Francis Curzon, 5th Earl Howe
Earl Howe after the 1931 24 Hours of Le Mans race
|24 Hours of Le Mans career|
|Participating years||1929–1932, 1934–1935|
|Teams||Bentley Motors Ltd.
|Best finish||1st (1931)|
|Class wins||1 (1931)|
Francis Richard Henry Penn Curzon, 5th Earl Howe, CBE, PC, VD (1 May 1884, Mayfair, London – 26 July 1964, Amersham, Buckinghamshire) was a British naval officer, Member of Parliament, and motor racing driver and promotor. In the 1918 UK General Election he won the Battersea South seat as the candidate of the Conservative Party, which he held until 1929. While in Parliament he took up motor racing, and later won the 1931 24 Hours of Le Mans race. He ascended to the Peerage in 1929, succeeding his father as the 5th Earl Howe. Earl Howe co-founded the British Racing Drivers' Club with Dudley Benjafield in 1928, and served as its President until his death in 1964.
Francis, Viscount Curzon, joined the Royal Navy after leaving school, following in a long family tradition. October, 28th 1907, Lieutenant Viscount Curzon, RNVR, formerly of the London Division, was appointed Commanding Officer of the Sussex Division of the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve in Hove, Sussex, with the rank of Commander RNVR. When World War I started the RNVR was formed into the Royal Naval Division and they were to fight on land like infantrymen not sailors. Commander the Rt. Hon. Viscount Curzon served as Battalion Commander, Howe Battalion of the 2nd Brigade RND. Howe Battalion saw action at Gallipoli, April 1915 – Jan 1916; Mudros and Stavros, Salonica, January - May 1916; France and Belgium, May 1916 - February 1918, when the battalion was disbanded. During part of this period Curzon also served as aide-de-camp to George V.
Following the armistice Viscount Curzon moved into politics. In the 1918 General Election he won the Battersea South seat, standing for the Conservative Party. When the RNVR was reconstituted in 1921 Viscount Curzon resumed his position as the commanding officer of the Sussex division with the rank of Captain; he was to hold this appointment until the RNVR was mobilised again in September 1939 on the outbreak of World War II. Following his father's death in 1929 Francis Curzon ascended to the title Earl Howe, making him ineligible for Parliamentary re-election. He was appointed a Privy Counsellor in the 1929 Dissolution Honours. However, during his later years as an MP Curzon had begun to become involved in motor racing. An associate of the infamous Bentley Boys, he was instrumental in forming the ideas which led Dudley Benjafield to set up the British Racing Drivers' Club in 1928. The newly ennobled Earl Howe was elected its President at the BRDC's first Annual General Meeting in 1929.
Motor racing career
Francis Curzon made his race debut at the comparatively old age of 44, in the 1928 Irish TT with a Bugatti Type 43. After leaving the House of Commons he pursued his driving career with increasing vigour. During the 1930s he became a well known driver, competing in many national and international races, most notably the 24 Hours of Le Mans. He entered the endurance classic six times between 1929 and 1935, only missing the 1933 event. For the first year he was entered as a part of the Bentley factory team, but latterly he entered his own cars. It was in his own Alfa Romeo 8C that he won the race in 1931, driving in partnership with Henry Birkin.
Away from La Sarthe, Earl Howe (as he was most commonly entered following his father's death) drove in a variety of automobiles. Indeed, in the mid-1930s he was credited by Time magazine as having "Europe's most elaborate" collection of racing cars. Although patriotic, he was often forced to buy and run cars built outside the UK, as once Bentley had withdrawn from motor sport there were no realistically competitive British-built machines available. He favored the Bugatti marque, owning and campaigning several Bugattis. He won the Donington Park Trophy race in 1933, and added to his victory haul with a win in the 1938 Grosvenor Grand Prix, at Cape Town in South Africa. In addition to these two victories he also took podium finishes in eleven other major races between 1933 and 1939, and became one of only two men to have competed in every running of the RAC Tourist Trophy at Ards, the other being E.R. Hall.
In 1937, Howe was seriously injured in an accident driving his pale blue and silver — Howe's personal racing colours — English Racing Automobiles R8B, while challenging the Thai Royal family competitor Prince Bira for the lead in the Campbell Trophy at the Brooklands circuit.
