Charles Anthony (Tony) Brooks
Charles Antony Tony Brooks was born in 1932, in Dukinfield where his father was a general dental practitioner. He entered Manchester University to study dentistry in 1951, and started club motor racing in 1952 with his mother’s Healey Silverstone.
He raised mainly in club events for the next three seasons and in 1955 was offered the chance to try a Formula 2 Connaught at Crystal Palace where he finished an impressive fourth behind three F1 cars.
This led him to being offered the chance to drive an F1 Connaught in the non championship Syracuse Grand Prix in Sicily, despite never having driven an F1 car before and being up against the works Maseratis, he nonetheless won the race.
His victory was highly significant as it came at a time when foreign car manufacturers and drivers dominated motor racing, and his victory was the first by a British driver in a British car to win a Formula One Grand Prix since Sir Henry Seagrave’s victory in San Sebastian in 1924.
It is considered as the initial breakthrough which contributed to the eventual establishment of Britain as the leading motor racing force in the world.
He is remembered by his student contemporaries for the fabulous cars he drove to the dental school and being charming and very unassuming.
When interviewed after the event he is reported as saying, “What I remember most about the weekend is swatting for my finals on the flight there and back”.
Tony qualified BDS LDS in 1956, and signed for the BRM team, but in his world championship debut at Silverstone his car crashed, due to a sticking accelerator, and he sustained a fractured jaw.
He left BRM at the end of the season, joining the Vanwall team in 1957, where he drove with Stirling Moss. In that year he finished second in Monaco and shared victory in the British GP at Aintree handing over his car to Sterling Moss whose car had broken down; a provisional agreement, as Tony shouldn’t really have been racing due to injuries suffered less than a month earlier at Le Mans.
This was the first time a British car and driver had won a World Championship Grand Prix. In the same year, driving an Aston Martin, he won the ADAC 1000 kilometre race at the Nurburgring with co-driver Noel Cunningham-Read – another British car/driver first.
He also won the Tourist Trophy in 1958 at Goodwood, and many other sports current events in the course of his career. In 1958 he won the Belgian, German and Italian Grand Prix finishing third in the World Championship behind Mike Hawthorne and Stirling Moss, whilst his team, Vanwall was the first British team to win the Formula One World Manufacturers Championship.
In 1959, he signed to drive for Ferrari after Vanwall withdrew from F1 at the end of the previous season. He started with a second place in the Monaco Grand Prix, won both the French and German Grand Prix before finishing third in the United States Grand Prix, and ended the season as runner up to Jack Brabham in the World Drivers Championship.
He left Ferrari at the end of 1959 to purchase and run a motor business in Weybridge, and after two restricted seasons with Cooper and BRM, he retired from racing in 1961 to devote more time to his family and business.
Following graduation, Tony spent six months as a host surgeon in the Dental hospital, but never worked in practice; however faced with the choice of being a GDP or a Formula One driver, which would you have chosen?
A full account of Tony’s life and achievements can be found in his genuine autobiography, “Poetry in Motion”, published by Motor Racing Publications in 2011.