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NOTICE OF DEATH - TONY SUGDEN (1932 - 2024)

It is with great regret that we have to advise Members of the death of Tony Sugden last Saturday 17 February at the age of 91.  A Full Member of the BRDC since 2002, Tony (or ‘Suggy’ as he was generally known among his wide circle of friends and acquaintances in the motor racing world) had been in declining health from the effects of Parkinsons and Dementia for some time.

Bradford-born Tony’s first involvement with motor sport was in grass track motor cycle racing in the early 1950s while working in his father’s shops in Sheffield and Doncaster but plans to take up circuit racing were initially thwarted by the mandatory two years’ National Service of the time. Following his discharge, Tony trained as an auto electrician which became his full-time occupation for the rest of his working life.

From 1952 with a Triumph Twin and through the next few years with a BSA Gold Star, by 1957 Tony was winning races across the North and Midlands at the likes of Mallory Park, Cadwell Park and Alton Towers. Twice, in 1958 with the Manx Norton and in 1960 with a 350 AJS Tony raced on the Isle of Man Mountain Circuit in the Manx Grand Prix. Including all his years in racing these were the only two occasions when Tony raced outside the British mainland. 

By the early 1960s Tony had lost some of his enthusiasm for ‘bike racing and hung up his helmet. However, it was not long before he was drawn towards four-wheel competition, initially with his road car, a bright red Sunbeam Alpine which was not really a competitive proposition despite Tony using his mechanical skills to enhance its performance along Jack Brabham lines. And so began Tony’s long dalliance with the Blue Oval, first with a Ford Cortina GT, then a Lotus Cortina Mk 1 which gave way to a Ford Escort Mk 1.

The Lotus Cortina was principally used for sprints and hillclimbs through 1967 and 1968, Tony securing his first win in a sprint at Croft in May 1967. A year later, the arrival of the Escort Twin Cam on the scene rendered the Cortinas uncompetitive and so for 1969 Tony acquired one of the new cars. He had to wait a few weeks for the car to be race-ready but by the end of May Tony was on the grid at his local circuit, Croft, finishing third in a special saloon car race. The first win came a few weeks later at where else but Croft and he ended the year with a victory at Oulton Park. The Lotus/Ford twin cam engine in the Escort was replaced by a Cosworth BDE for 1974 which in turn gave way to a Cosworth BDX for 1977 and the successes mounted.

The advent of Super Saloons in the mid ‘70s brought some expensive machinery on to the grids, beyond what Tony could afford but he was invariably in the mix whilst also turning out on almost every available weekend for a special saloon race or two. For 1978 Tony was invited by Alan Minshaw to compete with Alan’s ex-Tony Hazlewood Super Saloon DAF-Cosworth BDX with which, the car now re-branded as a Volvo-Ford 66GL, Tony won the 2500 cc class of the Rivet Supply Special Saloon Car Championship.

Tony’s faithful Ford Escort was acquired by Jim Price, a road haulier who was looking to start racing. Tony had no hesitation in showing Jim the ropes, a friendship developed, and Jim financially encouraged Tony to acquire a Chevron B23 to which over the winter of 1978/79 he fitted a Skoda silhouette body and a Cosworth BDX engine. In his first season with the Skoda-Chevron Tony won 20 races or classes in races. He carried on very much in the same vein in 1981, notching up some 32 overall or class wins. While continuing with the Skoda-Chevron, Tony joined forces with AET Engineering to test, develop and race the team’s Lotus Turbo Esprit, a monster of a machine created by John Leek who was also responsible for the LSD4 sports-prototype which Tony raced in the RJB Thundersports Championship, winning the Invitation class in 2000 and finished second overall in this championship the following year. Tony won at Donington Park first time out in April 1981 with the Esprit with which he enjoyed great success. 

After winning his class in the Wendy Wools Special Saloon Car Championship in 1987, the Esprit was converted back to saloon car specification and sold, to be replaced by another Skoda on a John Leek LSD chassis with F1 and F2 March suspension and powered by a potent Sierra Cosworth RS500 engine which Tony thoroughly enjoyed taming weekend after weekend. The overall and class wins continued unabated with 10 in each of 1989, 1993 and 1996. In 1997 Tony won the Ace Vehicle Deliveries Championship outright, finishing first in all but two of the 10-race series.

Tony’s last season as a driver was 2003 when, at the age of 71, he retired from race driving after a season in which he won most of the rounds of the Northern Sports and Saloons Championship. His last two races were at the BRDC-organised Eight Clubs meeting at Silverstone on 8/9 November, both of which he won. To list all Tony’s victories over the years, on two wheels and four, would require far more space than we have available. A modest, unassuming man, Tony relied on his devoted wife Rose to keep tabs on the statistics; suffice it to say that he won at least 170 car races overall and, with his class and motor cycle wins included, was a winner on more than 500 occasions. Despite all his success over the years, Tony never generated any resentment for winning so often. He rarely had an accident, and his track manners were impeccable.

Tony and Rose had no children. Their life revolved around racing. After retiring, Tony could not stay away from the circuits and until the last two or three years was usually to be found driving the safety car at Cadwell Park and for the Classic Sports Car Club and enjoying every minute. Tony was inordinately proud of his BRDC membership and always wore the badge, delighted as he was to encounter fellow BRDC Members when away from Silverstone. He and Rose made the trip from their home in Doncaster to visit the Clubhouse as often as possible. Very sadly Rose died in 2016 after a long illness leaving Tony bereft but able to keep involved in his beloved sport with the support of his many friends and colleagues. Only in the last couple of years did his health deteriorate to the extent that he could no longer make the journey to Silverstone, Croft or Cadwell Park but he continued to keep him touch with the Club office almost to the end.

The BRDC offers its most sincere condolences to Tony’s family, his brother Neville, nephews Gary and Tony and to his many friends in the sport which he loved so much. Tony's funeral will take place at 11.30am on 11 March at Rose Hill Chapel, Cantley, Doncaster DN4 6NE, all Members are welcome.  

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
The Club regrets to report on the death of Denys Rohan who was elected as an Honorary BRDC Member in 2000.
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