F1 Biography- The First Aussie

In 1920, shortly after the Ross Sea Party returned from the Antarctic, where they set up the series of supply depots for Shackleton’s expedition, team member Irvin Gaze’s wife Frida gave birth to Frederick Anthony Owen Gaze. Tony, as he would come to be known, would go on to become one of Australia’s greatest fighter pilots, as well as the country’s first Formula One driver.

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Tony had already travelled abroad from his home in Melbourne and was studying at Cambridge University in England when World War Two broke out. With both of his parents having served during the First World War, Irvin himself having been a fighter pilot, Tony was quick to enlist in the Royal Air Force, along with his brother, Scott. The younger Gaze, however, was shot down and killed just two weeks after joining his squadron, having barely turned nineteen-years old a couple of months before.

For Tony, who would fly Spitfires for most of the next six years, his service would be one of the most storied in both RAF and Australian history. By the time the war had ended, he would be shot down over occupied France, rescued by the resistance and smuggled out of the country to Spain. He would become the first Australian to both pilot a jet fighter, the Gloster Meteor, as well as the first to shoot down a German jet. During the last days of the war, Gaze even flew his Meteor III to a stretch of the autobahn, where a squadron of Messerschmitt Me 262s was parked, so that he and the German pilots could discuss their respective planes amongst adversarial peers. Tony would finish the war with fourteen confirmed ‘kills’ and three Distinguished Flying Cross medals.

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While station at RAF Westhampnett in West Sussex, England, Gaze and some of his fellow pilots would down time by racing their sports cars around the perimeter roads of the airfield. Tony suggested to Freddie March, the incumbent Duke, that he should consider turning the facility into a motorsport venue someday to replace the recently closed Brooklands. The Duke took him up on the idea and, in 1948, the circuit which is better known today as Goodwood held its first race.

Tony Gaze returned to Australia following the war and took up proper motor racing, piloting a pre-war Alta at various races around the country. Upon returning to England, he drove an F2 Alta in 1951 before purchasing a HWM-Alta and entering the 1952 Belgian, British and German Grands Prix. He would finish 15th in the first of those races and retire from the following events before failing to qualify for the Italian Grand Prix, bringing to an end his short F1 career.

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He would continue in single seaters, entering the 1954 and 1955 non-championship New Zealand Grand Prix in an ex-Ascari Ferrari 500, a car which is now housed in the Donnington Museum. In ’55, Gaze started the Kangaroo Stable sportscar team, running three Aston Martin DB3s for the likes of Jack Brabham, who made his international racing debut with the squad.

In addition to his piloting and motorsport heroics, Tony Gaze even represented Australia in the 1960 World Gliding Championships. In 2006, Gaze was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia in recognition of his outstanding achievements and service to the Commonwealth. Tony passed away in 2013 at the age of ninety-three, with two of his grandsons, Alex and Will Davison, carrying on the family tradition by racing in the V8 Supercar series.

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