights would be short. The majority of the circuit would consist of fast and slower speed corners that certainly favored the nimble Coopers.
Ian Burgess would take to the helm for the 42 lap race. Stirling Moss would start from pole in an upgraded Cooper. Roy Salvadori would start in 2nd place while Jean Behra would complete the front row in a BRM 25. Burgess' performance in practice would be rather impressive. A little under 10 seconds slower than Moss, Ian would end up on the sixth row of the grid in the 15th position overall.
Moss get a great start and would lead the way nearly throughout the whole of the race on that cold day just outside of Liverpool. Burgess would complete the first couple of laps and would look settled. Tony Brooks would be putting on a demonstration of his own in a Formula 2 Cooper fighting for a spot in the top three overall. Burgess, on the other hand, would be fighting for a place in the top ten.
The race would be processional until the very end when Brabham managed to get ahead of Moss for the lead. This was the only battle left on the track as Brooks dominated the Formula 2 field. Clutch concerns had slowed Moss. However, into the final turn on the final lap, the Brit would put the power down early snapping the backend around. He would come out ahead of Brabham and would out-sprint the Australian to the line for the victory. Brooks would have a demonstrative victory finishing ahead of a number of Formula One cars. Ian Burgess would provide Atkins his first finish in 1958 crossing the line 11th overall and 7th in Formula 2. He would be a little more than 2 laps behind at the finish while Brooks finished on the lead lap.
Although the team would not be in the league of Tony Brooks, Burgess' finish would be an important step for Atkins' in efforts to build some confidence moving forward.
The result in Aintree would be built upon when Atkins' effort arrived at Silverstone for its next race on the 3rd of May. The race was the 10th Daily Express International Trophy race. It would be another opportunity to see Formula One and Formula 2 cars out on track together and it would be another opportunity for High Efficiency Motors to further its experience and build for the future.
The race organizers would forego the heat and final race format, but would open the race up for Formula One and Formula 2 cars. This meant Salvadori started on pole for the Formula One runners. He would be joined on the front row by Brabham, Moss and Peter Collins. The Formula 2 pole-sitter would be Cliff Allison in a Lotus 12. He would start the race from the third row of the grid in the 8th position overall. Burgess's best would be five seconds slower than Allison and would lead to him starting the race from the fifth row of the grid in the 18th position. However, amongst the Formula 2 runners, he would be 5th.
The 50 lap race around the 2.92 mile circuit would get underway with Moss stalling on the grid causing him to go to the back. Behra and Collins would head the field then while Lewis-Evans led the way in Formula 2. As the pace picked up so too did the levels of attrition. Burgess would remain in the race but would not be able to keep up with the Formula One cars.
Collins would take over the lead and would eventually win after Behra was struck in the goggles with a rock. The pace around Silverstone would be such the Formula One cars had a clear advantage. Behind Collins, Salvadori and Masten Gregory would complete the podium. Cliff Allison would be the winner in the Formula 2 ranks. He would be a lap down in 6th place overall. Meanwhile, Burgess would finish three laps behind in 11th place overall. However, amongst the Formula 2 runners he would complete the distance in 4th.
Following the International Trophy race Atkins' efforts would focus mostly on Formula 2. This would prove to be a rewarding decision as Burgess would come away with a 3rd place in the BRSCC Formula 2 race at Brands Hatch in early June. This would then be followed with a trip across the Channel to France and an entry in the 3rd Prix de Paris. Burgess would continue to show consistency as he would come through the 16 lap race at Montlhery with another 4th place result.
Staying in France, High Efficiency Motors would make its way from outside Paris to Reims for the 2nd Coupe Internationale de Vitesse. Taking place the same weekend as the French Grand Prix, the field would be filled with top drivers and teams. In the face of such competition Burgess would show his skills as he would come through to finish the race in 4th place. It would be a great result for the young team and driver in the face of such talented drivers and factory efforts. The result would help build momentum and confidence and the team would ride that wave right into its next race.
