Johnny Claes

Date of Birth : 1916-07-11
Deceased : 1956-02-03

Biography Johnny Claes

Johnny Claes was a Belgian born in Fulham, London, with a Scottish mother. Johnny Claes first passion was jazz, but he became involved in motor racing after a chance visit to the 1947 French GP. His bilingualism allowed him to act as an interpreter to the English drivers.

His Belgian father was wealthy man. The financial support of his father allowed Johnny to start his racing career. When Johnny tried his hand at racing in 1948, a Talbot was duly ordered for him. However, his first real success came at the wheel of an HWM in the 1950 GP des Frontières at Chimay, Belgium. A race he was to win again the following season, this time in a Simca-Gordini.

With his Talbot effectively redundant following the adoption of Formula 2 regulations for Grands Prix, Claes secured drives with the Gordini, HWM and Connaught teams during the 1952 and 1953 seasons. Finding the competition tough at World Championship level, he tasted real success in the 1953 Liège-Rome-Liège Rally. John Claes won despite having to drive the car single-handed for 52 hours after his co-driver was taken ill.

By 1954 Johnny was a sick man and he raced little, though a visit to Le Mans with a Porsche saw him finish 12th overall and take the 1500 cc class. He was more active in 1955, the highlight of his season being third place at Le Mans in the Ecurie Belgique Jaguar with Jacques Swaters.

His last competitive event was to be the Liège-Rome-Liège Rally of that year, in which he took third place partnered by Lucien Bianchi. His health then deteriorated rapidly and, laid low by tuberculosis, he died in February 1956, aged just 39.