TeamsG.A. Vandervell, Vandervell Products: 1954 Formula One Season By Jeremy McMullen
Fed up with the seemingly inept and costly BRM project Tony Vandervell began looking into starting his own team. In 1951, Vandervell would field a team under his own name. The team would use Ferraris rebadged as Thinwall Specials. However, in 1954, Vanwall would make its debut.
Guy Anthony 'Tony' Vandervell would earn a fortune as an industrialist. The vast majority of that wealth would come from his creation of the Thin-Wall bearing that would be widely used during the dark days of World War II, and then, would be highly sought after for motor racing afterward.
The revolutionary bearing would make Vandervell, and his product, widely sought after, even by such manufacturers as Ferrari. This would enable Tony to negotiate the use of Ferrari chassis. At the same time, the Thin-Wall bearing would be one of the main elements of Raymond Mays' vision of a very dominant British motor racing team called BRM.
Throughout its early years of existence, BRM would become more of an embarrassment than a source of national pride. Much of what the team was doing was revolutionary and, as a result, the project would endure a number of delays and early retirements in races. Disenchanted with the whole thing, Vandervell decided that he could do it better. Of course, he would start out much more simply.
Drawing on his relationships with people like Enzo Ferrari, Vandervell would use Ferrari chassis and would make some modifications. As a result, the cars would become known as Thinwall Specials named after the bearings that made Vandervell famous. This experience would provide Vandervell and his team the necessary exposure to grand prix racing, and car building.
The decision to conduct the World Championship according to Formula 2 regulations would cause Vandervell to slip out of the World Championship picture. Well aware that the governing-body was merely playing for time in order to get the new Formula One regulations formulated, Tony would focus on designing and building his own chassis that would adhere to the new Formula One regulations that were to go into effect for the 1954 season.
It would take some time to design and build a car for the Formula One World Championship. Therefore, it was not at all surprising that the new car was not ready by the time the 1954 grand prix season got underway.
Not only would the team not make it to the first round of the World Championship, the Argentine Grand Prix held in January of 1954, but the team would not even have an entry for a race until the middle of April.
On the 19th of April, Goodwood motor racing circuit prepared to host its Easter races. The Easter races were a number of short events that would feature many different classes of motor races. One of those races was the Lavant Cup. Named for a nearby village, it was to be the 6th Lavant Cup race and Vandervell had an entry for the event with his newly made Vanwall 01 chassis.
There was a great deal of excitement surrounding this short 7 lap race as it was widely believed Alberto Ascari, the defending double world champion himself, would be the new car's driver for the race. However, all of the excitement and elation would be lost as the car would still not be ready in time for the race, and therefore, the team would not arrive at Goodwood to take part in the race.
It would be nearly a month before G.A. Vandervell and the Vanwall 01 would make its appearance. Then, on the 15th of May, at the 6th BRDC International Trophy race held at Silverstone, the Vanwall would be unloaded and the team prepared to go racing.
Vanwall would come to Silverstone with a mere glimpse of its true potential as the car would come with a 2.0-liter engine instead of the 2.5-liter engines allowed by the new Formula One regulations. However, time was already beginning to run short and the British Grand Prix was just a couple of months away at this point.
Also, for this race, Vandervell would sign Alan Brown to a single race deal. Brown was known as a skilled and a very methodical, steady driver. This would make Brown an ideal candidate for taking the new car and, in essence, 'shaking it down'.
Of course, the race itself would be a great test session for the team and the new car. The International Trophy race was known as one of the bigger non-championship races, at least in England. It would draw tough competition from all over Europe. And given the fact the race would take place on the same circuit as the British Grand Prix a couple of months later, it all made sense that Vandervell's team would be present at this race.
Situated on the border between Buckinghamshire and Northamptonshire, Silverstone would first host the International Trophy race in 1949. Just one year before, the former Royal Air Force bomber training base would play host to the first British Grand Prix since the beginning of World War II. However, the circuit used between the two races would be quite different. The British Grand Prix held at Silverstone in 1948 would make abundant use of the former airbases' multiple runways. Then, in preparation for the International Trophy race in 1949, the layout of the circuit would change to the much more familiar 2.88 miles of perimeter road.
The International Trophy race was to take place in the middle of May, a prime time for England's infamous wet weather. And the 1954 edition of the race would be no different. While the conditions would not quite be like the monsoon conditions that shortened the event in 1951, they would still be treacherous and difficult for the teams, cars and drivers.
As with the previous years of the International Trophy race, the 1954 edition of the event would follow the same format including two heat races and a final. The heat races were 15 laps in length covering a total distance of 44 miles. Then, the final would be 35 laps covering another 102 miles.
