Such a grim week...
Before and during World War 2 Gerry’s father Joe and his uncle Fred had interests in the motor trade, the manufacture of aircraft parts and farming through which, together with Reg Parnell, they were able to acquire a large number of redundant racing cars including some ERAs and Maseratis. At the end of hostilities, Joe and Fred went racing both in the British Isles and in Europe, competing with some success in the various road races which were then available. In 1947 Joe crashed his Maserati 4CM at Comminges quite badly and, although he returned to the cockpit with little delay in that year’s Jersey Road Race at St Helier in which he finished fourth, he raced very little after the accident.
Gerry’s started racing in 1957 after he had acquired the Jaguar D-type (XKD510) in which Tony Dennis had crashed fatally at Goodwood on Easter Monday 1956. Gerry had the quite badly damaged car rebuilt around a new central monocoque tub and painted maroon. His first race with the car was in September 1957 at the Peterborough Motor Club Silverstone meeting where he finished fifth. At this stage Gerry was not setting his sights on becoming a Formula 1 driver but that was to change in just three years. For the time being Gerry raced the D-type sporadically through 1958 and 1959, notching up some decent placings at Brands Hatch, Aintree and Snetterton but invariably having to concede overall victory to John Bekaert in Derek Wilkinson’s ‘knobbly’ Lister-Jaguar BHL103.
By 1960, neither the D-type nor the Lister were competitive propositions against the new generation of lightweight spaceframe sports cars from the likes of Lotus, Lola and Cooper so Gerry’s thoughts turned to single-seaters and he acquired a Cooper-Climax T43 for the last year of the 1500 cc Formula 2 which would become the basis for the downsized Formula 1 in 1961. The Leinster Trophy was run on the Dunboyne circuit near Dublin and offered British drivers the opportunity to race on closed public roads in a convivial ambience. The race was run on a handicap basis and in 1960 provided Gerry with his best result of the year when he won quite comfortably from the similar F2 Coopers of John Campbell-Jones and Stan Hart. In the Preis von Tirol at the Austrian airfield circuit at Innsbruck Gerry finished third behind the works Porsche 718/2 of Hans Herrmann and ‘Taffy’ von Trips taking a weekend off from Ferrari duties in a Cooper T43. In the Aintree Trophy on August Bank Holiday Gerry came home second to the flying Mike McKee in Jim Russell’s Cooper T45. On the same day on the Aintree Grand Prix circuit Gerry achieved his best sports car result of the year with Derek Wilkinson’s Lister-Jaguar by finishing second to Tommy Dickson’s Lotus-Climax 15.
Just as Gerry’s father Joe had been in partnership with Reg Parnell in the late 1940s, so Gerry and Reg’s son Tim set up The Three Musketeers team with Belgian driver Andre Pilette to contest Formula 1 races in 1961 of which there were plenty to choose from with good starting money on offer. Armed with a new Lotus Type 18 Gerry’s first Formula 1 outing came in the Preis von Wien at Aspern where he qualified third to Stirling Moss’s Lotus 18 and the Cooper T53 of young Shane Summers. Brake problems brought his race to an early end but a week later he had trundled back to England for the Aintree 200 which attracted a full-strength field of all the British works teams. In incessant rain Gerry finished 11th directly behind the works Type 18s of Jim Clark and Innes Ireland and two places ahead of Dan Gurney in Louise Bryden-Brown’s similar car. Three weeks later Gerry was in Italy for the Gran Premio di Napoli being run on the same day as the Monaco Grand Prix. This time in the absence of the works teams Gerry, after qualifying on pole position, took second place behind the Ferrari Dino 156 of Giancarlo Baghetti. A return visit to Dunboyne for the Leinster Trophy had Gerry featuring in a hectic final lap through Dunboyne village and over the hump-backed railway bridges to be pipped at the post by UK-based Irish driver Tommy Hayden in his Lola-Climax Mk 1 sports-racing car. However, this was the last high-spot of the season. After placing 16th in the German Grand Prix on the day when Stirling Moss in Rob Walker’s Lotus 18/21 saw off the full might of the Ferrari Dinos, Gerry headed for Monza and the Italian Grand Prix. Unfortunately he crashed into the trees at Curvetta on the opening lap, fortunately with injuries which were not too serious although he was taken to hospital. On the following lap came the disastrous accident at Parabolica which claimed the lives of ‘Taffy’ von Trips and 14 spectators.
The Lotus was repaired to Type 18/21 spec and Gerry ran it in the Lavant Cup and Glover Trophy at Goodwood on Easter Monday 1962. Later in the year he finished eighth in the Oulton Park Gold Cup but failed to qualify for the Italian Grand Prix a couple of weeks later. By now the four-cylinder cars were being eclipsed by the new breed of V8 engines from Coventry-Climax and BRM. Plans to replace the Lotus with a BRM P57 V8 were shelved, in hindsight a wise decision when Gerry witnessed the problems which the very promising Jackie Lewis endured with his P57.
Instead Gerry returned to two-seaters and, over the next few years, became one of very few drivers, Jim Clark being another, capable of extracting a half decent result out of the Lotus Type 30 and Type 40. Seventh place in the 1966 Guards International Trophy at Brands Hatch may not have set the world on fire but considering that the drivers ahead of Gerry were John Surtees, Chris Amon, Graham Hill, Denny Hulme, Frank Gardner and Paul Hawkins in Lola T70s and McLarens it was a notable achievement in a Lotus Type 40. In national races Gerry gained a number of good placings and occasional overall or class wins. In 1968 the Type 40 did its best to destroy itself at Croft when the brakes failed and it charged through an ambulance gate, an excursion from which Gerry emerged largely unscathed.
For the next three years Gerry helped fellow West Midlander Max Payne develop a Lotus Elan Plus 2 for national and occasional international racing. Although the car was perhaps less suited to racing than a conventional Elan, by 1971 it was capable of outright race wins in the Chevron Oils Modsports Championship in which Gerry finished fifth overall at the end of the season.
Following the birth of his first daughter Michelle, Gerry decided the time had come to hang up his helmet and concentrate on business and family although he attended F1 drivers’ reunions whenever possible. He ran a truck and crane business in the West Midlands. In due course he and his wife Yvonne moved to France from where he returned a few years ago to be closer to his family and roots with the onset of cancer. To Yvonne, Michelle and her sister Charmaine, to Gerry’s younger brother Chris, also a BRDC Life Member, and to Gerry’s wider family and circle of friends, the BRDC extends its deepest condolences.