TeamsBob Gerard: 1956 Formula One Season By Jeremy McMullen
Even by the end of the 1955 season, Gerard was still challenging the front-runner with his 2.3-liter Cooper-Bristol. His tenacity and determination seemed to defy reality. However, heading into the 1956 season, the third of the new Formula One regulations, would the age of his Cooper-Bristol come to hinder, or, would he be able to defy logic once again?
Gerard's talent and drive behind the wheel of a racing car was well known within motor racing circles. His ability to extract the absolute from his underpowered Cooper-Bristol would be truly remarkable to watch. Willing the car on, over-achieving at every turn, Gerard would have more than his fair share of close battles for victories throughout the 1954 season.
The same would be said of Gerard throughout the 1955 season. In fact, the season would start out with him fighting for more than one opportunity at victory. And while he would likely end up the runner-up, in many ways, he would come away the victor.
This drive and tenacity behind the wheel would not only cause him to have a fair amount of respect amongst his fellow competitors but it would also lead to those with their own cars turning to Gerard to run their cars for them. This would happen at the Daily Record Trophy race at Charterhall in August of 1955. While Stirling Moss was off with the Mercedes-Benz team at the German Grand Prix his Maserati 250F would be with Gerard at Charterhall. In that race, Gerard would take a heat victory, the pole for the final and the overall victory. Moss certainly could not have asked for anything more.
Still, a factory ride would not be in Gerard's future. The garage owner from Leicester remained a privateer entry even after such results. He had no illusions of glory. In many ways, the glory he sought was for his garage business. In fact, he made it clear that he participated in Formula 3 with Cooper-Bristols because it benefited his business arrangements. And so, heading into the 1956 season, the loyal Gerard would be back with his rather aged man o' war.
While the major teams and drivers were busy in the southern hemisphere keeping their racing skills sharp and kicking off the 1956 Formula One season, Gerard would be busy maintaining his garage business and looking forward to yet another busy season of grand prix racing.
Sure enough, in early April, Gerard would be at Goodwood making final preparations for the first grand prix of the European season. However, there would be something missing. The race was the 4th Glover Trophy race and it was part of the famed Easter Monday races held at the Goodwood Motor Racing Circuit on the 2nd of April in 1956.
Being one of the first grand prix of the European season, there would be more than one famous Brit racer in the field. Alongside Gerard there would be Stirling Moss, Mike Hawthorn and a young Tony Brooks all in the field preparing for the 32 lap race.
Measuring 2.39 miles in length, Goodwood would be just one of a number of circuits to be born of past Royal Air Force bases used throughout World War II. In the case of RAF Westhampnett, which is what Goodwood had been known during the war, it would serve out the Second World War as an auxiliary fighter base attached to RAF Tangmere. However, following the end of the war, Goodwood Motor Racing Circuit would become a major player in the racing scene around England. Located near the southern coast of England, the fast, sweeping Goodwood circuit would become a popular venue and would host some very popular events. One of the more well known and popular would be the Easter Monday races.
Stirling Moss would be at the wheel of an updated Maserati 250F and would be quite quick throughout practice. In fact, his lap of 1:32.0 would end up being the fastest and would earn him the pole. Moss' effort would end up being six-tenths of a second faster than Archie Scott-Brown in one of the B-Type Connaughts. Mike Hawthorn would end up lining up in the 3rd position on the front row. He was at the wheel of one of the new BRM 25s and was more than a second and a half slower than Moss. The final spot on the front row would go to no other than Bob Gerard. However, there would be something different about Gerard and this race.
Gerard had driven Stirling Moss' Maserati successfully at a non-championship event at Charterhall the season before and had other moments throughout his career where he had driven for other privateers. However, there had rarely been moments where he had taken the opportunity to drive for factory teams. This would not be the case on the 2nd of April as the Connaught Engineering team made final preparations to his B-Type Connaught leading up to the start of the 32 lap race.
The action would start right at the start when Moss would streak out ahead in the lead. Salvadori, who had started from the second row of the grid, would make a great start and would be among those giving chase. Les Leston, another of the Connaught factory drivers, would also make a great start and would be up there with Gerard and the others giving chase of Moss.
The former BRM factory driver, Ken Wharton, would be the first out of the race when his Ferrari 500's engine broke after just a single lap. Tony Brooks would be another unfortunate early retirement when the oil pressure dropped in his BRM 25 after just 9 laps.
The attrition would continue and, amazingly, it would be some of the front row starters that would be the targets of the attack. Scott-Brown would be out of the race after 17 laps due to engine failure while Hawthorn would drop out after 23 laps with a crash resulting from a lost wheel.
