Cliff Allison

Formula One racing driver for Lotus and Ferrari

Cliff Allison was the first man to lead the soon-to-be-famous Team Lotus when they graduated to Formula One in 1958.

Cliff Allison, racing driver: born Brough, Westmorland 8 February 1932; married (three sons, one daughter); died Brough 7 April 2005.

Cliff Allison was the first man to lead the soon-to-be-famous Team Lotus when they graduated to Formula One in 1958.

Born in Brough in Westmorland in 1932, the garage owner's son began racing a Formula Three Cooper-JAP in 1952. Five years later he won the prestigious Index of Performance at Le Mans, driving for Lotus after its founder Colin Chapman had spotted his talent. Allison had no sense of the glory that was to follow for Lotus, but said: "I always reckoned that Colin had the ability to design a winning car. But what worried me was that it might kill me before that happened! I had all sorts of problems with Lotuses. They were all very, very light . . ."

On their joint début at Monaco in 1958, Allison finished sixth, repeating the result in Holland before finishing fourth at Spa in Belgium, where he might have won had the race run a lap longer. Tony Brooks' Vanwall crossed the line with fading oil pressure and seizing gearbox, Mike Hawthorn's second-placed Ferrari blew its engine on the final corner, and Stuart Lewis-Evans' Vanwall was creeping with broken suspension.

Ironically, all the good things came early for Allison, and that fourth place remained the zenith of his career. Later that year he put in a brilliant drive at the Nürburgring in Germany which went largely unnoticed in the aftermath of Peter Collins's death. But for the failure of a radiator repair, after his team-mate Graham Hill had crashed the car in practice, Allison could have finished second to Brooks. The 14-mile-long track was the greatest test of a driver. Allison confessed that he remembered nothing of it from his first experience, as a passenger in a Ford Anglia driven by his friend Stirling Moss, but added: "I loved the 'Ring. That was a man's circuit . . . One of the reasons I enjoyed it is that a lot of the little roads in the Lake District, close to home, were very similar to it . . ."

Allison's performances attracted Ferrari, whom he joined for 1959. That season he had to vie for his seat with drivers of the calibre of Brooks, Dan Gurney, Phil Hill, Richie Ginther, Olivier Gendebien and Wolfgang von Trips. "It was my first glimpse of the big time and a proper professional team," he recalled. "Everyone looked upon Ferrari as the team to drive for. I was on cloud nine."

If that is reminiscent of Ferrari's current position, other aspects were very different from what Michael Schumacher expects today. The remuneration was minimal and Allison faced a Herculean trek to Ferrari's Maranello headquarters from rural Brough. He would drive to Darlington, then take the train to London, a coach to Heathrow, fly from Heathrow to Malpensa, then get trains from Malpensa to the Grande Stazione Centrale and thence to Modena. More often than not he would arrive, only to be told his car wasn't ready.

He showed his class in 1960 by dragging his outdated front-engined Ferrari home second in Argentina to Moss's fleet rear-engined Cooper, which was the shape of the future. But a crash during qualifying in Monaco, when the gearshift pattern had been changed but nobody had told him, left him hospitalised with a broken arm and ribs and compression of three vertebrae. When he awoke from a 16-day coma he found he could speak French, which was odd since he had understood not a word of the language previously.

He came back in 1961 driving a Lotus for the private UDT-Laystall team but another heavy crash, at Spa, ended his career as he suffered broken legs and spent two years recovering. By then the two Hills, Phil and Graham (no relation), team-mates he had demonstrated he could beat, had become world champions, in 1961 and 1962 respectively. Allison had reached the end of his yellow-brick road. It took him a long time to get over the bitter frustration and disappointment that he had been left behind. He went quietly back to Brough to work in his father's Grand Prix Motors garage business, occasionally driving the local school bus in his later years.

