TeamsEcurie Richmond: 1954 Formula One Season By Jeremy McMullen
In the early 1950s a very interesting partnership would be struck between a gentlemen in electrical goods, an automotive sales representative and a public works contractor and hauler from Northampton. These three men, Eric Brandon, Alan Brown and Jimmy Richmond, would go on to establish the Ecurie Richmond racing team. The passion of these three men would drive the team to a number of victories in Formula 3 and would set the stage for a truly remarkable debut in the World Championship in 1952 when the World Championship was conducted according to Formula 2 regulations.
By 1954, a lot had changed. Alan Brown had left the team the season before and had started a couple of new teams with another gentleman in which Ecurie Richmond had battled on numerous occasions in Formula 3 and Formula 2 races throughout England. Also, it was now 1954, and the new Formula One regulations had come into effect for the World Championship.
Despite having earned a couple of points at the 1952 Swiss Grand Prix and nearly scoring another couple points at the Belgian Grand Prix only weeks later, the Ecurie Richmond team would not be seen or really heard of during the 1953 season. The team would instead return its focus to Formula 3. However, the team could not stay there forever, not after having tasted success in the World Championship before. Therefore, the team would be back the following year.
The major change in the regulations for the 1954 Formula One World Championship would be the increase in engine displacement up to 2.5-liters from the 2.0-liter limit imposed by Formula 2 regulations during 1952 and 1953. This meant a number of current Formula 2 cars could make the leap to the new Formula One regulations without too much hassle. A number of teams wouldn't even put the larger engines in their cars but would just compete with the older 2.0-liter engines. While it didn't mean the cars would be all that successful, it did mean that small teams, such as Ecurie Richmond, could continue to take part in the World Championship.
Eric Brandon, one of the team's founders, had been a boyhood friend of John Cooper. After the end of World War II, the two of them actually built cars together. Brandon would fall back on this relationship when it came to getting a new car for the 1954 season.
In the hands of such racers as Mike Hawthorn, Cooper took the World Championship almost by storm in 1952. This success in the World Championship, and their formidable reputation in Formula 3, would lead to a good number of Cooper chassis lining up on many championship and non-championship grids throughout the 1953 season.
During the 1953 season, Rodney Nuckey had been a strong contender at the wheel of his own Cooper-Bristol T23. He would use the car to earn a couple of victories and a number of top five results. In 1954, he would come to be part of the Ecurie Richmond team along with Eric Brandon. Therefore, the team would use the car along with an Alta-powered Cooper T23 the team would come to purchase for the season.
While there would be times during the season when both cars would be entered in races, there would also be a number of times in which just one of the cars would be entered. Sharing costs as they had when Alan Brown was part of the team, there would be times throughout the season in which one would start the car over another.
Speaking of starting, the Formula One grand prix season would start for the team in early April. As with the season before, the World Championship would have its first round take place early on in the season across the Atlantic Ocean in Argentina. Only the big name teams and privateers would make the voyage across the South Atlantic for the race. Ecurie Richmond was by no means one of those teams that could afford such a trip. Therefore, they would wait a few months, and then, would head to West Sussex in the south of England. They would be on their way to Goodwood to take part in the 6th edition of the Lavant Cup race.
Formerly RAF Westhampnett during World War II, the auxiliary airfield that would host some of Britain's best fighters of the period would come to host some of the best cars and racers of grand prix and sportscar racing afterward.
After the end of the war, the airfield was in a state of disuse. The Duke of Richmond was busy looking for a use of the property. A keen racing enthusiast, Richmond would agree to the idea of turning the 2.39 mile perimeter road into a motor racing circuit. Now called Goodwood, the circuit would come to host its first race in September of 1948. The race was a Junior Car Club race and featured a 500cc class race. While Stirling Moss would go on to win that event, Ecurie Richmond's Eric Brandon would finish 2nd in the very first race.
Named for a nearby village, the Lavant Cup race would be a short race. It would be just 7 laps and would cover just 17 miles. The race would take place on the 19th of April and would feature many of the familiar faces from Formula 2 seen at circuits over the previous couple of years. The field would also include one name in which not much had been seen or heard of in about a year's time. Included in the field driving a Ferrari 625 was Reg Parnell.
Ecurie Richmond had intended to bring its two cars to the race. Eric Brandon would be at the wheel of the Cooper-Alta T23 and it was intended that Rodney Nuckey would be at the wheel of his Cooper-Bristol. However, Nuckey would not be listed as having attended the race.
In practice, Roy Salvadori would prove fastest in one of the new Maserati 250Fs. He would take the pole for the short race but would have some very fast company joining him on the front row. Kenneth McAlpine would start in 2nd place with a now aged Connaught A-Type chassis. Parnell would take advantage of his evolved Ferrari 500. The 625 would take Parnell to the 3rd starting position on the front row. Tony Rolt, coming off of one incredible season with Rob Walker Racing, would complete the front row starting in 4th place. Eric Brandon would start just a little ways beack of the front row, but would still be in good position for an assault on the front-runners if he could muster up the pace.
The field would roar away at the start of the incredibly short race. Immediately, a battle would start between Roy Salvadori and Reg Parnell. Reminiscent of the great Ferrari and Maserati battles from one year earlier, Parnell and Salvadori would battle it out corner after corner around the 2.39 mile circuit.
Lance Macklin would make a good start in his HWM and would be challenging Tony Rolt and Eric Brandon. Another that would make his presence known around Brandon would be Leslie Marr.