On this day, Moss would be in a class unto himself. Looking ever-relaxed behind the wheel of the Maserati, he would go on to post a fastest lap time that was within a couple of tenths of being two seconds faster than his own qualifying effort that had earned him pole. It would be little wonder then why Salvadori would have an excruciating look upon his face as he wrestled with his Maserati in a vain attempt to try and stay within Moss.
Salvadori would be unable to do anything to stay with Moss. Gerard would also struggle, but that would be just to remain on the lead lap with Moss. Running between two of his Connaught teammates, Gerard was running a very solid and consistent race, for which he was well known.
Averaging a little more than 94 mph over the course of the 32 lap race, Moss would be untouchable and would easily cruise to the victory. Salvadori would wrestle and fight with his car in vain but would still come home a valiant 2nd place. The margin of victory would be more than a minute. Nearly a full lap would be the difference between Moss and Leston who would finish in the 3rd spot.
Following along not all that far behind Leston would be Gerard. Considering it was his first drive behind the wheel of the Connaught B-Type, finishing in 4th place a lap behind would not be such a terrible result, especially considering Leston had finished just ahead of him out on the circuit.
Gerard would make a rather impressive start to the 1956 season considering he was driving for a factory effort in an unknown car. Still, his steady and determined style would result in yet another strong performance. Unfortunately, this one race would mark the end of Gerard's involvement with Connaught Engineering. In many respects this would be disappointing as Gerard likely could have improved upon what was already a solid performance in the Glover Trophy race.
Leaving the Connaught Engineering team, Gerard would switch his focus back to his old stalwart, the Cooper-Bristol T23. Looking forward, Gerard had to concentrate on his next race, which would come toward the end of April.
Although Gerard had not taken part in a single World Championship grand prix in 1955 he would still have the opportunity to take part in a non-championship race that was held at the Aintree Motor Racing Circuit. That event, the Daily Telegraph Trophy, Gerard would take his older Cooper-Bristol T23 and would end up finishing a very strong 2nd place behind Roy Salvadori.
So, as he headed back to the circuit for the 11th BARC Aintree 200, he certainly was familiar with the 3.0 mile Aintree circuit. However, since this race would be 200 miles in length, the BARC event would certainly be the longest contest Gerard would have ever taken part in on the Aintree circuit, and therefore, presented a tough test for the man from Leicester.
The competition in the BARC Aintree 200 would also only add to his difficulty. Many of the same talented Brit racers who had been present for the Glover Trophy race at Goodwood would also be present for the BARC event at Aintree on the 21st of April.
The site of the famed Grand National, Aintree would first come to host motor racing in 1954 and would serve as the site for the British Grand Prix in 1955. Therefore, just as the Grand National course, the 3.0 mile Aintree circuit had come to host many national and international racing teams. Attracting large crowds for just about every race, the venue would be popular for spectators and drivers. Unfortunately, in 1956, the BARC Aintree would not quite have the attractiveness as the British Grand Prix, and therefore, would not draw the entrants. In fact, if it wasn't for Louis Rosier and his single entry there would not be a single foreign entry in the field for the 200 mile race.
A total of just 13 cars would make their presence known at Aintree. Fastest among them in practice would be Archie Scott-Brown in his Connaught B-Type. His fastest lap in practice would be 2:03.8. This would be 3.5 seconds slower than Moss' pole effort in the British Grand Prix the year before but it would be good enough for the pole on that day. Mike Hawthorn would find himself in the 2nd position on the front row in the BRM 25. However, his fastest lap time in practice would be a little more than two seconds slower than Scott-Brown's. Desmond Titterington would ensure that the two Connaughts in the field would start from the front row of the grid when he was just two-tenths of a second slower than Hawthorn.
The conditions around the Aintree circuit would be tough. The very real truth of Gerard's Cooper-Bristol being now some years old also played a part in his poor showing in practice. His best effort would end up being a mere 2:24.4. This would put him down on the fifth row of the grid in the 11th spot overall.
Although Hawthorn would start the race from the front row of the grid, he would not be safe during the race as he would be the first to fall afoul of trouble. Despite the race distance being some 67 laps, Hawthorn's race wouldn't last past 4 laps before failing brakes ended his day.
He would be joined by two others just one lap later. Reg Parnell and Roy Salvadori would run into troubles after 5 laps and would also be forced out of the running. This left just 10 cars still in the field and a very real possibility of just one or two cars still running by the end of the race.
Stirling Moss, however, would not be overcome with worry and would be out front and pulling away from the rest of the field. When Scott-Brown retired after 13 laps with a blown engine, Moss' escape from the rest of the field only intensified. The only one seemingly capable of mounting any kind of charge would be the surprise winner of the 1955 Syracuse Grand Prix, Tony Brooks.
