Motor Racing Legends
Australian race car driver Sir John Arthur “Jack” Brabham, AO, OBE was born 2 April 1926. He was Formula One champion in 1959, 1960, and 1966. He was a founder of the Brabham racing team and race car constructor that bore his name. Brabham was a Royal Australian Air Force flight mechanic and ran a small engineering workshop before he started racing midget cars in 1948. His successes with midgets in Australian and New Zealand road racing events led to his going to Britain to further his racing career. There he became part of the Cooper Car Company’s racing team, building as well as racing cars. He contributed to the design of the mid-engined cars that Cooper introduced to Formula One and the Indianapolis 500, and won the Formula One world championship in 1959 and 1960. In 1962 he established his own Brabham marque with fellow Australian Ron Tauranac, which in the 1960s became the largest manufacturer of customer racing cars in the world. In the 1966 Formula One season Brabham became the first – and still the only – man to win the Formula One world championship driving one of his own cars. He was the last surviving World Champion of the 1950s. Brabham retired to Australia after the 1970 Formula One season, where he bought a farm and maintained business interests, which included the Engine Developments racing engine manufacturer and several garages. Brabham sadly died 19 May 2014.
Finnish rally driver Juha Matti Pellervo Kankkunen was born 2 April 1959 in Laukaa His factory team career in the World Rally Championship lasted from 1983 to 2002. He won 23 world rallies and four drivers’ world championship titles, which were both once records in the series. Sébastien Loeb has since collected more world titles, but no driver has so far been able to repeat Kankkunen’s feat of becoming a world champion with three different manufacturers. Kankkunen was signed by Toyota in 1983 and he took his first WRC win in his third year in the team. His performances got him a deal with the defending champions Peugeot for 1986, and Kankkunen was soon crowned the series’ then youngest-ever champion. As Peugeot withdrew from the championship following the ban of Group B, Kankkunen moved to Lancia and became the first driver to successfully defend his title. After a two-year stint back at Toyota, he returned to Lancia and won a record third title in 1991.
In 1993, Kankkunen re-joined Toyota and won his fourth title. Following Toyota’s disqualification and 12-month ban in 1995, Kankkunen did not return to active participation in the series until joining Ford halfway through the 1997 season replacing an underperforming Armin Schwarz. After moving to Subaru for 1999, he took his first win in over five years. Before retiring after the 2002 season, he competed part-time for Hyundai. Kankkunen’s achievements outside the WRC include winning the Dakar Rally in 1988 and the Race of Champions in 1988 and 1991. Following his retirement from active rallying, he has worked in the fields of business and politics. In 2007, Kankkunen set the world speed record on ice in a Bentley Continental GT. In 2011, he set a further record of 330.695 km/h in a convertible Bentley Continental Supersports.
British Grand Prix motorcycle road race Stanley Michael Bailey Hailwood, MBE, GM was born 2April 1940. Hailwood became known as “Mike The Bike” because of his natural riding ability on bikes with a range of engine capacities. Hailwood saw his first race at age 10 with his father, and first spectated at the Isle of Man TT races in 1956.VHe first raced on 22 April 1957, at Oulton Park. Barely 17, he finished in 11th place. In 1958 he won ACU Stars at 125 cc, 250 cc, and 350 cc classes, earning him the Pinhard Prize, an accolade awarded yearly to a young motorcyclist under 21. He teamed with Dan Shorey to win the Thruxton 500 endurance race and finished well in four classes of TT race with one podium. By 1961, Hailwood was racing for an up-and-coming Japanese factory named Honda. In June 1961, he became the first man in the history of the Isle of Man TT to win three races in one week when he won in the 125 cc, 250 cc and 500 cc categories. He lost the chance at winning a fourth race when his 350 AJS failed with a broken gudgeon pin whilst leading. Riding a four-stroke, four-cylinder 250 cc Honda, Hailwood won the 1961 250cc world championship. In 1962, Hailwood signed with MV Agusta and went on to become the first rider to win four consecutive 500cc World Championships and In February 1964 during preparations for the US Grand Prix, Hailwood set a new one-hour speed record on the MV 500 cc recording an average speed of 144.8 mph (233.0 km/h) on the oval-shaped, banked speed-bowl at the Daytona circuit. The previous record of 143 mph (230 km/h) was set by Bob McIntyre on a 350 cc Gilera at Monza in 1957. Hailwood then went on to win the GP race, which carried World Championship points, in the afternoon of the same day.
During 1965, Hailwood entered selected UK events riding for the Tom Kirby Team. In heavy rain, Hailwood won the 1965 Hutchinson 100 Production race at the Silverstone circuit on a BSA Lightning Clubman entered by dealer Tom Kirby, beating the Triumph Bonnevilles entered by Syd Lawton. The ‘Hutch’ was a main production race of the season along with the Thruxton 500, so it was very important for manufacturers to establish the racing potential of their recent models. As this was production-based racing open to all entrants, ‘official’ works teams were ineligible; instead, machines were prepared and entered through well-established factory dealers. BSA Lightning Clubmans were ridden by Hailwood (carrying number 1 on the fairing) and factory rider Tony Smith, whilst Triumph Bonnevilles were ridden by World Champion Phil Read and works employee Percy Tait. Conditions were poor and Smith was out of the race at slippery Stowe Corner. With little regard for the rain, Hailwood was achieving laps of 83 mph (134 km/h) to establish his winning lead. After his successes with MV Agusta, Hailwood went back to Honda and won four more world titles in 1966 and 1967 in the 250 cc and 350 cc categories. At the ‘Motor Cycle’ 500 race at Brands Hatch in 1966, Hailwood demonstrated a Honda CB450 Black Bomber fitted with a sports fairing. It was unable to compete in the 500cc category, the FIM deeming it was not classified as a production machine as it had two overhead camshafts.
