Francis Richard Henry Penn Curzon, 5th Earl Howe
(1 May 1884
- 26 July 1964
) was a British
naval officer, Member of Parliament
, motor racing
driver and promotor. In the 1918 UK General Election
he won the Battersea South
seat, representing the Conservative Party
, which he held until 1929. While in Parliament he took up motor racing, and won the 24 Hours of Le Mans
race in 1931. 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
, and served as its President until his death in 1964.
Curzon, joined the Royal Navy
after leaving school, following in a long family tradition. October, 28th 1907, Lieutenant the Rt. Hon. Viscount Curzon, RNVR 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 1
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. 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. 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
, 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 won the Donington Park Trophy race in 1933, and added to his victory haul with a win in the 1938 Grosvenor Grand Prix, in South Africa. In addition to these two victories he also took podium finishes in eleven other major races between 1933 and 1939. In 1937, Howe was seriously injured in an accident driving his pale blue and silver — Howe's personal racing colours — ERA R8B, while challenging 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
, 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.
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 current holder is Dario Franchitti (awarded December 2007).
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. 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
(EC driver results legend
) (Races in bold
indicate pole position)