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Brian Henton

19th September 1946 (Age 74)
Castle Donington, Derbyshire
Most recent race (in database):

Brian Henton was a determined man who never gave up in his pursuit of Grand Prix racing. Humble origins perhaps contributed to his gruff and uncompromising character.

Early racing career includes F1 disappointment

Already a Derbyshire motorcycle dealer, he raced in single-seaters when 23 years old. Success in Formula Vee (1971 British Champion) and Super Vee prompted the self-confident Henton to buy a Formula 3 GRD for 1973. Money was tight but his season was rescued with a switch to a works Ensign LN73 mid-campaign.

That led to a works March drive for 1974 when Henton stormed to championship victory in both British F3 series. He also finished sixth on his Formula 2 debut that year at Mugello and he drove a private March 752-Ford in that series during 1975. However, his growing reputation was dented by what had appeared a golden opportunity. Three frustrating GPs (including not starting in Austria) in the now uncompetitive Lotus 72-Ford temporarily halted his rise.

Stuttering F1 career and F2 success

Undeterred (there is a word to describe Brian Henton), he came 10th in the 1977 Long Beach GP with a works March 761-Ford and then entered another three GPs in his own British Formula 1 Racing Team-entered chassis but did not qualify. He fared little better by switching to Boro-Ensign for the Dutch and Italian GPs. However, an F2 victory at Thruxton with Tom Wheatcroft’s Boxer PR276-Hart was a prelude to future success.

With F1 on hold, Henton concentrated on F2 and his Toleman Group Ralt RT2-Hart won twice in 1979 but he was denied the title by exclusion at Enna-Pergusa and a late spin during the title showdown at Donington Park. Runner-up that year just two points behind Marc Surer, he and team-mate Derek Warwick dominated in 1980 with Toleman’s BP-sponsored eponymous TG280-Hart.

Formula 2 Champion and F1 with Toleman

Henton was crowned 1980 European F2 Champion and both drivers graduated to F1 in 1981 with Toleman’s new Hart turbo-powered TG181. It was a difficult year for an inexperienced team and Henton only qualified at Monza.

He replaced the injured Surer in an Arrows A4-Ford at the start of 1982 before completing the F1 season with Tyrrell. A surprise fastest lap at Brands Hatch and career-best seventh in Germany were rare highlights of his final GP campaign.

Henton’s Theodore N183-Ford was fourth in a one-off in the 1983 Race of Champions at Brands Hatch but that was the 37 year old’s last outing before retirement. Later diverse business interests included engineering, property, car dealerships and leisure karting.