Posts Tagged ‘Ken Wharton’

(VC Browne)

Ken Wharton, BRM P15 V16 during the 1954 Lady Wigram Trophy…

Alfred Owen started what became a long commitment to race his BRM’s in Australasia to further the Owen Organisations commercial interests with a trip by the stupendous, stunning and thoroughly nutty P15 V16 to New Zealand in 1954.

Its fair to say the car underperformed as it usually did, but the impact it made on all who saw and heard the marvellous machine at both Ardmore for the NZ GP and Wigram has endured for far longer than a more reliable but less memorable beast.

Wigram (VC Browne)

 

Such free and easy days- Wharton warms the car up before the NZ GP start at Ardmore (J Short)

The 1954 New Zealand International Grand Prix was the second in the history of the race, the first was won by local, John McMillan’s Ford V8 engined Jackson Special in 1950.

The Kiwi organisers leapt over their Australian neighbours across the ditch in attracting an international field to their Formula Libre race including Wharton, Peter Whitehead’s Ferrari 125, Horace Gould in a Cooper Mk23 Bristol as well as Jack Brabham’s similar car, Tony Gaze, HWM Alta, Stan Jones in Maybach 1- the eventual winner, Lex Davison’s ex-Moss/Gaze HWM and others.

Wharton had the race won in P15 chassis ‘2’ but suffered complete front brake failure- vaporised brake fluid streamed from the front brake cylinders coming down the main straight so Wharton slowed and came into the pits.

Repairs were impossible so the front brake pipes were disconnected with Stan Jones in Maybach 1 winning the race, and subsequent protests about lap-scoring. Stan had more than his share of those post-race contests over the years but he won this one, perhaps at Gould’s expense.

Wharton was second ‘…in what must have been one of the greatest drives of his career to bring the BRM home and to complete the longest race in the cars history’ wrote Doug Nye- Tony Gaze was third, Horace Gould fourth, Ron Roycroft fifth in an Alfa Romeo P3 and Jack Brabham sixth.

Wharton’s problems were caused by a bit of circuit grit lodging in one of the calipers preventing a piston returning fully and causing the brakes to overheat through constant friction, eventually popping off a brake hose union and releasing fluid onto the scorching disc.

(CAN)

At Wigram (above) Wharton again started from pole from Peter Whitehead’s Ferrari, Tony Gaze’s HWM Alta and Fred Zambucka in a pre-war Maserati 8CM.

Whitehead won from Gaze and Wharton, then John McMillan in an Alfa Romeo Tipo B the first local home. Wharton bagged the fastest lap and lap record- as he had at Ardmore.

The BRM had a fresh engine installed between the meetings the car exceeding 150mph on the back straight- shrieking and bellowing in the most audio-erotic fashion in all of motor racing.

(M Hanna)

‘Wharton more or less had the race under control until he had to pit around lap 42 and took on a gallon of oil, the car eventually quit short of the finish line, Wharton pushed it across the line home for third place’ wrote Bob Homewood.

‘The long-distance venture had not proved to be the prestigious demonstration Owen Racing Organisation had hoped…The car was shipped home on the SS Karamea…Ken Wharton flew home via Hawaii…while (mechanic) Gordon Newman decided that New Zealand was such a pleasant country he eventually settled there’ Doug Nye wrote in ‘BRM 1’.

(BRM 1)

Ken Wharton pushed the big, beefy BRM a quarter of a mile over the line just as fourth placed man McMillan’s Alfa Romeo P3 commenced its last lap, encouraged by the BRM mechanics.

(B Homewood)

Gold dust- a Lap Chart from Bob Homewood’s collection ‘…from my BRM in NZ stuff, I make no claim that the pencil lap times are correct’ he quips.

