Piers Courage

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Piers Courage
Piers Courage 1968 Nürburgring.JPG
Piers Courage (1968)
Born (1942-05-27)27 May 1942
Colchester, Essex, England, UK
Died 21 June 1970(1970-06-21) (aged 28)
Circuit Park Zandvoort, Netherlands
Formula One World Championship career
Nationality United Kingdom British
Active years 19671970
Teams Lotus, BRM, Brabham, De Tomaso
Races 29 (27 starts)
Championships 0
Wins 0
Podiums 2
Career points 20
Pole positions 0
Fastest laps 0
First race 1967 South African Grand Prix
Last race 1970 Dutch Grand Prix

Piers Raymond Courage (27 May 1942, Colchester, England – 21 June 1970, Zandvoort, Netherlands) was a racing driver from England. He participated in 29 World Championship Formula One Grands Prix, debuting on 2 January 1967. He achieved two podium finishes, and scored a total of twenty championship points.

Biography[edit]

Piers Courage was the eldest son and heir to the Courage brewing dynasty. Educated at Eton College, he began his racing career in his own Lotus 7, although these early efforts were mostly marked by long periods pointing in the wrong direction following spins.

Following a brief stint touring the European F3 racing circuit in 1964 with a Lotus 22, along with Jonathan Williams, good results persuaded him to pursue a full season in 1965. It was in this season, driving a 1.0L F3 Brabham for Charles Lucas, that he first formed an alliance with Frank Williams, at that time Lucas's other driver and sometime mechanic. A string of good results, including four high-profile wins, encouraged Colin Chapman to offer Courage a seat in a Lotus 41 for the 1966 F3 season. This car was inferior to the dominant Brabhams but Courage still managed to outperform them on occasion, earning him a step up to the F2 category for the 1966 German Grand Prix, where he crashed out.

Signed by the BRM works Formula 1 team for 1967, alongside Chris Irwin, his career nearly ended in ignominious failure. Courage's wild driving style caused him to crash out more times than was professionally healthy, and his tendency to spin at crucial moments led to the team dropping him after the 1967 Monaco Grand Prix. He completed the remainder of the season concentrating on his alternative drive, as was common in the 1960s, in John Coombs's F2 McLaren M4A, finishing fourth in the unclassified driver's championship. At the end of the season he purchased the car from Coombs. Fortunately a good run in the McLaren during the winter Tasman series, including a fine win at the last race, resulted in Tim Parnell offering a drive in his works-supported Reg Parnell Racing BRM team for 1968. In addition to a good run in F1 in 1968 - including points-scoring finishes in France and Italy - Courage also drove for old friend Frank Williams's F2 team. When Frank Williams Racing Cars decided to make the step up to F1 in 1969, Courage was the automatic choice as driver.

In Courage's hands, Williams's dark-blue liveried Brabham BT26 was more than a match for many of the works teams. He finished second in both the Monaco Grand Prix and the US Grand Prix, at Watkins Glen. Perhaps his finest drive of the season, though, was during the 1969 Italian Grand Prix at the high-speed Monza circuit. Despite an older car, and a power deficit, he managed to stay with the leading pack for the majority of the race. Only fuel starvation caused his pace to slow near the end, and he finally finished in fifth. A second fifth place, in the British Grand Prix, saw Courage finish the season on sixteen points in eighth place in the drivers' championship.

Following a business arrangement with Alejandro de Tomaso, Williams switched to a newly designed De Tomaso chassis for the 1970 Formula One season. Unfortunately the De Tomaso proved to be overweight and unreliable, and only a third place in the non-championship International Trophy alleviated a poor string of results in the early season. The Dutch Grand Prix seemed to be going slightly better, with Courage qualifying in ninth place around the Zandvoort circuit. Running in the middle of the field, the De Tomaso's front suspension or steering broke on the bump at Tunnel Oost, causing the car to suddenly go straight on instead of finishing the high speed bend. It then rode up an embankment (one of the Zandvoort dunes) and disintegrated, the engine breaking loose from the monocoque upon which it burst into flames (no automatic petrol seals at that time). To lighten the De Tomaso magnesium was used in its chassis and suspension. The magnesium burned so intensely that many nearby trees and bushes were set alight. During the impact one of the front wheels broke off the car and hit Courage's head, tearing away his helmet (both came rolling out of the cloud of dust at the same time). It may safely be assumed that this impact broke Courage's neck or caused fatal head injuries and that he died instantly as a result (compare Mike Spence's accident at Indianapolis in 1968). Just three years later Roger Williamson crashed fatally when his car came to rest upside down and burst into flames at exactly the same spot - the Tunnel Oost bump - where Courage's accident started. Courage was survived by his wife, Lady Sarah Curzon, and his two sons.

Formula One World Championship results[edit]

(key)

Year Entrant Chassis Engine 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 WDC Points
1966 Ron Harris /
Team Lotus
Lotus 44 F2 Cosworth
Straight-4
MON BEL FRA GBR NED GER
Ret
ITA USA MEX NC 0
1967 Reg Parnell Racing Lotus 25 BRM RSA
Ret
NC 0
BRM P261 BRM MON
Ret
NED
BEL
FRA
GBR
DNS
GER
CAN
ITA
USA
MEX
1968 Reg Parnell Racing BRM P126 BRM RSA
ESP
Ret
MON
Ret
BEL
Ret
NED
Ret
FRA
6
GBR
8
GER
8
ITA
4
CAN
Ret
USA
Ret
MEX
Ret
19th 4
1969 Frank Williams Racing Cars Brabham BT26A Ford RSA
ESP
Ret
MON
2
NED
Ret
FRA
Ret
GBR
5
GER
Ret
ITA
5
CAN
Ret
USA
2
MEX
10
8th 16
1970 Frank Williams Racing Cars De Tomaso 505 Ford RSA
Ret
ESP
DNS
MON
NC
BEL
Ret
NED
Ret
FRA GBR GER AUT ITA CAN USA MEX NC 0

Further reading[edit]

  • Cooper, A. 2003. Piers Courage: Last of the Gentleman Racers. Haynes Group. 224pp. ISBN 1-85960-663-6

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Gerhard Mitter
Formula One fatal accidents
21 June 1970
Succeeded by
Jochen Rindt