Bowmaker Racing Team
Britain’s early appetite for Formula 1 success has been superbly documented in recent Porter Press publications, Vanwall – The Story of Britain’s First Formula 1 Champions, and BRM – Racing for Britain. Of course, there were other British outfits from the era whose star shone at least as brightly, Cooper, Team Lotus, etc.
It was an extraordinary time for British motorsport, with a groundswell of goodwill and support coming from all angles. Looking back, it’s easy to be distracted by the glorious success of these various ventures but there were also some that promised much more than they delivered.
When Philip Porter dropped a period Bowmaker Racing Team pamphlet onto my desk, I had to admit I’d never heard the name before. Intrigued, I read it through and hopped online for a little research. Now we’re not talking Ian Wagstaff deep-dive levels of research here, just a quick surface skim, enough to link Bowmaker Group subsidiary Yeoman Credit Limited to the British Racing Partnership (BRP) of Ken Gregory and Alfred Moss.
Most likely due to a post-season souring of the relationship, the pamphlet fails to reference the 1960 BRP sponsorship. It does mention that, ‘initial successes were achieved under the Yeoman Credit flag’, pointing to Chris Bristow’s 1959 Formula 2 victories at Snetterton and at the False Bay 100 in South Africa. Apparently these were the catalyst for a crack at Formula 1 for the 1960 season with BRP. The weapons of choice were three green and scarlet Coopers, with a best result of second at the French GP.
Cutting ties with BRP, former Aston Martin équipe race manager Reg Parnell – one of Britain's top drivers in the early post-war period before he took on team management – was hired to run the team. He wasted no time signing Roy Salvadori to partner, first, Jo Bonnier and then John Surtees for 1961. Sadly, wins for Surtees and Salvadori in two non-championship races at Goodwood and Crystal Palace respectively were the only highlights of the season.
Both Salvadori and Surtees were retained for 1962 but the big change was to partner with Lola Cars Limited and run that company’s first Formula 1 car – the new, Eric Broadley designed, Coventry Climax 1.5-litre V8-engined Lola Mk4.
It’s here that the Bowmaker pamphlet – most likely published in the first half of the 1962 season – gets a little ahead of itself…
‘They [Yeoman Credit director William Samengo-Turner and race manager Reg Parnell] have built the team into an organisation of international renown ranking with the great works teams of Ferrari, Cooper, Porsche, Lotus and B.R.M.’
One pole position at the Dutch Grand Prix and two second place finishes for Surtees in Great Britain and Germany were not enough to convince Bowmaker Limited to continue funding a motor sport campaign. Return on Investment calculations in motor racing are always hard to quantify and, perhaps, the Samengo-Turner brothers felt they had completed their stated aim to ‘support British motor racing as an aid to the development and promotion of British motor products for home and overseas markets’. Presumably, the company decided it was more lucrative to just focus on providing credit plans to the motor trade, which they did until 1982 when they were acquired by Lloyds and Scottish.
Bowmaker Racing Team – headline ambition, footnote reality.
Article by Wayne Batty
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