There is nothing sadder in this sometimes cruel sport than the death of an emerging star before that talent can be realised. Chris Bristow was one such youngster, killed just as he began his Grand Prix career. Fast, courageous, humorous and likable were frequent words of eulogy but reckless could easily be added.
Early racing career
Bristow raced an MG in 1956 and national success in Cooper and Elva sports cars in successive seasons drew attention from Ken Gregory’s British Racing Partnership concern for 1959. Early Formula 2 outings that year included an accident at Oulton Park in which Bill Moss broke his arm but Bristow finished third in the London Trophy at Crystal Palace.
Grand Prix driver
Tenth on his world championship debut in the British GP at Aintree when driving an F2 Cooper T51-Borgward, he won the John Davy Trophy against a quality field at Brands Hatch. It was no surprise that he was part of BRP’s Formula 1 line-up for 1960 – the team now renamed Yeoman Credit Racing Team in deference to new sponsors.
The year started with the South African season and Bristow won at Cape Town despite needing 22 stitches in his knee, shoulder and elbow after rolling in the supporting touring car race. He then qualified on pole position and finished third in the Glover Trophy at Goodwood. Fourth on the grid for the Monaco GP, he retired from that and in Holland a week later.
The tragic 1960 Belgian Grand Prix
And so on to Spa-Francorchamps. The Belgian GP started under a cloud with Stirling Moss and Mike Taylor both seriously injured during qualifying. Bristow started in the midfield but was up to sixth having just passed Willy Mairesse on lap 19. However, he made a mistake in the ultra-fast Burneville corner and his pale green Cooper crashed at high speed.
Bristow was thrown clear and killed instantly. The mood only grew more sombre when Alan Stacey also lost his life during the race. The 1960 Belgian GP was one of motor racing’s darkest days and Bristow was lost before his talent could be tamed or assessed.