Born on this day: Masten Gregory, the 'Kansas City flash'


American racer Masten Gregory, the man known during his time as the Kansas City flash, was born on this day in 1932.

Sports car legend Carroll Shelby once described the short, slight-built, bespectacled Gregory who took part in 38 Grands Prix as having an abundance of natural talent.

"Man, those glasses were as thick as Coke bottles," the Texan once said. "But he was the fastest American that ever went over to drive a Grand Prix car. Hell, he scored more points than anyone did in their first year!"

One might also add that the American did it while only competing in four of the eight World Championship races that took place in 1957, his debut season in F1.


There was an opportunity to shine in 1959 when Cooper contracted his services to race alongside Jack Brabham.

A podium finish at Zandvoort was followed by a retirement in France, where Gregory had been forced to stop because of exhaustion while he was running second. In Portugal, a strong drive to second preceded Gregory's discharge from the British team.

He was then replaced by a young Bruce McLaren; a strange fate for a man whose performances were gaining momentum.

Many believed that politics had soured his relationship with Cooper as the American was simply faster than team mate Brabham. So the latter had him fired! Had this not been the case, Masten Gregory may well have been the first American to win a F1 race.

From 1960 to his ultimate season in F1 in 1965, Gregory never really got the machinery his outstanding talent and commitment deserved, although there were odd flashes of greatness.


Fortunately, Gregory's woes in F1 were somewhat counterbalanced by a distinguished career in sports car racing, the culmination of which was a triumph with Jochen Rindt in a Ferrari 250 LM at Le Mans in 1965.

Gregory retired from racing in 1972, affected (as much) by the death that year at Le Mans of his good friend Jo Bonnier and by his own close calls. The 'Kansas City Flash', passed away from a heart attack in his apartment in Porto Ercole, Italy in 1985.