Tony Rolt

Full Name:
Anthony Peter Roylance Rolt, MC
Born:
16th October 1918
Bordon, Hampshire
Died:
6th February 2008 (Aged 89)
Warwick, Warwickshire
Nationality:
British
Most recent race (in database):
Biography

The last survivor of the 1950 British Grand Prix when he died in 2008, Tony Rolt was an influential motor racing industrialist who was also a prominent member of the British Racing Drivers’ Club. Victory in the 1953 Le Mans 24 Hours was the highest profile success of his racing career.

Early racing career and World War II

Tony Rolt was a fine amateur who raced for the first time in 1936 when 18 years old. He bought ERA R5B (nicknamed “Remus”) from Prince “Bira” in 1937 and enjoyed success in British races for the final two years of the decade. Three wins and a number of placings at Brooklands during 1938 were followed by his first major success in the 1939 British Empire Trophy at Donington Park.

However, World War II robbed Rolt of his most competitive years. He served in the British Army with distinction during the conflict and was awarded the Military Cross before being captured near Calais as the German Panzer Divisions closed in on Dunkirk. He was later imprisoned in the infamous Colditz Castle after numerous attempts to escape from lesser camps.

Post-war racing career

Released at the end of the war, Rolt wasted no time to race again. He made his first Formula 1 starts driving the Alfa Romeo Bimotore in the 1948 and 1949 British GPs although he retired the complex machine from both races.

The new F1 World Championship started at Silverstone in 1950 and Rolt shared Peter Walker’s ERA E-type but again he retired from the race. His works Healey was then fourth in the Le Mans 24 Hours and Rolt finished sixth in the 1951 race.

Le Mans victory

Second in the 1952 International Trophy at Silverstone, it was at Le Mans that Rolt scored his greatest victory. He shared the winning works Jaguar C-type with Duncan Hamilton in 1953 when three laps ahead of team-mates Stirling Moss and Peter Walker. Rolt retired from the British GP that year but scored a number of British wins with Rob Walker’s Connaught A-type in a highly successful season.

Again paired with Hamilton, he finished second in the 1954 Le Mans 24 Hours with their Jaguar D-type less than a lap behind at the finish. Another appearance in the British GP with Rob Walker’s Connaught B-type in 1955 again ended with retirement.

Subsequent career

He stopped racing at the end of the season to concentrate on the engineering business he had founded with Freddie Dixon. That involved development of the Ferguson four-wheel-drive system that had an abortive one-off place in F1 history. Rolt earned his fortune with the renamed FF Developments and remained in close contact with the sport to the end of his life.

Championship seasons