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Gerry Birrell


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#1 David M. Kane

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Posted 27 July 2001 - 21:03

Did anyone ever see Gerry Birrell the promising young Scotish
driver race. If so, how do you rate him? I only know he was a
friend of Jackie Stewart's, that he got pretty good plugs in
Autosport and that he was killed in a F2 race at Rouen.

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#2 Kpy

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Posted 27 July 2001 - 21:57

I certainly did see Gerry race. He was as quick as Ronnie Peterson and Emmerson Fittipaldi in F2 in '73.

He was killed when a tyre went down at Six Frères at Rouen-les-Essarts. A chicane was installed for the race at the demand of other drivers.

#3 LittleChris

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Posted 30 July 2001 - 09:48

I saw him at the Thruxton Easter Monday F2 race in 1973 a few months before his death and I think he finished 3rd or 4th in the final after someone else was disqualified. He was also apparently very quick driving a Capri in the ETC the previous season. Ironically I was on holiday with my parents and we passed by Rouen Les Essarts on the autoroute at pretty well the time he crashed. I visited the track a couple of years ago and there are some pics on Johnny Lugnut's site


http://www.homestead...sgpl/rouen.html

Chris

#4 FEV

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Posted 03 March 2002 - 06:25

When are remembered the young and talented drivers who left us too early, the name of Gerry Birrell is not often mentioned. He died before I was even born, so it is a bit pretentious from me to say that he is overlooked, but it seems to me that he could have achieved great things. He seemed to race a lot in F2, 2-litre Sportscars and Touring Cars (all of this most often with Ford power), but never got the big break for F1. Does any of you have memories of him ? Is he still remembered in Scotland for instance ?
Thanks !
Frank

#5 Barry Boor

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Posted 03 March 2002 - 09:54

Gerry came to the Connew lock-up one night early in 1972.

I wasn't there but Peter said he seemed a really nice bloke and he was dead keen on driving our car. The trouble was, we had no money and neither did he so, of course, it came to nothing.

#6 David M. Kane

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Posted 03 March 2002 - 18:28

I just visited with Kenny Smith in Auckland and he did several deals with
Gerry Birrell and he said he was made of the right stuff for sure. He bought one of his Chevron cars and it arrived on a pallet packed in the
most professional manner possible.

Kenny has been buying selling race cars for 40 + years and to this day he
says he never met a more stand-up businessman.

When he got killed he was one step from stardom. In Formula One they are interested in two type of drivers only those that are the once in a decade-types who can't miss...like Tom Pryce or Tony Brise or the ones who bring big money. Gerry was unfortunately a tweener...somewhere in between.
F1 is cold and very flakey.

#7 David McKinney

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Posted 03 March 2002 - 19:56

It was actually a March that Smith bought from Birrell, not a Chevron. Which of course doesn't change anything relevant.

#8 Udo K.

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Posted 03 March 2002 - 20:26

I just sent a picture of Gerry to Barry to post it for me. It shows him just before the start of the
1971 Touring Car Grand Prix at the Nürburgring. Maybe you like this little memory.

Udo

#9 Barry Boor

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Posted 03 March 2002 - 21:15

Here is Udo's Gerry Birrell image:

Posted Image

Edited by Barry Boor, 03 September 2009 - 09:09.


#10 FEV

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Posted 03 March 2002 - 22:11

Thanks to all for the feedback and for the nice pic as I had never seen a good colour portrait of Gerry. Was Graham Birrell who raced at the same era related ? Brothers maybe ? If yes anybody knows what he is up to nowadays ?
Thanks
Frank

#11 Doug Nye

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Posted 03 March 2002 - 22:13

Graham was Gerry's older brother. I only new Gerry - a good guy ... Isn't that so often the case for those who never ran out of skill - they simply ran out of luck?

