Oulton Park



Stirling Moss Wins Oulton Park Gold Cup Race for Maserati and Sets New Lap Record

Hawthorn is Second on Lancia/Ferrari’s First Appearance in this Country. German Cars Dominate Production Saloon Car Race. Morgan Beats All-Comers in Production Sports-Car Race. Boshier-Jones First in 50-Mile F. III Race.

(Further pictures in Pictorial Review centre-spread.)

Oulton Park is a true road circuit and one of the finest in the country. It is thought by some drivers to be rather narrow in view of its short straights, but during the International Gold Cup Meeting of the Mid-Cheshire M.C., sponsored by the Daily Dispatch, held there on September 24th, the victorious works Maserati driven by Stirling Moss was able to raise the lap record to 87.81 m.p.h.

Not only is Oulton Park a very fine circuit but it possesses excellent spectator-facilities and is set in very nice country, while the officials of the promoting club, under their Secretary, J. H. Smith, are full of enthusiasm and ideas of the right sort.

This meeting really was International and it is to the great credit of the Mid-Cheshire M.C. and the Daily Dispatch that we were able to see two works Maseratis, two Vanwalls, two works Connaughts and the new B.R.M., as well as two Lancia/Ferrari cars making their first, and surprise, appearance in a British race, and privately-entered Ferrari, Maserati, Connaught and Cooper-Bristol cars, in the Gold Cup Race. This, with Moss exhibiting his full virtuosity, the B.R.M., while it lasted, going exceptionally well in its first race and Vanwall and Connaught finishing third and fourth, respectively, behind Maserati and Lancia/Ferrari cars, made one of the best short races of 1955, of which the sight of four red cars on the front row of the starting-grid and three green cars on row two had given promise.

Besides a supporting F. III race it was clever of the club to include races for standard saloons and sports cars which, if productive of unspectacular speeds, did show up cars-you-can-buy in their true colours, Porsche, D.K.W. and Morgan Plus Four scoring decisive victories.

The Gold Cup Race produced an excellent entry. Ferrari brought two V8 Lancia/Ferrari cars for Hawthorn and Castellotti to drive, a pleasant surprise as these cars had not run at Monza, where the fast-banked section of the course defeated their Englebert tyres, and had never before been seen, or expected, in this country. They also brought a 625 Ferrari four-speed, long-chassis car entered by the Marquis de Portago. Maserati, whose van had made the journey from Paris in friendly company with the Ferrari transport, which it had inadvertently rammed en route to the detriment of its grille and one headlamp, brought two of the latest works Maseratis, the car Mieres had at Monza for Moss to drive and, for Musso, the car he drove at Monza.

Vandervell had entered three Vanwalls but only brought two, Harry Schell driving one and Desmond Titterington, fresh from his great Jaguar drive in the T.T., the other, Wharton’s being withdrawn when it was known that Ken, who however was a keen spectator, had decided not to drive until he is absolutely fit. Connaught had an aerodynamic car on Weber carburetters for Jack Fairman and a non-aerodynamic car with a new body for Reg Parnell. This car had the one-piece fuel tank in the tail, the oil tank in the same place, a tapering nose-cowl, and two double-choke Weber 48DC03 carburetters. Both Connaughts had Dunlop disc wheels, Dunlop disc brakes and Pirelli Stelvio tyres. Maserati were also on Pirelli tyres, the B.R.M. on R4 Dunlops.

The lone new four-cylinder B.R.M. was entrusted to Peter Collins and it was interesting to reflect that these three leading British F.1 cars all had disc brakes, the B.R.M. Dunlop, the Vanwalls, Goodyear, the Connaughts Dunlop.

Besides these works cars, Horace Gould had an early works Maserati lent to him while his ex-Bira car was being repaired (Les Leston practised on this car but apparently declined an offer of Gould’s ex-Bira Maserati for the race). Peter Walker drove Rob Walker’s very smart Connaught, Salvadori had the Gilby Eng. Co. Maserati, Marr his aerodynamic Connaught on Weber carburetters. M. F. Young his 2½-litre H.W.M.-engined Connaught, Gerard his well-known over-bored Cooper-Bristol, and Halford drove Kyffin’s Cooper-Bristol on Kyffin’s number, his own Cooper-Bristol non-starting. Other non-starters were Boulton’s Connaught and Volonterio’s Maserati.

Practice saw many in trouble. The B.R.M. had clutch trouble on the Thursday, broke an oil-pipe on the Friday, covering Collins with oil, returned, and then broke its propeller-shaft. Walker was finding the Connaught a handful, as fuel-injection means about 3½ m.p.g and necessitated starting with 54 gallons in the tank, a handful on this rather slippery course, for oil had been dropped at some places. Hawthorn was absent on the Thursday with tonsillitis and looked anything but well, driving well wrapped-up, on the Friday. Both Lancia/Ferraris seemed light at the back but this did not prevent Hawthorn from making fastest lap in 1 min. 52.4 sec. Next fastest was Moss (1 min. 52.6 sec.), followed by Musso and Castellotti (1 min. 52.8 sec.), and Schell (Vanwall) in 1 min. 53.4 sec. It is exceedingly interesting that Hawthorn was using new-type Dunlop racing tyres for practice but both Lancia/Ferraris had to be on Engleberts for the race. Moss and Musso were making 18 gear-changes a lap on their five-speed gearboxes. Hawthorn went to 8,900 r.p.m., Musso to 7,900, Moss to 7,200.

