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Fangio, Senna, Schumacher, Hamilton, Thrupiece?

As debate rages as to whether Michael Schumacher is a greater champion than Ayrton Senna, whether either is better than Fangio or whether Lewis Hamilton is better than Pete Aron, Dorset Motor Sport editor Rev Counter has asked the so far unasked question: is Professor Brian Thrupiece greater than them all?

Younger fans - well used to a full fat diet of TV coverage (from practice to qualifying to complete uninterrupted race coverage) - will know nothing of the agonies experienced by Grand Prix followers of the 1950s and 1960s who were grateful to feed on the scraps the BBC offered on Saturday afternoons amidst wall-to-wall horse racing and rugby league coverage. Older fans will remember the frustrations of watching an epic battle - as Clark bore down on Ginther or Hill was pursued by Hawthorn - only to hear an irritatingly dispassionate studio voice announce "We now return to Lingfield where the runners and riders are assembling in the paddock for the 4.15 Handicap Chase".

The outfall from all this is that our assessment of the great men - for great men they most certainly were - who drove and too often died in those unseen races is seriously compromised and our appreciation of their efforts diminished. Is it not time then for them to emerge from the shadows and be accorded the credit they so justly deserve? Chief amongst these Mr Counter argues is "Professor" Brian Thrupiece who suffers the additional problem that his distinction in so many other fields - particularly later in life - has quite overshadowed his racing career which, in other circumstances, might alone have guaranteed his place in the "Grand Prix superstar" firmament.

Whilst it is true that the "Professor" had less poles than Senna (1), less race wins than Schumacher (2), less laps led than Fangio (12) and less piercings than Hamilton (0), he remains the youngest driver ever to win a Grand Prix. His win at Pau in 1954 in a 2.5 litre Gordini (regulations stipulated 2 litre engines only) was a true David and Gollygosh story the like of which has never been repeated.

As every true motor racing fan knows shortly after his Pau victory, "Professor" Thrupiece took an extended sabbatical to work on the Soviet and US Space missions, returning briefly to the Grand Prix circuit in 1967 to win the Monaco Grand Prix (HERE) - perhaps the greatest victory of his stop-start career. "Who knows", Mr Counter speculates "how many races he would have won had he not spread himself across the worlds of space, diplomacy, bio-ethical culinary practice, art, writing, horizontal gymnastics etc. He might have been beaten every record. Still that hardly matters: to me he is the greatest of them all anyway".

Amen to that! (attributed to, but not actually spoken by, Mrs Amanda J Threadbone, Bournemouth 2018).

"Professor" Thrupiece - then 14 - wins the Pau Grand Prix of 1954.

"Professor" Thrupiece - then only 14 years old - wins the Pau Grand Prix of 1954. He was driving a "slightly illegal" 2.5 litre Gordini. The painting by distinguished motor racing artist Anthea Turner hangs in the Wyke Regis Motor Museum Gallery.

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