Obituary: Clive Windsor-Richards

Click to follow
The Independent Culture
CLIVE WINDSOR-RICHARDS was one of the now rapidly dwindling band of drivers who raced at the Brooklands Track between the wars. He was an able and enthusiastic amateur and very typical of the Brooklands racing drivers of the 1930s.

He was born at Grangetown, near Middlesbrough, in 1903, the son of a steel manufacturer. In 1912, his father went to Russia to take over the New Russia Iron and Steel plant at what later became Stalingrad. He had a narrow escape from death when the Russian Revolution began. Windsor- Richards was educated at Uppingham and then read Engineering at Manchester University. Afterwards, he worked in Paris for three years with an engineering firm, the Societe Rateau.

Fast motor-cycles and cars were already a passion in his life and in 1930 a friend, Bryan Gush, suggested that Windsor-Richards should drive his 30-98 Vauxhall in the Motor Cycle Club's one-hour high speed trial at Brooklands. This was an event intended for the amateur driver to gain racing experience on the Track and the 30-98 was a fast sports tourer which many connoisseurs felt was a better car than the contemporary Bentley. Unfortunately the car was already entered in Gush's name so Windsor-Richards impersonated him and subsequently received a trophy inscribed with Gush's name.

Between the wars, many drivers made a profitable business by taking British and International class records at Brooklands. Successful attempts produced substantial bonuses from the firms who supplied the fuel and oil and made the tyres and other components used. In the spring of 1933, Gush realised that the record speeds set in Class J for cars up to 350cc capacity were very low, so, collaborating with Windsor-Richards, he built a car with an angle iron frame and crude body, using a JAP motor-cycle engine.

This car, nicknamed "Mickey Mouse", successfully attacked the British and International Class J records over distances up to 500 km, and took the International 12-hour record. Gush and Windsor-Richards shared the driving with several others, including Gush's sister. Gush then built a twin machine, called "Vitesse", using a Blackburne engine, and this was duly used to take the records held by "Mickey Mouse".

This breaking and re-breaking of the records by the two cars went on profitably throughout the summer of 1934. The Brooklands authorities did not permit cars to run on the track at night, so the 24-hour record was established by submitting the distance set in the 12-hour record and halving the speed. Some of the British class records set by Windsor-Richards and the members of the Gush team still stand.

Having begun his career with a 30-98 Vauxhall, Windsor-Richards began racing his own 30-98 in 1935. He gained several places at Brooklands and the following year won a race, finishing in front of the band leader Billy Cotton and Earl Howe. The car was tuned until it was able to lap Brooklands at 117mph, but old cars were not liked at Brooklands and the Vauxhall had to be abandoned at the end of the 1936 season.

He then raced a 2-litre Grand Prix Bugatti and, in 1938, joined forces with Leslie Hawthorn, the father of Mike Hawthorn, the first British World Champion. Leslie Hawthorn had a very fast 1100cc Riley, which had formerly belonged to Freddie Dixon, the legendary tuner of Rileys. Most Brooklands races were handicaps and every driver's aim was to outwit the handicapper. In addition, bookies attended Brooklands and those in the know could sometimes make a useful "killing".

In one race, the Hawthorn Riley received a most favourable handicap so the driver and owner expected to receive good prize money and make profitable bets. While the car was on the starting line, Windsor-Richards left it to attend to an urgent physical need, so Hawthorn turned off the fuel. When the race began the car stopped almost at once as the fuel had not been turned on again, so the financial benefits did not materialise.

In addition to Brooklands, Windsor-Richards raced at Southport, Donington and Crystal Palace and was placed at these courses, sometimes driving a Bentley. After the Second World War, he drove an SS 100 Jaguar at Gransden Lodge, the only race meeting to be held in England in 1947 and at Shelsey Walsh hill climb, but he did not like the way racing had changed so retired from the sport. Before the war he had run a haulage business at Bentley in Hampshire and he later owned a firm which specialised in metal electroplating.

His interests in vintage Vauxhalls and similar old sports cars, led Clive Windsor-Richards to become one of the founder member of the Vintage Sports Car Club and he was Club Captain from 1938 to 1947. He was also a member of the British Racing Drivers Club and at the time of his death was the club's oldest surviving member.

David Venables

Clive Windsor-Richards, racing driver: born Grangetown, Yorkshire 4 February 1903; three times married; died 10 August 1998.