After spending the war years behind the controls and on the edge of life and death as a pilot for the Royal Air Force, Tony Crook decided to turn in the fast-paced life for a slower one—just slightly. Crook traded in flying on the edge of the envelope at 2-300 mph. Instead, Crook decided for the quiet life driving racing cars careening on the edge at over 100mph.
Crook was present for the first grand prix race held in England at the end of World War II at Gransden Lodge. The Manchester native would take part in a few other non-championship grand prix throughout the late 1940s and into the early 1950s. He would achieve considerable success with a 2.9-liter Alfa Romeo. To help fund his racing habit, like many others, he founded a number of automobile garages known as Anthony Crook Motors. His garages developed many relationships with other racing teams and companies, and soon, his garages became agents for them.
Throughout the early 1950s, Crook took part in some minor races, but then providence supplied Crook with an opportunity he couldn't turn down. Heading into 1952, the Formula One World Championship suffered the departure of Alfa Romeo from competition. This left only Scuderia Ferrari as the main competition in an increasingly-costly racing series. To survive, the organizers needed to make some changes, but needed time to figure out what those exact changes were. Therefore, the governing-body looked around and found Formula 2 to be a very competitive, and rather cost-effective, stop-gap. Therefore, it was announced the 1952 and 1953 Formula One World Championship would be run to Formula 2 specifications. This opened the door to the World Championship for many who already were racing in Formula 2, including Tony Crook.
Prior to the 1952 season, Crook had developed a relationship with Bristol and Frazer-Nash. Having flown during the Second World War, Crook was familiar with Bristol. Bristol was one of England's most famous aviation companies. After the war, Bristol moved over to make car engines. The company had received rights to BMW's prewar 328 engine model and began making examples of the engine with Bristol tags on it. Crook had managed to purchase a pre-war BMW 328 and had the engine to use in his Frazer-Nash chassis. The relationship with Bristol meant Crook had access to helpful support.
Armed with his Frazer-Nash 421 chassis and BMW 328 2.0-liter six-cylinder engine, Crook set out to take part in the 1952 grand prix season. His first race wouldn't require him to travel too far.
Crook's first race of 1952 was a non-championship race held Silverstone. On the 10th of May, Crook prepared to take part in the 4th BRDC International Trophy race.
As with its previous years, the International Trophy race consisted of two 15 lap heat races followed by a single 35 lap final race. The entry list wouldn't merely be filled with local British talent. Many international grand prix racers took part in the race. Therefore, the field was large.
In the first heat race, there would be seventeen that would start the race. Some of the entries in the first heat included Equipe Gordini's Jean Behra, HWM-Alta's Peter Collins and Lance Macklin, and finally, a privateer entry Mike Hawthorn.
In practice, Hawthorn set the pace around the 2.88 mile road course. The newcomer would end up surprising all when he would end up on the pole having set a time of two minutes around the circuit. Peter Collins was two seconds slower and would start on the front row in 2nd. The rest of the front row consisted of Jean Behra and Lance Macklin.
Right from the start, Behra put up a challenge. He would record the fastest lap of the heat race and would get by Collins to run right behind Hawthorn in 2nd. Hawthorn would not be outdone. He would match the fastest lap time set by Behra, which, incidentally, was the same as his own qualifying time. Hawthorn would hold on to win the heat race by two seconds over Behra. Peter Collins would finish thirty seconds later in 3rd.
The second heat featured more strong competition. Crook would have to face Robert Manzon of Equipe Gordini and Rudolf Fischer of Ecurie Espadon. Fischer would be tough driving the new Ferrari 500. Practice made it obvious Crook was going to have a tough race on his hands. Manzon would traverse the 2.88 mile road course in two minutes and one second and would end up on the pole for the race. He would be joined on the front row by Kenneth McAlpine, Rudolf Fischer and Duncan Hamilton. Each of the runners, 2nd through 4th would recorded the same time during practice, which was only one second slower than Manzon. On contrast, Crook's time was well back of the times set by those on the front row. Tony's best time was sixteen seconds slower than Manzon's. This relegated Crook to the fifth, and last, row in 15th.
Starting position wasn't as important as finishing and how fast one did finish. Unlike the first heat race, the attrition was worse. Many competitors would end up falling out during the 15 lap heat race. Crook; however, would continue to hold on. Manzon and Fischer held station at the front of the field. McAlpine would be unable to keep up and would slip down the order.
Manzon would end up winning the heat by two seconds over Fischer. Tony Rolt would come up from his 7th place starting position to end the heat down fifteen seconds in 3rd. Crook would come up from 15th to finish strongly. Driving consistently, Crook was able to stay out of trouble and would end up finishing a minute and a half behind in 7th.