Behind the incredible battle for the lead, the field would actually become strung out slightly with very few good battles raging. All of the attention would be on Salvadori and Parnell, and for good reason. The two would match each other's fastest lap time with a lap of one minute and thirty-six seconds.
Problems would come upon Rolt. After having an incredible season in 1953, magneto problems would be starting the season out on a rather disappointing note for him. This would allow Brandon to take over position and put a gap between himself and Rolt.
Although the race last just 7 laps, only six cars would manage to make it to the finish. At the finish line, the closest battle in the field, the one for the lead and the victory, would finally be decided. With the increased horsepower it would take about ten seconds less time to complete the short 7 lap race.
The battle between Parnell and Salvadori would be one of the reasons for the faster times. Average nearly 89 mph throughout the course of the race, Parnell and Salvadori would streak around the circuit. At the line, it would be Reg Parnell celebrating his comeback with a well earned victory over Salvadori. The margin of victory would be six-tenths of a second, or, about a car length.
Kenneth McAlpine would be left behind as Parnell and Salvadori battle it out for the lead and the victory. However, McAlpine would hold on to finish the race in the 3rd position exactly thirty seconds behind Parnell.
Brandon would be further left in the dust. Despite being updated for the new season, Brandon would still end up a rather long way back, but would still be in the running nonetheless. Brandon would be the last car still running in the race. He would finish in 6th position some seventy seconds or so behind Parnell and Salvadori.
Ecurie Richmond's season would start with a strong result. While the team would not come back to the elite level of grand prix racing with an amazing result, it would still be a strong beginning to the season nonetheless.
Unlike the 1952 and 1953 seasons, there would not be the number of non-championship races that had filled the calendar during those years. However, there would be a number of new and old races that would reappear.
While there were a number of Formula One races taking place on the European continent, both Rodney Nuckey and Eric Brandon would be in Helsinki to take part in the Elaintarhanajo on the 9th of May.
In the race, Brandon and Nuckey would not surprisingly face off against a number of Scandinavian pilots but would also have to face Roger Laurent driving his Ferrari. While Brandon's race would be something of a mystery, Nuckey's would not as he would take his Aston Martin-powered Cooper on to victory. He would be so dominant that he would have over forty seconds in hand over the 2nd place finisher. Fifty seconds would be the margin between Nuckey and Laurent in the Ferrari.
Less than a month after Nuckey's victory in Helsinki, Ecurie Richmond would have two entries for a new race that would take place back at Goodwood. On the 7th of June, Goodwood would play host to the 1st BARC Formula One race. This was yet another short event of only 5 laps, or, 12 miles.
The field would include a number of talented drivers and would even promise a rematch of the intriguing battle between Roy Salvadori and Reg Parnell. However, though the team would have two entries for the race, the Cooper-Alta for Eric Brandon and the Cooper-Bristol for Rodney Nuckey, the team would not show up for the event. In fact, it would be well over a month before an Ecurie Richmond car would take part in another Formula One event, whether championship or non-championship.
Then, in the middle of June, the team would travel to London to take part in its next race. Once inside the area of the city of London, the team would head to the south part of the city. Their destination would be one of the highest points within the city's limits. At Crystal Palace Park, Ecurie Richmond would prepare to take part in the 2nd Crystal Palace Trophy race.
Situated within the London Borough of Bromley, Crystal Palace Park had once been occupied by the Great North Wood and was rumored to be the very place from which Sir Francis Drake drew the wood to make his Golden Hind.
Crystal Palace Park would be birthed from the grounds of the Penge Place estate and would become a popular site for visitors for decades.
The park's roads would also attract motor racing. Essentially a giant rectangle, the Crystal Palace Park circuit would be short at just 1.35 miles, but it would be a rather fast circuit nonetheless. Though the park setting would be rather wide open it would be anything but flat. The run from the start/finish straight through the right-hander would see the course continually climb. Powering down the Terrace Straight, a driver would then be faced with a right-hand bend that also dropped steeply down over a hundred feet back to the start/finish line. The short nature of the circuit, and the elevation changes throughout, would make the racing around the circuit rather spectacular to behold.
As with the first edition of the race, the 2nd Crystal Palace Trophy race would be a race consisting of two heat races and a final. Each of the two heat races would be 10 laps each as would the final. The entire field would be split up into heats. Ecurie Richmond would bring just one car to the race. They would bring their Cooper-Bristol T23 for Rodney Nuckey to drive in the race. However, Nuckey would be listed in the second heat.
The first heat would have Peter Collins, Reg Parnell and Les Leston going up against a number of other British racers. Roy Salvadori had been listed to take part in the race in the first heat but his Maserati 250F would not be ready in time in order to take part.
In practice leading up to the heat race, Peter Collins would set the fastest time in a Connaught-Lea Francis. Les Leston would even manage to outdo Reg Parnell to start 2nd. Reg Parnell and Horace Gould would complete the front row of the grid starting 3rd and 4th respectively.
The first heat would roar into the distance and up the hill around on the first lap of the race. Immediately, Reg Parnell made a great jump off the line and was challenging for the lead of the race along with Peter Collins. By the time the field descended down the hill and across the line to complete the first lap of the race, Parnell was already beginning to pull out an advantage over the rest of the field. Using the updated power from his Ferrari 625, Parnell would break away from Collins and assume a commanding lead.
Peter Collins would have to shift his attention from trying to battle with Parnell to protecting his position in 2nd. Les Leston would be right there with his JAP-powered Cooper but Collins would manage to keep him under control.