Brooks would take his BRM 25 and would push hard in an attempt to keep up with and overtake Moss. He would end up turning what would be the fastest lap of the race with a time of 2:04.6 at an average speed of nearly 87 mph. But, it still wasn't enough as Moss maintained his lead.
Moss' pace at the head of the field would put a tremendous amount of strain on the remainder of the field. Driving an aged grand prix car, the stress had the potential of causing problems for Gerard.
In years past, Gerard had been able to handle the stress imposed by the bigger-engined cars and managed to come away with rather surprising results. That would not happen this day. The stress would end up being too much for the Bristol engine and it would give up the fight after 35 laps. Still, this would be better than many other cars that were newer and that boasted of larger engines.
When Desmond Titterington retired after 53 laps, there were just five cars remaining in the race. But really there was just one still running and that belonged to Stirling Moss.
Averaging a little more than 82 mph, Moss would only need a little more than 2 hours and 23 minutes to complete the race distance and take a commanding victory. A little more than a lap behind, Tony Brooks would come across to finish in 2nd place despite posting the fastest lap of the race. Third place in the standings would go to Jack Brabham in his own Maserati. He would be 3 laps down.
While the overall pace of the competitors would be more than a couple of seconds off of the pace of the best in the British Grand Prix the year before it would prove to be stretching Gerard's Bristol engine a little too far. Not having competed in the British Grand Prix on that circuit the year before he did not have an idea of just what his car would be capable of doing on that circuit against such competition. Now he knew. And, he likely would have had reason to be concerned.
Gerard had taken part in two grand prix by the time the calendar rolled over into May. And the two races could not have been much different. In the case of the first, he would start out from the front row and would remain within the top five throughout the race and would come home to a very strong result. The second race, however, would see him start from the tail end of the grid and would end up out of the race very early on. The real problem he had was that the first race was with him behind the wheel of a Connaught while the second was with his own Cooper-Bristol. Since he was no longer driving for the Connaught factory team he would have to look forward to the rest of the season with the older Cooper-Bristol. And while Gerard may have had confidence moving forward there still had to be some question marks as he headed off for his next race of the season.
The next race on Gerard's calendar would be an important one as it would give a certain amount of perspective for the British Grand Prix coming up in July. In early May, Gerard would be making his way to the motor racing circuit bearing the same name as the village nearby. On the 5th of May, the Silverstone Motor Racing Circuit would host the 8th BRDC International Trophy race. This would be a very important race for Gerard as Silverstone would again host the British Grand Prix in the middle of July.
Since 1949 Silverstone had been the host of the BRDC International Trophy race. It would actually come to be hosted at the circuit one year after Silverstone hosted the British Grand Prix, however, the non-championship race would give the grand prix fan the first glimpse of the now famous 2.90 mile circuit layout that utilized the perimeter road that ran around the older World War II bomber training base.
The International Trophy race would be an important event for all of the competitors planning on taking part in the British Grand Prix later on as the event would return to Silverstone after having been moved to Aintree for the 1955 season. Unfortunately for Gerard, the last race, which did take place at Aintree, would offer little in the way of 'feel' as to how his car would get on. Though Aintree and Silverstone were similar in length there would be really very little else in the way of similarities between the two, unless one would consider wide-open, featurelessness something to be counted. Aintree boasted of some high-speed sections. However, Silverstone was really nothing but a high-speed circuit with average speeds touching above 100 mph. Most unfortunate for Gerard would be the fact the high-speed nature of Silverstone did not play into the hands of his Bristol engine with its slightly lower displacement. So the International Trophy race would be an important test for Gerard to see just what he could extract from the Cooper-Bristol.
Because Silverstone would host the British Grand Prix later on in the year the field for the non-championship race would be much larger and would feature some of the best foreign teams and drivers present at the time. Scuderia Ferrari would be present with a couple of cars, one of which would be driven by Juan Manuel Fangio. Then there would be the usual British entries like Stirling Moss, Mike Hawthorn and Peter Collins. So, in many respects, the International Trophy race would be a very realistic dress-rehearsal for the British Grand Prix.
Despite the presence of Ferrari and Fangio, the British teams would represent rather well in practice. Vandervell Products would enter two of their Vanwalls. One would be driven by Stirling Moss while the other would be driven by Harry Schell. Both would prove fastest in practice with Moss barely edging out his teammate for the pole. Fangio, driving a Lancia-Ferrari, would be just a second off the pace and would, therefore, earn the 3rd place starting spot. The final spot on the front row would go to Mike Hawthorn driving the Owen Racing Organization's BRM 25.
