12 / 9 / 1910
9 / 11 / 1967
Born in the Rusholme district of Manchester, England, Henry Leslie Brooke was one of the great characters of British motor racing in the late ‘30s and the early post-war years. Having been a racing enthusiast from an early age, Brooke was motor spares and scrap metal dealer.
In 1936 he built the Brooke Special. Based around a modified Riley Imp chassis, it was powered by an 1100cc six-cylinder MG K3 engine. Leslie entered it in a variety of events during 1937, including the Imperial Trophy at Crystal Palace on October 9th where it was up against the Maseratis of Count Piero Trossi, Count “Johnny” Lurani, Luigi Villoresi and Archie Hyde, not to mention the ERAs of Raymond Mays, Arthur Dobson, Bira and Peter Whitehead. Needless to say it met with little success.
Rebuit over the winter, te Brooke Special reappeared in 1938 with independant front suspension, a pre-selector gearbox and a Zoller supercharger. More competetive than before, he took forth place in a heat during the October Crystal Palace meeting.
Brooke tried variety of MG, ERA, Alta and Dixon-Riley powerplants throughout the 1938 and 1939 seasons but whatever the power plaant the car was always notoriousely scruffy. The motoring press often remarking that you could tell what business Brooke was in by just looking at his car.
It was while powered by a normally aspirated Freddie Dixon prepared 1750cc Riley six-pot that it had three particularly good races at Brooklands. Brooke finished third in a Mountain Handicap in March 1939, second behind Bira’s Maserati 8CM in the International Trophy in the May and third again in the last ever race staged there.
With the Riley engine still in place Brooke took second in the 2-litre unsupercharged class at Shelsey Walsh on 3rd June 1939 with a time of 43.6 seconds. He then switched to Alta power for two Crystal Palace meetings that year, scoring a fourth in the May meeting.
With the outbreak of war, the Brooke Special was laid-up, and Brooke won the George Medal for bravery in the Coventry blitz.
After the war, bereft of bodywork but with a blown 1.5 litre ERA engine installed, Brooke took part in the June 1946 meeting at Shelsey Walsh. But having acquired Arthur Dobson’s high-tailed white B type ERA, he sold his Special to George Nixon.
Brooke raced the ERA on the Continent in 1946 and part of 1947. He drove at Geneva, Albi, in the Bois du Boulogne, Chimay, Turin, Milan, and elsewhere, but with the shortage of spares, he frequently failed to finish. In 1946 he did, however win the GP des Frontieres at Chimay and the Remich hillclimb in West Germany. He also came fifth at Albi and Barcelona.
In 1947 he also bought an E type ERA (GP2). He took it to Indianapolis but failed to qualify and managed the first E type finish in a race in the 1947 British Empire Trophy at Douglas, Isle of Mann by carefully nursing it home to fourth place. Leslie later sold it back to the works team. In the B Type ERA he came second in the Swedish Winter GP at Rommehed Military Airport, Borlänge, just behind Reg Parnell.
He then bought a 4CLT/48 Maserati, but after more than his fair share of trouble with the car at Albi, Monza and elsewhere, he gave up circuit racing and took to rallying with a Triumph TR2. He appeared at Le Mans with a TR2 in 1955 with Mortimer Morris-Goodall. They came 19th.