TeamsBernard C. Ecclestone: 1958 Formula One Season By Jeremy McMullen
The name Ecclestone is synonymous with Formula One. Many would say he is Formula One. However, in 1958, he would be just another retired driver attempting his hand at running and managing a team. He would pick a winner, unfortunately that had been a while ago.
Connaught Engineering had made an impression with its A-Type chassis. In the hands of drivers like Mike Hawthorn, the small British firm would show that it had the ability to be considered among the best of the rest, behind the Ferrari 500 and Maserati's A6GCM. But then came the updated Formula One regulations in 1954 and Connaught appeared to be left behind with a fragile car that no longer had the speed to compete. No speed and no reliability were terrible characteristics and Connaught would set about changing this.
Connaught's answer to the A-Type would be a car with a very creative new name, the B-Type. The B-Type had improved performance, but, it too suffered from a terrible lack of wanting to hold itself together. This was the background and the reality before the team made an eventful trip to Sicily in late 1955.
Connaught would stun the Italians by taking a demonstrative win in Syracuse providing a British manufacturer its first major Formula One victory. It appeared as though Connaught Engineering had the potential to become Britain's version of Ferrari. However, that one glorious win would not be followed by others, only disappointment. It would all culminate in the team barely taking part in the 1957 Monaco Grand Prix and then ceasing operations soon afterward. This presented the perfect opportunity for a retired racing driver to try his hand at management.
Bernie Charles Ecclestone would be born in October of 1930 in St. Peter South Elmham in Suffolk, England. The son of a fisherman, Ecclestone's beginnings would be humble and unimpressive. At the age of 16, following the end of the Second World War, Bernie would be studying chemistry and would, in his spare time, pursue his love of motorcycles.
The love of motorcycles would lead Bernie to start up a small business selling and trading parts for motorcycles. Not long after, at just 19 years of age, he would try his hand at motorcycle racing. He would be good enough to win some races and earn a number of other top results, but the dangers would always weigh heavily upon his mind and would lead him to retire after a series of accidents. He was in just his early 20s at the time and needed to find a means to make a living. This would lead him into real estate and some auction firms, but racing was always in the back of his mind.
Ecclestone would leave the two-wheeled machines behind and would take part in a number of single-seater races throughout the mid-1950s. Though he would never achieve any results of note, it would keep him in the business. It would also enable him to move into management positions. This would start with representing drivers and managing their careers. One of Ecclestone's first big clients would be the talented Stuart Lewis-Evans. But Ecclestone wanted to try his hand at something more.
Connaught Engineering's departure from Formula One presented an opportunity for Bernie. The B-Type was still a capable car, though it did lack the abilities of those being built by other British companies, not to mention Ferrari. But, it would present an opportunity for the man from Suffolk to cut his teeth as a team manager. So, he would purchase two B-Type chassis for the 1958 season.
Being from Suffolk, it would only be fitting that the first race of B Ecclestone would take place not far away in West Suffolk. It would be the Glover Trophy race and it would be part of Goodwood's annual Easter Monday Races.
Goodwood Circuit would be birthed in the years immediately following the end of the Second World War. Originally, the plot of land had been used as an emergency landing field and an auxiliary airfield attached to RAF Tangmere. The land would be used for the purposes of an airfield from 1938 right up through 1946. However, following decommission, it would be determined that its 2.38 miles of perimeter road would serve as the perfect course for motor racing. The result would be that it would hold its first motor races in 1948 and would soon become popular for its nine hour endurance sportscar race and its Easter Monday Races event held, obviously enough, the Monday after Easter.
The Glover Trophy race would become the main draw for the Easter Monday Races as it would pit the latest in Formula One cars against each other for a 42 lap race. In 1958, the race would be held on the 7th of April and would consist of Mike Hawthorn in a Ferrari Dino 246 and Stirling Moss driving Rob Walker's Cooper.
Ecclestone would bring his two B-Types to the race and would turn one over to Archie Scott-Brown. The other car would go to the driver he managed—Stuart Lewis-Evans. They would have a tough task ahead of them with the presence of such drivers and cars, but they needed to find out where they stood.
A dose of reality would set in after practice, but there would still be some encouraging signs. Moss would start from pole. Jean Behra would line up in 2nd place while Hawthorn and Roy Salvadori would complete the four-wide front row. Scott-Brown would get the better of his perhaps more cautious Ecclestone teammate. Archie would end up in the 8th position on the third row while Lewis-Evans would also end up on the third row of the grid, but in the 10th position.
