David McKay

14/5/1921 - 26/11/2004

Record updated 26-Nov-18

While best known as a journalist, specifically as a motoring writer, McKay was also a prominent figure in motor racing as both a driver and a race team owner. His team, Scuderia Veloce, was the first Australian-based professional racing team and, in addition to furthering McKay's own racing career, it also furthered the careers of many young racing drivers including Spencer Martin, Brian Muir and Greg Cusack.

David McKay
The son of Sir Malcolm McKay, David McKay was born in 1921.

He started racing in an MG-TC and also raced Dick Cobden TC Special and raced it with gusto, proving it to be the fastest unsupercharged TC Special in the country. 

He went to Europe in 1955 and bought an Aston as part of the Kangaroo Stable and his racing escalated through the late fifties. Prying money from Ampol and Victa Industries (manufacturers of lawnmowers), he had a Jaguar sedan and a Cooper Climax by 1960 and won the Australian Touring Car Championship that year.

In 1961, after buying Ron Flockhart's Cooper 2.5, he went to the brand new Mallala circuit in South Australia hoping to win the Australian Grand Prix.

He didn't fare all that well in practice but he was on the front row. And he took advantage of the car's well known potential for launching itself off the grid to take the lead and hold it. 

But his start was so good that officials decided he must have jumped the start, and so they put a one minute penalty on him and so his great drive to stay ahead of Lex Davison went unrewarded.

Scuderia Veloce was his team, and as he raced in his final couple of years as a driver, and when he retired to become team manager, it was a team always at the forefront in the sport.

He was able to attract enough sponsorship to run first rate cars, getting a Brabham BT4 for himself in 1963 in a final effort to pin down Bib Stillwell in his pursuit of that Gold Star he desperately wanted to take away from the Victorian car dealer. David retired after the last race that series without having taken the title. He later reckoned that he'd retired too early.

Graham Hill was invited to drive for him in 1964 in the first Tasman Cup series, taking victory at Longford, but the car then went into the hands of Spencer Martin for the Gold Star series. Spencer was crewing on the car for Hill along with head mechanic Bob Atkin, and McKay saw it all as a good grounding for his young protege to be totally involved.

The Scuderia had other drivers. Most owned their own cars, some drove David's. Like the Lola sports car that looked so lovely in 1960 and didn't lose any lustre when Greg Cusack drove it. Touring cars were there too, Norm Beechey for a time with his old Holden, then Brian Muir with his S4.

In 1965, the year that David expected Martin's apprenticeship of 1964 should have paid dividends against the aging Bib Stillwell, there was a brand new Brabham BT11 and a Ferrari 250LM as well.

After Hill's running the car through the Tasman, Martin got into it for the Gold Star and chased Bib all year. But all was not well in the team, and after 1966 got underway, Spencer pulled up stakes and quit the team. It was a huge surprise in motor racing circles, and with Shell determined that they should be in pursuit of the Gold Star that had been BP's virtually since its inception, they had to make sure their driver remained in the hunt.

They quickly arranged for Spencer to move to Melbourne and take up a post working and driving for the Bob Jane organisation. While David tried to press on with Jim Palmer (who couldn't get an Australian licence because of his monocular vision), Scuderia Veloce had to bow out of the race and Spencer finally took the title from a fresh field of newcomers like Geoghegan, Cusack and Bartlett by consistently putting his very reliable Bob Jane Brabham well up in the placings. David did put Jackie Stewart into his Brabham for a one-off race at the Surfers Paradise meeting.

Despite Spencer's departure, SV did win the 12-hour race at Surfers, and did it two years in a row. David had actually donned the racing gloves and hat again in 1965 to co-drive the 275LM to victory at Caversham's 6-hour. 

A couple or three outings in the October Bathurst endurance race in Ford GT HOs saw him in the thick of it, though some people wondered a few years later when he ran a Volvo 242GT on radial tyres.

But David's influence on racing was waning as he cut back his writing and headed for semi-retirement. He ran a gallery of some kind in Sydney's eastern suburbs, left his wife and married a younger woman. She complained about having to go to Monaco every year at GP time, however, so she also found herself unwanted. David finished his days with a lovely Swiss schoolteacher who joined him at his family estate at Exeter on the NSW Southern Highlands.

McKay's career as a writer began in 1949. He worked for the Sir Frank Packer owned newspapers The Daily Telegraph and The Sunday Telegraph from 1956 to 1975, first as a writer and later as the motoring editor. It was while working for Packer that McKay convinced him to co-sponsor the London-Sydney Marathon, as well as the Monaros McKay would run in the race.

McKay died of cancer on 26 December 2004. He was 83


With thanks to Ray Bell