Racing drivers really were cut from a different cloth in the 1950s. They weren’t boys who turned to youths in karting then, a hop and a jump later, on to F1. They were adults, for whom racing was a passion but knew that there was more to life. Peter Collins was the embodiment of this – a debonair and sporting man, who would go on to marry Broadway actress Louise King and was comfortable in any setting – and, as a consequence, was always one of the most popular racers at Goodwood.
Peter started in 500cc F3 in 1949, when still 17 and was good enough to win at Goodwood, repeating the feat in 1951. By the time he was 20, Peter had advanced to F2 with HWM and so made his World Championship debut, as F2 had been adopted as the sport’s top class. Sixth on his third outing was proof of his promise, but his main success came after charming Aston Martin team boss John Wyer at a drinks party, sharing victory in the Goodwood Nine Hours with Pat Griffith.
The next three years included wins in the 1953 Tourist Trophy at Dundrod, Goodwood’s Whitsun Trophy and Woodcote Cup in the Thin Wall Special in 1954 plus the Daily Express Trophy and Targa Florio in 1955.
For 1956, Peter joined Ferrari and was a revelation, winning the Belgian and French GPs to have a shot at the title in the finale at Monza. Yet, he handed over his car to Juan Manuel Fangio when his team leader’s broke, meaning that Fangio rather than he took the title. Peter thought it the natural thing to do. In the meantime, he and best friend Mike Hawthorn would carry on having fun. Sadly, it never did happen for Peter, as he crashed to his death at the Nurburgring in 1958.
The Peter Collins Trophy is for sports racing cars of a type that raced from 1948-55
Photography courtesy of LAT