It is with much regret that the members of the Northern Ireland Motor Club and Ulster Rally Team have learned of the untimely passing of Russell Brookes on 29th October.
Born on the 16th August 1945 in the Kings Norton district of Birmingham Russell did not grow up in a family with any interest in motorsport. He developed an interest in racing and his first motorsport event was a local Production Car Trial in 1962 driving his mother’s Renault Dauphine. He quickly developed an interested in rallying and after a disastrous first event he occupied the passenger’s seat navigating for other drivers for a period of years before taking the wheel again. It was while working for Land Rover that he entered his 850cc Mini in the 1968 RAC Rally and that was when the name of Russell Brookes first appeared in print. 1969 was when he came to prominence driving a Mini Cooper, the car that he used until 1972. For the next seven years he drove a variety of very competitive Ford Escort models before changing allegiance to a Talbot Sunbeam Lotus for the 1980 and 1981 seasons. He drove a Vauxhall Chevette HSR for the 1982 and 1983 seasons before moving to an Opel Manta 400 for the 1984-86 seasons. He moved back to a Vauxhall Astra GTE for 1987 before teaming up again with Ford driving a Sierra Cosworth for the 1989-90 seasons.
His first visit to the Ulster Rally was in 1977 driving a Ford Escort RS1800 finishing in 2nd place. He had been a regular visitor to ‘The Ulster’ up until the early 1990’s, his best achievement being the winner of the 1985 event driving an Opel Manta 400; he also won the RAC Open Rally Championship in that year having previously won it in 1977 driving the Ford Escort RS1800. During his visits to ‘The Ulster’ he was credited with many 2nd and 3rd place finishes. He claimed the Irish Tarmac Rally Championship in 1989. For most of his illustrious career he competed in ‘home’ events although he did compete in some European events. He greatest International win was in New Zealand in 1978.
For seventeen years his cars were immediately recognisable in the distinctive corporate colours of ‘Andrews Heat for Hire’ later to become ‘Andrews Sykes’ – the business which enabled Russell to make a career out of his sport. That commercial partnership lasted for 17 years, which he claimed as another record.
To his wife Julia, son Robert and daughter Anna, The Ulster Rally Team extend their deepest sympathies.