Former F1 driver and constructor Ken McAlpine is celebrating his 90th birthday today.
Born into the dynasty of wealthy civil engineering barons – who pioneered the use of concrete in construction – he developed an interest in motor racing in his late twenties. After acquiring a Whitney Straight Maserati 8CM, he took it to Mike Oliver and rodney Clark, who were Bugatti specialists with Continental Cars, who prepared and developed the car for him.
Impressed with their work, he agreed to fund the construction of a sports car in 1950, and so founded the Connaught Engineering team. Their first formula car was a Formula 2 powered by a four-cylinder, 2-litre Lea-Francis engine. McAlpine took one of the cars to a second place at the Daily Mail Trophy event in Boreham, which led to an expansion in the operation to form a works team.
As the company expanded, the likes of Reg Parnell, Mike Hawthorn and Stirling Moss joined the fray, and when Formula 2 regulations were adopted for the 1953 Formula 1 World Championship, they debuted in the championship, although rarely proved competitive against the international machines. That being said, they did spring the odd surprise, such as when Tony Brooks won the non-championship Syracuse race in 1955, beating the factory Maserati squad, which was the first British victory on the continent in over 30 years.
McAlpine was finding less time to contest races by 1955, and so stood down to allow the likes of Archie Scott-Brown, Ron Flockhart and Stuart Lewis-Evans to front the attack.
But by 1957, the Connaught group had run out of funding, and much of the assets were sold off to Lewis-Evans’ manager, one Bernard Ecclestone esq., they were rarely competitive.
McAlpine returned to work in the family business and also ran his own subsidiary companies on the side, which included McAlpine Helicopters. He also established that Lamberhurst Winery in Kent, and was an active proponent of wine-growing in the UK.
[Original image via GP Total]