Driver-entrepeneur that scored Cooper's first points
- Felix Muelas, Mattijs Diepraam
- 8W September 2000 issue
- 1955 British GP - Brabham's Cooper debuting among the all-conquering Mercs, by Felix Muelas/Gerald Swan
- Connaught - Complex mind, complex output, by Felix Muelas/Mattijs Diepraam
- ENB - Lucien Bianchi and the ENB-née-Emeryson, by Mattijs Diepraam/Don Capps
- Mike Hawthorn - The driver to lead the way to British dominance, by Mattijs Diepraam/Felix Muelas
Alan Brown (Stirling Moss, Emmanuel de Graffenried)
Ecurie Richmond Cooper-Bristol T20/MkI (HWM-Alta 52, Enrico Platé Maserati-Platé 4CLT/48)
1952 Swiss Grand Prix (18 May 1952)
Although it is fair to say that Mike Hawthorn was the man who put the little Cooper marque on the Grand Prix map, taking his nimble Cooper-Bristol to the first World Championship podium for a British constructor, it was someone else who scored Cooper's first points! A man who was to have an important behind-the-scenes role in the British motorsport industry…
Alan Brown (Malton, Yorkshire, 20 November 1919) served under Norman Garrad during the war. Garrad was a well-known rally driver who would run the highly successful Sunbeam-Talbot works team post-war. After the war, Brown started working for Dennis Bros as their Midlands sales representative. During that period, Alan sold dozens of trucks through a hauler named Bob Hamblin.
Sometime during 1949, Brown and Hamblin agreed to spend some money and buy a Cooper 500cc for Alan Brown to race it. Hamblin paid for the car, Alan bought the engines, a truck and trailer, and away they went. Brown started his racing career by finishing second in the Great Auclum hillclimb, again second at Luton Hoo, and third in his first road race at Blandford. By then, Brown drove in immaculate pale blue helmet and overalls, which won him the nickname "Chiron" Brown after the refined Monegasque champion Louis Chiron.
With the 1950 British 500cc season again Cooper-dominated, Alan Brown continued racing his own blue Cooper. He crashed it at Silverstone, and borrowed a replacement for Monaco (the most charismatic 500cc race of the year to be run in support of the F1 Grand Prix) but he promptly crashed it at the Tabac while leading Heat Two.
During that year he became friend to Jimmy Richmond, a public works and haulage contractor from Nottinghamshire, aged 27. He was keen to become involved in racing, but at 22 stones was hardly the ideal shape for Formula 3. Alan Brown convinced Richmond to start racing professionally together in 1951. From today's viewpoint, it was an excellent idea.
Eric Brandon, a friend of Brown, and also a Cooper driver, agreed to form a two-car team running Cooper cars with Norton engines and gearboxes. Jimmy Richmond provided a truck to transport the team, and bought two double-knocker Norton engines. All expenses, and any earnings from prize or start money were to be split three ways. The Ecurie Richmond, as it was going to be known, had a very successful year that included 16 major victories plus 41 other heats wins and podium finishes. Eric Brandon won the newly introduced Autosport £200 British 500cc Drivers' Championship and Alan Brown won both the Half-Litre Club's Championship and the Light Car Cup.
Brown, who was on a year's vacation without pay from Dennis Bros whilst being kept on their books and with his insurance paid so he could take the plunge as a professional racing driver, had a superb season, its highlight being the victory in the Luxembourg GP. He was second to Moss in the important BRDC Gold Star, while Stirling made very few F3 appearances, only fielding his new Kieft in major races (rather to the Cooper brigade's relief).
At the end of 1951, some established Cooper customers wanted to climb the ladder to the F2 class, which seemed set to take over the 1952 World Championship. During the previous year most major F3 events had been curtain raisers to F2 races - as in the Grand Prix de France series. With World Championship status about to be applied to Formula 2 in place of a moribund Formula 1, Grand Prix racing ambitions suddenly seemed within reach that winter. All that was needed was an economically priced, practical F2 car suitable for the private owner.
