TeamsConnaught Engineering: 1953 Formula One Season By Jeremy McMullen
Connaught Engineering made its debut during the 1952 season. Amongst the other Formula 2 cars competing in the World Championship, their A-Type chassis would prove to be competitive and capable, but mostly in races taking place somewhere on the British Isles. On the European mainland, Connaught proved to be about as effective as any other British mark of the time. The question was whether the immensely popular could be improved during the off season to pose a greater threat in 1953.
During the 1952 British Grand Prix, Connaught Engineering managed to have two of its cars finish in the points when Eric Thompson finished 5th and Dennis Poore finished 4th. The team would also end up having three cars finish inside the top ten when Ken Downing brought his A-Type across the line in 9th place. This was an incredible result for the new team.
Outside of the British Isles; however, Connaught couldn't get even one of its cars to finish a World Championship race. Ken Downing retired from the Netherlands Grand Prix and Stirling Moss followed the retirement up with another at the Italian Grand Prix at the end of the championship season.
In non-championship races, the car was virtually unstoppable at home as proven by the one, two and three scored at the Newcastle Journal Trophy race in October of the previous year. However, in non-championship races outside the British Isles, the Connaught would rarely make an appearance. In one of its rare appearances across the English Channel, Ken Downing would bring his Connaught in for a 2nd place finish after leading most of the race. Admittedly, the competition in the race, while still very good, wasn't inclusive of the best teams of the time.
Therefore, heading into the 1953 season, Connaught knew they had a good car at home, but it knew it really had to improve to be competitive in other rounds of the World Championship and non-championship races.
1953 would mark an important moment in the World Championship. Ever since its inaugural year of existence the Indianapolis 500 had counted toward the World Championship but was never really considered an actual part of the series. Therefore, 1953 would mark the first time the World Championship would be a proper world championship.
The Argentine Grand Prix was added to the series calendar for the 1953 season. This brought the rounds of the championship up to nine. It also brought an incredibly early start to it as well. Officially, the first round of the World Championship took place on the 18th of January in Buenos Aires. For many of the smaller factory efforts and privateers; however, the season would not officially start for months afterward.
The costs associated with travelling to Buenos Aires were enormous. Therefore, many teams, like Connaught Engineering, would wait until the grand prix season kicked off on the European mainland. However, because of the time associated with travelling all the way to Argentina and back, the grand prix season would have a long break in between its first couple of races and the first couple of races to take place in Europe.
For Connaught Engineering, its first race wouldn't come until the very beginning of April with the 5th Lavant Cup race held on the 6th of April as part of a number of races held on the 2.39 mile Goodwood Circuit.
Goodwood began its life as an emergency landing airfield for fighters stationed at nearby Tangmere airbase and was known as RAF Westhampnett. The land for the emergency airfield existed as part of the Goodwood Estate but was allowed to have an airfield built on it for the defense of the homeland during World War II.
The Duke of Richmond, the title holder of the estate was a keen motor racing enthusiast. In the days following the end of the war it was discussed finding a suitable replacement for the then defunct Brooklands circuit. The Duke of Richmond would have the idea floated to him about turning Westhampnett into a motor racing circuit, and 1948, Goodwood would be born.
Named for the nearby village, the Lavant Cup race was just one of a number of races held on the 6th of April. In fact, because of the number of races held the length of the Lavant Cup race remained rather short at only 7 laps.
Coming into the race, Connaught Engineering would turn to Roy Salvadori and John Coombs to race alongside one of its founders Kenneth McAlpine. At only 7 laps, starting position for the race was critical. For Connaught's drivers, it would be crucial they put together their best laps possible in order to start near the front of the grid.
Salvadori would seem to get the season off to a good start as he would end up being the fastest qualifier. His best lap around the 2.39 mile circuit would be one minute and thirty-five seconds. His time would end up being only two-tenths of a second faster than Baron de Graffenried and his Maserati. The rest of the front row would include Bobbie Baird and Tony Rolt.
The rest of the Connaught team would be McAlpine starting from the second row in the 6th position after he posted a best lap time over three seconds slower than Salvadori. John Coombs would find himself in the 8th starting position, which was the first position on the third row. His best effort had been some five seconds off of Salvadori's pace.
At only 7 laps in length, the race would be furious and short. There would be no room for mistakes and the drivers would have to be on the edge from the very start. As the field roared away, it was obvious Salvadori was looking to complete the domination by taking the win. However, he had a very determined de Graffenried running right there with him. McAlpine was looking racy at the start and was quickly fighting his way forward. Coombs was mired in the back and was desperately trying to get a toe-hold just so he could begin to fight back.
Salvadori was also fighting hard. He would follow up his qualifying performance by turning what would be the fastest lap of the race. However, de Graffenried was proving to be the more consistent of the two, and therefore, would hold onto the lead of the race.
Bobbie Baird and Bob Gerard would each struggle during the very early part of the race. This would allow McAlpine to take advantage of the situation. He would. He would end up getting by the two and would be pitched in a battle with Tony Rolt in another Connaught over the closing stages of the race.
While Salvadori was pretty much holding station up at the front, and McAlpine was actually moving forward, Coombs was stuck and being pushed backward. Ken Wharton had started worse than Coombs but was certainly on the pace in the race. Stirling Moss had been the man on the fly from the very start. He had started the race 18th, but as the last lap of the race was unfolding, he too had managed to come up through the order and was running in a better position than Coombs.
Baron de Graffenried's average speed of around 87 mph would prove to be too much for Salvadori to handle. Over the course of the remaining laps of the race, de Graffenried had managed to begin to pull away from Salvadori. In fact, de Graffenried would come across the line to take the checkered flag and would enjoy a margin of nearly seven seconds on Salvadori at the finish. Salvadori, in turn, would also enjoy about seven seconds of margin over Tony Rolt.
Kenneth McAlpine would do quite well over the course of the 7 laps race. After starting the race 6th, McAlpine would fight hard and would manage to come across the line in 4th place just ten seconds behind Salvadori.
Of all the Connaught Engineering teammates, John Coombs would have the toughest race. He truly wasn't ready to battle. He would get pushed back at the start of the race and would never really manage to recover, just hold station really. He had started the race in 8th place but would end up losing ground to Ken Wharton and to the incredibly fast Stirling Moss. As a result, Coombs would finish the race in 10th.
Although Salvadori had lost out on a victory, the season had started out quite well for Connaught Engineering. At least the team looked impressive against de Graffenried and his new Maserati. Although the Maserati would prove victorious, Salvadori would prove the Connaught capable of challenging. This would be important going into the season.
Building off of the good result at Goodwood, the team would wait about a month before it headed to its next race. The team would use the month to prepare its cars, tweaking them, so to ensure they could repeat the performance they had put together at Goodwood. The team would need the time to prepare for its next race as it was certain to host a greater challenge both in competition and race distance. This was because the team's next race would be the 5th BRDC International Trophy race held at Silverstone on the 9th of May.
The International Trophy race would be Connaught Engineering's first test of the season. Its length was certainly many times greater than the Lavant Cup race at Goodwood and it would also boast of much tougher competition.
Even the format of the event was a challenge. The whole race consisted of two heat races and a final. Each heat race was 15 laps and the final was 35 laps. The heat races consisted of taking the entire field and splitting it up into the two separate heats. This approach would break up the larger teams giving the opportunity for each heat to be more competitive.
The Connaught teammates would be split up with one entry being included in the first heat and two placed in the second. Kenneth McAlpine would find himself in the first heat. He would join many of the same competitors that had been part of the Lavant Cup race about a month prior. He would face such talented racers as Stirling Moss, de Graffenried, Tony Rolt, Louis Rosier and others.
In practice prior to the start of the first heat, de Graffenried would prove to be the fastest car and would start from the pole. His time of one minute and fifty-one seconds would end up being three seconds faster than Bob Gerard who would start in 2nd. Tony Rolt would set a time just a couple of tenths slower than Gerard to start 3rd.
Kenneth McAlpine would end up being one of three drivers that would post a time of one minute and fifty-four seconds. The other two were Gerard and Rolt. McAlpine's time, just a couple of tenths off from Rolt's, meant he would start in the final position on the front row.
The start of the race would see Stirling Moss make another great start despite starting the race from 11th on the grid. Very quickly, he was battling with de Graffenried for the lead of the race. Another that would make a great start would be Prince Bira. He had started the race in 6th position right off the right shoulder from Tony Rolt. However, at the start of the race, Bira would make a great start and would fight up there with Rolt fighting for position inside the top three. All of these great starts only pushed McAlpine down in the running order. Kenneth had made a good start, but compared to some of the others, it seemed like it was a terrible one.
The battle between de Graffenried and Moss would be a ferocious one. Both of them would set the very same fastest lap time and would continue to fight lap after lap. Bira was beginning to slowly get the better of Rolt for 3rd place.
McAlpine, by contrast, was coming under fire from Louis Rosier. Rosier had started the race 10th but had been on a tear. Quickly, Rosier had made his way up around the top five and was in an all-out battle with McAlpine for position.
Heading into the final lap of the race, de Graffenried and Moss continued to run at a fast pace. However, de Graffenried had managed to pull out an ever so slight advantage and seemed on course for the victory in the heat.
Coming to the line for the final time in the heat, de Graffenried was enjoying an advantage of about five seconds over Moss. Prince Bira had also managed to break away with his fight with Rolt. Bira would cross the line in 3rd some twenty-two seconds behind de Graffenried.
Behind Rolt in 4th place, the battle was for 5th place and it was between McAlpine and Rosier. The fight would rage all the way to the line. At the line, McAlpine would manage to hold on by a second to finish 5th.
With the first heat over with, practice would begin to set the grid for the second heat. Connaught Engineering would have Roy Salvadori and John Coombs battling with Mike Hawthorn, Ken Wharton, Maurice Trintignant and others.
While the fastest lap set during the practice heat would be slightly slower than de Graffenried's time in the first, the times set in practice before the second heat would be quite tight. On top of the whole field would be Ken Wharton. He would narrowly edge out Mike Hawthorn in his Ferrari for the pole. Louis Chiron would also start from the front row in the 3rd position while Maurice Trintignant would start in the final starting spot on the front row.
The fastest of the Connaught Engineering pilots would be Roy Salvadori. His best lap around the 2.88 mile circuit would be one minute and fifty-six seconds. This time would be about four seconds slower than Wharton's best effort and would end up causing Salvadori to start the 15 lap second heat from the second row in the 6th position. John Coombs's best effort would be another three seconds off of Salvadori's best time. This would end up positioning Coombs on the third row of the grid in the 11th starting position.
The second heat would boast of an incredible and intense battle between Ken Wharton and Mike Hawthorn. Although Wharton had started on pole, Hawthorn was keen to battle for the lead right from the very start. As a result, Wharton would have his hands full trying to keep up with the Ferrari 500 piloted by Hawthorn.
Salvadori would be one of those that would make a great start. He would manage to get right up there with Chiron over the course of the first laps of the heat. Peter Whitehead, who started right off of Salvadori's left shoulder would also follow Salvadori through and by Chiron. Salvadori would be running right up toward the front but was quickly losing sight of Hawthorn and Wharton due to their incredible pace.
Coombs would make a steady start down in 11th place. He would look to be safe through the first couple of laps, but would still try and push hard overcoming not being prepared as he certainly seemed to be during the Lavant Cup.
