Sir Gawaine Baillie

Sir Gawaine Baillie

8/3/1934 - 21/12/2003

Sir Gawaine Baillie was an amateur motor racing driver, engineer, industrialist and the owner of the estate surrounding Leeds Castle, the ancient fortress in Kent.

Sir Gawaine Baillie, 7th Bt, was brought up in a privileged world but his childhood was disrupted first by WWII and then by the early death of his father. He was the son of the Conservative MP Sir Adrian Baillie, 6th Bt, and his wife Olive, herself the eldest daughter of the first and last Lord Queenborough and his American wife Pauline, daughter of William C Whitney.

His first years were at Leeds castle, the ancient fortress in Kent, which his mother Lady Olive Baillie had bought with her sister Dorothy Paget (Supported and sponsor of Tim Birkin in 1926). The castle had fallen into disrepair, but its fabric was soon restored and it was furnished with an outstanding collection of French and English furniture, tapestries and pictures.

Gawaine would inherit the estate surrounding the castle on his mother's death in 1974; the castle itself was bequeathed to the nation. With the outbreak of war in 1939, at the age of only five he was sent to live with his American cousins, the Whitney family. For five years he lived at Long Island on the enormous family estate, Greentree, staying with Jock Whitney's sister Joan Payson and her husband, Charles. Within 18 months of his return to England his father died and he succeeded the family title, becoming 7th Bt, of Polkemmet, Linlithgowshire.

He was educated at Eton and went on to read engineering at Cambridge and thereafter qualified as an accountant. He was an amateur motor racing driver, engineer, industrialist and the owner of the estate surrounding Leeds Castle, the ancient fortress in Kent.

Baillie began motor racing in the late 1950s, and on Boxing Day 1958 carried off the John Davy Trophy for saloon cars before a crowd of 30,000 at Brands Hatch. The next year he drove as number two to Ivor Bueb, the double-Le Mans 24-Hours race winner, in the private Equipe Endeavour team - using Jaguar 3.4-litre saloon cars. In the Endeavour Jaguar, Baillie placed third in each of that year's big spring meetings at Goodwood, Aintree and Silverstone, and began winning at major saloon car level in 1960.

In 1961 he and his co-driver, Peter Jopp, were runners-up in the touring car category of the motor Tour de France, an event that lasted 10 days with six circuit races, nine mountain climbs and two hours' racing round the public roads of Corsica. He continued to campaign Jaguar saloons into 1962, when he crashed during the Tour de France. His Jaguar left the road and plunged 100 feet down a ravine, and Baillie was taken to hospital with multiple cuts to the face.

He now switched cars, acquiring his own American Ford Galaxie saloon, with its seven-litre V8 engine, which he raced for most of the 1963 season and into 1964 - his best result being third behind two World Champions, Jack Brabham and Jim Clark, at Snetterton. In November 1964 Baillie co-drove his Galaxie with the Australian champion Lex Davison in Melbourne's Sandown Park 6-Hours, only for Davison to crash the giant car twice. Still in Australia, three months later Baillie finished second in the Sandown Park International meeting at which Davison was killed; and a week later Baillie travelled to Longford, Tasmania, regarded at the time as the world's most frightening road circuit, where he won outright.

Baillie bought a more nimble 4.7-litre Ford Mustang V8 for the 1965 British Championship season, which proved his most successful yet - with two second places and a third.

For 1966, his compressor speciality came to the fore as he fitted a Ford Falcon V8 with a Paxton supercharger. This Falcon was some 400 lbs lighter than the Mustang, and he won his class in the British Championship, beating future Formula 1 star Jackie Oliver and the three-times World Champion Jack Brabham.

In 1959 he set up HPC Engineering at Burgess Hill, West Sussex, and served as a hands-on chairman and managing director for the rest of his life. A sub-contract manufacturer for the automotive, aerospace, computer, defence, medical and machine tool industries, HPC now has a turnover of £25 million. Baillie's workforce of 220 was devoted to him; he had no intention of retiring. He married, in 1966, Margot Beaubien, the daughter of Senator Louis Beaubien of Montreal. They had a daughter Liza, born in 1969, and in 1973 a son, Adrian, who succeeds in the baronetcy.

Leave a comment

Comments