NOTICE OF DEATH - PHIL KERR 1934-2015
With great sadness the Club has to report that Phil Kerr passed away quietly last Saturday, 22 August, in his home city of Auckland at the age of 80.
Phil was one of a group of talented, hard-grafting New Zealanders who made their way to England in the 1960s in search of a career in motor racing. Through his early competition activities in Austin Seven and Ford Specials he met, and become close friends with, Bruce McLaren. Both were short-listed for the innovative NZIGP Driver to Europe award of which Bruce was the winner, setting sail for England in March 1958. They had come to know Jack Brabham well on his regular racing visits to New Zealand and Bruce slotted into Formula 2 and then, for 1959, Formula 1 seats at Cooper as a team mate to Jack who, aware of Phil’s business acumen, offered him a key role in developing various commercial opportunities including a service station and showroom.
1959 was the year of Jack’s first Drivers’ World Championship title and all that that entailed meant that Phil became increasingly responsible for managing Jack’s off track activities. When Jack’s Cooper contract ended in 1961 after a second World Championship in 1960, Phil became heavily involved, as a director and the team manager, in the establishment of both Motor Racing Developments and the Brabham Racing Organisation which led to Jack’s unique achievement in 1966 of winning a third title, this time in a car bearing his own name.
In 1968, together with Denny Hulme, who had just won the World Championship in succession to Jack, Phil left Brabham to become joint managing director and F1 team manager for McLaren Racing as it progressed from winning the occasional Grand Prix through the traumatic loss of Bruce in 1970 to becoming Constructors’ and Drivers’ World Champions in 1974 with Emerson Fittipaldi and the Indy 500 with Johnny Rutherford, in addition to being the dominant force in CanAm with the celebrated ‘Bruce and Denny Show’ in the late ‘60s‘. Alongside Bernie Ecclestone and Max Mosley, Phil played a key role in transforming the relationship between the F1 teams and circuit owners.
After 17 years Phil, who was elected as an Associate Member of the BRDC in 1971, retired from McLaren to return to New Zealand and the pursuit of other interests including thoroughbred horse breeding and racing and flying while keeping in touch with his many friends in Formula 1. To Phil’s wife Patricia and to his family and friends, the BRDC offers its sincere condolences on their loss. A service to celebrate Phil’s life is to be held at 1 pm on 31 August at the Chapel of North Shore Memorial Park, 235 Schnapper Rock Road, Albany, Auckland.