Obituary: Brian Shawe-Taylor

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The Independent Culture
BRIAN SHAWE-TAYLOR was one of the now very small band of surviving drivers who raced at Brooklands.

He was born in Dublin in 1915, the younger son of Frank Shawe-Taylor, an English owner of Irish estates. In 1920, during the Irish Civil War, the father was murdered and the family moved to England where Brian was educated at Shrewsbury; an enthusiasm for motor racing resulted in a friendship with Bob Ansell of the Midlands brewing family.

Ansell was racing an ERA (English Racing Automobile) in most of the major British races in 1938/39, and entered Shawe-Taylor in his first race at the Whitsun Brooklands meeting in June 1939. He finished fourth and Ansell was sufficiently impressed by his performance that he invited him to share the ERA in the 1939 Nuffield Trophy at Donington where they finished fourth.

The Second World War put a stop to his racing career and Shawe- Taylor was commissioned in the Royal Artillery. After the war he opened a garage in Cheltenham, specialising in tuning and preparing racing cars and Ansell became a customer.

He continued to drive Ansell's ERA and gained a number of successes at the early post-war British meetings. He first became noticed by a wider public when he led the 1949 Goodwood Trophy for several laps despite the inferior performance of the ERA, staying in front of such established aces as Reg Parnell for several laps.

Ansell retired from the sport in 1950 so Shawe-Taylor bought the ERA and had a number of minor successes during the 1950 season. In a heat of the International Trophy at Silverstone, run in a downpour of rain, he finished in second place behind Juan Fangio's Alfa Romeo and was lapping faster in the conditions.

He drove a Maserati in the 1950 British Grand Prix, and in 1951, having bought a faster ERA, was the first private entrant to finish in the British Grand Prix behind the works-entered Ferraris, Alfa Romeos andBRMs (British Racing Motors).

In 1950 he was using a vintage 1500cc Alfa Romeo as a road car and was gratified and amused at Silverstone when the Alfa Romeo team mechanics broke away from their work and gathered round his elderly car, expressing their delight.

His abilities were noticed by John Wyer, the Aston Martin team manager, and he joined the 1951 Aston Martin team driving at Le Mans where he was fifth, and in the Tourist Trophy. Tony Vandervell - who was entering a Ferrari in grand prix races as a forerunner to his later Vanwall team - invited Shawe-Taylor to drive the Ferrari in the 1951 French Grand Prix at Rheims, but he declined the drive after problems in practice. His career came to an abrupt end when he was seriously injured in a collision with another competitor in the Goodwood Trophy in September 1951. He retired from the sport but continued to prepare racing cars at the Cheltenham garage.

Brian Shawe-Taylor was typical of the drivers who were the backbone of British motor racing in the immediate post-war years before the emergence of the Stirling Moss / Mike Hawthorn generation. He was enthusiastic and with a marked ability. On his own assessment, the best years were probably gone by the time he returned to the sport at the end of the Second World War, though he would have achieved much more if faster and better cars had been available. His elder brother was Desmond Shawe-Taylor, the music critic and writer, who died in 1995.

David Venables

Brian Newton Shawe-Taylor, racing driver: born Dublin 29 January 1915; married 1946 Joselyn Hickman (died 1979; three sons); died Cheltenham, Gloucestershire 1 May 1999.