TeamsR.R.C. Walker Racing Team: 1957 Formula One Season By Jeremy McMullen
The brand name Johnnie Walker was practically a household name throughout the British Isles. Born into the family, it would have been easy for Rob Walker to assume the famous lineage and live out an unassuming life making the different labels of blended scotch. However, Walker would use the wealth made available to him to make his own way in life. He would do just that.
Walker's determination would be applied to motorsport and it would all begin in the early 1950s. Prior to the outbreak of World War II, when Rob was just seven years of age, the Johnnie Walker heir would witness his first motor race, a beach race in Boulogne, France. From that moment on he would become interested in motor racing.
This passion for motor racing would be delayed due to World War II. In spite of his wealth and position, Rob would take part in the war in a related field. Walker had already learned to fly while he attended Cambridge University. Therefore, he would join the Royal Navy in 1939 as a pilot. Unfortunately, due to poor night vision, Walker would be grounded and would end up decommissioned in 1945. This provided the Scot with the opportunity to return to his love of motor racing.
He would start out by entering Aston Martin sportscars in races up until the early 1950s when he started to look to single-seater race cars. After using ERA automobiles for a short period of time, Walker would purchase one of the new Connaught A-Type grand prix cars that were built for Formula 2 regulations.
The change in Formula One regulations prior to the 1952 season presented Walker an opportunity to make the step up from Formula 2 to Formula One. The change in the regulations meant Formula One, for a period of a couple of years, would operate using Formula 2 regulations. This meant Walker's Connaughts were able to compete in the World Championship and it would lead to Tony Rolt driving the R.R.C. Walker Racing Team Connaught A-Type in the 1953 British Grand Prix.
This only entry would result in a retirement in the race. The following year, 1954, new Formula One regulations would be introduced and the Lea-Francis-powered Connaught simply could not compete against the might of teams like Mercedes-Benz and their W196. As a result, Walker would disappear from Formula One until 1957.
The mindset throughout the golden era of grand prix racing, right up through the majority of the 1950s had been all about the engine. No matter how big or unstable the car was, as long as it had a large engine it would be competitive. This mindset would begin to change with teams like Ferrari and Maserati. Throughout the Formula 2 era of the World Championship the four-cylinder Ferrari 500 would absolutely dominate. By the middle of the 1956 season the four-cylinder Vanwall was routinely proving to be the fastest car in terms of out-right speed. The reason for this was two-fold. First of all, the smaller and lighter engines made it possible to build smaller cars with about the same top speed as those with larger engines while improving stability and handling. The second reason was the greater influence of aerodynamics. The cars could no longer be long and large. Combining the small, powerful engines into the most aerodynamic design had the potential of providing a very competitive car. It also was likely to revolutionize Formula One.
Cooper Car Company had already been building smaller mid-engined cars for Formula 3 and the lower formulas. However, the advent of the T41 and the promise of the T43 meant smaller teams, like Rob Walker's outfit, could order the Cooper and potentially compete in Formula One.
For sure Walker could enter Formula 2 races. In fact, throughout the 1956 season Walker's team would be quite successful including a victory at the hands of Tony Brooks at the BRSCC Formula 2 race held at Brands Hatch in the middle of October. This would be preceded by a 2nd place in the International Gold Cup. However, there was the very real potential of adding a slightly larger engine to the back of the Cooper chassis, and therefore, take part in both Formula 2 and Formula One. Just such an opportunity would present itself in 1957.
Walker and Cooper had started its relationship the year before. Purchasing one of the Cooper T41s, Rob Walker would continue to be regular presence in the Formula 2 scene. The question remained—could the Climax-powered Coopers really compete against the Formula One cars?
Having a great deal of wealth at his disposal Walker would decide to also purchase an out-right Formula One car for the 1957 season. He had first ventured into the pinnacle series using an A-Type Connaught. Connaught had also earned a surprising victory at Syracuse in 1955 at the hands of Tony Brooks. Therefore, Walker would purchase a B-Type to use in Formula One events throughout the 1956 season and then into the early part of the 1957 season. After experiencing a difficult season taking part in Formula One races with the Connaught in 1956, Walker would begin looking back to Formula 2.
Walker's racing team was very much an amalgamation of a number of different cars and a number of different drivers. There was very little in the way of cohesion and consistency. Nonetheless, he had the ability to get the best and this would draw a number of talented drivers his way. This, hopefully, would provide the results that would allow the team to continue racing.
The beginning of the 1957 season would actually come in early April. Walker would have the B-Type Connaught and a T41 Cooper. The grand prix season had come to Europe following its very early foray across the south Atlantic. Considering he had the same type of chassis that shocked the Italians back in 1955 there was no better place to start the racing season that in Syracuse with the 7th Gran Premio di Siracusa on the 7th of April.
Situated on the southeastern corner of the island of Sicily, the city of Syracuse, historically, had been a very important and prominent center in Roman and Byzantine culture, but its historical significance would actually stretch back much further than that. By the time Walker's team arrive just to the west of the city in 1957, the city of Syracuse would still be remembered for its many sites of antiquity like the Temple of Apollo and the Roman amphitheatre. However, Walker and his team would hope to recall a period much more modern, a time just a couple of years earlier when a British team shocked the might of Italy by achieving a thoroughly dominant victory.
Walker would enter two rather vastly different cars in the race. The one car would be the Cooper-Climax T41. A straight-up Formula 2 car, the T41 would be driven in the race by Australian Jack Brabham. The second car, the B-Type Connaught, would be driven by another Walker, the Brit Peter Walker.
Even in the best circumstances Walker's team would have a tough road to travel. Back in 1955, when Connaught beat the Italians, it had been a field made up entirely of Maseratis. This should have been more than enough, but it wasn't. Still, following that humiliation the Italian teams had come to Syracuse in force and 1957 would be no different with Scuderia Ferrari joining the factory Maserati team. But there would be more of an English presence in the race that year. Yes Ferrari and Maserati would be present in both factory and privateer entries, but there would also be the Vandervell team with its very potent Vanwalls. Even the Connaught factory would return to the site of its former glory. Therefore, it wasn't a certainty that an Italian car would win the day.
