CONSTRUCTORS: CONNAUGHT ENGINEERING
Name: Connaught Engineering
Kenneth McAlpine of the famous civil engineering family funded the Connaught team in 1950 with engineers Rodney Clark and Mike Oliver as his partners. They opened workshops in the village of Send, outside Woking in Surrey and their first project was a sportscar, but for 1951 they decided to build a Formula 2, powered by a four-cylinder, two-liter Lea-Francis engine.
The car was debuted by Oliver in the Rufforth Stakes in July 1951 on the runways of Gamston Airfield in Nottinghamshire and a month later was raced to second place by McAlpine in the Daily Mail Trophy at Boreham. For the 1952 season there were more ambitious plans with a works team and customer cars. The factory cars were driven by McAlpine, Clark, Ken Downing and others and showed well at the British GP where Downing, Eric Thompson and Dennis Poore all qualified in the top 10. Poore finished fourth with Thompson fifth. Downing also raced at the Dutch GP that summer while Mike Hawthorn raced a car at Turnberry in Scotland and won what was a fairly minor race. The cars reappeared at the Italian GP but without success although Downing won the Madgwick Cup that autumn at Goodwood and Poore, McAlpine and Oliver finished 1-2-3 in a minor event at Charterhall that October.
The cars had shown sufficiently well in 1952 to attract the attention of Belgian Johnny Claes and he bought a car for 1953 and ran it in yellow Belgian national racing colors at races all over Europe. The factory team entered Roy Salvadori and John Coombs and the customers increased in Britain with Rob Walker buying a car for Eric Thompson and later Tony Rolt. At the International Trophy Salvadori finished second to Hawthorn's Ferrari with Rolt third and as the summer progressed Rolt won a string of victories at Crystal Palace, Snetterton, Oulton Park and Thruxton, while Thompson also won in the car. McAlpine continued to drive and won a minor event at Snetterton but the factory team was less successful, although Stirling Moss drove one of the cars at the Dutch GP. Prince Bira also guested for the team but international success was limited. Claes finished third at Pau and Bira came home seventh at the British GP. In August Ron Flockhart joined the works team at Charterhall and he and Salvadori finished second and third while Jack Fairman partnered Salvadori and McAlpine at the Italian GP and went on to race at Modena. The year ended with Salvadori winning the Madgwick Cup at Goodwood.
With the new Formula 1 in 1954 Connaught decided to concentrate on customer cars and a variety of teams used the cars with some success. The fastest was usually Don Beauman in a car owned by Sir Jeremy Boles but he was outpaced at Crystal Palace by Peter Collins at the wheel of Rob Walker's car. They finished second and third.
Towards the end of the year Clark designed the Connaught type B which was fitted with 2.5-liter Alta engines and the car was debuted by Rolt in the Glover Trophy at Goodwood. He retired but Beauman, in an old A, finished third. That year saw the B type being developed and A types still being raced to good effect. Beauman was killed in a sportscar accident in Ireland and the fastest Connaught A type racer was a 22-year-old dental student called Tony Brooks who finished fourth in the London Trophy in July. There were some more minor placings in British races and then the team took the unusual decision to enter a couple of cars in the non-championship F1 race at Pescara at the end of October. Despite the presence of five Maserati factory cars and a pair of Gordinis, Brooks won the race by nearly a minute giving Connaught the first British victory on the Continent since 1924.
The 1956 season was a disappointment, however, despite the best efforts of a string of factory drivers including Archie Scott-Brown, Jack Fairman, Desmond Titterington, Ron Flockhart and Stuart Lewis-Evans. Scott-Brown and Titterington finished second and third in the International Trophy and Fairman was fourth at the British GP. Flockhart ended up with the best result of the year with third at the Italian GP.
Lewis-Evans and Fairman were joined by Ivor Bueb in 1957 but results proved more difficult. Bueb was third at Pau and Lewis-Evans and Fairman finished 1-2 in the Glover Trophy but the best World Championship result was Lewis-Evans's fourth at Monaco. After that the cars were not seen again. Money had run out and at the end of the year the factory was closed.
Two of the cars were bought by Lewis-Evans's manager Bernie Ecclestone and were entered at various races early in 1958 but they were not competitive. Ecclestone, Paul Emery and others tried to qualify them but after the British GP they were not seen again.
Emery completed the construction of the C type, which had been designed by Clark and this was sold to Bob Said in the United States. He ran it at the US GP at Sebring in 1959 and qualified but retired on the first lap of the race. The car was modified and in 1962 Said tried to qualify it for the Indianapolis 500.