And there wasn't much to choose from, by the way. Geoffrey Taylor, based near Cooper in Tolworth, was offering his Alta F2S. His engines had given Moss, Collins and Lance Macklin their chance in the HWM team, but by reputation Alta cars were "difficult". HWM had sold their highly successful 1951 team cars, but were fully committed to building new ones for themselves. There was also Rodney Clarke's new Connaught from Send, using Lea Francis-based engines. It looked promising, but was an unknown quantity.
With the rapid increase of interest in Formula 2 the Coopers soon turned their thoughts in that direction and it was not long before a 2-litre unblown Cooper was offered for sale in their catalogue…
John Cooper recalls: "The best available 2-litre engine was the six-cylinder Bristol, built by the Bristol Aeroplane Company car division at Filton near Bristol. It was based on the pre-war BMW 328 design, which we'd taken as war reparations. My father and I went down to see the Bristol people, George White was the MD, and we asked if he'd let us have an engine to try in the front of one of our chassis. He said yes, and we soon had our prototype Cooper-Bristol rolling."
This engine produced around 127bhp at 5800rpm. This was known to be 35-40bhp less than the contemporary Ferraris and Maseratis. It was quite a bulky and tall engine, but the Coopers were sure it would do the job. It was familiar, it was available in quantity, and parts were readily obtainable. It would also, incidentally, form a perfect 2-litre engine for a sports-racing version. Cooper reasoned that by building the lightest practical chassis and avoiding complication they could compensate for the Bristol engine's low power. An uncomplicated car also promised reliability.
The result was the Cooper T20, also named Cooper-Bristol Mark I. The first prototype was shown to the Press at Hollyfield Road in January 1952 and then sold to Archie Bryde, but the next three cars were undoubtedly the most successful.
A young Mike Hawthorn at the wheel of a car bought by Bob Chase scored a phenomenal run of success in international racing that included fourth place in the Belgian Grand Prix, third in the British Grand Prix, fourth in the Dutch Grand Prix (results sufficient to give him fourth place in the World Championship) and four wins in British events. The T20 debut was sensational, with Hawthorn winning the six-lap Lavant Cup with Alan Brown and Eric Brandon following him home for a Cooper-Bristol 1-2-3 grand slam. Out again in the six-lap Formule Libre Chichester Cup, Mike won again, leading all the way. The day's feature race was the 12-lap Richmond Trophy, including F1 cars, and Hawthorn actually led Gonzalez's Thin Wall before it got into its stride and thundered ahead. Mike still finished second, 26 seconds behind, to complete his fantastic day. Alan Brown then won a Handicap race in his Richmond car, and one could conclude that the Cooper-Bristols had most sensationally arrived.
Both Alan Brown and Eric Brandon entered by Ecurie Richmond also enjoyed a good run of success in 1952. The Richmond cars were painted pale metallic green, Brandon's with a red noseband, Brown's pale blue. The Richmond boys set off on their continental tour with the Cooper-Bristols and 500s, and on 18 May the Swiss GP saw Alan Brown finish fifth and score Cooper's first-ever World Championship points (our picture). Eric Brandon was eighth, despite leaving the road at one point: "A gasket had gone and I was just limping round to finish. I was looking round for Farina. He was an absolute thug with back-markers, and when I looked back to see where I was going I was charging off the road along a ditch!"
Brown followed his trend with two sixths, at the Monza Autodromo GP in June and the Belgian GP at Spa. The Italian GP at Monza saw Richmond running both cars again, alongside Hawthorn. All qualified well though slower than Stirling Moss's Connaught. Back home, Alan Brown took a third at Goodwood in the closing meeting of the year.
Of course, the Richmond boys were always staggered by Chase car's speed compared to their own. "On the rare occasions we saw it back at Cooper's we'd crawl all over it, open the filler cap, sniff the tank and look in the carbs, but the tanks were always cleaned-out and they'd taken the jets out of the carburettors... It was only later we found they really had been using nitromethane..."
So Cooper's first serious season of Formula 2 racing yielded the marque's first World Championship points, brilliant results for Mike and Leslie Hawthorn, rather less so for the other customers. But it was obvious that the Mark I recipe offered a light, good-handling platform for more powerful engines.
While the composite box-and-tube section Cooper-Bristol Mark I were making their name during 1952, the all-tubular Mark VI 500s had been very successful, easy to build and profitable. Clearly their simple all tubular frame was the way to go, and during the autumn Owen Maddock laid out such a chassis for the coming season's Mark II T23 F2 car.