Averaging speeds amongst the front-runners were routinely reaching well above 100 mph. This presented a challenge to Gerard in his Cooper-Bristol. Lacking the power, Gerard would not be able to fight his way up to the top couple of rows of the grid. Still, he would put together a respectable performance turning in a best effort of 1:53. This would lead to him being positioned down on the third row of the grid in the 11th starting spot.
There were 60 laps awaiting the drivers as they headed to their cars for the start of the race. As the cars roared into the distance, Moss would make a poor start and would be dropped from the lead of the race. It would be Fangio leading the way into the first turn with Hawthorn just to his outside and Moss and Schell running nose-to-tail right behind. Gerard's position a little further down in the order would cause him to fight hard just to keep his nose clean through the first couple of laps until everyone settled down and the field became a little more strung out.
While Fangio led the way, Reg Parnell would find himself incapable of completing a single lap as a result of a broken gearbox. Magneto problems would force Hawthorn out of the race after just 13 laps. At this point in time it was still Fangio leading the way with Schell barely holding onto 2nd place ahead of Moss. Gerard would be running quite well. Though he was further back, his Cooper-Bristol was looking incredibly strong. The misfortunes of others would help his forward progress as the pace would be such that he really could not make any progress against the front-runners.
One of those leading the charge up at the front would be Stirling Moss. Hawthorn and Moss would end up setting the exact same fastest lap time. But while Hawthorn's race would come to an end, Moss' effort would help him get by Schell and begin pressuring Fangio for the outright lead. The two former teammates would battle it out for a number of laps but it was more than evident to Moss that the Vanwall had the power and the handling to enable him to pass Fangio whenever he felt like it.
Meanwhile, the attrition would keep coming, as was Silverstone tradition. Harry Schell would fall prey to mechanical difficulties as would Jack Fairman. And then came Fangio. Just past the 20th lap mark the Argentinean would pull out of the race with clutch failure. This not only gave Moss clear track at the head of the field, it also helped to move Gerard further up the running order.
Despite the high-speed nature of the circuit, Gerard was putting together one of his textbook determined performances behind the wheel of the Cooper-Bristol. He was asking the car for everything it had but he was not abusing the car. This enabled him to split the Formula One cars remaining in the race and move up all the more. And when Fangio again retired from the race after having taken over Peter Collins' Ferrari, Gerard would find himself running right around the top five.
Fangio gone from the picture, Moss continued to pull away from the rest of the field as he wished. Nothing seemed to be able to slow him down. But, 60 laps around Silverstone was not an easy proposition and there were still plenty of opportunities for things to go wrong.
Heading into the last quarter of the race, things were nearly about to go wrong for Moss as he discovered the smell of oil fumes in the cockpit. This would force the Brit to back it off slightly in hopes that it might cure the problem.
Gerard was having no such problems, except outright speed, and continued to make his way up the leaderboard. Heading in the later-stages of the race he would be inside the top five and putting together a truly impressive performance in the much older car.
The oil fumes would go away and that is just how Moss would win the race—going away. Completing the race in just under one hour and 45 minutes, Moss would average just over 100 mph and would enjoy more than a lap advantage over Archie Scott-Brown in 2nd place. Three laps would be the difference back to Desmond Titterington finishing in 3rd place in the very same B-Type Connaught Gerard had driven at Goodwood earlier in the year.
One more lap would be the difference back to 4th place. And in 4th place would be Gerard in his Cooper-Bristol. He had survived the 60 laps and had managed to make his way all the way up to 4th place after starting 11th on the grid.
Had this been the British Grand Prix, Gerard would have left the race with World Championship points. But while he would leave with no points, Gerard would be able to leave Silverstone with some confidence as he performed well in the aged Cooper-Bristol. If things went his way in a couple of months he could expect a very good result.
Perhaps looking for some retribution after his poor performance earlier in the year, Gerard would make his way back to Aintree. There had been a long period of time between his very solid result in the International Trophy race and the next non-championship race on the calendar. However, the 1st Aintree 100 represented a great opportunity for Gerard. His one poor performance of the season had come at Aintree. Though only half the distance of the previous race, the Aintree 100 event represented an opportunity for Gerard to redeem the Aintree circuit and earn some important momentum before the British Grand Prix which was right around the corner in July.
The Aintree 100 non-championship race would take place on the 24th of June, and therefore, would give Gerard three weeks to either repair his car in order to compete, or, make some final tweaks in an attempt to make an all-out assault on the British Grand Prix on the 14th of July.
The French Grand Prix was just a week away. As a result, many of the top British teams would be absent for the event at Aintree. And, while this would not give Gerard that supreme test, a great result in the race would have the opportunity of building his confidence all the more before he prepared to fight the best teams from England and all of Europe.