Aside from assuming the Presidency of the BRDC, Earl Howe also served as Vice-President of the FIA's Commission Sportive Internationale, the governing body of international motorsport at the time. He also kept motorsport issues on the political landscape, with numerous speeches in the House of Lords.
The start of the Second World War effectively ended Earl Howe's front line driving career, and he returned to the Navy. At the end of the conflict he moved into race organising, although he continued to prepare and enter cars for other drivers, including Tazio Nuvolari. As President of the BRDC and Patron of the newly formed 500 Club, he was instrumental in the resumption of motor racing and applied political pressure to allow airfields to be used for motor sport. He was involved with organising the first British Grand Prix, at Silverstone in 1948, which gained full Formula One World Championship status at the Championship's inception in 1950. He also instituted the annual BRDC International Trophy meeting at the same circuit. Under Earl Howe's 35-year stewardship, the BRDC went from private dining club to one of the most successful and high profile motor sport associations in the world.
The Earl Howe Trophy
Today the BRDC maintains a highly prestigious award in his memory: The Earl Howe Trophy, awarded annually "to the highest placed British Driver in the Indy 500 race or to the British driver who has established the most meritorious performance of the year in North America." The 2014 winner was Jack Harvey, who was a four-time race winner, the highest ranked rookie, and Championship runner-up in the 2014 Indy Lights season.
|Winners of the Earl Howe Trophy|
|2014||Jack Harvey||Championship runner-up and four-time race winner in the 2014 Indy Lights season|
|2013||Justin Wilson||Fifth place in the 2013 Indianapolis 500|
|2012||Dario Franchitti||Winner of the 2012 Indianapolis 500|
|2011||Dan Wheldon†||Winner of the 2011 Indianapolis 500|
|2010||Dario Franchitti||Winner of the 2010 Indianapolis 500|
|2009||Dario Franchitti||Winner of the 2009 IndyCar Series|
|2008||David Coulthard||Third place in the 2008 Canadian Grand Prix|
|2007||Dario Franchitti||Winner of the 2007 Indianapolis 500|
|2006||Dan Wheldon||Fourth place in the 2006 Indianapolis 500|
|2005||Dan Wheldon||Winner of the 2005 Indianapolis 500|
|2004||Dan Wheldon||Third place in the 2004 Indianapolis 500|
|2003||Mark Taylor||Winner of the 2003 Infiniti Pro Series|
|2002||Dario Franchitti||Three-time race winner in the 2002 CART season|
|2001||Dan Wheldon||Championship runner-up and two-time race winner in the 2001 Indy Lights season|
|2000||James Weaver||Winner of the 2000 Grand American Road Racing Championship|
|1999||Dario Franchitti||Championship runner-up and three-time race winner in the 1999 CART season|
|1996||Mark Blundell||Two top-five finishes in the 1996 IndyCar World Series|
|1993||Nigel Mansell||Winner of the 1993 IndyCar World Series|
|1987||Johnny Dumfries||Race winner in the 1987 IMSA GT Championship|
|1984||Derek Bell||Five-time race winner and third place in the 1984 IMSA GT Championship|
|This list is incomplete.
† Awarded posthumously.
Francis Curzon was the son of Richard Curzon, 4th Earl Howe. On 28 October 1907 he married his cousin Mary Curzon (30 October 1887 – 1 September 1962), whom he later divorced in 1937, daughter of Montagu Curzon and Esmé FitzRoy. Their daughter, Lady Sarah Curzon, married Formula One driver Piers Courage. After Courage's death in the 1970 Dutch Grand Prix, she married John Aspinall. Francis Curzon, 5th Earl Howe died in July 1964. He was succeeded by his eldest son, Edward.
Complete European Championship results
(key) (Races in bold indicate pole position)
- Francis Curzon, 5th Earl Howe; Ex-Member of Parliament and Racing Driver Dies. New York Times (Monday, 27 July 1964), p.30
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- Francis Curzon profile at The 500 Owners Association
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- Hansard 1803–2005: contributions in Parliament by the Earl Howe
|New constituency||Member of Parliament for Battersea South
|Winner of the 24 Hours of Le Mans
with Tim Birkin
|Peerage of the United Kingdom|