Desmond Titterington

Desmond Titterington

1/5/1928 - 13/4/2002

The Ulsterman may have driven in only a single Grand Prix but he was a very fine driver indeed, and had he not chosen to suddenly retire from competition at the end of the 1956 season would quite probably have become a household name.

Desmond Titterington was born in Cultra, a small village near the town of Holywood in County Down, Northern Ireland. His cousin, Ian, also raced. His father was a flax and yarn merchant in Belfast.

Durning WWII Desmond was sent to school in Scotland and, in 1946, he went on to university at St Andrews. There he met up and became good frinds with one Archie Scott-Brown, little knowing at the time that they would both go on to be racing drivers.

Desmond returned to Belfast in 1950 and bought a J2 MG. He installed a light alloy one litre Fiat Balilla engine. With it he started competing in driving tests, a few minor club races, trials and hillclimbs.

He sold the MG and in 1951 he aquired a Fiat Balilla from Pat Melville, who later became part of Ecurie Ecosse. He had some good results with the Fiat, finishing 2nd at Phoenix Park and 3rd in the Champion Trophy at Dundrod.

That year he also took a Sunbeam MG to 3rd at Newtonards, an Allard to 6th in the Wakefield Trophy and, sharing an MG TD with Ernie McMillen, he came 3rd in class in the Alpine Rally.

His next car was a new Allard J2X with which he took on a full season of racing in 1952. He finished 6th on it's debut at the Curragh and took victory in the Leinster Trophy. In hillclimbs he set fastest times and records at Bo'ness and Rest-and-be-Thankful.

For 1953 he continued to race the Allard, taking a win at Phoenix Park in a handicap race and finished 2nd at Kirkistown. He had a number of other good results, winning his class at the Craigantlet Hillclimb on two occasions and setting records again at Bo'ness and Rest-and-be-Thankful. In September he shared Robert Dickson's Aston

Martin DB3 finishing 6th in the Tourist Trophy and shortly afterwards received an invitation to join Ecurie Ecosse, finishing 4th on his debut at Snetterton and then taking a 2nd and a 4th at Charterhall in a Frazer Nash.

He started 1954 driving a Jaguar to 6th on the Monte Carlo Rally with Ronnie Adams. He then won the Whitsun Handicap race at Goodwood in his Triumph TR2 and the Baird Trophy at Kirkistown. He also took a class win at the Carncastle Hill Climb and 2nd overall on the Circuit of Ireland. Driving for Ecurie Ecosse he took a win and a number of podium finishes at Snetterton, another win at Oulton Park and a creditable 6th in the British GP support race for sports cars. He drove with Joe Kelly in the latter's Ferrari 750 Monza at the Tourist Trophy and won the Leinster Trophy in another Ferrari.

Jaguar offered him a works drive for 1955 though he continued to race for Ecurie Ecosse after Jimmy Stewart, Jackie's brother, retired after a bad crash. He won the Newcastle Junior Trophy at Charterhall, the Ulster Trophy at Dundrod and another race at Snetterton all in Jaguar D-Types. Driving with Ninian Sanderson, he came second in the BARC 9 Hour race at Snetterton. He finished second again in the John Brown Trophy at Charterhall and took a number of other podiums and class wins.

He drove in the Tourist Trophy with Mike Hawthorn, with the pair leading until just one lap from the finish when Hawthorn made a mistake. Desmond received offers from both Mercedes and Ferrari to drive in the Targa Florio. He chose Mercedes and joined the team that included Fangio, Kling, Hans Hermann, Moss and Peter Collins. Desmond was teamed with John Fitch and they took their Mercedes 300SL to a respectable 4th place finish.

He also raced single seaters driving in the non-championship International Gold Cup F1 race at Oulton Park giving the Vanwall it's debut.  He qualified 6th, behind Hawthorn and Eugenio Castellotti in Lancia-Ferraris, Moss and Luigi Musso in Maserati 250Fs, and Harry Schell in another Vanwall. He finished an incredible 3rd, albeit a lap down on Moss and Hawthorn.

In 1956 he once again drove for both the works Jaguar team and Ecurie Ecosse in D-Types. Domestically he won at Goodwood and finished 2nd at Aintree twice and finished 3rd in the British GP support race. Later that day he raced in his only Grand Prix. In April he had raced in the non-championship Syracuse GP in the Alta engined Connaught B-Type. He qualified 8th but retired with ignition problems in the race.

He next raced in the Aintree 200, where he qualified the Connaught in an amazing 3rd place ahead of Moss in a Maserati 250F. His old friend Scott-Brown was on pole in another Connaught. Both Scott-Brown and Desmond retired with Moss going on to take the win.

At the BRDC International Trophy at Silverstone, though he didn't qualify so well, starting from 8th place just behind Scott-Brown, he finihsed 3rd behind Scott-Brown and Moss who once again won in the Vanwall.

Then came his once World Championship appearance. He qualified the Connaught in an impressive 11th place, once again just behind Scott-Brown, also in a Connaught. In a field of 28 cars he out qualified Alfonso de Portago in a works Ferrari, Cesare Perdisa and Jean Behra in works Maseratis, Maurice Trintignant, Luigi Villoresi and Sir Jack Brabham in a private Maserati. After a poor start he made his way back up to 11th but with 27 laps to go the engin in his Connaught destroyed itself. And that was that for what could have been an amazing Grand Prix career.

In sports cars he competed in international events finishing 3rd at Reims with Jack Fairman and 7th at Rouen. He sharing a Jaguar XK140 with Hawthorn and Briggs Cunningham at the Sebring 12 Hour race in America, unfortunatley retiring when the brakes failed. He drove a D Type at the Nurburgring 1000kms with Mike Hawthorne, but once again retired. He also raced in Sweden at Kristianstadt and at the Le Mans with Paul Frére in one of the Ecurie Ecosse in D-Types. However Frére was involved in an accident on the second lap.

Then at the end of the year he retired form circuit racing to concentrate on his business interests and his new family.

He did take part in the Alpine Rally in 1958, finishing 3rd in class with a Triumph TR3.

He also took part and won the Armagh Sporting Trial in an Alexis in 1963 the Irish Experts and Carlig Lead Mines Trials in 1964. He was also second at Slieve Croob, again in an Alexis. His last motoring event was in 1966 finishing 5th in the Armagh Christmas Trial.

In 1972, as Northern Ireland descended into violence, he sold his business and moved to Perthshire in Scotland. Suffering from ill health he passed away in 2002.

hr, with thanks to Mike Wylie for corrections.

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