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It is with the deepest regret that we have to notify Members of the death of Alan Rollinson who passed away peacefully last Sunday at the age of 76 after a long battle with cancer. Alan was elected to the BRDC in 1970 and became a Life Member in 2001.

Although Alan’s father wanted Alan to follow him into his building firm, Alan was determined to pursue a career as a racing driver. In 1962 with financial help from his father Alan signed up with Motor Racing Stables and acquired a new Formula Junior Cooper T59. He was a front runner immediately in national races but had to wait until the first race of the 1963 season for his first win which came at Oulton Park in the first race of the year in which the opposition included future Great Train Robber Roy James having his first car race. A fourth place at Goodwood followed before showing well in his first encounter with the works teams at the Oulton Park Spring Cup meeting. Unfortunately family funding was insufficient to keep the season going and Alan was on the sidelines for the rest of the year.

Happily Alan’s ability had not gone unnoticed by Frank Lythgoe and Bob Gerard who came to his aid, ‘Farmer Frank’ by acquiring a Formula 2 Brabham BT16 for the 1965 and 1966 seasons and ‘Mr Bob’ who entered Alan in Gerard Racing’s second-string Cooper T71/73 for the 1965 British Grand Prix. Plagued with a recalcitrant Lotus/Ford twin cam engine and up against all the multi-cylindered cars, the odds were stacked against Alan who just failed to qualify. Despite all the success which he enjoyed in other single-seater categories over the next few years, this was the closest Alan ever came to taking part in a World Championship Formula 1 race.

With the Lythgoe Brabham Alan easily won the ‘lesser lights’ qualifying heat at the last ever 1-litre F2 race, at Brands Hatch in October 1966. The introduction of 1600 cc F2 in 1967 saw Alan driving both for Bob Gerard and Frank Lythgoe. One particularly notable result came in the very wet Mallory Park F2 race in which Alan finished fifth in the usually uncompetitive Gerard Racing Cooper T82 behind established luminaries John Surtees, Frank Gardner, Bruce McLaren and Jacky Ickx. Frank Lythgoe replaced the obsolete Brabham BT16 with a new McLaren M4A part way through the season but it was difficult for a private team to mix it with all the works cars. Nevertheless Alan’s talent was becoming increasingly recognised in British motor racing and he received the top Grovewood Award for 1967.

For 1968 Alan took a step back for a full season of Formula 3 with John Bridges’s Red Rose Motors team as team mate to Chris Williams in a pair of Chevron B9s. Disappointingly the B9, the production version of Derek Bennett’s first single seater design, the B7, struggled against the prolific Tecnos and Brabhams which dominated the category internationally. Early in the year Alan finished a very close second to Francois Cevert’s Tecno in the Prix de Paris at Montlhery but, although he was able to run at the front in many races, the only win came in the Schleizer-Dreieck Rennen in East Germany against modest opposition. During the year Alan also had the chance to drive the TechSpeed Chevron-BMW B8 in several e vents, winning three races in a day at Mallory Park on the car’s debut and finishing second to Tony Dean’s Ferrari Dino 206S at Crystal Palace. However, his best sports car result came in the Coupe du Salon at Montlhery which he won in Bill Bradley’s Porsche 910.

The season with the Red Rose Chevron having failed to fulfil its promise, for 1969 Alan fell back on his own resources, with support from Frank Lythgoe, and ran his own F3 Brabham BT21B with which he became the man to beat in the first part of the season. For the F3 race supporting the British Grand Prix at Silverstone Alan drove Natalie Goodwin’s brand new Chevron B15 and saw off all the other aspiring F1 drivers – Ronnie Peterson, Reine Wisell, Tim Schenken and the rest – to win a classic Silverstone slip-streamer. There were moves afoot to enable Alan to present the Formula 3 trophies at this year’s British Grand Prix on the 50th anniversary of that outstanding farewell to the formula but very sadly this will not now happen.

1969 was the year which saw the introduction of Formula 5000 which was to become Alan’s main focus for the next few years. It began with the chance to drive the Irish Racing Cars F2 Brabham BT30 in the fifth and sixth rounds of the Championship, Alan finishing second to Mike Walker’s Lola T142 at Silverstone and third behind the Surtees TS5 of David Hobbs and Mike Hailwood’s Lola T142 at Mondello Park. Alan was then offered a drive in Doug Hardwick’s Lola T142 with which he finished second at Koksijde, Oulton Park and in the final round at Brands Hatch, all of which earned Alan fifth place in the Championship. In addition, his early season successes in the Lombank British F3 Championship were enough to secure him second place in the series, to a young Brazilian Emerson Fittipaldi.

Lotus now came calling and offered Alan the chance to drive the new Type 70, an association which lasted as long as the practice session for the second round of the 1970 F5000 Championship when the car crashed heavily. This time Irish Racing Cars came to the rescue by providing a Surtees TS5A for the second half of the season, a couple of fifth places being the best results. At the start of 1971 Alan enjoyed one of his most notable international successes when he won the Formula 2 Gran Premio Ciudad de Bogota in Columbia driving the Irish Racing Cars Brabham BT30 against a quality field. Returning to the UK he was invited by Alan McKechnie to drive a Surtees TS8 in the Formula 5000 Championship, becoming an immediate front runner and winning at Monza and in the tragic final round, the Brands Hatch Victory event, a combined race for Formula 1 and Formula 5000 cars in which BRM’s Jo Siffert lost his life. Having missed the early races, Alan ended up fourth in the points, a position which he repeated in 1972 in Alan McKechnie’s Duckhams-supported Lola T300 with which he won at Mallory Park and Brands Hatch and regularly finished in the top three elsewhere. He also won with the Lola on the tricky road circuit at Phoenix Park, Dublin where he had won a Formula 2 race two years earlier with the Irish Racing Cars Brabham BT30.

It was in 1971 that Alan had the chance to twice drive a Formula 1 car in a non-championship F1 race, in Oulton Park’s Rothmans Daily Express International Trophy in which he finished fifth with an obsolete March 701, and with a troublesome works Surtees TS7 in the Daily Express BRDC International Trophy at Silverstone.

For 1973 Alan McKechnie acquired a McRae GM1 (formerly Leda LT27) with which Alan contested the Tasman Series, winning at Teretonga, taking some good places at other circuits including second in the New Zealand Grand Prix at Pukekohe and finishing fifth in the championship. On returning to the UK for the 1973 European season, Alan had some disappointing results with the McRae in the early races and at the age of 30 called time on his professional career which, despite some notable successes, had not been rewarded with the success his talent deserved.  Ten years later with his cousin Steve Thompson Alan returned with TechSpeed in a Chevrons B19 and B26 in the Thundersports series but it was with a Lola T286 shared with James Wallis that Alan contested his last race, finishing in fourth place at Oulton Park, a circuit where had had enjoyed so much success over the years.

Just a few weeks ago, knowing that his days were numbered, Alan took to the track one final time at the BRDC Members’ Track Day in a self-prepared Mazda MX5 which he had acquired especially for the occasion, and thoroughly enjoyed himself on the Silverstone Grand Prix circuit, much to the delight of his family and friends who were able to be there. To his wife Jenny, family and Alan’s many friends the BRDC extends its most sincere condolences. There will be a private family funeral service for Alan in the coming weeks.

The Club regrets to report on the death of Neville Hay, who was elected as a BRDC Member in 1993
The Club regrets to report on the death of Alan Minshaw, who was elected as a BRDC Member in 1984
The Club regrets to report on the death of Ray Thackwell who was elected as a BRDC Member in 1957
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