2/12/1937 - 19/6/1960
Dazzlingly talented South Londoner. Rated as a man with a great future but killed in a grisly accident at Spa-Francorchamps. Chris Bristow died 62 years ago, he was 23 , He would have been 85.
Chris Bristow was from Lambeth, the son of a south London car hire operator, he began racing an MG Special in 1956.
In 1959, BRP had acquired two of the new F2-Coopers, painted a distinctive pale-green and fitted with the 16-valve Borgward 1500RS engines. looking for a new driver, Bristow was signed in May 1959. He went to Reims on July 5, 1959, for the III Coupe Internationale de Vitesse. In his first foray abroad he continued to impress though in the race he retired. won the John Davy Trophy F2 race at Brands Hatch on the August Bank Holiday of 1959. The following weekend at the VII GP de Rouen-les-Essarts, he diced with Maurice Trintignant in Rob Walker's Cooper-Climax, eventually finishing ahead of him in fifth place. He then won the F2 support race at the British Grand Prix in mid July.
A week later at the second Trophée d'Auvergne, Clermont Ferrand, his team-mate Ivor Bueb was killed. Chris made a good start and led for three laps until a water leak put him out. Chris took Bueb's death hard and nearly quit. He was due to race at Brands Hatch at the August Bank Holiday Monday meeting and after eventually deciding to continue racing, he put in a memorable performance. Racing against Jack Brabham and Roy Salvadori in the main Formula 2 race, the John Davy Trophy, he won the first heat by four seconds from Salvadori and Brabham and in the second drove sensibly to finish third, taking the overall win by just under two seconds.
On the Bank Holiday he won another race at Brands Hatch against a world-class field only lacking Moss. By now he was regarded as one of the best F2 drivers around. In September Bristow raced for the works Porsche works team in the TT race at Goodwood driving with Hans Herrmann. He was running close to Cliff Allison in the works Ferrari Testa Rossa before he tangled with Alan Stacey and retired.
At the International Gold Cup at Oulton Park, BRP put a 2.5 Climax FPF in the Cooper and Chris entered his first F1 race. He was third in qualifying and in the race, only loosing out to Moss and Brabham by less than two seconds.
In 1960 with sponsorship from finance company Yeoman Credit, the team bought two new Coopers powered by Climax FPF engines and signed Harry Schell as team leader. Bristow started the season with a third in the Glover Trophy at Goodwood after qualifying on pole. Then on May 13, Schell crashed at Abbey while practising for the International Trophy and was killed.
Bristow made his World Championship GP debut at Monaco a fortnight later. He qualified third fastest with the same time as Tony Brooks and Jo Bonnier. In the race his gearbox went on lap 17 and he retired.
The Dutch GP was a dissapointment. He qualified seventh and was running in sixth place when his engine went on lap 9.
It was then on to the Belgian GP. In practice Stirling Moss had shunted heavily, sustaining a broken nose and legs, when his Lotus lost a wheel at Burnenville. Many drivers had stopped at the scene, and it was some time before people realised that Mike Taylor was missing. His Lotus had gone into the trees at Stavelot when its steering column sheared.
The next day, in the race, Bristow was dicing for sixth place with the Ferraris of Wolfgang von Trips and Wild Willy Mairesse when, on the 20th lap, he made what appeared to be an unforced error at Burnenville. His Cooper rolled several times, and he was tragically decapitated by a wire fence.
Clark nearly ran over his body as it lay on the track. This experience along with the death of Archie Scott-Brown two years earlier, was one of the main reasons that the Scot hated Spa so much.
Two laps later Stacey, lying seventh, crashed at 140mph when he was struck in the face by a bird.