TeamsOwen Racing Organization: 1955 Formula One Season By Jeremy McMullen
Nothing, when it comes to British Racing Motors, or BRM, can be straightforward. There is always something to cause embarrassment and to be on the back foot. This was the case with the overly ambitious P15 program and its howling 16-cylinder engine, but it would also be the case when Sir Alfred Owen took over the operations of the team in 1952. Always excited about their next steps, BRM would almost always disappoint. Heading into the 1955 season, just about everyone, except for those within the team itself, had given up any faith that BRM could become what Mays and Berthon originally envisioned.
The nay-saying would begin quite early on in 1954 and it seemed right for the cursed program. Owen Racing was making strides toward its first in-house chassis since the maligned 16 cylinder howler of 1950. However, the manufacturer needed more time, as usual, to complete the new car. Therefore, with the return of Formula One in 1954, the Owen Racing Organization would look to an interim car for use.
One of the best customer options available would be the Maserati 250F. The car was more than capable and would be a favorite of many other teams as well. But, in usual BRM fashion, the delivery of the new 250F would hit one big snag that would set the team back slightly.
The Owen Racing Organization would take delivery of its new 250F in July of 1954, in time to be entered in the French Grand Prix held at Reims. Unfortunately, Ken Wharton would experience trouble that would lead to the car retiring early from the race. This would be nothing compared to what would happen a couple of weeks later.
Owen Racing would enter its Maserati for Ken Wharton but would also negotiate Ron Flockhart driving Prince Bira's 250F in the British Grand Prix in order to gain some valuable experience. Instead, Flockhart would end up costing Owen Racing. During the race, Flockhart would have an incredible accident that would leave the car virtually destroyed. This wasn't Owen Racing's car, but Prince Bira's. Bira, understandably, would want restitution. Fittingly, Owen Racing would have to give up its own 250F, one that Wharton would bring home in 8th place at the British Grand Prix, and would swap it with the broken heap that was Bira's Maserati. But while it would be a terrible occurrence for the team, it would be just too perfect to have been written in a script.
Developing their own chassis, Owen Racing now had the added cost of having the broken Maserati rebuilt just in order for the team to continue to race and gain some valuable experience in preparation for its own chassis coming online. But then, when the new car would come online, embarrassing moments would continue to haunt the team.
In what was Bira's ex-250F, Owen Racing prepared for its first race of the 1955 season. The team would be busy building and testing new components for its new BRM 25 chassis due to be completed some time during the 1955 season. Therefore, the team would not venture away from the coasts of England. Instead, the team would wait until the beginning of the grand prix season in Europe.
When the European kicked off, Owen Racing would wait until May before it took part in its first event. The first event of the team's season would be what had historically been a supreme test on par with the World Championship rounds. The race was the BRDC International Trophy race.
Held on the 7th of May in 1955, the 7th edition of the BRDC International Trophy race would be quite a bit different than those that had come before it. No longer would the race feature two heat races and a final. Instead, the race would be conducted much like a championship event with a certain number of laps being the measure.
In 1954, Jose Froilan Gonzalez drove into the distance disappearing with the victory for himself and Scuderia Ferrari. One year later, Scuderia Ferrari would be on the entry list. However, the factory would not arrive with its two entries. In fact, if it wasn't for the presence of Equipe Gordini in the field, there wouldn't have been a foreign entry in the field. This would be quite surprising given the race's past. Still, the arrival of Gilby Engineering with its Maserati and two Vanwalls being entered for Vandervell Products meant there would still be more than enough competition amongst the numerous British teams.
Given the fact the International Trophy race was held at the 2.88 mile Silverstone circuit meant the race would be a great opportunity for teams to test themselves against their competition. However, with the British Grand Prix having moved on from Silverstone in 1955 the field would be devoid of even greater competition that would have truly tested teams, drivers and cars.
Even without the major manufacturers, the Silverstone circuit itself posed enough of a challenge for a team like Owen Racing. The former bomber training base in World War II had become one of the fastest circuits in all of Britain. And, with a race distance of 175 miles, or 60 laps, each and every car in the field for the International Trophy race stood on the verge of a tough contest just willing to claim its share of victims.
Owen Racing would lose the services of Ken Wharton to Vandervell but would have a more than suitable back-up in Peter Collins. Throughout practice, Collins would be amongst the top five in time around the circuit. In the end, it would be Roy Salvadori that would take the pole in his Gilby Engineering Maserati. Mike Hawthorn would take the Vanwall and would be fast enough to take the 2nd place starting position. Stirling Moss and Jack Fairman would complete the front row.
