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Former Brands Hatch Chief Executive John Webb turns 90

Wednesday, February 10 2021

John Webb, who oversaw Brands Hatch's era as the home of British and European Grands Prix throughout the '60s, '70s and '80s, turns 90 today.

Webb was initially drafted into the Brands Hatch family for PR purposes, his first assignment to publicise the circuit's extension up the hill to Druids, forming the outline of what we now know as the Indy circuit. Prior to that, the circuit was very different to the venue we know and love today, with little to no permanent infrastructure and a very basic track layout.

Webb's role at the venue continued to be that of a part-time PR consultant throughout the 1950s. Amongst his key innovations during that period was the introduction of Boxing Day club meetings, which attracted tens of thousands of spectators to club motorsport over the festive period.

As a new decade began, Webb's priority became the promotion of Brands Hatch's first ever Formula 1 race, the non-championship Silver City Trophy on the newly established Grand Prix circuit in 1960. Shortly after that, Grovewood Securities took over the running of the circuit, and it was under that organisation's stewardship that Webb was appointed Chief Executive in 1962.

As the business went from strength to strength, so Webb set about expanding its reach beyond just the Kent circuit, with other tracks across the country joining the group, including Oulton Park and Snetterton which remain in the family under MSV to this day. Webb even came close to adding Donington Park, then disused since the war, to the portfolio but the deal was halted due to the amount of development work required. Cadwell Park joined the group in the 1980s, also under Webb's supervision - the last circuit acquired in his tenure.

Never one to miss an opportunity, Webb was instrumental in ensuring that the F1 World Championship came to Brands Hatch, picking up Aintree's share of the British Grand Prix from 1964. The venue went on to hold 14 World Championship events, culminating in a run of five Grands Prix in five years from 1982 until 1986.

Brands Hatch frequently held the non-championship Race of Champions F1 race under Webb too, in addition to the 1000km World Sportscar Championship events, often with Webb's long-time ally the late Brian Jones behind the microphone. Other major concepts during Webb's time at the helm included radio days, with club meetings heavily promoted by Radio One DJs, and the introduction of Formula Ford and Formula 5000 to UK circuits.

After 35 years at the heart of Brands Hatch, and later the wider group, Webb left in 1989 during the Foulston era. Whilst that was the end of his day-to-day involvement with Brands Hatch, that wasn't to be his final contact. Indeed, current Chief Executive Jonathan Palmer sought Webb out as a consultant during the early days of the MSV era.

Palmer commented: "John was the greatest promoter of national motorsport this country has had, and took advantage of an exciting era with some great motor industry products and marketing approaches to innovate many series on their circuits, perhaps most famously with Formula Ford. When MSV took over I really wanted to understand the views of John and Angela who were by now living in Spain, and who fortunately were pleased to be of help and have some involvement in their old circuits again. During that critical transition phase, we also had some lovely entertaining evenings in Spain where John and Angela certainly knew where the best restaurants and bars were!"

Everyone at Brands Hatch, and across the wider MSV group, wishes John many happy returns on this landmark birthday.

Photo: Pictured alongside the late Brian Jones at his house in Spain. Image by Chas Parker.