Following practice, however, it would be a certainty that none of the Walker Racing Team cars would start near the front of the grid. While Peter Collins, Luigi Musso and Stirling Moss would occupy the front row having posted times ranging from 1:55.5 to 1:56.3, the fastest of the Walker-entered cars would be Jack Brabham, amazingly, in the T41. His lap time though would only be 2:11.7. And at more than 15 seconds slower around the 3.48 mile circuit, Brabham would start the race down on the sixth row of the grid in the 14th position overall. Still, this would be better than Peter. His time in the former winning B-Type chassis would be 2:25.1. This would put firmly on the seventh, and last, row of the grid in the 17th starting spot.
A total of 80 laps would be the race distance. This meant there would be a long day of racing ahead of Brabham and Walker, which meant plenty of time to climb up the order, as long as their cars lasted to see the checkered flag. However, as soon as the flag waved to start the race it seemed to be over for both of the Walker Racing Team cars. Collins and Musso would sprint from the front of the grid chased by Moss. These three cars would rapidly pull away from the remainder of the field and it would certainly appear as though the Ferraris had the advantage over the faster Vanwall.
While the Syracuse circuit, which used public roads just to the west of the city, would boast of a couple of fast straights, there were still some rather tricky sections of the circuit that needed a much better handling car. The Vanwall was certainly fast, but handling was its most important flaw. This meant, over time, Collins and Musso would be able to leave Moss in their dust. For quite a long time it seemed as if Moss would be able to make the best of the situation and the car and break of the Ferrari dominance at the front. However, before long Moss would not only drop back but would be absolutely crushed just like the rest of the field.
Since the head of the field seemed solid, the only real battles left would be for positions inside the top ten. And this seemed entirely up for grabs, especially when Harry Schell retired after just one lap and Jean Behra would make it just 17 before he too had to retire.
Unfortunately for Rob Walker's team, Peter Walker would struggle behind the wheel of the Connaught. Not only would he not have the pace just to keep up with the Formula 2 Cooper T41, but he would appear is if ready to lose control of the car as just about any moment. Brabham would fair a good deal better, but while driving a Formula 2 car there was very little hope of him being able to maintain a high speed that would enable him to challenge. The Formula 2 cars could turn in some fast lap times but not consistently. Drivers had to take them to their limits and beyond each and every lap just to be able to compete. Brabham would need to look to the car to ensure it could make it all the way to the finish and this meant his pace was such that he really could only move forward in the order when someone dropped out.
And a number of drivers would drop out of the race. By the 50th lap of the race there would be eight cars out of the race. Unfortunately, Peter would soon follow when he suffered a spin and stalled the car in such an area that he could not get it restarted. Walker was down to just one car and it was the under-powered Formula 2 T41.
Brabham would be impressive behind the wheel of the T41. Yes, he would lose a number of laps, but amongst the Formula 2 cars in the field he was utterly dominant. He was looking after the car but was still quite fast. It seemed entirely possible a Formula 2 car could compete with the Formula One machines if it just had a slightly larger engine.
Nobody could compete with Collins. And nobody could compete with either Collins or Musso. Together, the two Ferrari drivers streaked miles ahead of the rest of the field and would cruise to an easy victory. Collins would take the win completing the race distance in two hours, forty minutes and nearly twelve seconds. Musso would end up in 2nd place finishing more than a minute and fifteen seconds behind Collins. Moss would hold on to finish in 3rd place, but at more than 3 laps behind.
Brabham would do more than hold on to finish. Amongst the Formula 2 entries he would be as dominant as Collins finishing in what was 6th place some nine laps ahead of George Wicken in another Cooper-Climax. However, Amongst the Formula One cars, Brabham's Cooper would not be very competitive. In the end, Jack would end up not classified as he would be a little more than 10 laps behind in the 6th position.
Though lost to history, it is highly likely the result achieved by Brabham, compared to the struggles of Walker in the Formula One B-Type Connaught, seemed to suggest sticking with the Coopers would end up paying more dividends then trying to have both a Formula 2 car and a Formula One entry. It would certainly help with costs and standardization since the team would use Cooper chassis all the way around. It seemed entirely likely that with a slightly larger engine the team could compete, though not for victory necessarily.
Heading back to England, Walker's racing team would be heading toward an event and a race in which it could compete for victory. Following the foray into the Formula One world again with the race in Syracuse, Rob Walker's racing team would switch its focus entirely to Formula 2 for a period of time. It would begin with the Lavant Cup race held at Goodwood on the 22nd of April.
The Lavant Cup race would be a 12 lap event around the 2.39 Goodwood Motor Racing Circuit. Walker would enter just one car in the race. It would be the T41. However, the man behind the wheel would certainly be a pretty good driver. Tony Brooks had been the man that had earned Connaught the surprise win at Syracuse in 1955 and he would be behind the wheel of the Cooper for the Lavant Cup race.
Brooks and the T41 would prove to be fast as Brooks would earn the pole for the short race. In the race, Brooks would be chased by Brabham, who would be driving for the Cooper factory team in the race. Though Roy Salvadori would end up setting the fastest lap of the race, Brooks would still come away with a comfortable victory defeating Brabham by nearly 20 seconds.
The victory at Goodwood would be followed up with another Formula 2 race. This time it would be the 3rd BRSCC Formula 2 race held at Brands Hatch on the 19th of May. At the same time that Juan Manuel Fangio was powering his way to a comfortable win over Tony Brooks and Masten Gregory, Peter Gammon would be employed to battle it out in a two heat race.
In the first heat Gammon would only make it two laps before mechanical problems brought the heat to an end. In the second heat Gammon would recover to finish in 2nd place literally side-by-side with George Wicken. However, the final results would be in aggregate. Therefore, Gammon would end up not classified while George Wicken won over Tony Marsh and Chris Bristow.
Brands Hatch would host a 4th BRSCC Formula 2 race on the 9th of June. Peter Gammon would not attend this race, but Walker would have a very strong alternate in Tony Brooks behind the wheel of the T41. By this point in time Cooper had really begun to produce its T43 and the factory team had had time to tweak the design and get the best out of it. As a result, Jack Brabham would start the two heat race from pole position.
Right from the very start of the race Brabham would be quick. Unfortunately for Brooks, he would crash after just two laps and would write-off the rest of the event. Brabham would go on to post the fastest lap of the race and would earn an easy victory defeating Herbert MacKay-Fraser by 22 seconds in the aggregate scoring.
