TeamsR.H.H. Parnell: 1959 Formula One Season By Jeremy McMullen
In 1951, Reg Parnell pulled off a huge upset surviving an absolute deluge of rain that flooded the Silverstone circuit during the BRDC International Trophy race. Parnell would manage to keep his Ferrari 375 under control long enough to be declared the winner. By the end of the decade, Reg would be, once again, positioning himself to steal away victory from the elite of Formula One.
Reg Parnell would step away from driving Formula One by 1955. He would still be present taking part in the occasional non-championship event, but he would not be as active as what he had been earlier in the decade.
It would not be for a lack of talent. Parnell's Formula One World Championship debut would come on home soil in the British Grand Prix held at Silverstone. Given a guest drive with Alfa Romeo in a 158, Parnell would take advantage of the situation earning a well-deserved 3rd place behind Alfa Romeo teammates Giuseppe Farina and Luigi Fagioli.
By 1957, Parnell would be turning aside from sitting behind the wheel and, instead, would be considering, very seriously, forming his own effort. Parnell would be involved in a number of other racing teams, including Aston Martin. However, the ultimate would be establishing his own team and building it up to be one of the greats.
Parnell's decision to form his own racing team would come along at just the right time. Cooper's lineup of rear-engine cars were rapidly becoming the must-have chassis in Formula One. The front-engined cars still reigned, but it was clear their days were over. Parnell would have, in Cooper, a foot-hold into the new revolution.
Reg would take advantage of Cooper's fantastic customer cars and would purchase a Formula 2 Cooper T45. Armed with a Cooper chassis and Henry Taylor as his driver, Parnell would set about preparing for the beginning of Reg Parnell Racing.
R.H.H. Parnell's first-ever race would come on the 18th of April at a circuit well-suited for the Cooper. The race would be the XIV BARC 200, which would take place at the 3.0 mile Aintree circuit located just outside of Liverpool.
The BARC 200 would be a 67 lap event that would feature a Formula One and Formula Two race running concurrently. Not surprisingly, the field would be filled with Coopers. Parnell's single entry would just another among the gaggle and, as such, the situation facing the new team was by no means an easy one.
Cooper would face the threat from Ferrari in fine fashion claiming the overall pole when Masten Gregory managed to lap the circuit in 1:59.6. Jean Behra would show the way for the Scuderia taking 2nd place on the grid with a 2:00.0 lap time in the Dino 246. Harry Schell would complete the front row of the grid at the wheel of the BRM 25. He too would lap the circuit in 2:00.0, the same as Behra. However, it would be the Ferrari driver that would take the middle spot on the front row.
Within the Formula 2 field, Parnell's entry would find itself in a strong position. The fastest of the Formula 2 entrants would be Jim Russell in a T45. He would turn a lap in 2:05.8 and would end up on the fourth row of the grid in the 9th position overall. Henry Taylor would be three seconds off Russell's pace and would find himself on the sixth row of the grid in the 14th position overall. With twenty-nine cars starting the 67 lap race, Taylor would find himself right in the middle of the entire field.
Under cloudy skies, the field would form up for the start. At the drop of the flag it would be Gregory that would lead the field with Bonnier, Moss, Schell and Brabham all giving chase. Gregory had looked strong in practice and continued his fine form leading Moss away from the rest of the field after just a couple of laps. Bonnier had looked the spoiler but would find his race come to a very early end when the BRM gave up the fight.
Gregory and Moss pulled away from the field. Meanwhile, within the Formula 2 field, there would be a tremendous battle for the lead. Many would find time at the head of the class. However, Ivor Bueb would be the longest occupant of the first position leading all the way until the last twenty laps of the race. Taylor would look strong throughout the race proving that Parnell knew as much about preparing a race team as he did actually driving the car himself.
Bueb would dominate in Formula 2 until a clutch issue cause him to surrender the lead late in the race. The lead would then pass to Brian Naylor. Unfortunately, miscommunication with his pitcrew would cause him to lose the lead. Mike Taylor would finally take advantage of the confusion and would find himself in the lead. Henry Taylor would fall a lap behind the leaders within Formula 2, but would remain in a strong position throughout. As attrition continued to decimate the field, Taylor would find himself right around the 10th place overall and in pursuit of 5th place in class.