Whilst the Mk2 P15 returned to the UK the team would return many times to Australasia, on the next occasion with a P25 for Ron Flockhart in 1959, shown below at Wigram- he won the prestigious Lady Wigram Trophy from Brabham and McLaren’s Cooper T45 Climaxes that day, a story for another time…

(CAN)

Credits…

VC Browne & Son, Classic Auto News, Bob Homewood Collection, Winton Bristow via Roger Dowding, Merv Hanna Collection, ‘BRM 1’ Doug Nye, sergent.com

Etcetera…

(BRM 1)

Jack and Ken at Ardmore.

Brabham in the cap looks across as Wharton sets off for some screaming but sonorous 1.5 litre V16 supercharged practice laps, Cooper T23 Bristol ‘Redex Spl’ looking suitably modest alongside its more aristocratic but far less successful countryman.

(BRM 1)

Lotsa plugs and lotsa plug changes…Newman and Southcott set to it, which of the two airfield circuits is unclear.

(unattributed)

 

Beast at rest in the Wigram pits

 

(W Bristow)

Roger Dowding wrote ‘…sketch by Winton Bristow…I have about eight of them, some finished some not (love to see ’em!) but interesting cars, I have Win’s notes too. Win was a car enthusiast…’. Luvvit!

Pity the long distance travelling race mechanic in 1954, read Nye’s account of Gordon Newman and Willie Southcott’s trip from Lincolnshire to the other end of the world in December 1953.

’…the adventure began at 8am in Bourne, when they caught the bus to Peterborough.

This was followed by a train to King’s Cross, London to report to KLM’s Sloane Street office at noon, a bus to Heathrow and then a 5pm flight to Amsterdam, thence to Auckland via Sydney, Australia.

They had a worldwide Letter of Credit with them, value £130, comprising 50% of 15 weeks wages (£60), expenses at £3 a week (£45) and an extra £25 for contingencies. The NZ GP was…run on January 9 and…Wigram…in the South Island on February 7 with sundry exhibition dates in between.’

No rest for the wicked…

The mighty supercharged 1.5 litre V16 engine (Vic Berris)

 

Wigram again (unattributed)

Tailpiece: Wharton, Wigram 1954- not exactly a light car, just ask Ken…

Finito…

Reg Hunt #5 and Guerino Bertocchi #7 in Maserati 250F’s prior to Saturday practice, Albert Park, Australian Grand Prix, 1 December 1956…

Hunt looks pretty happy with himself whilst Maserati’s legendary tester/mechanic Bertocchi wonders if everything is AOK with the Moss ‘#2501’. To the left of Hunt’s car is Tom Sulman’s Aston DB3S.

James Lineham had a fantastic day at the ‘Park, the sun shone making it ideal for spectators, especially those with cameras. He used his expensive colour film wisely in the paddock, his camera wasn’t sophisticated, so best to take snaps of stationary or near stationary cars. Then he shot off some monochrome action work whilst he walked Albert Parks huge expanse.

Bib Stillwell’s Jag XKD perhaps, on Lakeside Drive looking to the south of Albert Park Lake

James life spanned 1925 to 1997, he was a young enthusiast aged 31 when he attended this meeting. After his death his wife very carefully went through all of his precious belongings, found these photographs and kindly donated them to the State Library of Victoria for enthusiasts like you and i to see, in 2014. Clearly, there are many donations of this type, it has taken four years for James snaps to be catalogued and uploaded onto the SLV’s website- I found them on a regular search I do every few months.

Lets thank James and Catherine Lineham for the photos. Blurry though some of them are, they ooze atmosphere of a weekend spoken about in reverential terms by those fortunate enough to have attended. One of the journalists of the day, I’ve forgotten who, wrote of the weekend as ‘when Australian Motor Racing came of age’- it was an important one in our racing history.

Moss or Behra Maser 300S on the pit or main straight, Aughtie Drive. Race direction these days the other direction, or clockwise

 

Circuit map from the meeting program (G Dobie)

I’m obsessed with a few circuits in Australia in particular- Warwick Farm, Mount Panorama, Longford, Lobethal and Albert Park- Longford and the ‘Park especially. I live in Windsor 750 metres from Albert Park’s Austin Healey Corner/Turn 13, the Union Street/Queens Road second gear right-hander.

