Mike Spence

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Mike Spence
Born Michael Henderson Spence
(1936-12-30)30 December 1936
Croydon, Surrey, England
Died 7 May 1968(1968-05-07) (aged 31)
Indianapolis, Indiana, United States
Formula One World Championship career
Nationality United Kingdom British
Active years 19631968
Teams Lotus (incl. non-works), BRM
Entries 37 (36 starts)
Championships 0
Wins 0
Podiums 1
Career points 27
Pole positions 0
Fastest laps 0
First entry 1963 Italian Grand Prix
Last entry 1968 South African Grand Prix
24 Hours of Le Mans career
Years 1967
Teams Chaparral Cars
Best finish dnf (1967)
Class wins 0

Michael Henderson "Mike" Spence (30 December 1936 – 7 May 1968) was a British racing driver from England. He participated in 37 Formula One World Championship Grands Prix, debuting on 8 September 1963. He achieved one 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 was born in Croydon, Surrey, and began his motorsport 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 two non-Championship Formula One races in 1961, the Solitude Grand Prix near Stuttgart and the Lewis-Evans Trophy at Brands Hatch. He retired early from the Solitude race with a gearbox failure, but finished second behind Tony Marsh's BRM in the Lewis-Evans Trophy. 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, towards the end of 1963 Spence was called up to the Lotus Formula One team, taking the place of the injured Trevor Taylor at the Italian Grand Prix. Driving the Lotus 25, Spence qualified ninth and was classified 13th in the race despite the car's oil pressure fading near the end, while team-mate Jim Clark took the win and with it the Drivers' Championship.

Formula One[edit]

With Lotus signing Peter Arundell as Clark's team-mate for 1964, Spence spent most of the early season driving in Formula Two events. However, shortly before the British Grand Prix, Arundell suffered a severe accident in an F2 race at Reims-Gueux, and Spence was called up to replace him in the F1 team for the rest of the season. Driving both the Lotus 25 and the Lotus 33, Spence managed points finishes in two World Championship races, sixth in Italy and fourth at the season finale in Mexico. This gave him four points, placing him equal 12th in the Drivers' Championship.

Staying with Lotus for 1965, Spence finished fourth in the season opener in South Africa, then won the prestigious Race of Champions at Brands Hatch and finished third in the International Trophy at Silverstone. But over the rest of the Championship, while Clark won his second Drivers' title with ease, Spence could only record two more points finishes, coming fourth again in Britain and third in the season finale in Mexico, behind American duo Richie Ginther and Dan Gurney, in what would turn out to be his only podium finish in a Championship race. With ten points, he was eighth in the Drivers' Championship.

The 1966 season began with victory in another non-Championship race, in South Africa. However, Lotus boss Colin Chapman then took back the recovered Arundell, leaving Spence out of a drive. Before the Championship began in May at Monaco, Spence signed for the privateer Reg Parnell Racing team, but the BRM-powered Lotus 25 he drove was elderly and unreliable and he finished only twice, in the Netherlands and Italy, although he was fifth on both occasions. The four points thus earned placed him 13th in the Drivers' Championship.

At the end of 1966, Graham Hill left the works BRM team to join Lotus, and Spence was chosen as his replacement. Driving the BRM P83 over the course of the 1967 Championship, Spence achieved points finishes in five races, though these consisted of four fifths and a sixth. He thus finished tenth in the Drivers' Championship with nine points. Continuing with BRM at the start of 1968, Spence drove the P115 in the season opener in South Africa and the P126 in the Race of Champions and the International Trophy; he retired from all three races but performed strongly in the latter two, hinting at a great potential for the rest of the season.[1]

Sports car racing[edit]

Spence driving the Chaparral 2F at the Nürburgring in 1967.

In 1967, Jim Hall hired Spence as part of his Chaparral 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 12 Hours of Sebring 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 everybody 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, 7 May, 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.[2]

Complete Formula One World Championship 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 25/331 BRM V8 MON
Ret
BEL
Ret
FRA
Ret
GBR
Ret
NED
5
GER
Ret
ITA
5
USA
Ret
MEX
DNS
13th 4
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
1The Parnell Lotus driven by Spence in 1966 was a written-off 25 rebuilt around a 33 monocoque.

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 25/331 BRM V8 INT
Ret
OUL
Ret
1967 Owen Racing Organisation BRM P83 BRM H16 ROC
7
SPR
6
Reg Parnell Racing Ltd BRM P261 BRM V8 INT
6
SYR
Ret
OUL ESP
1968 Owen Racing Organisation BRM P126 BRM V12 ROC
Ret
INT
Ret
OUL
1The Parnell Lotus driven by Spence in 1966 was a written-off 25 rebuilt around a 33 monocoque.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Looking back on Mike Spence". Motor Sport. August 1986. Retrieved 10 July 2017. 
  2. ^ Ferguson, Andrew (October 1996). Team Lotus: the Indianapolis Years. Somerset, England: Patrick Stephens Limited. pp. 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