Born 26 June 1946
Dunedin born, Dick got his grounding in motorsport with Performance Developments Ltd in Auckland run by Dennis Marwood. In 1972 he moved to the UK to help David Oxton, the NZ Formula Ford Champion, in his quest to win the Formula Ford World Cup. He then found a home at the March Racing Formula 2 team and in 1976 moved to the Fred Opert Team with drivers such as Keke Rosberg who he successfully engineered to consecutive NZ Formula Pacific series wins in 1977 and 1978.
Ron Dennis subsequently recruited Dick to run the BMW M1 Procar team, racing at European Formula 1 GPs and, under Dick’s control, Niki Lauda won the Procar championship title in 1979. When Dennis took on the McLaren Formula 1 team he immediately targeted Bennetts to run his then struggling Formula 3 team. Under Dick’s engineering ‘Midas touch’ the team immediately found success and in 1980 won the British F3 championship.
With his credentials as one of the best team managers/engineers in the business now well established, Dennis offered Dick a senior position in the McLaren F1 operation but ambition burned within, combined with the Kiwi attitude of ‘wanting to have a go himself’ and the offer was declined. Instead, Dick set up his own race team and so ‘WSR’ – West Surrey Racing – was born. WSR’s was instantly successful and won the 1981 British Formula 3 title. It would be the first of many for WSR in British motor racing.
In 1983 a young Ayrton Senna joined WSR and proceeded to win the first nine races of the season, a feat never to be emulated. In later years Senna attributed much of his success to the guiding hand of Dick Bennetts. There was more success to come in F3 including with another future world champion Mika Hakkinen. Subsequently, with business partner Mike Ewan, himself a Kiwi ex-pat, WSR decided to take on the very competitive British Touring Car Championship. WSR’s first Touring Car title was in 2004 and then 2007, 2008, 2009, 2014, 2016, 2017 and 2018.
To quote his great friend David Oxton: “He is mindful of the fact if he was the driver, not the technical guru, then he might have had more “household name status” back home here in NZ – but the respect he has amongst the international motor racing community is enormous and he has always been a proud Kiwi.”