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It is with great regret that we have to inform Members that Life Member Peter Smith died last Saturday at the age of 82 from complications following a fall. He was elected to Full Membership in 1970, becoming a Life Member in 1990. A Yorkshire farmer and rhubarb grower from Wakefield, in the area of the county which has come to be known as The Rhubarb Triangle, Peter was often affectionately referred to in his racing days as The Rhubarb King.

Peter’s first race was at his local circuit of Rufforth, near York, in an Austin-Healey Sprite with which he also competed in hillclimbs, rallies and sprints. The first Sprite, a ‘Frogeye’, brought early successes in various types of event before being replaced by a Speedwell Sprite GT. In its distinctive green livery not too different from the colour of rhubarb leaves, the Speedwell GT became a common sight near the front of the 1000 cc class in national sports and GT racing although it was a brief interlude with a Turner-Climax which brought Peter one of his best early successes with third place in class at the Oulton Park Spring Cup behind the very rapid Lotus Elites of Trevor Taylor and Derek Alderson. However, it was mainly the stylish Speedwell GT which Peter raced for the next few years, the little green car always immaculately prepared.

In the late sixties Peter, like a number of other sports car drivers in the North of England, caught the Chevron ‘bug’. He was invited to share Tony Beeson’s Climax-powered Chevron B8 in the Spa 1000 Ks round of the World Sports Car Championship but engine problems in practice rendered the car a non-starter. However, the old Spa circuit in one of Derek Bennett’s classic creations was a rather different experience compared with the Speedwell GT and Peter was hooked. In 1970 he acquired a Chevron B8 fitted with a 1.6 litre Cosworth FVA Formula 2 engine as did a few other owners although most opted for the 2.0 litre BMW engine. Peter won a round of the SKF Special GT Championship at Mallory Park and, in one of the best performances of his career, was third in the Martini Trophy at Silverstone behind the Astra RNR2 of Roger Nathan and the Martin-BMW BM7 of its constructor/driver Brian Martin but ahead of several well-known names. Although most of the season was taken up with rounds of the RAC British Sports Car Championship, Peter also ventured into Europe with his own car for the first time, claiming sixth in the 2-litre class and eighth place overall at the Fassberg airfield circuit in the Lower Saxony region of West Germany. In the Special GT race supporting the international Formula 3 races at Cadwell Park in September Peter came home fourth and his other results during the season secured him the BRSCC Northerrn GT Championship.

Peter persevered with the B8 through 1971 although by now Derek Bennett’s latest masterpieces, the B16 and the B19, generally powered by a 1.7 litre Cosworth FVC engine, were the Chevrons to have to be competitive. Results were mixed but Peter did have the opportunity to share a B16 with fellow Yorkshireman Trevor Twaites in the Brands Hatch 1000 Ks round of the World Sports Car Championship, but their car was one of several to suffer from electrical problems in the very wet conditions and retired.

The B8 was replaced by a B21 for 1972 with fellow Yorkshireman and Sprite racer David Welpton as co-driver. In the Nurburgring 500 Ks, a round of the European 2-litre sports-prototype championship, they finished fourth overall in a strong field. Driving solo Peter took fourth place at Wuntstorf, another West German airfield. A return to the ‘Ring for the World Championship 1000 Ks in May 1973 brought Peter and David seventh place overall and second in the 2-litre class, an excellent result given the strength of the entry, but the achievement was somewhat overshadowed by the outstanding performance of John Burton with John Bridges in a Chevron B23 who took third place behind only the works Ferrari 312PBs of Jacky Ickx/Brian Redman and Carlos Pace/Arturo Merzario which were on their way to winning the World Championship.

Still with the B21 Peter joined forces with Italian driver Paolo Monti in 1974, starting with the Monza 1000 Ks. Leading the Lola opposition in the 2-litre class was Swiss occasional F1 driver Silvio Moser who crashed heavily towards the end of the race, sustaining very serious injuries from which he died a month later. It was a sad way for Peter and Paolo to win the 2-litre class. Later in the season Peter with Gerard Montilli as co-driver came second in the 2-litre class of the Le Castellet 1000 Ks at Paul Ricard. For his fourth year with the B21, Peter was joined by John Turner as his co-driver. Seventh overall and a 2-litre class win was achieved in the Spa 1000 Ks and Peter and John took seventh overall and third in the 2-litre class in the Zeltweg 1000 Ks at the Osterreichring.

For his final year of racing Peter uprated the B21 to B31 specification but only raced twice, finishing second to Iain McLaren’s B26 in a round of the RAC Sports Car Championship at Oulton Park and seventh in an Interserie race at Kassel-Calden. By now the 2-litre sports car class, in which Peter had been racing every year since 1970, was withering on the vine and, rather than continuing in a dwindling category, Peter retired from racing. As a proud BRDC Member, Peter continued to take a keen interest in the Club’s affairs, was a regular visitor to Silverstone with his wife Dianne, and regularly attended Club events. In 1994, Dianne presented a painting of the former BRDC President Innes Ireland to the Club which hangs in the Clubhouse. To Dianne and to Peter ‘the Rhubarb King’s’ many friends in the Club, the BRDC extends its most sincere condolences.  A funeral service will be taking place at 1.30pm on Wednesday 21 September at The Parish Church of St Mary and St Laurence in Rosedale Abbey, near Pickering YO18 8SA.  This will be followed by a wake at the Blacksmiths Arms in Lastingham YO62 6TN.  Please let the Club Office know if you are planning on attending so that numbers can be passed on.

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
The Club regrets to report on the death of Ron Bennett, who was elected as a BRDC Associate Member in 1963
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