Denis Jenkinson: 25 years on

Celebrating the life and work of the legendary motor sport writer Denis 'Jenks' Jenkinson, who passed away 25 years ago

Bernard Cahier/Getty Images

For many, Denis Jenkinson, who passed away 25 years ago today, was – and still is – the quintessential motor sport journalist. Discerning, scrutinising, often mischievous and always unrelenting in his opinions, the sometimes irascible scribe made himself heard through the page, one way or another.

Traversing Europe on bikes, in Fiat saloons and eventually a Motor Sport company Jaguar E-Type, Jenks brought grand prix racing to life in an age before round dedicated Formula 1 channels and round-the-clock internet coverage with a singular writing voice.

It’s rare that journalists inspire articles to be written about themselves of any volume, but Jenks was one such character. To celebrate the great man, below we have memories from Motor Sport’s esteemed former editor Bill Boddy, racing legend Stirling Moss, renowned motor sport writer Nigel Roebuck, as well as Jenks’ own thoughts on Ayrton Senna and his wild ride with the aforementioned British star at the 1955 Mille Miglia – seen as perhaps the ultimate piece of racing journalism.

My friend Jenks

“We secured the outstanding motoring writer, since recognised as one of the greatest authorities on all motor racing matters.”

Bill Boddy, Motor Sport’s legendary Editor from 1936 to 1991, wrote in 2008 about what it was like to work with the unique writing force that was ‘Jenks’, sharing both tales of the latter’s passion for the sport and also amusing anecdotes of a unique character who graced the magazine’s pages through seven decades.


Read more

Denis Jenkinson, Grand Prix of Italy, Autodromo Nazionale Monza, 05 September 1954. Legendary journalist Denis

Denis Jenkinson: Writer by trade, World Champion on the side

Before Jenks became the magazine’s Continental Correspondent, he himself was involved in competition – as a world champion. Passenger to Eric Oliver,  the pair claimed the World Sidecar Championship in 1949.

Doug Nye charts Jenks’ time in competition, about which he was always modest: “Eric Oliver was world champion – I just looked on in wonder!”

Read more

Stirling Moss (left) and his navigator Denis Jenkinson lean over their Maserati 450S during the pre-race checks in the Piazza Vittoria, before the Mille Miglia. (Photo by Yves Debraine/Klemantaski Collection/Getty Images)

Jenks remembered by those who knew him best

The ever-opinionated Jenks could delight and infuriate in equal measure, but those knew him well cherished the relationship. Boddy, the late Stirling Moss and another much-missed writer, Alan Henry, share tales of Jenks’ high-jinxes.

Read more

Denis Jenkinson in 1962

Jenks on Senna

As someone who fell in love with pre-war grand prix racing, Jenks found it harder and harder to reconcile himself with modern Formula 1. Quite often, little impressed him about what he thought was a less heroic age as F1 raced through the ’70 and ’90s.

However, the writer found himself unable to resist the racing charms of the fearless Gilles Villeneuve, and later three-time champion Ayrton Senna. As he writes in this approving opinion piece on the Brazilian, “I get enormous pleasure from listening to him, he is so intelligently analytical.” Not praise easily given by the discerning Jenks.

Read more

Denis Jenkinson with Ayrton Senna at Silverstone in 1990

Denis Jenkinson: Nigel Roebuck’s Legends

As Roebuck points out, there were few freer spirits than Jenks, who would (sometimes) accommodate other viewpoints, even if they weren’t held by him –  one example being the non-smoking journo stocking ashtrays at home: “Supposing Keke Rosberg happened to be driving past — if he knew he couldn’t have a fag he wouldn’t drop in, would he? And I wouldn’t blame him.”

Read more

Denis Jenkinson and Nigel Roebuck at Silverstone

With Moss in the Mille Miglia

Seen in someways as the ultimate in motor sport writing is Jenks’ epic account of navigating for Stirling Moss at the 1955 Mille Miglia, from which they emerged victorious.

“I was so intrigued to follow Moss’s every action that I completely forgot to be scared,” wrote Jenks as the pair raced past spectators at close quarters and through confined Italian streets.

Read more

Stirling Moss with Denis Jenkinson at the finish of the 1955 Mille Miglia

The best of Jenks