Averaging nearly 73 mph, it would take Parnell just eleven minutes and twenty-six seconds to complete the 10 laps and take the heat victory. Nine seconds would be the separation between Parnell and Collins in 2nd place. Less than three seconds would be the margin between Collins in 2nd place and Leston in 3rd.
With the first heat completed it was time for Rodney Nuckey to prepare for his heat. He would certainly be one of the favorites but would have Jack Fairman and Jimmy Somervail to watch out for.
Actually, it would be Don Beauman that would be the fastest in practice leading up to the heat race. Nuckey would start alongside in 2nd place. Paul Emery and Charles Boulton would complete the front row.
In the second heat race, Nuckey would pick a fight with Beauman for the lead of the race right from the very start. Bill Whitehouse would be most spectacular starting from dead-last. He would make a great start and would soon find himself up near the front of the field. Jack Fairman would start from somewhere in the middle of the grid and would not move from that position.
Nuckey was consistently fast each and every lap. This would put pressure on Beauman to keep up. Aided by setting the fastest lap of the heat, Nuckey would keep the pressure on Beauman and it would be a little too much over the course of the race.
Jimmy Somervail would be pushing his Cooper-Bristol hard having started down in the order. Unfortunately, he would have a lapse in concentration at one moment and would crash out of the race after just 4 laps.
Nuckey was too strong. As the race wore on, he would be able to stretch out something of a comfortable margin over Beauman. Don would have little to worry about behind him as he would enjoy a rather large margin over 3rd place. This would cause Beauman to ease off just slightly.
Though ten seconds slower than Parnell in the first heat, Nuckey would take his Ecurie Richmond Cooper-Bristol to the second heat win. Four seconds would be the margin Nuckey had in hand over Beauman in 2nd place. Nearly nine seconds would be the advantage Beauman would enjoy over the 3rd place finisher Bill Whitehouse. Whitehouse's performance was certainly quite impressive considering he had started the heat from dead-last.
Finishing time of each competitor in their respective heat would determine the starting order for the 10 lap final. This mean Reg Parnell easily earned the pole for the final. Peter Collins would start in 2nd place. Rodney Nuckey would put Ecurie Richmond on the front row for the final by setting the third-fastest finishing time with his victory in the second heat. Les Leston would complete the front row in 4th place. Leston would make it three from the first heat that would start on the front row.
The final would see a shakeup happen right at the very beginning of the race. Les Leston would have his engine let go on the very first lap of the race. Therefore, he would be out of the race before completing a single lap of the final.
Reg Parnell would be quick off the line and would be in the lead of the race almost from the drop of the flag. Peter Collins would be right there at the beginning but was certainly hanging on by a thread. Don Beauman would make a great start and would challenge Nuckey. Then there was Bill Whitehouse. Whitehouse had been on a charge ever since the start of the second heat. It would continue in the final as he would make a great start and would be up near the front of the field as well.
Parnell would continue to lead the field. In fact, he would begin to pull out a slight margin over Collins in 2nd place. Nuckey would only get forced backward as Beauman and Whitehouse were on a charge. Still, Nuckey was on course for yet another solid finish. All he needed to do was complete the 10 laps.
The action would be furious since the race was just 10 laps long. Anchored by his Ferrari's performance, Parnell would set the fastest lap of the race with a time of one minute and seven seconds. This would help him stretch out his advantage even more. Collins would also come to enjoy a rather sizable margin over Beauman as the race wore on. Nuckey would be somewhat left behind.
Parnell would complete the 10 lap final in exactly the same time he had in the first heat race. But this time, his margin of victory would be less than what it had been. Peter Collins would be fighting a losing cause but would still hang in there to finish 2nd only about five seconds behind Parnell. Collins's increase in pace meant his advantage over Beauman in 3rd place would be rather large. In fact, Collins would have nearly twelve seconds in hand by the end of the race. Despite starting 3rd, and on the front row, Nuckey would finish in 5th place.
Though the result was still a strong effort for the Ecurie Richmond team, the 5th place result had been something of a disappointment for the team after starting the final from the front row. Nonetheless, the team would put it behind them and would look forward to the next race on their calendar.
The next race on the team's calendar would require them to travel across the English Channel to the European mainland. Nearly a month would pass but on the 11th of July Ecurie Richmond would be in Rouen, France preparing to take part in the 4th Grand Prix de Rouen-les-Essarts.
The year before, the Grand Prix de Rouen-les-Essarts had been something of an interesting race. It would feature Formula 2 and Formula One cars, but the Formula One cars would be a mixture of the old and the new. One year later, the race would be nothing but Formula 2 cars and new Formula One entries.
Rouen was something of a proving ground. Not only had it been the host of the French Grand Prix in 1952, but its layout would offer teams and drivers just about every kind of corner and combination of elements possible. Unlike Reims, which was all about speed, Rouen featured numerous elevation changes which meant a number of blind corners and fast, sweeping turns. Besides all of that, the circuit was just a popular venue with teams, drivers and spectators alike.
Situated in the Foret du Rouvray, the Rouen-les-Essarts circuit was entirely comprised of public roads near the small town of Grand-Couronne. Cut by the winding Seine River, the Rouen-les-Essarts circuit rests along the embankment along the river, and therefore, is surrounded by dense woods and rolling terrain. It would be the combination of the woodland setting and the undulating terrain that would make for some memorable portions of circuit. Perhaps no portion of the circuit would become more famous than the climb out from the Nouveau Monde
hairpin to Sanson and Gresil.