DCN

#12 Redliner

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Posted 27 March 2002 - 22:23

While checking through my Father's diaries recently I can across a reference (one line) reguarding the death of Gerry Birrel (how and where are not stated). A mystery to me, who was Gerry Birrel? How and where did he die? What did he do? So many questions!

#13 Buford

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Posted 27 March 2002 - 22:56

Originally posted by Redliner
While checking through my Father's diaries recently I can across a reference (one line) reguarding the death of Gerry Birrel (how and where are not stated). A mystery to me, who was Gerry Birrel? How and where did he die? What did he do? So many questions!


There was a thread about him recently right here.

http://www.atlasf1.c...t=Gerry Birrell

#14 Redliner

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Posted 27 March 2002 - 22:59

Thanks a lot Buford, is there anything you dont know? :)

#15 Buford

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Posted 27 March 2002 - 23:05

Originally posted by Redliner
Thanks a lot Buford, is there anything you dont know? :)


Don't be so complementary. I just recall the thread and had the same questions about him you did at the time. He was just a name from race reports so I learned about him then. Here's another one
http://www.atlasf1.c...t=Gerry Birrell

#16 LittleChris

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Posted 28 March 2002 - 10:31

Redliner,

For info since it's not in the other thread, he was killed during Saturday practice for the 1973 Rouen F2 race when his Chevron suffered a tyre failure on the entry to Six Freres. Unfortunately the armco split and his car went between the layers causing massive head & spine injuries to which he succumbed almost instantly.

#17 Ian McKean

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Posted 03 April 2002 - 23:33

There was also a connection with a bird called Jenny Birrell, but whether Jenny was a sibling and married Mr Nadin or a bird called Jenny Nadin who married one of the Birrells I can't remember.

Whatever, she was very quick in a Rally Imp, and not just quick for a bird. By which I mean not quite as quick as Colin Malkin or my old mate Andy Dawson, but that is still very quick!

Or maybe I am imagining all this! The mind plays strange tricks at 35 past midnight thirty years later.

#18 Rob29

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Posted 04 April 2002 - 06:04

It was Jenny Nadin who married a Birrell.She raced in FVee when it started in UK,c.67.Think she is still involved in the sport in some capacity.

#19 David McKinney

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Posted 04 April 2002 - 08:27

It was Graham Birrell she married

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#20 Carlos Jalife

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Posted 06 April 2002 - 04:12

Wasn't he touted as the next great Scot driver or the next Jackie Stewart? I remember seeing obituaries along those lines, in spanish language magazines. Was he that good?

#21 LittleChris

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Posted 02 April 2003 - 23:42

Thought I'd bring this back up because I'd like to put forward the following possibility in early 1973:

Gerry Birrell was a ( very popular with the company ) Ford man .

Jackie Stewart was retiring, hence Fords top man was disappearing.

Francois Cevert was ( according to JYS ) his natural successor.

My view is therefore that Ken Tyrrell's hoped for team in 1974 would've been :
Cevert
Birrell

Any views ?

#22 JtP

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Posted 03 April 2003 - 00:48

Absolute gentleman, but in a completely unpretentious way. Would have undoubtedly made it into F1 with Ford massaging his passage. Not that with Gerry's skill he needed much massaging.

Excellent mechanic and car tuner in his own right, btw. All those out there who had or have an RS 2000 Escort should remember him as he setup the suspension.

#23 LittleChris

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Posted 22 June 2003 - 22:59

30 years ago today ( 23rd June 1973 ) :cry:

20 years later 23rd June 1993 saw the last race at Rouen Les Essarts :(

#24 humphries

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Posted 23 June 2003 - 11:23

FEV

When I use the Channel ferry I often go to Le Havre. Driving away from that port I have stopped by on a number of occasions at the location of the Rouen-les-Essarts circuit just to drive down the sweeping curves to the Nouveau Monde hairpin. If there is any section of an old racing circuit more breathtaking I would be surprised, and I have driven round the old Nurburgring, Spa, Monsanto etc.