At the front of the whole field, Gregory had looked really strong early on until gearbox issues of his own handed Stirling Moss the lead. Moss would go on to establish what looked like an insurmountable lead. Sadly, more gearbox issues would lead to yet another lead change. This time it would be Jean Behra taking over the point in the Ferrari. In spite of the overwhelming presence of British-made chassis in the field, the top-two positions in the running order would be Behra in 1st place and Tony Brooks in 2nd in another Ferrari. Bruce McLaren would give the British crowd something to cheer for as he ran in 3rd place, albeit almost a lap behind.
Behra would end up taking the win by 10 seconds over his Ferrari teammate. McLaren would finish in 3rd place a little under two minutes behind.
Mike Taylor would take advantage of the chaos within the Formula 2 field and would finish the race four laps down to the overall winner. He would finish 1st in class, but 5th overall. Keith Greene and Jackie Lewis would complete the top three.
In spite of the fact he was on the same lap as Brian Naylor, the pit miscues would not be enough for Taylor to steal 9th place overall. Instead, Taylor would finish 10th overall, some 5 laps down to the winner and 6th within Formula 2.
Taylor would not, by any means, be among the fastest of the Formula 2 runners over the course of the weekend. However, Parnell's team would finish with a strong and solid result. The result left room for improvement while offering some encouragement at the same time.
Parnell's outfit would make a less than spectacular debut in April at Aintree. However, there was certainly some positives to come out from that first race and the team would look to build upon its achievements. And, the next opportunity the team would get to improve and build would not come for another couple of months.
Reg would be deeply invested in the Aston Martin sportscar program. This investment would end up paying off as the team would come through to win Le Mans in June. Certainly this victory would inspire and encourage Parnell concerning his interests.
In spite of the memorable victory at Le Mans, Parnell would be under no illusions concerning a Formula One effort. Instead, he would choose to focus on Formula 2 in the short-term. Before the concurrent race at Aintree in April, Reg's team would take part in the Lavant Cup race at the end of March and then the British Empire Trophy race held at Oulton Park toward the middle of April.
In both cases, the team would perform well with a solid pace. However, the best the team would achieve over the course of the two races would be a rather sedated 12th at Oulton Park. Therefore, in many respects, the result at Aintree would be something of a breakthrough for the team. Sure, the team would fail to finish in the top five within Formula 2, but at least they managed to end an event inside the top ten.
Parnell's outfit had the chance to set off to the Mediterranean to take part in the Gran Premio di Siracusa. However, the team would forego this race in order to look forward to another on home soil.
On the 2nd of May, Silverstone would take on its usual hosting duties for the XI BRDC International Trophy. Though a non-championship race, the International Trophy race was every bit as tough a race as a regular round of the World Championship. Taking place around the 2.92 mile former bomber training base, the circuit was fast and pushed car and driver to the limit.
Some 50 laps in length, the combination of speed and distance promised to stretch man and machine to the limit. It was obvious. If Parnell's team could make it here they could make it anywhere.
Showcasing both Formula One and Formula 2 cars, the field would be filled to overflowing with entries.
Among the Formula One entries, Moss would be quickest driving a BRM. Tony Brooks would show the pace of the Ferrari was strong while the new Aston Martins also demonstrated great pace around the fast sweeping corners.
Arriving at Silverstone, Reg would have a great challenge ahead of himself and the team. Not only would he be looking forward to further progression, but he would have to turn to his son Tim Parnell to take the team there. Unfortunately, practice would provide little hope as his best time of 1:55.4 would be ten seconds off of the fastest lap time set by Mike Taylor in a T51. As a result, Parnell would find himself well down in the field. A total of 24 cars would take to the grid and Parnell would take his place toward the back on the sixth row of the grid.
A lot of excitement would surround the race. Juan Manuel Fangio would be on hand to wave the flag to start the 50 lap race. And, at the start of the race, it would be Jack Brabham that would sprint into the lead ahead of Roy Salvadori, Stirling Moss and Carroll Shelby.
Though Brabham would jump into the lead, Moss would soon take over at the front of the field. There he would stay until the usual BRM handicap of failed brakes landed him in the verge thereby handing the lead back over to Brabham.