It was approaching the month of July and it was clear Walker had forgotten the B-Type Connaught to focus on the Formula 2 Coopers. Unfortunately, the crash of the T41 would hinder the team from taking part in a number of future events. The team would be entered in the London Trophy race held on the 10th of June but would forego that because Brooks' accident just the day before. The accident would also lead to the team failing to appear for the Prix de Paris held on the 16th of June at Montlhery.
As the calendar turned to July, Walker Racing Team had another decision to make. Walker would end up purchasing a new T43 from Cooper and would be in the process of shaking the car down. They still had the T41, though it was being repaired and restored to full working order. There were a couple of races the team could participate, but there was also a very important round of the World Championship coming up on the 20th of July. It would be a bit of a calculated risk, but with the newer T43 there was the potential for a surprise.
R.R.C. Walker Racing Team would have an entry in the 1st Coupe Internationale de Vitesse held at Reims, France on the 14th of July. However, the team would decide to forego the event to focus solely on the race coming up just about a week later. On the 20th of July, at Aintree, would be the British Grand Prix, the fifth round of the 1957 Formula One World Championship. At 3.0 miles in length, the circuit was longer by a small margin than that of Silverstone. However, average speeds around the Aintree Circuit ran about 10mph less. This meant the Formula 2 cars had the potential of doing much better at the circuit near Liverpool than the one near Milton Keynes.
Aintree had first hosted the British Grand Prix in 1955 and it proved to be a truly historic event. Not only would it be another rare opportunity for the racing fan to witness the presence of the Mercedes-Benz W196, but it would be the first time in which the British faithful would get to celebrate one of their own winning the home event. And that is exactly what Stirling Moss would do by beating Juan Manuel Fangio to the line.
Other than the stench that floated in from the power factory nearby, Aintree was a popular venue to host a motor race. The home of the Grand National, it seemed quite natural that both horse-racing and motor racing would take place there. And while the famed Grand National course would be famous for such fences as Canal Turn and Becher's Brook, many a motor racing fan was becoming quite familiar with names like Waterway, Melling Crossing and Tatt's Corner that were all a part of the grand prix circuit.
The racing landscape would be quite different heading into the '57 edition of the race compared to what Aintree had hosted back in 1955. German might wasn't even in the picture as Mercedes withdrew from motor racing following the 1955 season. Scuderia Ferrari was also present but was by no means the most dominant team coming into the race. Maserati and Vandervell would be very strong throughout the season. But, there would be one constant throughout all of the years—Juan Manuel Fangio.
Following victory in the French Grand Prix, Fangio would have three victories on the season. If he were to come away with a victory in the British Grand Prix the season would be all but over. However, British teams and drivers had never been so strong before and the home fans would make it clear who they were pulling for over the course of the weekend.
Rob Walker's team would enter a single car for the British Grand Prix at Aintree. The team would enter its new T43 with its 2.0-liter Climax engine. It would be driven by Jack Brabham.
In spite of Fangio's dominance throughout the first half of the season, he would struggle when it came to pace around the Aintree circuit. The fastest cars would be the Vanwalls. As he had the last time the British Grand Prix had been held at the circuit, Stirling Moss would capture the pole with a lap time of 2:00.2. This would be just two-tenths of a second quicker than Jean Behra in one of the factory Maseratis. The third, and final, spot on the front row would end up going to another Vanwall. This one would be driven by an ailing Tony Brooks. His time would be virtually identical to that of Behra.
Despite having a 2.0-liter Climax engine, Brabham would still be down on power to the Vanwalls and the Maseratis. However, the lightweight and improved handling of the Cooper would still keep things manageable. In the end, Brabham would be just under 7 seconds slower than Moss and would start the race from the fifth row of the grid.
Starting the 90 lap race from 13th on the grid, Brabham would have great potential for either a good or bad day. There would be plenty of time to make progress up through the field. However, there would also be plenty of time for things to go wrong and end up at the end.
As usual, a large throng of spectators would assemble and fill the grandstands around the circuit. In spite of grey conditions the mood would be upbeat and positive as there was a great of excitement about the race's possibilities. The cars would be lined up on the track. The drivers would take their positions behind the wheel. Moved forward into position with the engines running it was about time for the race to start. And when the flag flew to start the race, the British mood around the circuit would be momentarily depressed as Behra would streak away from the grid and would clearly have the lead through Waterway.
Though Behra would outrun everybody to the first corner, he would find himself reeled in very quickly by Moss. Moss had won at the circuit before. He knew how to be fast around it and he was intent on putting together an absolutely demonstrative performance.
Brabham would make a good start off the grid as well but would quickly find himself losing ground and running into trouble. At the end of the first lap, it would be Moss in the lead with Behra running in 2nd place and Brooks barely holding on over Mike Hawthorn. Brabham would lose ground by the end of the first lap and would end up crossing the line at the end of the first lap in 14th place.
Once in the lead, Moss began to open up an advantage over Behra. Brooks would lose out to Hawthorn and would continue to slowly fall down the running order as his injuries sustained in a crash weeks before were still plaguing his abilities. Brabham would hold station throughout the first 10 laps of the race but would begin to slowly move his way forward as a result of pushing hard and getting some help from others. Getting by Les Leston, Brabham would be up to 13th place and would remain right there for another long spell.
Moss would be out front and would have a sizeable margin in hand when his Vanwall begin to misfire. He would quickly come into the pits to have the situation looked over. He would lose his lead as a result and would end up dropping all the way down to 7th place. Behra was now in the lead with Hawthorn taking up the charge ahead of Peter Collins and Stuart Lewis-Evans. Brabham would continue to move his way forward. By the 25th lap of the race he would be up another position. Five laps later, he would be up to 11th. Attrition was beginning to play into the hands of more than a few drivers.
The misfire problems appeared to be playing into Behra's hands as he continued to lead and Moss continued to languish. Moss would bring his Vanwall back into the pits and Brooks would soon appear to turn over his car to Moss for the remainder of the race. Moss would rejoin the race down in 9th place but would quickly leap back up to 7th place. It would be here where he would mount his charge.
Brabham would be just outside the top ten with still more than half a race left to go. Considering the pace at the front of the field it was of little wonder Walker's car would end up being lapped a number of times, but at least there car was still in the race. If Brabham could hold on until the end, Walker would finally have a finish in a World Championship race.
