A former British racing driver Kenneth 'Ken' McAlpine is currently the oldest living person who participated in Formula One Grand Prix races. McAlpine was born on September 21, 1920. He was active in Formula One as an owner of Connaught team between 1952 and 1959. As a driver, he recorded seven starts in Grand Prix races between 1952 and 1955.
Ken was born in Cobham, Surrey, in a family which is most known by Sir Robert McAlpine, a founder of an engineering company which bears his name and exists still today. During the World War II, Ken was serving in the Royal Air Force.
Kenneth McAlpine created Connaught brand in 1949
Connaught team was founded in 1949
Immediately after the was he started a racing career, mostly participating in hill climb races in a Maserati 8CM. The engineers which prepared his car, Mike Oliver and Rodney Clarke, approached McAlpine with an idea of founding a new British racing brand. That's how the Connaught marque was born in 1949.
The first Connaught L2 sports car was successful in several races and the next project was the Formula 2 car, simply named as Connaught Type A. In 1950 and 1951, McAlpine gained some success with Type A and then entered the Formula One World Championship in 1952.
Kenneth McAlpine in a Connaught Type A
Formula One Championship debut at Silverstone
That year, the F1 World Championship was run to F2 rules and Lea Francis-engined Connaught Type A was eligible to participate. McAlpine had a Grand Prix debut at Silverstone on July 19, 1952, together with three other drivers who run his cars – Ken Downing, Eric Thompson and Dennis Poore. McAlpine was the slowest one, setting 17th time in the qualifying and finishing 16th in the race, six laps behind the winner Alberto Ascari.
McAlpine next attempt was in the Italian Grand Prix at Monza, where his teammates were Stirling Moss and Dennis Poore. Both McAlpine and Moss retired with because of broken suspension, Poore finished 12th. During 1952, McAlpine recorded one victory in a Connaught Type A, in the National Formula Libre race at Snetterton.
Kenneth McAlpine in 1953 at Nurburgring
Four F1 championship races in 1953
In 1953, McAlpine participated in four Formula One races, again using the Connaught Type A Formula 2 car. Stirling Moss and Roy Salvadori were his teammates in the Dutch Grand Prix at Zandvoort. McAlpine retired after 63 laps due to a broken engine. He retired one more time in the British Grand Prix, where other Connaught drivers were Tony Rolt, Prince Bira, Ian Stewart and Roy Salvadori.
The next race was the German Grand Prix at Nürburgring Nordschleife, in which McAlpine scored his career-best result, finishing in 13th place, two laps behind race winner Nino Farina. The last race that year was the Italian Grand Prix at Monza, where McAlpine wasn't classified due to an insufficient number of laps.
McAlpine's Connaught Type B at 1955 British Grand Prix
1955 - one more attempt in the British Grand Prix
In 1954, McAlpine skipped Formula One and participated mostly in national races in a Connaught ALSR sports car. Five drivers were using his Type A cars in the 1954 British Grand Prix.
Connaught Type B was a victorious car in two non-championship races in 1955. In May, Leslie Marr has won the Cornwall MRC F1 race at Davidstow Circuit. In October, Tony Brooks was a winner of the Syracuse Grand Prix.
Unsuccessful Le Mans attempt
In June 1955, Ken McAlpine and Eric Thompson participated in the 24 hours of Le Mans, driving the #43 Connaught ALSR. They retired after nine hours and 60 laps due to engine failure. It was the race which was marked by a tragedy in the early hours when more than 80 spectators were killed after Pierre Levegh's Mercedes plunged into the crowd.
McAlpine retired from racing at the end of the season. He gets married and worked in a family business. The Connaught name occasionally appeared in races until 1959. Ron Flockhart finished third in the 1956 Italian Grand Prix, scoring the only podium for Connaught.