I run around it every other day, I think about the fellows who conquered it’s oh-so-quick unguarded challenges in the fifties and do so in much more safety today. I feel its wonderful rhythm, vibe and its sense of history all the time. These snaps gimme that vibe, Albert Park is a wonderful place to be even at 5.15am with only the park’s Daffy Ducks as company!

I was going to package the shots with some other photos I’ve accumulated of that weekend but somehow that didn’t seem the right thing to do. So here is ‘James Lineham’s day at the races’ with some shortish comments about each car/driver. In the event one of you knew James get in touch and I will pop a brief bio into this piece.

Vrrooom in a 6 cylinder 3 litre DOHC kinda way. Moss Maser 300S. Aughtie Drive from the Olympic Tyres Bridge

Attached are links to articles already written about this carnival motor racing fortnight during the 1956 Melbourne Olympic Games which ‘put Melbourne, if not Australia on the map’.

In fact James had a big choice that day. He could have taken a vantage point on the Mens Marathon course from Clayton to the Melbourne Cricket Ground via Dandenong Road- Algerian born Frenchman Alain Mimoun won it in 2:25.00 from Franjo Mihalic of Yugoslavia a minute and a half behind him.

The Australian Tourist Trophy;

https://primotipo.com/2016/01/29/1956-australian-tourist-trophy-albert-park/

And Australian Grand Prix

https://primotipo.com/2016/12/27/moss-at-albert-park/

The short story of the race is that Stirling Moss won the 80 lap, 250 mile journey on 2 December 1956…

He did so by a lap from teammate Jean Behra, Peter Whitehead’s Ferrari 555 Super Squalo, Reg Hunt’s Maser 250F and Stan Jones’ similar machine. It was a dominant display from the plucky Brit who was always, and still is immensely popular when he visits Australia.

International representation included the two works Officine Maserati drivers Moss and Behra (#1 above) who brought no less than five Masers with them. They shipped three 250F’s, two of the latest specification and an earlier chassis, and two 300S sportscars both of which remained in Australia post event. The cars were based at Reg Hunt’s Holden Dealership just up St Kilda Road on the Nepean Highway in Elsternwick a few kms from the circuit, the 300S’ being famously driven between workshop and racetrack.

Prince Bira and Jean Behra in the Albert Park paddock (S Landrigan)

Jean did not have a great year being comprehensively bested by one of the most gifted drivers in the world, but third places at Buenos Aires, Monaco, Reims, Silverstone and at the Nurburgring is hardly shabby. Over the two weekend Australian carnival it was Moss winning both the AGP and the Australian Tourist Trophy the weekend before.

Moss raced #7 250F chassis ‘2501’ and Behra #1 ‘2522’. The spare car ‘2507’ was driven by both Moss and Hunt during practice and at one point it was thought Jack Brabham may race it, not having an AGP ride that year, but it was not to be. A pity, by that stage Jack had two seasons of racing in Europe behind him so would have given all but Moss and Behra a good go.

Scuderia Ambrosiana entered two Ferrari 555 Super Squalo’s powered by 3.4 litre ‘860’ Monza four cylinder engines.

Remember that the AGP at this time was run to Formula Libre rules, the cars above were driven by #2 Reg Parnell, chassis number ‘FL9002’ and #3 Peter Whitehead, chassis ‘FL9001’. Whitehead was a regular visitor to Australia dealing with the family wool business and had won the Australian Grand Prix way back in 1938 aboard his ERA chassis R10B- then he was 24 and in 1956 he was 42 years of age.

https://primotipo.com/2015/04/16/peter-whitehead-in-australia-era-r10b-1938/

Whitehead started the carnival well winning the ‘Bryson Industries Cup’ support event to the Australian Tourist Trophy the week before, ahead of Hunt and Kevin Neal, Maserati A6GCM.

