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It is with great regret that we have to advise Members of the death of Brian Jones who succumbed to the ravages of Covid-19 on New Year’s Day. He was 85 years of age and had been an Associate Member of the BRDC since 2004, having been proposed by Sir Stirling Moss and seconded by Sir Jack Brabham.

Born and brought up in Gloucester, where both he and his brother Gordon played for the local rugby club, Brian’s first involvement with motor racing came in the 1960s when he worked in the Operations, Sales and Marketing departments of Shell-Mex and BP Ltd. Geoff Clarke’s Motor Racing Stables had recently moved to Brands Hatch from Finmere, a disused airfield near to Buckingham and therefore not far from Silverstone. Geoff and his chief instructor had conceived the idea of replacing the rather fragile 1000 cc Formula 3 engines in the racing school’s single-seaters with the newly-launched 1498 cc Ford Cortina GT engine in standard tune. Brian was taken on as General Manager of what rapidly became a flourishing business. Thus was Formula Ford created and it became a quintessential part of Brian’s motor racing life for ever after.

In 1970 the Daily Express sponsored its Crusader competition designed to discover a future British World Champion. Motor Racing Stables was commissioned to run a series of races for aspiring young drivers, the final taking place on qualifying day for the BRDC Daily Express International Trophy at Silverstone. It was a winner takes all concept, the prize being a new Lola T200 Formula Ford car. An agricultural engineering apprentice from Ruthin in North Wales was the winner – 20 year old Tom Pryce. To pursue a career as a racing driver Tom moved from North Wales to Brands Hatch where he became the beneficiary of Brian’s worldly wisdom and the doors which Brian could open. Although Tom was a very special driver, in the years to come there were others whose outstanding talent Brian spotted and nurtured.

In 1976 Anthony Marsh, the resident commentator at Brands Hatch, moved on to become the English language commentator at all Formula 1 Grands Prix and Brian was encouraged, by Brands Hatch supremo John Webb, to take Anthony’s place. His F1 debut came at the 1976 British Grand Prix with Anthony in the main box and Brian installed in the since-demolished hut at Westfield. With no TV facilities and unable to see for himself the shenanigans which were taking place regarding whether or not James Hunt should be allowed to join the grid for the re-started race, Brian offered the observation over the PA that it would be wholly wrong if James was not allowed to re-start, a sentiment which was clearly and noisily shared by many of the increasingly boisterous thousands of spectators watching and waiting trackside. For all the remaining World Championship Formula 1 races at Brands Hatch, Brian was in the main ‘box.

For the best part of 40 years Brian was the unmistakeable ‘Voice of Brands Hatch’, his ‘golden tones’ resounding round the bowl of the Indy circuit and the wooded areas of the Grand Prix circuit like no other. He became part of the Brands Hatch experience, instilling an enthusiasm for racing which encouraged many listening to aspire to become involved whether as drivers, marshals, entrants or simply to regularly return as spectators. Among all the many events at which he commentated, aside from the Grand Prix, Brian’s undoubted favourite was the Formula Ford Festival which moved from Snetterton to Brands Hatch in 1976. Until a couple of years ago, as future world champions such as Damon Hill, Michael Schumacher and Mika Hakkinen raced before his eyes, Brian described their efforts as only he could. One of the ultimate accolades for Brian to bestow on a driver was to go through Paddock Hill Bend ‘high, wide and handsome’ to gain a place or two before heading up the hill to ‘Druids the Hairpin’.

Brands Hatch may have been Brian’s home circuit but he also commentated at all the Birmingham Super Prix, the Silverstone 24 Hours and the BTCC from 1994 to 1996. He had a long association with offshore powerboat racing where for more than 25 years he commentated on the Daily Mail British International Harmsworth Trophy, the Cowes Classic and the Guernsey International Powerboat week. He was much in demand as a corporate host, for prize presentations and conferences. Brian was one of the first, if not the first, to run courses for presentation and media skills, his clients ranging from prestigious brands to drivers who have gone on to become household names.

Always good company, whether you met him in the paddock, the pit lane, the commentary box or the Kentagon, Brian’s enthusiasm for motor racing and the people involved in the sport never diminshed. He will surely forever be remembered fondly as an intrinsic part of the Brands Hatch story. To Brian’s wife Ros, herself a victim of this dreadful pandemic from which she will hopefully recover fully, to their daughter Charlotte and to Brian’s son Tim and daughter Fay from his previous marriage, the BRDC extends its deepest condolences.

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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