Safety Pioneer John Aley 1930-2021

John Aley, who died on 13th January, just days from his 91st birthday was born 23rd January 1930. He first started competing after WWII, first on motorcycles before changing to four wheels and helping found the Cambridge Motor Club in 1950. His first cars were pre-war HRG and MGs in which he completed his formative motorsport years in all types of events, from trials to circuit races.

During this immediate post war era many circuits opened in Britain to satisfy enthusiasts who'd been starved of action and John's early races included the first AMOC organised meeting at Snetterton in 1951 and the first at Brands Hatch on Boxing Day 1954. Also, the last race meeting at Davidstowe airfield circuit in Cornwall when the organisers famously went bust!

By 1956 John had found his forte driving small saloons in Touring Car racing. First A35's under the Cambridge Racing team banner and then Minis of all types, honing his skills in several British championships including the British Saloon Car Championship - later BTCC - where he was often seen as the "old man" of the championship, being older and more experienced than most of his competitors.

But it was Europe and international events that remained the focus of John's attention from his early career and his win in the 1960 Coupe de Paris was first international outright victory for BMC's Mini. He also drove a DKW Junior for the German team Squadra Blez International in the BSCC.

In 1966 John became a Fiat Abarth works driver but his time with Abarth was not particularly successful, as he spent a great deal of time travelling, to the detriment of other business interests, and unreliability blighted his performances on the track. But his contract and lire remuneration were based on him starting races, so without doubt, he played a helping hand in Abarth winning the European Touring Car Championship. His 1963 election to the British Racing Drivers Club reflected his giant-killing performances in small saloon cars, when class victories did not count towards club membership.

In 1965 John took over the management of Snetterton, his home circuit, and became a respected race clerk of the course for several years. He also became the secretary of the European Touring Car Championship, having previously served on its organising committee since its formation in 1963. His last serious race was the 1968 International 6-Hours at the Nürburgring driving a Mini Cooper S, in which finished 3rd in class.

But it was as an entrant, engineer, and entrepreneur that the John Aley name really became synonymous. He played a significant part in improving safety in motorsport, developing, and selling roll-over bars for competition cars after identifying the key safety-related need in the market from his extensive experience in the sport. The immediate success of the Aley roll-over bar in the 1960s meant that many drivers have good reason to thank John for their enduring survival!

For many years John was Chairman and President of the Motor Cycling Club, the country's oldest club for both cars and bikes, which meant that in something over 50 years he finally returned to his roots. The International Rally Drivers Club extends its condolences to John's family and friends.

15th January, 2021