Peter Collins would be mere tenths away from the front row but would have to settle for the 5th place starting position, which was the first position on the three-wide second row. This would be a good starting position as he would be between the Maserati of Salvadori and the Vanwall of Hawthorn. This meant Collins would have a good chance of a good getaway, which would only help him during the race.
Collins couldn't have been situated on the grid in a much better place than if he had started on the front row. Salvadori and Hawthorn would be quick off the line. Collins would also be quick off the line and would be right up there with the leaders heading through Copse for the first time.
The racing action at the front of the field would be intense throughout the early going of the race. The intense action would increase the pace lap after lap. Collins would be right up there with the Owen Racing Maserati looking strong. If Collins kept from making a mistake and the car managed to make it the entire race distance, it was clear the team could expect a fantastic result. Just what that result would be was the only thing still left up in the air.
It would begin to come clear after the first 10 laps or so. Stirling Moss would be out of the running after 10 laps when one of his cylinder heads failed on his Maserati. Then, after 16 laps, Mike Hawthorn would drop out of the running with a broken oil pipe. Wharton's retirement just 6 laps later meant Collins and Salvadori were pretty much by themselves at the front of the field. The only other one that could have really posed a threat was Fairman and he would end up retiring from the race after 28 laps with a broken throttle linkage.
The loss of so many of the top competitors meant the battle for the victory would come down to a duel between Peter Collins and Roy Salvadori. Salvadori, not known for being one of the fastest drivers in the world but a consistent and mistake-free driver, would show a surprising amount of speed in the Gilby Engineering Maserati. He would manage to set the fastest lap of the race with a lap time of 1:47 around the circuit. Averaging 98.48 mph, this lap would be faster than his own qualifying effort and would apply a tremendous amount of pressure on Collins.
However, Collins would respond by matching the very same lap time and would kick the pressure right back on Salvadori. Averaging nearly 96 mph throughout the whole of the 60 lap race, Collins would manage to take over the lead of the race and, over time, would even begin to pull out an advantage. No matter what Salvadori would try, Collins would have more than an answer. In fact, Salvadori would find himself losing ground.
Despite it being the first race of the season for the Owen Racing Organization, Collins would be flying. Before the end of the race, all but Salvadori would be a lap down. It was clear, only attrition could bring it all to an end.
Thankfully for the team, Providence would see fit that attrition would stay away the whole of the 60 laps. Instead, Collins would cruise to victory completing the race distance in just under one hour and fifty minutes. In the end, Collins' pace at the wheel of the 250F would be such that he would enjoy an advantage of about forty seconds over Salvadori in 2nd place. More than a lap would be the difference back to Prince Bira finishing in the ex-Owen Racing Organization's Maserati.
The season couldn't have started much better for the routinely troubled Owen Racing Organization, the old BRM program. This would provide a tremendous amount of encouragement and confidence to the team moving forward, which would be important with the work finishing up on the new BRM 25.
Three weeks after the rather surprising, and welcome, victory in the BRDC International Trophy race at Silverstone, the Owen Racing Organization would intend to make its way to the eastern part of the country in order to take part in another rather low-key Formula One event. On the 29th of May, Snetterton Motor Racing Circuit, located Norfolk, was set to welcome teams arriving to take part in the 3rd Curtis Trophy race.
The entry list for the shot 10 lap race would include around a dozen cars. However, as the teams began to arrive and unload their cars it would become abundantly clear there would be a number of entries that would not be upheld as those teams would not arrive in order to take part in the race. One of those would be Owen Racing.
Though Collins would take the victory at Silverstone, the team would take the Maserati and would continue development and, of course, would repair any needed work. Unfortunately, this would take a bit longer than planned and the car would not be finished in time in order to take part in the race. Therefore, the team would abandon thoughts of the Curtis Trophy race and would set its sights on the team's next race on its calendar.
The next option on the team's calendar would come the following day after its failed arrival for the Curtis Trophy race at Snetterton. The next race the next day would be held at another of the decommissioned World War II airbases in Cornwall.
RAF Davidstow Moor had been constructed in 1942 and served during the Second World War, mostly, as a base for maritime air-sea patrol and rescue operations. Closed in December of 1945, the circuit would lie dormant until the early 1950s when, like so many other former airbases, Davidstow began to host motor racing events. One of those the former airfield would come to host would be the Cornwall M.R.C. Formula One race.
Owen Racing had an entry for what would have been a 20 lap, 37 mile, race. However, there was a slight problem. While the car was proving to be difficult to get ready, the bigger problem was that the team didn't have a driver.
