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NOTICE OF DEATH - BOB BERRY (1929 - 2021)

We are very sorry to have to advise Members of the death of Life Member Bob Berry on New Year’s Day. He was 91 years old, had been suffering from cancer for some time and passed away peacefully at home.

The son of a retail chemist and a French headmistress, Bob was born in Prescot near Liverpool. After National Service in the Royal Horse Artillery, he went up to Emmanuel College, Cambridge to read Modern Languages. For the 1951 Long Vacation he offered his linguistic services to ‘Lofty’ England, Jaguar’s Competitions Manager, for the 1951 Le Mans 24 Hours and became a small part of the team which achieved the first of Jaguar’s seven successes at La Sarthe when Peter Walker and Peter Whitehead gave the C-type its first victory. Whether or not in the euphoria of the team’s victory, ‘Lofty’ offered Bob a permanent position in the Jaguar publicity department under Bill Rankin so, instead of returning to Cambridge, Bob went to Coventry much to his mother’s disappointment.

The 1950s was an exciting time to be involved in Jaguar’s racing activities. During this period Bob was involved with the Jaguar team not only at Le Mans, where Jaguar won again in 1953, ‘55, ’56 and ‘57 but also the Mille Miglia and the seven days/seven nights record-breaking with a Jaguar XK120 Coupe at Montlhery. In such a racing environment it is hardly surprising that Bob’s thoughts turned to racing himself. His road car at the time was a MG TD which was disposed of profitably and replaced by a Jaguar XK120.

After an encounter with a Silverstone bank, the XK120 required a major rebuild for which purpose Bob was able to acquire one of three special lightweight aluminium alloy bodies for which Jaguar had no further use. With engine modifications fit for a D-type, the car was very quick and eminently capable of seeing off C-type Jaguars. From his first race in March 1954 at Goodwood in which he finished third behind Michael Head’s C-type and Tommy Sopwith’s Sphinx-Armstrong Siddeley but in front of two other C-types, Bob went on to have a notable season among the C-types culminating in two wins at Silverstone. Across the Irish Sea, he finished second in the Wakefield Trophy run on a handicap basis at the Curragh circuit.

Continuing with the XK120 at the beginning of 1955 Bob took a win and a second place at Silverstone and a second place at Oulton Park before being offered the chance to race a D-type for the Lancashire scrap machinery millionaire Jack Broadhead. As Bob later told the story, the discussion on the Jaguar stand at the 1954 Earls Court Motor Show which led to the drive went as follows:

JB          Sithee lad, I’m getting one of them new things – a D-type.
BB         Really?
JB          Aye, wouldst thee like to drive it?
BB         Yes, but I’ve not much experience
JB          No matter – tha’ll learn. That’s that settled then!

And so for the rest of 1955, throughout 1956 and for part of 1957 Bob raced Jack’s D-type XKC403, one of the original works cars. First time out at Whitsun Goodwood Bob claimed a couple of second places to Duncan Hamilton’s D-type. Bob had no dispensation from his employers to take time off for racing so long weekends in Europe were out of the question but a holiday in Portugal coincided with the Circuito do Porto in which Bob finished fifth. Soon after crossing the English Channel on the way out, the team’s decrepit, borrowed transporter broke down terminally leaving Bob with no alternative but to load up the D-type with all the tools and spares which might come in useful and drive the remaining 980 miles to Oporto. A stop for oil 10 laps from the end of the race dropped Bob to fifth from what could well have been third place. Other highlights of 1955 included fifth place in the Goodwood Nine Hours with Norman Dewis and fifth also in the Daily Herald International Sports Car race at Oulton Park a week later after a great battle with Masten Gregory’s Ferrari 750 Monza. It was in 1955 that Bob was elected to the Membership of the BRDC.

In 1956 Bob took wins at the Whitsun Goodwood and late in the season at Oulton Park and was third in the sports car race supporting the BRDC Daily Express International Trophy behind the Aston Martin DB3Ss of Roy Salvadori and Stirling Moss. However, his season was badly disrupted by a heavy accident at Goodwood on the same day as his race win as a result of which he spent six weeks in hospital and the car had to be substantially rebuilt. The time off work had not gone down well with Jaguar supremo Sir William Lyons who delivered the ultimatum that either Bob worked for Jaguar with reduced racing activities or he left the company to pursue a career as a racing driver. Bob chose the former option and in his last year with Jack Broadhead’s D-type confined himself to less time-consuming club racing. In his last outing with the car in October 1957 at Oulton Park, one of his favourite circuits, Bob contested three races and won the third from pole position. After that he occasionally raced an experimental ex-works Jaguar Mk VII saloon, a Triumph TR2 and a Ford Anglia in club events but his days in international sports car racing were over.

In 1970 Bob succeeded Ernest Rankin as Jaguar’s Director of Marketing and Public Relations, going on to become a main board director responsible for vehicle sales worldwide nine years later. After a spell with Alfa Romeo GB Bob worked in the motor trade before his retirement. He remained much in demand among Jaguar enthusiasts for talks about Jaguar specifically and the value of motor racing to vehicle manufacturers generally.

Bob married twice and is survived by his wife Alison and first wife Avril, his sister Jacquie, his children Peter and Suzie and grandchildren to whom the BRDC extends its most sincere condolences.  Peter has been a member of the Silverstone Marshals Team since 1980 and has worked in Race Control as the Chief Incident Offer for nearly 20 years.

The Club regrets to report the death of Chris Craft, who was elected as a BRDC Member in 1977
The Club regrets to report the death of Alistair Walker, who was elected as BRDC Member in 1993
The BRDC regrets to report the death of John Aley, who was elected as a BRDC Member in 1963
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