JUNE 4, 2009

Tony Maggs 1937-2009

Tony Maggs, South Africa's first Grand Prix driver, has died from cancer at the age of 72. The son of a war hero, he was expected to work on the family farm in the Zoutpansberg district of the northern Transvaal, close to the border with Mozambique but instead he discovered motor racing with an old Riley. After just a few events in South Africa - and against his father's wishes - he headed to Britain to learn more about racing competing in different machinery up to Formula 2 level. In 1960 he achieved some good results in a Chequered Flag Racing Gemini in Formula Junior, which brought him to the attention of the British racing fraternity and for 1961 he was hired to drive for Ken Tyrrell's Formula Junior Cooper-BMC team alongside Rhodesian John Love and ended the year sharing the European title with Jo Siffert.

In July that year he made his Formula 1 debut with Louise Bryden-Brown™s Lotus 18 and his performances were sufficient to earn him the second seat in the factory Cooper team, replacing no less a figure than Jack Brabham. He finished fifth on his debut with the team and by the end of the year finished third in his home race at East London. The 1963 season saw a podium in France but at the end of the year he was released by Cooper, to make way for Phil Hill and moved to Scuderia Centro Sud with BRMs. He scored points at the Nurburgring and at Zeltweg. In 1965 he moved to Reg Parnell Racing to race a Lotus-BRM at the South African Grand Prix. Later that year he was racing a Formula 2 Brabham BT10 in the Natal Winter Trophy Racing on the Roy Hesketh Circuit in Pietermaritzburg when he crashed. An eight-year-old boy who was spectating in a prohibited area was killed.

Maggs was devastated by the accident and retired from racing. He returned to his family's beef farm, before establishing a nature reserve. In 1967 he was the passenger in a light aircraft accident. He managed to escape but suffered serious burns as he tried to rescue the other passengers.