While Vandervell would come with just its single chassis, it would be going up against Scuderia Ferrari who would come to the event with three cars. Equipe Gordini would also be at the race with a couple of cars of its own. When combined with the numerous other small teams and privateers, the entire field would be filled with some incredibly strong competition.
Brown and the Vanwall 01 would be listed in the first heat. In that heat, Brown would have to contend with Ferrari's Jose Froilan Gonzalez and Umberto Maglioli and Equipe Gordini's Jean Behra. Stirling Moss would also be included in the first heat driving a Maserati 250F for Officine Alfieri Maserati.
In practice, Gonzalez would be fastest in his Ferrari 553. His best time would be one minute and forty-eight seconds securing him the pole for the 15 lap first heat race. Joining Gonzalez on the front row would be Jean Behra and Stirling Moss. Each of these two men would set best lap times of one minute and fifty-one seconds. The final position on the four-wide front row would go to the brand-new Vanwall 01 and Alan Brown. Despite driving what essentially was a Formula 2 car, Brown would post a best time just five seconds slower than Gonzalez's pole effort.
Putting together one fast lap would be entirely different than trying to string together 15-straight fast laps. This would be the reality Brown would have to face going into the actual heat race.
As the first heat got underway Gonzalez would pull out into the lead and would look very strong right from the start. Gonzalez would begin to pull away almost from the start while the rest of the field tried best it could to contend with the very wet conditions.
In the wet conditions, Brown, and the other Formula 2 pilots, would be helped as the rain would help to equalize the pace. However, over the course of 15 laps, there was very little chance of Brown being able to hold back the numerous other Formula One cars that he had managed to out-qualify. Of course, of all of those to start further down in the grid, perhaps no one expected it to be Prince Bira that would come plowing his way up through the field after starting 8th.
Being from what is now called Thailand, Bira was right at home in the incredibly wet conditions. He would get by Maglioli, Tony Rolt and Alan Brown and would soon find himself in something of a battle with Stirling Moss for 2nd place. Both Jean Behra and Brown would focus on running steady in the wet conditions. This would cost the two men some places in the running order but at least it lessened the likelihood of an accident taking them out of the race altogether.
Anchored by a fastest lap of two minutes and three seconds, Gonzalez would be pretty much untouchable throughout the first heat race. Despite the heavy rain, Gonzalez would average nearly 83 mph and would earn the victory going away over Prince Bira. Prince Bira would be locked in a battle with Moss for much of the race but would enjoy a margin of two seconds over the Brit at the line. Bira would end up being fourteen seconds behind Gonzalez.
Although Brown would lose out to the Formula One machines that started ahead, and behind him, he would still have a very impressive race. Brown would end the first heat race in 6th place more than a minute behind Gonzalez. However, Brown would end up being the first of the Formula 2 cars in the first heat, which would be a good sign for the team for not only the rest of this event, but also, for the season, especially when they got their 2.5-liter engine in the car.
It was time for the second heat race. Included in the second heat field would be Scuderia Ferrari's Maurice Trintignant. It would also include Reg Parnell and Robert Manzon also driving Ferraris. Roy Salvadori would also be part of the second heat field driving a Maserati 250F.
In practice, Trintignant would be fastest. His time of one minute and fifty-two seconds would edge Reg Parnell by mere tenths for the pole. Joining Trintignant and Parnell on the front row would be Andre Simon and Bob Gerard.
The conditions for the second heat race would be slightly better than what they had been for the first. This did not bode well for Gerard and others driving Formula 2 chassis. It certainly would help Trintignant. It also didn't seem to bother Parnell all that much either.
Parnell had won the International Trophy race back in 1951 when the flooding brought the race to an end after just 6 laps. Therefore, he was rather comfortable in wet conditions. Though not nearly as wet as what he faced back in 1951, Parnell would still be able to get after Trintignant who would have the lead of the second heat right from the very start.
Gerard would be dropped from the front runners due to the increased pace. Roy Salvadori, who had started the heat all the way down in 12th place, was absolutely hauling in the heat. He would make his way up through the field and would be threatening a top three finish had the race carried on much longer.
Trintignant would be in control throughout though he would be chased by Parnell. Helped along by a fastest lap of one minute and fifty-seven seconds, Trintignant would cruise to the victory completing the 15 laps in thirty minutes and nine seconds. This finishing time would be a minute and forty seconds quicker than Gonzalez's time from the first heat. The time would also end up being six seconds faster than Parnell who would finish in 2nd place. Forty-one seconds would be the difference between Parnell in 2nd and Robert Manzon in 3rd. Manzon's performance would also be noteworthy as he started the heat from 8th place on grid.
