Teams1952 Formula One Season By Jeremy McMullen
The Frazer-Nash name has been in and around automobile history ever since its inception back in 1922. While never achieving the reputation of Mercedes-Benz, Ferrari or Jaguar, Frazer-Nash would emerge on the sports car scene after the end of World War II and produced some of the most highly-prized and sought after coupes. The company's successes in sports car racing included a 3rd place at the 1949 24 Hours of Le Mans and a win at the Targa Florio in 1951. With such success, Frazer-Nash decided it would enter World Championship grand prix racing in 1952.
Frazer-Nash had made it clear that it was willing to produce a monoposto for grand prix racing. However, the company needed the backing and the interest from teams in order to go ahead with the plans. Peter Bell, who had started Scuderia Franera, decided to give the factory a try. And so, for 1952, Scuderia Franera and Frazer-Nash would go down in the pages of Formula One World Championship history.
The team needed a driver. British-born Ken Wharton would agree to come on-board with the team to drive the Frazer-Nash.
Things changed for 1952. The departure of Alfa Romeo at the end of 1951 left the governing body looking for a solution to the incredible costs of Formula One grand prix racing, and the apparent lack of competition for Ferrari with the departure of Alfa Romeo. Formula 2 races had proven to be highly competitive and much cheaper. So, until the governing body could come up with and implement its new ideas for Formula One World Championship racing all events that counted toward the World Championship would be run to Formula 2 specifications.
The move to Formula 2 did little to hinder Ferrari, which debuted its F2 challenger toward the end of 1951 and had the rest of the off-season to prepare the car. Other teams were having to make large switches that cost time and money. The door to the World Championship being through Formula 2 led a number of other smaller teams and private entrants to enter the ring as well. But this meant teams had to scramble to get ready.
Cooper had already designed and built is Cooper-Bristol T20 and had managed to race it early on in 1952. Scuderia Franera wasn't as prepared. There would be at least two races in which competitors would take part even before Scuderia Franera, and Frazer-Nash, would debut its new car.
Scuderia Franera would arrive at Goodwood for the 4th Lavant Cup race on the 14th of April. The team brought two cars to help aid in preparing and thoroughly shaking the car down. Ken Wharton had a Frazer Nash entered in the race. Wharton was entered with the new Frazer-Nash FN48; featuring the shark-like bulging nose.
Wharton would qualify the car. However, there would be no race for the Aussie and the new car as the team struggled to prepare the car for the race. As a result, the Frazer-Nash FN48 suffered from an aborted start to its career.
While the Frazer-Nash FN48 would end up not being prepared in time for the 6 lap race, Mike Hawthorn would lead home a Cooper-Bristol one-two-three at the 2.39 mile road course.
Scuderia Franera's next opportunity to get the new Frazer-Nash FN48 in order would come only one week prior to the start of the Formula One World Championship season. The race was the 4th BRDC International Trophy race held at Silverstone on the 10th of May.
The BRDC International Trophy race consisted of two heat races that were each 15 laps, and a final race that was 35 laps in length. Wharton was listed in the first heat race which included a number of other competitive drivers, such as, Mike Hawthorn, Jean Behra, Peter Collins and Lance Macklin.
Grid positions were set by the best lap times set during practice before each heat race. While not all of the bugs were quite worked out just yet, Wharton would still impress in the FN48. Mike Hawthorn would lap the 2.92 mile road course in two minutes flat and would have the pole for the first heat race. Peter Collins, Jean Behra and Lance Macklin would finish off the front row. Wharton would end up putting together a time four seconds slower than Hawthorn, but was good enough to start in the middle of the second row in 6th position.
The competition was tight. Hawthorn and Behra would battle throughout the 15 laps. Collins, Macklin, Prince Bira and Ken Wharton would be locked in a battle themselves for 3rd through 6th.
Hawthorn would end up winning the heat by two seconds over Behra. HWM-Alta teammates, Collins and Macklin, would finish 3rd and 4th; separated by a little over twelve seconds. Bira would hold-off Wharton for 5th position. The margin between the two was less than five seconds.
After the second heat race, which was won by Robert Manzon over Rudolf Fischer and Tony Rolt, the grid was set for the 35 lap final race. The positioning on the final grid was based upon the total time taken to finish the 15 lap heat race for each driver. Therefore, Robert Manzon started from the pole since he was able to complete the 15 lap heat race with a faster time than Hawthorn in the first heat race. Rudolf Fischer would start 2nd since he too completed the second heat faster than Hawthorn had the first. Hawthorn would start from the front row in the 3rd position. Jean Behra completed the front row in 4th. Wharton's 6th place finishing time in the first heat was only good enough for the Aussie to start the final from the fourth row in 12th.