Peter Collins was at Snetterton, which is where Owen Racing should have been with the Maserati. Despite Owen Racing's failure to show with the Maserati, Collins would remain at Snetterton. He was also under contract to drive for David Brown's Aston Martin sportscar team and they had a race at Snetterton that same weekend. Therefore, the race at Davidstow on the 30th of May would be devoid of the presence of Owen Racing precisely because Collins would be back at Snetterton taking part in the sportscar race there. As a result, over the course of one weekend, Owen Racing would fail to take part in two races in which it likely could have won. Yet again, problems and issues curse the team and take away from the potential results that team could have experienced. And then, one month later, a much bigger tragedy that Owen Racing would not be involved in, would only further affect the season and the opportunities for the team and the new car.
On the 12th of June, one of the greatest tragedies in all of life, especially of motorsports, would take place on the 8 mile Le Mans circuit. A collision between a couple of cars would send one car flying through the air with parts from the car breaking loose and striking the packed grandstands along the start/finish straight. When it was all over, one driver would be dead and more than 80 spectators would lose their lives. The tragic event would sent shockwaves through halls of government and would greatly affect many of those that had a great love affair of motor racing. On that day, much of the innocence of motor sport would be lost. Death had always been a part of the sport, but not to the degree and terror that would be witnessed at Le Mans in 1955. As a result, motorsport, on a whole throughout Europe, would be thrown up in the air. Many race organizers would cancel events. Many teams would abandon their original intentions and would go the way of that which would seem much more sociably acceptable.
No fewer than four rounds of the Formula One World Championship would be cancelled as a result of the tragedy at Le Mans. This meant teams like Owen Racing, which only took part in one of two World Championship events anyway, would find themselves with only one possible alternative and far fewer options should they desire to look elsewhere.
The Belgian Grand Prix would take place the week before the Le Mans tragedy. Amazingly, the Dutch Grand Prix would remain on the schedule despite being the following week after Le Mans. But then there would be a break of about a month before the sixth round of the championship in 1955. What was worse, there would only be seven rounds of the World Championship in 1955. Therefore, for British teams like Owen Racing, there would really only be one possible option should they have any aspirations of taking part in a Formula One World Championship race.
The tragedy at Le Mans would see a lot of things change or come to an end. One change that would already be on the books would be the change in venue for the British Grand Prix for 1955. After serving as host for the British Grand Prix since its inception in 1948, Silverstone would no be the site of the home World Championship grand prix starting in 1955. Instead, the new home for the grand prix would be the 3.0 mile circuit intermingled within and around the famed Aintree Racecourse.
A place already famous for such names as The Chair, Beecher's Bend and Valentine's Brook would now also add such names as Tatts Corner, Village Corner and Railway Straight to its many famous and identifiable calling cards. Where Silverstone had once been a World War II bomber training base, and therefore, was nothing more than a wide-open field of concrete and grass, Aintree offered a number of advantages. The main advantage would be the simple fact the layout for the grand prix circuit would also make use of the same grand stands that would be used for viewing the Grand National, and therefore, meant very little construction needed to take place to prepare the site to host the race.
The site of the greatest steeplechase race in the world, Aintree would welcome the best Formula One teams in the world. With such names as Mercedes-Benz, Ferrari and Maserati, Aintree was now going to serve as the home to the most famous of motor racing thoroughbreds, and therefore, would be reason enough for the incredible throng of spectators that would travel to Liverpool for the race on the 16th of July.
If the caliber of manufacturers present wasn't enough, the fact the British fans had a number of top flight drivers in the field to cheer on would make up for any lack of interest in the manufacturer's battle.
Mercedes-Benz would bring no less than four of the updated W196 Silver Arrows machines. Scuderia Ferrari would bring three cars to enter, the Maserati factory team would bring four cars as well and Equipe Gordini would bring three. Then there would be a number of talented privateer teams that would complete the rest of the 25 car field.
One of those smaller privateer teams would be Owen Racing Organization and their single Maserati 250F piloted by Peter Collins. Unfortunately, against such impressive competition, the Dunlop-shod Owen Racing Maserati would struggle in practice. Stirling Moss would be the quickest in practice lapping the 3.0 mile circuit in 2:00.4. Juan Manuel Fangio, who was on the verge of his second-straight World Championship title, would be just two-tenths of a second slower than Moss and would start in the 2nd place spot along the front row. Jean Behra would upset the Mercedes domination by claiming the final spot on the front row by recording a time eight-tenths of a second slower than Fangio.