Looking a little further back, the fight in Formula 2 would get interesting. Taylor had set the pace in practice, but, during the race, it would be Russell that would capture the lead. Chased by Bueb, Russell would proceed to pull away while Taylor continued to slip down the running order.
Parnell would remain in the hunt performing well in race trim. Though he would end the race more than a couple laps down to the leaders in Formula 2 he would still put together a strong performance that certainly helped the team progress. Heading into the final few laps of the race he would be just outside the top ten overall and within reach of a top five in Formula 2.
Some of the biggest names in the race continued to fall to the wayside. After Moss' departure into a ditch, Graham Hill, Tony Brooks and Bruce McLaren would all find their way out of the race. Chased by the untested Aston Martin of Roy Salvadori, Brabham would be in control and would be in a fine position to take the victory.
Crossing the line right around 18 seconds ahead of Salvadori, Brabham would take the victory. Ron Flockhart would manage to bring the BRM home in 3rd.
Among the Formula 2 runners no one would be as strong as Jim Russell. Completing the race distance just two laps behind Brabham, Russell would enjoy a margin of victory of nearly 30 seconds over Bueb. Tony Marsh would complete the top three crossing the line a further 37 seconds behind Bueb.
As for Parnell's crew, his son would perform well. Though he didn't have the pace in practice, his race pace would be more than enough. In the end, Tim would finish two laps behind Russell, which wasn't necessarily all that impressive. However, he would manage to finish ahead of Mike Taylor in 13th position overall. And, though his pace compared to Russell was lacking it would still be good enough for 6th in Formula 2.
The 6th place at Silverstone would be an encouraging sign for Parnell's team. The circuit's notorious reputation made any race finish a victory, and, to be just outside the top five would be something of a bonus. Still, the team was left on the outside looking in. They still hadn't cracked the top five, let alone any podium position. Therefore, there was still a lot of work to do.
Encouraged by the result in Silverstoner, Parnell's team would immediately set out across the Channel to France. On the 3rd of May, at the historic Montlhery circuit outside of Paris would be held the IV Prix de Paris.
Confidence would be running a bit higher for the team as it arrived in France. The reason for the optimism would be as a result of the team procuring a Climax-powered Cooper T51. Having the latest chassis for their use, Parnell and his team knew they could push and expect to be among the top.
Henry Taylor would be given the driving duties and he would promptly take advantage of the situation finishing the 25 lap race in 4th place. Finally, the team had cracked the top five. Still, having finished a full two laps behind race winner Jack Lewis, there was really very little to celebrate.
The celebrations would come a week later as Tim Parnell would campaign the T45 in the 3rd Maidstone and Mid-Kent Formula 2 race held at Silverstone. Not only would Parnell start the 20 lap race from the pole, but he would go on to set the fastest lap of the race and would beat George Nixon to provide R.H.H. Parnell its first team victory.
Such a victory would normally encourage teams and individuals to try their hand at the next step. However, that next step was to be the Monaco Grand Prix and this race presented a huge challenge. Not only would the Formula 2 cars have to do battle against the Formula One machines, but only 16 of the fastest cars would even qualify for the race. As it would turn out, just three Formula 2 cars would even qualify for the first round of the 1959 Formula One World Championship. Parnell's outfit, wisely, stayed away. Instead, the team would look forward to a rather similar race set to take place in the southwest of France on the 18th of May.
Pau had hosted the first grand prix back at the turn of the 20th century. By 1959, the Grand Prix Automobile de Pau was beginning to slip into obscurity. While it had never been a championship Formula One race, it had been a popular non-championship event. Sadly, by 1959, the race was only a Formula 2 event. Still, at 80 laps, it posed a challenging test for the Formula 2 teams.
The Parnell team would arrive in Pau with Henry Taylor as its driver and the T51 as the mount. Featuring names like Maurice Trintignant, Jean Behra, Bruce McLaren, Jack Brabham and Harry Schell, the race promised to be a competitive one, and one in which Parnell's team would have to be on its game.
The 1.39 mile circuit would be very similar to Monaco, Tight, twisty and very technical, the Pau circuit would be difficult to get right. Not surprisingly, Maurice Trintignant, the Frenchman who had stolen a couple of victories at Monaco, would be quickest in practice and would capture the pole.
