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We regret to inform Members that Ray Allen died last Saturday 15 May after a lengthy illness. He was elected as a Full Member in 1978.

Although Ray enjoyed success in Formula 5000, it was on 2 July 1967 that he wrote his name indelibly into the history of motor racing when at Brands Hatch he won very convincingly the first ever Formula Ford race and so set the wheels in motion for what is perceived by many to be the most popular and durable motor racing category ever conceived. Ray was driving a Lotus 51 entered by Motor Racing Stables where Formula Ford was conceived by its proprietor Geoff Clarke in conjunction with John Webb of Motor Circuit Developments as a more economical means of providing single-seater experience for customers of the Brands Hatch racing drivers’ school.

A few months earlier Ray had been one of those MRS customers after trying his hand at the School’s simulator at the BRSCC Racing Car Show at Olympia. After queuing for two hours, he had the last ‘drive’ of the day, recording a time faster than everyone else, including some Formula 1 drivers, with only Graham Hill being ahead of him. A month or so later, after paying £50 borrowed from his father and coming through the MRS tests at Brands Hatch with flying colours, Ray was on the grid for the Rochester Trophy in a Formula 3 Brabham BT15. After qualifying eighth among some of the top drivers of the time, Ray fluffed his start but then charged through the field to finish in sixth place. 

At the time Ray was serving with the Royal Engineers and about to be posted to Cyprus. Geoff Clarke was determined to have Ray as a full time driver for MRS and negotiated his release from the Army for the princely sum of £250 for which Ray always retained the receipt! In 1968, the first full season of Formula Ford, Ray was up against the more experienced Tim Schenken who won most of the races and the national championship with his Merlyn Mk 11 but Ray came to be recognised as the man to have on your side if you were developing a new Formula Ford car. By 1970 Ray was working with Bob King’s Racing Preparations, constructors of the first Royale single-seaters. The year began with a Formula Ford Torneio in Brazil won by a certain Emerson Fittipaldi with Ray third. They would meet again just three years later in Formula 1.

Ray spent the best part of 1970 dominating the Tarmac Formula F100 Championship in a Royale RP4, winning 12 of the 13 races. However, this John Webb-conceived sports car equivalent of Formula Ford never gained traction and faded away after a couple of years, having been a launch pad for the careers not only of Ray but also of Tom Pryce. In March 1971 Ray had his chance to race a Formula 1 car when John Webb agreed a deal with Frank Williams to run Ray in the non-championship Formula 1 Race of Champions. The March 701 which Frank made available was only 12 months old and no longer at the cutting edge of F1. However, Ray made the most of the opportunity, on a circuit which he knew like the back of his hand and finished sixth ahead of former Lotus Grand Prix driver John Miles’s BRM P153. It was during this race that Ray became re-acquainted on track with his old sparring partner from his Formula Ford days, Emerson Fittipaldi, who was whistling along just ahead of him in the Lotus Type 56B turbine car until its rear suspension broke.

For the rest of 1971 Ray divided his time between two other John Webb initiatives - Formula Atlantic and Formula 5000.With the DJ Bond-entered Royale RP8, he won three rounds of the Yellow Pages Formula Atlantic Championship to finish fourth in the final standings, the title going to future Le Mans winner and F1 driver Vern Schuppan. In Formula 5000 Ray was run by Jackie Epstein’s Team Trojan in a McLaren M10B sponsored by S & H Pink Stamps which required not only the car but also its driver’s race suit and crash helmet to be ‘in the pink’. For a first season at this level Ray acquitted himself very well indeed finishing on the podium three times – at Monza, Snetterton and on the Brands Hatch GP circuit. He finished regularly in the points to be seventh in the final analysis. Ray also drove the McLaren in the Formula 5000 class of several of the then-popular non-championship F1 races but there were to be no more pukka F1 drives.

Jackie Epstein re-named his team Speed International Racing for 1972, retaining Ray as one of his drivers in a McLaren M18, a car which generally did not enjoy the same measure of success as its M10B predecessor. Ray finished third at Mallory Park, Nivelles in Belgium, and on the Brands Hatch GP circuit and his consistently points-scoring results earned him sixth in the European Formula 5000 Championship. In the combined F1/F5000 non-championship races Ray’s best result was sixth in the Oulton Park Gold Cup, second of the F5000s to Brian Redman’s outstanding new Chevron B24. Into 1973 Ray drove a Servis-sponsored Surtees TS8A in some early season races, taking third place at Mallory Park and, from the back of a 29-car grid, he came through to finish eighth overall and fourth of the F5000s in the Brands Hatch Race of Champions.

Ray then retired from race-driving but remained very much involved in the sport as senior instructor at Motor Racing Stables where he was highly regarded, and will be fondly remembered by, the many aspiring drivers as a congenial tutor who had shown how it was possible to progress from a simulator at a Racing Car Show to race in Formula 1 in just four years. In later years Ray was frequently to be seen at Formula 5000 and Formula Ford gatherings, usually with a big grin on his face or roaring with laughter as he met old friends and colleagues and recalled how it was in his day. The BRDC offers its most sincere condolences to Ray’s family and many friends in the sport.

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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