Whitehead and Parnell were unlikely to be on the pace of the works Masers but would be good bets as best of the rest, as indeed they were- Peter was third and Reg sixth. The Parnell car remained in Australia, click here to read about it;

https://primotipo.com/2015/08/25/arnold-glass-ferrari-555-super-squalo-bathurst-1958/

Car #9 in the background of the photo above is Lex Davison’s Ferrari 500/625, Alberto Ascari’s 1952/3 dual World F1 Championship winning chassis ‘#0005’- iconic in Australia and winner of the 1957 and 1958 AGP’s at Caversham and Bathurst respectively. The 3 litre car, which then carried chassis number ‘#0480’ was 7th, 5 laps behind Moss with various problems

Ken Wharton was a well credentialled Brit in both single-seaters and sportscars, but his ‘Ecurie Du Puy’ (John Du Puy was an American resident in Switzerland) silver Maserati 250F was said to be, and looked, tired.

Chassis ‘#2521’ had been Behra’s works machine, a new car that season, in eight events earlier in the year before being sold to Du Puy. But it looked ‘in need of a birthday’ before leaving Europe, it was the latest bit of kit, properly prepared the car was a top three contender.

Ken retired the car on lap 19 and then journeyed on to race the Maserati and his Ferrari Monza in New Zealand that summer, unfortunately dying in a tragic accident aboard the Monza on 12 January 1957 at Ardmore during the NZ GP weekend.

The best prepared and equipped of the locals were the well heeled Victorians- motor dealers Reg Hunt and Stan Jones in Maserati 250F’s of similar specification and ‘cobbler’ Lex Davison, who owned a shoe manufacturing and distribution business.

Lex’ Ferrari was older than the 250F’s but was quick with its 3 litre engine and beautifully prepared by Alan Ashton at AF Hollins motor engineers just up the road in Armadale. In fact all three of these cars lived close to the circuit. Hunt was fourth, best of the locals, Jones was fifth and Davison seventh.

Doug Whiteford was another local- very, his dealership/workshop was in Carlisle Street St Kilda, a drop-kick from Albert Park.

Whiteford’s first Talbot-Lago T26C, chassis ‘#110007’ was an astute purchase, the robust, simple design was well suited to Australian events. It was beautifully prepared and driven by ‘Dicer Doug’ who won two of his three AGP’s in it- at Bathurst in 1952 and at Albert Park in 1953. Click here for a piece on Doug’s TL’s;

https://primotipo.com/2015/06/09/fill-her-up-matey-lago-talbot-t26c-melbourne-1957/

The purchase of the second T26C (photo above) wasn’t quite so smart though. An earlier chassis ‘#110002’ but later spec mechanically than ‘#110007’ sounded ok but the game in Oz had moved on- he needed something more modern and competitive.

Whiteford was a consistent third in the ’55 AGP at Port Wakefield behind Brabham and Hunt but by ’56 it was simply not on the pace. Still, his bankroll was more modest at the top level than most. A shame, as Doug, 42 then and as vastly experienced and tough as they come didn’t give a yard to any of the locals. Whiteford in a 250F or something of that performance envelope would have been worth travelling a few miles to see. Its a shame he bought a 300S off Maserati after this meeting rather than a 250F.

Doug and his crew roll his T26C towards the start (unattributed)

 

Reg Hunt made everybody take notice in his ‘Flying Bedstead’ Hunt JAP Spl in hillclimbs and on the circuits in the late forties/early fifties and then refined his craft with a season racing a 500 F3 Cooper machine in the UK in 1954.

On his way back to Oz he acquired a superb Maserati 250F engined Maserati A6GCM chassis ‘#2038’ (above with Kevin Neal at the wheel) with which he belted the locals in 1955.

Only mechanical failure kept him from the ’55 AGP won by Jack Brabham’s Cooper T40 Bristol. Hunt ordered a 250F for ’56, he was allocated a rebuilt 1955 works machine chassis ‘2516’ with Melbourne haulier Kevin Neal- who had also raced an ex-Hunt Cooper T53 Bristol the purchaser of the A6GCM.