The final grid was determined by how fast each competitor finished their respective heat races. As a result of being the fastest to complete the 15 laps, Manzon would start the 35 lap final from the pole. He would be joined on the front row by Fischer in 2nd, Hawthorn in 3rd and Jean Behra in 4th. Despite his performance in his heat race, Crook would once again line up in the fifth row in 15th. Though starting down in the field, the race would end up providing the Englishman great opportunities.
Equipe Gordini's attack would be neutralized after only a couple of laps. Manzon's race lasted merely one lap. He would retire due to transmission problems. Two laps later, he would be joined by his teammate, Jean Behra, who would retire with the same transmission troubles. Although two big threats were out of the race, there were plenty of competitors able to fight at the front of the field. This pushed the pace faster-and-faster. Crook was struggling just to keep up, let alone try to climb up the order.
HWM-Alta teammates Macklin and Rolt would lead the way throughout the remainder of the race. Despite setting the fast lap of the race, troubles would cause Hawthorn to slow before the end of the race.
Lance Macklin would end up surprising many as he would take the victory over his teammate Rolt by ten seconds. Emmanuel de Graffenried would also surprise in an aging Maserati 4CLT/48 when he would end up 3rd. Crook would merely circulate, but he would finish. Crook would finish an incredibly quiet 17th. He was four laps down to Macklin at the end. Throughout, Crook looked more akin to a spectator than a participant.
After his sedated circulation of the International Trophy race, Crook's next race wouldn't be for another two months. However, his next race was the one that counted the most. On the 19th of July, Crook had travelled back to Silverstone to prepare for the British Grand Prix.
Like the International Trophy race, the field was full for the British round of the World Championship. This would also be the first time Crook would witness the full weight of the juggernaut called Scuderia Ferrari. In practice, he would get to see it up close and personal.
At the end of practice it was clear Ferrari would be the team to beat. The three fastest times in practice all belonged to Ferrari's drivers. Giuseppe Farina would end up beating out his teammate, Alberto Ascari, for the pole even though they would record the same best lap during practice. Each of the two drivers would circulate the 2.88 mile circuit in one minute and fifty seconds. These times were a full ten seconds faster than the best times recorded during the BRDC International Trophy race! Piero Taruffi would start 3rd for Ferrari after recording a best time three seconds slower than Farina and Ascari. The next-closest competitor to Ferrari was Robert Manzon in his Gordini T16. His best lap was two seconds slower than Taruffi's best time.
Crook would vastly improve upon his best time recorded during practice for the International Trophy race. He would end up bettering his time by fourteen seconds! Crook's time was two minutes and three seconds. Unfortunately, he was still thirteen seconds behind Farina's best time. As a result, he would start the race 25th.
Thirty-two cars took the green flag for the 85 lap race. Ascari had the best start of all. He would immediately shoot into the lead before the first turn. He would begin to pull away from then on. Crook was trying to move forward; if he could.
Though overcast, the track remained dry. This allowed Ascari to absolutely dominate the race. Farina struggled off the line at the start. This dropped the Italian back to 5th and allowed other drivers to come up into top-three, including British hero Mike Hawthorn. Crook continued to carry on in an uninspiring pace at the back of the field. However, he would continue to move forward due to the failures of others.
Before the end of the race, Ascari had lapped the entire field. Ascari would record the fastest lap of the race with a time only two seconds slower than his starting grid time. As a result of Ascari's pace, it would only take him two hours and forty-four minutes to cover the 85 laps. He would average just over 90 mph in his victory over Piero Taruffi. Mike Hawthorn would give the British fans reason to cheer as he would finish the race a fine 3rd, albeit two laps down.
Unfortunately for Crook, points weren't awarded for finishing the race. He would end up finishing the race. He would end up the second-to-last car still running—albeit barely running. Crook was down over ten laps to Ascari and would end up not classified as a result. Though he was by no means in the hunt for a points-paying position, Crooks took advantage of the opportunity presented to him to compete in a World Championship race.
After his lone World Championship experience, Crook was entered in the 2nd Daily Mail Trophy race at Boreham on the 2nd of August but would not attend the race. This would mark the end of Crook's involvement in major grand prix races in 1952.
Crook only raced a couple of years into the 1950s. After he ceased his racing career, he threw himself full-time into his car businesses. In time, He would become a dealer for Bristol cars. Crook partnered with Bristol's owner Sir George White and formed the Bristol car division. After a bad accident, White sold his remaining control of the company to Crook in 1973. Bristol remains in business even today and Crook continues on as its owner.