Kaye Don's sad mistake

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What follows is not for a moment intended as a criticism of Kaye Don. I had the greatest admiration for him after seeing him lapping Brooklands and winning races with the red Sunbeams, the 2-litre ‘Cub’ and the 4-litre V12 ‘Tiger’ and ‘Tigress’, and taking the absolute lap record to 137.58mph by 1930.

In road racing Don took the first Ulster TT for LeaFrancis in 1928 and had a narrow escape in that event in 1930 when the Alfa Romeo overturned and caught fire. He drove Riley and Alfa Romeo cars at Phoenix Park and for MG in the loM road races. No one could question Don’s skill. He acted sensibly when the giant Wolseley Viper wasn’t going to stop after a Brooklands race and he tried for the LSR in 1930 with the twin-engined ‘4000hp’. Sunbeam ‘Silver Bullet’ and it was not through Don being scared, as some implied, that the record wasn’t achieved. Remember, too, that Don held the WSR four times, leaving it at 120.5mph with ‘Miss England III’ by 1932, and that such boats can be more deadly than cars. The WSR killed Segrave, Cobb and Donald Campbell. When novelist Gilbert Frankau told Segrave he wouldn’t care to drive the 231mph ‘Golden Arrow’ de Hane replied, “It is the boat ‘Miss England’ that puts the breeze up me,” and in it Segrave lost his life on his final run that broke the record.

But in practice for the 1934 IoM Mannin Moar race, Kaye Don made a sad mistake. Not liking his MG Magnette’s brakes, he asked his riding-mechanic Frank Tayler to improve them. Tayler did so, and that evening Don went for a test run, on public roads no longer closed for race practice. To try a racing car’s brakes calls for some speed, and the MG collided with a saloon car, Tayler being fatally injured. Kaye Don was charged with manslaughter.

As sports editor of The Autocar, Sammy Davis defended Don on the grounds that a racing mechanic knew the risks