Despite a very dodgy debut race, Russell Brookes went on to become a champion rally car racer.

As previousy reported in the Advertiser the veteran driver, who spent a lifetime in very fast cars, died while out riding his bike. He was 74.

No other vehicle is believed to have been involved in his death, which occurred on Captain’s Hill, Alcester, and his family issued a statement saying: “Russell passed away suddenly while on his bike.

“He was dearly loved and will be remembered with fondness and admiration by all who knew him.

“We want to thank everyone in the emergency services and the general public who tried so valiantly to help him that evening.”

 Russell Brookes was born in Birmingham  and became one of the UK’s leading rally drivers in the late 70s and 1980s.

He fell in love with the sport after seeing a stage of the Liege-Sofia-Liege Rally while on holiday shortly after his 16th birthday.

However his debut didn’t go too well when he overturned his father’s Austin A105 Westminster in his first proper race. 

Undeterred, he moved to live in Inkberrow and began driving a Ford Escort Mexico for the local Brooklyn Garage, winning the Welsh Championship. But it was after he received financial backing from Wolverhampton  air conditioning company Andrews Heat For Hire that Russell Brookes’ career moved into the fast lane.

He won the Castrol/MN title and the Group One title in the national championship in an Escort RS2000.

In 1976 he was given a works Ford Escort for the British Championship, finishing second.

The following year he was taken on full time by Ford and this time won the British Championship.

In 1978 he won the Tulip Rally in Holland and the Motogard Rally in New Zealand and in 1979 finished second in the RAC Rally. 

Brookes won the British Championship again in 1985 in an Opel Manta 400 and there was a second Welsh Rally win in 1987. 

Further drives followed for Vauxhall, Lancia and back at Ford, whose Sierra RS Cosworth 4x4 he drove to victory in the 1990 Manx Trophy.

After being diagnosed with diabetes, Russell Brookes, who by then ran his own Redditch printing company, officially retired in 1991, but continued to compete in one-off and historic events and in 1997 won the historic car RAC Rally. 

His funeral service is private, but a memorial service will be announced later.