Ecurie Belge
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Ecurie Belge

Johnny Claes
Born(1916-08-11)11 August 1916
Fulham, London, England
Died3 February 1956(1956-02-03) (aged 39)
Brussels, Belgium
Formula One World Championship career
NationalityBelgium Belgian
Active years1950 - 1953, 1955
TeamsÉcurie Belge, Gordini, HWM, Maserati, Ecurie Nationale Belge
Entries25 (23 starts)
Championships0
Wins0
Podiums0
Career points0
Pole positions0
Fastest laps0
First entry1950 British Grand Prix
Last entry1955 Dutch Grand Prix
Claes's Talbot Lago T26C, Ecurie Belge 1950

Octave John Claes (11 August 1916 - 3 February 1956) was an English-born racing driver who competed for Belgium. Before his fame as a racing driver, Claes was also a jazz trumpeter and successful bandleader in Britain.

Early life and jazz career

Claes was born in London to a Scottish mother and Belgian father. He was educated in England at Lord Williams's School. In England, he began playing trumpet in a jazz band that included Max Jones on reeds, and another with Billy Mason on piano. In the 1930s he moved to the Netherlands, where he worked with Valaida Snow and Coleman Hawkins. He also worked with Jack Kluger's band in Belgium. Returning to England, he led his own group, the Claepigeons, making a recording in 1942. In the late 1940s he abandoned his jazz career and settled in Belgium as a professional racing driver.[1]

Racing career

Claes was one of several gentlemen drivers who took part in Grand Prix racing of post-World War II. His first contact with racing was at the 1947 French Grand Prix, where he served as interpreter for British drivers. He made his debut in 1948, in his own Talbot-Lago, raced under the Ecurie Belge banner. Although Claes never scored any points in the World Drivers Championship, he was, like many of his contemporaries, very active in non-Championship Grand Prix races and sports car races. His first win was at the 1950 Grand Prix des Frontières, held at the Chimay race track.

In April 1951 Claes crashed into a crowd while practicing at San Remo Grand Prix in Sanremo, Italy. He was uninjured but an observer was killed and three onlookers were seriously injured.[2] In 1952 he exchanged his outdated Talbot for a Gordini, and later for a Connaught, always with the Ecurie Belge colours, but he also raced occasionally for works teams, including Gordini and Maserati. He also won the 1953 Liège-Rome-Liège Rally and took a class win at the 1954 24 Hours of Le Mans. Claes teamed with Pierre Stasse to finish 12th in the 1954 24 Hours of Le Mans. They drove a Porsche.[3] Together with compatriot Jacques Swaters, Claes finished third in the 1955 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Later in 1955 Claes' health problems worsened, as he had contracted tuberculosis. Claes sold his outfit to Swaters, who merged it with his own Ecurie Francorchamps to form Ecurie Nationale Belge. Claes entered occasional events until the end of the year, but finally succumbed to the disease in Brussels in 1956, aged 39.

Complete Formula One World Championship results

(key)

Non-championship Formula One results

(key)

Year Entrant Chassis Engine 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35
1950 Johnny Claes Talbot-Lago T26C Talbot L6 PAU RIC SRM PAR
DNA
EMP BAR
8
JER ALB
NC
NED
Ret
NAT
Ret
NOT ULS PES STT INT
Ret
GOO
Ret
PEN
Ret
1951 Johnny Claes Talbot-Lago T26C-DA Talbot L6 SYR PAU RIC
4
SRM
DNS
BOR INT
8
PAR ULS
9
SCO NED
Ret
ALB
5
PES BAR
8
GOO
1952 Johnny Claes Talbot-Lago T26C-DA Talbot L6 RIO SYR VAL
6
RIC LAV PAU
Ret
IBS ULS
DNA
Simca-Gordini T15 Simca-Gordini L4 MAR
3
AST INT
8
ELÄ NAP EIF
DNA
PAR
Ret
ALB FRO
Ret
MAR
6
SAB
3
CAE DAI COM
Ret
NAT BAU
8
MOD
NC
CAD SKA MAD AVU JOE NEW
Ret
RIO
HWM 52 Alta L4 MNZ
NC
LAC ESS
1953 Johny Claes Connaught Type A Lea-Francis L4 SYR PAU
Ret
LAV AST BOR
6
INT
15
ELÄ NAP ULS WIN FRO
NC
COR EIF ALB
6
PRI ESS MID ROU
Ret
CRY AVU
6
USF LAC BRI CHE SAB
Ret
NEW CAD RED SKA LON MOD
NC
MAD JOE CUR

References

  1. ^ Pernet, Robert (2001). "Johnny Claes". In Sadie, Stanley; Tyrrell, John (eds.). The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians (2nd ed.). London: Macmillan. ISBN 978-1-56159-239-5.?
  2. ^ "Racing Car Kills Fan". The New York Times. 21 April 1951. p. 12.
  3. ^ "Gonzalez Defeats Rolt-Hamilton In 24-Hour Le Mans Auto Race". The New York Times. 14 June 1954. p. 26.

  This article uses material from the Wikipedia page available here. It is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.

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