Despite being behind the wheel of the same type of car as the 3rd place starter Jean Behra, Peter Collins would struggle mightily to match the pace of those that would start in the first couple of rows on the grid. The top thirteen would be separated by just five seconds. However, the final twelve on the grid would find themselves separated by nearly twenty-one seconds. Collins would be one of those mired well down in the field after practice. His best effort would be exactly thirteen seconds slower than Moss' pole time. Therefore, Collins would find himself starting all the way down on the tenth, and final, row of the grid in the 24th starting spot overall.
Collins and the Owen Racing Organization had a tall order before them heading into the 90 lap, 270 mile, race. Additionally, the weather on the day of the race would be hot and dry, and therefore, would only further test a car's endurance if pressed, which was likely to happen under such conditions, especially when Collins had a lot of ground to try and make up.
The two o'clock starting time was fast approaching. The teams would make final adjustments to their cars. Then, with mere moments to go, the cars would be started and the drivers would pull forward to their starting positions on the grid. The crowd's anticipation would grow as it prepared to witness horses of a different kind about to be set loose. The tense excitement of the crowd would be drowned out by the sound of the engine's coming up to full song straining against their reins until the flag dropped.
Just then, the flag would drop and the race would come to life amongst soaring engines and tire smoke. Despite his impressive performance in practice, Behra would have a poor getaway from the line and would be a number of spots back as Fangio and Moss headed the field into Waterway for the first time. The delay by Behra would allow Mercedes to run 1st through 4th through the first corner, but it would not stay that very long as Behra would make a quick recovery.
Jack Brabham and Harry Schell would stall at the start. Schell's stall on the grid would cause a number of cars delays in their getaway and would end up helping Collins make an incredible leap up the running order. Despite starting the race from 24th, and second to last, Collins would find himself in 11th after just the first lap. It was clear, Collins' times in practice were not entirely evident of the pace he was possible of turning during the race.
Every couple of laps, Collins would gain a position. By the end of the 10th lap he would be all the way up to 8th place from 24th! One of the most incredible starts to a race perhaps ever witnessed. What was more, if he could keep the car running throughout the whole of the 90 lap race, then it seemed certain a big day awaited Collins and the Owen Racing Organization. This seemed all the more true with Behra's retirement after 9 laps due to a broken oil pipe.
The retirements just kept coming. Harry Schell, Andre Simon, Eugenio Castellotti, Roy Salvadori and Horace Gould would all depart the race before the field reached the 25th lap of the race. All of this would help solidify Collins' position up near the front of the field.
All throughout the first 30 laps it is Fangio and Moss leading the way, pulling away from the rest of the field which included their Mercedes teammates Karl Kling and Piero Taruffi. Moss would bring the British fans to their feet as he would lead about 15 laps before Fangio swung back by into the lead. However, on the 26th lap of the race, Moss would slip by back into the lead of the race and would be determined not to relinquish it again over the course of the remaining 60 laps.
One-third of the race gone and Moss would be in the lead chased by Fangio. Peter Collins continued his charge and was to be found running in the 7th position behind Luigi Musso and ahead of fellow Brit Mike Hawthorn. It seemed like it was going to be a tremendous day for Owen Racing despite the heat and the poor starting position. However, the charge up to 7th place would take its toll, especially on the clutch of the 250F and on the 30th lap of the race, Collins would be forced to retire with clutch failure. It had been an incredible performance. This charge up through the field would capture the attention of many teams, not the least of which would be Ferrari.
Still, Owen Racing was out of the race. The team, bitterly disappointed after getting excited about what could be, would end up packing and watching the rest of the race as nothing more than spectators.
What the team and the rest of the fans would witness would be an incredible performance of steady, determined driving by Stirling Moss. Taking the lead on the 26th lap of the race, Moss would have more than 60 laps in which he would have Fangio breathing right down his neck. He would have to withstand that and everything else if he wanted to claim his first World Championship victory, a very special one at that since it was on home soil.
Moss would prove, lap after lap, that he was up to the challenge and he would keep Fangio behind. Hard-pressed by Fangio, Moss would increase his pace and would end up turning out the fastest lap of the race with just a couple of laps remaining. Matching his pole-winning time exactly, it seemed evident Moss had the race well in hand. However, heading down Railway Straight for the final time, Fangio would put together one final, and mighty charge against his Mercedes teammate. He wasn't about to make it look as though Moss was gifted the British Grand Prix. Heading into Tatts Corner, Fangio practically touched Moss and would get the better drive off the corner. However, Moss wasn't going to be nipped at the last moment at his home grand prix. Moss would put the power down and would strain toward the line. With Fangio pulling up alongside to pass, Moss would come across the line just two-tenths of a second ahead of Fangio to take the victory!
