Former Grand Prix driver Rupert Keegan – quite possibly the only driver in the sport to have driven for teams sponsored by pornographic magazines, contraceptives and cigarettes! – is celebrating his 57th birthday today!
While Essex-born Keegan certainly possessed some racing talent, it is perhaps doubtful – given his record of 25 starts and no points’ finishes in a career spanning 1977-82 – that he had enough talent to warrant a true place in Formula 1.
Certainly both Rupert and his doting father Mike believed otherwise, for he won his very first car race in a Ford Escort Mexico, before moving into Formula Ford, where he proved quick but wild.
A strong finish to his 1974 championship season was a launchpad into Formula 3 in 1975, but his season was spent regularly crashing the ex-Brian Henton March chassis.
By 1976, he’d matured into a more consistent performer, and he won nine rounds of the BP championship to claim the title, earning him a spot with the Hesketh Grand Prix team, which was enjoying backing from Penthouse magazines and Rizla cigarette papers.
Despite the shortcomings of the car, he qualified for every race, although rarely saw the flag as he found himself getting caught up in a sequence of accidents.
From Surtees he joined the Durex-sponsored Surtees team for the 1978 season. The team was in its death throes by this stage, and Rupert struggled to get the uncompetitive car on the grid.
Unable to stay in the main game in 1979, he treaded water in the less-competitive Aurora F1 series, claiming five round wins and the championship.
But he was unable to mirror that form when he returned again to Formula 1 in 1980, despite having the championship-winning Williams FW07 (admittedly run by the RAM outfit) at his disposal. He returned briefly to F1 for one last shot with the March team in 1982, but that again proved a false dawn.
He quit the F1 scene, spending the next few years competing in endurance racing and IndyCars, before pursuing a career in business.