Sir William Lyons wins his only car race, Donington Park, 1938

Sir William Lyons wins his only car race, Donington Park, 1938

Although as a younger man (Sir) William Lyons had often competed on motorbikes, even in his later years he had little experience in racing cars. An exception came in 1938 when he, together with the company’s engineering director, William Heynes, plus an S.S. distributor and friend of Lyons, Sammy Newsome, took part in a ‘trade race’ at the S.S. Car Club meeting at Donington Park near Derby in May using identical S.S. 100s. This rare image of that day shows a pensive Lyons nearest the camera with Newsome in the middle and Heynes at the far end wearing a flying helmet.


Lyons, it seems, was a nervous starter. Said The Motor magazine afterwards, “W. Lyons, MD of the S.S. Company, simply couldn’t wait on the starting line and was twice hauled back by the starter.” Despite this, Lyons reportedly drove the S.S. 100 with a confidence of someone with much more experience. Continued The Motor, “When he did get it right, he drove with the most awe-inspiring determination and was soon in the lead.”

It was a lead he would never lose and despite Newsome successfully competing in S.S. cars for some years, Lyons not only crossed the finishing line first but set the fastest lap of any other 100 driver. He also holds the rare record of not only winning the first race they entered but the last one too.

Although a trade event and not taken that seriously, it still showed that Lyons, clearly sensitive to a car’s handling qualities, had what it needed to be a fine racing driver. Although Donington was his first and last race, he did often use his skills in the development of his cars, giving him a clear understanding of what his engineers were trying to achieve. And so it’s not too much of an exaggeration to say the remarkable way the models Lyons was directly involved with still drive are partly down to his abilities.

Article type:
No comments yet. Be the first to add a comment!
Drives TODAY use cookie