The laps continued to go by and Jack continued to carry on in the Rob Walker Cooper. The retirements of Fangio and Collins would enable the Australian to climb as high as 7th place by around the 60th lap of the race. He would even end up doing battle with Peter Collins in Maurice Trintignant's Lancia-Ferrari for position. Unfortunately, this racing with the Ferrari would end up doing more harm than good.
Approaching 20 laps to go, Behra would still be in the lead of the race. Moss would be charging in Brooks' Vanwall. He would end up setting the fastest lap of the race with a lap time a full second quicker than his time that had earned him the pole. However, with Stuart Lewis-Evans and Hawthorn still between him and Behra it seemed time was running out.
However, just about the time Moss would be making his move to pass Lewis-Evans, Behra's clutch in the Maserati would practically explode causing the Frenchman to immediately retire from the race. It also showered the circuit with bits of metal. Hawthorn would unfortunately pick up a bit of metal and would suffer a puncture as a result. Therefore, by the end of the 70th lap, Moss would be back in the lead of the race with his teammate Lewis-Evans running in 2nd place ahead of Luigi Musso. All of the chaos would end up promoting Brabham back up to 7th place after he had lost out on the position to Collins only a few laps earlier.
Providence would be smiling upon Moss this day. Once back in the lead he would open up a comfortable lead and looked after to the car to ensure he would make it all the way to the finish. Unfortunately for Brabham, the battle with Collins and the chaos of those few laps would do in the clutch in his own car. After completing 74 laps, Brabham would find his clutch to be gone and would be forced to retire from the race. Walker Racing would not get their first World Championship result after all.
The British crowd would get what they came seeking though. Moss would run away to what would end up looking like an easy victory, even though it had been anything but. Averaging just a little under 87mph, Moss would complete the 90 laps to take the checkered flag and the victory. It would be the second-straight victory in the British Grand Prix at Aintree for Moss, but it would be much more. Lewis-Evans would run into trouble late and would end up slipping down the running order. As a result, Musso would finish the race in 2nd place while Hawthorn would recover to finish in 3rd place.
But while the whole of the British public would be absolutely enthralled by the moment, there would be great feelings of frustration and bitterness at R.R.C. Walker Racing. The team had nearly made it to the finish of its first World Championship. Not end up short of the mark stung badly. Yet, there were positives the team could take away from the race. Brabham had driven a good race and was nearly in the points when it all went bad. If they could get their cars to make it to the finish of a Formula One race there was great potential.
There would be a two week period between the British and German Grand Prix. The German Grand Prix offered teams, like Walker Racing, a unique opportunity as there would be a Formula 2 race run concurrently with the Formula One race. Once again, Walker would have an opportunity to take part in a Formula One race, even though the results would not count toward the championship. Therefore, the team would load their T43, but would replace the 2.0-liter engine with a Formula 2 compliant 1.5-liter engine.
Heading off across the Channel to the European coast, the Walker Racing team would pull ashore in Caen, France and would stay right there. For on the 28th of July, just one week following the British Grand Prix, there would be the 5th Grand Prix de Caen.
Walker Racing Team would travel along with the Cooper Car Company factory team. Arriving in Caen, Walker and his team would find a great opportunity presented to them. The vast majority of the entries on the form for the Grand Prix de Caen would be small teams and privateers. Both Walker and Cooper would enter the 86 lap race. Brabham, however, would drive for Cooper. Therefore, Walker would hire Tony Brooks to drive the T43 in the race.
Caen would be rebuilt following the terrible devastation it experienced during the latter-stages of the Second World War. As a result of Operation Charnwood, nearly 70 percent of the city would be destroyed and more than 2000 French civilians would die in an attempt to help British and Canadian forces break through to the coast. Now the British were back in Caen, but on a much less destruction aim.
The greatest threat posed to teams like Walker Racing would be the Formula One entries. There weren't many of them. The biggest Formula One team present for the race would be Owen Racing and their struggling BRMs. It seemed like this was a prime moment for Walker to pull out a surprise result.
However, just about everyone would be surprised when the cars took to the circuit for practice. With the help of Behra and Harry Schell, the BRM would turn into a front-running machine and would be easily the class of the field in practice around the 2.18 mile circuit. As a result, Behra would capture the pole posting a lap time of 1:21.1.
In essence, the Caen circuit was a rectangle. In spite of a fast, gentle kink, the start/finish straight led to a couple of 90 degree right hand turns that then led to a short straight that blasted alongside the l'Orne. After another quick kink the circuit then flowed around a fast right-hand bend to a rather slow hairpin that led back to the start/finish line. There were very few left hand turns over the course of a single lap and the average speeds remained high.
This high average speed certainly favored the Formula One cars. However, Tony Brooks would be impressive in the T43. In the end, he would end up on the front row alongside Behra's BRM. Brooks' best time around the circuit would be 1:23.6. Though two and a half seconds slower, this time was very good for what was basically a Formula 2 car.
The start of the race would see Behra up at the front and not really challenged. Brooks would settle in looking to the 86 lap race distance. In the case of Walker's driver at Aintree, Jack Brabham, the race would be very frustrating. Troubles with the magneto drive would end up costing the Australian a chance at a strong result. In the end, Brabham's race would come to an end after just two laps. Brooks, on the other hand, remained strong in the race but unable to come close to the pace served up by the Frenchman.
Behra would be so fast he would end up posting a best lap that was about a half a second quicker than his pole-winning effort. This would put a lot of pressure on the rest of the field, including Brooks.
Such a pace would be tough on any driver and car. Sadly, the pace tempted Brooks to push a little too hard at times. It also stressed drivers causing them not to be smooth. This would happen to Brooks and the Cooper would end up paying the price as it would develop clutch problems rather early on into the race. This would lead to Brooks retiring from the race after 29 laps. This would be too bad for Walker's team since they had their car starting from the front row of the grid, holding a lot of promise.
In reality, there was very little Brooks, or anyone else for that matter, could do with Jean Behra and the BRM 25. Behra would be untouchable over the course of the race. Lapping at an average speed of nearly 93mph, there wasn't a driver in the field that could match the pace of Behra.
Completing the race distance in two hours, one minute and 55 seconds, Behra would cruise to an easy victory enjoying a margin of victory of nearly two laps over Roy Salvadori in a T43. Bruce Halford would end up completing the podium finishing in the 3rd place with a Maserati 250F.