By the time of the Grand Prix de Rouen-les-Essarts, the World Championship had already completed its 3rd and 4th rounds. Besides the Indianapolis 500 at the end of May, Juan Manuel Fangio had taken the victory in the first-two rounds. In his native Argentina, Fangio was dominant in his Maserati 250F. He would again be strong in his Maserati at the Belgian Grand Prix. Then, just one week prior, Fangio would debut the Mercedes-Benz W196 and would promptly take his third-straight victory of the season.
The Mercedes-Benz team would leave Reims and would head back home. Many other teams would stick around France and would head the 170 miles or so west to Rouen. Among them that would make the trip would be Scuderia Ferrari, numerous privateer Maseratis and the Equipe Gordini racing team. Therefore, Ecurie Richmond would be entering its toughest test of the season by making the journey to Rouen. But it needed to do this with the British Grand Prix coming up next.
A terrible event would take place as the teams arrived for the 95 lap, 301 mile race. Roberto Mieres had been on his way to take part in the race when his transporter would crash. The ensuing crash would end up destroying the car thereby ruining any opportunity for Mieres to take part in the race.
Throughout the 1952 and 1953 seasons, Maurice Trintignant had proven himself to be a very quick and talented driver while driving for Equipe Gordini. Unfortunately, his pace wouldn't be matched by reliability. However, in 1954, Trintignant would come to be one of Scuderia Ferrari's drivers in the wake of Alberto Ascari and Liugi Villoresi's departure to Maserati.
In practice for the Grand Prix de Rouen-les-Essarts, Trintignant would show his talent and pace as he would set the fastest lap time around the 3.17 mile circuit. His time of two minutes, nine and four-tenths seconds would end up being eight-tenths faster than his old Equipe Gordini teammate Jean Behra. A second and a half would end up being the margin between Trintignant's time and that of his new Ferrari teammate Mike Hawthorn.
Ecurie Richmond would come to the race with a driver that would be somewhat of a surprise. Instead of Eric Brandon or Rodney Nuckey, Alan Brown would be back with the team he had helped found for the race. He would be preparing to drive the Cooper-Bristol T23 in the race. Unfortunately, he would never have the opportunity. During practice, mechanical woes would rear their ugly head and the team would not be able to correct them in time in order to qualify nor take part in the race. Therefore, the team would make the jaunt across the English Channel literally for nothing except for a couple of practice laps.
The 95 lap race would get underway with Trintignant leading the way in the Ferrari. Mike Hawthorn and Jean Behra would also be right there at the beginning of the race. The rest of the field would snake its way down to the Nouveau Monde hairpin and up the hill on the first lap of the race.
Trintignant would continue to set the pace at the head of the field. During the early going of the race, both Mike Hawthorn and Jean Behra would run into trouble. Both drivers would end up receiving help to push-start their cars and get themselves back into the race. While this would save their race in the immediate, ultimately it would bring their races to an early end.
Another that would find his race come to an early end would be another Scuderia Ferrari driver. After just 16 laps, the engine would let go in Jose Froilan Gonzalez's car thereby bringing his race to an end.
Prince Bira had started the race from the 8th position on the grid, the third row. However, he would not stay there. He would use his Maserati 250F to good use and would find himself up near the front of the field, especially after Gonzalez's departure due to engine failure.
Bira's position would further improve when, after 84 laps, it was discovered Hawthorn and Behra would be disqualified for receiving a push start. Their retirement meant Bira would be in 2nd place. Unfortunately, because of the pace of Trintignant, Bira would not be in any position to challenge him for the outright lead of the race.
Turning the fastest lap of the race with a lap time of two minutes and nine seconds, Trintignant would further gap the field. In fact, as he headed around on the final lap of the race, he would have a lap in hand over 2nd place and many more in hand over the rest of the field.
It would be a long afternoon. Trintignant would need three hours, forty minutes and thirty-four seconds complete the 95 laps and take the victory. Prince Bira would take his Maserati and would steadily make his way to the finish. He would finish a lap down in 2nd place. Bira could take his time and make sure his car made it to the end of the race considering he had more than four laps in hand over Roy Salvadori in 3rd place.
It had been a fruitless trip across to the mainland. However, as Ecurie Richmond made its way back across the Channel to England, it would do so with the British Grand Prix just a week away.
On the 17th of July, Ecurie Richmond would be busy making final adjustments to its lone car in preparation for the fifth round of the Formula One World Championship. The Midlands team had travelled the short distance to come to Silverstone, Britain's new home for motor racing and for the British Grand Prix, the first World Championship race for Ecurie Richmond in over a year.
Throughout the years of the Second World War the English countryside would be a mixture of farmland and airbases. Settlements were known to exist in the village of Silverstone by the 13th century after the birth of Christ. One of the first-known buildings in the village would be a chapel built around 1200 AD. The small village's other claim of fame, or infamy, would be the fact that it was listed in the Domesday Book. However, in the years after World War II, the village would take on perhaps its most famous reputation.
During World War II, the Royal Air Force Silverstone airbase would be a training base for Vickers Wellington bombers. The airfield, with its three runways, would serve throughout the war and afterward until it would lie abandoned by 1946. In just two short years Silverstone would come to host the first British Grand Prix since the end of the war. One year later, it would serve as host to the BRDC International Trophy race.