Twenty-four cars prepared to start the 35 lap final. Finishing times from each competitor in their respective heat would determine the grid positions. But there would be a wrinkle in this year's race. Immediately after the first heat race, Gonzalez's engine would seize in his Ferrari 553. However, instead of taking over Maglioli's car, especially since Trintignant set the fastest finishing time, it would be decided that Gonzalez would get Trintignant's car and that Maurice would take over Maglioli's. This meant Trintignant would go from the pole down to 6th in the starting grid for the final.
Beside Gonzalez on the front row would be Parnell in 2nd place, Robert Manzon in 3rd and Roy Salvadori in 4th. Alan Brown wouldn't be the highest starting Formula 2 car in the field. That honor would go to Jack Fairman starting 10th. Brown would start from the fourth row of the grid in 12th position, nearly right in the middle of the field.
Conditions would still be rather wet when the field roared away at the start of the final. Gonzalez would grab the lead and would not look back from then on. Robert Manzon's race would last just a couple of laps before his transmission failed. This presented others, like Brown an opportunity to move up in the order. Forward movement in the order would be further aided by Parnell's retirement after 5 laps due to a broken propeller shaft.
Brown was looking quite strong and was driving rather steady up inside the top ten. But he would have some tough competition around himself in the form of Tony Rolt and Bob Gerard. Prince Bira's race would end after 12 laps. It seemed Brown could earn the team a strong first finish of the season. However, after just 17 laps, providence would leave them. A busted oil pipe would signal the end of what had been a rather impressive debut for the new team.
Gonzalez was enjoying Trintignant's car. He was out front and pulling away from the rest of the field. His escape would be aided by Manzon's and Parnell's early troubles. Everyone else had to play catch up and they would be fighting an impossible uphill battle.
Averaging nearly 93 mph throughout the final, Gonzalez's pace would push the rest of the field to the brink. Stirling Moss would be yet another Formula One car that would retire from the race with mechanical troubles. Others, like Salvadori and Trintignant, would fade over the course of the race.
In the end, Gonzalez would cruise to victory completing the race distance in one hour, sixteen minutes and fifteen seconds and enjoying a margin of thirty-six seconds over Jean Behra. Behra would end up being the only one that Gonzalez would not lap before the end of the race. The first of the lapped and the overall 3rd place finisher would be Andre Simon in another Gordini T16.
The first race of the season started out strongly for the team even if it didn't yield a positive result. The car proved to be one of the fastest Formula 2 cars on the grid, and against some very strong Formula 2 competition. Excitement would run high given the 2.5-liter engine soon to be fitted to the car for the rest of the season.
After the International Trophy race on the 15th of May, the Vandervell team would next race on the 7th of June. In early June the team would finally make it to Goodwood to take part in the Whitsun Trophy races, but not exactly the race in which everyone would expect. Instead of taking part in the Formula One race, the Vandervell team would take part in the Formula Libre race.
There would be good reason for the team to take part in the Formula Libre race instead of the Formula One event. Instead of bringing their new car, the team would bring out its old Ferrari to take part in the race.
It would end up being a successful venture as Peter Collins would ride the Ferrari all the way to victory in the Formula Libre race. This would certainly help to provide the team some positive momentum heading into its first round of the World Championship coming up in just about a month.
The team would actually try and do its best to be ready in less than a month. On the 4th of July, Reims would prepare to host the French Grand Prix. The G.A. Vandervell team would do its best to prepare its new car in time to take part in the 61 lap race.
The team would have an entry in the race and it would have its driver. Peter Collins would be busy preparing to race the updated car at the ultra-fast circuit. However, the entry would not be fulfilled as the car could not be completed and readied in time to be shipped across the Channel in order to take part in the race. Instead, the car's World Championship debut would come two weeks later.
Tony Vandervell last took part in a World Championship grand prix with Peter Whitehead at the wheel of the Thin-Wall Special at the British Grand Prix in 1951. Now, on the 17th of July in the year 1954, the G.A. Vandervell team would be back, but with a new car—its Vanwall 01.
The British Grand Prix, just like in 1951, would be the fifth round of the World Championship in 1954. By this point in time, Juan Manuel Fangio had already earned three victories and was perfect thus far on the season. However, as with the French Grand Prix, Fangio would come to Silverstone driving for a different team than what he had started the season with.
Fangio's first two victories on the season had come at the wheel of a Maserati 250F. However, before the French Grand Prix, Fangio would move on to become the number one driver at Mercedes-Benz. And at the French Grand Prix, Fangio, and his teammate Karl Kling, would be absolutely dominant. There would not be a repeat of the incredible wild finish that would make the 1953 French Grand Prix one of the greatest races in history. Instead, Fangio and Kling would lap the entire field and would come across the line in dominating line abreast formation. As a result of the domination, the crowd was filled with anticipation coming into the British Grand Prix.
