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We are very sorry to have to advise Members of the death of Life Member Bob Hicks last Thursday. He had been suffering from dementia for which he had only very recently been admitted to a care home where he fell ill. He was 89 years of age.

Together with Richard Utley, Bob was the creator and constructor of the Caravelle Formula Junior cars which have appeared in recent times in Historic Formula Junior racing, particularly in the hands of Callum Macleod, but Bob’s early successes, which gained him BRDC Membership in 1958, came with various Lotus sports cars and single-seaters in the 1950s.

Bob’s family had a wholesale fruit and vegetable business in Covent Garden with some prestigious customers and a Royal warrant. After completing his National Service in the RAF, like many other aspiring young racing drivers of the time Bob studied at the College of Knowledge aka the Chelsea College of Aeronautical and Automobile Engineering. He then went into partnership with his eldest brother in a garage which serviced the vehicles of the greengrocery business but also had the space and facilities to facilitate the construction and upkeep of racing cars. A Lotus Mk 6 kit of parts was duly acquired and assembled with a Ford 1172 cc side valve engine. Bob’s abilities as both a racing driver and an assembler of a Lotus kit, were immediately apparent with his first three visits to Brands Hatch in 1955 producing third, fourth and fifth places against Coventry Climax-powered opposition and drivers such as Eric Brandon, Ivor Bueb, Ian Raby and Peter Gammon.

For 1956 Colin Chapman and Frank and Mike Costin came up with the Lotus Eleven, of one of which Bob took delivery mid-season. Together with David Piper, Bob embarked on a series of events across France, West Germany and Italy. First off was a race round the streets of Les Sables d’Olonne near Bordeaux in which Bob finished second to David. The Rheinland Pokal at the Nurburgring followed three weeks later then came the Gran Premio di Pescara, the Messina 5 Hours going solo beside the Mediterranean in Sicily and then the Coppa Sila at Cosenza where Bob again finished second to David. The Italian enterprise ended at a 21-mile hill climb close to Mount Etna where Bob contrived to overturn his car, escaping largely unscathed but there was little left of the Lotus.

The Series 1 Eleven was rebuilt and retained for 1957, providing Bob with the first of a number of successful visits to Montlhery when he won the Coupe d’Automne. A particularly notable result was fourth overall behind three Porsche 550s and victory in the 1100 cc class at St Etienne while there was a second place at Austria’s Zeltweg airfield, third at Rouen and fourth places at Goodwood and the Coupe du Salon at Montlhery at the end of the year.

A lightly-used Series 2 Eleven was acquired for 1958 which enabled Bob to finish third in the Prix de Paris, second in the Coupe d’Automne and fourth in the Coupe du Salon, all at Montlhery. Bob also shared Bill Frost’s Eleven in the Le Mans 24 Hours. The race that year started in brilliant sunshine with Bob at the wheel and leading the 1100 cc class. However, after two hours, torrential rain turned the circuit into a skating rink. Bob spun at the Mulsanne kink and was out of the minimally-damaged Eleven, preparing to re-join, when the car, but fortunately not Bob, was hit by an errant Alfa Romeo and sustained too much damage to be able to continue.

The second Eleven was retained for another season and once again Bob enjoyed success at Montlhery with victory in the up to 1600 cc Coupe de Paris and second place a week later in the Coupe du Salon. Earlier in the year Bob had taken second place at the popular little Danish circuit at Roskilde ahead of his good friend Mike Anthony. For the RAC Tourist Trophy at Goodwood, the final round of the World Sports Car Championship, Bob was invited by Eric Broadley to share a factory Lola-Climax Mk 1 with Dick Prior which they brought home eighth overall and second in the 1100 cc class to team mates Peter Ashdown/Alan Ross, somewhat overlooked by the battle ahead between Aston Martin, Porsche and Ferrari for the Championship. This was also the year when Bob made his first foray into single-seater racing, his loyalty to Lotus meaning that he opted for a Type 12 which even works drivers Cliff Allison, Graham Hill and Alan Stacey struggled to make competitive against the cohorts of Coopers.

A Lotus Type 16 replaced the Type 12 for a second season of international Formula 2 racing under the Team Thercel banner with Richard Utley in 1960. Although the car was an improvement on the Type 12, Cooper and now Porsche, had raised the bar further and had been joined by Lotus with the rear-engined Type 18 so the 16 was outclassed. Perhaps inevitably it was Montlhery which provided Bob with his best F2 result of the season with sixth place in the Prix de Paris, albeit three laps behind the winner Maurice Trintignant. Back in his workshop Bob and Richard Utley had been paying attention to the trend in racing car design towards rear-mounted engines and the first Caravelle Formula Junior was under construction. The original intention was to fit a Fiat engine, as used by most of the Italian Juniors, but it soon became apparent that the Ford 105E unit, as favoured by Lotus for example, would be a better choice. This delayed the first appearance of the car until the major Formula Junior race supporting the RAC Tourist Trophy at Goodwood in August. The new car finished 10th in the second heat thereby qualifying for the final in which it did not feature prominently. However, a few weeks later at the Oulton Park Gold Cup meeting Bob finished a fine sixth on aggregate behind five Lotus 18s headed by Jim Clark, Trevor Taylor, Mike McKee and Peter Arundell. Fifth place in the John Davy Trophy at Brands Hatch, in a race won by Peter Arundell from Jim Clark with the new Gemini Mk III of another future Grand prix driver Tony Maggs in third place, rounded off the season rather well.

The Caravelle continued to give a very good account of itself both in UK and some European Formula Junior races over the next couple of years, Whit Monday at Goodwood being particularly notable with a third place behind the Lotus 20 of Angus Hyslop and Brian Hart’s Terrier Mk IV in 1961 and second place the following year to the Lotus 20 of Keith Francis with a host of well known names in its wake. Bob had also acquired one of the new Lotus 23s with which he enjoyed some success at Roskilde and also won his class, finishing 10th overall, in the major Guards Trophy sports car race at Brands Hatch. Tragically a few weeks later Bob’s youngest brother Joe lost his life in a practice session at Goodwood when one of the wobbly web wheels of his Lotus Eleven broke up, and Bob decided to call time on his racing. However, he never lost his interest in the sport, retaining Caravelle 3 and bringing it back into racing in recent times.

To Bob’s widow Tessa, son James and the rest of family the BRDC extends its sincerest condolences. Funeral arrangements will be notified when available.

The Club regrets to report the death of Stan Collier, who was elected as a BRDC Member in 1988.
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
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