The starter up on his podium at the left has dropped the Union Jack and turns away as the two BRMs explode at the start of The Woodcote Cup Formula Libre race for Grand Prix cars at Goodwood on September 27, 1952. Nearest the camera is Reg Parnell’s BRM while across the grid is a sister car driven by Froilán González. The next car behind Parnell’s BRM is Tony Vandervell’s modified Ferrari 375 F1 called the Thinwall Special, thereby advertising Vandervell thin wall bearings, which is being driven by the 1950 World Champion Giuseppe “Nino” Farina who was a nephew of the famous designer Battista “Pinin” Farina. On the other side of Farina’s Thinwall is Alan Brown in his Cooper-Bristol. Ken Wharton’s BRM was to be on the front row next to González, but failed to fire up and was pushed away.
The victory would go to González with Farina second and Parnell third. The race was only five laps – based on historic BRM performance, the two remaining BRMs might not have lasted much more than that! As it was, the Thinwall broke its back axle coming out of the Chicane on the last lap and coasted over the finish line.
This short race was one of the very few that the BRMs actually finished. But not to be outdone, all three BRMs then finished the last race of the afternoon, The Goodwood Trophy with González wining from Parnell and Wharton. The Thinwall was sidelined after its rear axle failure in The Woodcote Cup. Fourth after the BRMs was Dennis Poore in a two-liter Connaught.
Originally designed in the late 1940s, and using some design techniques developed by Mercedes-Benz before the war, the 1.5 liter V16 BRM was a stunningly powerful device which never achieved its potential. At the end of its time it was developing over 700 hp. Lack of funds and discipline for development led to seemingly endless reliability failures. First entered for the Daily Express race at Silverstone in 1950, the BRM was late arriving and broke its driveline at the start, the first of many such embarrassments. When the original F1 regulations were abandoned in 1952 with the adoption of F2 for the World Championship, the BRMs were entered in Formula Libre races as here and continued to appear sporadically up into 1955.
Photo by Alan R. Smith ©The Klemantaski Collection