Bobby Baird

Bobby Baird

William Robert Baird was from Ulster, Ireland. His family were Northern Irish press barons and founded the Belfast Evening Telegraph which was first published on 1 September 1870 by brothers William and George Baird. Its first edition cost half a penny and ran to four pages covering the Franco-Prussian war and local news.

Bobby was a slightly unlikely looking racing driver with his heavy glasses when he started racing with a Brooklands Riley in 1933, entering the International Tourist Trophy Handicap race at Ards, Belfast finishing 6th. Later he went on to race an R-Type MG in 1935.

During the early days, the family dissaproved and refused to fund his racing. However once he came into the family fortune he made up for this.

After the war he started racing again. In 1947 he raced his MG K3 Magnette in the Manx Cup in Douglas on the Isle of Mann in August. He then aquired the Emeryson-Lagonda Special. This was built by Paul Emery and his father with a tubular chassis and a two staged supercharged Lagonda Rapier engine. The Emerys ran it successfully until they sold it to Baird. Baird entered it in the voiturette race preceding the French Grand Prix at Lyons, before heavily modifying it with the assistance of Paul Emery, to enable the ex-Whitney Straight 4.5-litre Duesenberg engine to be fitted.

The tubular frame of the Emeryson was replaced to increase the wheelbase from 8ft 4ins to 9ft. The Duesenberg engine was installed together with an ENV type 110 pre-selector gearbox. The front and rear suspension from the original car was used but larger brakes were fitted. However the car didn't get to race in 1948 as problems with the gearbox and back axle remained unresolved as nothing could be found that could handle the power. The car was eventually sold and ended up competing in Ireland in hill-climbs and other local races.

Baird also had the Derby-Miller from the States and wanted to use the engine (a Miller 91 with two stage supercharging) in a light weight tubular chassis with Fiat front suspension and an ENV 110 gearbox.

In 1950 he entered the XII British Empire Trophy with a Tornado 1-Maserati but did not compete as the car was not ready. In August he had the MG out in the Ulster Trophy at Dundrod but crashed out after 7 laps.

Baird used two Ferrari in 1951, a 1950 166 MM Touring Barchetta (0052M) and a 212 Export Touring Barchetta (0136E). He raced 0136E with Jean Lucas to sixth place in the Tourist Trophy at Dunrod in September that year. He entered 0052M in the British Empire Trophy on June 14 and also raced it in the Goodwood September International meeting on September 29th, finishing 8th.(0052M was recently uncovered in a barn and was shown in public for the first time since 1959 in August 2006).

He then teamed up with David Griffin to build an F1 car. This was built from the remains of the ex-Bira 4CL (1584) which Salvadori crashed at Curragh in 1949 and was raced as Baird-Griffin or Baird-Gryphon (there are a number of different spellings). The engine was also based on a Maserati 4CLT unit. This car became obsolete when the World Championship was converted to F2 for 1952 but Baird drove it in a few minor events. He came 9th with it in the 1952 Richmond Trophy but retired in both the Ulster Trophy and the Leinster Trophy the same year. He also raced it at Newtonards, picking up a couple of second places. It was also driven by Dave Griffin in the handicap race at Phoenix Park where he finished 7th. Griffin also raced it in the Wakefield Trophy but retired.

The car had an excellent record in Irish sprint events throughout this period. Baird made FTD in the Cairncastle and Spelga hillclimbs in 1952, and was second at Cairncastle the following year.

Baird also owned the ex-Parnell 4CL (1569), but never raced it, and it was sold to England. He did however race the other ex-Parnell 4CLT in 1951 before selling it to Italy.

Once he came into the family fortune he purchased a dark green Ferrari 500 F2 (0188F F2GP) (This car was eventually sold back to the factory, painted red and presented to the Biscaretti Museum).  He raced a Ferrari 225S with Roy Salvadori in the BARC News Of The World International 9 Hours Sports Race at Goodwood in August 1952 finishing 3rd.

In April 1953 at the Lavant Cup at Goodwood he qualified 3rd and finished 9th in the Ferrari 500 and in the Aston-Martin Owners Club Formula 2 Race at Snetterton he came 4th, setting the fastest lap on the way.

A 2nd in the Ferrari 500 in the Winfield Junior Club Formula 2 Race at Charterhall was followed by a crash in the second heat of the Coronation Trophy at Crystal Palace in May. He came 3rd in the Ulster Trophy and the Snetterton Coronation Trophy later that month before racing a Ferrari 225S (0218ET) in the Leinster Trophy at the Wicklow Circuit in Ireland where he came 4th.

Then in July he entered the II United States Air Force Trophy at Snetterton. It was to be his last race.

Baird was fatally injured during practice when the car rolled over him. He seemed to be OK, and began to walk back to the pits when he collapsed. A broken rib had punctured his lung and heart.

After his death his effects were slowly dispersed bit by bit amongst the racing fraternity in Northern Ireland and in 1961 Baird's widow and young son won a lengthy legal fight over ownership of the Belfast Evening Telegraph newspaper.


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