The prototype Mark II was displayed at the 1952 London Motor Show in October. It was impeccably prepared, standing on a special display of Britain's new F2 cars, and was finished in bright mid-green. Its lighter tubular frame was obviously the most important new feature.
Into the winter of 1952-53, the Argentine Club was offering good terms to attract entries for its Grand Prix in Buenos Aires, opening the 1953 World Championship series.
Alan Brown had by then opted-out of Ecurie Richmond and Dennis Bros to join Bob Chase as Manager, Car Division and Motor Racing Department, and he entered his Mark I for the Argentina races. The association with Bob Chase created the Ecurie Anglaise, name under which Brown would race himself during 1953.
In the Argentinian Grand Prix itself, Farina's works Ferrari ploughed into the uncontrolled crowds, killing many spectators. Alan Brown was unable to avoid a young spectator running into his path, but continued with the nose of his Mark I stove in. After three stops to top up the leaking radiator he finished ninth and last. Brown also contested the Buenos Aires City Libre GP, in which he retired.
At Easter Goodwood the Bob Chase/Alan Brown Equipe Anglaise Mark II-Alfa Romeo appeared with its de Dion rear end and Ferrari-like bodywork, to be driven by Paul Emery. In the British GP at Silverstone Alan Brown himself appeared in a new Mark II-Bristol. It had been ordered originally by Belfast Telegraph newspaper proprietor Bobby Baird for himself and Roy Salvadori. Baird already had a Ferrari and the Cooper-Bristol would seem entirely superfluous in such company.
Alan Brown had tried to race the Cooper-Alfa Romeo one last time at Crystal Palace but was stranded on the starting grid. So for the German GP at Nürburgring the de Dion car was fitted with a Bristol engine in place of the troublesome Alfa Romeo, and sprayed silver for Porsche star Helm Glocklen to drive. He nodded the new engine in practice and could not start. Brown charged hard there in his new Mark II, fought against horrific handling when a spring anchorage parted, but had his engine blow half-a-lap from the finish. Brown loaned the car to American driver John Fitch for Aix-les-Bains, but neither was on form. In the Italian GP at Monza Alan was outpaced, of course, but survived reliably to finish 12th.
Whilst Alan Brown was racing for Bob Chase's Equipe Anglaise with his own MkI Cooper-Bristol Formula 2 car in 1953, the MkI raced by Hawthorn for Chase in 1952 was surplus to requirements. Brown conceived the idea of converting it to a sports car. That was the start of a story that would produce a series of conversions from the Cooper T20 single-seaters to a total of six sports/racing cars.
This first one was modified by Bernie Rodger during the winter of 1952-53, emerging as Barchetta-bodied sports racing car, its registration being HPN 665. A cage framework was welded up to carry the body which was built by Wakefield's of Byfleet, a firm very well known for sports/racing car bodies in the 1950s.
Alan Brown is on record as saying that Wakefield's were instructed to build a body of the "Barchetta" style as fitted to Davis's Cooper-MG. In fact what emerged was a body almost identical to the 1952 Vignale-bodied Le Mans Tipo 340 Ferraris, complete with the same "portholes" in the front wings and rubbing strips linking front and rear wheel arches. The car was shown to the press in March 1953 and at that stage it was stated that it would be raced with an Aston Martin 2.6-litre engine and that a second car with hard top was being built by the works for Ken Wharton to race.
In fact the Chase Cooper appeared for the first time at the Members' meeting at Goodwood later in March 1953 with a Formula 2 Bristol engine, with lowered compression ratio and running on 100 octane fuel, and it remained in this form for a couple of years. Alan Brown enjoyed a superb run of success with this car, finishing eighth and winning his class in the Production Sports car race at Silverstone in May (at this time the BRDC had some very odd ideas as to what constituted a production car), and with Michael Currie as co-driver took seventh place and a class second in the 1953 Goodwood Nine Hours race.