The Vandervell team would not be all that concerned with Fangio and Mercedes-Benz. They would have their own battle on their hands. Coming into the race the team has updated its Vanwall 01. The 2.0-liter engine would be removed and a 2.3-liter evolution would be placed inside the chassis. The team had tried to have it ready in time for Reims but it wouldn't work. Now, the team would have to hope everything was ready as it prepared to take part in its first race, and in front of its home crowd. Instantly noticeable with its radiator laid prostrate on its nose, the Vanwall 01 would prepare to take on the Mercedes-Benz W196s and Ferraris chassis filling the field.
Fangio had problems. The beautifully-shaped fenders would block the Argentinean's vision of the corners. Often he would complain about this fact but it would not seem to bother him too much as he would go out and set the fastest lap in practice and earn the pole for the 90 lap race. Fangio's lap time of one minute and forty-five seconds would end up being nearly a second faster than Gonzalez's time in his Ferrari 625. Mike Hawthorn would be the fastest Brit in the field start the race from 3rd place in another Ferrari 625. The final position on the front row would go to another Brit. Stirling Moss would finally have himself a car capable of competing at the front of the field. He would use this to his advantage and would set the fourth-fastest time in practice.
Enjoying a bit more power than what Brown had at his disposal the last time the team was at Silverstone, Collins would put together an impressive time in practice. His time of one minute and fifty seconds would end up being just five seconds off of Fangio's pace and would be good enough for the Vandervell team to start its home race from the third row in the 11th position.
The 2pm start approached for the 90 lap race. As the field tore away at the start, Fangio would make a poor start and would lose the lead to Gonzalez. Fangio would even end up allowing Hawthorn through into 2nd place before the Argentinean seemed to get his car's legs underneath himself.
The day was cold and wet, just like when Gonzalez dominated the International Trophy race back in the middle of May. It seemed he was on course for a case of déjà vu. Collins would have the responsibility of taking the new Vanwall through the traffic and earning a strong result. Of course, his first concern would be to get through the first few laps without incident.
This would be tough enough for more than a couple in the field. Eric Brandon and Louis Rosier would be out of the running after just two laps because of problems. Peter Whitehead would also leave the race with a broken oil pipe.
While Gonzalez continued to increase his lead a sense of calm would settle over the field as everyone focused on making it through in the rather unpleasant conditions. Fangio would finally get back to the pace that earned him the pole and would make his way past Hawthorn for 2nd place. This delighted the crowd as Hawthorn and Moss would spar a few rounds.
The British crowd was enjoying the battle between Hawthorn and Moss and would overlook the disappointment that would overcome the Vandervell team. After 16 laps, the head gasket on the 2.2-liter engine would crack ending the race for the team. Interestingly, Robert Manzon would seem to suffer from a similar problem and would also be out of the race on the very same lap.
Although Fangio was now in 2nd place he could little with Gonzalez in the lead. Fangio's troubles remained. The rather flat and featureless old airbase was causing Fangio great trouble trying to judge braking points and apexes of corners with the fenders blocking his view. Ironically, this would cause him to hit a number of oil barrels placed on the inside of the corners that were placed there to aid in visibility. The damage, and a developing gearbox problem, would lead to Fangio loosing 2nd place back to Hawthorn. The problems also threatened his further falling down the order.
The only thing that would save Fangio would be the pace up until his troubles really got worse. Because of the pace of the top three, the rest of the field would be at least a lap down. In the case of Maurice Trintignant, who had the fastest finishing time in the International Trophy race back in May, three laps would be the difference before the end of the race.
The rain would pick up as the race wore on. This would only help to aid in Gonzalez leaving the rest of the field behind. It would also serve to help Fangio who would have to take it easy the remaining laps just in order to make it to the finish.
After two hours, fifty-six minutes and fourteen seconds, Gonzalez would come around Woodcote and across the line to take yet another victory at Silverstone. This would also be a special moment as he had been the one to earn Ferrari their first World Championship victory back in the final year of Formula One before the switch to Formula 2 regulations. The race in which Gonzalez would pull out that victory would be the British Grand Prix.
Gonzalez would be in a class unto himself. Mike Hawthorn would delight the British faithful finishing the race in 2nd place but he would be one minute and ten seconds behind. Onofre Marimon would experience a truly wonderful moment finishing the race in 3rd place despite being a lap down. In fact, he would actually cross the line ahead of Hawthorn, but just a lap down.