Ever since the 1st International Trophy race in 1949, the 2.88 mile perimeter road layout had been in use and would continue to be in use when the updated Formula One World Championship arrived in 1954.
Much anticipation surrounded the race. Unfortunately for Ecurie Richmond, they would not be the center of the attention. No, the center of attention would be the new Mercedes-Benz team complete with its W196s and Juan Manuel Fangio. Fangio had taken the new car and earned a victory at the French Grand Prix a couple of weeks earlier. However, the German squad would only arrive with two cars. They would be driven by Juan Manuel Fangio and Karl Kling.
The race would also be the first time in over four years in which Alberto Ascari would not be at the race driving for Scuderia Ferrari. Instead, the two-time defending champion would be at the British Grand Prix driving a Maserati 250F for the official Maserati works team.
In a case of déjà vu, Jose Froilan Gonzalez would be back at Silverstone behind the wheel of a Ferrari. Driving for Scuderia Ferrari back in 1951, Gonzalez had earned the Modena-based manufacturer its first World Championship victory. In 1954, he would be back looking to out-duel Juan Manuel Fangio once again.
The previous year, during the era of Formula 2 in the World Championship, Alberto Ascari would set the fastest lap in practice with a time of one minute and forty-eight seconds. One year later, three seconds would be taken off the fastest lap time. Juan Manuel Fangio would be the first to average more than 100mph over the course of a single lap and would take the pole with a time of one minute and forty-five seconds. Jose Froilan Gonzalez would show his special form at Silverstone by setting the second-fastest time in practice. The British spectators would have a couple of their heroes occupying the last two spots on the front row. Mike Hawthorn would end up starting 3rd in his Ferrari 625 while Stirling Moss would start 4th in a Maserati 250F.
Being hamstrung by a smaller 2.0-liter engine, Eric Brandon would have little to no hope of being up near the first couple of rows of the starting grid. This was especially a pipe dream given that Maserati had nine cars in the race in addition to the two from Mercedes and three from Ferrari.
At the wheel of the Cooper-Bristol T23, Brandon's fastest lap in practice would be a lap of two minutes and five seconds. This meant a difference of twenty seconds between Fangio and Brandon. This sizeable margin meant Brandon would start from the seventh row of the grid and 25th overall.
Ecurie Richmond would arrive at Silverstone with just one car, Nuckey's Cooper-Bristol T23. Nuckey would take the same car out and would end up turning a fastest lap time that was actually slower than Brandon's. At the end of the practice session, Brandon was set to start 25th while Nuckey was listed 29th on the starting grid. The team would end up taking the higher starting position of the two. Therefore, it would be Brandon that would have the opportunity to take part in the race while Nuckey would have to sit back and watch.
The day of the race, there would be downsides to racing and not. The day would boast of very familiar weather. Temperatures would be rather cold, but more than anything, it would be wet. These conditions would prove to throw almost all expectations right out the window.
In the wet conditions, the start of the race would see Gonzalez shoot into the lead of the race. He would be closely followed by Hawthorn, Fangio and Moss. This sent the British fans into something of frenzy seeing two of their countrymen in the top four and in a position to pounce.
While the British fans would be enamored by Hawthorn and Moss, a more impressive performance would be put together by Onofre Marimon. Marimon would actually start the race from the second-to-last row of the grid. Amazingly, by the end of the first lap, he would pass nineteen cars and would be lying in 6th position.
If Nuckey had felt left out watching his car line up on the starting grid without him, he wouldn't feel too bad for very long. As the field was beginning to settle down into its pace for the long 263 mile race, trouble was beginning to strike at the field. One of the first to take a hit would be Louis Rosier in a Ferrari 625. After just 2 laps, the engine would let go ending his race. At the same time Rosier's race was going up in smoke, Eric Brandon's Bristol engine would let go thereby ending Ecurie Richmond's race also after just 2 laps.
Gonzalez still retained the lead. Hawthorn was still following along in behind. However, Fangio would recover from his poor start and would actually overtake Hawthorn for 2nd place. While this certainly would have upset the competitive Hawthorn it would delight the British fans as it would create a British battle between Hawthorn and Moss.
While Gonzalez was having his way at the front of the field, there would be a number of strong competitors that would find their ways inhibited by attrition. Robert Manzon would retire after 16 laps with a cracked cylinder head. Peter Collins would also have his race come to an end on the same lap with head gasket failure. Alberto Ascari, the two-time defending champion would not be so dominant in '54. Valve failure would lead to his retirement after just 21 laps. However, he would take over Luigi Villoresi's Maserati for the remainder of the race. The remainder of the race, unfortunately, would be just until lap 40 when oil pressure problems would bring his, and Villoresi's, race to an end.
In the wet conditions, just about everybody had a share of the fastest lap time of one minute and fifty seconds. No fewer than six drivers would match Gonzalez's lap time. However, it would not be enough to unseat Gonzalez from the lead.
After dueling with Hawthorn for a number of laps, a gearing problem would drop Moss out of contention and out of the race after 80 laps. The problematic rear end on the Equipe Gordini T16 would cost Behra a strong result as well.
Gonzalez continued in the lead with Fangio trailing behind. However, gearbox problems and an inability to see the corners with the fenders of the Mercedes-Benz W196 would cause Fangio to slip back into the clutches of Hawthorn and others. Fangio would continue to hit oil barrel after oil barrel because he could not see the apex of the corners with the fenders of the car. The resulting damage and the gearbox-related problems would only force him further down the order. In fact, before the race would be over, Fangio would go from 2nd place to being a lap down.