When the flag fell and the imposing field of red and green cars shot off towards the narrowing road down to the first corner, Titterington taking his Vanwall up to 8,000 r.p.m., Castellotti headed the tight-packed, jostling bunch round Esso Bend, followed by Hawthorn, Moss and Musso. By Lodge Corner Moss was in front and Collins had the sleek B.R.M. in fifth position, displacing Schell’s Vanwall. It was with a gasp that spectators realised that Moss was well in the lead at the end of the first lap, which he completed at 80.94 m.p.h. For the next few laps they were kept on their toes watching Moss working really hard as he strove to keep and increase his lead from Hawthorn’s Lancia/Ferrari, and to see the meteoric progress through the field of Collins in the B.R.M. From fifth place on lap one, Collins passed Castellotti, who was already behind Hawthorn and Musso, on lap three into fourth place, took Hawthorn’s squat, pannier-tanked Lancia/Ferrari on the next lap and was closing right up on Musso’s Maserati which was in second place, on lap nine, when Hawthorn re-passed and Collins’ splendid and inspiring drive came to an end as oil pressure vanished from the B.R.M. engine — but what a fine show in the car’s first race! Moss had been going as fast as he could, holding vicious tail slides by superb arm-work and judgment, and after five laps he led his team-mate by a comfortable margin. On this lap Castellotti lost 30 seconds telling his pit he didn’t like the way the Lancia/Ferrari was steering, and this he never regained in this hard-fought 150-mile race.

On the 10th lap, when Collins retired while in fourth place, Moss had a lead of 9.8 seconds from Musso, having averaged 85.98 m.p.h., and Musso was 6.4 seconds ahead of Hawthorn, who never seemed happy in the Lancia/Ferrari although trying very hard. Schell had the leading Vanwall a considerable way behind in fifth place, pursued by Parnell’s Connaught and Salvadori’s Maserati.

With only ten of the 54 laps run, Pairman’s Connaught had lost 30 seconds over a pit-stop, its engine misfiring badly, Milford’s Cooper-Bristol had spun off and retired with a seized engine, Gibson’s Connaught had been obliged to stop for a puncture and Gould’s Maserati had disappeared with no oil pressure.

After the 10-lap mark Moss glanced back, but team-mate Musso was by now lost to sight. Hawthorn was turning on the power good and proper, occasionally raising clouds of dust from the road’s-verges. The order was Moss, Musso, Hawthorn, Schell and, far away, Parnell, then Titterington, rapidly getting the hang of racing an F.1 car, Salvadori being left behind and Gerard chasing him, while Castellotti, not too happily, was trying to get back on the same lap as the leaders.

After 17 laps the bolts of the coupling on a drive-shaft of Schell’s Vanwall broke and this exuberant driver was out of the race, putting Titterington into fifth place. On lap 20 Moss had a lead of no less than 21.2 Seconds and the race, was in two sections, Moss, Musso, Hawthorn, Parnell and Titterington spaced out but on the same lap, Moss closing up on the last-named, with Salvadori chased by Gerard and Castellotti a lap in arrears, followed by the tourists. For ten more laps this order held, but on lap 30 the Vanwall of Titterington, beautifully handled, got the better of a steady. Parnell and took fourth place from the Connaught. Moss now led by 24.2 seconds and three laps before, going up to 7,000 r.p.m., had set the new lap record of 87.81 m.p.h. He could now afford to ease up, his wheel-twirling became almost sober and, although five laps later Musso was 34.2 seconds behind and Moss had averaged 86.64 m.p.h., he now slowed to 86.5 at 40 laps, 86.28 at 45 laps. 86.09 at 50 laps. eventually winning at 85.36 m.p.h. before catching an aeroplane to London.

The pattern of the race now seemed settled but after 46 laps Hawthorn was seen to be gaining on Musso, not because the Lancia/ Ferrari was going faster but because, the unfortunate Maserati driver, who had held second place so ably, lost first top, then fourth, then third, and finally all the gears in the box, retiring on lap 40 (after the race he had a ride in, lying along one of the fuel tanks of Castellotti’s Lancia/ Ferrari).

Otherwise, no changes amongst the leaders, Moss crossing the line amid loud acclaim, 1 min. 0.2 sec. ahead of Hawthorn, with Titterington and Parnell (his car distinguishable by in yellow nose-band) a lap behind, losing power through one magneto being defective; Salvadori two laps behind.