Unfortunately for Vandervell, Silverstone had proven to be unfriendly to the team with both trips yielding non-finishes. Thankfully, the season wasn't yet over. There was still time to get its program on track.
Instead of heading off to Germany to take part in the sixth round of the World Championship, the Vandervell Products team would remain in England improving the car, making it ready for the remainder of the season.
The team would have an entry in a non-championship race set to take place on the 14th of August. The race was the 2nd RedeX Trophy race. The race would take place on the 2.70 mile Snetterton Motor Racing Circuit located in Norfolk, England. However, though the team had an entry for the race, the team would not arrive to take part in the event. Therefore, it would be about another three weeks before the team's next race.
In early September, the Vandervell Products team would make its way back across the English Channel for the second time and would continue on to the northern part of Italy. The team's ultimate destination would be the woodlands of the Royal Villa of Monza and the Autodromo Nazionale Monza. The team would be on its way there to take part in the Italian Grand Prix, the 8th round of the World Championship.
Opened in September of 1922, Monza would be one of the few venues that remained on the World Championship calendar for each of the first five years of its existence. Another of the ultra-fast circuits, much of the 3.91 mile circuit is taken with the driver's foot flat on the floor.
The 1953 edition of the Italian Grand Prix had seen a wild finish with Fangio taking the surprise victory after Ascari lost control of his Ferrari and nearly collected his Ferrari teammate Giuseppe Farina.
One year later, a lot has changed. Ascari would have a falling out with Enzo and would leave the team to join the new Lancia program. Juan Manuel Fangio remained with Maserati and enjoyed two victories before moving over to Mercedes-Benz and their W196 Streamlined chassis. Jose Froilan Gonzalez would depart Maserati and would head back to Ferrari where he last had been in 1951. Of course, this would be G.A Vandervell's first Italian Grand Prix.
The team would come with its 2.3-liter Vanwall 01 chassis. Leading up to the race, continual evolution of the chassis had taken place. The prostrate radiator placed on the top of the nose would be gone and a much more conventional open mouth radiator inlet would be adopted in the design. As had been the case at the other two World Championship events in which the team had either taken part, or tried, Peter Collins would be behind the wheel of the car.
In practice, Mercedes-Benz would switch using an open-wheel design for the W196. Enjoying the view, Fangio would go on to set the fastest lap in practice and would take the pole for the 80 lap race. Despite falling out of grace with Enzo Ferrari, Alberto Ascari would be back driving for Ferrari when the Lancia car failed to be ready in time for yet another race. Despite having little time behind the wheel, Ascari would show the very reason why he was the first double world champion when he was barely edged out for the pole by Fangio by just two-tenths of a second. The gap would be even tighter between 2nd and 3rd as Stirling Moss would claim the final starting position on the front row after being just one-tenth of a second slower than Ascari.
On such a high-speed circuit as Monza, the 2.3-liter engine would show its lack of power compared to the slightly larger 2.5-liter machines powering the Mercedes, Ferraris and Maseratis. Sure enough, the best time Collins can manage to muster is a time of two minutes and five seconds. This time would end up being a little more than six seconds slower than Fangio's pole and would cause Collins to start the race from the sixth row of the grid in the 16th position overall, just two places from dead-last.
The day of the race would be sunny and mild, usual for Monza at this time of the year. At the start of the race, it would be two of the Mercedes W196s, sporting the streamlined body once again, leading the race. But it was not Fangio in the lead of the race. Instead, it was Kling that held the point. Following behind Fangio were Ascari and Gonzalez.
Rather soon, no doubt spurred on by the Tifosi, the Ferraris would take over the lead of the race. Ascari would have the lead and Gonzalez would be in 2nd place ahead of Fangio. Kling had the lead of the race until the 4th lap when he lost control slightly and lost a lot of momentum. This mistake would drop him all the way down to 5th position.
Meanwhile, Collins would be busy fighting his way up through the field from nearly dead-last. Despite being down on power compared to some of the others in the field, Collins would slowly and steadily ascend the running order.
Collins' ascension would be aided by the failing engine of Jean Behra on the 2nd lap of the race followed by Gonzalez's and Manzon's retirements after just 16 laps. Unlike at Silverstone, the Vanwall 01, this day, was running like clockwork and continued to head upward in the running order.
Another that was moving forward was the aged Luigi Villoresi. Still driving for Maserati while his friend Ascari moved back to Ferrari, Villoresi was on a charge. He would get by Moss and Fangio and would be looking to overhaul his friend for the lead when a clutch failure led to him retiring from the race after 42 laps.
Karl Kling's frustrating day would come to an end just six laps prior to Villoresi's misfortune. The German would make a mistake and would crash out of the race throwing away the early promise.