Neal had a shocker of an AGP bending the car severely and injuring himself late in the race when he lost the car in the greasy conditions. I wrote a long feature about the A6GCM not long ago;

https://primotipo.com/2017/12/12/hunts-gp-maser-a6gcm-2038/

Lineham’s colour photos show fine taste and focus on the single-seaters- but who can fault his choice of Stan Coffey’s Ferrari 750 Monza sportscar (below) for his final colour snap. He raced the car in the Australian TT the weekend before, DNF in the classic won by Moss from Behra and Ken Wharton’s Ferrari Monza.

Its a rare, clear shot of the man, now whatever became of him? There is an obscure article topic, he raced a few interesting cars too, Cooper Bristol etc…

Entry List…

(B Moyle)

Etcetera…

(J Hunting)

The photograph above is in Reg Hunt’s Elsternwick workshop with ‘Gib’ Barrett’s #19 Alta GP-2 1.5 s/c alongside Lex Davison’s Ferrari 500/625. Behind are the two Ferrari 555’s of Reg Parnell on the left and #3 Peter Whitehead on the right. The other car we can just see at left is, I think, the Wharton silver Maserati 250F.

(Gray Family)

Reg Parnell’s Ferrari Super Squalo, Lex Davison’s Ferrari 500/625, looking smaller in comparison and the dark coloured Kevin Neale Maserati A6GCM which did not look quite so pristine at the end of the weekend.

(O Plada)

Bibliography…

 8W.forix.com on Maser 250F chassis numbers, oldracingcars.com

Photo Credit…

James Lineham- State Library of Victoria, Simon Landrigan, Brian Moyle Collection, Gordon Dobie Collection, Oscar Plada, John Hunting, Gray Family Collection

Tailpiece: Oopsie, not quite, snapped too soon! Its the i dunno Maser 250F…

Easy i thought its #2 but that’s Reg Parnell’s Ferrari 555- the car is a 250F. Which one though? Not Moss, Behra, Hunt, Jones or Wharton all of which/whom are eliminated by virtue of number, colour or nose treatment. Hmm. Maybe its the works spare ‘2507’ carrying what looks like #2 whilst either Moss or Hunt did a few laps. Anyway that’s my story, but i’ll entertain other theories.

Finito…

 

 

 

 

 

jack from kling

Baptism at Aintree – Karl Kling’s Mercedes W196 & Roberto Mieres’ Maserati 250F push Jack at his 1st World Championship F1 event. Cooper T40 Bristol. 1955 British GP. (Jack Brabham Story)

Sixty years ago today, Jack Brabham made his Formula 1 GP debut at Aintree, but first he had to build the car…

The first half of 1955 was full of many goings on for Jack Brabham. With encouragement from the UK RAC motor sporting administrator, Dean Delamont, Jack was convinced to head over to the UK for some motor racing. Little did anyone know the success this would bring – although it was hardly immediate.

It the pages of the February 1955 ‘Australian Motor Sports’ there’s a brief piece on Jack and his trip to the Continent and it rumours that he had ordered a Cooper-Alta and might have a trial drive with Mercedes Benz. To finance such a trip he had to sell his highly developed & successful ‘RedeX Special’ – aka Cooper-Bristol. Stan Jones, having wrecked his Maybach II at the 1954 Australian GP purchased it. Just prior to selling though, Jack had his last race in the ‘RedeX’ at the January 31, 1955 Gnoo Blas meeting. This was a big meeting for the country NSW circuit with international drivers’ Peter Whitehead and Prince Bira running Ferrari & Maserati respectively. For Jack another part of financing the UK journey also meant selling his lathe and some other equipment – all to his later lament.

jack ibsley

The unloved ex-Whitehead Cooper-Alta at Ibsley. (Jack Brabham Story)

