TeamsBob Gerard: 1953 Formula One Season By Jeremy McMullen
Frederick Roberts 'Bob' Gerard's entire life had been surrounded by automobiles. Growing up with his family automotive business, Parr's Ltd., Gerard was well acquainted with automotive manufacturing. And although his family's company focused on the rough and durable hauling market, Gerard would adopt the same gritty, determined style to his motor racing career.
Born in Leicester in 1914, Gerard's racing career would actually start before the start of World War II. During the brief stint before the start of the war Gerard would take a Riley and would come away with a couple of victories before the racing would come to an end due to the war.
Although his racing career would start before the start of the war, it would be after the war's end that it would really begin to take off. Besides being a regular in the Formula 3 ranks, Bob's grand prix career would take a serious jump when he would buy an ERA R4A from Reg Parnell. From that moment on, Gerard's racing schedule would become truly hectic.
One thing about Gerard's gritty, determined racing style was the fact it had the potential of pulling off some truly surprising results such as when he finished 3rd behind Luigi Villoresi and Alberto Ascari in the 1948 British Grand Prix in a inferior car.
Gerard's Formula One World Championship began with the very first race. He would be one of the few that would be at Silverstone in May of 1950 preparing to take part in the first-ever World Championship race. During that first year of the World Championship Gerard would come close to scoring points in two races. Incidentally, they were the only two races in which Gerard took part all through the 1950 season.
In 1951, Gerard would take part in a number of non-championship races but would only take part in the British Grand Prix that year. The costs and lack of competitiveness by the ERA was forcing Gerard to have to make some decisions. The switch to Formula 2 regulations for the 1952 and 1953 season would only accent this.
After more than half of a decade racing ERAs, it was more than clear Gerard would need to purchase a newer, more modern and competitive car in order to be competitive. Unsure of what to get, Gerard would end up sitting out the 1952 racing season.
Over the course of the 1952 season it appeared that one of the best British grand prix cars available was the Cooper-Bristol T20. Gerard had come to know the quality of the Cooper Car Company as he would purchase one of their Formula 3 MK VI designs in 1951 and would race it to great success over the following years. Gerard was so sold on the work of the Cooper Car Company that Parr Ltd. would become an agent for the company in the Midlands area.
Ever the racer, Gerard was interested in getting back into the World Championship. He had been enjoying good success in Formula 3, and with the World Championship competing according to Formula 2 regulations, he looked to get back and try his hand at the upper levels of grand prix racing once again.
Like Stirling Moss, Gerard was almost rather fiercely patriotic; and therefore, he would need a competitive British design. The rather impressive results of Cooper-Bristol's T20 during the 1952 season would lend Gerard to believe the new T23 would be the right chassis for him. Therefore, heading into the 1953 season, his comeback to the World Championship, he would purchase a new Bristol-powered T23.
Having taken delivery of his new grand prix car, Gerard would take some time to prepare it and would head to Goodwood to take part in the 5th Lavant Cup race which was just one race of many that would take place on the 6th of April that year.
Part of the Goodwood Estate located in West Sussex, and within sight of the English Channel, Goodwood started out life as part of England's war effort. Its location near the coast made it the perfect location for an auxiliary airfield for fighters stationed at RAF Tangmere. It would serve this role on an active basis from July of 1940 until May of 1946. After that time, much was unknown considering the bases' future. The Duke of Richmond still held the title of the land, but now he had a defunct airbase in which to deal with.
Tony Brooks was a fighter pilot with the RAF, and during the war, would travel to RAF Westhampnett (Goodwood) to race around the base's perimeter road. Being the enthusiastic motor racing fan and racer the Duke of Richmond was, Brooks' suggestion of turning the base into a motor racing venue would not fall on deaf ears. With that, the 2.39 mile Goodwood Circuit was born.
Soon, Goodwood would become famous for its Easter Day races. This day of racing would include a number of short races thereby welcoming a large number of different classes and types of cars. Just one of those races was the Lavant Cup race. Named for a nearby village, the Lavant Cup race was just a 7 lap affair but would draw a number of enthusiastic racing drivers and teams.
Twenty cars in all would qualify for the short race. Gerard would face a number of competitive and talented drivers including Roy Salvadori, Stirling Moss and Emmanuel de Graffenried.
For a short event like this, starting position would be very important. Starting from the back would almost certainly kill any chance of a top result. This would be a tall order for Gerard who was still getting used to his new Cooper-Bristol T23. By contrast, Salvadori had been around the previous season and had even managed to score a win. As a result, he would be fastest in practice and would take the pole with a time of one minute and thirty-five seconds. The rest of the front row would include a number of impressive and strong chassis. Emmanuel de Graffenried would start 2nd with a new Maserati A6GCM. Bobbie Baird would be driving a Ferrari 500 while starting 3rd. And Tony Rolt would be behind the wheel of a Connaught A-Type.
In spite of the presence of some very talented drivers and powerful cars, Gerard would prove to be a fast learner as he would end up 5th and on the inside of the second row of the grid. His best time of one minute and thirty-eight and four-tenths seconds would be just four-tenths of a second slower than Rolt starting in 4th.
The real pace of the competitors would show during the race. At just 7 laps in length, everyone in the field could likely just let go and give the car everything it would be able to take. This swung favor back away from Gerard who had been away from the top levels of grand prix racing for a year.
At the start, Emmanuel de Graffenried would prove to be on it very quickly. He would challenge Salvadori right from the start. And yet, while de Graffenried was obviously on the move, Salvadori would certainly give him a run for his money. Salvadori would turn the fastest lap of the race and would do his best to keep the pressure on.
Gerard would feel nothing but pressure right from the very start. Stirling Moss had started the race all the way down in 18th place but would make a great start and would be challenging Gerard. Ken Wharton would also start behind Gerard but would be pushing hard in his own T23. In fact, there would end up being four drivers, including Gerard, that would slug it out all through the 7 lap race.
Up near the front, de Graffenried would start to pull out an advantage over Salvadori as a result of some very consistent fast laps. Tony Rolt was a little ways back and was coming under fire from Kenneth McAlpine who made a great start from 6th on the grid.
After just eleven minutes and thirty seconds of racing, de Graffenried would come across the line to take the victory. His margin would be nearly thirteen seconds over Salvadori at the finish. Seven seconds would separate Salvadori and Rolt in 3rd place.
Once McAlpine crossed the line to take 4th place the battle, which included Gerard, would come powering its way around Woodcote and toward the finish line. Peter Whitehead would supplant Gerard from 5th and would cross the line four seconds ahead of Wharton who was leading home a three-car train that included Gerard. A little more than a second behind Wharton came Moss who charged all the way from 18th to finish the race 7th. Less than a second behind Moss would come Gerard in 8th.