Back in 1951, Gonzalez had taken the Ferrari 375 and held on by fifty-one seconds to beat Fangio for Ferrari's first World Championship victory. It had been in dry conditions that Gonzalez earned Ferrari the victory. Three years later, the weather was cold and it was wet, but Gonzalez would come through for Ferrari once again.
It would take Gonzalez two hours, fifty-six minutes and fourteen seconds to take the victory. Averaging nearly 90 mph over the course of the 90 lap race, Gonzalez would enjoy a minute and ten second advantage over the 2nd place finisher, which, to the delight of the British fans, would be Mike Hawthorn. This meant another Ferrari one-two that so many had grown accustomed to over the last couple of years but had not seen throughout the first few rounds of the World Championship in '54. Onofre Marimon would also have reason to celebrate despite finishing a lap down. Marimon would complete the distance and would finish in 3rd place. This would be the first podium finish for the young Argentinean driver.
All in all, it would be a fantastic day for Argentinean racers. Besides 1st place going to an Argentinean, Marimon's 3rd place would also go to Argentina. But it wouldn't stop there. Despite hitting a number of barrels and suffering from gearbox issues, Fangio would still manage to hang on to finish a lap down in 4th place, another Argentinean. Then, in 6th place, would be Roberto Mieres, another Argentinean.
While the event would be something to celebrate if one was Argentinean, for the British Ecurie Richmond team, there would be very little reason to be in a festive mood. Not only did the car start well down in the field because it did not have the pace compared to the 2.5-liter machines, but, going out after just 2 laps would be something of the ultimate bitter pill the team had to swallow. After the debacle, the team could would look forward to more local non-championship races to enable the team to get some momentum rolling again.
It hadn't been the best couple of weeks for Ecurie Richmond. Despite their best efforts, the team would come away with just 2 laps completed out of a possible 185. Completing just one percent of the total possible laps between the last two races meant with absolute certainty that the team not have a prayer against the might of Mercedes-Benz, Maserati or Ferrari. And this was putting aside the lacking performance their Formula 2 car had against the new Formula One machines. Therefore, it would not be surprisingly that there would be a good amount of time that would pass between races.
Those couple of weeks had been expensive and futile efforts. Given the troubles it certainly could have been surprising when both Eric Brandon and Rodney Nuckey showed up for the 2nd Cornwall M.R.C. Formula One race held at Davidstow, in southwestern England on the 2nd of August. However, what wouldn't have been all that surprising would be the fact the two drivers arrived at the race driving for two separate teams and not Ecurie Richmond. It would also not be all that surprising when nether one of the two finished the race even despite Nuckey matching the fastest lap time.
To overcome defeat requires perseverance and an unwillingness to give up. Therefore, Ecurie Richmond would be right back at it on the 7th of August, the week following another bitter disappointment at Davidstow experienced by the team's two drivers. On the 7th of August, Ecurie Richmond would be at Oulton Park in Cheshire, England preparing for the 1st International God Cup race.
Situated near the small village of Little Budworth, the Oulton Park circuit would come into existence on the former grounds of Oulton Hall, which was previously the Oulton Estate. During World War II, the area would be used for staging for the military and would even hold exhibition bouts by Joe Louis. However, after the war, the site would be developed and the circuit would open in the early 1950s.
Designed for multiple uses in mind, the circuit would be comprised of three possible variations. There is the International Circuit, the Island Circuit and a shorter circuit that would become known as Fosters Circuit.
For the International Gold Cup race, the entire 2.76 mile long International Circuit would be used. This would offer drivers and spectators and incredible experience filled with blind crests, quick drops and other 'natural' phenomenon that would provide some truly exciting racing and some truly remarkable sights for the crowd.
Ecurie Richmond would come to the event with just one car. Eric Brandon would be listed as one of the team's potential drivers but he would not arrive. Instead, it would be Rodney Nuckey that would be behind the wheel of his Cooper-Bristol T23 for the 36 lap, 99 mile, race.
The field would be comprised mostly of teams and privateer entries from around the British Isles. Mike Hawthorn had planned to attend the race driving a Ferrari 625 but no car would be ready in time for him, and therefore, Hawthorn would not come to the race. Nonetheless, the field would still include such drivers as Jean Behra, Reg Parnell, Roy Salvadori, Stirling Moss and many others. Nuckey would certainly have his hands full against such a lineup of British talent.
In practice, the lap times by the competitors would be quite tight. Bob Gerard and Jean Behra would each set lap times of one minute, fifty-nine and four-tenths seconds. However, Gerard would be just slightly faster and would take the pole for the race. Gerard would be joined on the three-wide front row by Behra in 2nd and Reg Parnell in 3rd. Parnell's best time around the circuit would be just two-tenths of a second slower than Gerard's.
The top ten on the starting grid would be separated by less than six seconds. Nuckey's best time around the 2.76 mile circuit would be nearly eight seconds slower. However, the time would be still good enough for him to start 13th in the field, which meant he would start the race from the fifth row of the grid. In all, twenty-one cars would qualify for the race.
Two of those twenty-one cars wouldn't make it to the starting grid. Tony Crook and Albert Wake would both not start the race. Another couple wouldn't make it much further than that.
As the field roared away on the first lap of the race, Paul Emery and Jack Fairman would find their races come to an end right at the very beginning. Emery would have an issue with his cylinder head while a half shaft would fail on Fairman's car.