It was only when he made occasional visits to grands prix in the Nineties that he came to realise that people still remembered him with respect, and at Monaco in 1992 he admitted: "I don't want to sound big-headed, but at the time of the accident in Monte Carlo, I knew I was already driving as quickly as the other drivers in Ferrari, and probably a little bit quicker." He would have been perfectly suited to the "Sharknose" Ferrari in which Phil Hill won his 1961 crown.

"Life's all ifs and buts, isn't it?" he said.

I did feel bitter, rather cheated. I'd got to the top and it felt great, but it's not to be recommended falling over. I went to Silverstone but it was awful; all my friends were still there doing it and I was there, watching. Being back in Brough was . . . well, talk about shock therapy!

Allison once shared a Lotus with the historic racer Malcolm Ricketts on a re-run of the famed Mille Miglia. At one checkpoint he was personally sought out and congratulated by Luca di Montezemolo, the president of Ferrari. That, and the reception he got on his return to the F1 paddocks, did not compensate for Cliff Allison's lost career, but one of the finest fellows in the sport quietly admitted that he was overcome to discover that he had not been forgotten.

David Tremayne



News
A Brazilian wandering spider
news

World's most lethal spider found under a bunch of bananas

News
people
Sport
Mario Balotelli pictured in the win over QPR
footballInternet reacts to miss shocker for Liverpool striker
Voices
Sol Campbell near his home in Chelsea
voices
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
i100
News
Kimi the fox cub
newsBurberry under fire from animal rights group - and their star, Kimi
Sport
Fans of Palmeiras looks dejected during the match between Palmeiras and Santos
footballPalmeiras fan killed trying to 'ambush' bus full of opposition supporters
Arts and Entertainment
filmsIt's nearly a wrap on Star Wars: Episode 7, producer reveals
Life and Style
fashion
News
i100
News
<p>Jonathan Ross</p>
<p>Jonathan Ross (or Wossy, as he’s affectionately known) has been on television and radio for an extraordinarily long time, working on a seat in the pantheon of British presenters. Hosting Friday Night with Jonathan Ross for nine years, Ross has been in everything from the video game Fable to Phineas and Ferb. So it’s probably not so surprising that Ross studied at Southampton College of Art (since rebranded Southampton Solent), a university known nowadays for its media production courses.</p>
<p>However, after leaving Solent, Ross studied History at the School of Slavonic and East European Studies, now part of the UCL, a move that was somewhat out of keeping with the rest of his career. Ross was made a fellow of the school in 2006 in recognition of his services to broadcasting.</p>
TV

Rumours that the star wants to move on to pastures new

News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
The cast of Downton Abbey indulge in some racing at a Point to Point
tvNew pictures promise a day at the races and a loved-up Lady Rose
News
people

Comedian says he 'never laughed as hard as I have writing with Rik'

Arts and Entertainment
Tim Wonnacott dancing the pasadoble
TVStrictly Come Dancing The Result
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

European Retail Sales Manager, Consumer Products

competitive + bonus + benefits: Sauce Recruitment: My client is looking for an...

Sales Director, Media Sponsorship

£60000 - £65000 per annum: Sauce Recruitment: A globally successful media and ...

Head of Affiliate Sales for Emerging Markets

competitive + benefits: Sauce Recruitment: Are you looking for your next role ...

Brand Engagement Manager - TV

£45000 - £55000 per annum: Sauce Recruitment: This is your chance to join a gl...

Day In a Page

Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album
Hugh Bonneville & Peter James: 'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'

How We Met: Hugh Bonneville & Peter James

'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's heavenly crab dishes don't need hours of preparation

Bill Granger's heavenly crab recipes

Scared off by the strain of shelling a crab? Let a fishmonger do the hard work so you can focus on getting the flavours right
Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

After a remarkable conversion from reckless defender to prolific striker, Monaco's ace says he wants to make his loan deal at Old Trafford permanent
Terry Venables: Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England

Terry Venables column

Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England
The Inside Word: Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past

Michael Calvin's Inside Word

Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past