A top ten result in his first race back in the upper levels of grand prix racing was certainly the way to start out the season. The hope would have been to get even better acquainted with the car and improve each and every time out. While it certainly was his desire to improve each and every time out there would be a question as to whether it would happen or not.
A little less than two weeks after Goodwood, Gerard would find out whether or not he would improve with each and every race. He would leave one former airbase and would take a week to prepare before heading to another. On the 18th of April, Gerard would be at what had been known as Snetterton-Heath for the 2nd Aston Martin Owners Club Formula 2 Race.
The Aston Martin Owners Club Formula 2 Race would be an almost perfect venue for Gerard to continue to get used to his new car and to get back up to speed. The field for the race would be small with only ten cars qualifying for the event. However, out of those ten starters, the field would be filled with very good drivers in strong cars.
At just 10 laps of the Snetterton circuit, the race would go fast, which meant Gerard would have to push hard for a good result. And Snetterton was one of those circuits in which a driver had to be careful but could push hard.
Another former airbase from World War II, Snetterton had been Snetterton-Heath during the war and was the site of the United States Army Air Force 386th and 96th Bomb Groups. From here, the base's attachment of Martin B-26 Marauder medium and Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress heavy bombers would launch their attacks into Europe. The base would remain active from 1943 until 1948. Soon after being decommissioned, the 2.70 miles of perimeter road would come to be the perfect host for motor racing events.
The ten car field would lose one of its competitors before the race would even get underway as Cliff Davis would not start the race. It would be further reduced when Ken Wharton's universal joint failed on the very first lap of the race.
Gerard would realize his need to push right from the very start and would be right up near the front of the field from the moment the green flag waved. Eric Thompson and Bobbie Baird would also be up near the front.
It was believed Baird had the advantage with his Ferrari 500. Of course, this was the same kind of car that had won Alberto Ascari the World Championship the previous year, and therefore, deserved to be considered a favorite wherever it went. Baird would take advantage of the performance of the car and would end up setting the fastest lap time. However, it would not be enough to supplant Thompson's impressive performance in his Connaught A-Type.
Gerard continued to look impressive as he too would take the fight to Thompson. At the last race, Peter Whitehead had managed to work his way past Gerard. There would not be a repeat at this race. Bob had come to understand his car even better and was pushing it hard.
Coming around on the very last lap of the race, Thompson was still under a great deal of pressure. The threat from Baird had surprisingly faded, but the challenge from Gerard was ever-present. Thompson would need every bit of his Connaught to hold off Gerard.
Coming to the finish line, Thompson would average a little more than 84 mph and would need it to finish just a couple of seconds ahead of Gerard at the finish. Twelve seconds would separate Gerard from Whitehead in 3rd.
Gerard had done it. He continued to improve from one race to the next, and it was just his second major grand prix race of the season. Could it continue to get better? The only way he could improve now would be if he could take a victory. Unfortunately, this would be an incredibly tall order going into his next race of the season.
On the 9th of May, Gerard was at yet another former airbase for a motor race. He travelled from his home in the Midlands and arrived at Silverstone Circuit in order to take part in the 5th BRDC International Trophy race.
Ever since its first race back in 1949, the International Trophy race was one of Britain's big races throughout the season. It was, then, fitting that Silverstone hosted it and the British Grand Prix later on in the year. Silverstone had become 'Britain's Official Home of Motor Racing' after the war's end and was the ideal setting for two of England's biggest races.
Unlike the British Grand Prix held later on in the year, the format of the International Trophy race included heat races as well as a final. The two heat races were 15 laps each of the 2.77 mile circuit. The final would be 35 laps. And unlike the Grand Prix of Monza, the BRDC International Trophy race would split the entire field of cars and drivers up into two separate heats instead of them all competing together and having aggregate scoring.
Bob would be listed in the first heat. He would square off against some of the same drivers he had faced at Goodwood in his first race of the season. In practice before the first heat Emmanuel de Graffenried would set the pace. His best lap time of one minute and fifty-one seconds would end up being about three seconds faster than the rest of the field. As a result, de Graffenried would start from the pole.
While overshadowed by de Graffenried's lap time in qualifying, Gerard would put together an impressive performance of his own. In just his third race of the season, he would go on to set a time of just one minute and fifty-four seconds. This time would have Gerard the second-fastest qualifier. He would be starting the first heat from the front row next to de Graffenried and would have Tony Rolt alongside in 3rd place and Kenneth McAlpine completing the front row in 4th.
Bob recognized the talent and the performance of the field, especially that of de Graffenried on the pole. The Swiss Baron had the new Maserati and it was proving as capable as the Ferrari 500. Therefore, if Gerard wanted to have a shot in his heat and in the race overall, he would need to make a great start and try and fend off the rest of the field throughout the 15 lap heat.
Unfortunately, Gerard would get too good of a jump. He would leave his position slightly before the green flag would wave. As a result of this, he would be penalized. But instead of doing so during the race, the officials would decide to tack on 60 seconds to his finishing time.
It would matter little actually. When the green flag flew, Gerard would get the jump, but it certainly wouldn't last long. Soon, de Graffenried would come through and take over the lead of the race. Stirling Moss, who started from the third row in 11th place, would make an incredible start and would be quickly up at the front battling with de Graffenried.
With the exception of de Graffenried, the entire front row would falter. Gerard would jump the start and would be penalized for it at the end. Rolt and McAlpine would just fade over the course of the heat. Obviously they were focusing more on making it into the final and doing well there than having the greatest starting spot for the final.
Despite pressure from Moss, de Graffenried would use the superior performance of the Maserati A6GCM to his advantage and would take the heat win. He would end up crossing the line five seconds ahead of Moss in 2nd place. Prince Bira would look impressive in his Maserati A6GCM as well. Starting 6th, Bira would claw his way up to finish the heat in the 3rd position.
In reality, Gerard completed the first heat race sandwiched in between Tony Rolt in 4th place and Kenneth McAlpine. However, because of the 60 second penalty for the false start, Gerard would be listed as having finished the heat in the 8th position tied on time with James Scott-Douglas.
The second heat had a number of strong competitors, but perhaps none more so than Mike Hawthorn. After an impressive first season in the World Championship driving for his father, Hawthorn would be offered a contract by Enzo Ferrari to come and drive for Scuderia Ferrari. Hawthorn would take the opportunity and would be entrusted to carry the team's honors all by himself in the race.
In practice, he would be clipped for the pole by Ken Wharton. Louis Chiron and Maurice Trintignant would make up the rest of an experienced and fast front row.
Hawthorn was known to like a challenge and Wharton's taking of the pole by a very slim margin would only enliven the young Hawthorn. And during the race, he would take the fight right back to Wharton.
