Mike Spence

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Mike Spence
Mike spence.jpg
Born (1936-12-30)30 December 1936
Died 7 May 1968(1968-05-07) (aged 31)
Formula One World Championship career
Nationality United Kingdom British
Active years 19631968
Teams Team Lotus
BRM
Reg Parnell Racing
Races 37 (36 starts)
Championships 0
Wins 0
Podiums 1
Career points 27
Pole positions 0
Fastest laps 0
First race 1963 Italian Grand Prix
Last race 1968 South African Grand Prix
24 Hours of Le Mans career
Participating years 1967
Teams Chaparral Cars
Best finish dnf (1967)
Class wins 0

Michael "Mike" Spence (30 December 1936, Croydon, Surrey – 7 May 1968, Indianapolis, Indiana, USA) was a British racing driver from England. He participated in 37 Formula One World Championship Grands Prix, debuting on September 8, 1963. He achieved 1 podium, and scored a total of 27 championship points. He also participated in numerous non-Championship Formula One races, as well as sports car racing.

Early career[edit]

Mike Spence began his motor sport career through involvement with his family's garage business in Maidenhead, Berkshire. After early outings in 1958, driving his father's Turner and an AC Ace sports car, Spence moved into open wheel racing in Formula Junior in 1959. Immediate success at the wheel of his Emeryson earned Spence the opportunity to drive the car in the non-Championship 1961 Solitude Grand Prix less than two years later, although his gearbox failed after only six laps. However, later that year he finished an astonishing second in the Lewis-Evans Trophy race at Brands Hatch. These results prompted moves to the privateer Ian Walker Racing FJ team for 1962, driving a Lotus 22, and then to the works Lotus Formula Junior squad in 1963.

Despite disappointing results in his first Formula Junior season with a major team, with fourth place in the British Grand Prix FJ support race his best result, toward the end of 1963 Spence was called up to the Lotus Formula One team. Spence entered the 1963 Italian Grand Prix as replacement for Trevor Taylor, who was out through injury. Although he qualified his Lotus 25 in 9th spot, in the race the car's oil pressure faded, ending Spence's race on lap 73.

Formula One[edit]

With Lotus signing Jim Clark and Peter Arundell as lead drivers for 1964, Spence spent most of the early season driving in Formula Two events. However, Arundell suffered a severe accident in an F2 race, and from the 1964 British Grand Prix onwards Spence moved up to partner Clark in the Formula One team. The rest of the season passed uneventfully, and despite Spence running second through much of the Italian Grand Prix, his best finish was fourth place at the season finale in Mexico.

1965 started promisingly, with Spence winning the prestigious Race of Champions at Brands Hatch, and taking third in the International Trophy at Silverstone. However, once the World Championship got underway the year continued where 1964 had left off, and Spence had only claimed two points finishes by the time the Formula One circus arrived once again at the season closing race in Mexico. Here his luck was to change, and he managed to secure his first and only podium finish, taking 3rd place behind American duo Richie Ginther and Dan Gurney. Unfortunately for Spence, this performance was not enough to save his seat at Lotus, and at the end of the season he found himself out of a drive.

Moving back into the privateer world, Mike Spence was signed by BRM for the 1966 Formula One season, but was seconded to the Reg Parnell Racing team rather than drive for the works squad. Driving the Parnell team's, by now elderly, Lotus 25, once again Spence was only able to scrape together two points finishes from World Championship rounds. Although, following the pattern laid out in previous seasons, Spence performed rather better in non-Championship events, winning the South African Grand Prix.

In 1967 Mike Spence was promoted back into a works car, partnering Jackie Stewart in the full BRM team. Though he managed to score points in no fewer than five World Championship races during the season, none of these was with anything higher than fifth place. Mike Spence was due to remain with BRM for the 1968 season, although retirement at the season's first round in South Africa did not bode well, his race performances here and during the Race of Champions and International Trophy events belied a great potential for the season.

Sports car racing[edit]

Mike Spence with Chaparral 2F at the Nürburgring 1967

In 1967, Jim Hall hired Spence as part of his Chapparal sports car team. One of the most innovative engineers in 1960s motorsport, Hall pioneered many advances in racing technology. For 1967 the great advance was the addition of aerodynamic wings to the rear of his cars, generating extra downforce to improve grip levels and hence cornering speeds. Driving the Chaparral 2F with regular partner Phil Hill Spence managed to make a great impression on the sports car scene. Fastest laps in the Sebring 6h and 1000km Spa races were just the prelude to a dominant win in the 1967 BOAC 500 race at Brands Hatch. Spence and Hill finished half a lap ahead of the Jackie Stewart/Chris Amon Ferrari 330P, who were themselves three laps ahead of anybody else.