Heading into the race, Trintignant was not the favorite. Over the last few years Jean Behra had owned the streets of Pau. And, as the race got underway, there seemed the potential for more of the same as Behra would clock the fastest lap of the race.
However, Behra would run into trouble and would slip down the order giving Trintignant all the attention at the front of the field. Maurice would take advantage of the situation presented him and would proceed to pull away from Bruce McLaren while the likes of Brabham, Masten Gregory and Carel Godin de Beaufort would all find themselves in trouble early on and out of the race.
Taylor would be impressive in the Parnell Cooper. Heading into the final stages of the race he would be pursuing Behra in his Behra-Porsche. Henry would be a lap down to Trintignant, but the pace was much more impressive than at other events. Yes, the team was again struggling to break into the top five, but this run was certainly looking much stronger.
Trintignant would take the confidence from the couple of wins at Monaco and would put them to good use absolutely demoralizing McLaren in the Alan Browne Equipe Cooper T45. Crossing the line in two hours, twenty-three minutes and thirty-four seconds, Maurice would have more than a minute in hand over the New Zealander. Lucien Bianchi would be impressive in the Equipe Nationale Belge T51. He would end up finishing the race a little more than 16 seconds behind McLaren.
As for Taylor, he would be unable to chase down Behra. Still, he would do well to finish in 6th place just a lap behind Trintignant. This was a strong finish for the team and a continuing sign of the team's growing strength and understanding of the new Cooper chassis.
There was a clear sense the team was getting stronger. This sense was proven at Mallory Park on the 18th of May when Tim Parnell powered the T45 to victory in the 1st Nottingham S.C.C. Formula 2 race.
This victory was then followed up with another at Mallory Park on the 28th of June in the VIII BRSCC Formula 2 race. In that race, Tim Parnell would overcome pole-sitter Tony Marsh to take the victory by a couple of seconds at the end of the 30 laps. This came on the heels of the overall victory at Le Mans and would only further inspire the team.
The Parnell team would travel around, as was the habit in those days, with the Formula One teams. But, instead of taking part in World Championship events, the team would firmly focus its attentions on Formula Two races. Therefore, instead of the team taking part in the French Grand Prix at Reims on the 5th of July, they would enter the 3rd Coupe Internationale de Vitesse, also held at Reims on the same day.
A little more than five miles in length and incredibly fast, the Reims circuit was yet another tortuous circuit and demanded drivers treat their cars with utmost respect.
Not surprisingly, Stirling Moss would be the quickest in practice with the Rob Walker T45. Henry Taylor would be back driving for Parnell in the T51. He was quick, but nowhere near as fast as Moss.
In the 25 lap race, Taylor would be impressive. His race pace would be such that even Moss would be unable to put the Parnell driver a lap down. In fact, Parnell's pace would be such that he and Wolfgang von Trips would be embroiled in an intense battle for position that would go right down to the wire.
Moss would set the fastest lap of the race and would be in control throughout taking the victory by a little more than ten seconds over Hans Herrmann in the Behra-Porsche. Jo Bonnier would make it two Porsches finishing in the top three when he crossed the line in 3rd place. Following Trintignant's quiet finish in 4th place, von Trips and Taylor would round Thillois side-by-side powering their way down the long straight to the finish line. It would be an incredible finish with von Trips clipping Taylor by a mere tenth of a second.
Once again, Parnell's team finished outside the top five, but this result at Reims spoke volumes as to the team's true abilities. It seemed a mere matter of time before the Parnell team name would be right up there among the very best.
The team would need to be at its very best as the calendar continued to churn its way through July. Parnell's focus was absolutely on Formula 2. However, the British round of the Formula One World Championship was literally right around the corner on the calendar and the race that year would include a Formula One and Formula 2 race held together. The team would not miss the opportunity, and so, it was back to Aintree.
The British Grand Prix at Aintree presented Parnell with an interesting opportunity. Seeing that the race was a championship round, most of the big names and factory teams would all be taking part as Formula One entries. Parnell would arrive with both his T51 and T45. What's more, the cream of the crop had risen to the Formula One ranks. Reg Parnell had the opportunity to take a class victory in the British Grand Prix.
After practice not all would be well for the team. Tim Parnell would struggle around the 3.0 mile Aintree circuit. The technical circuit intertwined among the famed Grand National circuit would prove too much for Tim and he would fail to qualify for the race.
