Teams1952 Formula One Season By Jeremy McMullen
Edinburgh-born David Murray formed the interestingly French-named Ecurie Ecosse. There are a number of logical explanations that make a Scottish racing team with a French name not all that unusual. For one, it could have been in reference to the Auld Alliance between Scotland and France and dates all the way back into hallowed antiquity. It could also be in honor of France's place of prominence within the history of auto racing. But to Murray the accountant, the reasoning was much more practical—he liked French things.
Prior to the '52 season, Murray had been competing in a Maserati 4CLT/48 he had purchased from his friend Reg Parnell. Throughout 1950 and '51, Murray raced his 4CLT/48 under Scuderia Ambrosiana, but experienced less than stellar results. Competition in the upper-levels of grand prix racing was becoming more and more exclusive. No longer could a car over a couple of years of age be expected to place in the top-five with any regularity. Therefore, it wasn't all that surprising when all Murray could do throughout 1951 was finish in the top-ten and no higher. Then, after an accident at the Nurburgring in 1951, David had decided to retire from grand prix racing.
Despite being retired from racing, Murray had purchased a Cooper-Bristol T20 and entered it in what was the fifth round of the Formula One World Championship during 1952. Painted in the flag blue and white paint scheme, David looked to show off the new car and team at the important grand prix that took place on the 19th of July.
The 5th British Grand Prix was set for 85 laps of the 2.92 mile road course. Unlike the previous years, the start/finish line had been moved. As it is today, the first turn the drivers would prepare to race through at the start of the race was Copse. But before the race, the starting grid had to be set.
The former World Champion, the Italian Giuseppe Farina, looked extremely good after qualifying. He would end up taking the pole for the race with a lap of the 2.92 mile road course in one minute and fifty seconds. Starting right beside him were his Scuderia Ferrari teammates Alberto Ascari and Piero Taruffi. In the case of the accountant racer, no break would be given him. There would be no invasion by a Scottish team into the top positions of the starting grid for the British Grand Prix. Murray would push his six-cylinder Cooper T20, but would only manage to start the race 22nd on the grid.
The race would end up being even more disappointing for the Scottish Team. The race started under overcast skies, but the track was dry. This meant the pace would be furious. Despite taking the pole, Farina would be beat out by Ascari to lead the first lap. Once Ascari had the lead no one would get close to him again. While Alberto was pulling away at the front of the pack, Murray was locked in a battle at the back. In all, thirty-one cars started the race. So David was surrounded at the back. The pace and the competition were dramatic. However, this put tremendous strain upon the driver's concentration and the car's components. It ended up being too much of a strain for Murray's Cooper. On the 14th lap, the Bristol engine in Murray's Cooper let go. This brought his one and only Formula One World Championship event for 1952 to an end.
Ascari pulverized the competition. Despite the organizers best efforts to foster more competition, the race appeared to be more like a forfeit and Ascari was just putting on a show for the fans. Alberto would lap the entire field and would take the victory. Taruffi finished a dejected 2nd. Mike Hawthorn was able to put together a splendid effort in his Cooper-Bristol and came home 3rd, two laps down.
After the British Grand Prix, Murray once again retired from racing, but the Ecurie Ecosse team wasn't done for 1952. On the 2nd of August the team's Cooper-Bristol T20 was entered by Ninian Sanderson for the 2nd Daily Mail Trophy race at Boreham. Thirty-five cars ended up qualifying for the 67 lap race around the 2.98 mile road course.
The Daily Mail Trophy race was one event during 1952 that was still run to Formula One specifications. These specifications allowed cars with bigger liter engine sizes to compete, whereas, the Formula One regulations for the 1952 season restricted cars to running according to Formula 2 regulations. The biggest change of the regulations between Formula One and Formula 2 was that only 2-liter engines could be used. These regulations, however, were not in effect for the Daily Mail Trophy race. Therefore, 4.5-liter engines in cars like the Ferrari 375 and Talbot-Lago T26C were enabled to compete against the 2-liter Bristol engines like that found in Sanderson's Ecurie Ecosse Cooper.
The starting grid would clearly mark the difference in the regulations as Luigi Villoresi, driving a 4.5-liter V12 Ferrari 375 was able to take the pole. Starting beside him was Jose Froilan Gonzalez in the massive 16-cyinder BRM P15. In contrast, Ninian Sanderson would start the race from well down in the field.
Rain fell on the track before the race and this helped to neutralize the performance of the bigger engine cars. As proof, Mike Hawthorn, in a 2-liter Cooper-Bristol, was able to lead throughout the early stages of the race. Hawthorn was further being helped out by failures to both BRM P15s. However, the track was beginning to dry out and Villoresi and Chico Landi were able to get by. Sanderson struggled in the wet conditions and was doing all he could to make it to the end of the race. This was a big learning curve for the driver that mostly only had minor-class experience.