The laps would continue to tick off but there soon was a problem with Coombs' Connaught. The car was beginning to seriously overheat. He would do the best he could but he knew he was quickly running out of time. Sure enough, after just six laps, Coombs' race would come to an end with radiator problems.
However, up near the front of the field, Salvadori continued to run well with Whitehead a little ways behind him. He was doing everything he could to try and track down Hawthorn and Wharton, but when Hawthorn turned in a fastest lap time of one minute and fifty-one seconds it was quickly becoming obvious there was little chance of that.
The battle between Hawthorn and Wharton only pushed the pace faster and faster. Neither one would give an inch to the other. Neither one could shake the other. The fight for the second heat would go all the way down to the line. Coming around Woodcote for the final time, it was apparent Hawthorn would take the victory. He would edge out Wharton by only around a second.
There would be a large gap between 2nd and 3rd. Hawthorn and Wharton had absolutely left the rest of the field behind. Coming around Woodcote for the final time of the heat, Salvadori would represent the rest of the field. He would cross the line in 3rd place some forty-nine seconds behind Wharton.
Both of the heats were now finished. The starting grid for the 35 lap final would then be determined by finishing times of the competitors within their respective heats. As a result, Mike Hawthorn would start the final from the pole. Ken Wharton would start in 2nd right next to Baron de Graffenried and Stirling Moss.
Salvadori would find himself starting from the second row of the grid. His 5th place starting position would be right between Hawthorn and Wharton. McAlpine would start the final in 13th position. His place on the grid would be two rows behind Salvadori. He would have Peter Collins to his right and Louis Rosier to his right. Coombs' failure in the second heat meant there really was no reason for him to start the final.
Heading into the final, Salvadori knew that if he wanted to keep up with Hawthorn and the rest of the front row starters he would really have to drive on the absolute limit throughout the 35 lap race. He would certainly do his best.
Baron de Graffenried recognized he would need to everything he could to overcome Hawthorn. While he certainly didn't mean to cheat, he would be caught for gaining an unfair advantage. Just prior to the green flag waving to start the race, de Graffenried started to roll. This enabled the Swiss driver to jump to the front of the field. Hawthorn would also be right there in his Ferrari. Another that would make an incredible start would be Salvadori. However, his great start would be legal and he would find himself right up at the front of the field battling with Hawthorn, de Graffenried and others early on in the race.
Being up at the front of the grid, de Graffenried had the opportunity to put together some impressive laps. He would end up setting the fastest lap of the race while his start was still under review. Not to be outdone, Hawthorn would soon match the lap time de Graffenried set.
The year before, Salvadori had substituted for Hawthorn in his Cooper-Bristol. He had looked good in that opportunity. Here, one year later, Salvadori was closely following Hawthorn doing another stellar job. Another that was doing a stellar job was Connaught's other driver in the final, Kenneth McAlpine. McAlpine had started in 13th, but soon he was up inside the top ten and looking to move forward even further forward if given the opportunity.
McAlpine, Salvadori and others would be handed a free pass for one better position when it was decided de Graffenried had jumped the start. As a result of the penalty, de Graffenried pulled in and withdrew from the race. McAlpine would be further helped out by the retirements of Louis Chiron and Maurice Trintignant. In time, even Stirling Moss and Louis Rosier would fall out of contention and within the grasp of McAlpine.
Once the penalty was handed down, and de Graffenried withdrew from the race, Hawthorn was left relatively alone at the front of the grid. It came down to Salvadori to take up the challenge against the young Ferrari pilot. And he would respond.
Hawthorn would control the race but he would soon find that while he enjoyed a comfortable margin over Salvadori he couldn't stretch it out much further. In fact, as the final couple of laps approached, on Salvadori remained within thirty seconds of Hawthorn. Meanwhile, McAlpine was doing everything he could just to remain on the lead lap.
Hawthorn would run a comfortable pace throughout the remainder of the race. His early pace almost guaranteed victory as long as he could make it to the end. In the end, he would average a little more than 92 mph and would cross the line having completed the 35 laps in one hour, six minutes and thirty-six seconds. His margin of victory over Salvadori would end up being just twelve seconds. Thirty seconds behind Salvadori, Tony Rolt would cross the line to finish 3rd.
McAlpine would lose his battle to remain on the lead lap. With just a couple of laps remaining, Hawthorn would manage to come by to put the Connaught pilot a lap down. Hawthorn almost had Gerard a lap down by the end as well. In spite of being a lap down at the end, McAlpine performed incredibly well after having started 13th. Through a strong driving performance, and some help by fellow competitors, McAlpine would manage to finish the final 7th.
In spite of the challenge posed by the race and the competition, Connaught Engineering left with yet another 2nd place. In addition, the team would also have a second finish in the top ten. Considering the competition this was also an incredible result for the team. Although it was early on in the season, the team was certainly enjoying some very good results. The difficulty would certainly be keeping those kinds of results coming. A challenge to the team's early momentum wouldn't be too long in coming.
At the conclusion of the BRDC International Trophy race the team wouldn't have too long in which to pack up and get on the road. While the team waited a month between its first and second races of the season, it would have only a week between the second and the third. Thankfully for the Send, Surrey outfit it didn't have all that far to travel to get to its next race.
Connaught Engineering's next race would take place across the Irish Sea near the small village of Dundrod in Northen Ireland. The race was the 7th Ulster Trophy race held on the 7.41 mile Dundrod road course.
Perhaps the biggest race in all of Northern Ireland, even Ireland itself, the Ulster Trophy race followed a similar format to that of the BRDC International Trophy race. It consisted of two heat races and a final. However, there was a difference between the two races. The greatest difference was found in the determination of the final starting grid. Where the International Trophy race used finishing times of each competitor in their respective heats, the Ulster Trophy race would actually have another qualifying effort to determine the final grid.
One of the other obvious differences between the two races lay in the style of circuits upon which each of the races took part. Silverstone was a closed road course comprised of perimeter roads from its former days as a World War II bomber base. Dundrod was a road course in the truest sense of the word.
The Dundrod Circuit was just one of two road courses located in the area around Dundrod in County Antrim. The other circuit was the incredibly long and fast Clady Circuit. The Clady circuit had come to host motorcycle races while the Dundrod Circuit came to be the base for the grand prix and sports cars. The circuit was nothing but 7.41 miles of rolling countryside and just about every type of corner possible. Featuring fast blind corners, slow hairpin turns and some incredibly fast straights, the Dundrod Circuit would be a favorite for spectators wanting to watch their heroes fight with the car, trying as hard as possible to earn a fast lap time. Of course, a couple of the more famous sections of the track including Lough Neagh with its Deer's Leep and the quarry S-bends that led to the start/finish line.
Connaught Engineering would have three entries in the race. However, not every single one of these three entries would be utilized. John Coombs wouldn't appear for the race. However, Roy Salvadori and Kenneth McAlpine would still be present holding the flag for the team.
It happened to be that neither one of the Connaught drivers actually entered in the race would be listed in the first 10 lap heat race. Instead, the first heat would include Stirling Moss along with Duncan Hamilton and other lesser-known racers.
In practice before the start, Moss would post the fastest lap time, and therefore, would start the race from the pole. The rest of the three-wide front row would include John Lyons and Duncan Hamilton. In all, thirteen cars would take part in the first heat.
As the first heat got underway, a couple of drivers would fall out of the running before even completing a single lap. Both Dick Odlum and Archie Bryde would suffer from mechanical troubles that would drop them out of the race.
Stirling Moss would be incredibly fast right from the start. Very quickly, he would turn what would end up being the fastest lap of the race. His time would end up being more than a couple of seconds faster than his own qualifying effort. However, Duncan Hamilton would also make a good start and would fight with everything he had to keep pace with Moss. Jimmy Somervail would also make a good start and would manage to get by John Lyons to run up near the front of the field.
Moss' pace would seem to get the better of him as he would soon begin to fade. Hamilton would take over the lead of the race and would prepare for a counter-attack from Moss. However, it would never really come.
Hamilton would take over the lead of the race and would hold onto the lead well. He would steadily lap the 7.41 mile circuit and would cross the line to take the victory by about nine seconds over Moss. Jimmy Somervail had made his way up from a 4th place starting position and was beginning to threaten Moss by the time he would run out of laps. He would cross the line in 3rd, some six seconds behind Moss.
Practice would get underway to set the grid for the second heat race. If the first heat lacked talent it was because most of it was put in the second heat. Roy Salvadori and Kenneth McAlpine had to face Mike Hawthorn once again. But Hawthorn was just one of a number of strong competitors in the second heat. Other racers set to compete in the second heat included Ken Wharton, Emmanuel de Graffenried, Louis Chiron, Peter Collins and Prince Bira.
Against such competition, good starting positions on the grid would be difficult to come by. As many expected, Hawthorn would set the pace in practice and would start from the pole. In a case of déjà vu, Ken Wharton would start right alongside in 2nd and de Graffenried would complete the front row lining up 3rd.
The field was very good and very competitive. As a result, Salvadori wouldn't be able to match his qualifying efforts from the first couple of races. Bitterly, he would start the race from the fourth row of the grid in the 10th place starting position. McAlpine would fare even worse. Compared to Hawthorn, McAlpine would end up some forty-eight seconds off the pace. As a result, McAlpine would start the race 14th in the last row of the grid.
With a roar from the engines, the second heat would get underway. Immediately, Hawthorn would be up on the point. He would have Ken Wharton right there behind him along with de Graffenried. However, not everything was right with de Graffenried's Maserati. He would continue on but would begin to lose ground. This would open the door for Bobbie Baird and Peter Whitehead. Chiron was always known to like tight circuits better, which Dundrod was not. As a result, Chiron would almost immediately begin to lose interest and pace.
Trouble would come to the field early on. Not only would de Graffenried retire from the race after just one lap, but just one lap later, two more of the better entrants would also retire. Lance Macklin would withdraw from the event while Peter Collins would retire with a misfire. All of this trouble would help Salvadori, who was intent on improving his 10th place starting position.
Baron de Graffenried's retirement early on really lifted the pressure off of Hawthorn, especially since Wharton and Bobbie Baird were locked in a tight duel for 2nd place. Just to be sure the rest of the field wouldn't haul him in, Hawthorn would turn the fastest lap of the race. By contrast, McAlpine was in a fight with Torrie Large for last place. Kenneth just could not get his Connaught A-Type to perform anything except right around dead-slow. Salvadori was doing better but was having to fight hard just to get around the top five.
One many that didn't have to struggle was Hawthorn. He would take his Ferrari 500 and would finish the race distance in just fifty minutes and twenty-four seconds. He would enjoy a margin of about seven seconds over the battle for 2nd place. Back at Silverstone, it had been Wharton hanging on for dear life to finish a second behind Hawthorn in the second heat. This time, it would be Baird doing everything he could to force Wharton into making a mistake. It wouldn't work as Wharton would come across the line in 2nd place just a second in front of Baird.
Salvadori would actually have a good heat race. Yes, he would greatly benefit from the misfortune of others in order to improve. However, none of those that would finish higher than Salvadori started the race behind him. After working really hard, and receiving a little help, Salvadori would finish the second heat a good ways down in 6th place. McAlpine's finishing position would be of little consolation after the heat he had just gone through. His lack of pace would have him lose position to Large. Coming to the line, he would be a lap down and would be dead-last in 10th place. Only the retirements of the other competitors helped him to reach the position.
