10 March 2020

Fascinating F1 Facts: 98 - A similar tale...

William Ronald Flockhart was tall, good-looking, fair-haired and something of a lady killer. He came from a comfortable background in Edinburgh where he attended Daniel Stewart’s College before going on to study engineering at Edinburgh University. After graduating he joined the Corps of the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (REME), being commissioned in January 1944 and seeing active service in the Italian campaigns later that year. He would remain in the REME until 1951, but whent he war ended he began competing in motorcycle scrambling before switching to cars in 1948, starting out with an MG before trying out single-seaters with a 500cc Cooper. He also learned to fly in a Tiger Moth.

He left the army in 1951 and went to work in a textile business in Edinburgh, but racing had by then become a passion and he began competing in Formula Libre and in hillclimbs with pre-war ERAs. Some success led to him being offered a BRM drive in 1953. He left his job and turned professional. He made his F1 debut at the British GP in 1954, sharing a Maserati 250F with Prince Bira. Alhough he did a lot of testing for BRM his F1 career was rather intermittent but it was in sports cars that he really made an impact, winning the Le Mans 24 Hours in an Ecurie Ecosse Jaguar D-Type in 1956. He appeared a few weeks later at the British GP in a BRM but the engine failed quickly. The Le Mans victory led to an invitation to drive for Connaught at the Italian GP and he made a big impression by finishing third behind Stirling Moss and a Ferrari shared by Peter Collins and Juan Manuel Fangio. He won Le Mans a second time in 1957 but then crashed a BRM at the French GP and suffered burns. A year later he crashed while taking part in practice for a sports car race at Rouen, hitting an ambulance in his Lotus 15 and suffering from crushed vertebrae and broken ribs. He was back in action in 1959 and beat Jack Brabham and Bruce McLaren to win the Lady Wigram Trophy in January and finished sixth at the French GP. In the autumn he won the Silver City Trophy F1 race at Snetterton (beating Brabham again).

In 1960 he was recruited by Team Lotus after the death of Alan Stacey at Spa and finished sixth at the French GP. At the end of the year he raced a factory Cooper in the United States GP at Riverside.

It was then that United Dominions Trust, which was sponsoring the UDT Laystall F1 team asked him to try to break the record of flying between Sydney and London using a World War II Mustang fighter. He had to abandon his attempt after suffering engine problems in Athens.

He was back out in New Zealand in 1962 to race for Lotus and to prepare for a second Sydney-London record attempt with another Mustang. As part of his preparations he set off from Melbourne’s Morabbin Airport to fly to Bankstown in Sydney on April 12. He ran into cloud in the Dandenong Ranges, to the east of Melbourne and crashed near the village of Kallista.

He was 38. 

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