Racing Drivers

Anthony Heal (1907-1995)

Anthony Heal at Shelsley Walsh Hill Climb in 1946.

Anthony Standerwick Heal, the son of Ambrose and Edith Heal, was born in Pinner on 23 February 1907 but the family moved to Beaconsfield in 1917 and then to Knotty Green in 1920.

In 1934 Heal acquired a 30/98 Vauxhall which he used for everyday transport as well as trials, sprints and circuit racing. Here he was taking part in the 1938 VSCC Gloucester Trial.

As a schoolboy he was fascinated by mechanical things but particularly by motor racing and was a regular spectator at Brooklands. As soon as he could afford a second hand sports car – a Frazer Nash – he started competing in trials, winning a silver medal on his first attempt in the 1931 MCC Lands End Trial. By 1935 he was driving a 30/98 Vauxhall and won a Premier Award in the London-Exeter Trial and this was followed by a silver medal in the London-Edinburgh Trial in 1936.

1931 London to Lands End Trial. Anthony Heal driving his Frazer Nash up Beggars Roost Hill. He won a Silver Award.

Around this time the Vintage Sports Car Club was formed by young enthusiasts who felt that cars mass-produced in the nineteen-thirties were not so much fun as the hand built, but by then cheap, sports cars of the twenties. Anthony was a leading member of the club for forty years, organizing and competing actively in their events. As well as taking part in trials he entered the Vauxhall in hill climbs and circuit races. He then rescued  and restored, with the help of Len Gibbs, a Fiat racing car built in 1910 with a 10-litre, 4 cylinder engine and chain drive, with which he became a frequent competitor. In 1937 he bought the 1919 5-litre Ballot Indianapolis racing car that had belonged to Humphrey Cook in 1922. Although he raced it a couple of times, by the time the engine had been rebuilt satisfactorily, war had broken out.

In 1939 he was part of the support team that accompanied Peter Clark’s HRG (co-driver Marcus Chambers) at the Le Mans 24 Hour Race. Whilst at Le Mans Anthony was approached to take part in the race by Shrubsall who had just purchased a new 4 litre Talbot Lago but was unhappy with the co-driver he had been allocated by the works. Shrubsall was informed at the last minute, after ‘un diner bien arrosé’, that he had to do night practice. His driving was too spectacular for the stewards and Lord Howe as President of the BRDC had the task of informing Shrubsall he would not be allowed  to race. Although Anthony did not get to drive the Talbot he came home with a firm invitation to be one of the drivers in Peter Clark’s HRG team the following year.

1949 Le Mans 24-Hour Race. Anthony Heal driving Dudley Folland’s Aston Martin ‘Red Dragon’.

War intervened so the race never happened but when the first post-war race was held in 1949 Anthony Heal partnered Dudley Folland in the latter’s Aston Martin in a team managed by John Wyer. It was exceptionally hot and the car overheated and retired. The same team also took part in the Spa-Fancorchamps 24 Hour Race but this time the car had a steering failure and once again retired.

1951 AMOC Silverstone. Anthony Heal winning his heat in the rain at the wheel of his 1924 Grand Prix Sunbeam.

During the war Anthony rescued a number of historic racing cars to protect them from being scrapped. Most of these were later passed on to others for restoration but he kept the 1924  supercharged Grand Prix Sunbeam (that had been driven by Henry Segrave and Kenelm L Guinness when new) which he ran in hillclimbs, sprints and circuit races between 1946 and 1952. As a road car he bought a 1926 3-Litre Sunbeam super sports which he also raced (beating the 3-Litre Bentley team at Silverstone in 1949) and taking part in the Anglo-American Vintage Car Rally.

1952 Goodwood 9-Hour Race. Anthony Heal driving Len Gibbs’s H.R.G.

Anthony’s final race in a major competition was as co-driver with Len Gibbs in the latter’s lightweight HRG in the 1952 Goodwood Nine Hour Race. David Blakely also competed with the sister HRG. Gibbs and Heal finished in 13th place after a delay to repair a headlamp damaged at the chicane while Gibbs was driving.