The battle between Wharton and Hawthorn would be intense and fierce, but still very professional. This titanic battle would end up just going faster and faster as each tried to gain the upper hand on the other. What was truly amazing was that the battle behind them was also just as fierce, especially the battle between Bobbie Baird, Harry Schell and Peter Collins. Only a little more than a second would separate these three.
Less than that would separate Wharton and Hawthorn. These two men would average more than 2 mph faster over the course of the 15 lap heat than de Graffenried and Moss in the first. The battle would go right down to the very end. At the line, Hawthorn would edge out Wharton by about a second to take the victory. Roy Salvadori would trail nearly a minute behind but would finish in 3rd.
The pace of the second heat certainly was faster. This would be important when setting the starting grid for the 35 lap final. The battle between Hawthorn and Wharton would seem destined to continue in the final as they would start 1st and 2nd. Then it would be de Graffenried and Moss completing the front row.
The time penalty would severely cost Gerard. He had wanted to get the best start possible to be able to control the pace of the first heat. Unfortunately, heading into the final, it would be Gerard that would have to fight with everything he had just to keep pace. This was because he would end up starting the final from the fifth row of the grid in the 16th starting position overall.
In the first heat race, Gerard had jumped the start to try and get ahead of the faster Emmanuel de Graffenried. Heading into the final, de Graffenried knew he would need to make a strong start if he wanted to control the field, especially Hawthorn in his Ferrari. Unfortunately, his anxiousness would get the better of him. Baron de Graffenried would appear to move before the green flag waved to start the race. While the officials took some time to make a decision as to whether he had indeed jumped the start, de Graffenried would be up at the front of the field with Hawthorn. De Graffenried knew he had to be on the pace and right from the start. He would do that. Rather quickly into the race de Graffenried would turn what would be the fastest lap time of the race with a time of one minute and fifty-one seconds. The problem was, Hawthorn continued to stay right there with de Graffenried.
Over the course of each of the first two races in which Gerard had participated he had managed to improve his results each time. After the time penalty in the first heat, and because of the presence of Hawthorn, it would be truly difficult to continue to improve at each race since it meant scoring a victory at the race. However, because of the time penalty improvement would look quite different. After starting the final race in the 16th position an improvement would have been a demonstrative march up the running order to earn a good result. Gerard would do just that.
Gerard was on the move. Very quickly he would make his way up near the top ten. And as the race would go on, he would receive some help. Maurice Trintignant would have a wheel come off thereby ending his race, Louis Chiron would have his fuel tank split open and end his day, and then, the biggest help would come after 16 laps.
The officials had made their decision and de Graffenried would be penalized. Realizing the penalty wouldn't do him a bit of good with only half a race left to run, he would just decide to withdraw his car from the race. This, and Gerard fighting spirit, enabled Bob to climb his way well up inside the top ten.
Over the course of the final race, both Wharton and Moss would fail to match the pace of de Graffenried and Hawthorn and would fade from the top positions in the running order. With de Graffenried's voluntary retirement, Hawthorn was left all by himself at the front of the field. The closest competitor would be Roy Salvadori. Salvadori would certainly do his best but he just could not match the pace of Hawthorn who would end up matching de Graffenried's fastest lap time.
Under no pressure, Hawthorn would cruise to the victory. In hour, six minutes and thirty-six seconds Hawthorn would complete the 35 laps and would have an advantage of twelve seconds in hand over Salvadori at the finish. Thirty seconds would be the gap from Salvadori finishing in 2nd and Tony Rolt who would bring his Connaught A-Type across the line in 3rd.
Gerard would be impressive in the final and just his third grand prix of the season. He would come from 16th on the starting grid and would climb all the way up the order to finish the race 6th, just three seconds behind Ken Wharton.
In spite of the penalty, Gerard's race had been an impressive one. Even with the penalty it was easy to surmise that Gerard only continued to get stronger and improve with each and every race. This would be great for the Leicester man as his intended World Championship races loomed on the near horizon.
Before Gerard could think about any World Championship grand prix he would have another important endurance race to think about. Bob had taken part in a number of sports car races throughout his career, but in June of 1953, he would take part in the 24 Hours of Le Mans in a Frazer Nash Le Mans Replica. Unfortunately, the race would not end up the same as his first grand prix races of the year. The engine would let go in the car thereby ending his attempt at Le Mans glory.
Gerard wouldn't have too long to dwell on his Le Mans failure. He would hang around France for a while because just two weeks after Le Mans he would be in Rouen preparing for the 3rd Grand Prix de Rouen-les-Essarts.
One season ago, Rouen had been the site of the French Grand Prix. However, Reims would get back the honor of hosting the French round of the World Championship and Rouen would play host to the grand prix bearing its name.
The event was a 60 lap race around the 3.16 mile road course that wound its way through the Foret du Rouvray, which is a string of forest running westwards from Paris all the way to Normandy and that is interrupted almost only by the Seine River winding its way to the English Channel. Situated in among the forest and rolling hills, the Rouen-les-Essarts was a popular venue for the both teams and spectators. The modern pits and amenities made it a favorite with the teams and drivers. The drivers and spectators enjoyed the circuit for its variance in elevation making for some blind corners and fast sections. However, perhaps the most famous part of the circuit would be its slowest. The cobblestone-paved Nouveau Monde hairpin would be a crowd favorite that would only be further enhanced by the steep climb all the way up to Gresil.
One week after the Belgian Grand Prix, the field would be filled with strong competition including Scuderia Ferrari and Equipe Gordini. However, the Grand Prix de Rouen would be a slightly different event that posed a greater challenge to teams and drivers like Gerard. The grand prix was one of the few remaining races that would allow the old Formula One cars to line up on the starting grid next to a Formula 2 entry. The one saving grace to this situation was the circuit. It was just twisty and windy enough that it actually equaled the two classes of car out a fair degree. This would be evident in practice.
Although there would be a Ferrari 375 and some older Talbot-Lago T26Cs entered in the race, the pole would end up going to Giuseppe Farina in the new Ferrari 625. Even 2nd on the starting grid would go to Hawthorn in his new 625. In fact, as Maurice Trintignant lined up to start in the 3rd, and final, spot on the front row, it became very apparent there wasn't a single old Formula One car on the front row.
The front would end up being of little worry to Gerard. He would have enough trouble getting up to pace in his Cooper-Bristol that his main concern would be not starting dead-last. Thankfully, he would have Johnny Claes to help him out with that. Gerard's best time of two minutes and twenty-eight seconds would only be good enough to start from 14th on the grid, which was the second-to-last position on the sixth, and final, row. Though close, Claes would end up saving Gerard from starting dead-last. He had some room to play with; however, as Claes would still be more than six seconds slower than Gerard.
