Tony Hegbourne

Tony Hegbourne

24/7/1931 - 1/7/1965

Started racing quite late (27 years old) but quickly became regarded as one of the most promising British drivers. Tony was killed in the Spa 500Km race in 1965 when his Alfa Romeo TZ1 Zagato somersaulted at full speed on the Masta straight.

Anthony Victor Hegbourne was a Director of Godfrey Lambert Automobiles Ltd. He started competing on motorcycles in 1955 and 1956 racing 350 and 500 cc Nortons motorcycles.

In 1964 he won the Hartley Award for the best amateur rider, he finished 13th in the Junior Manx GP on the Isle of Man and retired on the last lap while lying 9th in the senior event.

He switched to motor racing in 1957, winning at Brands in the ex-Bristow Cooper T39 Bobtail. He also raced in the North Staffs Silverstone meeting on October 5th and, a week later, at the Lancs and Cheshire Oulton Park meeting.

Still racing the T39, he started 1958 at Snetterton for the SMRC meeting on 30 March finishing 12th in the under 1500cc Sports Car Race. At Brands Hatch in April for the BRSCC meeting, Tony took his first win, setting the fastest lap on his way and beating Mike McKee in a works Elva Mk3.

In 1959 he raced a Tojeiro Climax but then didn't race until 1962.

Back on track in 1962, he won Brooklands Memorial Trophy Championship with a MK1 Lola Climax. In 1963 he raced a Lotus 23B for Normand Ltd., winning races and finishing well in the United Kingdom and in Europe. He took a fine a second place overall behind Lorenzo Bandini in the Auvergne Trophy at the Circuit de Charade, Clermond-Ferrand in the Lotus 23B, setting the fastest lap at 3:50,100 - 126,023 km/h. Mike Beckwith was fifth in the other Normand Lotus 23B.

Normand acquired two new Cooper T71s with Cosworth SCA engines and moved up into Formula 2 in 1964, keeping Hegbourne and Beckwith as drivers. At this time Hegbourne, who was living in Kenley in Surrey, was director at Godfrey Lambert Automobiles

Unfortunately the Cooper chassis was awful and the white cars, with bright blue and red stripes, struggled all season. Hegbourne did win both heats at the X Grosser Preis von Berlin at Avus on 24 May, but the circuit made up of two four-kilometer long straights linked by a hairpin at one end and the banked Nordkehre at the other was the only track that suited the ill handling machines. Hegbourne win at Avus was the last Cooper win in a F2 race.

Colin Knight, chief mechanic, modified the suspension of the T71s he season progressed but though he improved the cars, they remained uncompetitive. However Hegbourne still managed second place on aggregate in the Grande Premio di Roma at Vallelunga, with Beckwith behind him in third, as well as a fifth at Mallory Park and sixth at Pau and Crystal Palace.

Tony was a Grovewood award winner in 1963 and considered to be one of Britain’s most promising racing talents, despite being thirty two years old.

In 1964 he was invited by Ian Walker to drive the first Lotus 30 ever built in one of the supporting races for the 1964 British Grand Prix in Brands Hatch. The Lotus 30 had shown some major initial problems, Len Terry had commented that it was panelled in sheet so thin that it was like an 'old Duckham's oil can' and that it wouldn't be rigid enough. When the Series 1 30s began to twist, stress ripples were left clearly visible in the backbone skinning. In the race the Ian Walker Racing car broke in two at the bottom of Dingle Dell completely destroying it but fortunately Tony walked away with only minor injuries.

He was in America in August for the Marlboro 12 Hour race at the Marlboro Park Speedway partnering Sir John Whitmore to finish in second place.

In 1965 he signed to race for two of the top privateer teams, John Willment in Formula 2 and Walker-Day Racing in sportscars.

His first race for Willment was on the 03 April at Oulton Park, driving their Lola T55 to a creditable sixth place.

In March, Walker-Day had taken delivery of two new Alfa Romeo TZ1 Zagato for Hegbourne and Boley Pittard. The cars, chassis #AR750053 and #AR750073, were painted red and were prepared in the Bristol-Siddeley Engines workshops in Hendon, London. Their first race was at the Goodwood Easter Monday meeting on 19 April. The following weekend he raced for Willment at the Eifelrennen in the Nürburgring on 25 April, held on the Südschleife instead of the usual Nordschleife. Hegbourne finished a respectable fifth in the T55 Lola in a race won by Mike Spence in a Lotus 35.

John Willment's contacts with Ford allowed Hegbourne to compete in the United States Road Racing Championship. So at the begining of May he travelled out to drive a Lotus Cortina at Riverside and Laguna Seca. The Cortina was no match for the Cobras, Corvettes and Porsche 904s but he nevertheless put up a good show.

Back in Britain, Walker-Day Racing transported the TZ1s to Spa on 16 May. They were then due to move on to the 1000 km of Nürburgring on the following Sunday.

Only twenty-six cars showed up for the 500 kilomètres de Francorchamps at Spa, with only five in the 1600cc grand touring class: Hegbourne, Pittard, two more TZ1s for Nicolas Koob and Gustave Gosselin and a Lotus Elan driven by Mark Konig. Hegbourne was the fastest in qualyfing, with a best lap of 4min36.49s, good enough for the fifteenth overall on the grid. Pittard was a full 1.11 second behind.

It was overcast but dry for the start. and by lap 3 Tony was leading the class from Pittard and Koob. After pitting for fuel they were all well in touch with each other with Tony third in class when on lap 26 his TZ1 somersaulted going flat out down the Masta straight. The car landed in a field and Tony suffered multiple injuried including a fractured spine and a broken leg. He was taken to the hospital in Verviers, Belgium. His prospects were looking better and he was transferred to hospital in Stanmmore. However his condition deteriorated and he died six weeks after the accident, on 01 July 1965.

 

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