Canadian Racing Driver 'extraordinaire'
I recently had the pleasure of talking on the telephone with Hugh Sutherland, who lives today in Orangeville, Ontario, Canada. It was he who, with Phil Stiles piloted one of the Donald Healey Motor Co's three works Sprites to first in class at Sebring in 1959. Hugh had started racing around 1952 and had driven for Donald on previous occasions in a Healey 100S (which recently changed hands for a wapping $US 750,000) and he wanted Hugh to drive one of the Sprites at Sebring. Peter Millard, a Canadian (or Brit), was competition manager for Austin, Canada and his team consisted of 3 Canadians, and 4 Americans. Leavens and Hayes were Millard's favourites, but Donald insisted that Hugh be one of the drivers so he was the "bad boy" on the team. His mechanic for Sebring, and for his 100S venture, was Dennis Prophet, team manager for Austin in England and who later moved to Canada, and is now living in the Toronto area. He apparently has many memories of those days. In the race Hugh had a point to prove and was determined to show the others the way. The car went superbly, apart from losing first and second gear half-way through the event, which stretched for 12 whole hours. After coming into the pits, the car had to be push-started by the mechanics in 3rd gear. I asked him about the weather as Geoff Healey recounts in "More Healeys" that the race ran in torrential rain ~ he said he could hardly remember that! As well as achieving 1st in the GT 4 class, in which there were also Porsches, Alfas and other powerful cars, the Sprite came 3rd in the G Modified Class, a point not often mentioned in the history books. Obviously an unforgettable event as Hugh recalls all this so easily 52 years on!
Later, while working in Ireland, Hugh acquired a 'works' semi-lightweight Jaguar 'E' type and planned to take it to Le Mans in 1964 with Stirling Moss as co-driver but sadly was unable to get sufficient sponsorship. As a result he was available when asked by John Wyer to join the Aston Martin team for that race. Wyer had previously managed the Sunbeam Tiger entry at Sebring.
Hugh still has his medal and paddock pass from Sebring and I hope to be able to add photos of them to this page shortly.
More photos to come.