Archie Scott Brown (13/5/1927-19/5/1958): A natural-born racerWritten by Αναστάσιος Ίσαρης
Translated by Georgia Mystrioti
He is a phenomenal driver and his ability to control the car is simply out of this world.
So said the “Master” Juan Manuel Fangio for Archie Scott Brown, a race driver who overcame every physical obstacle in order to make his dream come true.
William Archibald “Archie” Scott Brown was born on May 13th, 1927, in Paisley, Scotland, with the racing fever raging in his blood: his father, Bill, was a driver for Alvis, and his mother, Jeay, had raced twice in Brooklands.
However, his mother catching the “German measles” during her pregnancy was the reason why Archie was born without shins, his legs were twisted on the outside and his right hand palm was missing.
Stuck on his hospital bed, he fell in love with the races (ah, those genes...) and the high speeds from the magazines he was reading, and made becoming a race driver his mission.
Everybody laughed with a nod when he expressed his desire, but inside his tortured body there was the heart of a lion.
Even though he remained incredibly short (less than 5 feet or 1.5 m. tall), he bravely endured the 22 surgeries done by orthopedist and surgeon Naughton Dunn in 2 years to get back on his feet (Archie spent a year with a cast on his legs) and he improved his physical condition, day and night, with steely determination as his ally.
When he was 11 years old, he drove his father’s mowing machine for the first time and his talent was immediately apparent.
His meeting with Brian Lister turned out to be crucial for his racing path.
In 1954, he won the pole position with a Lister-MG racecar in Oulton Park.
However, he also experienced his first disappointment there, as a racer raised an objection. It was forbidden for him to participate in the RAC, and he had his license suspended for 2 months.
He made a comeback in 1955, though, and won in the same race. Everybody admitted that he truly deserved the unofficial title “Master of the drift”.
When he was told by Lister (formerly Maserati, later Jaguar) had a soft spot for brakes, his answer showed his bravery:
“If it’s so, I can do without them…”
His talent could not go unnoticed by the Formula 1 bosses.
As a result, he debuted in 1956 with Connaught in the non-Championship Aintree race, in which he won the pole position (ahead of Sir Stirling Moss, Sir Jack Brabham, Mike Hawthorn and Tony Brooks, among others).
Even though he left in that race, he finished 2nd in his second non-Championship race in Silverstone after a great performance.
In his first (and last, as it would turn out) Championship race (British GP 1956), he started 10th, but he lost a wheel during the race and he had to leave.
In Monza, he temporarily took the pole position before an objection led to his dismissal from the races, as he did not have a racing license due to his infirmity!
Disappointed, he rejected a new offer from BRM (to which he was recommended by Mike Hawthorn) and in 1957 he drove (no longer in Formula 1) a 300hp Jaguar, with 12 victories in 14 races.
He had a brotherly bond with his teammate, talented American Masten Gregory, but only out of the pits.
His achievements in 1958 encouraged his team to participate in Le Mans, but it was not meant to be due to the ill-fated Spa race.
On May 18th, 1958, Archie was more determined than ever to achieve his 72nd victory (44 of them achieved with Lister racecars) in his short career, as he had lost the last race by Masten and that was a tough pill to swallow.
The race was done with mixed conditions, and the first position was alternated between the two gladiators who ferociously battled against each other. The distance between each other was shorter than a wheel.
On the 6th lap, while Archie had left Masten only some centimeters behind in one of his most famous and unstoppable drifts, his right wheel reached stagnant waters.
As a result, his path changed and his racecar broke a road sign.
The road sign’s rod struck and broke his movement transmission axis, leaving the racecar driverless, straying from its course and exploding, trapping its driver.
Ironically, local hero Paul Frere had mentioned the compromising position of that road sign and had suggested its elimination before the race, but the organizers ignored his observation.
Two brave guards took him out of the vehicle, but he was so severely burnt that he passed away the following afternoon.
I must have been too quick, he said to his father, a little time after the accident.
He died in the exact same way he lived –beyond and over any limits, a week after he reached 31. In the Snetterton’s pit, a plaque reminds us, to this day, of the majesty of a driver who overcame his physical issues and managed to be a part of history.
“He represented everything that was best in the sport”- every word in this quote is staggeringly true.