Of the remainder, those who were not stringing along behind had retired, Marr’s Connaught spinning off, likewise Portago’s Ferrari at Lodge Corner, after which it wouldn’t restart, the gearbox probably seized, while the gear-change of Walker’s Connaught became stiffer and stiffer to operate and he spun off when the transmission seized, and earlier the car had lost two 1½ minutes while a fuel blockage was cleared. On lap 16 Portago had lost 1½ minutes while the rev.counter drive was examined, and Fairman had a total of three pitstops, involving a loss of eight minutes while ignition and carburation checks were made to cure misfiring. 

It was an eminently satisfactory race and the result Maserati, Lancia/ Ferrari, Vanwall, Connaught a good portent for 1956.

 * * *

Apart from this excellent Geld Cup Race the supporting races were good value.

The Standard Production Saloon-Car Race was a walk-over for J. B. Naylor’s Porsche Super, which some people might have called a sports car but which had been happily accepted as a standard saloon. Behind Naylor, C. A. S. Brooks gave his usual polished demonstration in a three-cylinder D.K.W. and Boshier-Jones was driving his Austin A50 right on the limit in third place. Apart from this the race was dull, because only seven started in the two classes.

After three laps Simister’s Ford Anglia took Crummack’s VW and on the second lap Goddard’s Standard Eight slid at Old Hall Corner, over-corrected, slid the other way and caused Wake’s Renault 750 to swerve off onto the grass on the inside of the course and tip onto two wheels in taking avoiding action, just like the Southend Arterial in the rush-hour! The Porsche won the 1,001-1,000-c.c. class, the D.K.W. the up-to-1,000-c.c. category, both with consummate ease, the Porsche 5.7 m.p.h. faster than the hurrying Austin. No one retired.

The 50-Mile Formula III race was a victory for Boshier-Jones. Cooper, chased by Colin Davis, who drove the Francis Beart Cooper-Norton in place of Leston, Allison’s Cooper corning through to finish third. Out of a battle between Don Parker’s Kieft, Bicknell’s Revis and Taylor’s Cooper it was Parker who came through, only to be overtaken by S. Lewis-Evans’ Cooper, until Parker closed right up and re-passed into fourth place on lap 13. Too many drivers still hold onto the body with one hand while steering with the other in these races, offenders on this occasion being Higham, Symonds and Howard. Boshier-Jones worked hard at his steering but Davis less so. Retirements included Higham’s Cooper, which shed its cylinder, and Phillipson’s Staride which shed a rear wheel, the driver being slightly hurt.

Very informative was the 84-Mile (30-lap) Standard Production Sports-Car Race. It seemed that a genuine attempt was made to limit this to normal cars, which must not exceed £1,500 in price. The entry was informative in itself, consisting of 13 Triumph TR2s, six Austin-Healeys, six A.C. Aces, four Morgans and a Ione Sunbeam Alpine. In fact, only two Austin-Healeys, eleven Triumph TR2s, four A.C. Aces. two Morgan Plus Fours and the Sunbeam Alpine started. There had been some complaint from A.C. that the Austin-Healeys possessed Le Mans modifications, but no one need have worried, because, although Peter Reece (Morgan) led away from the Le Mans start, very soon Scott and Corlett were duelling in their Austin-Healeys away ahead of the field until, on lap eight. Corlett lost his at Old Hall Corner, overturning, unhurt, and involving Scott. This left the road clear for Reece, who showed that the back of a Morgan Plus Four may leap about on the bumps and you have to work on the steering, but it is it splendidly stable car round the corners. Not so Standbridge’s A.C. Ace, which tail-slid at the slightest provocation and was left well behind, while de Mattos’ A.C. Ace could also make no impression on the Morgan, which at half-distance was 39 seconds in the lead. James Tilling, over the p.a., had said, when the Austin-Healeys were leading, that here was the answer to those who, in bars up and down the land, had debated whether an Austin-Healey is faster than a TR2. But at Oulton Park they have corners and  now, behind the AC Aces, came a fine gaggle of TR2s, lead by Wallwork’s wire-wheeled model (For the record, three of the TR2s had wire wheels, eight had disc wheels and all used a small aero-screen before the driver. In addition, Naylor’s had a racing exhaust note but Taylor’s sounded very woolly.) Looker’s battered four-seater Morgan Plus Four stopped at its pit, Hurrell’s Triumph TR2 shed the near-side front wheel, Maude’s TR2 ran a big-end after a fast run and Newby’s TR2 left the road at Esso Corner and retired after trying hard to catch Les Brooke’s TR2. So ended an instructive race, Peter Reece’s Morgan easily the safest and most impressive sports car running, aided by Dunlop racing tyres. The Sunbeam Alpine of Dixon went so slowly that it, confirmed our opinion that this isn’t a sports car.

We came away from Oulton Park very impressed with the excellence of the circuit, set in pleasent Donington-style country, the arrangements, G. Grant as commentator, and the racing. Let us have more real racing of this sort at this course next year. Incidentally, the VW averaged exactly 40 m.p.g. on Esso Extra on the journey up and just over 41 m.p.g. on National Benzole on the return run. — W.B.