Things would not be looking good for Gerard following practice, however. Archie Scott-Brown would have the pole for the 34 lap event having turned a lap of 2:05.8. Roy Salvadori would be second-fastest behind the wheel of a Formula 2 A-Type Connaught. Horace Gould would capture the 3rd place starting position on the front row while Bill Holt completed the front row in another A-Type Connaught.
Though a relative mystery, it seems abundantly clear that Gerard was not to be found on either of the first two rows of the grid and even potentially was one of the last cars on the 9 car grid.
Starting position meant very little. It was where one ended up that mattered most. And, Bob would get some help even before the start of the race when the engine in Brooks' BRM was proving incorrigible. As a result, Brooks would not even start the race. Unfortunately, this meant just 8 cars would be taking the start of the race.
This would change rather dramatically after just 8 laps when Scott-Brown retired from the race and Salvadori slipped down the running order as a result of his underpowered A-Type Connaught.
Despite being relatively underpowered himself, Gerard would actually be making his way forward over the course of the race. Again, driving a doggedly determined race, Bob would gain places and would be even ahead of Salvadori and Holt on the track.
Gerard's 2.3-liter Bristol engine meant he no longer conformed to Formula 2 regulations. However, he did not have the power of the two Maserati 250Fs that still remained in the race. Still, he would manage to split them in the running order and would be running all by himself heading into the final quarter of the race.
Finding the rest of his fellow front row starters either well down in the running order or out of the race altogether, Horace Gould would go on a charge around the Aintree Circuit. Pushing his Maserati harder and harder, he would go on to set the fastest lap of the race and would pull out even more of an advantage over Gerard. Still, Gerard would hold onto the 2nd place position heading into the final laps of the race and looked on target for a great result.
Gould would be enjoying his opportunity. Powering through the last few corners, he would come flashing across the finish line to take the well-earned victory completing the race distance in around one hour and 13 minutes. The clock would keep running waiting for the rest of the field to come through to finish. About 35 seconds after Gould came through to take the victory, Gerard would come across the line to finish a strong 2nd. This was an impressive performance in the Cooper-Bristol. In 3rd place would be Bruce Halford. He would be about 25 seconds behind Gerard.
Gerard would get his redemption at Aintree. It would be an impressive performance for sure coming, once again, from the tail-end of the grid to finish in 2nd place. If he could only keep this kind of thing going into the next race of the season; he might come away with some World Championship points.
Heading back to Aintree at the end of June would serve to do Gerard good as he would not only overcome his bad fortune from the first time but would come away with some very valuable momentum. This would be important considering the next race on his schedule would be the sixth round of the 1956 Formula One World Championship, the British Grand Prix.
The last time Gerard had been at Silverstone it had been for the International Trophy race back in May. And though he would start that race from about the middle of the grid he would come through to score a splendid 4th place result. Providence had shown on him that day and he would need its hand on him again as he arrived back in Silverstone for the British Grand Prix.
The last time the British Grand Prix had been held at Silverstone it was 1954 and the Mercedes-Benz W196 had only made its debut a couple of weeks prior in the French Grand Prix. In the hands of Fangio and Karl Kling, the W196 would cruise to an easy one-two victory having at least a lap in hand over the rest of the cars in the race.
At Silverstone, reality would strike the Mercedes team as Jose Froilan Gonzalez would repeat his winning ways for Ferrari in the British Grand Prix while Fangio would struggle to bring home his badly broken and bruised Silver Arrow. Still, he set his mark by being the first to ever turn a lap around Silverstone averaging over 100 mph. Two years removed and Moss had averaged 100 mph over the course of the whole International Trophy race back in May. Therefore, as the teams set out onto the course for practice it was a given the average speeds would be a bit north of what they had been a couple of years prior. Again, this would not be good for Gerard, but, if Providence could lend a hand once again, he had the potential of coming out alright.
Gerard would turn similar laps in practice to those he had turned in practice for the International Trophy race. His best would be in the range of 1:53. Unfortunately, this would not give him an average speed of greater than 100 mph. And, as the practice continued it would become abundantly clear that speeds north of 100 mph average were going to be the only way of making it onto the first couple of rows of the grid.
Gerard's car just didn't have it in it. There would be many, however, that would have the power to pull it off. It would end up being quite crowded up near the front as only 5 seconds would separate the top eleven. Heading them all would be Stirling Moss in the factory Maserati. His best effort around the 2.90 mile circuit would be a time of 1:41.0 and an average speed of upwards of 104 mph. Fangio would be around a second slower, and therefore, would find himself in the 2nd place position on the grid. Two more Brits would make up the rest of the front row as Hawthorn would find himself 3rd and Peter Collins would be 4th. This made it three Italian makes to one British along the front row.
