Former Grand Prix winner Tony Brooks is celebrating a special milestone today; the Englishman is celebrating his 80th birthday today!
Brooks started out racing a Healey in 1952, and kept himself busy in the club motor racing scene for the next couple of years while he studied dentistry.
But it wasn’t until 1955 that he really shot to prominence. In just his second ever race outside the UK – driving a Connaught the Syracuse Grand Prix, no less – Brooks claimed a stunning win ahead of the works entries from Maserati and Gordini. He broke the lap record three times, with his best effort being some five seconds quicker than the time he posted in qualifying. It was the first overseas win for a British car in over thirty years, and it would mark the start of a flurry of success for Britain in international motorsport.
He was signed up by BRM for 1956, he finished second place at the Aintree 200. He was meant to make his World Championship debut at the Monaco Grand Prix, but the team withdrew, and so his debut came on home soil at Silverstone.
But the race almost proved to be his last. Coming into the Abbey curve during the race, his throttle jammed open. Brooks was thrown from the car as his vehicle flipped, and he was fortunate to emerge with little more than a broken jaw.
Having recovered sufficiently, Brooks joined Vanwall. After finishing second at the season-opening Monaco Grand Prix, he suffered an accident at the Le Mans 24 Hours, and he was still feeling unwell during the British Grand Prix at Aintree when he handed over his car to Stirling Moss mid-race. Moss went on to win, and it became Brooks’ first win as well.
In 1958, Vanwall waged a fierce battle with Ferrari for championship honours. While Brooks’ compatriot, Mike Hawthorn, would claim the championship for the Scuderia, Brooks and his team-mates Moss and Stuart Lewis-Evans ensured that Vanwall won the Constructors’ Championship. Brooks claimed three wins, with his victories at Spa-Francorchamps, the Nürburgring and Monza showing his sheer class.
But Lewis-Evans’ death at the season-ending Moroccan Grand Prix led to Vanwall owner tony Vandervell withdrawing his team from racing, and so Brooks joined Ferrari to drive their 246 Dino. Wins at Reims and AVUS saw him in the hunt for the championship, which ultimately went to Cooper’s Jack Brabham.
His final two years in Formula 1 were with the Cooper and BRM teams, and they were considerably less successful, and at the end of the 1961 season, he quietly retired from the scene and turned his attention to developing his garage business