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Rupert Keegan

26th February 1955 (Age 65)
Westcliff-on-Sea, Essex
Most recent race (in database):

Blessed with blond locks, born with the surname of England’s most famous footballer of the time and backed by his father’s fortune – Rupert Keegan’s credentials to be a motor racing star were impeccable.

Background and early racing career

His father Mike had been part of the Berlin Airlift of the late 1940s as a supplier to the Royal Air Force who then ran British Air Ferries – he was a true entrepreneur of post-World War II air freight. He later bought the Hawke racing car company and backed Rupert’s career to the hilt.

Rupert Keegan began racing in 1973 and was winning in Formula Ford a year later despite already having a reputation as being accident-prone. He graduated to Formula 3 in 1975 where his looks and damaged cars drew comparisons to James Hunt.

Just as Hunt clinched the 1976 World Championship, Keegan answered his critics by beating Bruno Giacomelli’s works March in the BP British F3 Championship. His private March 743-Toyota won the first four races but a switch to the underdeveloped Hawke proved a mistake. So a new Chevron B34-Toyota was purchased and Keegan won twice more to clinch the title.

Formula 1 with Hesketh and Surtees

He jumped straight into Formula 1 in 1977 with a Penthouse/Rizla Hesketh 308E-Ford. The car was a dog but Keegan qualified for every round he entered – finishing seventh in Austria. He joined Surtees for 1978 but the TS19 also proved uncompetitive. Keegan started the season with succession of retirements and was failing to qualify by mid-season. He made the grid in Holland but crashed in the warm-up and missed the rest of the season with injury.

British Formula 1 Champion

Without a Grand Prix drive for 1979, Keegan raced Charles Clowes’ Arrows A1-Ford in the Aurora British F1 series. It proved a wise decision for he snatched the title from David Kennedy at the final round to re-establish his reputation somewhat.

He returned to GP racing in 1980 with RAM Racing’s ex-works Williams FW07-Ford but Keegan failed to qualify for three of his seven GPs and he was still unable to score a championship point. He then faired no better when he replaced Jochen Mass in the Rothmans March team for five races in 1982.

Career after Grand Prix racing

With his GP opportunities exhausted, Keegan raced a John Fitzpatrick Racing Porsche 956 in 1983 and finished fifth at Le Mans when sharing with sponsorship guru Guy Edwards. He finished second at Mosport Park and third at both Silverstone and Brands Hatch during the following season.

Keegan was still not finished with single-seaters for he drove a Machinists’ Union March 85C-Cosworth in three Champ Car races during 1985 – 10th at the Miami finale his best result.

However, it was obvious to Keegan that his international racing career was all-but over. He did reappear in 1995 to finish fifth in the Monza FIA GT race with a Friesinger Porsche 911 Bi-turbo and retire a Lister Storm from the Le Mans 24 Hours. However, the "new James Hunt" never lived up to that moniker.