For 1968 Spence moved to the Ford-backed Alan Mann Racing team. He became one of the few people ever to drive the ill-fated Ford P68 in competition, although an engine mount failure on his own entry, followed by a driveshaft failure on the team's second car during the race, prevented Spence from reaching the chequered flag.

Death[edit]

Following Jim Clark's death in early 1968, Colin Chapman invited Spence back to Lotus as part of their Indianapolis 500 race team. Spence was due to race the revolutionary Lotus 56 gas turbine car. During practice at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Tuesday, May 7, Spence, driving the #60 Lotus 56 turbocar (later qualified and driven by Joe Leonard), ran a lap of 169.555 mph - fastest of the month so far. Later in the afternoon, Spence was asked by Chapman to take out turbocar #30 for a test run after driver Greg Weld had difficulty getting the car up to speed. Spence quickly got the car to a lap of 163 mph, but on his second lap he misjudged his entry to turn one and collided heavily with the concrete wall. The right-front wheel of the Lotus swiveled backwards into the cockpit and struck Spence on the helmet. Mike Spence died in the hospital later that evening at 9:45pm from massive head injuries. His fastest lap speed set earlier that day would remain unsurpassed for the next five practice days.[1]

Complete World Championship Formula One results[edit]

(key)

Year Entrant Chassis Engine 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 WDC Points
1963 Team Lotus Lotus 25 Climax V8 MON BEL NED FRA GBR GER ITA
13
USA MEX RSA NC 0
1964 Team Lotus Lotus 25 Climax V8 MON NED BEL FRA GBR
9
MEX
4
12th 4
Lotus 33 GER
8
AUT
Ret
ITA
6
USA
7
1965 Team Lotus Lotus 33 Climax V8 RSA
4
MON BEL
7
FRA
7
GBR
4
GER
Ret
ITA
11
USA
Ret
MEX
3
8th 10
Lotus 25 NED
8
1966 Reg Parnell Racing Ltd Lotus 25 BRM V8 MON
Ret
BEL
Ret
GBR
Ret
NED
5
GER
Ret
ITA
5
USA
Ret
MEX
DNS
13th 4
Lotus 33 FRA
Ret
1967 Owen Racing Organisation BRM P83 BRM H16 RSA
Ret
MON
6
NED
8
BEL
5
FRA
Ret
GBR
Ret
GER
Ret
CAN
5
ITA
5
USA
Ret
MEX
5
10th 9
1968 Owen Racing Organisation BRM P115 BRM H16 RSA
Ret
ESP MON BEL NED FRA GBR GER ITA CAN USA MEX NC 0

Non-Championship results[edit]

(key) (Races in bold indicate pole position) (Races in italics indicate fastest lap)

Year Entrant Chassis Engine 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21
1961 Emeryson Cars Emeryson 1001 Climax S4 LOM GLV PAU BRX VIE AIN SYR NAP LON SIL SOL
Ret
KAN DAN MOD FLG OUL
Emeryson 1004 LEW
2
VAL RAN NAT RSA
1964 Team Lotus Lotus 25 Climax V8 DMT NWT SYR
3
SOL
Ret
MED
5
Lotus 32 AIN
6
INT
Lotus 33 RAN
16
1965 Team Lotus Lotus 33 Climax V8 ROC
1
SYR
Ret
SMT
DNS
INT
3
MED
Ret
RAN
WD
1966 Team Lotus Lotus 33 Climax V8 RSA
1
SYR
Reg Parnell Racing Ltd Lotus 33 BRM V8 INT
Ret
OUL
Ret
1967 Owen Racing Organisation BRM P83 BRM H16 ROC
7
SPR
6
BRM P261 INT
6
SYR
Ret
OUL ESP
1968 Owen Racing Organisation BRM P126 BRM H16 ROC
Ret
INT
Ret
OUL

References[edit]

  1. ^ Ferguson, Andrew (October 1996). Team Lotus: the Indianapolis Years. Somerset, England: Patrick Stephens Limited. p. 181-184. ISBN 1 85260 491 3. 

See also[edit]

Preceded by
N/A
Brands Hatch Race of Champions winner
1965
Succeeded by
Dan Gurney