Although he would start at the back for the 60 lap race, it would be where he finished that would be of greatest importance. In addition, if Gerard could keep running over the course of the race it was likely there would be others that would not make, and therefore, it meant Gerard would only improve upon his starting position.
The start would see the front row remain pretty much in station. Farina and Hawthorn would be at the front chased by Trintignant and the rest of the field. The older Talbot-Lagos would be no match for even the newer Formula 2 cars; this would be evident right away.
Help for Gerard would come straightaway. Elie Bayol would be out before even completing a single lap. Gearbox-related issues would also force Yves Giraud-Cabantous out after just four laps. Gerard's own pace would further help him move up the order as well. He would get by Stirling Moss who was fading in his Cooper-Alta Special. John Lyons would also falter and would slip back behind Gerard in the running.
Up front, it was all Farina and Hawthorn. These two Ferrari pilots would absolutely leave the rest of the field behind. Their pace was such that not even 3rd place would be safe from going a lap down. Hooked up like two train cars, Farina and Hawthorn decimated the rest of the field to the point the race was over really before it even began. The only question was, 'Who would win between the two of them?'
While Hawthorn would turn the fastest lap time of the race, it would be Farina that would appear around the tight hairpin turn at Paradis first. Hawthorn would be right there as they powered their way to the finish line. However, it would be Farina taking the victory by just a little more than a second over Hawthorn in one of the most dominant displays of the season. Philippe Etancelin would end up coming across the line to finish a lowly 3rd. He would be more than three laps down when he crossed the line.
It would have seemed good for Gerard, and yet, at the same time, it wasn't. Gerard had managed to fight his way from a 14th starting spot on the grid to finish the race 8th. He was just thirty seconds or so behind Louis Rosier in his old Ferrari 375, but he would end up four laps behind Farina and Hawthorn by the finish.
In spite of being more than ten minutes behind Farina and Hawthorn at the finish, the race had been another good effort from Gerard. His gritty, determined performances were overcoming poor starting positions and turning what could have been bad into something rather good. The reliability of the car had been perfect. If he could just put everything together he would have an impressive year. And with the French Grand Prix next on the schedule, it would have been a good time to bring it all together.
Bob Gerard's first World Championship race in over a year would come on the 5th of July in Reims, France. The race was the French Grand Prix. It would be 60 laps of the Reims circuit and it would end up becoming one of the most memorable races in grand prix history.
While it was just the fourth French Grand Prix in World Championship history, the race would actually be the 40th French Grand Prix in all motor racing history. And the race would take place at an old favorite. After a year hiatus, which would see Rouen-les-Essarts host the World Championship, Reims was back as the home of the French Grand Prix. The drivers and teams would come back to Reims and would find a different layout to the circuit.
Though already changed in 1952, the circuit would be further changed in 1953. The circuit would still use entirely public roads traversing the slightly rolling countryside between Reims and Gueux. However, the circuit would be longer. 4.44 miles long in 1952, the circuit would be 5.18 miles in length for 1953. It would include a fast, sweeping right-hand bend called Annie Bousquet and another tight hairpin turn known as Muizon. But the Muizon hairpin would cause the trip down the already long Route Nationale 31 to be even longer. This meant higher speeds and more slipstreaming. It was believed the changes would make the racing closer; nobody, however, would have any idea of just how close it would end up being.
The first clue would come in practice. Alberto Ascari would take the pole in his Ferrari. His best time around the circuit would be two minutes, forty-one and two-tenths seconds. This time would be just three-tenths faster than Felice Bonetto who would start on the front row in 2nd. Luigi Villoresi would start also from the front row in the 3rd position and his time would only be seven-tenths slower. The top five on the starting grid would all be within a second of each other.
Amazingly, Bob Gerard would find himself not too far behind. His best lap in the Cooper-Bristol T23 would be two minutes and fifty-four seconds. While thirteen seconds slower, it was still good enough to start the race 12th and in the middle of the fifth row. In fact, other than Mike Hawthorn, he was the fastest Briton on the starting grid.
The day of the race, the weather would be sunny, hot and very dry. These would be tough conditions for teams at a circuit notoriously tough on cars as it was. However, when the race started, it seemed all of the front-running Ferrari and Maserati pilots put all fears aside as just went at it as hard as they could.
Jose Froilan Gonzalez would be out front with half full fuel tanks. Behind him, the Ferraris would stretch across the road and would run line-abreast at multiple points on the circuit, especially down the long straights. Literally right behind the Ferraris, would be the Maseratis of Fangio, Bonetto and Onofre Marimon. The sight was truly incredible to behold. These professional drivers would often power their way down straights, and even through some of the corners, side-by-side and close enough to have been able to read what kind of rpms the other was pulling.
This Juggernaut of seven to eight cars was steamrolling the rest of the field. Even other drivers in comparable cars, like Emmanuel de Graffenried in his Maserati, would struggle, and eventually, fail to keep pace.
Gerard would certainly be one that wouldn't be expected to keep pace with the front-runners. And though he wasn't, he was still doing impressively well. He was managing to fight for position and would even battle to move forward against some cars considered a little better than his Cooper-Bristol T23.
The first half of the race was truly something special to behold and would be greatly appreciated by the thousands upon thousands of racing fans that had gathered to watch the race. However, the second half would literally bring the crowd to its feet and would leave them hoarse when it would be all said and done.
By the halfway point of the race, the field of twenty-five had been reduced to seventeen. The pace of the race had taken its toll. Then the nature of the circuit did its part to help reduce the number as well. Some crowd favorites, like Maurice Trintignant, Elie Bayol and Harry Schell had all retired from the race. About half of the retirements would be the result of engine-related problems while the other half would be transmission-related. Gerard continued to impress as he was still in the running and was actually one of the higher running chassis types that wasn't either a Ferrari or a Maserati.
Also at halfway, Gonzalez would pit for another half tank of fuel and would drop down to 5th place when returning to the race. This would set the stage for one of the most impressive races in grand prix history.
By this time, Mike Hawthorn and Juan Manuel Fangio were running 1st and 2nd, but it was so close that neither one could be listed in 1st or 2nd. In addition, it seemed to change about every quarter of a lap. The spectators would begin to cheer more and more loudly as they would see Hawthorn and Fangio powering their way, often side-by-side, down the front straight and into the first turn. This would go on each and every lap with neither driver giving the other an inch, and yet, even waiting for the other if lapped traffic threatened to break up the racing. It was truly a remarkable sight as Hawthorn would actually make room so that he and Fangio could continue to race side-by-side past some lapped traffic, which incidentally likely would have been Gerard.
The furious pace of the first half of the race would explode into a sprint during the second. And yet, throughout 40 to 50 laps of it, the top six, which were all considered the best drivers in the world, would be within sight of each other if not much, much closer than that.
