First Grand Prix

Nigel, what was your first:
(a) motor race meeting, and (b) F1 Grand Prix?
Steve Wilkinson

(1954 British Empire Trophy, Oulton Park. Duncan Hamilton leads Tony Rolt (both Jaguar))

Dear Steve,

The first motor race meeting I can remember was the 1954 Gold Cup at Oulton Park. I was born in Manchester, and for the first 20 years of my life Oulton was my local circuit: I thought - and still think - it is the best track in the country.

August 7 1954 is a seminal date in my mind, for it was my first day around Grand Prix cars, and the day I resolved somehow to spend my life around them. Already my hero was Jean Behra, and there he was, in the blue Gordini. In delight I watched him lead the first couple of laps; in despair I watched him pull off, magneto broken.

However, there was much else to see, notably S Moss, whose Maserati 250F had arrived from Italy only that morning, obliging him to start from the back. By lap four he was at the front, away into a race of his own.

I was eight, and knew it all. "There's Moss," I said to the kid next to me at the fence. "There's Salvadori... Parnell..." A blue Connaught went by. "There's Daddy," said the kid.

In a single day, therefore, I not only fell in love for life, but also learned the beginnings of humility. The sight and sound of Grand Prix cars - particularly that red Maserati - captivated me. And it was only a month or two before I forgave my old man for being a doctor, rather than a driver.

I never liked Aintree anything like as much as Oulton, for it was flat and featureless, but nevertheless it was there, in 1955, that I saw my first Grand Prix - again won by Stirling, heading a Mercedes 1-2-3-4.

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