After this, due to increased work responsibilities at the family run furnishing business, and pressure from his colleagues to give up racing, Anthony turned to a 1919 steam road locomotive as a hobby.

Anthony Heal died on 25 March 1995. He is buried in the Heal family grave marked by a stone bench set into the wall to the right of the entrance to the graveyard extension.

© Oliver Heal, September 2021

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David Blakely 1929-1955

David Moffat Drummond Blakely’s motor racing career was brief. It only lasted from 1951 to 1955 as it was cut short by his death so we will never know if he could have gone on to greater things. His step-father, Humphrey Cook, encouraged David to try the hotel trade but David’s real interest was motor racing.

David Blakely at Silverstone in 1952

He started racing in club events in 1951 with a lightweight, ex-Le Mans, H.R.G. with which he had some success. The H.R.G. was one of a pair that Len Gibbs of Slades Garage, Penn, had purchased in 1950. Gibbs kept one of them (HXR 530) which he and his wife Bluebelle raced regularly, but sold the second one (HLO 168) to Michael Keen who soon passed it on to David Blakely.  Herbert Druce remembers Michael Keen moved away from Tylers Green after he was involved in an accident at Goodwood, and David Blakely calling at the garage most days, living at The Orchard, only a few yards up Beacon Hil from Slades Garage.

David Blakely at the wheel of his lightweight H.R.G. reg. no. HLO 168 with some of his trophies.

During 1952 Blakely raced it several times at Goodwood and took part in the 8 Clubs Meeting at Silverstone (where Bluebelle Gibbs was also competing) before returning to Goodwood for the 9 Hour Race where he shared the driving with Anthony Findlater finishing 11th.

The two lightweight, ex-Le Mans, H.R.G.s preparing for the 1952 Goodwood 9-Hour race. Blakely and Findlater drove no. 39.

Also taking part in the 9 Hour race was Len Gibbs with Anthony Heal as co-driver in the other lightweight HRG. A year later Blakeley and Findlater were back at Goodwood for the 1953 9 Hour Race by which time the car had been fitted with an experimental twin-overhead camshaft engine developed by the HRG Works and on loan from them. The car retired with engine problems.

During the year David also started to drive for Lionel Leonard who had built a special bodied sports car with an MG engine in a Trojeiro chassis. The following year he raced this car at Snetterton, Oulton Park and in the sports car race at Silverstone on the day of the 1954 British Grand Prix.

In 1954, he set himself up as a sports car manufacturer with a legacy from his father. He employed Findlater to build a special tubular chassis with Volkswagen front suspension and a De Dion rear axle. The experimental engine from the HRG was fitted into this chassis which was named “The Emperor”. It was intended to offer cars like this for sale but finance was tight, and his step-father Humphrey Cook helped to settle some bills. In the Emperor’s first and last race at Brands Hatch on Boxing Day 1954, Blakely was able to finish in 2nd place.

Blakely racing The Emperor, a car of his own creation, at Brands Hatch on Boxing Day 1954. The tubular chassis designed by Anthony Findlater was powered by a prototype twin-overhead camshaft H.R.G.

How things would have evolved we do not know as the story came to an abrupt and tragic end when David Blakely was murdered by his girlfriend Ruth Ellis on 10 April 1955. He is buried in Penn New Churchyard plot number 48.  His mother Anne lies in the adjacent plot number 30, with her husband Humphrey Cook.

Sources: Ian Dussek, H.R.G. : The Sportsman’s Ideal, Dussek 2010.

© Oliver Heal, September 2021

See also Notable Burials: David Blakely

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Paddy Hopkirk (1933 – 2022)

Paddy Hopkirk MBE (1933 – 2022)

Patrick Barron Hopkirk, known to all as Paddy, is famous as the man who won the Monte Carlo Rally with a Mini, but this was just one highlight of a long and very varied motor racing career.