Being more than 10 seconds slower, Gerard knew he would end up in the later-half of the starting grid. His best time of 1:53.0 would end up placing him on the seventh row of the grid and in the 22nd position overall.
The usual English weather would greet the incredible crowd and all of the teams as they all arrived to prepare for the race on the 14th of July. However, though the skies were overcast there was very little to no threat of rain. This would be a welcome break from the weather that had been experienced at Silverstone over the previous couple of British Grand Prix.
The cars would be wheeled out to their starting positions on the grid. The tension would begin to mount as the drivers made their way to the cars and began to slide in behind the wheel. Engines came to life, as did the crowd. It was time. Ahead of the drivers were 101 laps covering a total distance of 295 miles. There would be 28 cars just itching to roar into the distance when the flag was waved and the cars sent on their way.
Though on pole, Moss would have yet another poor start and would slip down the order while it would be Hawthorn that would rocket into the lead followed by his BRM teammate Tony Brooks making a fantastic start from the second row. Behind the first five, or so, cars the field would be swaying back and forth as drivers jockeyed for position heading into the fast right-hander at Copse. While Hawthorn led the field into Copse and on around the circuit, two-time British Grand Prix winner Jose Froilan Gonzalez would coast to a stop after having traveled mere feet off the line. His driveshaft had failed and his race was over. Being back toward the rear of the grid, Gerard would look for ways to move forward but would try and keep his head through the first couple of laps as there was a long day of racing hopefully ahead of him.
At the end of the first lap it would be a BRM one-two with Hawthorn leading Brooks. Then came Fangio ahead of Harry Schell in 4th place. Moss had been dropped all the way down to around 8th place by the end of the first lap but was quickly gathering his focus in order to make his charge to the front of the field. Gerard would complete the first lap right around the 23rd position, which is right where he pretty much lined up on the grid.
Throughout the first 15 laps of the race Gerard would hover right around 22nd spot unable to really move forward due to his Bristol engine not producing the kind of power necessary to challenge the other Formula One machines in the field. It was clear he was going to have to rely upon attrition to help bring him up the running order.
Attrition at Silverstone is perhaps more of sure bet than wet weather and it wouldn't take too long before the field began to shrink in size as the circuit began to take its toll. A couple of the first casualties would be Ron Flockhart and Jack Brabham. Neither one of them would make it 4 laps into the race. Then came Paul Emery, Archie Scott-Brown, Louis Rosier, Umberto Maglioli and two others. They wouldn't make it 25 laps.
One of those that wouldn't make it 25 laps into the race would be the race's early leader. Hawthorn would hold onto the lead of the race over his teammate Brooks throughout the first 15 laps of the race. However, both of the BRM drivers would begin to suffer different kinds of maladies that would cause them to drop down the order until Hawthorn would be totally out after 24 laps with an oil leak. Brooks would have a much more dramatic and dangerous exit as the throttle would stick open on his BRM causing him to crash heavily. The car would erupt into flames and Brooks would be hurt in the accident, but it would not be fatal.
All the goings on within the first-third of the race meant Gerard was running in 16th position by the 30th lap of the race. Unfortunately, the pace he was managing in the Cooper wasn't anywhere near that of the front-runners, and so, he would already be more than one lap behind the leaders by this point in time.
Moss had recovered from his poor start and used his superior pace around the circuit to retake the lead when Hawthorn began to fade from the picture. From the 16th lap onwards it was to be Moss absolutely dominating. The biggest surprise, however, would come in the form of the person running in the 2nd place position. In spite of the presence of Fangio, Collins, Castellotti and others, it would be Roy Salvadori in 2nd place. Salvadori would be truly inspiring as he would remain in 2nd place for more than 30 laps until his car ran into trouble and was also forced out of the race.
Just past the halfway mark of the race, Moss was still looking as dominant as ever. Salvadori had just dropped out of 2nd place, and so, it was now Fangio in that position with Collins running in 3rd place and de Portago in 4th. Gerard's unfortunate lack of power was coming to haunt him, however. In spite of all the attrition, he would still remain right around the 16th and 17th places in the running order as he just could not hold back others that had fallen behind him but that had the power to get by. A little more than 30 laps from the finish, it would be Gerard that would be running just ahead of Maurice Trintignant at the tail-end of the field. It was clear, if Gerard made it to the finish of the race it was quite likely he would not be classified in the results.
Things were getting interesting at the front of the field, however. Moss had been reeled in by Fangio and would quickly get by him for the lead of the race on the 69th lap when Moss pulled into the pits to have a misfire investigated. Collins would fall out of the running with oil pressure problems but would soon take over de Portago's Ferrari for the remainder of the race. It was very important for Collins to get back into the race given his lead in the championship and his record of two-straight victories coming into the race.