Sadly this is where Gerry Birrell was killed and the little chicane that was added after his death is there as a stark reminder of the tragedy.

I saw Gerry Birrell race many times. He was fast and would have been a competent Grand Prix driver and, given the chance, perhaps he would have developed into a great one.

Gerry was very popular with all us spectators and his death was a terrible shock. It was one of those times when you wondered if it was all worth it.

John

#25 BRG

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Posted 23 June 2003 - 12:28

Where does Jenny Birrell, who has sometimes driven, fit into this? If at all?

#26 David McKinney

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Posted 23 June 2003 - 13:32

Originally posted by BRG
Where does Jenny Birrell, who has sometimes driven, fit into this? If at all?

She was married to Graham, brother of Gerry

#27 Ruairidh

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Posted 13 April 2006 - 02:13

The picture in another thread of Gerry's Lotus got me thinking about him again. Can I bring David's thread back to the top and see if we can share any more thoughts or stories about Gerry. How far could he have gone?

#28 ian senior

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Posted 13 April 2006 - 07:35

It's sometimes hard to say how far a driver could have gone when his career was snuffed out at a relatively early stage. I think it might be fair to say that in Gerry's earlier days he looked good but not outstanding, but by '73 things were looking very rosy. I remember being quite gutted when he died.

I remember him well from F3 in1970. An early sign of his engineering knowledge was that he was the first F3 runner to abandon the ubiquitous Firestone YB11 tyres and use Dunlops instead. The Dunlops were low profile tyres compared to the Firestones and seemed to work well. Gerry had the agency, or whatever you might call it, for Dunlop F3 tyres and sold them from his operation at the infamous 65 North St premises.

#29 Graham Gauld

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Posted 13 April 2006 - 07:43

I am afraid I was not involved when the original thread came up otherwise I would have commented.

Gerry Birrell was very talented indeed. It was he who helped transform Formula Ford when he helped out John Crossle and came up with the idea of using Avon radial tyres.

Gerry was the youngest of three brothers. Graham Birrell was one of Scotland's best Club drivers who went on to drive an F2 Brabham BT23 - ex-Rindt - and BT30 in the European F2 Championship. Graham married Jennifer Nadin who was a well known and successful rally co-driver who switched to racing and was a very competent saloon car driver. So competent that she was brought up before the Stewards at Ingliston one time for nerfing Douglas Niven's Celtic Homes Ford Escort!
Then there was Ian Birrell who raced only once with a Mini then his employers, Highland Distillers persuaded him not to race as he was to become one of their leading blenders.
Gerry was the youngest brother and started out preparing and helping brother Graham. His first race was at Charterhall with the pair's Austin A40 Pininfarina. Gerry then joined the Claude Hamilton Singer dealership and prepared a very special Singer Chamois with which he won many events. He drove an ancient Formula Vee and was then offered a proper one and was again successful before moving on to the Worlds oldest Formula Ford run by Scuderia Centro-Scot. However he then became the factory driver for John Crossle. Gerry was a very gifted engineer and things began to accelerate for him.
Walter Hayes of Ford and his competitions manager Stuart Turner began to realise that Gerry had real talent not only as a racing driver but as an engineer and he was invited to join Ford. He helped develop the Cologne Capris. Indeed Gerry used to tell of receiving conspiratorial telephone calls from Turner suggesting they go over to the Nurburgring and join in the tests of the Capri where Gerry was usually quicker than the German drivers like Dieter Glemser.
Meanwhile John Stanton offered him a drive in Formula 2 with a Lotus but it was a tough job battling with the factory drivers. However, he had some promising results and was signed by Chevron for the 1973 season. He was killed at Rouen because coming out of a corner one tyre went on to the flinty earth on the side of the track which punctured his tyre. He might have survived the accident but the circuit had sunk the wooden posts for the Armco into the holes without securing them with concrete. When Gerry hit the barrier it rose up and he was killed instantly.
At his funeral Walter Hayes of Ford told me that Ford had planned to put Gerry Birrell alongside Francois Cevert for the 1974 season and, as someone mentioned earlier, both of them were killed in the same year so Ken Tyrrell went into 1974 with two new drivers.
Gerry was a truly likeable guy in the mould of JJim Clark Jackie Stewart and David Coultard with a great deal of talent and ambition. He used to come round to the house and we would talk racing and my son Lance was about eight years of age. Lance had one of those pedal go-karts which Gerry took away and modified. It returned with big back wheels and small industrial barrow wheels at the front for strength. Gerry had fabricated part of the chassis and lowered the steering column and Lance used to run this down a local hill at high speed taking it over a two foot ramp and crashing back to earth. Gerry was that kind of guy and he was sorely missed.

