By Eli Solomon

Mick Jennings and his Black Draught being pursued by Lim Peng Han in his L.A. MG-Bugatti during the 1949 Johore Grand Prix.

A week ago I wrote a short piece about Bill Ferguson and his MkIII Cooper-JAP winning the 1951 Johore Grand Prix. Nothing unusual about this, except that the 1951 Johore Grand Prix was run as a Formula 1 race! That made it Cooper Car’s first Formula One victory – as opposed to the understanding that it was Sir Stirling Moss that handed Cooper its first F1 victory in the Argentine Grand Prix in 1958, driving Rob Walker’s T43-Climax.

If the 1951 Johore Grand Prix was listed as a Formula One race, then what about the preceding two GP’s held in 1949 and 1950? For that I had to unbox another stack of old programs and regulations.

First off, let’s look at the origins of the Formula 1 World Championship. The first F1 race was the 1946 Turin Grand Prix. A World Drivers’ Championship was established in 1947.  The first World Championship season was in 1950. But what about non-Championship races, Grand Prix events that didn’t count towards the Championship but which were run to Formula 1 rules?

Out in the British colonies in Asia, post-war Grand Prix racing began in 1949 with the Johore Grand Prix. [see]. The main event for cars was run to general competition rules of the F.I.A., the R.A.C. (of Britain and the British Empire) and the A.C.U.

The 1949 Johore Grand Prix programme cover. Note the redesigned Singapore Motor Club badge – a lion had been incorporated at the top of the laurel.

Take a look at the 1949 Johore Grand Prix race program and you’ll notice that the main race was run to international rules established by the F.I.A. – in other words, the main Grand Prix was for cars with supercharged engines not over 1.5-litres or unsupercharged engines not over 4.5-litres. There was even an R.A.C. Steward for the event – Sqd-Ldr. Oliver Bertram [Major Oliver Bertram was then stationed in Singapore as a Squadron Leader (barrister) with Tanglin G.H.Q. F.A.R.E.L.F. (the British Army’s Far East Land Force).] Get to the Supplementary Regs and the entry list and things start to get interesting: Event No.4 “Johore Grand Prix” For Formula 1 Cars 1,500cc and under S – 4,500cc and under U/S.

So there you have it – the 1949 race (as was the subsequent two GPs) was run to Formula 1 rules for Formula 1 cars (and all other manner of contraptions).

The entry list for the 1949 Grand Prix. Prizes were awarded for the first three entries in the 1,500cc and Under, Supercharged class; and for first and second placed finishers in the under 4,500cc and under Unsupercharged and the 1,100cc and Under, Supercharged class.  Note the typo under the C.O. Jennings entry – it ought to read 1,250cc (it was a modified MG TC he called the Black Draught). Most of the Specials featured in the entry list are covered in Monsters & Mavericks

The regulations for the Grand Prix specifically forbade closed bodied cars. There were no six-wheelers entered.

A “Grand Prix” race is usually run over a distance of 300 miles or less. Our main race today is only over some 30 miles. We however, are beginners. In any case for a long race, we would need a road circuit that can be closed all day. One day we shall find such a course and then Malayan Grand Prix racing will being in earnest.

[The Johore Grand Prix and Road Races program, Sunday, 2nd October 1949]

The Johore Grand Prix Circuit as it was in 1949 and 1950. There were just five bends that needed to be negotiated over the 2-mile clockwise course. The course would start after the Post Office and proceed along Jalan Tai Heng towards Zoo Corner, a right-hander the ran past the Zoo to the right and along Jalan Gertak Merah before another right-hander at Jail Corner towards the Gaol to the left. The cars would then race along Jalan Ayer Molek past a right-hand curve called Garden Bend before Sultan’s Corner – a sharp left that leads to Court House Corner before a sharp right towards Post Office Curvee and back onto Jalan Tai Heng and the Finish line. With the construction of the grandstands there would also be a need for ample parking. Spectators were allocated parking space near the Customs shed just after crossing the Causeway with Singapore.

Mick Jennings had already participated in the 1940 Johore Grand Prix [see Genesis & The Winds of War] and was a regular at events up and down the Peninsula. The photo shows him in the Black Draught Mk1 at the Bukit Batok Hill Climb in Singapore.

Jean Falconer, wife of John Falconer, British Resident Commissioner to Johore between March 1949 and July 1952, presents Mick Jennings the laurels for winning the first post-war Johore Grand Prix in his Black Draught. Looking over is Clerk of Course Paul Gibbs Pancheri (assisted by young Michael Pancheri).

Lap of honour for Mick Jennings and his MG TC “Black Draught” with its distinctively sloping tail. All in all, there were three iterations to the Black Draught. See MONSTERS & MAVERICKS  MALAYAN/SINGAPORE POST-WAR SPECIALS]

This really puts a spanner in the works, doesn’t it? I had a look at the various books and magazines to try to determine if an MG had ever won a Formula 1 race but have yet to find such a reference. Does this mean that Cyril Oswald ‘Mick’ Jennings was the first person to win a Formula 1 race in an MG (an MG TC Special called the Black Draught)? He wasn’t the last because in 1950, another TC (Supercharged) won in Johore as well. If you’d like more on the Johore Grand Prix, see Part 1: History of the Johore Grand Prix 1949-1953  

RACE RESULTS for all classes (top three positions)

1949: Grand Prix 15 laps: C.O. ‘Mick’ Jennings/Black Draught MG TC; Jimmy Milne/J.D. Ford V8 Special; S. Theraviam/MG TC

Fastest Time: Lim Peng Han/L.A. V8 Special & Neil Moncrieff/Kudensay V8 Mk I 2:04 (59.68 mph)

Overall race time: 34:36 (avg 53.60 mph)

Previous lap record: NA

Cars 1,500cc and under Unsupercharged & 1100cc Supercharged 10 laps: C.O. Jennings/Black Draught MG TC; Chia Eng Quee (entered by Wong Loon Cheong)/Silver Arrow I; S. Theraviam/MG TC

Fastest Time: Unknown

Overall race time: 23:39 (55.2 mph)

Previous lap record: NA

Cars 1,100cc and under Supercharged (same race as above): Chia Eng Quee/Silver Arrow I


Johore Grand Prix 1949-1953

The Malayan Special

C.O. Jennings – Racing a K3 before the war

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