The Cooper-Climaxes were showing well and were constantly improving. It was highly likely Walker's team could come away with a top result if it could just get its car to the finish. It had been a long time since that had happened for the team. In fact, it hadn't happened since May. The team needed a race finish. Sadly, the next circuit on the calendar offered little hope of that happening.
The Nurburgring had been built between 1925 and 1927 and, right from the very beginning, the circuit would have a fearsome reputation. In many ways, the 'Ring' suited the golden era of grand prix racing where danger and death was as much a part of motor racing as lap times. Amazingly, the Nurburgring had been built in response to high amounts of danger involved in other motor races held on public roads throughout the early 1920s.
Even after the end of the Second World War the Nurburgring would change very slightly from its pre-war feel. This meant danger was every bit a part of the circuit as it had been before. This leant to drivers even loving or hating the circuit. It would also lead to others branding it the 'Green Hell'.
Even following his failure to finish in the British Grand Prix, Fangio still had a stranglehold on the battle for the championship. A victory at the Nurburgring would ensure his fifth title. Thankfully for him, the circuit ringed around the tiny village of Nurburg was one of his favorites.
While the majority of the attention would be on Fangio and his bid for a fifth World Championship, the German Grand Prix on the 4th of August offered more than just a Formula One race. In fact, there would be a Formula 2 race that ran concurrently with the Formula One cars. And while the results would not count toward the championship, the race presented a great opportunity to judge the advancements of the Formula 2 cars and to witness what would become the future of Formula One.
There would be very few privateers entered in the Formula One race. However, there would be a number of teams and individuals on the list for the Formula 2 event. Porsche would enter a couple of their stripped-out Porsche 550RS Spyders. Then there would be the numerous individuals and small teams. Walker Racing would enter just a single car in the race and it would be driven by Jack Brabham.
The weather around the area of the Eifel Mountains would be beautiful all weekend. What's more, many parts of the circuit would be resurfaced. All of this would combine to result in some truly remarkable lap times around the 14 mile long circuit. Fangio had set the lap record during the race the year before. It had been an impressive time and only appeared able to be beaten by a few tenths or a second in '57. However, in practice, Fangio would blow his previous best out of the water lapping the circuit some 16 seconds faster than the year before. Posting an incredible lap time of 9:25.6, Fangio would take the pole by nearly three seconds over Mike Hawthorn and his Ferrari.
The track resurfacing would have a huge impact on lap times. Not only would Fangio demolish his old record but those that qualified in the top six all beat his previous best. Jean Behra would be about five seconds slower than Fangio but would end up starting 3rd. Then there would be Peter Collins in another of the Lancia-Ferraris. He would be a further four seconds slower than Behra but would garner the final starting spot on the front row.
While the Nurburgring would feature a never-ending array of twists and turns, the circuit would be, by no means slow, as it featured the very long run back to the start/finish straight and a number of other locations where top speed would be pushed mightily. Therefore, the performance disadvantage would be obvious, even over the course of just a single lap.
In spite of this performance disadvantage, Brabham would impress in the T43. His best lap time would end up being 10:18.8. And though it would prove to be more than 50 seconds slower than Fangio's best, it would still be good enough to earn Jack a spot on the fifth row in the 18th position.
Good weather greeted the area again the day of the race. This promised more high speed racing and some remarkable lap times in front of the impressively-large crowd. In brilliant sunshine the cars would be pushed out to their places on the grid. As usual, Fangio would be surrounded by a great throng of well-wishers and fans. Further back in the grid, Brabham would get ready for the race in a much more tranquil setting being practically left alone, except for the presence of the mechanics. Some 311 miles, or 22 laps, waited the drivers and the cars. It would be a long day of racing, longer for some than others.
Engines roaring, the flag would wave and the race would start with the Ferraris of Hawthorn and Collins leaping to the front of the field followed by Fangio, Behra and others. Looking toward the back of the grid, Brabham would make a terrible getaway from the grid and would actually lose a couple of places on the run down toward the Sudkurve. However, over the course of the first lap, the Aussie would not only make up for the ground that had been lost but would move even further forward.
Throughout the first lap it would be Hawthorn and Collins leading Fangio and Behra. Brabham would make up the lost ground and would challenge even some of the Formula One privateers over the course of the opening lap.
At the completion of the first lap, Hawthorn and Collins would streak across the start/finish line with more than a couple of seconds in hand over Fangio. Brabham would take advantage of the handling of the Cooper and would end up right behind Bruce Halford at the end of the first lap. Crossing the line in 15th place, Brabham would be in a rather strong position, especially amongst the Formula 2 cars in the field.
The two Ferraris would lead the way through the first couple of laps but Fangio would be right up behind the two looking to take over the lead of the race. The Argentinean needed to take over the lead of the race as he would need to stop halfway for fuel and tires as he took a risk and started the race on just half-full fuel tanks. One the third lap of the race Fangio would make his move to take over the lead from Collins and Hawthorn. When in front, the Argentinean would begin to push hard to open up a lead he could use when he had to stop for fuel and tires.
Brabham would find himself unable to do just about anything. Sitting in 16th place, Jack would be unable to move forward battling with the Maserati of Halford. There were the Porsches of Maglioli and Barth up the road but they seemed untouchable, right along with Salvadori in another Cooper T43.
Completing six laps around the 14 mile circuit, the Aussie would run into trouble. He would struggle to get any drive from the car and it seemed as though there was a problem with the car. This would force him to make the decision to retire from the race. Upon further inspection it would be found the transmission had gone in the car. There was absolutely no hope for Brabham. The day was over; yet another failure for Walker's team to finish a World Championship event.
Not that they would care all that much, the Walker Racing team would turn its attention to packing and watching the rest of the race. By this point in the race Fangio was pushing ever closer to a 30 second advantage. He would need every second he could get to give him a chance of coming out of the pits near the front.
Right at the halfway mark of the race Fangio would come into the pits. The car would come to a stop, he would jump out while fuel would be poured into the tank. Mechanics would set to work changing the tires. Unfortunately, the locking hub would be lost underneath the car. In the confusion a lot of time would be lost. The lead would go. Then, by the time Fangio re-emerged onto the track it seemed the victory had gone as well.