#30 David M. Kane

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Posted 13 April 2006 - 13:26

Gerry and Francois in Tyrrells would have been very interesting to say the least. I'm sorry I never got to see him race; but it is nice to know he was such a fine human being.

I don't know what I really mean by this, but death creates a lot of "what ifs". My wife is still very upset by the loss of Paul Dana who she had met many times and had come to really like as a person.

#31 charles r

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Posted 03 November 2007 - 14:45

http://[IMG]http://img527.imageshack.us/img527/1530/gerrybirrellmarch722brain7.th.jpg[/IMG]

Gerry Birrell's Sports Motors' March 722 Brands Hatch 29:08:72

#32 RS2000

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Posted 03 November 2007 - 15:03

Originally posted by JtP
All those out there who had or have an RS 2000 Escort should remember him as he setup the suspension.


And don't I hate him for it!
That's not to take anything away from him as a person or his on track record of course.
I had to fine tune out his built-in design of the MK2 RS2000 suspension on my road car to make it predictable and thus safe for a rally-orientated driver, even in standard road trim. Reversing the recommended tyre pressures front to rear almost got there but a higher front spring rate and reverting to the "Twin Cam" anti roll bar also used on Mexico, RS1600, set up as standard cars by rally people, was really needed (not least for extra front castor). I also thought the dreaded Walkinshaw was involved too?

#33 COUGAR508

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Posted 04 November 2007 - 01:48

Originally posted by David M. Kane
Gerry and Francois in Tyrrells would have been very interesting to say the least. I'm sorry I never got to see him race; but it is nice to know he was such a fine human being.


I've always felt that Birrell should be mentioned in the same breath as the "Lost Generation" of Williamson, Pryce and Brise He seemed to display many of the same qualities as Roger and Tom in particular.

#34 f1steveuk

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Posted 04 November 2007 - 18:16

I have to admit to not being too well up on Gerry Birrell. I remember all too well Autosport's report on Rouen 1973, and the silly chicane, and have seen footage of a very sideways Chevron (amongst other machinery), but did he ever test an F1 car, and if so, how did he do?

#35 Bloggsworth

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Posted 04 November 2007 - 23:03

Does his brother, Major Bob, not still race a BT8 in historic races?

#36 Graham Gauld

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Posted 05 November 2007 - 08:13

Ahhhhhhh Bob Birrell and Gerry Birrell related ? No way, Gerry's brothers are Graham Birrell and Ian Birrell, big Bob is cut from a different mould

#37 hhh

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Posted 05 November 2007 - 17:24

I remember Gerry very well since I raced for Ford of Holland as a works driver in 1972/73 and our SONY Team did the European Touring Car Championship.
He was a very gifted driver and was really fast in the BDA Escorts and Capri's; obviously well supported and liked by Ford UK.

Pity he never made it to F 1, I think he would have done very well.

#38 Andrew Kitson

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Posted 05 November 2007 - 18:43

First remember seeing him in his FF Crossle, the year he won the Euro FF Championship in '69. I recall a terrific race he had at Brands against Tony Trimmer who was in Frank Williams' Titan. Great in F3 in 1970 in the Brabham, he always seemed to go well at Brands.