The race got underway in a fury of engine noise and squealing tires. Within a couple of laps a couple of favorites for the victory were out of the race. Manzon was first out with transmission troubles. His Equipe Gordini teammate, Jean Behra, would follow suit two laps later.
Initially, Hawthorn was on the move. He and Peter Whitehead would record the same fastest lap time during the race. However, over the course of the race, Hawthorn began to fade with troubles. This left the door to the podium wide open. Unfortunately, the FN48 was still rather untested and its full-potential unknown. Wharton tried hard, but the competition was very tight. As with the first heat race, Wharton would get entangled with Prince Bira in a fight for position.
Meanwhile, Macklin took advantage of the misfortunes of others and streaked home to the victory by ten seconds over Tony Rolt in another HWM-Alta. Emmanuel de Graffenried would end up taking what was an old Maserati 4CLT/48, that was hastily revamped to fit Formula 2 regulations, to a 3rd place finish for Enrico Plate.
The battle between Bira and Wharton would go right down to the line. At the line, Bira would just edge Wharton out. Wharton would finish in 7th place, less than two tenths of a second behind Bira. Though he would not end up on the podium, Wharton had still managed to put together an impressive performance coming all the way up from 12th on the grid, and against rather equal competition. This bode well for the team as they would continue to try and find as much as they could from the car.
Scuderia Franera would frantically try and find as much as possible from the new Frazer-Nash FN48. The team had little time as the first round of the Formula One World Championship was only one week away.
After the BRDC International Trophy race, Scuderia Franera packed up and headed across the channel and to the European continent for the first round of the World Championship, which was the Grand Prix of Switzerland. Held at the 4.52 mile Bremgarten road course near Bern, the first round of the championship would be 62 laps, or, 280 miles in length.
Seeing as the Swiss Grand Prix was the first round of the World Championship, Scuderia Franera would have to square-off against the full-strength of Scuderia Ferrari and their Ferrari 500. Thankfully for the team, Ferrari wasn't quite at full-strength. Scuderia Ferrari had decided it would try and enter the second round of the World Championship in 1952, which was the Indianapolis 500. This meant Alberto Ascari was not in Switzerland, but the United States, preparing for that race.
After practice, it didn't matter if the whole of Ferrari wasn't present for the race. There were plenty of other drivers that proved to be faster during practice. Of course being fast during practice didn't exactly guarantee success during the race, but it did act as an indicator of performance relative one to another. Wharton's pace, relative to others, wasn't that bad, but it wasn't that great either. Giuseppe Farina would take the pole for the race with a time of two minutes and forty-seven seconds. Ferrari teammate, Piero Taruffi, followed the former World Champion with a time two and a half seconds slower and would start the race 2nd. Manzon would record a time over four and a half seconds slower and would start 3rd. Wharton's best time in the rather heavy Frazer-Nash-Bristol FN48 was over thirteen seconds slower and only good enough for him to start the race from 13th on the grid. In all, twenty-two cars and drivers would start the race.
Should an entry not have the pace of some of the other competition, one tactic that could be employed would be to just race smart, make no mistakes and trust the course of the race would cause those higher-positioned to fall out. This was really the only strategy Wharton and Scuderia Franera had. It would end up working out better than perhaps the team even imagined.
At the start, Farina roared away with the lead, followed by Taruffi. Farina would hold position at the point until 16 laps into the race. Magneto problems would force the pole-sitter out of the race. This handed the lead to Piero Taruffi. Out of the twenty-two that would start the race only eight would still be running by the end of the race. Wharton put together a very smart and patient race. At the end of the 62 lap race, only three cars that had qualified ahead of him would remain in front of him.
Piero Taruffi would go on to score the victory. His margin of victory was more than two minutes and thirty-seven seconds over Rudolf Fischer in 2nd, driving for Ecurie Espadon. Jean Behra finished one lap down in 3rd position. Wharton would end up being two laps down by the end of the race. However, he would manage to come all the way up from 13th on the starting grid to finish the race 4th. In its first race as a team, Scuderia Franera would score three points. The same was true for Frazer-Nash in World Championship grand prix racing. In their first race, they scored three points. This was a very good way to start the season.
The next opportunity the team had to follow up the impressive performance at the Swiss Grand Prix would be on the 25th of May at the 16th Internationales ADAC Eifelrennen at the Nurburgring.