Henry Taylor, on the other hand, would be right up there among the Formula 2 entries in the T51. He would not end up on the pole within the category, but he wouldn't be terribly far off either. Instead, it would be Chris Bristow that would achieve the honor of pole-position for the British Grand Prix. Then there would be Ivor Bueb starting in the same seventh row of the grid as Bristow. Amazingly, right in between the two men would be Tony Brooks at the wheel of the very kind of car that had earned the first Formula One Constructor's Championship the year before.
Being just a second off of Bristow's best would land Taylor on the ninth row of the grid in the 21st position overall. Taylor was close. He just needed things to go his way.
Taylor's and Parnell's story amid the British Grand Prix would be quite minute and easily overlooked with the way the World Championship had been going up to that point. Jack Brabham had started the year off strong with a victory at Monaco, but then things would turn strange with a surprise BRM victory for Jo Bonnier at the Netherlands Grand Prix. Then, at the French Grand Prix, Tony Brooks would add his name to conversation. Then there was Stirling Moss always lurking in the background. He had the pace and he looked on the verge of breaking through; he just needed things to go his way.
As a result of all the intrigue Parnell's outfit would seem like nothing more than window dressing, extras in a bigger story. Nevertheless, the team would set about its job, its attempt to join the ranks of great teams.
On the 18th of July, Taylor would take his place on the grid, preparing for the 75 lap race that faced himself and the rest of the field. The weather leading up to the start of the race had been wet and rather appalling. Winds and overcast skies greeted the overflowing crowd as it assembled for the British round of the World Championship.
After the driver parade of a gaggle of Sprites the drivers and cars took to the grid. The circuit was still wet. Cars aligned on the grid, the sun beginning to peak out from behind the clouds, the race was mere moments away from starting. It would be an exciting moment for the Parnell team, albeit rather strange with Reg having taken his position in the Aston Martin camp giving instruction to its drivers Shelby and Salvadori.
At the start, it would be Brabham that would lead the way into Waterways for the first time. He would be chased by a fast starting Harry Schell and Jo Bonnier. Looking further back, Taylor would make an incredible start to the race. Despite his 21st position on the grid, he would complete the first lap almost within the top fifteen. This was a great beginning to the race for R.H.H. Parnell. They just needed the car to complete the distance now.
Brabham would immediately begin to open up an advantage over the remainder of the field. Meanwhile, six cars, which included Moss and others, would line up nose-to-tail in chase of the Cooper driver. Schell would head the chase for a number of laps until he would give up the position to a hard-charging Moss. Stirling would take up residence in 2nd place and would begin a series of impressive laps in an effort to catch Brabham. In spite of Moss' pace, Jack continued to hold onto a comfortable lead while the remainder of the field fought it out tooth-and-nail for the remaining positions.
Taylor would be in that fight in both the overall and Formula 2 rankings. After getting up to about 15th in the running he would slip down the order some. Bristow and Bueb were the pace setters within the Formula 2 field but it was a long race and Taylor was running quite well. The retirements up and down the field would help Taylor's overall positioning and would continue to do so as long as he could keep the car going. This would be easier said than done as a number of top flight cars and drivers had already departed the scene by the time the race had reached the halfway mark.
Heading into the last half of the race, Taylor was still in the hunt and actually looking to be in a racy mood. He would end up slipping past Bueb and would find himself in 2nd place within the Formula 2 category. This was a tremendous run for the team and only further evidence of the growing confidence the team was enjoying.
Up at the front, Moss would have to pit late and would rejoin the race with about 15 seconds in hand over Bruce McLaren. McLaren would pick up his pace tremendously and would soon be challenging Moss for his 2nd place, well behind Brabham. And, in spite of a furious challenge mounted by McLaren, Moss' talent would help him to secure a distant 2nd place behind Brabham.
As for the Formula Two race, Taylor would not fade as he had in previous races. Evidence of his growing comfort with the Cooper, Taylor mounted a challenge of his own and would be within a lap of the leader Bristow. In fact, Taylor would be chasing down one of Reg Parnell's Aston Martins heading into the final couple of laps.
Chris Bristow would finish the race 10th overall and the victor in Formula 2. Henry Taylor would follow the example of Reg Parnell, who happened to show better in the bigger races, and finished a splendid 2nd place and 12th overall. It was a time for the team to show its worth and everyone involved would do just that and the reward would be a memorable first World Championship experience.