Heading into the race, the team likely knew its main competition would come in the form of unreliability. They knew they didn't have the speed, but attrition posed the greatest threat to the team. There would be good reason to be concerned, for, when the race got underway, just a couple of laps would transpire before cars began running into trouble.
Graham Hill would barely make it two laps before his race would come to an end. Paul Emery and Jean Behra would make it four laps before they too would run afoul of trouble. This was not a good sign for the notoriously fragile B-Types. However, they continued to lap the circuit.
Stirling Moss and Mike Hawthorn would be showing the way, especially when it came to sheer pace. Both would set the same fastest lap time of 1:28.8. This would put pressure on the rest of the field to push their cars beyond comfortable limits.
Scott-Brown and Lewis-Evans would keep within themselves and would not be drawn in by the pace. Instead, they would settle in and do their best to let the race to come to them. By allowing attrition to claim its victims, the Connaughts would be able to move up the running order.
This approach would work as Harry Schell would retire in the other BRM. Then, just past halfway, Moss' race would be run. This meant Hawthorn was out front without much in the way of competition. It also meant the two B-Types, which were still in the race, also moved up the order. Lewis-Evans would be ahead of Scott-Brown, but both would be well inside the top ten and in a position to end the day in the top five if they got some more help.
Hawthorn would cruise to victory taking the win by 35 seconds over Jack Brabham in 2nd place and Roy Salvadori crossing the line in 3rd. Amazingly, the B-Types would show a tremendous amount of reliability as both would manage to make it to the end of the race. Lewis-Evans would be rather impressive finishing a couple of laps behind in 5th place. Twenty seconds later, Scott-Brown would come through to finish in 6th place.
In his first race as a team owner, Ecclestone's aged B-Types would nearly all finish in the top five. This would be an encouraging beginning for the team, even if it was more than clear the B-Type was no longer as competitive as what it had once been.
The month of April would end up being a busy month for racing. There would be the Syracuse Grand Prix on the 13th of April. Then, on the 19th, there would be 13th BARC '200' held at Aintree. This would be the next opportunity for Ecclestone's team to test itself against the competition.
When the BARC '200' came to be hosted at Aintree, immediately the popularity of the race would grow. The race took place on a track used by the World Championship, and, it offered getter rewards to participants. Furthermore, the race would be open to Formula 2 entrants. All of this would add up to a large field of entrants for the 67 lap race on the 19th.
Aintree had become a popular venue right from its very beginnings. Laid out within and without the famed Grand National course, the 3.0 mile Aintree Racecourse presented a great challenge to drivers. The large grandstands that were already in place for the Grand National also made it popular with grand prix fans as it would allow views out over nearly all of the course. About the only unfortunate bit would be the unfortunate smell if the winds were blowing in the wrong direction.
Heading out onto the track for practice, the B-Types would find Aintree a bit more to their liking, of course, this would be aided by the fact the only factory team present for the race would be Owen Racing with their year-old BRMs. Therefore, the B-Types would be one of the few cars in the event that would have engine sizes in excess of 2.2-liters.
However, the BRMs would prove to be in a whole different league compared to the B-Types as Behra would claim the pole with a lap time of 1:59.8. This would be four-tenths of a second quicker than Roy Salvadori in a Cooper. Then there would be Stirling Moss in 3rd in the Rob Walker Cooper.
Lewis-Evans would be with another team for the race. Therefore, Ecclestone would rely on Scott-Brown and Paul Emery to drive his cars to top results. Scott-Brown would be the best positioned of the two by the end of practice. His best effort would be 7 seconds slower than Behra and would lead to him starting 8th from the third row of the grid. Still that would be better than Emory's starting position. Paul's best time would be a further 4 seconds slower than Archie's and would result in an 18th starting position, which meant a spot on the seventh row of the grid.
The day of the race would be beautiful, but it would be cold. This would lead to the crowd being rather small. It would be unfortunate as many people would end up missing a thriller.
At the start, Moss would get the best jump and would be clearly in the lead. Behra, Salvadori and Brabham would follow along. Further back, Scott-Brown would find himself firmly embroiled in a battle with Lotuses while Emery would be further back.
Moss' pace in the Cooper would be impressive and would challenge all. This would result in attrition making an early visit. A number of Formula 2 cars would depart the scene within the first 15 laps. Meanwhile, Behra would be sitting in 2nd place and looking strong to challenge Moss. This would end up coming up a cropper when the brakes on the BRM failed, yet again, leaving him out of the race.
