NOTICE OF DEATH - NEIL DAVIS (1935-2017)
We regret to have to report that Associate Member Neil Davis passed away on Tuesday. He was 81 years of age and had been suffering from cancer for some time.
Neil was one of the mainstays of the Tyrrell Racing Organisation throughout its glory days in the 1960s and early ‘70s. An early interest in motor racing while serving as an apprentice with Coombs of Guildford led to Neil being invited to help, at first on an unpaid basis, with the preparation of two Formula 2 Cooper-Climax T45s which Alan Brown was running out of the John Coombs premises for factory Formula 1 Cooper team driver Masten Gregory amongst others. Ken Tyrrell was running a similar F2 Cooper for Masten’s F1 team mate Bruce McLaren, saw what Neil was capable of and invited him to join the Formula Junior team which Ken was setting up for 1960.
In that first season the team won the Monaco Formula Junior and BRDC British Empire Trophy races with Henry Taylor as the driver. In 1961 Tony Maggs and John Love were the principal team drivers in Cooper-BMC T56s, racing all over Europe with considerable success and Tony tieing with Lotus 20 driver Jo Siffert for the European Championship. It was more of the same in 1962 with Peter Procter joining the team when Tony Maggs had F1 commitments. The 1963 Cooper T65 was less successful but the first year of the new 1000 cc Formula 3 was totally dominated by the Tyrrell Cooper-BMC T72s of Jackie Stewart and Warwick Banks. The last two years of the short-lived 1000 cc Formula 2 brought limited success although Jacky Ickx was another young driver whose talent benefited from driving for Uncle Ken’s team of immaculately-prepared cars.
By now Neil was the team’s Chief Mechanic and, in the first season of 1600 cc F2, he oversaw the preparation of the Matra-Cosworth MS7s with which Jacky Ickx won the European Championship for non-graded drivers and Jackie Stewart won four of the major European races. Neil continued as Chief Mechanic into 1968 when Ken Tyrrell made the ambitious move into Formula 1, first with the Matra MS10 and then the MS80 with which Jackie won the first of his three World Drivers’ Championships.
With the Matra no longer available for 1970, Tyrrell had to make do initially with the ‘off the shelf’ March 701 while Neil became one of a small group of trusted employees working on the construction of the first Derek Gardner-designed F1 Tyrrells, one of motor racing’s best kept secrets before its first public appearance in August 1970 at the Oulton Park Gold Cup.
From 1971 Neil took on the responsibility of ‘looking after the guys back in the factory’ and became Factory Manager, a position which he retained until his retirement in 1998 when Ken Tyrrell sold his team. Neil was elected as an Associate (Mechanic) Member of the BRDC in 1996, proposed by Ken Tyrrell and seconded by Sir Jackie Stewart to whom he had provided such loyal and valuable service for 38 years.
Neil’s illness did not prevent him from living life to the full until a few months ago. His funeral will be at 12 noon on Wednesday 12 April at Guildford Crematorium, New Pond Road, Shalford, Godalming GU7 3DB. The BRDC offers its sincerest condolences to his children Rebecca, Shakti and Joseph.