Lost behind the incredible first victory of Moss' would be the fact that he would merely lead home a Mercedes-Benz one-two-three-four. Karl Kling would finish a minute and eleven seconds back in 3rd while Taruffi would complete the race a little more than a lap behind in 4th.
It would be a Brit's day, but it very well could have been an even more special day for British racing fans after watching Collins' performance throughout the first-third of the race. He had jumped well inside the top ten and could have kept climbing with the attrition of the others in the field. Unfortunately, it would be attrition that would claim Collins' effort as moot and it would remain Stirling Moss' day in the bright sunshine.
Despite the bitterly disappointing result, Collins' performance in the British Grand Prix would give Owen Racing some reason to hold its head up high. The team's hard world and Collins' talents had managed to overcome the terrible starting position and, in a very short period of time, it would have appeared as if Collins' had started from somewhere around the top ten. The team knew it could perform well. And though it had a new car coming online soon, the team could have confidence that it could be competitive.
The British Grand Prix would draw to a close, but it was just the middle of July. However, with the cancellation of a few rounds of the World Championship as a result of the Le Mans tragedy, just one round of the World Championship would remain on the calendar and that wouldn't be until early September. Therefore, Owen Racing would switch its focus toward finalizing its new car and toward the numerous non-championship races still on the calendar.
One of those non-championship races held throughout England would come on the 13th of August. Owen Racing had missed its opportunity to take part in a Formula One race at Snetterton earlier in the year. However, with the 3rd RedeX Trophy race at Snetterton the team would try again.
The RedeX Trophy race would be held about a month after the British Grand Prix. However, repairs to the Maserati would be delayed as the team focused on preparing its new BRM 25 chassis. Amazingly, repairs would be delayed to such a degree that the team would again miss an event at Snetterton.
Unlike the race earlier in the season, the field for the RedeX Trophy race would be littered with Formula One cars. More than a dozen entries would be put in for the race. Still, there would be close to ten that would not arrive for the race, and one of those would be Owen Racing. Their car not ready, the team would not make the trip. This would be a calculated decision on the team's part as its new chassis was just about ready to make its debut.
Owen Racing Organization had thrown away about two or three almost sure victories by not having their car ready in time in order to take part. Concerning the RedeX Trophy race, not many could blame the team as their new BRM 25 was just about to come online. And so, the team would miss the event at Snetterton to make final adjustments to its new car in order that it might make its debut before the end of the 1955 season.
The team would decide its new car was ready. Three weeks after the missed race at Snetterton, Owen Racing would return to Aintree in order to take part in the 2nd Daily Telegraph Trophy race.
Held on the 3rd of September, the Daily Telegraph Trophy race paled in comparison to the British Grand Prix held on the same 3.0 mile circuit. Instead of 90 laps, the Daily Telegraph Trophy race would last just 17 laps, or, 51 miles. However, if Peter Collins could repeat his performance from the last time the team had been at Aintree then it was likely the team could expect and hope for a great result.
There would be a lot of unknowns, however, heading into the race. Despite the fact the venue was familiar, it would be the first time at the circuit with the new BRM 25 and there were no guarantees that any part on the car would last even the 51 miles. And, given the program's history of debuts, the team had to be ready for just about anything happening, except an absolutely dominant victory.
The last time the program had unveiled a new car the team had been known as BRM and the car was the troublesome P15. Embarrassingly, the car's debut would be nothing more than a demonstration run instead of an actual race. That was precisely due to the fact the car had not been finished in time and had to be rushed into service. This time, Owen Racing Organization would take its time to prepare and ready its new car. Certainly, the team believed it could afford itself to believe and hope for better. It wouldn't be. In fact, the debut would go true to form for anything associated with BRM.
The field for the Daily Telegraph Trophy race would be full of talented British privateer teams and individuals. The majority of the field would include older Formula 2 cars but there would be a little more than half a dozen Formula One cars in the field, including Owen Racing's new BRM 25. Therefore, the competition at the front of the field would be rather tight. But in the case of any new team, to be aiming for the front can be folly. Instead, solid results usually are the goals the team strives to attain in a debut. In the case of BRM, or Owen Racing, just making it to the race usually proves to be no small success. Unfortunately, it would prove to be a goal too big for the team and new car at Aintree.
