Bernie Ecclestone

Bernie Ecclestone

Bernie Cooper 1.jpg (84852 bytes)Bernard Charles Ecclestone was born in a small Suffolk village, the son of a trawler captain, and spent his early childhood in the town of Wangford, near Southwold. The family moved to Bexleyheath in southeast London and Ecclestone left school at 16 and went to work at the local gasworks. His passion was motorcycle scrambling and he began competing immediately after the war. As machinery was scarce he started buying and selling motorcycle spare parts, running the business in his spare time. He built up the spares business and then went into business with Fred Compton to form the Compton & Ecclestone motorcycle dealership.

Bernie made the move to car racing acquiring a Cooper Mk V JAP for 1951. He won the Junior Race and finished fourth in the Championship Race at Brands Hatch in April, then first in both his heats on 12th May and second in his heat for the International Trophy at Goodwood on the 14th but blew up his engine at Boreham on the 26th. In June, Bernie took second in his heat, to John Cooper, and fourth in the final of the Open Challenge at Brands but failed to finish the International Trophy then a second, to Peter Collins, and a third to Eric Brandon and Alan Brown at Boreham on the 30th.

Bernie has a spin at Brands on 6th August '51

Back at Brands, Bernie won his heat of the Open Challenge on 6th August then second fastest time in the Brighton Speed Trials. On 9th September he won his heat and took second in the Open Challenge Final, ahead of Stuart Lewis-Evans and Les Leston but was disqualified from the Brands Hatch Championship Final for taking to the grass during a scramble for the lead. Bernie won his heat of the Open Challenge on the 23rd September but came off the track in the final during an incident started by André Loens and injured a spectator. It was still enough to make him Brands Hatch Junior Champion for the year.

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Still in the Cooper Mk V, Bernie won the Holiday Special in April 1952 but does not appear again in the results for the year. He ran a Kieft CK 51 for the early part of the 1953 season but had a poor meeting at Easter, failing to finish the Easter 25, improving to win the Consolation Race on 3rd May. Soon after he sold the Kieft to Don Gray.

Bernie decided to concentrate on his business which grew to include the Weekend Car Auctions firm, loan financing and property. In 1957 Ecclestone returned to the sport as manager of Stuart Lewis-Evans. He ran a pair of Connaught cars for Lewis-Evans, Roy Salvadori, Archie Scott-Brown and Ivor Bueb with Paul Emery engineering for the team. The cars weren't particularly competitive and he even tried unsuccessfully to qualify one of the cars himself at Monaco in 1958. At the end of the year Ecclestone abandoned the sport again following Stuart's death.

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In the early 1960s his friendship with Salvadori, who was then running the Cooper team, led to a meeting with Jochen Rindt (who's wife, Nina was the daughter of Curt Lincoln). Ecclestone became Rindt's manager and business partner and in 1968 and 1969 he was involved in running the Lotus Formula 2 factory team which was running Rindt and Graham Hill

At the start of 1972 he bought  the Brabham Team from Ron Tauranac and set about turning it into a winning force.

He was one of the founders of FOCA in 1974, along with Chapman, Teddy Mayer, Mosley, Ken Tyrrell (who also began his career in 500s) and Frank Williams. He led the team owners in a battle with the FIA in 1975 for a new system of entries and appearance money being paid to all the teams.

In 1978 Ecclestone became Chief Executive of FOCA, with Mosley as his legal advisor, and a new battle began with the FIA's Jean-Marie Balestre. The fight for the commercial control of the sport continued until March 1981 when the Concorde Agreement gave FOCA the right to negotiate TV contracts. That year Brabham won the World Championship with Nelson Piquet.

After more success with Brabham, Bernie sold the team to concentrate on the administration of Formula 1. He has since played a key role in turning F1 into a highly successful, global business and made himself rather wealthy as a result. Not bad for the son of a trawler man.