Tony Dron 1946-2021

Tony Dron 1946-2021

Renowned journalist and former racing driver Tony Dron died on 16 November. He was 75. Embarking on his motor racing career in 1968 in Formula Ford, Dron showed early form and soon forged a lasting friendship with fellow aspiring wannabe, future F1 world Champion James Hunt. However, a lack of funds ended play in 1969, which prompted a change of tack. After a brief spell working for racing entrepreneur Nick Brittan, he joined Motor as road test editor.

Dron’s prowess as a writer was immediately obvious, but the pull of motor racing was never far away. Through his day job, he was afforded an entrée into the one-make Ford Escort Mexico Challenge series in which he was a front runner. In 1974 he was promoted to the British Saloon Car Championship, driving a works Triumph Dolomite Sprint for the crack Broadspeed team alongside Andy Rouse. Highlights that year included a third place and class honours in the Tourist Trophy encounter at Silverstone.

Despite his six-foot five frame being unsuited to single-seaters, he returned to the fray in 1976 aboard a Unipart-liveried, Triumph-engined March in Formula 3, but results proved hard to come by. A year later he returned to the BSCC and dominated his class in a Dolomite. Nevertheless, despite being beaten only twice that season, he narrowly missed out on the overall title. A year later he starred once again, but the crown somehow eluded him.

Dron continued racing after Broadspeed pulled the plug on its BSCC involvement at the end of the year, but earned his living selling cars. He continued to win, not least in one-make categories, in addition to establishing himself as a class victor in sports cars. Major scalps include category honours in the 1982 Le Mans 24 Hours, by which time he was dovetailing race outings alongside journalism. He returned to writing on joining Thoroughbred & Classic Cars via his former Motor colleague, Roger Bell. He soon took over as editor and his erudite prose enlivened any report, whether he was testing a Ford Zephyr or hustling a V16-engined BRM on a circuit.

His involvement in the world of historic vehicles inevitably led him to be afforded race outings in a variety of classics. He starred in everything from Jaguar Mk1s to priceless Ferraris and was a frequent winner at the Goodwood Revival Meeting until his battle with COPD (emphysema) prompted him to hang up his helmet in 2012. Dron wore his status lightly as a driver and a journalist and left behind quite the legacy in both disciplines.

Tony Dron - Dron’s Dolomite Sprint fends off the Capri hordes into Old Hall at Oulton Park in March 1978

Dron’s Dolomite Sprint fends off the Capri hordes into Old Hall at Oulton Park in March 1978.

Phil McNamara Phil McNamara 2 years ago #

In Memoriam: Tony Dron

DrivesToday contributor and racing driver Tony Dron has sadly died following a long illness. He had an extensive career in journalism as a highly respected writer, editor and author. I first met him in the 1980s when he was the editor of Thoroughbred & Classic Cars. I was producing Bialbero magazine for the Fiat Twin Cam Register and we were awarded a prize for the best club magazine. Tony made the presentation of a Parker pen set, which I still have today. Tony’s writing was always meticulous and accurate in detail.

In Memoriam: Tony Dron

In addition to his writing, Tony was a professional racing driver of some note, driving for Porsche and later historic Ferraris. Perhaps his best results in later years came racing the Ferrari 246 S from the Leventis collection at Goodwood. I was fortunate to have had several passenger rides with Tony in the Leventis Ferrari 330 LMB at Silverstone and on the Nordschleife. His driving style was always precise and disciplined but blindingly quick.

In Memoriam: Tony Dron

Tony married Charis Whitcombe, who many readers will recognise as one of the team in the early years of Auto Italia. He is a great loss to Charis, his family, journalism and the motor racing community and we extend our condolences.

In Memoriam: Tony Dron

Dan Bevis Dan Bevis 2 years ago #

In November last year I lost another of my Motor colleagues in November last year – Tony Dron, who was a year younger than me, but had long suffered from a lung condition. He joined Motor in 1971, having won the Sir William Lyons Award for budding motoring writers in 1968. In many ways we were opposites, Tony having almost a pop-star image and personality, with hair style and clothes to match, and me in grey flannels and sports jacket and something of a shrinking violet by comparison. But for some reason we hit it off and became firm friends, until he left in 1974.

This was mainly to concentrate on his professional motor racing career which I think began in Formula Vee, but soon went on to touring cars. For some reason (perhaps we were on the way back from MIRA), I was with him when in 1974 we sat in Ralph Broad’s office in Southam and Tony pitched for a Triumph Dolomite Sprint works drive in the BTCC Championship. He got it too, and proved capable of beating the top drivers of the day. He drove a Unipart March F3 car in 1976 and raced internationally, including Sebring, Spa and Le Mans (where he won his Class in 1982 with a Porsche).

After many seasons as a professional driver, in later years he became a top historic racer, winning the Sussex Trophy at the Goodwood Revival for three consecutive years. In fact, if you want to see and hear Tony in action, try and find a copy of the Sideways in a D-type DVD, which features him in a Ferrari sparring with Win Percy in Nigel Webb’s D-type. Magnificent stuff! Tony was another wonderful person who I will always remember with affection and respect.

Tony Dron in Nigel Webb’s ex-Duncan Hamilton C-type (XKC 004) during a press preview day at Goodwood in 2006, where he gave rides to journalists and guests. Photo: Tony Bailey.

Tony Dron making a rare appearance in an E-type – Anthony Hutton’s mod-sport car prepared by Forward Engineering which Paul arranged for him to track test for Motor around 1972. Photo: Paul Skilleter.

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