With Faraoni as co-driver, they entered the Nürburgring 1000 Kms finishing in 16th place. In 1954 Brown driving this car won outright the handicap British Empire Trophy at Oulton Park and took a class win at Zandvoort in August. Let's also recall that Ecurie Anglaise started the season with a T20 Mark I ex-Richmond (the one that Brown raced in Argentina) and the new Mark II T23 with the Alfa engine. Later during 1953 they acquired the MkII Formula 2 Cooper-Bristol delivered to Bobbie Baird, as we mentioned above, so Brown's own MkI (probably chassis CB/2/52) also became surplus to requirements. He and Rodger promptly rebuilt it as another Vignale-styled sports/racing car.
In early 1954 this car was bought by David Watts, who used it to break the hill record at Trengwaiton in Devon and sold it very shortly afterwards to Tom Kyffin, who in 1955 raced both this car and the ex-Horace Gould Mk II Formula 2 car under the banner of Equipe Devone.
As far as Brown's Formula One season during 1954 is concerned, it started in April on the Lavant Cup, at the wheel of his T23 from the previous year. But for the International Trophy in May, Brown had been contacted by Tony Vandervell to give its debut to the 2-litre Vanwall 01. Brown drove steadily in appallingly wet weather conditions in the first heat to finish sixth and became the first Formula 2 car home. In the final, however, he retired because of a broken oil pipe.
In July Brown again drove the Richmond car at Rouen, but only in practice, as he did not start the race. Similar fate happened in Silverstone for the British Grand Prix. The car was simply too slow - and Brown was 7 seconds slower than Brandon anyway - so he did not take the start. In August he qualified on the second row for the International Gold Cup but by mid-race the fuel pump decided that his race was over and that was all. At this stage in his career, Brown was being successful in the British sportscar series, so he was bit by bit leaving his single-seater entries aside. He still drove Gibson's Connaught A4 at the International Trophy in 1955, being forced to retire to transmission problems. That was going to be his last appearance as a single-seater driver.
In 1956, his last season of racing, he drove a Jaguar D-Type. He then went on, in 1958-'59, to enter Formula 2 Coopers under the Alan Brown Equipe, giving rides to many aspiring racers. Interestingly, it seems that for this enterprise Alan Brown and his business partner Cecil Libowitz (the two running a local concern named Weyside Engineering) joined forces with a little known driver called Ken Tyrrell and together they bought two F2s. Drivers for the season included such luminaries as Hernando da Silva Ramos, Claude Storez, Mike and Dennis Taylor, Norman Barclay, Andre Guelfi, Innes Ireland, Ken Tyrrell himself, Bruce Kessler and a certain Jean Claude Vidilles.
In 1959 Brown and Tyrrell proceeded to put some classy driving hands in their Coopers. At the start of the year works Cooper drivers McLaren and Gregory drove Cooper T45s at the Goodwood Lavant Cup, then Mike Taylor taking over from Masten at Oulton Park with Peter Ashdown replacing Bruce at Aintree. Gregory then came back to the Alan Brown Equipe at Syracuse and before Bruce rejoined at Pau and Rouen. Taylor and Ashdown drove at Aintree in the GP support race, with Masten and Bruce again at Clermont, then Ashdown in place of Masten at Brands Hatch - and so it goes on.
For 1960 Brown and Tyrrell split company as Brown entered Ron Flockhart in his Cooper 45 at Syracuse and some later races in F2. Now an independent F2 entrant, Ken Tyrrell grabbed the opportunity to lure John Surtees into four-wheeled racing. In August, with Formula 2 about to end its four-year life at the Italian GP weekend, Alan Brown offered his car as a spare to Jack Lewis (who won at Monza but not in Brown's car) whilst Flockhart is seen at the wheel of an F2 car called the Emeryson 1000...
At this point, Brown's activities had become entwined with those of two other remarkable figures in British motorsport: Rodney Clarke and Paul Emery. It is hard to reconstruct the events of 1957-'58 after Clarke's Connaught factory finally went belly-up. The 1957 Monaco GP being its final Championship appearance, the Connaught stock was put on auction in October. One B C Ecclestone acquired two B-types and the wealth of the racing team's equipment, to start racing the cars in 1958 season. Alan Brown became the owner of Connaught Cars Ltd and the works at Send. Restarted as Connaught Cars (1959) Ltd Brown turned Connaught into a garage business. Finally, the stillborn C-type was taken out of the auction and sold to Paul Emery, a self-minded figure in the British motor racing scene, who was responsible for creating a host of quite peculiar race cars built on a shoestring budget.
