|1950||Thomas Cuthbert 'Cuth' Harrison||Era||ERA 1.5 L6s||C|
By Jeremy McMullenMany a young boy has grown up with the dream of being a racing champion. For many, that dream begins to fade with age. For others…well, they just never really grow up. In the early days of gas powered automobiles, or 'motorized carriages', racing thoroughbred automobiles seemed almost like a dream too.
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Thomas Cuthbert Harrison, or 'Cuth' or T.C., as he would most commonly be known, was born in July 1906, in the early days of the automobile. This rather new contraption attracted T.C.'s interest, and in 1931 Cuth opened a small vehicle repair business in Sheffield, on Abbeydale Road. Soon, this man of vision and congeniality built a thriving business and had a wonderful reputation.
Only after World War II did Harrison begin to really get into motoracing, particularly grand prix racing. Prior to the war, grand prix racing was very popular and hotly contested by some of the greatest automobile manufacturers in the world at that time. During the golden era of racing there were big local races, even championships. Given motoracing's increasing popularity and the increasing number of tracks and races that sprang up during this period, it wasn't too surprising that T.C. would have been lured into the racing world in an effort to further foster his fledgling vehicle repair business, even other endeavors.
Harrison began to race a few grand prix here and there throughout the late 1940s. Of course by 1946, Harrison would have already been 40 years old, in a sport where injury and death were a common occurrence. Priorities definitely had to be in order, and Harrison's head was never too far away.
Despite being perhaps thoughtful of the future and what autoracing could do for his business, Harrison showed some real talent behind the wheel. At the Grand Prix de Reims in 1947, T.C. co-drove and ERA B with Bob Gerard and came home in third position only 3 laps down from the race winner Christian Kautz in a Maserati 4CL. Then, in 1949, Harrison drove to a 6th place finish in the Italian Grand Prix at Monza some five laps behind the winner Alberto Ascari. This was an impressive result for T.C. given the fact he started the race from 15th on the grid.
There were many different races and championships that existed prior to 1950, but not necessarily one formalized world championship series. Once this organization came into place, many racers, who had been competing in many of the other grand prix races, were there at Formula One's beginnings. Cuth was one of them.
The first championship registered event was the British Grand Prix at Silverstone in May of 1950. Harrison entered his own private ERA B type chassis (see ERA article). Qualifying was less than spectacular as T.C. powered his ERA to a 15th starting spot on the grid, some 6+ seconds behind the pole-sitter Giuseppe Farina.
Despite a rather unspectacular qualifying effort, Harrison impressed during the race. Considering those who finished behind him, Harrison stayed in relative contact with race winner Farina finishing 3 laps behind in 7th place.
A week later, Cuth made his way to Monte Carlo for the Monaco Grand Prix. Once again, Harrison brought his ERA B chassis and qualified one spot better than Silverstone, 14th, some 11+ seconds behind pole-sitter Juan Manuel Fangio. Harrison's Monaco Grand Prix was nothing to really remember though as his race did not even last one lap. There was a huge accident on the first lap that included some nine cars, including Harrison's ERA. That was it. Not even one lap completed.
Harrison sat out the remainder of the Formula One events until it rolled into Monza for the Italian Grand Prix. However, Harrison did not remain inactive. T.C. would compete in the Ulster Trophy race in Dundrod in August. Using an ERA C-Type chassis, that used to belong to Reg Parnell, Harrison qualified for the race in the 3rd position. Despite the fact there were only 9 starters, and only 5 finishers, Harrison ran a consistent and solid race for the 15 laps and came home in 3rd place overall.
Given this good result at Dundrod, and given his rather good result at Monza the previous year, Harrison made the journey to compete in the Italian Grand Prix in September. T.C. was amidst a sea of driver entries for the final race of Formula One's first season. Driving his ERA, Cuth was only able to manage a 21st starting spot, some almost 20 seconds behind pole-sitter Juan Manuel Fangio and his Alfa Romeo. Obviously Harrison's ERA lacked the power that the thirsty supercharged Alfa Romeos had in spades.
The 1950 Italian Grand Prix was one of high attrition. Out of the 28 starters, only 7 finished the race, and Harrison was not one of them. Some 29 laps from the end, T.C.'s radiator let go and brought his Italian Grand Prix to an end. Despite this frustration, Harrison was one of the last runners and ended up classified in the 9th finishing position.
The Italian Grand Prix mark the end of Formula One' first season of existence. The Italian Grand Prix also marked the last race of Harrison's Formula One career. But, Harrison was not done with racing all-together.
After leaving the grand prix scene for the most part, T.C. kept up racing. Harrison would compete in many sprint trials. In 1952, Harrison was the RAC Trials champion at the age of 46. Harrison never really seemed to have any misconceptions about his racing career. Soon Harrison stepped away from racing but started a highly successful car dealership that is still in existence today.
Though never a champion, T.C. Harrison lived the dream of being a grand prix racer. However, he used the experience, the title, the prestige to live out his true calling—owning a car dealership that took care of customers so well that they never had a need to go anywhere else. Harrison fulfilled this calling up until his death in January 1981.Sources:Wikipedia contributors. 'Cuth Harrison.' Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 1 Mar. 2010. Web. 13 Apr. 2010.
Brown, Allen. ''Ulster Trophy.' Old Racing Cars. Web. 13 Apr. 2010.
T.C. Harrison. 'Corporate Company History.' T.C. Harrison Group. Web. 13 Apr. 2010