Cliff Allison was born in Brough in 1932, the garage owner's son began racing in Formula Three in a Cooper Mk IV-JAP in 1952, which probably came from Bobby Leapingwell. He managed third in his heat at Kirkcaldy in April of that year.
For 1953, Cliff had already progressed to a Cooper Mk VI-Norton and some good placings followed including fifth at the Oulton Park Inaugural meeting, second at Brough in October '53 and Charterhall in October. Cliff took wins at Cadwell Park and Bo'ness and fifth at Crystal Palace in June '54, now in a Cooper Mk VIII, followed by Fourth in the Redex Trophy in September.
Allison won at Brough in April '55, beating Jim Russell and Ivor Bueb, then gave best to Jim in the Senior race at Brands and fourth in the Daily Express 50 mile race in May. Later in the month, Crystal Palace brought third in the Redex Trophy and a third at Snetterton, which would have been a win but for a spin on the last lap. In July he won his heat and the final at Oliver's Mount and again at Charterhall plus a fifth in the Grand Prix at Aintree and third in the Seniors at Crystal Palace. Cliff was slightly fortunate to finish second at Snetterton in the wet after Russell and Bueb both spun then took third at Aintree in September and again in the Oulton Park Gold Cup. He won at his home Brough circuit on the 25th September and the all-comers race at Cadwell Park on the 2nd October to end a busy year.
He returned to the fray in 1956, now firmly established and taking third in the Earl of March Trophy in April but could only manage fifth at Aintree then a fourth in the Daily Express International and sixth in the John Bull Trophy. Just a few years later he won the Index Of Performance at Le Mans, driving for Lotus, after Colin Chapman had spotted his talent.
On their debut at Monaco in 1958, Allison finished sixth, repeating the result in Holland, and then finishing fourth at Spa, where he might have won if the race had lasted one further lap. Tony Brooks' Vanwall crossed the line with fading oil pressure and a seized gearbox, while Mike Hawthorn's Ferrari blew its engine on the final corner and Stuart Lewis-Evans' Vanwall was creeping with broke suspension. Ironically, this early promise had already delivered his best result of the year. A brilliant drive later that year at the Nürburgring went largely unnoticed in the wake of Peter Collins' fatal accident.
Cliff at Spa, 1958
Allison loved the 'ring, recalling "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." His performances had attracted Ferrari, whom he joined for 1959. He showed his class against the likes of Brooks, Ginther, Gurney, Phil Hill and Wolfgang von Trips, despite regularly commuting from Brough to Maranello.
Early in the season, he dragged his front-engined car to second place in Argentina, but the future was small and rear-engined, as Moss won in the Cooper. A crash at Monaco during qualifying, when the gearshift pattern had been changed but nobody had thought to tell him, left him hospitalised. When he awoke from a 16-day coma he found he could speak fluent French, which was odd since he had understood not a word of the language previously.
He returned in 1961, driving for the UDT-Laystall BRP team managed by Ken Gregory in a private Lotus, but another heavy crash at Spa ended his career as he suffered broken legs and spent two years recovering. It took him a long time to get over the disappointment, especially as both Phil and Graham Hill, had both become World Champions, in 1961 and 1962. 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 Grand 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 at Ferrari, and probably a bit quicker." Allison once shared a Lotus with historic racer Malcolm Ricketts on a re-run of the Mille Miglia. At one checkpoint he was personally sought out by Luca de Montezemolo. That, and the reception he got on his return to the Grand Prix paddock, did not compensate for the 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. Cliff Allison died Brough, 7th April 2005.