Very well known at Brooklands between the wars, Leonard F Dyer died last December at the age of 95. “Bunny” Dyer’s significant part in racing at the Track included planning the ingenious handicapping system using chicanes of differing severity for cars of different classes, whereby spectators could view a long-distance contest as if it were a scratch event. This great improvement on handicapping by time was used for the JCC’s International Trophy Races from 1933-39.
That was perhaps Dyer’s most important contribution, but he was a prominent Track official for a long period, always enthusiastic and hard-working, a familiar but modest figure.
Just after WW1 Dyer worked for the Citroen importer, and was the first person to drive one of these cars in this country. He met journalist Percy Bradley when he came to try one, and afterwards accompanied him on sporting trials. Consequently Bradley took Dyer as his assistant when he became Secretary of the Cyclecar Club, later the Junior Car Club. When Bradley left to be Clerk of the Course at Brooklands in 1930, Dyer replaced him and was responsible for many of this adventurous club’s innovations. The High Efficiency Trial, the High Speed trials, the ambitious Double-Twelve-Hour races to emulate Le Mans, and the 200-mile races all fell under Dyer’s control. He so very much influenced Brooklands and its greatest endeavours.
But those chicanes were his finest inspiration there is a splendid story, told to me by his nephew, of how difficult it was for Bunny Dyer, assisted by the great A V Ebblewhite, to decide on the correct form of these chicanes to equal up cars of different speeds, a task not made easier by drivers who, in practice, would drive fast on one part of the course, slowly when out of sight, thereby distorting the handicapping. This was countered by “Ebby” announcing that he had had enough and that he had had enough and that he was catching the next train home to London, when in fact he was hiding at another part of the Track with his watches still in use… A difference of only 6.83mph between first and third place, even with cars as diverse as Monza Alfa Romeo and 1100 MG, proved the effectiveness of the new system.
He also organised the JCC’s first British Rally to America, some 80 members and 25 cars embarking for New York on the Queen Mary for an extensive tour finishing at Montreal.
In 1936 Dyer joined Eddie Hall in business, but continued his contact with Brooklands, acting as BRDC Press Secretary in 1932: he was the official lowered down the Members Banking on a treebranch to retrieve Clive Dunfee’s body after he was thrown out of the 6 1/2-litre Bentley as it plunged over the top of the banking.
For many years Dyer was a BARG Council member, and after WWII he helped the Earl of March in opening Goodwood circuit. He also served on the RAC Competitions Committee, and did much good work fund-raising for BEN. Motor racing owes this versatile person a great deal. WB
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