Ex-F1 driver Guy Edwards dies aged 75

Edwards, who had been ill for some time, passed away at the age of 75 exactly five years after his son Sean was killed in an accident at Queensland Raceway.

Modestly successful as a driver, Edwards was best known for his ability to attract and exploit sponsorship – earning huge sums via commissions.

He helped to define the art of sourcing funding for motorsport, even writing a book about the subject.

Born in Macclesfield in 1942, Edwards caught the racing bug when he went to Oulton Park with friends.

His family insisted that he finish a degree course at Durham University before he could pursue his dream, and on graduating he travelled to Brands Hatch and talked his way into a job that allowed him to get time in racing school cars.

He started competing in a Ford Anglia in 1965, before acquiring a Mini Cooper. He subsequently moved into sportscar racing with a Chevron B8. It was then that he honed his sponsorship skills, and would later claim that the Torline ferry company backing he sourced for his Chevron was the second deal of its kind after the Lotus F1 team’s pioneering Gold Leaf partnership.

He focused on sportscars for several years, mainly in the popular European 2-litre series with Lola chassis and Barclays Bank support.

At the end of 1971 he moved to Formula 5000, initially with a McLaren before switching to a Lola in ’73 and winning European championship races at Zandvoort and Brands Hatch.

For 1974, Edwards landed the second seat at Graham Hill’s Embassy-backed F1 team. He just missed the points in Sweden with seventh place, but having injured his wrist in the middle of the season he parted company with Hill after the German GP.

Race winner David Kennedy, Wolf WR4, leads Guy Edwards, Fittipaldi F5A, Aurora AFX Formula One Championship, Oulton Park, England, 13 April 1979.

Photo by: Sutton Images

It was an acrimonious split, and after Hill died in 1975 Edwards was involved in a controversial legal action with the Hill estate.

He continued to race in F5000, winning at Mallory Park late in 1974. He wasn’t finished with F1 though, and for 1976 he concluded a deal with Hesketh – in effect replacing James Hunt with backing from Penthouse magazine and Rizla after Bubbles Horsley took over the running of the team from its founder Lord Hesketh.

Edwards only made six appearances with the car, but one of them went down in history as he joined Arturo Merzario, Harald Ertl and Brett Lunger in helping to free Lauda from his burning Ferrari in Germany.

His final F1 start was in Canada that year. He had just one more GP outing with the awful Stanley BRM P207 at Silverstone in 1977, where he failed to qualify. In later years Edwards would recount that he was so frustrated with the car that he deliberately over-revved and broke the engine.

That year he focused on the British-based Shellsport series for F1, F5000, F2 and Formula Atlantic cars with a March F1 car run by John McDonald’s RAM team.

He proved a frontrunner in the rebranded Aurora F1 series 1978, again with a March run by RAM. He switched to a Fittipaldi in 1979 and then an Arrows in 1980, winning races each year until the series folded.

In 1981 he returned full-time to his sportscar racing roots with a Lola T600 shared with former Aurora rival Emilio de Villota, the pair winning world championship events at Enna and Brands Hatch.

Meanwhile when RAM moved into F1 as the works March team Edwards continued to work with McDonald, finding backing from Guinness, Rizla, and later Skoal Bandit.

Niki Lauda, Ferrari 312T2, crash, leads Guy Edwards, Hesketh 308D-Ford, 15th position, Brett Lunger, Surtees TS19-Ford, retired and Harald Ertl, Hesketh-Ford 308D, retired onto Adenau Bridge

Niki Lauda, Ferrari 312T2, crash, leads Guy Edwards, Hesketh 308D-Ford, 15th position, Brett Lunger, Surtees TS19-Ford, retired and Harald Ertl, Hesketh-Ford 308D, retired onto Adenau Bridge

Photo by: LAT Images

In 1983 Edwards finished fifth at the Le Mans 24 Hours in a Porsche 956, sharing with team owner John Fitzpatrick and his long-time friend Rupert Keegan. The following year Edwards and Keegan contested the World Sportscar Championship with Fitzpatrick and Skoal Bandit sponsorship. In 1985 he earned fourth at Le Mans, again for Fitzpatrick, with Jo Gartner and David Hobbs.

For that race Edwards had attracted backing for Fitzpatrick from Gallaher cigarette brand Carlton 100s, although the actual branding on the car was the fictitious American 100s.

That led to the biggest deal of his career. Commissioned by Jaguar Cars to source major backing for the company’s fledgling sportscar programme, he brought Gallaher brand Silk Cut on board, creating an iconic partnership that would last from 1986 to 1991 – and prove very lucrative for Edwards personally, as was the Castrol deal he brokered for Jaguar.

But he had an uneasy relationship with team boss Tom Walkinshaw, who was frustrated by the large sums that went in commission to Edwards.

Edwards didn’t race for a couple of years, but he returned in the British Touring Car Championship in 1988 having found Kaliber beer backing for Andy Rouse.

He drove alongside Rouse in a second Ford Sierra RS500 for two seasons, achieving a best of a second place at Silverstone in the first year. At the end of 1989 he decided to retire.

He returned to the F1 scene working on the commercial side for the struggling Lotus team in the early 1990s, while also writing a book about his success in finding money – which subsequently become a rare and sought after item. He continued to earn from sponsorship and advertising deals outside motorsport.

Long based in Monaco, in later years Edwards moved to the west coast of Ireland. He followed the progress of son Sean, who became a leading Porsche Supercup racer and did some stunt driving work for the Rush movie at the wheel of his father’s Hesketh.

Sean’s tragic death in 2013 was a devastating blow for Edwards, who was already struggling with illness.

Guy Edwards, Mopar Fittipaldi F5A, seventh overall and the first finisher from the Aurora AFX serie, Race of Champions, Brands Hatch, England, 15 April 1979.

Guy Edwards, Mopar Fittipaldi F5A, seventh overall and the first finisher from the Aurora AFX serie, Race of Champions, Brands Hatch, England, 15 April 1979.

Photo by: Sutton Images