Ltd. built their first proper racing car in 1949 using a 1,767cc Lea-Francis engine.
Typical of small British makers of the period the company was chronically under financed
but the cars that were made were exceptionally well built. Rodney Clarke, whose creations
these were, was an outstanding design engineer who lavished his attention on details that
would never trouble his contemporaries, at Coopers or HVM. In fact this attention to even
the most minute details would retard development. Yet during his career Rodney Clarke
conceived a rear-engined GT car as early as 1950, a rear engined monocoque Formula 1 car
in 1955 and other systems such as anti-lock braking and self-leveling suspension.
Unfortunately none of these ideas ever went into production. Still Connaught was able to
maintain a small business producing Formula 2 cars.
When the new 2 1/2 liter formula was
announced in 1954 allowing Formula 2 cars to compete in Grand Prix races at the top level,
Connaught found itself competing against the top Italian firms. The main weakness of
British cars of this period was the lack of competitive engines. Coventry Climax was
planning a V8 but abandoned their plans at the last moment. This left many of the British
teams in the lurch. The horsepower available to Connaught drivers never matched the
handling, braking or cornering power of these fine machines.
Work on the new car that was meant to
accept the new V8 was stopped and a stop-gap B-Type car was quickly produced. It is
indicative of the far sightedness of Clarke that Connaught was the first Formula1 team to
own their own wind tunnel. At aerodynamicist Eric Halls suggestion the original B-Type had
a fully enveloping body though the famous Syracuse winning car had an open-wheeler
In 1955 money was running short as the
teams main backer, Ken McAlpine had grown tired of the constant red ink. The organizers of
the Syracuse Grand Prix, a non-championship event, were desperate for entrants and offered
£1000 per car for Connaught. The story of what happened next is one of Grand Prix
racing's greatest upsets, when an unknown British team found themselves facing a flotilla
of Maseratis. Driven by two young drivers including a young dental student named Tony
Brooks, the cars were late in arriving. To top it off the drivers were limited to 15
practice laps. The Italians could not help but feel confident that they would soon crush
these British upstarts. All that turned to dust as Brooks qualified to the amazement of
all including himself on the front row. The day belonged to this vastly underrated driver
who could easily have won a World Championship later in his career. The Maserati 250Fs of
Musso, Schell and Villoresi were beaten and long after the sound of racing engines had
died and all of the other teams and spectators had left the circuit, the tiny British
contingent were still celebrating in the Connaught pit. Two years later the money ran out and Rodney Clarke went back to his garage business.