While Salvadori and McAlpine may not have looked too good during their heat race, the important thing was to make it to the final grid and the final 14 lap race. The blessing they, especially McAlpine, had would be the fact the starting positions on the final grid would not be determined by finishing times from the competitor's heat. Therefore, all the competitors had to worry about was making it to the final. There would be another practice to determine starting position.
Salvadori's rather subdued starting position for the second heat certainly could have brought up issues of sandbagging. The rumors were certainly more well-founded at the end of qualifying for the final. While Hawthorn, Baird and Wharton would occupy 1st through 3rd, Salvadori would surprise a few people when he would manage to turn in a 5th place starting time for the final. This put Roy on the outside of the second row. The other surprise would be McAlpine. After starting the second heat from the very last row of the grid, he would go into the final practice and would turn in a lap fast enough to ensure he would start the 14 lap final from 10th place, which was the fourth row of the grid.
Even before the final would get underway it would lose one of its competitors. Stirling Moss would end up withdrawing from the race because of gearbox issues. This would seventeen cars to take the green flag.
At the start of the race, the entire front row would make a good start and would be immediately embroiled in a battle. It was obvious right from the very start that the front row intended to pull away from the rest of the field. Salvadori would do everything he could to hang on to the group. Because of the pace at the front, Salvadori would have to push his Connaught hard. This left him open to mechanical problems, especially when the cars would go light over the top of Deer's Leap. Nevertheless, Salvadori would push hard trying to keep in touch with Hawthorn, Wharton and Baird.
Meanwhile, a little further back, McAlpine was doing his best to move forward. However, the road was as tough as anything. The nature of the circuit would cause the cars to become separated. And while one driver may have been faster in one section of the long circuit, the driver he would be chasing would faster in another. Therefore, a stalemate would ensue. And this would be almost exactly the problem McAlpine would find himself.
Salvadori would find himself in even greater problems about eight laps into the race. Salvadori was off the pace. He had a problem. It was too much to continue. He would retire from the race. It would be found later that a rear axle failure was the cause of his problems. This left Hawthorn, Wharton and Baird to fight it out amongst themselves. The rest of the field had no chance.
Hawthorn would put an end to the fight rather early on as well. He would post a time of five minutes flat around the 7.41 mile circuit and would begin to pull away from the rest of the front-runners, let alone the rest of the field.
The race was Hawthorn's to lose. Even before he headed off on the last lap of the race, he enjoyed an incredible lead that would only go away if he made a mistake or had a mechanical problem. Mechanical problems with the Ferrari 500 were few and far between. Therefore, the only hope the rest of the field had would be if Hawthorn made a mistake. He would not.
Hawthorn would cruise to the victory. He would enjoy a margin of victory of more than a minute and thirteen seconds over Ken Wharton. Thirty-three seconds would separate Wharton in 2nd place and Baird in 3rd.
Throughout the rest of the field the racers were spaced in such a way that there were very few battles coming down to the line. The battles had already been fought during the early part of the race. The last half was a race against attrition. McAlpine was stuck between Graham Whitehead and Jock Lawrence. The parade would wind its way around the circuit and across the line. Thirteen seconds after Whitehead crossed the line, McAlpine would come around Rushyhill to cross the finish line in 8th place.
The unfortunate failure of Salvadori's rear axle ruined the run Connaught had been enjoying over the course of the first couple of races of the season. However, the team still maintained its run of having a car finish in the top ten when McAlpine was able to salvage an 8th place result. If the team could fix its mechanical trouble and maintain reliability, Salvadori had proven himself to be a fighter. This would be important as the World Championship loomed on the horizon.
The second round of the World Championship in 1953 was the Indianapolis 500. It was still to come. Therefore, Connaught still had some time before what would be its first round of the World Championship. There were still a number of non-championship races between the middle of May and early June. One of those non-championship races on the schedule before the third round of the World Championship was the 3rd Coronation Trophy race. Connaught had an entry for the race on the 25th of May. However, the team would not arrive at the race. Instead, the team would wait and try to take part in a race the following weekend.
On the 31st of May, there were a couple of races held throughout the European mainland. One of those races happened to be one of the few races that still welcomed the old Formula One cars in the field. The race was the Grand Prix de l'Albigeois, and as its name would suggest, the race would take place on the 5.55 Albi public road circuit.
Connaught Engineering wouldn't send its usual drivers to the race. Instead, the team would back John Lyons and his own Connaught A-Type. Lyons was about to attempt to take part in a race that would feature a mix of Formula 2 and Formula One cars all in one event.
The Grand Prix de l'Albigeois, held on the 31st of May, was the 15th edition of the race and it featured an event broken down into two different heats and then a final. The Formula 2 cars entered in the race would all be lumped into one heat while the Formula One cars would likewise be lumped into their own heat. Once the results from the 10 lap heats were known then the two heats would race in a single 18 lap final.
The first human settlement in Albi was believed to be settled during what was considered the Bronze Age. It would become known as Albi when it was a Roman settlement sometime late B.C. Listed as a World Heritage Site, Albi is home to a number of cathedrals filled with gothic architecture. It is also home to the Toulouse-Lautrec Museum.
So many historic bridges and buildings clashed brilliantly with the modern grand prix cars of the day. All of the history, architecture and beauty of Albi created an incredible backdrop for modern grand prix racing. The best part of Albi was the fact the grand prix circuit was comprised of city streets just to the east of the city center. This meant the tightly packed streets would roar and echo with the sounds of Formula 2 and Formula One engines.
One thing about Albi was the fact it was a blending of just about everything. The circuit featured a number of hairpin turns, esses and incredibly fast and long straights.
The first group to take to the circuit would be the Formula 2 cars. John Lyons would be in a group that would include Louis Rosier, Harry Schell and Johnny Claes. In practice; however, it would be Elie Bayol that would be fastest around the 5.55 miles. Using the power from his OSCA 20, Bayol would set a time of three minutes and eight seconds. Harry Schell would end up 2nd on the grid after setting a time about two and a half seconds slower. Louis Rosier would finish off the front row after recording a time just six-tenths of a second slower than Schell. Lyons would struggle during practice. The Connaught just couldn't match the pace of the front-runners. Lyons' best time would end up being more than fifteen seconds slower than Bayol's. As a result, Lyons would start 9th on the grid; the fourth row of the grid and all by himself.
During the 10 lap heat race, Lyons could do little better. He just could not match the pace of the rest of the field. The only hope he had was if another faded over the course of the 10 laps. Interestingly, the only one to even somewhat fade toward the end of the heat would be Johnny Claes in another Connaught A-Type.
Up front, Louis Rosier would make a good start and would be battling with Bayol for the outright lead of the race. Roberto Mieres, who started the race 4th, was proving to be quite fast. Although he wasn't really able to move forward from his 4th place starting position, Mieres would go on to set the fastest lap of the heat and would be all over Peter Whitehead for 3rd.
Coming around on the last lap of the race, it was obvious Rosier had managed to break away from his battle with Bayol. As Rosier crossed the line to take the victory he would end up enjoying an advantage of about twenty-five seconds over Bayol. The battle between Whitehead and Mieres would go right down to the finish line. Whitehead would push his Cooper-Alta hard and would end up crossing the line just a little more than a second ahead.
Lyons went practically nowhere throughout the 10 laps. He had started the race from dead-last. He would certainly try his best but he just couldn't match the pace of the rest of the competitors. As a result of his struggling, Lyons would end the Formula 2 heat in 8th place, dead-last. He would cross the line more than three minutes behind Rosier, but at least still on the same lap.
Practice before the Formula One heat would begin. The Formula One heat would be filled with powerful machines and talented drivers. BRM would bring three of its P15s. They would be piloted by Juan Manuel Fangio, Ken Wharton and Jose Froilan Gonzalez. Scuderia Ferrari would also enter two of its Ferrari 375s. Alberto Ascari and Giuseppe Farina would drive those two entries. Louis Rosier would yet be another entry in the Formula One heat driving his own Ferrari 375.
The P15, when it was working, was known for a couple of things: its incredibly howling V16 engine and some incredible outright speeds. But it was also known for one other thing: failure after failure. Juan Manuel Fangio would take the powerful car and would turn the fastest lap in practice and would take the pole. Jose Froilan Gonzalez would put another BRM on the front row in 3rd place. The two Argentineans driving the BRMs would sandwich one Ferrari 375. That Ferrari would belong to Alberto Ascari.
At the start of the race, Wharton would make a great start and would be right up there with Fangio at the head of the pack. Gonzalez wouldn't make a great start and would be shuffled back over the course of the 10 laps race. Right there with Fangio and Wharton would be Ascari and Farina. However, they wouldn't be there long.
After three laps, Ascari's race would come to an end. His gearbox would fail thereby ending his race. Just a couple of laps later, Farina would end Ferrari's assault altogether. After five laps, the engine would let go in Farina's Ferrari. This relieved the pressure on the BRMs a fair degree. This enabled Fangio and Wharton to ease back a little and work on preserving the incredibly fragile car. This was important considering Fangio had already set the fastest lap of the heat with a time that was actually faster than his own qualifying effort.
Out front, Fangio was on cruise. Averaging a little more than 110 mph, Fangio would cruise his way to the victory in the Formula One heat. He would enjoy a lead of about eleven seconds over Wharton at the finish. Louis Rosier would keep a Ferrari 375 still in the running as he would cross the line in 3rd place a little less than a minute behind Wharton.
As a result of his struggles in the Formula 2 heat, Lyons wouldn't manage to qualify to take part in the final. In fact, only twelve cars would line up for the 18 lap final. The starting grid for the final would be arranged by the top four from each heat. Therefore, the top four from the Formula One heat would line up in the first-four positions on the grid. Since Rosier would take his Formula One finish instead of his Formula 2 result, Tom Cole would take 8th place on the starting grid. The final four spots would alternate between the next-fastest Formula One and Formula 2 cars. This is why Lyons wouldn't qualify for the final.
The final would see the BRMs pull out at the front of the field. Fangio and Wharton were quickly pulling away from the rest of the field. Wharton would quickly come to set the fastest lap of the final. Such a pace would enable the two to escape from the rest of the field. However, the field would pull them back in right around halfway.
The usually fragile BRM P15 would live up to its reputation. After nine laps, Fangio's race would come to an end due to brake failure. Just a couple of laps later, after earlier setting the fastest lap of the race, Wharton would crash his BRM and would be out of the running. Just like that, Rosier would be handed the lead in his Ferrari 375.
Out front, Rosier would be able to control the pace. He would manage to keep a fast Gonzalez behind him throughout the 18 laps and would cross the line to take the victory. Gonzalez would finish the race in 2nd some thirty seconds or so behind Rosier. Maurice Trintignant would end up finishing in 3rd place with a more-powerful Gordini T16.
While Lyons wasn't a regular driver for Connaught, the team still ended up suffering its worse result of the season in Albi. This was a very difficult result since the team's first round of the World Championship was just a week away. The team would need to look to its regular drivers to have a good race and get the momentum rolling.
The 1953 season would see a few changes to the schedule. Besides the very early round of the World Championship in Argentina during January, there were a couple of other races that would change position in the calendar. The Netherlands Grand Prix had enjoyed its first year as part of the World Championship the season before. However, the race was one of the last rounds of the championship. The Swiss Grand Prix had been the first grand prix during the 1952 season. Heading into 1953, the Dutch and Swiss Grand Prix would change position. One week after the bitterly disappointing support of John Lyons at Albi, Connaught Engineering was in Zandvoort preparing its cars for the 4th Grand Prix of the Netherlands.
