Thomas Cholmondeley-Tapper

Thomas Cholmondeley-Tapper

31/7/1910 - 27/7/2001

Thomas Pitt Cholmondeley-Tapper he was the first internationally known racing driver from New Zealand. His racing abilities were considered as quite promising but he never had the right equipment to prove it.

<font face="Tahoma" size="2">Thomas Pitt Cholmondeley-Tapper was born in Wellington, New Zealand. A distant relation of Lord Cholmondelay, he was the first internationally known racing driver from New Zealand before Graham McRae, Chris Amon, Bruce McLaren, Denny Hulme and others.

Known as "George", he was the son of George Albert Tapper and Lena Cholmondeley. Both had been born in New Zealand, George's father had emigrated from England in 1863. His mother was the daughter of George James Cholmondeley, Archdeacon of Christchurch Cathedral. He grew up in Christchurch, New Zealand, but in 1926 his family moved to England. He continued his education, first at Grenoble University, France where he developed a passion for skiing, before going up to Jesus College, Cambridge to read law. A member of the Cambridge University Ski Team and with a keen interest in motor racing sport, Thomas didn't complete his degree course.

He was at one time Eileen Ellisons's boyfriend and, with her brother Tony, they travelled through Europe to racing venues. She was frequently noted as the entrant when Cholmondeley Tapper raced, chiefly because he drove her cars. Her brother was invariably the mechanic.

He raced Bugattis and an old GP Maserati 8CM that Eileen bought from Earl Howe. With a better equipment he could possibly have been a top competitor as his racing abilities were considered as quite promising. In 1935 in the Voiturette race at the Grand Prix De Lorraine he collided with Mestivier's Amilcar at the start but never the less went on to build a 10 minute lead after two and a half hours hours. unfortunately his Bugatti T34A developed brake problems and spun letting Veyron take the lead which he held to the finish. Eileen Ellison was third.

He was offered a Mercedes-Benz test at Monza in October 1936 after participating in the German Grand Prix in the 8CM. However en route, he paid a visit to Maserati in Bologna and by the time he arrived at Monza, the Mercedes team had returned to Germany.

He wrote about his experiences as a racing driver in his book "Amateur Racing Driver", first published by G. T. Foulis in 1954. He retired from motor racing in 1937 but continued skiing. He was a member of the British Ski Team in 1937, 38 and 39.

In 1939 he obtained a licence to operate an airstrip in Buckinghamshire where he and a friend gave flying lessons. At the outbreak of World War II, the airstrip and all the aircraft were requisitioned by the Government. George applied to join the RAF but was rejected for combat flying on medical grounds instead joining Air Transport Auxiliary, delivering aircraft from the factories to the bases. It was at this time that he met his wife Margaret.

In October 1944 he crashed while driving from Carlisle to Kirkbride aerodrome for flying duties. He sustained a fractured skull and broken right leg. He survived, though his recovery took some seven years.

He died in England aged 90.

historicracing.com

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