Flying to the UK, meant initially leaving his wife, Betty and young son, Geoffrey in Australia. Soon after arriving Jack took delivery of the ex Peter Whitehead Cooper-Alta. In fact he originally set up camp at Whitehead’s Chalfont St Peter’s race garage before a slightly later move to Bob Chase’s RJC Motors operation at Saltdean. His racing activities in the UK, began with the Cooper-Alta at the April 11, 1955 Goodwood Easter Monday meeting. The same meeting Cooper Cars debuted their petite 1100cc Coventry-Climax T39 ‘bobtail’ sports car. Their first foray into what would become a successful ‘Climax’ engine relationship.

brabham GP-1955-debut

Brabham’s brand new, self built Cooper T40 Bristol, Aintree, British GP 1955. Car and driver victorious in the 1955 Australian GP, Port Wakefield later in the year. (unattributed)

History tells us that Jack Brabham never said much, he let his ability do the talking, whether by his driving or engineering skills. But he knew how to get what he wanted. Neither Charles, nor John Cooper ever officially interviewed Jack for a job at Cooper’s Surbiton works. He just hung around often enough until he was one of them.

Despite its Cooper heritage, Jack’s lack of enthusiasm remained for the Cooper-Alta. Even after an engine blow-up at the April 30 Ibsley meeting on the old RAF base, saw him convert it to Bristol power. Meaning he was never going to be satisfied continuing to race that car.

So having gained his new friendship with the likeable John Cooper, Jack was allowed use of Cooper’s Surbiton facilities to knock together what would be his own interpretation of Cooper’s new T39 ‘bobtail’ – shoehorning a big engine into a small sports car. One could even say this was an early incarnation of what would evolve into the Can Am style cars of the mid 60s and onwards.

t40 construction

The bare bones of the Cooper T40 Bristol under construction. Tubular ‘curvy in the usual Cooper way’ chassis frame. Front and rear suspension upper transverse leaf spring and lower wishbones with Arnstrong shocks, drum brakes, 2 litre Bristol 6 cylinder engine.(Jack Brabham Story)

Part of Jack building his ‘streamliner’ F1 car, involved adding 50mm to the chassis’ wheelbase to accommodate the familiar to him, 2 litre Bristol 6 cylinder lump – in place of the 1100 Climax 4. Both built with the engine behind the driver. Worth noting is that in some official entry lists the car is claimed to have a 2.2 litre Bristol. Apparently that was the intent, but not reality. It was also built devoid of lights and anything that would add unwarranted weight.

t40 engine

The Bristol 2 litre 6 cylinder in the rear of the T40. (Jack Brabham Story)

This project later tagged as T40 in the Cooper genealogy stakes – with 2 constructed. One Jack would use himself, this car was allocated chassis number CB/1/55 and another that Bob Chase’s RJC Motors would briefly run for Mike Keen. I say briefly, because unfortunately a crash at the August 20, 1955 Goodwood 9 hour took Mike’s life and the ever present problem of fire destroyed the car.

Jack Brabham’s UK presence hadn’t gone unnoticed by the UK specialist motoring press, gaining a few comments in race reports. Autosport magazine even showed off the incomplete T40 in their pages the day before its first race. Admittedly the photo would have been taken sometime before that, but it was a brand new car when it hit the circuit – with no test time.

jack and autosport

Autosport 15 July 1955 Cooper/Brabham announcement.

Liverpool’s Aintree circuit was the venue for the running of the July 16, 1955 British GP meeting. This meeting became Jack’s F1 debut race. The programme even mentions ‘The Cooper Grand Prix entry is a prototype of a full team to be built to race in 1956.’ A slightly premature comment as it turned out and the only F1 Grand Prix the T40 would take part. The car’s haste to complete meant new car sorting was lacking and a rear of grid start. Having liberated the Harley Davidson clutch setup from his Australian ‘RedeX’ C-B before sale, with some irony it was this part that let Jack down at Aintree making for an early retirement at 30 of the intended 90 laps the outcome. The dominant Mercedes Benz W196 team that included Juan Manuel Fangio, Karl Kling and Stirling Moss, saw Stirling taking race honours.