The ADAC Eifelrennen took place on the 14 mile long Nordschleife and would be a good test for the reliability of the Frazer-Nash FN48. The long, twisty track would severely test the gearbox, brakes and the engine. Though only seven laps, the race would be the same as a 20-30 lap race at other circuits.
Momentum had truly swung in favor of the team after Bremgarten. This was reinforced by the performance during practice. Rudolf Fischer would end up setting the fastest lap during practice and would start the race from the pole. Stirling Moss, driving for HWM-Alta, would start the race 2nd. Duncan Hamilton would start 3rd. Wharton would also end up starting the race from the front row in 4th. The effort in practice offered Wharton confidence heading into the race.
As the race got underway, the only real battle on the track was up front with the top-four qualifiers. While other drivers, who qualified lower, kept dropping out of the race due to mechanical problems or accidents, the top-four remained close to each other. In fact, the best battle turned out to be Duncan Hamilton trying to hold off a charging Ken Wharton for the 3rd place.
Rudolf Fischer would end up setting the fastest lap of the race, and therefore, was able to separate himself from the rest of the field just a bit. The Swiss driver would end up going on to take the victory by more than forty seconds over Stirling Moss. Wharton was also able to wear down Hamilton in the battle for 3rd. Wharton would pull away and finish in 3rd by more than twenty seconds. This was the first podium result by Scuderia Franera and Frazer-Nash in grand prix racing.
A couple of weeks passed before the team prepared for its next race. In early June, the team had travelled to Monza, Italy for the 5th Grand Prix of the Autodromo of Monza. At the race, Scuderia Franera would face many of the main players in grand prix racing during the early 1950s.
Scuderia Ferrari would appear with four entries, including one for Alberto Ascari who had just returned from the United States. Maserati had returned to grand prix racing with its new A6GCM. The factory team had managed to get Felice Bonetto, Jose Froilan Gonzalez and Juan Manuel Fangio to drive the new cars. The only two players missing from the puzzle were Mike Hawthorn and Stirling Moss.
The race was run slightly different than most. It consisted of two heat races, but no final. The final finishing order was determined by the aggregate time of the driver over the course of the two heat races. Therefore, every entry would take part in both heats, unless they were so far out of the running that it didn't warrant even trying.
Despite the full-might of Scuderia Ferrari, Wharton was still impressive in his FN48 during practice. Ascari would take the pole for the race. Giuseppe Farina would start 2nd. Jose Froilan Gonzalez was able to take the new Maserati A6GCM and put it on the front row in 3rd. Villoresi finished off the front row in another Scuderia Ferrari 500. Wharton would end up starting the race from the third row in 9th. Twenty-nine cars and drivers would start the race.
The first of two 35 heat races would prove to whittle down the field right from the start. Ten entries would be out of the race before the race passed 10 laps completed. Among those out of the race was Juan Manuel Fangio. Fangio's exit was due to a severe accident that ended up breaking his neck. On the 27th lap of the race the second of the three Maseratis was out of the race when magneto troubles sidelined Gonzalez.
Ascari dominated out front. He would win the first heat by over a minute in front of Farina. Andre Simon would finish in 3rd, one lap down to Ascari. Wharton would finish the race three laps down in 9th place. While not that great of a finish to the first heat, there was still another 35 lap heat to go. Should the Brit stay out of trouble, the chances were rather good attrition would end up helping him climb the final finishing order. Wharton would, once again, start from 9th on the grid.
Though things looked promising after the first heat race, they took a turn for the worse in between the two races. The team was attempting to prepare the car for the final race when problems were discovered with the car. The problems could not be fixed in time, and thus, Wharton would not start the final race. Because the results were based upon aggregate times, he had no chance at victory. All-in-all, the new chassis was proving to be very capable. If the team could fix the reliability issues, it had the potential to achieve a very successful season.
The team travelled from Italy to Belgium to take part in the third round of the Formula One World Championship. The third round of the championship was the Belgian Grand Prix held at the super-fast Spa-Francorchamps circuit situated in the heart of the Ardennes Forest.
The 8.77 mile public road course featured some truly breath-taking sweeping straights and turns. Of course no set of corners caused drivers and fans to hold their breath more than the climbing right and left through Raidillon and Eau Rouge, or, the Masta kink on the backside of the course. This circuit would truly test the top-speed of the Frazer-Nash FN48 and the Bristol engine as average speeds over the course of a lap regularly exceeded 102 mph.