Being nearer to 45 seconds behind it would be now or never for Fangio. The Argentinean would set to work. Resetting the lap record with just about every passing lap he would eat into the lead of the two Ferrari drivers. They too had about the same fuel left in the tank but their tires were worn. Fangio's would be fresh and he would take advantage of it.
It would be one of the most remarkable performances in Formula One history. Resetting the lap record, Fangio would blow by his own effort from qualifying. He was in pursuit of two Ferraris and he was eating into their lead hand over fist, but was there enough time in which to retake the lead?
It was a given he was going to catch the two Ferrari drivers. The only question was when? Posting what would end up being the fastest lap of the race with two laps remaining in the race, the answer would come by the time the three drivers powered their way out of the Sudkurve. The previous lap would see Fangio put together a remarkable lap of 9:17.4, a difference of eight seconds from his effort in qualifying! This put him right up behind the two Ferrari drivers. By the time the threesome flashed by the start/finish line to complete the penultimate lap, Fangio would be in the lead by a couple of seconds over Hawthorn. Collins would be further back yet.
It would be one of the most remarkable comebacks in motor racing history. Down 45 seconds, Fangio would catch the leaders with more than enough time to spare. Waved home by the appreciative fans, Fangio would end up taking victory by three seconds over Hawthorn, the man that had barely beaten him at the 1953 French Grand Prix. Peter Collins would give up after getting passed and would settle for a 3rd place finish.
It would be an incredible race. Too bad for Walker's outfit they would not really be a part of it all. They would have a bit part early on in the race, but not a role that lasted until the end. The retirement also meant it had been months since the team had seen the checkered flag. The team desperately needed a strong result to help build its confidence and momentum.
There would be two more World Championship rounds following the German Grand Prix. However, Walker Racing would not take part in either one of those events as both heavily favored Formula One cars. Instead, the team would look to a race that would take place the week after the Italian Grand Prix, the final round of the '57 season. The race would take place at Silverstone. It would be the BRDC International Trophy race.
Tensions in the Middle East, particularly around the Suez Canal, would result in the Suez Canal Crisis. Britain would be right in the middle of that political situation and it would go from 1956 and would continue to linger into 1957. As a result, fuel prices and the prices for other things would dramatically rise. It was deemed, given the situation, it was not in the best interest of the nation to be holding a motor race when fuel prices were high and so forth. Therefore, the BRDC International Trophy race, which usually takes place toward the early part of May would be postponed until a later date. That later date would be the 14th of September.
Since the World Championship had drawn to a close, the field for the International Trophy race would be largely void of Formula One entries. However, there would be more than enough Formula 2 cars in the field.
Walker Racing Team would enter three of its cars for the race. One of those the team would enter would be the T41, chassis number F2-1-56. The other two cars entered in the race would be two T43s, chassis numbers F2-7-57 and F2-12-57. The T41 would end up being driven by Noel Cunningham-Reid. Tony Brooks would be behind the wheel of one of the T43s while Jack Fairman would be behind the wheel of the other.
While the date of the race would be a departure from the norm, the format of the event would be a return to what had once been. Unlike the British Grand Prix that had first been held at the 2.9 mile Silverstone Circuit in 1948, the International Trophy race would be a race consisting of two heat races and a final. This format had been retained until the 1955 and 1956 seasons when the race switched to a single race event. All of that would change in 1957 and the field would be split into two 15 lap heat races to be followed by a 35 lap final.
Walker would have two cars entered in the first heat race. Cunningham-Reid and Tony Brooks would be taking on the likes of Innes Ireland, Roy Salvadori and others in the Formula 2 field. They would also be lining up against Jean Behra and Ron Flockhart in a couple of the BRM 25s.
Despite boasting of a high average speed, Silverstone would prove to be the perfect playground for Brooks and the Cooper-Climax T43. Using the 2.0-liter engine, Brooks would be stunning in practice taking the pole for the first heat race with a time of 1:43.0. This would be impressive, but the fact he would earn the pole by more than a second and a half over Behra in the BRM would be utterly shocking. The rest of the front row consisted of Ron Flockhart starting in 3rd place and Masten Gregory completing the row in 4th.
As for Cunningham-Reid, he would be a bit off the pace of the rest of the Formula 2 cars. His best time in practice would end up being 1:52.8 and this led to him starting the 15 lap heat race from the 12th position, or what was the inside of the fourth row.
Everyone looked forward to an intriguing battle between Brooks and Behra. The anticipation would heighten right when the flag was ready to drop. Unfortunately, soon after the flag dropped, Brooks would have his race come undone when, quite literally, the wheel came loose on his Cooper leaving him out of the race without completing a single lap.
It would be highly unlikely Brooks could have battled with Behra anyway for when the Frenchman took the lead at the start of the race he would disappear into the distance leaving no doubt as to the favorite even before the final.
Cunningham-Reid would drive a consistent race in the T41. Able to get ahead of the more powerful Gerard, Noel would stay right ahead of the vastly experienced driver and would fight for one of the top spots amongst the Formula 2 runners.
There wasn't anybody that could battle with Behra for the overall lead of the heat. Going a full second and a half quicker during the race than in practice, Behra would leave even his teammate behind en route to an easy victory. It would take just 25 minutes and 59 seconds for Behra to complete the heat and take the victory. Some 43 seconds later, Ron Flockhart would come through to finish in 2nd place. Gregory would be a further 8 seconds behind in 3rd place.
Cunningham-Reid would be embroiled in a battle further down in the field. By the end of the 15 lap heat he would end up in 9th place a lap down to Behra but in 4th place amongst the Formula 2 entrants. Brooks would be out of the entire race given his wheel problems.
The second heat would prepare to start. Fairman would be going it alone against the likes of Harry Schell in a BRM 25 and Jo Bonnier in a Maserati 250F. Then there would be Jack Brabham in a Cooper factory entry. It would be no easy task for Fairman.
Schell would take the pole by a very comfortable margin. Posting a best lap of 1:44.8, Schell would be nearly four seconds faster than Keith Hall in 2nd place. Ivor Bueb and George Wicken would complete the front row. Fairman would be rather impressive in practice. His best time would actually be quicker than Cunningham-Reid's from the first heat. As a result, Fairman would start the second heat race from the second row of the grid in the 6th position.
Knowing he had the pace, Schell would take off at the start of the second heat race and would run a controlled race keeping all of his competitors at bay. He knew he had an advantage over the Formula 2 entries and they would fail during the heat race to help his cause.