Brabham-Aintree-55-small

Jack Brabham’s Cooper T40 Bristol from Ken Wharton Vanwall VW55 equal 9th, with victor Stirling Moss about to round them up in his Mercedes W196. (Bill Henderson)

Despite the niggling start Jack had more faith in the T40 than the Cooper-Alta. What followed over the ensuing month were national events at July 30 Crystal Palace & August 1 Brands Hatch with further retirements at both. Then crossing over the Scottish border his luck with the T40 began to change at the August 6 Charterhall meeting. Finally two 4th placed finishes in his Heat and Final. Continuing into the following week’s damp August 13 Snetterton. At that meeting Jack was able to mix it amongst some of the motor racing luminaries. Such as Harry Schell & Ken Wharton in Vanwall’s, Stirling Moss in his privately entered Maserati 250F and Roy Salvadori 250F. That being the finishing order for Snetterton’s RedeX Trophy race with Jack slotting in between Stirling and Roy for another 4th place. Had he not spun during his tussle with Moss it may well have been a 3rd place greeting him. This race alone was enough to convince Jack he would return to the UK in 1956 as he was about to send the Cooper T40 home to Australia. Jack and Betty then set to return to Sydney in late September to catch up with their son and more motor racing.

brabham and hawthorn

Jacks thoroughly modern mid engined, ‘central seat sports derived F1 car’ ahead of the over the hill Ferrari 625 of Mike Hawthorn, monstering the little Cooper. MH finished equal 6th in the race with Fazz teammate Eugenio Castellotti. Things got better for Ferrari, the Lancia D50 ‘gifts’ were not too far away! (unattributed)

autocar

The year of 1955 was also a period whereby other Aussies had made the trip to England for a racing holiday. Orders had been placed with Aston Martin for 3 of their DB3S racing sports cars. The ‘Kangaroo Stable’ as it was so named with members being Tony Gaze, David McKay, Les Cosh, Dick Cobden, Tom Sulman & Jack Brabham. Circumstances played against them though. Late delivery of the cars didn’t help, but it was the June 11-12, 1955 running of Le Mans that put the skids on racing soon afterwards with a number of events cancelled as a result to the Pierre Levegh Mercedes going into the crowd at Le Mans.

1955 Hyeres Kangaroo

‘Kangaroo Stable’ Aston Martin DB3S at the Hyeres 12 Hour, France 29 May 1955. L>R Gaze, McKay, Brabham, Cosh and Cobden standing near the post. Only Tom Sulman is missing from the shot. Race won by Canonica/Munaron Ferrari 750 Monza, then came the Kangaroo Stable trio; Gaze/McKay 2nd, Cosh/Cobden 3rd and Sulman/Brabham 4th. (David McKay ‘Behind The Wheel’)

Jack Brabham was present at the famous French road course that year, but as a reserve driver for the Bristol team. He got to qualify, but never received the call up to put his helmet on for the race. That may well have been one of several omens Jack was granted in 1955 and over his outstanding career.

Cooper Cars Ltd also had a presence at Le Mans with the John Brown/Edgar Wadsworth Cooper T39 1100 and the Whitehead Brothers Cooper-Jaguar that year, but it was the infancy of Jack and John’s friendship, hence no involvement with the Surbiton marque’s effort

Another instance of Brabham luck was just before he headed for home. September 17 was the Dundrod RAC Tourist Trophy meeting in Ireland, with Jack there to share the Michael O’Shea owned Cooper T39 with London driver, Jim Mayers. An inexperienced French driver, Vicomte Henri de Barry created annoyance for several drivers as he baulked their progress, with those drivers’ having to take risks to get past to further their race on the testing Irish road course. Unfortunately the situation ended as badly as it could with a fiery crash at Deer’s Leap involving several cars. Jim was one of 2 drivers to die at that crash scene – the Cooper scattered to oblivion. This event would also claim another driver, elsewhere around the course. Although not knowing otherwise, Dean Delamont had sought out Betty Brabham, thinking it was Jack involved in the main crash – only to find him in the pit. Jim and Jack had flipped a coin to decide who did the first stint. We know who won…

jack and betty

Together in the UK, Betty Brabham followed Jack mid-year. While their son, Geoffrey stayed with his grandparents in Sydney. Cooper T40 Bristol. (Jack Brabham Story)