Fangio continued to struggle. Soon, Moss would take over his position and would charge after Ascari. In time, Moss would power his way by Ascari for the lead of the race. Ascari wouldn't let Moss off that easy, however, and would begin to fight back just a few laps later. However, Ascari's retaliation would come to naught has his engine would let go after 48 laps.
Ascari's troubles left Moss still in the lead of the race with Fangio giving chase in the Silver Arrows. Peter Collins also continued to climb up the running order with Ascari's retirement. He would be in 6th place headed toward the last few laps of the race.
However, the race was far from over. Just a few laps from the end, Moss' engine would expire as well handing the lead over to Fangio. Collins would also fade and would drop to 7th place as Fred Wacker and Maurice Trintignant would make their way past the Englishman. Hans Herrmann would also be inside the top five heading to the finish.
Fangio would be all by himself as he headed around on the final lap of the race. He would slow and take it easy as he enjoyed at least a lap lead over the rest of the field. After two hours, forty-seven minutes and forty-seven seconds, Fangio would cross the line and take the victory having averaged a little more than 180 mph over the course of the 80 laps. A lap would be the difference between Fangio and Mike Hawthorn in 2nd place. Two laps would be the margin between Fangio and Gonzalez in 3rd place, who was driving Umberto Maglioli's Ferrari as a result of Gonzalez's car suffering gearbox failure.
Collins' race would be a case of some bitterness. He had been running as high as 6th place but would be unable to hold onto the position over the course of the entire race. Instead, Collins would have to settle with finishing the race five laps down in 7th place. However, with the exception of Hawthorn, Collins would be the highest-placed Brit as Moss would end up fading terribly after engine problems slowed his race down to almost nothing.
After the struggles the team experienced in its two previous races, a 7th place result in the tough Italian Grand Prix would certainly be a welcome result for the Vandervell team. And while the team was still rather new and coming to grips with its design, the team had proven it was still competitive even despite having a smaller engine producing less power. If the team could end the season well it would have some strong positive momentum upon which to build and prepare for 1955.
The team would pack everything up and would return to England after a successful Italian Grand Prix that would see the team miss out on the points by just a couple of positions. Operating with a bit more confidence than what it had before it left for Italy, the Vandervell team would be out of action until the 25th of September when it would again be back at Goodwood preparing to take part in the 7th Goodwood Trophy race.
Throughout the year, Goodwood would host races that would cover a number of different classes and categories. Besides single-seater grand prix cars, Goodwood would host sports cars. In fact, the big sports car race at Goodwood would be its nine hour race. But Goodwood would host a couple of events throughout the year that would feature a number of shorter events all on one day or over the course of the weekend. The Goodwood Trophy race would be just one race taking part on the 25th of September.
The Duke of Richmond, the title-holder to the Goodwood Estate was something of a racing enthusiast and would turn what was formerly RAF Westhampnett over to become a motor racing circuit, as well as, remain a working airfield. Used as an auxiliary airfield for fighters based out of RAF Tangmere, Goodwood consisted of turf runways and macadamized perimeter road that made for a perfect motor racing circuit measuring 2.39 miles. Thus, it would be in the later-part of the 1940s that Goodwood motor racing circuit would come into existence.
And ever since its opening, Goodwood would be a popular venue in which to attend races, both from a spectator's and competitor's point of view. And one of the more popular races on Goodwood's calendar would be the Goodwood Trophy race. The Goodwood Trophy race would be one of the longer races to be held at the circuit. Instead of being ten or less laps in length, the Goodwood Trophy race would last over 21 laps and would cover a total of 50 miles.
The 1954 race would be mostly made up of local racers. However, it meant the field would still be filled with some very strong competition. Stirling Moss would come to the race driving a Maserati 250F. Roy Salvadori would also be at the race with a Maserati. Reg Parnell would come to the race with his Ferrari 625. Ken Wharton was also to come with a Maserati 250F but he would not show.
The Vandervell Products Ltd. Team would be at the race with Peter Collins as its driver. The team would also continue to improve their chassis over the three weeks since the Italian Grand Prix and it would show during practice.
Stirling Moss would end up being quickest in his Maserati. His best time around the 2.39 mile circuit would be one minute and thirty-two seconds. Moss, therefore, would win the pole for the 50 mile race. However, starting right beside Moss on the front row would be Collins in the Vanwall 01. Collins' best effort would be four seconds slower but it would still be good enough to start 2nd. The rest of the front row included some more heavy-hitters. Bob Gerard, despite driving a Formula 2 car, would be impressive in practice and would be just a second and a half slower than Collins. Gerard would start 3rd while Reg Parnell would complete the front row starting in the 4th position. Just looking around Collins on the starting grid it would be apparent that he would have his work cut out for him if he desired to earn a top three, or even a top five, result.