As the final laps neared, the nerves of team manages had become quite ragged after watching the best drivers and best cars fight it out, often with mere inches between them. However, the awe-inspiring sight would not be lost on the drivers who were involved. Not only would the lapped traffic slow just so they could watch the action, but even drivers like Luigi Villoresi would make gestures indicating that he too recognized just how special, and crazy, the race had been.
Just a lap away from the end, Gerard was still running, albeit a ways back. He had managed to come back after a year away and was not only holding on, but looking strong. It seemed as if his car never broke. Driving an intelligent and fast race, Gerard was right there near the top ten as the end neared.
Fangio and Hawthorn were right there battling for the lead and the victory heading into the final lap of the race. Going through the first turn, Hawthorn held position but had Fangio within a couple of arm-lengths. The two would be like this throughout the winding back portion of the circuit. Approaching the Muizon hairpin, just a half a lap remained in the race. The crowd along the start/finish straight waited with great expectation to see who would round the last corner first.
Coming off the Muizon hairpin, the crowd could hear the two cars power their way up to top speed hurtling down the long Route Nationale 31 straight toward the Thillois hairpin, the last turn before heading to the finish line.
The two would be side-by-side heading down the straight. Hawthorn held the inside while it was clear Fangio was going to try and go around the outside. Approaching the turn, it would become a game to see who would brake last. Hawthorn would not be outdone by Fangio. This would cause Fangio to be badly out of position going into the final corner and would cause him to lose a lot of momentum.
The excited, screaming fans would see Hawthorn coming around the last corner first. It was down to the long drag race up the sloping ground to the finish line. Hawthorn's move had allowed him to pull out a bit of an advantage over Fangio. Fangio, however, was coming under threat from his Maserati teammate Gonzalez. The lost momentum threw him back into the clutches of his teammate.
After two hours and forty-four minutes of one of the most exception races in history, Hawthorn would take his first-ever World Championship victory. He would cross the line a second in front of Fangio. Fangio would press as hard as he could on the gas coming down the straight. He was fighting for his life against his teammate. Approaching the line, Gonzalez had his front tires pull even with Fangio's rear wheels, but he would run out of straight. Fangio would take 2nd by just four-tenths of a second.
The crowd went wild. It had been one of the most impressive displays of professional driving. For 60 laps the best drivers in the world fought each other cleanly and never backed off at any moment in time. It was truly one of the greatest races in grand prix history.
It would also be one of the greatest performances by Bob Gerard, although hardly anybody would notice as a result of the incredibly display put on by the Ferrari and Maserati drivers. Ferraris and Maseratis would occupy the first nine places in the results. After that, in 10th place would come a Gordini T16 driven by Jean Behra. After Behra's T16 would come a Cooper-Bristol T23, and it would be driven by Gerard.
In his first World Championship race in more than a year, he would manage to finish 11th. As with qualifying, next to Hawthorn, Gerard would be the highest-placed Briton in the race results. Though five laps down at the end, it had been a truly amazing, and overlooked performance for Gerard.
Only two weeks separated the French and British rounds of the World Championship. As a result of the closeness of the two dates, Gerard would not take part in any other grand prix race. He would take his time heading back across the channel and journeying back him. He would take the time to prepare his Cooper-Bristol for perhaps the most important World Championship race, at least in his mind.
A very patriotic man, the British Grand Prix would be an important race for Gerard to do well in. He had fought hard over the five previous races and had come away with good results in every single one of them. On the 18th of July, Gerard would need and would be praying for yet another.
He was back at Silverstone. Formerly an RAF bomber base during World War II, the base would be come to be abandoned after the war. But in 1948, the Royal Auto Club would purchase the title to the base and would end up holding the first British Grand Prix at the circuit that very same year. Gerard had been there for that first British Grand Prix held at Silverstone and would end up 3rd in that race. Some five years later, Gerard was back. And while a 3rd place finish certainly seemed to be an unrealistic desire, he had proven over the course of his previous races that he could go out and earn a quality result.
Qualifying would be more of the same from every other World Championship race on the season. The first seven positions on the starting grid would be held by either a Ferrari or Maserati entry. Ascari would earn the highest starting honor by setting the fastest lap during practice. The fastest lap time during the International Trophy race back in May had been one minute and fifty-one seconds. However, with the presence of drivers such as Ascari, Fangio. Farina and others, the lap times would drop down so that Ascari would take the pole with a time of one minute and forty-eight seconds. The rest of the front row would be Jose Froilan Gonzalez in 2nd, Mike Hawthorn delighting the British crowd with a 3rd place starting position and Juan Manuel Fangio completing the front row starting in 4th.
Once again, Gerard would be rather impressive in qualifying. But unfortunately, he wouldn't be anywhere near as fast as what he had qualified for the International Trophy race earlier on in the season. Compared to a time of one minute and fifty-four seconds for the race back in May, Gerard would only manage to turn a lap of two minutes and two seconds in qualifying for the British Grand Prix. As a result, Gerard would start further down in the field; it was still a very good starting position on the grid. He would start from the outside of the fifth row in 18th.
In usual English fashion, the start of the 90 lap race would take place under cloudy skies. Before the race would end, those cloudy skies would drop some rain making for an interesting race when it was all said and done.
The interesting aspect to the race would exist toward the back of the grid as the excitement at the front would end just after the first turn at Copse. In still dry conditions, Fangio would make a great start and would lead going into the first turn. However, he would go in a little too fast and too wide and would have to back off the power. This mistake would allow Ascari to come through into the lead with Fangio slotting in behind in 2nd place. Almost as soon as Ascari swept through into the lead of the race it was practically over from that moment onwards.
Everything that needed to be worked out over the course of the 90 laps would be worked out behind Ascari. A couple of results would get worked out before the completion of a single lap when Kenneth McAlpine and Tony Crook would fail to barely make it away from the starting grid. Harry Schell would be out of the equation after just five laps due to a magneto failure.
Up front, it was still Ascari and he was beginning to draw away from the rest of the field. His efforts to set the fastest lap of the race would help his cause. Fangio still ran in the 2nd place position and he too was beginning to draw away from the rest of the field. His escape would be aided by the coming rains.
After six strong races in which Gerard's car was indestructible, he would find out his car was indeed put together by human hands at the least desirable moment. He had gone to the French Grand Prix and had outlasted the notoriously tough Reims circuit. But here, in his home grand prix, his car would finally run into problems. After just eight laps, Gerard would notice oil and would begin throwing some onto the circuit. It would be found the oil pipe had broken. Nonetheless, his British Grand Prix was over. He had finally had his first retirement of the season and it couldn't have happened at a worse time.
Up at the front of the field, Ascari was having the time of his life, even despite the presence of the falling rain. He and Fangio were well out in front of the rest of the field. Hawthorn's challenge to take the victory in front of the home crowd would come apart at the seams early on when he would lose control in the rain and would spin off the circuit. He would recover but would be well out of the running after that. Of course, just about everyone but Fangio was out of the running for the victory.
