Known to many as ‘Fever’ and known to millions as the ever-enthusiastic voice of Goodwood – and practically every other gathering of treasured motor cars and motorcycles – Henry Hope-Frost has died. The S&G offers its most heartfelt condolences to HHF’s young family and his many friends in our industry and beyond.
The world is a greyer place today.
In the 1990s, a generation of motor sport journalists, photographers, PR people and broadcasters all arrived together in a lump. I would say fully-formed but that’s probably stretching the truth somewhat. We were schooled together by the likes of Andrew Marriott, Jonathan Gill, Tim Collings, Steve Madincea, John Colley and Peter Foubister – all of whom saw something of value in us.
And our good fortune was most often narrated by Henry who, long before he was employed to broadcast further than the end of the bar, was telegraphing exuberantly. Nothing was ever simply ‘good’. Or ‘enjoyable’. Or ‘skilful’. One didn’t ‘look forward’ to something, or ‘look back upon’ anything. It was all simply ‘fever’.
Our paths first crossed on the British Rally Championship, which was not the first environment in which you’d naturally place the towering, public school ebullience of HHF. The S&G was there as Škoda’s media person; telling the giant-killing stories of our little 1600cc Felicia and encouraging the press to be enthusiastic about seeing it in the sublimely skilled hands of former World Rally champion, Stig Blomqvist. This was grist to Henry’s mill and no mistake – or as he put it: ‘massive fever’.
Probably the defining image of HHF at that time was at the press gathering in Douglas before the highly-charged 1997 British Rally Championship finale on the Isle of Man. As ever, a good crowd of Manx folk had come to see the cars lined up, gather autographs and get ready for the coming event. Henry was booming over the public address, utterly enraptured by the spectacle to come and the knowledgable crowd.
One of the men in the frame for the title was Volkswagen’s Alister McRae, who was in monosyllabic form as he considered the challenge ahead. Henry went at him with both barrels, eager to elicit some ‘fever’ for his audience while the rest of us in the travelling media pack tittered and laid odds on whether Alister was about to throw him in Douglas harbour.
In the end, HHF wore down the granite-hewn McRae gruffness. Job done. Although later on Alister was spotted gurning and moving his fist up and down in a well-known gesture behind Henry’s back while he grilled the eventual champion, Mark Higgins. If he’d noticed, Henry would doubtless have taken that as a considerable feather in his cap!
From that day to yesterday the patented, unyielding enthusiasm of HHF was simply part of the furniture. After writing for Motorsportretro.com together in its early days and helping out Foub at the RAC, there were too few opportunities to catch up – a cheery hello and quick word when being dragged round the Guildford shops by our respective offspring, or at the too-few events where we were both in attendance. I saw him last at Race Retro a week or so back, nattering with Jonny Gill and Paddy Hopkirk.
‘I won’t interrupt now, I’ll catch them later,’ thought I. Sadly it was not to be. We were ploughing the same furrows for much of the time; self here at the S&G and with Henry presiding over Goodwood’s prodigious online output. Different ways of approaching a deeply-held passion. We shall all be the poorer without him.