In his small workshop at Twickenham, Emery had singlehandedly built up the Connaught C-type and entered it for Bob Said at the 1959 US GP. Emery's Connaught connection must have interested Brown. In 1960, with finance from Brown, Emery set up Emeryson Cars Ltd and was able to move from Twickenham to Connaught Cars (1959) Ltd on Portsmouth Road at Send, near Ripley in Surrey. Brown then ordered Emery to design a fleet of F1 and FJ cars on a single platform. This was to be the infamous Emeryson 1000 of 1960-'61 whose miserable fate was laid in the hands of the Ecurie Nationale Belge. But that's a story that's been dealt with elsewhere.
Reader's Why by Michael Müller
Early in the new season a non-championship curtain raiser was held in Turin. It had become clear that Alfa Romeo were not about to resurrect the '159'. Talbot had also quit for financial reasons so the Turin organisers sought to match BRM against Ferrari. BRM agreed but changed their mind when an opportunity to test Fangio and Gonzalez came their way. Once again the green cars had failed to materialise and nervous race promoters and circuit owners switched from Formula 1 to the next rung, Formula 2. Soon all of the Grand Epreuves announced plans to run as Formula 2 events and the FIA had little option but to sanction a World Championship run to Formula 2 rules (2 litre unsupercharged or 500 c.c. supercharged engines. Formula 2 was established in 1948).
Turin may have been a turning point but contemporary reports show that the uncertainty surrounding Formula 1 lasted for several months, indeed right up to the opening Championship race in Switzerland. Before then - and before the Turin GP - the French had been the first to show their hand with the announcement of a lucrative eight race Formula 2 series. Significantly that series included the Grand Prix de l'Automobile Club de France, the official title for the French GP and France's round of the World Championship.
A few (non-championship) races remained loyal to Formula 1 and the now redundant Grand Prix machinery also had an outlet in numerous Formula Libre (no engine restrictions) events. This was the fate facing the BRM V16s. Raymond Mays promised to field a full BRM team at any Grand Prix that stayed with the Formula 1 regulations but it was a promise treated with scepticism. When the British Racing Drivers Club announced that both the Silverstone International Trophy and the British GP would be held as Formula 2 races the game was up for BRM. As a sop the BRDC organised a 100-mile Formula Libre support race at the British GP. Even then victory went to Taruffi's Thin Wall Special.
If the change in Formula spelt the end for the BRM V16 what about the Ferrari 375, the leading Formula 1 design at the end of 1951? Ferrari probably welcomed the switch; it allowed the team to experiment in advance of the forthcoming (1954) 2.5 litre Formula 1. Besides Ferrari had a successful Formula 2 car (the '166') and a new car for 1952 penned by Aurelio Lampredi. The Ferrari 500 was a very straightforward design. It employed a four-cylinder 2 litre engine and very little in the way of technical innovation. Yet between 1952 and 1953 it would become the most successful Ferrari Grand Prix car ever. In 1952 alone it won 20 races including all seven Grand Prix events counting towards the World Championship. A series of potentially dull Ferrari Formula 1 walkovers was replaced by Formula 2 walkovers. At least the Formula 2 grids were healthier in numerical terms.
Gonzalez had left Ferrari and joined his friend and compatriot Fangio at BRM. Both men were also due to race the new works Maserati Formula 2 car. Farina moved from Alfa Romeo to Ferrari whilst the third works 500 was disputed between Taruffi and Villoresi in an all-Italian line up. Ascari remained as Ferrari's team leader and in 1952 he overshadowed his teammates. Farina, World Champion in 1950, was completely eclipsed by the quietly spoken family man, who had been born in Milan and son of a famous Grand Prix driver, Antonio Ascari (who had been killed racing for Alfa Romeo in the 1925 French GP). Several contemporary commentators thought that Alberto Ascari was faster than Fangio, a point that was difficult to dispute in 1952.
Competition for Ferrari, such that it was, came from Gordini and a handful of small but enterprising British teams. Gordini provided the shock result of the year when new French hero, Jean Behra, beat a Ferrari team that included Ascari in the Reims GP. The race formed part of the French Formula 2 series but did not count towards the World Championship.