Fangio would be well in the lead of the race as Moss held onto 2nd place. Moss' pace had been so incredible that despite coming into the pits to have a misfire addressed he still remained in 2nd place. Gerard remained in the race as well. However, he would have more than his share of opportunities to see Fangio and Moss come by to put him another lap down. The Cooper-Bristol was still running strongly but it was clear it did not have the pace to battle with the newer Formula One machines in the field.
Heading into the final 10 laps of the race there would be just 12 cars still running and well out in front would be Fangio in the Lancia-Ferrari. Only about 25 miles from the finish the number of cars still running would be reduced by one when the gearbox in Moss' Maserati failed leaving him stranded after what had been a truly marvelous, and yet, bitterly disappointing race.
The cars continued to circulate with the final order all but decided. Fangio would come through Woodcote for the final time. Powering through the right-hander, Fangio would come streaking across the line to take the victory. The late misfortune suffered by Moss would enable Peter Collins to keep his championship hopes well and truly alive as he brought home de Portago's Ferrari in the 2nd place spot a little more than a lap behind Fangio. Another lap would be the difference back to Jean Behra finishing in the 3rd position.
Once again, Gerard would show his prowess behind the wheel of the Cooper-Bristol. While many others suffered from mechanical maladies and ended up out of the race, Gerard would push his car to its limits, but never beyond. As a result, he would come through to finish the race. Unfortunately, finishing last amongst those still running, Gerard would end up some 38 miles, or 13 laps, behind Fangio at the finish. Being so far behind, Gerard would finish but would not be classified in the official results.
After two 6th place performances in the British and Monaco Grand Prix in 1950, the best Gerard would manage to muster in the World Championship would be two 11th place finishes in the 1951 British and 1953 French Grand Prix. However, in the 1954 British Grand Prix, which was held at Silverstone, Gerard would come through to finish in 10th place. Not having competed in the 1955 World Championship at all, Gerard was to have the opportunity to return to Silverstone to try and improve upon that 10th place performance in the British Grand Prix. Unfortunately, he would be trying to improve with a car that had first made its appearance in 1953 and 1954. And it was this age of the car and the lack of power from the Bristol engine that made the difference causing Gerard not to be able to improve upon his past performances.
Racing for three hours as fast as he dared push the Cooper-Bristol was certain to take a toll on the older car. And, given his responsibilities at his garage, turning a car around quickly for another race would be rather difficult for Gerard.
He had asked a lot of his Cooper at Silverstone on the 14th of July. The Cooper responded by giving about all it could. Unfortunately, the next race of the season, a non-championship race held at Snetterton, would be just a week away.
On the 22nd of July, the Snetterton Motor Racing Circuit, another of the former Royal Air Force bases-turned motor racing circuits, was to host the 1st Vanwall Trophy race. This was a 15 lap event around the 2.70 mile Snetterton circuit. Sandwiched in between the British and German grand prix, the event would draw a very small entry list, but Gerard would be one of them that would be on the list.
This was a tall order for Gerard. And, unfortunately, it would prove too tall. In spite of all his talents as a garage owner and racer, he was limited in his resources and abilities to prepare a car in a week. As a result, Gerard would not make the trip to Snetterton and would look forward to his next race.
With the exception of the German and Italian Grand Prix, there were very few Formula One events remaining on the calendar in either Europe or England. If Gerard wanted to be busy all throughout the late summer and early fall then he would need to look into Formula 2 racing. Of course he remained quite active in Formula 3, and therefore, would be more than busy enough.
One of the non-championship races remaining on the calendar would take place in the tiny city of Caen, just across the Channel from England. However, Gerard was done with travelling outside of England to race, and therefore, would not even have an entry for that race. This would leave just one Formula One race on the calendar, at least outside of championship events.
The final race of the entire 1956 season would come on the 14th of October. All of the World Championship rounds were over. So, this non-championship race would be the last Formula One race on the European continent. The race was the 1st BRSCC Formula One race and it would be held at Brands Hatch on its 1.25 mile circuit.
Situated near Swanley in Kent, the Brands Hatch circuit actually had its origins well back in the 1920s. During the Second World War the circuit would come to be used as a military vehicle park and would even be the target of a number of bombing raids. The circuit would finally grow up in the 1950s when the 500 Club convinced the manager of the circuit to invest in a circuit that could be used for single-seater grand prix racing. Finally, in 1953, a tarmac 1.25 mile circuit would be created and Brands Hatch would come to host single-seater grand prix events.