Heading onto the last lap of the race, only Fangio remained on the lead lap with Ascari. Unfortunately, he wouldn't be close enough to really challenge Ascari. Therefore, Ascari would cruise to what was his fourth, and perhaps most important, victory of the season. Fangio had been the only one that managed to keep on the same lap with Ascari. Even still, he would end up crossing the line exactly one minute after Ascari. Alberto had averaged more than 92 mph, even in the wet conditions. For this reason alone the rest of the field was left behind. Although Giuseppe Farina would make it a Ferrari 1st and 3rd, he would cross the line two laps behind Ascari! Absolutely no one was any better in the wet than Ascari that day. Some seventeen others would find that not only Ascari, but attrition, had beaten them. Surprisingly, mechanical troubles would severely lay waste to the field.
Attrition would severely lay waste to Gerard's comeback to the World Championship. Although he had done exceedingly well at the French Grand Prix, the British Grand Prix was the one he cared about the most and it would come to an end even before reaching ten laps. This certainly had to be bitterly disappointing. It also marked the first time all season in which Gerard had not actually improved over the course of a race. He had hoped this wasn't a sign of things to come.
After the disappointment of the British Grand Prix, Gerard would turn his focus back on non-championship races. Gerard needed to get right back behind the wheel in order to overcome the disappointment of his short lived World Championship experience. Therefore, just one week later, Bob was back at Snetterton for what was the 2nd United States Air Force Trophy race.
Gerard would join a majority of British talent to take part in a 15 lap race around the 2.70 mile Snetterton circuit. Actually, it would be just one of a number of races held on the 25th of July.
Even before the event would get underway a dark cloud of sadness and tragedy hung over the circuit. Bobbie Baird had been driving his Ferrari in one of the supporting races. During the race he would lose control of his car. It would turn sideways and would begin to roll numerous times. Unfortunately, Baird wouldn't be thrown clear and would perish in the crash. Needless to say this would put a damper on the mood of the rest of the events, including the United States Air Force Trophy.
Gerard was looking for a good race in order to lift his mood after the disappointing British Grand Prix the previous week. With Roy Salvadori and Tony Rolt in the field, he wouldn't have an easy task of earning a top result. Nonetheless, when the race started, Bob would be immediately on the pace.
Thirteen cars roared away at the start of the race. Two cars wouldn't make it much past the first corner before they would be out of the race. Therefore, only eleven cars were still running after just one lap.
Gerard knew he needed to push hard to not only do well in the race, but also, overcome the retirement from the week before. He would be on the gas and he would be fast. In fact, he would be so fast he would go on to set what would be the fastest lap of the race with a time of one minute and fifty-one seconds. Tony Rolt was out front, but a time, such as what Gerard would post, would help him keep the pressure on.
The attrition continued to come. A couple more wouldn't last much past two laps. Kenneth McAlpine would be one of two more that would end up out of the race before the end. This left just seven cars circulating trying to make it to the end of the 15lap race.
Salvadori came to the race driving a Bristol-powered Frazer Nash and wouldn't end up figuring in the fight for the top. Gerard; however, would. His pace chasing Rolt would enable the two to separate from Leslie Marr and Horace Gould. The victory would come down to the battle between the two.
Rolt would be extremely tough in his Connaught A-Type. Despite Gerard's best efforts, Rolt would go on to take the victory. He would complete the race distance in twenty-eight minutes and twenty-one seconds and would cross the line around two seconds in front of Gerard. Leslie Marr would follow nearly seven seconds later in 3rd place.
Although victory was just two seconds up ahead on the road the 2nd place was still a good result for Bob coming off the disappointment suffered at Silverstone. This would help to restore his confidence going into the remaining races of the season. One thing that would help him to continue to move forward and keep his confidence up would be the fact the races would come much more rapidly during the later part of the summer months.
In mid-August, Gerard would pack up his Cooper-Bristol and would make his way north. He would travel from his base in the Midlands and would head just across the border into Scotland. His destination was the former airbase known as Charterhall. On the 15th of August it would host the 2nd Newcastle Journal Trophy race at its 1.99 mile circuit.
Gerard would join a host of other Cooper and Connaught entries for a 50 lap race around the Charterhall circuit. Charterhall had the dubious nickname of 'Slaughter Hall'. It had come to earn the unfortunate nickname as a result of the type of training that went on at the base. RAF Charterhall was a night-fighter training base during World War II. Already a very dangerous craft, training for night-fighting would be even more dangerous. As a result, a number of pilots would lose their life flying around the Border region of Scotland. As with a whole slew of former airbases, Charterhall would become an ideal location to host motor racing events after the war.
In all, eighteen would start the race. Bob would find himself surrounded by a number of very competitive Connaughts and one very competitive Cooper-Bristol T23. The main contention would be clearly between Ken Wharton and his T23 and the Connaughts driven by Roy Salvadori and Ron Flockhart.
Stirling Moss would be present in the race with his Cooper-Alta Special and would look good early. Unfortunately, he would also run into trouble. The fuel injection in his car would fail and his day would be over. This reduced the number of strong competitors, but only by one. Gerard would find there were still more than enough to deal with.
Gerard would look good throughout the proceedings. He would fight hard and would give it everything he had to keep in contact with the lead group. His fight and gritty determination would be too much for Tony Rolt, who had been following behind him. Soon, Gerard would pull away from Rolt and would end up the last car on the lead lap.
By the end of the race, there would only be eight cars still running. John Coombs would suffer from brake failure. Every single Frazer Nash entered in the race would retire with some kind of ailment. And Jack Fairman would suffer a big incident in his Lea Francis-powered Turner.
The pace of Wharton, Salvadori and Flockhart was just too much for the rest of the field. Each one would match the fastest lap of the race time. These three would just end up pulling away from Gerard over the course of the event.
The only real question would be what would the order be of the final results? It seemed certain that Gerard would cross the line to finish in 4th, but who would win? Wharton's consistently fast pace would pay dividends over the course of the event. As the race neared the final lap, he would enjoy a lead of nearly thirty seconds. He would keep the car under control and would just cruise across the line to take the victory. Salvadori would end up finishing the race 2nd about five seconds in front of Flockhart. Unable to really hang with the top three, Gerard would just settle into a pace he could turn lap after lap and it would be more than good enough for him to finish 4th.
Yet another good result for Gerard on the season. It had been truly amazing; the only retirement on the season in grand prix races had been the most important World Championship race at Silverstone. Putting that behind him, Bob would continue to focus on doing as well as he possibly could in every race he would take part throughout the remainder of the season.
