- February 25, 1932
- United Kingdom
- Not Active
Tony Brooks (full name Charles Anthony Standish Brooks) is a British former racing driver who participated in 39 Formula One Grand Prix races between 1956 and 1961. Brooks achieved six wins and ten podium finishes, with second place as season best result in 1959.
Brooks was born on 25 February 1932 in Dukinfield, Cheshire. His father was a dental surgeon and Tony also studied to be a dentist. He went to dental school and in 1956, after almost six years of intensive study, graduated with full degree in Dentistry. Because of that he had a nickname 'Racing dentist'.
Tony was a natural born driver
Tony started racing in 1951 with Panhard Dyna and intensified his racing activities in the following years with Healey Silverstone and Frazer Nash Le Mans Replica at various club events. He was a natural born driver, he never went to driver's school and never had a mentor.
In 1955 Tony went to Le Mans to compete at famous 24-hour race, together with John Riseley-Pritchard. They drove Aston Martin DB3S but didn't finished. It was the event remembered because of tragedy in which more than 80 people were killed.
His biggest success in 1955 was the surprise victory at non-championship Syracuse Grand Prix. He was driving Connaught Type B and became the first British driver with British car to win a Grand Prix race since 1923.
Formula One debut at 1956 British Grand Prix
In 1956 he debuted in Formula One, but not in a first attempt. At Monaco Grand Prix he didn't start because of engine problems of his BRM P25, so he had to wait for racing debut two more months until British Grand Prix at Silverstone. He started ninth but retired in Lap 39 after accident.
In the same year he went again at Le Mans with Aston Martin and Reg Parnell as a co-driver, but one more time failed to finish the race. He was much successful at English circuits, with victories at Goodwood Trophy with Aston Martin DB3S, Oulton Park GT race with Mercedes-Benz 300 SL and Formula Two Brands Hatch race with Cooper T41.
Tony’s first victory at Aintree Circuit
In 1957 his Formula One programme was expanded to five races with Vanwall. Brooks took his first podium at Monaco Grand Prix, finishing second in a chaotic race, behind Juan Manuel Fangio. At 1957 British Grand Prix, held on Aintree Circuit near Liverpool, Brooks scored his first F1 victory. He was sharing a car with Stirling Moss and they scored victory ahead three Ferraris. It remained Brooks' only season's victory and he finished 5th in the championship.
Tony was third in a world, but the team took the championship title
The season 1958, again with Vanwall, was a compilation of five retirements and three victories (Belgium, Germany and Italy) plus 7th place at British Grand Prix. Brooks took third place in the championship, behind Mike Hawthorn and Stirling Moss. Vanwall took Manufacturers' title from Ferrari.
The season was one of the most tragic in Formula One's history. Four drivers died in four different races during this season - Luigi Musso, Peter Collins, Stuart Lewis-Evans and Pat O'Connor. Mike Hawthorn died in a road car accident and Juan Manual Fangio retired from racing, so on the grid of 1959 there were no world champions.
Tony was so close, but Brabham took the title
Tony Brooks moved to Ferrari and he fought against Climax-powered Coopers of Jack Brabham and Stirling Moss. Brooks won at French Grand Prix at Reims and German Grand Prix at AVUS, but it was enough just for second place. Jack Brabham won the title, Stirling Moss was third. Both Moss and Brooks confirmed their status of the best world drivers without F1 titles. They were so close so many times, but never get a chance to celebrate a final victory.
Career's last podium at Watkins Glen
In 1960 Brooks again changed the car. He was driving Cooper T51 (Climax) for Yeoman Credit Racing Team. Fourth place at Monaco Grand Prix was his best finish and Brooks ended the season 11th in the championship. The next and final change followed in 1961, when he sat behind the wheel of BRM P48. He ended the season and his career with a third place at the first ever United States Grand Prix at Watkins Glen.
Four unsuccessful attempts at Le Mans
During Formula One career Brooks continued to race with sports cars and achieved few notable good results. Together with Noël Cunningham-Reid he won 1957 1000km of Nurburgring with Aston Martin DBR1. With the same co-driver and same car Brooks went to 1957 24 Hours of Le Mans and failed to finish third time in a row, after Brooks had an accident in Lap 140.
Neither fourth attempt wasn't better. At 1958 Le Mans race Brooks paired with new co-driver Maurice Trintignant, but after 173 laps the gearbox of Aston Martin failed and one more DNF was recorded. His last season with sports car was 1959, driving Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa. He shared a car with Jean Behra at Targa Florio (DNF) and 1000 km of Nurburgring (3rd). He ended sports car racing with two Tourist Trophy races at Goodwood.
Refuse to risk his life in unprepared cars
Brooks raced in 1950s, which was the most dangerous decade in a racing history. He had several dangerous accidents, such as 1956 British GP crash or 1957 Le Mans crash. Both accidents occured in cars with mechanical problems and Brooks decided than in the future he wouldn't risk his life with cars which wasn't correctly prepared. He retired from racing very early, in the age of 29, but it seems that it was the only way to survive those dangerous days.
Owner of successful car dealership
Brooks retired from racing to concentrate on his career as the owner of a car dealership in Weybridge, backed up to the old Brooklands track. Brooks literally took it from a sleepy four pump filling station to one of the most successful Ford dealerships in the area. At the age of 61 in 1993, Tony Brooks retired once more.