Stirling Moss would go on to set the pace in his own Maserati 250F. This was not surprising as it was he who had taken the victory in the British Grand Prix while driving a Mercedes-Benz. Roy Salvadori and Horace Gould would join Moss on the front row, both driving Maseratis.
So Maserati 250Fs swept the entire front row of the grid. Had Owen Racing arrived with their Maserati they likely would have started up around the front row of the grid. However, the team would bring its new BRM 25. And instead of qualifying up around the first couple of rows at the end of practice, the team would be busy packing up a broken car and heading home. During practice, Collins would have a moment at the wheel and would crash the new car heavily enough that it could not be repaired in time to start the race. Therefore, in fitting BRM and Owen Racing fashion, the debut of a new car would end up being more of an embarrassment than a moment of pride.
It would really be too bad for the team in that the attrition and competition would be such that Collins could have had a good chance at a good result, even a victory, had he driven as he had during the British Grand Prix. Instead, the team would leave Aintree with its tail between its legs.
Being that it was now September, the races, whether championship or non, were becoming fewer and farther between. The loss of four rounds of the World Championship would also hurt the team as there would be fewer opportunities to take to the track against real competition in order to really tune and prepare the new car.
However, toward the end of September there would be another non-championship race in which Owen Racing would enter in an attempt to thoroughly test its new car and begin to score some strong results. This non-championship event would be the 2nd edition of the International Gold Cup held at Oulton Park.
Originally part of the Oulton Estate, the grounds that would become the Oulton Park Circuit would actually serve as a staging ground during the Second World War and would even stage some incredible exhibition boxing matches like one that included the great Joe Louis. But then, in the early 1950s, the grounds would be converted into a multi-purpose motor racing circuit that offered a number of different course layouts. The longest circuit layout would be a 2.76 mile circuit featuring a number of elevation changes and blind corners that would challenge drivers and cars. With fast sweeping corners and blind entries, the Oulton Park Circuit would be anything but easy to get right. The undulating terrain would challenge drivers and would offer spectators of number of favorite vantage points. Therefore, from its very beginnings, Oulton Park Circuit would be a favorite of both drivers and fans and would be reason enough for the incredible throngs of fans that would attend the races.
The first edition of the International Gold Cup would draw tens of thousands of fans. That race would feature a stubborn Bob Gerard on pole in a Formula 2 Cooper-Bristol and Stirling Moss starting from dead-last on the grid. In one of the most impressive drives in grand prix history, Moss would come from last on the grid to power his way, not only into the lead, but also a margin of victory of about forty seconds. It would be an incredible performance and would cause the crowds to return a year later expecting an encore performance.
One thing that would change from the first to the second edition of the race would be the date of the race. Instead of taking place in August, the event would take place on the 24th of September. Another important change would be the make-up of the starting grid. The 1954 running would boast of mostly Formula 2 cars with the occasional Formula One machine mixed into the field. However, one year later, and with a number of World Championship rounds cancelled, the field would be field with Formula One machines.
The factory Maserati team would enter a couple of cars. Scuderia Ferrari would be present with a could of their Lancia-Ferraris. Vandervell Products would enter a couple of Vanwalls. And then there would be a number of smaller teams and privateers driving Connaught B-Types and other Formula One machines. This would be one great contest for the brand new BRM chassis, but it would be a great venue and opportunity for the team to further develop its car.
Mike Hawthorn would be quickest in practice. He would lap the 2.76 mile circuit in a Lancia-Ferrari in 1:52.4. His time in practice would end up being two-tenths of a second faster than the defending champion and Mercedes teammate of Fangio, Stirling Moss. Luigi Musso would make it two factory Maseratis on the front row when he recorded a lap time just another two-tenths slower than Moss around Oulton Park. Eugenio Castellotti would then complete the four—wide front row with a time just hundredths of a second slower than Musso. Therefore, two Scuderia Ferraris and two factory Maseratis starting from the front row of the grid. Had it not been for Stirling Moss driving the one Maserati boasting of the British green livery, it would have been a sea of red along the front row.
Peter Collins would have a follow-up race that would conduct itself much better than the debut. Collins would manage to make it through practice and would even go on to set a fastest lap time that would earn him a fourth row starting spot. Collins' 1:59.0 would be just mere hundredths of a second slower than Horace Gould's in his own 250F and would lead to Collins starting in the 13th spot on the grid.
Finally, Owen Racing would have an opportunity to properly debut its new BRM 25 chassis. Heading down over the rise and through the downhill turn one right-hander, Stirling Moss and Mike Hawthorn would be well joined in a battle for the lead of the race. The 54 lap race would be underway.
