André Loens was a keen competitor in 500cc racing, but little is known about him. The first misconception is that he was Belgian. He was in fact born in Roubaix, in the very north east corner of France, on the 3rd of February 1920. To add to the confusion, he later raced with the Ecurie Flandres – here referring not to northern Belgium, but Le Flandre, the French region on the border that includes the town of Roubaix. It is possible, if doubtful, that he took Belgian citizenship during the War, but we do know that after the War he moved to Bournemouth in England, where he would race under a British licence.
Loens ran the Purewell Motors garage in nearby Christchurch. The first racing appearance we have was in a JBS Norton (quite possibly the prototype, purchased from Alf Bottoms) at Castle Combe in March 1951, where he was sixth in his heat. Oddly, Andre's next showing was again at Castle Combe on 12th April but this time in a Mk I Kieft, he finished second to Stirling Moss in a similar car, then Brands Hatch on the 21st April 1951 where he won the first race of the day in his JBS, a heat for the Open Challenge, but failed to finish the Final and took second in his heat for the Junior Championship. Again at Brands on 12th May, André took second in a heat of the International Trophy but failed in the final. At Ibsley on 4th August, he took second to Peter Collins in the sister car but ahead of Eric Brandon in the Cooper Mk V, then on the 18th he managed a respectable sixth in the Allcomers Race at Silverstone but the season ended poorly with a series of DNFs.
For 1952 André purchased the new Kieft CK52, and he achieved broadly similar results, often challenging for victory, but rarely gaining it against the best opposition. This Kieft chassis is now the immaculate yellow car now owned by Rodney Delves. On 12th April, he came second to Moss at Castle Combe and a trip to Germany brought an excellent second to Brandon at the Nürburgring then failed at Brands and, in the early summer, he made a tour of events in France, winning at Draguignan plus a third at Amiens returning for the June meeting at Brands Hatch, where he transferred to a new Staride (probably assisting with development). Again in the Staride, Loens took tenth in the British Grand Prix at Silverstone on 19th July, then an impressive second to Don Parker in the International Trophy Final at Brands on 4th August and back to the Kieft for a second at Turnberry and a win in the Consolation Final at Brands. He took sixth at Goodwood on 27th September and the same at Castle Combe in October and a slightly lucky third at Charterhall on the 11th to close the year.
André continued to run the Kieft through 1953, again making trips to France. He took a win at Ibsley on 18th April and another at Castle Combe on the 25th beating Les Leston, Dennis Taylor and Ivor Bueb but failed to finish the International Trophy at Silverstone in May. Loens and a number of the British drivers went to Avus in July where André took fourth. Back at Castle Combe in October, Loens took a third. He was also running in other classes by now, notably George Hartwell’s Cooper Bristol in 1952, and the Kieft Butterworth in 1953.
For 1954 he purchased a Staride, winning at Davidstow in June plus a number of good placings. André appears in a Martin for the latter part of the year but sells this to Roger Gaillard at the end of the year.
There appear to be no results for Loens in Britain in 1955 but he won the Swedish Grand Prix at Kristianstad on 7th August, then fifth at Karlskoga a week later, a win at Stockholm and again at Roskildering in Denmark in September, plus the Fagioli Cup at Caldaie, Italy against 750cc opposition, all in his Cooper Mk IX.
Andre sold his Bournemouth garage during 1955 and returned to Roubaix, France and then built the Loweno. The evidence suggests that he only raced this on the continent, winning his heat and second in the final at Narbonne in July, second at Roskildering in August '56, second at Helsinki in May 1957 and winning at La Châtre in July.
In October 1957, Loens competed in a 2 litre sports car race at La Coupe du Salon, a meeting to support the Paris motor show. Battling for the lead in a Maserati 200, he clipped Godia, careered off the track, and hit first a post, then a parked van. He was killed instantly.
If anyone has any more details or photos of André or the Loweno, please get in touch.