Racing driver and constructor Graham Warner died on March 8, aged 84.
Born in Battersea on May 1 1929, the Londoner would devote his life to two great passions: aircraft and motor sport. After leaving college, Warner joined the RAF and flew Meteors and Vampires at the dawn of the Jet Age. The lure of motor sport, however, was never far away: reasoning that his racing heroes were all car dealers by day, Warner joined Civvy Street in 1953 and became a salesman with Performance Cars of Brentford.
After competing in a handful of hill climbs aboard his ex-Richard Stallebrass Aston Martin 2-Litre Speed Model, he acquired a Ford-engined Kieft and entered a race at Castle Combe in ’53 only for a broken stub axle to end play; a further five years would pass by before he made his circuit debut. In the meantime, he decided to go it alone and, in 1956, The Chequered Flag was born in Chiswick. A spin-off race team, The Chequered Flag Stable, was established two years later, with Warner campaigning an Austin-Healey 100S in ’58 before adding a Tojeiro-Bristol, a Cooper Monaco and a one-off Lotus 7/12 to the line-up. Team members included Percy Crabb and Graham Hill.
As a driver Warner became inextricably linked with racing his Lotus Elite, which in time received the number plate LOV1. His battles with the similar car of Les Leston – whom he loathed – would enter into legend. In 1962, he stepped up to race for John Ogier’s Essex Racing Stable, sharing an Aston Martin DB4GT Zagato with Jim Clark. Warner also gave the sainted Scot his first-ever start in a single-seater, on acquiring the rights to the Moreland Formula Junior design that subsequently morphed into the Gemini Mk2.
Warner fielded sports cars and single-seaters until 1968, including works machinery for Brabham and McLaren. Alumni including Jackie Stewart, Jacky Ickx, Mike Parkes, Bob Bondurant, David Hobbs, Gijs van Lennep, Andrea de Adamich, Frank Gardner and Chris Irwin (who he considered the best driver ever to race for him). The team returned with an abortive F1 bid in 1974, before switching to rallying a year later with Lancia Stratoses, Porsche 911s and Triumph TR7 V8s.
In later life Warner was the driving force behind the revival of a Blenheim bomber – restored a second time following a crash – and also a respected aviation historian. Richard Heseltine