It’s been 65 years since the chequered flag was raised and the sound of a formula one engine reverberated across the world. But did you know that the first ever race included a Thai prince, a hare and a well known jazz musician? Well, here are five things you didn’t know about the historic moment in Silverstone.
The race had two names
The first world championships was officially called Grand Prix d’Europe – the first time the race was given this name outside Italy or France – but because it was held in the UK, it eventually took the name which we know of today, ‘The British Grand Prix’.
A Royal race
A momentous time in history such as this deserved a silver lining, and it came in the form of His Royal Highness King George VI, who attended the race with Queen Elizabeth, Princess Margaret and guests Lord and Lady Mountbatten. If this was not enough, the other royal presence was present driving a Maserati. Prince Bira, a notable racer and member of the Thai royal family was one of the 21 drivers that took part in the race. Bira, finished fifth and remains the only Thai to have raced in F1 history.
The three F’s
The biggest names of racing at that time had ‘Fa’ in all of their last names – Guiseppe ‘Nino’ Farina, Luigi Fagioli and Juan Manuel Fangio. Italian manufacturer, Alfa Romeo who were the team to beat, signed the trio who were affectionately called the ‘Three Fs’. The three predictably ran away from the rest of the grid, with Farina triumphing ahead of Fagioli by 2.6 seconds.
A Jazz musician finished 11th
Believe it or not a jazz musician named Johnny Claes was also one of the drivers. Although his success and fame was fine printed with the album ‘Johnny Claes and the Clay Pigeons’, he drove the race from being last in the grid to finish a formidable 11th, coming six laps behind Farina.
Silverstone’s open tracks made way for rather unexpected guests that evening – the Hare. The friendliest member of UK’s wildlife population managed to avoid the speeding Alfa Romeo’s, but couldn’t help but cause a dent in British driver Reg Parnell’s Alfetta. Much to the delight of the 12,000 in attendance, Parnell finished the race in third after Fangio’s Alfa had to be withdrawn with a broken oil pipe.
Well, the rest is history.