Former Formula One driver Tony Brooks, the ‘racing dentist’, dies aged 90 | Formula One

The former Formula One race winner and world championship contender Tony Brooks has died aged 90. His daughter Giulia announced the death on Tuesday.

Brooks was one of the great British drivers of the 1950s and narrowly missed out on winning the F1 title in 1959. In his career, he won six grands prix and took 10 podiums from just 38 starts. During his era only Juan Manuel Fangio, Alberto Ascari and Stirling Moss were more successful.

In 1959 he joined Ferrari and won in France and Germany backed up with a second in Monaco. Despite two retirements he entered the final round at Sebring with a shot at the title. But on the opening lap he was hit by his teammate Wolfgang von Trips.

Brooks had survived two huge accidents at Silverstone and Le Mans earlier in his career that had changed the way he approached racing and informed his actions at Sebring. “My natural inclination was to carry on,” he said. “Believe me, that would have been the easiest thing to do, but I made myself come in to have the car checked over.”

He lost half a lap doing so and he finished third, not enough to prevent Jack Brabham, who had run out of fuel and pushed his car over the line for fourth, taking the title.

Brooks was enormously liked and admired. He was a charming, unassuming gentleman and the unsung hero of an era when racing was exceptionally dangerous. Born on 25 February 1932 in Dukinfield, Cheshire, he began club racing in 1952 before joining Aston Martin’s sports car team in 1954. In 1955 he was studying for his finals in dentistry – the family profession – when he was called in as a last- minute replacement at the Connaught team for the Syracuse GP, which he then won. It was a remarkable feat, the first GP win for a British driver in a British car for 31 years and earned him the moniker of “the racing dentist”.

Brooks joined Moss and Stuart Lewis-Evans at Vanwall in 1957 and a year later delivered perhaps the outstanding performances of his career, including victories at Spa, the Nürburgring and Monza. The wins on fearsome high-speed circuits was indicative of just what sublime touch and judgment Brooks possessed. He believed his win in Germany, passing the Ferraris of Mike Hawthorn and Peter Collins, was his best drive.

The 1959 season remained the high point, however, and with the switch to rear-engined cars Brooks was not as comfortable and he retired at the end of the 1961 season. He also proved himself in sports cars winning the Spa sports car GP and the Nürburgring 1000km in 1957.

Before his death two years ago Moss paid great tribute to his teammate and friend. “Brooks was a tremendous driver, the greatest, if he’ll forgive me saying this, ‘unknown’ racing driver there’s ever been,” he said. “He was far better than several people who won the world championship.”

The F1 chief executive, Stefano Domenicali, also acknowledged the loss of a great driver. “I was saddened to hear the news that Tony Brooks has died,” he said. “He was part of a special group of drivers who were pioneers and pushed the boundaries at a time of great risk. He will be missed and our thoughts are with his family at this time. ”

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