Moss was free to escape, especially when Brabham had to stop in the pits as a result of clutch troubles. Tony Brooks was considered the best of the rest and he was accomplishing that feat at the helm of a 1.5-liter Cooper Formula 2 car. He would have Hill, Lewis-Evans, Schell and Scott-Brown all following along in a train behind him. Emery would not be amongst the train as he struggled much further back. In fact, he would be lapped by his teammate more than once before the end of the race.
Moss seemed to be on cruise control for a majority of the race. However, as the event ran into its latter-stages he too began to develop clutch troubles and was clearly taking care of the Cooper just to make it to the finish. Brabham had returned to the track by this team and was gaining ground, even though Cooper urged Brabham to take it easy on the car. Scott-Brown's race would also begin to fade. Though he had been battling with Hill for a good while, he would drop behind Cliff Allison and would even fall a lap further behind before the end. It would be a battle of B-Types further back. Paul Emery and Geoff Richardson, another driver who had purchased one of Connaught's B-Types would be lined up nose-to-tail on the leaderboard. Unfortunately, even that battle would fail to live up to its potential.
Heading around on the last lap, Brabham would get ahead of Moss. It appeared as though Stirling would lose a race he had firmly controlled from the very beginning. However, Rob Walker's driver wasn't done fighting. Knowing he had just one corner to go, one last moment in which the clutch needed to hang on, Moss would drive the Cooper in deep and would step on it hard coming out. The result would be a dramatic tail-slide, but it would mean he had the lead with just the short sprint to the finish left. Moss would control the slide and would get on the power soon enough to beat Brabham to the line by two-tenths of a second! It would be a dramatic ending to what had been mostly a conservation race.
Tony Brooks would impress in the 1.5-liter Cooper. He would managed to get by Salvadori in the closing stages of the race to bring the Formula 2 car home 3rd overall. Scott-Brown's race would start out strongly, but would fade over time. His main fight would be to stay in the top ten. Though beaten by three Formula 2 cars, Scott-Brown would still bring home a decent 9th place overall finish. He would end up more than two laps behind, but, amongst the Formula One runners, it would be a 4th place result. The 5th place spot amongst the Formula One participants would go to Emery as he would easily hold off Richardson. However, Emery's performance would not be all that impressive or noteworthy as he would finish 14th overall behind a fleet of Formula 2 cars.
The BARC '200' race would give Ecclestone and those involved a heavy dose of reality. Reliability remained a serious concern and this hampered the B-Type, even at circuits where it should have been able to take advantage of its decent speed. It was just clear the day of the B-Type had come and gone. Still, Bernie would not give up on his investment. He would determine to see just where it stood against an all-out field of Formula One cars. He just needed to choose wisely as to where that test would come.
The month of May would see the resumption of the Formula One World Championship after a long lay-over after the Argentine Grand Prix back in January. The second round of the World Championship would be an important place to make a good impression. The Monaco Grand Prix, which would take place on the 18th of May, was likely not the best venue for Ecclestone to make his debut in Formula One as a team manager, but it was always good for serving up some surprises. Bernie would hope beyond all hope that his team could be that surprise.
Unfortunately for the Ecclestone team the Monaco Grand Prix would bring out all the major players and for a race with a restricted starting grid. The Vanwalls would now join the Ferraris and BRMs, not to mention of the gaggle of factory and customer Coopers that would try to make it into the field of just 16 cars. This was a challenging situation for Bernie's team, but the opportunities wouldn't be any better at any other venue.
Ecclestone's team would come to Monaco with its two Connaught B-Types. The team's main drivers would be Paul Emery and Bruce Kessler. Unfortunately, the presence of the Vandervell team meant Lewis-Evans would not be available for the team, and they would sorely need him before practice would come to an end.
Situated along the Mediterranean in the heart of the French Riviera, Monaco would be the jewel in Formula One's crown, even though it had been absent from the calendar for a number of years. It had the potential of defining a career. Even if a driver scored no other victories, a win on the streets of Monte Carlo transcended the series and meant so much that a driver who won was considered in a special class.
Perhaps it was this allure that would lead Bernie himself to take a few laps of the circuit in the B-Type in the early practice. As practice wore on, he should have made both seats available to anyone who could have made it into the race. Having only 16 starting positions, the competition to make it into the field would be fierce and the B-Types would be at the bottom end, fighting just for a chance to make it.