Amédée Gordini had lost the support of Simca but this did not prove to be a major disadvantage. Simca had insisted on the use of production car parts, comprising the effectiveness of the Gordini as a racing car. Freed of technical constraints the six-cylinder T16 was a good car, its lightweight chassis compensating for a shortage of power. The problem was finance. Gordini was a small team, always on the verge of financial disaster. The Reims GP proved to be a high point for the team, never to be repeated. There were some respectable World Championship showings for Behra and team mate Robert Manzon in 1952 but a year later they were amongst the also rans. Gordini struggled on until 1957 when financial reality finally caught up with the French team.
The switch to Formula 2 provided an opportunity for several British constructors to pit their talents against continental opposition. HWM (Hersham and Walton Motors) founded by John Heath and George Abecassis had already forged a reputation in Formula 2, thanks in part to the skills of Stirling Moss. Lance Macklin and Tony Rolt gave HWM a one-two in the 1952 Silverstone International Trophy (Ferrari were absent) but that was the high point. Rodney Clarke's Connaughts were well designed and innovative, whilst in Surbiton father and son Charles and John Cooper were the leading exponents of the 500 c.c. Formula 3 car; for 1952 they built a new Formula 2 chassis which would propel a British newcomer, Mike Hawthorn, to stardom and the offer of a Ferrari drive. The famous ERA name was revived with the new G-type model and other British makes included Frazer Nash, Aston-Butterworth and Alta.
All of these teams operated on shoestring budgets using existing components as best as they could. Cooper, ERA and Frazer Nash all used a six-cylinder Bristol engine. HWM were powered by an Alta and Connaught had a Lea-Francis unit. These engines were some 30-40 bhp less powerful than the Ferrari. Despite this, British teams enjoyed some success in 1952 and the foundations for a British motor racing industry were laid.
This first Formula 2 World Championship GP at Bremgarten had a number of absentees. Ascari was in America for the Indianapolis 500, Fangio and Gonzalez awaited the new Maserati and Villoresi was convalescing after a road accident.
Farina had a chance to make his mark and led from pole position, Taruffi was second, and Stirling Moss after a tremendous start from 9th position was already third. Unfortunately he had to make a pitstop in lap 4 for changing spark plugs, which throw him back to last but one position. Farina still leads followed by Taruffi in the second Ferrari and Behra with his Gordini. Hans Stuck and Toni Ulmen, the both Germans who raced privately entered AFM resp. Veritas had to retire with technical problems, Peter Collins spinned, and George Abecassis tested the HWM's structural strength by turning it over. In lap 16 Farina had to retire with magneto problems, so Taruffi now was in front ahead of André Simon who made a phantastic race. However, for brave Simon the race was soon over, as he had to hand over his car to Farina. Taruffi and his Ferrari worked like a clockwork, but behind him Farina furiously tried to catch Jean Behra, which finally after 14 laps of hard fighting happened. Still 10 laps to go Farina also "killed" Simon's car - again the magneto! - and his race finally was over. Taruffi scored his first and only World championship victory, aged 45, and Swiss Rudolf Fischer with his privately entered Ferrari was second, his best result ever in a Grand Prix, and that on home soil. Jean Behra troubled by the technique of his Gordini remained third although one lap behind, and Ken Wharton headed the British contingent with fourth place in his Frazer Nash.
The 3 drivers shown on our picture - Brown, Moss, and de Graffenried - had their own fight at the back of the field. After his unfortunate pit stop in lap 4, Moss rather quickly overtook Macklin, Hirt, Brandon, and Schell, for de Graffenried he needed already 3 laps, and Brown resisted hard for 9 laps, with the Swiss baronet still on Moss' heels. In lap 21 finally Moss managed to overtake Brown and gained 7th place, but 4 laps later his race was over. Alan Brown finally scored 5th place, and Emmanuel de Graffenried finished 6th.
The first race of the F2 World Championship was over, with Ferrari having the leading role as expected. The Gordinis proved that they are not without chance, and the Maserati drivers could only hope that the new car will be available soonest. The British showed their teeth for the first time, and the German BMW-powered specials experienced again that goodwill and driving skills alone are no guarantee for success.