So as can be seen there were a few familiar names that helped establish Jack Brabham in those early days in the UK – Whitehead, Chase, Cooper & Delamont. The Bristol marque also played its part with their engine and the Le Mans reserve driver gig. Through them, Jack Brabham, Jim Mayers & Mike Keen are also entwined with their 1955 Le Mans Bristol team involvement. Taking out 7th (Mayers), 8th (Keen) & 9th places behind Jaguar’s Mike Hawthorn, Ivor Bueb winning entry. It was all a taste of the next 15 years Jack would encounter in the highest levels of motor racing, including building more racing cars.

Etcetera…

jack

Jack shipped the Cooper Bristol home to Australia at the end of 1955, and in the saltbush country of the new Port Wakefield circuit, 100Km from Adelaide, won the 1955 Australian Grand Prix on 10 October. A lucky win from Reg Hunt’s ailing Maserati A6GCM and Doug Whiteford’s Talbot-Lago T26C. The first mid-engined AGP win. (unattributed)

Bibliography and Photo Credits…

‘The Jack Brabham Story’ Jack Brabham and Doug Nye, ‘Behind The Wheel’ David McKay, Bill Henderson

Finito…

 

oz miller cooper tas hillclimb

(Guy Miller)

‘Austin Cooper always drove with enthusiasm’, here it’s written all over his face as he extracts all his Cooper T41 Climax has to offer on the way to achieving FTD…

The quote is attributed to noted Australian Historian John Blanden, this car one of 6 T41’s built for F2 racing in 1956. Chassis F2-2-56 fitted with a 1.5 litre SOHC Coventry Climax FWB engine was raced with some success by Ken Wharton before being shipped to Australia together with his Ferrari 750 Monza and Maserati 250F for the ‘Olympic Grand Prix’ meeting at Albert Park in 1956.

It was later taken to NZ for the 1957 GP meeting at Ardmore, near Auckland where Wharton was tragically killed in the sports car support event when his Monza rolled.

The car returned to the UK and was acquired from The Wharton Estate by roving Aussie engineer/racer Paul England on a racing holiday. He contested F2 events at Snetterton and Mallory Park as well as the 1957 German GP at the Nurburgring.

paul england nurburgring 1957

Paul England contesting the 1957 German GP, Nurburgring in the Cooper T41. DNF. England was a Repco trained engineer, builder of the ‘Ausca’ a fabulous Holden engined sports car special in which he had a circuit racing career ending accident at Phillip Island. He later formed a very successful engineering business, won multiple Australian Hillclimb Championships in self built cars and entered cars for, and assisted drivers such as Larry Perkins. (Unattributed)

At the end of the 1957 season the car was bought by Aussie Miller who was also visiting Europe. The Cooper came into Australia in bits along with various aircraft parts, Miller an agricultural pilot…as in a very good crop-dusting pilot! A Lotus 12 was also imported in bits for Ern Tadgell, the cars taking on the names ‘Miller Special’ and ‘Sabakat’ in the best traditions of motor racing thereby avoiding the ‘fiscal fiends’ punitive import taxes otherwise applicable to imported racing cars…

The Miller Spl first raced in Australia at Phillip Island in 1958, Aussie competed in circuit racing, sprints and hillclimbs achieving class firsts in the Victorian Road Racing Championships and Victorian Trophy.

Austin then progressed to an ex-Stan Jones Cooper T51 Climax, the T41 then passed through many hands and I believe is still in Australia.

Miller fitted a Chev V8 to the Cooper T51 and set an Australian Land Speed Record, that is another vastly interesting story about this amazing racing character, driver, publican and pilot…

miller spl albert park

Aussie Miller kissing the kerb in the ‘Miller Spl’ Cooper T41, Albert Park, November 1958. (Guy Miller)

Credits…

‘History of Racing Cars in Australia’ John Blanden, Guy Miller