The team would come to the race with its three cars. However, the driver lineup would be altered just slightly. Roy Salvadori and Kenneth McAlpine would still be behind the wheels of two of the cars. The third car; however, would welcome Stirling Moss behind its wheel. This gave the team a very good driver lineup heading into its first World Championship race of the season. It would need to have a good lineup going up against Scuderia Ferrari and its reigning World Champion Alberto Ascari. It would also need such talent considering the presence of a strengthening Maserati factory effort.
Kenneth Downing had attempted to take part in the Netherlands Grand Prix in a Connaught the previous season. Unfortunately, he would start the race in the later-half of the field and would end up retiring after just 26 laps due to oil pressure problems.
Times in practice, compared to the previous season, would be slower. Situated on the dunes overlooking the North Sea, Zandvoort had a tendency to have large amounts of sand kicked on its track surface. The blustery winds coming off the water would spread the sand all over and would make grip questionable. And questionable grip around Zandvoort was certainly reason enough for being careful. Zandvoort had quickly become a favorite with drivers when the 2.64 mile circuit opened in 1948. It had become a favorite because of its numerous high speed corners.
The nostalgia of the Zandvoort circuit started right off with the first turn called 'Tarzanbocht'. This banked 180 degree corner inspired high entry speeds and overtaking because of the banked nature of the corner. The circuit continued to throw drivers incredibly challenging and courageous corners, none more so than 'Tunnel Oost' and 'Bos Uit'. Tunnel Oost was nothing more than a quick flick to the right. However, it crested right at the right-hand flick and missing the corner had the potential of upsetting the car terribly causing the driver to lose control of the car. Bos Uit was a straight-forward high-speed right-hand corner that fed onto the start/finish straight. A fast lap time was dependent upon getting Bos Uit correct.
Despite the questionable grip, Ascari would prove to be capable of handling the conditions and would be the fastest qualifier. He would end up posting a time that would be more than a second and a half faster than Fangio in 2nd place. Giuseppe Farina's 3rd place qualifying effort would make the front row one filled entirely with World Champions.
Behind the champions, Stirling Moss would prove to be the fastest of the Connaught teammates. His lap time of two minutes flat would be about nine seconds slower than Ascari but still good enough to start the race in 9th on the inside of the fourth row.
Right around where Moss would start the race, the qualifying times would be incredibly tight. Harry Schell would start the race 10th after being just one-tenth slower than Moss. Roy Salvadori would line up on the grid in 11th, just one row back of Moss, after he set a time just half a second slower than Moss.
The Connaught cars would almost be arranged on the grid in a perfect line. This would be accomplished by the fact McAlpine would start one row back of Salvadori, right behind him, in 14th.
The weather at the time of the race remained pleasant but the loose grip conditions persisted. However, the field would roar away down through the start/finish straight tunnel of grandstands and sand dunes toward turn one. Heading into turn one, Ascari would lead the way. Were it not for Fangio, he would be followed through the first turn by the rest of his Ferrari teammates. Moss would follow Hawthorn through the first turn in the 6th position. Both Salvadori and McAlpine would hang back going into turn one due to less than stellar starts.
In the gritty conditions, the Ferraris certainly seemed to handle better than just about every other car out on the circuit. Ascari enjoyed the lead and was even beginning to pull out an advantage, even over his fellow teammates.
There were a number of locations of the circuit that could do damage to a car if out of position. Tunnel Oost was known to be one of those places. However, there were others. In addition to the tough conditions of the circuit on the cars, just the nature of the circuit layout would do a lot of damage on a car's components. The constant accelerating, braking and shifting would all take their toll. Unfortunately, the circuit would take its toll on one of Connaught's entries. After just 13 of 90 laps, Salvadori's race would come to an end. His engine would suffer from valve trouble and would prohibit him from being able to carry on effectively.
He wouldn't be alone for very long. In all, there would be nine that would retire from the race before the end. While Salvadori dropped out early on, McAlpine would drop out later on in the race. Rear axle problems seemed to be striking all throughout the field. Another fragile component on this day would seem to be transmissions. Roberto Mieres had retired earlier on in the race with transmission trouble, but after 63 laps, McAlpine would be yet another that would also retire due to transmission ailments.
Moss continued in the running, but was virtually out of the running considering the pace of Ascari up at the front of the field. He and Farina had checked out from the rest of the field. In fact, as the end of the race neared, they were the only two still on the lead lap. All of the competition around Moss had either retired, or, had faded over the course of the 234 mile race.
Ascari would go on to lead every single one of the 90 laps and would lead the most important one of them all. He would cross the line to take his second World Championship victory of the season with Farina in tow some ten seconds behind in 2nd place. Jose Froilan Gonzalez had taken over Felice Bonetto's car after his rear axle failed after just 22 laps. Gonzalez had used the second chance well, but not good enough. With just a few laps remaining in the race, Gonzalez had conceded a lap to Ascari. Therefore, he would come across the line in 3rd place, but one lap down.
Twenty cars had qualified for the race. Nineteen would actually start the race. By the time the field was heading around on what would be the last few miles of the race, the field had been reduced from nineteen to just ten. The conditions helped to spread and stretch out the field. Therefore, as Moss came around for his last lap, he was on a lap all by himself. He had no competition behind him and was too far behind to challenge Peter Collins. Thus, Moss would just hold onto the car throughout the remaining 2.62 miles. He would go on to cross the line seven laps behind in 9th place.
Thankfully for the team, it still managed to have one of its cars finish the race. The blessing was the fact Moss brought the car home inside the top ten. However, the retirements of Salvadori and McAlpine were certainly reasons for concern. The team had enjoyed good reliability during its first couple of races. It needed to get it back before the heart of the grand prix season really kicked off.
Three weeks after the Netherlands Grand Prix, Connaught Engineering was preparing to take part in another race, but it wasn't a World Championship round. The next round of the World Championship still wouldn't be for a couple of weeks. Instead, the team would be busy setting up its three A-Types for a non-championship race taking place at the Snetterton circuit. The race was the rather short 2nd West Essex CC Formula 2 Race.
Though the race was just 10 laps around the 2.70 mile Snetterton circuit, the team would have McAlpine, Coombs and Salvadori preparing to be part of a field of just nine entries.
The small field prepared to take on the 2.70 mile Snetterton circuit. Like Silverstone, Snetterton had started out its existence as RAF Snetterton Heath. When the base closed down in 1948 it would begin hosting races along its perimeter road.
Lap after lap of the race it seemed the crowd was about to witness a repeat of the Newcastle Journal Trophy race from one year prior. The three Connaughts were running right together on the circuit right at the front of the field.
None would be faster than Salvadori. He would go on to set the fastest lap of the race. But unfortunately, Salvadori's pace would prove to be too much for his A-Type even for just ten laps. On the last lap of the race, Salvadori's engine would let go in his Connaught. This was an incredible blow to the team because they had to throw away what seemed to be likely to happen and would have to deal with what did.
What ended up happening was the crowd, instead of witnessing the Newcastle Journal Trophy race, would watch Connaught recreate the Madgwick Cup race from 1952. In that race, Connaught would finish 1st and 2nd. One year later at the West Essex CC Formula 2 Race, history would repeat itself. McAlpine would bring his Connaught A-Type across the line in 1st. Seven seconds later, Coombs would bring his A-Type across the line in 2nd. Rodney Nuckey would finish a rather quiet 3rd some twelve seconds later.
In spite of the blown engine, the day had been a good one for the team, albeit against lesser talent. However, the race would be important for the team's confidence before it headed out to take part in its next race.
It would be a couple of weeks before the team took part in another race. As the month of July approached, the team would pack up and would head across the English Channel and into France to the east. Their destination was the small town of Reims. For it was there that the French Grand Prix would be held on the 5th of July.
A city of note in the Roman Empire, Reims would play a major role in French monarchical history. It would also serve as host for the first international aviation meet in 1909. Always on the forefront of political and technological progress, it was the perfect host for the French Grand Prix.
In 1953, Reims would undergo another change and would prove to provide the perfect setting for one of the greatest races in all of the 20th century. In 1952, the circuit had been changed slightly. The hairpin turn in Gueux had been abandoned. However, Reims would also be abandoned as the site for the French Grand Prix. That honor would go on Rouen-les-Essarts. The honor would return to Reims in 1953. And teams and drivers would be greeted by a familiar, and yet, different old friend.
Whether Reims would be considered an old friend or not was certainly something up for debate, but it certainly would be different. The circuit had been further refined. It would be lengthened to 5.19 miles and would feature some fast S-bends before coming to the new Muizon hairpin and the lengthened Route Nationale 31 straight. All in all, the changes to the circuit would raise the average speed up around 10 mph per lap.
Connaught would come to the race with a compliment of two A-Types but only one regular driver. Roy Salvadori would take to the wheel of one of the Connaughts while Prince Bira would be given the ride in the second. These two were nothing more than background, or extras, in the show starring Alberto Ascari. He had won in Argentina, Zandvoort and Spa. If he managed to win in Reims the World Championship would be all but locked up in his favor. Therefore, the Connaught team was competing for personal pride and to be considered the 'best of the rest'.
In practice, the battle between Scuderia Ferrari and the factory Maserati team would be in full swing. Surprisingly, it would be Felice Bonetto that would prove to be the fastest of the Maserati entries. However, he would only end up second-fastest. Pole-position would go to Alberto Ascari, but by just three-tenths of a second. Luigi Villoresi would make it two Ferrari drivers on the front row when he qualified 3rd.
Prince Bira would prove to be the fastest of the two Connaught entries in the field. His best lap would be two minutes and fifty-three seconds and would put him 11th overall on the grid. This meant he started the race from the fifth row of the grid.
Comparatively, Salvadori would struggle. The best lap he would manage to post would be a lap of three minutes and twenty-three seconds flat. This was more than forty seconds slower than Ascari's pole time and, as a result, would position the Connaught driver on the eighth row of the grid in the 19th starting position.
The day of the race would boast of sunny skies and warm weather. The start of the race would see Jose Froilan Gonzalez roar away at the head of the field. He had started the race with light fuel tanks and was using the weight advantage to pull away from the rest of the field. Behind Gonzalez, the front runners were beginning to form up into a pocket of cars that would run wheel to wheel and side-by-side through some of the corners and down the long straights. The large crowd amassed to watch the action would become witnesses to an awe-inspiring sight.
Salvadori's race would be anything but awe-inspiring. It seemed obvious his car wasn't right throughout practice. However, in the race, the unforeseen problem would become very telling. His car couldn't develop its power and was running absolutely terribly. The problem, which would later be identified as an ignition problem, would force Salvadori from the race.
Salvadori would be forced out of what would become one of the greatest races of all time. Though Gonzalez was pulling out a lead at the head of the field, the action at the front of the field was truly beyond description. The Ferraris were running side-by-side with the Maseratis of Juan Manuel Fangio and Onofre Marimon running within a car length just behind.
The pace was furious and would only get faster as the race wore on. The action was beyond all descriptors. The race was truly a battle amongst the best in the world as Ascari, Fangio, Farina, Hawthorn, Marimon and Villoresi would all be within a couple of car lengths or inches of each other throughout the first half of the race. With every lap, the appreciative crowd would only get louder.
About halfway through the race, a number of other competitors had fallen out of the race; not that any one in the crowd ever really noticed. Connaught would notice, unfortunately. Salvadori had gone out after the first lap of the race. Then, just short of halfway, Prince Bira would have his race come to an end due to transmission failure. This meant Connaught was totally out of the running. While terribly disappointed, the team could sit back and watch the incredible sight that was unfolding before everyone's eyes that July day.
