Humphrey W. Cook

Although Humprey Cook is best remembered in our world as the financier enthusiast who made Raymond Mays’ dream of the ERA an English Racing Automobile in the voiturette class come true, he began his motor-racing at Brooklands before the First World War, with a big Isotta-Fraschini. He also drove this 120-h.p. car in sprint events. After the war Cook was a regular competitor at many speed trials and hill climbs, and at Brooklands, with his E-type 30/98 Vauxhall “Rouge et Noir”, which was subsequently lightened and streamlined, a 5-litre Ballot, and a TI’ Vauxhall called “Rouge et Noir II” which made F.T.D. at Kop, etc.

In 1925 Cook had Amherst Villiers supercharge the complex TI Vauxhall, leading to the impressive Vauxhall-Villiers sprint car so successful in Mays’ hands. Cook also, at this time, managed to insert his considerable frame into the slim “Razorblade” Aston-Martin, and he started in the 1925 JCC 200-Mile Race. only to crash in the twin-cam Aston Martin works car. He later turned to racing Bentleys. at first a 3-litre, then a 4 1/2-litre, being 3rd with Leslie Callingham, in the 1929 BARC Six Hour Race at Brooklands and 9th at Phoenix Park, having competed in the 1928 TT. He then turned to works Aston Martins.

In 1934 Mays proposed his team of ERAs, designed by Railton, Berthon and Murray Jamieson, and Humphrey Cook readily found the money. Although no longer a young man (he was then over 40), he drove in the ERA team, finishing fifth in the 1934 Nuffield Trophy Race at Donington with an 1,100c.c. ERA and in the same position in the 1935 Eifelrennem. He was Managing Director of this team of single-seater supercharged racing cars built to carry British racing green to far places, having first suggested to Mays that a blown version of the White Riley’s engine might be what was needed, he stayed with ERAs to 1939, and so well engineered were those racing-cars that more of them survive in race-winning order today than any other cars of similar type. But for Humphrey Cook investing £75,000 in this patriotic venture, there would have been no ERAs. Cook drove them at Donington, Albi, in the I.o.M., at the Nurburgring, and at Dieppe, after having achieved their first racing success in a Mountain Handicap at Brooklands„ again using an 1,100-c.c. car. This portly businessman thus refused to be severed from his early love of nimor-racing. but in later years unhappy events rather soured his outlook. -W.B.