26/11/1907 - 21/6/1937
An ERA star of 1930s voiturette, whose promising career was cut short by a fatal accident at Le Mans. Pat Fairfield died 85 years ago, he was 30
An ERA star of 1930s voiturette, whose promising career was cut short by a fatal accident at Le Mans.
Born in Liverpool, England, Patrick Greenway Fairfield went to South Africa with his parents at the age of 15, where they had large citrus estate at White River.
He returned to his homeland in 1933 and the following year worked with Cyril Paul and Riley tuning specialist Freddie Dixon. He also took up racing that year driving of various Rileys in spectacular fashion and earning himself the soubriquet ‘Skidder’.
For 1935 he bought himself an ERA, specifiying an 1100cc engine in the hope of gaining more success in the handicap racing that was prevalent in Britain at the time. His thinking bore fruit when he won the Mannin Beg on the Isle of Man and the Nuffield Trophy race at Donington Park, and also the voiturette race at Dieppe. Returning to his adopted homeland over the winter he was third in the South African Grand Prix and a year later won that race, and the Rand Grand Prix, and the Farewell Handicap at Cape Town.
Fairfield’s 1936 European season had not been as successful as 1935’s, netting only a couple of seconds and a third, but his performances had been sufficient to attract the attention of others, and for 1937 he was invited to join the ERA factory team. Still driving his own car as well as factory entries, he won the Coronation Trophy at Crystal Palace and his second Nuffield Trophy.
He had driven cars other than ERAs during this period, sharing the wheel of the sixth-placed Bugatti T59 in the 1935 Donington Grand Prix, and finishing fourth in the following year’s Tourist Trophy race at Ards, at the wheel of a 4½-litre Lagonda. But it was in another non-ERA, a BMW 328, that he lost his life as the result of a multi-car collision in the 1937 Le Mans 24hr race.
The inexperienced French amateur driver René Kippeurth lost control of his ageing Bugatti T44 in one of the fast corners approaching the pits. The Bugatti overturned and Pat Fairfield couldn't avoid him. Fairfield was then rammed by Jean Trémoulet's Delage, which in turn was hit by 'Raph' de las Casas' Talbot and Raoul Forestier's Riley. Kippeurth was killed instantly, while Fairfield later succumbed to his injuries.
David McKinney + hr