In what would end up becoming like a broken record, Ascari would take the pole for the race with a lap of four minutes and thirty-seven seconds. Farina would start 2nd. Ferrari would sweep the first-three starting positions on the grid when Taruffi was able to start the race 3rd. The Bristol engine and Wharton showed tremendous pace during practice. The Brit would end up starting the race from 7th.
The weather at Spa was usually unpredictable. And sure enough, the race would begin with rain already falling on the track. This would help level the field to a degree. Wharton would take advantage of the rain and would slide up the order right at the start of the race. A battle between Wharton and Hawthorn would ensue for the next 10 laps. Meanwhile, Ascari pulled away from the field, seemingly unaffected by the rain.
The fight for 5th between Wharton and Hawthorn was quite spirited considering it was taking place on a wet track at incredibly high speeds. The race was looking good for Wharton until the 10th lap of the scheduled 36. While battling with Hawthorn, Ken spun the FN48 and crashed heavily off course. The damage to the car and the driver was severe.
Due to the damage to both the car and the driver, Scuderia Franera would end up being absent from grand prix racing for a rather long period as it tried to repair the car. The damage was severe enough that it would cause the team to miss the home grand prix, the British Grand Prix, at Silverstone on the 19th of July. The damage, and the lacking funds, would end up causing the team to also miss the sixth round of the championship, which was the German Grand Prix. This was a shame considering Wharton had been able to score a 3rd place result there earlier in the year.
The next time Scuderia Franera would have an entry at a race would be the Netherlands Grand Prix on the 17th of August. The Dutch Grand Prix was the seventh round of the World Championship in 1952. It was the first year in which the Dutch Grand Prix was part of the World Championship.
Alberto Ascari had already earned the World Championship title, but he didn't slow down when he arrived at the Dutch Grand Prix. He would continue his run of poles after he covered the 2.64 mile circuit in one minute and forty-six seconds. Once again, Giuseppe Farina would start 2nd. Mike Hawthorn would really impress when he would qualify 3rd for the race in his Cooper-Bristol T20. Ken Wharton took the repaired Frazer-Nash FN48 and put in a rather impressive performance of his own. The Britain would mark his return to the World Championship with a 7th place qualifying effort.
At the start of the 90 lap race, Ascari would hold station in the lead. Farina would begin his desperate pursuit. Hawthorn would immediately face a battle from Luigi Villoresi for 3rd. Wharton was steadily making his way toward the top-five as well.
Ascari pulled away from the field. Wharton continued to complete lap-after-lap and was looking good in Scuderia Franera's return. Unfortunately, it would all turn bad on the 76th lap. While running near the top-five with only about fifteen laps remaining, Wharton's race came to an end due to a wheel bearing problem. Ascari would go on to win by forty seconds over Farina. Villoresi would out-duel Hawthorn for 3rd. Therefore, Ferrari finished one-two-three. Despite not finishing, Wharton looked good after having missed the last three World Championship races.
While the team would take part in a couple more non-championship races before the end of 1952, the team would only have one more opportunity in the 1952 Formula One World Championship. That final opportunity came on the 7th of September at Monza.
Heading into the Italian Grand Prix Scuderia Franera made a switch. Peter Bell switched his allegiance and entered a Cooper-Bristol T20 for Ken Wharton in the final event for 1952. As a result of the change, Scuderia Franera would be one of four teams that would run the Cooper-Bristol T20 in the final race of the World Championship season.
All of this would matter little to Alberto Ascari. He would go out and take the pole during practice one more time. He traversed the 3.91 mile road course in two minutes and five seconds. Villoresi would make it a Ferrari one-two on the starting grid. Farina would then make it a Ferrari one-two-three. Wharton, in the new Cooper-Bristol T20 would end up qualifying 15th for the 80 lap race.
At the drop of the green flag, Jose Froilan Gonzalez sprinted ahead trying to spoil Ascari and Ferrari's bid for one more victory in 1952. While all of that was happening up front, Wharton was stuck in the middle of the pack trying to move forward.
Twenty-four cars had started the race. Though Monza always had a reputation for being a place tough on cars, the attrition would end up being much less than what was perhaps expected. However, with the presence of Scuderia Ferrari and Maserati's new A6GCM, a top-five, even a top-ten finish would had been difficult to come by. The road would be especially difficult for Wharton coming from 15th. Many of the cars around him were a close match in performance, and therefore, would not be easy to get by. Despite this fact, Wharton carried on. Ascari; however, carried on much faster.