Atkins' team would leave France and would head back to England. On the 27th of July, the team would be at Snetterton in Norfolk for the 3rd Vanwall Trophy Formula 2 race. Jim Russell would start the 20 lap race from pole, however, neither he nor anyone else would have anything to offer to persuade Burgess not to take a convincing win. Posting the fastest lap of the race, Ian would dominate crossing the line 13 seconds ahead of Bruce McLaren in his own Cooper T45.
High Efficiency Motors were peaking at the right time. It was the end of July and that meant the German Grand Prix was right around the corner on the 3rd of August. The race provided one of the few opportunities for Formula 2 cars to take part in a race concurrently with Formula One cars. Furthermore, it was the German Grand Prix, the 8th round of the World Championship and that meant there was a great opportunity to upstage some of the best from Formula One.
However, the event wouldn't just allow Formula 2 cars for which the Formula One cars would have to contend. The circuit itself would be one of the greatest combatants to every team, driver and car. Measuring 14 miles and stretching all around the tiny village of Nurburg amongst the scenic Eifel Mountains, the Nurburgring wasn't called the 'Green Hell' for nothing. Danger lurking around every corner, completing a single lap was very much a victory, yet, in 1958, the winning car and driver would have to do that 15 times.
Mike Hawthorn would show the way in practice amongst the Formula One runners. His lap of 9:14.0 would be quicker than Fangio's lap record of a year earlier by a rather large margin. Tony Brooks would end up not far off in his Vanwall. Stirling Moss would start in 3rd place while Peter Collins would round-out the front row of the grid. Amongst the Formula 2 runners, Phil Hill would be the quickest in the Ferrari Dino 156. His lap time of 9:48.9 would be highly impressive and would result in the American starting the race from the third row of the grid in the 10th position. Burgess had little reason to be much impressed by Hill's time for he would prove to be the next-fastest qualifier amongst the Formula 2 ranks. He would start alongside Hill in 11th place on the third row. Such a result in practice, therefore, suggested great things could happen in the race. However, at the Nurburgring, anything could happen.
At the drop of the flag it would be Moss leading the way ahead of Brooks, Hawthorn and Collins. Burgess would lose ground at the start of the race allowing McLaren to come up a spot in the order. However, Burgess was still right around the top ten overall at the beginning of the race and had the potential to move up as cars started to fall by the wayside. Of course, he had to make sure, the best he could, that he was not one of them.
Twists in the plot would start to take place beginning with Moss' retirement after leading the first three laps. Jean Behra would also have his race come to an end. Unfortunately, Burgess would not be able to take advantage of the situation. In fact, he would actually lose more ground for a couple of laps. At the completion of the 10th lap, Burgess was still just outside the top ten. Furthermore, within the Formula 2 field, Burgess was sitting comfortably in 4th place.
A series of unfortunate events would end up offering Burgess his greatest opportunity of the 15 lap race. Tony Brooks would pick up his pace and would end up moving by Hawthorn and Collins on the 11th lap of the race. This would surprise Collins who, up to that point, had led the most laps, and comfortably too. Brooks' pace would surprise Collins and would cause him to chase after the Vanwall to try and regain what he had lost. Sadly, this would result in Collins going off the circuit and having the car thrown high into the air. Peter would be thrown out of the race up against a tree killing him almost instantly. Mike Hawthorn would witness the whole thing and knew his good friend was dead. In the chaos and confusion, and as a result of racing on the track, Burgess would make his biggest jump up the leaderboard. He had started the lap just outside the top ten and, when he emerged again he would be 7th overall and 3rd in Formula 2.
After Collins' death, Hawthorn would lose his stomach for the fight and would retire. The race, from that point on, would become processional, even amongst Formula 2 runners. All Burgess had to do was hold on and he would improve upon his usual 4th place finishes.
Brooks would be well clear of any competition. He would cruise home in his Vanwall taking the victory by some three minutes and 30 seconds over Roy Salvadori. Maurice Trintignant would complete the podium in Formula One finishing in 3rd place more than five minutes behind Brooks.
