Froy - a versatile and talented racer

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Froy a versatile and talented racer

Asked if I knew anything about race driver Dudley Froy, I recalled that when writing of Captain (later Sir) A G Miller, I had named him ‘Mr Brooklands’, which I know offended another driver who thought this accolade belonged to him. I based this assessment of Miller upon his many races and records in a wide variety of cars and motorcycles, from 1912 to 1939.

This is not a nonsensical discourse as to who were the best 50 or so Brooklands competitors; but Dudley Froy was certainly one of them. He was ever ready to drive anything lent to him, slow or fast. Froy found his way to the magic of Brooklands — still magic, hence the Brooklands Society and its history-packed Brooklands Gazette

magazine: the Society’s membership secretary is Linda Titherley, Copse House, 38 Coxheath Road, Church Crookham, Hants, GU52 6QG — when he got to know J G Parry Thomas, the greatest Brooklands driver of the 1920s, and was said to have been apprenticed to the famous Welshman. I am not sure that JGPT took apprentices, but he lived at the Track and was a generous person, and probably Froy was admitted to his workshops. Froy’s first race entry came in 1926, when he was due to share Wright’s ex-Zborowski straighteight 2-litre Miller. It lasted only one lap, but Wright got it round at 96.71mph before its crankshaft broke. Froy had then to wait a year, all but a day, for his next race,

driving A G Miller’s ancient little Wolseley Moth in the Surbiton MC’s 50-mile handicap in 1927, which he won at 82.71mph. Having proved he was serious, in 1928 Froy was permitted to drive Woolf Bamato’s 4V2-litre Bentley and was let loose also in Capt Miller’s venerable 21 V2-litre Benz and a 2-litre Bugatti, but the Benz was unplaced and the borrowed Bugatti proved a pedestrian no-go. He drove the Bentley in 11 BARC races, taking a second and three thirds (best lap 119.43mph). The Bentley also broke Class C records, the hour at over 115mph. Capt Miller then had Froy drive his 5.9-litre Delage I which, in 1929, resulted in a win and two second places (putting in a best lap of

123.58mph) in six starts. He also sampled some long-distance racing in the BRDC 500, partnering none other than Kaye Don in the V12 4litre Sunbeam, which led until a spring broke.

It was time for his own car. For the 1930 season Froy had obtained the ex-Howey 8V2-litre LeylandThomas, with which, after a wild ride and a very bad skid, he won the Gold Plate Handicap (best lap at 120.88mph) and a third place at Brooklands. With Bamber he ran Delage Tin the 500-mile race but it caught fire. Froy did not return to Brooklands in 1931 until the Autumn Meeting. He managed a third in the primrose Leyland-Thomas (122.97mph) but with J Berger’s 4’h-litre Invicta a lap at 112.42mph was not enough. A special single-seater Invicta had been built for him for the 1932 500-mile event but Hebeler crashed it heavily in practice. However, Dudley had now had a go at road racing, driving to Coventry to pick up a Riley 9, and then to Niirburg to win the 1100cc class of the 1931 German GP after not far short of 4V2 hours driving at 58.03mph. He beat three Amilcars, an MG, and two DKVVs, after which he then drove the Riley all the way back to Coventry Froy was also expecting to drive Jameson’s experimental two-stroke machine, but it wasn’t ready. In 1932 he scored a third on the Mountain course in Kay Petre’s Invicta and a fourth in the Championship with consistent lap speeds, although the black car lapped 4.38mph slower than Raymond Mays’ famous white one. The following year produced only a non-start in a borrowed Ph-litre Bugatti, but during 1934 Froy had his best race results, with Kaye Don’s fearsome 4.9-litre T54 Bugatti. It was a rough ride again,

but a contrast to the MG Magnette he had in the JCC International Race. The Bugatti was second in the Championship race, just beaten by Cobb in the Napier-Railton, with a lap at 134.97mph, so a 130 badge to add to his 120mph one.

Yet he was not too proud to take part in joining J Wren for a 1000mile endurance test of a sports Fiat Ballila round the Mountain course (1700 corners!). It ended successfully, averaging 55.11mph.

He had a Type 54 Bugatti for the 1935 BRDC 500 but retired with a broken fuel pipe.

So ends this necessarily short account of the career of a talented and versatile exponent. Another ‘Mr Brooklands’. Froy then went to America on a curious expedition to sell 2-litre Lea-Francis engines to dirt-track racers. He lived in Arizona, but came over for one of the Brooklands Reunions.