Halfway, Gonzalez would stop for fuel and would find himself down in 5th. At this time, Fangio and Hawthorn would rise above the others. In one of the finest displays of sportsmanship and competitiveness these two professional drivers would head up one of the best displays of professional racing the world had every seen. The two would lap side-by-side lap after lap. Often times, the two would pull alongside each other and would give each other a look. Never more than a car length apart, and sometimes even closer, these two would embody professional racing as neither would take the other out but would find pleasure in racing as close as possible without fear of incident. It was like this throughout the top five. The scene was beyond description to witness and seemed to be only worthy of louder and louder yelling of appreciation.
Throughout the final 30 laps of the race the scene would remain unchanged. But this would be one monotonous sight the crowd would never tire of seeing. The pace had increased even greater, and yet, the racing throughout the top five remained about as tight as when the race had begun.
The incredible sight of professional racing wouldn't be lost on those right in the midst of it. Many of the rest of cars that, by this time, were many laps down would slow as these talented drivers would approach for they too wanted to witness the mesmerizing action. Even Luigi Villoresi was noted to signal in recognition of how furious, and yet, beyond belief the action had been. This seemed to be one race in which everyone, even the racers, could enjoy. There seemed little to no danger of anything bad happening despite the numerous times the competitors would have been able to reach out and touch the other's steering wheel.
Finally, the action had to come to an end. But although the field was heading around on its last lap, very little was decided. Hawthorn and Fangio disappeared into the first turn right beside each other as they had throughout the previous thirty laps or so. This time, it seemed Hawthorn had a slight advantage, but nothing had been certain over the course of the race. It looked to be a certainty that the winner would be decided coming through the final hairpin turn at Thillois.
Coming out of the Muizon hairpin and heading down the long Route Nationale 31 straight, Fangio had pulled alongside Hawthorn but was on the outside. Right behind them, about a second behind, was Gonzalez. He had made his way back up from 5th and was within striking distance if either one of the two made a mistake.
The whole race would come down to who broke last and got position going into the hairpin. Looking down the long, undulating start/finish straight, the crowded, wildly cheering grandstands waited impatiently to see who would come through first. The tops of the cars could be seen, but not much more. Then, all of a sudden, it was clear. Hawthorn had position and had actually pulled out a slight advantage over Fangio. Fangio had waited as long as he could to brake going into the hairpin but Hawthorn would match him. This hurt Fangio's momentum and put him in danger of losing 2nd place to his teammate.
After two and three quarter hours of racing it would all come down to the drag race up the gently sloping ground to the finish line. Across the line would come the young Hawthorn. He had withstood a hand-to-hand fight with Fangio and won. Fangio would follow across the line in 2nd place, but only just about half a car length in front of Gonzalez. The best drivers in the world were obvious to pick out that day. Only the top six would remain on the lead lap by the end of the race. Seventh and further on down would be no closer than two laps down. Such was the dominance of these giants at the front of the field.
Connaught had the delight of witnessing the incredible sight, but certainly would have rather enjoyed being a part of the action. Instead of joining in the wild cheers that arose for the young Briton's triumph, the team was busy packing up and heading out of Reims in search of some good news.
Connaught Engineering had left the ultra-fast roads of Reims and headed back across the English Channel to England. The team was in search of a race more in its natural habitat. Therefore, on the 11th of July, the team would be in London for the 1st Crystal Palace Trophy race.
Originally known as Sydenham Hill in the south of London, Crystal Palace would come to earn its name as a result of the cast-iron and glass building that had been originally been erected for the Great Exhibition in Hyde Park in 1851 but that had been relocated to the location in 1854. The site was, for years, a popular place for gypsies during the 19th century. One of the highest points in London, Crystal Palace Park offers incredible views of London and would serve as a prominent location for a grand prix race.
The 1st Crystal Palace Trophy race was a rather short affair, just 15 laps, of a 1.38 mile circuit laid out amidst the Crystal Palace Park. Although the field for the race would be rather slim, Connaught would enter two of its cars in the race.
Just one week after the French Grand Prix, Salvadori took to his car again. Instead of Prince Bira, McAlpine would be back behind the wheel of the second A-Type. In practice, the two would look fast, but not fast enough it would seem.
Tony Rolt would take the pole for the event. Salvadori would look to be back on pace after his difficulties in Reims and would start 2nd. Les Leston would complete the three-wide front row. McAlpine would find there were still enough competitive drivers to make his life difficult. Despite his best efforts, McAlpine would still be out-shown by Macklin and Peter Whitehead, and therefore, would start from the 6th position on the outside of the second row.
Although things appeared good for Connaught, things would somewhat unravel right at the very start of the race. Tony Rolt would hold down the lead of the race with Salvadori giving chase. McAlpine was doing his best to make a good start and fight his way to the front. However, it would all come to naught as he would end up retiring from the race. This left just Salvadori. He would prove to be enough.
Salvadori was certainly back on the pace. Although Rolt still held onto the lead of the race, Salvadori was throwing down some hot laps and giving Rolt something to think about. Salvadori's pressure would culminate in him turning the fastest lap of the race.
The problem for Salvadori was that Rolt was also driving a Connaught and could counter Salvadori's attacks. Although he wouldn't prove to be the fastest, Rolt would prove to be fast enough.
Rolt would go on to complete the 15 laps in just seventeen minutes and twenty-three seconds and would hold off Salvadori for the win. Les Leston, who started the race 3rd, would end up finishing the race 3rd.
Yet another 2nd place for Salvadori and Connaught. While it wasn't a victory, it would still be a welcome sight after the difficulty the team had been experiencing. The team's main concern was trying to get such results at World Championship races. They would have another chance in their very next race.
The very next week after the Crystal Palace Trophy race, Connaught Engineering travelled the short distance north up to Silverstone again for the sixth round of the World Championship. The race was the British Grand Prix, and perhaps, the best opportunity the team would have at a good result in the World Championship.
Silverstone was similar to many of the circuits in which Connaughts faired well. Like Snetterton, Goodwood and others, Silverstone was a former World War II bomber base that had been decommissioned and turned into a motor racing venue. Very quickly, Silverstone would come to host the British Grand Prix and the International Trophy race and would be called 'Britain's home for motor racing'.
With Hawthorn's victory at Reims, the World Championship was still up for grabs. It was just out of reach for any of the Connaught drivers, which at the British Grand Prix, would include Roy Salvadori, Kenneth McAlpine and Prince Bira once again. Also because of Hawthorn's incredible victory, the British crowd would be charged looking for a repeat of the same stellar performance from Hawthorn or any other British driver in the field.
The sheer pace of the Ferraris and Maseratis was certainly difficult to overlook, and after practice, would be on the forefront of everybody's mind. The minds at Connaught would be concerned with having a car that would be able to go the entire race distance.
As with every other race, except for the Belgian Grand Prix, Alberto Ascari would prove to be the class of the field. The previous year, Giuseppe Farina proved to be fastest and would start from the pole after setting a lap of one minute and fifty seconds. Farina would match his time one year later. However, Ascari would turn in a lap time of one minute and forty-eight seconds and would take the pole. Jose Froilan Gonzalez would start 2nd joined by Mike Hawthorn in 3rd and Juan Manuel Fangio in 4th.
Once again, Salvadori's speed would take a turn for the worse. The fastest of the Connaught drivers would end up being McAlpine. His effort in practice would give him a 13th starting spot on the fourth row of the grid. Prince Bira would be the next-fastest. He would start the race in 19th place after setting a lap time of two minutes and four seconds. Salvadori would absolutely look terrible as he would start 28th in the field, dead-last.
Connaught's fears of having a car capable of going the entire race distance wouldn't be unfounded as the race would unfold. Perhaps the greatest competition anyone in the field had wasn't from another competitor but from attrition. Despite being the best starter amongst the Connaught entries, McAlpine would be the first one out of the race. His day would be over before he even completed a single lap. He would be forced out of the race as a result of a split hose. Tony Crook would also join him out of the race before having completed a single lap. This was just the beginning of the attrition over the course of the 90 lap race.
Ascari held down the lead but it didn't seem like he would be in the position at the very start of the race. Under cloudy conditions, with a threat of rain, the race would get underway with a great roar from the engines and the crowd. Heading into Copse, Fangio had actually gotten the better start from his 4th place on the grid and was up at the front heading into the corner. However, he would head into the corner too hot and would lose some ground. This would open the door to Ascari to take over the lead. Fangio would slot in behind in 2nd and the two would form a small train and would begin to pull away from the rest of the field.
Once Ascari and Fangio were hooked up at the front of the field two races developed. One was between Ascari and Fangio. The other was between the rest of the field and weather and attrition.
The weather started to turn. The rain began to fall all over the circuit and began to cause havoc throughout the field. Mike Hawthorn had been running well until the rain caught him out and caused him to spin right out of contention, although he never really was at any point in time.
After McAlpine dropped out of the running on the very first lap of the race it seemed a steady stream of retirements was to follow. By the time 30 laps had been completed there were some eight entries out of the race. Just past halfway, another three would be out of the running, including Roy Salvadori.
Salvadori had been staying out of trouble and had been slowly making his way forward. He was being helped by the retirements of many other competitors. However, after 50 laps, Salvadori would join the ranks of the retired when a radius rod failed on his car.
The retirements weren't over when Salvadori left the running. In all, there would be seventeen that would drop out of the race before it was all said and done. Thankfully for the team, Bira wouldn't be one of those final retirements.
Retiring was the furthest thing from either Ascari or Fangio's minds. They were out front and enjoying the day. Coming down to the final laps of the race, Ascari was enjoying a nice advantage over Fangio. But as a whole, the two men had more than two laps in hand over the majority of the field. In fact, Giuseppe Farina, who was running in 3rd place, would go two laps down with just a couple of laps remaining in the race. Such was the dominance of these two at the front.
It would take two hours and fifty minutes exactly for Ascari to complete the 90 laps and take the victory. Exactly one minute later, Fangio would cross the line to finish a distant 2nd. Farina would be even more distant finishing 3rd but some two laps down.
In all, there would be ten that would see the checkered flag. Of those ten, only seven would be considered 'classified'. The others would be considered too far behind. Prince Bira would be the last of those to be 'classified'. He would finish the race more than eight laps behind but would manage to finish the race in 7th place.
Although well out of the running, Bira managed to save the British Grand Prix for Connaught. More importantly, the team managed to have one of its cars finish a World Championship round, and inside the top ten. While not great, it was still good for the team. After the race, the team would remain in England to take part in another non-championship race.
One week after the sixth round of the World Championship a special race was to be held about two hours to the east at Snetterton. The race was the 2nd United States Air Force Trophy race and it would be held at what had been Snetterton Heath airfield. The former airbase had been the home to the 386th Bomb Group, but after the war would come to play host to a number of different types of motor racing including the Air Force Trophy race.
The event would be marred by tragedy although the race itself would not be involved. During one of the supporting races, Bobbie Baird would crash and would tragically die as a result of injuries sustained. This reminded all of the dangers of motor racing, as well as, the sacrifice of war, which saw more than its fair share of young men die right there at that old airfield.
Connaught would arrive at the race with only one car. It would be entered in the 15 lap race for McAlpine. Salvadori would also be in the race but he would be driving his own Frazer Nash in the event. The field, though rather small (just thirteen cars) would feature some talented drivers. Included in the field were Tony Rolt, Bob Gerard and Tony Crook.
