As GRR regulars, you will feel more than most the passing this week of Brian Lister. To me he was a true hero, one of the lesser-sung greats of the sport and our world is all the poorer without him.
His achievements with a small engineering team and the sublime talent of Archie Scott Brown at the wheel really do beggar belief. From the start of their collaboration in 1954, Archie and Brian had been serial class winners in Listers with MG, Bristol and even Maserati power, but it was only when Archie was given a car with the power to match both his talent and that of the Lister chassis that their potential was realised.
“While the light as a race car constructor was destined to gleam for but an instant, the life of Brian Lister continued, rich and fulfilled by less hazardous forms of engineering and a life-long love of jazz”
In 1957 Archie Scott Brown entered 14 races in his Lister-Jaguar and won 11 of them. In every single one he equalled or broke the lap record. At Goodwood in September he destroyed a field including the likes of Jack Brabham and Roy Salvadori, leading from flag to flag and winning by over half a minute. At the Easter Monday meeting in 1958, now equipped with the ‘Knobbly’ specification Lister, he was past the works DBR2 Aston Martin of Stirling Moss by the first corner and held off the maestro for eight laps until his steering failed. And then came Spa where Archie overdid it dicing with Masten Gregory’s Lister for the lead in rain. The ensuing accident was eminently survivable but tragically the fire it precipitated was not.
And despite Moss and others such as Ivor Bueb continuing to enjoy some success in Listers in Europe (and Walt Hangsen cleaning up in SCCA meetings in the US), Brian’s love of racing died with Archie. Little more than year later Lister withdrew from all forms of motorsport for good.
It is perhaps not that profitable to speculate what might have been possible had Archie lived and Brian stayed racing. At the time the business closed an all-new car had been built around a lightweight spaceframe chassis with Frank Costin bodywork. And although conceived as an open car, it was turned into a closed coupé and years later, in 1963, raced at Le Mans though it was still entirely undeveloped and retired. It races on today, now with its potential realised and is a regular front-runner in the TT against far younger opposition. Had it been as quick in 1959 as it is today, the story of Lister could have been very different indeed.
But while the light as a race car constructor was destined to gleam for but an instant, the life of Brian Lister continued, rich and fulfilled by less hazardous forms of engineering and a life-long love of jazz until he died this week aged 88.
On behalf of all of us at Goodwood Road & Racing, I would like to extend our sincere sympathies to his wife Josephine, and their daughter.