RIP Tony Brooks 1932-2022

| 4 May 2022
Classic & Sports Car – RIP Tony Brooks 1932-2022

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The death of Tony Brooks at the age of 90 marks the passing of the last of the great Formula One drivers of the post-war era.

His quiet, almost self-effacing nature means that in the 60 years since he retired his name has been almost forgotten.

Yet this is the man who during the 1950s won more Grands Prix than any other driver save Fangio, Ascari and Moss.

Classic & Sports Car – RIP Tony Brooks 1932-2022
Brooks driving his Vanwall at Spa on 15 June 1958, heading up Eau Rouge en route to victory

Brooks was studying to be a dentist when he vaulted into the headlines in 1955.

Having never sat in an F1 car before, he was asked at the last minute to drive a Connaught in the non-championship Syracuse Grand Prix.

Arriving just in time for final practice, he qualified on the front row among the works Maseratis – and beat them all.

It was the first victory since 1924 for a British driver in a British car in a race titled a Grand Prix, and clearly here was a great natural talent.

BRM quickly signed him for 1956, but in the British Grand Prix his throttle stuck open and he had a huge fiery accident which could have been fatal, although he escaped with a broken jaw.

Then for 1957 he joined the Vanwall team alongside Stirling Moss, and now he had a car worthy of his talents.

In the British Grand Prix at Aintree he was nursing injuries from a crash at Le Mans, but he was lying fifth when Moss’ Vanwall failed.

Moss took over Brooks’ car and won, so in the record books they shared the victory – the first ever in the World Championship for a British car and British drivers. 

Classic & Sports Car – RIP Tony Brooks 1932-2022
Here Brooks is campaigning an Aston Martin DB3S at the 1955 Goodwood Nine Hours – with co-driver Peter Collins he finished third

The 1958 season was Brooks’ annus mirabilis. He won the Belgian, German and Italian Grands Prix – Spa, the Nürburgring and Monza being in their different ways three of the most daunting circuits of all.

He was simultaneously campaigning in sports car racing and in 1957, driving for Aston Martin, he scored a magnificent win in the Nürburgring 1000km and won at Silverstone and Spa, twice.

In 1958 he won the Tourist Trophy at Goodwood with Moss, and the British Empire Trophy at Oulton Park. 

When Vanwall left the F1 arena Ferrari immediately signed Brooks as team leader for 1959.

He won the French and German Grands Prix and was second at Monaco, and going into the final round, the US GP at Sebring, he was in the running for the world title.

On the first lap he was rammed by teammate von Trips and, fearing his rear suspension was damaged, made a pitstop to check. All was well, but he was in 15th place when he rejoined.

Despite a faulty clutch he fought up the field to third – but Jack Brabham finished second, and was crowned champion.

Classic & Sports Car – RIP Tony Brooks 1932-2022
Brooks back at Goodwod for the 2013 Revival

In his final two F1 seasons, for Yeoman Credit and BRM, his cars were uncompetitive, and at the end of 1952 he retired to concentrate on his family – he and his wife Pina had five children – and his motor businesses.

Tony Brooks’ approach to racing was meticulous and level-headed. He concentrated on making every lap faultless, and as a result he never looked fast or spectacular.

But the stopwatch told a different story – as shown by his pole positions at circuits as different as Spa and Monaco.

There can be no better tribute to his skill and speed than that paid by Stirling Moss.

“I respected him more than any other driver after Fangio. You always knew Tony would be very quick. In practice, whether he was my teammate or my rival, when I stopped at the pits I’d always ask, ‘What’s Tony doing?’” 

Images: Getty Images/James Mann/Classic & Sports Car


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