Jo Bonnier would end up on the bubble having set the 16th-fastest time around the circuit at 1:45.0. Ron Flockhart would miss out on the spot by nine-tenths of a second in a Climax-powered Cooper, a car much more ideally-suited to the twisty 1.95 mile circuit. Bruce Kessler would be the fastest of the Ecclestone entries but there was absolutely no chance his 1:50.5 would get him into the race. Emery, therefore, would be in worse condition having been three-tenths of a second slower. Therefore, the laps Ecclestone put in around the circuit would be more nostalgic 'what might have been' laps than anything else. Ecclestone's team had measured itself against the others and had come away being found desperately wanting. The team would have to wait a couple more months before their want could be satisfied.
Being from England, and having British cars as the team's hopes for success, there was certainly no way Ecclestone could have missed the British Grand Prix on the 19th of July. However, having missed out on the Monaco Grand Prix, and, having foregone the Dutch, Belgian and French grand prix, it was clear to Bernie and everyone else that the trip to Silverstone was likely to be the only time all season long the Ecclestone would be seen competing in a World Championship race.
Having entered two cars for an attempted run at the Monaco Grand Prix, Ecclestone would enter his two cars for the British Grand Prix. To drive his two B-Types, Bernie would enlist the talents of Jack Fairman and Ivor Bueb. Neither of the two were insanely fast, but they were experienced and consistent, which would be very important with the fragile Connaughts.
The British Grand Prix in 1958 would take place at Silverstone, a circuit that had become rather notorious for its destruction of cars throughout the years. Fast and technical, the wide open spaces of the former bomber training base lent itself perfectly to becoming Britain's unofficial home for motor racing in the post-war years. Measuring 2.92 miles in length and boasting of average speeds in excess of 100mph, the circuit strained car and driver with its long straights and fast, sweeping corners that loaded the car heavily in both directions.
Silverstone would draw its name from the small village nearby and that find itself listed in the famous Domesday Book from the 11th century. However, it would be the rolling countryside nearby would become more recognizable as Silverstone when a Royal Air Force airfield would be opened in 1943. Operating Vickers Wellington bombers, RAF Silverstone's role in World War II would be that of training bomber crews. It would fulfill this role until its decommissioning in 1947. Almost immediately the abandoned airfield would begin hosting races conducted by local residents. Ultimately, the British Grand Prix would kick off its post-war years at Silverstone just one year after the base had been decommissioned.
Surprisingly, the usually wet weather around Silverstone would actually be gone. Therefore, the cars would take to the circuit in dry, sunny conditions. This would allow the Ferrari 246s, Vanwall and BRMs to really open it up. This would make life difficult for Ecclestone's team as they certainly wanted to have a great starting position, but, because of the unreliability, the drivers would need to look to the future a bit. What's more, it was highly unlikely the B-Type could even compete with the others in sheer pace anyway.
Sure enough, as the lap times started to be counted, it was obvious just where the Connaught's stood in relative performance. Stirling Moss would be the quickest in practice in the Vanwall. He would end up on pole with a lap time of 1:39.4. This would be four-tenths of a second quicker than Harry Schell in one of the BRMs. Roy Salvadori would garner some attention when he managed to put the Climax-powered Cooper on the front row in 3rd place while Mike Hawthorn was relegated to 4th in the Ferrari, the final spot on the front row. Still, his fastest lap time was just a second slower than Moss.
In comparison, the fastest of Ecclestone's Connaught entries would be that of Bueb. His best effort around the Silverstone circuit would result in a lap time of 1:51.4. More than ten seconds off the pace, the team would have had no chance to make it into the race had the field been as limited as that of Monaco. However, the field for the British Grand Prix would have twenty entries. This allowed Bueb to start from the fifth row in the 17th position. Fairman would barely make it into the race. His best would be more than 7 seconds slower than Bueb. As a result, Fairman would start from the sixth, and final, row in the 19th position overall.
Leading up to the start of the 75 lap race on the 19th, the weather would be beautiful once again and this would bring the crowd out in droves, especially since the championship battle would be so tight between two British drivers. The cars would soon take their places on the grid. The drivers would suit up and climb in behind the wheel. Engines roaring, the start would be mere seconds away. It was Ecclestone's first opportunity in a World Championship race as a team owner; it would be exciting and nerve-racking at the same time.
The flag would drop and the cars would roar away with Peter Collins getting a fantastic jump from the second rank to lead the way into the first turn. Moss would be in 2nd place while Hawthorn would fall in line in 3rd. Bueb's start would be consistent as he would hold station throughout the first few corners. Fairman's start would get even worse, if that were possible, and he would be dead-last over the course of the first lap.