There would be some time off with the Swiss and Italian Grand Prix coming up on the schedule. However, Gerard would not take part in either of these races and would instead take part in the 9 Hour of Goodwood and the Tourist Trophy sports car races. It wouldn't be until September before he would settle back in behind the wheel of his T23 for another grand prix.
After a month away from grand prix racing, Gerard would be back at the wheel of his T23 preparing to take part in the 1st London Trophy race. As its name would suggest, the London Trophy race would take place in London at the Crystal Palace Park on the 19th. The race was a two heat and aggregate scoring race around the 1.34 mile temporary Crystal Palace circuit.
As with many of the races in which Bob took part, he wouldn't just be at Crystal Palace to take part in the grand prix race. The day would also include a series of other formula races including Formula 3. During that race, Gerard would perform well and would give Stirling Moss a lift back to the pits after Moss' carburetor fell off during the race.
Named for the cast-iron and glass building that had originally been built for the Great Exhibition in Hyde Park in 1851 and later moved to the location of the historic oak tree known as The Vicars Oak in 1854, Crystal Palace certainly wasn't the typical grand prix circuit. Quite short, the circuit bordered the park and would still actually boast of some decent speeds in spite of its short nature. This was made so by some sweeping curves and fast kinks. Set up on a ridge, the circuit would also feature a bit of elevation change over the course of a lap. Drivers would be faced with a steep climb right from the start that wouldn't reach its zenith until heading down the Terrace back-straight.
In practice, nobody would be faster around the circuit than Moss. He would recover from losing his carburetor in the Formula 3 race to take the pole in the Formula 2 event. He would be joined on the front row by Tony Rolt and Ron Flockhart. Gerard would start right behind the front row. He would start 5th and in the middle of the three-wide second row.
Flockhart wouldn't start the race. It wouldn't really matter all that much as a titanic battle between Stirling Moss and Tony Rolt would ensue, which would leave the rest of the field somewhat staggering behind.
Throughout the first 10 lap heat race Moss and Rolt would trade blows. It seemed never more than a car length separated the two at any moment of the race. Rodney Nuckey had started actually 3rd with Flockhart's withdraw, but he just could not handle the pace and would slip down a spot in the order. That one spot he would drop would be the result of Gerard's pace. He was the only one really capable of turning laps even near what Moss and Rolt were, but even still, it wouldn't be enough.
The fight between Moss and Rolt would go absolutely down to the line. Coming to the finish, Moss was fighting hard to hold off Rolt. When he crossed the line he would beat Rolt by just half a car length, or about four-tenths of a second. Gerard would look once again. He would be steady and fast and would finish in 3rd about sixteen seconds behind Moss.
The second 10 lap heat would see more of the same and a disappointing end. Like two championship fighters, when the bell rang to start the second heat, Moss and Rolt would go right back at it. However, Flockhart would be in the mix this time.
Flockhart would try and make up for lost time. Because it was impossible for him to win the aggregate scoring of the race he was free to try everything he could to take the win in the second heat. He would certainly do his best as he would turn the fastest lap of the heat. However, it wouldn't be enough to challenge the consistently fast pace of Moss and Rolt.
Gerard had looked good in the first heat; he wouldn't in the second. He would end up retiring from the race before the end of the 10 laps, and therefore, would be out of the running for the overall results. This was just his second retirement on the season, but that stat wouldn't really run through his mind at the time.
The fight between Moss and Rolt would continue to rage but the two would tire before the end would be reached. Moss would get the better of Rolt this day. Coming to the line to complete the second heat, Moss would enjoy a two second margin of victory over Rolt. Rolt conceded the heat and the race to a man he greatly respected. Flockhart would end up finishing the heat in 3rd. However, in the final results it would Horace Gould that would take 3rd.
The light on the grand prix season was growing a little long. Only a few more races remained. Gerard would want to overcome the latest retirement and would want to get back to his usually bullet-proof ways. To help recover, he would head back to the same location as where he season had kicked-off.
On the 26th of September, Bob would be back at Goodwood to take part in another series of races including the 6th Madgwick Cup race, which was yet another 7 lap race around the 2.39 mile circuit.
Gerard would face a number of familiar competitors. Stirling Moss, Roy Salvadori and Tony Rolt would all be present along with Ken Wharton, Leslie Marr and others. There would be sixteen in all that would end up qualifying for the short event.
The list of usual suspects would certainly be at the forefront of everybody's mind, especially after qualifying. Roy Salvadori would end up being the fastest in his Connaught. Right next to Salvadori on the pole would be Stirling Moss in his Cooper-Alta Special. Tony Rolt would keep the alternation going as he would start 3rd in another Connaught. And Gerard would complete the front row starting 4th with his Cooper-Bristol T23. Gerard and the others would certainly have to watch out for Wharton during the race. He had just missed starting from the front row and instead was right behind Salvadori and Moss.
Savladori would have these talented drivers all over him at the start of the race. Wharton would end up getting a good start and would be battling with Gerard for his 4th place in the running order. Tony Rolt and Stirling Moss seemed destined to pick up yet another heavyweight boxing match as the two would again be within a car length of each other at just about every portion of the circuit.
The battle the rest of the field would have would be just to finish the short race. Some, like Paul Emery and Duncan Hamilton, would find that hard enough. Emery wouldn't even start the race while Hamilton wouldn't make it through one lap. From them on, attrition would seem to take out a competitor a lap until there were only nine still running by the end.
The struggle between Moss and Rolt would play into Salvadori's hands. Aided by setting the fastest lap of the race, Salvadori would manage to escape from the two, but only by mere seconds. Of course, less than a second would separate Moss and Rolt at all times. This fight would end up leaving Wharton behind who managed to get by Gerard. Gerard was still running incredibly well. While many drivers would find their cars become more fragile as the season would wear on, it seemed Gerard's T23 was as reliable as ever even late into the season.
Salvadori was managing over 89 mph a lap and as he rounded Woodcote he had the finish line in sight. He would carefully make his way through the corner and would put his foot on it. He would take the win completing the distance in just eleven minutes and fifteen seconds. The battle between Rolt and Moss would be another incredibly tight duel right to the finish line. At the line it would be Moss once again by just a half a car length. These two would end up crossing the line about three seconds behind Salvadori.
Wharton would be the next to come around Woodcote and power his way across the line. He would have about seven or more seconds in hand over Gerard who would finish in 5th place.
This was yet another solid performance by the man from Leicester. Throughout the season he had only suffered a couple of retirements. What was perhaps most remarkable was the fact that he finished inside the top five at practically every single one of the races in which he was still running. The Madgwick Cup would be no exception. All in all, Gerard's level of reliability over the course of the season had been truly remarkable and enviable.
