2 July 2015 by Liz
I’m an archaeologist at the Museum of Liverpool, so this blog relates to history which is a bit modern for me, but in my down-time I follow Formula One motorsport and have an interest in its history.
This weekend’s British Grand Prix marks the 60th anniversary of the first time a British Driver won a Grand Prix on home soil. The 1955 British Grand Prix was held at Aintree, and Sir Stirling Moss took the chequered flag ahead of his team-mate Juan Manuel Fangio. Moss described, many years later, that having overtaken Fangio, “I thought, well, I’m just going to go as hard as I possibly can, which is what I did, and he was just right behind me”.
Sir Stirling Moss is now frequently considered to be the most talented driver never to become Formula One World Champion. He described winning at Aintree in 1955, his first Grand Prix victory, “in front of your own crowd, obviously that is terribly special”. Moss took the Aintree Automobile Racing Circuit Lap Record Trophy that day and on three other occasions. This is on display in the Wondrous Place gallery in the Museum of Liverpool. He went on to win the Monaco Grand Prix the following year, taking the two most prestigious Grand Prix wins for a British driver.
In 1955 the Formula One season was curtailed due to safety concerns following a terrible tragic accident at the Le Mans 24 Hour race, in which driver, Pierre Levegh and 83 spectators were killed. With fewer-than-planned races in the season Moss was unable to catch-up on the points lead Fangio gained early in the season. Fangio won the World Championship with 40 points, including four race wins. Moss’s 23 points gained him second place.
Aintree, now better know for races on four legs than four wheels, had a Motorsport circuit, built in 1954. This was Britain’s first purpose-built racing circuit, others converted from earlier functions such as airfields. A plaque celebrating its completion is on display in the Wondrous Place gallery. Aintree hosted the British Grand Prix alternate years with Silverstone between 1955 and 1961, with a final Grand Prix held at Aintree in 1962.
Moss considered Aintree to be a “great venue” even if the circuit was “hard on breaks”. He remembers, “we had to cross… where they had the horses go, in a couple of places”.
Aintree’s Grand Prix days ended after the 1962 race, which was attended by an eight year old boy named Nigel Mansell, whose career choice was initially inspired by watching Jim Clark’s victory there in a Lotus. The route of the Grand Prix circuit is now bisected by Melling Road. A shortened motorsport circuit is still used for motorcycle races and track days.
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