The action would be tight. Throughout the field there would be two or three car battles that would form. This would make the action exciting for the spectators, which were desperately looking for something to enliven their spirits.
McAlpine would end up needing something to enliven his spirits. After being the fastest of the Connaughts on the starting grid for the British Grand Prix, McAlpine would have the shame of being the first one out of the race. At Snetterton, a similar fate would befall him. While he would make it through the first lap of the race, he wouldn't make it past the 7th. After six laps, McAlpine's race would come to an end. Connaught would find themselves packing up early once again.
Tony Rolt would look good in the R.R.C. Walker Racing Connaught. It would perform flawlessly throughout the 15 laps around the 2.70 mile circuit. Bob Gerard would make life interesting for Rolt, however. Gerard would turn the fastest lap of the race and would remain within a couple of seconds of Rolt.
No matter what Gerard would do, Rolt would find a way to counter it. Rolt would average a little more than 85 mph over the course of the race, which would prove to be just enough to take the victory. He would manage to beat Gerard to the line by a margin of just two seconds. Leslie Marr, driving another Connaught, would come home in 3rd place, some eight seconds behind Gerard. Roy Salvadori would struggle in his Frazer Nash. He would be the last car still running in the race and would finish 7th.
The United States Air Force Trophy race had seemed to be something of a sidelight for Connaught; a race lacking focus as the team only came with one car and had allowed Salvadori to drive his own car. The team needed to be focused as it headed off to its next race. At the next race, the circuit would be the most unforgiving competitor.
Connaught Engineering would once again make its way across the English Channel. But once they reached the European mainland they would head east. Their destination was West Germany and the infamous Nurburgring for the German Grand Prix was set to take place on the 2nd of August.
The German Grand Prix was the seventh round of the World Championship and was a very important race concerning the World Championship. The previous year, Ascari would be crowned World Champion after his come from behind victory over Farina. One year later, Ascari was on the verge on clinching his second title but wouldn't be in the position of needing a victory to do it. More than anything, he would need to protect the victory from Mike Hawthorn, who already had a victory and posed the greatest threat to Ascari if he managed to win the rest of the races. And so, once again, Connaught and a number of other teams were nothing more than background scenery.
Not even Connaught could compare to the natural scenery within which the German Grand Prix would be conducted. The Nurburgring, with its immensely-long 14.1 mile Nordschleife, was nestled in the Eifel mountains, heavily-wooded hills located right near the western edge of the West German border. This natural setting made for one incredible circuit.
Built in the 1920s, the Nurburgring meant to substitute for a public road circuit that had been deemed too dangerous. However, at 14 miles long, 170 corners and more than a 1,000 feet of elevation change, a single lap of this purpose-built circuit would prove to be almost as dangerous, especially given the fact that majority of the circuit was left unprotected on either side of the track, or, featured nothing more than hedges to keep the cars on the circuit.
Connaught would come to the race with its three cars. It would take as many bullets as the team could fit in its gun to ensure a good result on this circuit. Therefore, the team would have McAlpine behind the wheel along with Prince Bira and Roy Salvadori.
The nature of the circuit, with its tight, winding corners, as well as its long fast sections, would make for a starting grid that would feature a wide-variety of car marks up near the front. Of course, none of the car marks would be better than Ferrari and Maserati. And this would be demonstrated by Ascari's incredible qualifying lap of nine minutes and fifty-nine seconds. He would be the only one to achieve a lap time under ten minutes and would deservedly start from the pole. Juan Manuel Fangio would be second-fastest. However, his best time would end up being four seconds slower. The rest of the front row would be entirely comprised of Ferraris. Giuseppe Farina would start 3rd while Hawthorn would start 4th.
Over the course of the last couple of World Championship races, Salvadori had shown a troubling lack of speed in the A-Type chassis. At the Nurburgring; however, he would show that the speed was back. Although his best time would be nearly a minute slower than Ascari's, Salvadori would still manage to be 13th-quickest and would start from the middle of the fourth row.
The rest of his Connaught teammates would be found just one row back. Prince Bira would be the fastest of these two. His best lap would be eleven minutes and two seconds and strong enough to start 15th. McAlpine would set a lap just five seconds slower than Bira, and therefore, would start right beside him in the row in the 16th position.
Ascari didn't really need to win the race to win the championship, but when the race started, it seemed winning was the only thing on his mind. Fangio would actually get the better start and would lead through the first couple of corners, but then Ascari would overpower Fangio and would go into the lead and the distance.
At 14 miles, just one lap was like many at other circuits. This meant there would be a number of entries that would fall out of the race after a number of miles of racing but perhaps 'officially' before completing a single lap, or, after just one. This would end up happening to a number of entries; unfortunately including Connaught's Salvadori.
Hans Stuck and Ernst Loof would find their races come to an end even before completing a single lap. Salvadori's would find his race over after just one. A gasket would fail on his Connaught and would end what seemed to be a race full of promise.
One promise in the race was that Ascari wasn't going to take it easy. Soon, Ascari would build up a decent lead over the rest of the field. He was pulling away from Fangio, Farina and Hawthorn. He had already left a number of other competitors well behind, and, had even lapped some by this point in the race.
Of course, by the time 5 of the 18 laps had been completed, Ascari had already passed a number of competitors because they were out of the race. In fact, eight would be out of the race before even 5 laps would be reached. Another five would retire after just 10 laps. Included in those that would retire before lap ten would be another of Connaught's bullets. Prince Bira would have a rocker fail on his Connaught, thereby ending his race.
However, even Ascari's Ferrari would drop out of the race before 10 laps had been completed. His pace over the course of the first 8 laps had been such that his car was experiencing incredibly strain. All of a sudden, Hawthorn, Farina and Fangio would streak by a struggling Ascari. One of his wheels had broken off his car and he was doing all he could just to limp back to the pits. Help would soon come. After making it to the pits, Villoresi would come in to the pits and give his car to Ascari for the remainder of the race. Villoresi would wait and take over Ascari's car once the repairs to the wheel had been made.
Armed with a new car, Ascari would take his second chance and would stand on it. He would need to. Hawthorn was running up near the front and had even managed to lead a few laps. This threatened Ascari's championship hopes. Therefore, the Italian would have to stand on it. And what he would do would be truly mesmerizing.
While McAlpine was doing his best just to hold on and make it to the finish, Ascari would take and make the Nurburgring seem like his own personal playground. After his performance over the next few laps, Ascari would certainly have to be in the running for consideration as a Ringmeister. His pace would immediately increase. But he wouldn't just pick it up a tenth or two, or even a second; his 12th lap would tell the story all by itself. On the 12th lap of the race Ascari would set the fastest lap time of the race. His time would be an incredible nine minutes and fifty-six seconds! This time was more than three seconds faster than his own qualifying effort, and on a difficult circuit in which to be really consistently fast.
Farina was in the lead of the race at the time and it seemed there would be shades of the previous year's German Grand Prix played out in the 1953 edition. But it would not be. Although Ascari would put together one of the most impressive performances ever, it would all come to naught after 15 laps when his engine would expire.
This gave Farina some breathing room. Surprisingly, this would also provide Ascari with some breathing room as well. Coming to the last couple of laps of the race, Farina was out front and had Fangio a distance behind in 2nd place. Hawthorn was running in the 3rd position. If Farina could keep Hawthorn behind himself the championship would be Ascari's.
Farina's lead would be too much, even for Fangio to overcome. It would take Farina a little more than three hours and two minutes to complete the 18 lap distance and take the victory. Fangio would end up finishing in 2nd place a minute and four seconds behind. Mike Hawthorn's championship aspirations would come to an end as he would come across the line almost two minutes later in 3rd place.
While not running anywhere near the pace of Farina, McAlpine would give Connaught reason to be happy. Although he would not finish inside the top ten, McAlpine would; nonetheless, finish the race. He would be two laps down, or more than twenty minutes behind Farina, at the end, but he would finish 13th. This was certainly better than half of the field, and therefore, was reason for the team to be proud.
Ascari had his championship. Connaught had a race finish, which was the team's first since the French Grand Prix nearly two months previous. Another World Championship race over; only two remained. But before those two races would come around on the calendar there would be a number of non-championship races Connaught would not miss. The first of those would take place back in England. Therefore, the team packed up and headed, once again, back across the English Channel.
Only one week after the German Grand Prix, Connaught intended to take part in the 1st Mid-Cheshire MC Formula 2 race held at the relatively knew Oulton Park Circuit. The team would have an entry for the race. However, none of its drivers would be available to take part in the race. As a result, the team would not appear at the venue. However, the team would appear at Charterhall one week later ready to defend its victory.
On the 15th of August, Charterhall Circuit, about thirty minutes to the west of Berwick Upon Tweed, would play host to the 2nd Newcastle Journal Trophy race. The previous year, Connaught had left the race with a sweep of the top three positions in the results. One year later, the team looked to repeat the same result.
The team would come with three cars entered in the race. Roy Salvadori would pilot one of the cars. Ron Flockhart would drive another. The third car would be driven by John Coombs. Kenneth McAlpine was listed in the entries but he would not attend the race.
The previous season, the grid was full. This was not all that surprising given the fact the motor racing season, on the British Isles, was rapidly coming to an end. One year later, the field would be much smaller in size, but it would still feature a number of drivers with considerable talent.
The race would take place on the 1.99 mile Charterhall Circuit. It was another former airbase that had been decommissioned after the war. This airbase had a rather dubious nickname, however. The airbase was a training facility for night fighters. Night-fighting during World War II was a very dangerous business in its own right. Training to be a night-fighter was an even more dangerous and reason enough for why the airfield would become known as 'Slaughter Hall'.
Watching grand prix cars circulate the 1.99 mile layout during the 50 lap Newcastle Journal race would seem to be far removed from the notorious reputation the facility had during the war, but a number of drivers would find the circuit just dangerous.
In the midst of the race, Jack Fairman would leave the circuit and would suffer a big crash. Connaught's hope for another sweep would end not much later as Coombs would suffer a heart-stopping moment when his brakes would fail. There were others, like Stirling Moss, that would also find the circuit quite tough.
Salvadori and Flockhart continued to run well in their Connaughts, but they would be too busy trying to chase down Ken Wharton in his Cooper-Bristol T23. Salvadori and Flockhart were running close together trying to hook up and track down Wharton, but it was proving to be a very difficult task.
Wharton, Salvadori and Flockhart would match fastest lap times during the 50 lap race. That kind of match in performance meant there was little chance of overtaking if any kind of gap happened to form between any of them. And that would be exactly what would happen.
Wharton would average a little more than 79 mph throughout the race. This would prove to be just the right pace to maintain his advantage over Salvadori. As a result, Wharton would power his way to victory. Salvadori would come up about twenty-seven seconds short of repeating the team's victory from one season previous. Although the team had lost the victory, they would enjoy the day as Ron Flockhart would come across the line nearly five seconds behind Salvadori to finish in 3rd.
It had been a long while since Connaught had even one of its cars finish on the podium. Charterhall had been good to the team, and here again, the team would put together an impressive result that would see two of their cars finish on the podium.
The races continued to come at almost a weekly pace. Just one week after the splendid 2nd and 3rd place result at Charterhall the eighth round of the World Championship came up on the calendar. Connaught had an entry in the 65 lap race. Prince Bira was intended to be the driver. However, the team would not arrive. Instead, the team would take the rest of the month off and would prepare for the final round of the World Championship.
