The Grand Prix Drivers Club lost one of its staunchest members with the passing of Tony Brooks on Tuesday of this week ( May 3 2022). Tony and his wife Pia were regular attenders at the Club’s General Assemblies until recent years when his health deteriorated. However, just over two months ago he celebrated his 90th birthday and could look back on a remarkable career in motor racing right up to the highest level.
Charles Anthony Standish Brooks was born on February 25 1932 in Cheshire and as his father was a dentist he decided to study dentistry and joined the Manchester University Dental School. He was keen on cars and his mother had a Healey Silverstone which he entered for a simple five-lap scratch race at Goodwood in 1952 when he was 20 years of age. He finished fifth and the mould was set.
He clearly showed promise and when a friend of his bought a Frazer-Nash Le Mans Replica his cool and precise style of driving was ideally suited to the Nash which had a bad habit of biting back if manhandled in the bravado style. The writer first met Tony at a small race meeting at Castle Combe in Wiltshire in 1953 where he had one of many great battles with that Frazer-Nash specialist Tony Crook and it was no surprise when he was brought into John Wyer’s Aston Martin team for the 1955 season and made his debut in an Aston Martin DB3S at Le Mans that tragic year sharing the car with John Riseley Pritchard who was later to let Tony move into Formula 1 driving Pritchard’s Formula 2 Connaught.
He drove so well that Connaught sent him to Syracuse in Italy to race a factory Connaught in a non-championship race but one populated by a number of cars from Maserati. For British enthusiasts, he ran out winner of the race much to the despair of the Italians and was offered a factory drive for the BRM racing team in 1956 with the latest new model.
This, however, did not start well for in the British Grand Prix at Silverstone he had a throttle cable come apart and he pulled off the road at Club Corner where fellow racing driver Mike Anthony was standing watching. Anthony managed to jury-rig the throttle to allow Brooks to get back to the pits and have it repaired but when he came back into the race he had a mechanical failure and the car hit the banking throwing Tony out, which was just as well as it burst into flames and burnt itself out. From that moment onwards Tony, always a careful and thoughtful driver, decided that if ever he had a situation where the car did not feel right he would bring it in to be checked.
At the time of the Silverstone accident he had met young Italian girl, Pina Resegotti who came from Pavia in Northern Italy and was studying foreign languages in London and they were to marry in 1958.
Though he qualified as a dentist in 1956 he never practised and instead bought a garage and was to develop it into agencies for Lancia and Fiat before switching to Ford.
In racing, he moved to Vanwall in 1957 and he and Stirling Moss won the British Grand Prix at Aintree that year for Vanwall.
This led to him joining Scuderia Ferrari in 1959 where he had his finest season finishing second in the Drivers World Championship after winning two of the fastest races of the series, at Reims in France and the Avus circuit in Germany. It was that year that Pina gave birth to their first child and Tony started to consider retiring from racing but he was persuaded to join the Yeoman Credit Cooper-Climax team which was not a great success and in his final year of racing, 1961, he took third place in the US Grand Prix for BRM and hung up his helmet for good.
Tony Brooks, then, was a true gentleman, polite, thoughtful and certainly no publicity seeker. He dabbled in journalism as a motor racing correspondent for the Guardian newspaper but fundamentally was a quiet man who never emphasised some of the great successes he had and devoted himself to he and Pina’s five children Caroline, David, Michele, Julia and Stephanie. Throughout his life, he approached his sport with considerable dignity and grace and will be sorely missed by all his friends in the Grand Prix Drivers Club who offer their condolences to Pina and her children in this sad moment.