#39 sterling49

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Posted 05 November 2007 - 18:48

Originally posted by Andrew Kitson
First remember seeing him in his FF Crossle, the year he won the Euro FF Championship in '69. I recall a terrific race he had at Brands against Tony Trimmer who was in Frank Williams' Titan. Great in F3 in 1970 in the Brabham, he always seemed to go well at Brands.


Remember it well, he was a great driver with an assured future with the blue oval backing him. He was superb in anything he drove.

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#40 gerard BARATHIEU

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Posted 05 November 2007 - 19:26

Posted Image

here is a photo I take in 1970 at ROUEN.

this is a BRABHAM BT 28 of GERRY.

I think he is seat on the transporter on the right.

the car seems to be the ex SCHENKEN BRABHAM.

was he the brother of GRAHAM BIRREL ?

#41 David McKinney

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Posted 05 November 2007 - 19:57

Originally posted by gerard BARATHIEU
was he the brother of GRAHAM BIRREL ?

See Post 27

#42 Bloggsworth

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Posted 05 November 2007 - 20:19

Originally posted by Graham Gauld
Ahhhhhhh Bob Birrell and Gerry Birrell related ? No way, Gerry's brothers are Graham Birrell and Ian Birrell, big Bob is cut from a different mould


Thanks - By all accounts, it's a big mould nowadays!

#43 Gerard Gamand

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Posted 06 November 2007 - 05:53

Thanks for the pic Géard,
and we can see the Pygmée transporter just behind

#44 Stephen W

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Posted 06 November 2007 - 09:59

I was at Thruxton when Gerry led in the Chevron before getting unceremoniously punted off by Mike Beuttler. He would have won the race with ease but for this churlish act. I always rated Gerry as a highly talented driver and I feel certain he would have eventually made it into F1 - a great loss.

:wave:

#45 ian senior

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Posted 06 November 2007 - 10:16

Originally posted by Stephen W
I was at Thruxton when Gerry led in the Chevron before getting unceremoniously punted off by Mike Beuttler. He would have won the race with ease but for this churlish act. I always rated Gerry as a highly talented driver and I feel certain he would have eventually made it into F1 - a great loss.

:wave:


Did Mike Beuttler's mother write to Autosport to defend her son's driving?

#46 COUGAR508

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Posted 06 November 2007 - 13:38

Originally posted by ian senior


Did Mike Beuttler's mother write to Autosport to defend her son's driving?



Echoes there of the Hunt/Morgan fisticuffs at Crystal Palace. Their respective mums debated the issue via the letters pages of the motor racing press.

#47 sterling49

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Posted 06 November 2007 - 16:58

Originally posted by COUGAR508



Echoes there of the Hunt/Morgan fisticuffs at Crystal Palace. Their respective mums debated the issue via the letters pages of the motor racing press.


Remember it well, handbags and aprons at 30 paces :lol: :lol: :rotfl:

#48 Mallory Dan

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Posted 07 November 2007 - 12:44

Handbags and Beuttler, surely not ...

#49 sterling49

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Posted 07 November 2007 - 17:20

Originally posted by Mallory Dan
Handbags and Beuttler, surely not ...


Ooh!! ;)

#50 Giraffe

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Posted 08 January 2009 - 13:00

Posted Image
By giraffe138 at 2009-01-08

The late great Gerry Birrell preparing to take up his pole position for heat 1 of the British Empire Trophy at Oulton Park, 1970. Minutes after I took this pic of Gerry in his John Stanton/Sports Motors Brabham BT28, he was punted off on lap 3 into the bank at Knickerbrook, overturning and totalling the car.
He was a truly talented driver, due to join Cevert at Tyrell, and surely destined to become the next flying Scot at GP's; one of the "Lost Generation".