The fight at the front amongst the Formula One cars would be tight and very entertaining. Bob Gerard, in his Cooper-Bristol T23, which had started from the pole a year earlier, would also be on the pace and would be mixing it up early on. Peter Collins would be doing his best to put the new BRM through its paces while remaining reserved enough to help the car make it all the way to the end of the race.
Against the Formula One machines, the Formula 2 entries would have a tough experience. Dick Gibson would be out of the running in a Connaught A-Type after completing just 7 laps. However, just about the time Gibson retired from the race, Collins would begin to notice some troubling signs. Collins would notice the oil pressure was beginning to reach some alarming levels. The race hadn't even reached 10 laps. The team desperately needed track time for the new car. Collins would give it everything he had to try and look after the problem but the oil pressure problems would become too detrimental to the car and the race. Therefore, Collins would retire from the race on the 10th lap.
Collins wouldn't be alone. Retiring on the same lap as he, Horace Gould would lose the engine in his Maserati 250F. Harry Schell would drop out of the race after 16 laps due to a suspension problem. Luigi Musso would seemingly be on his way to a good result until gearbox ruined his day after 49 laps.
It really mattered little. The battle, at least early on, would be between Moss and Hawthorn. While Hawthorn started the race from the pole, Moss would be flying during the race. Posting the fastest lap of the race with an average speed of nearly 88 mph, Moss would steadily pull away from Hawthorn until the greatest threat to Moss' lead would be himself making a mistake.
Lap after lap, Moss would not make a mistake and would only increase his pace. Heading into the final couple of laps, Moss would be a lap up on everyone but Hawthorn in 2nd place. And when it came to the battle with Hawthorn… there wasn't one. Moss would be out front by more than a minute and could slow right down to a crawl on the final lap of the race if he wanted to.
Moss wouldn't need to slow down because he would not be touched at any time at any time throughout the whole of the race. Completing the race distance in one hour and forty-four minutes, Moss would cruise to an easy victory having a minute and six seconds in hand over Hawthorn finishing in 2nd place. Desmond Titterington's performance would be overshadowed by Moss' dominance on that day. However, Titterington would be incredible in his own right. Starting 6th on the grid, Desmond would take the second Vanwall and would impressively fight his way all the way up to a 3rd place finish by the end.
Still, the day belonged to Moss. The victory would prove to be his second-straight at Oulton Park. And while the fashion in which he would earn those two victories would be different, the point would be the same—Moss liked Oulton Park a lot.
Oulton Park would be frustrating to Owen Racing. Yes, the team did manage to make it into the race. However, the race would draw to an end much too early to be of any kind of help. Over the course of the team's last two races, just 9 laps would be completed. This would not serve to help the team develop its new car. All it would do was to further solidify the reputation and the curse surrounding BRM.
Just one week after the bitterly disappointing early retirement in the International Gold Cup race, Owen Racing would be busy packing up its new BRM 25 and would be completing some final touches to their Maserati 250F. On the 1st of October the 1st Avon Trophy race was set to take place at the fast 1.84 mile Castle Combe circuit near Bristol, England.
The Avon Trophy race would be the final Formula One event of the season in England and it would be the final opportunity for Owen Racing to get some track time in its new BRM 25 against some talented competition.
Castle Combe had actually been part of the Castle Combe estate prior to being turned into RAF Castle Combe in May of 1941. The airfield would serve throughout World War II and wouldn't be decommissioned until 1948. Like so many others, Castle Combe's perimeter road appeared to be the perfect venue to host motor races. Being a closed-off facility with wide open fields all around, these airfields appeared perfectly suited to motor racing. Featuring only a couple of tighter bends, Castle Combe would also be one of the fastest circuits in Britain when it opened for races in 1950.
Many different types of motor races would be held at the circuit and it would quickly become a training ground for up and coming talent, as well as, a major draw from some of the best drivers in the world.
The 1955 Avon Trophy race would be of little exception as it would have Vandervell, Ecurie Rosier and even Scuderia Ferrari on the entry card for the 55 lap, 101 mile, race. Unfortunately, the Scuderia Ferrari temptation would not come to fruition as there would not be enough starting money offered. Therefore, the field would be reduced by two. Stirling Moss also intended to enter his Maserati for Les Leston. However, the car would not show up at the race. Therefore, there would be about fourteen cars that would prepare for practice and the race.
