We are on the grid just before the start at Silverstone of the second Heat of the International Daily Express Trophy Race, a non-championship event for Formula 1 cars, on August 26, 1950. This race was run in two Heats and a Final with the finishers in each Heat competing in the Final. The first thing you might notice is that these were the days before helmets became required so most drivers wore cloth or leather head coverings.
Standing on the left with his arms crossed is Alberto Ascari who will be driving a Ferrari 125/F1. He will spin out and retire from the Heat. Peeking over Ascari’s left shoulder, next to a mechanic, with his goggles on his head is the French driver Yves Giraud-Cabantous who will drive a Talbot-Lago T26C. He would finish eighth in this Heat and seventh in the Final. In the middle wearing a leather jacket is Dorino Serafini. He was not entered in the Trophy race but had come to England with Ascari to drive a Scuderia Ferrari 166MM sports car in a support race along with Ascari who won that race with another 166MM. To Serafini’s left, wearing his trademark Suixtil shirt is the great Juan Manuel Fangio who will drive an Alfa Romeo 158. He would win this Heat and then finish second to his team leader Giuseppe “Nino” Farina in the Final. Farina would go on to win the F1 World Championship in this its first year. Standing at the right of the photograph is Alec Francis “Rivers” Rivers-Fletcher. Rivers-Fletcher had been deeply involved with motor racing since the 1920s and was now writing the chronicle of the BRM V16 engine project. BRM was present at Silverstone to great excitement and would start a car from the back of the grid with Raymond Sommer at the wheel, but only to break its driveshaft on the starting line for the first of many such mechanical disappointments.
Alberto Ascari was a great talent and became World Champion in 1952 and 1953. He would die in an unexplained testing accident at Monza in May 1955. Yves Giraud-Cabantous had begun his racing career in the early 1930s and continued to race both F1 and then sports cars until he retired in 1957. Teodoro “Dorino” Serafini began racing motorcycles before the War and raced sports and F1 cars for Ferrari afterwards. He had a serious accident during the 1951 Mille Miglia which ended his racing career but he continued to attend historic motoring events until his death in 2000. Juan Manuel Fangio would win the first of his five World Championships in 1951 driving an Alfa 159. He retired in 1958, becoming the Mercedes-Benz distributor for Argentina. A. F. Rivers-Fletcher continued as a hill climb driver, motoring historian and broadcaster. His obituary in the Independent in 1999 described him as, “…a profoundly dedicated custodian of what remains of [motorsport’s] old Corinthian spirit and the last link with that glamorous group of square-jawed sybarites from the 1920s known as the “Bentley Boys.”
Photo by Louis Klemantaski ©The Klemantaski Collection