Grace's Guide

British Industrial History

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Kaye Don

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Born 10-April-1891 and Died 29-August-1981

A works Sunbeam driver, he often raced at Brooklands where he held the Outer Circuit lap record at 137.58 mph. He also raced in power boats.

Kaye Don started racing motor cycles

1920 At the first Brooklands meeting of the Junior Car Club he entered the monocar class in a Tamplin.

In the 1920s he came to prominence driving the Wolseley Viper at Brooklands.

1928 he had three works Sunbeams at his disposal known as the Cub, the Tiger and the Tigress, plus a 2.3 litre Bugatti.

On 22nd September 1928, driving one of the Sunbeams, he set an Outer Circuit lap flying start record of 131.76 m.p.h. which he increased to 134.24 m.p.h. on 5th August 1929.

1929 Sunbeam built a 24 litre record breaker named Silver Bullet which became the bane of Don’s life as it continually burst into flames when backfiring through the carburettors, a tendency which was never ultimately cured due to lack of time and resources.

The Silver Bullet used two untested 12 cylinder engines to generate 4,000 hp. When supercharger blowbacks at 190 mph broke compressor blades in the 1930 Daytona Beach land speed record attempt, Don decided that the project was hopeless and abandoned his attempt to break Henry Segrave’s 231 mph record set in 1929.

Driving the V-12 Sunbeam Tigress at Brooklands on 9th June 1930 he raised the Outer Circuit lap record to 137.58 m.p.h. and for the ensuing three years he became known as the driver of a potent and stunningly beautiful red 4.9 litre Bugatti known as Tiger 2.

In 1931 he participated in the Harmsworth Trophy Race. Racing Lord C. C. Wakefield's powerboat Miss England II he beat Gar Wood's Miss America. It was the first time in Harmsworth history that Wood had been beaten. Wood took the trophy back the following year when On flipped, having already been disqualified for crossing the line early.

His racing career ended in 1934, when he was involved in a road accident in the Isle of Man in which his mechanic was killed, resulting in his being sentenced to six months at His Majesty's pleasure for manslaughter.

In the 1940s he established and developed Ambassador motorcycles. The company produced many different models until it was taken over by DMW in 1962 and Kaye Don retired.

1992 Obituary.[1]

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. Brooklands Society Gazette Vol 17. No 2/3. 1992