Only a couple of major grand prix races remained on the season's calendar. The days were growing shorter and colder; the season was almost at an end. Of course, what Gerard would have liked to earn before the end of the season would be a victory. As it would turn out, he would have just two more chances to get it.
The first of those two chances would come on the 3rd of October, one week after the Madgwick Cup race at Goodwood. Gerard would travel to a new venue he hadn't competed at in a Formula 2 race at any point in the season, but was certainly a circuit with which he was familiar.
On the 3rd of October the Castle Combe circuit would host the 2nd Je Fry Memorial Trophy race. The race named in honor of the late Joe Fry would be a 20 lap affair contested on Castle Combe's 1.83 mile circuit.
The race, which would be comprised of some fifteen entries, would end up being a wild, and almost tragic, race. It would be helped by the nature of the circuit itself. As with practically every other circuit upon which Gerard would take part in a race during 1953, the circuit had actually begun life as RAF Castle Combe in May of 1941. Part of the Castle Combe estate owned by the Gorst family, the airfield would be used as a training base for one of the Service Flying Training Schools and would be used for practicing landings. The field would remain in service until 1948. Then, in 1950, the grounds would open once again, but as a motor racing venue. Unlike Silverstone, Charterhall and the others Castle Combe would strictly use the perimeter road for its circuit layout. This was due to the fact the airfield made use of mostly grass runways.
The circuit's layout around the old grass runways made for one fast circuit. Only a couple of the corners around the layout would be considered slower corners. Most all of the others were fast corners that required great bravery and skill to be fast. Filled with numerous fast kinks, it was also a circuit in which a driver could get terribly wrong terribly fast.
After the very first lap of the race Moss would get a portion terribly wrong in his Cooper-JAP. As a result, he would roll his car and would be somewhat trapped underneath it. Tony Rolt would forego taking advantage of the moment and would actually stop to help the man with whom he had had many inspiring battles as of late. With Rolt's help, Moss would be extracted from the car and would only suffer a fractured shoulder. This would be the second time a fellow competitor stopped to help Moss out. Gerard had done so during a Formula 3 race back at Crystal Palace.
Gerard figured he had already done his civic duty, plus with Rolt's presence there helping Moss, he would then decide to carry on. He was fast around the circuit. It suited his style of driving. As a result, he would be battling for the lead and would look exceedingly good. Spirits and expectations were beginning to rise for him.
Throughout the rest of the field, it seemed drivers were flirting with danger all over the place. While Gerard would come to believe in his chances for a good result there would be others that would just hope to make it out of Castle Combe alive. Besides Moss' big shunt, Kenneth McAlpine would suffer a big accident but would walk away. Ron Searles lost a wheel and could have had a horrible accident but would manage to safely retire from the race. Even Roy Salvadori would end up out of the race, but for less dramatic reasons.
Such decimation would open the door to Gerard and he would take advantage of the opportunity. The incredibly reliability in which Gerard had been enjoying throughout the season was about to pay off. Throughout the early part of the year he had been progressively improving at each and every race. By the end of the just his second or third race all that he had left to achieve would be a victory. With victory in sight in the 20 lap Joe Fry Memorial race he would put his foot down and would give it everything he had.
Gerard was certainly focused and intent on scoring his first victory of the season in Formula 2. He would make sure all comers understood he wasn't about to part with a possible victory as he would turn what would be the fastest lap of the race with a time of just one minute and sixteen seconds.
Such a pace would demoralize the rest of the field. Averaging nearly 85 mph, Gerard would easily take his first victory of the season. He would cross the finish line having completed the distance in twenty-five minutes and fifty-six seconds. Horace Gould would be the 2nd place finisher. He would only be twenty-four seconds behind at the finish. Ken Wharton would be the 3rd place finisher and he would be nearly forty-five seconds behind.
Gerard had finally done it! He had come back to the major level of grand prix racing and had scored a victory. What's more, he still had one more race in which he would take part before the end of the season. Could he actually make it two in a row?
Two weeks after the Joe Fry Memorial Trophy race held at Castle Combe, the final major grand prix race in England, and pretty much all of Europe, would be set to take place at Snetterton. On the 17th of October, Snetterton prepared to host the 1st Curtis Trophy race. It would be just 15 laps of the 2.70 mile circuit; virtually the last laps of the 1953 season.
The field would be rather small for the final race of the season. Eleven cars would make the trip to the circuit to take part in the race. However, after Rodney Nuckey's accident in practice, only ten would take the start of the race.
The starting field would include Ron Flockhart, Roy Salvadori, Eric Thompson, Kenneth McAlpine and a few others. Certainly Gerard had to be considered one of the favorites going into the race.
Gerard had an opportunity to end the season with two-straight victories and he knew it. Right from the start of the race he would be fast. Of course, his bid to earn a second-straight victory would receive some help right away. Not only would he be fast, which would help, but also, three of the strongest competitors in the race would all fall out of the running without having completed a single lap.
Flockhart's gearbox would brake on the grid and would bring about the end of his race. Salvadori wouldn't last much further before he would also have to retire. Of the three, Thompson would make it the furthest, but even he wouldn't complete a single lap of the race. Then, eight laps into the race, McAlpine would suffer yet another accident and would be out of the race as well. This left just six cars still running in the race. And given Gerard's pace right from the early stages of the race, they didn't stand much of a chance.
Bob would put his foot to the floor and would go on to set the fastest lap of the race, which, with the help of the retirements of the stronger competitors, would allow him to absolutely pull away and decimate the rest of the field. Gerard's pace over the course of the race would be such that as he approached the last couple of laps, just to save his competitors some embarrassment, he would actually slow down.
It would take just thirty-three minutes and forty-five seconds, and an average speed of a little more than 72 mph for Gerard to take his second-straight victory on the season. Only 2nd place would remain on the lead lap by the end. And even then, Gerard would slow down just to ensure it would happen. Les Leston would be the fortunate soul that would be spared from going a lap down. Jimmy Somervail in 3rd, and the rest of the field, would not be so blessed.
The final race of the season would see Gerard put a stamp of dominance on the entire proceedings. He was so fast that no one stood a chance. His fast lap of the race took just two minutes and eight seconds. Leston, who would finish 2nd, would cross the line at the finish some two minutes and twenty-eight seconds behind. Obviously Gerard slowed over the course of the remaining couple of laps just to make it all look better, more competitive, than what it really was. What a way to end the season. And yet, while he would end up with two-straight victories in the last two races of the season, he undoubtedly would have liked to have the British Grand Prix back again to try all over. Instead, he would have to wait and try again the following year.
Changes were coming for the 1954 season. Once again, he would need to make adjustments to his existing car to make it as competitive as possible for the new Formula One regulations. It seemed as though it was the ERA-era all over again. But that wouldn't really bother Gerard all that much. He certainly seemed more than capable of handling it; at least that is what history seemed to say.