Burgess would run an impressive race. Maintaining a consistent pace throughout, the High Efficiency Motors driver would pick up the pace at just the right times and would come away with an impressive 3rd place result. What's more, he would finish the race just seven minutes behind Brooks and just behind Bruce McLaren and Edgar Barth in Formula 2.
Standing on the podium in the German Grand Prix in its first year of existence, High Efficiency Motors and Tommy Atkins were proving to be a force to be reckoned with in Formula 2. This, of course, was in no small way due to the driving ability of Ian Burgess who was proving to have great potential.
After the fantastic result in the German Grand Prix, Atkins' group would make a hasty return to English shores. The reason for the hurry was the 1st Kent Trophy race being held at Brands Hatch the very next day.
Unable to truly settle in and prepare the car, Burgess and the team would run another consistent race finishing the event in 5th place. Fourth place had been in the offering in the aggregate scoring, however, a rather sedate 6th place in the opening heat would hinder Burgess' potential.
At the end of the month of August Atkins' team would be back at Brands Hatch to compete in the 1st Kentish '100'. Two heats of 42 laps each, the race would be, by no means, an easy one. Burgess would manage to finish the first heat in 7th place a lap down. However, in the 2nd heat, gearbox would sideline Burgess after just 33 laps. It would be the team's first failure in a very long time and, therefore, confidence and momentum would remain high.
This confidence and momentum would cause Tommy to load up two cars and head off back across the Channel for one more race on the season. Arriving on the continent, the team would again head off to Germany. The final destination would be Berlin. The 21st of September would see the famous Avus circuit in western Berlin host the Grand Prix of Berlin and the Avusrennen.
The Avusrennen would feature a collection of different types of race cars. Formula 2 cars would be allowed to enter the race right alongside 2000cc and 1500cc sportscars. This made for a large field for the race.
The race itself would be conducted with three heat races covering 20 laps each. The final results would be determined by aggregate scoring over the course of those three heats. Therefore, the race would be one final supreme test for High Efficiency Motors.
Back on German soil, the Avus circuit could not be much more different from the course Atkins' team last competed. Unlike the 170 plus corners of the Nurburgring, the Avus circuit would consist of two runs in opposite directions along the autobahn running between Charlottenburg and Nikolassee. Instead of 14 miles, the circuit was merely 5.15 miles. But, it was fast, and dangerous with its steeply-banked brick-paved north curve.
Looking past their troubles in their last race, Burgess and Atkins would set their focus firmly on the long day of racing ahead. Sadly, it would prove to be a short day as Burgess would suffer an accident in the very first heat. He would be one of three that would be out of the race as a result of accidents in the first heat. The team would make the long journey to Berlin only to have the Channel crossing last longer than their day at Avus.
That would be it for High Efficiency Motors in 1958. After the accident at Avus, the team would return to England and would look to the following season. In spite of the last couple of races it had been a very good year for the team, highlighted by the 3rd place result in Formula 2 at the German Grand Prix. It seemed as though Atkins might just make the jump to Formula One. However, the 1959 season would see the team reappear with its Cooper T43 ready to fight it out in Formula 2 once again. And, this is right where the team would stay throughout its existence.
Atkins' team would make its one and only appearance in a Formula One race and would come away with a top result. Though that had not reached the mountaintop, Atkins and Pearce would seemingly assume it could only go downhill from there and would remain in the lower formulas and sportscars.
Atkins would have a close friendship with Roy Salvadori and, in the early 1960s, he would enter Cooper Monaco sportscars for the racing veteran. Often mixing it up with the likes of Jim Clark and others, Salvadori would be a driver that all would want to beat in Atkins' Cooper-Monacos.
Atkins would remain in the sportscar scene until he was found to have a serious lung condition that would severely hamper him as time went on. Then, in 1965, he would be found dead, and so, the history of High Efficiency Motors would come to an abrupt end. High Efficiency Motors