Like buses, you wait sixty years for an anniversary and two come along at once. Three if you count the British Empire Trophy and the Scottish Rally in last week’s blog. The third is the 1955 British Grand Prix at Aintree, the first grand prix I watched and the first that Stirling Moss won. Kept the programme. I kept the programmes of almost all the hundred or so grands prix, as well as Le Mans, sports car races, rallies and other events I covered as a journalist. Some still have scribbled lap charts – not all accurate or even complete. Press rooms – if there were any - weren’t spoon-fed from television links.
The Aintree jacket looks quaint, with its wingless front-engined 250F Maserati and Daily Telegraph sponsorship. An early car, this was 2509, bought by Alfred Owen to gain experience of Formula 1 while BRM was in disarray. It only produced 208bhp instead of the claimed 240, and had Dunlop die-cast aluminium wheels when photographed at the Daily Express Silverstone with Peter Collins. There were four works and four private Maseratis in the grand prix, very nearly as quick as the Mercedes-BenzW196s, Collins was quickest of them but six retired. The Ferraris were outclassed. One finished three laps in arrears.
Mercedes-Benz filled the first four places in the race round the Grand National course, without the jumps; the road (built by Tarmac Ltd the greatest name in road construction according to the programme) I suppose now used by camera cars covering the horse racing. Karl Kling and Piero Taruffi drove the other Mercedes behind Moss and Fangio. A couple of times during the 90laps Fangio passed Moss but the 25 year old held the lead to the end, when Fangio closed up almost level when they took the chequered flag. That was what we had come to see. Moss fresh from his triumph in the Mille Miglia, Mercedes-Benz under Alfred Neubauer the best motor racing team in the world. The winner got £500 and the Daily Telegraph Trophy (value £100). Bonus thrill at Aintree. We SAW the Mercedes-Benz racing car transporter (below with Fangio) while we were trying to chat up some girls. The transporter was far more interesting. We were geeky.
Race day was hot. The race took three hours and we watched from the Steeplechase Enclosure furthest from the pits and grandstand, where standing room cost five shillings (25p) although my guess is that three of us in Ronnie Abbott’s TR2 got in on the combined admission and on-the-course parking for £1.10.0 (£1.50). Moss was on pole with a practice lap of 2.00.4 while right at the back of the grid alongside Collins in the Maserati Jack Brabham qualified his Cooper-Bristol mid-engined converted sports car on 2.27.4. Overtaken by the Mercedes’ within six laps, it took Brabham four years to become World Champion.