Starting out in club events in 1952 , Brooks joined the Aston Martin sports car team after impressing in testing just two years later. He then rose to fame by winning the 1955 Syracuse Grand Prix with the Connaught team, while studying to become a dentist.
It was his first time in a contemporary Formula 1 car, and the first victory for a British driver in a car of the same origin in 31 years.
After a brief stint with the troubled BRM team, in which he had a spectacular accident at Silverstone when the throttle stuck, Brooks joined Vanwall, creating a British F1 super team alongside Stirling Moss and Stuart Lewis-Evans .
At the 1957 Monaco GP , Brooks was second, behind Juan Manuel Fangio ‘s Maserati, ending up with his hand badly injured due to clutchless gear changes on a very demanding circuit.
Dukinfield’s was lucky to survive but was still struggling with his Vanwall at the 1957 British GP at Aintree. Running sixth when Moss’s car struggled, Brooks was called up and the four-time runner-up took over, scoring one of his most famous victories by winning a world championship race for the first time in a British car.
Moss was Vanwall’s (and Aston Martin’s) number one and could pick first, which meant that Brooks could rarely hone his own car over a race weekend, but he played a sublime team game, and often shone when Moss had problems.
In 1958 , Brooks won three grands prix, Belgium at the blazing-fast Spa, Germany at the fearsome Nurburgring, and Italy at Ferrari’s Monza. The Briton regarded his victory at the German GP, beating the Ferraris of Mike Hawthorn and Peter Collins , who sadly perished while chasing him in a crash, as his best.
Moss won four times, and Vanwall clinched the first constructors’ title, but Hawthorn edged out the Englishman in the 1958 drivers’ standings by one point. It might have been different had Brooks, third in the table, not suffered an engine failure when he was in a position to prevent Hawthorn from getting the second place he needed.
Brooks joined Ferrari in 1959 and was the undisputed leader of a team that also included Phil Hill and Dan Gurney . Two wins put him in contention for the title with Jack Brabham and Moss.
The cancellation of the Belgian GP and a clutch failure at the start deprived him of a chance to win in Italy, and in both races the powerful front-engined Ferraris were huge favourites, so he went into the decisive race at Sebring with a remote chance of getting the crown. A hit by his teammate, Wolfgang Von Trips , and the pit stop, because Brooks was not a fan of taking unnecessary risks, caused him to only finish third. Thus, he finished second, after Brabham, in the final classification.
From then on, success was hard to come by, and Brooks was not a fan of the switch to rear-engined single-seaters. He scored points with the Yeoman Credit Cooper team in 1960 and finished on the podium in his last world championship appearance, driving a BRM at the following year’s United States GP, before retiring from the series.
Outside of F1, Brooks was also one of the leading endurance drivers. He won the Spa GP for sports cars and the 1,000 km Nurburgring in 1957 with the Aston Martin DBR1, in the latter race with Noel Cunningham-Reid. He also won the 1958 Tourist Trophy at Goodwood alongside Moss, before joining Ferrari, though sports car success with the Italian team was elusive.
Brooks’s sublime touch and judgment made him especially impressive on the most demanding circuits (hence the victories at Spa and the Nurburgring), and he was arguably a better racing driver than Britain’s first world champion, Hawthorn. His six world championship victories and 10 podium finishes were achieved in just 38 races.
Chosen by Moss, alongside Jim Clark , as the driver he would put into a two-car team, the quiet and low-key Brooks was one of the best never to be world champions. The passing of the last GP winner in the 1950s marks the end of an era.