Lex Davison (1923 - 1965)

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Lex Davison (1923 - 1965)

Lex Davison
Lex Davison.

An Unbeaten Record At The Australian GP

Born on the 12th February, 1923, Alexander Nicholas "Lex" Davison would go on to become a leading race driver, winning the Australian Grand Prix four times between 1954 and 1961 , along with the Australian Drivers' Championship in 1957. He drove HWM-Jaguar, Ferrari, Aston Martin and Cooper-Climax grand prix cars.

Davison won Class A of the 1960 Armstrong 500, the event that would become better known as the Bathurst 1000. In 1961 he won the Aintree Grand Prix, finished third in the British Empire Trophy and placed tenth in the Intercontinental Championship - his only point being a sixth in the Guards Trophy, all whilst racing an Aston Martin.

He competed at the 1961 24 Hours of Le Mans with Bib Stillwell in an Aston Martin DB4GT Zagato. Davison and Stillwell were invited to race for the Essex Racing Stable due to their involvement with Aston Martins in the Australian racing scene. Davison had finished second in the 1960 Australian Grand Prix and fourth in the Australian Gold Star Championship in an Aston Martin DBR4/300.

Unfortunately their Le Mans adventure ended prematurely when a blown head gasket saw them retire on lap 25. In 1962 he raced an Aston Martin DBR4/250 in the Australian Gold Star Championship, placing second in the Victorian Trophy and eighth in the Sandown Park International.

Death at Sandown

On 20 February 1965 Davison died in a crash during practice for the 1965 International 100 at Sandown International Raceway. While accelerating through the dog leg of the back straight in his 2.5 litre Brabham Climax he suffered a heart attack. The car left the road at over 160 km/h, hit a culvert, somersaulted and crashed through a horse railing fence. Davison sustained severe head injuries and was dead when officials reached him. Davison was survived by his wife and fellow racing driver Diana Davison, and sons (and also racing drivers) Jon Davison and Richard Davison, and his grandsons Alex Davison, Will Davison and James Davison.

The Lex Davison Trophy

Drivers who later won the Australian Grand Prix were awarded the Lex Davison Trophy, so named to honour Davison who was the first 4 time winner of the event (the only other 4 time winner is 7 time World Champion Michael Schumacher). This trophy, designed and made in Britain by Mr Rex Hays to the order of CAMS, incorporates a silver model of the Austin 7 driven to victory in the first Australian Grand Prix in 1928.

Sports Car World Obituary

Lex Davison was my friend, he was a gentleman and he drove a racing car like all of us would like to drive racing cars and now that he's gone motor racing has lost most of its joy. Alexander Nicholas Davison, the Olde Cobbler, has left us, and he had not yet begun to fight. I think we knew, or know now, that he was never meant to die in bed peacefully, grey of hair and benign of countenance. Yet all is very hard to believe that this enormous and legendary personality is not to survive us all, and I do not think that I will want ito watch very much more motor racing now. Yet that is foolish and Lex of all people would not want it that way; perhaps, like Moss, he would sum it up by saying life for a racing driver e molto difficile, and prefer to have it left at that.

He was so much larger than life size and covered so much ground wiith his giant strides through life that ilt is difficult to arrange the perspective and decide what best to remember him by. I am writing this only two days after his death, and closeness blurs 'the vision. I do remember though, the man in the BRDC jacket who strolled toward me off the Melbourne plane, ready to be taken out to practice at this year's (1965) Warwick Farm International. He was carrying his shooting stick, and in the middle of the airport terminal he dropped his briefcase and lunged at me with the stick. "Have at you, Sir Percy!" he said, and people turned to look.

I remember him at last year's 1964 Armstrong after he had followed the Studebaker around, and he had a gleam in his eye. "That - that - is a real man's car; it makes a noise, and it goes. We, gentlemen, are driving bath chairs." Seven weeks later he was in what he fondly called "the last of the big thun-derers" - Sir G-awaine Baillie's Galaxie - delightedly storming around Sandown Park. When in that infamous moment he arrived at Pdters corner without brakes he went for third and gdt it and second, and got that; but first would not go in and he was crying like a baby in fear and rage as he hilt the fence. And he staggered out of the wreckage and said bitterly to Gawaine: "The big bitch nearly killed me."

But there is more, much more. Davison in the Redex Trials, Davison laughing out loud near the finish of that unbelievable 1960 Australian Grand Prix, Davison discovering that the chef speaks Italian and conducting a wild conversation with him in the centre of a crowded dining room. Davison practising in the works Aston at Le Mans and spotting a Ferrari ahead on the Mulsanne Straight; he said later: "I seemed to be hauling him in and I thought: 'This day I pass a Ferrari' and I screwed the thing right up va-va-va-va and I gradually came up on them; but it was full of damned officials doing a quiet tour of the circuit and I felt like a real goat."

Much has been made of his temporary retirements and the fact that his Galaxie crash caused him to think again about retiring. But at Sandown he was on the verge of making an offer for Brabham's Tasman car, and was planning to fit out the Cooper with 13 in. wheels and dther improvements. He never liked Warwick Farm and said so, and it was with him a permanent sense of loss that he could not drive his big cars on Bachurst in an Australian Grand Prix. Few know that he had a 1.5 litre car on order, mainly as another training vehicle for his coming young pupil-drivers, but also for Davo to drive at Bathurst at Easter. And he had promised me that he would buy me a beer in the Longford pub this year and we would stand and watch the cars passing and talk aJboult the time he knocked down the licensee's geraniums with his Cooper.

Alexander Nicholas Davison. He was quite well off, but never used lit as a social bludgeon, nor did he spare it. He was a generous, open-hearted man held in enormous respect by this hundreds of friends. His wife Diana, resolute and strong, and his seven children treated him as the absolute head of the family and the Davison dinner table was a traditional, respectful affair at which Lex, as the head, would dispense wisdom and advice alike while asking the children what they had done With their day.

Lex 'talked with his hands and his eyes and was at his best when in a group of friends, jus^t talking. He dressed for a motor race as carefully as he would for a ball, to the formula of dark blue towelling shirt, white cravat, thick white socks with the trousers tucked into them, and invariably a peculiar hat. He was, I suppose, a fearfully nervous car passenger, and I can remember him grabbing for the steering wheel once when I took both hands off it to demonstrate a point. He liked good wine good food, bright company, young drivers who could take advice, red cars, and working for charity. I never saw him angry and to everybody in his team his word was absolute law.

Alexander Nicholas Davison, He is gone now with all his charm and strength, but the folk lore and the legend will live for a hundred years. If he had lived in another age he would have been the man who said: "Damn the torpedoes; full speed ahead!". His like will not pass this way again.
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