The track dried out and Villoresi would end up being able to push his Ferrari 375 to the victory by ten seconds over Chico Landi. Hawthorn was the last car on the lead lap and was able to hold on to finish 3rd. Though over five laps down, Sanderson would hold on to finish the race 13th for the Ecurie Ecosse team.
Three weeks after holding on to finish at Boreham, Ninian Sanderson was back behind the wheel of the T20 to take part in the 1st National Trophy race, held at Turnberry.
In practice for the 15 lap event, Sanderson impressed. Mike Hawthorn lapped the 1.75 mile road course in one minute and twenty seconds to take the pole. Ninian put together a lap only two seconds slower and was able to start the race from the front row in 2nd. Andre Loens and Ken Wharton finished off the four-wide front row.
When the race started it lasted all of about the first hundred yards. After that, Mike Hawthorn left everyone behind to sort out the rest. Sanderson, however, was involved in a battle with Loens and Wharton until Wharton's timing chain caused him to have to retire from the race. Loens dropped out one lap away from the end. This only helped Ninian. Hawthorn went on to win the race by a whole lap over the rest of the field. John Barber managed to pass Sanderson toward the later part of the race and finished 2nd. Sanderson finished on the podium in 3rd. Although the team competed in Formula Libre races, this was a truly splendid result for Murray's Scottish team.
Over a month later, Ecurie Ecosse was back in action in the upper-classes of grand prix races. Once again, Ninian Sanderson was behind the wheel. The Glasgow native was truly impressing when behind the wheel. The no-nonsense driver was able to get in behind the wheel and perform without too much drama.
On the 27th of September, Sanderson found himself behind the wheel of the Cooper T20 preparing to take part in the 7 lap 5th Madgwick Cup race at Goodwood. A number of competitive drivers were in the field for the race, including Ken Wharton and Stirling Moss.
Sanderson's position on the grid after qualifying made the race look rather bleak for the incredibly short race. Thompson, Downing, Hamilton and Brown occupied the front row. Poore, Salvadori and Moss occupied the second row. The best Ninian could do was to start the race 12th and on the fourth row.
When the race started, Sanderson received help straight-away when Moss and Loens got together on the first lap and were knocked out of the race. Despite the fact twelve of the twenty-two starters would finish the race, Sanderson put together another impressive performance. Though he would end up twenty-three seconds behind race-winner Ken Downing by the end of the 7 lap race, Ninian would still come up through the field to finish 6th. Dennis Poore and Alan Brown would finish 2nd and 3rd respectively.
On the 4th of October, the 1st Joe Fry Memorial Trophy race was held at Castle Combe and its 1.83 mile road course. The race was a 20 lap event and featured mostly British talent.
Sanderson fared better in qualifying for the 20 lap race than he had his last. Stirling Moss took the pole with a lap of one minute and eighteen seconds. Peter Whitehead posted the same time but was relegated to 2nd on the starting grid. The other front row starters were Salvadori and Brown. Sanderson put together a best lap only two seconds slower than Moss' and would end up starting the race 5th and on the three car second row.
Right from the start, Ninian was embroiled in the battle up front. Whitehead was out of the race on the 1st lap due to an accident. Five laps later, Moss was out of the race as well. This promoted Sanderson who ended up in a battle with Ken Wharton. Roy Salvadori would go on to win the race by twelve seconds over Wharton. Sanderson remained right there and finished 3rd, only four seconds back.
The last race of the grand prix season for the blue and white Ecurie Ecosse team, in its first season, was the 1st Newcastle Journal Trophy race held at Charterhall. The field was filled with twenty-eight starters for the 40 lap race on the 11th of October.
The race around the 1.99 mile road course would be filled with attrition. By the end of the race, only seven cars would still be running. Ninian Sanderson was looking for yet another podium finish, but the competition would be fierce.
Attrition would end up being more-fierce. Though strong through the early and middle portions of the race, Sanderson just could not avoid suffering a retirement. Sanderson finished his last upper-level grand prix race with an unfortunate retirement. Dennis Poore would win by over thirty seconds in front of Kenneth McAlpine and Mike Oliver.
Although he suffered a retirement, Sanderson still had an impressive season behind the wheel of the team's Cooper T20. Despite the poor performance at the British Grand Prix, Ecurie Ecosse's first season in grand prix racing proved to be a rather successful affair. The team would enjoy even greater success in sports car endurance racing, however. And the practical, no-nonsense Ninian Sanderson would help account for the team's success over the next few years.
Although the original Ecurie Ecosse slipped into non-existence in 1972 for tax purposes, it would be resurrected and become a team of prominence again throughout the early 1980s. It would serve as basis of support for such stars as David Coulthard, Allan McNish, David Leslie, John Cleland and Dario Franchitti. Ecurie Ecosse