Paddy Hopkirk on pole position to become BRDC president

Silverstone‘s owner, the British Racing Drivers Club (BRDC) is on track to get a new president next week when it votes to replace Derek Warwick with Monte Carlo Rally winner Paddy Hopkirk.

Paddy Hopkirk MBE

The news came to light in a letter seen by Christian Sylt and sent to BRDC members ahead of its Annual General Meeting on Wednesday next week. The letter was sent by BRDC chairman John Grant and revealed that there will be a vote at the AGM “to elect Paddy Hopkirk MBE as President.”

It adds that “following Derek Warwick’s decision that he no longer wished to be considered for the office of President, Paddy Hopkirk MBE has indicated that he would be pleased to serve as your President. He is proposed by Richard Piper and seconded by Alec Poole and has your Board’s unanimous support.”

Hopkirk was born in Belfast and turned 84 this year. He began his career in professional racing and rally driving in 1955 and won the Monte Carlo Rally nine years later in a Mini Cooper S. With co-driver Henry Liddon they are still the most recent all-British crew to have won the race. In 2010 he was among the first inductees into the Rally Hall of Fame and if he becomes BRDC president next week it will mark somewhat of a change for the club as he doesn’t have a track record in F1.

The BRDC comprises 850 racing luminaries including former F1 champions Nigel Mansell, Mario Andretti and Damon Hill who was president until he handed the keys to Warwick in 2011. Like Hill and his predecessor, Sir Jackie Stewart, Warwick is a former F1 driver who competed in 147 Grand Prix races and won Le Mans in 1992 with Peugeot.

Warwick’s departure was originally confirmed in a letter from Grant to members dated 19 December. It said that “Derek Warwick… announced at the Clubhouse lunch last Thursday his intention to stand down after 10 years as a Board member and, more recently, President.”

He will move into the role of BRDC vice president and will join an illustrious group which includes Hill, Stewart, Mansell, Martin Brundle, Ron Dennis and Sir Frank Williams.

Grant’s latest letter adds that their ranks will be bolstered next week as “David Coulthard MBE is also nominated by your Board as a Vice President.”

Incidentally, there is a somewhat tenuous, tragic connection between Hopkirk and F1.

In the 1968 London-Sydney Marathon, he gave up any hope of victory on the penultimate stage to rescue the Bianchi-Ogier team whose car had collided head-on with another. Hopkirk and his teammate Tony Nash pulled the occupants from both cars as they caught fire, almost certainly saving the life of the severely wounded Lucien Bianchi. Lucien, who was to perish a year later at Le Mans, was the granduncle of the late Jules Bianchi.