The travelling back and forth from England to the European mainland was anything but cheap to do and Connaught had done it a number of times already during the 1953 season. Unfortunately, like many other British racing car manufacturers, Connaught had achieved very little success when it ventured outside of its home nation's borders. It really became a question as to whether it was worth it or not. But racing is very addictive; it's hard to deny the pull when it comes. Then, in September, Connaught would give into its addictions one more time and would head back across the English Channel and on to Italy.
Connaught headed the furthest away from its home base in Surrey than it had at any other time in the season. The team was on its way to Monza, Italy for the ninth, and final, round of the World Championship—the Italian Grand Prix.
Connaught Engineering was on its way to Monza looking for a much different result than what it experienced the previous year. Stirling Moss had been at the wheel of one of the team's A-Type chassis during the race but would suffer a retirement just twenty laps away from the end.
One year later, Connaught was back. This time, the team would bring a full compliment of three cars to the race. As usual, Kenneth McAlpine and Roy Salvadori would be behind the wheels of two of the three. The third car would end up being entered in the 80 lap race for Jack Fairman.
The Autodromo Nazionale di Monza was one of those circuits not particularly suited to the Connaught chassis. The car was a good handling machine that offered good acceleration. At Monza, speed was everything. The A-Type was a little short on power compared to the Ferrari and the Maserati, and therefore, a little short on top speed. Nonetheless, the team would come and would be praying the 3.91 mile circuit would be a car-breaker, except, that is, of their own cars.
Obviously, Monza was home turf for Scuderia Ferrari and Maserati. Both factory efforts were from just down the road about two hours. These cars had been built for this circuit. Not only did they handle well, but they also had the power to reach some incredible top speeds.
Built during the 1920s, Monza was just one of a couple purpose-built road circuits in the entire world. But even from that moment, the circuit allowed cars to reach some rather incredible speeds. This was helped by its flat lay-out and the addition of a steeply-banked oval that was over 2.6 miles in length and that incorporated with the road course to make one long course of 6.2 miles. However, the 3.91 mile road circuit wouldn't need the oval to reach some incredible speeds. Even without the oval, the Formula 2 cars in 1953 were able to average more than 110 mph around the circuit.
It was widely expected, especially amongst the Italian faithful that came to the race, that the Ferraris and the Maseratis would be the most dominant cars in the field. This expectation would be further reinforced after practice when Ascari would start on the pole with Fangio and Farina helping to make it an all World Champion front row.
Connaught's drivers would need to wrestle as much as they could out of their cars in order to even be close. In practice, Salvadori would look impressive as he would end up setting a lap just about five seconds slower than Ascari and would start the race from 14th on the grid, which put him in the middle of the fifth row. McAlpine would be right there as well. His best effort would be good enough to start 18th in the field and on the outside of the sixth row. Fairman would struggle a bit in his A-Type. His best time in the car during practice would be a little more than five seconds slower than Salvadori's time. Therefore, Fairman would start the final World Championship race from the eighth row of the grid in the 22nd position.
The day of the race would be sunny and warm. The crowd would be greeted with the sounds of screeching tires and smoke as the field roared away at the start of the 80 lap race. Fangio would get off to a terrible start and would be well down in the field as the field headed toward Curva Grande. Ascari was in the lead with Farina and Marimon right there with him. A little further back, Salvadori had made a decent start and was trying to get comfortable in the middle of the field. McAlpine and Fairman would also try and get into a rhythm early on.
Very quickly, the race turned into a carbon-copy of the French Grand Prix. Ascari, Farina and Marimon continued to circulate the circuit nose-to-tail. Soon, these three would be joined by Fangio. These four would hook up and become like a four-car train plowing its way through the field.
With more than three-quarters of a lap with the driver's foot squarely on the gas, it would be the engine that would go through the greatest torture test. This would actually lend to a short list of retirements. However, there were still those that suffered from problems. Lance Macklin would find his Alta engine just couldn't take more than 6 laps flat out. John Fitch would find his Alta had the same viewpoint, it was just that his engine decided to last just a few laps longer. Chico Landi would find himself out of the race after just 18 laps due to piston failure. Salvadori would also find his promising start come to an end after 33 laps. His problem would also be engine-related, but strangely different. The throttle cable on his Connaught would fail. This would bring his last World Championship race of 1953.
McAlpine and Fairman continued to navigate the 3.91 mile circuit, but they would not be in contention with the front-runners, especially the four-car freight train wrecking havoc on the field.
Halfway through the race, the train would lose one of its cars. Marimon would have cooling troubles and would be forced to come in for repairs. He would return to the track, and the same group, but was a number of laps down. This left Ascari, Farina and Fangio left all alone at the front of the field.
Coming into the final couple of laps, Farina held onto the lead, just slightly, over Ascari. Fangio remained in touch with the two Ferraris, but was a couple of lengths behind. This would prove to be very advantageous.
Heading around on the final lap of the race, Farina and Ascari were battling it out for the lead and the victory. Farina held onto the lead but it was extremely obvious, given the fact Ascari had disobeyed orders at the last race, that Alberto wanted the victory for himself. Heading into the final corner, Farina held position on the inside of the corner. Ascari would try a bold move. He would try and go around the outside. This would prove foolhardy.
The car just couldn't maintain adhesion going around the outside. It would break free on Ascari. With his quick reflexes, Ascari tried violently to save the car. In his efforts to save the car, he would push Farina off the course. Fangio was far enough back to see the incident develop in front of himself. He would take a line that would enable him to come through into the lead of the race with just the short straight to the finish line left to go. Farina would also make it by, but his avoidance tactics would cost him the lead and would drop him a couple of seconds behind Fangio. Onofre Marimon had nowhere to go. His position was such that all he could do was plow into Ascari's spinning car. The collision would end up taking both cars out of the race. This would enable Luigi Villoresi to come through into 3rd place.
Fangio would take the gift given him. He would power his way down the straight and would cross the line to take the victory by about two seconds over Farina. Villoresi would follow a few seconds later to take 3rd place. Ascari's ill-advised move would end up costing Ferrari continuation of its winning-streak.
The fallout of the pace of the front-four would be terrible. Villoresi would finish in 3rd but he was a lap down. Prince Bira would end up being the last 'classified' finisher. He would be eight laps down at the finish. McAlpine and Fairman would fare worse than that. Although both would finish the race, each would be 'not classified' in the end. That would be because Fairman would end up some nineteen laps down while McAlpine would end up last of the cars running on the circuit and twenty-four laps down.
Although Connaught would have two of its car finish the race, both would be so far behind it would be as if they really hadn't finished, just like Salvadori. Given McAlpine's pace in qualifying, his twenty-four laps translated into a gap of nearly an hour behind Fangio! Other than having two cars finish, which had been difficult enough for the team in World Championship races, there really was very little positive the team could take away from Monza. Perhaps the only bright spot was the fact the World Championship season was now over. The team was now free to return to England to take part in races in which it had better chances of earning a good result.
After the humiliating Italian Grand Prix, the team would splinter into two parts. One part would head back to England. Another part would end up staying in Italy for another week or so. The contingent that headed back to England had Ron Flockhart go with them. That portion of the team was on its way to London and Crystal Palace again for the 1st London Trophy race on the 19th of September.
The London Trophy race would be a race comprised of a couple of heat races. The final results would then be determined by aggregate scoring over the course of the two, 10 lap heats.
For Connaught; however, it would prove to be a one heat race. The team struggled to get Flockhart's car ready in time for the first heat race. Unfortunately, they would have to watch the first heat from the sidelines. Flockhart would end up missing out on potentially being part of a titanic battle with Stirling Moss and Tony Rolt.
Moss had started the heat from the pole. Rolt would start from the middle of the front row. Flockhart would put together a fast lap during practice and would actually be blessed with the 3rd starting position on the front row of the grid.
With Lockhart out of the running, Gerard would take over and would do his best to give chase to Moss and Rolt. All throughout the 10 laps, Moss and Rolt would battle it out. The margin between the two would never be more than a couple of lengths at any given time.
In the end, the fight would come right down to the finish line. And at the line, Moss would edge out Rolt by just four-tenths of a second for the win. Bob Gerard would do his best but would come across the line in 3rd place some sixteen seconds behind.
The later-part of the season had been frustrating for Connaught. It was appropriate the team failed to start the first heat of the race. It left them with a decision to make—to continue or give up?
The team would not give up. Although clearly out of the running, Flockhart would take part in the final heat. With every frustrating thing that had happened to the team throughout the season it would have been understanding if there were feelings of anger within the team. Although he hadn't driven for the team all that much, it seemed Flockhart was driving angry behind the wheel in the second heat.
Stirling Moss and Tony Rolt would renew their battle from the first heat race. The battle would remain close for a good deal of the race distance. However, coming up fast behind them was Flockhart. Despite starting at the rear, he would be on an absolute tear. Flockhart's pace was intense. He would go on to set the fastest lap of the race with a lap time of one minute and eight seconds even. This brought him up to 3rd place.
Moss and Rolt knew they had the race in hand if they didn't do anything stupid. The titanic battle that had raged all throughout the first heat would cool off in the final. Moss would cruise to the victory by a little more than two seconds over Rolt. Flockhart would end up finishing the race a bitterly disappointing 3rd.
In the aggregate results, it would be Moss that would come out on top over Rolt. Horace Gould would finish in 3rd. Flockhart would; obviously, be well out of the running.
The team had come to London thinking about what could be. The team would end up leaving wondering what could have been. Thoughts then turned to the rest of the team still in Italy. Hopefully they would be able to take advantage of any opportunity presented to them.
The remaining portion of the Connaught Engineering team was in Modena, Italy for the 4th Gran Premio di Modena. If Monza was Ferrari and Maserati's backyard then Modena was inside their houses. Both of the car manufacturers, at one time, would call Modena home. Maserati was still based in the city jus blocks from the aerodrome that would serve as the site for the race. Ferrari had started out its existence based within the city. However, Enzo had since moved the factory to Maranello.
Modena remains a city filled with tightly packed streets and residences. The aerodrome, located just to the northwest of the city's center, was beginning to feel the same 'squeeze'. Once wide open, the city; with its many residences, began to pack around the small field. Nonetheless, the close proximity of the aerodrome and its 1.46 mile temporary road course would serve as the perfect testing site for both Ferrari and Maserati. It would; therefore, become a perfect site to host a grand prix.
Salvadori and McAlpine had been present at the United States Air Force Trophy race back in July and witnessed the death of Bobbie Baird in a supporting sports car race. At Modena, in September, Salvadori and McAlpine would again be present to witness a tragedy. During practice for the 100 lap race, Charles de Tornaco would roll his Ferrari 500. De Tornaco would subsequently lose his life as a result of injuries sustained in the crash. Once again, a grand prix would be held under a cloud of grief.
In qualifying, Fangio would take his Maserati and would be fastest around the circuit. Starting next to Fangio on the front row would be Onofre Marimon. Emmanuel de Graffenried would complete the sweep for Maserati starting 3rd. The entire front row would be separated by gaps of two-tenths.
Although the team was far removed from its base back in Surrey, new cars would be delivered in time for the grand prix. Roy Salvadori would take the first A-Type chassis produced while John Coombs and McAlpine would receive the latest built chassis.