Hailwood is remembered for his accomplishments at the famed Isle of Man TT. By 1967, he had won 12 times on the island mountain course. He won the most dramatic Isle of Man race of all time, the 1967 Senior TT against his great rival, Giacomo Agostini setting a lap record of 108.77 mph (175.05 km/h) on the Honda RC181, that stood for the next 8 years. After suffering breakdowns in 1967, Hailwood had intended to re-sign for Honda provided the 1968 machinery was to his satisfaction, and had relocated to South Africa where he started a building business with former motorcycle Grand Prix rider Frank Perris, completing their first house in October 1967, also selling one to ex-racer Jim Redman. Hailwood stated to Motorcycle Mechanics that even without suitable machinery from Honda he would not go elsewhere, preferring to retire prematurely and he would in any case finish at the end of the 1968 season. For 1968, Honda pulled out of Grand Prix racing, but paid Hailwood £50,000 (equivalent to over £620,000 or US$1.1m at 2006 prices) not to ride for another team, in expectation of keeping him as its rider upon return to competition.
Hailwood continued to ride Hondas during 1968 and 1969 in selected race meetings without World Championship status including European events in the Temporada Romagnola (Adriatic Season of street-circuits), sometimes wearing an unfamiliar plain-silver helmet, including on a 500 cc engined machine which used frames privately commissioned by Hailwood. Hailwood also appeared in selected UK events, in 1968 appearing in the post-TT race at Mallory Park on a Honda, and in 1969 he participated in the Mallory Park Race of the Year riding a Seeley He had already started to race cars and with no other factory racing teams available to compete against MV Agusta, Hailwood decided to pursue a career in car racing, placing third in the 1969 Le Mans 24-Hour race in France as a co-driver of a Ford GT40 with David Hobbs.
In 1970, Hailwood was again lured back into bike racing, this time by the BSA team riding a Rocket 3 at the Daytona 200 race in Florida, part of a strong BSA/Triumph team. Whilst placed at the head of the field the machine soon failed due to overheating. Hailwood again rode for BSA at the 1971 Daytona race, qualifying on the front row. He led the race but again broke down. Mike’s son David Hailwood completed a demonstration lap of the Isle of Man TT course on 3 June 2002, riding Mike’s Daytona 1971 BSA Rocket 3 carrying large letters ‘H’ instead of a race number. He crashed at low speed when waving to the spectators at Governor’s Bridge, a tight hairpin bend close to the end of the 37-mile course. He became one of the few men to compete at Grand Prix level in both motorcycle and car racing and is regarded by many as one of the greatest racers of all time. Hailwaood sadly died 21 March 1981.
English racing driver and 1991 British Touring Car Champion will Hoy was born 2 April 1952 in Melbourn, Cambridgeshire. Hoy did not begin racing until his late 20s and first raced at international level in 1985, taking on the full World Sportscar Championship including Le Mans. Over the next few years, he raced in an assortment of championships and one-off races, the highlight undoubtedly being second overall in the 1988 All Japan Touring Car Championship. Hoy supplemented his racing career as a fully qualified chartered surveyor, employed first by Bernard Thorpe and latterly by DTZ.
For 1991 he concentrated on the BTCC, in the first season of Super Touring regulations. Although manufacturers including Vauxhall and Toyota had factory entries, the established BMWs were the car to have initially. Will made full use of his opportunity in a car entered by Vic Lee, building a championship lead nobody was able to overhaul. He also won the Willhire 24 Hour at Snetterton in a BMW M3, partnering Ray Bellm and Kurt Luby. For 1992 he was signed by the Toyota team, went into the final round in a three way tussle for the championship but was beaten by Tim Harvey’s BMW. However, the car was not competitive in subsequent seasons, Toyota won once in 1993 with Julian Bailey at Knockhill. The closest Will came was at Silverstone in 1993, when he was punted off onto his roof by team-mate Julian Bailey, an incident remembered for Murray Walker’s commentary line “the car upside down is a Toyota”, a play on the company’s advertising slogan of the time (The car in front is a Toyota).
Despite 2 largely result-free seasons, Will was still an established star, and Renault hired him alongside Alain Menu for 1995. The early part of the season was a disaster, with many mechanical failures and crashes, although in the latter part of the season Will moved up to 4th with 3 race wins, in what was now the fastest car. Hopes of a title push for 1996 was erased by the entry of the 4-wheel drive Audi of Frank Biela. Although Menu was again championship runner-up, Will slipped back to 9th. The BTCC of this era was dominated by high-investment manufacturer teams, largely made up of overseas former single-seater drivers. Like Tim Harvey and Robb Gravett, Will was struggling to remain in a competitive car or make use of it. He went to a fading Ford team for 1997 and 1998. 1997 was somewhat disappointing but 1998 was a much better performance, with Hoy finishing in the top 10 in the championship in one of the least competitive works cars and even picked up a race win at Round 4 at Silverstone. Hoy raced independently for part of 1999, outperforming the rest of the independents in a half-season campaign in the Arena Motorsport Renault Laguna before entering semi-retirement. His last appearance came at Silverstone in 2000 in a Class B Vic Lee Racing Peugeot 306, securing pole position in class for both races, but retired from both races with mechanical failures. Hoy was a commentator for the 2002 BTCC season alongside Ben Edwards in addition to being part of the works Honda BTCC team in a managerial role alongside driver, Andy Priaulx. Tragically In late 2002, Hoy suffered a brain tumour and sadly died 19 December. He is survived by his wife and three children.