Posts Tagged ‘1958 Alpine Rally’

sprite 1958 alpine rally (Yves Debraine)

The Ray Brookes/Rob Wells-West Austin Healey Sprite zips through the Alps on is competition debut. Sprites finished first, second and third in their class…

The iconic Bugeye was released to the press on 20 May 1958 just prior to the Monaco Grand Prix. The cars competition debut was shortly thereafter, in the July Coupe des Alpes, John Sprinzel and Willy Cave leading home a 1-2-3 in class and finishing 15th overall. Tommy Wisdom drove the second placed Sprite and Ray Brookes the third. The event was won by the Consten/de La Geneste Alfa Romeo Giulietta.

The first of many Sprite International and Club competition successes cars which continue to give pleasure to their owners 60 years after release. See this Shell film of the 1958 event;

ah sprite 1958 alpine rally Ray Brookes and Rob Wells-West at Monaco during the 1958 Coupe des Alpes (unattributed)

Sprites were all about fun, modification and competition.

They begged for it and were responsive to it. I flirted with one for 18 months or so when i first got my licence, my younger brother couldn’t afford a car so i part funded/owned his Bugeye which had been fitted with a Skoda! engine and gearbox in its past.

It sounds naff but the all alloy engine fed by a 45DCOE Weber and breathing through bigger valves and extractors made good power, the engine also considerably lighter than the good ole A-Series, so handling was enhanced as the road testers would say.

I was busy fiddling with open wheelers at the time, so it was never used competitively but it was a quick, nimble, pointy, fun road car…as they were and are.

austin-healey_sprite_1958_page (Theo Page)

The chassis is of unitary construction, 948cc BMC A-Series OHV four cylinder 43bhp engine fed by twin 1 1/8 inch SU carbs, four speed gearbox. Front suspension coils and wishbones with the lever arm shock as the top links. Rear solid axle sprung by quarter-elliptic springs again with lever arm shocks. Drum brakes front and rear.


(C Youde Collection)

In March 2022, Caroline Youde, Rob Wells-West’s niece got in touch, below are her recollections of her uncle. Many thanks Caroline!
“Hi Mark,
Happy to share memories! Circa 1996 I took my boyfriend (now husband) to meet my uncle and aunt.  Rob was a pilot in the war captured over enemy territory when the glider he was travelling in was downed (they had taken to the air for a bit of fun!) – my husband was ex-RAF.
They got chatting about cars, another shared passion and he talked of his family owning a successful garage.  This allowed him to get into racing and it was only during their meeting did I finally get to hear his stories (he was a true gentleman, the war was never normally discussed and never liked to brag about his achievements).
His illness had taken hold so his recollections were a little muddled, but when my aunt produced an old suitcase full of his racing photos etc, he talked of the rally and the excitement of the race. Many of his photos from other races he could not recall when or where they were taken. But he spoke of Stirling Moss’s sister Pat Moss, and others, racing in full skirts!
I’ve enclosed a picture of memorabilia from the rally (above) that I had framed for my husband; it hangs with pride in the dining room and is often the topic of conversation with visitors.
They didn’t have any children so I asked if I could have his racing collection when he died.  It’s still kept in the same suitcase, with the exception of the cup and framed pieces. Mary (my aunt) and I are in touch regularly, she’s naturally very proud.  They met before the rally and his racing was a large part of their courtship, before eventually marrying.
Rob settled into a civil servant role, but his sense of adventure led them to travel the world by train, plane and automobile their whole married life (and often by iconic means, e.g. Concorde).
He inspired my husband to buy and fully restore our own Frog Eye, which we had sprayed British Racing Green in tribute to him.  Thankfully he lived to see it finished.
Kind Regards


Yves Debraine, Theo Page cutaway

Many thanks to Caroline Youde, Martin Ingall, John Sprinzel, Steve Nash  and David Scothorn for assistance in identifying the driver/co-driver of 487CKP. For those with an interest in competition Sprites check out this wonderful site;