- September 22, 1896
- June 13, 1930
- United Kingdom
- Not Active
Sir Henry Segrave (1896-1930) was a British racer and a pioneer of the land speed and water speed records. He was the first person in a history to simultaneously holding records both at land and water and the first man ever to travel at over 200 mph (320 km/h) in a land vehicle.
Before he started to set speed records, Segrave occasionally participated in racing events, including a victory at 1923 French Grand Prix and one attempt at 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1925. He died in a crash during a water speed record attempt in June 1930 at Windermere Lake.
Segrave Trophy is an award for outstanding men and women
Soon after his death, his wife Lady Doris established the Segrave Trophy as an award for outstanding skill, courage and initiative on land, water and in the air.
Many individuals from motorsport received an award, such were Geoff Duke, Stirling Moss, Bruce McLaren, Jackie Stewart, Roger Clark, Mike Hailwood, Martin Brundle, Frank Williams, Nigel Mansell, Colin McRae, Damon Hill, Joey Dunlop, Lewis Hamilton, Allan McNish, John Surtees, John McGuiness and most recently Sam Sunderland, the first Briton to win Dakar Rally.
Born in the USA, raised in Ireland
Henry Segrave was born in September 1896 in Baltimore, Maryland, to an American mother and an Irish father. He was raised in Ireland and attended a prestigious Eton College in Berkshire, England.
In 1914, when the World War I started, Segrave joined the Royal Warwickshire Regiment and then, in January 1916, he moved to the Royal Flying Corps where he served as a fighter pilot. Soon he became a flight commander as a temporary captain. After the war, he was transferred to the Royal Air Force Administrative Branch but he resigned in 1919 due to his war injuries.
Starting a racing career in 1921
In 1921, Segrave became one of the pioneers of Grand Prix racing and car racing in general. He was the winner of the first long-distance race in Britain, the 200-mile Brooklands race organised by the Junior Car Club. He won in a Talbot-Darracq.
In July 1921, Segrave participated for the first time in the French Grand Prix. That year, the race took part at the 17.2-km long circuit near Le Mans. He raced in a Talbot and finished ninth.
The regular competitor in the French Grand Prix, winner in 1923
Segrave became the regular competitor at the French Grand Prix, returning four more times between 1922 and 1925. In 1922, at Strasbourg, he was forced to retire in his Sunbeam because of chemical burns.
Next year, when the race took place at Tours, Segrave was a winner in a Sunbeam, winning at 22.8-km long public road circuit. With that victory, he became the first Briton to win a Grand Prix race in a British car.
Segrave started from a pole position in the 1924 French Grand Prix at Lyon, set the fastest lap in a Sunbeam but finished fifth in the race won by Giuseppe Campari (Alfa Romeo). In 1925, Segrave started again from P1 in the French Grand Prix that took place at Autodrome de Linas-Montlhery but retired in the race after 31 laps.
DNF in only attempt at Le Mans 24 Hours
Segrave was also successful in other Grand Prix event. In September 1924, he won the San Sebastian Grand Prix at Circuito Lasarte in Spain, driving a Sunbeam. One more victory came in March 1925 in the Provence Grand Prix at Miramas in France.
In June 1925, Segrave recorded his only attempt at 24 Hours of Le Mans. He was sharing the #15 Sunbeam Le Mans with George Duller, taking the lead on the opening lap and running in front for 20 laps. Segrave/Duller retired after six hours of racing with a broken clutch.
Retiring from racing to become the fastest man on Earth
Henry Segrave pulled out from car racing in 1926 to start a new career as a speed record breaker. He set his first land speed record in March 1926, driving a 4-liter Sunbeam Tiger 'Ladybird' at speed of 152.33 miles per hour (245.15 km/h) at Ainsdale beach at Southport, England. This record was broken a month later by J.G. Parry-Thomas.
A year later, on March 29, 1927, Segrave set a new record, becoming the first driver to exceed 200 mph (320 km/h). He did that at Daytona Beach, driving a 1000 hp Sunbeam 'Mystery' at speed of 203.79 mph (327.97 km/h).
On March 11, 1929, Segrave set his final land speed record, again at Daytona Beach. He was using a new car designed for him by Captain Jack Irving and named the Golden Arrow, setting a new record of 231.45 miles per hour (372.48 km/h).
Losing a life on the day of his water speed record
Between setting two land speed records, Segrave also became the speedboat racer. He went to the USA to challenge Garfield Wood, the multiple winner of Harmsworth Trophy boat race. He won a race against Wood in March 1929 at Miami, what was the American's first defeat in nine years. After Segrave returned to Britain, he was knighted for his many accomplishments.
But, he was still wanting to be the fastest. On June 13, 1930, he was a pilot in a project sponsored by Lord Wakefield who wanted to bring the water speed record to Britain. Segrave was piloting Miss England II to a new record of 158.94 km/h (98.8 mph) average speed during two runs on Windermere Lake. Segrave wanted to be even faster and started the third run. That, unfortunately, ended with a crash and Segrave's death.