Kings of the track
TWO of the best known names in British motor racing were connected to a Formula 1 team which set the pace on tracks around the world in the 1950s.
One was Stirling Moss. The other was Colin Chapman.
But the team’s reflected neither man. Instead it combined the name of its owner and his company’s product.
The business man was Tony Vandervell and his product was Thinwall Bearings. Combined they gave the name Vanwall and its debut came in 1954.
Tony Vandervell had earlier links with motor sport being one of the backers of British Racing Motors (BRM).
Then he came up with modified Ferraris which raced in Formula Libre races under the name Thinwall Special.
The Vanwalls were also named Special and had a chassis designed by Owen Maddock and built by the Cooper Car Company.
The engines were basically four Norton 5000cc engines which were merged into a single unit.
But success did not come easily or quickly and by the end of the 1955 season it was clear that although the engine was sound there was room for improvement so far as the chassis was concerned.
And that led to the involvement of a young designer who would later become a world “name” in motor racing – Colin Chapman.
The year 1956 saw the Chapman cars ( also involved in their design was aerodynamicist Frank Costin) win a non-championship Formula 1 race at Silverstone. The driver was Stirling Moss, but that year saw him behind the wheel of a Vanwall just that once as he was under contract to drive for Maserati in Formula 1.
By 1957, though, Moss was a Vanwall driver, being joined by two other up and coming English racers, Tony Brooks and Stuart Lewis-Evans.
Moss and Brooks shared Vanwall's first Grand Prix victory in Britain at Aintree, and Moss went on to win both the Italian and Pescara Grands Prix.
All three drivers stayed with the team in 1958, and Moss and Brooks each won
three championship races that season. Vanwall became the first team to win
the Constructors Championship, held for the first time that season.
However, Moss lost out to Mike Hawthorn in the drivers' championship by a single
point. Their triumph at the end of the season was sadly marred when, during
the final race of the year in Morocco, Lewis-Evans was fatally injured in an
But fate was against Vanwall’s continuing success.
In 1958 the team entered every race for the last time. Tony Vandervell aced ill-health
and was ordered to rest. The team carried ion, but without the commitment of previous seasons. A lower and lighter car appeared under the Vanwall name in 1959 at the British Grand Prix and the following year another car made its debut in the French Grand Prix. Neither made much of an impact.
In 1961 came the last racing Vanwall, a rear engined car built for the International Formula. It failed to make an impact despite the efforts of John Surtees who drove it in two races.
For Vanwall it was the end. Their cars were not seen on the Formula 1 circuits again.
Written by The Editor - 24/11/2006 12:04:43
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