Among the Formula 2 entries, it would be a bit of a different story. Though Fairman would qualify the car for the second heat race, Brooks would be given the drive. He would then be all over George Wicken in the fight for the fastest Formula 2 car in the field. Not more than a few seconds would separate them over the course of the 15 laps and all it would take would be a tiny slip by either driver and the story would change very quickly.
Schell would be unchallenged throughout the heat race and would go on to an easy victory taking the win by seven seconds over Jack Brabham in a 2.0-liter Cooper. Jo Bonnier would complete the podium overall. The only question remaining would be who would be first among the Formula 2 entries.
The battle would go down to the final couple of laps. Looking perhaps toward the final, Brooks would heed to Wicken giving him the victory in the heat race by a mere five seconds. Overall, Brooks would complete the heat in 6th place.
The two heats would be complete. It was time to set the grid for the 35 lap final. Finishing times in the respective heats would determine the starting order. It would be no surprise then Behra would start from pole as he would end up being the only driver to complete the race distance in under 26 minutes. Ron Flockhart would then start 2nd while Masten Gregory and Harry Schell completed the front row.
The battle between Brooks and Wicken would prove very important for the starting grid as the two would end up on the fourth row of the grid in the 12th and 13th positions. Cunningham-Reid would find himself on the fifth row of the grid in the 15th starting position. Therefore, overall, Walker's team would be in a strong position heading into the final.
Having the three BRMs on the front row would be a very disheartening sight for the rest of the Formula One entries, which would be quite surprising given the season Owen Racing had been experiencing up to that point. Nonetheless, when the flag waved to start the race the three BRMs shot to the head of the field with Behra leading Schell and Flockhart. Jo Bonnier wasn't ready to let the BRMs off that easy and he would begin a race-long fight with Flockhart for the final spot on the podium.
In the case of Walker and the Formula 2 field, the team was in desperate need of a race finish and starting from the fourth row of the grid promised much. Unfortunately, Brooks would end up with very little as he would be the first car out of the race with engine problems. The season was truly bitterly disappointing at the moment and Walker only had Cunningham-Reid to rely upon to make it to the end of the race.
The most intriguing battles of the whole race would be mostly found within the Formula 2 ranks. Cunningham-Reid would be right there with Wicken and Marsh. Unfortunately, Roy Salvadori would prove to be in a league all his own as he disappeared into the distance and ended up lapping the remainder of his Formula 2 competition.
Absolutely nobody would touch Behra either. He would shoot into the lead of the race right from the very start and would certainly never look back at any point afterward. Posting what would end up being the fastest lap of the race, Behra would leave even his BRM teammates behind. The only battle in Formula One then would be for 3rd place still between Flockhart and Bonnier. Schell would be just a few seconds up ahead on the circuit but Flockhart and Bonnier would be so consumed in their battle that Schell was rather safe.
Cunningham-Reid would be doing admirably-well for Walker as he was left to fight the Formula 2 field all by himself. He would be in a rather close fight for the final spot on the Formula 2 podium as the race headed into its final moments.
Behra would be untouchable. Averaging just under 100mph, Jean would take the easy victory enjoying a minute and a half advantage over Schell in 2nd place. A little further back, it would be Flockhart rounding Woodcote, but with Bonnier all over him. Still, Ron would hold on to give Owen Racing a surprising one-two-three.
Salvadori would end up being the runaway winner in Formula 2 finishing a lap down to Behra in the 8th position overall. He would even manage to beat Ivor Bueb in a Maserati 250F. The battle would be for the final couple of spots on the podium. George Wicken would claim one of them finishing in the 10th position. Looking and waiting, Cunningham-Reid would appear coming around Woodcote, but he would be well behind Tony Marsh. Cunningham-Reid would end up 4th in Formula 2 and 12th overall.
That 4th place in Formula 2 would be every bit a victory for Walker Racing after the terrible stretch the team had been experiencing. The strong finish gave the team some confidence and something upon which it could build. Ahead were a number of other Formula 2 events in which the team could try and build its momentum before the season came to an end.
After the International Trophy race at Silverstone, Walker Racing Team would take part in a couple of Formula 2 events. The first of these would come on the 28th of September at Goodwood. The race would be the Woodcote Cup and it would be a short 10 lap event.
Walker Racing would enter a couple of cars for the race. The T41 would be driven by Tony Brooks. The T43 would be driven by Jack Fairman. Once again, Brooks would be impressive at the wheel of the T41 as he would take pole for the event.
Unfortunately, Brooks would lose out in the race itself. The combination of Brooks and the T41 would be no match for Cooper Car Company's dual threat of Roy Salvadori and Jack Brabham. It wouldn't help that Fairman fell out of the race altogether rather early on. Therefore, Brooks would be on his own, but at least for once he would be fighting to make it to the end of a race.
Despite posting the fastest lap of the race, Brabham would not be able to challenge Salvadori for the victory. Cliff Allison would complete the podium for Team Lotus finishing in 3rd place.
It would be a rather bittersweet race for Brooks. Yes, he would finish, and in a respectable 4th place. However, he had started from the pole and had a prime opportunity for a podium finish or even a victory.
Still, at the end of the day, Walker would have two-straight race finishes. Though none would be victories or even podium results, they would still be strong performances upon which the team could build for the future. It was clear there was a revolution coming in Formula One and Walker was right there on the leading-edge of that revolution purchasing cars from Cooper.
One week later, on the 5th of October, the Oulton Park Circuit would play host to the 4th International Gold Cup race. Once again, Walker would enter a couple of cars in the race. Tony Brooks would again be driving for the team, but this time at the wheel of the T43. The T41 would also be entered in the race and its driver would be Noel Cunningham-Reid.
Tony Marsh would end up on pole. Brooks would end up the first out of a race, again. His race would come to an end on the very first lap of the race when his Cooper suffered rear axle failure. This left the team's honor in Cunningham-Reid's hands. Unfortunately, facing a 50 lap event, the race would prove to be too much for Cunningham-Reid and the T41. His race would also come to an end after just 19 laps due to a water pump failure.
Left without a car in the race, Walker would be a bystander witnessing the remainder of the race. In the end, Brabham would prove fastest setting the quickest lap of the race and taking the victory by more than 30 seconds over Cliff Allison and Tony Marsh.