Stirling Moss would start the race from dead-last. However, he would make an incredible start to the race and would be up near the front of the field within just a couple of laps. Reg Parnell would duel with Gerard for position while Jean Behra slipped out of contention and would finally retire due to magneto problems.
Nuckey would also make a good start from down in 13th position. He would soon get by Charles Boulton, Leslie Thorne, Ninian Sanderson, Bill Whitehouse and others, but would still lack the pace to really hang with the front-runners.
Stirling Moss would certainly have the pace. He would go on to set the fastest lap of the race with a lap time of one minute, fifty-six and eight-tenths seconds! This time was over two and a half seconds faster than Gerard's qualifying effort. It would be a pace that no one else could even imagine of holding onto. Not even Reg Parnell could muster the pace and would have to settle with battling with Gerard for 2nd place.
Against the pace of the Maserati 250F, Nuckey didn't stand a chance. Although he was still running well in the race, his pace would not be enough. He could not hold back the inevitable. Stirling Moss would come around and would go by Nuckey. He would go by at times when it seemed as though Rodney was just standing still.
Roy Salvadori was another behind the wheel of a Maserati 250F. However, nearly halfway through the race, Salvadori would throw it all away when he would crash his car and would be forced to retire. This only helped Nuckey move up the order. This was welcome news to the team after the horror they had been going through prior to this race.
Moss would suffer no such horror. He would need just one hour, eleven minutes and twenty-seven seconds to complete the 36 laps and take the victory. Averaging around 83 mph over the course of the race, Moss would be enabled to escape into the distance. He would eventually open up an advantage of one minute and twenty seconds on Parnell at the time he took the victory. Parnell would battle hard and would manage to gap 3rd place. Parnell would cross the line in 2nd place some four seconds in front of Gerard in 3rd.
Thankfully for Ecurie Richmond, its car would make it to the finish for the first time in a long time. Nuckey had made a great start and had fought hard throughout to get by a number of those that had actually started the race ahead of him. This would turn into a 5th place finish for Nuckey and the team despite being two laps down to Moss by the end of the race. This would translate into Nuckey being about six to seven seconds slower each and every lap of the race compared to Moss.
Nonetheless, it was a finish, and a strong one at that, for Ecurie Richmond. They had overcome the truly devastating two weeks in July. They had taken the break to regroup and it certainly seemed as if it had worked, but there were still more races to go.
One week after Nuckey's 5th place result at Oulton Park, the team would again be busy preparing one of its cars for a race. Leaving Oulton Park, the team would head southeast. They would head on over to Norfolk and Snetterton Motor Racing Circuit for the RedeX Trophy race held on the 14th of August.
As with Silverstone, Goodwood, Castle Combe and others, airbases would pop up all over southern England during the dark days of World War II. From these base fighters would launch to help save the island nation. Later on in the war, when Germany had to switch to the defensive, from these bases would launch giant-scale bomber attacks aimed at the industrial heartland of the Third Reich.
One of those airbases right in the thick of the action would be RAF Snetterton-Heath. Named for the nearby village, Snetterton-Heath would come to life intended to be a Royal Air Force base. However, in 1943, the base would be allocated to the United States Army Air Force for use during the war. The base would come to host the 386th Medium and 96th Heavy Bombardment Groups. From this base, B-17 Flying Fortresses and B-26 Marauders would launch to attack such targets as aircraft factories in Chemnitz and Hanover, chemical works plants in Wiesbaden and Ludwigshafen and airfields at Bordeaux and Augsburg. The 96th would also lead the famous Schweinfurt raid on the 14th of October in 1943.
After the war, the base would continue in service until 1948 when it was finally closed. After that, the airfield would fall into bad shape from neglect. But then, in 1952, Snetterton would be bought and would become a motor racing circuit. The circuit's layout would come from the 2.70 mile perimeter road. It would come to host a few races that first year. Then, in 1953, Snetterton would be a busy place hosting a number of races throughout the year.
On the 14th of August, Snetterton prepared to host the RedeX Trophy race, which was to be a 40 lap race of the 2.70 mile circuit covering a total of 108 miles. Initially, the field was to include a number of Britain's best talent and some of the most competitive cars around at the time. While the field would not be lacking for talent, it would, unfortunately, be missing some others that would have truly made the grid teeming with talent and competition.
Roy Salvadori had entered the race but would not appear as a result of his Maserati 250F not being repaired in time. Don Beauman wanted to come to the race with a newly purchased Ferrari 625. However, he would not purchase the car in time to take part in the race. Peter Collins would be a no-show in the Vanwall as would Tony Crook and Paul Emery.
Reg Parnell would be present with his Ferrari 625. Averaging around 90 mph, Parnell would be a little too strong for the majority of the field especially with other Ferrari 625s and Maseratis missing from the field.
Of course Nuckey would have little chance. Competing with a Formula 2 car against the likes of Parnell's Formula One Ferrari 625, Nuckey would lack the power to reach the speeds down the straight that Parnell would be able to achieve. Furthermore, the extra horsepower would help Parnell accelerate off of corners faster provided he could keep the power under control.
As the field headed into Riches Corner for the first time, Parnell would be in the lead with Bob Gerard looking rather racy behind the wheel of his Cooper-Bristol T23. Don Beauman would also be right up there at the start. The rest of the field would try to carefully pick its way through the first few turns in order to complete the first lap and settle into some kind of rhythm.
