Ian Raby was born in September 1922. He was a garage
owner from Brighton and began trading in second-hand racing cars. He was a
hugely popular figure in the Paddock, and not only for his ability to source
a suitable car for the prospective racer. There are some reports that Ian
started in trials (with the Puddle Jumper name coming from this), but
certainly in 1953 he acquired his first race car, an early-model Cooper-JAP,
making his debut at Brands Hatch, 3rd May. Some reports suggest the car was
a Cooper Mk IV, but others indicate a Mk II, and this leads to one of the
problems with defining his career. With so many cars in stock at the
business where he was sales manager, Car Exchange (Brighton), he undoubtedly
made proving runs of new stock, and cars were also provided to prospective
customers – without photographs it is impossible to be certain what he
actually drove! Conversely, cars sold by his company would be fitted with a
plate of authenticity, and might be described as “Ian Raby cars” although he
might not have actually driven them. He achieved some respectable results
with this car or cars, including a third place in the Junior race and a
praiseworthy second in the JAP race at Brands Hatch in October.
The results started coming, first with a popular win in the Petit Prix at Crystal Palace in May and the Junior race in July then a fourth at Snetterton in August, a fastest time at the Brighton Speed Trials and a second in the Handicap race at Cadwell Park in October and finishing the year with a third in the first heat of the Yuletide Trophy.
For 1956, the Mk VIII was replaced with a brand new Cooper Mk X. He won the Consolation race at Brands Hatch in April and two wins Silverstone in June and October. 1957 was a year of change. He ordered a new Cooper Mk XI, and posted a second place in the Senior Final at Brands Hatch, on 31st March and another second in the Sporting Record Trophy race three weeks later. But that was to be the last run for an official “Puddle Jumper” in British Formula III. By July, the car was in Maryland, USA, and would be raced by John “Willie” Gadwa well into the 1960s.
It is not clear why Ian abandoned 500s. Maybe he could
not maintain his 500 programme, given that he would act as a Cooper works
driver and focus on sports car racing with Cooper and Elva machinery and
shared a Cooper with Jack Brabham in the 1957 Le Mans. In the Summer of ’57,
he also left Car Exchange and started his own business, first in Peacehaven,
later (as Empire Cars and Ian Raby Racing) back in Brighton, and this must
also have taken a lot of his effort. Another theory is that we was merely
acting as an agent for Willie Gadwa (apparently a common trick for getting
better service from the Surbiton works was to get a known British driver to
put their name to the order), and the races were for sorting the set up.
Ian in his Formula Junior Merlyn
When F1 changed to 3-litre regulations in 1966, Raby turned to Formula 2 racing, again with a Brabham chassis. The 1966 season ended with a big crash at Brands but in 1967 he undertook a full F2 season with a Lotus engined Brabham. In July he crashed badly in the Zandvoort Trophy and was seriously injured. It is said that he was recovering, but may have received infected blood. He died on the 7th November 1967.
With thanks to the family of Jeff Elmes for information and images.
Additional information courtesy of the Atlas F1 Nostalgia Forum.