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Noël Cunningham-Reid was a talented amateur who retired after only three seasons in the sport. That was just as Grand Prix and sports car teams were taking an interest.
Background and immediate sports car success
The son of controversial Conservative MP Capt Alec S.Cunningham-Reid, he was a documentary and advertising film maker when he discovered motor racing. He only began to compete in 1955 "out of curiosity as to how you controlled a sliding car." Having shown promise in national events with an HWM and Cooper T39-Alta, Cunningham-Reid stepped onto the international stage at the 1957 Nürburgring 1000Kms.
Co-driver Tony Brooks was a true star at the time and handed their Aston Martin DBR1 to the inexperienced Cunningham-Reid with a healthy lead. Their continental rivals expected to reel the green car in but rather than be out of his depth, the little-known Englishman extended their advantage by another 45 seconds during his 12-lap stint. Exhausted, Cunningham-Reid watched as Brooks completed a famous victory some 4min 13.7sec ahead of the leading Ferrari.
Out of luck at Le Mans
They were paired again at Le Mans and ran second during the night. But Brooks crashed at Tertre Rouge in the early hours when stuck in fourth gear. The Aston Martin rolled and was hit by Umberto Maglioli’s Porsche with both cars eliminated.
Cunningham-Reid also drove Rob Walker’s Formula 2 Cooper T41-Climax that year and was fourth in class in the International Trophy at Silverstone. His year ended with Cunningham-Reid passing Brooks on the last lap of a national sports car race at Silverstone to finish third.
Aston Martin Team Manager John Wyer believed "he would have been a very great driver" but Cunningham-Reid retired from the sport at the end of the season "to pursue many other facets of business and life". He married soon after and settled in Swaffham Bulbeck near Newmarket, Cambridgeshire.