Ascari would overcome Gonzalez's tactics at the start of the race and would take over the lead, and would never relinquish it. Once in the lead, the rest of the field was not safe. By the end of the race, Ascari had lapped the field up to 4th place. Alberto's winning margin was more than a minute over Gonzalez at the end. Villoresi would finish another minute further behind in 3rd. Wharton would end up finishing the last World Championship race of the season. He would also finish the last race inside the top-ten, but it would not be better than his result at the Swiss Grand Prix all the way back at the start of the season. Wharton finished four laps down in 9th place.
Even though it was the team's first season, Scuderia Franera, and Ken Wharton, managed to earn three points in the Formula One World Championship. As a result of the three points, Wharton finished the 1952 World Championship in 13th position. The three points earned in the Frazer-Nash back at the beginning of the season would end up being the only championship points he would earn throughout his entire Formula One career. It would also end up being the only points Frazer-Nash ever achieved in Formula One racing.
Even though the World Championship season was over, Scuderia Franera and Ken Wharton still had a couple of other non-championship races in which they would take part. The first of those non-championship races left on the team's calendar for 1952 was the 5th Madgwick Cup held at Goodwood on the 27th of September.
The Madgwick Cup race was another short event held on the 2.39 mile road course at Goodwood. In total, the race was only 7 laps and totaled only 16 miles. Despite its short duration, the field was filled to overflowing.
Twenty-two cars would qualify for the race. Scuderia Franera had brought its Frazer-Nash FN48 for Wharton. Wharton would struggle with the car. Eric Thompson would take the pole for the race in a Connaught A-Type A6. Wharton was toward the head of the wrong end of the starting grid. Wharton's best time in practice was only good enough for the Brit to start the race from 20th on the grid.
At only 7 laps in length, Wharton could not wait for the race to come to him. He needed to be on the move right from the start. Thankfully for Wharton and the team, the race would end up helping them out anyway.
Four starters were out of the race before three laps had been completed. Four more dropped out on the 5th lap of the race. Wharton was on the move. Unfortunately, he was coming from too far back with too little time in which to do anything.
The first two finishers, Ken Downing and Dennis Poore, drove Connaught A-Types. Alan Brown, driving a Cooper-Bristol T20 would finish 3rd. Wharton would impress. He would end up coming all the way from 20th to finish the race 9th. He was less than a minute behind the race-winner Downing.
On the 4th of October, Scuderia Franera prepared for its second-to-last race of the 1952 season. The team traveled to the 1.83 mile Castle Combe road course for the 1st Joe Fry Memorial Trophy race.
The field featured drivers mostly from the United Kingdom. Once again, Wharton was entered with the FN48. However, unlike Madgwick Cup race, Wharton would start the race from a much better position.
Stirling Moss would take the pole with a lap time of one minute and eighteen seconds. Wharton would set a lap time less than three seconds slower. This positioned Wharton on the third row in 6th. That is not where he would stay, however.
The race was 20 laps. Right from the start, Wharton looked good. He, and others, would be helped out when Moss would retire from the race on the 6th lap. This opened the door. Wharton would take advantage the best he could. Facing another dominant Ferrari 500, driven by Roy Salvadori, Wharton would try everything he could to take the victory.
In the end, Salvadori would hold Wharton off to take the victory. Wharton earned his best result of the season with a 2nd. Wharton would finish in 2nd only eight seconds behind the Ferrari 500. Ninian Sanderson would finish the race 3rd.
The team's final race of the year would be one week later at Charterhall. The team travelled north to take part in the 1st Newcastle Journal Trophy race at the 1.99 mile Charterhall road course on the 11th of October.
The race was 40 laps in length. The field was filled with Connaughts and Cooper-Bristols. A number of Frazer-Nash chassis would also take part in the race, including Wharton in his FN48.
Unlike the previous race in which the team had taken part, the Newcastle Journal Trophy race would not provide the same result. In fact, the race would provide a low-blow right before heading into the off-season.
Wharton was looking for a follow-up performance from the Joe Fry Memorial race. It was not to be. Wharton's race lasted only a few laps. He was one of the first entries out the running. The failure put a bit of a sour taste on what had started out as a promising year, especially after the points the team had been able to score at the Swiss Grand Prix.
Though the team switched to the Cooper-Bristol T20 toward the end of the year, they had scored their championship points with the Frazer-Nash FN48. Therefore, the team had to make a decision before 1953. One thing was for certain. If the team could provide Wharton the right car, he had proven he had the talent to make the most of it. Scuderia Franera