8 Famous British Racing Legends of All Time
The world has witnessed some exciting and talented track and rally drivers since the first race ever was organized on April 28, 1887, including racing aces like Lewis Hamilton, Michael Schumacher and Dale Earnhardt Jr. While we celebrate these newer motor-race drivers, it's important to also look back and pay homage to those who paved the way for the development and popularity of motorsport. Here are 10 famous British racing legends and heroes of yesteryears who will never be forgotten.
Derek Bell (Born 1941)
Derek Bell is Britain's most successful sports car driver ever. At the age of 45 in June 1987, he won the Le Mans 24-Hour race for the fifth time. This milestone was only exceeded by his former driving partner Jacky Ickx who had won it six times, three of which with Bell. Bell also won the Daytona 24-Hour race in January, 1986 and the Le Mans race twice in a row in 1986 and 1987. He was honored with the MBE award in 1986 for his exemplary contribution and service to motorsport.
Raymond Mays (1899 - 1980)
Raymond Mays was not only a talented driver with many English road, track and hill racing records, but also a gifted organizer who created the English Racing Automobile Company (ERA) to help pull British motor racing out of the doldrums, as far as international events were concerned. After World War II, he famously pioneered the British Racing Motors (BRM) project to develop a British racing machine. BRM racing engines became the hottest news in racing since the 1930s when Germany ruled the speed scene.
Kay Petre (1903 - 1994)
Kay Petre was born in Canada, moved to England in her twenties and married English aviator Henry A Petre. She is widely considered as the greatest female driver of all time. Her entry into the British racing scene in the 1930s saw her drive sports cars and showcase inspiring determination to win. Petre's glamorous and pioneering achievements include featuring as one of an all-girl team at Brooklands Motor Racing Circuit at Weybridge, Surrey in 1935 together with Mrs Tolhurst and Aileen Ellison. Her performance at the race won her the title of "Queen of Brooklands."
Henry Segrave (1896 - 1930 )
Sir Henry Segrave got his first motor racing experience in America, while driving Packard, Stutz and Marmon cars. He returned to England and made his mark in British racing history by doing war service with the Royal Flying Cord using a super 120 horsepower Itala racer. He is famous not so much for bearing a Vikings name that meant "Lord of the Sea," but for his skills as a race driver and positive showing of British character during the First World War.
John Cobb (1899 - 1952)
John Rhodes Cobb was born and lived in Esher, Surrey, near the Brooklands race track where he broke many speed records, including the Brooklands Outer Circuit record on 7 October 1935. At the Brooklands Outer Circuit he clocked a dizzying lap speed of 143.44 mph. In 1947, he was awarded The Seagrave Trophy for his speed record-breaking achievements at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah, U.S. Cobb died October 1952 during an attempt on water speed record on the waters of Loch Ness in Scotland.
Tony Brooks (born: 1932)
Charles Anthony "Tony" Standish Brooks started racing in club events before he was offered a Formula 2 drive and employment with Aston Martin in 1955. He went on to win the Belgian, German and Italian Grand Prixs, although he failed to finish six of the other seven races. He might well have been a household name, were it not his habit to eschew the limelight. His team-mate Stirling Moss described him as "the greatest unknown racing driver there has ever been." Brooks runs a garage in Weybridge near the legendary Brooklands circuit.
Dick Seaman (1913 - 1939 )
Richard John Beattie "Dick" Seaman's career as a professional racing driver spans just two-and-a-half seasons and yet many historians consider him Britain's best. He won the Voiturette race in the 1934 Swiss Grand Prix event at first attempt and later drove his Mercedes-Benz W 154 formula racing car to victory at the 1938 German Grand Prix. Seaman crashed his car into a tree during lap 22 in the 1939 Belgian Grand Prix and sadly died soon after at only 26 years old. He was, at a time, the only British representative in Formula One Grand Prix racing.
Colin Chapman (1928 - 1982)
No single individual did more to establish Britain as the home of international motor racing in the 1960s than Colin Chapman. Of course, there were other fantastic race drivers at the time like John Cooper. But, Chapman's racing career and versatile car designs produced for Lotus standout as epic even today.