Though Parnell was encamped with the Aston Martin crew, his team would be firmly guided by a strong desire to represent itself well. And they had done just that. This offered the team a good deal of confidence and would inspire the outfit to travel abroad after Aintree.
On the 26th of July the team would be in Clermont-Ferrand at the demanding Circuit de Charade. It would be a highly competitive Formula 2 race filled with disappointment and tragedy.
Stirling Moss would provide the target starting from pole. However, Taylor, fresh from his result in Aintree, would be more than up to the challenge fighting with Bruce McLaren for runner-up honors behind Moss.
Overshadowed by the death of Ivor Bueb, Taylor and McLaren would enjoy a fantastic duel that would go down to the very last. And, in the end, Taylor would manage to clip McLaren for 2nd place by a mere two-tenths of a second.
Taylor would again reach the top step of the podium on the 1st of August. Brimming with confidence, Henry would take a dominant victory in the 1st Whitchurch Formula 2 race held at the old Whitchurch Aerodrome.
First opened in 1930, Whitchurch had been destined as a municipal airport to showcase Britain's growing aviation industry. However, with the coming of the Second World War the airport would be taken over by the Air Ministry and heavily used for air transport efforts.
Following the war, the airport would struggle to find itself and would end up closing in 1959 when it then became known as Whitchurch Circuit. It would be on this new former airfield that Taylor took his victory. But what made the day even more special would be the fact Tim Parnell would bring the T45 home in 3rd place, just four-tenths of a second behind the 2nd place runner of Keith Greene.
Taylor would finish the 1st John Davy Trophy race at Brands Hatch a rather distant 6th behind the race winner Chris Bristow, Roy Salvadori and Jack Brabham. Tim Parnell would finish the race not classified having not completed a single lap.
It would be the first time in months in which the team suffered a setback, but even a 6th place result was not terrible. Parnell's outfit was still on an upward trend. This just needed to continue throughout the last portion of the season.
Carroll Shelby wouldn't help matters though. Having a relationship with Reg through Aston Martin, it was not at all surprising that Shelby would drive for Parnell's team at one time or another. That first outing would come on the 29th of August in the 2nd Kentish '100' held at Brands Hatch.
Tim Parnell would not appear for the race. Carroll would be the lone hope for the team, and he would be unable to carry them beyond the first heat race when he finished two laps down and with car trouble. He wouldn't even be able to line up for the second heat race. That upward trend for the team was rapidly turning downward.
The Parnell team would skip the International Gold Cup race at Oulton Park in late September. It was a good thing. Stirling Moss had made Oulton Park his home since the very first race back in the early part of the 1950s. Once again, Moss would go on to victory practically cementing his reputation as being unbeatable at the circuit.
The calendar turned to October. There was really only one race left in which the team could take part, unless it had the finances to make the journey to the United States in the middle part of December.
Lacking the finances, and the ambition, to make such trip, the 4th Silver City Trophy race, held at the Snetterton Circuit near Thetford, on the 10th of October would be the final race of the season for the team. And, it would be important for the time to right its sinking ship and end with a positive result. The team didn't need to win the race, but they certainly needed to make a strong showing of things.
Tim Parnell would be given the driving duties for the final race of the season. Unfortunately, the T51 wouldn't be available. Therefore, Parnell would enter the race driving the T45. This would be a tough assignment with many other top name drivers and teams in the race.
Snetterton was yet another World War II airbase-turned motor racing circuit. Formerly known as RAF Snetterton Heath, the airbase would be a vitally important location during the war. Designated for the United States Army Air Force, the base would become home to a number of bombardment squadrons that would take part in such famous raids as Chemnitz, the Invasion of Normandy, as well as leading the raid on Schweinfurt.
In spite of its decorated service during the war, the base would quickly close and fall into disrepair. Then, in 1952, the airbase would be purchased with the intent being to make use of the runways and perimeter road to create a motor racing circuit. Measuring 2.70 miles in length, Snetterton Motor Racing Circuit would be born. And, by the end of the 1950s, it would be as important as its former self becoming an important stop for the motor racing fraternity.
