A picture in December issue of a 1908 GP Mercedes had its owner Jack Hartshome Cooper at the wheel, which prompts me to explain about this driver. Alas, he had an all too brief Brooklands spell.
Jack and his brother Major R F Shugger’ Cooper, whose nickname, David Burgess-Wise explained recently in an Aston Martin Heritage publication, stood for “Shit, you bugger” — were close friends of Count Zborowski, who probably introduced them to Brooklands, although the Coopers’ place was in Derbyshire, a long way from the Zborowski estate in Kent, where the virtually unchanged mansion still exists. When I went up to the Midlands to research the Hartshorne Cooper story I got very little information, but the Rector said that when he was taken by the Cooper brothers in their Model-T Ford on fishing expeditions they drove faster than he liked…
Jack Hartshorne Cooper had served in France during World War I as an air force pilot and was buried at Weybridge after his accident at the track.
When it had reopened in 1920 he raced with notable success his 12.9-litre 1908 GP Mercedes, and Zborowski allowed him to drive to a win his legendary 1914 4.1/2-litre GP Mercedes (which I stupidly said recently did not appear until 1921). To keep his brother company the Major raced an aged 9026cc Mercedes which had been known to finish last. For 1921 Jack H-C fancied a Chitty-style monster and installed a rare vee-eight 19.2-litre Clerget aero-engine in a Mercedes chassis. Sadly, it then all went wrong.
The Cooper-Clerget wasn’t ready to compete until just before the 1921 Whitsun Meeting. It was brought to Brooklands on the back of a lorry on the Tuesday before the Bank Holiday Monday, but had suspect handling characteristics and crashed heavily, inflicting fatal injuries on its owner. The first person to reach the stricken Hartshorne Cooper was his friend Count Zborowski. The ever cautious Brooklands handicappers had put the new car on the same mark as Chitty I, against a 110mph lap-speed, but sadly it was not to be, although the Count continued to run Chitty I, which won the Whitsun Lightning Short Handicap.
Major Cooper had his own plans to race the then 20.9-litre FIAT ‘Mephistopheles’ but these never materialised, and he and his sister soon left to live in the United States of America.