The History of Healey Driver International
25 YEARS OF HEALEY DRIVER INTERNATIONAL 1990 - 2015
In 1987 Joe Cox was asked by Henri Maisoneauve, Chairman of Healey France at the time, to organise an all-Healey race at Montlhery to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the French Club. No race of this kind had been run since the 1960’s and it proved some task to get a grid of Healeys together after such a long time. Extending the net throughout Europe was not enough, so he invited the U.S. racers, Phil Coombs and Dan Prendergraft, to join in. They flew their cars in and we had ourselves a motor race on the 21st June 1987. So much did they enjoy themselves that the Americans threw the gauntlet down and challenged us to a return match….in the States. It took two years to put together but it happened, with The North American Team Healey Challenge of 1990.
The Cast and Crew
The idea for Healey Driver International was formed while we were at The Clock Tower Resort, Blackhawk Farms, Rockford, Illinois which hosted one round of the series in that year. The principal players from the UK were 3000 drivers John Chatham, Steve Bicknell, David Long, Michael Windsor, Dave Hardy, Ted Worswick, Roly Nix and Colin Pearcy, with Peter Kuprianoff from Germany plus their support crews and, importantly, David Jeffery of SC Austin Healey, our principal sponsors.
Relaxing round the swimming pool of the Clock Tower Resort in July following the Independence Day Celebrations on the 4th and the Blackhawk Farms race on the 6th, the drivers asked why we could not do a race series in Europe to match The Challenge and to capitalise on the Healey races that had been run since 1987, including the famous DMH Memorial Silverstone race in 1988 which featured the ‘down to the line dual’ between Denis Welch and John Chatham. No reason could be found, so they turned to Joe Cox to sort it out upon his return to the UK. John Chatham immediately penned the name ‘Healey Driver International’ which kind of sounds as right now then as it did then. As a matter of record, the Challenge Series of 1990 went on to race at Mid-Ohio, Road America, Lime Rock Park and Watkins Glen with the British cars vanquishing the American Healeys on aggregate and John Chatham the overall winner in DD 300.
The Hard Work
Back in the UK, Joe teamed up with Charles Matthews who was running the Austin Healey Championship and together, after an uncertain start and the elimination of a number of obstacles, they produced a racing organisation within the Austin Healey Club, called ‘Healey Driver International’ or HDI.
During 1991 they masterminded some racing ‘raids’ to meetings throughout the year while Charles worked tirelessly to put a calendar of our own future events together and in 1992 HDI staged its first full season of racing. HDI became an operational ‘Centre’ of the AHC UK Ltd on 21st March 1993 with the late Peter Korner as its first Chairman, Charles Matthews as General Manager and Joe Cox as Director. Charles went on to produce some 24 editions of Healey Driver News before handing over the reins to Allan Cameron at the end of 1995.
A sister organisation in the Netherlands called ‘Dutch Healey Competitions’ was inaugurated on the 10th November 1991 and their members have been strong supporters of HDI racing ever since.
The popularity of HDI racing has waxed and waned through the years but a high point was reached in 2002 when HDI contributed to the 50th Anniversary of the Austin Healey by running a race series organised brilliantly on behalf of HDI by Derek Burles that took in Zandvoort, Dijon and Thruxton.
Where Are We Today?
The UK Austin Healey Race Championship was merged with the MG Car Club Midget and Sprite Series in 2012 and the HDI Centre renamed as HEALEYSPORT whose activities now cover the Austin Healey Sprint and Hill Climb Championship organised by Paul Baker. Healey Driver International (HDI) under Joe Cox is a subsidiary of and the International racing arm of Healeysport and runs its own select and coveted trophy races for Healeys and Austin Healeys both in the UK and in Europe when the opportunity arises.