Owen Racing would bring both its BRM and Maserati to the race. Peter Collins would jump in behind the wheel of the BRM first. During practice, however, Collins would find that the BRM was just not in top form and ready. This would be yet another setback to the BRM 25 program. But since it was the final Formula One race in England, Owen Racing couldn't just pack everything up and head home. Therefore, the team would unload its trusted Maserati 250F and would quickly prepare it for practice.
Given the little bit of time the team had to ready the car, Collins would not be one of the fastest around the circuit. The honor of the quickest would go to Harry Schell in one of the Vanwalls. His best time around the 1.84 mile circuit would be 1:14.4 and would give Schell the pole by a margin of six-tenths of a second over Horace Gould in another Maserati. Bob Gerard would continue to show his tenaciousness as he would take his Cooper-Bristol T23 and would record the third-fastest time in practice. His time would be mere hundredths of a second slower than Gould's. Tony Brooks, driving a Connaught A-Type, would be two seconds slower than Gerard in practice but would still manage to earn the 4th, and final, spot on the front row.
Collins, however, would be on the back foot in practice having switched from the BRM back to the Maserati. As a result, Collins would start the race from the fourth, and final, row in the 13th position overall.
Having switched back to the Maserati, Owen Racing and Collins certainly could have had confidence heading into the race. However, the race would still be a rather long event with plenty of time for bad things to happen. Therefore, the team would have to have cautious optimism heading in.
Schell knew he was certainly tough to catch and keep up with. Therefore, heading into the race, Schell could have great confidence that all he needed to do was to avoid making any mistakes and the race would likely play out in his favor. Still, as the flag waved to start the race, Schell wasn't about to take any chances. He would break off the line well and would be fast straight away. This put tremendous pressure on the rest of the front row starters, and frankly, the rest of the cars in the field.
One man not afraid to push his car to the absolute limits was Bob Gerard. He would make a great start off the line and would be pushing hard in his Cooper-Bristol. Corner after corner, and lap after lap, Gerard would manage to keep potentially faster cars behind him unable to move forward.
Collins would need a little bit of time to get used to the Maserati all over again. He would be busy trying to settle in during the early going of the race but would soon find that he would never get settled in. Collins would complete the first 10 laps of the race and would be seemingly on the verge of making a charge. However, problems with the rear suspension on the Maserati would cause Collins to have to give up his pursuit. Instead of putting together an incredible charge reminiscent of his performance in the British Grand Prix, Collins would be one of the first retirees from the race. Therefore, the only advantage Owen Racing would have over its competition would be in being all packed and ready to leave.
When Louis Rosier retired after 19 laps with shock absorber failure, the rest of the race would see very minimal attrition. However, the race would produce a truly impressive performance by Harry Schell in the Vanwall. Anchored by a fastest lap time faster than his own qualifying effort, Schell would only increase his lead over the rest of the field.
Averaging 86 mph over the course of the 101 miles, Schell would open up a comfortable margin over the remainder of the field. Powering out of Camp Corner and across the line for the final time, Schell would complete the race distance in one hour, ten minutes and thirty-two seconds and would have twenty seconds in hand over Horace Gould finishing in 2nd place. Bob Gerard would put together one of the most impressive performances of anyone in the field. Over the course of 55 laps, Gerard would make his Cooper-Bristol one of the most effective roadblocks and would manage to hold onto the 3rd place finishing position. He would be thirteen seconds further behind Gould.
The obvious disappointment of the Maserati's rear suspension in the race would only highlight the frustrations Owen Racing had been experiencing at that time. Not only was the BRM 25 not able to get sorted and join the pace of the front-runners, but the failure of the Maserati meant the season would end with a string of disappointments that would not help the team's morale.
Nevertheless, Owen Racing Organization knew it had a new car on its hands and was certainly understanding of the teething problems associated with such ventures. Still, there were reasons for the team not to get too down on itself. The new BRM 25 had proved to be fast in a straight line. However, the car certainly did struggle with handling and suffered from poor design features like its single rear disc brake. While not entirely a bad idea, the location of the single rear disc made it susceptible to grime and damage that could take away the effectiveness of the rear brake. Unfortunately, these 'issues' were not very popular and would force BRM to have to seriously look at redevelopment of the car.
Yet again, BRM and Owen Racing would languish on the limits of good taste. It seemed the curse that made BRM into a national embarrassment was continuing to cause the team to make poor decisions and suffer the consequences. Blinded by the pursuit of being one of Britain's premier motor racing manufacturers, BRM only continued to be a source of national frustration. The elements were there, they could be seen. And yet, it was entertaining and baffling at the same time how those elements could not come together into a cohesive and competitive entity.