The first A-Type would prove to be good enough for Salvadori. He would take his car and would end up fifth-fastest in practice and would start the race from the second row. John Coombs would be the next-fastest amongst the team. He would start from the third row of the grid in the 7th position. McAlpine would start in the same row with Coombs in the 9th position. All in all, only about three seconds would separate Fangio on pole and McAlpine in 9th.
The field would roar away at the start of the 100 lap event and right away trouble would strike the field, but amazingly, it wouldn't be a Connaught that would be in trouble. Instead, it would be Jean Behra and his Equipe Gordini T16 that would be out with a piston failure.
Up front, Fangio led the way with Marimon and de Graffenried holding their stations. Salvadori was looking challenging within the first couple of laps but was obviously fighting to stay with the Maseratis. Both Coombs and McAlpine were already showing signs of being off the pace.
Salvadori would push and give it everything he had. Unfortunately, he would ask too much of the old A-Type chassis. After just 10 laps, or a little more than ten minutes, into the race the engine in his car would expire. This seemed to be yet another frustrating early exit for the talented driver. However, Coombs would come to his rescue. Coombs would end up giving Salvadori his Connaught for the rest of the race. This was the prudent move given the fact Salvadori was obviously faster.
The gift would only let Salvadori remain in the race for about another 25 laps. Once again, trouble would strike Salvadori. This time, he would be out of the race for sure. The team's hopes for at least a finish would rest with McAlpine.
It was obvious McAlpine was more concerned with finishing than with trying to push and gain a better spot in the running order. Just about every two and a half laps or so, he would see Fangio come up behind and lap him. Over the course of 100 laps, this rate would translate into McAlpine being more than just a handful of laps behind Fangio. However, he was still running, which is more than could be said for his teammates.
Up front, Fangio was beginning to runaway from his teammates and was severely dominating the rest of the field. Marimon had been locked in a battle with de Graffenried very early on but had broken away and was just lapping very lonely in 2nd. And McAlpine was just holding on to try and make it to the end.
It would take Fangio just one hour and fifty-two minutes to complete the 100 lap distance and take the win. He would end up crossing the line forty-seven seconds ahead of Marimon. The rest of the field was at least two laps down. Baron de Graffenried would end up being the first to cross the line for the demoralized field. About forty-four seconds behind Fangio, McAlpine would cross the line, but he certainly wasn't that close to the Argentinean. Instead, McAlpine would end up crossing the line, but would not be classified in the results as he would finish thirty-seven laps behind.
Two races, two opportunities and two opportunities lost. All of the momentum the team had during the first couple of races of the season had totally come to a stop and, in fact, seemed to be heading in the other direction. Whether a positive or a negative, only a few races remained on the season for the team.
After all of the bitter disappointments and opportunities lost during the last-half of the season, Connaught would be back in England and back at the site that had started its season off. The team was back at Goodwood and was looking to rebound in the 6th Madgwick Cup.
On the 26th of September, Goodwood would host another set of short races around its 2.39 mile circuit. One of those races was the Madgwick Cup. As the season was quickly beginning to wind down there would be sixteen entries in the field for the Madgwick Cup.
Although there would be sixteen in the field, there would be only one Connaught Engineering team car entered in the race, and that car would be entered for Salvadori. Interestingly, one of the team's chassis numbers would also be listed in the entries; however, it would be entered under the Ecurie Brittanique team name.
Salvadori was desperate for a good result after all of the failures he had been suffering. If practice was a sign of things to come, then the rest of the field needed to watch out. This was because Salvadori would end up taking the pole for the 7 lap race. And certainly his anger would make up the rest. However, he would have a front row of strong competitors in which he would have to contend. It would consist of Stirling Moss in 2nd, Tony Rolt in 3rd and Bob Gerard in 4th.
When the race started, the battle between Moss and Rolt, which had raged at a number of other races, would rage again. Despite being right behind Salvadori, this battle would end up helping him. Of course, he would help himself too; for he would go on to set the fastest lap of the short race and would put the pressure on Moss and Rolt.
A season of racing had really taken its toll. Besides the longer World Championship season there were a number of non-championship races that filled the calendar in 1953. This would be very apparent during the Madgwick Cup race. British marks, at the time, were known for their lack of reliability and sustainability. And even during the short 7 lap race nearly half of the field would drop out with mechanical ailments.
Thankfully for Connaught, Salvadori wasn't one of them this time. Averaging a little more than 89 mph, he would go on to take a long awaited and well-deserved victory. The battle between Moss and Rolt, which would rage throughout the 7 lap race, would allow Salvadori to pull out an advantage of over three seconds at the line. The fight between Moss and Rolt would again be another tight affair. The victor of these two would only become clear as they powered their way out of Woodcote and toward the finish line. In the end, Moss would again gain the upper-hand over Rolt finishing in 2nd just four-tenths of second ahead.
Finally, with the end of the season peering right around the corner, Salvadori and Connaught would get back to successful ways. Instead of just thinking about getting the season over with, now the team could start thinking about trying to end it on a good note. All the team needed to do was to give Salvadori and its drivers cars capable of completing just a few more laps. The problem though was clear: the Connaughts were having trouble remaining fast and reliable over anything more than about 10 laps. The next race would be a good test then as it would only be just a little bit more than 10 laps.
Only two races remained for Connaught. The first of these two would take place on the 3rd of October. The race would take place at the Castle Combe circuit, which was yet another of those World War II airfields turned into a motor racing circuit. In 1952, Castle Combe had come to play host to a special race in memorial of the departed racer Joe Fry. Well, in October of 1953, many British drivers would arrive to take part in the second installment of the memorial race.
A couple of times during the season Connaught had been witnesses to tragedies. Bobbie Baird and Charles de Tornaco had all died at races in which Connaught had been present. At the Joe Fry Memorial Trophy race it seemed there was the potential for yet another tragedy and the race could have become known as the Joe Fry & Stirling Moss Memorial Trophy race.
On the very first lap of the 20 lap race, Stirling Moss would roll his Cooper-Jap T12. The car would land on top of him while it rolled and Moss was obviously not in good shape. All through the season Moss had been in some terrific battles with Tony Rolt. Most often it was Moss that had come out the better of the two. This time; however, Moss was in trouble, but Rolt wouldn't take advantage of it. He would stop this Connaught on the track to help Moss. When Moss was finally extracted from underneath the car it was found he was alive, but had suffered a fractured shoulder.
Just a little later, McAlpine would also have a big accident. Thankfully for everyone, and the team, he too would be alright.
The troubles just kept coming. The fast, short circuit was causing havoc all throughout the field. Ron Searles would lose a rear wheel. After Searles' departure from the race the attrition just kept coming.
Unfortunately, the next out of the race would be Connaught's last hope, Salvadori. At the Madgwick Cup race it was believed that anything under ten laps and the team would be fine. Salvadori would come to find out that even 5 laps would be too much. The team had no confidence in its car being able to make any distance. Hardly any of the entrants with Connaughts would be able to trust their chassis. Out of the four entered in the race, only one would make it to the end.
Bob Gerard would make his way through the chaos that was the Joe Fry Memorial Trophy race. He would take his Cooper-Bristol T23 and would set the fastest lap of the race and would enjoy something of a lead over the rest of the field, which had been greatly mixed up with all of the fallout throughout the event.
In spite of the close calls with Moss and McAlpine, the race would come to a rather un-dramatic end. Gerard would hold onto the lead and would take the victory finishing the race distance in just under twenty-six minutes. Horace Gould would be the beneficiary of some of the craziness and would bring his Cooper-Bristol across the line in 2nd some twenty-four seconds behind. Ken Wharton would make it a sweep for Cooper-Bristol T23s as he would finish the race in 3rd place about twenty-three seconds behind Gould.
After the victory at Goodwood it seemed everything was quickly unraveling all over again. The team was back to perhaps thinking about just ending the season right then and there. But in search of just one more good result, the team would enter the last major grand prix in England in 1953.
After self-destructing at Castle Combe, the team would head across England back to Snetterton for the final race of the season. On the 17th of October, Snetterton hosted the 1st Curtis Trophy race. It was to be 15 laps of the 2.70. Just 15 laps remained in the 1953 and Connaught likely looked forward to them being over as soon as possible.
For the final race of the season Connaught would bring three cars. As it would turn out, the team would comprise more than 25 percent of the entire field with its three cars. The team was set on ending the season with a good result.
In its final race, Connaught would have Kenneth McAlpine driving the first A-Type chassis while Roy Salvadori and Ron Flockhart would pilot a couple of later editions of the chassis.
The rather small field would end up being reduced in size even before the race would start. Thankfully for Connaught, the problem wouldn't exist with any of its cars. Rodney Nuckey would be behind the wheel of his Cooper-Bristol and would crash the T23 during practice. Therefore, only nine cars would start the 15 lap race.
Although Connaught would make it to the race the destruction of the team would begin in earnest. If the team had thought they reached the lowest of lows they hadn't thought about what the Curtis Trophy race would dish out.
On the very first lap of the race, Ron Flockhart's race would come to an end with gearbox failure. This left the team with two of its cars still in the running. But that wouldn't last long either. Also on the first lap of the race, Salvadori would run into trouble and would also retire from the race without having completed a single lap. Just like that, and with still about 15 laps still to go, Connaught was left with one car left.
Meanwhile, Bob Gerard was looking to be on the same form that had earned him the victory at Castle Combe. He had made a good start and was proving quite fast in his Cooper T23. Initially, Gerard thought he would have to battle with Salvadori, but with him out of the race, Gerard had to look for another to take up the challenge. The closest to Gerard would end up being Les Leston, but in his Cooper T26, he was proving to be no match for Gerard.
Gerard would help his cause when he would lap Snetterton in two minutes and eight seconds. This would prove to be the fastest lap of the race, and more than enough to defeat any challenge Leston thought he could mount.
Gerard's pace was putting some pressure on McAlpine. McAlpine was Connaught's sole hope. But against such a small field, a mere finish would be like a retirement. This surely placed some pressure on McAlpine. It would end up being too much. The final nail in the Connaught Engineering team's death would take place after just 8 laps. Pushing to make his way up the order, McAlpine would make a mistake and would crash out of the race. In spite of making up more than 25 percent of the field, Connaught would leave the race and the season in the lowest of lows.
In contrast, the end of the season was shaping up nicely for Gerard. He had won at Castle Combe, and after thirty-three minutes and forty-five seconds, he would go on to take the victory in the Curtis Trophy race as well. He would demoralize the rest of the field. Les Leston would hang on to finish the race in 2nd. However, Gerard would slow down over the course of the final lap. That was because he had Leston right in front of him. By the time Leston crossed the line, he would be just under two and a half minutes behind Gerard. Jimmy Somervail would end up a lap down but would end the season with a 3rd place result.
The last-half of the season had totally blown up in Connaught's face. While the team did manage a number of good, positive results they would be outnumbered with races like the Curtis Trophy race. And in rounds of the World Championship, they would be like many other British marks—an absolute non-factor.
Heading into 1954, the team knew things were changing. The new Formula One regulations would go into effect. And undoubtedly because of the terrible results, many of its drivers, like Salvadori, would move on a race for other teams. The whole situation would make the team stop and think. While other small teams and private entrants would go on to enter Connaughts in the upcoming World Championship season, Connaught Engineering would be absent from the proceedings. However, they wouldn't give up.
While Connaught would forego the 1954 season they wouldn't abandon all hope of taking part in the World Championship. Instead, the manufacturer would go to work creating a new chassis, and with its new Connaught B-Type, Connaught Engineering would be back in 1955.