After the first lap, Parnell still held onto the lead while the rest of the field was still busy trying to sort itself out. Leslie Marr and Anthony Brooke would unfortunately try and occupy the same space. This would lead to the two making contact and crashing out of the race. Nuckey would make his way through the first couple of laps and was settling into a comfortable pace up near the front of the field.
Parnell would do everything he could to exert his dominance over the rest of the field. This desire would push Reg to do his best to set a lap time that would stretch out his already growing advantage over the rest of the field. He would do just that when he would rattle off a lap time of one minute and forty-eight seconds. This meant he had lapped the 2.70 mile circuit with an average speed close to 90 mph. This pace would do exactly what he had hoped. He would open up his lead over Gerard and the rest of the field.
The race would claim its share of victims. Jack Fairman, Peter Whitehead and Bill Whitehouse would all end up out of the race before it would be all over. This meant the number of competitive drivers left in the field had certainly been reduced in number. This would help solidify Nuckey's position in the middle of the front-runners, but it would also solidify Parnell's dominant performance.
After an hour, thirteen minutes and sixteen seconds, Parnell would cross the finish line to take the victory. He had dominated throughout and would end up with a margin of victory of forty-eight seconds over Gerard. Although, Gerard would be nearly fifty seconds behind Parnell, Gerard's performance would also be worthy of praise as he would end up being the only car left on the lead lap by the time Parnell crossed the line to take the victory. Gerard had fought hard throughout and had certainly put together a very impressive performance. Although Beauman would not be able to purchase the Ferrari 625 in time, he would still put in a rather impressive performance with what he had to work with. Beauman would take Connaught A-Type and would finish the race 3rd place overall despite being a lap beind.
Nuckey's race would be characterized by steady consistency. With the help of attrition and sheer talent, Nuckey would be solidly just inside the top five. His pace would be just a little too slow to really make a run for the top three, but it would certainly be fast enough to provide him with more than enough comfort room over the last few laps of the race. Horace Gould ran in 4th place but had a lap in hand over Nuckey. However, Nuckey was by no means under threat from behind. Nuckey would come through to finish in 5th place some two laps behind Parnell but two laps on his nearest competitor Charles Boulton.
After the trouble the team had experienced over the period of a couple of weeks, finishing with strong results would certainly be the most important thing on the mind of the team and the drivers. Rodney Nuckey would certainly drive a strong race to earn a 5th place result. Though he could have pushed a little harder, the potential failure would not overcome the almost certain payoff with a 5th place finish. Therefore, he would keep his head and would drive smart for all 40 laps.
Realizing the obvious facts of their lacking performance compared to the Formula One cars from other teams, Ecurie Richmond would not take part in another World Championship race other than the British Grand Prix all season long. This meant that by the time the RedeX Trophy race came to an end, the season was nearing its end. However, there were still some races in which the team could take part before it would draw to a close.
The Joe Fry Memorial Trophy race would take place at the end of the month but the team would not have an entry for the race. It wouldn't be until September that Ecurie Richmond would have an entry in any grand prix race.
Once the calendar turned to September there were only about three major grand prix races left on the calendar in England. Three of those races would take place on the same day at the same venue.
On the 25th of September, Goodwood would host another weekend of racing and it would include a number of short races. Three of those races to be held on the same day would be the 7th Goodwood Trophy, the 7th Madgwick Cup Formula 2 and the 7th Woodcote Trophy races.
In the case of all three, the Goodwood Trophy, Madgwick Cup and Woodcote Trophy races, Rodney Nuckey had been listed as the team's driver. However, in the case of all three, Ecurie Richmond would not arrive at Goodwood, let alone take part in any of the three races. Therefore, the team's grand prix season would come to an end.
The last couple of races for the Ecurie Richmond team had been very similar to its first couple of the season. While the team would not be challenging for the lead in any single one of them, they would still find themselves running solidly in the field. Had it not been for the terrible spell that would spill over to the British Grand Prix, the season would have certainly been a very consistent effort.
Nonetheless, the team knew very well that it could no longer compete, especially not with the new Formula One regulations. The costs were adding up. It had certainly become ineffective for the team cost-wise. This would bring Jimmy Richmond, Eric Brandon and others to a very important decision.
Alan Brown had already moved on. The costs of Formula One were still a little out of reach for the team. Weighing out all of the pros and cons, the answer would become more than obvious. After two seasons taking part in the World Championship, Ecurie Richmond would fade away from Formula One and the World Championship. Instead, Ecurie Richmond would return to its roots, the very roots that had set the team on its course to making its small splash on the World Championship scene.
It had all started out with surprising grandness. Championship points in the very first race followed up by another solid performance seemed to signal that something special was going to take place with the small Ecurie Richmond team. However, the sophomore season would be a hard crash against reality.
The 1954 season had been a tough experience for the team. Alan Brown had already departed to start another couple teams and to start racing in sportscars. Eric Brandon's interests were also starting to shift. In 1955, Brandon would fund construction of his own sportscar. Rodney Nuckey would get married and would soon move to Australia. It seemed clear that the end had come for Ecurie Richmond. 'All good things must come to an end', and they would come to an end for this small racing team that would take its love for motor racing, and the will to be as good as possible, to the point that they would challenge even the biggest factory efforts for championship points. Unfortunately, while their will still seemed strong, the finances to be able to make the necessary run would not be as stout. Therefore, Ecurie Richmond would slip away from the World Championship, but that 1952 season would forever cause racing historians to have to stop and remember. Ecurie Richmond