George Abecassis

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George Abecassis
Nationality United Kingdom British
Born George Edgar Abecassis
(1913-03-21)21 March 1913
Oatlands, Surrey, England, UK
Died 18 December 1991(1991-12-18) (aged 78)
Ibstone, Buckinghamshire, England, UK
Formula One World Championship career
Active years 19511952
Teams HWM
Races 2
Championships 0
Wins 0
Podiums 0
Career points 0
Pole positions 0
Fastest laps 0
First race 1951 Swiss Grand Prix
Last race 1952 Swiss Grand Prix
24 Hours of Le Mans career
Participating years 19501951, 1953
Teams Aston Martin
Best finish 5th (1950; 1951)
Class wins 1 (1950)

George Edgar Abecassis DFC (21 March 1913 – 18 December 1991) was an English racing driver, and co-founder of the HWM Formula One team.

Pre-1946 career[edit]

Born in Oatlands, Surrey, Abecassis began circuit racing in 1935 in a modified Austin Seven which became known as The Einsitzer. After taking 1937 as a year away from the track, he acquired an Alta and made a name for himself in English national racing during the 1938 and 1939 seasons. In 1939 he won the Imperial Trophy Formula Libre race at Crystal Palace, driving his Alta, defeating Prince Bira, in the E.R.A. known as Romulus, in a wet race,[1] "that being the only time it was beaten by a 1,500 c.c. car in the British Isles." [2]

At one point Abecassis held the Campbell circuit lap record at Brooklands at 72.61 m.p.h.[3] On 3 July 1938 Abecassis broke the Prescott Hill Climb record with a climb of 47.85 seconds in his supercharged 1½ litre Alta.[4]

When World War II broke out he joined the Royal Air Force and became an experienced pilot, ultimately becoming a member of the secret "Moon Squadrons",[5] ferrying secret agents in and out of occupied countries in Europe with specially-modified Halifax and Stirling aircraft. During the course of his wartime service Abecassis was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.[6]

Post-1946 career[edit]

After World War II Abecassis went back to racing, initially with pre-war machinery. He won a race at Gransden Lodge in a road-going 3.3-litre Bugatti on 15 June 1946.[7] In 1947 Abecassis finished second in the Swedish Grand Prix, held on a frozen lake at Vallentuna, driving an E.R.A.[8] In 1948 he finished second to Bob Gerard in the Jersey International Road Race.[9] He became a partner, with John Heath, in Hersham and Walton Motors Ltd., a motor dealership and garage in Walton-on-Thames. Building on his pre-war association with the Alta marque, Abecassis and HWM assisted in the development of the Alta GP car,[6] designed to comply with the recently introduced Formula One regulations.

After the failure of this enterprise Abecassis and Heath decided to construct their own cars under the HWM banner, but retaining Alta engines. Initially the HWM cars were designed to compete in the Formula Two class, but when the World Championship switched to Formula Two regulations in 1952 HWM cars became eligible to compete in the Grand Prix events. During their prime, HWM employed such future stars as Stirling Moss and Peter Collins, and the Belgian Johnny Claes scored their first victory, in the Grand Prix des Frontières at a street circuit in Chimay, Belgium.[5] Abecassis's HWM team also took a notable victory in the International Trophy race at Silverstone in 1952, this time with Lance Macklin at the wheel. With the reintroduction of Formula One cars to the World Championship in 1954, Abecassis and Heath attempted to produce a competitive car using the 2.5-litre version of the Alta engine but it was not a success;[5] HWM cars only contested two further Grand Prix events after 1953.

It was with his own HWM cars that Abecassis raced in his only two Formula One World Championship Grands Prix, at the Bremgarten circuit, in the 1951 and 1952 Swiss Grand Prix. He was more successful as a sports car driver with Aston Martin and won his class at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1950, sharing his DB2 with Macklin. He also finished second in the 12 Hours of Sebring in 1953, partnered by Reg Parnell. In 1953 Abecassis constructed an HWM sports car for his own personal use, powered by a Jaguar straight-6 engine, with which he successfully contested many national British races until 1956.[10]

In 1956 Heath was killed in an accident in the Mille Miglia and Abecassis retired from racing, turning his attention to running the HWM operations. He was the Facel Vega importer for Britain, while his motor industry connections were aided by the fact that he was married to Angela, the daughter of Aston Martin chairman Sir David Brown. He died aged 78 in Ibstone, near High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire.

In September 2010 his son David Abecassis published a comprehensive biography of his father under the title "A Passion for Speed".

His grandson, Jonathan Abecassis, has an active interest in vintage sports car racing. He competes in the Fifties Sports Car Racing Club ("FISCAR") series, driving an Austin Healey 100/4.

Selected results[edit]

Formula One World Championship[edit]

(key)

Yr Entrant Chassis Engine 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 WDC Points
1951 HW Motors Ltd HWM Alta Straight-4 SUI
Ret
500
BEL
FRA
GBR
GER
ITA
ESP
NC 0
1952 HW Motors Ltd HWM Alta Straight-4 SUI
Ret
500
BEL
FRA
GBR
GER
NED
ITA
NC 0

Non-Championship race highlights[edit]

Year Grand Prix Circuit Car Pos Report
1938 United Kingdom Crystal Palace Grand Prix Crystal Palace Alta 12/50 2nd Report
United Kingdom Imperial Trophy Crystal Palace Alta 12/50 2nd Report
1939 United Kingdom Imperial Trophy Crystal Palace Alta 15/20 1st Report
1946 Switzerland I Nations Grand Prix Geneve Alta Ret Report
1947 Italy I Caracalla Grand Prix F2 Caracalla Cisitalia-Fiat D46 2nd Report
1948 United Kingdom II J.C.C. Jersey Road Street Saint Helier Maserati 6CM 2nd Report
1949 United Kingdom I Richmond Trophy Goodwood HWM-Alta GP 6th Report
United Kingdom II British Grand Prix Silverstone HWM-Alta GP 7th Report
United Kingdom II Madgwick Cup Goodwood HWM-Alta GP 5th Report
1950 United Kingdom II Richmond Trophy Goodwood HWM 50-Alta 6th Report
1951 Italy Gran Premio Centenario Colombia Genoa HWM 51-Alta 5th Report
United Kingdom I Winfield Cup F2 Winfield HWM 51-Alta 2nd Report
1952 United Kingdom IV Goodwood Trophy Goodwood HWM 51-Alta 4th Report
United Kingdom I Ibsley Race New Forest HWM 52-Alta 2nd Report

References[edit]

  1. ^ Motor Sport, November 1938, Page 388.
  2. ^ Motor Sport, November 1940, Page 202.
  3. ^ Motor Sport, May 1939, Page 135.
  4. ^ Motor Sport, July 1938, Page 246.
  5. ^ a b c "Drivers: George Abecassis". GrandPrix.com. Retrieved 26 November 2007. 
  6. ^ a b "The World Championship drivers — Where are they now?". OldRacingCars.com. Retrieved 26 November 2007. 
  7. ^ Motor Sport, July 1946, Page 143.
  8. ^ Motor Sport, April 1947, Page 98.
  9. ^ Motor Sport, June 1948, cover.
  10. ^ "Driver: Abecassis, George". Autocourse Grand Prix Archive. Archived from the original on 21 December 2007. Retrieved 27 November 2007. 

External links[edit]