Tony Maggs, 1937-2009

Tony Maggs, the trailblazer of a wave of South African drivers to start a world championship grand prix, died on Tuesday at the age of 72

Tony Maggs, 1937-2009

He was best known as a works Cooper driver in 1962-1963 and leaped to prominence after heading to race in Europe against the wishes of his family in 1960.

He impressed in Formula Junior that year driving Gemini machinery, claiming his first victory in a British Formula Junior race in a John Davy Championship round at Snetterton in October. Later that month finished third in the following round behind Peter Arundell and Jim Clark.

Those results helped lay the foundation for the 1961 season, during which he really made a name for himself in European Formula Junior racing driving a Ken Tyrrell-run Cooper T56.

In that year's British Grand Prix, he made his world championship grand prix debut in a Louise Brydon-Brown entered Lotus 18. Maggs finished 13th, adding an 11th place in the German Grand Prix the following month.

His promising performances earned him a slot in the works Cooper team, which had to replace superstar double world champion Jack Brabham on its driver roster, in 1962.

Although Cooper was not a challenger for race wins when the 1.5-litre formula was introduced in 1961, and the evolutionary T60 introduced for the following year wasn't a major step forward.

But Maggs acquitted himself well as Bruce McLaren's support man, finishing fifth on his Cooper works debut in the season-opening Dutch Grand Prix and ending the season with 14 points.

The high-point of that season came in the French Grand Prix at Rouen, where he finished second behind the Porsche of Dan Gurney. Maggs also finished the season well with third place in his home grand prix at East London.

The following season was even more difficult with marque owner Charles Cooper's health declining (he would die in 1964) and John Cooper out of action after a major accident in a development Mini Cooper.

With Ken Tyrrell stepping in as team manager, Maggs started the season well with fifth place in Monaco, two places behind McLaren. but points finishes were hard to come by. The one highlight again came in the French Grand Prix, where Maggs took advantage of the retirement of Brabham and Graham Hill's one-minute push-start penalty to take another second place.

Maggs ended that season with just nine points in the Cooper T66 and found himself replaced by 1961 world champion Phil Hill. He re-emerged for several outings in the following season in a Scuderia Centro Sud BRM, taking advantage of a race of attrition to take fourth in Austria.

His final world championship appearance was in the 1965 season opener in South Africa, where he finished 11th driving a Reg Parnell-run Lotus 25.

Maggs quit racing after an accident in June 1965 that claimed the life of a child who was spectating at the race. Maggs was racing a Brabham BT20 Formula 2 car at the Roy Hesketh Circuit in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, when he is believed to have suffered a mechanical failure.

His car was pitched off the track and into an area where spectators were not permitted. Unfortunately, eight-year-old Michael Twyman was there, although stewards were in the process of getting him to move, and was collected by the Brabham.

Maggs was reportedly so badly hit by the tragedy that he quit motorsport immediately and returned to farming in his native country.

In all, he started 25 world championship grands prix, scoring 26 points and finishing on the podium three times.

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Author Edd Straw
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