The British Racing Drivers’ Club Gold Star is historically a coveted prize for the best British and Commonwealth racing drivers who compete around the globe. It remains so to this day – just ask Lewis Hamilton. But its public profile outside of the club is perhaps not as great as it should be.
In the hope of addressing this, Motor Sport has joined forces with the BRDC to run regular updates of the Gold Star standings, along with its national racing sister award, the Silver Star. Not only is this a way of celebrating the wonderful heritage of the club and its prestigious awards, it is also a useful means for us – and you – to track the progress of British and Commonwealth racing stars throughout the season.
Here, circuit commentator and BRDC director Ian Titchmarsh recounts the history of the Gold and Silver stars, explains the points-scoring system and lists the 2009 drivers’ standings so far.
Pagani’s Restaurant was where it all began. On March 12, 1928 a group of eminent British motor racing personalities met to combine the dinners of Dr Dudley Benjafield with the concept of Brooklands chief timekeeper ‘Ebby’ Ebblewhite into the British Racing Drivers’ Club. It was decided that only proper racing drivers should be eligible for membership together with such others, ‘Ebby’ being a prime example, as might be deemed to have made an outstanding contribution to the sport.
Although championships as such were few and far between in those days, it was thought a good thing if the club recognised the outstanding performance of the year by one of the members in racing and record-breaking. And so on October 1, 1928 the club’s general committee met and passed a resolution regarding a ‘Club Award of Merit’.
It was decided that a single award would be made each year in the form of a gold plaque that would “cost not more than £14”. At a further meeting held at Pagani’s on October 8, an aggregate points system was agreed upon as the best method to decide the winner. The yet-to-be-knighted Malcolm Campbell and Kaye Don agreed not to attend this second meeting being likely recipients of the inaugural award.
World records would be worth 12 points compared with winning a Grand Prix or Le Mans, which scored a mere eight. As the first driver to exceed 130mph on the Brooklands Outer Circuit and winner of the first Ards Tourist Trophy, it was Dublin-born Don who was awarded this unique plaque. Before the end of January 1929 the committee had decided that, in addition to a ‘Championship Trophy’, up to three stars should be given each year as awards of merit.
At the December committee meeting, a design for a five-pointed star was rejected in favour of one with 10 points and “the Hon Secretary was requested to order the three awards to cost not more than £3 each”. A ballot decided that the recipients of these first three stars should be Sir Henry Segrave for breaking the Land Speed Record at Daytona with the Sunbeam ‘Golden Arrow’, Malcolm Campbell for some lesser records at Verneuk Pan in South Africa, and Sammy Davis for his track racing successes. It was surely coincidence that both Campbell and Davis were members of the general committee. Kaye Don won the points-based Championship Trophy but this award was dropped from 1930 onwards as the stars became ascendant.
Throughout the 1930s at least two Gold Stars were awarded annually on a points basis for success in track and road racing respectively, with a third available for “outstanding performances” at the discretion of the committee. Curiously, for 1931 it was decided that “it was not possible to select any outstanding achievement, and it was therefore decided not to make such award”. That was in October, Sir Malcolm Campbell having earlier in the year set a new Land Speed Record at some 246mph – not outstanding enough it seems. However, the committee had second thoughts a few weeks later and gave the award to George Eyston for achieving 100 miles in the hour in his 750cc MG EX120. But nothing for Sir Malcolm.
In 1938 no less than six Gold Stars were awarded, three for record breaking, one to Richard Seaman for his win in the German Grand Prix and the two road racing and track stars, the former to ‘B Bira’ who thus achieved his hat-trick.
After World War II, Bira’s hat-trick paled by comparison with the extraordinary achievement of Stirling Moss who, from being the youngest ever winner of a Gold Star at the age of 21 in 1950, took the points-based award every year of that decade apart from 1953, when Mike Hawthorn’s first season with Ferrari earned him his first Gold Star. Mike’s second came almost posthumously for winning the World Championship in 1958.
With 10 Gold Stars, all won on points, Sir Stirling has four more than David Coulthard, another winner on points alone, while Sir Jackie Stewart also has six to his name, including three for his World Championships and another for his win in the 1968 German Grand Prix.
In more recent times hat-tricks and better have been achieved, usually by the top British Formula 1 driver of the day, but only one man has won three in one year – the great Jim Clark in his annus mirabilis of 1965 when he won both the World Championship and the Indianapolis 500. Only once has there been a tie on points – in 1989 when Nigel Mansell’s first year with Ferrari brought either podiums or retirements while Kenny Acheson was enjoying a superb season with the Group C Sauber.
For 1977 the then-club secretary, Pierre Aumonier, recommended to the club’s board that there should be an equivalent award for the most successful club member competing in UK events, and thus was born the Silver Star. Today this is focused on the three major British championships in which members compete: the BTCC, British F3 and British GT.
To be elected a full or life member of the BRDC, a driver has to achieve a significant measure of success in the sport. To then emerge as the most successful of your fellow members in the major categories of international and national racing is one of the main reasons why the Gold and Silver stars are so highly coveted and prized.
Gold and silver star points scoring
From the outset the annual Gold Stars have been awarded on a points basis according to results in international and national open races. Time was when a little chauvinism meant that it was worth more to win a major event at Brooklands than to win Le Mans, the Targa Florio or one of the principal Continental Grands Prix! Nowadays there is a bias in favour of Formula 1,
Le Mans and the Indianapolis 500 which are scored: 1st 27, 2nd 21, 3rd 16, 4th 12, 5th 9, 6th 7, 7th 5 and 8th 3, according to overall positions.
All other qualifying races, essentially every major international racing series in which BRDC members are likely to compete, from GP2 and the IRL IndyCar Series to the World Touring Car Championship and NASCAR, are scored: 1st 21, 2nd 16, 3rd 12, 4th 9, 5th 7 and 6th 5. Every race is counted towards the total.
Class wins in long-distance series like the Le Mans Series, FIA GT and Grand-Am are scored: 1st 14, 2nd 10 and 3rd 7. But a member can only count the better of an overall or class win, so that an LMP2 driver finishing second at, say, Sebring will score 16 ‘overall’ points rather than 14 ‘class win’ points. Had he finished third, it is the latter which will count rather than 12 ‘overall’ points.
Where cars are shared, a member must have driven at least 30 per cent of the distance, while class points count only when there are at least six starters.
For the Silver Star the scoring system is: 1st 20, 2nd 15, 3rd 12, 4th 10, 5th 8, 6th 6, 7th 4, 8th 3, 9th 2 and 10th 1. This is based on overall positions in the three qualifying series, i.e. BTCC, British F3 and British GT, including races outside the UK. Only the best 12 results count and there are no separate class points.