Born in Northern Ireland he dropped out of an Engineering degree at Trinity College Dublin to take a job as a VW car salesman which enabled him to spend as much time as possible taking part in rallies, driving tests, and hillclimbs. Having started driving a VW Beetle in 1952/53, he won his first circuit race at Phoenix Park in 1955 at the wheel of a Triumph TR2.

1956 Paddy Hopkirk won the Tour of Ireland with this Triumph TR2.

With the same car he also won the Irish 900 Mile Rally and this brought him to the attention of competition managers who started to offer him drives in the work’s teams. This started with Standard Triumph until, after several years, he was invited to join the Rootes Group competition department in 1960 for whom he took part in major international rallies with Sunbeam Rapiers and shared a Sunbeam Alpine with Peter Jopp in the 1961 Le Mans 24 Hour Race and Sebring 12 Hours.

Hopkirk/Jopp Sunbeam

In 1962 he finished third in the Monte Carlo Rally and won the Circuit of Ireland for the third time.

Hopkirk then left Rootes for the British Motor Corporation competing initially with an Austin-Healey 3000 with which he finished second in the 1962 RAC Rally. From 1963 onwards Paddy’s name came to be inextricably linked to the Mini. As well as rallying it, he spent much of 1963 racing one in the British Saloon Car Championship.

[caption id="attachment_8182" align="aligncenter" width="552"] 1963 Streamlined MGB hardtop driven in the Le Mans 24-Hour Race by Hopkirk and Hutcheson

1964 was the year of his famous Monte Carl Rally win. Starting from Minsk in the Soviet Union with co-driver Henry Lyddon, they battled through ice, snow, fog and freezing conditions to emerge triumphant and bring the first win of many for the Mini in a major international rally.

1964 Rallye Monte Carlo. Hopkirk and Henry Lyddon started from Minsk in freezing conditions and gained the first major international win for the Mini.

Over the next few years Paddy’s victories at the wheel of Mini-Cooper S’s included the 1966 Austrian Alpine, the 1967 Circuit of Ireland, the 1967 Acropolis and the 1967 Alpine Rallies. He continued to race Minis in the British Saloon Car championship and took a class win in the 1964 Spa 24-Hour Race.

1968 Rallye Monte Carlo

He also became known as a successful transcontinental rally driver taking part in the 1968 London to Sydney Marathon with Alec and Tony Nash. In an underpowered BMC/Austin/Morris 1800 ‘Land Crab’, after driving across Europe, through Turkey, Afghanistan, India and from one side of Australia to the other they took second place overall.

Hopkirk with Alec & Tony Nash in the British Leyland 1800 “Land Crab” with which they finished second in the 1968 London to Sydney Marathon.

In 1970 he finished fourth in the London to Mexico World Cup event with a Triumph 2.5i and in 1977 he came third in the second London-to-Sydney Marathon with a Citroen CX2400.

Although it was his rally successes which made Paddy a household name, he also competed in major sports car races such as the Targa Florio, Sebring 12 Hours and the Le Mans 24 Hour Race with different MGs.

Paddy Hopkirk, President of the British Racing Drivers Club 2017-2019

After his retirement from active competition Paddy established an association with BMW as an Ambassador for the second generation MINI brand, and oversaw the introduction of a special edition Paddy Hopkirk Cooper S. He also gave his time freely to several charities including Wheelpower, SKIDZ (of High Wycombe) and the Integrated Education Fund for Northern Ireland. He was appointed MBE in 2016. Continuing the work started by Earl Howe and Humphrey Cook, from 2017 to 2019 he was President of the British Racing Driver’s Club.

Paddy Hopkirk lived for many years at Parsonage Farm, Penn.

Paddy Hopkirk outside Parsonage Farm, Penn, with the Mini 33 EJB in which he won the Monte Carlo Rallye in 1964.

He died 21st August 2022, and is buried at the end of the left-hand path in the graveyard, plot number 57A.

Hopkirk Mini sideways as usual. Ireland 1969?

Oliver Heal, August 2022.  Source: BRDC Obituary.

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