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Tony Brooks – one of the best British F1 drivers to never win a title – has died at the age of 90, his daughter Giulia has announced. Brooks, who was known as the Racing Dentist and competed for six years, tasted victory at six Grands Prix and just missed out on landing the F1 world title in 1959.
Following confirmation of Brooks’ death, F1 chief executive Stefano Domenicali paid tribute to him in a short statement. “I was saddened to hear the news that Tony Brooks has died,” read the statement.
“He was part of a special group of drivers who were pioneers and pushed the boundaries at a time of great risk. He will be missed and our thoughts are with his family at this time.”
Brooks was born in Dukinfield, Cheshire in 1932 and had followed his father into dentistry. But while he was studying for his finals at Manchester University in 1955, the Connaught team called him up as a last-minute entry for the Syracuse Grand Prix. And, despite missing the first practice day, he famously stunned world championship regulars Luigi Musso and Luigi Villoresi to win the race.
Brooks soon decided to hold fire on his career as a dentist to focus on full-time motor racing. He entered F1 a year later with BRM, but only raced twice for the team before joining Stirling Moss at Vanwall a year later. And he won the British Grands Prix in his debut season alongside his fellow Briton.
Brooks went on to finish third in the world championship with Vanwall, before moving to Ferrari in 1959. And he should have won the championship during his time with the Scuderia but ultimately finished second after being hit by team-mate Wolfgang Von Trips on the first lap of the season-deciding US Grand Prix.
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“My natural inclination was to carry on,” Brooks went on to say. “Believe me, that would have been the easiest thing to do – but I made myself come in to have the car checked over. I lost half a lap doing that, and still finished third. Stirling retired, and Jack [Brabham, the eventual champion] ran out of petrol near the end. Still, in my own mind, I think I did the right thing.”
Brooks left Ferrari after one season but continued to race in F1 in 1960 and 1961. But following an unsuccessful return to BRM, he ultimately decided to retire. During his career, he started 39 races and secured 10 podium finishes. And after Juan Manuel Fangio, Alberto Ascari and Moss, he was the most successful driver of his era.
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