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Johnny Claes
Nationality Belgium Belgian / United Kingdom British
Formula One World Championship career
Active years 1950 - 1953, 1955
Teams Écurie Belge, Gordini, HWM, Maserati, Ecurie Nationale Belge
Races 25 (23 starts)
Championships 0
Wins 0
Podiums 0
Career points 0
Pole positions 0
Fastest laps 0
First race 1950 British Grand Prix
Last race 1955 Dutch Grand Prix

Octave John "Johnny" Claes (11 August 1916 in London – 3 February 1956 in Brussels) was a racing driver from Belgium, born to a Scottish mother and Belgian father. He was educated in England at Lord Williams's School.

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 Sanremo, Italy. He was uninjured but an observer was killed and three onlookers were seriously injured.[1] In 1952 he exchanged his outdated Talbot for a Gordini, and later for a Connaught, always with the Ecurie Belge colours, but he also raced occasionally for works team, including Gordini and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.[2] 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 1956, aged 39.

Besides motor racing, Claes was also an enthusiast of jazz music, a jazz trumpeter and successful bandleader in Britain.


Complete World Championship Formula One results

(key)

Year Entrant Chassis Engine 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 WDC Pts.
1950 Ecurie Belge Talbot-Lago T26C Talbot L6 GBR
11
MON
7
500 SUI
10
BEL
8
FRA
Ret
ITA
Ret
NC 0
1951 Ecurie Belge Talbot-Lago T26C-DA Talbot L6 SUI
13
500 BEL
7
FRA
Ret
GBR
13
GER
11
ITA
Ret
ESP
Ret
NC 0
1952 Equipe Gordini Gordini T16 Gordini L6 SUI 500 BEL
8
NC 0
Ecurie Belge Simca-Gordini T15 Simca-Gordini L4 FRA
Ret
GBR
14
HW Motors HWM 52 Alta L4 GER
10
NED
Vicomtesse de Walckiers Simca-Gordini T15 Simca-Gordini L4 ITA
DNQ
1953 Ecurie Belge Connaught Type A Lea-Francis L4 ARG 500 NED
Ret
FRA
12
GBR GER
Ret
SUI ITA
Ret
NC 0
Officine Alfieri Maserati Maserati A6GCM Maserati L6 BEL
Ret
1955 Stirling Moss Ltd. Maserati 250F Maserati L6 ARG MON 500 BEL
DNS
NC 0
Equipe Nationale Belge Ferrari 500 Ferrari L4 NED
11
GBR ITA

References

  1. ^ Racing Car Kills Fan, New York Times, April 21, 1951, Page 12.
  2. ^ Gonzalez Defeats Rolt-Hamilton In 24-Hour Le Mans Auto Race, New York Times, June 14, 1954, Page 26.
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