Saturday 5th January 2008
John Anthony Ambrose (73), British rally driver who, as co-driver, twice won the RAC Rally, in 1956 and 1965, died in Newbury, Berkshire, UK. After leaving Oxford, Ambrose joined the Royal Air Force but continued to drive in rallies. In 1956, he won the RAC Rally with Lyndon Sims in an Aston Martin DB2. He joined the BMC rally team in 1960, with further successes following. These included victory on the Tulip (Holland, Belgium and eastern France) in 1961 (class victory) and 1964 (outright victory). He also co-drove with Rauno Aaltonen in an Austin-Healey 3000 to win the Spa-Sofia-Liege event in 1964, an event lasting four days and nights with no scheduled sleep time. Aaltonen later recalled how Ambrose had driven 77 miles (124 km) at night in just 52 minutes, reaching speeds of 150 miles (241 km) per hour over cobblestone roads whilst Aaltonen slept in the car. Ambrose also co-drove with Aaltonen as Aaltonen took the 1965 European Rally Championship title, including victory at the RAC Rally. The 1965 RAC Rally victory was the first time that a Mini had won the event.
Ambrose left the BMC team in 1966 to spend more time with his family and his business. His last rally was the 1966 RAC Rally, with Simo Lampinen, although an accident meant that they had to stop. After giving up racing, Ambrose helped with the organisation for the 1968 London-Sydney Marathon and the 1970 London-Mexico Rally. Businesses that he was involved with included a family-run decorating firm and a pub in Wales.