Alan Brown, influential British racer and team owner, died of a heart attack on January 20 in Spain. Brown was 34 years old when he became the first driver to race the Vanwall—or Vanwall Special as it was first known—at the International Trophy Race at Silverstone in 1954. Prior to this he had been one of the stars of post-war 500 cc F3 racing, with many wins, and also campaigned a Cooper-Bristol finishing 5th in the Swiss Grand Prix (occasionally beating Stirling Moss in the F2 class). Though little known outside the U.K., he was influential in getting Ken Tyrrell into team management, and he backed the Emeryson F1 team in 1961 and 1962. Additionally, he entered saloon cars for a number of prominent drivers, including Jim Clark, Jack Brabham and Dan Gurney.
Despite his extensive career, Brown is perhaps best known for his debut drive in the Vanwall. After racing for Cooper, Brown was brought to the attention of Tony Vandervell’s team at the suggestion of John Cooper. Driving the new Vanwall at Silverstone, Brown amazingly qualified the new car on the front row for its very first heat race. Unfortunately, he spun in the wet but finished 6th, and later retired in the final after a gritty drive. He was never to race the Vanwall again but later told me that “it was the right thing that Peter Collins then got the drive” though he very much would have liked to have continued driving for Vanwall.