The field would roar away with Moss holding onto the lead of the race ahead of Collins, Parnell, Gerard and Salvadori. Moss thoroughly looked in control and would slowly stretch out his lead as Collins would be busy fending off Gerard, Salvadori and the others. Some relief would come Collins' way when Parnell was forced to retire from the race after just 3 laps due to an engine failure when piston problems developed in his Ferrari.
Gerard would begin to fade against the more powerful 2.5 and 2.3-liter cars. Collins would fight really hard and would remain at the head of the pack giving chase to Moss. However, Collins was losing ground to Moss. The good news is that Salvadori was also losing ground to Collins, and at a greater rate.
Eventhough Moss continued to run out front of the field, Collins' found himself increasingly running all alone in 2nd place. This was proving to be the strongest showing for the team yet. The car just had to make it to the end.
Four cars would not make it to the end. All but the top five would not even remain on the lead lap, and there was a good reason for this. Moss continued to dial up the pressure by increasing his pace throughout the whole of the 21 lap race. He would go on to set the fastest lap with a time of one minute and thirty-three seconds. This time would be just one second slower than his fastest lap time in practice. This enabled Moss to put all but the top five a lap down before the end.
Moss' pace, however, would not blow out Collins despite the fact Moss' Maserati contained more power than Collins' Vanwall. After thirty-three minutes and three seconds, Moss would cruise to victory. Averaging a little more than 91 mph, Moss would enjoy a twenty second margin over Collins in 2nd place. Nearly a minute would be the difference just between Collins in 2nd place and Salvadori ending the race in 3rd.
This had been Vandervell's strongest performance of the year. The team certainly had momentum and confidence rolling in its favor, and it just had a couple more races left to go before it could start thinking about the next season.
Earning a delightful 2nd place result at Goodwood would give the team confidence as it headed to Aintree on the 2nd of October. The team would be on its way to the famous Aintree Racecourse, not to watch the Grand National, but to take part in the 1st Daily Telegraph Trophy race.
In 1893, steeplechasing would first be introduced at Aintree. Before this, the Grand National steeplechase would be held in Maghull. However, rather quickly, Aintree Racecourse would become synonymous with the Grand National. Four and a half miles of all kinds of surfaces filled with 16 fences, the Grand National would appear to be the ultimate in any form of horse racing testing the limits of a horse's stamina and jumping ability. These would be thoroughbreds of another kind. Therefore, it would seem a natural fit: thoroughbreds of horse racing and the thoroughbreds of motor racing.
Of all of Raymond May's ideas, the one that would seem to work best (because it was almost certain the early BRM didn't) would be the Aintree Motor Racing Circuit. Utilizing the same finish line the Grand National uses, the grand prix circuit design would pass around, between and through the Grand National course and would make use of the same grandstands. This would make for one popular venue.
Of course, when the teams arrived for the Daily Telegraph Trophy race in 1954, the venue was brand new and untested. However, after the display that would be seen, Aintree would become quite popular.
As with the race at Goodwood, the field for the Daily Telegraph Trophy race would be a mostly British affair. Stirling Moss, Roy Salvadori and Reg Parnell would all be in the field. There would, however, be a small number of foreign entries in the race as well. Jean Behra and Andre Pilette would be in the field driving for Equipe Gordini.
One other big change in the field would actually come with Vandervell's team itself. Instead of Peter Collins behind the wheel of the Vanwall 01it would be Mike Hawthorn that would earn the ride.
In practice, Moss would be fastest once again with his Maserati. His best time around the 3.0 mile circuit would be two minutes, three and six-tenths seconds. Jean Behra would end up being second-fastest with a time about a second and a half slower than Moss'. Exactly one second would be the difference between Behra's time and the 3rd place starter, which would be Mike Hawthorn. The final position on the four-wide front row would go to the American-Parisian Harry Schell.
The race distance was 17 laps, or, 51 miles. And right from the start, Moss would lead the way. However, Hawthorn would be all over Moss, never letting him out of his sight. Jean Behra would also remain right up there near the front of the field as well.
Charles Boulton would end up dropping out of the race after just a single lap. However, Hawthorn would not drop his challenge of Moss. The two men would trade fastest laps and would continue to keep the pressure on each other. Both would end up setting the same fastest lap time of two minutes and four seconds. However, while Moss would continue to pull away at a gradual rate, Hawthorn would have Harry Schell all over his rear end and would not be able to escape at all.
