Tobias Moers leaves Aston Martin a fitter, leaner company: Andrew Frankel

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There will be many who greeted the news of the departure of Tobias Moers from the CEO’s chair at Aston Martin with ill-disguised joy. I have been told he was impossible to work for, always thought he knew best, could be rude, unkind, inconsiderate and, above all, autocratic. And those who have expressed such opinions to me are not unreasonable people, nor are they noted for their naivety. Clearly there is something in it.

But so too is there something in the fact that the Aston Martin he leaves is a fitter, leaner company than the one he joined less than two years ago. The efficiency savings he made don’t yet show up on a balance sheet still mired in debt, but they will have equipped the company to face the future in a way that would never have been possible before he arrived. I am sure there is more to it than this, but ultimately he gives the impression of a man who got on the wrong side of too many people who were either shown or ran for the door. I know of at least 10 senior executives who left on his watch, and in a small company that’s hard to ignore.

Me? I liked the man, a fact that infuriated at least one of his former employees. “He was always good with the press,” he fumed at me. “You just saw what he wanted you to see.” Maybe, but I think history will be kinder to him than most former Aston CEOs and, on balance, I’d say deservedly so.

Moers’ replacement is Amedeo Felisa, whom I first met when he was an engineer at Ferrari in the 1990s, when he explained to me why it was so much better that the F355 had five valves per cylinder rather than the more conventional four of its 348 predecessor. A gifted engineer, he rose through the ranks to become CEO at Maranello from 2008-2016. Now 76, and having been a non-executive director at Aston Martin, he has stepped into one of the most challenging jobs in the business.

“I asked who was driving. ‘That’s Tony Brooks.’ It was then I understood”

He is not, however, the first Italian to run Aston Martin. Indeed Aston Martin owes its very existence to one, for had Domenico Augustus Cesare Bertelli not bought into the company in 1926 and put it squarely on the map over the next 11 years, I’d not be writing these words today. If you think of a pre-war Aston, be it an International, Le Mans or Ulster, it was almost certainly engineered by him. It was Bertelli who took Aston Martin to Le Mans, and drove them there too, on five separate occasions, winning the 1500cc class and coming fifth overall in 1931. Italian by birth he may have been, but he moved to Wales aged four, grew up speaking English with a Welsh accent and was known to everyone as ‘Bert’.

The celebration of the life of Tony Dron, held in early May at the BRDC Clubhouse, was an occasion far more sweet than bitter. There were some fine speeches, and outside was the Dino sports racer in which he won so much at Goodwood as well as the Porsche 924 GTP he shared with Andy Rouse at Le Mans in 1980 as an official Porsche factory driver.

But really it was the people who made the occasion, as they so often do. From former F1 drivers like Richard Attwood and Jonathan Palmer to many of my long-term buddies from this industry we turned up not so much to pay our respects, because Tony would have thought so formal a gesture from his friends quite ridiculous, but to sip a glass of his favourite real ale, share some stories and feel lucky we ever got to know someone capable of that rarest of things: earning a living from both motor racing and motoring journalism. The list is not long, but includes SCH Davis, Paul Frère and John Miles.

But, actually, while I’ll always be in awe of Tony the driver and full of respect for Tony the writer, it’s plain old Tony I’ll miss. In between meeting up sporadically at race tracks we used to exchange e-mails, in which we’d attempt to set the world of historic motor-racing to rights. Mine were knocked out, stream of consciousness missives, his always immaculately thought out and constructed. And then some idiot hacked my mail, I’d failed to back up, and now they’re all gone. Won’t make that mistake again.

Talking of recently departed friends, I can’t finish without mentioning Tony Brooks. I first met him at Goodwood, at a preview day for one of the earliest Revivals, possibly the first. I was late and the on track action was already well underway, the usual suspects in the usual cars pounding round, barrelling out the chicane making a wonderful spectacle.

Then I saw something different. From my viewpoint in the pitlane I could see an Aston Martin DB3S hurtling down the straight towards Woodcote. Once it got there, instead of driving, sliding or even drifting through in any conventional sense, it just seemed to shimmer, as if suspended above the surface of the track, twitching almost imperceptibly this way and that. It was one of those moments you realise in that instant you’ll never forget. Of course you know already who was exercising such utter, mesmeric control over that old Aston, but I did not. So I asked the person next to me who was driving. “Oh, that’s Tony Brooks,” he said, and suddenly I understood. Nearly 40 years after he’d walked away from racing for good and now in his late sixties, his talent remained undimmed. How lucky I am to have seen it, even just once.

A former editor of Motor Sport, Andrew splits his time between testing the latest road cars and racing (mostly) historic machinery
Follow Andrew on Twitter @Andrew_Frankel