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NOTICE OF DEATH - DONOVAN ‘DON’ SHEAD (1936 - 2024)

It is with great regret that we must inform Members of the death of Don Shead last Saturday 3 February at the age of 87. A Full Member since 1989, he had been in good health until being admitted to hospital a few days earlier.

Don’s first claim to fame was in the world of powerboat racing in the late 1960s when he forged an early BRDC connection by designing the boat with which future BRDC Chairman Tommy Sopwith won the1968 Cowes-Torquay-Cowes offshore race. Don raced hydroplanes and circuit boats in addition to his offshore activities, twice winning the National Offshore Championship and once the European Offshore Championship. He was also runner up in the World Offshore Championship and twice a winner of the Cowes-Torquay offshore race. In total Don won 11 European and World Championship Offshore races and 17 national championship races. As a designer Don’s boats won four world championships, eight European championships, 10 Cowes-Torquay races and set two world records. It could be said that he had become in the powerboat world the equivalent of Colin Chapman.

At the end of 1980 Don was forced to retire from driving boats himself because of a back injury but continued to design some of the most competitive and sought after powerboats whilst at the same developing an interest in motor racing. In 1982 Don acquired a Lister-Jaguar with which he made his debut in a round of the Lloyds and Scottish Historic Racing Car Championship at Silverstone, finishing 12th overall and fourth in his class. The Lister was raced regularly throughout 1983 with notable success in the Historic Sports Car Club’s Bellini Championship which Don won on the back of an overall win at Thruxton and other ‘top three’ class results. Don also achieved strong results in other historic series and finished second overall at the end of the year in the HSCC’s 100-mile endurance race at Snetterton.

The Lister, now Chevrolet-powered, was retained for 1984, Don winning again at Thruxton and taking second places at Brands Hatch and Snetterton but the focus switched to a Chevron B16 Spyder with which Don achieved good results as he did with a return to V8-powered machinery with a McLaren M8C/D for 1986 and ’87. In 1988 Don teamed up with David Sears to share an Ecosse-Cosworth C285 in the BRDC Group C2 with a best result of a sixth place at Oulton Park. In 1989 Don did not race much but when he did, he achieved good results finishing fourth in the C2 class of the Dijon round of the World Sports-Prototype Championship in a Spice-Cosworth SE88C shared with his son James before tackling the Le Mans 24 Hours in the same, ex-works car with Ross Hyett and Canadian Robbie Stirling as co-drivers. Despite one of the latter pair twice visiting gravel beds during the race, the trio came home second in the Group C2 class.

There was to be no repeat of the Le Mans achievement, but Don continued racing in historic events with an Allard J2 until in 2003 suffering an horrific accident at Paddock Hill Bend, Brands Hatch during the HSCC Historic Superprix race meeting, the Allard rolling some six times with Don strapped into the open cockpit, fortunately with a very strong roll cage which saved him from serious injury.

To Don’s son James, also a BRDC Member, and to his daughters Fiona and Lucy the BRDC offers its most sincere condolences. We understand that Don’s funeral will be family only. 

The Club regrets to report on the death of Hugh Chamberlain, who was elected as a BRDC Member in 1988
The Club regrets to report on the death of Tony Sugden, who was elected as a BRDC Member in 2002.
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