Though it was to be the final race of the season, the race at Brands Hatch would not draw the major teams like Scuderia Ferrari, Maserati or even some of the factory British teams. All in all, the entry list for the short 15 lap race would be rather small with just 12 cars entered in the race. And, had it not been for the Connaught Engineering squad, the field would have been much, much smaller.
The short and quick nature of the undulating Brands Hatch circuit had the potential of really working in Gerard's favor. Top speed wouldn't be much of an issue as the circuit would be too short to enable the cars to max out their performance. Therefore, it seemed possible the Cooper-Bristol could represent itself well in the event.
However, as the cars took to the circuit for practice, the fleet of Connaughts would absolutely dominate with Stuart Lewis-Evans leading the way with a lap time of 58.8 seconds around the circuit. This time would be two-tenths of a second faster than Scott-Brown in another B-Type Connaught and would give Lewis-Evans the pole. Les Leston would make it three Connaughts on the front row with a time of 59.4. The final spot on the front row would be stolen from the fourth and final Connaught entry by Roy Salvadori driving a Maserati for Gilby Engineering.
The best Gerard would manage to do in practice around the 1.25 mile circuit would be a lap time of 1:04.2. This would be four and a half seconds slower than Lewis-Evans' time and would be quite a distance considering the short nature of the circuit. This time would end up leaving Gerard down on the third row of the grid in the 8th position.
Just 15 laps, or about 15 minutes of racing, remained in the 1956 Formula One season for Gerard and most of the others in the field. The cars would be wheeled out onto the grid and the drivers would stroll to their cars for the final time of the season.
The flag would wave to start the race. Gerard would have just about 15 minutes to make his way up from 8th place on the grid if he was to take victory just once on the year. Archie Scott-Brown certainly would not make things easy though as he would get by Lewis-Evans and would hold onto the lead of the race.
Scott-Brown would be flying around the circuit. He would go on to set the fastest lap of the race with a lap time matching his qualifying effort. This helped him to pull out a lead of a second or so on Lewis-Evans. Meanwhile, the year would already come to an end for a couple of drivers.
Alan Mann would be the first to end his season falling out of the race after just 2 laps. Then there would be Paul Emery. His 4-cylinder Alta engine would end up stretched too thin and would also fall out of the race after just 7 laps.
In practice, Gerard had managed to out-qualify Bruce Halford in his Maserati 250F. In the race, however, this would be a tall order lap after lap. Sure enough, Halford would get by Gerard leaving Bob to be the fastest of those with an engine displacement not 2.5-liters.
The racing up at the front of the field would be rather tight with just a minute covering the top six. Scott-Brown continued to hold onto the lead over Lewis-Evans by just a couple of seconds while Salvadori continued to spoil Connaught's plans for a sweep of the podium.
Scott-Brown would be just too fast for everyone on this day. Though his teammate trailed by mere seconds, he would come through to take the last victory of the season having completed the 15 laps in just 15 minutes and 7 seconds. Lewis-Evans would trail along just three and a half seconds behind in 2nd place. This would give Connaught a one-two finish. Unfortunately for Connaught, Salvadori would prevent the sweep by finishing in the 3rd position just two and a half seconds behind Lewis-Evans.
The circuit would prove not to be favorable to Gerard and the Cooper-Bristol. Despite the race being just 15 laps in length, it would prove just too long to ensure that Gerard would finish the race on the same lap as the victor. Instead, he would finish the race in 7th place a little more than a lap behind Scott-Brown.
The final race of the season, one in which Gerard likely could have had more of a chance, would end up a rather disappointing affair. It was clear that Gerard had the talent. He just did not have the equipment to make full use of that talent. His Cooper-Bristol T23 was really past its useful age and the 7th place result in the BRSCC Formula One race brought full attention to this point. However, would the now 42 year old Gerard want to pursue a much more competitive car, especially considering his interests with his garage?
Bob had shown throughout the 1956 season that he was still as competitive as ever. In fact, over the course of the season he would take his aged Cooper-Bristol T23 and would suffer just one retirement. Every other race, with the exception being the British Grand Prix, he would come through to finish in the top ten against evolved, more powerful machines. This only furthered his reputation as a very competent driver. Still, all of his talents could only make up so much of the equation.
Bob Gerard was a competitive individual, and he wasn't, by any means, ready to step away from Formula One racing, or any kind of open-wheel racing. He knew the T23 had reached its limits, but where would he look for his future mount?
Cooper was one of the British manufacturers that had not built a new car for Formula One since the new regulations came into play in 1954. Cooper was well respected in Formula 3 and Formula 2, but it was being left behind by its fellow British manufacturers like Vandervell and Connaught. That was about to change for 1957. Bob Gerard would be one of those that would benefit from Cooper's determination and would manage to defy everyone one last time.