The #F1 Bar Exam: 21st August 2014

Welcome to another week of TheJudge13 F1 Bar Exam.

Last week’s question(s): Can you name the driver, team, race and track where the photo was taken. Can you also name the car (type) and where the driver finished in the race?

Joe Kelly at the 1950 British Grand PrixThe answer(s) I was looking for were: The picture shows Irish privateer Joe Kelly driving his Alta GP3 at the 1950 British Grand Prix at Silverstone. He qualified 19th and on the last row of the grid, over 15 seconds behind Farina who was on pole. He managed to finish 13th but wasn’t classified as he had only completed 57 laps, 13 laps behind race winner Farina and less than 90% of race distance. Fangio was 12th but retired at 62 laps with an oil leak.

Triumph in Formula One is invariably reliant on multiple interlocking pieces, all falling into place at the right time. It demands a creative designer, cutting edge technology, a swift engine, reliable machinery, a driver able to push the car to its limits but not to breaking point, and possibly most importantly, money…a lot of money. It also requires having all the stars align at exactly the same time…i.e. luck! Alta had the first three, at least sometimes, but unfortunately three out of six isn’t enough for ultimate success in Formula One.

The 1950 British Grand Prix was the inaugural race of the new Formula One World Championship. At the back of the grid were two locals driving Alta’s, the first British single seater racing car to be built after the cessation of World War Two. Even in those now distant times factory teams had the brains and more importantly the capital to outspend and outpace the opposition that may have had passion and intellect but little funds to back it up.

The Alta was the brain child of brilliant engineer Geoffrey Taylor. Taylor had constructed his first car in his father’s stables in 1928 at the age of 25. It was a road-going sports car which he called an Alta. In 1931 he formed the Alta Car and Engineering Company and he specialised in making handmade racing cars to order. Prior to WW2 he built 12 cars which were known for their speed, but unfortunately tended to be unreliable. He spent most of his company’s profits funding his own racing, using his original prototype car in sprints and speed trials, continually upgrading it with all his latest developments.

During World War 2 Alta’s engineering capabilities were consigned to the war effort, but as soon as the war was over Taylor began collecting the materials needed for constructing the new design he had been developing. Due to the post war shortage of materials It took three years to construct and over the next couple of years he made three cars, all of which he sold privately. He was a cut above the majority of the private manufacturers in that he designed and manufactured the complete car: not only the chassis, suspension and coachwork but the engine as well! Even in 1950 this degree of individual autonomy was rare in the building of a Formula One car – they were already a dying breed to the might of the major car manufacturers, multiple departments and immense monetary backing.

Taylor redesigned his post war chassis to be more aerodynamic and further refined the independent suspension he had been working on previously. It was powered by a supercharged 1.5 L engine that he had also designed and built himself. He used a tubular chassis to lower the overall weight but unfortunately reliability continued to be a problem.

Irishman Joe Kelly bought one of Taylor’s cars, the GP3, in 1950 which he used to compete extensively around Ireland. Kelly was a keen amateur who funded his car racing endeavours with the proceeds from his car dealership (at one stage having the Irish Ferrari dealership rights). The high point of his racing career was third place in the 1952 Ulster Trophy at Dundrod in which he beat a Ferrari and a Talbot. He raced at both the 1950 and 1951 British Grand Prix but though he finished them both he was unclassified due to not completing 90% of the race distance.

The Alta GP car didn’t have much success in Formula One, competing in four events with their best placed finish being when Geoffrey Crossley managing to get a 9th at the 1950 Belgium Grand Prix. Taylor and his customers never had enough financial resources to continue to develop the car, and his cars were never shown to their potential as they were only being driven by amateurs. The Taylor designed Alta engine did far better. He was able to sell them to the HWM and Connaught teams and their high point would be when Tony Brooks gave Britain its first Grand Prix victory for over 30 years when he would beat the works Maserati’s at the non-championship Syracuse Grand Prix of 1955 driving his Connaught with an Alta engine.

Well done Cassius42, Taflach, Ken, Johnny, and Milestone11!

This week’s question(s): Can you name the driver, team, race and track where the photo was taken. Can you also name the car (type) and where the driver finished in the race?


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