All in all, the season had proven to be wanting of top results. Instead, it had been replete with terrible results and very early exits. Still, Walker and his team would not give up. It was believed the lighter, and more nimble Formula 2 cars, with some slightly larger engines, could seriously battle the Formula One machines because they offered better handling and aerodynamics. Therefore, as a result, Walker would look to one last race on the Formula One calendar for 1957.
The Formula 2 season had come to an end. However, there was one more race in which Walker Racing could compete. Employing the T43 with the 2.0-liter engine, the team would enter the 6th Grand Prix de Maroc. This would be an important race in that the Moroccan Grand Prix would be added to the calendar in 1958. If the team could do well this time out there was no reason why it could not achieve success the following year.
The race in Morocco would take place at one of the most alluring cities in all of North Africa—Casablanca. The city had been a favorite and strategic target for Allied forces during the Second World War and that relationship would open the doors to motor racing coming to the nation in the 1950s.
The circuit that would be used for the race would be a 7.74 mile course made up of public roads right along the Atlantic coast literally just outside of the city's center. Virtually a rectangle in shape, the Ain-Diab circuit would still be a challenging and technical circuit boasting of some elevation changes going from near the coast to in towards the city itself. Full of little kinks here and there, the circuit would be fast but a little tricky at spots. Most of all, other than the view overlooking the Atlantic along some portions of the circuit, the layout was generally quite featureless.
Walker Racing would enter just one car in the race and it wouldn't be driven by Tony Brooks as he would be back driving a Vanwall. The team would enter their 2.0-liter Cooper T43, but the team would be fortunate to have Jack Brabham back driving for the team. Brabham had been working closely with Cooper on the new Formula 2 cars and those used in Formula One races and he had been experiencing some good success. Walker would be praying the Aussie could duplicate that same kind of success on the other side of the Mediterranean.
Scuderia Ferrari would bring a couple of their Dino 156 Formula 2 entries. Owen Racing would also be present with a couple of their improved BRM 25s. Vandervell would have a couple of Vanwalls. They would have three in the race, but Stirling Moss would become ill after practice and would be unable to start the race. But by far the largest contingent in the race would be factoy and privateer Maseratis. This meant Brabham had a great challenge ahead of him.
Working rather closely with the Cooper entry of Roy Salvadori, Walker Racing would look impressive in practice as Brabham would end up lapping in under 2:30, actually bettering the time posted by Salvadori by more than a couple of seconds. Walker, however, would wish Brooks was driving on his team as he would take the pole in the Vanwall lapping the circuit in 2:23.3. Jean Behra would end up 2nd being just a couple of tenths slower. The final spot on the front row would end up going to Stuart Lewis-Evans in another Vanwall.
The race would be a national event with king Mohammed V and his son present at the race to inaugurate the circuit. It is believed more than 50,000 people flocked to the area to watch the prelude to the World Championship race in 1958. The weather would be quite warm but it would be forgotten as the cars lined up on the grid and the drivers prepared for the start of the 55 lap event.
Then the flag waved and the race would set underway with the cars roaring away from the grid in a sprint toward the tricky right-hand first turn. The first turn had proven to be challenging throughout practice as its steep climbing right turn caught more than one driver out. However, each of the drivers would be careful approaching the corner and all would make it through without issue. The man at the front of the field would be Behra in a Maserati.
Behra would be leading the way and would look very strong at the head of the field. Further back, Brabham would be running into trouble. Oil would begin leaking from he Climax engine very early on and then the Aussie would disappear from view for a little while before being seen lapping the circuit once again.
All of a sudden, a number and a black flag would go up. The number displayed would be that of Fangio. Stunned, the crowd wouldn't believe Fangio could be disqualified, especially since he hadn't done anything from the very start of the race. Nonetheless, the Argentinean would obey the officials and would head into the pits.
A great commotion would fill the pits and the timing stand. It couldn't have been Fangio that deserved the black flag. Then, to the disappointment of Walker Racing, the situation would be rectified. The number that should have been displayed should have been 18, Brabham's car. At the time, the oil had covered up the one and a portion of the eight making it look like a six, Fangio's number. The situation would be rectified. Fangio would roar back into the race, though well down. Brabham would be flagged into the pits and disqualified from the last race of the season.
Fangio would basically be disqualified from the race even though he would be allowed to get back into his Maserati and take off in pursuit of what might have been. That would adequately describe the whole of the season for Walker Racing—what might have been. There were moments of brilliance but far too many shadows.
Even if Fangio had been able to remain in the race it would be highly doubtful he could have done anything to challenge Behra and his lead. Chased by Stuart Lewis-Evans, Behra would put together consistently fast laps to stay in the lead each and every time around the 4.74 mile circuit.
But there would be absolutely nothing Lewis-Evans could do to haul in the Frenchman. Behra would end up winning the race by a margin of 30 seconds over the Brit in the Vanwall. Maurice Trintignant would benefit from the work put into the BRM by Behra to come through and finish the race in 3rd place more than a minute and 26 seconds behind. The one hit hardest by the race, or circumstances surrounding the race, would be Fangio. Fangio would go on to set the fastest lap of the race but would be unable to fully recover from the time lost due to the confusion over the disqualification. As a result, the now five-time World Champion would finish a distant 4th.
But at least Fangio would still manage to finish the race. Even amidst confusion the great Fangio still managed to finish inside the top five. Trouble continued to strike Walker Racing and Brabham would not only be the source of all the confusion, he would end up out of the race altogether. This was not the way the team wanted its season to come to an end.
It was now nearly November and Walker Racing had a number of cars it needed to repair and update. It had been a terribly frustrating season with too few successful outcomes. The team had taken part in two World Championship races, tying the number it had contested between 1953 and 1954, and still came away with the same result.
Still, Walker would be working very closely with Cooper and would be the recipient of many of the latest evolutions to come out of the Surrey factory. There was a lot of confidence in the future with Cooper. Brooks and Brabham would demonstrate a number of times throughout the season Cooper was getting stronger and stronger, even despite the failures suffered by the team over the course of the season.
Walker didn't necessarily need any other car. What the team needed was that driver that could make up the difference, that driver that could take a good car and make it great. Brooks was certainly a great racer, but Walker needed someone more, they needed a living legend basically. And, in 1958, the team would get exactly that. The difference would be obvious. From that moment on really, Walker would well and truly make his own name for himself.