Banner headlines in one of the top newspapers, such as “Wheels turns full circle for man who partnered Sir Malcolm” and “Last lap for man who burned rubber when Bluebird was the latest model”, told us that A F Rivers Fletcher has given up racing at the age of 83. To quote again. “Those at VSCC Silverstone saw Rivers wave goodbye to the crowd from a 1934 Alvis Speed-20 for which he designed the body.” “Having raced with the best, including Malcolm Campbell in 1928”, The Sunday Telegraph told us, “Rivers these days drives the Alvis, but, at 83, not fast. Britain’s oldest racing driver retired”, at Silverstone on April 13.
I am sure many will be glad to wave a cheery goodbye to this well-known enthusiast. The Press citations described Rivers Fletcher’s conversation as littered with references to friends who are Lords, reminded us that HRH Prince Michael of Kent speaks very highly of him, and told of how he tested the Le Mans Bentleys and “was probably the third or fourth fastest hill-climb driver while trying to reach Raymond Mays’s standards”. He is called a person who “mixed in circles in which income is not too much of a bother,” to quote Giles Smith of The Daily Telegraph”.
I have known Rivers for a long time and I think he regarded me as a friend. I respect him especially for the Rembrandt war-time meetings which helped to maintain enthusiasm, and for how he organised the first post-war meeting of racing cars, for the way in which he demonstrated a V16 BRM up Shelsley Walsh, and for his books, which I much enjoyed, apart from the current one, which is much too self-orientated and repetitive.
So, while wishing Rivers a happy retirement, I have to say that the Press has not done proper research. The papers aforesaid, and even the Midland AC News, quote this as “the retirement of Britain’s oldest racing driver”. Which is unfair to Tom Delaney, who was competing at Brooklands some 66 years ago, racing an ex-works TT Lea-Francis that had won the 1928 TT. He won a Mountain race against Raymond Mays and gained many successes there and at Donington Park. He also flew at Brooklands. In later times he bought back the winning Hyper TT Lea-Francis and acquired two others, becoming a consistent performer in VSCC and other events, as he has continued to do, racing at Silverstone this month at the age of 85.
So while wishing the chap in the racing attire, invariably topped by a BRDC badge, the happiest of memories, he is not quite the oldest of our racing drivers, an accolade very well deserved by Tom Delaney…