Tony Brooks: The 1950s last surviving race winning Formula 1 driver

Tony Brooks: The 1950s last surviving race winning Formula 1 driver

In 1950, the creation of the Formula F1 World Championship introduced a vibrant and pioneering group of new budding racers who were involved in an era of tough, dangerous and exciting racing.

Racers such as Alberto Ascari, Jack Barbham, Juan Manuel Fangio and Nino Farina were the earliest winners to grace the track.

Sadly, only 1 out of the rest of the elite drivers remains today to tell his exciting racing stories. Tony Brooks is the last surviving Formula 1 race winner of the sport’s turbulent decade.

Brooks, now 88 years old, quit motorsport at the age of 29 and was one of the best British drivers alongside the great Sir Stirling Moss to have never won a World Championship title.

During the 1950s, an astonishing 49 Grands Prix out the 75 was won by only by three men. Five-time World Champion Fangio won it 24 times, two times World Champion Ascari claimed 13 wins and Moss won 13 races.

Brooks was fourth on the list with 6 wins, which by today standards may not look impressive, but by 1950s standards was a great return.

Brooks initially was going to follow in the footsteps of his father and become a dental surgeon but he was eventually drawn to motorsport in 1952 in club events racing in none other than his mother’s Healey Silvertone.

In October 1955, Brooks was still a student at Manchester University when he managed to gain the opportunity to compete in his first Formula 1 race for the well ran Connaught team in Syracuse, Sicily.

During his 1956 campaign, he sustained a broken jaw in his only home appearance at Silverstone when his car’s throttle stuck open and propelled him from the vehicle.

Of his Silverstone crash, he added: “Being that car, it just went completely out of control, spun into the bank, somersaulted and threw me out.

This led him to move to the Vanwall team in 1957 where he further progressed in his career.

He claimed his first podium finish at the World Championship in Monaco before achieving his first shared official F1 win with fellow Briton Moss at the British Grand Prix. The first time a British team had won a Championship race.

Brook reached his peak over the next two years where he produced five wins and two major world title challenges which were very close calls.

His move to Ferrari in 1959 provided him with better podium finishes, winning twice at the French and German Grand Prix where he finished second overall in the Championship behind Australia’s Brabham.

However, his racing prowess did not progress from there as he was thinking about life after F1 driving. His major crashes at Silverstone in 1956 and Le Mans 1957 led him to eventually cut his career short before he could have met an early grave by the unsafe machinery.

The same could not be said for his past fellow peers, where in the space of a few months in 1958, Brooks experienced the loss of three of his competitors in racing accidents which led to his desire to get out of the sport whilst he was fit and healthy.

“It was a very, very dangerous sport,” Brooks stated in 2012 to BBC South Today. “There were three to four top drivers being killed every year on average through the fifties, and I’d had a pretty good innings.

His final two seasons in the sport were not as prestigious as the start of his career, however, he was able to claim a podium finish in his last race at the United States Grand Prix in 1961.

Tony ‘the Racing Dentist’ Brooks was able to get out of the sport in good health and spend quality time with his family whilst running a successful car garage in Surrey for a good number of years, even though he was a qualified dentist.