Never more than a few car lengths would separate Hawthorn and Schell. This would allow Moss some breathing room as Hawthorn would end up having to be too concerned with Schell following so closely behind. Just two laps away from the end, Behra would end up being dropped from the challenge when his clutch would fail, forcing him to retire.
Even Schell would have to be careful to watch behind him. Even though Behra would be out of the running, Sergio Mantovani would be right there just a couple of seconds behind Schell in another Maserati 250F.
Moss would be strong and would power his way to victory completing the 17 laps in thirty-five minutes and forty-nine seconds flat. Hawthorn and Schell would battle it out for 2nd place. And as they came around the final turn and headed toward the line, Hawthorn would hold on to beat Schell by just a second. Hawthorn would be fourteen seconds behind Moss. Louis Rosier would finish the race in 6th place and would be the last car on the lead lap.
Two-straight 2nd place finishes were certainly a good sign for the young team. The momentum and confidence were rolling quite strongly, which was good as the team prepared for one last race on the season.
The European continent had been good to the Vandervell team. Therefore, toward the end of October, the team would head back across the Channel. Once on the mainland the team would make its way to Spain. The team's final destination would be where the ninth, and final, round of the World Championship was to take place. The western suburbs of Barcelona known as Pedralbes would be the site for the final round of the championship. It was the 12th running of the Gran Premio d'Espana.
Opened in 1946, the 3.91 mile Pedralbes Circuit would become a favorite with the drivers. Utilizing wide streets, the Pedralbes Circuit featured some rather fast corners due to the fact the track was so wide. And seeing that it took place in Barcelona, with its wonderful weather in the fall, the circuit could not have been a more popular venue.
By the time the World Championship arrived on the 24th of October, the title had already been decided. Juan Manuel Fangio had been dominant throughout. The only slip up he had throughout the year, to that point in the season, was the British Grand Prix when he struggled to see the corners due to the streamlined Mercedes-Benz W196 body. Therefore, the Spanish Grand Prix was all about the money and the bragging rights.
The Spanish Grand Prix would end up seeing a new competitor finally making its debut. Lancia would finally make it to a grand prix. Never mind the fact that it was the last one of the season. Alberto Ascari and Luigi Villoresi would be behind the wheel of the new and radical Lanica D50, and it would prove to be quite capable.
The Vandervell Products Ltd. Team would come to the race with its Vanwall 01. The car had proven itself at the Italian Grand Prix, although it still was down on pace compared to the rest of the front-runners. Although Mike Hawthorn had driven the Vanwall 01 last he would be back with Ferrari for the final race of the World Championship. Therefore, Peter Collins would be in the seat for the 80 lap, 313 mile, race.
As the cars took to the track for practice, the new Lancias would be quite quick. But then, of course, there would be Fangio in the W196. As the Vandervell team settled in to prepare for a weekend of racing, Peter Collins would have a nasty accident in practice and would pretty much total the car making it impossible for the team to repair it in time to take part in the race.
This would be devastating for the team after having built up its confidence and experiencing a good amount of momentum. The one positive that would be taken away from the moment would be the simple fact that the car had not actually failed in a race. But that would do very little to ease the bitterness after having travelled all that way looking forward to racing. So, the team would end up turning right around and packing everything up and heading back to England to prepare and wait for the next season. It probably would be a good thing as Vandervell would miss out on a truly dominant performance by Hawthorn after overcoming some early battles.
While the team would technically enter four World Championship rounds, they would only end up actually taking part in two of them. The retirement at the home grand prix would then be countered with a solid performance before the Tifosi at Monza.
Going into the 1955 season, there would be some changes. Peter Collins would move on from Vandervell and would end up driving Maserati 250Fs for the Owen Racing Organization and the Maserati factory team Officine Alfieri Maserati.
Mike Hawthorn had driven for Vandervell at the Daily Telegraph Trophy race. This perhaps would be an indicator of a deal struck between the two as Hawthorn would be at the wheel of the Vanwall VW55 for the team's first couple of races in 1955. However, he would later return to drive for Scuderia Ferrari for the rest of the season. Therefore, driving duties would be given to Ken Wharton and Harry Schell.
Schell had had moments throughout his racing career where he impressed. But after leading the Spanish Grand Prix just months earlier, he seemed like a logical choice. Wharton was a hold over from the BRM project. Whenever the old 16-cylinder had been pulled out for a race, Wharton seemed to always be at the wheel. In 1955, he would be at the wheel of a Vanwall.
While Wharton reminded of the days of the troublesome BRM project, it was clear, just after Vandervell's second go-around in the World Championship, things were going to be different for his team. Sure enough, the rather sedated, overlooked 7th place finish earned at Monza would merely set the stage for what the team would eventually achieve toward the later part of the 1950s. Vandervell Products