Mild and reserved out of the car, Tony Brooks was transformed once he climbed onboard and was as fast as the very best in the late 1950s, a stylish racer who won six grands prix and was World Championship runner-up to Jack Brabham in 1959.
It’s hard to underestimate just how important Tony’s landmark win at Syracuse in 1955 was. He was studying for his dental exams and so shouldn’t have been involved. But, nobody else seemed to want to drive the Connaught so. He was in only the fourth year of his racing career, which started when he raced his mother’s Healey Silverstone at Goodwood, having driven it down from his home in Cheshire. Consequently, Tony didn’t feel that he could turn down the chance to make his F1 debut in this non-championship race.
It would be good experience, he thought, as he packed his books for a spot of revision. After all, there was no chance of victory as the grid was filled with works Maseratis and Gordinis, but win he did after hunting down Luigi Musso.
Within a few years, British cars went from also-rans to pace-setters. Goodwood racegoers got to appreciate Tony’s silky skills and the way that he never overstressed his machinery, watching him win the Goodwood Trophy sportscar race in 1956 in an Aston Martin DB3S, the F2 race at the Easter meeting in 1957 and then the Tourist Trophy the following year, sharing a works Aston Martin DBR1 with Stirling Moss, with whom he’d shared his Vanwall at Aintree to become the first British winners of the British GP.
Had the clutch on his Ferrari not failed on the grid at the start of the 1959 Italian GP, Tony would probably have been that year’s World Champion, but he’s usually too modest to mention that…
The Brooks Trophy is a race for for 2.5-litre, front-end and rear-engined Formula 1 cars of a type that raced from 1954-60.
Photography courtesy of LAT