The Silver City Trophy would be for both Formula One and Formula Two entries. This meant a large turnout of some of the best teams and drivers and this would give Parnell the best opportunity to get back on track and look forward to the following year.
Entered in the Formula 2 field, Parnell would not be among the quickest in practice. Overall, the fastest in practice would be Ron Flockhart behind the wheel of the BRM 25. His best effort would be a lap of 1:34.8 and an average speed right around 99mph. Roy Salvadori would start alongside Flockhart in 2nd place having posted a lap time just two-tenths slower. The rest of the five-wide front row included Graham Hill starting third, Bruce Halford lining up fourth and Innes Ireland completing the row in fifth.
The fastest among the Formula Two efforts would be Christ Bristow. His best lap time would be around six seconds slower than Flockhart but would still put him right near the middle of the second row of the grid, 8th place overall.
Parnell would not head up the front row of the grid. Instead, he would hold down a position in the last row having been more than a few seconds slower than Bristow in practice. This was not a good sign for the team, but the race was the most important thing for the team. Though just 25 laps, it offered Parnell enough time to make a move…if he could. Starting out 20th overall, Parnell would have his work cut out for himself.
Making use of the old runways and perimeter road, there would be more than enough room for the cars as they assembled on the grid. In spite of the five-wide front row, the whole grid would seem swallowed up by the width of the circuit. This meant drivers could take some different lines in an effort to attack.
And, right from the beginning, Flockhart would be under attack from the man down-under. Relentlessly Brabham hurried Flockhart. It was of little concern for Brabham who undoubtedly believed the BRM would break at some point.
It would be an impressive performance by Flockhart. In spite of the pressure, Ron would soldier on and would respond brilliantly by increasing the pace with every passing lap. Soon, the track record was being broken each and every lap. Eventually, Flockhart would lower the mark by more than 4 seconds! Still Brabham followed.
Only a little further back, Bristow would be putting in a performance of his own in his Borgward-powered Cooper T51. Showing a maturity beyond his years, Bristow would be able to outlast many Formula One competitors and would be solidly inside the top five overall.
This performance by Bristow offered Parnell very little hope. Starting so far at the back of the pack, there was really no chance for Parnell to come up and challenge Bristow, not after the way he had been driving. It was soon becoming very apparent that though this race was short at just 25 laps, it was very much about survival and giving the team something solid to build upon. The team had enjoyed some very good results over the course of the season and they would just have to look back and remember what they were truly capable of achieving when they worked hard and things went their way.
Things would not be going the team's way on the 10th of October. Parnell was still very much in the running but was stuck well down within the field. A top ten overall was still in the offing, but he needed to make it work for him.
Thankfully for Parnell and the rest of the team he held onto the advantage over the relatively inexperienced drivers behind him on the road. As a result, the team would survive its last race of the 1959 season.
Ron Flockhart would magnificently survive the onslaught offered up by Brabham. After posting an incredible lap time of 1:33.6, Ron would be able to keep Brabham at bay until the very end. It had been a controlled and cold-hearted drive for Flockhart. He would not give into the pressure and, as a result, would enjoy the spoils taking victory by a few seconds over Brabham. Bruce Halford would enjoy his guest appearance with BRM driving to a 3rd place finish. He had come to the race expecting to enter an out-dated and slow Maserati 250F. Instead, he would be offered a drive in a BRM 25 and would come away a podium finisher.
Bristow would be bristling with confidence having stormed to victory in Formula Two. Finishing just a lap behind Flockhart, it was obvious Chris had put together some impressive laps of his own to finish in 5th place overall.
Compared to Bristow, Parnell would barely make it to the finish. Finishing more than three laps behind the leaders, it was clear Parnell was not on the pace. He would be unable to finish inside the top ten overall. Instead, he would finish the day 13th overall and 8th within Formula Two.
But while this may not have been the end to the season R.H.H. Parnell had been looking for, one important thing came of it—they survived. The last couple of races of the season leading up to the Silver City race had seen the Parnell outfit struggling to make it to the end and be competitive at the same time. Once again, the car was capable of finishing, but it wasn't competitive. Nonetheless, the team ended the season with a result, a top ten in Formula Two. There had been a number of other incredible moments throughout the season upon which the team could remind itself of and look forward to the future. It would be a bright one. Reg Parnell Racing