Tony Gaze Memorial service
By Tim Schenken (CAMS Director of Racing Operations and fellow former Australian Formula 1 Driver)
Firstly I have to say I feel very privileged to stand in front of you here today.
My association with the Davison family (a motor racing dynasty) started when I joined Ecurie Australie just prior to that tragic day at Sandown early 1965.
Tony was part of that “family”.
So talking to you about Tony’s racing career to you today is of special significance to me.
After the war (and I promised my wife I would not refer to the war!) Tony got involved in Motor Racing an equally dangerous occupation at that time.
This was an era when sex was safe and motor racing dangerous.
Tony’s his first car race was at Brooklands in 1938 driving a Hudson borrowed from his Uncle, Bob. He was probably one of the last surviving drivers to have raced there.
It was perhaps this experience which in 1946 lead to discussion he had with the Duke of Richmond when Tony suggested that the perimeter roads of the Westhampnett aerodrome – which was built on land belonging to the Duke – would make a very good racing circuit. As a result of the conversation Freddie as his friends called him, ran a car around the airfield and concluded that Tony was absolutely right and in 1948 opened what is now known as Goodwood.
Goodwood closed as a circuit in 1966. However, in 1998 it was resurrected as a race track by Charles March and where competition continues for those types of cars Tony once drove. It’s one of the few old circuits which has not been “modernised”.
Once demobilised, Tony went home to Australia, taking a pre-war Alta racing car with him and he soon started racing at Rob Roy.
Tony returned overseas and bought an Alta Formula 2 car for 1951, which he raced at various events all over Europe. In an effort to get better results he switched to an HWM-Alta in 1952 and planned to once again race in Formula 2 events. At the last minute it was decided to run the World Championship to F2 regulations, as Ferrari was the only competitive team in Formula 1, following the withdrawal of Alfa Romeo. Tony took part in a series of non-championship F1 events and then in June that year travelled to Spa to race in the Belgian GP. This was followed by appearances at the British and German GPs in July and August. He also raced a Maserati 8CM in various events.
So Tony was our first Australian Grand Prix driver.
The following year he became one of the first Australian crew to attempt the Monte Carlo Rally in a Holden FX with team-mates Lex Davison and Stan Jones.
Now that was an interesting mix of personalities!
The trio started in Glasgow and at one point even managed to get into the top 10, but ended up 64th of 400 entries on arrival in Monte Carlo.
That year he also raced an Aston Martin in sports car events and was fortunate to survive a crash in the Portugal Grand Prix when he was hit by a Ferrari and shoved into a tree. Luckily he was thrown out of the car in the impact as the Aston landed upside-down and caught fire. Spectators rushed on to the track and carried him to safety, his only injuries being cuts and bruises. Perhaps his slim build helped him slide out.
Remember this was the time when racing drivers were fat and tyres were thin – although I doubt Tony could have been considered fat.
He next acquired a Ferrari F2 car, which he raced in non-championship events in Europe and then took to Australia and New Zealand in order to race in the winter events in 1954 and 1955.
Early in 1955 he returned to Europe and set up a team, the first international racing team to fly the Australian flag. This was known as the Kangaroo Stable and ran Aston Martin sports cars for a number of young Australians, who were by then in Europe, trying to break into international racing. One such Aussie included a young Jack Brabham.
The Le Mans disaster that summer resulted in many races being cancelled and the Stable was forced to close down at the end of the year.
He continued to race, running second to Stirling Moss in the 1956 New Zealand Grand Prix.
Tony continued to race sports cars in the late 1950s and then later tried his hand at gliding.
In 2006 his contribution to Australian motor racing was recognised with the award of the Order of Australia.
Brigitte and I were lucky enough to be invited to Tony and Diana’s “Goodwood” home near Seymour some years ago.
What a great time we had their wonderful house. Tony gave me a signed print of him taking down a Meschermit jet fighter – he is recognised as the first Allied pilot to have done so. Amazingly it’s also signed by the German pilot. It seems those old boys got together after the war (oops I mentioned it again) to re-live their experiences. We spoke about motor racing today which he still followed closely. He also understood how motor racing had changed since his days and understood it had to, to keep up with other sports which had been modernised. The only thing he was not keen about was the introduction of the Safety Car. He thought it was unfair that the leader having built up a handy margin over his opponents had it all take away by an act of official. Diana was listening to this and whispered into Tony’s ear, “Tim is ‘that’ official.”
I couldn’t finish this without a word about Diana who gave us a tour of the property. We chased some kangaroos down to the river. And how well she drove – the Davison boys Jon, Richard, James, Charles, Alex, Will and now even Chris who has come out of retirement...and I haven’t even mentioned the girls who are also quite skilled behind the wheel - I can see where you got your skills from. We later had lunch at a nearby Winery – a truly memorable occasion.
Tony, you were an extraordinary person who led a life which you couldn’t imagine possible today.
Tony, you are a legend and we salute you.