Collins would lead the way at the end of the first lap and would actually be stretching out an advantage already. Moss would sit comfortably in 2nd place just ahead of Hawthorn. Bueb would complete the first lap right where he started in 17th while Fairman would remain last, struggling just to keep up.
Throughout the first 25 laps of the race there would be virtually no change amongst the top three. Even the remainder of those running in the top ten would hold station relative to each other. The only ones really on the move would be Schell. His start would be followed by a gradual slipping back while Lewis-Evans would be on the move upward after having completed the first lap just outside the points. Further back, Bueb would be holding station right around 17th while Fairman would continue struggling at the tail-end of the field.
It was clear Fairman had some kind of trouble with his Connaught's engine as he would be losing ground at a rate indicative of a problem. After 7 laps he would pull out of the race with engine troubles. Ecclestone was left with just Bueb to carry his World Championship hopes.
Another 10 laps would go by and the attrition would be relatively light. However, trouble would be just beginning to brew. The first sign of things to come would be Graham Hill's retirement after 17 laps with an overheated engine. This would be followed two laps later by Alan Stacey's retirement, also with an overheated engine. The unusually sunny day was certainly wreaking havoc on engine cooling.
The 19th lap of the race would see attrition take a big swipe at the field. Stacey would be out with engine troubles. Then Jean Behra would drop out with a punctured tire. About this same time, Bueb would be pulling to the side. Oil pump failure combined with gearbox issues meant his day was surely done. Ecclestone's great hopes would be dashed before even a third of the race had been completed.
If it hadn't been already, all attention would turn back to those at the front of the field, and rightly so. Collins had an absolute stormer of a start and would press the issue hoping to help his Ferrari teammate by potentially breaking the Vanwall. The tactic would work. One-third distance, Moss would come around and across the line and would immediately turn right into the paddock. His engine had run its race. It was now Ferrari first and second, but with Collins well ahead of the man in the championship hunt.
Collins would be flying, so much so that Hawthorn would set the fastest lap of the race on the 50th circuit and still would be a good distance behind his friend and teammate. Having an agreement to share prize money, Hawthorn wasn't all that concerned if Collins won the race. However, when it came to the championship, an extra point or two could mean huge dividends.
But all such talk would come to naught when Hawthorn would suddenly appear in the pits signaling rather emphatically he needed oil for his Ferrari. The crew would set to work topping him off and looking back toward Woodcote. Roy Salvadori and Stuart Lewis-Evans were embroiled in a fantastic scrap for 3rd and if either of them, or both, were to get ahead of Mike championship hopes for Ferrari and Hawthorn would take a hit. The work would be completed, and still, there would be no sound approaching Woodcote. Hawthorn would roar back into the race still safely holding onto 2nd place.
Collins was absolutely untouchable over the course of the 75 lap race. Averaging nearly 102mph, he would cross the line to take the victory. Hawthorn would follow along around 24 seconds back. It would be a Ferrari one-two. The only question remaining was who was going to end up 3rd as there was nothing between Salvadori and Lewis-Evans. Approaching Woodcote for the final time, two sounded as one. Sure enough, a matter of just a couple of car lengths separated Salvadori and Lewis-Evans as they charged toward the line. Salvadori would take the final spot on the podium by a mere two-tenths of a second.
It would be an enthralling British Grand Prix, at least for Ferrari, Collins and Hawthorn and the spectators. However, for Ecclestone, the race would merely highlight the handwriting that was already on the wall. The B-Type Connaughts just didn't have it any more. The car enjoyed its moment in the Sicilian, but that was well and truly it. Bernie would come face-to-face with that reality over the course of 19 laps of the British round of the 1958 World Championship.
Facing reality, Ecclestone would not enter either of his Connaughts in another Formula One race, either World Championship or non, for the remainder of the season. Things would turn really dark when, at the Moroccan Grand Prix, Stuart Lewis-Evans would suffer an accident and terrible burns that would end up costing him his life. The loss would wound Bernie deeply and it would result in him selling the chassis and retiring from racing once again.
Though he would leave behind the notion of a team bearing his own name, Ecclestone would not be able to part from the idea of owning, managing and operating a racing team. He would still serve as an agent and manager for drivers, including Jochen Rindt, but it would be his time at Brabham that would really lead to his ascendancy in the Formula One hierarchy.